The Tar Pit

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

President Bush's Citizenship Path for Illegal Aliens

I had an interesting conversation with Hugh Hewitt on his radio show Monday afternoon, about details of President Bush's proposal to legalize several million of the more than ten million illegal aliens currently in the United States. At one point I used the term "legalization" of illegal aliens, and Hugh objected, preferring the term "regularization."

Now Hugh's a smart guy, but the subject of illegal aliens hasn't been of acute interest to him over the years, as some listeners to his show are no doubt aware. Perhaps it's because Hugh's a native Ohioan, but there are some elementary points of understanding one must gain to parse what government officials and politicians, who are genetically obfuscatory anyway, are saying when they gloss over the subject of illegals.

If a politician wants to make some illegal aliens no longer illegal, it can only mean he wants to make them legal. Yet politicians are allergic to that truth, so they lay veil after veil of euphemisms over their intentions, and "regularization" is just one example. "Change status," and "normalization" are a couple of other catch phrases, but the result is the same: aliens whose illegal status subjected them to potential deportation are granted some form of legal status. They are therefore legalized.

Once the curtain is drawn to reveal a legalization of illegal aliens, politicians get itchy because the citizenry soon rightly recognizes that an illegal alien amnesty is afoot, and "amnesty" is the most allergenic term of all.

But amnesty is a topic for another post, because Hugh surprised me. When I told him that there was no difference between legalization and regularization, he said that President Bush's guest worker program wasn't a legalization of illegal aliens, because they could "never become a citizen, never." When I assured him that illegal aliens most certainly could become citizens under the Bush plan, Hugh replied again "no it's bracero, they will never become citizens."

I realized then that semantic clarity over legalization and regularization would have to wait, because President Bush had successfully enshrouded the mechanics of his guest worker program from Hugh Hewitt, nationally syndicated radio host, Nixon biographer, former underling of Pat "The Hat" Morrison, intrepid snowmobiler, and all around smart guy, as Big Ten fans go.

I asked Hugh if he would be able to support the President's guest worker program if it allowed legalized illegal aliens access to citizenship.

"I won't like the program," he said.

So, I told Hugh I'd drop him an e-mail on the matter, which has now morphed into this blog post.

Back in January of this year, President Bush announced his long awaited immigration reform proposal:

Undocumented workers now here will be required to pay a one-time fee to register for the temporary worker program. Those who seek to join the program from abroad, and have complied with our immigration laws, will not have to pay any fee. All participants will be issued a temporary worker card that will allow them to travel back and forth between their home and the United States without fear of being denied re-entry into our country. (Applause.)

This program expects temporary workers to return permanently to their home countries after their period of work in the United States has expired. And there should be financial incentives for them to do so. I will work with foreign governments on a plan to give temporary workers credit, when they enter their own nation's retirement system, for the time they have worked in America. I also support making it easier for temporary workers to contribute a portion of their earnings to tax-preferred savings accounts, money they can collect as they return to their native countries. After all, in many of those countries, a small nest egg is what is necessary to start their own business, or buy some land for their family.

Some temporary workers will make the decision to pursue American citizenship. Those who make this choice will be allowed to apply in the normal way. They will not be given unfair advantage over people who have followed legal procedures from the start.

President Bush Proposes New Temporary Worker Program
Remarks by the President on Immigration Policy

The East Room | January 7th, 2004

In his proposal the President adopts the politically correct euphemism "undocumented workers" to describe illegal aliens. Under his plan, illegals would pay a "one time fee" to get into the guest worker program, joining foreign nationals who've obeyed our laws and applied from their nations of origin. All would be issued a temporary worker card. The plan makes wise provisions to insure the eventual departure of the temporary workers through financial incentives. However, the President goes on to say that temporary workers may pursue American citizenship, but "they will not be given unfair advantage over people who have followed legal procedures from the start."

Clearly with the caveat regarding those who didn't break our laws, President Bush is describing legalized illegal aliens by contrast. Under the President's guest worker plan, illegal aliens would be allowed to try and become citizens after being accepted into the guest worker program. It's also not true that those illegal aliens would not have an unfair advantage, but I'll address that in a subsequent post.

To emphasize the point about putting illegal aliens on a path to American citizenship, the President made a little covered speech to the League of United Latin American Citizens during last Summer's Presidential campaign:

We have many issues to discuss, but I want to end on this important issue. The third commitment of an opportunity society is a policy of Fairness and justice toward those who have come to America to live and work. Our country must confront this basic fact: Jobs being generated in our growing economy are not being filled by American citizens, and these jobs represent an opportunity for workers who come from abroad, who want to put money on the table for their children. Yet current law says to those workers, "You must live in a massive, undocumented economy."

And so we've got people in America working hard who live in fear and who are often exploited. And this system isn't fair, and it's not right. So I proposed reforms that will match willing foreign workers with willing American employers when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs, a system that would grant legal status to temporary workers who are here in the country working, that will increase the number of men and women on the path to American citizenship.

The reason I do so is because I know this proposal is good for our economy, because it would allow needed workers to come into the country under an honest, orderly, regulated system. And the reason I made this proposal is because it's humane. It would bring millions of hard-working people out of the shadows of American life. This proposal reflects the interest and best values of America, and Congress should pass it into law.

Satellite remarks to the League of United Latin American Citizens convention:
July 8, 2004

The President could hardly be more clear. His plan would put legalized illegal aliens into an increased "number of men and women on the path to American citizenship."

By the way, when "out of the shadows" is used in any conversation about illegal aliens, it always means legalizing them. There's a whole lotta euphemizing going on around here.

In his press conference yesterday, the President said:

It's a compassionate way to treat people who come to our country. It recognizes the reality of the world in which we live. There are some people -- there are some jobs in America that Americans won't do and others are willing to do.

Now, one of the important aspects of my vision is that this is not automatic citizenship. The American people must understand that. That if somebody who is here working wants to be a citizen, they can get in line like those who have been here legally and have been working to become a citizen in a legal manner.

President Holds Press Conference
December 20th, 2004 | Dwight DC Eisenhower Executive Office Building

Here again, the President is saying that legalized illegal aliens can get in line for citizenship with "those who have been here legally."

So, what does the President mean when he says "one of the important aspects of my vision is that this is not automatic citizenship?"

He really doesn't mean anything.

The President is making an irrelevant distinction. He might as well say "one of the important aspects of my vision is that I am not giving each of them a million dollars," because illegal aliens have never been given automatic citizenship, or a million bucks apiece. Under the massive Reagan Amnesty and under the three smaller Clinton Amnesties illegal aliens weren't given "automatic citizenship" either.

Under both of President Bush's predecessors legalized illegal aliens were given timetables dictating when they could apply for green cards or citizenship, just as President Bush is proposing for the millions of illegal aliens he seeks to bring into his guest worker program.