Tag Archives: nativism

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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Filed under Immigration, Politics

Our Own Reality Show: Late Night Version

Nightmare Trees Dems

We have a presidential candidate who gets up at odd hours of the night to tweet insults to former beauty pageant winners, and who expended a great deal of time and energy bemoaning the categorization of his White Supremacist followers as “deplorable.”  If these are one’s priorities so be it, but there’s a difference between nightmares and issues – a differentiation not tackled all that efficiently by his supporters and surrogates. 

Republicans appear to be beset with nightmares, not the least of which is we, as a nation, might seem weak in the eyes of others.  Strength is Action. Action is Strength. We must, like a Hollywood B-Movie production complete with car chases and explosions, appear strong.  As we do when bombing some location into gravel and small piles of rubble. This is the nightmare of the small man in the bar just before closing time, well liquored up, who decides to demonstrate his masculinity by punching some fellow who has offer some vague (and probably misinterpreted) insult.   Should these people wake up and read the information available they’d find that the United States spent some 54% of its discretionary spending on the military.

Military Spending Discretionary And, how does this compare to military spending by other nations?  The U.S. spends approximately $2.77 for every dollar spent by the Chinese.

Military Spending Comparisons So, this ought to give some comfort to those whose sleep is disturbed by dreams of military annihilation at the hands of the nefarious.  We have the best equipped, best lead, most professional military in the world.  There are issues here – not nightmares.

One issue is the tendency toward militarism, the notion that all problems have a military solution and thus the military must be accorded a prime place in national planning and policy.  This topic was explored here about eight years ago:

“Evidently lost on the militarists is the notion that one can be supportive of the military without adopting militarism. In fact, a “muscular” militarism that posits the application of military force to each and every conflict is counter-productive to long term military interests. The ‘whack-a-mole’ Bush Administration/McCain policies have the U.S. Armed Forces stretched to the limit, with used and abused equipment, and over-deployed troops, who are facing serious obstacles to receiving comprehensive care and benefits after their service. A cogent, less militaristic, policy would recommend the continual evaluation of our deployment ramifications, sentient assessments of our capacities, and a rational review of our own recruiting and remuneration standards. A less militaristic policy would allow us to employ the diplomatic tools in our arsenal to spare the unnecessary exploitation of our military. When we ‘wise up’ we’ll realize which Party’s candidates can deliver these policies.”  [DB]

In short, if we’ll stop all the posturing and flag waving pseudo-patriotism and start thinking about how and when the use of military force is applicable without draining our resources and putting our diplomatic efforts in jeopardy, then we can all sleep a bit better.

The second nightmare which seems to be grabbing hold of the sweat soaked sheets of our Republican friends is that someone, somewhere, is cheating us out of what is rightfully ours.  Taxation! Tax money being spent on Welfare Queens and Food Stamp cheats!  Oh, the misery.   Waking up and using The Google will solve one part of the nightmare – we really aren’t “taxed to death.”

“The tax burden is lower in the U.S. than in many other developed nations. Of 34 OECD countries, the U.S. tax rate for the average single American with no children ranks No. 17. The tax burden on a single person with two kids ranks 27th. Comparing tax rates across countries is difficult, however, without taking into account how much people benefit from their tax payments in college tuition, retirement income, or more intangible rewards, such as security and the social safety net.” [BlmbNews]

The reality is that there is no monster under the bed.  We aren’t even in the top ten OECD countries in terms of taxation.  But, but, but, how about welfare cheats?   If we look at the SNAP program from the USDA we find that: “The SNAP national payment error rate for fiscal year 2014 is 3.66 percent.  This indicates a 96.34 percent accuracy rate of providing benefits to low income people.  In fiscal year 2014, over 99 percent of participating households  were eligible for SNAP as determined by income and other program criteria.” [USDA]  I can’t speak for anyone else, but if I could get my total financial records into the 96.34% accuracy category I’d be one happy camper in sweet dream land. 

However, nightmares aren’t made of rational ruminations about fiscal accuracy and accounting practices.  They come from anecdotal renditions and repetitions of ‘stories’ about seeing some guy drive up in a new pickup and toting out a case of Budweiser.

