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Posted at 11:50 AM ET, 12/ 6/2010

It's not 'amnesty'

By Jennifer Rubin

Those of you who've followed my writing know that I part company with a great number of conservatives on immigration. I believe that we need to enforce our borders, but that it is impractical, unwise and damaging to our national character to toss out those who are already here. I subscribe to a simple formula: secure the border, devise a robust guest worker program, provide for a generous legal immigration policy, and stress policies that encourage assimilation. (For reasons I explain here and here, I oppose the Arizona statute.) We should recognize the value of immigrants in perpetuating our dynamic economy and culture, and, as one commentator put it, "welcome as a blessing their energy and acceptance and desire for all that the greatest country in the world has to offer its citizens, and help them (by, among other things, educating their children in English) to become citizens themselves."

Parts of that are an anathema to conservatives, and some aspects are objectionable to liberals.

Aside from the substance of the debate, I've long been critical of the rhetoric of those who oppose comprehensive immigration reform. I have great respect for Mickey Kaus and agree with him on numerous topics, but a recent post on Kausfiles is a case in point:

Rep Luis Gutierrez is threatening a "Latino revolt," according to Daily Beast's Bryan Curtis, if immigration reform doesn't happen in the current lame duck session. . . 

1) That would take care of the charge that the immigration-amnesty movement has been taken over by Latino identity politics. The charge will be accurate.... 2) As a result, the "comprehensive immigration reform" movement will be weakened, because if the currently debated amnesty is an issue of Latino respect and solidarity, the next amnesty will be too. Gutierrez, as Mr. Latino Resistance, can't credibly say he will ever draw the line.... 3) I'll believe Gutierrez will voluntarily give up his seat in Congress to become an MLK-style movement leader the day it happens. Or maybe the day after. I've seen Gutierrez address a crowd. He's not Martin Luther King

I'll take Mickey's word for it on No. 3, but I'll object on 1 and 2. Many comprehensive immigration reform opponents like to refer to any plan to regularize, normalize or naturalize those who have come here illegally (regardless of the length of time they have been here) as "amnesty," whatever the terms of the plan are. That's simply wrong. "Amnesty" means to "exempt from punishment" or a "cessation of remembrance of wrong." If you prefer a legal definition there is this: "a blanket abolition of an offense by the government, with the legal result that those charged or convicted have the charge or conviction wiped out." Examples given are Jimmy Carter's amnesty for Vietnam War draft evaders and Abraham Lincoln's treatment of Confederate officers and soldiers.

The plan championed by George W. Bush, and the variations thereof, proposed a series of penalties for those who violated immigration laws and a process by which they could become naturalized. There was no magic wand or free pass, as the term "amnesty" implies. We can argue as to which penalties are appropriate and how arduous we want to make that naturalization process. It's legitimate to consider the unfairness to immigrant applicants waiting patiently for admission in countries around the world. But "amnesty" is not at issue.

As for Mickey's next point, the assertion that the comprehensive immigration movement would be weakened by one congressman's formulation is fanciful. I take particular exception to his argument that "if the currently debated amnesty is an issue of Latino respect and solidarity, the next amnesty will be too. Gutierrez, as Mr. Latino Resistance, can't credibly say he will ever draw the line." I'm not sure what Gutierrez would say, but comprehensive immigration reformers do and will continue to "draw the line." The plethora of border-security-first provisions, and the insistence on an orderly and staged process of immigration, demonstrate that advocates intend immigration reform as a balancing of interests. Yes, one issue should be respect for immigrants, primarily Latino, and the circumstances by which they came here (some as children), but that's not the only issue.

The better argument for Mickey is a practical one: The way to win friends and influence people on this issue is likely not a mass movement of "protests, marches, sit-ins--what César Chávez might have called going rogue." I can tell you, people in favor of comprehensive immigration reform aren't helped when professional ethnic grievance leaders start calling border defenders "racists" or pull out the Mexican flags. The problem with Gutierrez's idea is that it is politically unwise and counterproductive.

