Mike Kueber's Blog

December 6, 2014

The Obama administration finally addresses racial profiling

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 5:44 am
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Both the Washington Post and New York Times are reporting that the Obama administration is planning to issue rules early next week that further “curb” racial profiling by government agencies, but the biggest focus of the articles seems to be that transportation and border security will be exempted from most of the rules.

I’ve blogged on several occasions about racial profiling and have suggested a similar tack – i.e., common-sense exceptions:

  • 5/25/2010 – “I have been unable to learn if ethnicity can be considered with other factors in deciding that a ‘reasonable suspicion exists’ that a person is in America illegally. I assume, but do not know, that AZ Border and Immigration personnel routinely consider ethnicity when looking for illegal immigrants. The problem seems analogous to looking for terrorists post-9/11, where the target individuals are predominantly from a single ethnicity. If a large majority of illegal immigrants in Arizona are Hispanic, shouldn’t law enforcement be able to consider that as a factor in deciding whether there is reasonable suspicion?”
  • 10/10/10 – “Personally, I think the best course of action is to have a national discussion on what forms of racial and ethnic profiling are acceptable. Liberals argue that all such profiling is illegal, but conservatives respond that political correctness shouldn’t force us to tie the hands of law enforcement when profiling makes them more effective. Alternatively, I think most people would be comfortable with a national ID card. Such a card would not be any more invasive that the periodic census.”
  • 4/26/2012 – “As a practical person, I am reluctant to discard a valuable enforcement tool. The essential question is whether the value of the enforcement tool exceeds the cost to members of the group that will be scrutinized more closely merely because of their skin color. This is an exceedingly complicated, subjective question, and I think the U.S. Supreme Court is supremely qualified to conduct an analysis and render a decision. Unlike the Louisiana judge, however, I will not prejudge their decision and instead will look forward to reading their analysis.”

According to the Post article, Homeland Security was successful in making an argument for common sense:

  • “TSA officials, meanwhile, argued that they should not be covered by the new limits on the grounds that the TSA is not a law enforcement agency.”
  • According to an anonymous immigration official, “If you look at numbers, the vast majority of people we deal with are Hispanic. Is that profiling, or just the fact that most of the people who come into the country happen to be Hispanic? It’s not like you’re a cop on a beat, which is an entirely different situation.”
  • “As a result, entire swaths of DHS activity are exempt from the new policy.”

By contrast, the Times article highlighted that, although the thinking of Homeland Security prevailed, it was not without vigorous opposition by Attorney General Holder:

  • “The debate over racial profiling in immigration enforcement, however, has delayed the release of the new rules for months. Mr. Holder, who was leading the policy review, told colleagues that he believed that border agents did not need to consider race or ethnicity. But the Department of Homeland Security resisted efforts to limit the factors it can consider when looking for illegal immigrants. Department officials argued that it was impractical to ignore nationality when it came to border enforcement. The immigration investigators have said, ‘We can’t do our job without taking ethnicity into account. We are very dependent on that,’ said one official briefed on the new rules.”
  • Under the new rules, agents in those instances will still be allowed to consider race, national origin and other factors that would otherwise be off limits, according to several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.”
  • “Mr. Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, has spoken forcefully against racial profiling…. But while law enforcement officials were generally supportive of his efforts to broaden protections for minorities, Mr. Holder ran into objections on the issues of national security and border protection. F.B.I. agents opposed a wholesale ban on considering race and nationality in terrorism investigations. They said, for example, that an agent investigating the Shabab, a Somali militant group, must be able to find out whether a state has a large Somali population and, if so, where it is.”
  • “The rules — both the current version and the revisions — offer more protection against discrimination than the Supreme Court has said the Constitution requires. The court has said that border agents may not conduct roving traffic stops simply because motorists appeared to be of Mexican descent, but agents at checkpoints may single out drivers for interviews ‘largely on the basis of apparent Mexican ancestry.’ The court ruled that the government’s interest in protecting the border outweighed the minimal inconvenience to motorists.

It sounds like the Obama administration is taking a sound position on racial and other profiling despite the efforts of Attorney General Holder to go too far in tying the hands Homeland Security.

