A continuing series of discussions of Mark Levin’s new book,
The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic
(Discussion #26 – Amnesty. What does it mean?)
Most of the American public will tell you that they are against amnesty. Google it. This fact is supported again and again by polling data from a variety of sources. In fact, the issue of, “No amnesty for illegal aliens,” is one of the “winning” issues behind which Newt Gingrich tried to rally Republicans during the early buildup to the 2008 election cycle. You know, the issues John McCain thought were dead on arrival. Like, say, John McCain’s election returns.
Newt at AEI in 2006
Newt’s focus in the video is more aimed at border security, because that’s actually more important than what we do with illegals that are here. But in those days, Newt launched his own think tank, and from the byline of that brand, named several issues that resonated strongly among Americans of all political identification, and this was the issue where the largest majority of Americans agreed: Americans do not support amnesty for illegal aliens residing within the US borders. Nothing has changed significantly in intervening years, despite the magnification of Obama. Americans still dislike Amnesty, including a majority of Americans who self-identify as “hispanic.”
We’ll call this accepted fact about amnesty, Premise One.
But what, exactly, is amnesty? Is it like the word ‘obscenity,’ in that you may not be able to define it, but you’ll know it when you see it? Or is it a word like ‘handout’ that is used and abused by sophist partisans to make genuine help difficult to render?
Well, today we’re going to explore the meaning of the word “amnesty,” and its relevance to the illegal alien problem we face in O’Teens America. We’re taking the time to do this here on Liberty Amendments Mondays, because this one concept runs right to the core of the Constitution. Further, we need to know how we can possibly achieve our goal of an Article Five Convention in an era where the Amnesty issue might well destroy any chance we have at success. It’s time to fold this into our mission if we hope to achieve our goals.
The Greek word ‘amnestia’ meant ‘forgetfulness.’ The concept of granting immunity from prosecution is at least as old as the ancient Greeks, and was used as a tool of statecraft (and persecution) by Roman emperors. By the mid-Sixteenth century, the word ‘amnesty’ was in use as an English-language, legal term, directing a prosecuting authority to officially and permanently forget specific instances—involving specific individuals or groups—of acts that violate the law.
This can be done by a specific act of amnesty (such as a Presidential pardon or a simple Bill limited to a specific Amnesty, signed into law), or can be incorporated into a new body of law relevant to the area of the law where an amnesty is desired by Congress. However, most discussions of amnesty assume the underlying law remains unchanged. In other words, it’s a one-time deal.
This seems to be pretty darned specific.
So we are immediately faced with one aspect of the amnesty issue, which we’ll label Premise Two: if any proposed law—i.e. a House or Senate Bill—includes language that forgives, forgets, or pardons any person or group for being inside America’s borders without legal sanction, then such law can technically be called an “Amnesty Bill.”
I know many of you want me to stop right there, declare the definition complete, and get on with the next, great TheRightScoop video. But obviously we have contention and disagreement on this definition on the right side of the political realm. For many reasons, the broad appeal of Premise Two is not getting through to leaders and those with power in Washington D.C. But it turns out that it is not merely bad leadership that gets in the way. Premise Two comes with attendant problems.
These problems arise because dictionaries are not law, nor are they philosophy texts. They aren’t even useful in coming up with a policy that is good for a nation. They are, however, great at helping writers use words correctly. So with that guide on word use helping us move forward, we begin by wondering exactly what all the fuss is, regarding which politicians are “for amnesty” and which are “against amnesty.” That is where the contention really rests, after all.
Let’s consider an easier frame of reference.
If the young man is belligerent or acts disrespectfully, the sheriff might B) choose to write out a citation for a lesser offense (say, improper storage and use of a weapon), which compels a court appearance and likely a fine or community service. If the youth in question were firing a rifle with non-blank rounds and also appeared disrespectful, the sheriff might choose to C) Arrest the young man, and book him for felony firearm use, which could result in serious jail time. (A, B, and C are not strictly how the law works, but it’s close enough for our purposes, and might even start a heated argument on a gun forum.)
Case A appears to fit the definition of amnesty, but not entirely. After all, no official charge was made, being the discretion of the local law enforcer on scene. It’s also a bit of a stretch to call that option a de facto amnesty. Specifically, a choice not to charge is neither a promise, nor a policy. It’s simply a choice made on the spot. If the sheriff never charged farmers in this case, then one could have grounds to claim a de facto amnesty. At this point we can see why dictionaries are not how we resolve these issues.
Case B seems to fit the definition of “leniency,” but is not an official “amnesty” either. After all, a fine and or community service is quite typical of the punishment for violating many types of law. However, this will be up to the judge. If the judge decides the law wasn’t meant to deter farmers from scaring crows, he might simply tell the young man to stop using non-blank shells and let him off with an official warning. That seems to fit our definition of amnesty. Being served with a citation and compelled to appear before a judge, and then released without punishment is clearly a form of amnesty. But that is also neither a policy nor a promise not to punish in the future.
