Given the failure of the ’86 law, there’s little doubt he would insist that secure borders would come first. Today’s technology — from biometric technology for identification in the workplace to cameras, fences, sensors and airborne surveillance at the border — makes it more possible than ever to guard our borders if the will and funding exist.
What about those who have already crossed the border into our country? One can only speculate. Reagan was a law-and-order president, but as a California governor, he likely would advocate programs to allow temporary workers to come to the U.S. and return home in a verifiable way — a reasonable program consistent with border security and open to the needs and dynamics of our market economy.
In 1977, Reagan complained that the Labor Department “has been making it harder and harder to bring in foreign labor (to harvest crops), insisting that the farmers hire unemployed Americans.” But even the Labor Department was having trouble finding Americans willing to do the work. He concluded that “no regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters.”