reform not amnesty

Is immigration reform an amnesty? (Yes)

"Amnesty" is a bad word, so many supporters of comprehensive immigration reform have played oftentimes complicated word games to pretend that "reform" is not amnesty. Those who do that are simply trying to deceive. While we could argue all day long about whether what they support fits the dictionary definition of "amnesty", and arguing over terms may be something that those supporters intentionally try to do, what really matters is how "reform" will be perceived.

And, millions upon millions of people around the world will perceive "reform" as an amnesty. It will send a very clear message to potential illegal aliens that we don't really support our immigration laws and that if they come here and stay long enough they'll eventually get citizenship.

Note that even Arlen Specter and the New York Times have admitted that "reform" is amnesty.

Opponents of "reform" should try to avoid getting into a debate about semantics. For instance, if someone rants about amnesty, a "reform" supporter would latch onto that and simply replay their talking points about "reform" not being amnesty. Instead, opponents should make the point above; most people will agree with the point above and will disagree with someone who tries to pretend that most outside the U.S. won't perceive it as amnesty.

However, the best choice is probably to just avoid the word "amnesty" altogether. Instead, use their word - "reform" - and then show how that "reform" won't work; see the comprehensive immigration reform page for some of the downsides.

There is, however, one group of people for whom any type of comprehensive immigration reform is amnesty: business owners that have knowingly hired illegal aliens. Their workers will be legalized, and - unlike those workers - they won't face any fines. Any type of comprehensive immigration reform will give them a complete pass for their past illegal activity.

But, unless using "amnesty" to make that point, avoid the term. For instance, if you ask a politician this question:

"Why does McDonald's want amnesty so much? Are they in the habit of doing things that increase their wage costs, yes or no?"

They'll latch on to "amnesty" and you'll get a reply like this:

"No one wants amnesty, I don't support amnesty. Under my comprehensive immigration reform plan, undocumented workers will pay a fine and learn English. You see, Lazarus fallacy... immigration tradition fallacy... nation of immigrants.. jobs Americans wont do..."

If you rephrase that question as follows (with the quotes around "reform" expressed or implied), they'll at least have one less thing they can use to avoid answering the question:

"Why does McDonald's want immigration "reform" so much? Are they in the habit of doing things that increase their wage costs, yes or no?"

Politicians are trained or accustomed to using various tricks to avoid answering questions. Don't give them something they can latch on to.

Last modified Jan 5, 2014
Discussed in (click each link for the full post):

Amnesty supporters Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst battle over definition of "amnesty" - 09/29/14

Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst are battling to become U.S. Senator from Iowa. Both support what most call "amnesty", i.e., both would legalize millions of illegal aliens. So, what to do when your position is basically the same as your opponent? Argue over terms [1]:

Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick mislead, promote bad immigration policy - 01/25/13

In the Wall Street Journal, Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick offer "Solving the Immigration Puzzle" (link). I'll provide excerpts followed by a discussion of how they're misleading and promoting bad policy.

Elizabeth Emken on immigration: weak, GOP boilerplate (amnesty, California, Feinstein) - 09/10/12

Elizabeth Emken is the GOP challenger to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, a state that's been greatly harmed by massive illegal immigration.

Paul Ryan is bad on immigration, find out how much (Mitt Romney VP pick) - 08/11/12

Paul Ryan - Mitt Romney's choice for running mate - is on the wrong side of the immigration issue. Not only would he harm middle- and working-class Americans and help the wealthy in direct economic ways, but he'd do the same on the immigration front as well.

Haley Barbour lobbied for Mexican government, now misleads about amnesty - 02/15/11

Mississippi governor Haley Barbour is so bad on immigration that in 2001 he lobbied for the Mexican government on a "mini-amnesty". If you aren't familiar with that government's activities inside the U.S., see that link. Now that his lobbying activities [1] have come to light, he's responded by misleading about amnesty and promoting very bad policies. From a statement he released in response [2]: "Before there can be immigration reform, we must secure our borders. Only after that can any reforms be achieved, and those can’t include amnesty... Everybody knows we are not going to put ten or...

John Morton of ICE misleads, says he and Obama don't support amnesty - 08/12/10

Back in 2007, former Department of Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff said that the DHS wasn't "in the business of doing amnesty". Now, the head of the DHS' Immigrations and Custom Enforcement ("ICE") is making similarly false claims.

Meg Whitman highlights how much she agrees with Jerry Brown, still misleads about immigration - 07/16/10

Meg Whitman offers "Americans must come together to address the problem of illegal immigration" (, [1]), which is basically a rewrite of the previous misleading Whitman editorial about immigration. Since the new editorial and the old one repeat the same lines, see that link for part of why she's misleading, and the below for additional reasons. But, first, here's this admission that should be more than a bit shocking to many of the Republicans who chose her over Steve Poizner (bolding added): In this race, my Democratic opponent, Jerry Brown, has said very little about most issues...

Amy Chance of SacBee misleads about "amnesty" (Steve Poizner's anti-Meg Whitman ad) - 04/10/10

Sacramento Bee Political Editor Amy Chance offers "Ad Watch: Poizner launches largely misleading attack on Whitman" [1]. Referring to a recent anti-Meg Whitman ad from Steve Poizner which claims that Whitman "supports Obama's amnesty for illegal aliens", Chance writes: "Amnesty" is a hot-button term that exaggerates Whitman's views on illegal immigration. She said in October she supports a policy "where people stand at the back of the line, they pay a fine, they do some things that would ultimately allow a path to legalization." Now she says she was referring to creating a guest worker...

Amnesty supporter Meg Whitman misleads about immigration - 03/30/10

California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman offers a guest editorial entitled "immigration reform, with respect" (link). Here are some of the ways she's trying to mislead voters. She says: California has the most to gain from sensible immigration reform, and the most to lose from the failed status quo... While I am a strong proponent of legal immigration, I am 100% opposed to granting amnesty to immigrants who entered the country illegally. Whitman has already made it clear that she does in fact support amnesty, she just doesn't call it amnesty. In the quote at the last link she supports a...

Mexican consul: "We're not demanding amnesty but immigration reform." (travel boycott) - 03/21/09

A group of illegal immigration opponents including the California Coalition for Immigration Reform are passing out fliers encouraging tourists to visit the U.S. southwest instead of Mexico (link). More on the boycott below, but first: [Orange County, CA] Mexican Consul Carlos Rodríguez y Quezada disputes the fliers' claims that Mexico urges amnesty, is violent and is a bad neighbor. "We've always been good friends and good neighbors," he said. "We're not demanding amnesty but immigration reform." 1. Mexico isn't in the position to start "demanding" things, especially something that the vast...

Bill Richardson misleads on immigration (again, and again...) - 07/28/07

Not content to simply lie about the border fence or to be a shill for the OAS, on June 12, 2007 Bill Richardson made two misleading statements about immigration: 1. He offered the now-standard "false choice" between a massive legalization plan (i.e., amnesty) and mass deportations. He forgot to mention a third choice: "attrition". Under that plan we'd enforce our current laws in order to encourage many illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.

Bush has forgotten the Alamo - 03/06/04

The Alamo was stormed 168 years ago today. That's a long long time, and George W Bush has obviously forgotten all about it: A text of President Bush's joint news conference with Mexican President Vicente Fox on Saturday... BUSH: Hola, que tal? Bienvenidos. Mr. President, Laura and I are pleased to welcome you and Marta to Crawford... I will work to ensure a system of safe and orderly migration. Earlier this year, I proposed a temporary worker program, not an amnesty program, that will offer legal status as temporary workers to undocumented men and women who were employed in the United States...