Skip to comments.illegal immigrants: Failure of '86 reform holds lessons for Bush
Posted on 11/17/2002 2:16:23 AM PST by sarcasm
Sunday, November 17, 2002 - In 1986, then-Sen. Alan Simpson sponsored the first major immigration reform in three decades, and launched one of the biggest fights of his stormy political career.
The landmark legislation put more agents on the border, imposed stiff sanctions for employers who hire illegal immigrants, and granted amnesty to 2.9 million illegal immigrants.
Viewed as a major political feat at the time, 16 years later the law is widely seen as a failure.
The number of illegal immigrants living in the United States has doubled to an estimated 8 million.
"It didn't work the way we thought it was going to," said the lanky former senator from Wyoming, in Denver last week to appear at a lecture series.
"It took a lot of thought. It was a creative bipartisan piece of legislation," he said. But "the failure was the failure to get a more secure (worker) identifier system." In those failings are perhaps a few lessons for politicians, including President Bush, who again is considering the Herculean task of immigration reform.
Simpson's Immigration Reform and Control Act was envisioned as a win-win for immigrants and the host country: Make it much harder for illegals to cross the borders and to get jobs once they were here. Then legalize undocumented immigrants already in the United States, bringing millions into the country's mainstream.
Today, the notion has a familiar ring. Many observers expect Bush will again propose the immigration reform he shelved after Sept. 11. It included the legalization of 3 million undocumented Mexicans living in the United States, the first large-scale amnesty since 1986.
For Simpson, the debate evokes dej vu - but also a keen sense of the pitfalls.
In the wake of the 1986 law, millions of newly minted Americans exercised their right to get visas for members of their extended families, swelling the number of legal immigrants to the U.S.
And the employer sanctions did little more than spawn a massive black market in fake driver's licenses and Social Security numbers, the basic documents employers must ask for.
Simpson said that shows that any new immigration reform must include some form of national ID that's hard to falsify and that employers can use to ensure that prospective workers are legal.
Right now, "you get a breeder document like a (false) birth certificate, then comes the Social Security number, then comes the driver's license, and you're just in the system," Simpson said.
The ID is not a new idea - nor a politically easy proposition. Such an identifier initially was included in the 1986 bill but then stripped. It generated such caustic debates that few politicians are willing to touch the subject even today.
The emotion of that debate also holds another lesson for Bush, the former senator said. Whatever Bush proposes, Simpson said, he should expect a tough fight.
Some experts are more hopeful a major reform can succeed this time, noting that any new proposal is likely to include a critical element the 1986 law lacked. Bush, as well as some prominent Democrats, will support a guest-workers program.
"The idea is to have a circular program where people come in on a temporary basis, do specific work, like seasonal work, and then leave," said Angela Kelley, assistant director of the National Immigration Forum, a Washington-based pro-immigration group.
Simpson's law "rested on an incorrect assumption. You can't stop immigration by shutting down the borders," Kelley said. "You have to give people a legal alternative to enter the country to work."
Simpson doesn't believe it will be that easy.
A country of immigrants, America finds it difficult to hammer out hard-headed solutions to problems that loom larger than ever, he said.
"It's because of the words on the Statue of Liberty - 'the huddled masses,"' Simpson said. "Here's the torch, and those words, and people can't get that out of their craw."
"There is nothing wrong with that, except it doesn't say, 'Send us everybody you've got, legally or illegally,"' he said. "It doesn't say, 'Send us every huddled person in every huddled country."'
Our "leaders" pretend that there is no problem.
The United States is considering giving legalized residency - but not citizenship - to about 15 percent of undocumented workers, and may increase the number of temporary work visas, the new U.S. ambassador-designate said in interviews published Saturday.
The informal proposals fall far short of the comprehensive immigration accord Mexico had sought, but represent a step forward on an issue that is desperately important for President Vicente Fox, and one which has been basically stalled since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Tony Garza, who won Senate confirmation Tuesday and is expected to arrive in Mexico City next week to take up the ambassadorship, told El Universal daily that "I don't think that citizenship should be included. That can be sought as part of another process, without discrimination."
