Discussing Immigration With A Republican, or The Art of the Yeah But

Take a segment of the radical right Republican pronouncements from television, a few more from their written commentary, add Republican spokespersons drawling on about the subject, put these together and it’s not hard to imagine a dialog Q and A on the subject of immigration policy.  To wit:

Q – Do you support a DREAM Act for DACA recipients?

A – Yes, but…

Q – But what?

A – But we have to address Chain Migration.

Q – Why?

A – Because, we might be allowing in rapists, killers, and drug dealers!

Q – What percentage of immigrants indulge in these criminal behaviors?

A – Lots of them you see it in the news every day.

Q – Do news reports indicate the citizenship status of arrestees and those convicted?

A- No, but you know that They are more likely to commit crimes.

Q –  We don’t know that with any certainty.  Actually, the better research reports that immigrants have lower crime rates than natural born citizens. [CBS]

A – Yeah but, we have to get rid of that diversity lottery system, it’s terrible. We need skilled workers not unskilled people who will end up on welfare and food stamps.

Q – You know that those who are not citizens aren’t eligible for food assistance and public welfare programs? You know that there are some jobs which immigrants are willing and capable of doing which are not being filled at the moment?

A – Yeah, but an influx of immigrants causes wages for American workers to decline.

Q – Uh, that isn’t true either, levels of immigration don’t force down American wages [Time]

A – Yeah, but it’s a matter of law and order! Either we enforce our laws or we don’t, and we can’t become a lawless country, and those DACA recipients are illegal aliens.

Q – We don’t hold children, especially those under the age of seven, liable for the crimes of their parents.  Besides which, DACA recipients must be working or in school, and must not be arrested for any crime, no matter how minor.  They pay for DACA registration, and agree to extensive background checks. So, what’s the problem?

A – Yeah but, we have to have a Wall!  We have to impede the flow of immigrants and drugs.

Q – Are you aware that most contraband “hard” drugs don’t come over remote parts of  “the border,” but come in via ports of entry?  [Tucson.Com]

A – Yeah but, we can’t have so many people coming in without skills, education, and so forth. We need skilled workers who speak English fluently, and don’t come from broken nations.  We need merit based immigration.

Q – You do understand that Nigerian immigrants and those from subsaharan Africa have more advanced degrees than the average American citizen? [LAT] So, are you saying we need more immigrants from Nigeria? From Kenya? From Botswana?

A – Yeah but we need people who can assimilate and share American values.

Q – Do you mean something like willing to engage in the free market and become entrepreneurs?  As in approximately 25% of immigrants to this country are entrepreneurs? [Forbes]

A – Yeah but, they should speak English before they get here, because English is our national language; and, they shouldn’t take advantage of our schools and social safety net programs!

Q – You do remember, from a few lines above, that they aren’t eligible for social assistance programs?  And, you do know that according to most studies done on the subject most recent immigrants do what previous immigrants have done, i.e. lose the native language almost completely in three generations?  [Economist]

A- Yeah but, they don’t assimilate into our society like previous waves of immigrants.

Q – Like German, Irish, Jewish and Eastern Europeans?  Like Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Indian immigrants today?

A – Yeah. Like those people.

Q – What’s different about Mexican and Central American immigrants from Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Indian immigrants?

A – Yeah but… They can bring in their relatives… they can bring in relatives who are from terrorist countries.

Q – You are aware, aren’t you, that the vast majority of immigrants are not terrorists, and that in fact those “3 out of 4” persons convicted of “international terrorism” were foreign born, and the statistics cited by the President* didn’t clarify which were extradited to this country for trial?

A – Yeah but.  We should be safe from terrorists!

Q – Yes, however most of the mass shootings in this country are the work of native born white males, you do know this don’t you?

A – Yeah but, it’s the government’s job to keep us safe.

Q – So, if it’s the government’s job to keep us safe, then we should be concentrating on what ‘radicalizes’ native born white males and how we can prevent them from obtaining lethal weapons which can be turned on innocent people?

A – Yeah but, are you saying you want to take our 2nd Amendment Rights away?

