May 26, 2006

The Senate Passes an Illegal Immigration Amnesty Bill, But Lacks The Courage To Call It What It Is

The Senate passed the illegal immigration bill amnesty bill on Thursday, by a vote of 62-36. Michelle Malkin has more.

A newly-visible issue in the bill: Michelle Malkin raises the question of whether the bill requires the United States government to get prior approval from the Mexican government before acting under its rights as a sovereign nation and building a border fence.

Various senators, including Specter and McCain, are protesting vehemently that this bill is not an amnesty bill. Quite a few others disagree, including Ed Meese, former Reagan administration Attorney General on An Amnesty by Any Other Name ...:

In the debate over immigration, "amnesty" has become something of a dirty word. Some opponents of the immigration bill being debated in the Senate assert that it would grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Supporters claim it would do no such thing. Instead, they say, it lays out a road map by which illegal aliens can earn citizenship.

Perhaps I can shed some light. Two decades ago, while serving as attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, I was in the thick of things as Congress debated the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The situation today bears uncanny similarities to what we went through then.

In the mid-80's, many members of Congress — pushed by the Democratic majority in the House and the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy — advocated amnesty for long-settled illegal immigrants. President Reagan considered it reasonable to adjust the status of what was then a relatively small population, and I supported his decision.

In exchange for allowing aliens to stay, he decided, border security and enforcement of immigration laws would be greatly strengthened — in particular, through sanctions against employers who hired illegal immigrants. If jobs were the attraction for illegal immigrants, then cutting off that option was crucial.

Beyond this, most illegal immigrants who could establish that they had resided in America continuously for five years would be granted temporary resident status, which could be upgraded to permanent residency after 18 months and, after another five years, to citizenship.

Note that this path to citizenship was not automatic. Indeed, the legislation stipulated several conditions: immigrants had to pay application fees, learn to speak English, understand American civics, pass a medical exam and register for military selective service. Those with convictions for a felony or three misdemeanors were ineligible. Sound familiar? These are pretty much the same provisions included in the new Senate proposal and cited by its supporters as proof that they have eschewed amnesty in favor of earned citizenship.

The difference is that President Reagan called this what it was: amnesty. Indeed, look up the term "amnesty" in Black's Law Dictionary, and you'll find it says, "the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act provided amnesty for undocumented aliens already in the country."

Like the amnesty bill of 1986, the current Senate proposal would place those who have resided illegally in the United States on a path to citizenship, provided they meet a similar set of conditions and pay a fine and back taxes. The illegal immigrant does not go to the back of the line but gets immediate legalized status, while law-abiding applicants wait in their home countries for years to even get here. And that's the line that counts. In the end, slight differences in process do not change the overriding fact that the 1986 law and today's bill are both amnesties.

There is a practical problem as well: the 1986 act did not solve our illegal immigration problem. From the start, there was widespread document fraud by applicants. Unsurprisingly, the number of people applying for amnesty far exceeded projections. And there proved to be a failure of political will in enforcing new laws against employers.

After a six-month slowdown that followed passage of the legislation, illegal immigration returned to normal levels and continued unabated. Ultimately, some 2.7 million people were granted amnesty, and many who were not stayed anyway, forming the nucleus of today's unauthorized population.

So here we are, 20 years later, having much the same debate and being offered much the same deal in exchange for promises largely dependent on the will of future Congresses and presidents.

Will history repeat itself? I hope not. In the post-9/11 world, secure borders are vital. We have new tools — like biometric technology for identification, and cameras, sensors and satellites to monitor the border — that make enforcement and verification less onerous. And we can learn from the failed policies of the past.

President Bush and Congress would do better to start with securing the border and strengthening enforcement of existing immigration laws. We might also try improving on Ronald Reagan's idea of a pilot program for genuinely temporary workers.

The fair and sound policy is to give those who are here illegally the opportunity to correct their status by returning to their country of origin and getting in line with everyone else. This, along with serious enforcement and control of the illegal inflow at the border — a combination of incentives and disincentives — will significantly reduce over time our population of illegal immigrants.

America welcomes more immigrants than any other country. But in keeping open that door of opportunity, we also must uphold the rule of law and enhance a fair immigration process, as Ronald Reagan said, to "humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people: American citizenship."

For more information:

John Hawkins on An Illegal Immigration Related Teleconference With Ed Meese
Wizbang on Ed Meese Knows It's Amnesty, which links to an important piece by Helen Krieble on Private Employers & Border Control
Mary Katherine Ham on Ed Meese conference call

Thomas Sowell hits the nail on the head in three separate editorials:

Bordering on Fraud
Bordering on Fraud: Part II
Bordering on Fraud: Part III

Several more Heritage Foundation studies:

Tim Kane on Immigration Reform or Central Planning?
Ed Meese and Matthew Spalding on Permanent Principles and Temporary Workers

Robert Rector, also from the Heritage Foundation and arguably the most visible policy analyst on illegal immigration, shares some more of his thoughts:

Robert Rector on The Wrong Course: The Senate’s proposed amnesty will cost a fortune

John O'Sullivan summarizes the various amendments proposed to the illegal immigration bill in recent days.