“The Act precludes the following items from being purchased with SNAP benefits:  alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, hot food and any food sold for on-premises consumption. Nonfood items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, medicines and vitamins, household supplies, grooming items, and cosmetics, also are ineligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.” [USDA

Under the terms of the 2002 legislation, no “illegal immigrants” are eligible for SNAP assistance. [USDA]  Further, ‘non-qualified aliens’ are not eligible for a host of other benefit programs, as specified in bureau or agency rules:

“Federal public benefits include a variety of safety-net services paid for by federal funds. But the welfare law’s definition does not specify which particular programs are covered by the term, leaving that clarification to each federal benefit–granting agency. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a notice clarifying which of its programs fall under the definition. The list of 31 HHS programs includes Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare, TANF, Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, the Child Care and Development Fund, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.” [NILC]

Sleep well Republican friends, the undocumented are not eligible for support,  and we are being most parsimonious in regard to our bestowal of benefits. 

Democrats might sleep more comfortably if the following situation were improved:

“Despite growth in SNAP caseloads since the onset of the Great Recession, about 17 percent of those eligible go unserved and SNAP is missing nearly six in ten eligible elderly persons. SNAP policies that improve program access and increase staff capacity to process applications as well as SNAP outreach can help communities, families and businesses maximize federal dollars.” [FRAC]

We should not forget the other monster in the closet. Others.  If slavery was America’s Original Sin, and segregation its phalanx of myrmidons, then racism is the residual.  However, demonization is not necessarily the exclusive domain of people of color – we’ve demonized Irish and Eastern European immigrants, Asian and Chinese immigrants, Jews, Catholics; and lest we forget “commies” during the McCarthy Era. 

Perhaps some right wing individual tosses and turns on the mattress because the phone answering service wants to know if he’d like the message options in Spanish?  This is America, Speak English!  The immigrants will, like most others before them, and the native language will be lost in three generations:

“The authors found that although the generational life expectancy of Spanish is greater among Mexicans in Southern California than other groups, its demise is all but assured by the third generation. Third-generation immigrants are American-born with American-born parents but with three or four foreign-born grandparents.
In the second generation, fluency in Spanish was greater for Mexican immigrants than for other Latin American groups, and substantially greater than the proportions of Asian immigrants who could speak their mother tongue very well. In the third generation, only 17 percent of Mexican immigrants still speak fluent Spanish, and in the fourth generation, just 5 percent. The corresponding fourth-generation figure for white European immigrants is 1 percent.
What is endangered, said the authors, is not the dominance of English but the survival of the non-English languages immigrants bring with them to the United States.” [Princeton Edu/Massey 2006]

If we’re looking for some reason to lose sleep it might be because by the 4th generation we’ve lost 95% to 99% of the language facility we might have had in this increasingly shrinking world.

But, wouldn’t we all sleep more peacefully if we’d just SAY we need to fight “radical Islam?”

First, there’s a little problem defining “radical.”  Do we mean what might be considered conservative Islam, men with beards, women in burkas?  This leaves us with a problem – what to do with the Muslim family who wants the daughter to go to medical school because there’s a need for women doctors to treat women patients?  What to do with the millions of practitioners  of Islam who are not conservative? And the millions more who have a special word for the ISIS thugs who flout their disregard for the basic tenets of Islam – daesh. (That stuff you scrape off the bottom of your shoes.)

Sleep well, the odds against an American being killed in a terrorist attack are 1: 25,000,000. [TechJuc] Another comforting (?) thought is that an American is far more likely to be shot by a toddler than a terrorist. [Snopes]

But that is another nightmare we don’t like to talk about.  I’d sleep better if we could do something about keeping firearms out of the hands of toddlers…

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Filed under anti-immigration, anti-terrorism, conservatism, Federal budget, Gun Issues, Immigration, Islam, Nativism, Politics, racism, Republicans, Taxation, terrorism, White Supremacists

To Swallow The Propaganda or To Research The Facts? Comprehensive Immigration Policy and the Undocumented

Immigration 2

An excellent, and recommended, post at Let’s Talk Nevada, drew all the usual suspects in the comment section.  The short piece, “To Deport or To Not Deport,” inspired the following xenophobic response which invites some additional commentary:

“The cost of illegal immigrants yearly is a staggering $113 billion dollars according tp FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform.) The issue of Anchor babies is being discussed in this election. Are they really American citizens? The burden of illegal immigrants upon our society is enormous. Health Care Costs, educating their children in American Schools, legal costs and the cost of keeping those convicted in jails is staggering. America cannot afford to support those people who come here without means of supporting themselves.” (emphasis added)

One of the common features in discourse from those opposed to comprehensive immigration reform is the word selection which states or implies that the United States is awash in unproductive undocumented “burdensome” immigrants in “staggering” numbers.

Let’s consider the two points the anti-immigration advocates are promoting. Is the US awash in undocumented immigrants? 

