Probation, Not Amnesty

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Much of the oxygen feeding last week’s political news cycle came out of Richmond Virginia, where underfinanced Dave Brat handily defeated Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  Many have sought to define the surprising loss through the prism that most suits their world view.  Among the likely casualties is any hope that immigration reform will be taken up by the House any time before the November elections.

Many are pointing to the roll of the immigration debate in Cantor’s primary.  Cantor was for a version of The Dream Act (though he voted against the bill as presented in the House), but allowed the conversation to muddle around the word “Amnesty”.

Amnesty has become the certain devolution point of any GOP debate on immigration.  Any sensible reform eventually gets called “Amnesty” by those who wish to pretend that the status quo is preferable to a solution, while holding on to the belief that our country can and will figure out how to deport 11 million people.  The word, once invoked, becomes toxic to rational debate.

Cantor’s loss should not be looked at as the sole barometer for Republican’s willingness to engage in a meaningful debate on immigration reform.  Closer to home, Lindsey Graham beat out 6 challengers to win 56% of the vote.  As Molly Ball notes in The Atlantic, Graham didn’t run away from immigration reform, but rather campaigned on it at every stop.

There is additional proof that Graham’s approach is the safer one for Republican candidates, courtesy of a new set of numbers released last week from a consortium of ten GOP pollsters.  The surveys found baseline opinions from registered voters, Hispanic voters, and Republicans in general.

Fully three quarters of Tea Party Republicans, Conservatives, and white evangelicals support some kind of legalization of those here illegally, with only twenty five percent of “the base” favoring deportation.  The survey found broad support for conditions such as paying a fine, back taxes, maintain a job, and learning English as conditions to stay.

These conditions would not be “amnesty”.  Instead, they should be likened to probation.  In a legal context, amnesty is the forgiveness of a crime with no conditions offered.  A probationary period is one where additional conditions are imposed while behavior is monitored over a period of time.  If we are to make progress in this debate on how to fix a serious problem, we need to quit carelessly throwing around the term “amnesty” and start looking at what are the proper conditions and benchmarks for probation.

In addition, defining what “securing the border” means would be a good start.  Biometric visas are a practical if not cheap answer to much of the inflow, as estimates are that almost half of undocumented aliens originally came here legally and overstayed visas.

But before some are willing to engage in this debate, they will first have to understand why it matters.  The Hispanic population is growing rapidly, and Republicans are rapidly losing their votes.  George W Bush won 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2004.  Just two presidential elections later, Mitt Romney received only 27%.

In the Republican bastion of Gwinnett County, the Hispanic population grew 153 percent over the past decade, with the Hispanic population now fully one out of every five county residents.  Couple the growth of Hispanic residents in Atlanta’s suburbs with growing populations of Asian and other non-Hispanic immigrants and the picture becomes more clear.  It’s not difficult to figure out how “English Only” and other anti-immigrant rhetoric is poisoning the Republicans’ positions with many voters today and for the foreseeable future by alienating legal immigrants.

Yet hope is not lost.  The same group of pollsters believe that roughly one quarter of the Hispanic vote is up for grabs – IF Republicans are willing to deal with issues such as immigration from a stance that is not patently offensive to Hispanics and other non-whites.  Dealing with the issue directly would be a start, instead of halfheartedly speaking to the issue then allowing the 25 percent of GOP voters who don’t want a solution to fill the media void.

Probation is a time honored concept that allows those who have transgressed to return to a correct and productive path.  Republicans would be wise to invest in this issue, and begin to define the terms.  If they do, perhaps the growing Hispanic population will allow Republicans into a probation period of their own.  One could feasibly see that at the end of this process, there would be a path for Republicans to receive votes.


  1. Joash Thomas says:

    Undoubtedly one of the best Peach Pundit articles I have ever read! I have always thought along these lines but have been very cautious about vocalizing my opinions due to the loud and obnoxious 25% of our Party that make themselves seem like the majority agenda setters. As a first generation immigrant (who came here legally of course) myself, I believe that the GOP could really grow its minority and non-traditional voter base if we took the lead on immigration reform instead of fighting every attempt to introduce reform. Also, as Charlie rightly pointed out here, the current immigration reform being debated is more probationary in nature than “amnesty” related.

