Ronald Reagan’s Biggest Mistake – According to Reagan Himself

by Mike Scruggs

According to Ronald Reagan himself, as told to his trusted long-time friend and U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, the biggest mistake of his presidency was signing the l986 amnesty for what turned out to be more than half the five million illegal immigrants in the country. Reagan was uncomfortable with the amnesty but was persuaded by some of the leaders of his own party (still living) that it would only affect a small number of illegal immigrants and would assure that Congress would follow through with more vigorous enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. The misnamed Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 was touted by its supporters as “comprehensive immigration reform” that would grant amnesty only to a few long-settled immigrants and strengthen border security and internal immigration enforcement against employers who were hiring illegal immigrants.

Internal enforcement was critical to Reagan. He knew that the real key to stopping illegal immigration was to cut off the job magnet at the employment place. He was also honest enough to call what he believed would only be a small amnesty by its real name—amnesty. He did not try to deceive the American people into thinking it was not really an amnesty, a deception much in vogue with many politicians today.

There are various accounts of how many amnesties were expected with passage of the 1986 amnesty. Figures range from 300,000 (Gingrich, who voted for it) to about 2.1 million. Some reasonable estimates center around 1.2 million. The actual result was 2.7 million. Close to one third of the amnesties given were based on document fraud.

For the first six months after the amnesty there was a modest fall in illegal immigration, but within 12 months illegal immigration was breaking all previous records, rising to 800,000 per year. Friends and relatives of the newly legalized immigrants began to pour into the United States. They were followed by more illegal job seekers who saw continued opportunities for more amnesties. In fact, the 1986 amnesty resulted in six more amnesties from 1994 to 2000, awarding legal status to another 3.0 million illegal immigrants. By 1997, the number of illegal immigrants in the country was already back up to the 5.0 million in the U.S. before the 1986 amnesty. Amnesty has proved to be a slippery slope. Amnesties beget more amnesties and more illegal immigrants. Can you imagine the consequences of amnesty for the 11 million or more illegals now in the United States?

There were 5.0 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. in 1986 because we had allowed cheap-labor special interests to dominate immigration policy to the point of non-enforcement. We had become lax on border security and had ceased to enforce immigration laws at the workplace. Lack of enforcement at the workplace was by far the more important of the two chief causes of illegal immigration, as it is today.

Reagan thought he was trading a small amnesty for all-important workplace enforcement and increased border security. But once the amnesty was done and multiplying far beyond expectations, the special interests went to work at killing enforcement at the employment place. The chief culprits were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and large agriculture corporations that lobbied Congress into backing off enforcement.

According to a 1997 report by the Center for Immigration Studies, the cost of amnesty for 2.7 million illegal immigrants had accumulated to $156.7 billion (in 1986 dollars!) by 1997. The net cost after $78 billion in tax collections was $78.7 billion dollars. This amounts to a subsidy per amnestied illegal of $29,148 in 1986 dollars, which is an important indirect subsidy for the employers of illegal workers. But U.S. workers paid the highest price. The 1986 amnesty displaced 1,872,000 American workers over the next decade. This and downward pressure on American wages are not adequately accounted for in the report. In fact, downward pressure on U.S. worker income may be the largest cost to the American economy of amnesty and excess immigration levels.

Only 36 percent of the 1986 amnesty recipients spoke English well, and only 28 percent of those over age 24 had graduated from high school.

Recently the liberal media has been pushing its pro-amnesty agenda by painting a false picture of Reagan on immigration and amnesty. Reagan saw that illegal immigration was becoming a big problem and wanted to stop it. He was persuaded to allow a relatively small amnesty as a bargaining chip to strengthen border security, and more importantly, workplace enforcement. Reagan wanted to fine employers $3,000 to $10,000 for each illegal immigrant deliberately hired. Congress betrayed him on the enforcement measures and probably the extent and eventual costs of the amnesty. Blindness to likely consequences and costs of social legislation seems to be an inherent characteristic of liberal politicians of both major parties. One of the great shortcomings of progressives is their inability to progress to step 2 or 3 in thinking through the logical consequences of legislation. They have an unshakeable faith in the wisdom of the latest poll of uninformed voters. Reagan should have known better than to trust the happy-clappy liberals and servants of the big dollar lobbyists. He made a big mistake, but he admitted it.

