No, It's Not "Amnesty"
I respect Josh Marshall, but we all miss from time to time.
Speaking for myself, I’m a big supporter of immigration reform. But let’s not let support for doing the right thing set us at war with the English language. Of course, it’s amnesty.
It isn't if we value the English language. "Amnesty," according to my dictionary, means, "a general pardon for offenses," "an act of forgiveness for past offenses" or "a forgetting or overlooking of any past offense."
Anti-immigrant hardliners would have you believe that this is what's on the table, for the simple reason that it polls terribly. On the other hand, a "path to citizenship" that requires unauthorized immigrants to pay a fine and jump through a bunch of hoops polls very well. It's unfortunate that Marshall is buying the narrative.
As I wrote in 2007, when a similar proposal for comprehensive reform was being debated:
It's no more accurate to call the measure contemplated last week in the Senate an "amnesty bill" then it is to call it a rhinoceros; while an amnesty implies simply granting people legal status, the Senate proposal would have required undocumented immigrants who can prove they have been working and paying taxes in the country for an extended time to then fork over $9,000 in fines and application fees (for a family of four) and that would only get them to the back of the line, with a four-year "Z" visa. Then, after those four years were up, the head of the household could return to his or her native country and file an additional application -- paying an additional $4,000 penalty in addition to application fees. If they pass a health screening, an English proficiency test and another test of American civics, then they become legal. But only after the backlog of existing applicants is cleared -- no "cutting in line." All of that for people who have committed a misdemeanor.
Obviously, that's not in any way an "amnesty" -- but Americans don't favor an easy ride, so the Rush Limbaugh crowd not only called the latest proposal an "amnesty bill," they had the nerve to accuse their opponents of dishonesty.