June 4, 2007

The A Word (Update: And the M Word, Too)

Mike Allen at The Politico reviews the use of the word "amnesty", as the Washington Post's Shankar Vedantam explains why we offer them so often. Both reasons come from a lack of definition in the law and an inability to enforce it:

“Amnesty” now is a political dirty word – the favorite slur of the bill’s opponents. But it was not always thus. The Googling monkeys discovered that McCain himself embraced the term during a news conference a few years ago in his office in Tucson, Ariz. “McCain Pushes Amnesty, Guest-Worker Program,” reported the Tucson Citizen of May 29, 2003. The senator is quoted as saying: “Amnesty has to be an important part because there are people who have lived in this country for 20, 30 or 40 years, who have raised children here and pay taxes here and are not citizens. That has to be a component of it.” The newspaper also quoted McCain as saying: “I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people who are eligible and at the same time make sure that we have some control over people who come in and out of this country.”

Ouch. McCainland points out that different people have given the word different meetings at different times for their own political purposes, but that the bottom line is that the current bill is not amnesty, for reasons McCain articulates in the text of his Coral Gables remarks: “Those undocumented workers who declare themselves, pass criminal background checks, prove their employment, pay fines, taxes, learn English and study American civics may be offered eventually, and I stress eventually, a path to citizenship. Critics of the bill attack this as amnesty and a special path to citizenship that is denied to lawful immigrants. Both charges are false.”

In this case, the bill's opponents insist that anything short of deportation is an amnesty. Technically, a $5,000 fine is a high price for a misdemeanor, which is the criminal classification for illegal entry into the US. That level of fine is usually associated with felonies, which argues against it being amnesty -- again, in the technical rather than emotional sense.

The problem with amnesties, opponents say, is that it leads to more amnesties. They rightly point to the Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty of 1986 (which also had a $1,000 fine) as an example. However, as Vedantam points out, it's not the amnesties that create the need for more amnesties, but the unenforceablity of the underlying laws that make them necessary:

Husak and Solum, legal theorists and philosophers, argue that laws on immigration are part of a broad pattern. In recent decades, they say, Congress has passed innumerable laws that no one seriously expects will be enforced. Such laws largely seem to serve symbolic purposes and are often designed to placate some powerful constituency -- conservatives in the case of immigration, or the entertainment industry in the case of laws that seek to deter people from swapping copyrighted music and movies.

The yawning divide between reality and what such laws say should happen is what produces the dilemmas that lead to amnesties. Immigration law has produced a situation where an estimated 12 million people in the country -- most of whom look, sound and act like law-abiding citizens -- are supposed to be apprehended, prosecuted and deported, a job that is not only well beyond the capacity of the police and courts, but would wreck substantial parts of the economy were it attempted. ...

The consequence of symbolic lawmaking is over-criminalization, which turns out to be as difficult a problem to deal with in the long run as crime itself. It might sound good for a politician to sternly declare that draft dodgers are in violation of the law and at risk for prosecution, but how do you deal with thousands of Americans who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War -- after the country had concluded the war was lost and a ghastly mistake? You offer them amnesty, of course.

Vedantam uses the war on drugs as another example of this problem. Despite the "war" nomenclature, most people arrested for being on the other side see no jail time. Instead, we give first-time offenders a version of "amnesty" -- a trip through rehab and another chance to Just Say No. Courts remain reluctant to imprison users who do not deal, even with multiple convictions, because our resources are limited and they want to keep the space open for violent offenders.

The problem isn't the amnesty, but the overcriminalization -- the passing of broad criminal legislation without the resources to enforce it. It encourages people to break the law, and then when enough people have broken it, the only recourse left is to either imprison millions or to grant them a pass. Amnesty just happens to be the traditional manner in which we acknowledge our mistakes in resource allocation or legislation, and as Vedantam writes, it's a poor way of running a country.

In this case, the problem isn't the law but the lack of resources to enforce it. Unfortunately, that has been the case for decades, and even a commitment of the proper resources now would only stop the bleeding. The proper commitment of resources -- including a border barrier and the higher-tech solutions -- should have occurred in 1986 or earlier. Now that we're finally closing the barn door, we have to deal rationally with the results of our earlier abject failures. Insisting on continuing the same patterns as before will result in another amnesty down the road, because without the commitment of a vastly higher level of resources, that's all we will have left.

