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Reagan's amnesty sent the wrong message to immigrants who followed the rules

Reagan's amnesty sent the wrong message to immigrants who followed the rules
A cardboard cut out of President Ronald Reagan outside the room where the California Republican Platform Committee debated immigration on Sept. 19, 2015 in Anaheim. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Irene Oritseweyinmi Joe expressed gratitude to President Reagan for his amnesty program. She wrote that her parents decided to remain in the U.S. after her father's student visa expired, and that those who arrived in the U.S. with temporary visas are not people who used criminal connections or secretive behavior to sneak over borders. ("Like many immigrants, I owe a debt to the Republican Party — of the 1980s," Opinion, Oct. 10)

I fail to see how overstaying a visa makes one more worthy of citizenship than making a dangerous journey to cross our border. By overstaying his visa, Joe's father disregarded our laws.

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When granting amnesty to the undocumented, Reagan provided a clear message to the countless would-be immigrants playing by the rules. Immigrants with expired visas contribute to our economy, but so do legal immigrants, and they do so by respecting our laws.

Josef Colman, Santa Monica

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To the editor: Joe acknowledged that Reagan's amnesty program allowed families like hers to come out from the shadows. As we're nearing the end of this contentious election cycle, it's refreshing to see someone discuss a hot-button issue while putting partisanship aside.

Today, California has the largest number of immigrants, documented and undocumented. We've led from the front and set an example of how bipartisan efforts have enabled us to care for our residents, regardless of their legal status. (Reagan, a Californian, is a good example.) As the daughter of immigrants, I am proud to live in a state that recognizes them as hardworking people and not a group to be feared or vilified.

I urge California's congressional delegation to commit to bipartisan efforts for comprehensive immigration reform in 2017 and provide a long-term solution for those caught in our broken system.

Joelly Mejia, Los Angeles

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