November 22, 2014

We didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us.

Filed under: Culture,History,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:43 pm
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One of my least favorite columnists with the NY Times, Nicholas Kristof, penned a column yesterday titled, “Immigration Enriches You and Me.” You can almost imagine the column without reading it, but, for the record, he described three myths about immigration:

  1. Immigrants threaten our way of life. Many Americans see foreigners moving into their towns, see signs in Spanish, and fret about changes to the traditional fabric of society. Yet just look around. Immigration has hugely enriched our country. For starters, unless you are a full-blooded American Indian, we have you.
  2. Immigrants today are different because they’re illegals. Look, people aren’t legal or illegal, behaviors are.  If an investment banker is convicted of insider trading, he doesn’t become an illegal. So let’s refer not to “illegal immigrants” but to “undocumented immigrants.”
  3. Immigration reform is an unconstitutional power grad by a dictator. It’s difficult for me to judge the legality of Obama’s executive action, because I’m not an expert on legal issues like prosecutorial discretion.

Immediately after reading the column, I vented by sending the following comment to the Times:

Nicholas, you are wrong on all three counts:

  1. Legal immigrants do not threaten our way of life; illegal immigrants do. Please refrain from treating two different groups as a single group.
  2. Investment bankers who are convicted of insider trading are not granted amnesty; rather they become forever known as criminal investment bankers.
  3. If you are ill equipped to discuss President Obama’s imperial power-grab, I suggest that you spend a little time learning the subject instead of claiming ignorance in your column.

As I skimmed the hundreds of comments that the column drew, the following one from Ernest Velasquez caught my eye:

  • My great-great-great-grandfather was born in San Jose California in 1821. My grandfather was born in the Arizona territory in 1872 and my father was also born in the Arizona territory in 1911. My grandfather, grandmother, and some of the adult children, including my father moved to Chihuahua Mexico during the depression of 1917. Thus my brother and two sisters were born in Mexico. Based on the then existing immigration laws, my brother and I [males] were granted natural born citizenship at birth.
  • In the early 50’s we moved to Los Angeles where I went to school and upon graduation from High School, I joined the US Air Force and served four year in Germany which coincided with the building of The Berlin wall and the Cuban Missiles crisis. Just to make it clear, I love my country and served to protect our great democracy. My two favorite president: Jefferson and Lincoln.
  • Now to my point on current immigration. First: We Mexicans are not immigrants, we were conquered and lost the Southwest territory in the Mexican/American War of 1850 that included California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona New Mexico and Texas. Second: Many of us have the blood of Indigenous and European [Spanish] conquistadors running through our veins. Third: we were here first, so stop calling us immigrants. As the great union leader Dolores Huerta has stated, “We did not cross the border, the border crossed us.”

Although I’d heard the Huerta slogan before, I’d never considered whether it was accurate. So….

According to SocialistWorker.org:

  • “WE DIDN’T cross the border, the border crossed us.” This slogan of the immigrant rights movement expresses an historical fact–that much of the Western U.S. was once part of Mexico. The U.S. seized half of Mexico–including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California–in the Mexican-American war of 1846-48. The war cost almost 14,000 U.S. and twice as many Mexican lives.

But what does that have to do with illegal immigration? According to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 following the Mexican-American War, all heretofore Mexicans in the land ceded to America were eligible to be American citizens. This would have applied to Velasquez because his ancestors were already here, but it wouldn’t apply to many others.  According to Wikipedia:

  • The lands contained about 14,000 people in Alta California and fewer than 60,000 in Nuevo México, as well as large Native American nations such as the Navajo, Hopi, and dozens of others. A few relocated further south in Mexico. The great majority chose to remain in the U.S. and later became U.S. citizens.

My impression is that Mexico lost this mostly unpopulated territory to America because Americans were willing to settle it while Mexicans were not.  (Also, we were stronger and believed in Manifest Destiny.)  Only after America turned the territory into a wonderful place to live did vast numbers of Mexicans decide that they wanted to live here (and get out of Mexico). The fact that this part of America was a part of Mexico more than 150 years ago does nothing to support the argument that modern Mexicans have some special right to emigrate to America now.

p.s., I can find no information on the internet attributing the “border moved” slogan to Dolores Huerta, although upon further consideration, I noted that Velasquez simply said that she “stated” this.

