Ronald Reagan and the Politics of Immigration Reform

By Nicholas Laham | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
The Reagan Administration Announces Its Immigration Policy

When the Reagan Administration assumed office in 1981 . . . [the] stirrings seemed especially auspicious for [immigration] reform. . . . With illegal migration now certified as a national issue, a new President determined (in the words of his Attorney General, William French Smith) to "regain control of our borders" . . . reformers on Main Street and Pennsylavania Avenue geared up to do battle. 1

-- Peter H. Schuck, professor, Yale Law School

Following its establishment by Reagan on March 6, 1981, the President's Task Force on Immigration and Refugee Policy undertook an intense four-month review of immigration policy, which resulted in the issuance of a report containing its recommendations on immigration reform, presented to Reagan on July 1. Those recommendations served as the basis for statements which the Justice Department, Reagan, and Smith, respectively, issued on July 30 announcing the administration's immigration policy. The key elements of the Reagan administration's newly developed immigration policy pertained to the problem of illegal immigration. The administration essentially endorsed SCIRP's two-pronged agenda to address this problem, which recommended the granting of amnesty to undocumented individuals who resided in the United States, coupled with the imposition of an employer-sanctions regime, designed to deter further illegal immigration to this nation. Following the issuance of the administration's statements defining its immigration policy, Simpson and Mazzoli introduced immigration reform legislation designed to implement the recommendations of SCIRP and the Reagan administration. Consistent with those recommendations, amnesty

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