Is the Gang of Eight Plan “Amnesty”?
WASHINGTON, DC (May 3, 2013) — The “Gang of Eight” senators argue that their bill (S.744) is not an amnesty because illegal immigrants would have to pay a fine and fulfill other requirements as a condition of legalization. Yet seven recent tax and parking-ticket amnesties imposed conditions and payments on those who violated the law, and in every case these programs were considered to be an amnesty by elected officials, the public, and the media. Like the Schumer-Rubio immigration bill, each of the amnesties discussed below set aside the normal penalty but still required payments.
A study of other recent amnesties indicates that it is
Examples of recent amnesties:
- In 2012 Rhode Island offered what the state government and media outlets explicitly called a “tax amnesty”. The state even created the websitewww.TaxAmnesty.ri.gov to promote it. The amnesty allowed certain taxpayers to pay overdue taxes plus seventy-five percent of interest due by November 15. The remaining interest and civil and criminal penalties were waived.
- The town of Huntington, N.Y., just completed a parking ticket program described as an amnesty by the town board, town supervisor, and local media. To qualify for the amnesty, past due tickets issued January 1, 2005, or later had to be paid by April 30, 2013. The person had to pay the ticket value plus any penalties, but could do so at a 40 percent discount.
- In 2009 Louisiana ran what the state itself called a “tax amnesty”, even setting up a “Tax Amnesty Website”. The media also referred to it as an amnesty. The program covered past due taxes from 2001 or later. If taxes owed and 50 percent of interest were paid during the two-month amnesty period, the remainder of the interest plus civil penalties were waived.
Members of the Senate’s Gang of Eight have argued that S.744 is not an amnesty. On his website promoting S.744, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) states that, “No one gets amnesty”. He argues that because the beneficiaries have to meet requirements and pay fines it is not an amnesty. He even states, “no undocumented immigrant is rewarded with anything”. Similarly, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) argued in a National Review opinion article, “This bill ensures that no illegal immigrant will be given amnesty or rewarded for illegal behavior.” When asked if the bill was amnesty in a recent interview Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) stated, “not at all.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also claimed in a recent interview that the bill is not amnesty.
Despite claims to the contrary, S.744 is similar to the tax and parking ticket amnesties discussed above. The normal penalty for being in the United States illegally is that the alien must leave the country. Under S.744 this penalty is set aside and illegal immigrants who arrived prior to January 1, 2012 are given legal status and can remain in the country. They must also pay a fee of $500 initially, and undergo a background check. Like all the amnesties discussed above, S.744 includes conditions and payments. If S.744 is not an amnesty, then none of the tax and parking ticket amnesties discussed above are amnesties, even though everyone involved with them considers the programs to be amnesties.
“The Schumer-Rubio immigration bill is an amnesty, and those who claim otherwise are not being honest with the American people,” said Steven Camarota, Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies.