I’m assuming he would say that earned citizenship, which is slightly different, also doesn’t qualify as amnesty. In that case, I’ve got the perfect debate opponent for him. Meet Marco Rubio, candidate for Senate. October 24, 2010:
CRIST: I think what’s important is that we have a common sense approach to this problem, like every other in Washington, D.C., that they’re unable to fix. And what I think we need to do is what former President Bush supported, Senator John McCain, Senator Mel Martinez, Senator Kyl from Arizona, and others. And that is, first, secure the border. That’s the right thing to do. We have to do that to enforce the law.
After that I think you have to have an earned path to citizenship, not amnesty, as the speaker has unfairly characterized, in my view. I’m not for amnesty. People should have to get in the back of the line, pay a fine if necessary, their back taxes, and be able to become productive members of the American economy. It’s a compassionate way…
RUBIO: First of all, earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty. It’s what they call it. And the reality of it is this. This has to do with the bottom line that America cannot be the only country in the world that does not enforce its immigration laws.
It is unfair to the people that have legally entered this country to create an alternative pathway for individuals who entered illegally and knowingly did so.
That was back when Rubio, like Kelly Ayotte, was trying to ride a big red tea-party wave to victory in the 2010 midterms. Now that he’s safely elected, he’s comfortable arguing that the status quo is “de facto amnesty,” which apparently entitles him to rubber-stamp gigantic concessions to Democrats prioritizing legalization over border security while trying to distract conservatives with cheap social-issue panders. Question for Rubio: How soon after he made the statement quoted above did he come to realize that we have “de facto amnesty” now, which in turn requires a terrible comprehensive reform bill to solve it? The day after election day?
By Ryan’s definition of “amnesty,” presumably any penalty imposed on illegals, however small, would move this process into the realm of “earned legalization.” Candidate Rubio understood that that’s a sham; Senator Rubio has more trouble with the concept. A useful alternative definition of “amnesty,” I’d say, is rewarding people who broke U.S. law by making them eligible for citizenship despite their lawbreaking. True “earned legalization” is applying for citizenship through the proper legal channels, right? At the very least, to avoid charges of “amnesty,” you should insist on measurable control of the border before setting the millions who are here on the legalization path. Chuck Grassley tried to do that and was voted down, with all four Republicans in the Gang of Eight voting against him. That’s how our “tea-party” heroes are vindicating conservative concerns in Congress.