Tag Archives: immigration policy reform

Distraction to Destruction: The Great Immigration Diversion

If a political party doesn’t want to discuss problems like, say, income inequality? Or, gun violence? Or, vote suppression? Or, Heaven Fore-fend, the interference in our elections by a hostile foreign power? — Then what better diversion than Immigration.  Better still, the issue can be framed such that it appeals to the lesser little devils of our nature like racism, and thus be an “acceptable” way to insert racism into our national political discourse as if it were a legitimate topic of immediate consideration.

“Immigrants today account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.7%) in 1970. However, today’s immigrant share remains below the record 14.8% share in 1890, when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S.”  [Pew]

Thus much for the Huge Wave of Immigrants. It shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice that the immigrants being vilified are coming to our southern border. Those would be the Mexican immigrants, and those from Central American nations — probably the brown versions of human beings, and therefore not likely to assimilate.

“Mexico is the top origin country of the U.S. immigrant population. In 2015, 11.6 million immigrants living in the U.S. were from there, accounting for 27% of all U.S. immigrants. The next largest origin groups were those from China (6%), India (6%), the Philippines (5%) and El Salvador (3%).  By region of birth, immigrants from South and East Asia combined accounted for 27% of all immigrants, a share equal to that of Mexico.”   [Pew]

Oops, there goes another bit of nativist mythology.  Interesting, those crowds bellowing “Build The Wall” aren’t chanting about the 27% of immigrants from South and East Asia.  We can drill down on this a bit more:

“About 1 million immigrants arrive in the U.S. each year. In 2015, the top country of origin for new immigrants coming into the U.S. was India, with 110,000 people, followed by Mexico (109,000), China (90,000) and Canada (35,000).

By race and ethnicity, more Asian immigrants than Hispanic immigrants have arrived in the U.S. each year since 2010. Immigration from Latin America slowed following the Great Recession, particularly from Mexico, which has seen net losses in U.S. immigration over the past few years.”  [Pew]

The “Build The Wall” Gang seem to have missed this point.  To miss the point is to base one’s perception of immigration on the situation before 2010.  Moreover, the Wall is whatever the audience wants it to be.  It’s a real, physical barrier [ChiTrib] [vox] or a metaphor for making white Americans feel like the government is ‘protecting’ them (and their privileges) from incursions by brown people. [Hill] [VanityFair]

What is generally missing from coverage of the administration’s use of the Build The Wall campaign litany is any factual context.  It seems sufficient to the corporate media to show clips of the incantations of “Build The Wall” during rallies, without offering any information explaining that the pretext is a vision of American immigration which is at least eight years old, and is currently statistically indefensible.

It’s also readily apparent the corporate media would rather not discuss the elephant in the room — the underpinning of this perspective on immigration is partially if not essentially racist.  This shouldn’t be too surprising.  This would be the same press that can barely enunciate the word, and applies a host of euphemisms to describe racist remarks as “racially charged,” “distasteful,” “derogatory,” and “racially tinged.” [HuffPo] Again, this would be the same DC press which keeps labeling Trumpian expressions as “counterfactual,” “factual shortcut,” “stretched truth,” and “misleading statement,” [Week] instead of the more accurate old fashioned term — L.I.E. [NYT]

The current occupant of the Oval Office may be right about one thing — his is a made for TV administration, replete with a continuing fountain of daily (hourly?) emissions which fill what might otherwise be dead air.  It is, “news” from a fire hose.  The problem is that it floods any time which might be spared for context and analysis.  Should even tenuous contextualization, analysis, and evaluation be applied the Occupant screams “fake news,” and the chanting rally crowds applaud Dear Leader.

Caveat Emptor.  The chanters are investing in a distraction to divert them from the destruction of their own economic well being, and sense of community.  Arguing with them doesn’t work; their fact-free bubble of Faux News precludes any analysis in conflict with their fundamental racism.  Better to speak to and for those who advocate for a rational and comprehensive immigration policy, and out-vote the ditto-heads who chant “Build The Wall,” and “Amnesty,” whenever it might be suggested that a rational comprehensive policy would be preferable to emotional, irrational, racism.

