Amnesty comes first as tragedy, then as farce. The arguments and even some of the characters from the1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) are the same as today. What has changed is the complete inability for any fair-minded person to take them in good faith.
As Grover Norquist is fond of reminding us, it was Ronald Reagan himself who signed the disastrous 1986 Amnesty. Of course, that Amnesty ensured that the state which made Reagan governor may well never vote Republican again. Furthermore, if the historic American nation is ultimately dispossessed, Reagan`s triumph in the Cold War will have proven a Pyrrhic victory.
The same cannot be said of some of the other key players from 1986 who are active today—especially Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Schumer was a pivotal figure in the 1986 fight, crafting the compromise on agricultural policy that ultimately resurrected a bill that looked doomed to fail. As the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) points out, at that time Congressmen Schumer made the same kind of appeals to urgency that he and other Amnestesiacs are making today. Schumer argued that if we don`t “do immigration reform,” we would get problems that “dwarf what we have today.” [The 1986 Amnesty Debate Revisited, Youtube.com, March 25, 2013]
Implicit in this kind of argument is what President Reagan undoubtedly believed: that immigration reform, once “done,” would “solve” the problem—combine a unique act of mercy with a lasting enforcement structure.
We will secure the borders henceforth. We will never again bring forward another Amnesty bill like this.
[Kennedy and immigration: He changed the face of America, By Gail Russell Chaddock, CSMonitor.com, August 28, 2009
This pronouncement will go down in the annals with Kennedy’s legendary prediction that the nation-breaking 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act
will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs.
What went wrong? Ronald Reagan followed the rule “Trust, but verify” when dealing with the Soviet Union. But on immigration, he chose to believe in the good faith of his Democratic opponents on Capitol Hill.
Democrats advocated three major arguments during the 1986 debate to deceive Americans who wanted enforcement of immigration laws:
- First, as today, they argued that illegals were paying taxes and bringing them “out of the shadows” would regularize “undocumented taxpayers.”
- Second, they advocated employer sanctions and a crackdown on exploitation of illegal labor.
- Finally, the 1986 act was supposed to increase border security and impose strict conditions for legalization.
All of these claims were made in bad faith.
- Deception # 1:
Almost simultaneous with the passage of IRCA in 1986 was the Tax Reform Act of 1986. This required essentially all illegal aliens applying for legal status to notify the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and fess up whether they had earned income in “most recent three taxable years” and were therefore required to file an income tax return.
But within a few months of IRCA`s passage, Congressman Schumer was complaining to the Secretary of the Treasury that illegal aliens who had just been given Amnesty shouldn`t have to comply with the same tax disclosure requirements as lowly native-born Americans. And in 1988, Schumer got what he wanted: a one sentence clause in a 499 page bill prohibited the INS from sharing with the IRS any of the information they received during the legalization process. In effect, illegals received a customized tax break, along with their shiny new legal status. [What Back Taxes? | Rep. Schumer’s Maneuvers During 1986 Amnesty Shed Light on Sen. Schumer’s Promises Today, By Virgil Goode, CIS, February 2013]
- Deception #2:
The main “control” element of IRCA was the creation of a system supposedly designed to prevent illegals from obtaining jobs, backed by sanctions against employers. Of course, the federal government introduced a variety of reporting systems for employers to “verify” the legal status of their workers, resulting in a predictably large amount of fraud. The legal standard was paperwork that “reasonably appears on its face to be genuine.”
But because the law did not mandate either a national ID card or even a proposed national system that would only apply to immigrant workers, all of the enforcement mechanisms were in effect doomed. This was largely due to the lobbying of business interests, particularly agricultural interests represented by then California Congressman (and subsequent Obama Secretary of Defense) Leon Panetta.
- Deception #3:
The border control and supposed “requirements” of legalization turned out to be just more slight-of-hand. As CIS Fellow David North wrote in January 2010, the tendency of government bureaucracies, from regulators to welfare offices, is to sympathize with their clientele. And rejecting applications also created far more work than accepting applications. The bureaucracy was predictably overloaded, so there was an incentive to simply approve every application.
Activist organizations and legal groups applied far more pressure on individual cases than restrictionist groups. Some former INS officers even went to work for advocacy groups. The result: even the standards that were supposedly established were simply ignored.
Congressman Schumer`s baby, the “Special Agricultural Worker” Program (SAW), also backed by Congressman Panetta, was the most corrupt aspect of legalization. The SAW program only required that illegals had worked 90 days during 1984, 1985, or 1986 to obtain legal status. Well over 1.2 million illegals applied. Only 14% of these applications were rejected. After reviewing other data about the farmworker population and reports from the field offices processing the applications, Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies concluded that well over half of the applicants were fraudulent.
As for border security itself, funding for the Border Patrol did not increase until well into the 1990s. Not surprisingly, even the New York Times was reporting within a few years of IRCA that the “1986 Amnesty Law Is Seen As Failing To Slow Alien Tide.” [By Roberto Suro, June 18, 1989] (Ah, for the days when theGray Lady was so forthright with language! But remember, it editorialized against amnesty as late as 2000).
Furthermore, as could have been predicted, IRCA actually spurred the growth of the Treason Lobby at home. The federal government created “qualified designated entities” to help illegals fill out their applications. As you might imagine, these organizations (and the philanthropic dollars they received) quickly changed their focus from helping illegals obtain legalization to becoming “defense networks” for criminal aliens.
This was a critical step in the transformation of rhetoric coming from immigration advocates: promises of patriotism and assimilation have been replaced by angry demands and threats directed at the “racist” United States.
As the behind the scenes lobbying of Schumer, Panetta, and others show, none of this was an accident.IRCA was designed to fail. Immigration patriots need to understand what Conservatism Inc. and the lefty-libertarians refuse to see—mass immigration is not a failure of the state, it is deliberate state policy.
Even National Review shows limited signs of understanding what is taking place. Editor Rich Lowry writes in “Chuck Schumer`s Triumph” [NRO, April 19, 2013] that the New York Senator is up to his old tricks, frontloading Amnesty while making sure that enforcement provisions are limited to promises.
As Lowry points out:
No additional enforcement has to take place before undocumented immigrants get legalized. The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security merely has to come up with a strategy for enforcement and notify Congress that it has commenced. It doesn’t matter if it is a good, bad, or indifferent plan, so long as it is a plan. Then, an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants get legal status.
Lowry also understands how the political dynamic will shift following Amnesty, as the dark partnership of Amnesty advocacy groups and the business lobby will chip away at any enforcement provisions that survive.
Rubio, Graham, and the rest of the Republican Treason Lobby aren`t Chuck Schumer`s well-meaning rubes.
They`re partners, for whatever reason, in his decades-long effort to displace the American people.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] travels around the United States looking for a waiter who can speak English.