Category Archives: Immigration

What Republicans Should Do With Their Victory

Veronique de Rugy, writing for the National Review Online, nailed it in her piece entitled “What the New Republican Congress Should and Shouldn’t Do.” Recognizing the GOP victory reflects frustration with the current administration, rather than endorsement of any GOP mandate, she lists suggestions for what Republicans should and should not attempt in the next few years. I agreed with every item on her list and urge everyone to read it in its entirety.

On her list of Do’s: continuing to work toward repeal of Obamacare and passing as many piecemeal anti-Obamacare bills as possible via budget rules; radically reforming the FDA using the opportunity of its reauthorization in 2015; reforming the corporate income tax (de Rugy proposes doing away with it, but she would settle for lowering it below the rate in other countries); and ending the War on Drugs.

Her list of Do Not’s include: warmongering and nation-building; a federal minimum wage increase; reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank charter; enacting an internet sales tax; creating any new entitlement program; cutting taxes without paying for it with spending cuts; or increasing spending.

I thought her list was pretty comprehensive, but I have seen good additions from my fellow contributors at the Liberty Papers over the last few days. In a post on his Facebook page, Kevin Boyd added education reform and immigration reform as “Do’s.” In a post-election essay here at The Liberty Papers, he added:

Here’s what the GOP needs to do, they need start giving the American people reasons to vote for them in 2016. Start passing and forcing Obama to veto no-brainer bills on tax reform, spending cuts, healthcare reform, crony capitalism repeal, ending Common Core, etc. Also, the GOP must restrain the Ted Cruz types from picking unnecessary fights for publicity. They cannot let the Tea Party dominate messaging. Finally, Republicans must step up outreach towards minorities and young people, starting now.

I also agreed with Tom Knighton’s conclusion that the GOP should not assume it has been given a mandate for social conservatism on the national level:

[A]lso in Tuesday’s results were…new locations approving marijuana use on some level… Polls show support for marijuana (at least for medical use) and support for gay marriage. Translation: There’s zero reason to believe that the American people actually support social conservatism.

… You see, the American people don’t want that. The[y] like the idea of freedom, more or less.

What about you? Can you think of any other important Do’s or Do Not’s for the new Republican Congress? If so, share them in the comments.

 

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.

Maybe its Immigration Policy That is the Problem?

Immigration, especially of the illegal variety, is one of those important issues that is difficult to have a rational discussion about. The discussion quickly devolves into the need to “secure” the border with a wall or fence…at least on the Southern border (the Northern border is more porous but I don’t recall the last time anyone mentioned anything about building a wall or fence there). Though a fence probably would slow down illegal border crossing somewhat, all a determined border crosser needs to get over a 20’ wall is a 21’ ladder (or a shovel and a great deal of patience). Of course a fence would have zero impact on those who overstay their visas.

Most opponents of illegal immigration say that before any reforms to immigration policy are made, the border needs to be secured (the points mentioned above notwithstanding). I happen to think they have it backwards. If anything, immigration policy should be focused on those who are here already. The idea that every single illegal immigrant can be rounded up and sent back to their country of origin is absurd. There are simply too many of them.

I think the important question that should be asked is: why aren’t these illegal immigrants not going through the immigration process legally? Why would so many people risk everything to pay a Coyote to sneak their families over the border when there is a process in which they can legally immigrate to the U.S.? What part of “legal” immigration don’t they understand?

This infographic (click on the image to enlarge) by Reason does a great job illustrating just how difficult going through the U.S. immigration process is (for the rest of us who don’t know).


Maybe if the immigration process was a little less of a cumbersome, bureaucratic nightmare, maybe fewer people would break the law in coming here.

The Modern Republican Party is a Special Kind of Suck (Part 2 of 3)

Part 1

Confusing Economic Policy of Suck
I’m sure there are many other areas where Romney went wrong but I think most of the rest of this special kind of suck is courtesy of other Republicans. During the Republican primary, the “anyone but Romney” crowd was so desperate to eliminate Romney that they resorted to a line of attack one would expect to come from Democrats. Many Republicans seem to forget that the attacks against Romney concerning Bain Capital were first leveled by Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry at campaign rallies, in the primary debates, in their campaign ads, and in anti-Romney super PAC ads. Perry called Romney a “vulture capitalist.” The Obama campaign picked up this line of attack where Gingrich and Perry left off. In swing states like Ohio, this message had basically been pounded since before the state’s primary and never let up for the rest of the campaign.

Once charges like these are made by Republicans who are supposed to be proponents of free market capitalism, it’s kind of difficult for people who actually understand how the free market works to explain why business practices employed by Bain Capital are not only legitimate, but also necessary. In this Occupy Wall Street era we live in, there seems to be an attitude that no one is ever supposed to lose his or her job and that every job is not only necessary but equally valuable.

Companies like Bain invest in businesses in trouble and try to make them profitable. In making a business profitable, sometimes this means that some people are going to lose their jobs. Like a doctor who is trying to save the patient’s life, sometimes a limb needs to be amputated. No one wants to lose an arm or a leg in such a scenario but most who face such a dilemma would rather lose an arm or leg than lose his or her life. If the amputation is done soon enough and correctly, the patient lives. Other times, however; even despite taking such drastic measures, the patient still dies. The same is true for some of the companies Bain tried to rescue. Of course no one wants to think of themselves as a limb that needs to be amputated in order to save their company*.

