More than three decades ago, Congress passed, and the President signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). Just four years later, another highly consequential reform, the Immigration Act of 1990, was also enacted. That era also saw the birth and growth of potent pro- and anti-immigrant movements, with immigrant rights advocates are centered in the Democratic Party, while immigration naysayers are concentrated in the GOP that propelled the initially implausible candidacy of Donald Trump to a stunning victory in 2016. Since the mid-1990s, these movements have battled to a stalemate that has prevented passage of badly needed reforms to fix America’s broken immigration system.

Little has been written about how these bills came to be, the roles that key lawmakers and advocacy organizations played in the process, or how immigration has become such a polarized, partisan issue, but Immigration Reform: The Corpse That Will Not Die covers these and related developments in detail. The book examines strategies that Latino groups and their pro-immigrant allies used to shape reforms that eventually legalized more than three million previously undocumented immigrants and nearly doubled levels of legal immigration. It describes how lawmakers & advocacy groups navigated the thicket of contradictory interests to produce major immigration reforms. It brings readers into the public hearings and private meetings where bills are shaped, and in so doing articulates lessons from passage of the last major reforms applicable to breaking the current impasse on immigration policy. 

Immigration Reform: The Corpse That Will Not Die is the single indispensable book for everyone seeking to truly understand the origins of the legislative maneuverings, policy ideas, and political forces that underlie the debates over immigration reform today and will for generations to come.


In the early 1980s, author Charles Kamasaki was thrust into the unlikely role as the point person on immigration policy for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR, now UnidosUS), a Latino civil rights organization. He joined a small group of advocates—The Group—that had first coalesced to oppose immigration legislation, but then pivoted to shape and facilitate passage of the bill and follow-on legislation in 1990. His direct experience lobbying makes him uniquely qualified to tell the story of IRCA’s passage, and to divine its lessons for the next generation of would-be reformers. 

Kamasaki currently is Senior Cabinet Advisor of UnidosUS, serving as a senior member of the management team at UnidosUS. Previously the Executive Vice President of NCLR, for two decades he managed the group’s research, policy analysis, and advocacy activity on civil rights, education, economic mobility, housing and community development, immigration, health, and other issues. He has authored, co-authored, and supervised the preparation of dozens of policy and research reports, journal articles, and editorials, testified frequently at Congressional and administrative hearings, coordinated pro bono litigation and legal analysis, and represented the organization at research and policy conferences and symposia. Kamasaki is also a Resident Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, where he conducted the research that eventually produced Immigration Reform: The Corpse That Will Not Die.