Why Amnesties Fail

Conn Carroll
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Posted: Dec 03, 2014 4:00 PM
Why Amnesties Fail

"The fight continues."

That is what Juan Carlos Ramos told Ramon Garibaldo after both found out that while Ramos does qualify for President Obama's new executive amnesty, Garibaldo does not.

Both Ramos and Garibaldo were brought to the United States illegally by their parents when they were minors. Ramos entered the U.S. in 2008, which means that while he did not qualify for the 2007 cutoff date in Obama's first amnesty (the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), he did qualify under the new amnesty program.

But Garibaldo didn't enter the U.S. until March of 2010. The eligibility cutoff for Obama's new amnesty program is January 2010. He missed it by just three months. Hence Ramos's solace that, "The fight continues." Both activists have sworn to keep pressuring Democrats in Washington until all 11 million illegal immigrants, including Garibaldo, are granted amnesty. And they just might win.

But it is exactly this phenomenon which shows why amnesties fail. In his book, "Why Government Fails So Often," Peter Schuck, a self-proclaimed liberal who worked for President Carter, explains:

[F]or a policy to be effective, people must believe that the government will discharge today's commitments in the future (usually in the medium or long term), yet the demands of democratic legitimacy and accountability require government to respond to changed conditions in that future in ways the will impair its credibility. ... The government may have good reasons to adopt an amnesty for tax evaders or undocumented immigrants, but unless it can persuade them that the amnesty is a one-time-policy, it simply encourages more people to evade taxes or come illegally in hopes of a future amnesty, which is precisely what has happened in both cases. (emphasis added)

Neither Ramos nor Garibaldo seem to be under any illusion that Obama's amnesties are a one-time-policy. Neither qualified for the 2012 DACA amnesty, Ramos qualified for the 2014 amnesty, and if Hillary Clinton is elected president, Garibaldo will probably qualify for her first executive amnesty. And all this time more and more illegal immigrants will come to the country knowing that the federal government will eventually offer them their own amnesty if they can just stick around long enough.

As Ramos said, "The fight continues."