Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category.

More Thoughts on Immigration -- Why I Think the Tiberius Gracchus Analogy is Particularly Apt

First, congrats to many millions of people who can remain in this country, a status they should have always have had.  We can argue whether anyone who makes his or her way over the border should be able to vote or draw benefits, but there is no doubt in my mind that they should be able to live anywhere they can pay the rent and work anywhere that there is an employer willing to pay them.

I am willing to accept the analysis of folks like Ilya Somin who say that the President's non-enforcement decision on immigration laws is legal.  But I think his concept of "precedent" when he says there are precedents for this sort of thing is way too narrow.  This is an important, dangerous new precedent.

What I think folks are missing who make this argument about precedent is that while many examples exist of the Executive Branch excercising proprietorial discretion, the circumstances are without precedent in both scale and well as in its explicit defiance of legislative intent.  One can argue that Reagan's executive actions vis a vis immigration provide a precedent, for example, but Reagan was essentially following the intent of then-recent Congressional legislation, arguably just fixing flaws with executive orders in the way that legislation was written.  What he did was what Congress wanted.

The reason I think Tiberius Gracchus is a good analog is that Gracchus too took actions that were technically legal.  Tribunes always technically had the legal power to bypass the Senate, but in hundreds of years had never done so.  Despite their technical legality, his actions were seen at the time as extremely aggressive and plowing new Constitutional ground, ground that would soon become a fertile field for authoritarians to enhance their power.

Somin includes the following, which I think is an example of where defenders of the President's process (as different from the outcomes) are missing reality.  He writes:

I would add that the part of the president’s new policy offering work permits to some of those whose deportation is deferred in no way changes the analysis above. The work permits are merely a formalization of the the president’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion here, which indicates that the administration will not attempt to deport these people merely for being present in the United States and attempting to find jobs here. They do not purport to legalize their status, and the policy of nondeportation can be reversed at any time by the president or his successor.

This is one of those statements that are technically true, but totally obtuse at the same time.   Issuing formal get-out-of-jail-free cards to 5 million people is unprecedented.  Think of it this way:  Imagine a Republican President who is opposed to the minimum wage.  The Executive branch is tasked with enforcing that law, so wold the folks defending the President's methods also argue hat the government can issue permits to 5 million businesses allowing them to  ignore labor law?  Or emissions standards?  Or insider trading laws?

People are just being blinded by what they rightly see as a positive goal (helping millions of people) if they fail to see that the President issuing licenses to not be prosecuted for certain crimes is a huge new precedent.  Proprietorial discretion is supposed to be used to avoid patent unfairness in certain cases (e.g. the situation in Colorado with conflicting state and Federal laws on marijuana).  It is not meant to be a veto power for the President over any law on the books.  But I can tell you one thing -- it is going to be seen by future Presidents as just this.  Presidents and parties change, and for those of you swearing this is a totally legal, normal, fully-precedented action, be aware that the next time 5 million wavers are issued, it may well be for a law you DO want enforced.  Then what?

Update:  Libertarians are making the case that the Constitution never gave Congress the power to restrict immigration.  I could not agree more.  However, I fear that will have zero impact on the precedent that will be inferred from all this.  Because what matters is how the political community as a whole interprets a precedent, and I think that this will be interpreted as "the president may issue mass waivers from any law he does not like."  Now, since I dislike a hell of a lot of the laws on the books, perhaps over time I will like this precedent.  But the way things work is that expansive new executive powers seldom work in favor of liberty in the long run, so I am skeptical.

Going to Jail for Hiring Better Workers

Hard to believe, but it looks like a number of local business people are going to go to jail for trying to hire the workers who served their customers best:

Workers hired at Danny’s Family Car Wash to replace scores of suspected illegal immigrants proved so problematic that the company’s top executives ordered lower-level managers to bring back the original laborers, two of the managers say in court documents.

As part of plea agreements that could cut their own time behind bars, Oscar Ivan Aguilar-Gastelum and Miguel Mejia-Estrada said that Danny’s fired suspected illegal workers in April 2011 after a government audit and replaced them with new employees. However, the new hires generated complaints, and Aguilar-Gastelum said in court papers that he was instructed to start rehiring the employees who had just been fired...

Aguilar-Gastelum and Mejia-Estrada each face up to five years in prison for conspiracy, though their cooperation and other factors could significantly reduce their eventual sentences. Both men have had their sentencing delayed at least three months as the government investigates any information they have offered in the case.