I'm not optimistic about the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform in the near run. But in the meantime, maybe we can at least call things what they are and accurately depict each another's arguments.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 6, 2010; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  Immigration  
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Comments

So Jennifer, let's cut to the chase. Do you favor or oppose the Dream Act? I favor some form of amnesty AFTER the southern border is fully secured, but I greatly oppose the Dream Act.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Many have pointed out the irony of avid supporters of Israel, with its emphasis on ethnic identity and restrictive immigration policy for guest workers (even children), refugees, and former Arab residents, equally avidly supporting generous immigration policies in the United States that are changing its ethnic composition forever. Why isn't the Anglo-Celtic, North European majority entitled to maintain its majority in this country?

I would forcibly close the border (with Draconian measures if necessary) and restrict immigration as close to zero for 5-10 years at a minimum, until unemployment is reduced and we see if the legal immigrants already here can be assimilated. If the border is secured, we can explore the most efficient and just policy for illegals who have been here for the longest time, but not until then.

Posted by: GrumpyOldMan | December 6, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Step one is to arrest,and try the employers who have taken advantage of cheap illegal labor for decades. Don't talk to me about any other steps until Step One is taken care of.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 6, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

@rcaruth

The libs have made it nearly impossible for employers to validate and confirm citizenship.

I contend that securing the border is the only viable first step. Everything else is minor once you stop the influx of illegals.

Posted by: metanis | December 6, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

@rcaruth
(1)The libs have made it nearly impossible for employers to validate and confirm citizenship.
(2)I contend that securing the border is the only viable first step. Everything else is minor once you stop the influx of illegals
Posted by: metanis

(1)If Employers don't have that
ability,let's let the police take over
that job.
(2)So we provide amnesty for the criminal employers who are the cause of the illegal overrun.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 6, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

" guest worker program"

indentured servitude.

It's anti_american values.

Americans don't believe in workers that can't be citizens

Posted by: newagent99 | December 6, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

If you want a reason to deport all of the illegal aliens currently resident in the United States, I will give you one.

In Europe the wages for the least skilled are somewhere between two and a half and three times what a similarly skilled person receives in the United States. If you want to help the least well off in our country at a time we are in a deep recession, the removal of millions upon millions of low waged workers will create a supply and demand situation that will benefit the lowest skilled of our citizens. Therefore, it would be good public policy to deport all the illegal aliens currently resident in the United States.

Posted by: jeffreed | December 6, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

The Mexican Government has been encouraging an invasion of the United States by Mexican citizens.

These Mexican citizens enter the US with the aid of the Mexican Government.

Some come armed. Some come unarmed.

Stop the invasion.

Posted by: jfv123 | December 6, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Have you ever noticed that as soon as the subject of employer criminality is brought up,the Conservatives insist that the illegals themselves experience the full brunt of the blame?

Posted by: rcaruth | December 6, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

jeff reed:

Two things

1) Lack of immigrants is not the cause of higher wages in Europes trade unionism is. Germany for instance imports many Turks to do the menial work, but they don't allow them to become citizens under most circumstances.

2) DON"T KILL ME for saying this because I'm against the Dream Act, but large scale deportation of immigrants is damn near impossible.

There are currently about 7.5 million people being supervised by the criminal justice system in this country total at all levels. That includes, prison, parole, bail and probation. The lowest number of illegals I have seen is 10 million, but it may be as high as 20 million.

Each one of those illegals would have to be caught, held somewhere before during and after their hearing in front of a commissioner, and then transported by the government back to their country of origin. You really CAN'T just put them on city busses and open the door at the Mexican border.

When you look at it in those terms, you see the demographics are impossible, to say nothing of the cost. Someone pointed out to me weeks ago that the administration had deported 400,000 this year, and I told them that was a completely phoney figure. Today you see the comfirmation of that in an article in the Post.

Now, if anybody replies to me talking about "self-deportation", fair warning that I will call you an ignoramus, with a third grade vocabulary. The word is "emmigration" look it up!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I always like how the word ILLEGAL is dropped off the word immigrant. This is a non starter unless your willing to secured the border. I also liked how the phrase "impractical, unwise and damaging to our national character to toss out those who are already here". Oh Really? Other countries seem to have no trouble throwing out those who have entered their countries illegally, why not here? I don't remember reading anything in the constitution that states all who enter illegally are granted amnesty especially if you lean democrat. Secure our borders or quit whining about amnesty.

Posted by: elcigaro1 | December 6, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I keep seeing "secure the borders first". How do we secure the thousands of miles of our borders with Mexico and Canada? Not to mention our shores on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans? "Secure" borders are impossible to achieve.

