Report | Unions and Labor Standards

Getting immigration reform right

Briefing Paper #186

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See also Immigration for Shared Prosperity (an EPI book, April 2009)

Congress’ difficulty in passing immigration reform legislation comes as no surprise to those who have followed this issue over the years, especially the debates that led to the seriously flawed Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. Many of the factors that caused IRCA to fail are as prevalent now as they were in 1986. Diverse economic interests, personal biases, and political ideologies make it hard to build consensus for effective immigration policies. These complications are exacerbated by the absence of reliable information about the magnitude of unauthorized immigration and its impact on the American economy and society. Unlike many other policy issues, there are no clear political alignments on immigration, making it difficult to build the coalitions needed to align the complex components of a successful immigration policy.

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