April 8, 2013

Another banner day for the Express-News

Filed under: Business,Culture,Economics,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:06 pm
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As I was reading the San Antonio Express-News on Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised by three informative articles that were relevant to my campaign for the City Council:

  1. San Antonio’s immigration.  This fascinating article by Joe Yerardi describes population growth in Texas’s four largest cities in the past two years.  Although San Antonio has enjoyed robust growth (+91,495), that growth is less robust than Dallas (+274,781), Houston (+256,579), and Austin (+118,017).  And, of the three contributors to growth – natural growth (births), foreign migrants (legal and illegal), and interstate migrants – San Antonio and Austin depend mostly on interstate migrants, while Dallas and Houston depend more on natural growth and foreign migration.  These migration patterns are surprising because San Antonio has by far the largest concentration of Mexican-Americans (59%), so you’d think migrants from Mexico would make San Antonio their destination of choice, but instead they are choosing Dallas and Houston.  Unfortunately, the elephant in the room is the distinction between legal and illegal immigration from Mexico.  Although reporter Yerardi doesn’t discuss it, I have previous read that Dallas and Houston have a much larger percentage of illegal immigrants.
  2. San Antonio – Austin railroad.  The city of San Antonio is currently preoccupied with its effort to develop a downtown streetcar system, so this article served as a reminder that San Antonio has for decades dreamed of a railroad connecting it with Austin.  My position is that this inter-city railroad is just as impractical as the proposed intra-city light rail system that is planned as an extension of the controversial downtown streetcar system. 
  3. San Antonio’s problem with downtown-office vacancies.  This article reports that San Antonio’s downtown office vacancy rate is 33% even though rental rates are lower than outside of downtown.  Explanation – “In the suburbs, the office buildings generally are newer and come with up-to-date amenities and abundant parking….  Despite the higher lease prices, another advantage the suburbs have over downtown is the proximity to housing and ease of access.”  I love the politically-incorrect honesty of Ernest Brown, an EVP at a real estate firm:
  • The downtown San Antonio office market is tough.  Right now, the biggest hurt for downtown is what reason is there to be downtown versus the suburbs?”

Coincidentally, I recently responded to a candidate questionnaire from Current newsweekly, and one of its questions was, “What would you do to address the high vacancy rate in downtown buildings?”  I responded, “As a District 8 Councilman, my major focus will be on the development of District 8, not the downtown vacancy rate.  Of course, the entire City has an interest in downtown San Antonio remaining Texas’s premier tourist attraction.”  If I had read this article prior to responding to the questionnaire, I would have added that the City should not be spending millions of dollars to encourage businesses to move from one part of San Antonio to another part.

August 12, 2012

Pimentel on American exceptionalism

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:24 pm
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O. Ricardo Pimentel, an Express-News columnist who recently arrived in San Antonio, has the effect of routinely pulling my chain on all matters related to political philosophy.  This morning was no exception, with his column titled, “Romney, it’s more than just culture.”  After reading his column, I went on my morning bike ride and couldn’t get his provocative comments out of my head, but at least that distracted me from thinking about the grueling ride.   

Pimentel’s column pointed out that, while all the media focus last week was on Mitt Romney’s suggestion that culture had something to do with Israel’s robust economy and its neighbor Palestine’s decrepit one, Romney made a similar comparison between America’s culture/economy vis-à-vis its neighbor Mexico.  According to Pimentel, Palestinians were insulted by Romney’s comments, and Mexicans (and Mexican-Americans) should be similarly insulted. 

