A new article written for AP defends President Barack Obama’s expected executive order to protect illegal immigrants from GOP criticism by noting that presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush also extended amnesty to illegal immigrants.
The article cites the fact that Reagan joined Congress in championing Senate Bill 1200, the failed amnesty legislation of 1986, which gave as many as three million illegal immigrants legal status. The author adds that George H. W. Bush put into place a new “family fairness” that cemented a Senate measure that gave more legal status to illegal immigrant families; that policy was later passed by Congress. Bush’s actions increased legal immigration by 40 percent.
AP writes: Obama “wants to extend protection from deportation to millions of immigrant parents and spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and expand his 2-year-old program that shields immigrants brought illegally to this country as children.”
“A tea party-influenced GOP” is standing in Obama’s way, according to the author. Not only does the article cite GOP leaders asserting that if Obama issues an executive order, it would “poison the well” of Obama-GOP relations, but that “Some Republicans have even raised the possibility of impeachment.”
The article quotes GOP villain Rep. Steve King of Iowa saying, “The audacity of this president to think he can completely destroy the rule of law with the stroke of a pen is unfathomable to me. It is unconstitutional, it is cynical, and it violates the will of the American people.”
The author writes, “Nearly three decades ago, there was barely a peep when Reagan and Bush used their authority to extend amnesty to the spouses and minor children of immigrants covered by the 1986 law.”
If the article wants to attack present-day GOP members for not following Reagan and Bush’s lead, at least the author should note that there was one rather prominent Democrat who opposed the 1986 bill, despite support for the bill from Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and John Kerry. Democrat Ted Kennedy was against Reagan’s immigration efforts. And in 2006, when the immigration issue was flaring up again, The New York Times noted:
Doris Meissner, who studied the 1986 amnesty and later ran the federal immigration agency under President Bill Clinton, warned that many illegal immigrants, who often lack documentation, would most likely turn to the black market to find them. Ms. Meissner also questioned the assumption that illegal immigrants who failed to qualify for legalization would leave the country. That did not happen in 1986.
AP notes Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX): “It’s clear that it’s fully within his legal authority to issue these orders… [Republicans] didn’t raise any objections in the past when Republican presidents issued similar orders. This is pure political theater.”
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) rebutted, “There’s always some precedent for prosecutorial discretion. But this president would call tearing the Constitution into tiny little pieces in the White House prosecutorial discretion.”
What the article fails to acknowledge is that it doesn’t matter what Reagan and George H. W. Bush did vis-à-vis immigration. If they made a mistake—and evidence shows that almost one-third of applications from the 1.3 million agricultural workers wanting legal status were riddled with fraud, and enforcement of immigration laws decreased after 1986—then the GOP has learned the hard way the failures of granting amnesty.