UPDATE: The Post reports that the bill has picked up some momentum:

After a week at home with their constituents, the Senate architects of a delicate immigration compromise are increasingly convinced that they will hold together this week to pass an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, with momentum building behind one unifying theme: Today's immigration system is too broken to go unaddressed.

Congress's week-long Memorial Day recess was expected to leave the bill in tatters. But with a week of action set to begin today, the legislation's champions say they believe that the voices of opposition, especially from conservatives, represent a small segment of public opinion. ...

Public opinion polls seem to support Kyl's contention that Americans are far more open to the deal than the voices of opposition would indicate. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll released today, 52 percent of Americans said they would support a program giving illegal immigrants the right to stay and work in the United States if they pay a fine and meet other requirements. Opposition to that proposal was 44 percent.

The reason why Congress has considered this compromise is because they perceive to have the most support from their constituents. However, Kyl is among those keeping an eye on amendments offered this week from the Democrats, and he promises to withdraw his support if any of them pass. Among them: expanding the family-based immigration applications, and doubling the number of green cards.

Unfortunately, momentum may work against that, too. With so much political damage already being taken over the bill, no one among this generation of politicians will be tempted to take up the issue again. The pressure will increase for some kind of immigration reform to pass in this Congress; if it doesn't, anyone who thinks another immigration package will rise again in the next ten years may be fooling themselves. With everyone jockeying for the best possible twists on this bill, the final coalition passing it may look substantially different by the time the legislation passes or fails.

UPDATE II: Here's a Romney quote from 2005 on immigration which indicated a more relaxed attitude towards normalization:

Here's the best I can make out of the quote:

"My view is that those who are here, contrary to the law, should seek to establish legal residence -- and if they do so, I would be delighted to provide support."

Is that an endorsement of normalization? It's actually fairly vague; one could argue that he meant that if illegals left and came back, he'd support them. In the context of the issue, though, it seems to be more supportive of some form of normalization. It's not entirely inconsistent with Romney's stance as explained to me last week, either, although "delight" never entered into the conversation. He said that normalization proposals are "reasonable" but that he could not support anything which put illegals ahead of those seeking legal immigration.

The problem is that Romney has clearly rejected this proposal, but has not offered a proposal for immigration reform. That may be wise, as it appears to be a third rail for Republicans this year, but it leaves confusion over what exactly Romney would do about immigration as President. I believe voters would be interested in specifics from the Romney campaign -- and the Giuliani campaign, too.


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Comments (34)

Posted by Waste | June 4, 2007 9:22 AM

Have to respectfully disagree that $5000 is a high price for a misdemenor. The problem is that the $5000 fine that people keep using only applies if they want to become citizens.

The fine/fee for the Z visa is only $1000 for four years I believe. That comes out to $250/year. In return for the fee and the small amount of taxes they tend to pay, they get 20k-30k in benefits.

There is little incentive for them to become citizens when they can reap many benefits without doing so.

Posted by Immolate | June 4, 2007 9:34 AM

Wouldn't it be germane, Ed, to know just how many illegals took advantage of the 1986 amnesty bill? Are some of the 12-20 million illegals peope who were, in 1986, illegal even then? How many did we think we had and how many did we wind up with, and couldn't that percentage be a starting point with estimating the number of our current illegals who would take advantage of it?

Posted by pilsener | June 4, 2007 9:39 AM

The Captain wrote: "In this case, the problem isn't the law but the lack of resources to enforce it."

There is another side to this legislation beyond the enforcement that will never take place. It is the administration of the visas, legalizations, background checks, employer reporting, etc.. This immigration reform bill calls for actions to occur, but like most legislation does not go into detail about how to make the myriad of decisions that will invariably arise. So those decisions will be made by the bureaucracy and the courts.

In most cases, the decisions will favor the illegal immigrants who will be viewed as a constituency to be served, not as violators to be carefully screened. If the bureaucracy is overwhelmed (an absolute certainty) it will streamline its processing to obtain adequate performance numbers, even if that means curtailing screening altogether.

The worst part is that all of the proponents know what will happen, but are cynically willing to ignore what is to come. When it does happen, they will just as cynically deny any personal responsibility because the real decisions were made by the bureaucracy and the courts.


Posted by Sue | June 4, 2007 9:43 AM

I am shamed by the politicians. If you think they care about anything except their power and money, you are all mistaken. Kyle has been reelected and knows that his people will forget this little episode in treason to his constituents. He'll be right. We, the people, have steadfastly refused to "do" much other than call, write, email or fax. Maybe we've learned a lesson. I for one have given up. They never listened and never will, that is the truth in a nutshell. Any other type of thinking is wishful in the extreme.

