Bush Calls Immigration Bill ‘Amnesty’
President Bush, in a “slip of the tongue,” termed the controversial immigration bill up before the Senate today an “amnesty” bill. ABC’s Rick Klein reports:
President Bush has spent a whole lot of time in recent months claiming that the immigration bill isn’t “amnesty.” But in describing the measure Tuesday morning, an apparent slip of the tongue suggested otherwise — providing fodder for the talk-radio crowd that loathes the bill and wants it defeated in the Senate.
“You know, I’ve heard all the rhetoric — you’ve heard it, too — about how this is amnesty. Amnesty means that you’ve got to pay a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that,” Bush said, according to the official White House transcript.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow released a statement saying the president “misspoke.”
The statement reads: “This has been construed as an assertion that comprehensive immigration reform legislation before the Senate offers amnesty to immigrants who came here illegally. That is the exact opposite of the president’s long-held and often-stated position. President Bush has noted repeatedly that the comprehensive reform he supports is not an amnesty bill. Amnesty means forgiving wrongdoing without imposing punishment. The immigration reforms passed in 1986 granted amnesty. The legislation under consideration this year does not. This measure imposes significant punishments on those who came to this country illegally between 1986 and the beginning of this year.
The timing was certainly unfortunate. Whether the bill constitutes “amnesty” is largely a semantic issue, as the facts are not in dispute, but that label has been used as a rallying cry by the president’s opponents.
The ability to remain in the country legally after having skipped to the head of the line illegally is an undeniable boon. The proposed fine is less than the price many have paid to the “coyotes” to be smuggled across, so it’s not exactly a “significant punishment.” Still, it’s not a blanket amnesty in the way Simpson-Mazzoli was.