Reading some of the reactions to the immigration bill that passed the House yesterday, one might think the word "amnesty" is the dirtiest in the English language.
Above a picture of senators laughing, Katheryn Lopez writes, "Let's pretend it's not amnesty."
Charles Krauthammer: "Look, this is clearly amnesty."
John Hinderaker at Powerline: "I'm afraid that no matter what the 'compromise' ostensibly consists of, the feature that will actually be implemented is amnesty for the 12 million existing illegals."
John Mirengoff at Powerline: "The only part of the program a conservative rationally can expect to work is amnesty."
And Michelle Malkin, of course, hasn't stopped muttering the "a" word since the House vote.
And so on and so on and so on ...
So, why, exactly, is amnesty such a dirty word? According to one politician, because it means people broke "our nation's laws" to get into the country. Congressional authors hoping to avoid charges of amnesty created a series of penalties that, once paid, allow illegal immigrants to enter a path toward citizenship. The punitive process involves paying a $5,000 fine, returning to your native country, applying for citizenship (at which point you're allowed back), and then waiting anywhere from eight to 13 years.
Is this not harsh enough? To many on the right, it's tantamount to a get-out-of-jail free card. Which makes me wonder: Just what do they want? Nothing short of deportation? (For Mark Krikorian, that's a rhetorical question.) Seriously, though, can anyone actually imagine attempting a mass round-up and send-off of 12 million people? It would be a ghastly affair, with mothers being torn from the arms of their American-citizen children.
So if it's not mass deportations, as Krikorian favors, what policy suffices? The dearth of ideas on this front isn't dissimilar from anti-war types who proclaim their hatred of violence yet are conspicuously unimaginative about how to confront violence in its most aggressive forms.
Personally, illegally entering this country doesn't exactly strike me as the crime of the century. It's like leaving the gates to your swimming pool open and then scolding the children next door for using it -- even when you could see perfectly well the weekly pool parties they've been throwing for the last ten years from the comforts of your second-floor balcony. The only difference is that those who illegally enter America -- and I'm talking, for the most part, about Mexicans and South/Central Americans -- risk life and limb to do so. Not because they have some sort of vendetta against U.S. immigration formalities, but because their present circumstances are so unmitigatedly horrible that they've considered the options and deemed the potentially fatal risk worth taking. It may be illegal, but it's the sort of crime I could see myself committing were I in similar circumstances. (And I'm a pretty good guy.)
If politicians want to get serious about immigration, you can't continue leaving the gate open and then feigning outrage whenever people take advantage.
My solution? Build the fence. Then man it with immigration agents who can immediately process the new arrivals. America needs more people who aspire to be American. If overpopulation is a concern -- and I don't think it is -- some intrepid politician ought to think of a way to ease the ability to remove those who outwardly hate this country. Make space for those who love it, I say.