Posted by quickjustice | June 4, 2007 9:51 AM

Two quick points: I don't think Vedantam's mere assertion, without proof, that deportation of illegal workers "would wreck substantial parts of the economy were it attempted" can be assumed to be true. The burden of proof on this point is on him and on the employers of illegal workers, not on the rest of us.

We already have "guest worker" programs in place under Simpson-Mazzoli. If those programs aren't flexible enough to meet employers' legitimate demands for more workers, why aren't we hearing principled arguments for modifying those programs?

Second, you're making contradictory arguments here, Ed. I agree that "lack of resources to enforce" Simpson-Mazzoli, not the law itself, is the primary problem here.

You then contradict yourself by arguing that we must agree to amnesty because of prior blunders. I respectfully suggest that putting the resources in place must come first, i.e., stop the bleeding. Until that happens, our government lacks the credibility to sell amnesty to the public.

Posted by mickslam | June 4, 2007 9:55 AM

A whole page without mention of the war. Stick your head in the sand, losers

Posted by burt | June 4, 2007 10:00 AM

If I commit a different misdemeanor and pay a fine I go back to the status I had before becoming a criminal.

According to this bill a person who pays a fine gets his status promoted to a different and enhanced status compared to before he broke the law.

That is amnesty.

Simpson-Mazzoli was correctly promoted as being amnesty in 1986.

Posted by RBMN | June 4, 2007 10:05 AM

Just this morning, I was glancing through another 1000-page amnesty plan--the Bible.

Yes, yes, I know....Ted Kennedy didn't write that one.

Posted by Cousin Dave [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 4, 2007 10:14 AM

Sadly, I've come to the conclusion that it just doesn't matter if this bill passes or not; the result will be exaclty the same. This bill is nearly identical in content to Simpson-Mazzoli. The stated reasons for passing this bill are exactly the same as the stated reasons for passing Simpson-Mazzoli and the two amnesty bills before that which were passed in the '60s.

Under Simpson-Mazzoli, illegals were supposed to pay fines and back taxes. I know of only a handful of cases in which this actually happened. Further, a large base of illegals simply wasn't interested in getting legal visas because being an illegal was a better deal. Simpson-Mazzoli contained "tough" new provisions for border control and enforcement. The border control was never funded, and the enforcement provisions were ignored.

It's exactly the same story again. The fines and collection of back taxes will be found unconstitutional by some court somewhere within about ten minutes of the bill's passage, and that will be the end of that. The border control povisions will never be funded, and the enforcement provisions will simply be ignored. And the sad thing about it is, the borders will remain an open conduit for terrorists to enter the country. And I can't help but think that that's exactly the goal of at least some of the bill's backers.

At this rate, we may as well dismantle IMS and the Border Patrol and grant automatic citizenship to anyone who enters the country by any means.

Posted by retire05 | June 4, 2007 10:35 AM

Yesterday, thousands of illegals took to the streets of D.C. demanding rights they don't have in their own nation. Instead of being grateful that they can come here, one man complained that since he was only making $9 an hour, he knew that if made legal, he would be paid what HE THOUGHT he is worth. Another complained that he could not support his SIX kids in El Salvador. Perhaps he should have thought about that BEFORE he had six kids.
The Shamensty movement is the new "civil rights" movement. If Mexico's economy was booming but Canada's was in the tank and it was white, French Canadians sneaking across our borders in the dead of night like thieves, we would not be having this conversation in the first place. No one would be going to bat for white criminals.
What no one is asking is why, if they are willing to march and protest in the streets of a nation they are not supposed to be in and have come here illegally, are they not marching and protesting in the streets of their own nations for reform? Do we really think that people with Pan American values who have no loyality to their own nations will have loyality to ours once they are granted all the rights and services of any other citizen, and in the case of this bill, more rights than most Americans? Why do they get a pass on back taxes when it would land us in court if we did not pay our tax burden? Why are they allowed to collect social security and be fully vested after only one year when American citizens have to pay into the system for 10 years to be fully vested?
This bill is the mule it appears to be with the front end being a lot more pleasurable to swallow than the back end will be. It is the back end that will get you and hit hard in the wallet of every taxpaying American citizen.

