I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and who have lived here even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.
-Ronald Reagan at Debate Between the President and Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale in Kansas City, Missouri, October 21, 1984
Just over a year ago the President signed into law the most sweeping immigration reform in more than three decades. Among the provisions of the new law was a generous legalization or amnesty provision that allows persons who are unlawfully in the United States to become legal residents if they meet certain requirements.
In general, they must have lived here continuously with only brief absences since prior to 1982, and they must have been contributing members of our society and free from serious criminal violations of our laws. More than 1-1/4 million persons have already come forward to accept this one-time amnesty provision in the immigration laws. They are made up of nearly every nationality. By their actions in this country over the past 6 years, they have demonstrated that they deserve the privilege of remaining here in a fully legal status without having to live in an underground society and fearing discovery of their unlawful existence in this great nation. Like other immigrants who have come through normal, lawful channels, they have shown a great willingness to work and contribute to our nation while sharing in our economic well being.
-Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Fitzwater on Immigration AmnestyI can understand their concern and their fear. I think that if we take every precaution we can in that immigration bill to make sure that there is not discrimination simply based on the not wanting to bother as to whether an individual is legal or not, I think we can protect against that.
But the simple truth is that we've lost control of our own borders, and no nation can do that and survive. And I think the thing that they should be looking at, that should be of the greatest appeal to them is the very generous amnesty, that all the way up to 1982, we're ready to give those people permanent residency.
-Ronald Reagan: The President's News Conference on June 14, 1984 at the London Economic SummitOur Administration continues to support legislation to reform the Nation's immigration laws. This includes granting amnesty to certain qualified aliens and prohibiting employment of illegal aliens.
-Ronald Reagan: Message to the Congress on America's Agenda for the FutureI have to say that, beginning back in 1981, I supported the principle of reform in our immigration laws because we, in a way, have lost control of our borders. Right now, I have to say with regard to the Simpson bill that -- and we've informed of this -- that we support generally his bill, but there are some amendments that we think are necessary. For one, we very much need in any immigration bill -- we need protection for people who are in this country and who have not become citizens, for example, that they are protected and legitimized and given permanent residency here. And we want to see some things of that kind added to the immigration bill.
February 6, 1986
-Ronald Reagan: Interview With Guillermo Descalzi of the Spanish International Network, September 13, 1985We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.
-Ronald Reagan: Statement on Signing the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, November 6, 1986
Of course the Amnesty provision in the Immigration Reform Act of 1986 didn't solve the illegal immigration issue, nor did it intend to. It did resolve the legal status of more than 1 million illegals exactly as it intended to. Why enforcement of the borders as provided by the act was not effective I can't say, but it was. And today we have the same problem with illegals times 10. So while I am in favor of completely securing the border I am also in favor of an amnesty in which the illegals can get legal. The same humane principles that Reagan applied in 1986 also apply today.