Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

An African immigrant view of America

September 14, 2017

The polite term for the black American citizens who used to be called Negroes is “African-American.”   This term is intended to put them on a par with white ethnic groups, such as Italian-Americans and Polish-Americans.

However “African-Americans,” unlike white ethnics, are not immigrants, but the descendants of slaves, whose ancestors were all brought to this country before the Civil War, and most before the Revolution.

The USA now has a significant African immigrant population, who are the product of a different history than old-stock black Americans.   But the term “African-American” doesn’t really apply either, because it obscures the fact that Africa is not all one country.   African nations have national characters as distinct as Italy or Poland.

Recently I got a glimpse of the African immigrant experience by reading  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah (2013).

“Americanah” is a Nigerian slang word for someone who has lived so long in the United States that they no longer fit into life in Nigeria.

Adichie’s heroine, Ifemelu, grows up in Nigeria, immigrates to the United States as a young woman and, after initial hardships, achieves success and fame.  But, after 13 years, decides to return to her native land.

Ifemelu, like her creator, is intelligent and outspoken, with many shrewd observations about American culture and racial attitudes.   I don’t find her likeable; that’s an observation, not a criticism.

The early chapters show the frustrations of Ifemelu and her educated, middle-class family, in life under the repressive Nigerian dictatorship.   She and her fiance, Obinze, who is handsome, sensitive and good in bed, dream of the United States as the big time where real things are happening—the way some small-town Americans in Kansas or Nebraska may think of New York and Los Angeles.

Ifemelu gets a scholarship to study at an American university, but quickly finds that the USA is not the paradise she imagined.

Her family taught her certain standards of good housekeeping, good grooming, good manners and good grammar, and she is taken aback by the slovenliness, permissiveness and vulgarity of the many Americans whose attitudes are formed by the mass entertainment and advertising media.

She has to struggle to earn a living and is sexually abused by a white employer.   This is so traumatic that she feels unable to keep in touch with Obinze.

This clears the way for her to begin a love affair with Curt, a handsome rich white jet-setter, who is good in bed.   Curt gets her a lucrative job in public relations, and her financial worries end.

Eventually she tires both of Curt and the PR job.   She starts a blog about racial attitudes in America, which is not only an overnight success, but an unexpected source of income that guarantees her financial independence.   She begins a love affair with Blaine, a handsome black intellectual idealist, who is good in bed.

Blaine, a Yale professor, spends time talking to an uneducated black security guard.  Ifemelu can’t bring herself to like him.   She and Blaine break up temporarily when the security guard is unjustly arrested, Blaine organizes a protest demonstration and she can’t be bothered to take.

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Neoliberalism and its discontents (2)

April 13, 2017

What follows is notes for the second part of a talk for the Rochester Russell Forum scheduled at Writers & Books Literary Center, 740 University Ave., Rochester, NY, at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 13.

Neoliberalism has generated an antithesis—blood and soil nationalism, which holds that the supreme human value consists of the ties of loyalty and customs among people of common ancestry who live in the same place.

Blood and soil nationalism is not fascism, although it can fit very well with fascism.  It is not racism, although it can fit very well with racism.

The difference is that fascism and racism are international movements.  They are disconnected from the culture and heritage of any particular place.

Loyalty to a heritage and a way of life, to kindred who live in a particular place, is the most natural feeling in the world.   It is wrong to devalue this feeling.

The problem is that, for many people, local cultures and heritages have already been hollowed out by the consumer culture promoted by the mass media of entertainment and advertising.  What is left is a hollowed-out version of patriotism consisting of loyalty to your own group and hatred of some other group you see as a threat.

People embrace this hollow nationalism as a way of giving a meaning to their lives that the neoliberal consumer and advertising culture does not provide.

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Trump’s Muslim decree versus the rule of law

January 31, 2017

The noteworthy things about President Trump’s decree on Muslim immigration were how unnecessarily cruel it was, how incompetently it was drawn and how it caught everyone by surprise.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

The other noteworthy thing was how mass protests against his decree pressured him to back down from one of the worst parts of it—the forbidding of Green card holders and other legal foreign residents from returning to the country if they are out of it.

I think these things will be hallmarks of his administration—that is, cruelty, stupidity and unpredictability, but also vulnerability to public opinion and public pressure.   Trump does not have the power of a dictator, although he would like to have it.