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In time for Thanksgiving: 20 Bible Verses Right Wing Opponents of Immigration Reform Would Like To Forget

Bible immigrants

These are 20 Bible verses concerning the treatment of “strangers” from the Old and New Testaments which right wing extremist opponents of immigration policy reform would not like to be reminded of over Thanksgiving Dinner.   Enjoy.

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Amodei Does The Phone Thing: Immigration Edition

Amodei 3Please don’t ask me to transcribe what I heard during Representative Mark Amodei’s (R-NV2) Telephone Townhall thing he had tonight, during the dinner hour.  I always seem to be contacted while the “town hall is already in progress,” and Amodei’s dismaying propensity for scrambling his answers into disjointed phrases interspersed with touching attempts to give the questioner reason to believe he might have heard and understood the question, combined with hunger, means I rarely stay for the whole performance.

I got in just as “Linda from Reno” was posing a direct question: “When are we going to close the borders? Don’t you think we ought to close the borders?

There’s nothing nuanced about this inquiry.  It’s about as straight forward as it gets. Closed border good?  Representative Amodei responded, as he nearly always does, by starting a sentence — shifting to an independent clause — shifting to another thought — reverting to the initial topic long enough to — insert another qualifier, before — circling back to touch on whatever it was that made him think of — another qualifying statement, leading to the beginning of another sentence.

As nearly as I can guess, Representative Amodei believes that the current crisis of too many undocumented and unaccompanied children at our border detention facilities means we have no control over our borders.

Whoa — if we didn’t have control over our borders then they wouldn’t be in DHS Border Patrol detention facilities would they?

The obvious point that if the southern border were “open” these children would be “all over the place” instead of in detention and case processing facilities stipulated, the notion that the opposite might be the case leads Representative Amodei to suggest that deploying the National Guard should be implemented.

For what? We have 21,000 border patrol agents, local, state, and tribal governments have programs funded by the Federal government to assist in border security, and we need the National Guard? According to Representative Amodei (I think, from my notes with arrows and lines trying to track his answer) this is necessary to have “absolute control of the border.”  I’ll return to this point in a moment, but first there’s a need to be more specific about the difference between the question from Reno and the answer from Amodei.

Closed Minds and Borders

Let’s pause for a moment, because Representative Amodei really isn’t offering a direct answer to “Linda’s” direct question.  She wasn’t talking about controlling the border she was advocating closing the borders. Closed borders have serious consequences, consequences “Linda” may not have considered when expressing her desire to stop all immigration.

First, and most obviously, a closed border works both ways. While closing the borders would prevent immigration, it also prevents trade and tourism.  If country A closes down its border with country B, B always reacts.  The reactions, and the economic implications thereof, create a plethora of issues which often have consequences intended and unintended.

The most obvious example of a closed border in recent memory is that between East and West Germany.  The destruction of the Berlin Wall provided iconic images, but the process of reunification was far more problematic.  For example, East Germany had been considered one of the more prosperous Eastern Bloc countries, but without Russian assistance/hegemony, and without a universally valued currency, when the wall fell so did the East German economy.  Further, there were those, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher included, who saw a re-unified Germany as a threat to European security and urged the Russians to prevent the process as much as possible.  However, a central point to remember is that for all the drama associated with PM Thatcher’s practice of carrying a 1937 map of German borders in her handbag, or the complex problem of what to do with East German industrial subsidies, the closed border between the two Germany-s before 1990 allowed the economy on the East side of the line to paper over serious economic flaws and abysmal infrastructure.

In other, simpler terms, closed borders hide and obscure as much as they secure.

Secondly, borders don’t exist in the imagination, they define regions, and in doing so they create “border areas,” those sections on either side of a closed border which create social, political, and economic environments simply because they are border areas.  There’s another European example of the consequences of closed borders as they apply to border regions.

In 2005 a study was conducted of the consequences of the Emerald Curtain, i.e. the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. [The Emerald Curtain pdf] Unlike it’s German counterpart, the Emerald Curtain didn’t come as a response to any specific migratory or economic trends, it accreted over time.  Established in 1921, and discussed intermittently until 1925, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is a “tale of unintended and unforeseen consequences.”

One of those unintended consequences was the creation of a border area, without major urban areas, and without any robust trade, which engendered dependence on agriculture, under-employment, lack of market access, lack of transport, and the inaccessibility of services like education.   The areas on both sides of the Emerald Curtain tended not to be amenable to economic diversification, which in turn exacerbated social and economic trends including low disposable incomes and higher levels of illiteracy.  Even the “Irish Tiger” boom period, didn’t have the same impact in the southern border regions as it did further south.

For all the attention, verbiage, studies, plans, and parliamentary speeches about improving the Emerald Curtain border regions — the area in 2005 was still characterized as “lagging behind national benchmarks for growth, employment, and development.” [The Emerald Curtain pdf]

The Emerald Curtain isn’t even drawn that tightly shut, but still Ireland’s largest customer is the United States, followed by the UK, Belgium, Germany, and France. Most Irish imports are from the UK, followed by the U.S., Germany, Netherlands, and China in that order. [MIT.edu]  Meanwhile, the economy in Ulster moves forward, with most trade between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The economy in the north is still tied to the economy of the UK. [Belfast Telegraph]

Whether “Linda in Reno” is advocating a militarized tightly controlled border like the Iron Curtain, or a softer, less organized one like its Emerald counterpart, the results are essentially the same.  The fencing may obfuscate and render opaque issues which will cause major problems over time, and may as easily create regions in which economic activity is stunted or diminished.

Good fences may make good neighbors, but they tend not to encourage economic growth and development.

Absolute Control

As promised earlier, it’s time to get down to an item on Representative Amodei’s wish list: US absolute control of its borders.   This sounds good — it’s also meaningless.  But wait, meaningless is good, especially for the Republican talking point generators and distributors.

By oversimplification and sloganeering complicated and thorny issues can be reduced to ‘sound bites,’ easily digested and something of a Rorschach Test for the listener.  “Linda in Reno” may come away from her portion of the Amodei Word Salad Shooter Session believing that when he says “absolute control of the border” he’s espousing her version of a closed, militarized, border — or a softer more informal one, as might be characterized by a line between two groups of people not yet completely over the Battle of the Boyne.  The beauty of the oversimplified, and thus meaningless, sound bite is that whatever interpretation might be applied to it, the politician using it can pivot at any point and walk away … “I really didn’t mean precisely That…” Whatever “that” might have been.

Yes, Representative Amodei wants “absolute control of the border,” BUT not so much that the Mexican government responds with a closure on its side?  Or, BUT not so much that cities like Brownsville, Nogales, El Paso, and Laredo suffer economic declines from a lack of cross border trade?  Or, BUT not so much that the flow of international trade, commerce, and currency is disrupted?

What is “absolute” control?  Does that mean not a single solitary migrant moving over the borders without a visa is to be found?  Or, is there an acceptable level of ‘leakage?” If so, what’s the level? Once again, the Rorschach Test comes into play. The message means whatever the listener wants to hear.

Who do we intend to “control?” Another Rorschach Test — are we ‘controlling’ for racial or ethnic characteristics? Political or ideological perspectives?  Does “control” mean keeping lower income, ethnic minority populations, at bay?  Does it mean deporting PhD candidates in the field of applied physics? In order for there to be “control” there must be something, someone, under that control.  Who or what that might be is left to the interpretation of the listener.  These little bits of meaninglessness are handy for politicians who don’t want to specify policy positions or describe their legislative proposals.  They are also incredibly useful for criticizing the proposals of opponents.

Using sound bite slogans makes it an easy task to critique the elements of S. 744 by saying it “doesn’t provide absolute control over the borders.” Whatever that might mean. Or, “it doesn’t require enough from those applying for naturalization? Whatever “enough” could be. Or, “it’s too close to amnesty.”  What’s amnesty and what’s too close?

In the final segment, Representative Amodei wanted to reassure “Linda from Reno” that he’d contacted the Department of Homeland Security and they had indicated to him that there were no federal facilities in Nevada to which the unaccompanied children or families would be transported. Hint: There’s no need to round up the pick up trucks, letter the signs, and power up the bull horns?  Once up this easy grade, Representative Amodei got entangled in his explanation of how the federal government couldn’t insure that private organizations in Nevada, especially churches, wouldn’t accept detainees during processing. If I were to attempt to translate my notes this paragraph would read:

“Something, something, Federal Government can’t tell churches what to do, something, something, especially in light of the Supreme Court decision, which I agree with, something, something, it’s a sticky wicket, trying to tell churches what to do, something, something, government should stay out of church business. ”  I’m guessing he’s referring to the Hobby Lobby decision. I’m guessing he’s telling “Linda from Reno” that if a church or private non-profit organization wants to house detainees during processing there’s nothing he can do about it.

I lasted one more question and answer, and then the desire to return to dinner overwhelmed my inclination to try to make intelligible notes from Representative Amodei’s Word Salad Shooter.  Each one of these sessions makes me all the more appreciative of the members of the local press in Nevada who have the Herculean task, as a part of their job, to make sense of Representative Amodei’s verbal barrages, interminable regressions, and equally predictable sloganeering.   Somewhere there is a Salad Shooter spewing Scrabble tiles that needs a hug.


Filed under Amodei, anti-immigration, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

Distraction, Diversion, and Division

Not so long ago the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its unemployment rate figures — Nevada has an 8% unemployment rate. [BLS]  Things could be worse in the land of all fifty states and the District of Columbia, we could be higher than Rhode Island’s 8.3% and be in 51st place in the nation.

Nevada Unemployment Rate ten yearOne quick glance at the chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Nevada is still trying to get back to employment rates at a level before the Wall Street induced mortgage meltdown and housing hosing.  So, what solutions are we discussing?

In the Reno area the question appears to be a matter of which Republican candidate in District 16 is the most Anti-Tax. [RGJ]  As if lowering taxes even more in this slogging state will induce businesses to relocate or to initiate commerce in this area.  The mythology of the right wing notwithstanding, there hasn’t been any evidence to support the myth since 1937 — once more into the graphs:

Taxes vs Jobs

And the explanation:

“The Tax Foundation, a respected conservative-leaning group, has analyzed tax issues since 1937. They publish reports showing the average income and average tax load for all 50 states. Their analysis includes all state and local taxes.

I’ve charted this data (below) and added a green line to separate the states with high incomes from the rest. Aside from a few outliers, the trend is obvious: All but one of the states that enjoy higher incomes (greater than $50,000 per person) also impose higher total taxes (above 9 percent). At the same time, all but one of the states that keep taxes low (less than 9 percent) have lower incomes.”  [USNWR]

And the bottom line expressed as tersely and concisely as possible:

There is no evidence in this chart to confirm that low taxes lead to prosperity. In contrast, higher taxes accompany higher incomes, not the other way around.” [USNWR]

What does contribute to economic well being?  In Massachusetts it’s the proximity and availability of top notch academic and scientific research institutions, as in northern California; in Wyoming and North Dakota it’s the accessibility of natural resources, in Florida its a well tended tourism sector, and in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey it’s the financial sector of the economy, and so it goes.

However, let us immodestly conjecture that from the June 10th primary to the November 4th general elections we’ll all be inundated with the same tired, diversionary, divisive sloganeering which has impeded our capacity to slog out of the employment doldrums.

The magical pixie dust will be sprinkled liberally  “If we only had lower taxes we’d have more JOBS,” as if we could simply eliminate our state and local governments entirely and thereby secure 100% employment.

Meanwhile down in the southland, the immigration reform issue could be a crucial bit of the election picture.  No immigration policy reform vote no Latino voters, or expressed more delicately:

“In Nevada, the fate of immigration reform could impact Republican U.S. Reps Mark Amodei and Joe Heck — both of whom favor fixing the immigration system and have grown frustrated with GOP leadership for not holding a vote yet. They’re facing pressure from immigration advocates, who plan Wednesday to protest outside their Las Vegas offices.”  [LVRJ]

Not that either of the aforementioned gentlemen in the House of Representatives has actually made definitive statements about their positions on reform, both apparently accepting of the leadership stance that a piece meal approach is preferable to a comprehensive one.  Again, it’s predictable that they will continue to dodge and weave so long as the dreaded word “amnesty” is tossed about like so much pop-corn in a pan in the right wing media.

Failure to enact a comprehensive policy means we would leave on the table some 5.4% ($1.4 trillion) in economic growth nationally by 2033.  We’d be foregoing about 1% in overall productivity. We’d not see a projected $850 billion reduction in the federal deficit, and we’d not get the benefit of a nice 3% reduction in the national debt. [WH]   And we are concerned about the deficit and the debt aren’t we?

So, as politicians drone on about taking on immigration issues one piece at a time, or one little cautious step after another (such that nothing really ever gets done except fence building and deportations) imagine that $1.4 trillion in increased economic activity disappearing into a black hole.

When the stump orator decries how much “they” are “sucking” away in benefits and services, remember that one in four new enterprises are owned by immigrants.  Immigrants created 28% of all new businesses in 2011, and immigrants started 25% of the new enterprises in seven out of eight economic sectors, for example: Construction 31.8%, retail trade 29.1%, health care and social services 28.7%, and leisure and hospitality 23.9%. [RenewEcon]  Thus much for the “They’re taking our jobs” rhetoric.   If we truly want Job Creators then let’s give a hand up to the people who are creating 25% of all the new enterprises rather than wringing our hankies about the 0.1% who have already “made it.”

I wish I had more faith in the communication skills of our candidates, and in their capacity to research their talking points and create solutions to employment and immigration issues.  Instead, I have this sinking feeling that we’ll get more of the same old mixture of additional heat and a decreasing amount of light.

No doubt we will be advised that we have an “election integrity” issue and that only draconian vote suppression legislation will fix our (non-existent) problem — when we should be talking about immigration and the economy.

We’ll be told we have to promote a business friendly environment (translation: less taxation) when we should be talking about the investments needed to upgrade our educational and research capacity in order to advance our economy.  No, we’ll probably not compete on a level playing field with Stanford, Cal, and MIT, but we could be doing better.  We’ll get another serving of the mythology of the Tax/Enterprise ratio while knowing full well that a state which lacks the financial capacity to improve its infrastructure in transportation and communication is going to lag behind other states which have made these renovations a priority.

We’ll be distracted, diverted, and divided until the trash cans and recycle bins overflow with campaign brochures each less informative than the last.

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Immigration Policy Deformed

Remember when Representative Joe Heck (R-NV Tea Party) was attempting to take a ‘middle ground’ on comprehensive immigration policy reform in July 2013? Or, perhaps it might be more accurate to say Rep. Heck was talking about taking a middle ground position on the issue?  [WaPo]  By December 2013 Rep. Heck was ‘shopping a bill’ in the House of Representatives to stop the deportation of young people whose parents had brought them into the country, and to provide a ‘path to citizenship’ for them. [LVRJ]  This, by the way, isn’t comprehensive immigration policy reform — it’s simply one small part of the total picture.  At any rate, Heck’s bill was going nowhere for lack of ‘key support.’ [LVSun]  The lack of support attributable in part to the narrow nature of Heck’s efforts.

During the April 2014 deliberations on comprehensive immigration policy reform, Democrats attempted to get a discharge petition filled to force the comprehensive bill to the floor.  However, Representatives Heck and Amodei both found reasons not to support that effort. Amodei believed the House bill was too much like the Senate compromise version, and Heck thought the discharge petition was a parliamentary gimmick. [RGJ]  Heck’s argument sounds a little thin, especially since it was House Republicans who sponsored a discharge petition in favor of the American Energy Act back in August 2008. [TWS]

Protesters at Heck’s office notwithstanding [KTVN], the Republican strategy on comprehensive immigration policy reform is still piece meal consideration of policy elements with no over-arching reform bill being acceptable.  The Republican leadership in the House recently voted to block the inclusion of the ENLIST bill into the National Defense Authorization Act, [Time] and now House Speaker John Boehner is suggesting he might bring up the measure as a stand alone bill. [Politico]  However, a person might not want to get too enthusiastic about the prospects of the bill — Speaker Boehner has made other comments suggesting piecemeal votes, which have come to naught.

