No other country in the world has welcomed more immigrants than the United States. Immigrants created the great "melting pot" that is America. However, the notion of "melting" or assimilating into American society is no longer taught, adding to the problems of an overburdened and broken immigration system. Presidential candidates on both sides claim to have the answer. But to actually find a solution, we have to understand how we got here and what's been tried in the past. This four-part series covers the remarkable history of immigration in America and why the modern system desperately needs of reform.
Immigration in America Part III: Immigration Reform
There are 45 million foreign-born people who live in the United States. That's more than six times the number of the next closest nation --- Germany. In a 2014 survey, 34 percent of Mexicans said, if given the opportunity, they would migrate to the United States. That would be another 41.5 million people from Mexico alone.
No nation, no matter how prosperous can accommodate everyone. So in the 19th and 20th centuries, Americans began to place limits on immigrants. As a result, the numbers coming from Europe slowed, but the numbers pouring across America's southern border exploded.
Reagan believed if he granted amnesty to the three million already here illegally --- made them pay a penalty and shored up the border --- that the United States could regain control over its immigration situation. In 1986, President Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act. It was designed to end the illegal border crossing crisis once and for all. The only problem was, it didn't.
Since passage of the bill, the illegal immigration situation has careened out of control. Millions continued to pour across our southern border. Even Democrats understood how dire the situation was. President Bill Clinton supported securing the borders and deportation, saying, "We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws."
It seems that 20 years ago, it wasn't xenophobic, racist, or hateful to want the border secured and our laws upheld. So what changed? How did left-wing politicians go from addressing the issue with this sense of purpose and understanding, to supporting amnesty?
Perhaps Senator Ted Kennedy summed up the change of heart best at the 2006 pro-illegal immigration rally when he said he saw the future of America. With over a million pouring across our border illegally every year, the Democrats saw the writing on the wall: New voters who would equal power for them.
In 2006, even George W. Bush tried desperately to sell skeptical Americans on so-called comprehensive immigration reform, encouraging support of a bipartisan immigration bill to bring illegal aliens out of the shadows. Burned too many times, the American people rejected his plan.
The fact was, Americans knew illegal aliens didn't actually live in the shadows because illegal alien kids went to the same schools as theirs.They saw illegal aliens line up in Home Depot parking lots waiting to be hired for the day. They saw them working all around them. Americans knew where they lived, where they worked, where they shopped and where they went to school. And when George W. Bush's Justice Department prosecuted two American border agents for protecting the border during a drug smuggling operation, for many, that was the last straw.
As a result of 70 to 80 years of failure on the southern border, Americans have become hardened and skeptical when it comes to so-called immigration reform. With so many millions of citizens out of work, they view anyone who shouldn't be here in the first place as someone who is potentially taking jobs from them.
Listen to the Full Series on Immigration