Words matter. Semantics are seldom “mere.” Use of the word “amnesty” – in connection with government giving its permission to remain in America to non-Americans who are currently here without having first gotten government’s permission – suggests that these non-Americans have committed some offense beyond simply being here without government’s permission.
Well, if mere declarations by government can turn what otherwise would be perfectly lawful and acceptable actions – moving to America – into unlawful offenses the commission of which deserves meaningful punishment, then mere declarations by government can reverse this formula. If government diktat is a sufficient source of law – if mere government diktat can make improper that which is otherwise proper – then mere government diktat can make lawful and proper the status of non-Americans.
One cannot regard government diktat as sufficient to bestow the status of illegality and wrongfulness on actions X without simultaneously regarding government diktat as sufficient to bestow the status of legality and acceptability on actions X. He who lives by the diktat cannot choose which diktats to honor as proper and which to disregard as improper. The very thesis upon which diktat-is-law depends is the claim that, well, diktat – and only diktat – is law.
In addition, the term “amnesty” in this context conveys the impression of some sort of free and easy ride for currently “illegal” immigrants to America. Check out this Cato video, narrated by my student Caleb Brown, to see just how misleading this impression is.
(HT my former student Alex Nowrasteh)
Speaking of Alex, check out his further discussion of other errors committed by Thomas Sowell in the latter’s discussion of immigration history and policy .