Ronald McAmnesty Reagan
Would Ronald Reagan be described as a "liberal" if he were running for the Republican nomination today? Would he be getting sneers from the conservative wing for his position on illegal immigration?
Sadly, the answer appears to be yes. The Wall Street Journal remembers Reagan as he really was
, and not how the nativist chorus would like to remember him:
This view was apparent in Reagan's public statements well before he became President. In one of his radio addresses, in November 1977, he wondered about what he called "the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion, or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won't do? One thing is certain in this hungry world: No regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters." As a Californian, Reagan understood the role of immigrant labor in agriculture.
In 1980, according to the book "Reagan: His Life in Letters" (page 511), the then-Presidential candidate wrote to one supporter that "I believe we must resolve the problem at our southern border with full regard to the problems and needs of Mexico. I have suggested legalizing the entry of Mexican labor into this country on much the same basis you proposed, although I have not put it into the sense of restoring the bracero program." The bracero program was a guest-worker program similar to the one now being proposed by President Bush. It was killed in the mid-1960s, largely due to opposition from unions.
It's true that in November 1986 Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which included more money for border police and employer sanctions. The Gipper was a practical politician who bowed that year to one of the periodic anti-immigration uprisings from the GOP's nativist wing. But even as he signed that bill, he also insisted on a provision for legalizing immigrants already in the U.S. -- that is, he supported "amnesty."
Labels: Ronald Reagan