Q – No, but I am suggesting that if we are to focus on the issue of keeping our citizens safe from terrorists and bombers we should apply the same level of scrutiny to white male native born Americans. So, why should we limit immigration in order to keep us safe?Why not limit the license of native born white males who are statistically much more likely to commit mass shootings?

A – Yeah but… we can’t let people into this country to soak up our tax dollars and take up space and resources in our schools, and commit crimes and bring in drugs!

Q – Could it be that the objection is based on the ethnic or racial characteristics of the immigrants rather than on their capacity for assimilation and their observance of American traditions and values?

A – I AM NOT A RACIST.

 

 

 

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Foreign Agents Bills Moving and Immobile

While the news is full of Government Shutdowns, payments to porn stars, and the assorted detritus attached to this federal administration, one rather important topic related to meddling in American politics is resting between parts.  When the  TV types mention Paul Manafort, think of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Perhaps instead of machinations to protect the occupant of the Oval Office members of the 115th Congress could be addressing several bills intended to change the way we deal with foreign businesses, especially those with close ties to foreign governments, and those foreign governments themselves.

Several bills were introduced in the wake of Mr. Manafort’s arrest, and these deserve more daylight than they are getting in congressional pigeon holes.

HR 2811 and S 625:  The House version of this legislation was introduced on June 7, 2017 by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) and has three co-sponsors, two Democrats and one Republican.  It falls under the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee.  S. 625  is an identical bill sponsored by Senator Jean Shaheen (D-NH).  The official title is phrased as follows: “To preserve the integrity of American elections by providing the Attorney General with the investigative tools to identify and prosecute foreign agents who seek to circumvent Federal registration requirements and unlawfully influence the political process.”  The bill text includes the revisions:

“Whenever the Attorney General has reason to believe that any person or enterprise may be in possession, custody, or control of any documentary material relevant to an investigation under this Act, the Attorney General, before initiating a civil or criminal proceeding with respect to the production of such material, may serve a written demand upon such person to produce such material for examination.”

The intent of the legislation is to require more transparency in communications inserted into public discourse from foreign countries and those agents who act on their behalf.  Or, to put it less delicately,  to make it more obvious when foreign governments (read: Putin) are inserting themselves into American media.  As the paragraph above says, the rules of the game are changed to allow the Department of Justice the power to demand the materials (tapes, written media, etc.) before there is a civil or criminal case.  The current statute only allows for accessing media items after a case is opened, thereby making it a bit more difficult to get a case underway.

If a person would care to contact a Senator or Representative in support of these bills it might be phrased: “I would hope you would co-sponsor and support (HR 2811 or S 625)  to make it more difficult for foreign countries and those acting on their behalf to insert themselves in our political processes and institutions.”

HR 4170 sponsored by Rep Mike Johnson (R-La) was introduced on October 31, 2017 and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.  Its official title:

To amend the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 to promote greater transparency in the registration of persons serving as the agents of foreign principals, to provide the Attorney General with greater authority to investigate alleged violations of such Act and bring criminal and civil actions against persons who commit such violations, and for other purposes.

The bill was reported out of the Judiciary Committee on January 18, 2018 on a 15-6 vote.  As indicated by ranking member Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) there has been no oversight hearing recently on FARA, and the Committee hadn’t yet considered HR 2811.  In short, the bill went from introduction to mark up without a hearing in between.  Democratic members of the Committee objected to the lack of detailed consideration such as an analysis of potential conflicts with the 4th Amendment, and wanted further discussion of HR 2811.

The intention of the bill is laudatory, but the “haste makes waste” commentary by Rep. Nadler should be given more careful consideration.  It doesn’t do all that much good to enact legislation which has rather clear conformance issues with Constitutional provisions like the 4th Amendment.  Better to amend the bill at this stage than to go through the judicial process only to find that revisions which could have been made at the outset have to be made after a conviction or civil penalty is challenged in court.

Granted there are other priorities at the moment — DACA, CHIP, and community health centers,  but we should also be tracking legislation in the 115th Congress which is pertinent to the Russian interference in our political institutions and processes.  Investigations are both welcome and beneficial (when they aren’t partisan and protective) but they don’t directly address issues about which we are already all too aware.

FARA should be modernized and improved.  As carefully, and as promptly as possible.

Members of the Nevada congressional delegation should hear from their constituents about these bills.

