Wednesday, June 14, 2006

It's Not Amnesty, and Other Thoughts Provoked by My Day's Travels

As I was getting my morning coffee yesterday, I overheard a guy talking about the owner of a cheese-steak shop in Philadelphia who has posted a sign requiring customers to order in English. He was reporting approvingly to his companion that the cheese-steak guy had said "I'm not no Italian-American...." I didn't hear the rest of the conversation, and I'm not sure whether it was the cheese-steak guy or the coffee shop guy with the limited grasp of the English language. Either way, I found it rather ironic.

Later on that day, I fell into a conversation about immigration reform with a guy at the gym. This guy described himself as being neither a liberal or a conservative. He voted for George Bush the first time, and did not vote at all the second time because he did not like either candidate. He seemed to be reasonably well informed, and he apparently had fairly strong feelings on the immigration issue.

He felt that it was wrong for someone who had done something illegal to be able to get in line in front of people who had followed the rules, and busted their butts for years, and learned English, etc. I waited for him to finish, and then I told him that I could agree with all that. But, I said, it's not really amnesty like all the conservatives keep saying.

It's actually an 11 year process. People who came here without documents will have to learn English, and maintain a job, and pay their back taxes if they have any, and pay a rather hefty fine, and pass a background check. They will have to remain in a sort of limbo for 6 years. At the end of 6 years, they can apply for permanent residency (commonly known as a "green card"). However, they will have to get in line behind everyone else who has already applied. In other words, they will not be cutting in front of anyone. If and when a person is granted permanent residence, there is a wait of another 5 years before he or she can apply for citizenship. During that time, the person must continue to maintain a clean record, pay taxes, etc. So, you see, the proposed process would take at least 11 years to complete. And that's not counting the time it takes the government to process paperwork, which can be months or years.

I gave the guy at the gym a shortened version of that information. His reaction was visible. I could actually see him recalculating his position. He had not known all that the proposed process would entail. I know that he did not know, because he told me so.

I don't know what that guy's position on immigration reform will ultimately be. To me, that conversation served as a reminder that some messages are simply not getting across to people. He is certainly not the first person I have encountered who has not been aware of all that the proposed process will require. Many people hear the conservative blustering about "amnesty," and it sounds right to them. It sounds like we are giving people who did something illegal a free pass. Indeed, if that were true, it would be amnesty. The definition of amnesty is "[a] general pardon granted by a government." A pardon is an exemption from punishment. Essentially, then, amnesty is a free pass.

I can understand why people would be against "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants. The problem, I think, is that many (although certainly not all) of the people who are against "amnesty" do not realize that we are not actually contemplating amnesty. In reality, we are contemplating a lengthy process, which requires an undocumented immigrant to meet numerous requirements, and pay various penalties for being an undocumented immigrant. By definition, that is not amnesty. I believe there is a good chance that many of them would think differently if they knew what was actually being proposed.

What I don't understand is why this information is not getting across. I have heard and seen other sources reporting the same information I am giving you here. So I know this information is out there. But for some reason, it does not seem to be effectively reaching the people. I guess I did my part at the gym yesterday, and I'm doing my part by sharing the information here. It's just that I feel like such a small voice in the wind...

2 Comments:

Anonymous Minerva W. said...

I'm so glad you posted this. I've heard so many people over the past few days alone talking about how they are so against this potential amnesty. In fact, in my conversations recently, I've only heard the immigration movement referred to as "amnesty". I'm glad to get your point of view on this.

7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The United States already did a "not amnesty" once in 1986 under Reagan. (the best President ever IMHO.) It was supposed to be a one time only deal. Yet here we are again.

Food for thought in this article from John Hawkins, www.rightwingnews.com

Does Anyone Think The Government Can Even Handle Legalizing 12-20 Million Illegals?

One of the very serious, yet seldom discussed, problems with the Senate's illegal immigration bill is the presumption that the US Government is capable of processing 12-20 million illegal aliens, deciding whether they should be in the country legally, giving them background checks, deciding how much they owe in taxes, and determining how much they Social Security they've paid in a timely and responsible manner.

