How the big 1965 and 1986 immigration bills are enacted 

For the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act: Dem Rep. Emmanuel Celler chaired the House Judiciary Committee which held hearings on immigration reform in the early 1960s. President Kennedy had proposed immigration reform and eliminating the national-origin quotas in 1963. The Senate Immigration Subcommittee and House Immigration Subcommittee reviewed immigration policies in Congressional hearings during the early 1960s.  Attorney General Robert Kennedy convened a panel of experts in 1964 to review immigration policies which helped build momentum for reform.

The Senate voted 76 – 18 and the House voted 326 – 69. It was signed by President Johnson on October 3, 1965

For the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act: The Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, a bipartisan task force created in 1982 chaired by Rev. Theodore Hesburgh (16 members – 4 from the House, 4 from the Senate, and 8 from the general public ). The commission released a report with recommendations including employer sanctions, legalization of certain unauthorized immigrants, and increases in immigration enforcement.

The report helped shape the debate and lay the groundwork for the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Several of the major provisions in the 1986 law mirrored the Select Commission’s recommendations.

The Senate voted 69 – 30 and the House voted 230 – 166. It was signed by President Reagan on November 6, 1986.


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