Before President Obama announced his executive order this fall to integrate some 5 million illegal immigrants into our political life, and before a judge halted the program this week, charges of “Amnesty!” rang loud and clear.

Like “The Case against Obama’s Amnesty,” which Sen. John Cornyn argued at National Review days earlier. Afterward, the charges only rang louder: “Congress hasn’t passed immigration legislation,” announced the Heritage Foundation, “but that hasn’t stopped President Obama from issuing directives that grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.”

The word has been so toxic, pro-reform groups like the Evangelical Immigration Table (a Christian coalition that includes World Vision, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities) avoids it like the Ebola virus. Even the President distanced himself from it, saying that giving legal status and work permits to nearly 5 million immigrants is “certainly not amnesty, no matter how often critics say it.”

Why are so many of us frightened of amnesty—defined as “a general pardon for offenses, especially political offenses, against a government”—for illegal immigrants?

Opponents of Obama’s recent order lament a disregard for “the rule of law.” As Kansas’ secretary of state—a devout Baptist and ardent opponent of immigration reform—put it, “I believe in rules and fairness.… We can argue it a million ways, but really, what more is there to say?” The argument continues: If we pardon illegal immigrants, law and order will break down, and millions more immigrants ...

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