Even conservatives who strongly believe in keeping out unauthorized immigrants and immigrants from the Muslim world thought Trump handled this wrongly.

But the most dangerous trait that Trump revealed was unpredictability.

Being unpredictable is a strength when you’re fighting against adversaries, whether on the battlefield, the marketplace or an election campaign.  It also is a strength of a showman, which Trump most definitely is.

It is, however, a dangerous trait in the head of government of a great nation.   The most important defining characteristic of a free country is the rule of law.   People who live in a free country need to be able to know what the laws are, and to know that they are safe so long as they obey the law.

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Donald Trump and the Syrian refugees

January 30, 2017
Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees

President Donald Trump has banned Syrian refugees from coming to the USA.

But there wouldn’t be any refugees from Syria if the U.S. government hadn’t intentionally destabilized their country.

It is shameful to treat the refugees as if they themselves were to blame for being persecuted and homeless.

Ten years ago, Syria was a country where Middle East refugees fled to, not away from.  What changed it was the rebellion, instigated by the U.S. government and spearheaded by the Islamic State (aka ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front, the heirs to Al Qaeda, to overthrow Bashir al-Assad.

People who once led normal lives have been made homeless and exiles by warlords and armed religious fanatics.

_85412618_syrian_refugees_62regions

The saving grace of President Trump’s order is to make exceptions for religious minorities and Syrians in danger because they worked for Americans.

Christians comprise 10 percent of the population of Syria.  The Christian community there goes back to the time of St. Paul.   Although Christians are targeted by ISIS and other jihadists, they comprise fewer than 10 percent of refugees—possibly because they’re in danger from Muslim fanatics in the refugee camps.   It would be shameful for a nation that is more than 70 percent Christian to turn its back on them.

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Why New York state should pass the DREAM Act

June 19, 2016

The proposed New York DREAM Act would allow unauthorized immigrants who’ve earned high school diplomas in New York state to apply for tuition assistance to attend state colleges and universities.

The documentary film profiles six hard-working young people who might benefit from the new law.

State law doesn’t not protect them from deportation, but it gives them the same right to attend public school as citizens and legal immigrants. The proposed law would give them an equal right to apply for financial aid.

An estimated 4,500 undocumented students graduate from New York high schools each year.  An estimated 90 to 95 percent of them do not pursue higher education.

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Nations of immigrants and the future

May 17, 2016

migrantsinternationalcomparionsimage_thumb69

Hat tip to Jim Rose.

I’ve always thought of the United States as a nation particularly welcoming to immigrants, but the chart shows many other nations have proportionately larger immigrant populations than the USA.

I’m less surprised at the high ranking of Australia, New Zealand and Canada as at nations such as Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and Ireland, which I’ve always thought of as ethnically and culturally homogeneous.

I’d be interested in the figures for Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries.

[Update 2016/5/19.  I came across an interesting interactive graphic, Origins and Destinations of the World’s Migrants, 1990-2015, from Pew Research Center that answers my question.  Also, I forgot about peoplemovin- A visualization of migrant flows, an interactive graphic to which I linked previously.]

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African factory workers in deepest Iowa

March 14, 2016

Writer Paul Street reported for Counterpunch on his experiences working alongside Congolese and Sudanese immigrant workers in a Procter & Gamble factory in Iowa.

Here in and around the liberal bastion of Iowa City, a university town where wage-earners’ working class lives are all but invisible to a large local cadre of privileged and mostly white academicians, the lower end of the workplace and the job market – the factory and warehouse positions filled by temporary labor agencies, custodial jobs, taxi drivers, etc. – is crowded with immigrants.

Paul Street

Paul Street

It is chock full of nonwhite people who feel fortunate to have any kind of job that helps them escape danger, misery terror, and oppression in far-away places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Honduras, Mexico, and Haiti.

Does anyone really believe that Iowa City’s giant Procter & Gamble plant – my low-wage, finger-wrenching workplace between from September of 2015 through February of 2016 and the origin point for many of North America’s leading hair-care products – is crawling with Congolese and Sudanese workers, along with a smattering of Central Americans, Caribbean islanders, marginal whites, Black Americans, and Africans from other states, because P&G (the nation’s 25th largest company and its top consumer packaged goods firm by far) is nobly committed to racial and ethnic diversity and a world without borders?

