Amnesty Advocates Continue the Battle, Offer Differing Approaches

By David North on December 21, 2010

Despite the DREAM Act defeat, different amnesty advocates continued the argument this week, using different approaches.

There was the raw political approach reported in a blog by my colleague Jerry Kammer, "NCLR to Republican Senators: 'Watch Out'," in which the National Council of La Raza threatened political repercussions for DREAM Act opponents, including the two GOP Senators from Texas. (And when is the last time that the Republicans lost a U.S. Senate race in Texas? – the answer is below.)

Then there was a far smoother, more academic approach of the well-funded Migration Policy Institute here in Washington, contained in a report issued on Monday entitled "Immigration Legalization in the United States and the European Union: Policy Goals and Program Design." It was written by the MPI's Marc Rosenblum.

As one who once conducted on-site studies of some European legalization programs, I found many of Rosenblum's concepts interesting – if not terribly useful, because I do not think a large legalization program is in this nation's best interest. He points out, for instance, that if the program's requirements are generous then the cost of running the program is lower than it would be otherwise, because the administrative decisions are that much easier to make.

Similarly, he notes the tradeoffs regarding the granting of temporary legalization vs. the permanent variety: such a policy creates less political opposition from the public but also a less positive reaction from those eligible. (He could have been thinking about the decision by USCIS to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to a group of Haitian illegals earlier this year; some of them applied, but not as many as the agency expected.)

What Rosenblum's skillful essay does is exactly what I have done in the two prior paragraphs – to involve the reader in the intricacies of legalization programs rather than in the more basic question: should we have one?

He moves quickly through that basic question, trotting out only two arguments against it, "the first is that legalization would undermine ongoing migration control efforts and encourage illegal immigration in the future ... Second, on a deeper level, legalization strikes many observers as 'unfair' ... unauthorized immigrants who participate in a legalization program are rewarded (with legal status) for their illegal behavior ..."

That there are huge demographic, environmental, and labor market consequences of tolerating an illegal population in place, as well as encouraging it to grow, do not enter his equation.

Both La Raza and Rosenblum are arguing for a change in legislation, and that's perfectly appropriate within a democracy, but what is really troubling is the argument of the immigration bar that there are oodles of ways around the law, to achieve a little or a lot of amnesty, if only the president has the grit to take their advice, and to ignore the defeat of the DREAM Act by the Senate.

This third approach is spelled out in great detail in the December 20 issue of Immigration Daily in an article by Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Metha: "Keeping Hope Alive: President Obama Can Use His Executive Power Until Congress Passes the Dream Act."

In it the authors argue for brand new and sweeping interpretations of the parole authority and the discretion regarding deportation to create administrative amnesties for people who are currently deportable.

I will spare you the details, but the two lawyers talk happily about one such arrangement "where a non-citizen is fictitiously paroled and thus rendered eligible for adjustment ..."

If only such creativity could be channeled in more useful directions!

The conversation, clearly, will continue.

(The answer to the Texas question: the Republicans have won every single race for the U.S. Senate in that state in the last 22 years; the most recent Democratic victory came when the late Senator Lloyd Bentsen, later Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary, was reelected in 1988.)