Am-nes-ty: the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.
Last week, I had the honor to travel to Arizona aboard Air Force One with President George W. Bush to see firsthand the situation along the Mexican border. President Bush is a good man, and when he is right I am among his strongest supporters in Congress. But on the issue of illegal immigration, he is profoundly wrong.
In Arizona, President Bush said: “First of all, in this debate . . . nobody should be given an automatic citizenship. That’s called ‘amnesty.’”
But this is a strange definition of amnesty, considering that illegal aliens aren’t breaking the law by trying to become citizens–they are breaking the law by crossing the border illegally. If you let them stay here, if you pardon them for their crime of entering the country illegally, that’s an amnesty.
The president is trying to redefine amnesty because he knows that admitting his plan is an amnesty would doom it. But in fact, Bush wants to add eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants in addition to letting them stay here. This makes his plan more than an amnesty–call it an amnesty plus.
The White House claims that the president’s plan is not an amnesty because illegals will face penalties and “benchmarks.” Here is what Tony Snow says awaits those who are allowed to stay under the president’s plan:
. . . you [the illegal alien] will pay fines, you will have a criminal penalty; you will also have to pay taxes; you will also have to keep your nose clean, you can’t break the law; you will also have to stay continuously employed . . . you will have to pay your taxes, you will have to have a secure, tamper-proof identification.. And when all of that is done, you get to go to the back of the line, and you wait, what, 11 years or more for a chance to become a citizen, at the end of which you have to have a command of English, as well, to be able to become a citizen. Now, with all those benchmarks, it is hard to square that with the idea of amnesty.
What exactly on that list is onerous? Let’s go through it.
Illegal aliens will have to “pay taxes”: That’s no penalty; they’re supposed to pay taxes. In fact, according the Sen. Chuck Grassley, under Bush’s plan illegals would have the option to only have to pay three of their last five years in back taxes.
They have to “keep their nose clean”: Big deal. So does everybody else.
They have to get a tamper-proof ID card: Oh, the humanity!
They’ll have to stay employed: But isn’t that why they came here, to do jobs Americans won’t?
They’ll have to learn English: That’s a benefit to the illegal.
Most of these “benchmarks” would be required of any legal immigrant. They are in no way burdensome, yet Tony Snow makes them sound almost oppressive.
The only real punishment on the entire list is the fine. Know what it is? A measly $2,000 payable in two $1,000 installments. When you consider what illegals get for their two grand, it’s the deal of a lifetime.
The penalty for using a phony Social Security card is a fine of up to $250,000 and/or five years in jail. But Bush wants illegals to get pardoned for that serious crime and all their other immigration-related crimes. In the president’s plan, illegals get to have what they earned illegally counted toward Social Security benefits for themselves and their survivors. They get to send their children to American schools and bring their family into the country. They get access to public services, including the best health care in the world, and they get to enter and leave the country freely. In other words, they get to do everything a regular citizen can do except vote and serve on a jury.
To top it off, illegals are allowed not only join the citizenship queue, but also to legally live and work here while they wait. This privilege is worth thousands upon thousands of dollars for any individual illegal. And for the child of an illegal who is born in the United States and thus becomes an automatic citizen during this time, the privilege is almost priceless: John O’Sullivan writes that the going rate for a green card on the world market is $100,000.
If for some reason you still think Bush’s plan is tough on illegal immigrants, ask yourself what would happen if we set up a booth at the border charging $2,000 to come and live and work in the U.S. with the possibility of citizenship down the road. My guess is the line would stretch from Nogales to Buenos Aires and we’d erase our budget deficit overnight.
The idea that this plan would be onerous for illegals is insulting, especially to legal immigrants who have patiently gone through the laborious process of lawfully coming into this country.
The American people see through the White House spin. They know an amnesty when they see it. And the president’s plan is an amnesty.
–Rep. J. D. Hayworth is a Republican U.S. congressman from the 5th District of Arizona.