For those who say we need them to keep our economy rolling, I would only point out the fact that Swift Packing, which had to shut down after the raids, has gained full strength and posted record earning last quarter. It seems there were Americans who were willing to work at Swift. That argument is the same one used by the South over slavery. If we abolish slavery, the economy will collapse. It didn't happen. What collasped the south was the cost of war and northern tariffs.
We here in the border states have been screaming about the cost of illegal immigration for decades. But the elites of D.C. did not listen because, after all, it was only a few states that were complaining. Now, illegal immigration is costing the whole nation billions of dollars over and above what we gain in taxes from illegals. $3.7 BILLION in 2006 to Texas alone.
We do not need new laws. We need enforcement of the laws already on the books.
And in case anyone is interested, here is just one of the hidden costs of illegals doing the environmental distruction job that Americans won't do.

Read the whole article to understand one of the back end costs of illegal immigration to taxpaying American citizens.

Posted by RBMN | June 4, 2007 10:36 AM

Re: Cousin Dave at June 4, 2007 10:14 AM

Most terrorists don't "immigrate," they "visit America" or "come here to study" with a valid visa. I understand the importance of sealing up the borders, but that's not the primary fix for our terrorism problem. Intelligence, computer tracking, and stake outs in front of New Jersey apartment buildings are what stops terrorism. They're already here. They're not waiting around in Mexico.

Posted by MarkJ | June 4, 2007 10:41 AM

"A whole page without mention of the war. Stick your head in the sand, losers

Posted by: mickslam at June 4, 2007 9:55 AM"

Dear Mickslam,

I guess your post exemplifies what passes for sparkling, witty, erudite, insightful conversation in the Land of the Fifty Foot Moonbats. Do come back and visit again after you've taken your meds! :)

Cordially and respectfully,

Posted by John Thompson | June 4, 2007 10:48 AM

Death penalty for being here illegally. Period. Streamlined process-two weeks from conviction to appeal to execution of sentence. Bingo--Problem solved.

Posted by Angry Dumbo | June 4, 2007 11:10 AM

Passage of the immigration bill is a fait accompli. Why isn't the fence built?

Because Republicans want cheap labor and Democrats want voters. As Duncan Hunter reminds us every chance he gets, the fence works.

Legalizing 100 million immigrants will no more save the medicare/social security entitlement programs than finding new marks "saves" a ponzi scheme. The entitlements time bomb is set to go off when the baby boomers retire. The lawyer politicians can try to convince themselves that the scheme is sound. Ask any accountant, the money for these programs just isn't there. Truth is it never was. Finally, do the lawyer politicians in D.C. honestly believe that the undocumented immigrants really want to be documented and pay into our ponzi scheme? If so, why is so much money flowing back into Mexico?

You say "overcriminalization," I say passing laws you have no intention to enforce.

Lets call the whole thing off.

Posted by Theresa, MSgt (ret), USAF | June 4, 2007 11:11 AM

I question the number of Americans who support this shamnesty. How can anyone accept this piece of garbage? The only thing the Congress and the Administration need to do at this point in time is SHUT THE BORDER DOWN. Once the BORDER IS CONTROLED BY AMERICANS AND NOT MEXICANS, we can than address what to do with the criminals who are already here. To address the legalization of criminals prior to controlling the flow is asinine beyond comprehension. If this shamnesty passes, I want my legal status changed so I too can reap benefits I haven't worked for. Why should criminals be the only ones benefiting from the sell out of America to big business and their cronies in Congress?

Posted by RBMN | June 4, 2007 11:17 AM

Re: John Thompson at June 4, 2007 10:48 AM

Isn't that exactly what Chertoff got in trouble for predicting--predicting that some of the hysterical rhetoric on the other side will get to that point if we're not careful here?

Posted by The Yell | June 4, 2007 11:40 AM

Can we "practically" deport 12 million people? I dunno, but I DO know we can render the black market economy "practically" unworkable, which is why urban sweeps were roundly and violently condemned as inhumane. They were too effective to be borne.

Stake out the "day worker centers", close the Mexican consulates until their government stops organizing illegal immigration, bar wire transfers into Mexico, and do the urban sweeps once a week. A month of that would achieve wonderfully "impractical" results.

RBMN, I dunno what Bible you're reading. My New American translation mentions a bit about "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" and about how Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem to comply with documentation requirements.