Garza told the Reforma daily that giving automatic citizenship to those who entered the United States illegally could be construed as discouraging legal migration.
In that interview, Garza said the method for determining who would get legal residency could be based on "the length of their time in the country, their employment record, if they have children in school, if they have a real commitment to the community."
He said those kind of criteria could cover around 12 to 15 percent of undocumented workers, but acknowledged there was no firm proposal on a percentage figure, nor on the length of stay - perhaps a minimum of ten years - that might make workers eligible.
The key difference appears to be that legalized residents would have less ability and fewer rights than citizens to sponsor the immigration of large numbers of relatives. Relative-sponsored "family unification" immigration is currently one of the largest sources of the flow of immigrants to the United States.
Neither the State Department nor the Texas Railroad Commission, where Garza previously worked, were able to locate Garza Saturday to confirm the remarks made in the interviews.
In separate remarks made in Washington, former ambassador Jeffrey Davidow acknowledged Mexico won't get everything it wants on immigration, noting "there won't be 'the whole enchilada'" - a phrase once used by diplomats to describe Mexican proposals for mass legalization and freer movement of workers across the border.
Garza, himself the grandson of Mexican immigrants, told El Universal during an interview in Austin, Texas that doing nothing about immigration is not an option. "If we don't do anything about the legal status (of undocumented workers), we'll be admitting that we have a permanent underclass."
Garza also denied bilateral relations have cooled since Washington turned its attention to the fight against terrorism, or since Mexico opposed the U.S. push for a stronger U.N. Security Council resolution against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"Those who suggest there was tension, I think are exaggerating," Garza told Reforma in a telephone interview done earlier this week. "There was a serious discussion, because it was a serious issue. But the relationship is strong."
Simpson's law "rested on an incorrect assumption. You can't stop immigration by shutting down the borders," Kelley said. "You have to give people a legal alternative to enter the country to work."
People like her are about the most arrogant un-American scum we have. All she has is lies and liberal crud to offer up. I would love to see her organization destroyed with her out on the street begging for spare change.
Envoy seeks progress in immigration reformBy ARMANDO VILLAFRANCA
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
AUSTIN -- Though Sept. 11 shifted U.S. foreign policy toward the war on terrorism, the next U.S. ambassador to Mexico said Wednesday he is optimistic immigration reform will return to the forefront.
"I view it from the perspective of a Mexican and an American and I happen to think it's important to us that we move on immigration because I really do think it speaks to our character and our identity," said Tony Garza Jr., 43, who serves on the Texas Railroad Commission.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination to become the next ambassador to Mexico.
His confirmation comes at both a critical and extraordinary time in U.S.-Mexico relations, which reached a pinnacle on Sept. 6, 2001, when Mexican President Vicente Fox addressed Congress and both countries appeared headed toward an accord on immigration reform.
Though Garza acknowledged that much of that momentum disappeared after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, he believes the issue is too important economically to both countries to not eventually return to the table.
He said both countries share the same objectives, but have yet to define how those objectives can be met.
Garza said he supports easing the policy on residency, but not without first defining the criteria to support the status change such as length of time in the country, criminal history and whether residents have children in school.
Also, he said the United States has a de facto guest worker program and must find ways to make it a market-driven work force.
Garza supports the extension of the Legal Immigration & Family Equity Act that will enable Mexican nationals who qualify for permanent residency to adjust their status in the United States rather than return to Mexico. The extension allows Mexicans who have immigration status violations to pay a $1,000 penalty and remain in the country rather than returning to Mexico while applying for permanent residency.
"It's important to America as well as to Mexico," Garza said of the immigration issues. "They're very compatible agendas but it's got to be driven by the United States in what's in our best interest.
"We have never been about a country creating a permanent underclass."
Garza anticipates the issue of legalization to be debated between the two countries. While immigration reform will lead to changes that will benefit both countries, he said, the path toward legalization will not be direct.
The support will be welcomed in Mexico, which is expected to pressure Garza and make immigration policy between the two countries a major issue.