Of course it isn’t.  P&G reserves its better paid and more “skilled” and secure “career” production jobs almost completely for non-Hispanic whites.  These “plant technician” jobs require no more than a GED (high school equivalency) degree and start at around $20 an hour.

Street said P&G relies on Staff Management / SMX, a temporary help agency, to provide its lowest-paid workers.  They get $10 to $11.85 an hour.  SMX gets an additional fee—Street heard that it was $6—on top of that.

The work includes filling boxes on rapidly moving assembly lines with shampoo, conditioner and mouthwash bottles, building and wrapping pallets at the end of never-ending packaging-assembly lines, putting stickers on one shampoo or conditioner bottle after another, and more and worse.

It’s all performed in exchange for inadequate wages (far lower than they ought to be thanks to the SMX rake-off) and at constant risk of being sent home early and without warning since there’s often “no more product today” (that’s called “labor flexibility” and it’s no small problem for workers who already paid for a full day’s worth of child care).

He himself quit because, he found after five months of pulling apart tightly glued boxes, he could no longer clench and un-clench his fists.  The function in his hands returned after a week off the job.

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What would Trump’s immigration policy cost?

February 8, 2016
Black line is illegal immigrants who enter US without documents; grey line is unauthorized immigrants who enter legally but overstay their visas

Black line is illegal immigrants who enter US without documents; grey line is unauthorized immigrants who enter legally but overstay their visas

Donald Trump has proposed building an impenetrable wall along the Mexican border to halt illegal immigration while hunting down and deporting the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants already in the United States.

2. 2006-modes-of-entry-01-600x311My question: What would this cost?

Anybody can climb over a wall, so a barrier, to be effective, would have to be guarded, like the Berlin Wall.  Maybe it would be possible to use electronic surveillance, perhaps from drones, to detect illegal crossers, but it would still cost a lot of money and require a lot of people.

3.illegalimmigrantsmain-qimg-453a3f0f33d47ef175266090f05f9598Furthermore a wall would not be sufficient to secure U.S. borders.  A large fraction of illegal immigrants enter the U.S. by sea, or enter the U.S. legally and overstay their visas.  More than a million of them are from Asia.

Finding and deporting unauthorized immigrants would be no easy task.  Many of them would be protected and hidden by their employers and friends.  That could be made a crime, too, I suppose.

I don’t see how this could be enforced without a fascist-style or Soviet-style requirement that everybody be required to carry identity papers at all times, subject to arrest if they don’t, and a system of checkpoints so that people have to frequently show their papers.

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Fear itself is the greatest danger

December 11, 2015

Suppose you are an ISIS terrorist determined to wreak havoc on the United States.   So you infiltrate a Syrian refugee camp hoping to be admitted to the United States.

refugeecamps1371059561224.cachedWhat would be your chances of succeeding?  Let’s do some arithmetic.  There are about 4 million refugees in camps surrounding Syria.  President Barack Obama has announced he will admit 15,000 refugees (up from his original 10,000).  So the odds of any particular person being selected for the program are about one in 27,000.

Of course you would have to come up with a convincing story about how you came to be a refugee and find a U.S. sponsor.  What are the chances of that?   Yet there are governors of American states who fear to admit even one refugee.

Then there’s Donald Trump, who wants to keep out all foreign Muslims.   How would these Muslims be identified?  Simple, Trump explained.  Airline representatives, customs officials and border guards would simply ask, “Are you Muslim?”   Evidently he doesn’t consider the possibility that a terrorist would lie.   Maybe it would be simpler just to ask incoming visitors if they’re agents of ISIS.

gallup.poll.terrorismWhy do people think so irrationally?  It is because we’re scaredFrightened people don’t think.  They only react.

The fact is that so long as the U.S. government wages war in the Greater Middle East, there is going to be blowback against Americans, and there is little we can do to prevent it.

We can choose to end these wars, which is what I advocate.  We can accept a certain amount of danger as the price of waging war for important national objectives.  Or we can do things out of fear that make us feel safer, even though they don’t.

Europe and the refugees

November 20, 2015

AJsyrianrefugees3d047f08248d4185bf72b0cd729e84ff_18

3.FT_15.09.29_asylum_420pxThe Syrian civil war is a worse disaster than the Haitian earthquake or the Indian Ocean tsunami.

More than 4 million Syrians are refugees outside their country and many more are homeless and displaced within the country.

