Amnesty – New Jersey Style

I got this friend. Francisco’s his name. We worked together a few years back for a landscape company. Spent our days mowing, digging, spreading mulch together. When you spend so much unpleasant time with someone, you get pretty close. I bought an English/Spanish dictionary and we laughed our way through those searing 100 degree days learning each other’s language. Sometimes I was the teacher and he was the student. Sometimes he was the maestro and I was the estudiante.

We try to keep in touch a little bit and I can’t help but marvel at his attitude. Here’s a guy – no sick days, no vacation time or family leave; no coffee, cigarette, or cell phone breaks. Can’t cash a check without paying for it. Has to live in a dump with three other guys just to pay an exorbitant rent. Every time we pass a cop, he holds his breath. A broken taillight, expired inspection, or unbuckled seat belt could lead to deportation. And he’s not even driving.

Francisco came up across the border from Mexico wedged behind the seat of a pick-up truck and has been living in the shadows for over twenty years. And somehow always manages to find a smile. I’d invite him to family holidays. He always came nicely dressed. Always brought flowers and said “Miss”. Just a real gentleman. The kind of person you would want for a neighbor. I wished there was something I could do to help him stay here.

So now I have an idea. It’s a longshot, sure.  But, after reading about the “Amnesty given for Medicaid Cheats” in Ocean County,  I’m thinking if some head honcho in Trenton, in this case the State Comptroller, can unilaterally give amnesty to all the welfare swindlers, why can’t some big muckety-muck with the Immigration Dept. do the same for Francisco? The way I see it, you have one person willfully and knowingly stealing money (in the form of Government Assistant checks) and just having to pay back what they stole. No harm, no foul. Then you have all the Franciscos, blood money for every dime, and their only crime is living here. That, wouldn’t you agree, is less of a crime than fraud?

I think the Medicaid Fraud Division is on to something. Obviously they can’t grant amnesty to every welfare  fraud. For one thing there’s probably hundreds of thousands of them and besides, then they’d have nothing to do except maybe collect welfare. So just pick one county and see how it works. If everyone’s happy, extend it to Monmouth or Bergen or Salem. Other states can follow suit. Think of all he court time saved by not prosecuting anyone.

The possibilities are endless. How about corrupt politicians?  Folks like DeBlasio and Sheldon Silver walk away unscathed. You’d have to live in a closet to believe all their coincidences. So just let them pay back what they took illegally plus a small civil penalty and save the taxpayer dollars spent on their investigations and prosecutions. Of course they’d have to move to Ocean County within the next three months (or upcoming election whichever comes first). What about poor Bob Menendez, so inconvenienced by a court trial? Hey, he already paid back the money he got from his buddy, Melgen. So what if he waited three years until he got caught to disclose it? Come to Ocean County, Bob! Pay a small civil penalty and move on.

Amnesty has been a huge political conundrum for decades now. Maybe that’s because we’ve been looking at it only on a grand national scale. Let’s break it down into thousands of little pilot programs. Let’s have an Ocean County Voluntary Disclosure Program for all non-violent crimes.  Instead of leaving assistant, or comptroller to decide which laws really have to be obeyed. Think of all the anxiety it would save our president who can’t figure out how he even feels about amnesty or is maybe unsure of the

Let’s face it, we can’t fit every violator into Ocean County. But at least make room for Francisco.

Originally published in the Asbury Park Press on Sep 13, 2017  



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