"They won't have to squeeze hard because I already think it's important," Garza said.
Both countries benefit economically from the relationship. The United States gets low-cost labor and Mexico gets a market for more than 85 percent of its exports. Also, two-thirds of all foreign investment in Mexico is from the United States. And Garza said estimates of the amount of money sent back to Mexico by family working in the United States range from $10 billion to $14 billion.
But the current political climate in Mexico City, especially in regard to the United States, will be much different when Garza arrives than it was before the terrorist attacks.
Harley Shaiken, a University of California-Berkeley professor specializing in global economics, said the Bush administration and its Republican supporters have placed the Hispanic vote at the top of their agenda while Mexico has slipped near the bottom.
"Fox came in and gambled heavily that by him moving in a U.S.-centered direction that immigration reform would occur in the U.S., that is he could say to Mexico, `I shifted Mexico foreign policy, but look what we gained,' " Shaiken said.
He said Fox has suffered considerable political damage as a result of that policy.
"Fox gambled and the U.S. didn't deliver," he said.
Nestor Rodriguez, a sociologist at the University of Houston and co-director of the Center for Immigration Research, agreed.
"The Mexicans right now want desperately to do something dealing with the undocumented population living here now, and Mexicans will pressure (Garza) on that," Rodriguez said. "There's always the circumstances that affect relationships and the one we're in right now certainly doesn't favor Mexico."
Garza downplayed the concerns that Fox's hopes for reform remain mired in stubborn opposition from the Mexican government.
"Has it always been exactly what he's wanted? No, but that's the nature of a democracy," Garza said. "I think he's had some pretty significant successes and shown leadership in a lot of issues."
One thing that can offer Fox optimism and that worked in favor of Garza's nomination, is Garza's close ties to President Bush. Garza, a Brownsville native and former Cameron County judge, was appointed Texas secretary of state by Bush soon after Bush was elected governor in 1994. He remained as a senior adviser to the governor.
"Will (Fox) have high expectations? Not really. I think Fox's expectations have been tempered by the reality of the last two years when much seemed possible and little has been delivered," Shaiken said.
Garza said his experiences of growing up on the border and serving the region in public office have shown him both the limitless possibilities and futility born from distance.
He remembers a variation on an old saying about Mexico's misfortune of being so far from God and so close to Texas. He said the border has been at a disadvantage because of its distance from DF (Mexico City) and DC (Washington).
"In the wake of (the North American Free Trade Agreement) what you saw I think was both countries starting to look at the border and starting to recognize there had been a fair amount of neglect, and so what was needed was to start focusing on the border," he said.
As for his nomination, Garza said he plans to be forthright and hardworking and hope that those virtues will help him overcome any obstacles and win him support in Mexico.
Shaiken remained skeptical.
"He could very well have a positive reception, he could be welcomed to Mexico, but I think he doesn't arrive with a clean slate," he said.
Nope. Only our politicians find it difficult. The vast majority of regular Americans want the laws enforced and illegal aliens deported.
Lol. The only hard head I see is Michael Riley and his supermarket tabloid called the Denver Post.
He writes his "piece" as if the country is in a quagmire over what to do about illegal immigration. The American people know exactly what they want... close the borders and enforce the laws. And NO amnesties. The only ones confused are idiots like Riley and his political friends who have a totally different agenda.
This remark is quite telling. Seems that an Amnesty deal is on its way and the administration is trying to sell it as "were not giving Mexico 100% of what it wants". WOW! As if what Mexico wants has ANY relevance whatsoever to our lawmaking. Though the sad fact is that with Bush, what Mexico wants is of the utmost importance.
As America unravels due to out of control legal and illegal immigration we find our elected officials dreaming up ways to make this crisis even worse.
Who do these people work for? It certainly isn't the American People.
Lott now wants troops on the border, will Bush oppose that too? I've said a thousand times, I want to support him, but sheesh he doesn't make it easy for a lot of us. I hope at this point Tancredo challenges him in the primaries, if for any reason to draw out a debate on this issue.
Sadly, I agree.