What people have to understand is that the government agencies that deal with immigration are barely functional as it is. You're talking about organizations that are so understaffed, bureaucratic, and just plain old incompetent that you'd think that they hired 7 year old kids running lemonade stands off the street to head every department. And people think they can deal with the titanic and complex new workload the Senate bill would put on their shoulders?

Just read these excerpts from the latest Kenneth Timmerman column and you tell me if these agencies sound remotely capable of running a guest worker program or properly handling the extensive paperwork an amnesty would create:

"The U.S. immigration system is so broken that it can't be fixed, a former top security official at the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) told NewsMax in an exclusive interview.

"Internal corruption at CIS is so pervasive that hostile foreign governments have penetrated the agency," said Michael J. Maxwell, who was forced to resign as chief of the CIS Office of Security and Investigation earlier this year.

"Terrorists and organized crime are gaming the immigration system with impunity. Taken together, these three elements form the perfect storm," Maxwell said.

"You can't separate immigration from national security, and that's what keeps me up at night," he added.

The Department of Homeland Security has begun to take Maxwell's warnings seriously. A just-released report from the DHS Office of Inspector General revealed that 45,008 aliens from countries on the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terror (SST) or from countries that protected terrorist organizations and their members were released into the general public between 2001 and 2005, even though immigration officers couldn't confirm their identities.

...That means that individuals from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, whose identities could not be verified and who could be working for terrorist groups, have been granted green cards or even citizenship, Maxwell added.

...From 2001 through the first half of 2005, 605,210 "OTM" aliens were arrested for violating U.S. immigration laws. But a lack of beds at detention facilities and other factors compelled the government to release 51 percent of them into the general population, while awaiting an immigration hearing on their final status.

...More than 7 million immigration-related "benefit" claims are adjudicated every year, which Maxwell and other critics say have led immigration officers to "rubber-stamp" green card and citizenship applications. Many CIS service centers have policies that reward immigration officers who adjudicate the highest number of cases per day, giving them additional paid leave and other benefits.

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, says that he recently confirmed with FBI Director Robert Mueller that "a number of individuals from countries with al-Qaida connections are changing their identities. They're changing their Islamic surnames for Hispanic surnames, adopting false Hispanic identities . . . and hiding among the flood of illegals coming over our border and disappearing into the country."

...In sworn testimony before House International Relations subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation on April 6, 2006, Maxwell said that his office had received complaints of "USCIS employees providing material support to known terrorists or being influenced by foreign intelligence services."

...A big part of the problem, Royce added, was that "those deciding applications are under enormous pressure to reduce the backlog," and are told to "move the applications as fast as you can."

The subcommittee co-chair, Rep. Brad Sherman, D, Calif., said that Maxwell's information should be taken into account as Congress weighs a major new immigration law.

"We need to make sure that any change that we make in our immigration law does not overwhelm USCIS," Sherman said.

"It's not enough to adopt good policy, and that will be contentious here in Congress. It has to be a policy that the agency is capable of administering."

The information Michael Maxwell had provided the committee shows that "the agency has great difficulty administering even the present law," Sherman said."

By its very nature, government tends to be slow, stupid, and careless. But, when you're talking about ICE and CIS, you're talking about the worst of the worst. If government were a jungle, these agencies would be three legged, toothless, half-blind lions trying to run down a pack of gazelles. They're just not going to be able to get the job done.

That's why, even if we were to have a guest worker program or amnesty, both of which are probably bad ideas (particularly the amnesty), we'd need to wait until after the new security measures are in place and working so that we can cut off the flow of new illegals and run the "undocumented workers" that are already here out of the country first. If we don't do that, the system will be completely overwhelmed with tax and Social Security fraud and it's even possible that criminals and terrorists may end up falling through the cracks just because some paper pusher wants to get their files off of his desk. That's a big problem with the Senate approach and it's one more reason why the House should give very little ground in Committee.

12:02 PM  

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