Speaking against President Obama’s latest proposal for immigration reform, American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz called the ambitious plan a “bad sequel” to President Ronald Reagan’s immigration reform measures in 1986. Koutz termed Obama’s proposal a shameless form of amnesty that only encourages people to enter the United States illegally, as detailed in an American Legion press release issued January 30.
“Whether it’s called ‘Pathway to Citizenship’ or some other euphemism, it’s still amnesty,” Koutz affirmed, adding that those who enter the country illegally should not benefit from the special title of “American citizen.” “It didn’t work when President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and it will be even more disastrous if we repeat that mistake again.”
According to Koutz, “amnesty is a deal-breaker” for the country, as it rewards illegal activity and discourages those seeking to go through the legal immigration process of becoming an American citizen. “The American Legion is not opposed to immigration. We are a nation that was built by immigrants,” Koutz concluded. “But we also believe in adherence to the law. What kind of message does it send to those who worked hard to become legal immigrants if we offer the same status to those who disrespected the process? ‘American citizen’ is a special title that should not be bestowed upon people who broke the law to get it.”
In November 1986, Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform Control Act, an amnesty initiative granted to individuals who unlawfully entered the country prior to January 1, 1982 and could make evident that they resided in the United States since arriving illegally. One of the key components of the law was its intent to improve enforcement and services by ramping up security measures and administrative activities for the Border Patrol, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and other federal agencies. The law sought to succeed in these measures by:
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