Garza has been tight with Bush for a long time. He's in his early 40s and is being fast-tracked in the GOP Presidential farm system. You watch.
So clearly, at that point the employer who wants to remain in compliance with the law follows up and will find out whether the problem is just a typo ("Smythe" instead of "Smyth"), or whether they have hired an illegal with a forged document.
My guess is that for "bottom-feeding" jobs the employers are looking the other way. Therefore, we could put some teeth into the law and when the SSA sends these letters, a privately contracted agency could follow up and investigate. For every illegal identified, we could pay the private agency $500 a head. They could then be loaded into cargo aircraft and released back to their home countries from 15,000 feet. Heh. Just kidding.
I can see legalizing about 12 to 15 percent of the illegals but again ---they want to legalize the exact wrong kinds. The ones working with stolen social security cards will have the highest paying jobs and stable employment record but those people committed felony fraud to obtain their jobs. Kids in schools means they're the type most willing to access taxpayer services and most likely they're using those kids for plenty of handouts too.
Pleased to meet you Tony. What's the nature of your game?
Seems to be further insulting America with stupid legalization (TRANSLATION: Amnesty) programs. If the Mexis ever ram through this amnesty you can count on the Guats, Salvadorans and other immigrant pressure groups coming down hard for their own amnesties. It never ends. It's a nightmare and during a recession, Wall Street in the dumps, no less.
It'll be a nightmare to enforce and the usual suspects will have their usual sob stories for these miscreants. Usual suspects being the media, immigration lawyers and sundry "advocates" funded by your tax dollars. Who's gonna enforce this program? A new INS bureaucracy?
The INS already doesn't enforce laws so we're going to give them more laws to not enfroce? The only way this can work is if local police can enforce this new program...keep it on the level. And I don't see the Feds doing this.
You can count on that. There will be a massive anti-245i campaign inside the beltway to expose what exactly 245i is and isn't. Stay tuned.
."the failure was the failure to get a more secure (worker) identifier system."
Well Im glad Simpson sees this legislation as a failure. Why did he vote for giving amnesty before a proper worker identification system was in place?
A secure identifier system is only a very small part of the failure of the amnesty. And we dont need a national ID, as Simpson suggests, to keep out illegals.
The real failure of the amnesty and of our immigration policy is not enforcing the current laws on the books. After all, we have a SS system, birth certificates, drivers licenses and other identifiers. These forms of identification are routinely disregarded by government and law enforcement agencies. If govt and LE agencies today are accepting the Mexican ID, giving out benefits and catching and releasing know illegals, what is to make us believe this policy will not continue if an illegal does not have his new National ID Card? If drivers licenses, birth certificates & SS numbers are being forged and stolen today, what is make us believe these practices will stop with a National ID Card? What is so magical about the National ID Card that will change govt and LE practices as well as eliminate all these illegal practices? Nothing! They are not going to change.
This guest worker program is another sham. Our borders are not secure now. Once we get a guest worker program will the borders be magically shut & the guest workers will only enter through designated areas? Will the guest worker program eliminate the drug dealers, murders, thieves and others who just want to come to America, but want no part of being a guest worker?
Currently we cannot track & deport visa violators. What makes us think we can track & deport guest workers any better? How will we track guest workers who just dont show up for work? If we catch them will they be deported? Will guest workers families be allowed to enter? Will they be tracked & deported if the worker is in violation of the program?
Currently the pro-immigration people (and it seems the government too) is unwilling to deport know illegals. When there is a work slowdown &/or the picking season has ended will these guest workers be shipped back to their country? At whos cost? Why would we think that those who currently do not want to deport known illegals, those who want to put water & beacons out in the desert, will just turn around after the guest worker program is implemented and say OK your work is done, go back home now? It is not going to happen. These feel-good liberals will then start crying that the workers kids are in school, they have ties in the community anything to keep the guest workers here. What happens if the guest worker has a baby in America, then the kid is American? You know the parent(s) then wont be sent back home when their work is done.
We need to close the borders, overhaul the current INS and immigration policy and eliminate the incentives for illegals to come to America. Now!