Case C appears to meet the same criteria as B, for the same reasons. It’s just that case C involves arrest and incarceration. Any amnesty arising from that would be a full amnesty or pardon, without worrying about other aspects that could take away from using the word ‘amnesty.’
If we fight to change the law so that D) The new law makes an exception for firearm discharge into the air for all farmers who are using shotguns, then that would appear to be an amnesty clause. But is it? After all, the new language seems like we are merely qualifying who does get charged and who does not. It’s not a blanket forgiveness for all past shooters and it doesn’t prevent arrest of some shooters in the future. In fact, unless we had a specific population of individuals currently known by law enforcement to be in violation, or who have been detained, prosecuted, or punished for shooting shotguns in the air to scare crows on their farm, we would have no group or person to which an amnesty would apply.
Finally, if E)a group of farmers were currently under indictment for firearms law violations for firing shotguns into the air to scare crows, and option D was not available, the State Legislature could write a specific Bill granting “amnesty” to said farmers” without changing existing law. This would meet any and all reasonable definitions of ‘amnesty.’
So how can we apply these scenarios to our illegal alien problem?
Case A is what we have now. We have large populations of illegal resident aliens, and law enforcers are not hunting them down to apprehend them, and in many cases are administratively prevented from enforcing existing immigration-related law, even when they encounter illegal resident aliens. Because enforcement is so lacking, it is a de facto amnesty, but not one which changes anyone’s status to “legal.”
Case B is where politicians are surfing like mad to be able to claim whatever they think people want to hear. A politician thinks you’ll believe that slapping a fine on 35 Million people and then letting them stay legally is not Amnesty, for the same reason our fined and community-service serving young man in case B would not be said to have benefitted from an amnesty. We’ll return to this point later.
Case C is also not as simple as we’d like it to be. For it to apply here, we would be actively rounding up illegal resident aliens, and either deporting them, or placing them in jail to await trial. Since such a law enforcement effort would be effectively impossible to implement due to expense, lack of personnel, and the outrageous demand it would place on our courts, we’d have to place a lot of restrictions on it to even make it a remote possibility. Until those restrictions are made official, no action will ever be taken, and Case C devolves into Case A by way of general incompetence.
Case E is the one option to which almost every American would object. A blanket, specific amnesty for all illegal aliens would be rejected by a vast majority of The People.
Here is where we build a case for what we actually want, and it falls under Case D.
Now, some Americans (you know who you are) do not want to be dragged through all of the cases involved, nor all of the relevant Immigration law currently pertaining to the status of illegal aliens. They just want their country back. Such people want the simplest definition to apply. For many of them, because of Premise One, Premise Two is the only thing that matters, and deportation the only solution. It’s hard not to like this position. It’s simple.
But certain cases cannot be brushed aside so easily. Many of those un-brushable cases arise directly from the abuse of so-called, “Birthright Citizenship,” and also from the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965, which institutionalized “Chain Migration.” These two areas of malformed immigration law make it impossible to simply “deport all illegal aliens.” Throw in haphazard enforcement and use of the provisions for “Naturalization Through Military Service,” and you are then stuck with many instances where blanket deportation will conflict with existing law, and even where it does not, will not be in our best interests.
These attendant problems with Premise Two, we’ll call The Elian Conjecture.
Here I wish to avoid hypotheticals (such as the oft-cited “class Valedictorian who gets deported”), because each can generate heated argument. Simply put, imagine the Elian Gonzales situation, acted out thousands of times daily across the USA. Whether one is for such actions or against them will not matter. Such scenes would generate outrage that mere politics cannot possibly overcome. More precisely, you won’t find many politicians willing to stand in that particular schoolhouse door. It plays directly into the hands of our opposition.
So one thing that we’re stuck with here is that, due to The Elian Conjecture, even staunchly anti-amnesty politicians will never agree to a, “Round them all up and deport them” strategy (at least, not enough politicians to make it happen). To expect our most popular Conservative heroes—for example current and former officeholders like like Sarah Palin, Allen West, Ted Cruz, and Trey Gowdy, or pundits like Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh—to state something like that, unequivocally, would be to wait in vain. They are not going to step on that landmine, and asking them to do so would be a mistake.
So what do we do if we are against amnesty? Do we all sidle up to Karl Rove and tell him he was right all along?
In a word: No.
Let’s imagine another option for old, K-Bob, Junior in our example, above. Let’s say we all join hands, and using Case D, get a law passed that excuses all farmers who need to scare away crows. What guarantee do we have that another legislature won’t fall prey to insistence that even farmers ought to be forced to stop shooting guns into the air? Especially if some non-Democrat accidentally shoots a Bald Eagle? (After all, Democrats and their wind turbines have amnesty on stuff like that).
