Ed Meese: We’ve Seen the Effect of “Amnesty” Before

Ed Meese, The Foundry, May 17, 2013


In the mid-’80s, many Members of Congress advocated amnesty for long-settled illegal immigrants. President Reagan considered it reasonable to adjust the status of what was then a relatively small population, and as his attorney general, I supported his decision.

The path to citizenship was not automatic. Immigrants had to pay application fees, learn to speak English, understand American civics, pass a medical exam, and register for military selective service. Those with convictions for a felony or three misdemeanors were ineligible.


Today they call it a “roadmap to citizenship.” Ronald Reagan called it “amnesty.” And he was right.

The 1986 reform did not solve our immigration problem—in fact, the population of illegal immigrants has nearly quadrupled since that “comprehensive” bill.

Why didn’t it work? Well, one reason is that everything else the 1986 bill promised—from border security to law enforcement—was to come later. It never did. Only amnesty prevailed, and that encouraged more illegal immigration.

Today, we have many of the same needs we did then. We need to work on better securing our border. We need to modernize our legal immigration system, including effective temporary worker programs. And we need strong enforcement of the laws we already have, including those that enforce immigration policies in the workplace.

The Gang of Eight is making promises now. “Border security” is a big promise. But their proposal spends money and grants amnesty without the guarantee that this promise will be kept.

We are having much the same debate and being offered much the same deal in exchange for promises largely dependent on the will of future Congresses and Presidents.

Instead, we should learn from our mistakes.


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  • The__Bobster

    How about enforcement now, no amnesty ever?

    • Bossman

      Then it’s all over for the Republican party.

      • liberals are all homos

        All over? You got it backwards dumbo. Once the tyrant lying Obama criminal is impeached and convicted the liberal anti christ homo in the WH stench will be removed permanently with Clinton who is already a useless lying bull dyke anyway.Hopefully they will locate that MIA 6.5 trillion he stashed in Fidel National and Chavez S&L Caribbean banks too and throw in embezzlement that most certainly is occurring by the trillions.

  • Erasmus

    Are you listening Rubio, McCain, Graham and you other GOP r-tards? The rank and file get it. You’d better soon, also. Trying to advance the agenda of 20 billionaires doesn’t work if you lose 20 million of your base in the process.

  • Roger Williams

    I agree with everything except, “we need….,including effective temporary worker programs”

    No we don’t. Various industries say they need low labor costs or the work will simply vanish altogether and reappear in Mexico or wherever. First, I think they are lying, second, even if they aren’t lying, so be it. We don’t need wage-slave industries here.

    • Bossman

      That is because you don’t understand that the USA is part of the international global trading system.

    • fakeemail

      They’re lying. The world doesn’t end when you pay Americans a decent wage and the boss is just rich instead of filthy rich.

  • bigone4u

    Libertarian Lew Rockwell had a short item about the libertarian position on his website: The illegals stay but get no vote and no citizenship. Ron Paul has apparently endorsed this idea.

    Obviously, with an open border policy such as this, white and black workers who enjoy decent pay for doing productive tasks will see their jobs go to foreigners. I’ll add that the Rockewell crew is also opposed to the minimum wage, so we could well see wages plummet to $10 a day under the libertarian insantity.

    I wish libertarians had more sense than this. I like the idea of getting the government off the backs of people, but under their plan the weight of a hundred million Mexicans would be just as bad.

    • An immigration plan that allows illegals to stay and gives them work permits but not the vote, citizenship or welfare is the beaux ideal of the establishment Republican: It gives the EL CHEAPO labor lobby what they really want, but since it precludes the wage slaves from voting, it means YAY RED TEAM can still win elections.

      But it’s also a political trojan horse for the YAY RED TEAM, because you know that if such a plan was actually passed into law, some alphabet soup group would shop a civil rights/14th lawsuit to a sympathetic Federal judge who will then rule that you can’t have two classes of “citizen,” and therefore you have to give to give the newly legalized all that which was supposed to be denied to them.

      And also…if one thinks that illegal aliens aren’t actually voting or collecting welfare, then I have a Golden Gate Bridge to Mexico for sale.

      • bigone4u

        Your observation about political trojan horses is astute. Federal judges in my experience are corrupt, not on the take, but anti-white and anti-strict constuctionists.

        • Non Humans

          I’m still absolutely baffled that they are allowed to vote! If I moved out of the US, as a naturalized citizen f whichever country that I moved to, I would never expect to be granted the right to vote in a country that I was not born to.
          These politicians need to seek treatment for their cranio-rectal inversion, because when the economy collapses and life as we know it drastically changes, and it is directly attributable to decisions that they made, I can very easily see angry americans of every creed hunting them and the squat-monsters down to pay for their treason and trespasses, respectively.

        • Ngati Pakeha

          They really do become a law unto themselves and their inherent arrogance knows no bounds. I’m nervously awaiting the appointment of the first; black/brown, trans-sexual Federal judge. That will be the end of the game as we will literally be in the Dark Ages – pun intended!

      • Greg Thomas

        This is EXACTLY what will happen!

    • Lew Rockwell is naive. He really think that illegal immigrants are all broken up by the prospect of having no citizenship or the voting rights that go along with it. He can’t grasp — none of those Ron Raul types can — that the illegals come here primarily for the free stuff and the joy of sticking it in our face that we can’t do anything about being bled dry.

      • I read part of the Cato Institute’s lame-a-rooney attempt to rebut Richwine on Steve Sailer’s blog. Cato thinks that passing “comprehensive immigration reform” will solve all the white-Hispanic “gaps.”

