Undocumented Immigration, Regularization and Citizenship in the Southern Cone

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Aug 2020
In 2004 the Argentine government established that immigration is a human right and launched a large regularization program that benefit almost 0.5 million people, mostly from neighboring countries, or 29% of the immigrant population. Despite a substantial normative and legal literature praising the in-form content of the legislation, little empirical research assesses its real effects. This paper exploits variation in treatment intensity across several dimensions and finds mixed results. The regularization program positively correlates with higher access to non-contributory pensions; but did not increase access to education and formal jobs. Moreover, the regularization program positively correlates with a higher propensity to pay a simplified self-employed tax, but also with a higher propensity to illegally rent and occupy land in shantytowns. Transforming low-educated irregular immigrants into citizens who have full access to their rights, and comply with their civic duties, requires more than a well-intentioned legislation.