Greeley Tribune uncritically reported Rep. Lundberg's criticism of federal immigration reform as "amnesty"

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In a May 22 article, the Greeley Tribune uncritically reported Republican state Rep. Kevin Lundberg's remarks about a congressional immigration reform proposal, which he claimed "offers amnesty" and would send a message "to the tens of millions of people in other countries who would like to come in and sidestep the legal process." However, a provision in the bill, a White House press release, and comments by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff contradict Lundberg's assertions.

A May 22 article in the Greeley Tribune uncritically reported state Rep. Kevin Lundberg's (R-Berthoud) comments that proposed immigration reform legislation agreed upon by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators and the Bush administration "offers amnesty" and would encourage "tens of millions" of potential immigrants to "sidestep the legal process." In fact, the legislation stipulates that only immigrants who have resided in the United States prior to January 1, 2007, would be eligible to participate in the naturalization program, as Colorado Media Matters has noted. Furthermore, a May 18 White House press release stated, "This proposal is not amnesty."

The Tribune article by Rebecca Boyle reported that "[t]hree northern Colorado Republican state lawmakers said Monday they signed on to a national coalition that promotes sealing the nation's borders and cutting off economic attractions for illegal immigration." According to the article:

The lawmakers -- Reps. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud, Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling and Sen. Scott Renfroe of Eaton -- announced that they and 11 other GOP legislators joined State Legislators for Legal Immigration.

The national coalition was formed by a state representative in Pennsylvania and advocates for federal cooperation in securing the nation's borders "against unlawful invasion," according to a press release.

The group also calls for the elimination of all public benefits, welfare, education and employment opportunities for illegal immigrants.

Lundberg said many of his constituents -- his district includes Windsor and Berthoud -- have talked to him about Congress' new immigration reform plan announced last week, and they are worried about a possible amnesty program.

[...]

He said the federal compromise bill is not the right solution because it offers amnesty.

"The biggest concern I have is the message it sends to the tens of millions of people in other countries who would like to come in and sidestep the legal process we do have today," he said. "This sends a message, a very clear message, of 'Come on in, we'll make it good somehow.' And we can't sustain that."

However, contrary to Lundberg's assertions, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff stated at a May 17 White House press briefing that eligibility for the "Z visa," which would allow an illegal immigrant to work in the United States in advance of beginning naturalization procedures, would apply only to immigrants who were in the United States before January 1, 2007. Chertoff explained:

So if you do everything that's required of you, if you pay your debt to society, if you pay your fine, if you pay your taxes, and if you go back to your home country, or if that's somehow impracticable, you go outside the country, and you file your application from overseas, you will then be able to get a green card sometime between the year nine and year 13, depending again on the characteristics and points you bring to the table.

This satisfies the requirement that you go to the back of the line, because the line will have been cleared; that you pay your debt to society, so it's not an amnesty, but it is a realistic opportunity for people who are here and have done nothing more than commit a status violation. And then those people will be able to get their green cards between year nine and year 13.

And here's the really important announcement I want to make -- it needs to get out there. There is a cutoff date for Z visas for people who are undocumented. The only people who will be eligible to get a Z visa as a person who is here illegally is someone who arrived in this country prior to January 1 of 2007. You're going to have to prove that you were in the country prior to January 1, 2007. [emphasis added]

Further, the May 18 White House press release -- "Myth/Fact: Ten Key Myths About the Border Security and Immigration Reform Agreement" -- stated that the proposed immigration reform measure is not amnesty:

1. MYTH: This is amnesty.

  • FACT: Amnesty is the forgiveness of an offense without penalty. This proposal is not amnesty because illegal workers must acknowledge that they broke the law, pay a $1,000 fine, and undergo criminal background checks to obtain a Z visa granting temporary legal status.
  • FACT: To apply for a green card at a date years into the future, Z visa workers must wait in line behind those who applied lawfully, pay an additional $4,000 fine, complete accelerated English requirements, leave the U.S. and file their application in their home country, and demonstrate merit based on the skills and attributes they will bring to the United States.
  • FACT: Workers approved for Z visas will be given a temporary legal status, but they will not enjoy the full privileges of citizens or Legal Permanent Residents, such as welfare benefits and the ability to sponsor relatives abroad as immigrants.

The press release further stated that "[t]o be eligible to apply for a Z visa, illegal immigrants must prove they were in the country prior to January 1, 2007" and that "[a]nyone caught crossing the border after the new law passes will be fingerprinted and permanently barred from receiving work or tourist visas from the U.S., creating a strong disincentive to illegal immigration."

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