Republicans celebrate Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday but forget he supported amnesty for immigrants

Republicans celebrate Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday but forget he supported amnesty for immigrants

Ronald Reagan would have been 100 today and all the tributes to our late president have been pouring in especially from Republicans.

Republican leaders like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich praised Reagan for all that he accomplished as president calling him on CNN the greatest Republican president since Abraham Lincoln.

It seems many Republicans only want to remember and celebrate part of the Reagan legacy.

They have conveniently forgotten that Reagan did more to help undocumented immigrants than any president since.

He supported and pushed Congress to pass the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, otherwise known as "amnesty."

But the Republicans fawning today over Reagan are against immigration reform and the DREAM Act, legislation that would benefit undocumented youth.

To them, "amnesty" is a dirty word.

But nearly 3 million immigrants came out of the shadows and were able to become legal permanent residents and many of them eventually became U.S. citizens.

They include doctors, teachers, business owners and community leaders who have contributed to this country.

But the 1986 legislation did not include any major employer sanctions, no real punishment for businesses who profit from or exploit immigrant labor.

This coupled with the economic impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement and a weak economy in Mexico led to an increased in immigration since the late 1980s, which has only tapered off in the recent recession.

So our nation is left with an estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants, and note that less than 60 percent are from Mexico. The others are from other parts of Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe too.

So what would Reagan do today?

I believe he would support another form of legalization. He would give a chance to those who have put down roots to come out of the shadows. But maybe this time he also would establish laws that punish employers who would exploit those workers.

Like a good Republican he also would argue for additional border security. But  there is more enforcement at the border today then when he was president.

All those Republicans that praised Reagan this weekend should remember his legacy on immigration.

Don't forget that former President George W. Bush also supported immigration reform. He has said in interviews that one of his greatest regrets was not doing more to make that happen.

"I firmly believe that the immigration debate really didn't show the true nature of America as a welcoming society," Bush has said. "I fully understand we need to enforce law and enforce borders. But the debate took on a tone that undermined the true greatness of America, which is that we welcome people who want to work hard and support their families."

Bush said in recent interviews that he doesn't want to second-guess the current president or go on Sunday talk shows. But he could play a behind the scenes role in helping convince more members of his party to work for immigration reform.

It used to be that there was support for immigration reform from Republicans and Democrats. But now we even see moderate Democrats against immigration as five of them voted against the DREAM Act in December.

They all should remember Reagan's words.

"I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally," Reagan said in a 1984 debate against Walter Mondale

Oh how conveniently they forget.

Filed under: immigration, Mexico, politics


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  • We can only win the illegal immigration war, if regular people make a stand on the issue. The US government has for far too long intentionally overlooked this massive problem over thirty years. The border has been overrun, undermanned and so to the delight of un-American employers, millions have swept into this country stealing jobs. As I see it, it

  • They also forget that Reagan raised taxes eleven times, and sold arms to both Iran and Iraq, using the profits to fund right-wing death squads in Nicaragua. Nothing to see here.

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