FROM TIMELINE OF DECADES OF FAILINGS IN IMMIGRATION LAW AND EXECUTIVE ORDERS.
[1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (amnesty)] signed by President Ronald Reagan, but it is largely considered afailure. The legislation was meant to tighten border security and crack down on employers hiring undocumented immigrants, while offering amnesty to those already in the country illegally. Three million immigrants were legalized, but the law did not slow illegal immigration or create a framework to deal with it going forward. Since then, opponents of comprehensive reform have often cited the 1986 legislation as a reason to be wary.
“For 20 years our country has done basically nothing to enforce the 1986 legislation against either the employers who hired illegal immigrants or those who crossed our borders illegally to work for them,” then-Arizona Governor, now Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote in 2007.