  2. kitty says:

    Nope, I disagree. Why does immigration need to be reformed? many have come here LEGALLY using our current laws. Secondly, invaders should not be rewarded. Third, the border is wide open and deportations should be the top priority . I keep hearing that “immigration is broken” –please detail what exactly is broken? That laws are not enforced? And, so if we get new laws, will they be enforced? I think not.

    • c_murrayiii says:

      I’m sorry, but the border is not wide open. Every year we spend more and more money on border security, on border patrol agents. And there is not sensible way to round up 11 million+ people and deport them. Wanna talk about wasteful spending? Especially when some have been here for decades and have developed community ties. They shouldn’t be given a free pass, but they shouldn’t have their lives torn apart either.

  3. Salmo says:

    Great article. Many of us on the right that realize that trying to keep new people out of the country at all costs is not only futile and inefficient, but borderline immoral and certainly politically self-destructive. We probably need more noise on this one from the reasonable folks in the big tent who aren’t as likely to be doing the yelling most of the time.

  4. notsplost says:

    I’d be OK with “probation” (note this is really a marketing approach, but whatever) as long as the following absolutes are written into law:

    1. Any probation period includes no citizenship. Legal status i.e. a temporary residency card is fine.
    2. The probation period has to last longer than any wait time for a current LEGAL immigration applicant. In other words, go to the back of the line.
    3. No federal or state benefits are available during the probationary period. Evidence thereof is grounds for immediate deportation.
    4. DHS must reduce the flow of illegals to some negligible number by (pick a date) or the entire deal is off. A commission of governors and state legislatures along border states will make the call that the flow of illegals has been reduced to the agreed upon level, NOT the Federal Government.
    5. Any attempt to litigate against this act will be immediate grounds for suspension of the deal.

    • Jackster says:

      Is #1 the same thing as a visa? Would that visa be for life? Duration? Until their number comes up for naturalization?

      #3 is rediculous. They’re residents here and states can’t deport, so you’re better off not having a population in your community that you can’t manage. (Current situation)

      #4 is rediculous – DHS can’t reduce the flow of illegals – if you want to reduce the flow of illegals, either make the US somewhere you don’t want to go, or make their home countries somewhere you do want to go. I suggest invading Mexico.

      #5 – it would have to be simple and clear cut, with no room for litigation, otherwise, folks will nit pick it, and the illegals won’t assimilate.

      Perhaps we should give the ability for states to deport.

      • notsplost says:

        I’d prefer #1 be a temporary green card that would turn into permanent residency, not citizenship, at the end of the probation period.

        #3 is more about Medicaid, Food stamps, etc. Those programs are massively insolvent and don’t need more unfunded liabilities. If a state wants to allow in-state tuition or other state level benefits, I’ve got no issue with that.

        #4 isn’t so ridiculous. There are other desirable countries that manage to enforce their immigration laws quite well – Canada comes to mind.

        • Salmo says:


          Against whom are they enforcing their immigration laws so well? Polar bears from Alaska? Disgruntled Detroiters? Boat people from Greenland?

          If Canada shared a border with Mexico, they’d have the exact same problems that we do.

  5. Joash Thomas says:

    Immigration needs to be reformed because we have a broken system. I came here legally myself and I have absolutely no problem with granting a probationary status to those who came here through other means. Let us not forget that these 11 million people are human beings like you and me and they came here to seek more economic and individual freedoms for themselves that their home countries did not offer. Also, as a legal immigrant who went through our excruciating immigration system, I can tell you for a fact that immigrating to the United States is a very expensive and time consuming affair. Those who lack freedom and opportunity in their own countries lack the means and resources to come here legally and hence pursue other methods. I am a very staunch Republican but it alarms me to find my Party go from the Party that openly promoted integration (with the African Americans and Asian Americans) become the Party that now openly opposes it.

