Law


Back to Allentown, PA: The Morning Call calls out Mayor Barletta, noting that Pennsylvania has nowhere near the problem with illegal immigrants as other states.

The article [in State Legislatures] contained data about the extent of immigration — both legal and illegal — throughout the nation. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, Pennsylvania was one of the states with the largest growth in legal immigrants between 2000 and 2005. The state’s immigrant population increased nearly 47 percent in that period, from 364,000 to 534,000. In a state of 12.4 million, that means there’s one legal immigrant for every 23 Pennsylvanians. When it comes to illegal immigrants, according the Department of Homeland Security, Pennsylvania doesn’t even rank in the top 10 states which account for about 8 million of the estimated 11 million illegal aliens.

Obviously, the writer does not want to say that illegal immigrants are not found in Pennsylvania. The state, however, has a much smaller percentage of illegal immigrants; short-falls in resources cannot be attributed solely to them. It’s more likely that some border states, like New Mexico and Arizona, with much smaller populations would have more legitimate gripes. Moreover, if a smaller influx of new people causes such short-falls, what is wrong with Pennsylvania’s (and even Allentown’s) public services?

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Racial engineering, the type that hasn’t been seen in a while: the NY Times reports on a Gypsy family, removed from their homes due to threats of violence from their community in Slovenia, who have not been allowed to return:

The group, an extended family of 31 people, tried to return to Ambrus, a village 30 miles southeast of Ljubljana, after four weeks in a refugee center. But about 1,000 villagers and other residents of the area assembled, blocked roads leading to the village and then battled riot police officers. Officials then persuaded the family, the Strojans, to turn back. …

The government said it was justified in moving the family to the refugee center, saying that it had acted to protect the Strojans. But human rights groups contend that ministers sanctioned the mob’s ouster of members of a minority group from their homes. The government had promised to resettle the group, but a plan to move them to a suburb of Ljubljana, the capital, foundered when residents there protested.

An actual immigration bill? The Boston Globe‘s Rick Klein says that, despite expectations that the Democratic majority in Congress will ignore the issue, sensible reform may be more possible than ever.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who is set to take the chairmanship of the subcommittee that oversees immigration issues, has already met with leading Republicans — including Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican — to begin crafting a new bill early next year. “The dynamics are right,” said Kennedy, who worked closely with McCain and others on the immigration bill that passed the Senate earlier this year. “With a new Congress, we have an opportunity to pass our plan to secure our borders, uphold our laws, and strengthen our economy.”

Perhaps even more important, Republicans have moved more moderate voices into positions that signal a shift against the hardline attitude on immigration.

In a signal of the Republican Party’s shifting stance on the issue, the Republican National Committee will be now headed by Senator Mel Martinez of Florida — a Cuban immigrant who is a strong backer of the comprehensive bill passed by the Senate.

Sanctuary has been as contraversial as municipalities passing and enforcing their own immigration laws.  The LA Times covers threats that have emerged to its continuation.

One (among many) of the problems I have with Minutemen-like movements is that their claim the enforce American law just covers for breaking the law.  Not just passive watchers over the landscape with binoculars and cellphones in hand, they come with guns, prepared to confront and threaten those who dare cross the border.  The NY Times looks at one of these vigilantes, Roger Barnett, and the effort to bring him to justice.

Immigrant rights groups have filed lawsuits, accusing him of harassing and unlawfully imprisoning people he has confronted on his ranch near Douglas. One suit pending in federal court accuses him, his wife and his brother of pointing guns at 16 illegal immigrants they intercepted, threatening them with dogs and kicking one woman in the group.

Another suit, accusing Mr. Barnett of threatening two Mexican-American hunters and three young children with an assault rifle and insulting them with racial epithets, ended Wednesday night in Bisbee with a jury awarding the hunters $98,750 in damages. …
A few years ago, however, the Border Action Network and its allied groups began collecting testimony from illegal immigrants and others who had had confrontations with Mr. Barnett.

They included the hunters, who sued Mr. Barnett for unlawful detention, emotional distress and other claims, and sought at least $200,000. Ronald Morales; his father, Arturo; Ronald Morales’s two daughters, ages 9 and 11; and an 11-year-old friend said Mr. Barnett, his brother Donald and his wife, Barbara, confronted them Oct. 30, 2004.

Ronald Morales testified that Mr. Barnett used expletives and ethnically derogatory remarks as he sought to kick them off state-owned property he leases. Then, Mr. Morales said, Mr. Barnett pulled an AR-15 assault rifle from his truck and pointed it at them as they drove off, traumatizing the girls.

Barnett’s own mentality betrays  any recourse to claim to act in the name of the law:

For your children, for our future, that’s why we need to stop them.  If we don’t step in for your children, I don’t know who is expected to step in.

