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When ‘Conservative’ Media Favored ‘A Pathway to Citizenship’

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

According to a recent article in the New York Times, on the evening of March 9, 2011, Rush Limbaugh met privately with Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, Fox’s chairman and chief executive, Roger Ailes, Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss—you guessed it—“comprehensive immigration reform,” i.e. amnesty.

Two years later, after meeting with Schumer and Marco Rubio, Murdoch and Ailes agreed to allow the senators to shop their Gang of Eight immigration plan around Fox News. To win over the GOP voters, the vast majority of whom still needed convincing that amnestying 11 million or so illegal immigrants was a good idea, it was agreed that Rubio would have to exploit his warm relationships with certain “conservative” talk radio hosts.

In the wake of the Times expose, Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin insist that they never supported amnesty. Did they?

There are three definitions of “amnesty.”

First, according to the Rubio/Gang of Eight definition of it, while “amnesty” places immigrants on a “pathway to citizenship,” it affixes no penalties for having initially violated the law. Since Rubio and his seven colleagues attach penalties in exchange for citizenship, Rubio swears that he never endorsed “amnesty.”

Second, there is the Ted Cruz definition of “amnesty.” Here, the latter is a policy whereby illegal immigrants will be made citizens. Since Cruz only ever supported (and for years and years) granting illegals legal status—but not citizenship—Cruz claims that he always opposed “amnesty.”

The third meaning of “amnesty” is that which is held by millions and millions of hard working, taxpaying, law abiding American citizens. Here, “amnesty” consists simply and solely in allowing violators of our laws who had no right to be in the country to remain so.

The “solution” to amnesty so considered is to remove the trespassers from the premises.

Slick bureaucrats with law degrees can finesse language and bicker over distinctions without differences (“legalization” versus “citizenship,” etc.) all day long. But to those whose economic and social well-being has been deleteriously impacted by the relentless onslaught of illegal immigration, all of this is the worst kind of sophistry.

Nor does it matter to such folks whether illegals are “brought out of the shadows” by executive order or Congress, Democrats or Republicans.

Nor does it concern them whether bills designed to legalize the law-breakers contain promises to secure the border. In fact, even if their elected representatives actually proceed to secure the border, doing so is the federal government’s responsibility: It is non-negotiable, something that should never be conditioned upon anything, much less allowing millions of aliens to invade and remain within the country.

The third definition of amnesty is the only sound one.

So, if Rubio and the Gang of Eight were in favor of amnesty, as the foresaid talk radio hosts appear to now believe, then so too were they in favor of amnesty a few years back.

In fact, on Thursday, November 12, 2012, just days after Mitt Romney lost the presidential election to Barack Obama and two months before Rubio began exploiting talk radio to push for amnesty, Sean Hannity came out for a “pathway to citizenship,” claiming to have “evolved” on the issue.

“We’ve got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether,” he told his radio audience. “It’s simple to me to fix it. I think you control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here. You don’t say you’ve got to go home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on. Because, you know what, it’s got to get resolved. The majority of people here, if some people have criminal records you can send them home, but if people are here, law-abiding, participating for years, their kids are born here, you know, it’s first secure the border, pathway to citizenship, done, whatever little penalties you want to put in there, if you want, and it’s done” (emphases added).

Notice, unlike Rubio and the Gang of Eight who at least sounded somewhat tough about affixing penalties to illegals, Hannity didn’t sound very concerned at all about doing any such thing. The Washington Post remarked at the time:

“Hannity is a pundit, not a politician, but for such a high-profile conservative [this] is a notable shift. A pathway to citizenship for all law-abiding undocumented immigrants goes beyond the DREAM Act opposed by most Republicans.”

The Post quotes Ana Navarro, a pro-amnesty Republican consultant who tweeted: “Monkeys evolved into humans. Hannity has evolved on immigration. Keeping hope alive.”

Hannity now expresses regret over having “evolved” on this topic. Presumably, then, he has devolved. Yet he was right there with the Gang of Eight even before anyone had heard of the Gang of Eight.

In January of 2013, Levin had Rubio on his show. He said to Rubio of his plan that it “is very fascinating to me.” Levin continued: “I am going to take a much closer look at this and I am going to try to keep an open mind about it.”

After the interview, Levin assured his listeners that Rubio is “a thinker,” “a problem-solver,” and “a conservative.” Rubio was right in claiming that “we’ve got to address this problem,” that what we currently have is “a de facto amnesty [.]” Levin said that when Rubio described our current circumstances in these terms “a light bulb [went] off.” Admitting to being “a little slow,” Levin declared that “he’s right, we do have de facto amnesty.” Levin concluded that this was “exactly why Obama wants to really do nothing” (emphases added).

Levin also commended Rubio’s proposals for being “more conservative than the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli bill that my hero, my former boss, Ronald Reagan signed.”

Levin came to reject the Gang of Eight plan. Yet he rejected it on the grounds that “the border is NOT secured, and Obama cannot be trusted, period…”

Note, Levin had no objections to a “pathway to citizenship.” He just didn’t trust Obama to hold up his end of the agreement.

On January 29, 2013, Rubio was on Rush Limbaugh’s show. Rubio’s proposal to place the millions of illegal aliens in America on a “pathway to citizenship” Limbaugh found “admirable and noteworthy.” Rubio, he continued, deserved to be lauded for not just “recognizing reality,” but “trumpeting” and “shouting it.”

The only problem that Rush seemed to have with the Gang of Eight’s plan “is that the Democrats aren’t interested in border security, that they want this influx.”

Like Levin, it isn’t the pathway to citizenship to which Limbaugh objected. He just didn’t trust Obama and the Democrats to abide by the terms of the deal.

The Gang of Eight is now notorious. Yet not too long ago, our “conservative” talking heads on the airwaves were gushing over Rubio.

And they were of like mind with him in desiring “a pathway to citizenship.”

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