This new legal flow replaced the old illegal influx, and by 1964, Immigrantion and Naturalization Service apprehensions had dropped to fewer than 100,000. As the Congressional Research Service noted in 1980, "Without question, the Bracero program was ... instrumental in ending the illegal alien problem of the mid-1940s and 1950s." The Bracero program and the 1986 failure point in the same direction: A comprehensive solution is the only real and lasting way to address immigration. The American people understand this, which is why in poll after poll they choose a comprehensive approach over one that relies on enforcement alone. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that Americans prefer a comprehensive plan to an enforcement-only proposal by 50 percent to 33 percent.
Of course, there are things in the Senate bill that need fixing - and we must stand strong in favor of assimilation. New immigrants need to learn English, U.S. history and the historic principles that have made this country great.
President Reagan, who was in favor of strong borders, once remarked that "a nation without borders is not really a nation," but he constantly reminded us that America must remain a "beacon" and a "shining city on a hill" for immigrants who continually renew our great country with their energy and add to the nation's economic growth and prosperity.
Americans and immigrants share the same values of work, family and opportunity. There is no reason to fear the newcomers arriving on our shores today. If anything, they will energize what is best about our country.
The only way to realize America's vision is through comprehensive immigration reform legislation. I urge the House and Senate to work out their differences and help make our nation one of respect for the law as well as a nation of immigrants and to meet the demand of the American people that we act on this critical issue in a comprehensive and compassionate way.