Immigration Reform


ANNCR: IMMIGRATION REFORM – Today on Congressional Moment

MALE VOICE: (w/effects, mild harbor sounds ) "Give me your tired, your poor...your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...

ANNCR: These words, written by American poet Emma Lazarus and inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, encouraged immigration to America in the early years of the twentieth century. For decades, a steady stream of immigrants arrived and assimilated themselves into American life.

But by the mid 1970s, Congress was hearing from Americans who believed they were losing jobs to illegal aliens. Senator Alan Simpson and Representative Romano Mazzoli proposed what came to be known as the Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Reform and Control Act. It imposed sanctions on employers who hired undocumented aliens, while making allowances for aliens already living and working in the U.S.

Not everyone was in favor of this bill. Some believed it would handle illegal immigrants in an arbitrary fashion, and hurt local businessmen. Others thought it would prove to be too be costly, and in the end, ineffective.

The Simpson-Mazzoli bill was ultimately signed into law on November 7, 1986. A delicate compromise, passed after five years of trying, the new law didn't solve the problems of immigration, but alleviated them. Immigration policies that challenge Congress today are even more complex… balancing new security issues with the desire to preserve the diversity and strength that immigrants bring.

STANDARD CLOSING: This is Lee Hamilton. Congressional decisions impact all our lives. To find out more about how Congress works, or to get involved in your government, visit the Center On Congress Web site at