United States


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.

A rather disheartening tale in the NY Times:

On the evening of Nov. 2, a young corporate lawyer in New Jersey received a frantic call from a charity client, a 46-year-old Harlem grocery clerk with a history of petty crime. He was in custody on an airplane in Newark on his way to Mogadishu, the capital of his native Somalia, a country so dangerous that to the lawyer’s knowledge, no one had been deported there in years.

The courts were closed, and a federal judge who heard an emergency motion the next day ruled that the clerk, Mohamad Rasheed Jama, was already outside United States jurisdiction.

So, after a stop in Nairobi, where he was handed over to Kenyans, Mr. Jama stepped off an airplane in Mogadishu — and into the hands of Islamist militants, who soon accused him of being an American spy and began demanding money.

“They were extremely angry,” said his lawyer, Emily B. Goldberg, relating the last frightened call she got from Mr. Jama, who had spent four years in immigration detention in New Jersey awaiting deportation to the land he left at 18. “He asked me if there was anything I could do. I told him in the American system, there was nothing more I could do.” …

If Jama, a refugee from a society broken by anarchy, cannot get a fair hearing, why should other immigrants? The administrations policy may point to increasing the number of immigrants in this country, but deportations also reveal that they are willing to jettison anyone on a moment’s notice, without recourse to the judicial system, without regard to what they might face at home. Indeed, the rights of immigrants, illegal and otherwise, are constantly undermined and obscurred. Their dependence on the government’s charity has become the sword of Damocles. However, the article suggests that attempting to exercise rights will only hasten deportation:

In the United States, lawyers for Somalis are asking whether Mr. Jama’s deportation signals the start of a mass deportation or a warning to those facing indefinite detention that “if you use habeas, you’ll be on the next flight,” said Jeffrey Keyes, the Minneapolis lawyer who argued the Supreme Court case.

Kevin Johnson has another great link: the Rand Corporation’s study on public spending on health for immigrants.

The report – which appears in the November edition of the journal Health Affairs – estimates that in the United States about $1.1 billion in federal, state and local government funds are spent annually on health care for undocumented immigrants aged 18 to 64. That amounts to an average of $11 in taxes for each U.S. household. In contrast, a total of $88 billion in government funds were spent on health care for all non-elderly adults in 2000.

About 1.25% of federal funds for health going to illegal immigrants. Is that really a lot? Some would say yes, but to put things in perspective, a major disaster would probably increase federal health spending by that much or more. Rand estimated that $2 billion would modestly provide for Katrina victims without insurance (not even all of them). That is to say, $2 billion would cover differences, not treat all Katrina victims.

The population of illegal immigrants has not dropped on our laps over night. They have been in the United States since the invention of the category (the 1880s). If anything, increases in health spending relative to them parallels general rising costs. And if the health system can’t handle an extra $1.1 billion, is it really working properly.

Aside: in other countries, I would expect to enjoy the benefits of their health care systems. Maybe not getting care for free, but in European nations the subsidies for health care drive down prices even for those paying out of pocket.

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?

Who is an immigrant? Earl Shorris, in Life and Times of Mexico, says that the greatest pressure to move, socially, are the poorest Mexicans–mostly the Indians. Now, movement can mean transition from rural life to urban life, a fact that is reflected in the population growth of Mexico City. However, social mobility does not translate into upward mobility: the Europeanized elites maintain control of power over natives, and the urbanized natives remain in poverty. Equally risky, but more advantageous, is migrating to the United States.

Vincenzo Caponi (Institute for the Study of Labor) looked at the relationship between education and migration to US from Mexico (link to abstract: Heterogeneous Human Capital and Migration: Who Migrates from Mexico to the US?). What he finds is interesting: the least and the most educated leave; those with some education remain. By some education, he means primary and some secondary education. But that group seems to be able to make the most out of the education it receives. The least educated find that they have no opportunities, while the most educated find that opportunities are not commensurate with their education.

Caponi reads these trends as a U-curve: those with some educated are most stable, those outside that group have the most incentive to leave. Improvements in education don’t seem to affect the trend.

The U-CurveSo, what to make of recent job growth in Mexico: will it keep people home? Doubtful. Most of the 950,000 jobs created are in sectors that require some education: construction and manufacturing. It may be true that “one job ends … and there’s another,” but the fact that job creation is not reaching the poorest Mexicans probably means nothing will change. Nor should it be expected. Investment will go to those parts of the economy that create the most exports, thus demand more skilled, industrial labor. The poorest Mexicans will remain where they are … or come to the US.

Next Page »