Reagan’s Amnesty Program

As the right throws a fit over President Obama’s decision to stop deporting young people who were brought here illegally by their parents and are now well-established in the country, the Village Voice points out that Saint Ronald Reagan once went even further:

If there is one thing conservatives love more than tax breaks it’s Ronald Reagan, and you can’t look at Reagan’s history without remembering the Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted the dreaded “a word” (amnesty, that is, something Obama pointedly said his plan will not do). But a lot of conservatives try to forget their beloved Reagan signed amnesty into law and said, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and who have lived here, even though some time back they may have entered illegally.”

Whatever happened to the three million people Reagan granted amnesty to a quarter century ago? Did they succeed in ripping the nation to shreds, destroying American industry, and murdering gringos left and right, much as Reagan’s disciples predict would happen if such a bill would become law (or even Obama’s much more tepid stopgap executive order) today?

Actually, quite the opposite.

Those immigrants, like most who get legal status, bought homes, sent their kids to school, and participated in a record period of economic expansion and growth. In 2010, back in those halcyon days when Arizona was first debating S.B. 1070, the Voice profiled three of those immigrants and talked to them about how legal status affected (and, largely, improved) their lives, their family’s lives, and the lives of their communities.

Cue the cognitive dissonance in 3…2…1.

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  • busterggi

    That was different, Reagan was chosen by Jesus to do that while Obama is just a politician.

  • slc1

    Just goes to show that Ronnie the rat was really a left wing pinko commie fellow traveler, just like he was in the 1940s when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, a crooked union president.

  • Brownian

    That was different, Reagan was chosen by Jesus to do that while Obama is just a politician.

    busterggi, I think you’ve just summed up the entirety of American conservativism in one sentence.

  • Gregory in Seattle

    This is yet another example of Obama taking a position that is more conservative Reagan’s, and being called “socialist” and “anti-American” by the rabid right.

    Here is a project I’m going to work on over the next few days: a multiple choice quiz of quotes and positions that can be answered “George Washington”, “Abraham Lincoln”, “Ronald Reagan” and “Barak Obama.” Maybe about 25 or 30 items in all. Ed, can I email it to you when it’s done? It would be most entertaining to see how people do.

  • Abdul Alhazred

    Yeah baby.

    If Reagan or Bush or Hitler or somebody did the “same” thing, it must be OK for Obama.

    Including stuff like wars. Right?

  • ttch

    Is Fox News reporting this?

    No? Then it didn’t happen. And Obama’s policy is going to destroy the country.

  • Pah! It’s not about making our lives better! It’s about making theirs worse!

  • left0ver1under

    Of course the wingnuts of today are going to selectively ignore history. There is as much a disconnect between Reagan and immigration as there is between Reagan and taxes (re: “Romney’s Fiscal Insanity”).

    Reagan, for all his idiotic policies, actually did expect his deficits to eventually be paid off – but by someone else, future generations. His budgets were written to win elections through short term gain and long term pain.

    Romney and the other teabagging idiots would go the Robert Mugabe route, thinking that they can just print more money to cover their financial hole, that inflation and hyperinflation won’t happen. They act as though they can run up the deficit as much as they like and never have to fill the hole.

    The Arrogant Worms, “The Credit Song”

    If you cannot make your payments

    Just do like the national government

    You can pay off what you owe

    By taking out a bigger loan

    Ya gotta put it on credit and then forget it

    Don’t let it bother you no more no more

    Put it on credit and then forget it

    And go back to the store

  • Tualha

    One cannot help but wonder if Reagan would be electable these days. Take someone who doesn’t have his name, but has exactly the same experience and charisma, and the same political positions, as Reagan did in 1980. Run him in the primary against the GOP primary candidates we’ve seen this year. Let him stick to his guns – no frantic disavowal of former moderate/liberal policies as with Romney. Would he win the nomination? I think not.

    Oddly, this isn’t so far-fetched. He’s a naturalized citizen so he can’t run without a constitutional amendment, but aside from that, Schwarzenegger has a fair amount in common with Reagan. Former governor of California, moderate Republican, popular actor, plenty of charisma, good speaker.

  • JasonTD

    Conservatives in my family haven’t forgotten what Reagan did, they just think of it as a failed program that just encouraged more illegal immigration.

    Personally, I’m all for a ‘path to citizenship’ (or at least guest worker visas) for otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants that have been in the U.S. for many years. A lasting solution to the problem requires more than that, however. I’m open to ideas on how to make legal immigration better for the U.S. and to more effectively prevent illegal immigration.

  • D. C. Sessions


    blockquote>Whatever happened to the three million people Reagan granted amnesty to a quarter century ago?

    They and their little brown spawn are now trying to vote. That is what has forced patriotic State governments all over the country to crack down, taking (almost) unprecedented steps to combat this existential threat to our way of life.

  • If things had worked out a bit differently with Schwarzenegger none of us would have ever heard of the term birther, because they wouldn’t be able to go after Obama’s supposed non-natural born citizen status with out causing Schwarzenegger problems.

    Of course the irony of all this is that it comes at a time when illegal immigration to the US from Mexico is dropping quickly, and a lot of illegals are actually going back to Mexico voluntarily.

  • Reminds me of the Daily Show ranking “Most Reaganesq” Presidents. Ronald came in 3rd

  • thisisaturingtest

    @#5, Abdul- I think you’re having a different conversation here. I don’t believe Ed is saying anything at all here about whether Obama’s action is the right thing to do, on its own or by comparison to Reagan’s action; his whole point seems to be the hypocrisy inherent in the Republican postion that it can’t be the right thing “because Obama”- without reference to their own ideological saint doing the same. “Cognitive dissonance,” ok?

  • ospalh

    Maybe we should define this as “not the real Reagan”, a variant of “no true Scotsman”.

    “Sure, Reagan did that, but it wasn’t the real Reagan, the one that only exists in our fantasy.”

  • Chris from Europe

    to more effectively prevent illegal immigration

    Legalize it.