Fending off fierce criticism from the right over House GOP leadership's new immigration blueprint, which supports legal status for unauthorized immigrants, the Speaker released a question-and-answer sheet on his website addressing the question, "Isn't your approach 'amnesty'?"
No. Just the opposite is true. Right now, there are few, if any, consequences for living here illegally. What we have now is amnesty. Using tough standards, the House’s approach would prohibit a special path to citizenship for those living here outside the law. Before anything else, these individuals would have to admit they broke the law. In addition, they would have to:
· Pass rigorous background checks;
· Pay significant fines;
· Pay back taxes;
· Develop proficiency in English and American civics; and
· Be able to support themselves and their families without access to public benefits.
None of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers on border security and other measures have been met.
The Senate bill, on the other hand, starts registering illegal immigrants virtually immediately after passage, does not require them to admit they broke any laws, only prohibits access to public benefits during a probationary period. It also excludes only a small portion of the gang member population from its legalization program while allowing for a broad waiver to apply to those with past convictions for gang-related crimes. The House would take a much more straightforward approach by making criminal aliens, sex offenders, gang members, and those who cannot meet the other rigorous requirements ineligible for legalization.