May 24, 2006


An Amnesty by Any Other Name ... (EDWIN MEESE III. 5/24/06, NY Times)

Two decades ago, while serving as attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, I was in the thick of things as Congress debated the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The situation today bears uncanny similarities to what we went through then.

In the mid-80's, many members of Congress — pushed by the Democratic majority in the House and the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy — advocated amnesty for long-settled illegal immigrants. President Reagan considered it reasonable to adjust the status of what was then a relatively small population, and I supported his decision. [...]

The difference is that President Reagan called this what it was: amnesty. Indeed, look up the term "amnesty" in Black's Law Dictionary, and you'll find it says, "the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act provided amnesty for undocumented aliens already in the country."

Like the amnesty bill of 1986, the current Senate proposal would place those who have resided illegally in the United States on a path to citizenship, provided they meet a similar set of conditions and pay a fine and back taxes. The illegal immigrant does not go to the back of the line but gets immediate legalized status, while law-abiding applicants wait in their home countries for years to even get here. And that's the line that counts. In the end, slight differences in process do not change the overriding fact that the 1986 law and today's bill are both amnesties.

George W. Bush's problems with the Right stem from being too much like Ronald Reagan rather than not enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 24, 2006 10:40 AM

The "fine" alone blows apart the "amnesty" argument.

Of course, if it isn't assessed and collected, then that will blow apart the "fine" argument.

Posted by: Bruno at May 24, 2006 11:19 AM

Would be nice if you also quoted him as saying:

There is a practical problem as well: the 1986 act did not solve our illegal immigration problem. ...

Posted by: tpi at May 24, 2006 12:54 PM

Bruno - true but those on the right point out the fine is much less than the $ spent by legal immigrants as they work there way through the process (i.e. a few thousand vs tens of thousands). Increasing the fee and wait time for the illegals to stay would refute some of this arguement.

Posted by: AWW at May 24, 2006 12:56 PM


This amnesty won't "solve" immigration either--we'll have another twenty years from now. It's a moral question.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2006 1:07 PM

Getting rid of INS and welfare would seem to deal with all the objections on the right.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 24, 2006 5:56 PM

INS doesn't exist anymore.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 24, 2006 6:07 PM