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May 24, 2006
Ed Meese On Immigration

I just finished a conference call arranged by the Heritage Foundation with former Attorney General Edwin Meese regarding the immigration debate. Gen. Meese wrote a column in today's New York Times noting the similarities between the current Senate proposal and the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which granted amnesty and failed to provide the border security it promised. He reminds us of what that amnesty demanded:

In exchange for allowing aliens to stay, he decided, border security and enforcement of immigration laws would be greatly strengthened — in particular, through sanctions against employers who hired illegal immigrants. If jobs were the attraction for illegal immigrants, then cutting off that option was crucial.

Beyond this, most illegal immigrants who could establish that they had resided in America continuously for five years would be granted temporary resident status, which could be upgraded to permanent residency after 18 months and, after another five years, to citizenship.

Note that this path to citizenship was not automatic. Indeed, the legislation stipulated several conditions: immigrants had to pay application fees, learn to speak English, understand American civics, pass a medical exam and register for military selective service. Those with convictions for a felony or three misdemeanors were ineligible. Sound familiar? These are pretty much the same provisions included in the new Senate proposal and cited by its supporters as proof that they have eschewed amnesty in favor of earned citizenship.

The difference between 1986 and now, as Gen. Meese points out, is that we called this amnesty in 1986. Today, people get very unhappy when that label is applied to essentially the same approach. The only difference appears to be the requirement to pay back taxes, hardly a differentiator that would lead reasonable people to conclude that this is not a repeat of Simpson-Mazzoli.

I'll add my notes from the conference call later on. I'll be taking the FM to the hospital this morning (which is why I was available for the conference call), and I should be able to review the conversation at greater length then. In the meantime, Michelle Malkin, Power Line, Right Wing News, and Mary Katherine Ham from Hugh Hewitt will have updates on the call shortly.

UPDATE: I forgot Freeman Hunt!

UPDATE II: I also forgot Jon at QandO; my bad. I will let the rest of the participants have the last word on this. I've spent most of the day at the hospital trying to get the FM squared away, and she'll be there for the next day or so. Gen. Meese has some interesting insight into the immigration mess, given his proximity to the Simpson-Mazzoli debacle. I have tremendous respect for his perspective, and if he says that he's getting a sense of deja vu, it behooves us to listen. I still would trade some limited normalization program for effective border security, but unless the conference committee makes some significant changes to the Senate approach, I fear we will get neither.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 24, 2006 10:07 AM

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» Immigration Call with Ed Meese from QandO
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» Meese On Immigration from Decision '08
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» ARE THERE REALLY ONLY 12 MILLION ILLEGAL ALIENS? from THE GALVIN OPINION
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» Reagan's Attorney General, Ed Meese, Says Amnesty Then And Now A Failure from Diggers Realm
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» Reagan's Attorney General, Ed Meese, Says Amnesty Then And Now A Failure from Diggers Realm
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Tracked on May 25, 2006 3:20 AM

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