The Becoming American Initiative, a new conservative pro-immigration group run by former Reagan Administration official Linda Chavez, debuted with a splash with a Fourth of July ad featuring Ronald Reagan which aired on Fox News and MSNBC.
The ad uses footage from a 1980 campaign speech by then-candidate Reagan in front of the Statue of Liberty, praising immigrants as essential to America's success. The visuals toggle between Reagan and footage of immigrants, both archival footage of European immigrants from earlier in the 20th century, and more recent images of Latin American immigrants.
Reagan Suggested Immigrants can "Make America Great Again"We hear Reagan's trademark soaring rhetoric: "Through this Golden Door has come millions of men and women. These families came here to work. Others came to America and often harrowing conditions. They didn’t ask what this country could do for them but what they could do to make this refuge the greatest home of freedom in history. They brought with them courage and the values of family, work, and freedom."
And the ad ends with kicker: Reagan using a phrase now associated with the anti-immigration Donald Trump: "Let us pledge to each other that we can make America great again."
Becoming American Initiative Promotes DACAThen a final frame with text on a black reads, "Immigrations Have Always Made America Great." It's a subtle rebuke to Trump, though his name is never mentioned, and no specific policy solution is offered. (The Becoming American Initiative website promotes a petition, which reads, "Congress needs to focus on passing a DACA bill that grants these individuals legal status and a pathway to citizenship so they can continue to contribute to the only country they have ever called home.")
Politifact noted that the ad splices Reagan's speech to make it sound as if his "make America great again" statement was a direct reference to immigrants, when that line was delivered well after his paean to immigrants. Still, the Politifact researchers acknowledged Reagan "did imply" that immigrants help make America great, and so, Becoming American Initiative wasn't distorting Reagan's views.