But fewer than one-tenth of the Syrian refugees have sought asylum in Europe, and, according to Pew Research, four out of five of the asylum-seekers are not Syrian.

The International Convention on Refugees requires countries to accept anyone who flees their own country out of a well-founded fear of persecution on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group.

National governments put applicants through a vetting process to determine whether they truly are refugees.  I think it is reasonable to think that many of the applicants are just typical poor immigrants in search of a better life.  I don’t condemn anybody from migrating in search of a better life, but this is not the same thing as being a refugee.

I think it would be a nice gesture for European countries to take in Syrian refugees.  I think the countries that should take in the most refugees are the countries that did the most to create the refugee problem.

Aside from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, these countries are the USA, the UK and France, which have bombed Syria and backed radical terrorist rebels against the government.

But this would be a gesture only.  The only real solution to the Syrian refugee problem is peace in Syria, followed by rebuilding, so that they can return to their own country.

The tide of illegal Mexican immigration ebbs

November 20, 2015

PH_2015-11-19_mexican-immigration-01These days more Mexicans are leaving the United States than entering.  As Mitt Romney might say, they are “self-deporting.”

Immigration, both legal and illegal, peaked in 2007.  Pew Research reported that in that year, the U.S. resident population included:

  • 5.9 million legal immigrants from Mexico
  • 6.9 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico.
  • 5.3 million unauthorized immigrants from other countries.

By 2014, the figures were:

  • 6.1 million legal immigrants from Mexico
  • 5.6 million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico
  • 5.7 million unauthorized immigrants from other countries.

Overall, according to Pew, there are just under 59 million foreign-born residents and citizens of the United States, comprising a near-record 14 percent of the population.

Pew Research said one reason for the net out-migration of Mexicans is that the U.S. economy is less of a magnet than it once was.  Increasing numbers of Mexicans tell pollsters that they are just as well off staying in Mexico as they would be going to the United States.

Another factor is increased immigration enforcement.  Even though the number of unauthorized immigrants being stopped at the border is down, the number of deportations is up.

There are still 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the USA, and even if the unauthorized immigrant population continues to shrink at the rate it did from 2007 to 2014, it would still take more than 87 years before they were all gone.

As I’ve written before, I’m of two minds as to what to do about this.  I don’t think immigrants who break the rules should get a place in line ahead of those who obey the rules.   At the same time, I can’t much blame people for breaking rules to  better their lives and the lives of their families.

My bottom line is that it is better to offer a path to citizenship, as President Obama proposes, than to have an exploitable underclass in the United States outside the protection of U.S. law.

LINKS

More Mexicans Are Leaving Than Coming to the U.S. by Ana Gonzalez-Barrera for Pew Research.

5 facts about illegal immigration in the U. S. by Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jeffrey S. Passel for Pew Research.

Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S. by Pew Research.

A world on the move

October 18, 2015
peoplemovin382553

Double click to enlarge.

Source: peoplemovin – A visualization of migration flows.

If you click on the link (above), you can find the number of migrants into and out of every country, and also a breakdown of the destinations of emigrants from every country and the sources of immigration into every country.   I think this is interesting, and maybe you will, too.

These figures reflect total numbers of peoples living in a country other than the one in which they were born, as of the year 2010.  They do not reflect recent events, such as the Ukrainian civil war or the Syrian refugee crisis.

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The passing scene – October 7, 2015

October 7, 2015

Why Free Markets Make Fools of Us by Cass R. Sunstein for The New York Review of Books.  (Hat tip to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack)

The TPP has a provision that many will love to hate: ISDS.  What is it, and why does it matter? by Todd Tucker for the Washington Post.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism)

Hillary Clinton says she does not support Trans Pacific Partnership by the PBS Newshour.

Q: Is the Obama Administration Complicit With Slavery? A: Yes by Eric Loomis for Lawyers, Guns and Money.  Slavery in Malaysia is overlooked for the sake of the TPP.

Houston is a lot more tolerant of immigrants than Copenhagen is on Science Codex.  (Hat tip to Jack)

Science Saves: The Young Iraqis Promoting Evolutionary Theory and Rational Thought to Save Iraq by Marwan Jabbar for Niqash: briefings from inside and across Iraq.  (Hat tip to Informed Comment)

The Amazing Inner Lives of Animals by Tim Flannery for The New York Review of Books.  (Hat tip to Jack)

Is the chilli pepper friend or foe? by William Kremer for BBC World Service.  (Hat tip to Jack)

Asian immigrants expected to predominate

October 6, 2015

FT_15.10.05_USin2065_420px

Republican presidential candidates are debating how to seal the southern U.S. border against unauthorized immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries.   This is yesterday’s news.

