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It Depends on the Definition of "Illegal"

A reader emails to point out a contradiction in Carville & Greenberg's immigration talking points:

In your blog piece The Dem Playbook For 2006: No Amnesty you quote Greenberg and Carville, including this sentence:

We are for expelling the criminals and allowing a path to citizenship for the law abiding immigrants who pay taxes.

I'm married to an expensively-documented immigrant, and I know full well that there already is a path to citizenship for law abiding immigrants who pay taxes, so there is no need to allow a path for them. If they are talking about a citizenship path for illegal immigrants, well, by definition they are not law abiding, so they are talking nonsense.

It looks to me like they are trying to put all immigrants together, both legal and illegal, which I find offensive. I am for legal immigration, but totally against illegal immigration. And I think most legal immigrants, and spouses of legal immigrants, feel the same way.

Of course, the contradiction applies to some Republicans as well. Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship would argue that their plan contains an admission of guilt on the part of illegal immigrants which carries a penalty: removal from the United States if you've been here less than two years or a fine and the payment of (at least some) back taxes for those who've been here longer than two years.

I can see how this compromise grates on most people's inherent desire for fairness - and is downright offensive to those who stood in the long lines and paid the high fees required to immigrate legally to the United States - but unfortunately fairness isn't a practical standard to apply when we already have 12 million people here illegally. If it were, the logical answer would be to round up every illegal immigrant in America and send them home to wait their turn in line.

Incidentally, this is where I have a beef with some House-led restrictionists who want to have it both ways. On the one hand, they call the Senate compromise amnesty. But on the other they also say they're not in favor of mass deportation. When asked what they'd do to address the roughly five percent of the American population currently living in the country illegally, they fall back and cite the thoroughly unconvincing argument that "attrition" will naturally take care of the problem. As if the millions of illegal immigrants who've made lives here in the United States over the last two decades, complete with homes and families, are going to just give it all up to move back to Mexico.

I think that's why we've seen the public coalescing around the one part of the plan that most everyone seems to agree upon, which is to focus on getting control of our borders. I also think that once that task has been accomplished to a substantial degree and the government has proven itself serious about addressing the issue of halting illegal immigration, you'd find much broader and deeper support for allowing those here illegally to access some sort of pathway to citizenship.