Posted by TomB | June 4, 2007 11:46 AM

By not applying tried, tested and true principles of Rule of Law, we are becoming more and more like some corrupted regimes elsewhere.
It is really depressing to see our elected representatives and the President ignoring the very basics of the modern Civilization in the name of short term personal gains. It is really shameful.

Posted by onlineanalyst | June 4, 2007 11:52 AM

Sorry, CE, but the problem of the Kennedy-LaRaza amnesty bill is the law. Built into the Z-visa provision is the impossibility of implementing it. Verification of eligibility is more impossible to achieve than our current situation of limited manpower allows for processing applicants.

I am further annoyed by the false dilemma presented as one of accepting this travesty of a bill and one of massive deportation roundups. Andy McCarthy at NRO asks who put these people "in the shadows" but themselves. If we control our borders and dry up the opportunities for employment and free social benefits by following our current rule of law, those "in the shadows" would self-deport.

The temporary Z-visa, truly an invitation for more fraudulent "documentation", for all practical purposes is a permanent Z-visa because of its protections that give illegals immunity into perpetuity with each renewal. The provisions of the temp-Z hamstring law enforcement agencies and allow for free social safety nets paid for by law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.

Posted by RBMN | June 4, 2007 12:44 PM

Re: onlineanalyst at June 4, 2007 11:52 AM

Valid Z-visas only exist in government databases--not on a piece of plastic. The piece of plastic just ties that individual person holding it to the individual record in the database. There's NOTHING PERMANENT about a Z-visa if they (the Government) find out (at some later date) that the person doesn't deserve to have it. When your Z-visa is invalidated in the database, in an instant, it will be about as useful to you as a credit card that's been reported stolen. It won't work anymore. The required card readers will reject it. That's how it's designed to work. It's valid till it's not valid. And when it's not valid it doesn't work.

Posted by Gabe | June 4, 2007 2:03 PM

The politicians are doing a good job of snowing people on this business of the fine. It is NOT five thousand bucks. Depending on the circumstances it's as little as nothing and at most a thousand bucks.

For farm workers it's a hundred dollars. For high school grads brought here when they were under the age of 16, who agree to attend college or join the service, there is NO FINE.

For everyone else its a thousand bucks.

There are additional charges to apply for a green card, which will be entirely optional. That''s how these sleazy politicos get to 5K. It will be another 4K for most Z visa holders to apply for the green card, but only $400 for farm workers.

BTW all the promises about none of this happening until the border is secure is nonsense. The build-up of border patrol agents (in no way enough to secure the border) is phased in over five years--subject to the availability of funds. There is no appropriation for them in the bill.

Posted by Jya Lai | June 4, 2007 2:10 PM

From my perspective, most people I talk to who are against this bill are not against it because they are heartless toward those who are trying to make it into this country for a better life. They are against it for two reasons:

1) The primary reason there is so strong reaction to this bill is because we did this once already and it didn't solve the problem. The politician's are falling into the classic definition of insane.

"Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results."

I believe most people would accept some kind of assimilation plan, if congress showed any real effort to close the border and enforce current laws. Laws mean nothing if they are not enforced. Congress and the Bush administration can talk all they want about how good these laws are, but they mean nothing if they are not enforced. The people are mad that these buffoons think they can pull the wool over our eyes twice. They are wrong.

Whether this bill passes, or even a stronger one does, the American people know that foreigners will continue to break our laws to get in to our country in large numbers. Unless we enforce our laws!

2) The second reason is to protect our sovreignty. This is civics 101. I haven't heard many people adequately explain this issue. However, if we cannot define the boundaries within which our government has control, we will lose our uniqueness as a country and blend into the global village. We become a province of some UN organization. That's a scary thought.

Posted by Geistmaus | June 4, 2007 2:30 PM

RMBN -- "ust this morning, I was glancing through another 1000-page amnesty plan--the Bible."

I'm not even Christian and I still know you have to go through border controls to get into heaven.

RMBN -- "I understand the importance of sealing up the borders, but that's not the primary fix for our terrorism problem. Intelligence, computer tracking, and stake outs in front of New Jersey apartment buildings are what stops terrorism."

Conspicuously missing from your screeching is the No Fly List. We can argue its merits but we cannot argue its purpose or effectiveness. Ask the TB lawyer how this worked out for him.

RMBN -- (On the Z visa) "It's valid till it's not valid. And when it's not valid it doesn't work."

