The Corner

Re: Chertoff Friday

I wish Mike hadn’t done the capital punishment dig — that’s not helpful.  But I find the whole discussion about “amnesty” very unhelpful.  The proposal is obviously not a pure amnesty in the sense of impunity.  But that’s not the point.  If I committed a murder and was sentenced to a month in jail, that would be utterly inadequate punishment — it would not fit the crime so it would not be justice as to me individually, and it would not deter future murderers so it would not be justice as to the greater society.  But it would also not be amnesty — the government would be able to say, accurately though misleadingly, that I had been punished.  Who cares?

We should not be having a silly argument over the word amnesty.  We should be having a serious discussion of whether the proposed penalties are adequate — (a) do they fit the wrong of coming here illegally, (b) are they just overall in light of the fact that there is no appetite for mass deportations but we must still account for how people who follow the rules are treated in comparison, and (c) under circumstances where our enforcement apparatus has not proved itself, will they meaningfully encourage more illegal immigration? 

For what it’s worth, I’m not that offended by the bill when I consider (a) alone.  But I am very worried when I consider (b).  It is (c), then, that becomes the hurdle I can’t overcome.  That is, I could swallow hard and accept this if I believed we were serious about enforcement and that the resources were in place to administer this grand plan.  I don’t — and I don’t understand why we can’t delay legalization until we demonstrate enforcement commitment and administrative competence.  That will take a few years, but it’s taken 20 years of laxity to get here, so why not take a few years to prove to Americans that government now gets the point?

Not to be a broken record on this, but I also feel compelled to say again:  I hear over and over again that it is important to do something about the status of the 12 – 20+ million illegals who are already in the country.  Again I ask:  Why?  Why is their status — a status they chose with no encouragement from me — my problem? 

I am not heartless, and I am not impractical.  I am not in favor busting up families, harrassing hardworking people, or wasting sparse resources to round them all up and deport them — I’m content to target enforcement at employers who exploit illegals and illegals who violate our criminal laws.  For the rest of the millions, I say leave them be — as we do now (which itself is a form of amnesty).  But why on earth do I owe them more than that?  Why do they need, in addition, to be awarded with legal status for doing something that was illegal and should be discouraged?