Immigration reform and amnesty

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer has a column out today about how he wants immigration reform to play out. Through all the immigration debate, conservatives have been carping about not wanting to allow “amnesty” for undocumented migrants, even though the requirements to gain citizenship will likely be quite strict. Krauthammer lays out his case for why this is indeed “amnesty.”

It is true that only after some commission deems the border under control do illegal immigrants become eligible for green cards and, ultimately, citizenship. But this is misleading because on the day the president signs the reform — long before enforcement even begins — the 11 million are immediately subject to instant legalization.

It is cleverly called “probationary” legal status. But the adjective is meaningless. It grants the right to live and work here openly. Once granted, it will never be revoked. Consider:

Imagine that the border-control commission reports at some point that the border is not yet secure. Do you think for a moment that the 11 million will have their “probationary” legalization revoked? These are people who, in good faith, would have come out of the shadows, registered with the feds and disclosed their domicile and place of work. Do you think the authorities will have them fired, arrested and deported?

To which I say: yes Charles, that’s the point. The proposed bill framework is meant to give a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented migrants currently living in the US. Its purpose is not to give a pathway to citizenship to the people who are able to remain hidden between now and 2020 when a panel half-full of Republicans finally certifies that the border is “secure” in their estimation.

Everyone agrees that having 11 million people living and working in the US in a state of legal limbo is not a good situation. It would make no sense to pass a bill that prolongs this untenable situation for years and years for no good reason.

The border is now more secure than its ever been, thanks to President Obama’s strict border-enforcement policies. Deportations are at record highs and the number of undocumented immigrants has even dropped by a million since 2007 and is unlikely to ever resume the pace set in the 2000s or even significantly grow again. How much more border security progress do these people need?

Moreover, while on “probationary legal status” immigrants will still have to show good behavior and remain ineligible for many government programs, such as Medicaid.

Bringing these people out of the shadows is the right thing to do and America shouldn’t have to wait for a commission full of Jan Brewers or Joe Arpaios to say we can. The purpose of comprehensive immigration reform is to solve this problem, not to put it off even longer.

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