IRCA in Retrospect: Guideposts for Today’s Immigration Reform

"The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) was an important milestone in U.S. immigration history, representing the first and most comprehensive legislation to take on the issue of illegal immigration to the United States.  Like all major legislation, IRCA was based on imperfect knowledge of the conditions it sought to address, limited understanding of how the law would play out, and it faced implementation challenges—all of which diluted its effectiveness.  The brief makes the case that the law’s major flaws were rooted in statutory design more so than regulatory challenges and implementation by the administrative agencies.  It also suggests that today’s policymakers would do well to heed the lessons of 1986, both positive and negative, in crafting new immigration proposals." - Muzaffar Chishti and Charles Kamasaki, Jan. 2014.