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Heller’s Tele-Somethings Redux

Senator Dean Heller is fond of his Telephone Town Halls, which, as we’ve noted previously are more telephonics than town halls.  [Here, and especially here]

Perhaps he’s addressed the transparency problems associated with his previous telephone conference calls, but maybe not:

“Senator Heller has employed this one in the not so distant past.  It goes like this.  Have a telephone conference call from which questions are solicited from the public.  However, the fog descends almost immediately. Are the questions pre-screened?  There’s no way to know with absolute certainty, but someone has to be taking the calls like a radio call-in broadcast so chaos doesn’t happen.  Thus, it isn’t too hard to imagine that some pre-screening is happening.

These town halls can also be re-cycled.  The contact with the constituent begins with “You are invited to participate in Senator Sludgepump’s telephone town hall. If you have a question for the Senator press (number) and give your name and address…)

It doesn’t take too many conversations to figure out that if Constituent A heard the town hall on Monday evening, and Constituent B heard the same town hall on Tuesday evening, then we can assume people have been listening to a canned recycling of a political campaign pitch.  Hardly a town hall.”

Therefore, a person would be excused from being a little skeptical about the current iterations of Senator Heller’s open mic nights.   Thanks to the Nevada Independent we have a taste of the latest town hall:

“Asked why he supported Trump after the president reportedly called some African nations, Haiti and El Salvador “s**hole” countries, described his forceful sexual advances in an Access Hollywood tape and called outlets such as the BBC “fake news,” Heller told the caller that she probably supported Democratic presidents with similar problems.”

This is nothing more than a thinly disguised “kill the messenger” motif.  Don’t like the message, then play the Whataboutit” card — what about Clinton (inserting the foil of the day) to which one might add what about — Grover Cleveland? Warren G. Harding? Franklin D. Roosevelt?    Thence comes the exceptionally vague pivot:

“What I’m trying to do is get issues done. That’s what I’m looking for is what’s best for the state of Nevada, and whether I’m standing behind the president or whether I’m standing in right field, it doesn’t matter. Literally doesn’t matter.”

I’d assert Senator Heller is, indeed, standing out in right field, but that’s beside the point.  One unfortunate way to translate this Hellerian side step is to assume he means that no matter the moral depravity of the occupant of the White House Heller will support anyone who advocates what Heller believes is in the best interest of the state of Nevada.

The problem is that the reprobate in the Oval Office doesn’t have any clear ideological principles.  How Heller can divine precisely what the administration’s position is on any given topic is beyond most analysts.  We might guess that the administration proposals on immigration range from “a bill of love” to “build a wall.” We might guess that the issues related to banking run the gamut from “take care of the middle class” to “let bankers be bankers.”  And so on.

It should matter to Senator Heller, and to any other citizen of Nevada (and the other 49) whether or not the administration has the moral fiber necessary to inform the proposed policies.  Moral fiber tends to filter out the self-serving, the grifting, and the unconscionable — without the filter there’s little space left for anything other than the moral relativism of pure opportunism.  Surely this is not what Senator Heller has in mind?

 

 

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The Toddler Problem

One of the refrains from the racist right comes in the form of arguments to end the DACA program and deport all alien born persons who were brought to the US as children, because their mere presence in the country is a violation of the law.   As the late, great, Keith Jackson intoned: “Whoa Nelly.”

As those who have even the most passing knowledge of the DACA program are aware, DACA recipients must be employed or in school, must not have committed any crimes, and must register… but what of those who were brought to this country as very young children.

A person who’s served on jury duty know that there are elements to a crime, the act must be criminal, and the person must be capable of forming the requisite intent. The fancy terms are actus reus (the criminal act) and the mens rea (criminal intent).  So who can form the requisite intent — not a toddler.

This isn’t a new idea, it goes back to English Common Law:

“At common law, children were generally regarded as incapable of committing crimes. However, different presumptions have generally been applied, depending upon the age of the child. Generally, it is conclusively presumed that a child under the age of seven is unable to form a criminal mens rea and, therefore, a child that young cannot be convicted of a crime.”

