The History and Prospects for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

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The last time there was significant immigration reform in the US was in 1986 when Congress passed the Immigration and Control Act. A Republican Senate led by Senator Al Simpson of Wyoming passed the bill. The house back then was under the democrats led by Ron Mazzzoli, a congressional representative from Louisville, Kentucky. The deal involved a major trade-off. It was agreed that all employers would have to enforce immigration laws and verify that all their employees were authorized to work in the US. The Republicans then agreed to let a huge number of undocumented aliens living in the US since before January 1982 to be eligible for permanent residency status in the US.

However, the 1986 Act had a few problems. For one, sanctions on employers depended on their ability to determine whether new employees were authorized to work in the US. To solve this, Congress chose the Social Security Card as the main document by which to establish whether a worker was authorized to work in the US. However, Congress did not authorize an upgrade of the card. Thus, the card was prone to abuse, and many undocumented workers are still able to find their way into the country and be employed.

Further Efforts on Reform Immigration During the Bush Presidency

When George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, he put in some effort to handle the issue of immigration. It seemed likely that the president’s immigration reform would pass. Bush even met with the president of Mexico where they talked optimistically about the reforms. However, all that came to naught when on 9/11 the US was attacked and everything else came to a standstill. It was not until his reelection in 2004 that the issue of immigration was discussed again.

Senators John McCain, Edward Kennedy, and others made a major effort to push for immigration reform in 2006 and 2007. However, it eventually failed. The bill wanted to find a path via which undocumented immigrants in the US could become legal residents. However, like many other efforts before it, the bill was dead on arrival. This was after Republicans gained control of the house in the midterm elections of 2006.

Obama’s Efforts Between 2009 and 2014

While Congress was not able to pass immigration reform under President Bush, Obama’s election in 2008 gave hope that it would pass. This was especially so because the Democrats controlled both houses. However, Obama chose to lead with healthcare and financial reform. This proved fatal to the immigration reforms. In the 2010 midterm elections, the President lost the house of representative and the Republicans were adamantly opposed to his immigration reforms.

Following the defeat of Mitt Romney in the 2012 elections, there was hope that Congress would pass comprehensive reforms on immigration. In 2013, the Senate managed to pass Senate Bill 744. However, John Boehner, the Speaker of the House was unable to bring the bill for a vote in the house since he did not have a majority of his Republican caucus to support him.

The Prospects of Immigration Reform from 2016

In the 2016 elections, immigration reforms were a hot topic. Donald Trump pushed for immigration reform during his campaign. He said that the US-Mexican border was experiencing a flood of immigrants rushing into the US. Trump promised that he would build a big beautiful wall across the entire border for which Mexico would pay.

Mr. Trump went a step further and suggested something that had not been contemplated by anyone else before. He proposed kicking out over 11 million undocumented workers that were in the US. He promised this would happen even to their US children within 12 to 18 months. While his comments have been criticized a lot, he seemed to be polling quite well with the Republicans.

The support that Donald Trump enjoyed on the issue of immigration was because of anger created by the ultra-conservative media and politicians. They had created the false impression that the border was wide open and Mexicans and other Latinos were just streaming in.

However, the chances of Trump ever getting immigration reform through Congress are slim. With Capitol Hill deeply divided along party lines, it is not likely immigration reform will pass soon. However, Trump is currently engaged in tough negotiations with the Democrats. It is likely that a deal would be similar to the one passed in 1986. Children of immigrants would be allowed to stay, and Trump would get funding for a border wall.

This is very different from the promise to deport over 11 million immigrants that Trump had made. However, it seems like the only deal that is going to see the light of day. It will also likely involve a path towards US citizenship for those who have been living in the US for a while and have not broken the law.