  6. Jackster says:

    So how can you be on probation if you’ve never been convicted of a crime? Or would this be more of a standing plea?

    And how would we avoid having this probation show up on a background check?

  7. newby says:

    I agree with kitty. is America now going to be governed by the fear of offending Hispanics? Are they not Americans first? We have allowed this to happen because we have not secured our borders. Now we have thousands of women and children drawn from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador by the expectation of amnesty. The collapse of our system may be around the corner if the promise of the “Dream Act” is not withdrawn. If there is no enforcement of our laws now and no border security there won’t be any after yet another amnesty is granted. Instead of encouraging it we should be sending all of these women and children back to their home governments to care for. The threat of terrorists entering with them is very real. Why are you not speaking out against what is happening?

  8. Hardly says:

    Great article! The anti-amnesty dead-enders are WAY too stupid not to fall for this “probation is the new amnesty” tactic.

    Though I wonder if making the case using moral reasoning rather than crass political calculation wouldn’t be more effective. (Just kidding! But wouldn’t it then be hypocritical to continue criticizing Democrats for pursuing immigration reform for political gain? Ha! Trick question! Who cares!)

  9. kitty says:

    I see no one has explained what is “broken” in the current system–other than non-enforcement–which won’t change with shiny new laws.

    • Ellynn says:

      Why don’t you tell us how to enforce the current laws and deport over a 10 million people using the current border control and ICE budget plus the exected budget cut it will get next year? Deportion is at a altime high currently and trending up over the last 5 years but we can deport more people – if you’re willing to have your taxes raised to pay for it…

      • DrGonzo says:

        Stop the failed ‘War on Drugs.’ $50 billion or more instantly that we can then put towards deportation, along with all those re-tasked agents. Not that hard.

        • Ellynn says:

          In the smaller farms (2-3 people a shift in a 3/8 or 2/12 layout) that do not have enough family or local labor, I would argee with you on the number of illegals. But very few people run small farms that a family can not run with out help. The larger family owned or co-oped dairy farms though don’t use illegals because they can’t afford to be hit with the fines. My brother (AKA the Survalistic Libertrarian Lumberjack and sometimes Holstien Hearder) works weekends on one with a 10 person shift on a 3/8 schedule. He is one of 6 people who is American born. He works with manly South Americans, Mexians, and former Eastern block countries, like Rominia, Poland, and Solvokia. They do alot of checking of vistas, and green cards. The same with my father’s family farm. They have at least 40 people a shift running on a 2/12 with a 4 day a week crew and a 3 day a week crew. Almost all are Latino crews out side my family that are heards men. It’s not unusal to have emigate labor on that farm; they have been doing so for over 100 years. Even during WWII they used German POW labor while 3 of my great uncles were fighting. At least 7 German’s came back in the late 40’s to live. Currently the farm is large enough that they have healthcare and a 401(k) option. Due to their size, they run everything through basic payroll, unlike a small farm that could pay under the table.

          The real offenders are the corperate run farms. They have herds in the 10,000’s per farm, dozens of farms per state and all over the west coast, upper midwest and the upper Northeast. They under cut the milk market by selling in bulk, payless, and are revolving doors for emplyees. It’s like the industral poultry farms here in Georgia. They don’t care if they get fined. They will just call up their lawyers, work out a deal with the Feds to lower the fines, and in 12 months it will be like it never happened. At the end of the day, the dairy mangers who don’t even work on the farm, will leave their Chicago or LA offices and head off to large scale dinner parties (AKA fundraisers) and give money over to people who will keep funded the loopholes for corperate industrial farms, overlook reforming the requirements for milk pricing, and allow imaration reform to pass.

          • saltycracker says:

            Well pull that apron over your head and blame corporations. Obviously the trade groups are controlled by them too as they fake “worry” about the small dairies in this mess.