Immigration Policy of Suck
In addition to the mixed messages concerning Capitalism, the Republican Primary debates took on a very harsh tone concerning immigration. Any candidate who suggested that the idea of rounding up each and every illegal immigrant was impractical and that perhaps deporting individuals who were otherwise productive members of our society, said candidate would be accused of advocating “amnesty” – a four letter word among conservative Republicans.

Such harsh anti-illegal immigration rhetoric carried over into the general campaign when President Obama (rightly, in my view) made an executive order to allow individuals who were brought here illegally as children under the age of 16 to stay and have temporary work permits. This was an outrage among Republicans because, you know, the law is the law.

As Gary Johnson pointed out on several occasions during the campaign, while it’s true that we live in a nation based on the rule of law, too many Republicans fail to understand that the laws are changeable. And as I pointed out at the time, when there are more than 27,000 pages of federal law on the books with over 4,500 criminal laws, this necessarily means that any president would have to prioritize and choose which laws he will enforce and which he will not. When the number of laws is this numerous, it’s the same as having no rule of law at all.

Immigration is an issue the GOP needs to figure out and figure out quick as the Hispanic population will become an increasingly major factor in future elections (even GOP strongholds like Texas might eventually turn blue due to this demographic reality). Should we be surprised that the Hispanic population overwhelmingly supported Obama over Romney given the rhetoric?

It’s time to reexamine the notion that the border should be secure first before any comprehensive reforms are made. I think this is exactly backwards. If the legal immigration process wasn’t such a bureaucratic nightmare to begin with, I doubt seriously that illegal immigration would remain an issue.

This much needed debate** is not going to be very productive if every time someone proposes something other than building a 20’ tall fence along the Southern border, checking ID’s of everyone with brown skin, and rounding up every illegal immigrant regardless of circumstances, s/he is accused of promoting amnesty. Even more importantly, whatever the GOP decides immigration policy should be, they need to soften their tone and be mindful that we are talking about human beings here. I think it’s safe to assume that just about every legal immigrant (especially from Mexico) has at least a few family members who are here illegally. They do not like to think of their relatives as “invaders” who need to be rounded up. These people vote too.

*And I’m writing as someone who has been the limb being amputated. Just a couple of years ago, it was my department that needed downsized to save the company…at Christmas time no less. I’m happy to say that the downsizing measure did in fact save the department and six months later, they called me back and have been working there ever since.

**Doug and Kevin have each offered up some ideas for immigration reform that I think warrant consideration.

Part 3

Do We Really Want the President to Enforce ALL Federal Laws?

The Rule of Law, theoretically at least, is superior to the arbitrary Rule of Men. For most of human history, the law has been subject to the whim of a head of state be s/he a monarch, czar, dictator, emperor, etc. James Madison and the framers of the U.S. Constitution wisely determined that the document would be the “supreme law of the land” and everyone from the President to the peasant would be subject to the same law.

But what happens to the Rule of Law when the laws become too vague, too numerous, too unpredictable, and too unjust? According to a 2008 Louisiana State University study (referenced in this article), there were over 4,500 federal crimes on the books. This does not include the thousands more regulations that also carry criminal penalties.

So my question to conservatives and some libertarians who have been critical of President Obama’s executive order to allow individuals who were brought illegally across the border as children under the age of 16 to have temporary work permits is as follows: Do you believe that the president should enforce each and every one of the over 27,000 pages of federal code and prosecute everyone who can be accused of any of the 4,500 + crimes? Should the president send uniformed men with guns to raid the Gibson Guitar Corp, dairy farms who sell raw milk to the public, and medical marijuana dispensaries which operate pursuant to state law? If the argument is that the president is shirking his responsibility by picking and choosing the laws he will “faithfully execute,” the answer necessarily must be “yes.”

Obviously, the federal government even as large as it is could not possibly enforce every single federal law. Assuming for a moment the federal government could enforce every single federal law and regulation, as people who claim to value personal liberty above all else, is this something that would in any way be compatible with liberty?

I think not.

When the federal code is so full of laws and regulations, it’s the same as having no Rule of Law at all. The president necessarily must decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore or at the very least prioritize how he will execute the law. As immigration laws go, it seems to me that deporting individuals who were educated here, not criminals, and pay taxes should be a much lower priority to be deported or jailed than someone who as an adult illegally immigrated, stole someone’s identity, and committed a host of other crimes.

Beyond the sheer volume of laws and regulations, I do think there are instances when the president should NOT enforce the law if he, in good faith, believes the law violates the constitution and/or is unjust. Who among us today would argue that when the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was in force that a president who refused to enforce such a law was acting like a king because he was usurping the “will of the people”? I would also point out that when the Fugitive Slave Act was the law of the land, it wasn’t at all unconstitutional even though most sane Americans today, regardless of political affiliation and/or philosophy would say the law was immoral. If the constitution itself violates Natural Law (i.e. does not recognize the rights of life, liberty, and property for all human beings), then it too should be nullified in those instances.

Nullification presents problems of its own, however. I recognize that nullification of laws passed by congress presents a possible constitutional crisis. We certainly do not want an all-powerful executive branch that can ignore the congress and the courts, so what is the solution?

The solution, however politically difficult it would be, would be to repeal the vast majority of the federal criminal code and much of the remaining 27,000 pages of statutes. The most sensible place to begin would be with the federal criminal code. Most criminal law should be dealt with at the state level anyway. I haven’t checked recently but I’m pretty sure that rape, murder, burglary, assault/battery, and fraud are crimes in all 50 states and in all U.S. territories.

Additionally, even those who believe the war on (some) drugs is good public policy, most states would most likely (unfortunately) continue locking up non-violent drug offenders without Washington’s help. The country we love would not descend into chaos if criminal law was dealt with almost entirely by the states. If we cannot trust the states to handle protecting individuals inside their borders, what is the point of even having states?

If the federal criminal code only dealt with crimes such as counterfeiting, treason, enacting legitimate interstate commerce regulations (to keep the trade among the several states “regular,” not what the interstate commerce clause has become thanks to SCOTUS), and yes, immigration policy, the president could and should conceivably enforce all the federal laws that are neither unconstitutional nor immoral. The president would no longer have the discretion to enforce the laws he favors and not enforce the ones he does not.

Illegal Immigration And The Way Forward

With the latest revelation that a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas, has come out as an illegal alien and John McCain’s latest stupidity, the issue of illegal immigration has popped back up. More and more states are joining the lead of Arizona and Alabama and are trying to take the immigration issue into their own hands in violation of the Constitution. The immigration issue is not one that is going to go away on its own and fair minded people on all sides need to sit down and come up with a solution.

First of all, most people who are clamoring for new immigration restrictions and harsh measures to deal with illegal immigrants are not racists. Most of them are motivated by genuine concerns about the rule of law and by misinformed concerns about the economy and national security. Demonizing immigration restrictionists will not advance the issue, but instead we should be trying to persuade them (and many can be persuaded once you actually talk to them).

Having said that, while I generally am for as open of a border as possible, I do believe that we do need to have some common sense immigration restrictions. We do need some border controls to keep out criminals, terrorists, and those with infectious diseases. We also need to do deal with the millions of illegal immigrants and their children that are already here. Finally, we need to have a path for those who want to come to America to work to do so legally.

Here’s my modest proposal, most of which has already been proposed.

To help people come here easier:

1) Create a new work visa program that can allow temporary, unskilled workers to come to the US to work on farms and other jobs “Americans won’t do”. Require the employers to pay for the visas and require everyone that chooses to take advantage of the visa opportunity to submit to background checks and health screenings before entering the US. Let them come for a limited time and let them leave if they choose to do so. If they stay, they can be allowed to convert their temporary visa into a green card, if they choose to do so. However, if they overstay their visa, harsh penalties should result.

2) Increase the quotas for legal immigration tenfold. Part of the problem with our immigration system is the long wait times for legal immigration. With wait times as long as 10 years in some categories, no wonder why people immigrate to the US illegally.

Enforcement:

1) I’m opposed to E-verify which is a stealth national ID. I’m also opposed to checking immigration status during traffic stops, however I don’t have a problem with it once someone has been arrested. I’m generally opposed to workplace enforcement and employer crackdowns.

2) Border fences and walls, both physical and electronic, won’t work. The only thing that will stop illegal border crossings are more border patrol agents. I’m not opposed to using the National Guard until the border patrol can be built up.

3) The focus of internal enforcement needs to be those who overstay their visas, like the 9/11 hijackers who overstayed tourism and student visas; not the guys picking onions and working at meat packing plants.

Those who are already here:

1) I have no interest in deporting or even punishing people like Jose Vargas who came here illegally as children. They had no choice in the matter. I’m also opposed to repealing birthright citizenship. Americans do not punish children for the misdeeds of their parents. This group of illegal immigrants need a path to citizenship.

2) Those who have crossed the border illegally as adults and are working and contributing to society and following the law should have a path to legalization. They should have the opportunity to come out in the open for a limited time, pay a fine, and have a limited, temporary visa to work and live in the US. Once that visa has expired, they must leave the US and apply for a new guest worker visa in their home country. I have no problem with this group eventually becoming permanent residents and citizens, but it must be done in an orderly fashion. Also, I’m not opposed with waiving fines and the requirement of leaving country if the illegal immigrant decides to service in the US armed forces with the reward being a green card once they leave the service.

3) Those who violated non-immigration related laws and overstayed visas should be deported immediately once their prison sentences have been served.

4) Obviously, illegal immigrants should be denied all welfare services except for education and emergency medical care. Nor should be eligible for perks such as in state tuition for college.

States who try to enact their own immigration restrictions:

1) Once an immigration reform law has been enacted, the Federal government should deny all law enforcement, homeland security, and transportation funding to states and cities who try to enact their own restrictions or prevent the enforcement of immigration laws. The Constitution gives the Federal government the sole power to enact immigration law, not the states.

This is my modest attempt at getting a conversation going on illegal immigration without the demagogic screaming that usually accompanies this issue on both sides. This is an attempt to solve this issue in a humane way that respects the rule of law.

I welcome your comments and suggestions below.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Failbook: Facebook Bans Anti-Prohibition Group

It’s beginning to be really easy to hate Facebook. While Google has stuck to its libertarian principles of free exchange of information by not cooperating with Chinese censorship, Facebook has become more and more creepy:

The people behind the “Just Say Now” marijuana legalization campaign (oft-Boinged Salon contributor Glenn Greenwald is one of many political thinkers on their board) want Facebook to back off its decision to pull their ads from the social networking service.

This is what Facebook’s PR says:

It would be fine to note that you were informed by Facebook that the image in question was no long acceptable for use in Facebook ads. The image of a pot leaf is classified with all smoking products and therefore is not acceptable under our policies. Let me know if you need anything further.

One key indicator that you are dealing with unapologetic authoritarians is when you’re being harshly reprimanded for violating regulations and rules that are unpredictable, undefinable and more than likely not even known by the person touting them. That appears to be the case with Facebook’s policies:

But the group points out that Facebook’s ad policy doesn’t ban “smoking products,” just “tobacco products.” Also, Facebook does permit alcohol ads, even ads featuring images of alcohol products and packaging, though alcohol ads that make alcohol consumption “fashionable,” “promote intoxication” or that “encourage excessive consumption” are banned. Just Say Now calls Facebook’s action censorship.

Perhaps Facebook goes by the old Jack Webb Dragnet school that pot consists of “marijuana cigarettes.”

There’s alot of faux outrage out there, as the Cordoba Crowds in NYC have shown us. Given the extensive cost to normal livelihoods by the continued prison construction and law enforcement funding required by prohibition, Facebook does deserve to be boycotted for trying to silence a group like Just Say Now.

Just Say Now’s Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake.com, is also on the side of liberty in her fight against punitive immigration laws. Check out an appearance she did that I posted at my website Voice of the Migrant. She’s also a cancer survivor and all around political superhero. Give her support and take it away from Facebook.

Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Sugar Tariffs

I wanted to link over to a recent article I wrote at the blog Voice of the Migrant, where I talk about the distinguishable products and services that America’s Hispanic immigrants bring to our society:

In a New Yorker article from 2006, James Surowiecki explores how sugar producers in the United States lobbying for “special favors” has resulted in the blocking out of competition and the subsequent degeneration of sugar-laden products:

But American sugar producers aren’t satisfied with supplying the most sweet-hungry population in the world. They’ve relentlessly sought—and received—special favors from the federal government, turning the industry into one of the most cosseted in America today. The government guarantees producers a fixed price for domestic sugar and sets strict quotas and tariffs for foreign sugar. Economically speaking, this has many obvious bad results. It keeps sugar prices in the U.S. at least twice as high as the world average. It makes it harder for companies that use lots of sugar to do business here—in the past decade, an exodus of candy manufacturers from the U.S. has eliminated thousands of jobs. And import restrictions make Third World countries poorer than they’d otherwise be.

The artificially high price of sugar has resulted in the adoption of high fructose corn syrup as a replacement. High fructose corn syrup is rife with many dangers which are not in cane sugar, including high levels of mercury:

In my previous blogs I discuss the findings that there is mercury in a percentage of the hfcs that inhabits so many of our foods and drinks. This is caused from the mercury grade caustic soda that is used in the processing, leaching mercury into the finished product.

Since the introduction of high fructose corn syrup in the 1970s, obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed dramatically. Sugar cane, which is used in Coca-Cola and Pepsi in Mexico and in high-end American sodas such as Jone’s Soda, contains several naturally occurring health benefits.

Magnesium, calcium and riboflavin can all be found within cane sugar. While soda is not meant to be a “healthy” beverage, ingestion of a naturally sweetened carbonated concoction is nevertheless a much better route to go than the watered down corn syrup that is found in American drug stores.

Apart from Jones and other high end sodas, one of the best places to get cane sugar sodas is at your local taco truck. Fortunately for Californians especially, these amazing testaments to the entrepreneurial spirit can be found throughout working class neighborhoods. At the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland, there are two taco trucks nearby, with vendors recently opening up in the small shopping center next to the station.

Point: “State’s Rights” A Misnomer

This is a post in our continuing “Point/Counterpoint” series, where TLP contributors and/or guest posters debate a topic. In this installment, Michael Powell argues against the existence of “states’ rights”. Tomorrow, Brad Warbiany will defend states’ rights, and his post can now be found here.

During the twentieth century, there were several confrontations between federal authorities and those proclaiming “state’s rights.” The most notable were those of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, in 1967, who called on his state’s National Guard to block several African American youths from attending high school and Alabama Governor George Wallace, who literally stood in the way of troops sent by the Kennedy Administration to escort students Vivian Malone and James Hood (both instances being unforgivable offenses in the Deep South) in 1963. The state was blatantly violating not only individual rights of its citizens but also the legal authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the executive branch.

The “right” for the state to discriminate against the individual in defiance of federal law (and human decency, which is another matter and not a concept that is very popular in Alabama or other deep southern states) was precisely what George Wallace cited explicitly in his speech at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963:

The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government. This intrusion results solely from force, or threat of force, undignified by any reasonable application of the principle of law, reason and justice. It is important that the people of this State and nation understand that this action is in violation of rights reserved to the State by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alabama. While some few may applaud these acts, millions of Americans will gaze in sorrow upon the situation existing at this great institution of learning.

Personally, I would not cry crocodile tears if the South had been let go during the Civil War. My ancestors fought in the Confederate Army but my personal life has been filled with people of color. The South has not simply been racist; it has been the closest region in the Western World to pre-industrial feudalism. Its ugly history of public executions, terrorism, exclusion from employment and education of massive portions of the population (including not just people of color but poor whites, women and those who stood against the Southern Christian traditionalist grain), intellectual rejection, ethno-nationalism, proud ignorance and aggressive religiosity is more reflective of the worst regimes in the Middle East than the enlightened industrial democracies of Western Europe, North America and Asia. Just as is the case with the Middle East, the rich natural resources of the South have been the primary reason for keeping the impoverished backwater area in the sphere of the United States.

