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05/13/2013 09:06 am ET

Immigration Reform Could Reach Standstill With Amnesty Debate

AP

In 1986, lawmakers decided the problem of illegal immigration had to be dealt with. More than 3 million people were living in the United States after crossing the border illegally or overstaying their visas.

A new law signed by President Ronald Reagan gave legal status and a path to citizenship to most of those unauthorized residents — helping many secure a slice of the American dream but also giving fuel to critics who sought to turn "amnesty" into a pejorative.

Less than 30 years later, the number of immigrants living in the country illegally is thought to have nearly quadrupled, and the freighted baggage of amnesty looms over new efforts to reform the nation's immigration laws.

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