- - Wednesday, December 7, 2022

As Yogi Berra was wont to say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” This time, members of the Senate are working on a proposal to grant amnesty to millions of unauthorized aliens in the U.S., similar to the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986.

Yes, that’s what the so-called dreamers are — they are unauthorized aliens. They are not, as columnist Greg Sargent mislabeled them in a recent op-ed, “immigrants.” In fact, when President Barack Obama created the unlawful program to which most of these unauthorized aliens cling for their unlawful stay in our country, he at least had the intellectual honesty to refer to it as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The clear meaning of the program’s name reflects the unlawful status of these minors brought into the U.S. — in violation of 8 USC Section 1324 — and the fact that while a removal action was “deferred,” it would eventually be executed nonetheless.

But it could be that this was not intellectual honesty at all. It could be that, like the mischaracterized “immigrants” in Mr. Sargent’s column, this was a clear deception from the outset. After lawful action was “deferred,” the effort would be endless in granting legal status to millions of unauthorized aliens. It’s not the “newspeak” of “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” but it is 1986 all over again, and George Orwell got it close enough for government work, as my dad was prone to say.



Like the 1986 IRCA, the plan floating around the halls of the Senate includes amnesty for a large number of unauthorized aliens, paired with the promise of a stronger border. The proposal is said to include more money for more Border Patrol agents and a commitment to hasten the removal of asylum claimants whose claims don’t meet the standard necessary for release into the interior. Mr. Sargent quotes a “longtime immigration advocate,” Frank Sharry, who bemoans these elements of the plan as “bitter pills.” But like Mr. Sargent’s mislabeling of those subject to deferred removal action as “immigrants” and Mr. Obama’s initial creation of the program itself, Mr. Sharry’s lamentations are another deception — and nothing more than crocodile tears.

This administration has proved that if more Border Patrol agents are funded and added to the rolls, they will not be used to secure the border in a traditional sense. These added officers will simply be used to speed up the processing of aliens’ release into the interior of the U.S. We know this because this administration has pulled air marshals from planes and sent them to the border to support this mission.

Second, assuming Mr. Sharry is still involved with immigration advocacy — he’s advocating that “dreamers” become immigrants — he knows full well that the Biden administration has opened the floodgates for asylum in the U.S. by unlawfully expanding eligibility to include aliens who have been or may be in the future subject to domestic or gang violence. Therefore, any proposed change to asylum law that doesn’t proscribe the current administration’s unlawful — and relatively unchallenged — expansion of asylum eligibility will provide little cause for Mr. Sharry’s concern.

In addition, history informs us that we shouldn’t take the number touted as limiting the application of a “dreamer” amnesty at face value. Shortly after the inauguration of President Biden, I had a conversation with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The subject of IRCA 1986 came up, and Mr. Gingrich informed me that he had voted for the bill, which President Ronald Reagan supported. The former speaker said that in deliberation on the bill, he and his colleagues at the time were led to believe that the number of unauthorized aliens eligible for the amnesty provision of the bill would be approximately 300,000. He went on to say that the number ultimately granted amnesty under the law was in excess of 3 million.

Instead of granting another amnesty to millions more unauthorized aliens, members of Congress — and especially the GOP — should recall the words of Mr. Reagan immediately before he signed IRCA into law in 1986. At the close of his short speech at the signing, Mr. Reagan said, “Future generations of Americans will be thankful for our efforts to humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people — American citizenship.” Before they allow the Biden administration to further diminish our sacred possession, Congress — especially the GOP — should finally regain control of our borders and reject anything less.

• John Hostettler is vice president of federal affairs, States Trust at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. From 1995 to 2007, he served six terms in the House of Representatives, where he was chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims of the Committee on the Judiciary for two terms.

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