Most Americans reject an "amnesty" for the millions of illegal aliens who are currently present in the U.S. So, politicians who support that amnesty resort to word play in order to mask what they want. Various names are used, such as "earned legalization", a "path to citizenship", "regularization", and so forth.
All of these plans amount to granting citizenship to illegal aliens after they've passed background checks, paid fees, and the like. No matter what they call it for domestic consumption, what matters is how that process will be perceived around the world.
Millions upon millions of people around the world will see these plans for what they are: a massive amnesty. They will immediately understand that the U.S. has both an official and an unofficial immigration process. The unofficial process consists of coming here illegally, waiting a number of years, and then being granted an amnesty. Untold millions of people around the world will understand that if they want to become a U.S. citizen, they can choose the difficult route of going through the legal process, or they can choose the de facto process of coming here illegally and waiting for the next amnesty.
Needless to say, millions of people will try to come to the U.S. illegally in order to take advantage of that plan. And, the groups that currently support illegal immigration (racial power groups like LULAC and the NCLR, growers, food processors, banks, and the like) will have even more political power post-amnesty. They will have just scored a major victory, and they will have more of a constituency. That means they will have more power with which to support future illegal immigration.
The bottom line is that no matter what it's called, the proposed "reforms" will lead to even more illegal immigration in the future.
So one of the ways to make sure we have a rational border control policy is to make work legal -- not amnesty, but work legal -- on a temporary basis. People ought to be given a tamper-proof work card, come here and do jobs Americans won't do, and then after a set period of time, go home. And that's what we're going to work with Congress about, a comprehensive plan that will make it easier for these good folks to do their job, which is enforce the border of the United States.
"Earlier this year, I proposed a temporary worker program, not an amnesty program, that will offer legal status as temporary workers to undocumented men and women who were employed in the United States when I announced this proposal... Under this program, America will also welcome workers from foreign countries who have been offered jobs by American employers that no American has filled. ... This program will match willing workers with willing employers, without disadvantaging those who have followed the law and waited in line to achieve American citizenship."
We also have got to make sure that we deal with the problem of people who have been here for a long period of time. Some people say, throw them out of the country. That doesn't make any sense. You just can't throw them out of the country. Others say, give them amnesty -- and that doesn't make any sense. And the reason why giving them automatic citizenship doesn't make any sense, it will encourage others to come. So what we ought to do is say to somebody who's been here for a while, if you pass a background check, a criminal background check, you've shown that you've worked here for a while, you paid a penalty -- that you can apply for citizenship, but you get at the back of the line, the citizenship line, not at the front...
Q Thanks, sir. The word "amnesty," the critics seem to be able to just label this an amnesty and get away with it. I mean, are you having trouble fighting back that impression? Is it sinking in to people that this isn't amnesty and it's --
THE PRESIDENT: Look, if you're one of these types of people that basically say, you know, throw them out -- then you just use the word "amnesty," just toss it around. You know, amnesty is something nobody is for in America. I'm not for it. But in order to frighten people, you just say the word "amnesty."
...So my attitude is on that, if a person wants to apply for a citizenship they've got to pay a fine first -- they have broken the laws of the United States and they need to pay a fine. Then they've got to prove they've got a clean criminal record, paid there taxes and work. And then they can apply for citizenship, but they're at the back of the line. See, there's a line of people waiting to become a citizen, and they need to get at the back of the line, not at the front of the line. And that's how I think we can have an orderly system. That's not amnesty.
Amnesty is: okay, everybody who is here, you're a citizen. That's amnesty. And I'm not for that. I think it would be a mistake. And I recognize some people are for that. The reason I think it's a mistake is that, one, there are people who played by the rules here in America, law abiding citizens who applied for citizenship, who are in line to become a citizen. They've adhered to all our laws; they're here legally; and they're in line and they ought to be at the head of the line. And if you say to somebody who has been here illegally, "you're an automatic citizen," then that means they're not the head of the line, it means somebody jumped in front of them who had broken our laws.
Secondly, if people are granted amnesty -- in other words, the government would say "you're automatically a citizen," there's going to be another 8 million people trying to get in this country because a lot of people want to be citizens of the United States. It's a great honor to be a citizen of this country...
we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are here already. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. This is amnesty, and I oppose it. Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully, and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration.