One of the more frustrating (to me) spins to the heated illegal immigration arguments is the free and easy abuse of the term “amnesty“:
the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals
The screaming meme is that all of the more liberal approaches to the ~11 million illegal immigrants who are already here in the country would be amnesty. By employing such flagrant misuse of the term, the extremely conservative side of debate is able to say that any accommodation whatsoever of those illegals who are already here would be the equivalent of a reward for breaking the law.
Even the non-hysterical have bought into the spin-the-word game. Otherwise well-reasoned articles abound in which amnesty is discussed as a mutually-understood word; overnight, it’s sprouted a “new and improved” definition.
A great example is this column by Charles Krauthammer, where he lays out his argument for full border security via walls, and couples that with the conclusion that if full security were first achieved, Americans would then be accepting of full amnesty [my emphasis]:
This is not a compromise meant to appease both sides without achieving anything. It is not some piece of hybrid legislation that arbitrarily divides illegals into those with five-year-old “roots” in America and those without, or some such mischief-making nonsense.
This is full amnesty (earned with back taxes and learning English and the like) with full border control. If we do it right, not only will we solve the problem, we will get it done as one nation.
Ummmm…. no. Polimom, for one, would definitely not be okay with “full amnesty”. I see that as an insult to every person who historically ran the gamut of citizenship attainment.
Where my mind runs aground is that I haven’t seen amnesty proposed, either, by the Senate or by Mr. Krauthammer.
You can’t “earn” amnesty. It’s granted – given – as a freebie… and in the case of people who have not come through the proper channels, it would be wrong. However, people working, paying back taxes and fines isn’t amnesty. Not only that, but learning English is unrelated to the subject altogether; it falls under the heading of assimilation.
Furthermore (contrary to the John Derbyshire pocket reference of jargon), “temporary worker plan” and “guest worker” are not amnesty, either. In fact, those are from a totally separate kettle of fish, more closely related to work visas than citizenship.
Isn’t this debate emotional enough without confusing the issues further with creative and innovative word games?
Charles Krauthammer’s column has a number of issues. His idea of a Berlin Wall on our Southern Border is unworkable and by no means addresses the real issues we need to solve if we are ever going to regain control of our frontiers. Instead he has pitted the issues as border protection versus amnesty. As you rightly point out, amnesty is a strawman that may get the red meat juices flowing, but is not something that is even on the table.
Here’s my response to Mr. Krauthammer.