Depending on which publication you read, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will soon release either "a blueprint that will detail positions on everything" about immigration, or a "broad, nebulous" set of principles designed to be "intentionally squishy, giving lawmakers lots of room to maneuver."
We're talking about the House Republican leadership here, so the smart money is on "squishy."
But, even if Boehner's principles are nebulous, there still should be enough in them to determine if the plan can be called "amnesty" or not. In the interest of fairness I apply the same definition of amnesty to both Democratic and Republican plans on immigration, and here is what I wrote about President Obama's illegal and unilateral mini-amnesty announced June 15, 2012:
And that is the lie at the core of every amnesty. The randomly chosen date that divides non-citizens who will be rewarded for illegally entering the United States from those who didn’t illegally enter the United States soon enough. There simply is no moral or logical reason to reward the first group and punish the second. The moral and emotional case for granting citizenship to those in the country now is just as strong today as it will be for those who enter the country tomorrow.
Amy immigration plan that provides special privileges to those who are in the country illegally today, but does not extend those same privileges to illegal immigrants who enter the country tomorrow, can fairly and accurately be called amnesty.
Unfortunately, that appears to be exactly what Republicans are considering. Politico reports:
Beyond top GOP leadership, the discussions also include senior members of the Judiciary Committee and pro-immigration reform Republicans like Reps. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida.
Diaz-Balart has been working on a legalization bill to address current undocumented immigrants in the United States. The legislation, still in the works, will most likely use border-security and interior-enforcement triggers on the legalization path, with a probationary period along the pathway.
This is the exact same failed model of the 1986 amnesty plan and Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) S. 744: amnesty for those here now, in exchange for more enforcement later.
The problem with this policy is that, unless we want to turn our country into a totalitarian North Korean state, we will always have a sizable illegal immigrant population. Even after Rubios's S. 744 plan spends $46 billion over the next ten years, the Congressional Budget Office still estimates that illegal immigration will be reduced by just 25 percent and there will be more than 8 million illegal immigrants in the country.
Will those 8 million illegal immigrants be deported? Of course not.
Republicans must learn to accept two realities before they craft effective immigration reform: 1) there is no political will for mass deportations; 2) no amount of increased security will stop people from coming here illegally in the future.
Instead, Republicans should offer those here illegally a simple choice: You can stay and become legal by registering with the federal government, but if you do, you forfeit all chance of becoming an American citizen.
This offer would depend, of course, on passing an extensive background check paid for by the immigrant in question. And, since this policy would be open not just to those in the country today, but also to those found illegally in the country tomorrow, it would not be amnesty in any way. It would just be a new legal alternative to deportation.