Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Master of Public Administration

Executive Summary

There were an estimated 11 million undocumented residents in the United States in 2010. The issue of undocumented migration and how it should be addressed is a contentious topic in the United States. However, the discussions about how to address illegal migration into the United States rarely include any comparisons to other measures that have been taken in other countries. There are many countries, such as Spain, that have large undocumented resident populations.

This analysis looks at policies that have been enacted in Spain since 1985 to enable undocumented residents to receive legal resident status, referred to as regularizations and whether or not there was an increase in social security tax revenue attributable to undocumented residents moving out of the shadow work force. One expectation of these regularizations in Spain was that undocumented residents would become part of the legitimate labor force if given the legal right to remain and work in Spain.

This analysis could not conclusively link regularizations to increases in social security revenue in Spain or a reduction in the underground work force. There was also significant economic growth during the 1990s until 2007 similar to that which was taking place in the U.S. during the same time period which was also a factor in increased tax revenue. Other factors such as the tax wedge, labor restrictions, and lack of employer cooperation interfered with the success of regularization policies. However, there are reasons that immigration policy reforms should be pursued in the United States, such as reducing demand for smugglers that bring migrants into the U.S., as well as the 5 potential increasing tax revenues even though this is a small portion of the total U.S. population.