Posted by: mwamp | December 6, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

mwamp:

The Canadian border is not a significant issue comparatively speaking. The southern border is the obvious problem. The others are already secure, to an important extent.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

544-
Your definition of secure must be different than mine. And wasn't there some issue with a terrorist or two trying to enter through Canada a little while back?

Posted by: mwamp | December 6, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Of course, but this column isn't about terrorism now is it? It's about immigration policy.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

"The word is 'emmigration'."

No it isn't. It's "emigration."

Posted by: Jeroboam | December 6, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I disagree with Jen about the word "amnesty." Whatever the dictionary definition may be, in this context I take the word to mean placing people who are in the country illegally in a better position than people who have followed the rules for legal immigration. It's like charging someone $1 for a parking ticket, because they didn't put $5 in the meter. It rewards breaking the rules.

Posted by: Larry3435 | December 6, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

jeroboam:

LOL That's pretty funny! I have to increase my type size or use spell check. I didn't see the extra m . That's what I get for posting too often.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

It rewards breaking the rules.
Posted by: Larry3435 | December 6, 2010 3:28 PM

Like the rewards the Employers recieve by hiring the illegals,more money in their pockets.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 6, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

When opponents of the Dream Act or Comprehensive Immigration reform complain about "Amnesty" the are referring to the definition established by the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration reform of the 1980s which granted illegal immigrants legal status. Since it was defined that way under previous U.S. law, that is the definition being used. Ms Rubin's insistence on a different definition is certainly deceptive: a shell game. What is being proposed under the Dream Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform is amnesty under a different euphemism.

What is being proposed under the Dream Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform are measures similar to the measures taken under Simpson-Mazzoli (with the promise that they would never be repeated). It is that broken promise at issue. Amnesty does not solve the issue; it draws more illegals.

Normally, in the U.S., amnesty is given only to those who express remorse for their actions and accept their punishment: NOT GRANT WHEN AND OFFENDER DEMANDS TO KEEP REPEATING THE VIOLATIONS OR KEEP THE BENEFITS OF THEIR OFFENSES. Amnesty does not give bank robbers the right to keep their loot or drunk drivers the right to keep driving under the influence. What is being proposed under the Dream Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform is the legal right to keep doing it: It legalizes the offense and gives the offender what he really wants.

The so-called penalties would hardly deter others from doing the same thing. They are minor fee for services. Paying for something you want is not a "penalty." Paying a driver's license fee is not a penalty. Buying a ticket to a ball game is not a penalty: It's a "price of admission."

Posted by: kevin9 | December 6, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Extra "m" or not, emigration is not the same as self-deportation.

"Emigration is the act of leaving one's native country or region to settle in another."

By definition, the U.S. is not the native country of illegal aliens.

Posted by: Larry3435 | December 6, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Larry3435:

Sigh, I guess I started this.

Emigration is not exclusive to the native country, which of course the US is not for illegals. It is by dictionary the act of leaving one country and settling in another.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

544,

I suppose you could use the term that way, although emigrant is considered the flip side of immigrant, and I do not think a Mexican citizen returning to Mexico would generally be characterized as an "immigrant." Anyway, be more careful with words like "ignoramous," and I will gladly give you a pass on "emigrant."

Posted by: Larry3435 | December 6, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

larry:

I spelled that one right!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 6, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

And how about them law breaking employers?

Posted by: rcaruth | December 6, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

racaruth,

Employers of low-income, unskilled labor benefit directly from the influx of low-income, unskilled workers whether they themselves break the law or not. And so what? Is that an excuse for the federal government to refuse to enforce its own laws?

Posted by: Larry3435 | December 6, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Now is a good time to do it free citizenship. Many have left so not to suffer our fate.

Posted by: jmounday | December 6, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

what? Is that an excuse for the federal government to refuse to enforce its own laws?
Posted by: Larry3435

Just looking for all the lawbreakers to be dealt with equally,it's always illegal for an employer to hire an illegal immigrant.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 6, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Immigration is a positive for our culture and economy. But the immigrants should be the best and brightest from all over the world, not uneducated peasants from a neighboring country who come in such numbers that they can't possibly be assimilated in a generation.

We should get full control of our southern border and of those who overstay visas. Only then should we consider a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for some illegals.