First, the population of the United States at the moment is estimated by the Census Bureau to be 321,657,235 as we speak.  The number of undocumented immigrants is estimated by the Department of Homeland Security to be 11.4 million.  A quick calculation shows that the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States as o.03544 or 3.5% of the total population.  Thus, about 97% of the people in the US are citizens or are here legally.  This really doesn’t support the notion that the US is drowning in a sea of undocumented residents.

Secondly, has there been any increase in illegal immigration such that the percentage calculated above is likely to increase in the immediate future? No.  The images of a flood of the undocumented flowing over the porous border with Mexico is a carefully tended bit of xenophobic mythology, the truth is rather different.

The worker bees at Politifact decided to investigate former President Bill Clinton’s statement that between 2010 and 2014 there was no net in-migration from Mexico.  True.   However, comprehensive immigration policy reform opponents appear to be locked into a time warp in which, like Ground Hog Day, it’s always 2007.

“According to Pew’s estimates, the undocumented population grew rapidly in the 1990s and early 2000s, rising from 3.5 million in 1990 to a peak of about 12.2 million in 2007. The total dropped during the recession, however, and has been roughly flat since then at about 11.7 million in 2012.6 A narrow majority — about 52 percent — are from Mexico, although a growing share are from Central America and, increasingly, Asia.” [538]

Are these people an unendurable burden on this country?  Right wing, and anti-immigration sources tout a figure of some $4.3 billion annually for health care services for the undocumented paid for by the tax payers, which they say is extrapolated from estimates of costs for emergency room services and free clinics.  A Rand Study is slightly less histrionic:

“Similarly, the undocumented constituted 12 percent of the nonelderly adult population (Los Angeles, CA)  but accounted for only 6 percent of spending. Extrapolating to the nation, total spending by the undocumented is $6.4 billion, of which only 17 percent ($1.1 billion) is paid for by public sources. The foreign-born (especially the undocumented) use disproportionately fewer medical services and contribute less to health care costs in relation to their population share, likely because of their better relative health and lack of health insurance.”

Let’s put that $1.1 billion into some perspective.  For $810 million you could purchase two A380 Airbus passenger airplanes which accommodate about 853 people each.  For $945 million you could purchase the AC Milan football (soccer) team. For the entire billion you might be able to get Roman Abramovich to sell you the Chelsea FC.  [TheRichest]  None of these come close to the total (public and private) health care expenditures for the latest estimates from the CDC.  Our total national health care expenditures were $2.9 trillion (2103) which equals about 17.4% of our GDP. [CDC] Yes, that’s trillion, with a T.  Now, how much of that was public health care services?

The answer, according to World Bank Data, is 47.1% which sounds impressive until we look at the 83.5% in the UK, 69.8% in Canada, 76.8% in Germany, 77.5% in France, 78% in Italy, 82.1% in Japan, 55.8% in China, and 70.4% in Spain.   Thus, we seem to be getting inordinately excited about an amount which is less in percentage terms than other industrialized nations, and which at best will only get a person 2 big airplanes or one major soccer team.

There’s also a problem with the alarmism about the cost of educating undocumented children.  Again the estimates from anti-immigrant or nativist groups puts the cost at $761 million per year.   Again, we’re not speaking of an outlandish number of individuals.  Of the total number of undocumented individuals in the US about 4.4 million are under 30 years of age.  As of 2012 there were approximately 4.7 million undocumented adults who were parents of minor children (3.8 million whose children were US citizens). [CAP]   Two important puzzle pieces need to be inserted.

One, it is the law of the land, as expressed in the Supreme Court decision in Plyler vs. Doe (1982) that “A Texas statute which withholds from local school districts any state funds for the education of children who were not “legally admitted” into the United States, and which authorizes local school districts to deny enrollment to such children, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” [Cornell]  So, whether the number is inflated, conflated, or specious doesn’t matter – since 1982 states cannot discriminate against school children because of their immigration status.

Second, there’s a problem with that $761 million figure.  It comes from an organization with some “baggage” in terms of immigration –as in “hate” group luggage. It also seems assumes that every undocumented child of every undocumented adult will be enrolled in a school.  This isn’t exactly competent calculation.  Nor are the numbers likely to “add up” because different states will use differing funding formulas to absorb the cost of educating children, as one right wing source admits in its article using the $761 million figure.

The commenter’s line, “America cannot afford to support those people who come here without means of supporting themselves,”  implies that undocumented individuals are without “means of support,” and therefore must be (1) non-taxpayers and (2) using the social welfare services in the U.S.

