Ronald Reagan’s Views on Immigration

Ronald Reagan’s Views on Immigration November 22, 2014

Here’s a perfect example of why the real Ronald Reagan, as opposed to the St. Ronald the Magnificent who exists only in the minds of wingnuts, would be savaged as a RINO by today’s Republican party. As they rail about Obama’s “treason” over immigration, read what Reagan said when signing an executive order that did exactly the same thing Obama just did. Some excerpts:

Our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands…

The Attorney General is undertaking administrative actions and submitting to Congress, on behalf of the administration, a legislative package, based on eight principles. These principles are designed to preserve our tradition of accepting foreigners to our shores, but to accept them in a controlled and orderly fashion…

We must also recognize that both the United States and Mexico have historically benefited from Mexicans obtaining employment in the United States…

Illegal immigrants in considerable numbers have become productive members of our society and are a basic part of our work force. Those who have established equities in the United States should be recognized and accorded legal status.

Reagan was obviously a traitorous dictator trying to destroy America.

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  • John Pieret

    Obama’s speechwriters let him down. Quoting St. Ronnie wouldn’t have changed any minds but the squeals from the wingnuts would have been a lovely thing to hear.

  • colnago80

    Re John Pieret @ #1

    Silly Pieret, don’t you know that the whackjobs would respond that Reagan made his comment before 9/11, which changed everything.

  • John Pieret


    They squealed when, in the speech, Obama quoted the Bible which, last time I looked, was written before 9/11. The funny thing was just a couple of days before the same people had criticized Obama for not for not espousing Christian values often enough, like St. Ronnie did. They might have offered that rationalization but would have squealed nonetheless that Obama was trying to take on the mantle of a True American™ while firmly wrapping themselves in his corpse.,iends-is-upset-that-obama-is-quot/201665

  • Ed, the response I’ve seen from conservatives is that the referenced speech was in support of a law that was submitted to Congress. They passed it and Reagan signed it. Later he signed an Executive Order telling the Coast Guard to turn back Cubans found at sea trying to make it to Florida. Their complaint is that Obama has signed the EO without a law being passed, using the argument that Congress would have passed one had the Republicans allowed it to come up for a vote.

    It does seem like they’re two different things, but I’m not very well versed in these things.

  • heromachine, it is totally different. Reagan made an Executive Order while Congress was bickering over a bill. Obama made an Executive Order while Congress insisted it would do something provided Obama did nothing, ignoring that the House has already refused to bring a bill that has passed the Senate to the floor (because that bill probably would pass, but would require Democrat votes), and that if Obama did nothing (or did something), it would continue do nothing except demagogue Hispanics and blame Obama for the dysfunction in the Legislative because he did something (or did nothing).

    In short, Reagan’s a hero, a man of the people, and a healer of divisions for doing something, and Obama’s a king, a despot, and just like Hitler for doing something.

    And also even if they are the same, it’s different now because of reasons.

  • Modusoperandi, thank you for the reply but I’m here for the knowledge, not the rhetoric. I’m setting aside my Democratic Party card for the moment, I just want to get actual information clarifying this line from the post:

    … when signing an executive order that did exactly the same thing Obama just did.

    My understanding is that the referenced speech was given not to accompany an Executive Order, but as rhetoric for why Congress should support the bill he was submitting. Congress did pass the bill, then later Reagan signed an EO that was specifically for how the Coast Guard was to treat Cuban immigrants found at sea, which was not at all what Obama’s EO was about.

    I’m in agreement with Ed’s general point that Reagan’s stance on immigration in general would be anathema in today’s Republican Party, I’m just saying it doesn’t seem accurate to say that the referenced speech accompanied an EO that’s just like the one Obama signed.

    Maybe that’s being overly pedantic and isn’t really relevant, but Ed knows 1000% more about this stuff than I do, and I know he’s very fair and clear-headed about it, so I thought I would ask and seek clarity.

  • John Pieret


    A cursory Google does not show that Reagan was signing an Executive Order at the time of his statement. However, he did announce that his Attorney General, William French Smith, would be taking “administrative actions,” which amounts to much the same thing, in terms of how long the policy lasts and its source in the Executive Powers. Smith later explained to Congress that “[w]e have neither the resources, the capability, nor the motivation to uproot and deport millions of illegal aliens, many of whom have become, in effect, members of the community” as a basis for exercising “prosecutorial discretion” as to who they would seek to deport. That is what the bulk of Obama’s EO does, though a little bit more formally. The granting of work permits might be a bit dicier legally (I haven’t researched it) but as to the part the wingnuts are losing their minds over … the so-called “amnesty” … St Ronnie was doing, for all intents and purposes, the same thing at the time of the statement.

  • Thanks John Pieret!

  • theobroma
  • weatherwax

    Just for giggles here’s The Federalists response. No, I’m not buying it, just posting it.

  • John Pieret


    That article doesn’t address the actions of Reagan and his AG between 1981-1986 and, of course, it conflates “prosecutorial discretion,” which Obama has invoked and which Reagan also exercised, with “amnesty.”

    And, as Ed has already pointed out, even conservative legal scholars have conceded that, even if what Obama did isn’t exactly what previous presidents did, it is clearly within his executive powers:

    But why should we expect an honest argument about this from the wingnuts?