Arizona's Real Immigration Issue: Californians

Some libertarians, who would normally be all for open immigration, have expressed concern about -- in the name of liberty -- allowing into the country people who will generally vote against it.  I have at times shared this concern but in the end find it wanting.

However, I have personally observed this happening in both of the recent states in which I have lived (Arizona and Colorado).  But the source of the problem has not been immigration from Mexico or any other country but from California.  Californians seem hell-bent to escape the mess they have made of their state.  They run to other states complaining of the disaster they are escaping.  And then they proceed to vote for the same taxation and regulatory policies that screwed up California.

Arizona state politicians are excited to get all that new income tax money.  While I am happy to see new wealth and talent flowing into our state, I fear that these new immigrants are plague carriers, bringing the virus of out-of-control state power to heretofore only mildly infected states.

Can't Anyone be Consistent?

I am just floored that Conservatives, who very very recently argued that the act of one bad guy at Newtown should not be used to limit the rights of tens of millions of legal gun owners, are now arguing that the acts of two bad guys (Tsarnaev's) SHOULD be used to limit the rights of tens of millions of peaceful immigrants.

The "They Will Not Assimilate" Argument Rising Yet Again From the Grave

How many times does an argument have to be wrong, and for how long, before it finally loses credibility?  I suppose the answer must be nearly infinite, because the "they will not assimilate" argument is rising again, despite being about 0 for 19 on the groups to which it has been applied.  Germans, Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Chinese, Mexicans and now Chechnyans.   This argument always seems to be treated seriously in real time and then looks stupid 20 or 30 years later.  As an extreme example, here is Benjamin Franklin writing about Germans in 1751:

why should the Palatine Boors [ie Germans] be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.

(By the way, if you want to retain an unadulterated rosy image of Franklin, who was a great man for many reasons, do not read the last paragraph at that link.  People are complicated and sometimes even great men could not shed all the prejudices of their day.)

The only good news is that the circle of those acceptable to the xenophobic keeps getting larger.  It used to be just the English, then it was Northern Europeans, then much later it was all Europe and today I would say it is Europe and parts of Asia.  So that's progress, I suppose.

Fun fact:  Ironically, the English King at the time Franklin wrote the quote above was George II.  He was actually a German immigrant, born in Germany before his father came to England as King George I, jumping over numerous better claimants who were Catholic.  His son actually assimilated very well, as George III spoke English as a first language, and his granddaughter Victoria practically defined English-ness.  By the way, Victoria would marry another German immigrant.

Lurching From One Emotionally-Driven Piece of Legislation to the Next

The Left is worried that Conservatives will jump on the fact that the Boston killers were immigrants to slow down immigration reform:

the anti-immigration right has jumped on this morning's news to argue that this is not the time to loosen our immigration laws. After all, the two guys who set off bombs at the Boston Marathon have turned out to be a pair of immigrants. As radio host Bryan Fischer says, "Time to tighten, not loosen, immigration policy." Greg Sargent comments:

It’s unclear thus far how widespread the effort among conservatives will be to connect the Boston bombing suspects to the immigration reform debate. But it’s certainly something that bears watching. If this argument picks up steam, it will be

another indication of how ferocious the resistance on the right to immigration reform is going to get.

I think it's safe to say that this argument will pick up steam. Why wouldn't it, after all? It's a gut punch to the idea that immigrants are no more dangerous than natives, and it doesn't matter which side logic is on. It's a strong appeal to emotions, and it's probably an effective one.

Wow, it would not have occurred to me to justify immigration restrictions (in a nation where we are basically all immigrants) based on the bad actions of a couple of individuals.  But since the Left recently tried to do exactly this with gun control, to justify restrictions on millions of law-abiding people based on the actions of one person, I guess they know what they are talking about.  The whole demagogic tendency is sickening.  While I would love to see radical immigration reform, including the right of most anyone to be legally present and working in this country (though not necessarily in line for citizenship or safety net benefits), I have pretty low expectations.

Drum gives a good answer, but the question he is asked reflects this pathetic kind of political opportunism

A few days ago, someone asked: Who are you secretly hoping the bombers turn out to be? My answer was, whatever kind of person is least likely to have any effect whatsoever on public policy.