If you're seriously suggesting that the only manner of dealing with a rescinded Z Visa is to 'just turn it off' and let them continue to work as a, once again, newly minted illegal alien then how is this anything other than a waste of money?

Right. You haven't thought through any of this any further than the politicians have.

Posted by Geistmaus | June 4, 2007 2:39 PM

Gabe -- "but only $400 for farm workers."

And there's the rub. Not only is it yet another subsidy for farming but it puts a legal color on the modern agricultural slave class.

And before anyone begins screeching about the dreaded S-word I suggest they become familiar with the excesses and abuses of those that come in with "in-demand skills" on H1-B visas.

In fact, it's likely to do more damage to the citrus sweatshop workers than the current state of affairs.

Posted by quickjustice | June 4, 2007 2:48 PM

Limbaugh just took apart the Washington Post article you quote, Ed. His reasoning is simple: if you define deviancy downward enough, as the author espouses, deviancy eventually "disappears" by being defined out of existence.

In other words, when you grant amnesty to all of those workers who are currently illegal, you can claim the problem no longer exists for a moment in time, but illegals nonetheless will continue to swarm across our borders in the future.

When you grant amnesty to Vietnam draft dodgers, as did Jimmy Carter, you've made fools of those who reported for duty. So why should anyone risk his life by reporting?

And why should anyone respect the Congress that fails to enforce the laws that it passes?

Limbaugh also noted that contributions to the GOP have fallen by half.

You've placed yourself squarely in opposition to Limbaugh, Ed. Good luck!

Posted by Scott | June 4, 2007 2:54 PM

"with momentum building behind one unifying theme: Today's immigration system is too broken to go unaddressed"

We know it's a big problem and that big problems need to be addressed. We also know that, as you pointed out, amnesties are the result of failed policies. The obvious is getting much belabored it seems.

The central fact remains what to do about the problem, and there seem to be two views on this - 1) do something that let's politicians and overwrought hand wringers say they Did Something, 2) take actions that actually draw on the lessons of the past and that make a realistic effort at preventing the need for another amnesty in the future.

Unfortunately all too many seem to have fallen in love with #1, congratulating themselves on the idea that they are willing to "look at the problem" and that everyone who disagrees must want the illegals rounded up and either deported or imprisoned en masse (all 12 million of them).

Reacting with a token gesture does not count as "addressing it" in my book at least; there is a world of difference between wanting border measures enforced, and having 12 million embedded illegals rounded up and sent home.

How can we say managing the Z Visa and assorted other monitoring/tracking programs is do-able but enforcing our southern border is not? Nonsense. The real issue at play here is the same one concerning staying in/leaving Iraq; we have national no stomach for real commitment or followthrough, and so we reflexively break away toward the easy outs and half measures and tell ourselves we are "just being realistic".

After supporting this president through the GWOT, Guantanamo et al, it is disappointing to find he too has flinched in the face of hard work and sacrifice - and now compounds the slap in the face by actively attacking voters like me for refusing to follow him into this betrayal of our country.

We need new blood, and we need it fast.

Posted by glasnost | June 4, 2007 3:21 PM

When you grant amnesty to Vietnam draft dodgers, as did Jimmy Carter, you've made fools of those who reported for duty. So why should anyone risk his life by reporting?

But yet, in real life, the army failed to collapse from non-reporting. In other words, your symbolic tie failed to happen in reality.

Some conservatives love the "teach people a lesson" argument, but it doesn't work. Illegals will or will not arrive based on how likely they are to get caught and what kind of money they can make if they arrive. Whether or not they are amnestied is not something they're going to care about either way. They're not depending on an amnesty or waiting for one, they're only assuming they can make some money before getting deported. Other countries, such as the Gulf States, offer zero hope of any form of national status, and workers come anyway.

You can't easily penalize them more than not being here penalizes them. So get over the symbolism of amnesty. It only matters to the angry white men who don't like how it feels like not projecting power.

Posted by Geistmaus | June 4, 2007 3:22 PM

Cap'n: "Technically, a $5,000 fine is a high price for a misdemeanor"

Rather, a string of them. But the germane question is whether or not it's excessive. For example, a misdemeanor crime of Domestic Violence carries with it a lifetime rescission of the criminal's 2nd Amendment Rights.

We can certainly argue the merits, but it doesn't seem out of line with current practice.

"Instead, we give first-time offenders a version of "amnesty" -- a trip through rehab and another chance to Just Say No."