Federal statutes state that the age for “criminal responsibility” is eleven years of age.  Most states don’t directly address the age issue:

“The minimum age of criminal liability is set at the federal and state level in the United States. At the state level, 33 states set no minimum age of criminal responsibility, theoretically allowing a child to be sentenced to criminal penalties at any age [Cipriani,D. Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: A Global Perspective, Ashgate 2009, p. 221 and 222], though in most of these states a capacity related test is applied.

Of the States that do set a minimum age of criminal responsibility, North Carolina has the lowest at seven years, while Wisconsin has the highest at ten years. [For full references of state laws see Cipriani D., Children’s rights and the minimum age of criminal responsibility..”

While Nevada does allow the transfer of cases from juvenile to adult courts, there are tests applied to determine the capacity of the individual to form the intent, and a six year old doesn’t meet the test.  Nevada assumes the jurisdiction of a juvenile court except in certain circumstances in which a person who was sixteen or older during the commission of a crime may be transferred to an adult court. [NRS]

Thus, it’s really difficult to find any rationale for the deportation of individuals who were six or under at the time they accompanied their parents into this country, especially in terms of the buzz phrase “law and order.”

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Of All the Weekends in the World

The President* picks this one to make derogatory comments about people of color, and the nations from which they might have immigrated…. Unbelievable, except this is what we have come to expect.

What is worse in this situation is the further devolution of the Republican Party.  It’s not that we haven’t known since Ronald Reagan chose to open his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi with a tip of the hat to States’s Rights that the GOP was treading in dangerous racial territory.

We’ve known since “law and order” became code for African American incarceration. We’ve known since “welfare queen” became the code for people of color receiving social benefits when whites receiving welfare assistance were “down on their luck,” while people of color were lazy.

We’ve known since racists couldn’t make up their minds.  Were non-white immigrants “lazy” dolts who game the social safety system, or were they so hard-working they were soaking up all the American jobs?

We’ve known since the Paul family newsletter, in which a marginal ideological publication attracted marginal people [Atl], that Senator Rand Paul would be an apologist for the White House.  We’ve known since Senator Perdue reminded us of the meaning of “imprecation” [Atl] that a person who quotes Psalms 109:8 “let his days be few” about President Obama would be an apologist for this Oval Office.

However, of all the weekends in the world, this is the one to remember Dr. King’s movement wasn’t about making people feel comfortable.  It was about making people feel as though progress was not only desirable but necessary.

Progress is still desirable and ever more necessary.

 

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Democrat’s Report on Russian Cyber Attacks

Here’s a link to the PDF file for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democrat’s report on Russian interference in western elections and it’s assault on the west.  The file is fairly large (some 200 pages) so a download is recommended.

https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/FinalRR.pdf

There are ten recommendations in the executive summary which should be of interest.  To find the original link, go to the Foreign Relations Committee site, then scroll down to the Minority section at the bottom of the page in the lower right hand corner.  Click on the access to the file.

 

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Tarkanian’s Racist Rhetoric

The Nevada Independent article on the Nevada Senate primary race indicates how this might be a referendum on Donald Trump if Perpetual Candidate Danny Tarkanian  has his way.  However, the portion of Trumpism to which Tarkanian the Lesser is clinging most vociferously is one of the least attractive — good old fashioned racism and xenophobia.

“He also laid out his priority on immigration policy, saying he supported the president’s effort to build a wall along with border with Mexico, and wanted to see an end to chain migration, expressed opposition to the concept of birthright citizenship and expansion of the E-verify system used to root out undocumented workers from the labor pool.

“I do not think that anyone who came to our country illegally should be provided with the greatest gift our country has to offer — citizenship,” he said.” [NVIndy]

There are several items to unpack from this mashup of racist rhetoric.  And it is racist.  Do I see any reference to securing the northern border?  No. This is all about that southern border, the one we share with Mexico. The one over which at the present time we have a net zero immigration from Mexico.  However, as we all know this argument isn’t about net migration statistics — it’s about the US becoming entirely too brownish. Too many phone centers offering instructions and information in Spanish, too many Spanish speaking people in the supermarket, too many Hispanic people holding jobs, having children, buying houses, and sending their kids to school. Too many monolingual white Americans “feeling uncomfortable.”

