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Ed Meese Knows It's Amnesty


Read Ed Meese's OP/ED in today's New York Times. He calls the current immigration proposals what they are: amnesty:

Since he was with President Reagan when he signed the 1986 amnesty bill into law, Meese knows amnesty when he sees it:

In the mid-80's, many members of Congress -- pushed by the Democratic majority in the House and the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy -- advocated amnesty for long-settled illegal immigrants. President Reagan considered it reasonable to adjust the status of what was then a relatively small population, and I supported his decision.

In exchange for allowing aliens to stay, he decided, border security and enforcement of immigration laws would be greatly strengthened -- in particular, through sanctions against employers who hired illegal immigrants. If jobs were the attraction for illegal immigrants, then cutting off that option was crucial.

Beyond this, most illegal immigrants who could establish that they had resided in America continuously for five years would be granted temporary resident status, which could be upgraded to permanent residency after 18 months and, after another five years, to citizenship.

Note that this path to citizenship was not automatic. Indeed, the legislation stipulated several conditions: immigrants had to pay application fees, learn to speak English, understand American civics, pass a medical exam and register for military selective service. Those with convictions for a felony or three misdemeanors were ineligible. Sound familiar? These are pretty much the same provisions included in the new Senate proposal and cited by its supporters as proof that they have eschewed amnesty in favor of earned citizenship.

The difference is that President Reagan called this what it was: amnesty. Indeed, look up the term "amnesty" in Black's Law Dictionary, and you'll find it says, "the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act provided amnesty for undocumented aliens already in the country."

Like the amnesty bill of 1986, the current Senate proposal would place those who have resided illegally in the United States on a path to citizenship, provided they meet a similar set of conditions and pay a fine and back taxes. The illegal immigrant does not go to the back of the line but gets immediate legalized status, while law-abiding applicants wait in their home countries for years to even get here. And that's the line that counts. In the end, slight differences in process do not change the overriding fact that the 1986 law and today's bill are both amnesties.

There is a practical problem as well: the 1986 act did not solve our illegal immigration problem. From the start, there was widespread document fraud by applicants. Unsurprisingly, the number of people applying for amnesty far exceeded projections. And there proved to be a failure of political will in enforcing new laws against employers.

After a six-month slowdown that followed passage of the legislation, illegal immigration returned to normal levels and continued unabated. Ultimately, some 2.7 million people were granted amnesty, and many who were not stayed anyway, forming the nucleus of today's unauthorized population.

So here we are, 20 years later, having much the same debate and being offered much the same deal in exchange for promises largely dependent on the will of future Congresses and presidents.

Former Attorney General Meese is right. The 1986 amnesty law didn't solve the illegal alien problem; it, unfortunately, exacerbated it, and the immigration reform bills that include a path to citizenship will do the same.

Former AG Meese is holding a blogger only conference call later this morning, and I am participating. I am anxious to hear what he has to say. I will provide a report later.

Update: I participated in a blogger conference call earlier this morning with former Attorney General Ed Meese and Matt Spalding from the Heritage Foundation. As I mentioned earlier in the post, the issue was immigration reform. Mr. Meese is highly critical of the Senate's amnesty bill that is riddled with loopholes asking to be exploited. How? Well, the Senate's bill calls for a three-tier system (H/T to Right Wing News for link). Take a look:

The bill would create a three-tier system for illegal immigrants seeking to stay in the country. People who could prove they have been here five or more years could apply for citizenship. Those who have lived here two to five years could stay as guest workers and later apply for citizenship.

How do illegal immigrants prove they have been in this country for five or more years? By providing an affidavit from a friend. That's it. Document fraud would be rampant. In addition, the Senate's bill would prevent local law enforcement from arresting illegal immigrants for being in this country illegally. Hamstringing local law officials is not enforcement.

Mr. Meese advocates an idea that would secure and enforce the border first. See Mr. Meese's and Mr. Spalding's article on their immigration plan published in March 2006 here. Mr. Meese acknowledged that after the amnesty law of 1986 was implemented, which called for a large increase in border securty, the US government was not motivated to actually enforce its own laws. However, with the technology we have today, Mr. Meese believes that border security should be easier.

Only after the border has been secured will the temporary worker program be implemented, and as a pilot program first. There is a possibility that the private sector could offer assistance in helping illegals return to their home countries and reapply for temporary worker status.

The only way this plan can work is if the 12 million people currently in this country illegally self-deport back to their home countries. The illegals who are here have grown roots in their communities. I'm not convinced that they will voluntarily uproot themselves and their families and self-deport to avoid the risk of deportation, which they don't seem to think of as a huge risk right now. However, Mr. Meese said that the risk of not self-deporting will be greater than it is now and that there will be a stronger interior enforcement against employers.

The temporary worker program that Mr. Meese recommends is modeled after Helen Krieble's idea of a market based solution. Private employment agencies would match up employees with employers.

