Granting permission to illegal aliens to remain in the United States in violation of current law is the very definition of amnesty. To argue otherwise is either deliberate obfuscation or profound ignorance. Our laws are clear: The penalties for illegally entering the United States or overstaying a visa are removal from the country and a three- or ten-year bar from applying to reenter, depending on how long an illegal alien has resided in the United States. Those who cross the border without permission may also face criminal charges. Any legislation that waives these penalties is amnesty. Moreover, under the parameters of the U.S. Constitution, only Congress can grant amnesty.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) that granted a mass amnesty to illegal aliens, a process that was rife with fraud. This amnesty was enacted with the corresponding promise that the U.S. border with Mexico would be secured and that interior enforcement would be stringent. However, members of Congress like Chuck Schumer and John McCain have prevented any real action to combat illegal immigration or unauthorized hiring by employers, while political advocacy groups like La Raza and the ACLU have worked diligently to undermine enforcement efforts. Today, with the failure of the 1986 amnesty glaringly obvious, politicians who want to legalize illegal aliens are loath to speak openly and honestly about the immigration policies they support, so they choose different terms such as “comprehensive immigration reform,” “pathway to citizenship,” “earned legalization,” or “getting right with the law.
In order to confuse the issue further, amnesty advocates claim that any condition placed on an amnesty negates the amnesty. This is an intentionally misleading statement. In reality, historical examples of amnesties have been time-consuming and, in at least the legislative language, required strict adherence to a set of conditions. As a recent reminder, IRCA did place conditions on individuals before granting them amnesty: they had to come forward and admit to being illegal aliens, prove they had lived in the United States for at least a year, pay fees, register for the draft, and were barred from receiving public assistance for five years.
Other politicians argue that the president’s refusal to enforce the law amounts to “de facto amnesty,” so Congress should just acquiesce and pass a law making amnesty official. In reality, the present situation, while far from ideal, means that as long as a general amnesty is not implemented, those who are in the United States illegally can be removed from the country, and many would leave on their own initiative if the president were to enforce the law as written. The refusal of the president to enforce the law is willful neglect and an abuse of power, but it is not amnesty.
In fact, pro-amnesty politicians support legislative actions that grant more than just amnesty; they seek to reward those who have broken the law. They seek “amnesty plus,” in the words of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. To pass a law that allows illegal aliens to escape prosecution for violating immigration law is amnesty. To also give the very thing that illegal aliens sought to obtain (legal residence) is an additional benefit, or so-called “amnesty plus.” There is also forgiveness for a host of other crimes, such as identity fraud or theft, failure to pay income taxes or filing a false tax return, driving without a license or insurance, etc., etc. When viewed this way, the argument that legalization would be a burden for illegal aliens is laughable.
Denying that amnesty is really amnesty does not change the facts, and is akin to saying, “I haven’t robbed anyone; I only appropriated other people’s property without their consent.”
If one supports amnesty, why not argue the case on its merits? Even those who disagree will respect those who engage in an honest debate. The reason amnesty advocates avoid a straightforward debate is because they know they cannot win on the facts or merits of their arguments. So they play on words… but they do so in the mistaken belief that they can play the American people for fools.