One of the inferences deserving of additional notice is the concept Tarkanian introduces of the Gift (of living in America) or (applying for American citizenship.)  There isn’t much difference between this concept and the less attractive version, “I got mine now you try to get yours sucker.”

Lost in this version of the immigration issue is the notion that immigrants bring their gifts to the United States.   Einstein was an immigrant.   Accepted not every immigrant is an Einstein, however, if a person happens to be putting yogurt on the breakfast cereal or in the blender with some fruit — perhaps a nod to Hamdi Ulukaya might be in order. He’s the Kurdish ex-sheepherder who popularized Chobani.  Using Google today?  Thank another immigrant Sergey Brin.  And by the way, should one be clad in the most popular American article of clothing — denim jeans — thank another immigrant Levi Strauss.  At this point one the right wingers bluster something like “we’re not talking about those kinds of people, we’re talking about — you know, the ‘others.”

There are at least a couple of ways to perceive this rebuttal. First, as a bit of good old fashioned racism — “they” are brown skinned, Spanish speakers… and, secondly ‘they’ are ‘working class.’  Read: Less than a bonus to American society.  Except as reported last summer and fall, there were vegetables rotting in California fields because of a lack of experienced farm workers to harvest them.  Growers offered higher wages, and there were still shortages of farm workers with the expertise to know what to pick and when to pick it.   Just a few hours ago the Ventura, CA newspaper was asking a grower about the recent crop report, his response:

“I wouldn’t say that it’s been a good few years, but it’s been OK for us,” Tamai said. “I would just say that it’s getting more difficult (and) it’s getting more expensive to grow in the county. It’s pretty pricey here, and there’s always a fight for enough labor.”

Thus much for the immigrant farm workers, (and retail clerks, and restaurant workers, and hotel maids, and pool service workers, and home health aides, and medical technicians, and delivery drivers….) not being a ‘bonus’ to the American way of life.  Unfortunately, the only way to rationalize the idea that immigrants are a “burden’ is to see them as non-productive human beings, instead of witnessing and recognizing the economic value of their work, and appreciating the value of the cultural additions they bring to the country.  There’s nothing new about this contemporary rendition of the old Know Nothings who decried Irish and German migrations.  The era, the languages, and the clothing may change, but it’s the same old racist rant.

Another point in Tarkanian’s disturbing comments needs a mention:  We do have a `14th Amendment,” for a reason.  “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States, and of the State in which they reside..”

That’s all persons.  And if Tarkanian the Lesser is calling for the end of the 14th Amendment he might need to come to the understanding this means African Americans, who were to be made citizens not only of the US but also of the states which formerly allowed chattel slavery.   There’s usually a stammer or two from advocates of abolishing the 14th Amendment about merely modifying the Amendment when this point come up. Modify it how?  The devil is indeed in the details, and one of the details involves how one perceives babies.   Advocates of amending the Amendment often cite “abuses relating to anchor babies.”  The term itself in inherently offensive.

“Children are widely seen as innocent and pure … yet there is an unspoken racial element there, for children of color are all too often pictured as criminals or welfare cheats in training,” said Haney Lopez, author of “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked The Middle Class.”

Dog whistle is a term used to describe coded language that means one thing in general but has an additional meaning for a targeted population.

The racializing of children of color is “the ignoble tradition that finds voice in the phrase ‘anchor babies,’ which tarnishes even the tiniest infant with the stain of being one of ‘them,’ the dark and dangerous who invade our society,” Haney Lopez said.” [NBC]

We could do without the epithets like ‘anchor baby’ and related emissions from the racist bull horns.  Or we might ask: Does Tarkanian the Lesser think infants are tiny nefarious invaders?”

Sadly, there is an audience for Tarkanian’s racist campaign rhetoric.  They are white, they are frustrated, they are racists, and they will applaud his rantings.  They will vote for him because he will say aloud what they’ve been thinking — Mexicans are drug dealers (as the Chinese were characterized more than a century ago) — Mexicans are a burden to society (as the Irish were a century and a half ago) — Mexicans are filling up our neighborhoods (like the Eastern European Jews and Italians of the early 20th century).

Racial revanchists have been among us since time out of mind — however, it would be nice to get through one election cycle without a blatant reminder of their proximity.

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Filed under Constitution, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics