Letter to National Review: Wherefore Art Thou WFB?

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In a recent editorial, The Editors note, "Anyone who wants to argue for this [immigration] policy should not insult our intelligence by pretending that it is not an amnesty."

I expect this sort of thing out of The Weekly Standard or The American Conservative or some other journal that isn't steeped in the grand tradition of the Buckley attention to careful language. But not National Review.

The word "amnesty" means -- in this context -- a pardon, the removal of all charge and penalty for an offense. However, under the Senate bill and Bush's proposal, there remains both charge and penalty. There is no amnesty here -- clearly -- but, rather, a commutation. The two concepts are not interchangable.

The NR view appears to be simply that because illegal aliens get to stay here, therefore it is amnesty, but the word "amnesty" regards no such thing. By NR's logic, because we do not force people to return back across the street if convicted for jaywalking, we grant them amnesty.

In fact, it is the other proposals that result in more amnesty: encouraging people to go home of their own free will by reducing opportunity for employment, or by making that the only way to get legal employment (such as the Cornyn-Kyl plan), is like telling the jaywalker: go back across the street and we'll forget the whole thing. It is, by the proper definition of the word, amnesty.

If you really want to avoid amnesty, as you say, then the passed Senate bill will result in less of it than any other plan on the table, because it would enact penalties for the crime (even if you think those penalties are insufficient).

You don't really want to avoid amnesty, though, you want to get these people out of the country, and want to discourage more of them from coming. That's fine, but the concept of "amnesty" is orthogonal to that: you can discourage people while having amnesty, and encourage them without it. slashdot.org

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on May 16, 2006 12:27 AM.

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