If it hadn’t been for slavery, racism and the South, the “state’s rights” argument may have more standing validity. Unfortunately, for those who bring back its spectre it brings to mind Jim Crow laws, lynchings, segregation and war. Just as the swastika, which actually has a relevance to Buddhist philosophy, has been defiled by the actions of German National Socialism, “state’s rights” has been defiled by the actions of Southern political actors.

For issues in which “state’s rights” would be a logical defense, especially regarding marijuana, where states like California seek to protect the individual rights of drug users in defiance of prohibitionist federal intervention, I have to beg the question: Why is it an issue of state governance and not simply the right of the individual to do as he wishes?

This isn’t simply a historical, theoretical argument either. States are still today violating individual rights, with the federal government acting as an intervening force of justice. Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, which effectively legislated racial profiling and declared war on undocumented workers who are critical to the American economy, is being set upon by the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

I have worked in Latin American foreign policy, so I would like to add that, while I stand in firm opposition to SB 1070, I understand completely why it was implemented. We are in really bad economic shape, as I surely don’t have to inform anyone here. That is exacerbated by the perception by people that don’t understand economics that Hispanic immigrants are “stealing” their jobs and the horrendous mob violence that has been implemented on the border by drug cartels. I reject Kantian ethics that proclaim motivations to paramount to results, however, and a mob of fearful people hardly ever makes the right decision. In American history, “state’s rights” has been a flag that has often been waved by populist demagogues while “individual rights” has been waved by judges and executives with a better grasp of the law. “State’s rights” is a misnomer which is usually used to defend defiance of settled law. It doesn’t deserve or necessitate revival in our political discourse.

Comment Of The Day

This is actually a comment at Hit & Run, but I hadn’t seen this juxtaposition before.

The other thing I always find hilarious is how so many anti-immigration Republicans are so anti-union, when they use the same arguments against immigrants that unions use against non-union workers.

In both cases, the impetus is the same: “I’ve already got mine, and everyone else can go screw.”

Quote Of The Day

Via Coyote, after seeing an E-Verify poster that states “If you have the right to work, Don’t let anyone take it away”:

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.

Indeed.

A Succinct Take On Immigration

As someone whose great-grandparents were the ones who dropped everything they knew, hopped on a boat to cross an ocean to an entirely new continent, and built an entirely new life in the freedom of America, I’m somewhat blessed. So I share TJIC’s thoughts here. What I’d never considered is exactly what it would take for me to leave America — when you live here, “greener pastures” don’t seem to exist. So this little thought experiment is very interesting:

To imagine the delta in life and happiness that a Mexican can achieve by sneaking into the US and consensually trading labor for cash with a willing adult citizen, we can’t merely picture ourselves sneaking into some fictional Richistan in order to earn 2x or 3x our salary.

…because we’re all (and by that I mean the software engineers, the lawyers, and the starving musicians reading this blog) at the point in the income curve (largely because we had the good luck to be born in the US) where an additional dollar of income doesn’t mean much. Heck, even a doubling of income doesn’t mean much to us – most of our basic wants have been satisfied.

Instead, we have to imagine something comparable in benefit to what a Mexican sneaking over here achieves. A 200 year lifespan, guaranteed happiness for our children, or long and healthy life for our pets, a long, vigorous and healthy old age for our parents – that’s perhaps the equivalent.

What would you do to make sure that you, your parents, and your children lived hapilly for 200 years?

I, for one, wouldn’t hesitate for a second to sneak into a country that prides itself on its immigration, and which has a ton of work that needs doing, and has a ton of employers who are willing to pay me.

Neither would I. So how could I possibly begrudge those who come here for a comparative increase in standard-of-living to the thought experiment above?

A New Introduction

I am honored to join The Liberty Papers.

Brad Warbiany and Doug Mataconis have been very welcoming, and my new realm into libertarian thought should be fulfilling and rich.

I’ve been at United Liberty for two years, starting with the 2008 election and running all the way up to coverage of Arizona’s discriminatory immigration law. My work goes back even further, back to the San Francisco Examiner and the neighborhood newspapers North Seattle Herald Outlook and Madison Park Times in Seattle, Washington.

In the times we live in, there seems to be a political shift going on. The United States is becoming more ethnically diverse, the economy continues to stagnate, and government is making short term maneuvers without foreseeing long-term effects. On the other side of the coin, the Right, who talk a lot of jive about freedom, are parading their own twisted form of nationalism. In these times, it’s important to try to solidify and distinguish the libertarian movement as a separate alternative to the forms of authoritarianism so far proposed to us. I hope my work at The Liberty Papers will help to do that.

I am also currently working on a book on the future of race in politics. It should be finished within the year and published subsequently.

Monday Question: Immigration Motives

Coyote, in far more concise words than I probably could have generated, asks a very good question.

What I would really understand is: what drives these folks?

I will take them at their word that it is not racism.

If its violent or property crime, the stats are pretty clear that immigrants don’t really contribute to these crimes disproportionately.