            Corporations are watched and connected so they go for the subsidies /breaks while the small dairies exploit those with limited options and fly under favorable family farm laws. No reason to list my own personal experiences to help you see the spiraling reality.

            • Ellynn says:

              For the record, I don’t own an apron. I do own shares in a large scale family farm in Wisconsin. I am aware of what is happening. I also know the numbers quoted by the Milwaukee Journal are based on a 2008 study of 600 farms in only 4 counties prior to large scale raids done in those 4 counties about 3 weeks after it was released. At least two farms folded after settling their fines and a 3rd was bought out by a corporation who just made the fines go away.

              I totally agree that the worker visa systems needs to be reformed. The current system makes it harder for employers to hire and retain a legal worker. Alot of time is spent training people who then leave in less then 12 months because their visa is expiring.

  10. seenbetrdayz says:

    Any republican thinking that supporting immigration reform is going to culminate into support of the GOP among Hispanics needs to review trends following Reagan’s actual amnesty, which he pushed during his time in office. Studies after studies showed that the majority of the Hispanic vote continued to go democrats (actually it increased), most likely due to democrats holding similar views on the role of government to which these immigrants were accustomed:

    I mean, if you want to reform immigration because you feel it’s necessary, that’s all fine and good. But don’t expect it to garner votes for the GOP in Nov., because it hasn’t historically.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Exactly. One would be a fool to think Hispanics will all of the sudden be open to the GOP and start voting for Republicans, even if we amnesty the whole damn country of Mexico. As soon as we amnesty them, the Democrats will start up the benefits machine: “Great, you’re citizens now. Now let me show you how the Republicans want to take away your food stamps, your welfare, your Medicaid, and your job.” And it will work, just like it did after 1986. Are you people (GOP supporters of this nonsense) really that gullible?

      I’m not saying we shouldn’t be reaching out to Hispanics and other ‘minorities.’ But we shouldn’t be blatantly pandering either.

      • John Konop says:

        In all due respect you are the poster child of why the GOP is screwing up with minorities. Your comment …..“Great, you’re citizens now. Now let me show you how the Republicans want to take away your food stamps, your welfare, your Medicaid, and your job.”…… If you were Hispanic and read this comment do you not see the problem with your stereotyping?

        • seenbetrdayz says:

          Isn’t that the talking point democrats typically use, though? Turn on MSNBC and it’s basically an all-day re-run of pundits blathering: ‘The GOP hates you because you’re poor.’

          Maybe it’s the D’s who are stereotyping the immigrants by thinking they’re automatically going to support social welfare programs. But then again, if it’s a stereotype, maybe, just maybe, it’s not far from truth, if 70-75% of the Hispanic votes go towards democrats no matter what the GOP’s position on immigration is.

          • John Konop says:

            The reality today is with the increase of interracial marriages must of us have family and friends from a diferent race. Comments like the above in general are like a knife and create enemies…..I first heard about the raciest call by Phil Kent last election from a executive friend married to an Asian woman…..yet that call was targeted at latinos….You attack family and friends it gets ugly…..simple rule of thumb in business you do something nice they may tell a friend….you piss someone off they will tell numerous people….

            • DrGonzo says:

              My comment is like a ‘knife’? Don’t be so dramatic. I’m simply telling you the reality: if we agree to amnesty, Hispanics are NOT going to be any more open to GOP positions than they already are, and Democrats will only continue (in a louder volume) pulling out any lie in the book – and any scare tactic in the book – in order to make sure those new Americans will be voting Democrat.

              We get bombarded by Chamber of Commerce types telling us “this must happen” and also telling us it’s the only way we’ll be able to make headway electorally with Hispanics. This is a lie, because we’ve done this before under Reagan. Hispanics still voted overwhelmingly Democrat following 1986, didn’t they?

              As Admiral Akbar so famously said: “It’s a trap!” And that is exactly what any immigration reform that includes any form of amnesty is – a trap.