Enforcement first is a reasonable position that need not be based on nativist sentiment that offends Hispanics. Rubio in Florida and Martinez in New Mexico are successful Hispanic Republicans who support enforcement of our borders. In the last election, the Republicans attracted a fairly strong 38% of the Hispanic vote, the same share the Dems attracted among white voters.

Republicans can increase this percentage by sticking to enforcement first and recruiting more strong Hispanic candidates. Rubio for VP in 2012!

Posted by: eoniii | December 6, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

There are 14 million people drawing unemployment checks.
We can not create enough jobs for those people, and 10-20 million illegals.
We aren't even creating enough jobs to keep pace with the level of losses we already have.
We have to see 160,000 new jobs every month, just to keep pace with the population growth of CITIZENS.
We aren't even coming close to the 100,000 per month that this administration predicted we would be seeing at this time.

Just do the math.
We can't keep doing this.
Should we keep spending the current rate of .25 trillion per year, in jobless benefits to 14 million people, while there are 10-20 million people here illegally competing for jobs that could be done by some of those 14 million?

That is insane.

If Americans won't do those jobs, it's because we pay them not to.


"From October 2009 through the end of February 2010, the government spent $114.9 billion on all unemployment benefits. During the same period in the previous fiscal year, the government spent $37.7 billion. "If we continue to spend at that rate, for the full year we would be close to $250 billion."
See full article from DailyFinance: http://srph.it/cep2RU

This has to stop.
I don't care if you believe you should be sitting in an office, making 100K.
I can guarantee that you're not making it on unemployment checks.
Go get a job.

If there are 10-20 million people working here illegally, then there are jobs to be had

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 6, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

We continue to run HUGE trade imbalances with China largely due to the availability of "cheap labor" for manufacturing/product assembly.

Given Mexico's dire economic straights and low wages, ever wonder why we don't shift more of our business from China to Mexico (once the infrastructure is in place).

I mean, if so many Mexicans are crossing our shared border illegally looking for work, why not create some "Enterprise Zones" in Mexico and begin exporting jobs to them instead of China. Bonus: we keep more jobs in our hemisphere, dramatically improve our relationship with the people and governments of Mexico, dramatically reduce out trade deficits with China and, perhaps, largely change the underlying dynamics of our illegal immigration challenges.

Posted by: mobileruss | December 6, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

@rcaruth
(1)The libs have made it nearly impossible for employers to validate and confirm citizenship.
(2)I contend that securing the border is the only viable first step. Everything else is minor once you stop the influx of illegals
Posted by: metanis

(1)If Employers don't have that
ability,let's let the police take over
that job.
(2)So we provide amnesty for the criminal employers who are the cause of the illegal overrun.
Posted by: rcaruth
++++++++++++++++++++

Want to bet how many those of influence in the media and in government in general are up to their necks with employing illegal aliens?...

Posted by: nvjma | December 6, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: mobileruss
We continue to run HUGE trade imbalances with China largely due to the availability of "cheap labor" for manufacturing/product assembly.

This couldn't happen if we had gold backed currency;with gold backed currency we would never allow US dollars to flow to China,because then those dollars would flow back to us,and our gold would flow to China. The current "Free Trade" system & outsourcing would be impossible with a Gold Standard.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 6, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

So what about the second half of Mickey Kaus's post?

The part where immigration activists refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of national borders?

Opposing amnesty before securing the border is just like opposing tax increases before lowering spending.

Posted by: glenalxndr | December 7, 2010 3:24 AM | Report abuse

Here's an amnesty I could support: Deport all the illegals. Every last one of them. Then, they can wait in line with the law abiding citizens of their own country for a visa to comes here. At that point, my amnesty for them would be that we won't hold their prior illegal status here against them (but we would consider whether they were criminals or tax dodgers or a drain on social services).

Posted by: Shaniqa | December 9, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who favors amnesty for lawbreakers doesn't understand psychology: foreigners will continue to come illegally as long as they believe they will eventually be rewarded. No amount of border security can keep them out.

History reminder: the big Reagan Amnesty of 1986 was billed as a one-time-only event that would solve the problem forever. Instead it has been followed by half a dozen minor amnesties done quietly.

But the upshot has been a loud message to the world the America does not take its sovereignty seriously.

To solve the crisis of the illegal immigration of millions, the policy must change to ENFORCEMENT ONLY.

Posted by: BerkeleyBW | December 10, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

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