Ronald Reagan was not comfortable with amnesty. He was pro-enforcement, and he admitted to Edwin Meese that the biggest mistake of his presidency was to sign the 1986 amnesty. We should learn from the wisdom Reagan gained by bitter experience. Any amnesty is a slippery slope to national economic and social disaster.

delicious | digg | reddit | facebook | technorati | stumbleupon | chatintamil

22 thoughts on “Ronald Reagan’s Biggest Mistake – According to Reagan Himself

  1. TRU

    A Republican passed amnesty not a Democrat. That’s why people should vote Democrat. I vowed to never vote for a Republican after amnesty passed and have not. Lesson learned.

  2. Lech Dharma

    “TRU”…that is the most convoluted argument for voting Democrat that I have ever read.
    Was Reagan a Republican?: YES.
    Did he sign an Immigration Reform Bill that was ALSO supposed to increase border security and eliminate the magnets for future illegal immigration, once-and-for-all?: YES

    Did Congress follow through with their end?: NO

    While Clinton was in office, did he sign Executive Orders that
    increased the numbers of Amnestied Illegal Aliens?: YES
    Did Clinton make it EASIER for illegal aliens to arrive and thrive here?: YES

    Was Ted Kennedy (the iconic Democrat) ALWAYS pushing for more amnesty and increased benefits for illegals: YES

    Did OBAMA just perform ANOTHER treasonous usurpation of power by granting a de facto Amnesty for millions of young breeding-age illegal aliens by telling his DHS to stop enforcing federal law?: YES

  3. Pingback: National Review article refers to ‘wetbacks’; Twitter freaks out | Twitchy

  4. Joe Myrick

    This was G.H, Bush’s doing. Just like the tricking of Reagan into the signing of the LAPAZ agreement. G.H. Bush was chosen as RR vice for a good reason. Both were former Democrats. RR may have actually became a Republican, but not GH Bush. He is simply the infiltrator charged with creating the moderate, the Rhino to overtake the former conservative Republican party ideology. And GH succeeded too. You Democrats should be proud of his success.

  5. Pingback: The Sixties Radical- Beware of Obama’s and The Democrat’s Trojan Horse Concerning Immigration Reform « Thegeeman's Blog

  6. Robert

    I thought the Martin Luther King holiday was the biggest mistake that Reagan made but I suppose amnesty has to be way up there as well.

  7. Pingback: Ronald Reagan States His Biggest Mistake | Political Thrill

  8. Pingback: When Good People take a Bad Stand | Shenandoah

  9. Pingback: Reagan & Conservatives -- Revisonist History 101 - Page 9 - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum

  10. Pingback: Trump: Illegal Alien Amnesty a “Suicide Mission” for GOP | Stand With Arizona

  11. Pingback: GOP Commits Suicide; Endorses Reconquista

  12. Pingback: American Families Cannot Afford the Cost of Amnesty - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum

  13. Pingback: Amnesty Capitulation Assures A Failed Society : Veracity Voice

  14. Pingback: Amnesty Capitulation Assures a Failed Society - Capitol Hill Outsider

  15. Pingback: Amnesty Capitulation Assures a Failed Society | Old-Thinker News

  16. Pingback: Obama closes national mall to americans but allows illegals to have rally there!!! - Page 7 - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum

  17. Kenny

    “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally,” Ronald Reagan

    This whole article is a lie.

  18. Pingback: Looks like Obama was correct about Benghazi - Page 81 - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum

  19. roho

    When Reagan took office, there were 9 Billionares in America and 99 when he exited. The Steel Industry was being destroyed by exports, as well as other high paying middleclass jobs. He and Bush Sr were both globalists, working for Wall Street and the Bankers benefit. The next wave of immigrants will be Robots. Grave Diggers should be one of the first, as the World Elite will then have no need for working people.

    Reagan was a decoy…………..How do you manage California and not see the negatives of immigration?

  20. Thomas Lucken

    Reagan was a big boy and admitted to his mistake. Obama won’t, he blames everyone else but himself. I am sure even George Washington is blamed for some of his mistakes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>