For all of the Speaker’s teasing on the matter, the likelihood of any immigration policy reform bill — specific or comprehensive — coming to the floor of the House doesn’t appear to be a solid bet.


The Republicans believe the Hispanic vote will not be a major factor in the 2014 mid term elections.  [Reuters]

This school of thought is supported by Pew Research studies which indicate “Hispanic Voters Punch Below Their Weight in Midterm Elections.”

Hispanic voting midtermsIf, indeed, Hispanic voters do not turn out during the midterm election, then the projected 48.6% white voter turn out could be decisive.  However, these may not be the only numbers which are germane to the current political issues.

Politico’s polling indicates strong support for immigration policy reform across a broader spectrum of opinion than the headlines (and Congressional commentary) might suggest.

Seventy-one percent of likely voters surveyed — and nine of 10 Hispanics — said they back sweeping change to immigration laws. The support spans party lines: 64 percent of Republican respondents back comprehensive immigration reform, as do 78 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents. [Politico]

Republicans believe that their obstruction of comprehensive immigration policy reform will create cynicism among Hispanic voters.

Cynical voters are more likely to stay home. The logic goes — if the Obama Administration and the Senate haven’t been able to get any traction, much less accomplishment, toward policy reform, then Hispanic voters are more likely to believe that voting doesn’t really matter.  If voting doesn’t matter, why bother to register and vote? There is some anecdotal evidence to support this speculation. [Salon]  In short, the more obstructive a party, the more opportunity in the future for further obstruction.

Republicans believe that immigration policy reform isn’t a fight they want to have prior to the midterm elections.

There are some formidable supporters of a more comprehensive legislative strategy on immigration policy reform.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been pressing Republican leadership on policy reform, [WaPo] [HuffPo] and so has the National Association of Manufacturers [NAM].  The Business Roundtable called for reform, but stopped just short of endorsing pathways to citizenship. [BR] So, why the opposition among GOP leaders in the House to reforms supported by some of their staunchest supporters?  There are some possibilities to consider:

(a) Just because you’re gerrymandered doesn’t mean you’re safe. Especially from those even further right in your own party.  This might help explain why some candidates were looking at short term success and discounting the lamentations about losing the Hispanic vote in the 2016 presidential year elections.  Perhaps they speculated that it was better to say little (and do even less) about immigration policy reform in 2014 and stay in Congress, rather than do something to insure long term success at the risk of being primaried by ultra-conservative elements in their own party.

(b) There are rocks and there are hard places, and low turn out doesn’t mean you can avoid them.  Low turn out means motivating the ‘base’ is of heightened importance.  Tick off the base voters and an opponent’s potential for a win in a midterm election becomes greater by small degrees.  Or, advocating comprehensive immigration policy reform and being bashed by the Tea Party elements who have been weaned on Limbaugh and nurtured on right wing radio hate-speech, isn’t a recipe for success in low turnout midterm elections.   (Rather like creating a monster, and then being fed to it?)

(c) The Tea Party has already won the fight within the GOP.  Having effectively silenced the advocates of moderate policy reform, and having taken seats in the Congress, the Tea Party element is now driving the Republican bus. Speaker Boehner may have been ‘teasing’ them, but that was still insufficient to get enough GOP members on board to bring immigration policy reform to the floor.  Intriguing media speculation about the primary results and the factions supporting individual candidates in those primaries is a nice academic — or inside the Beltway — pursuit, but the point remains that if  those so-called moderates in the House on the GOP side of the aisle still can’t move on immigration reform then the Tea Party has already taken over for all intents and purposes.

A solution to the impasse is possible IF advocates of immigration reform take the lesson: Don’t agonize, Organize!  Voter registration will be crucial. Get out the vote efforts essential. If proponents of reform would try to get one more person registered to vote for every time Rush Limbaugh and his cohorts say “Amnesty,” the outcome probably wouldn’t be in any doubt.

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