The Corner

The Gingrich Amnesty

Missed the debate because of wrestling practice, but it’s hardly surprising that Newt would support amnesty for illegal aliens. After the Pelosi global-warming ad and Dede Scozzafava and “right-wing social engineering,” is it any surprise he’d adopt the left’s line on immigration too? He earned a career grade of D from Numbers USA (they calculate back to 1989). Heck, even Barbara Boxer has a career grade of D+.

But a couple more points are in order. First, there just aren’t very many illegal aliens who have been here 25 years, the duration Gingrich specified as warranting amnesty. The old INS estimated that there were about 5 million illegal aliens in 1996, and the growth rate had been about 300,000 a year, which means that 10 years earlier (i.e., 25 years ago), there would have been about 2 million illegal aliens. Of those, I would guess the majority have in the intervening quarter-century either gone home, died, or finagled a green card (at least one-quarter of each year’s green-card recipients — new “legal” immigrants — are illegal aliens using the federal immigration program to launder their status). So that’s fewer than 1 million people out of the current 11 million illegals who would be covered by the Gingrich Amnesty, and probably fewer than half a million.

But wait — 25 years ago. Hmmmmm. That rings a bell. Did something happen back in 1986 with regard to immigration? Oh, yeah, I remember — Congress passed the one and only amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), that legalized close to 3 million illegals (there had been about 5 million, so about 2 million remained after the amnesty, because they didn’t meet the law’s requirements). That was supposed to be followed by tough enforcement to prevent future illegal immigration and to throw out the resident illegals who didn’t qualify for the amnesty (or who failed to lie their way to a green card, since a large share of those successfully claiming amnesty, perhaps as many as one-quarter, did so fraudulently — among the liars was Mahmud “The Red” Abouhalima, a leader of the first World Trade Center attack).

So the Gingrich Amnesty would cover illegal immigrants here when Congress passed IRCA. That is to say, it would pick up where the previous amnesty left off, legalizing precisely those people who didn’t qualify for IRCA. This just underlines what a chump you have to be to support any deal offered you by amnesty supporters.

Which is why “enforcement first” is the only way to go: consistent, unapologetic, across-the-board enforcement of the immigration law at our consulates overseas for visa applicants, at the borders, and inside the country, especially at the worksite — without preconditions or deals or grand bargains. Only after we’ve done that consistently — comprehensively! — for a sustained period of time and attrition has reduced the total illegal population by half or more is amnesty for some of those remaining even a legitimate topic for debate. For prudential reasons I might well be for amnesty under those conditions — I’m not an absolutist on the issue (though I don’t like second-class citizenship — if you’re going to amnesty someone, just do it and steer clear of Helen Krieble’s silly “red card” gimmick, which was the source of Mike Pence’s amnesty plan, too). But amnesty can only be the final chapter, not an opening gambit.

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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