Instead of carefully and deliberately refuting Romney’s insight, Pimentel used an emotional scattershot approach:

  1. Because so many Americans have emigrated from Mexico and have relatives living there, much of American culture, especially in south Texas, stems from Mexico.  This is actually an argument used by anti-immigration types who question the ability of America to assimilate the current number of immigrants in our country.  Furthermore, most reasonable people agree that if the south Texas economy was a microcosm of the American economy, our nation would be in deep doo-doo. 
  2. Even if one accepts Romney’s description of culture as “things like free enterprise, human dignity, human rights, women’s rights, work ethic, education and entrepreneurialism,” Pimentel still wonders, “So, Mexicans don’t have or want these things?”  Talk about a non sequitur.  A culture is based on actions and achievements, not on musings.
  3. Mexico’s economy is fine, thank you.  Pimentel reports that the Mexican economy ranks between 12th and 14 in the world and has projected growth higher than America’s.  Well, America’s economy is #1.  Nuff said.
  4. Mexico’s economy is troubled, but America is to blame.  In addition to the American contribution of guns, drugs, and corruption to Mexican culture, Pimentel’s UTSA resource points out that Latin American countries were hampered by colonization and exploitation.  This argument fails to recognize that all of North America was colonized and exploited.  Some countries just dealt with it better than others. 
  5. America’s economy is troubled, so its culture is to blame.  Pimentel points out that Luxembourg, Bermuda, Norway, and Brunei have higher per capita GDP than America, and then he sneeringly wonders whether their culture is superior to ours.  That is like comparing the culture of Fred Loya Insurance and State Farm Insurance.        

Not surprisingly, Pimentel closed his argument, just like the Palestinians, by playing the race card:

  • Mexico has more to do but has also come a ways. Go figure; Mexican ‘culture,’ including in San Antonio, permits success — because accomplishment is not white, black or brown.”

When Romney extolled the virtue of “things like free enterprise, human dignity, human rights, women’s rights, work ethic, education and entrepreneurialism,” I didn’t detect any reference to white, black, or brown, but Detective Pimentel apparently did.

August 10, 2012

Dual citizenship, Mexican-American Olympian Leo Manzoni, and columnist Ruben Navarrette

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:27 pm
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Nationally syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette recently wrote an op-ed piece for CNN criticizing Mexican-American athlete Leo Manzano for draping himself in American and Mexican flags while celebrating his second-place finish in the men’s 1500-meter event at the London Olympics.  Although Navarrette has traditionally been a strong advocate for Mexican-Americans, this column provided a compelling rebuttal to Manzano’s action. 

One issue, however, that Navarrette mentions, but fails to elaborate on is dual citizenship.  According to Navarrette, Manzano’s father immigrated illegally to America with four-year-old Leo, yet somehow Leo was eventually able to earn American citizenship while retaining his Mexican citizenship.

For a primer on dual citizenship, you can refer to a year-old entry in my blog.  Suffice to say, Leo Manzano’s Olympian celebration was utterly inconsistent with the Oath of Allegiance that he pledged when he became a naturalized citizen.

p.s., a few weeks ago, Navarrette wrote another out-of-character column that I compared in my blog to “Nixon going to China.”  In the column, Navarrette took Univision anchor Jorge Ramos to task for his unprofessional “interrogation” of VP-possibility Marco Rubio.  More significantly, Navarrette closed his column by commenting on the rights of illegal immigrants:

  • The immigration debate isn’t about rights, or expectations, or what people think they deserve. It’s about what is best for the United States.  Personally, I think what is best is a pathway to earned legal status for many but not all of the estimated 10 million undocumented immigrants in this country.  Other Americans think differently and demand higher walls and more deportations.  As harsh as it sounds, illegal immigrants don’t get a vote in the matter.  And when they forget that and start making demands, it makes the job of those who are advocating for them much harder.”

Navarrette is revealing himself to be thoughtful, not a doctrinaire ideologue.

August 19, 2011

Dual citizenship

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:34 pm
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While sitting around last week, some friends and I were talking about a popular subject in Texas – immigration.  A couple of conservatives attempted to show their good intentions by noting that America was a country of immigrants and that we welcome legal immigrants who want to participate in the American dream.  All we ask is that the immigrants adopt the American way of life and pledge their allegiance to this country.

That sounded imminently reasonable, but I was aware of an immigrant friend of mine who had retained his citizenship in the Philippines – so-called dual citizenship.  In the context of my friend’s conditions, dual citizenship didn’t makesense, and I decided to explore why America allows it.