Pew Research Center reported that immigration from Asia already exceeds immigration from Latin American and is likely to predominate for at least the next generation.  Immigration from Mexico has been declining since 2007.

Currently there are three times as many Hispanics in the United States, including unauthorized immigrants, than there are Asians, and half again as many Hispanics as blacks.  But in 50 years, if present trends continue, the number of Asians will exceed the number of blacks, and Asians will be the largest category among the foreign-born population.

The USA, more than most countries, is a nation of immigrants.  Pew noted that United States has more Mexican immigrants (12 million) than any other nation has total immigrants.

Immigration to the United States has come in three waves.  In the first wave, from 1840 to 1889, nearly nine-tenths of immigrants were from Germany, Ireland, Britain or other northern and western European countries.  In the second wave, from 1890 to 1919, nearly two-thirds were from Italy, Austria-Hungary, Poland, Russian or other southern and eastern European nations.

In the third wave, from 1965 to 2015, slightly more than half are from Latin America, and immigration from Asia equals immigration from Europe.  Pew projects a fourth wave, predominantly from Asia, based on recent trends.

Native-born Americans have always worried about how many immigrants the United States can absorb.  Angl0-Saxon Americans worried about whether they could assimilate the Irish and Germans.  Protestant Americans worried about whether they could assimilate Catholics and Jews.

Now we worry about whether we can assimilate Hispanics and Asians, and still maintain the continuity of our culture, heritage and economy.

I share these worries, but the decision has already been made that the United States is a multi-cultural nation.  Even if we wished, we could not become like Japan or Quebec, where almost everyone is of the same ancestry and cultural heritage.   Even before the age of immigration, the USA comprised African-Americans and native Americans and we could not pretend to be a merely a branch of the British nation.

Historically, immigrants have strengthened the United States.  They have mostly been hard-working people who have come to the United States in search of opportunity, and many have been liberty-loving people who have come here in search of freedom.

If this ever ceases being true, I don’t think it will be because of immigrants.  IT will be because the USA as a whole no longer offers opportunity and has lost confidence in freedom.

The American motto is “E Pluribus Unum” – “out of many, one.”  Either we make that a reality, or we cease to be a nation, and the territory between Canada and Mexico is nothing but a labor force and a consumer market.

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The Republican problem with immigration

September 29, 2015

citizenship

Donald Trump vs. right-wing political correctness

September 16, 2015

22-alabama-trump-supporters.w529.h352.2x-e1440694001809Source: The Daily Caller

I confess that I can’t help but enjoy the uninhibited way Donald Trump runs rings around the other Republican candidates by ignoring all the conventions of right-wing political correctness.  I think he would be a great commentator for Fox News or, better still, Comedy Central.

I felt the same way about George Wallace in 1968 and 1972.   I deplored what he stood for, but, in spite of himself, I enjoyed hearing him speak.   He had great wit and a great sense of timing, and he deftly punctured the hypocrisy of the other candidates.

Other Republican candidates haven’t been able to answer Trump because of all the taboos they’ve imposed upon themselves over the years about what they can and can’t say.

Immigration is an example.   Most Republican presidential candidates have to strike a balance between their corporate financial backers, who want more legal and illegal low-wage workers in the United States, and their constituents, who fear having to compete with and live with such immigrants.

Trump need not worry about striking a balance.  There is nothing to stop him from appealing to Americans’ worst fears.

That is very different from being qualified to be President of the United States.  Your convictions have to be based on something more solid than a showman’s sense of what will please the audience.

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Anchor babies, birth tourism and China

August 27, 2015

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the States wherein they reside.
              ==14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Yes, it’s true, as Donald Trump said, that there is such a thing as “anchor babies” or, to use a more polite term, “birth tourism,” and it also is true, as Jeb Bush said, that most come from China and other Asian countries, not Mexico.

anchorbabies-300x201Here’s how it works.  Chinese travel agencies arrange, for a fee, for Chinese couples to legally visit the United States and for the mother to give birth in a U.S. hospital.  Under the 14th Amendment, those children are U.S. citizens.  Under current U.S. law, those children, when they reach the age of 21, may apply for green cards for their parents to immigrate to the United States and eventually become U.S. citizens.

An unauthorized immigrant couple could do the same thing, but I don’t have any information on whether any or how many actually do.  The possibility exists even if they didn’t originally intend to have the “anchor baby”.

These practices may not be a serious practical problem, at least not as yet, but they don’t sit well with me.  They are a distortion of the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment and of U.S. immigration law.

The Fourteenth Amendment was enacted in 1868 so as to guarantee citizenship rights for newly-freed slaves and to reverse the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which held that African-Americans had no rights under the Constitution.  The question of children of authorized immigrants did not arise, because the United States had no restrictions on immigration until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Wong Kim Ark, who was born around 1871 to Chinese parents legally in the United States, was a U.S. citizen and could not be barred from re-entering the United States after a trip abroad.

One solution would be to repeal or amend the Fourteenth Amendment.  This would be a difficult thing to do and also potentially dangerous unless the new amendment is worded very carefully.  I wouldn’t want to give the federal government the power to deprive me and those I care about of our citizenship.

It might be possible to pass a law or file a lawsuit to clarify the meaning of “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”  The original Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to Indian tribes or to the children of foreign diplomats because they were not subject to U.S. law.  You could make an argument that unauthorized immigrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. law, either.

This of course would not apply to Chinese and other “birth tourism” for legally authorized visitors to the United States.

Another possible approach would be to change U.S. immigration law as it applies to family reunification.  My understanding is that it was intended to apply to relatives of U.S. citizens who were stranded in refugee camps, not everyday citizens of foreign countries who think they can do better in the USA.   It would be a shame to stop this, but it is a practical way of eliminating “anchor babies” and “birth tourism”.

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Immigration and the American Indians

August 26, 2015

immigrationcartoonA council of Native American leaders has offered partial amnesty to the estimated 220 million illegal white immigrants living in the United States.

At a meeting of the Native Peoples Council (NPC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico … , Native American leaders considered several proposals on the future of this continent’s large, unauthorized European population.  The elders ultimately decided to extend a pathway to citizenship for those without criminal backgrounds.

indianimmigration“We are prepared to offer White people the option of staying on this continent legally and applying for citizenship,” explains Chief Wamsutta of the Wampanoag nation. “In return, they must pay any outstanding taxes and give back the land stolen from our ancestors.

“Any white person with a criminal record, however, will be deported in the next 90 days back to their ancestral homeland.  Rush Limbaugh will be going to Germany.  Justin Bieber will depart for Canada.  And the entire cast of Jersey Shore will be returning to Italy.”  [snip]

ponce.de.leonProgressive native groups welcomed the council’s decision today as a step forward toward normalizing relations with the White community.  However, many conservative Native Americans are upset about the plan, claiming that amnesty will only serve to reward lawbreakers.

“Why can’t we just deport all of the Whites back to Europe?” asks Ité Omáǧažu of the Lakota people.  “They’re just a drain on our economy anyway.  They came over here to steal our resources because they’re too lazy to develop their own back home.

“I can’t believe we’re just going to let them pay a fine.  They should get to the back of the line like everybody else — behind the Mexicans.”

via The Daily Currant.

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The passing scene – August 22, 2015

August 22, 2015

So Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Is Actually Getting Kinda Serious by Alex Davies for Wired.

Hyperloop, which is being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla Motors, would be a series of above-ground pneumatic tubes filled with people that would zip them along at near-supersonic speeds.

It’s being developed by men and women with day jobs at places such as NASA, Boeing and SpaceX who are paid in stock options rather than cash.  Two established companies, Aercom, an engineering design firm, and Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum, are helping with the project in return for stock options.

A prototype demonstration of the system is scheduled for 2016.

Germany fact of the day, will support for immigration collapse? by Tyler Cowen for Marginal Revolution.

A big backlash is developing across Europe against refugees and unauthorized immigrants.  Cowen favors open borders in principle, but doesn’t think it is politically feasible.

Dejá Vu: Germany Tightens Its Economic Power Over Europe by Richard D. Wolff for Truthout.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The European Union was supposed to be an association that benefited all its members.  Now it has devolved into a mechanism by which Germany, Europe’s richest nation, inflicts economic punishment on Greece, one of its poorest.

