Immigration Reform 2013: No, It's Not "Amnesty"


Amnesty is a no-strings attached pardon or forgiveness for past crimes. When used by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, the word conjures up a passionate vision of protecting those imprisoned for standing up to a repressive government or those denied basic human rights. When used by opponents of immigration reform, it is meant to incite strong emotion against those who have violated our immigration laws. The idea of breaking laws and not suffering any consequences is repugnant to most people. It’s no wonder therefore, that "amnesty" has been chosen as the word to encourage, grow, and unite the opposition. But amnesty is not part of the current proposals. In this case, "amnesty" is nothing more than a talking point, an attempt to maintain a negative perception and stall progress.

The Immigration Control Act of 1986 was amnesty. There were no consequences for the three million undocumented immigrants living in the country at that time. There was an application process that needed to be completed within 12 months with certain information required. The current proposals look nothing like this legislation.

There are consequences. Those undocumented immigrants wishing to remain in this country will be required to pay a fine and all back taxes. They will go to the back of the line for permanent residency after a ten-year wait in a probationary status. Until granted permanent residency, they are ineligible for any public assistance. Not only will they have to pass a background check to gain probationary status, but an additional background check will be conducted prior to permanent residency being granted. This does not meet the definition of amnesty.

Immigration reform will happen this year. Bipartisan committees in both chambers of Congress are putting the final touches on legislation. The time for talking points and emotional rhetoric has long passed. The time to retire the word "amnesty" from the discussion has arrived.