The Oath of Allegiance, which is required of all immigrants before they can become citizens, reads as follows:

  • I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

Although the Oath doesn’t directly refer to the American way of life, it does require supporting and defending the Constitution, and it certainly doesn’t contemplate dual citizenship.

I next referred to the State Department.  Its website says the following about dual citizenship:

  • The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy.  Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice….  A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth.  U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another.  Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship.  However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship.  In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship. 

Obviously, there is a disconnect between the Oath of Allegiance and the State Department practices.  Leave it to Wikipedia to clear it up:

  • Although naturalizing citizens are required to undertake an oath renouncing previous allegiances, the oath has never been enforced to require the actual termination of original citizenship.  Although the U.S. Government does not endorse dual citizenship as a matter of policy, it recognizes the existence of dual citizenship and completely tolerates the maintenance of multiple citizenship by U.S. citizens.  In the past, claims of other countries on dual-national U.S. citizens sometimes placed them in situations where their obligations to one country were in conflict with the laws of the other.  However, as fewer countries require military service and most base other obligations, such as the payment of taxes, on residence and not citizenship, these conflicts have become less frequent.  As a result, there has been a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of people who maintain U.S. citizenship in other countries.

I guess the concept of dual citizenship is not a big deal, but I would be inclined to support a requirement that part of the naturalization process include renunciation of any other citizenship.  There should be no question where a person’s allegiance resides.  But as a practical matter, we don’t have any control when another country claims one of ours as theirs.  Kind of like, once a Catholic, always a Catholic.

June 25, 2011

Immigration and the State Bar of Texas

Earlier this week, I attended the two-day annual meeting of the State Bar of Texas.  One of the more promising sessions was titled, “A Civil Conversation about Immigration Reform,” and it did not disappoint.  The 90-minute session was the longest that I attended during the meeting,  but it seemed like the shortest.

The topic of immigration was touched on in an earlier session called, “Overview of the 82nd Legislative Session,” presented by State Representative Joaquin Castro.  Although Castro has the demeanor of a rational, dispassionate analyst, his words belie that.  He described the pending sanctuary-city bill (S.B. 9) as enabling a citizen to sue his local police department if it fails to enforce the federal immigration laws.  Arizona’s notorious H.B. 1070 doesn’t even go that far.  In fact, Texas’s S.B. 6 merely prohibits local government entities from adopting sanctuary policies – i.e., instructing their law enforcement officers to not ask anyone about their immigration status.  Because Castro did not take questions, his misstatement of the law went uncorrected.  Before leaving the session, Castro reported that two prominent Texas businessmen (liberal San Antonio grocer HE Butt and conservative Houston construction magnate Bob Perry) recently came out in opposition to S.B. 6 and this development might result in the bill being significantly watered-down.

Joaquin’s identical twin Julian, the mayor of San Antonio, was a part of the six-member panel for “A Civil Conversation about Immigration Reform.”  Unfortunately, there was not much conversation with Julian because he was the last of the panel to give 10 minute presentation, and then he left, leaving the other panel members to engage in a conversation with the audience.

Two things of note presented by Julian:

  1. People who opposed illegal immigration tended to treat these immigrants “more like animals than people.”
  2. We should start thinking of a path to citizenship as not some sort of amnesty, but rather as analogous to the legal concept of deferred adjudication.  Application of this concept would involve the imposition of some terms, and once those terms were satisfied, the immigrant’s  unauthorized entry would be forgiven.  Personally, I think this is a distinction without a difference, but I have to admit that I initially felt the same way when the New York Times recommended that we re-characterize the Death Tax from being a tax on an estate (double taxation) to being a tax on the income of a recipient.  Eventually I came to agree with the Times recommendation.

Julian’s suggestion for deferred adjudication has the same weakness as amnesty – i.e., it rewards an individual for breaking the law; it allows a lawbreaker to stay in America although millions of potential immigrants are patiently waiting in line to be legally permitted into America.

Julian would be better served if he were to apply the legal concept of adverse possession (squatter’s rights) – i.e., title to real property can be obtained without compensation by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner’s rights for a specified period.  Thus, America can be held to have waived its right to deport an undocumented immigrant who has lived in America and set down roots for a specified period (e.g., five to ten years).