For our children–this has overtones of eugenics and racial science.  He is claiming that illegal immigration will create an inheritable problem.  It is a problem that, as he sees it, is worth controvening law, even morality, in order to stop.

Another thought after the 60 Minutes piece: if New Paltz and San Francisco cannot offer same-sex marriages, how can Hazelton legislate immigration?

Now, I’m not saying that if one is allowed, the other must be as well. What I am saying is that the US Constitution–both written and understood–gives no autonomy to municipalities and other public corporations. Only the states are recognized, and they determined what autonomy cities and town enjoy.

This point may seem arcane, but it is relevant. Consider that medieval cities had broad leeway to define who was a citizen–indeed, out notion of citizenship descends therefrom (if we believe Guizot). In modern times, some form of municipal sovereignty remains. In France, the cities are more powerful policy makers (and mayors have been an important sources of presidential candidates). In Switzerland, the residents of cities and towns get to vote on who will be allowed permanently into the community, a necessary prerequisite to obtaining Swiss citizenship. (Unfairly, pictures of candidates are posted on the ballot, and “colored” people are denied citizenship more often than Europeans.)

Considering the critical importance of sovereignty and the relationship of the national government to the states, their silence is profound. They saw no need to enshrine municipalities with policy making abilities, especially those reserved for the national government.

So, what gives Hazelton (or Farmers Branch or any other town) the constitutional right to enact legislation that hangs on issues of citizenship and nationality (and I do mean constitutional)?

A few things struck me about the 60 Minutes‘ piece on Lou Barletta (the mayor of Hazelton, PA) and his anti-immigrant legislation. First, and most obviously, he is unconcerned that the laws asks employers and landlords to become vigilantes, taking the law into their hands to achieve his crusade. Two, he is unconcerned that his legislation has produced a backlash against all immigrants, not just illegal immigrants (thus it can rightly be called anti-immigrant). Not only are businesses that serve the Spanish-speaking community closing up, they are being threatened to do so. When asked if his legislation undermined all immigrants regardless of origin, he only professed the righteousness of anti-immigration policy. He is perfectly comfortable with legal immigrants being harmed.

The third thing that I noted was that formula: if they are here illegally, they have no right to be here. One of Hazelton’s citizens said this in an interview in a cafe. Is her logic, so simple, shared by so many, really valid?

If I drive illegally, do I have no right to drive? If I drink illegally, do I have no right to drink? If I have sex illegally, do I have no right to sex? None of those questions has a direct answer. Most traffic violations are either overlooked, or receive light penalies. In extreme cases, a driver’s license can be revoked. Drinking underage does not suspend one’s right to drink after age 21. And in many cases, laws against sodomy–aimed at homosexuals–were allowed to lapse into oblivion, unenforced, even if they remained on the books.

Doing X illegally does not preclude one from continuing to, or doing so in the future. Indeed, there is a whole list of legislation that is enforced unevenly, at best. Many such laws are misdemeanors, not felonies. And immigrating to the US illegally is not a felony.

I wouldn’t be the first one to note that illegal immigrants are being unfairly associated with terrorists, especially as those who support “border security” seems to target immigrants more than terrorists themselves, but here is a little proof: Texas law enforcement using anti-terrorist funds to nab the undocumented.

The reports show Operation Linebacker, the program one state security official called the “cornerstone” of Texas border safety efforts, caught suspected undocumented immigrants seven times more often than it apprehended criminals. Gov. Rick Perry and border sheriffs insist state border security operations are used to deter crime and terrorism, not to enforce federal immigration laws. Yet, the reports do not show even one terrorism-related arrest in six months.An El Paso Times analysis of reports from state border security operations shows that border sheriffs are using federal dollars meant to fight drugs and violent crime to enforce federal immigration laws. [Emphasis mine]

I’m sure some smarmy individual will say, “illegals are breaking the law,” but it still means that 7/8 of those apprehended are not involved in the drug trade or any other illegal activity other than being in the US without permission.

Even the claim that “you cannot, in many cases, conduct your own normal law enforcement duties without coming in contact with undocumented immigrants” should be treated with suspect. Good policing would target specific crimes and criminals; even if law enforcement randomly used these federal funds, would the ratio of illegal immigrants to arrests be so high? I doubt it. They simply do not make up such a high proportion of the criminal population.

An interesting side effect of the misapplication of funds:

Priests have reported drop-offs in church attendance, as some parishioners fret to leave their homes and risk being stopped at a checkpoint, turned over to Border Patrol and separated from their families.

Without a little religion in their lives, will they really remain upright?

The minister presidents of the German states agreed that, if they weren’t going to kick out people who failed to qualify for asylum, they must at least have some sort of residency status.

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