This article from yesterday’s Washington Post takes a look at the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) and why it didn’t work as expected. The truth is, much of what the author explores here has been well know for the last two decades, and can be found clearly outlined in this article by Douglas S. Massey.
There are ways to address immigration and to prevent a future where we continue to have ever-increasing number of undocumented workers living and working in the U.S. The problem is that most politicians don’t like the solutions. They include:
1) a federal tamper-proof identification card. Yes, there are problems with this idea, but it works in other developed countries.
2) a temporary worker visa that allows workers to find work on their own (e.g., not tied to a particularly industry or employer). The current temporary visa program is slow to respond to labor needs and requires that employees work for a particular employer, leaving workers vulnerable to their employers
3) criminalizing employers who hire undocumented workers. Right now we blame the worker rather than the employer who often creates a workplace that only a person with few options (e.g., the undocumented) would select. We have to acknowledge that U.S. industry benefits from the current situation, and strongly limit the incentives for hiring undocumented workers.