Ah, beauty! You mean we lock them up against their will -- not arguing, I'm just sure they'd prefer to be elsewhere -- and make them pay for a costly rehab for their first offense. And only their first.

So sure, let's give the criminally indigant the same treatment.

Out here, the initial cost of out-patient drug education -- not rehab -- costs are $60 per week for 36 weeks. Or $2160 for those that don't have a calculator handy.

They usually also involve random drug tests and often the prescription of Antabuse (Whether alcohol related or not). While the Antabuse is reasonably cheap the drug tests are usually done every other week on average at a cost of roughly $70 to the misdemeanant. Or another $1260.

Then there comes the optional, but commonly used, ankle bracelet which I have not one clue of the costs of; suffice to say that it is also out of pocket for the misdemeanant you claim is receiving amnesty.

And if the misdemeanant fails in paying the ongoing cost of these services, their probation is rescinded and they go back to jail for the duration.

And for none of it is it considered non-criminal in the future if they continue to violate drug laws.

So again, $5000 by itself is not out of line; even neglecting Gabe's showing of the sub-prime human mortages for owning a citrus sweatshop worker. (Heck, the $400 cost Gabe found is not out of line with many first time littering fines.)

Ah... But to the crux of it:

"The problem isn't the amnesty, but the overcriminalization -- the passing of broad criminal legislation without the resources to enforce it."

For starters, enforcing a national trespassing law is hardly "broad criminal legislation". However, this 300+ page behemoth of legislation certainly does fit that bill. Nor does it adequately provide resources. And even if it did, Congress has shown a willingness to neuter that after the fact.

So -- by your own statements -- this bill is a non-starter. Of course, I don't expect you to be any more honest on this issue than the rest of the cheerleaders. Save Bush perhaps; he's been remarkably honest and consistent throughout.

"Amnesty just happens to be the traditional manner in which we acknowledge our mistakes in resource allocation or legislation,"

Thank you. Yes, we haven't allocated enough of our citizens resources to foreign nationals here illegally. Everyone, not least of all you, needs to dwell on that statement.

Nah, you don't really mean it. You're just spinning too hard to realize that you just made the case, in your own words and examples, for discontinuing the war on drugs and the criminalization of prostitution. Or even to murders which are, last I knew, creeping up on 80% unsolved.

It would be nice to see some integrity in this argument from anyone. Even McCain has backed off his support for "Amnesty" -- his words, not mine.

Posted by onlineanalyst | June 4, 2007 3:58 PM

What troubles me, as well, is that the Senate seems to be hell-bent on railroading this Kennedy-LaRaza shamnesty bill through with all due speed.

Where is the fire? How many years have elapsed since the failed-in-execution 1986 bill?

Why does the Senate not allow time for thoughtful deliberation of legislation that will have far-reaching fiscal and national security impact? Why are the Dems keeping objectors' amendments from the floor?

A backroom bill cobbled by a select group that deems itself not answerable to the public is a prime example of taxation without representation. (I am ready for a tea party.)

Posted by bikerken | June 4, 2007 4:52 PM

Has anybody noticed that the people who seem to be for this bill are mainly beltway types who have spent a lot of time in Washington D.C. or maybe spent a lot of time as a politician. The other divide I see is the income gap. A lot of limosine liberals and democrat pols support the bill but democrat voters are not all that fond of it. Business people are supporting it becuase they want cheap labor regarless of what it does to their country. What it breaks down it is a lot of people are being extremely dishonest about the dog they have in this fight. Open border global socialists are supporting it knowing darn well what the result will be if it passes but lying through their teeth about why they support it. I just cannot believe ANYONE who says they like the merits of the bill and believe that the government will acutally follow thru on it. THEY ARE LIARS.

If you owned a drive-in movie in a small town and you had a few teenagers sneaking in under the fence, you would just run them off. If you had a few dozen in a night, you would probably hire a security guard to patrol the fence but you still really wouldn’t think it was a big problem. If you had a thousand sneaking in, being loud and obnoxious every night and ticket sales dwindled off down to a trickle, face it, you’re showing free movies. If you want to stay in business, you better do something radically different. Tearing down the ticket booth is not the answer. It sure would be if you listened to the teenagers sneaking in every night. Hey, they are just kids watching movies, right? Whats wrong with that? They can’t afford the price of admission like the older folks can and some don’t even have cars, how can you be such a hard ass against them? You must hate teenagers! That’s what it is! You’re just an old cranky fart and you have a real problem with a few teenagers watching a movie! Well, we’re going to out-vote you, were going to pass a city ordinance to allow the teenagers into the movies as long as they promise to sit quietly up front and not bother anybody. And you know, it wouldn’t hurt you to kick in a few bucks to buy a few cheap old cars for these kids, now would it?

