Losing Control: How a Left-Right Coalition Blocked Immigration Reform and Provoked the Backlash That Elected Trump

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Follow Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jerry Kammer as he tells the story of the federal government’s failure to control illegal immigration as Congress promised in 1986, when it enacted a historic compromise reform that also provided amnesty to nearly three million unauthorized immigrants.

Kammer argues that this was one of the most consequential failures in American history because it led to the proliferation of illegal immigration, which produced a backlash that eventually led to the election of Donald Trump.

Losing Control is a vivid history of the past half century of immigration politics and policy. It is also a dramatic ground-level account of how the story took shape. Kammer describes the economic and cultural forces that both pushed millions of migrants from home communities in Latin America and pulled them northward to the US.

He shows how the backlash gradually emerged from the frustrations of American workers and communities who felt overwhelmed by the influx and betrayed by their government.

Kammer also explains the Democrats abandonment of their historic commitment to control illegal immigration. And he details how Republicans placated corporate interests by allowing workplace controls to fail. Meanwhile, both parties sought to appease the public by spending billions on border security. Finally, he suggests new reforms that would honor our dual legacy as a country of immigrants and a country of laws.


“An important book for anyone who wants to understand how we reached our current state of paralysis and what it will take to repair the system with sustainable reform.” – Jeffrey Davidow, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, 1998-2002.

“A perceptive account of the evolution of the backlash that found its hero in the 2016 election of Donald Trump—Philip Martin, Professor Emeritus, University of California-Davis and editor of Rural Migration News. Losing Control is an important book for our polarized country. Jerry Kammer explains why a liberal restrictionist immigration policy is in the national interest.” – David Martin, general counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Clinton administration.

“Jerry Kammer, an old-fashioned shoe-leather reporter, liberal but scrupulously objective, nuanced and thorough, has written a masterful history” – John Fonte, Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute.

“This book may not change your mind, but it will certainly open it.” – Daniel Okrent, author of The Guarded Gate, former public editor of the New York Times.

About the Author

Jerry Kammer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is a Senior Research Fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).  As a fellow, he has produced several investigative reports on immigration policy subjects, including the Summer Work Travel Program and 2014 border security issues. He has also  written op-eds for numerous news organizations including the New York Times and PBS

Prior to joining the Center in 2009, Mr. Kammer spent over 30 years as a journalist. He began his work in journalism in 1974 as a reporter with the Navajo Times. In 1986, Mr. Kammer became the Northern Mexico correspondent for the Arizona Republic, where his work was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Award for humanitarian journalism. As a member of the Republic’s investigative team, he received both the National Headliner Award and the Gerald Loeb Award for his coverage of the national savings and loan scandal, whose central figure was Phoenix financier Charles Keating.

In 2002 Mr. Kammer joined the Washington bureau of the Copley News Service, specializing in immigration and US-Mexico relations. He received the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and the George Polk Award for his work in helping uncover the bribery scandal whose central figure was Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

Biden Doesn't Have Americans Best Interest At Heart