Immigration Reform: A Look Back at 1986 for Clues to the Future

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Celebrants participate in the May Day march and rally on May 1, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

As the country waits to see whether comprehensive immigration reform will become a reality in 2013, it's worth taking a look at the impact previous reform efforts have had on the United States and the people who call this country home.

The 1986 Immigration Reform Explained


As we debate immigration reform today, it's worth looking back to the last major legalization program in the U.S. Signed under President Ronald Reagan, the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) gave a pathway to citizenship to 2.7 million undocumented people and penalized employers who knowingly hired those without a legal work permit.

How Immigration Reform Has Changed Us Once Before


Once again, the country finds itself in that position as we consider what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants living among us. It's undeniable that comprehensive reform will have an impact on those who receive legal status, and they in turn will affect the towns and people around them. To know what that might look like, we should look back.

Call Immigration Chuck Schumer's Legacy-Defining Issue


Senator Chuck Schumer helped broker immigration reform in 1986.

Now, three decades later, Schumer finds himself in a similar position. As the current chairman of the Senate's immigration subcommittee, he is leading the bipartisan group of eight senators trying to turn a comprehensive immigration reform bill into law.

Immigration Reform Has Never Been Just a 'Latino Issue'


It's rare for a TV pundit or politico to talk about immigration reform these days without mention of Republicans losing the "Latino vote." But what they tend to forget is that about 2.5 million of the estimated 11.1 million undocumented immigrants living in this country are not from Latin America. And the majority of that minority (or about 1.3 million) is from Asia.

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: The Human Faces

Here are the players tied to the 1986 reform, including some of those who were impacted.

Why Are Social Security Cards Still Easy To Fake?


In 1986, when the last large-scale legalization program took place, the legislators working on the bill were also considering a biometric ID as part of the package. But the idea ran upon rocky shores for a few reasons. Here's why.