Saturday, June 15, 2013

Amnesty Defined

Last Wednesday Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) resurrected the old semantics argument regarding Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  The basis of his statement is the real meaning of the word AMNESTY.

This is an important talking point of those who want to pass this reform bill.  They got out the word that they need to control the narrative.  The public is against an “amnesty plan.”  But if you can get them thinking it is something else, they are more open-minded about it.

So, Paul Ryan (who has a reputation of being a budgetary conservative) said this last Wednesday:  “Earned legalization is not amnesty. I will debate anybody who tries to suggest that these ideas that are moving through Congress are amnesty. They’re not. Amnesty is wiping the slate clean and not paying any penalty for having done something wrong. Nobody’s suggesting that that takes place.”


Way back on July 16, 2001, Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary for George W. Bush, was attempting to define amnesty in a White House press conference.  The exchange went like this:
“Question:   Go back -- what is the distinction on that?  I mean, because that is a point of confusion I think for many of us.  If the President is against an amnesty program, but one of the options is to regularize status, which would eventually allow people to qualify for citizenship, isn't that an amnesty?



“MR. FLEISCHER:  No, amnesty is an automatic granting, as opposed to a formalized process that everybody who comes to the United States, in accordance with the laws, has to go through.  It's a very lengthy process and it's very different.”

Source link:

So, the problematic nature of the definition has been around for quite some time.  If we take the Ryan/Bush definition of the word “Amnesty,” we must conclude the following in the definition:
  • Wiping the slate clean.
  • Not paying any penalty.
  • Automatic granting.
  • No formalized process.

Now, here are a couple of dictionary definitions:
Oxford
an official pardon for people who have been convicted of political offenses

Origin: late 16th century: via Latin from Greek amn─ôstia 'forgetfulness’

Webster
the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals

Law. an act of forgiveness for past offenses, esp. to a class of persons as a whole.


Cambridge
politics & government.  a decision by a government to forgive people who have committed particular illegal acts or crimes, and not to punish them: [C] The state has declared an amnesty for individuals who pay their outstanding back taxes.

It is interesting to note that politicians regularly create tax amnesty programs where people come forward and pay their back taxes, but the penalties, fees and jail time are waived.  Surely Paul Ryan is aware of how these amnesty programs work.

In protecting the precious narrative Ryan has made himself look foolish.  He reminds me of the child who lies through parsing of words to avoid punishment.  “I did not hit my sister,” he declares.  A closer examination of events is that he swung at her with a book and the book hit her.

Such tactics are not reserved for children.  Bill Clinton, in his finest courtroom manor, taught us the varied meanings of the word, “is.”

The GOP Platform of 2012 clearly illustrates that Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio are on the wrong side of this issue:
“In this country, the rule of law guarantees equal treatment to every individual, including more than one million immigrants to whom we grant permanent residence every year. That is why we oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it. Granting amnesty only rewards and encourages more law breaking”


Perhaps these advocates of some sort of legalization program ought to ponder the above statement for its meaning and the warning it gives about the future.