In contrast to Julian, the other members of the panel provided substantive information on the illegal-immigration issue.  Dr. Steven Murdock from Rice University provided a plethora of statistical information suggesting that immigrants were critical to the economic future of Texas and America.  As is the wont of most immigration proponents, Dr. Murdock sometimes failed to distinguish between legal immigration and illegal immigration, but generally he provided cogent information.  The most interesting was his report that illegal immigrants are a slight financial positive to the federal government (they send more money in than they take out), a break-even factor for state government, and a huge negative for local government because of their drain for education and medical expenses.

Kathleen Walker is an immigration lawyer, and the dominant theme of her talk was to complain that illegal immigration is a civil matter, not a criminal matter, and these people should not be treated like criminals.  Toward the end of her talk, Kathleen confused this distinction by telling us that it was incorrect to say the people were here illegally, but it was proper to say that their presence was unlawful.

An anti-terrorist government lawyer followed Kathleen.  He was the only panelist who was opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants, and he chided the panel for all of their semantical variations in describing – illegal immigrants, undocumented aliens, unauthorized immigrants, unlawful presence, and about four other similar terms.  He also asserted that it is impossible for the federal government to physically close our borders, but that a pending bi-partisan bill for a national ID card might be effective.  From an anti-terrorist perspective, he said that the Canadian border was much more problematic than the Mexican border.

The government lawyer was followed by an AFL-CIO person from Houston.  He contributed little to the discussion other than noting that businesses were taking advantage of illegal immigrants and that “theft of salary” charges were seldom prosecuted.

According to the program, one member of the panel was a DREAM candidate, but it turned out she was a mother of three DREAM  candidates.  She could barely speak English and broke down shortly after beginning her talk.

The moderator for the panel was federal judge Xavier Rodriguez.  At the conclusion of the presentation, he revealed that he hadn’t been listening by asking the panel a long question regarding whether illegal immigrants were a net financial benefit or expense to various governmental entities.  Everyone who was listening knew that Dr. Murdock had definitively provided this information in his presentation, and to humor the judge he regurgitated it.

During the Q&A part of the session, the first comment came from a quintessential bleeding heart.  She started by saying that she was not a  lawyer (her squirming husband was alongside her), but she felt compelled to describe the shame she felt as a person who was taking advantage of illegal immigrants by living in a house that was likely build by those immigrants who received substandard pay and eating in restaurants that likely employed illegal immigrants for substandard pay.  After two long minutes of her confession, Judge Rodriguez cut her off and tried to  assuage her guilt by saying that these immigrants were making five times as much as they would make back in Mexico, so she shouldn’t feel so bad.  She refused to be assuaged.

In response to another question, Dr. Murdock got on a soapbox about America’s shameful immigration record.  According to him, America’s immigration policy was horribly racist until the Voting Rights Act of the mid-60s, and he said that it had never been welcoming to immigrants, such as the Chinese or even Irish or Italians.  At this point, I asked him why an “unwelcoming” America, throughout its history, has a record of receiving more immigrants than any other country and whether the “huddled masses” invitation on the Statue of Liberty was a cruel hoax.  Murdock responded by backing off his accusations and shifting toward a position that America has made mistakes and can improve.  Agreed.

What was the result of the “civil conversation”?  I learned some information, but there wasn’t enough discussion – either within the panel or with the audience – to evaluate the information.  I pointed out during the Q&A part of the session that it wasn’t fair to give amnesty to illegal  immigrants while I have a friend in the Philippines with a graduate education who has been on a waiting list for ten years, and a lady responded that we shouldn’t complicate the issues by tying them together.  As a practical matter, that may be right.

May 17, 2011

Immigration potpourri

Governor Brewer takes on the Suns

There is an interesting email circulating on the internet, supposedly from Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer.  In the email, she takes to task the owner of the Phoenix Suns, Robert Sarver, for his opposition to Arizona’s effort to remove illegal immigrants from the state.  The email makes the following analogy:

  • What if the owners of the Suns discovered that hordes of people were sneaking into games without paying? What if they had a good idea who the gate-crashers are, but the ushers and security personnel were not allowed to ask these folks to produce their ticket stubs, thus non-paying attendees couldn’t be ejected.  Furthermore, what if Suns’ ownership was expected to provide those who sneaked in with complimentary eats and drink? And what if, on those days when a gate-crasher became ill or injured, the Suns had to provide free medical care and shelter?”