Others who participated in the conference call:

Tim Chapman
Captain's Quarters
Michelle Malkin
Mary Katharine
John Hawkins
Freeman Hunt
Jon Henke

Update II: The Senate voted 73-25 for cloture to the immigration bill debate. As I reported that Ed Meese said earlier, this bill would create a situation where we would find ourselves 10 - 15 years from now with millions more illegal immigrants living here in the US

Hot Air has more.


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Comments (13)

Hmmm.The echoes of... (Below threshold)


The echoes of 1986 reverberate through time and politics.

YOU ARE ALL BAD PEOPLE! YOU... (Below threshold)
The Listkeeper:



Good column. It makes sense... (Below threshold)
Larry Lind:

Good column. It makes sense to do it this way. Do border enforcement and business sanctions first. And then come back next year and we'll have something to discuss about what to do with the 11 million illegals who are already here. Seal the borders first, and enforce immigration law already on the books.

I hope this article gets a ... (Below threshold)
Oak Leaf:

I hope this article gets a lot of publicity!!!

Hmmm.Frankly witho... (Below threshold)


Frankly without enforcement first no conservative is going to accept anything else. We've already been down this road, and it's a loser.

Bush has claimed points for having increased the Border Patrol. What hasn't been said is that the actual prosecutions has dropped to almost nothing. Less than 5% of the coyotes, the human smugglers, are prosecuted and most are simply let go. In point of fact the only time the coyotes are prosecuted is when an illegal alien dies and the coyotes are caught.

Additionally due to a lack of detention space, very conveniently, over 300,000 illegals *per year* have been simply released. For some crazy reason Bush simply cannot bring himself to increase the amount of detention space, which is really ridiculous. As it is they're only expecting to increase the detention space by 4,000 beds this year. As it takes about 2 months to deport an illegal that means that each bed can handle only 6 illegal aliens, on average, a year.

That's only an increase of 24,000 illegals. Joy. Now we're only going to release 276,000 illegals and that's only if the total number trying to cross doesn't explode.


Without enforcement I'm not buying anything. And I'm not buying any silly package deal either.

Enforcement ONLY, nothing else.

It will be interesting to s... (Below threshold)

It will be interesting to see just how many ways this baby can be split, and who's ox will be gored the deepest.

From what I've read, Bush plans to spend the next week hiding under his bed (on this issue at least) -- so nice to see our Chief Executive take a leadership role in this debate.

It's not amnesty if it invo... (Below threshold)

It's not amnesty if it involves reducing the level of punishment, rather than removing any punishment. Everybody on this blog that is capable of independent thought and the word-smithing abilities of a three year old should be able to accept that to be a fact.

Amensty is the exemption from punishment. Clemency or leniency are ore appropriate choice of words.

As I see it, the only reason that anybody would still push the amnesty screed is because they know it's become a radioactive term and they're using it to get that gut punch reaction they are looking for.

This is dishonest and in the end not productive.

When I see a headline "blab blah blah knows its amnesty" that is what I focus on, not the message you're trying to get through.

Not productive. Not smart. Definitely not an intellectually honest way to carry out a debate.

This Ed Meese?: <... (Below threshold)

This Ed Meese?:

""Meese knew that the 1985 HAWK transaction, in which the National Security Council staff and the Central Intelligence Agency were directly involved without a presidential covert-action Finding authorizing their involvement, raised serious legal questions. The President was potentially exposed to charges of illegal conduct if he was knowledgeable of the shipment and had not reported it to Congress, under the requirements of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and in the absence of a Finding...When Meese got answers in his inquiry that did not support his defense of the President, he apparently ignored them, as he did with Secretary of State George P. Shultz's revelation on November 22 that the President had told him that he had known of the HAWK shipment in advance."

Chapter 31, Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra

Hmmmm.As ... (Below threshold)


As I see it, the only reason that anybody would still push the amnesty screed is because they know it's become a radioactive term and they're using it to get that gut punch reaction they are looking for.

And what exact "punishment" would these illegals face?

$2,000 fine, if they can afford it?

That is amnesty. And the second one pushed by the GOP after the last one was a complete disaster.

"How do illegal immigrants ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"How do illegal immigrants prove they have been in this country for five or more years? By providing an affidavit from a friend. That's it. Document fraud would be rampant. "


I just heard a news item this morning about some people, some of them clergy, being charged with a scam whereby they would provide false affidavits that said that certain illegals were here five years.

My question is - what happe... (Below threshold)

My question is - what happens to all the people here legally (on F1, H1, L visas)and hoping to get a green card and then citizenship - but haven't yet applied. Do they fall in line behind the illegals? So is this now an encouragement to people to stay illegally and then have citizenship handed on a platter for a paltry fine?
It's so unfair to educated non-citizens here legally that they do everything the right way, pay huge sums for the paperwork, know English, have advanced degrees that this country needs. Many have even studied here and yet they don't get any form of amnesty but some 11 million unskilled, uneducated, non-English speaking people get to become citizens because they make people's hearts bleed. Some justice!!

Egg and on top of that many... (Below threshold)

Egg and on top of that many are somebody's wifes and mothers. That's not fair.

Egg and on top of that many... (Below threshold)

Egg and on top of that many are somebody's wifes and mothers. That's not fair.






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