This week, Katherine Mangu-Ward argued (in this space, on Tucker Carlson Tonight, and during our weekly Reason Podcast) that as policy goes, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which President Donald Trump slapped a six-month expiration date on, is worthy of being adopted, especially by act of legislation rather than sweep of the president's pen. In today's Washington Post, I also take issue with the way an otherwise sensible deprioritization was initially sold—namely by carefully avoiding and even denying the radioactive word amnesty. Excerpt:
"Now, let's be clear," [President Barack Obama] said [in 2012], leading with the classic politician tell for impending opacity, "this is not amnesty, this is not immunity."
The whole point of DACA is immunity: from deportation, and the existential uncertainties that flow from the possibility that at any moment you could be detained, cuffed, then dropped off in a country you might not even know. When there are millions of people living outside of any given law, not only is that an excellent moment to ask whether the problem is prohibition rather than criminality — as George H.W. Bush observed during the Republican presidential primary debate in 1980, "we're creating a whole society of really honorable, decent, family-loving people that are in violation of the law" — but the situation also requires that the federal government prioritize scarce law enforcement resources.
It's "amnesty," however, that's the real linguistic third rail here, and it is well past time that we stomped on it.
Also, from November 2014: "Obama Waterboards the Definition of Amnesty in Immigration Speech."