Indigent healthcare

The Texas Tribune reported today that the Texas House passed a bill that allows a county to consider a sponsor’s income when sponsored immigrants ask for indigent health care.  Although Democrats are arguing that the bill reflects the anti-immigrant fever that is running through the country, my reaction was surprise that this was not already the law.  A sponsored immigrant is one who is admitted to America after an affidavit of support is submitted by a sponsoring U.S. citizen, promising that sponsor agree to language that the alien “will not become a public charge in the United States.”  Of course, the sponsor’s income should be considered when determining if a legal immigrant is entitled to indigent healthcare.

Incidentally, the local FOX affiliate had a story last night about CareLink, which is San Antonio’s program for providing healthcare to indigents outside of an emergency room.  This is an incredibly accessible program (any family residing in Bexar County that earns less than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines is eligible), and its director bragged to FOX News that Bexar County was the best place in Texas if you were poor and uninsured.  I’m not sure that is the kind of thing we want to be #1 in, especially since most taxpayers don’t consider 300% of the poverty guideline to be poor.

Senators Kyl and Durbin

Senators Durbin and Kyl are not only their party’s #2 person in the Senate, but also two of the leading forces behind the immigration issue in America – Kyl represents the ground-zero state of Arizona and Durbin recently re-filed the Dream Act, which was defeated in the Senate last year.  This week they appeared together on “Fox News Sunday” and staked out their traditional positions – i.e., Durbin wanted a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and Kyl claimed that he wouldn’t even consider such a path until our porous south border was closed.  To explain his position, Kyl used the analogy of a plumber who must first stop the leak before deciding how to clean up the mess.  At the end of the interview, Durbin asked to have a meeting with Kyl to discuss the possibility of appropriating vastly increased resources toward fences and border-patrol personnel in return for a path to citizenship.  

My impression is that Kyl is not interested in changing the status quo.  His colleague John McCain tried that a few years ago and it almost cost him his presidential nomination and, later, his job.  It’s just another example of dysfunctional government.

July 4, 2010

The Fourth of July and American Exceptionalism

 Recently I was discussing American immigration policy with a friend who had immigrated to America more than 20 years ago.  She wondered why America restricted the number of authorized immigrants.  I told her that we had instituted restrictions almost 100 years ago, and I suggested that the reason was two-fold – (1) there were limits to how many workers our economy could absorb, and (2) there were limits to how many people our society could assimilate.  I also suggested that assimilation was critical because we wanted immigrants to learn American values.  She followed-up by proposing that American values were already shared by most people – values such as working hard, taking care of your family, obeying the law, and helping the poor.  At that point, I suggested to her that American values were unique.  Americans believed, as so eloquently stated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:

  • “… that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed….” 

 That is American exceptionalism at its best.  It includes freedom, inalienable natural and human rights, democracy, republicanism, the rule of law, civil liberty, civic virtue, the common good, fair play, private property, and Constitutional government.

 Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 was the first person to describe American exceptionalism:

  •  “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one. Their strictly Puritanical origin, their exclusively commercial habits, even the country they inhabit, which seems to divert their minds from the pursuit of science, literature, and the arts, the proximity of Europe, which allows them to neglect these pursuits without relapsing into barbarism, a thousand special causes, of which I have only been able to point out the most important, have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects. His passions, his wants, his education, and everything about him seem to unite in drawing the native of the United States earthward; his religion alone bids him turn, from time to time, a transient and distracted glance to heaven. Let us cease, then, to view all democratic nations under the example of the American people.”

Not coincidentally, de Tocqueville is also the person noted for saying, “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good America will cease to be great.” 

 That is why assimilation of immigrants is important.  As part of that assimilation, we hope that immigrants learn to honor the Fourth of July, which is the day that our Founding Fathers approved and published the Declaration of Independence and created the world’s first democracy.