If its gang violence at the border, I am wondering what people see in the law’s rules that allow easier harassment of day laborers and brown-skinned people with broken turn signals that they think is going to deter gang members supposedly armed with AK47’s.

If its competition for jobs, well, I encourage folks to learn how the economy actually works (hint: it’s dynamic, not static), and further, encourage them to figure out why they feel they can’t compete with unskilled, uneducated laborers who don’t speak the native language.

Finally, if it is, as many of my emailers claim, just a matter of the rule of law — “THEY ARE ILLEGAL” as I get in many emails, inevitably all in caps, then why not just legalize their presence? After all, I lament all the hardships associated with marijuana law enforcement but you don’t see me advocating new rules to incrementally harass potential possessors — I am grown up enough to know form history that such efforts are never going to work as long as their is an enthusiastic supply and demand. I advocate legalization.

So I’ll open this one up to the readers. I see a lot of completely wrong arguments for restricting immigration, and very few with any force (at least, very few that wouldn’t be SOLVED by a legal guest worker program bringing these people out of the permanent underclass).

So what do you think?

Arizona Crime Stats

One of the key arguments in favor of the AZ “papers please” immigration law is that the state is being overrun by crime due to the rapid influx of immigration, and that the across-the-border drug wars have been spilling over into Arizona.

That might be a potent argument, if it were true. It’s truly sad how strong of an argument, then, considering it’s blatantly false:

Yet, a look at statistics from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency and the FBI indicate that both the number of illegal crossers and violent crime in general have actually decreased in the past several years.

According to FBI statistics, violent crimes reported in Arizona dropped by nearly 1,500 reported incidents between 2005 and 2008. Reported property crimes also fell, from about 287,000 reported incidents to 279,000 in the same period. These decreases are accentuated by the fact that Arizona’s population grew by 600,000 between 2005 and 2008.

According to the nonpartisan Immigration Policy Institute, proponents of the bill “overlook two salient points: Crime rates have already been falling in Arizona for years despite the presence of unauthorized immigrants, and a century’s worth of research has demonstrated that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native-born.”

Meanwhile, the cartel violence that has gripped Mexico for the most part has remained there, he said.

Human and drug smugglers are being “more aggressive because we’re being successful,” Escalante said, “But we’ve been lucky not to see that type of [violence] spill over here.”

But hey, who am I to suggest that facts actually be used in argument. After all, it is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.

Feds Fighting War On Immigration Like War On Drugs

Idiocy. That’s all I can use to preface this:

The 26-page draft obtained by CNN attempts to woo GOP senators in part by calling for “concrete benchmarks” to secure the border before granting illegal immigrants the opportunity to gain legal status.

Those benchmarks include: increasing the number of border patrol officers and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, increasing the number of personnel available to inspect for drugs and contraband, and improving technology used to assist ICE agents.

At the same time, “high-tech ground sensors” would be installed across the Mexican border. Officers would be equipped with the “technological capability to respond to activation of the ground sensors in the area they are patrolling,” according to the draft.

Fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant biometric Social Security cards would be issued to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants. Fines for knowingly hiring someone not eligible for employment would be increased by 300 percent. Repeat offenders would face time in prison.

So paragraph 2 above is a huge new federal jobs program, and paragraph 3 is a huge new federal spending/procurement program. I’m sure the public sector unions and military-industrial complex are cheering.

The final paragraph is an enhanced version of e-Verify, a colossal failure of a program on many levels. In addition, as Doug says, it’s a bit too much like a national ID card for his liking.

The economic reality in this country is that we need the immigrant workforce we have today. The government’s creation (by making this immigration illegal) of a black market brings with it a host of unintended and completely unnecessary consequences. But this “secure the border first” approach is fundamentally backwards. As it was so eloquently said by Daniel Griswold of Cato:

It’s like saying, in 1932, that we can’t repeal the nationwide prohibition on alcohol consumption until we’ve drastically reduced the number of moonshine stills and bootleggers. But Prohibition itself created the conditions for the rise of those underground enterprises, and the repeal of Prohibition was necessary before the government could “get control” of its unintended consequences.

Much like the drug war, when you have demand, you will have supply, regardless of whether the product is legal or not. Much like the drug war, the Senate seems to think that if you merely step up enforcement, you can repeal the laws of supply and demand, instead of merely shifting the margins. Make no mistake — illegal immigration CAN be curtailed through enforcement, but it will require laws and penalties so draconian as to make what’s happening in Arizona look liberal. America will not (and should not have to) stomach it.

Liberal immigration policies and secure borders aren’t mutually exclusive. After all, the end of prohibition reduced all the associated unintended consequences of the moonshine & rum-running trade, and dramatically reduced the organized crime element to protect that trade. But notice that it was the end of prohibition, not the increase in enforcement actions, that solved the problem. Likewise, with immigration we need a way to get immigrants into this country legally in a way consistent with our economic needs, and then we can work on securing the borders from the trickle of attempted entries left over.

This immigration proposal shows Congress doing what they do best — spending lots and lots of money, growing the size and scope of government, and leaving the root causes of the problem pretty well untouched.

Quote Of The Day

From Matt Welch, @ Reason:

I have also “knowingly employ[ed] an unauthorized alien,” and “intentionally employ[ed] unauthorized aliens” (or at least, I had a pretty good idea that the dudes in front of Home Depot had a non-trivial chance of being “unauthorized”). Speaking of which, “unauthorized” is my new favorite illegal/undocumented term of art.