A leading senator and a leading congressman also weigh in:

Rick Santorum on What Not to Legislate: How not to fix our immigration laws
J. D. Hayworth on Call It What It Is: The president’s plan is an illegal-immigrant amnesty

Additional news from:

Charlie Hurt of Washington Times on 'Path to citizenship' faces House foes:

Liberal House Republicans are taking an increasingly tough stance on immigration reform and are more determined than ever to delete the portions of the Senate bill that grant citizenship rights to more than 10 million illegal aliens...

Michelle Malkin on Booing John McCain (but so what else is new?)
Power Line on What the Base Thinks

For more readings on the illegal immigration bill, there have been eleven recent postings on Anchor Rising about immigration:

Identifying Four Core Issues Underlying the Immigration Debate
More Misguided Thinking From RIFuture & State Legislators on Illegal Immigration
Why is Congress Discriminating Against Educated Legal Immigrants?
More Links on Immigration Issue
Asleep at the Border
Senate Rejects Securing the Borders while Supporting Increased Presidential Power
Senator Reed Votes For Open Borders
Does The Rule Of Law & A Sense Of Fair Play Matter Anymore? The Debate About In-State Tuitions For Illegal Immigrants
Jennifer Roback Morse: Further Clarifying What is at Stake in the Illegal Immigration Debate
Senator Grassley's Top 10 Flaws in Immigration Bill
Senator Sessions' Senate Floor Speech on Illegal Immigration Bill

In addition, another series of previous postings contain information about recent events in the public debate about illegal immigration and can be found in Parts I, II, III, IV, V, and VI.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Yup, Chafee voted for the illegal immigration amnesty bill.

Having been an illegal himself not once but twice while learning his trade in Canada, this should not come as a surprise.

How many more slaps in the face must we suffer from this man?

Posted by: oz at May 26, 2006 8:19 AM

I fear we no longer have a government "For the People" but a government "For the Vote". Our senators are willing to sell our security and soveriegnty for a few votes from the illegal aliens turned citizens under this bill.

Our only remaining hope is that the House will hold firm and work to cut this bill to ribbons.

Posted by: Greg Easton at May 26, 2006 8:57 AM


Dear Mr. Buchanan,

I shall not be renewing my subscription to your
AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE rag because I can no longer
admire your standing up to the neocons. They at least
are loyal to something. Unfortunately, you are as much
of a con as the neocons. Goldwater said: better right
than win. But you are a total phony. On the
Scarborough Country MSNBC program-- it may be
Scarborough's country but not the America I defended
and supported-- you said that "we" are going to set
the laws and choose who comes into our country, not
illegals breaking our laws. Who is "we," the Irish
potato famine" refugees who came here and raised hell
or a century?

You speak of law and order and no amnesty. But what
about the Amnesty that your "America" has requested
from the Japanese Americans and the Black Americans
who suffered racial and criminal abuse at the hands of
people like you-- should they grant your likes

We were both with Nixon and we were both there when
Conservatism started as a movement in the 1960s. So no
one can fool anyone. Forgiveness is what REAL
Christians do as it is what REAL Americans do-- as so
many Black and Japanese Americans forgave the likes of
you. People pay for their crimes and sins. But as an
old man you continue to be a fraud trying to cash in
on your own polemical larceny now as ever. I say that
because in all your blah-blah in support of the
Congress-passed Bill that makes it a felony for an
illegal alien to work in the US and for an American to
hire one, you never once mentioned that the felony of
hiring an illegal alien does not go into effect for
SIX MORE YEARS. That's in order to give time for the
grubby business men who hire illegals to avoid the
same catastrophic fate that befalls an illegal worker
caught working in your kind of America.

In the end you are more of a scumbag than the neocons
and a cheap old political whore, condemning Bush for
recklessly causing the deaths of American heroes in
Iraq but the supporting his re-election so he can
continue causing the death of young American heroes in
Iraq. Phonies like you need to be cut loose and
amputated from the Conservative movement, amputated
like an infected limb, before it can recover from its
own fundamental moral corruption.

Keep your rag, American Conservative, for you are
neither a REAL American (having evaded war service)
nor a real Conservative (having hidden from view a
Congressional Bill you peddle that makes it a
felonious crime to work but not to hire such felonious
criminals. That does not make you a
"Paleoconservative" just a crud!

Daniel E. Teodoru

Posted by: DETEODORU at May 27, 2006 12:56 AM