Michael Barone, usually a smart guy, manages to get a lot wrong in Getting immigration right:
There is less consensus on what should be done about illegals currently in the United States. In his 2000 campaign, George W. Bush called for a guest- worker program, allowing illegals to legalize their status. Many other Republicans, the loudest of them Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, have said that this amounts to amnesty and would reward those who broke the law.
OK, smart guy, which is it? Is legalizing illegals amnesty, or not?
Here it comes:
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is busy ending our "catch and release" program. But Bush and Congress have not done much on new immigration legislation until this year. The guest-worker issue splits Republicans, and Democrats are not unified on it, either.
Wrong. First Barone raised the idea that the definition of amnesty was in serious question, made no effort at analysis, then smuggled the premise that guest worker plans to legalize illegals aren't amnesty by suggesting that guest workers were the dividing line amongst Republicans.
The guest worker issue isn't what splits Republicans, amnesty is. Even Tom Tancredo has proposed guest worker legislation (H.R. 3333). Chertoff is busy, all right, taking steps on border security that should have begun in September of 2001, at the latest.
Meanwhile, the disingenuously pro-Amnesty minority of the GOP, led by President Bush, is forever trying to redefine amnesty so as not to admit it's what they support. The President's only chance is to confuse the issue, but legalizing illegals is amnesty.
We have a working definition of amnesty: the Reagan Amnesty.
President Bush hopes that the entire nation will suddenly suffer mass amnestesia and buy into his hairsplitting. One day he claims he's against "blanket amnesty." The next he claims he's against amnesty because he doesn't want to give illegals an "automatic path to citizenship." On alternate Fridays the President opposes amnesty he doesn't want to give "unfair rewards to illegal immigrants" over those who haven't broken our laws.
The Reagan Amnesty wasn't a blanket amnesty and didn't give automatic green cards or automatic paths to citizenship, but it did reward illegals by giving them legal status that was unavailable to millions of willing immigrants who didn't break our laws.
Funny, the Bush guest worker amnesty would reward illegals in much the same way. For admission to any guest worker program, a "willing worker" must match up with a "willing employer" for a job that no American would want. The jobs that willing illegal alien workers have taken illegally, very often using document fraud and perjurious IRS forms, already have their "willing employer." An illegal would be legalized as a guest worker by virtue of having broken at least two or more laws to have a job for which a law-abiding guest worker applicant was never able to compete. Illegals are line jumpers and under any guest worker plan that doesn't require them to return home and compete on a level playing field, they would be rewarded with legal status while millions of foreign nationals who respect our laws would be sorry out of luck.
Barone managed to address none of this, but at least he concluded with a truly sublime civics lesson:
If the Senate passes a bill -- a big if -- the issue would go to conference committee. Republican leaders in Congress and the administration hope that a conference committee version with both border security and guest worker provisions can be jammed through the House, which will take some Democratic as well as Republican votes.
Passage in the Senate should be easier. But there's still a lot of hard work to be done before an immigration bill gets to Bush's desk.
Maybe Barone thinks that if we can forget how the Reagan Amnesty worked, we might have forgotten Schoolhouse Rock too.
America's still a great country though; Barone got paid for that column.