Amnesty with secure borders — this time I mean it, Charlie Brown

Published on April 18th, 2013

By Ric Oberlink
April 18, 2013

Poor, sappy Charlie Brown. Year after year, Lucy promises that she will not yank away the football as Charlie tries to kick it. “This time I really mean it,” Lucy assures him, but as we all know, it is a trick.

Now, Lucy has transmogrified into the Senate Gang of Eight. They, with support from President Obama, promise us that in exchange for an amnesty for illegal immigrants, the United States will enforce its immigration laws and stop illegal immigration. “This time I really mean it,” the Eight Gangsters say. Is the American public as sappy as Charlie Brown, and will we fall for this scam again?

In 1986, Congress passed, and President Reagan signed, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) that awarded amnesty to 2.7 million illegal aliens. This led to increased illegal immigration and now there are 11 to 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S. The solution offered by the new Senate bill? Another amnesty, of course.

Senator Alan Simpson, the IRCA sponsor, assured the American people in 1986 that “this is a one-shot deal and that this is it, this is a one-time occurrence. And the policymakers in this country are not going to allow it to happen again and will prevent the situation which gave rise to it.” INS Commissioner Alan Nelson testified before Congress, “It is clear that this is meant to be a one-time proposal….”

Similarly, this time, the eight Senators promised the American people, “We will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited.” Like the 1986 legislation, the current bill offers amnesty now—legal status virtually immediately, followed by a path to citizenship—in exchange for a plan to secure the border in the future.

Sure, you can call it “earned legalization” or some other euphemism if you prefer.

Interestingly, proponents of the 1986 bill were unafraid of calling it amnesty. A 1989 New York Times article was entitled, “1986 Amnesty Law Is Seen as Failing to Slow Alien Tide.” The first sentence noted that the law “may have cut the flow of illegal aliens less than expected and may have actually encouraged unlawful entry….” That’s right. Just a couple of decades ago journalists used precise terms like “amnesty” and “illegal aliens” instead of equivocal euphemisms. Moreover, the New York Times was honest enough to admit that the 1986 amnesty was a failure.

Advocates for this legislation maintain that it is not an amnesty because illegal immigrants would have to go to the back of the line, but that is simply untrue. They would pay a fee and then stay and work here. They would not have to go to the back of the line. They would not have to go to the front of the line. They would not have to stand in line at all.

There are many good reasons we seldom offer amnesty to those who break our laws. When we do, it is typically for minor offenses such as parking tickets or library fines. A primary purpose of punishment is to deter illegal activity. It is extremely difficult to deter illegal behavior by rewarding illegal behavior. Legal status, the ability to live and work in the United States, is the very goal sought by those who decided to break our immigration laws and our labor laws.

The first rule of solving a problem is do no harm—do not make the problem worse than it already is. The evidence indicates that the new Senate immigration bill will only make the problem worse.


Ric Oberlink, J.D., is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization and can be reached at [email protected].

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