The 1986 Immigration Reform Explained

As the immigration reform debate heats up, we look back at the last major overhaul.
2:57 | 05/05/13

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Transcript for The 1986 Immigration Reform Explained
-- Two point seven million. That's the number of undocumented immigrants that -- in the -- under the 1986 immigration reform act. That act was signed by president Ronald Reagan and it was designed to help stop illegal immigration. -- didn't quite work out the back to that the moment so why did we need amnesty in the first place. Well Mexican immigrants have been coming to -- US throughout this country's history. It was a guest worker program that started after World War II that set the stage for patterns of illegal immigration we still see today. From 1942 in 1964 the -- -- program brought in as many as 400000. Agricultural workers per year to the US. The program had issues and it ended in 1964. But the workers kept coming and growers are kept him. By the early 1970s. There were more than one million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Still most Americans didn't have strong opinions about immigration policy the way they did today. There were lots of groups that had an interest in seeing the system change. President Ronald Reagan supported changing the laws to and he was a Republican I believe in the idea of amnesty after years of false starts. The bill finally deemed legitimate momentum in 1986. -- -- two of the biggest issues at the time. One it offered legal status to undocumented immigrants who had been living in the country since before 1982. Into it penalized employers who knowingly hire -- documented workers. The bill finally cleared the house and senate and -- signed by President Reagan in November of 1986. The result. Two point seven million undocumented immigrants got in the state. Of those one point one million people became citizens under this program. She got better paying jobs which meant more tax revenue for the federal government and increased purchasing power. The downside. Too many problems were left unaddressed. For example. The law didn't create a way for other kinds of immigrant workers to come to the US legally even -- employers were willing to hire them. There were also push factors like civil -- struggling he can't. I'm government corruption causing him to leave their countries. Those factors were not taken into account when thinking about ways to stop illegal immigration. What's that -- At least eleven million people are now living in the shadows. To each of whom he could call them.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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