Fact Check: GOP Lawmaker Falsely Claims Farmworker Amnesty ‘Is Not Amnesty’

Migrant workers harvest strawberries at a farm near Oxnard, Calif. Ventura County is one of two counties where labor organizers hope to get a Bill of Rights passed to protect farm workers from abuse and wage theft.
Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

CLAIM: Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) says legislation that will provide amnesty to 1.5 to 2.1 million illegal aliens employed by farms in the United States “is not amnesty” while justifying his support for the plan.

VERDICT: False. Immigration amnesty has long been defined as a form of relief for illegal aliens who would otherwise be eligible for deportation. Cornell Law School’s legal dictionary, for instance, describes amnesty as “a governmental pardon for person violating policies related to immigration.”

On Thursday, the Democrat-controlled House is expected to pass a farmworker amnesty that would put illegal aliens on a path to receiving green cards and eventually American citizenship by first providing them with “Certified Agricultural Worker” (CAW) legal status to remain in the U.S.

After securing CAW legal status, eligible illegal aliens would be able to apply for green cards in four years. Those given green cards would then be able to apply to become naturalized U.S. citizens in five years.

Other illegal aliens, who are unable to prove that they worked on U.S. farms for at least 10 years, would be able to apply for green cards after eight years under the CAW legal status. They, too, once obtaining green cards, could eventually apply to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

During a floor speech on Thursday, Simpson — whose donors include the agriculture lobby — justified his support for the farmworker amnesty by claiming the legislation “is not amnesty.” Lawmakers like former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) used similar characterizations while trying to pass amnesty legislation in 2013 and 2014. Simpson said:

This bill is not about what’s happening at the southern border … this bill is not amnesty. It does not grant anybody amnesty. It allows individuals to get right with the law and to become a legal workforce in the United States. It’s about providing a stable, legal workforce for the people who put food on our tables.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), likewise, claimed the farmworker amnesty “is not amnesty.”

“It is not amnesty,” Cuellar said. “What Ronald Reagan did in 1986, that was amnesty. This is not amnesty.”

As Breitbart News has reported, at least 10 House Republicans are supporting the farmworker amnesty, including orchard owner Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Reps. Elisa Stefanik (R-NY), Mark Amodei (R-NV), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Fred Upton (R-MI), David Valadao (R-CA), and Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ).

The lawmakers’ support comes even as likely Republican voters and self-described conservatives overwhelmingly oppose the amnesty. The latest Rasmussen Reports survey found that 72 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of conservatives said they opposed the amnesty. The majority of swing voters, 55 percent, also said they oppose the amnesty.

If the farmworker amnesty passes the House, it will move for approval in the Senate.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at jbinder@breitbart.com. Follow him on Twitter here

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