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Bernie Sanders opposes open borders

July 29, 2015

Unauthorized immigration into the US and offshoring of American jobs out of the US are two different ways to do the same thing—drive down wages and escape U.S. labor law.

So I’m not surprised that Bernie Sanders said the following in an interview.

Ezra Klein:  You said being a democratic socialist means a more international view. I think if you take global poverty that seriously, it leads you to conclusions that in the US are considered out of political bounds. Things like sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders.  About sharply increasing …

Bernie Sanders:  Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal.

Ezra Klein:  Really?

Bernie_Poster_v3textless.0.0Bernie Sanders: Of course.  That’s a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States. ..

Ezra Klein: But it would make …

Bernie Sanders: Excuse me …

Ezra Klein: It would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn’t it?

Bernie Sanders:  It would make everybody in America poorer —you’re doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don’t think there’s any country in the world that believes in that.  If you believe in a nation state or in a country called the United States or UK or Denmark or any other country, you have an obligation in my view to do everything we can to help poor people.  What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy.  Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them.  I don’t believe in that.  I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.

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Presidential powers and Constitutional limits

December 1, 2014

mehta-datalab-executiveorders1Hat tip for the chart to David Damico.

President Obama is accused by Republicans of exceeding his Constitutional authority by issuing an executive order to allow up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants who meet certain conditions to stay in this country.

An executive order is simply a directive by a President to federal departments or the armed forces to follow a policy.

With the increase in the size and scope of the federal government, executive orders become more and more necessary to make the government work.  But so does the need for checks and balances to prevent abuse of executive power.

The Constitutional authority to issue executive orders comes from provisions vesting the “executive power” of the U.S. government in the President, making the President commander-in-chief of the armed forces and ordering the President to make sure that the laws be faithfully executed.

The most far-reaching executive order in American history was the Emancipation Proclamation.   President Lincoln claimed power as commander-in-chief to order the confiscation of property of the enemy.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued more executive orders than any other President.  On the day he was inaugurated, he ordered the temporary closing of American banks.  Another executive order was to forbid American citizens to hoard gold coins or bullion.  FDR’s most infamous executive order was the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War Two.

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Obama-GOP compromise? I hope not

November 14, 2014

All ways in which President Obama and Republicans in Congress could reach agreement are bad for the American people.

All of President Obama’s initiatives that are good for the American people are unacceptable to the Republicans.

Bad for Americans, acceptable to Republicans

Pro-Business Trade Treaties

free-tradePresident Obama has pushed for new trade treaties that give foreign corporations the right to appeal for damages if countries pass laws that unjustly deprive them of profits.  Similar provisions in existing trade treaties have been used against environmental regulation, subsidies for renewable energy and financial regulation.  Proposed new treaties are believed to go further.

The proposed Trans Pacific Partnership agreement appears doomed, but the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (aka the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and the Trade in Services Agreement might sneak in under the public’s radar.   Corporate American favors these treaties, so the GOP might go for them.

Weakening Social Security and Medicare

obama_cutsPresident Obama repeatedly proposed changing the formula for Social Security benefits and raising the age for Medicare, in exchange for modest tax increases on upper income brackets.  Even though the tax increases are off the table, Republicans might go for such a “grand bargain” on other issues.

Starting New Wars

Obama-and-DronesIf President Obama discovers some new threat that he says requires military intervention in a foreign country, the Republicans in Congress are sure to support him—short of actually voting authorization, which he says he doesn’t need anyway.  Likewise for new authority for surveillance, preventive detention, drone strikes, prosecution of whistle-blowers, etc.

Tar Sands Pipeline  [Added 11/15/14].

The Canadian government and Trans Canada corporation want to bring corrosive tar sands bitumen from northern Alberta to oil refineries in the United States.  Republicans in Congress are strongly in favor of this.  President Obama’s stand on the Keystone XL pipeline is uncertain, but federal regulators have already quietly approved the alternative Alberta Clipper pipeline.  Overall the President is a strong promoter of energy development, including hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

Good for Americans, unacceptable to Republicans

Climate Change

waronglobalwarming63-300x0President Obama says that he wants laws and regulations that limit the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.  A larger segment of the Republicans deny that human-caused climate change is even taking place, let alone that something should be done about it.

Immigration Reform

The only feasible immigration reform, as I see it, is some provision providing a path to citizenship for the millions of unauthorized immigrants already in this country.  I admit this is not good, but the alternatives are worse.