The Libertarian Argument Against Open Immigration

I personally support much more open immigration, as do many other libertarians.  When I get push-back from my libertarian friends, it generally is on two fronts:

  • You can't combine open immigration with a welfare state -- this leads to financial implosion
  • Open immigration allows illiberal, anti-democratic people to take power through the democratic process (a phrase I stole from here, though it is not actually about immigration).  In the name of liberty, we let people come in and vote for authoritarian illiberal measures.**

I agree that both of these are real problems.  The key for me is to disassociate legal presence in this country from citizenship.  It should certainly be possible to have multiple flavors of legal presence in this country.   At level 1, anyone can legally be present, seek employment, buy property, and have access to certain services (e.g. emergency services).  At level 2, history of working and paying payroll and income taxes gets more access to welfare-state sort of programs.  Over time, this may or may not lead to full citizenship and voting rights, but there is no reason we can't still be careful with handing out full citizenship while being relatively free with allowing legal work and habitation.

 

** I have observed a US internal version of this.  People run away from California to places like Arizona and Texas to escape California's dis-functionality   But as soon as they arrive in their new home, they start voting for the exact same crap that sank California.

Ayn Rand, Illegal Immigrant

Interesting story via Reason

As a vehement anti-Bolshevist, she knew that she would die waiting in line if she applied for permission to permanently relocate to America, although that’s exactly what she intended to do. Temporary tourist visas were easier to land, but only for those who could prove they didn’t plan to settle here. So what did Rand do? She committed perjury. She convinced an American visa officer that she had a fiancé waiting for her in Russia whom she intended to marry after a six-month visit with her relatives in Chicago.

But Rand instead married an American citizen in 1929, gaining a path to citizenship. According to Mimi Gladstein’s biography, Rand timed her wedding before her visa, which she had gotten extended, finally expired.

However, others doubt that Uncle Sam would have handed a three-year extension to a Russian passport holder, raising suspicions that Rand might have been—gasp!—an illegal immigrant when she got married.

Utterly Without Class

Well, the execreble Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America's most-desirous-of-PR-exposure lawman, is at it again.  Phoenix will be mobbed by the press in a couple of weeks when the MLB All-Star Game comes to town, and of course Sheriff Joe will be hurt and depressed if he doesn't get himself in front of all those cameras.

So this is apparently his plan for doing so:

Sheriff Joe Arpaio's publicity stunt of choice for All-Star weekend: a female chain gang that probably will make a stop at Chase Field to pick up garbage as the national sporting press tries to cover a baseball game....

This particular gang is comprised of women convicted of DUI. They will be decked out in the standard striped uniforms. However, they will also be wearing pink T-shirts with messages about DUI.

Because nothing says "thoughtful and humane treatment for alcohol problems" like parading prisoners in front of national TV audiences like a modern remake of Cool Hand Luke.

We give special, unique powers to use force to the police, and it is horrifying to see them used for personal aggrandizement.

By the way, I will share my secret fear.  As you may know, Apriao enjoys leading raids on businesses that hire Mexican immigrants.  His MO is to zip-tie everyone with brown skin or an accent until they can produce proof of citizenship.  My deep fear is that he will run a raid of the concession operations at the ballpark during the game.

Arizona Sheriff Exaggerating Immigration Crime, and its Not Even Joe Arpaio

Electing law enforcement officers is a terrible idea, but like most of the country, we do it here in Arizona.  We shouldn't be surprised, then, when Sheriff's try to pump up their image by portraying themselves as the last bastion against an invading horde.

When it was over, Sheriff Paul Babeu issued a news release declaring that Pinal County is "the No. 1 pass-through county in all of America for drug and human trafficking."

It's a line the sheriff has used countless times - most recently on Thursday in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security - as he criticizes the federal government for failing to secure the border.

There's just one problem: There is no data to support the assertion.

In fact, an Arizona Republic analysis of statistics from local, state and federal sources found that, while sheriff's officials do bust smugglers and seize pot, Pinal County accounts for only a fraction of overall trafficking.

The newspaper also found that other headline-grabbing claims by Babeu are contradicted by statistical evidence or greatly exaggerated.

Babeu's County, for example, does not even touch the border.   And crime rates in AZ have fallen faster over the last 10 years than the national average, right during the period of high illegal immigration.

I Guess I Was Wrong

It turns out illegal immigration is responsible for home invasions and murders.  Just not the way you might think.

