Silent Amnesty

One of the Orwellian slogans promoted by the amnesty advocates lobby in the latest debate over immigration was that opponents of the Senate bill were supporting a “silent amnesty.” Their logic was that the illegals are here, no one is going to do anything about it, so unless you support whatever the President wants, you are advocating a “silent amnesty.”

But that was an obvious strawman. The choice was not only between the status quo and the Bush-McKennedy amnesty bill. President Bush could enforce the laws and/ and the Senate could pass a border security bill that does not include an amnesty.

The American people were not silent in opposing the Senate and Bush’s amnesty, and after an outpouring of conservative outrage it was defeated. Supporters of the measure have admitted at least temporary defeat, and most observers do not expect to see another “comprehensive immigration reform” proposal until a new president is in office.

Yet there remains the fear of a real silent amnesty — whereby small chunks of the illegal alien population are given amnesties that are quietly tacked onto various bills while no one is watching, or at least making much noise.

During the debates over immigration policy for the last year of so, almost everyone admitted the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act [IRCA] — which gave legal status the majority of the illegal aliens in the country coupled with new penalties for employers who hired illegal aliens — was a complete failure.

Most agree that IRCA failed because nothing was done in the interim and the immigration problem has compounded ever since leaving us where we are today. This is at least partially true because the security provisions enacted in the bill were never enforced. However, there has been a great deal of immigration legislation past since 1986 without much fanfare.

In 1994, Congress tagged on section 245i to an appropriation bill. Section 245i allowed illegal aliens in the country to get de facto legal status while waiting for green cards through normal channels. This has been renewed twice. In addition there have been other amnesties that target illegal aliens like the 1997 Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act and the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty. All in all, immigration reduction group Numbers USA calculates that these amnesties have resulted in the legalization of 3 million illegal immigrants — more than were given in IRCA.

There are a number of various smaller amnesties that have been promoted recently, but have yet to make it through Congress. The two most frequently introduced are the DREAM Act, which would provide legalization to illegals who get a GED or High School Diploma and the AgJobs act which will give legal status to Agricultural Workers and their families. These bills have both been pushed for the past five years, and were included in both the 2006 and 2007 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bills.

In addition to giving legal status to millions of illegal aliens, the legislation enables newly-legal citizens to sponsor their family members for citizenship.

There is a grain of truth behind the “silent amnesty” argument. It is not that opponents of Bush’s amnesty are actually supporting amnesty, but rather that the longer nothing is done, the more difficult it will be to remove the illegal population from the country.

If an illegal alien does not get amnestied in AgJobs, DREAM Act, or another mini-amnesty, then a family member who does, or an anchor baby they have had could sponsor them through 245i.

Even if that does not happen, the longer one is living here illegally the more politically difficult it becomes to deport them because of the “roots” they have established in the country. Much of the debate between the liberal and moderate amnesty supporters was over how long one needed to have lived here before they were eligible for legal status. This was one of Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb’s main reasons for opposing the latest Senate bill.

The question is, will the enormous grassroots opposition be as motivated to stop these coming silent amnesties as much as they were to stopping the comprehensive amnesty.

The grassroots expressed their outrage over the imprisonment of border patrol agents Ramos and Compean and Bank of America’s decision to lend to illegal aliens. These were both worthy causes, but they were both symbolic, if not tangential, to the greater issues of the immigration debate — stopping amnesty, and reducing immigration.

The Bank of America and Border Patrol affairs helped keep the grassroots mobilized and showed they didn’t just get mad when the Senate was introducing a big amnesty.

With most opposition groups declaring a qualified victory, it will be interesting to see how much intensity continues. One thing is for sure. If the American people become quiet and laws aren’t passed and/or enforced to deal with illegal immigration, we will end up with a real silent amnesty.