Ronald Reagan, our nation’s 40th President and the conservative gold-standard, left office in January 1989, and yet we continue to fight about his legacy. Current GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump is no Reagan, no matter how much Mr. Trump would like you to think otherwise. That being said, it’s time everyone, from Donald Trump to the folks at the National Immigration Action Fund who Linda Chavez links to in her post, stop invoking Reagan when discussing today’s problems.

In 1986, Reagan signed the Immigration and Reform Control Act which was to have been the “last” amnesty as he was promised stricter internal enforcement by Congressional Democrats in exchange for the amnesty. According to Ronald Reagan himself, as told to his friend and U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, the biggest mistake of his presidency was signing the 1986 amnesty for what turned out to be more than half the five million illegal immigrants then in the country. This brings to mind another of Reagan’s most memorable phrases, “trust, but verify.” Reagan trusted the Democrats to enact tougher immigration enforcement measures. The nation awaits those measures to this day. The verification that our borders are secure has never happened.

Ms. Chavez, like so many others, tries to link building a wall on our southern border, with breaking up families, the destruction of civil liberties and a loss of American prestige. Ms. Chavez simply dismisses building a wall and actually enforcing our current immigration laws as too expensive. The clear response is that it would be too expensive not to do it. The Heritage Foundation estimates 128 million people in the United States are on some form of governmental assistance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics last month put our labor force participation rate at 62.6%. These are levels not seen since the Carter Administration. A recent USA Today article notes that over 50% of immigrant-led households are on some form of assistance. Ms. Chavez, who is quoted in that article, merely says things will improve over time. There is no evidence for this position. There is no economic model which holds that more importation of cheap labor in these conditions will help American workers, who by the way are supposed to be the real beneficiaries of our immigration laws, not the businesses.  

How many times have we heard…"they do jobs Americans don’t want to do"? Is that really true? No. Americans don’t want to do the work that immigrants, legal or illegal, will do at the wage being offered to the immigrant. Americans have been giving up on their own American dream. As Milton Friedman once said, “It`s just obvious you can`t have free immigration and a welfare state.” How many times do we have to hear stories similar to the one at Disney? Earlier this summer Disney fired hundreds of its tech workers, but made them train their foreign-born visa carrying replacements. It was only because of the public outcry that Disney backed off of this plan. These were legal immigrants, taking the jobs Americans were already doing. 

America needs to tackle today’s immigration problem, not with anecdotes of yesterday or tugs on our heartstrings, but with 21st century solutions. We can still be “that shining city on a hill.” Just everyone doesn’t need to be here for us to do it.

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Read "Shining City on a Hill" by Linda Chavez.