Ronald Reagan and the Politics of Immigration Reform

By Nicholas Laham | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Interest Groups and Members of Congress Lobby the White House to Influence the Development of Immigration Policy

Immigration . . . is an area of public policymaking that has been captured by special-interest groups with private agendas that simply ignore any concern for the national interest. . . . Congress [has] elected to appease these special-interest groups. 1

-- Vernon M. Briggs, Jr., economist

Reagan's decision to establish the President's Task Force on Immigration and Refugee Policy placed the White House squarely in the middle of the intense debate on immigration reform, which Congress triggered when it established SCIRP in 1978. This debate has been especially heated, given the extreme importance of immigration as an issue in governing the future of the United States. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that no single policy which Congress has pursued since 1965, when it passed the Immigration Act, has had a greater impact upon the United States than immigration.

Accordingly, it is not surprising that immigration would become the focus of such heated and intense debate, as has been the case since the establishment of SCIRP. Opponents of mass immigration argue that it has had negative consequences for the United States--politically, economically, fiscally, socially, culturally, demographically, and environmentally; supporters argue the opposite. 2 With Reagan having injected his administration squarely into the debate on immigration through his decision to establish the President's Task Force on Immigration and Refugee Policy, interest groups on opposing sides of the issue lobbied the White House to influence the recommendations on immigration reform which the White House planned to make in the coming months. They were joined by members of Congress, especially those supporting a more restrictionist

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