Thursday, June 07, 2007


For the record, for Senator McCain, for President Bush, and any other bill proponent who charge those opposed to the bill with being racists: my position has nothing to do with the ethnicity of the majority of illegal immigrants currently here. I'm not worried about preserving what passes for American "culture", whether that's used as a code for racial balance, or whatever it means. The world is changing, and the superficial aspects of our culture will change with it. But we must not allow an attack on the most important thing about America, the underlay for all of our rights and freedoms.

Both liberals and conservatives are hopping mad over the immigration bill currently before Congress. While conservatives consider the bill to be amnesty, rewarding illegal behavior, liberals are less concerned with that than with the response from illegal immigrants that the bill is unacceptable. Perhaps without realizing it, both liberals and conservatives are made unhappy by the bill's fundamental disregard for the rule of law.

For my many readers who may not recall, and especially those of you in the U.S. Senate, the Rule of Law is the simple idea that everyone should be covered equally by the rules. Some inequality is unavoidable, in that we each may be tempted by our particular nature and ability to violate different laws. While a law against camping in the city park would have only a negligible affect on most of us, the homeless would be made acutely aware of it. But the law, as written and applied, should not differentiate among us.

Violations of the principle of the rule of law include

  • Government decisions targeting or favoring one individual or entity
  • Government decisions not made according to written law or rules
  • Court decisions not based upon the law
  • Ex post facto penalties for behavior enacted after it occurs
Proponents of the immigration bill insist that it is not amnesty. Granting amnesty for something, they way, would mean a mass pardon for anyone who asked for it, as long as the guilty party promises not to do that thing any more.

So I guess it's true, in some tortured literal sense, that this bill is not amnesty: it not only doesn't simply supply a pardon, it also supplies benefits. Furthermore, the person receiving the pardon and benefits does not even have to stop committing the illegal act.

Proponents point to the fines imposed as proof that the bill is not amnesty. They insist that this is not what it appears to be, a simple way for people to expedite their immigration request by paying money. But if it is not amnesty, it's the imposition of a new penalty for a prior violation of the law, a clear example of ex post facto legislation. Whether that penalty is lighter or heavier than the previous one doesn't matter: changing the rules after the fact violates the rule of law.

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