Please define amnesty!
Can’t you see the word is confusing!
Read my lips: changing a dumb law
lawmakers do if not dozing!
Amnesty (is) setting lawbreakers free
while we keep the law they have broken.
Raising the speed up to 70
Should not be called Amnesty.
(Repeat last 2 lines of song)
Drivers who've always gone 65
would not receive Amnesty.
(Repeat last 2 lines of song, slower)
Fixing broke laws is what lawmakers do
without saying it's "amnesty".
The world of logic suffered casualties when President Reagan changed the definition of "amnesty" from pardoning treason after a war, where no law was changed, to the benefits received by the victims of a stupid law, by fixing the stupid law.
Arlen Specter, on the floor of the Senate June 27, 2007: "I have grave reservations about punitive measures which do not have some substantive meaning, but that concession has been made to try to avoid the amnesty claim. We have gone about as far as we can go. Amnesty, like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder. "
"Amnesty means to reward lawbreakers with the object of their crime", declared Congressman Steve King when he filled in July 4, 2007, for WHO talk show host Jan Mickelson.
How can a lawmaker, with law dictionaries all over his office, come up with a definition like that? Every time a law changes, it makes actions legal which used to be illegal, or vice versa. This didn't used to be called "amnesty". This used to be called "passing a law".
Passing a law is what lawmakers do. It is the only thing they do. It is what they are supposed to do. In fact, the stupider the law, the better reason they have to change it. It is not “amnesty”, even though whenever they do it, the definition of who is breaking the law changes. Raising the speed limit from 5 mph to 70 mph is not “amnesty”, even though those who have always gone 65 are now rendered innocent.
Amnesty would be where you keep the speed limit at 55 but pardon every speeder caught before noon.
The confusion about the word began when President Reagan called "The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986" an "amnesty". Before that, "amnesty" was not used to describe anything relating to domestic law. Here's what the word used to mean, according to Black's Law Dictionary, 4th Edition, published about 1967:
"A sovereign act of oblivion for past acts [crimes], granted by a government to all persons ...who have been guilty of crime...generally political offenses - treason, sedition, rebellion - and often conditioned upon their return to obedience and duty within a prescribed time. A general pardon or proclamation of such pardon from subjects' offenses against the government; while usually exerted in behalf of certain classes of persons, subject to trial, but not convicted.... "'The word 'amnesty' properly belongs to international law, and is applied to treaties of peace following a state of war, and signifies there the burial in oblivion of the particular cause of strife, so that that shall not be again a cause for war between the parties; and this signification of 'amnesty' is fully and poetically expressed in the Indian custom of burying the hatchet. .... Knots v. U.S., 10 Ct.Cl. 407."
"'The word 'amnesty' properly belongs to international law, and is applied to treaties of peace following a state of war, and signifies there the burial in oblivion of the particular cause of strife, so that that shall not be again a cause for war between the parties; and this signification of 'amnesty' is fully and poetically expressed in the Indian custom of burying the hatchet. .... Knots v. U.S., 10 Ct.Cl. 407."
Amnesty after a war, granted by the victorious government to supporters of the losing side, has the practical advantage of ending the war; were it not granted, the losers would continue to resist in order to preserve their own lives. The amnesty given to losing individuals is the counterpart of the truce accepted from the losing nation. It costs little; the losing side of a conventional war has virtually no hope of resuming hostilities, so there is little concern of their committing treason again. Nor is there any concern that granting amnesty to former traitors would encourage future traitors, since the condition of war which formerly encouraged treason no longer exists. Common criminals, and terrorists, on the other hand, can always strike again as individuals, so past actions are still an indication of future actions, so they must still be restrained.
In no case are the laws against treason changed! Treason remains against the law! Laws against treason are not even altered! That is why the use of the word "amnesty" in immigration law, where immigration laws are altered in conjunction with what is labeled as "amnesty", redefines the word as historically defined, leading to confusion in the debate, causing frustration for those who want to accomplish something more than shout.
But now "amnesty" is so associated with domestic law that the 8th Edition of Black's Law Dictionary, published in 2004, has almost the same definition but with this phrase added: "the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act provided amnesty for undocumented aliens already present in the country." The word has really branched out. Now it means, in addition to its historical meaning,
"Any initiative where individuals are encouraged to turn over illicit items or themselves to the authorities, with the understanding that they will not be prosecuted for having broken the law. A common use of such amnesties, is to reduce the number of firearms or other weapons in circulation. Several airports, court houses and public schools have an "amnesty box" in which people may dispose of objectionable items accidentally brought to the premises without consequence. Normally any item that is dropped will be forfeited and cannot be retrieved any longer. Cases of pardon by a country where offenses are not stricken from the record and individuals proclaimed innocent. Instead, those individuals receive some lesser sentence in response to an admission of guilt." Source: LawyerIntl.com
The new expanded definition of "amnesty" didn't start to be a national problem until somewhere around 2000, as a growing number of politicians campaigned against "amnesty". Few, I presume, thought about the word's historical meaning. Some knew that it was the name for what was done in 1986, which is generally accepted today as a failure. But many, I sense, don't even know that association of the word. All they know is that it is used as a pejorative (a polite cuss word) -- something that ought never be -- and it seems to have something to do with treating illegals with anything remotely approaching kindness. That is enough information for most people to be entirely comfortable using it.
As historically defined, "amnesty" applied only to war time crimes. It left laws exactly the same as they were before, but completely erased official memory of violations, leaving offenders with no penalty, treated exactly the same as if they had never violated any law As defined today, "amnesty" applies to peace time domestic law. It applies to comprehensive overhauls of laws which redefine what constitutes a violation. It applies even when former offenders are fined heavily and treated much differently than those who never broke the law. It now means just about exactly what "changing a stupid law" means.
Which is why this new confusing meaning of the word is a national problem now. Right now, we really need to change stupid immigration laws. We don't need to change them the same stupid way we did in 1986, but it is not clear to anyone how "amnesty", as currently defined, differs from changing the law intelligently. As soon as a new solution attempts to present itself, and people see it has something to do with changing the law in any way that shows the remotest fairness to illegals, then, no matter how many other problems it might solve, people start shouting "Amnesty!" and the discussion is over. It is hard enough to discuss what details in a bill might actually succeed in securing our borders, eliminating our Spanish speaking ghettoes, protecting our jobs, catch criminals and terrorists, and give taxpayers a break, without turning perfectly useful words into cuss words.
I'm afraid for as long as we are content to turn perfectly useful words into cuss words, we are going to be stuck on stupid.
Not even the so-called immigration "amnesty" during Reagan's presidency was an amnesty as historically defined. In some ways it was like a real amnesty, but that is only because real amnesties are, in some ways, like changing a law.
Reagan's "amnesty" forgave every illegal who was already here, but kept the same quota laws in place to define future violations. It was hoped that stiffer border enforcement would then keep anyone else from crossing illegally. The plan backfired because the U.S. Job Magnet was still so huge that no amount of border enforcement could block those coming, but quotas remained unrealistically rigid and low, leaving no legal way for most to come. Many more flooded over, encouraged not only by the success of immigrants before them but by the hope of another amnesty.
Similar amnesties have been proposed recently. They would forgive those already here but leave the same laws in place for future immigrants to break, vainly imagining few immigrants would attempt to break the laws because only the slightly greater number of temporary work permits in the bills would satisfy demand. Such plans may be properly called "inadequate", but not "amnesty".
Failure to make this distinction confuses the immigration debate, where real amnesties are proposed along with overhauls of immigration law which would apply to everyone, but both are labeled, by many, “amnesty”. This misuse of the word severs it from its historical definition and makes it a pejorative describing leniency towards “illegal aliens” which the labeler feels is excessive.
The "Bush's Plan is Amnesty" myth. President Bush's "Guest Worker" plan is amnesty for lawbreakers, which undermines the rule of law, according to the myth.
There is no resemblance between Bush's plan and "amnesty". No law is left in place which will define future violations, while past violations are excused.
FACT: Amnesty is the forgiveness of an offense without penalty. This proposal is not amnesty because illegal workers must acknowledge that they broke the law, pay a $1,000 fine, and undergo criminal background checks to obtain a Z visa granting temporary legal status. (6/8/7 White House press release)
Amnesty is, in effect, a retroactive raise in the quotas for immigration. Amnesty "forgives" immigrants who came here in excess of the previous quota, creating the same effect as if the quota had been as high as the number who came.
Amnesty means letting illegals continue as they are, but legally. Bush's plan would not allow illegals to continue as they are. It redraws the immigration landscape.
Bush's plan could become a lot of things, depending on the details Congress adopts, but none of the possibilities Congress has been considering is amnesty.
National discussion of the details will determine whether the plan becomes bad or good. A good plan, composed of details found in bills Congress has already written, would give immigrants an unlimited legal temporary right to work, which would double as a probation period. If they meet high standards for work quality, English, and education, they would receive LPR. But meanwhile, all would have to register, and in fact most would want to register, leaving those few who don't easy to find. Under-the-table jobs would dry up, and those who don't qualify really would be shipped back until they do.
Other Fantastic Articles, Books, Movies, Music: