Lessons from history: What Bush and Reagan could teach some UK politicians about their attitude towards economic migration

Way back in 1980, as Ronald Reagan and George Bush were battling it out for the Republican nomination, they were asked whether the children of Mexicans working illegally in the US should be able to get educated. Their answer, posted on the Houston Chronicle’s Facebook page, might surprise you. Today’s politicians and tabloid editors might learn something.

Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush debate Mexican border security…

What would Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush say about immigration and securing the Mexican border today?Well, here's what they said about it in 1980 during a GOP debate in Houston.(Archival video from Getty Images)

Posted by Houston Chronicle on Tuesday, 5 January 2016

At the time, Reagan lived in California, and Bush lived in Texas, both states close to Mexico. There was none of the “US jobs for US workers” rhetoric from them, just very simple pragmatism and neighbourliness. The GOP has gone downhill since those days.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Paul in Wokingham 9th Jan '16 - 2:54pm

    In 1980 there were 19.3 million people employed in manufacturing in the USA out of a labour force of 106 million. In 2015 there were 12.3 million people in manufacturing out of a workforce of 160 million (source: US bureau of labor statistics).

    Perhaps this change in tone is due to a perception that the immigrants are now competing for the same low-skill, low-security, low-paid jobs as the natives?

    Of course since Reagan and Bush bear much responsibility for the death of the American Dream.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jan '16 - 5:32pm

    The answers are in stark contrast to the answers given if Trump and Cruz are the last people standing. If they were asked the same question they would both talk about deportations, not treating illegal families almost the same as legal ones.

    I feel sorry for the GOP in some way. I even think some of them are very smart, but feel they have to pander to their base to get elected. People like Lindsey Graham have refused to pander and look where it got him, but ultimately I think they have a responsibility not to do it, or not do it much at least.

    The GOP needs to split. It will marginalise their radical base. The Democrat party appear to be less extreme, but that might not last for long. Bernie Sanders appears to be doubling down on Corbyn-like rhetoric in order to give his campaign a boost.

    The GOP split in the early 20th century after Teddy Roosevelt, a relative moderate, decided to set up Progressive Party. Most of these ended up joining the Democrats, which I think sets the scene for their politics today.

  • Tsar Nicholas 9th Jan '16 - 8:03pm

    Bush and Reagan wanted to cut the wages and salaries of working Americans, so that the coprorations who funded them would benefit.

  • I was living in the USA at that time. How reasonable Reagan and Bush sound … indeed probably more liberal than Hillary Clinton is today. The Republican party today is both dismal and terrifying. Paradoxically, it may be the Latino vote that will keep the Republicans out of the White House.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Jan '16 - 11:53am

    Hi Ian, maybe he wasn’t as influential as a I thought when it came to changing the Republican Party, but most seem to agree that his split to form the Progressive Party had some effect, although now I read during WW1 many of these differences were reconciled:



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