Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


After ten years of debate about immigration law reform, the United States Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). The IRCA includes a section offering amnesty, or legal residence status, to undocumented persons who can establish actual residence in the United States since 1982. This Note examines one aspect of the amnesty application process, the public charge exclusion, and its impact on single women with children. The first section explains the challenges faced by single immigrant women with children through the story of one woman who applied for the IRCA amnesty. The Note then reviews the history of the public charge exclusion in United States immigration law and explains how Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regulations have improperly restricted the public charge exclusion provisions of the IRCA. The Note looks to international treaties and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution to argue that the INS regulations should be invalidated and applicants denied amnesty due to these regulations should be allowed to reapply for legal residence status.