              • John Konop says:

                ………..My comment is like a ‘knife’? Don’t be so dramatic. I’m simply telling you the reality……

                Your above comment demonstrates your lack of willingness to walk in the shoes of other people. If you really think that no matter what the GOP does it cannot get minority voters than time will destroy the party…..BTW very simple math The only trap is the one you are setting for yourself…..I have employees, friends, family….who are from many different religions, race, political parties…..At the end of the day most people just want what is best for their family and friends….This us verse them mantra you live by, only pushes a smaller tent.

                • DrGonzo says:

                  “If you really think that no matter what the GOP does it cannot get minority voters than time will destroy the party…”

                  Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I think. But what I do think is that giving amnesty to illegals is NOT going to be the way to attract minority voters to the party. Seriously, do you not remember 1986 at all?

                  I want the best for my family and friends too, but if my family and friends are breaking the law to do it, where does that leave us?

                  • John Konop says:

                    Life is not black and white…..Do you really think giving someone citizenship for serving our country and or getting a college degree is amnesty? Do you think improving the temporary visa system is amnesty?

        • DrGonzo says:

          John, that comment is accurate for probably 98% of the illegals crossing the border or living in the US right now. We don’t have masses of software engineers sneaking across the border for work. We have desperately poor people with few skills, most of whom – if given amnesty – will be immediately seeking public benefits. The Democrats understand this, and will use it politically against Republicans.

          • John Konop says:

            It all depends how the immigration bill is negotiated. We could put into the bill protections for instance:

            1) Priority status for college graduates and people who serve in the military

            2) Wage requirements above poverty line for non students

            3) Requirements for health insurance and paying taxes ie could be done electronically via an e wallet….

            4) Improved temporary visa system for farm workers that require the above

            5) Strict deportation rules for gang members

            6) Put restrictions on entitlements benefits based on years working and dollars contributed to the FICA taxes.

            This is just a few ideas….cannot negotiate if you not in the game….We need solutions not meaningless talking points…

            • DrGonzo says:

              Hey if you can get the Democrats to agree to those terms more power to you. I think you’re going to have a rough go of it, though.

  11. Ghost of William F. Buckley says:

    Leggy Anne Coulter opines on why Eric Cantor got his butt handed to him; blames immigration issue as why people voted against him, not necessary for Prof. Brat.

    A money quote: Eric Hoffer said, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

    Hat Tip to my Cubano friend for passing this along:

  12. saltycracker says:

    My memory may need some correction but growing up in Florida we interacted with migrant farm and grove workers here on H2B (?) Visas from poor countries and Cubans, usually well educated, fleeing Castro and with far, far right politics. They were here for opportunity and appreciated work in a country of laws and basic protections from explotation.

    We changed those dynamics by making the laws very complex which benefited those profiting from them in business, charity or government largess. The result was a dumbed down or criminal immigrant desperate to escape his conditions. As this population exploded we wouldn’t or couldn’t enforce laws/controls and compounded it by promising a “free” piece of the American pie. Now that piece is being demanded.

    The Republicans can only put forth a plan of individual opportunity and immigration laws that attract and protect the most capable, the best and the brightest…..neither the Republican rancher/contractor nor a Democrat with a bureaucratic empire want any part of that.

  13. DrGonzo says:

    No probation. Follow the G.D. law. If you snuck in or you overstayed your visa, GTFO, do not pass go, do not collect $100. If you want to come back, then find the nearest US consulate/embassy and start the paperwork. Why is that so hard to understand?

    For those that argue “It’s impossible and would be expensive to deport ALL these people…” you don’t know until you try. As for expense, well why don’t we divert all these LEO’s currently wasting their time (and our tax money) fighting a losing, 40-year ‘war’ on drugs to a problem they can actually make headway on?

  14. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Good article, Charlie.

    Though before we do anything on the immigration reform end, we absolutely have to get our border with Mexico under much-better control somehow (preferably with very-thick and very-high walls and vastly-increased border security in the form of maximum manpower). We can reform our immigration laws until the cows come home and it still won’t matter if there are tens-of-thousands of new illegals/undocumenteds flooding across a seemingly non-existent southern border on what appears to be a daily basis.

