Heritage Foundation Dishonestly Spins Proposed Immigration Reforms as "Amnesty"

Human Rights

In an article posted yesterday, the conservative Heritage Foundation slammed the Council on Foreign Relations’ (CFR) Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy for releasing a report that supports a legalization program for undocumented immigrants as part of comprehensive immigration reform. The Heritage Foundation refers to CFR’s legalization plan as “a fancy term for an amnesty.”

Jena McNeill of the Heritage Foundation writes:

We did an amnesty in 1986—and it did nothing to solve the problem, more and more folks saw an incentive to come here illegally—and they did, in droves…This report is not the first to tout legalization, and it probably won’t be the last. And while its ‘bi-partisan’ nature is certainly attractive, it doesn’t make legalization anymore than a costly amnesty.”

However, had anyone from Heritage actually attended last week’s panel event at CFR, they might have heard Mack McLarty specifically point out the difference between “earned legalization,” and “amnesty.” The panel affirmed that anyone who confuses the two terms needs “a course in remedial English.”

Obviously, the Heritage Foundation didn’t even read the report which explicitly states:

Language matters a great deal in the debate over immigration, but it matters here particularly…By any reasonable definition, however, the use of the term amnesty to describe the proposed reforms was a gross misstatement. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines amnesty as the ‘act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.’”

CFR is careful to distinguish the difference between amnesty and “earned” legalization which would require undocumented immigrants to pay substantial fines, pass criminal and national security checks, demonstrate English competency, and prove a long period of gainful employment. CFR acknowledged the failure of the 1986 legalization program, but also emphasized the need for any successful legalization plan to be accompanied by more realistic immigration quotas and stringent enforcement measures which were not part of the 1986 bill.

The Heritage Foundation believes that rather than implement a legalization program, the U.S. should “rely on law enforcement and market forces to stop undocumented labor.” If only it were that easy. Dragging local police into immigration enforcement has created a climate of racial profiling and community insecurity. The deputization of immigration law has distracted police from protecting their communities and has contributed to an increase in violent crime rates and budget deficits in many cities and counties. The 287g program which allows state and local police agencies to partner with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to enforce federal immigration laws cost taxpayers approximately $1.1 billion in its first year alone. The “market forces” the Heritage Foundation recommends are backed by error-ridden employee verification programs that could also lead to the accidental unemployment of 600,000 or more American workers.

Legalization supporters argue that it would increase government revenues and boost the national economy by bringing more workers and consumers into the tax system. Had the 2007 immigration reform bill which included a legalization program been implemented, it would have generated it would have generated $48 billion in new revenue from 2008-2017.

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