Pima County Superior Court says a jury has found the leader of an anti-illegal immigrant group guilty in an Arizona home invasion that left a 9-year-old girl and her father dead in what prosecutors say was an attempt to steal drug money to fund border operations.

A Tucson jury found Monday that Shawna Forde was guilty of the May 2009 killings of 29-year-old Raul Flores and his 9-year-old daughter Brisenia at their home in Arivaca (ayr-uh-VAH'-kuh) a desert community about 50 miles southwest of Tucson and 10 miles north of Mexico.

Over the Top

I got this in an email from something called the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.  They seem to be worried about the passage of the Dream Act, which I have not paid much attention to.

If we lose in the Senate tomorrow, most future battles will be fought as we retreat step by step, while millions of illegal aliens become legal workers, students, and voters who are used to replace Americans and put in positions of authority over us.

May God Save The United States.

Rally your kith and kin and join us shortly after dawn on the East Coast for our next battle tomorrow.

We must hold the line in the Senate! WE STILL HAVE A CHANCE TO STOP THIS NATION KILLING LEGISLATION BUT WE WILL NEED ALL OF YOUR HELP IN THE MORNING.

May God favor our efforts.

Holy Cr*p, you would think Hitler's panzers were rolling into Washington.  Seriously, this is all because millions of immigrants might become legal workers and voters like, uh, nearly every one of our ancestors who came from somewhere else?  Their apocalyptic vision is legal workers and students?

This email just gives the lie to the PAC's name -- obviously they are not for legal immigration or they would be thrilled that formerly illegal immigrants suddenly become legal.

On many occasions I have had people tell me that I was stupid -- explaining to me that this issue is not about immigration per se but the rule of law, and that their objection was to the illegal behavior not being punished, not immigration itself.  Fine, here is the fix -- make them all legal.  The formerly illegal immigrants will be, as you say, legal students, workers, and voters. Problem solved, right?

I get told all the time by immigration opponents that they are open to legal immigration, but we have to deal with illegal immigration first.  Really?  When thousands of Arizonans were breaking the law and getting photo-radar tickets, did we say that we would only do something about photo-radar when the problem of illegal speeding went away?  No, we got rid of the hated cameras, and most folks holding photo-radar tickets got amnesty (in the form of the state choosing not to pursue the high percentage of people who threw away their tickets rather than paying them).

Postscript: I am not religious, but I wonder if folks who are find the use of God in this context offensive.  Doesn't this imply God hates the Mexicans?  Does God love your family, who happened to enter this country when immigration laws were loose, but hate Xavier who wants to come here just like your family but does so in a time when immigration laws are restrictive?

It reminds me of winning football players who say, to begin interviews, "I want to thank God..." as if their victory were the result of particular favor payed to them by God.  I have always wanted to see a losing player follow such an interview with, "well, you heard it:  God was against us.  What chance did we have?  I think we kept it pretty close given that an omnipotent deity was working for the other team."

Can You Prove You Are Not An Illegal Canadian Immigrant?

This is pretty funny -- a comedian challenges folks in downtown Phoenix and demand they prove they are not illegal Canadian immigrants.

Our Arizona Governor is Truly Lame

Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has been insisting for MONTHS that immigrants have been beheading people in the desert.  I wrote about it here,  shande doubled down on the claim in way back in June.   She repeated the claim on a televised debate the other day, and got all the national attention on this idiotic claim that she deserves.  She has reiterated this close-to-outright-racist-paranoid-fantasy any number of times through the whole summer.  So it is grossly disingenuous for her suddenly to act like it was a one-time mis-statement:

Gov. Jan Brewer rose to national fame defending the state's immigration law and warning of rising violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, including a claim that headless bodies were turning up in the Arizona desert.

But the claim has come back to haunt her after her stammering debate performance in which she failed to back it up and ignored repeated questions on the issue from a scrum of reporters.

Brewer has spent the time since backtracking and trying to repair the damage done from her cringe-worthy debate against underdog challenger Terry Goddard.

"That was an error, if I said that," the Republican told the Associated Press on Friday. "I misspoke, but you know, let me be clear, I am concerned about the border region because it continues to be reported in Mexico that there's a lot of violence going on and we don't want that going into Arizona."

That is as craven and mendacious a response as I have ever heard from a politician, and that is saying a lot (it had to be, to bet me worked up enough to blog from a seaside resort in Italy).

