Rich Lowry @ Politico:
In Washington, a new gang has been born. The Gang of Eight on immigration is here to tell us that we have succeeded in not enforcing the law so persistently and thoroughly that now we have to give up all pretense.
The Gang of Eight wants to amnesty the 11 million immigrants who are already here as a product of past nonenforcement in exchange for a promise of future enforcement. In the United States, immigration enforcement is always just around the corner. The attitude is perpetually this time, we mean it.
It’s never a good sign when lawmakers can’t call things by their real names. Even conservative star Marco Rubio — the gang’s most important member, who has been energetic and fearless in making his case — calls illegal immigrants “undocumented” workers. He referred to them in a recent blog post as people “living in the United States without proper immigration documents.”
Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform also resolutely refuse to say the word “amnesty.” They contend that the proposed package is not an amnesty because illegal immigrants have to go to the back of the line for a green card. But before that happens, they get “probationary legal status” after passing a background check and paying a fine and back taxes. As a practical matter, this is the amnesty.
Sen. Chuck Schumer stated it with admirable clarity in the news conference announcing the principles: “On Day One of our bill, the people without status [i.e., illegal immigrants] who are not criminals or security risks will be able to live and work here legally.” You can’t get more direct than that.
The scam is to pretend that this isn’t the most significant point in an immigrant’s changing status. “Our purpose,” the Gang of Eight says in its statement of principles, “is to ensure that no one who has violated America’s immigration laws will receive preferential treatment as they relate to those individuals who have complied with the law.” This is manifestly not their purpose.
Once an illegal immigrant gets “probationary legal status,” he has jumped irrevocably ahead of all those poor saps back in their native countries who want to come to the U.S. but for whatever reason were unwilling or unable to break our immigration laws to do it. The formerly illegal immigrant is here in the U.S., while the poor sap is someplace else. Ask the sap whether or not that strikes him as preferential treatment. You’ll find him somewhere in Bangalore or Guatemala City.
All indications are that this kind of “probationary” legal status matters more to illegal immigrants than an eventual path to citizenship. In an essay in the journal National Affairs, immigration expert Peter Skerry points out that 20 years after the implementation of the 1986 amnesty, only 41 percent of the 2.7 million people who got legal status under the program had gone on to become citizens.