The forgotten Barbara Jordan Commission on Immigration

Are you telling me you want more

A good example of how “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past” is the flushing of the reports of the 1990s U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform down the memory hole. Bill Clinton appointed black lesbian Democrat Barbara Jordan, a former Congresswoman who gave a famous keynote address at the 1976 Democratic convention, to head the in-depth study of immigration policy. 

In 1994, the Jordan Commission reported on illegal immigration:

In particular, we believe that unlawful immigration is unacceptable. Enforcement efforts have not been effective in deterring unlawful immigration. This failure to develop effective strategies to control unlawful immigration has blurred the public perception of the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. 

For the Commission, the principal issue at present is how to manage immigration so that it will continue to be in the national interest. 

• How do we ensure that immigration is based on and supports broad national economic, social, and humanitarian interests, rather than the interests of those who would abuse our laws? 

• How do we gain effective control over our borders while still encouraging international trade, investment, and tourism? 

• How do we maintain a civic culture based on shared values while accommodating the large and diverse population admitted through immigration policy? 

The credibility of immigration policy can be measured by a simple yardstick: people who should get in, do get in; people who should not get in are kept out; and people who are judged deportable are required to leave. 

During the decade from 1980 to 1990, three major pieces of legislation were adopted to govern immigration policy—the Refugee Act of 1980, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and the Immigration Act of 1990. 

The Commission supports the broad framework for immigration policy that these laws represent: a legal immigration system that strives to serve the national interest in helping families to reunify and employers to obtain skills not available in the U.S. labor force; a refugee system that reflects both our humanitarian beliefs and international refugee law; and an enforcement system that seeks to deter unlawful immigration through employer sanctions and tighter border control. 

The Commission has concluded, however, that more needs to be done to guarantee that the stated goals of our immigration policy are met. The immediate need is more effective prevention and deterrence of unlawful immigration.

The subsequent 1995 Jordan Commission report on legal immigration called for major cutbacks in the numbers of legal immigrants.

Back then, “immigration reform” meant immigration restriction. 

Tragically, Jordan died the next year at age 59.