If you see my point, the argument about what the opposition will do after you get a law passed is not really a strong argument. Specifically, if we pass a law that deports the most people, while avoiding the Little Elian Conjecture, we know that the Democrats will do their best to make citizens out of each person allowed to stay. Face it: we’re going to have to act boldly, and work hard to hold on to the kind of country we want.
So the real sticking point is naturally going to be: who gets to stay, why they will be allowed to stay, how many are we talking about, and how can we make sure they don’t get citizenship?
Because to most of us, and here we’ll call this The Citizenship Principle, citizenship granted to anyone who came here illegally is the real deal breaker.
So where are we after all of the above?
This is where we need to come together. Premise One means that the Karl Rove/Chamber of Commerce concept of broadly-granted amnesty is not acceptable. It’s a proven, loser position for Republican office-seekers. It’s bad for America, and bad for the entire world, really. But at the same time the Elian Conjecture means that the, “Round them all up and deport them,” version of “No Amnesty” is not going to work either.
We need a solution that recognizes Premises One and Two, provides a solution to the Elian Conjecture, and follows the Citizenship Principle as much as humanly possible. Further, any such solution must recognize the sacrifices made by people who emigrated legally, and became naturalized citizens. Such a solution would be as close as we can come to a “non-amnesty” policy, even though Premise Two cannot be perfectly accommodated. We’ll humbly call such a solution, “The Proper, American Solution to the Illegal Alien Problem.”
One possible solution that meets these requirements would be to follow existing law.
What the Gang of Eight Bill and the vaporware House Immigration Bill are trying to accomplish is blanket amnesty. Anyone who champions those proposals can rightfully be called “pro amnesty,” regardless of their objections. But here are some traps to watch out for:
Case B proposals. (I told you we’d get back to this.) Any Bill that claims that paying fines and going to the back of the line without requiring deportation in any case is a Case B proposal. It’s an attempt to claim that no amnesty exists, while running horribly afoul of the Citizenship Principle. Anyone supporting a Case B proposal can fairly be labeled “pro amnesty”.
The Presidential Pardon Season will be ramping up shortly. The Pardon teams are all in spring training, and will be preparing outrage after outrage in an attempt to entertain you and make you forget the problems caused by the Presidential Tenure. If you pay careful attention, you can almost smell the upcoming Presidential Pardon for all Illegal Aliens. If you think such a thing could never happen, I refer you to Jimmy Carter’s Draft-Dodger Pardon.
Pathway to Citizenship concepts are really disguised Case B proposals. Don’t let your representative get away with that language.
We’re going to see people using accusations of “pro amnesty” against a lot of good candidates in upcoming elections. We must get our act together on this concept to minimize the problems that accusation can cause in primary contests. We need candidates who support The Proper, American Solution to the Problem of Amnesty. Such candidates will occasionally tell reporters that they believe some citizens will have to be given legal status. The Elian Conjecture is real. The problems caused by ignoring it would be highly destructive.
Please encourage deep thinking on this issue. Help us to find candidates who support the American Solution, and expose the ones who are offering bad ideas.
In upcoming installments on this (which will replace occasional Liberty Amendments Mondays articles) we’ll address concepts such as solving the Border crisis, dealing with the phony calls for “immigration reform,” and summaries of existing immigration laws in context with the standards set forth by other “first world” nations.
Until then, please contact your local state representative and ask for their support of the Article Five Convention process!
Discussion #24 – (but really #25) Can We Really Do This?
Discussion #24 – No, Not The Hamburger Chain
Discussion #23 – Because the Internet, that’s why
Discussion #22 – Just the Video
Discussion #21 – Frequently Asked Questions
Discussion #20 – Nullification: don’t do an image search!
Discussion #19 – The Kooks and Neoconfederates Edition
Discussion #18 – #Shutuppery
Discussion #17 – Why All The Lies?
Discussion #16 – A Few Quick Notes
Discussion #15: Our Cities: The Real Misery Index
Discussion #14: The Missing Balance and the Many Applications
Discussion #13: Activism, and the Scope of the Problem
Discussion #12: Cutting Back The Bureaucracy
Discussion #11: ArticleFiveProcess site news
Discussion #10: The Article Five process is how we go on offense
Discussion #9: the filthy habit of continuing resolutions
Discussion #8: Naysayers
Discussion #7: Tracking Our Progress
Discussion #6: Amendments on Spending and Taxes
Discussion #5: How much power do the states have?
Discussion #4: What If They Hijack the Convention?
Discussion #3: An Invitation to Our Friends on the Left
Discussion #2: Run Away!
Discussion #1: Zombie Doctrine, Tactics, and the Liberty Amendments