Sheriff Arpaio Meets Al Gore

Not since the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups have there been two great populist tastes that go so great together.  In an amazing bit of fact-free scare mongering gauged to panic everyone across the political spectrum, Michael Oppenheimer (embarrassingly a professor at my alma mater) manages to combine demagoguing against Mexican immigration with climate alarmism

Climbing temperatures are expected to raise sea levels and increase droughts, floods, heat waves and wildfires.

Now, scientists are predicting another consequence of climate change: mass migration to the United States.

Between 1.4 million and 6.7 million Mexicans could migrate to the U.S. by 2080 as climate change reduces crop yields and agricultural production in Mexico, according to a study published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The number could amount to 10% of the current population of Mexicans ages 15 to 65.

The proceedings of the NAS has become a joke of late.  Roger Pielke Jr responded:

To be blunt, the paper is guesswork piled on top of "what ifs" built on a foundation of tenuous assumptions. The authors seem to want to have things both ways -- they readily acknowledge the many and important limitations of their study, but then go on to assert that "it is nevertheless instructive to predict future migrant flows for Mexico using the estimates at hand to assess the possible magnitude of climate change"“related emigration." It can't be both -- if the paper has many important limitations, then this means that that it is not particularly instructive. With respect to predicting immigration in 2080 (!), admitting limitations is no serious flaw.

To use this paper as a prediction of anything would be a mistake. It is a tentative sensitivity study of the effects of one variable on another, where the relationship between the two is itself questionable but more importantly, dependent upon many other far more important factors. The authors admit this when they write, "It is important to note that our projections should be interpreted in a ceteris paribus manner, as many other factors besides climate could potentially influence migration from Mexico to the United States." but then right after they assert, "Our projections are informative,nevertheless, in quantifying the potential magnitude of impacts of climate change on out-migration." It is almost as if the paper is written to be misinterpreted

I thought this response was instructive

Philip Martin, an expert in agricultural economics at UC Davis, said that he hadn't read the study but that making estimates based solely on climate change was virtually impossible.

"It is just awfully hard to separate climate change from the many, many other factors that affect people's decisions whether to stay in agriculture or move," he said.

The same exact statement, by the way, could be made as to the relationship of climate change to the single variable manmade CO2 without reference to the myriad of other factors that affect the complex climate system.

The Ever-Predictable Sheriff Joe

Via Valley Fever, Sheriff Joe is expanding his outdoor jail whose conditions are substantially worse than those at the nearby WWII POW camp where German prisoners were held.

In the words of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, 17 years ago today, "on a swelteringly hot day in 1993, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio opened the doors to the nation's largest canvas incarceration compound. Tent City, as it became known, would prove to be one of Sheriff Arpaio's best known and potentially most controversial programs."

Today, Arpaio's celebrating the anniversary by unveiling a new section of the compound: "Section 1070," specifically designated for those arrested under Arizona's controversial, new immigration law.

The new section can hold an additional 100 inmates but Arpaio says he expects that number to grow.

"Citizens here sincerely hope that SB 1070 will result in large numbers of illegal aliens being captured and arrested by local law enforcement officers," Arpaio says. "I'm not so certain that will actually happen. But on the assumption it does, then as the Sheriff of this county, I am ready. Tent City is ready. There will never be the excuse that this jail hasn't enough room for violators of SB 1070."

Kobach's Defense of SB1070

I have had a bunch of people send me this article defending Arizona's SB1070, our now infamous immigration law.  A couple of responses:

1.  I have never been wildly worked up by SB1070 after it  was amended a week or so after its initial passage.  I have used the debate around SB1070 to reiterate my case, particularly to Conservatives, for more open immigration.  Our immigration laws are prohibition redux, though in this case we are messing with people's desire to work rather than drink.  As such, the laws to enforce the prohibition are less important to me than the fact of prohibition itself.   IOur immigration laws are an incredible restriction on commerce, free labor markets, and even private property (SB1070 redefines trespassing as not having the government's, rather than the private owner's, permission to be on a piece of property), and this is true with our without SB1070.

I would likely have dropped SB1070 coverage a while ago had it not been for the rhetoric that is used by SB1070 supporters.  When our governor is saying that the majority of Arizona's 500,000 illegal immigrants are all drug mules, that none of them are really looking for honest work, and that all they do is cause crime up to and including beheadings in the desert, I get angry to hear the same stupid arguments that many of our grandparents heard about their ethnic groups (though the beheading thing seems to lack historical precedent).  (more on the immigration non-crime wave here).

