“As we look forward to a debate this year about immigration reform, I want to share my thoughts and my past experiences on this issue.
“…But…I want to commend the many senators that are working together to forge a consensus and produce a product on this terribly difficult issue. I commend them for sitting down and agreeing to a set of principles. As Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, I expect to play a role in brokering an even broader consensus with additional members.
“I’ve read the bipartisan framework for immigration reform that this group has written. And, the one thing that struck me is…the group understands that we need a long-term solution to [the immigration] problem. We need a serious fix so that future generations don’t have to deal with…people who are here illegally.
“…But, we need to learn from our previous mistakes so that we truly don’t have to revisit the problem. So, let’s discuss the 1986 amnesty under President Reagan.
“…President Reagan signed a bill into law on November 6, 1986. This law is known as the Immigration Reform and Control Act, or IRCA.
“The process to finalize a bill was long and arduous. It took years.
“…Congress passed a final bill in November 1986. The vote in the Senate was 63-24 and the House vote was 238-173.
“…The 1986 bill was supposed to be a 3-legged stool – control of illegal immigration, a legalization program, and reform of legal immigration.
“…Unfortunately, the same principles from 1986 are being discussed today.
“…Knowing what we know now, an immigration reform bill must include tough enforcement measures. We must stop the flow at the border. We must expand and enhance legal avenues so that people are not coming here illegally. We must have a strong employment verification program.
“…We must make sure that the decisions we make with regard to our immigration policies follow our long-standing ideals. We want to welcome new Americans, but we…cannot let our welcome mat be trampled on or our system of laws be undermined.
“…My hope is that we will preserve the value of American citizenship…The path we take today will shape our country for years to come. It’s my hope that we can find a solution while learning from our mistakes, and ensuring that future generations don’t have to revisit this problem down the road.”
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