This problem has been allowed to go on too long and now it has become so big that it calls for drastic measures to fix it. This bill answers that problem by just giving up on the rule of law and promising to fix the source of the problem later……if we decide to fund it. That’s why Krauthammer changed his mind, it is a fraud and everyone knows it!

Posted by leftnomore | June 4, 2007 5:12 PM

Amazing how suddenly everyone is an immigration expert. No one person here can claim to have read the bill, because they don't have it to read it. Maybe it is flawed, maybe the president has made too weak of a case for it. But to call him a "traitor"? This discussion has yet to reach any seriousness-- it is Rush and Townhall's talking points based on very little factual basis.

It looks like our fight for 2008 is already over, and it is NOT Bush's fault, it is our own self-hating blogs and the red version of Daily Kossacks burning down the White House.

Posted by quickjustice | June 4, 2007 5:22 PM

glastnost: I wasn't making a "symbolic" argument about amnesty. And you're looking at the wrong criteria to determine whether Jimmy Carter's "draft dodger" amnesty ("the [U.S.] Army failed to collapse") worked.

Carter's amnesty was enacted after the Vietnam War ended. Because of its timing, it didn't affect the previous Vietnam War draft. It did anger the military and their supporters, increasing public contempt for Carter as "more mush from the wimp". Carter's amnesty had serious and adverse real world consequences for the nation.

One of them was John Kerry's candidacy for president. There's widespread speculation that Kerry was stripped of his war medals for his subsequent anti-war activities, but that the decorations were restored as a consequence of Carter's amnesty. Kerry never has clarified these rumors by authorizing release of his military records. He promised to do so, but never has kept that promise.

Posted by Joe Doe | June 4, 2007 6:31 PM

"so much political damage already being taken over the bill, no one among this generation of politicians will be tempted to take up the issue again."

Says who? Like the European constitution, it will be repeated until the "goals" are achieved. No need to even move the goal-posts. This is a done deal - we just have to find out when it becomes public. Any resistance is futile.

Posted by RadioactivePaul | June 4, 2007 6:50 PM

If illegal trespass was their ONLY offense, $5000 might look extreme. But consider that to operate within this country, illegals have (almost certaintly) acquired a false/stolen Social Security Number, attested falsely on employment application their eligibility and citizenship, and likely illegally participated in local / state / national elections.

If our laws were to the extreme that criminalizes someone wandering across an unmarked border to buy a sandwich, I could agree that the law is heavy-handed. But the situation is nowhere near that.

The manner in which these illegals operate create problems in themselves: Identity theft can really screw up someone's life trying to undo all the damage. The proposed legislation makes a bigger mess, where these 'forgiven' illegals would be entitled to benefits based on their employment WITH false/stolen SSNs. How is the government going to sort out what 'contribution' was from Juan of Mexico and John of America? I shudder to consider that they may also have taken the name of the stolen identity, possibly creating criminal records under the alias for innocent people.

I should not have to explain here the problem of voter fraud. It should suffice to say that it should concern us all that illegals who show no loyalty to this country should not be interfering how things are run in this country.

On employment issues, I am concerned about the decidedly 19th century thinking - everything needs manual labor. We are America, we work smarter, not harder! Where is the pressure to innovate (necessity, the mother of invention)? There is certainly a technological solution to the 'problems' that keep begging for illegal workers. If you doubt that, consider garbage trucks where the driver can load the trash with a remote control arm - and that is a skilled operator, worthy of higher wages. Contrast that to falling back on manual labor: these 'hardworking people' will eventually want the prosperity that depends on near slavery to operate - certainly looks like a vicious cycle.

My opinion on 'amnesty' is that there MUST be REGRET; some kind of real pain, lasting years to decades, where the 'forgiven' always wishes they could have done it the right way. The loss of the right to vote (normally applied to felons) would be on the top of my list. The 'forgiven' should not make SS claims for their illegal earnings. I have seen nothing in this proposal that I could imagine anyone regretting. It seems more of a insult to those who go through the legal immigration channels.