By Sue Weishar, Ph.D.
Salvador and Maribel Tejeda, immigrants from Honduras who have called the New Orleans area home for 33 years, are proud of the life they have built for themselves and their family in the United States. Through hard work and sacrifice, they raised two daughters, bought a comfortable home in the suburbs, and provide financial support to family members back in Honduras. Salvador coaches soccer for children and adults in their Jefferson Parish community. In May, Maribel will graduate from the University of New Orleans with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
The Tejedas have achieved the “American Dream” that millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States aspire to. And like the majority of those undocumented immigrants,  Salvador and Maribel Tejeda first crossed the U.S. border without authorization. Their lives as undocumented immigrants took a dramatic turn for the better when they were provided the chance to legalize their status and eventually become U.S. citizens through the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in November 1986.
IRCA was the first large-scale legalization program in U.S. history. Approximately 1.6 million individuals legalized their status through the general amnesty provisions of the law and an additional 1.1 million legalized through IRCA’s provisions for special agricultural workers. IRCA had its roots in a bill Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) steered into passage in 1978 that created a high-level bipartisan commission, the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, which was chaired by the president of the University of Notre Dame, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh. 
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