Redefining Amnesty


Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America — with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country. To secure our border, we are doubling the size of the Border Patrol and funding new infrastructure and technology.

Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure
off the border — and that requires a temporary worker program. We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won’t have to try to sneak in,  and that will leave border agents free to chase down drug smugglers, and criminals, and terrorists. We will enforce our immigration laws at the worksite , and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers — so there is no excuse left for violating the law. We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. And we need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country, without animosity and without amnesty.

Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate —so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law.

Exerpt from State of the Union Address 2007

Pres. Bush hands a copy of his speech to Madame Speaker
of the House Nancy Pelosi

I often think that when after everything is said and done – town ordinances passed outlawing renting apartments to undocumented immigrants, random immigration raids at job sites, picking up and detaining non-Mexican, undocumented immigrant families at “family
detention” facilities, and authorizing local law enforcement to “root and determine” who was undocumented and hold them for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers – if those fighting on behalf of the undocumented for humane treatment and government recognition would be satisfied with anything less than amnesty.

Not so much for the migrants who arrived last week, last month or even 3 years ago, but for
those who arrived right after the last amnesty was granted in 1986.

Those people have at least 20 years here in this country. Plenty of time to establish deep community roots, raised families and see themselves as American citizens than someone just arriving looking for work.

In his State of the Union address tonight, President Bush declared no amnesty.

Though amnesty is a bad word to the GOP and others furious over the state of illegal immigration in this country, there’s not yet been created a substitute for a word that would recognize over 10 million people and let them stay on this side of the border while working out their citizenship applications.

Rumors circulating the last year or two that undocumented immigrants who wanted to become citizens would have to travel back to their native country and fill out the necessary paperwork are pretty much met with a “yeah, right.”

It’s because of the glacial process back in their home countries and this country’s own low quotas for visas that make desperate people skip that portion of the process in the first place.

Which means, whichever way it’s looked at, there will be a huge number of people who are not going to move a foot to travel back to a country that they couldn’t trust to take care of them in the first place.

So like it or not, people are going to use the word amnesty when this group starts the process of applying for citizenship.

Yet, amnesty implies that the rights and privileges of citizenship have not been worked for or are necessarily deserved.

That just doesn’t reflect the reality of the majority of today’s undocumented immigrants, especially those who have lived 15-20 years here.

So, maybe it’s time for a new word to enter our lexicon.

A word that describes a person seeking citizenship today must take into account that that person is hardworking, courageous, proud of country and heritage, innovative, risk-taker, active community/church participant, breaks the rules but doesn’t hurt anyone in the process, is willing to comply with what is asked of him/her and just wants the freedom to decide for themselves where and how they live.

A person awarded citizenship under these conditions isn’t being granted amnesty — they’re being inducted into citizenship.

Because they very much know what an honor it is for them to be citizens.

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