        Cato is also a think tank which advocates shrinking the social welfare state. How do they square that with swinging the borders wide open for millions upon millions of future welfare dependents?

        The answer is that they don’t square the two, because logic or consistency isn’t paramount here. What is paramount is that the major financial backer of Cato, the Koch Bros., want open borders, so Cato will want open borders. Incidentally, these are the same Koch Bros. whom the kook left have put at the center of their conspiracy theories about lamestream conservatives. And the Koch Bros. just organized some sort of open borders virtual Woodstock on the left-oriented website Buzzfeed! So what if the Koch Bros. buy the L.A. Times? It’s already an open borders rag, and it’ll stay that way under Koch ownership. With “enemies” like the Koch Bros and Karl Roverrated for that matter, the left doesn’t need its friends.

      • mobilebay

        You’re right, Seek. The lawbreakers haven’t marched for citizenship that I’ve heard of…they just like the goodies that our foolish goverment hands out like Halloween candy. Even when, and if, they are suddenly handed our most precious birthright, it will mean nothing. Like they say in Mexico, “Where there is a Mexican, there is Mexico.” They may become “citizens,” but they will NEVER be Americans.
        Let’s all take up Rep. King’s cry…”We don’t owe them anything!”

  • sbuffalonative

    Why didn’t it work? Well, one reason is that everything else the 1986 bill promised—from border security to law enforcement—was to come later. It never did. Only amnesty prevailed, and that encouraged more illegal immigration.

    I think Mr. Meese has heard the criticism of President Reagans’ ‘one time only ‘ amnesty and he’s trying to polish Reagan’s image.

    The first amnesty failed because no one had any intention of adhering to the term of the agreement. Like this second amnesty, there is no assurance that there will be any enforcement of the border, employers sanctions, or repatriating illegals. All those details will be worked out later *wink wink.

  • There’s ONLY one immigration reform that we can accept and that is to hold this anti-white government to the promise that it made during the Reagan Administration and that is that immigrants must come into the country legally & ONLY legally. But naturally, you should not hold your breath, the government promised that IF the 1965 immigrant law changed the demographics of the US, we could just change the law. YEAH, RIGHT.

    “The illegals stay but get no vote and no citizenship. Ron Paul has apparently endorsed this idea.” IS STILL WHITE GENOCIDE.

  • Ted

    The only policy we need is to deport illegals, shut down legal immigration, with the exception of White South Africans.

  • NordicHeritage

    Good old Red Ronnie’s administration definitely was the beginning of the end of our Republic.

    • IstvanIN

      It was Lyndon Baines Johnson who put America on the gallows and opened the trap door.

      • bebe

        Not to mention the Kennedy’s. Read the Immigration book by JFK.

  • Epiminondas

    If cheap labor is what you want, gut welfare and abolish affirmative action. You’ll get your cheap labor without having to import it.

    • George White

      Haha! So true!

  • mobilebay

    I’ve never undestood the concept of granting amnesty to people who’ve broken the law the longest. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here for fifteen years or fifteen minutes, you need to leave. On another note, the gang of eight’s intent almost paled in comparison when I learned that the House Bill’s answer has as one of its committee members the most active, pro-illegal,anti-American on the planet…Rep Luis Gutierrez. If their bill passes, he will personally go to the border and hand out certificates of citizenship, no questions asked.

    • Erasmus

      I’ve never undestood the concept of granting amnesty to people who’ve broken the law the longest.

      Our “leaders” want to grant amnesty because they’re too lazy or cowardly to do the jobs for which they were elected. They’re afraid to take a stand on the hard issues.

      Surely they must know that when you reward bad behavior, you only get more of it. If they don’t, they need to be dumped from office because they’re too stupid to hold any position of responsibility. If they do know, yet are too craven to do the job for which they were sent to Washington, then they need to be turned out of office because they’re only a bunch of self-servers (Name me one politician who isn’t?) and unworthy of the public’s trust.

      The bottom line is that most politicians don’t care. They’ll do whatever it takes to secure their winning their next election and the future of the country and the welfare of its citizens be damned.

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Our own “leaders” will damage this country more thoroughly than 1,000 Osama bin Ladens could have in 100 years. Our own “leaders” will bring down this country in a way and with a speed the Soviets could only dream of in their wildest Bolshevik fantasies.

      • MBlanc46

        “Our “leaders” want to grant amnesty because they’re too lazy or cowardly
        to do the jobs for which they were elected. They’re afraid to take a
        stand on the hard issues.”

        That, or they want to deliver what the folks who fund their campaigns want–a never-ending stream of cheap labor.

  • Nick Gherz

    If the new bill stops short of crippling businesses that hire illegals, it’s phony-baloney time once again.

    • MBlanc46

      And that will happen when pigs fly.

  • Erasmus

    If this bill passes, it will erode America’s confidence in its “leaders” irremediably. Trust lost is almost completely impossible to regain. When it’s gone, everyone becomes a free agent with all hell eventually breaking loose.

    When the history of the fall of the US is written, traitors like Chuck Schumer, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Marco Rubio and George W. Bush and all the groups who supported amnesty will receive extensive coverage.

    • Bossman

      When will that “fall” occur? North American integration will only make the USA stronger. Does US immigration rules need fixing? Yes it does.

  • MBlanc46

    Why didn’t it work? It didn’t work because one of the most powerful groups in society–the employer class–didn’t want it to work. They want a never-ending stream of low-wage immigrants. What ever bill gets passed, or doesn’t get passed, they will continue to want that and they will continue to get it.