Whoa…it’s the entire press conference on the immigration bill from yesterday. I do suggest reading the entire transcript, but here’s the funniest part (and I think the press corps memeber who invented the term “law-abiding illegal” deserves some sort of award):
Q If you’re a law-abiding illegal worker in this country, you pay $1,000 and work here for eight more years —
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Correct. And you actually could work further than that. You don’t have to get a green card.
SECRETARY GUTIERREZ: Did you say law-abiding legal?
Q Because we’re not —
Q Law-abiding illegal — law-abiding —
SECRETARY GUTIERREZ: They will be legal.
Q It starts to sound like amnesty, is what I’m getting at. It’s an eight-year, nine-year amnesty program. And then at the end of that, you’ve got to go, assuming you can find them at the workplace. Is that how it works?
SECRETARY CHERTOFF: No, here’s what it is. It is — in order to come out of what is currently a system that is broken, where there are millions of undocumented workers, in order to get regulated, you have to come forward, you have to pass a background check, you have to demonstrate you were here prior to January 2007, you’ve got to pay a fine. At that point, you can continue to renew in four-year increments, as long as you’re working, you’re paying your taxes and you’re abiding by the law.
So is it — now, if you don’t want a green card, you’re right, you don’t have to pay an additional fine, you’ll have paid one fine. We’ll have done your background check and we’ll have then periodically checked to make sure you that you are working, you’re satisfying the work requirement.
If you don’t do that, you have the same person doing the work, not paying the taxes, maybe stealing someone’s identity, and you are perpetuating a system where that person can be victimized. And we’re going to have more raids and more of what we have now. So is it harshly punitive? No. We’re not treating this as a capital offense. But here’s what it does.
First and foremost, it means that my agents who go out and enforce the law can spend their time looking for drug dealers and gang bangers, instead of maids who are working in hotels. I only have so many agents. I suggest you ask the American people, would you rather have the agent track down a gang banger and a drug dealer, or a maid? I think pretty much all of them will say, let’s go get the gang banger and the drug dealer.
So we’re going to bring everybody into a regulated system. We’ll get the taxes. They’ll pay the fine. They’ll have to learn English at the end of year eight. And then they’ll have an opportunity, but not a guarantee of getting a green card.
SECRETARY GUTIERREZ: Somebody, someone mentioned today — this word “amnesty” is thrown out as if though it’s the answer to all the questions and all the quandaries. We made sure that this was not amnesty. This is not an unconditional pardon. And very importantly, there is no automatic path to citizenship. And if you go back and look at a lot of the bills that were around last year, there was a sense that there was an automatic green card somewhere in the future. There is no automatic path.
But if you call something like this “amnesty,” then where does that take you? We can’t stand still and keep on throwing one-liners at each other, the system is just going to continue getting worse. So I think we have found that middle ground that the President has been asking for.