LOS ANGELES – As the nation remembered the 40th President’s 100th birthday, immigrants also recall the man who twenty-five years ago tackled the tough issue of immigration in spite of and because of his conservative credentials. The Immigration Control and Reform Act (IRCA) was signed by President Ronald Reagan and enacted November 1986. Between 2.5 and 2.7 million unauthorized workers and their families adjusted their status as a result of IRCA. The following is a statement by Angelica Salas, Executive Director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), a regional civil rights organizations based in Los Angeles.
“President Reagan was by no means a progressive. Our nation’s 40th President was a card-carrying conservative who effectively employed the art of compromise on issues that mattered to him such as education, health care, tax reform, and immigration. Conversely, Reagan was ruthless in suppressing funding for HIV/AIDS research and care, vocally anti-abortion, and obsessively supportive of armed conflicts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua to name a few of his misguided policies.
As we mark what would have been President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday, we find it befitting to add our voice to those who appreciated his sense of optimism and instinctive skill of convincing even the toughest of opponents through dialogue and concessions. In addition to reforming our nation’s immigration laws, this conservative icon is also credited with raising taxes, hiking up the deficit, and famously calling for the tearing down of the Berlin wall.
President Reagan demonstrated his pragmatism best when in 1986 signed the Immigration Control and Reform Act into law. The President must have been well aware that immigration policies after 1965 were just plain out of touch with the nation’s current economic interests. And, he espoused the belief that the United States of America is a land welcoming of those with the ‘will and heart to get here’. More than 2.5 million unauthorized immigrants and their families benefited from the changes to our immigration laws. Study after study shows that this cohort is now a significant segment of the Latino electorate and has become job creators and property owners that strengthen and benefit our country.
Times are quite different in the America of 2011. No doubt the issue of immigration reform remains a passionate and polarizing one twenty-five years later but the need for reform is urgent. That is why we recall with fondness the strength of conviction shown by President Reagan who, on this issue, believed in tearing down the things that divide us and fostering the things that unite us.”