By Daniel Gonzalez and Dan Nowicki
March 14, 2016
Immigration has become a flashpoint in the presidential race. Candidates have debated how to address the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., secure the nation’s borders and create a system that encourages legal immigration that is more responsive to labor and economic needs. Here is a look back at major immigration laws, proposals and political developments that led to this point.
Oct. 3, 1965
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress. Afterwards, immigration to the U.S. shifts dramatically with more people coming from Latin America, Asia and Africa. The law replaced the old U.S. quota system based on national origin, which favored immigration from European countries, with a new, more-open system that introduced the concept of family-sponsored migration.
President Ronald Reagan signs the Immigration Reform and Control Act, also known as the 1986 “amnesty,” allowing roughly 2.7 million undocumented immigrants to legalize their status. The legislation, which took five years to pass, was sponsored by Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Rep. Romano Mazzoli, D-Ky. It also for the first time creates sanctions for employers who knowingly hire or recruit immigrants not authorized to work.
California voters pass Proposition 187, a ballot referendum banning illegal immigrants from receiving health care, public education and other social services. Passed in response to a surge in the state’s illegal-immigrant population, it was challenged in courts, ruled unconstitutional and never took effect. Widely credited with altering California’s political landscape from a red to a blue state by galvanizing large numbers of Latino and Asian immigrants to register to vote.
President Bill Clinton signs the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act as part of an overhaul of the nation’s entire welfare and immigration systems negotiated with Republicans. The first bill blocks legal immigrants, in addition to illegal immigrants, from receiving food stamps and other public benefits, in an effort to ensure immigrants aren’t coming to the U.S. to collect welfare. Some benefits are later restored to legal immigrants. The second bill is aimed at stemming rising illegal immigration and beefing up border security. It toughens penalties for illegal immigrants, expanded the number of crimes that could be used to deport immigrants, further restricted public benefits to legal immigrants, increased the number of Border Patrol agents and created the framework for 287(g) program that lets local police double as federal immigration-enforcement officers.
President George W. Bush, less than a month after taking office, meets with Mexican President Vicente Fox to discuss a possible migration accord in response to the growing numbers of Mexicans crossing the border illegally to work in the United States. Key points called for allowing illegal immigrants to gain legal status and creating a guest-worker program allowing more Mexicans to come legally to the U.S. to work. The accord, however, is dashed by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The post-9/11 USA Patriot Act broadened the terrorism grounds for excluding people from other countries from entering the U.S. and increased monitoring of international students.
House passes the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act. Co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Peter King, R-N.Y., the bill is intended to help crack down on illegal immigration by declaring immigration violations felony crimes rather than civil offenses. It also beefs up border security and worksite enforcement. It ignites massive protests across the country in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. The bill fails in the Senate, where McCain and Kennedy, had been collaborating on comprehensive immigration reform.
More than 100,000 immigrants and supporters marched in Chicago to protest the “Sensenbrenner bill,” saying it would turn maids, busboys and cooks into criminals for violating immigration laws. The Chicago march led to more protests nationwide, including a march to the Phoenix office of Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., on March 24 that drew 20,000 people.
On April 10, in the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, hundreds of thousands of people march in more than 100 cities, including Phoenix, to press Congress to reject the Sensenbrenner bill and instead pass reforms that include a program to let millions of undocumented immigrants legalize their status.
May 25, 2006
Senate passes the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, a bipartisan bill spearheaded by McCain and Kennedy. It increased border security and immigration enforcement, created a broad guest-worker program and included a program to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants. It failed in the House.
Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act, a more conservative version of the failed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, was introduced. The so-called Grand Bargain was spearheaded by Kyl and Kennedy. Included a legalization program for undocumented immigrants but required them to return to home countries before applying for permanent residency.
July 14-15, 2008
Speaking in San Diego, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, promises the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil-rights organization, that he would make comprehensive immigration reform a “top priority” of his first year in the White House.
In November, Obama won the presidency, handily defeating McCain among Latino voters.
April 23, 2010
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signs Senate Bill 1070, a tough immigration-enforcement measure meant to drive illegal immigrants out and discourage more from coming primarily by requiring local officials to help federal authorities identify illegal immigrants so they could be deported. It sparked nationwide protests and rallies, boycotts and legal battles and ignited a national debate over the role of local and state governments in enforcing federal immigration laws. Other states passed similar versions.
June 15, 2012
Obama announces a new policy to let “dreamers” brought to the U.S. illegally as children to apply for deportation deferments, a way of remaining in the country temporarily without the threat of deportation. Those approved could receive work permits, allowing them to work legally.
Obama characterized the policy as a stopgap measure until Congress could pass more permanent solutions, such as the Dream Act. The move helped shore up support with Latino voters upset over the record number of deportations during his first term.
Nov. 6, 2012
Obama win re-election with more than 70 percent of the Latino vote. Their overwhelming support for Obama over Republican Mitt Romney prompted many Republican leaders to begin calling for immigration reforms that include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in order to reach out to Hispanics and stop the fast-growing number of new Latino voters from flocking to the Democratic Party.
Jan. 28, 2013
A bipartisan group of eight senators made up of four Republicans and four Democrats unveils a comprehensive immigration-reform framework calling for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants contingent on securing the border. Their legislation passes the Senate later in the year but does not become law after failing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Nov. 20, 2014
Obama uses his executive authority to expand deportation deferments for dreamers and also offer deportation deferments to undocumented parents with children who are either U.S. citizens or legal residents. The programs are put on hold after Texas and two dozen other states including Arizona file a lawsuit claiming Obama acted illegally. The Supreme Court is considering whether to rule on the lawsuit.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com