Here is a long money quote:
Immigration hard-liners seem to be taking the position that, although Congress can make immigration laws more draconian, they cannot legitimately make them less draconian without somehow threatening the rule of law. They don't seem to take this tack on other issues however. For example, I was once called in to turn around a financially troubled business entity. The company was mired in debt, particularly back taxes. Upon taking the helm, I contacted the IRS and worked out a deal in which they would lift liens on assets so that I could sell them to pay the taxes. The penalties were waived. The agent explained to me that Congress had wanted to create a "kinder and gentler" IRS, and gave it the flexibility to waive penalties in its negotiations with taxpayers who have fallen hopelessly behind.Do these conditions apply to the present immigration debate? Let's see, the latest estimate we have received is that there are 10.5 to 11 million illegal immigrants. The total prison population is 2,226,787, at least according to the latest info I was able to locate. In other words, we could devote every single prison cell at the federal, state, and local level to housing illegal immigrants - and we'd still have over 8 million on the loose. That's starting to get into "unenforcable" territory there.
Republican politicians have, often, sponsored initiatives which instruct bureaucracies to take a lighter touch with factories threatened by environmental regulations, for instance. One technique is to create a shield which would protect "brownfield" development sites from litigation pertaining to previous violations of pollution laws in exchange for redeveloping the parcel. Shields have been created for airline companies, as well as companies threatened by asbestos lawyers.
The hard right never denounces any of this as "amnesty." As if this is always and everywhere a bad word. It isn't. Amnesty is a long-standing and perfectly legitimate tactic. It is used when very large numbers of people violate a law which is either unenforceable or in cases in which enforcing the law would create more harm than good.
The next question is whether enforcing the law will do more harm than good. We already have reports of crops rotting in the fields. We also have potential black eyes like the standoff in Chicago - over a cleaning lady. We have terrorists, gang members, drug smugglers, and murders on the loose - most of them American citizens. Are we to cut back on our efforts to take down the truly dangerous in favor of arresting and deporting all of the fruit-pickers and cleaning ladies who are doing an honest day's work for an honest day's pay?
Both conditions have been met for an amnesty, but is that what Bush even has on the table?
Let's look at what he has to say for himself, not what people like Pat Buchanan, Tom Tancredo, and Michelle Malkin say he is saying.:
I thought the Senate had an interesting approach by saying that if you've been here for five years or less, you're treated one way, and five years or more, you're treated another. It's just an interesting concept that people need to think through about what to do with people that have been here for quite a period of time.
Now, my attitude is this: I think that people ought to be, obviously, here to work on a temporary basis. The definition of temporary will be decided in the halls of Congress.
Secondly, I believe that a person should never be granted automatic citizenship. And let me tell you why I believe that, that if you've been here -- broken the law and have been here working, that it doesn't seem fair to me to say you're automatically a citizen when somebody who has been here legally working is standing in line trying to become a citizen, as well. In other words, there's the line for people. (Applause.)
But what I do think makes sense is that a person ought to be allowed to get in line. In other words, pay a penalty for being here illegally, commit him or herself to learn English, which is part of the American system -- (applause) -- and get in the back of the line. In other words, there is a -- there is a line of people waiting to become legal through the green card process. And it's by nationality. And if you're a citizen here who has been here illegally, you pay a penalty, you learn English, and you get in line, but at the back -- not the front.
Doesn't sound like a free pass to me. Sounds like there is a penalty for breaking the law. It is just not the penalty the hard-liners want. It might be allowing ICE and the Border Patrol to waive the harshest penalties, but it is not an amnesty. Anyone who is calling it an amnesty is being about as honest as Citizens Against Government Waste was when they called the C-130J pork. Bill Clinton's "honesty" when he claimed Republicans wanted to cut Medicare to pay for tax cuts also comes to mind.
So, I don't buy the arguments of the hard-liners. Americans shouldn't, either.