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On Wednesday, Presidential Candidate Beto O’Rourke released his immigration plan. In the plan, which can be found here, Beto was quick to place the blame on the current administration in manufacturing crisis at the border. He cited cruel and cynical policies of the current administration as sowing needless chaos and confusion at our borders. It’s worth revisiting the immigration policies that have been put into place in the US to learn more.
A major overhaul of immigration policy was put into place in 1965 and signed by Democratic President Lyndon B Johnson. Under the Hart-Celler Act, immigration preference was transferred from mostly European countries to allow more immigration from Central and South American countries. Under the Act, immigration limits from countries were set to help control the number of immigrants each year. Several minor updates to the immigration law passed through the late 1980’s, as can be seen on this timeline.
One key date left out of this timeline is the ending of the Bracero program in 1964 under Democrat President Lyndon B Johnson. The program allowed for temporary workers from Mexico to enter the US to work farm jobs. It was created during the 1940’s during war time when workers were needed. The workers were considered legal while in the US for working these jobs and many were concerned with the rise of illegal immigration following the termination of the Bracero program and the new Hart-Celler Act.
In 1986, President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act. This act expanded legalization for two different segments of immigrants, increased border patrol staffing and established punishments for employers who hire illegal immigrants. This law was designed to help promote citizenship and help protect American jobs through legal immigration.
In 1990, President Bush signed the 1990 Immigration Act that expanded the allowed legal admissions to the United States, eased temporary worker restrictions and expanded the scope of criminal acts that were reviewed as part of immigration reviews. Deportation rules were eased under the act as well. The law was a continued expansion of immigration under Republican presidents, while aiming to protect US citizens from potential harmful or criminal immigrants.
Under Democrat President Clinton, the 1996 the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act was passed. This act reduced government benefits, added new border agents, increased new border control measures, toughened punishments for illegal immigrants and established new restrictions on asylum-seekers. As you can see from the timeline, other bills were passed after 1996 under President Bush that added terrorism to reasons to deny entry and created the Department of Homeland Security, which now oversees immigration enforcement.
The issue became a political hot topic in 2014 when President Obama’s immigration policy consisted of family detention centers. These detention centers were used for women and children crossing the borders illegally. Under President Obama, immigration laws and violations were only enforced on an as needed basis. Depending on the situation, the law may or may not be enforced. This NPR article highlights how deportations under federal laws decreased in the last few years of Obama’s presidency and that the administration used “discretion” to shape immigration enforcement.
President Trump issued a zero-tolerance policy when he became President for illegal immigration. The issue has become one of “keeping kids in cages” and the separation of children. Obama started the detention of family and children, which is something that Trump has continued under his zero-tolerance policy. The interesting thing is that until the Trump presidency, there was no-record keeping in regards to separated families at the border. In fact, HHS struggled to develop it’s report regarding separated families due to the lack of a structured database.
I don’t think that anyone on either side would say that the separation of children from their parents is a good idea. The impact of being with parents is important on multiple levels for children. The problem is that Democrats do not want to address the immigration concerns. Even in his plan, Beto is more interested in free admission to the US with free handouts from US taxpayers, than assuring the immigrants are safe and legal. The children are simply being used as a political ploy in an effort to further an agenda. I agree that we must address the separation of children, but we also must address the illegal immigration in order to protect US citizens, workers, and families.
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