President Reagan’s remarks at signing ceremony for the Immigration Reform and Control Act in the Roosevelt Room on November 6, 1986.
In the 1986 signing statement for his immigration bill, President Reagan declared that “We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society.”
The President spoke at 10:10 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. S. 1200, approved Nov. 6, was assigned Public Law No. 99 – 603.
President Ronald Reagan: I’m very pleased that you could all be here today. I know how busy you’ve been with events leading up to Tuesday’s election, and I want to congratulate all of you in the House of Representatives who’ve just been reelected.
This bill, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, that I will sign in a few minutes is the most comprehensive reform of our immigration laws since 1952. It’s the product of one of the longest and most difficult legislative undertakings in the last three Congresses. Further, it’s an excellent example of a truly successful bipartisan effort. The administration and the allies of immigration reform on both sides of the Capitol and both sides of the aisle worked together to accomplish these critically important reforms to control illegal immigration.
In 1981 this administration asked the Congress to pass a comprehensive legislative package, including employer sanctions, other measures to increase enforcement of the immigration laws, and legalization. The act provides these three essential components. Distance has not discouraged illegal immigration to the United States from all around the globe. The problem of illegal immigration should not, therefore, be seen as a problem between the United States and its neighbors. Our objective is only to establish a reasonable, fair, orderly, and secure system of immigration into this country and not to discriminate in any way against particular nations or people.
I would like to recognize a few of the public servants whose unflagging efforts have made this legislation a reality. Senator Alan Simpson, Congressman Dan Lungren, Chairman Peter Rodino, and Congressman Rom Mazzoli have long pursued and now have attained this landmark legislation. Important roles were played by Senator Strom Thurmond, Senator Paul Simon, and Congressmen Ham Fish, Bill McCollum, Chuck Schumer, and many others in both Houses of the Congress and in both parties. Additionally, I would like to note the excellent efforts of members of my administration who have worked so hard over the last 6 years to make this bill signing possible today. The long list of those in the executive branch is headed by Attorneys General Edwin Meese and William French Smith, who with Immigration Commissioner Alan C. Nelson have contributed greatly to our efforts to pass meaningful immigration reform.
Future generations of Americans will be thankful for our efforts to humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people: American citizenship. So, now I’ll get on with the signing and make this into law. Hope nothing happens to me between here and the table. [Laughter] And I got my names in the right order there. [Laughter]
A Reporter: Mr. President, do we have a deal going with Iran of some sort?
President Ronald Reagan: No comment. But could I suggest an appeal to all of you with regard to this: that the speculation, the commenting and all, on a story that came out of the Middle East, and that to us has no foundation — that all of that is making it more difficult for us in our effort to get the other hostages free.