“Unauthorized.”

I love it.

“Illegal” implies criminality, and as we all know, only unsavory characters break the law. Except for all the laws that we break daily — those don’t count. “Illegal” aliens are bad people, or they’d not be doing something illegal.

“Undocumented”, on the other hand, implies a paperwork snafu. Don’t worry, boss, we’ll get the contract signed once my secretary faxes it over. Gotta get the documents right, but we need to wait on the corporate signature-trail to come in line. Don’t worry, we’re all trying to get things done, but why wait on the paperwork when we need to make progress here?

But “unauthorized”?

No, nothing but “unauthorized” can correctly describe what we’ve got going on here. While “illegal” implies an impartial rule-making system under which we all fit, “authorized” implies an authority figure, an in-group, and an out-group. No term better signifies a society where your rights exist at the pleasure of the State, a society where you’d better fall in line, or your authorization might be terminated. An arbitrary and capricious regime who holds in its grasp the very ability to approve or deny your existence as an economic actor.

We’ve left the impersonal confines of appeal to law or appeal to process. Now we’re straight on to appeal to the king rule of men. You’d best make sure those men are your friends, not your enemies.

A Modest Proposal For Immigration Reform

Via Twitter, I came up this 2007 Examiner article by Dan Riehl of Riehl World View that offers what seems like the beginning of a way out of what has been little more than three year long shouting match over the subject of immigration, illegal immigrants, and immigration reform:

As with current and past generations, future generations will comprise peoples from all over the globe. But there must be a traditional America to which they can emigrate, or we risk becoming more a reflection of various other nations, than one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Shoring up our borders, along with our institutions, is a good start, as is the enforcing of current immigration law as written. But then we should also allow for some compromise on decent, hard-working individuals who, while perhaps entering illegally, have honestly contributed to America in the best of ways.

As Americans, we’ve significantly benefited from their labors, whether we like to admit it, or not. And having secured said benefits through lower costs in goods and services, it would be hypocritical to turn our backs on them now.

That looks like a reasonable compromise from here.

And from here, too.

There are really too two different issues at play in the immigration debate, but they’ve become tangled together so much that it’s become impossible to have a reasonable discussion about the issue.

On the one hand, we’ve got the issue of border security. Even before September 11th, the idea that our southern and northern borders, along with the ports and the airports, should be secure was something that should have been self-evident. After 9/11, it’s a matter of national security. The idea that someone could walk across the border virtually undetected is something that everyone should be concerned about.

The other issue, though, is the fact that America has always been a nation of immigrants, and that immigration has, despite the social disruption it often causes when first-generation immigrants struggle, been a net-plus for our country socially and economically. Yes, there have always been those who have wanted to shut the door to immigrants, but the truth of the matter is that most of the things being said about immigrants from the south today were being said in the past about immigrants from Eastern Europe, Italy, Germany, and Ireland. Like those earlier immigrants, though, most of the people who come here do so to make a better life for themselves and their families, and that’s something we should welcome, not condemn.

Brad Warbiany, one of the co-bloggers at The Liberty Papers, summed it up quite well more than four years ago:

In all situations, the rationale is the same. We got ours, and now we’ll stop you from getting yours. I can’t live with that. By most accounts, I’m pretty privileged. I’m not the son of rich parents by American standards, but by world standards, I grew up in luxury. I was lucky enough to be born in America, and even luckier to be born to educated parents and live in a highly-regarded school district. But does that give me any more right to the American Dream than Francisco Patino? Does it give a Warbiany any more right to the American Dream than a Hernandez? Of course not.

Last, we do still have the security issue. But liberal immigration policies and secure borders are not mutually exclusive. We can secure the borders and still find to keep tabs on who is coming into this country and how. Perhaps that’s a guest worker program, perhaps that’s a new take on our INS and its goals. That may include a combination of things, with a guest worker program combined with restricted social services for a worker’s family. Either way, the nuts and bolts aren’t insurmountable. If we focused half the energy we spend screwing around with the tax code for special interests on developing coherent immigration and security policies, we could get it done and still have secure borders.

Immigration is a thorny issue. But when we stand around and say “we don’t want you here”, I have to break ranks. When they say “these immigrants are damaging our economy”, I have to break ranks. I don’t have all the answers as to how to fix the problem, but I know that I refuse to close our country to people who want to live the American Dream. We have to enforce our laws, but when our laws are contrary to the very fabric of America, those laws need to change.

So where does that leave us ?

Well, let me suggest these starting points:

  1. Secure the borders — From a national security perspective, this seems essential. We don’t need to put an Army on the border, and we sure as heck don’t need to build the Rio Grande Wall. But, there’s no reason we can’t develop a system of monitoring stations and drones to make sure that people aren’t slipping across the border, no matter what the reason.
  2. Commit a serious crime, get deported — Whether you’re here legally or illegally, if you break the law in such a way that you’re a threat to the rest of us, you’ve just lost permission to stay. You’ll serve your sentence in one of our comfortable prisons, but once it’s over, you’re going home. By “serious crime,” I mean any crime of violence; I don’t think we need to be deporting people who run a red light, or pass a bad check or two.
  3. Forget about deporting the peaceful “illegal” immigrants — Call it “amnesty” if you want, but the fact of the matter is that we’re never going to be able to deport everyone who’s here illegally. For one thing, some of them are married to, or parents of, people who are here legally, and breaking up families is not something Americans do. For another, if someone is here working an honest living then they need to be encouraged to come out of the underground economy, not scared into thinking that ICE could be knocking on their door at any moment.
  4. Make it easier to come here legally — Current American immigration law places absurdly low limits on the number of people who can come here legally, and places even more absurd quotas on how many people can come from specific countries. Additionally, the law makes it harder for someone who to come here and start a business to immigrate than it does for someone who just happens to be related to someone who’s already here legally. We should liberalize immigration procedures generally and, more specifically, make it easier for people from Mexico and Central America to come here as temporary workers. That alone would have a significant impact on illegal immigration.

