Why immigration reform in 1986 fell short - An estimated 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants were living in the United States when the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed. Now there are upwards of 11 million.
When Ronald Reagan signed a comprehensive immigration overhaul in 1986, he confidently predicted: “Future generations of Americans will be thankful for our efforts to humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people — American citizenship.”
More than a quarter-century later, however, that law has not turned out to be the triumph that Reagan envisioned. Instead, those on both sides of the immigration debate see it as a cautionary lesson.
As President Obama and lawmakers from both parties begin to take their first tentative steps toward again rewriting the nation’s immigration laws, opponents warn that they are repeating the mistakes of the 1986 act, which failed to solve the problems that it set out to address. Critics contend that the law actually contributed to making the situation worse.
An estimated 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants were living in the United States when the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed. Now there are upwards of 11 million. And the question of who gets to be an American, far from being settled, has been inflamed.
The latest proposals contain the same three components as the 1986 law: a legalization program — and a possible path to citizenship — for those who are in the country illegally, stepped-up enforcement along the border, and measures to discourage employers from hiring workers who lack proof of legal residency.