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Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me



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Like Newsweek, the Center for Immigration Studies is going all-digital. That, combined with a recent move, has prompted me to clean out 25 years of news clips and such in our library, and I stumbled across some interesting things. As background, the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act had at its core a grand bargain that provided amnesty for the illegals already here in exchange for “employer sanctions,” i.e., a ban on hiring future illegal aliens.

It seemed like worth trying at the time, and it served as the model for the Kennedy/McCain/Bush amnesty proposals of 2006 and 2007. We all know now that the 1986 legislation failed because the open-borders folks got their amnesty up front, and their promises to support enforcement of the law in the future were abandoned. That experience is a big part of the reason the Bush/Kennedy amnesty proposals failed.

But what I hadn’t remembered was how soon after Reagan signed the bill in 1986 that the anti-enforcement people started trying to welsh on the deal. In my library-purging, I came across a report from MALDEF and the ACLU entitled “The Human Cost of Employer Sanctions”, which concluded that “we believe it is time to reconsider employer sanctions” — published in 1989! Likewise, a 1990 report from the National Council of La Raza, entitled “Unfinished Business: The Immigration Reform & Control Act of 1986,” says “Congress should repeal employer sanctions.” In other words, once their amnesty program was well underway, they immediately wanted to go back on the very agreement that caused immigration hawks to reluctantly accept the amnesty in the first place.

The point for a hypothetical Romney administration is this: No commitment from the anti-borders people to support future enforcement in exchange for present amnesty can be trusted. Just as with any proposed tax-hikes-for-spending-cuts deals, where spending cuts have to come first or they’ll never happen, enforcement has to come first in any immigration discussion, or it will never happen.



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