Anyway, that’s just off the top of my head. It requires compromise on both sides.

Which, of course, means that it’s a non-starter in modern America.

LP’s Wes Benedict on ‘Limited Government’ Conservatives

Those of us who truly believe in limited government* tend to be simultaneously amused and irritated hearing the folks at CPAC speak of limited government as though it’s a principle they truly support. Yesterday, the Libertarian Party’s Executive Director Wes Benedict, monitoring the CPAC festivities from afar, said some of the things that many of us have been thinking:

Unlike libertarians, most conservatives simply don’t want small government. They want their own version of big government. Of course, they have done a pretty good job of fooling American voters for decades by repeating the phrases “limited government” and “small government” like a hypnotic chant.

It’s interesting that conservatives only notice “big government” when it’s something their political enemies want. When conservatives want it, apparently it doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants a trillion-dollar foreign war, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants a 700-billion-dollar bank bailout, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to spend billions fighting a needless and destructive War on Drugs, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to spend billions building border fences, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to “protect” the huge, unjust, and terribly inefficient Social Security and Medicare programs, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants billions in farm subsidies, that doesn’t count.

It’s truly amazing how many things “don’t count.”

Benedict went on to point out the lack of concern these same people had with the government expansion of President Bush and the health care mandates of another CPAC favorite – Mitt Romney.

While I’m by no means a supporter of the Obama Administration, the idea that many Conservatives seem to have that all the problems we are faced with started on January 20, 2009 is completely ludicrous**.

These are the same people who would gladly support Sarah ‘the Quitter’ Palin, ‘Mandate’ Mitt Romney, or ‘Tax Hike Mike’ Huckabee – none are what I would call ‘limited government’ by any stretch of the imagination.

» Read more

United Liberty Podcast

Many readers here are also familiar with the United Liberty blog, not least because our contributor Jason Pye is the editor-in-chief of that blog, and co-contributor Doug writes at both locations.

They (Jason and UL Assistant Editor Brett Bittner) recently honored me be asking that I join them as a guest on their podcast, which you can find here or on iTunes.

Topics ranged from the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke, to health care, to home weatherization (a topic where I nearly defect from doctrinaire libertarianism), immigration and Copenhagen. All in all, I had a lot of fun and hopefully some of you may enjoy the listen.

Boy Scout Training: “Put him on his face and put a knee in his back”

Boy Scouts
From the “Not The Onion” files comes a tale that I can’t even believe, much less figure out how to respond to. Is this really what the Boy Scouts are becoming?

The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.

“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.”

The training, which leaders say is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting, can involve chasing down illegal border crossers as well as more dangerous situations that include facing down terrorists and taking out “active shooters,” like those who bring gunfire and death to college campuses. In a simulation here of a raid on a marijuana field, several Explorers were instructed on how to quiet an obstreperous lookout.

“Put him on his face and put a knee in his back,” a Border Patrol agent explained. “I guarantee that he’ll shut up.”

One participant, Felix Arce, 16, said he liked “the discipline of the program,” which was something he said his life was lacking. “I want to be a lawyer, and this teaches you about how crimes are committed,” he said.

Cathy Noriego, also 16, said she was attracted by the guns. The group uses compressed-air guns — known as airsoft guns, which fire tiny plastic pellets — in the training exercises, and sometimes they shoot real guns on a closed range.

“I like shooting them,” Cathy said. “I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.”

There is so much wrong here that I don’t know where to start. Maybe putting a 15-year-old into a bulletproof vest and running him through a course where his goal is to take down “active shooters” is one problem, since — you know — that’s such a HUGE part of the average cop’s day, would be a problem. Radley Balko, in his excellent work over at The Agitator, regularly points out the problematic aspects of training our police to be excitedly enacting para-military fantasies. There’s a fundamental difference between “to protect and serve” and seeing every person on the street as a potential “active shooter”.

When I was a kid, “troop leader” didn’t involve fatigues and a bulletproof vest.

But hey, this is the Boy Scouts, so it’s still a family-friendly environment:

Just as there are soccer moms, there are Explorers dads, who attend the competitions, man the hamburger grill and donate their land for the simulated marijuana field raids.

So don’t worry, fellas… You can avoid the humdrum days spent in your cubicle as a CPA or marketing nitwit by living vicariously through your kids, as they storm terrorist strongholds in Omaha, stem the illegal alien tide in California, or make the world safe from marijuana. Folks like Kathryn Johnston and Angel Raich are evil and must be stopped, and you need to bring train the next generation to bring the necessary firepower to handle them.

Hat Tip: Radley Balko

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