2.  The language of SB1070 has never matched the arguments supporting it.  SB1070 mainly gives the police power to be more intrusive at certain traffic stops and harass day labor centers.  What in the heck does this have anything to do with drug cartels and armed paramilitary gangs on the border?  If, as our governor says, illegal immigrants are not really looking for legitimate work, then why is most of our enforcement via employers offering legitimate work?

3.  When Kris Kobach says "In four different sections, the law reiterates that a law-enforcement official 'may not consider race, color, or national origin' in making any stops or determining an alien's immigration status," he is ignoring reality.  The law asks police to make a determination (e.g. probable cause that one is an illegal immigrant) that is impossible for actual human beings to make without such profiling.  It's like passing a law that says "police must drive their cars 30 miles a day but can't drive their cars to do so."  The reality on the ground here in Arizona is that, illegal or not, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been using racial profiling to make arrest sweeps for years, and his officers have become masters at finding some pretext to pull over a Mexican they want to check out  (e.g. the broken tail light).   Words in this law about racial profiling are not going to change anything.

4.  Kobach makes much of the  revision of the law, post-passage, to narrow the circumstances under which police can stop and check for immigration status

But Section 2 of S.B. 1070 stipulates that in order for its provisions to apply, a law-enforcement officer must first make a "lawful stop, detention, or arrest . . . in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state."

The original wording made reference to "lawful contact"; this was revised to "lawful stop, detention, or arrest" to make clear that officers could not stop someone simply on suspicion and ask for his papers.

There are folks, including most in the Obama administration, that are still criticizing the original "lawful contact" language and need to catch up.  However, this seems a thin branch for Kobach to stand on in lashing out at the law's critics.  Because in fact this over-broad language did pass and get signed into law, and only the immediate and vociferous public backlash against the language caused it to be changed.  Kobach acts like it was changed based of some internal discussion or discovery of error, but in fact "lawful contact" was how Kobach himself helped write the law and wanted it to read, and was supporters like himself were forced to change it only after a lot of vocal opposition.  Its disingenuous to use the modified language as defense against critics when it was only due to the critics that the modified language was inserted.

At this point, I am done criticizing SB1070.  It is not a great law but it is not particularly worse, in its current form, than laws in some other states or federal law.  I don't really anticipate that it will get struck down by the Supreme Court, though its enforcement may be enjoined through the hearing process.

However, I am not done criticizing our prohibitionist immigration regime nor am I done calling out those on the eliminationist side of the debate, like Jan Brewer, who are starting to show their true stripes as the debate proceeds.  I know some of you are tired of it and to some disagree with me, such that I have lost about half my readers over this.  But this debate has been an eye-opener to me.

For years I have taken many of the AZ politicians at their word that they had no problem with Mexicans per se but were concerned with the load on social services and other government budgets.  I understand how the intersection of immigration and the welfare state causes problems, and have proposed solutions to deal with them.  I am willing to have a friendly agree-to-disagree discussion with such folks.  But when our leaders are talking about 500,000 drug mules and mysterious beheadings and crime waves that somehow exist in a state with rapidly falling crime rates, its clear to me something more insidious is driving some of the folks in the debate.

A Plea to Conservatives on Immigration

My Forbes column this week is up, and it is a sort of open letter to Conservatives, trying to demonstrate that their stance against immigration is inconsistent with many of their other principles.  A quick exceprt:

Just to be clear, it is perfectly reasonable that the government might set restrictive or difficult eligibility requirements for participation in government activities we normally associate with citizenship, such as voting, holding office and receiving welfare benefits. But selling one's labor or participation in commerce are natural rights to which happenstance of birth location should be irrelevant. It should mean no more to these rights that someone is born today north or south of the Rio Grande river than it meant to our founding fathers that someone was born with or without a hereditary title.

Jan Brewer Jumps the Shark, Slides into Outright Prejudice

On this blog, over the last couple of months, I have presented a pretty clear set of facts showing that, with the possible exception of some rural border regions beset by drug gangs, the vast majority of Arizona has experienced rapidly falling crime rates, in fact crime rates falling much faster than in the rest of the country.  The crime rates of even our key border towns has remained flat.

What to make, then, of these statements by our governor.

Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday reiterated her assertion that the majority of illegal immigrants are coming to the United States for reasons other than work, saying most are committing crimes and being used as drug mules by the cartels.

Brewer's remarks are an expansion of comments she made last week during a televised debate between the four Republican gubernatorial candidates....

In the debate, Jette [a candidate running against Brewer] said that most people who cross illegally into Arizona are "just trying to feed their families." Brewer disputed that, saying, "They're coming here, and they're bringing drugs.

And they're doing drop houses, and they're extorting people and they're terrorizing the families." The governor, who has become a national media figure since signing Senate Bill 1070 into law on April 23, went further on Friday, saying that the "majority of the illegal trespassers that are coming (into) the state of Arizona are under the direction and control of organized drug cartels."

When pressed, Brewer said that even those who do come to the United States looking for work are often ensnared by the cartels.

"They are accosted, and they become subjects of the drug cartels."

Estimates are that there are 8-12 million illegal immigrants in the US (Brewer's hispano-phobic allies would put the number much higher).  They are mostly all drug dealers and criminals?  Really?

I try really hard not to try to guess at what motivates folks I disagree with by assuming they are driven by something dark and evil, but how else in this case can one describe opinions like this so contrary to facts as anything other than prejudice against a particular ethnic group?

Just look at the actions of our governor and folks like Joe Arpaio.  If it really were the case that illegal immigrants are all criminals uninterested in legal work, then why is so much recent legislation aimed at business owners that hire illegal immigrants?  Or at day labor centers?  Why are all of Sheriff Joe's immigration sweeps raiding lawful businesses rather than, say, crack houses?  After all, if illegal immigrants are all just drug dealers not looking for real work, why spend so much time looking for them, uh, doing real work?

Postscript: If Brewer is in fact correct, then there is a dead easy solution for the illegal immigration problem -- legalize drugs.  She and I both agree that the worst criminal elements of illegal immigrants would be much less of a problem without the illegal drug trade.  The only difference is that I think that segment makes up less than 1% of the population of illegal immigrants, and she thinks its everyone.

Further, to the extent that some illegal immigrants just trying to support their families are "ensnared" by drug cartels (whatever that means) it is because of their immigration status.  Make them legal residents of the country, and no one has any particular leverage over them.

Note to Commenters: Many, many of you have disagreed with me vociferously on immigration.  Please, I would love to see reasoned comments defending Brewer, particularly with data.  In particular, please use the laws of supply and demand to explain how the majority of 8-12 million people are able to earn a living in the illegal drug trade in the southwest.  To help you out, there are about 6.6 million people in Arizona.  Based on national rates of 8% of over age 12 being users, about 500,000 of those are illegal drug users.  One estimate is that there are 500,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona.

Update: Are she and I living in the same state?

Arizona GOP Gov. Jan Brewer claimed recently that law enforcement has been finding beheaded bodies in the desert "” but local agencies say they've never encountered such a case.

"Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded," Brewer said Sunday, suggesting that the beheadings were part of increased violence along the border.

But medical examiners from six of Arizona's counties "” four of which border Mexico "” tell the Arizona Guardian that they've never encountered an immigration-related crime in which the victim's head was cut off.

Counter-Point on Arizona Crime

For a while I have been asking where the so-called immigrant-driven crime wave is in Arizona, given that crime rates have fallen much faster in AZ than in other parts of the country.

Tom Maguire argues that the overall drop in the crime rate in Arizona over the last decade or so hides a possible increase in crime rate in rural areas, which I suppose he might argue is due in part to Mexican immigrants.  Check out his data, it does in fact show an increase in the crime rate outside of MSA's (metropolitan areas) though the data is mute on causes.  One potential cause is simply mix shift -- it is clear from the enormous drop in population in these non-MSA areas that some areas classified as non-MSA in 2000 have been reclassified MSA in 2008.  So the comparison is not apples to apples, and some of the shift (or even all of it) could be the changing mix of areas in the metric.

To the extent the rural numbers are driven by immigrants, my sense it is due to the violent well-armed drug gang flavor of immigrants, a group not particularly intimidated by SB1070, as most of them are not spending their time at Home Depot in day labor recruiting areas waiting for the next Sheriff Joe roundup.

A Query for Conservatives

If a few gun crimes by a tiny, fractional percentage of gun owners are not a compelling justification for gun control (a proposition with which I agree), then why are a few crimes by  a tiny, fractional percentage of immigrants a compelling justification for immigration control?