Wrong on both counts.  First, unauthorized immigrants make up about 5.1% of the total US labor force. [Pew]  Secondly, we have Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump asserting that “the annual cost of free tax credits alone paid to illegal immigrants quadrupled to $4.1 billion in 2011.”  Politifact jumped in at this point.  Their assessment gave Mr. Trump a “half true” rating.  As of 2009 (not 2011) unauthorized individuals were paid $4.2 billion in refundable tax credits, over a four year period.  Since undocumented individuals can’t get Social Security cards they can file with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, ITIN.  ITINs constitute an amorphous group of both those documented and undocumented.  Among the group of “legal” filers are refugees, asylum seekers, foreign workers in higher education, technology employees, and people who own businesses in the US but don’t live here.  Regardless of immigration status, and the number of ITIN filers who aren’t “legal” isn’t clear at all, none are eligible for Social Security. In fact, undocumented workers paid in $12 billion in payroll taxes but will never get Social Security benefits.

The tax credit Mr. Trump is speaking of goes back to the 2001 Bush tax cuts:

“The credit as it stands today was established in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, one of the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush. Unlike in 1996, Congress did not write a provision barring ITIN filers from claiming the refund.

As a result, claims for the additional child credit have increased significantly since 2001, according to the Treasury Inspector General audit. By 2009, 2.3 million ITIN filers received $4.2 billion through the additional child credit, a four-fold increase over 2005.” [Politifact]

Yes, undocumented workers ARE taxpayers:

“Collectively, they paid an estimated $10.6 billion to state and local taxes in 2010, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a research organization that works on tax policy issues. Contributions varied by state. In Montana they contributed $2 million. In California, more than $2.2 billion. On average they pay about 6.4% of their income in state and local taxes, ITEP said.

A 2007 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the impact of undocumented immigrants on the budgets of local and state governments cited IRS figures showing that 50% to 75% of the about 11 million unauthorized U.S. immigrants file and pay income taxes each year.” [CNNMoney]

And do they qualify for US social services programs?  Again the answer is a resounding NO:

Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status and under the 1996 welfare law, even legal immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years. [CNNMoney]

And then there are those “legal costs.”  Much of this argument refers back to, and is informed by, an April 1, 2006 episode on the Lou Dobbs Show. This would be an April Fool’s piece if the mis-information hadn’t been so widely disseminated and taken for truth by immigration opponents.

Supposedly, there’s “some $3 million a day spend to incarcerate illegal entrants, and about 30% of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal immigrants.” The facts are less dramatic:

Both of these claims can be traced back to that same April 1, 2006, episode of “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on CNN, in the same segment, with the same correspondent, Christine Romans. But the e-mail misrepresents what Romans said. She gave figures for people who are “not U.S. citizens,” a category that would include legal residents as well as “illegal aliens.”

Romans said that “according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 30 percent of federal prisoners are not U.S. citizens,” adding that “most are thought to be illegal aliens.” Actually, the Federal Bureau of Prisons does not keep figures on illegal immigrants. What solid numbers we can find point to a much smaller figure. A Department of Justice report from 2003 found that only 1.6 percent of the state and federal prison populations was under Immigration and Customs Enforcement jurisdiction, and thus known to be illegal immigrants. Half of these prisoners were detained only because they were here illegally, not for other crimes.

The Bureau of Prisons does track prisoners by offense when information is available. By that metric, 10.7 percent of prisoners in federal jails were incarcerated for immigration offenses in 2009. In 2006, when Romans gave her report, the figure was 10.2 percent.

The “$3 million dollar a day” figure is based on the false assumption that  30 percent of all inmates are illegal immigrants, and thus is greatly inflated. [FactCheck.org]

The Bottom Line

In the simplest possible terms:

  • In terms of the number of undocumented persons in the US, we are NOT awash in any sort of flood of “illegal” entrants. Except in the minds of those who think 3.5% of the total population is entirely too many.
  • Undocumented persons are not a drain on our health care system, indeed they use the services less than the general population.  Again, this would only be disturbing to those who want them not to have any services, even in the event of an emergency.
  • Undocumented individuals do not excessively burden our educational institutions.   There is currently no way to precisely calculate the costs, and there is no way a state may discriminate against children who are undocumented as the Supreme Court ruled back in 1982.
  • Undocumented immigrants may file for child tax credits, but that too, is the law of the land – since 2001; and they do pay payroll taxes. They are not eligible for Social Security, SNAP, Medicaid, or any other services which require proof of citizenship.
  • Far from being indigent burdens to the community – the undocumented comprise 5.1% of the total US labor force. That’s Labor, as in Working.
  • No, undocumented individuals are not clogging American federal and state prisons. 1.6% were classified as undocumented and only half that number were convicted of any crime other than illegal entry.

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Filed under Immigration, Nativism, Nevada politics