    Our problem is not necessarily our immigration laws anywhere near as much as it is our status as one of the absolute-wealthiest nations on the planet and our location right next door to some of the poorest, most-dysfunctional, most-corrupt and most-unstable nations on the planet in Mexico and Central America. I agree with many of the other posters that it is not legal immigration that is the problem, but it is illegal immigration that is the problem (or rather direct migration from some of the poorest nations on the planet into one of the absolute wealthiest nations on the planet).

    Until we are able to get our Southern border under some type of control, we will continue to struggle with very-large amounts of illegal immigration courtesy of our extremely-dysfunctional and extremely-unstable neighbors to the south….And with the U.S. government perilously close to the brink of fiscal insolvency and dealing with a very-substantial amount of political dysfunction of its own, it is highly-doubtful that we will ever a see any type of effective solution to what will likely continue to be an ongoing problem for the foreseeable future.

    My best advice is to take Spanish classes…because being able to speak Spanish is going to come in handy moving forward.

  15. saltycracker says:

    “My best advice is to take English classes…because being able to speak English is going to come in handy moving forward.”

    Algonquin Chief, Virginia, 1608

    Spanish Governor. Florida, 1760

    Cherokee Nation, Georgia, 1830

    President General Santa Anna , Texas, 1836

  16. Three Jack says:

    Thanks Charlie, well done!

    Seems to me we are going about this reform all wrong because pols only care about votes, not those who actually cast the votes. If we took politics out of the discussion and just looked at the issue using the following criteria, I think it would be fairly easy to resolve:
    1. Does this county need manual labor workers who mostly come from south of the border?
    2. Do hispanic immigrants want to work?
    3. Do we have a viable alternative within our borders to fill the labor need? (see Gov Deal’s attempt at using prisoners to replace hispanic labor in south GA for an example).
    4. Will allowing 11m human beings of hispanic descent some form of legal status increase or decrease crime? tax revenues?

    So we know we have the need and the workforce willing to fill the need with no viable alternative. Who cares who they will vote for as if anybody can accurately predict such a thing anyway. Let’s get the system reformed as it should have been done 10 years ago then get on with growing this economy.

    • Harry says:

      We need to determine which of these kids have a chance to add value in the labor market. Even if illegal, if they’ve otherwise played by the rules, paid taxes, and not been a drain on the welfare system, then they should receive preferential probation.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        Good comments….Though I don’t just want to know which ones add value to the labor market. I want to know which ones add value to society in general.

        • saltycracker says:

          Exactly, illegal wages are up as demand increases, ask any landscaper, and with construction getting better, more are coming in for manual labor… the [email protected] mo. uaccompanied children.

          The skilled, educated foreigners trying to get legal visas continue to be stonewalled…..they add value, pay more than sales taxes and put less strain on our resources.

          If there is work, sign ’em up, track them, tax them……..No work, no stay.

          P.s. the guy edging lawns (not the mowing) around me, can’t speak English and makes $900-1000 wk

  17. WeymanCWannamakerJr says:

    Take away the reason for those that come here illegally and treat the abusers of using illegal workers the same way we treat the abusers of drugs. Anyone possessing illegals has their vehicle forfeited if transporting them or their farm or business forfeited if found in possession in those locations. C’mon guys get those Sheriffs motivated just like we have with the War on Drugs.

    • John Konop says:

      In all due respect the war on drugs policy has been a complete failure….not a good example….lets fix the problem not make it worse….

      • WeymanCWannamakerJr says:

        Sorry, forgot to use the sarcasm font again. Though you have to admit that it is rare to hear of punishment for those ultimately hiring illegals. The higher echelon types just make sure they have enough layers for deniability, especially in agribusiness and construction.

      • saltycracker says:

        Not for the sheriff depts and other law enforcement agencies, but agree with your conclusion.

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