Immigration Debate May Get Uglier (and Nuttier) Here in Arizona

Readers know I oppose recent Arizona immigration legislation and enforcement initiatives.  I don't think government should be stepping in to effectively license who can and can't work in this country, and am thus a supporter of open immigration (which is different from citizenship, please note).  As I support open immigration, both from a philosophic standpoint as well as a utilitarian perspective, I don't support laws to get tougher on illegal immigrants, any more than I support laws to get tougher on the failed practice of drug prohibition.

That being said, reasonable people can disagree, though some for better reasons than others.  But I don't see how all these folks who support tougher laws on immigration with the mantra that it is all about the rule of law can justify this piece of unconstitutional garbage:  (Hat tip to a reader)

Buoyed by recent public opinion polls suggesting they're on the right track with illegal immigration, Arizona Republicans will likely introduce legislation this fall that would deny birth certificates to children born in Arizona "” and thus American citizens according to the U.S. Constitution "” to parents who are not legal U.S. citizens. The law largely is the brainchild of state Sen. Russell Pearce, a Republican whose suburban district, Mesa, is considered the conservative bastion of the Phoenix political scene....

The question is whether that would violate the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment states that "all persons, born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." It was intended to provide citizenship for freed slaves and served as a final answer to the Dred Scott case, cementing the federal government's control over citizenship.

But that was 1868. Today, Pearce says the 14th Amendment has been "hijacked" by illegal immigrants. "They use it as a wedge," Pearce says. "This is an orchestrated effort by them to come here and have children to gain access to the great welfare state we've created." Pearce says he is aware of the constitutional issues involved with the bill and vows to introduce it nevertheless. "We will write it right."

I didn't like SB1070 that much, but as ultimately amended it was not nearly as radical as this.  I think those of us who feared SB1070 as a first step on a slippery slope should feel vindicated by this.

Rommel Was an Illegal Immigrant in France

I have written on several occasions about how the data demonstrate pretty conclusively that immigrants are not driving a crime wave in Arizona (here and here).  The one exception to this may be well-armed quasi militaristic gangs raiding near the border.  These guys are certainly running rampant in Norther Mexico and conflicting reports have them making certain US border regions nearly unlivable.

OK, but how is this crime a justification for state laws that harass day laborers and companies that hire immigrants, while requiring law enforcement to check immigration status at traffic stops?  One could technically describe the German army in 1941 as illegal immigrants in France, but I don't think this euphemism would trick anyone into thinking that Arizona-style immigration laws would have saved France from Guderion, Rommel and company.

There is zero in SB1070 that will do one little thing to phase such gangs.  So how can people with a straight face use such crime as justification for the bill?

We Have No Idea What We Are Doing

Its pretty clear from this summary of the Obama administration legal brief that the Administration has no idea what its own immigration policy should be.  I don't agree with all of the author's statements (for example, I am not a fan of e-Verify, as it just reinforces to me that the government has gotten itself in the business of licensing labor) but its a pretty interesting summary of just how muddled the Obama administration is on this topic.  While I don't support our newest immigration law here in AZ, its easier to see why states like AZ feel the need to take some independent leadership on the topic.

In this brief, the Obama administration is challenging an earlier AZ state law that requires, as a condition to retain one's business license, that companies use e-Verify to check new employees legal work status  (here and here).  Unfortunately, Obama's head of Homeland Security (and thus all immigration-related activities) actually signed the law into being and the administration wrote a brief in favor of the law just 9 months ago, about the same time Congress reauthorized e-Verify without doing anything to strike down AZ implementation practices).  I am not much of a legal scholar, but states use compliance with Federal programs all the time as minimum requirements for retaining business licenses -- e.g. non-payment of Federal taxes can cause one to lose his state business license, but no one has ever argued that is an illegal intrusion of states on federal powers.  If the Feds want to argue all of these provisions are unconstitutional, fine by me.  Anyway, the article linked above is highly entertaining.

Postscript: Here is the e-Verify post one must post in his business to be legally compliant:

This is fairly Orwellian for those of us who believe that all people have the right to work, irrespective of the country they were born in, and this right does not flow from any national government and therefore does not stop or start at any border.

The Immigration Debate Summarized

Conservatives want immigrants to work, but not vote.

Liberals want immigrants to vote, but not work.