Former Attorney General Ed Meese Explains Why Senate Immigration Bill Won’t Work

Heritage’s Ed Meese explains why the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill will not work. Though we cannot predict the future, we can learn from the lessons of the past.  His perspective is well worth listening to — and his advice is worth heeding — as he was attorney general under President Ronald Reagan when the 1986 amnesty bill was made into law.

In the mid-’80s, many Members of Congress advocated amnesty for long-settled illegal immigrants. President Reagan considered it reasonable to adjust the status of what was then a relatively small population, and as his attorney general, I supported his decision.

The path to citizenship was not automatic. Immigrants had to pay application fees, learn to speak English, understand American civics, pass a medical exam, and register for military selective service. Those with convictions for a felony or three misdemeanors were ineligible.

This should sound familiar, as it’s quite close to the path and provisions set forth by the Gang of Eight.

Promises were made in that bill — “from border security to law enforcement” —  that were never fulfilled.

He adds:

The Gang of Eight is making promises now. “Border security” is a big promise. But their proposal spends money and grants amnesty without the guarantee that this promise will be kept.

We are having much the same debate and being offered much the same deal in exchange for promises largely dependent on the will of future Congresses and Presidents.

Instead, we should learn from our mistakes.

[I]n keeping open that door of opportunity, we also must uphold the rule of law and enhance a fair immigration process, as Reagan said, to “humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people: American citizenship.”




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“Border security” is a big promise, but the Gang of Eight cannot guarantee their promise will be kept.

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