As President Donald Trump prepares to end the DACA program that protects the children of undocumented immigrants from deportation if they are getting an education, a moment from Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush’s 1980 primary debate shows two Republicans with a different view. In the clip, the two Republicans argue over who can be would be more compassionate towards the children of undocumented immigrants.
In the debate during the two future presidents’ heated 1980 primary campaign, they were asked if they thought the children of undocumented immigrants should be allowed to attend Texas public schools for free or if their parents should pay for their education.
Bush called undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. at the time “really honorable, decent, family-loving people that are in violation of the law.” And Reagan dismissed the idea of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border as something that would suddenly fix the issue.
“I’d like to see something done about the illegal alien problem that would so sensitive and so understanding about labor needs and human needs that that problem wouldn’t come up,” Bush replies. “But today, if those people are here, I would reluctantly say I think they would get whatever it is that they’re… you know… what the society is giving to their neighbors. But it has to be… the problem has to be solved. The problem has to be solved because, as we have made illegal some kinds of labor that I’d like to see legal, we’re doing two things, we’re creating a whole society of really honorable, decent, family-loving people that are in violation of the law and secondly we’re exacerbating relations with Mexico. […] If they’re living here, I don’t want to see six and eight year old kids being made totally uneducated and made to feel like they’re living totally outside the law. These are good people, strong people.”
“Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems? Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit,” Reagan said. “And then, while they’re working and earning here they can pay taxes here. And then when they want to go back, they can go back. Open the borders both ways.”
The clip of Reagan and Bush debating illegal immigration has earned notice before in recent years as the debate over illegal immigration has come to dominate politics.
On Tuesday, Trump is expected to announce that he is ending the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program, which protects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation. Those using the program are referred to as “Dreamers.” Sources told Politico that the program will continue to exist for another six months to give Congress enough time to pass a new program. Almost 800,000 undocumented immigrants benefit from the program, which was created by President Barack Obama without Congress.
Some members of Trump’s own party have asked him to keep DACA alive. House Speaker Paul Ryan told a Wisconsin radio show that he doesn’t want Trump to end it. “I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix,” Ryan said, although he didn’t think Obama had the right to create it without Congress.
“Having said all of that, there are people who are in limbo. These are kids who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home,” Ryan said. “And so I really do believe there that there needs to be a legislative solution.”