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Should the USA still be a nation of immigrants?

August 19, 2014

From the landing of the first British settlers in 1607 to the official closing of the American frontier in 1890, Americans have welcomed immigrants to help fill up our big, empty country.  One of the complaints against King George III in the Declaration of Independence was “… obstructing the laws for the naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither …”

The United States is still a nation of immigrants.  With about 5 percent of the world’s population, we receive about 20 percent of the world’s immigrants.  On average, at little over 1 million legal immigrants enter the USA each year.

My friend Bill Hickok sent me a link to the video above, in which Roy Beck of NumbersUSA questions whether we need 1 million new immigrants every year.   While much of the debate about immigration concerns what to do about unauthorized migrants, he questions the need for so many legal immigrants.

Immigrants do make a positive contribution to the United States.   Many of our greatest scientists (Albert Einstein) and entrepreneurs (Andy Grove of Intel) are immigrants or the children of immigrants.  With retirees living longer and the birth rate falling, the USA benefits from an increase in the working-age, taxpaying population.

Immigrants also help us Americans, who in general are not widely traveled, to understand and relate to other parts of the world.  This gives us an advantage over more insular nations, such as Japan.   Many immigrants have a stronger work ethic and closer family ties than some of us native-born Americans.

But there are costs to immigration as well as benefits.  New immigrants compete with citizens for jobs at a time when the long-term unemployment rate is high.  Competition for jobs can’t help but drive down wages, and this is true of computer programmers as well as fast-food servers.

Immigrants place demands on the U.S. health care and educational systems.  And of course not all immigrants are hard-working or law-abiding, and not all of them have the ability to function in American society.

In the video above. Beck focused on another aspect—whether immigration into the United States helps reduce world poverty.  His conclusion was that while 1 million immigrants a year have a big impact on the USA, they are too few to have much impact on the world’s 4 billion poorest people (remember, a billion is 1000 million).

He is right that the solution to world poverty is in the economic development of poor countries, not in immigration.  But immigration can help.  Remittances from the United States are important to the economies of Mexico and Central America.  Remittances to and from other countries—to Algeria from France, to Turkey from Germany, to the Philippines from the Gulf emirates, to Central Asia from Russia and so on—also are important.

Beck said poor countries would be better off if their most enterprising people stayed at home.  Maybe so and maybe not.  It seems to be that if these enterprising people had opportunities at home, they wouldn’t take the risk of moving to a foreign land.  And maybe they learn new skills that are useful at home.

I agree with his overall point that there is a limit to how many immigrants a nation can absorb and still preserve its economic system and its culture.   I don’t have an informed opinion on what the US limit should be.  What do you think?

American exceptionalism: Loyalty to a Constitution

November 26, 2013

An American patriot is one who will uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

This is in the oath sworn by members of the armed forces when they are inducted, the oath sworn by federal officers, including the President of the United States, when they take office, and the oath sworn by immigrants when they are naturalized as citizens.

      Our form of patriotism does not consist of loyalty to a king, or a dictator, or a ruling political party, nor to a race, religion or cultural tradition.  It is rather loyalty to a set of rules for living together, governing ourselves and respecting each others’ rights.

This is why the name of the Department of Homeland Security seems vaguely wrong to many of us.   The word “homeland” expresses the European concept of nationality—that a nation consists of people speaking the same language, living in the same place that their ancestors have lived for centuries.   North America is the homeland of the American Indians.  All the rest of us have come from a homeland somewhere else.

American constitutional patriotism is better than European blood-and-soil nationalism.  Making race, language and ethnicity the basis of national identity is very natural, but it has led to bloody wars, ethnic cleansings and second-class citizenship.

You can be born anywhere in the world and think of becoming an American.  I don’t think anyone thinks this way of becoming German or Japanese or any of the other nationalities defined by ethnicity.

We Americans have had and still have a lot of problems with immigration, but I think we do better than most nations because we make loyalty to the Constitution the basis of patriotism.   I have a good friend born in Uzbekistan who is a naturalized American citizen.   She is as good an American as I am, and as good an American as my immigrant ancestor, Johann Ebersole, who served in the Continental Army under George Washington.

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Legal immigration isn’t easy, but it’s growing

February 20, 2013

foreignborn.pew

Lest we forget, most foreign-born residents and new citizens came into this country legally.   And the legal process usually is not easy.  The chart below is nearly five years old, but the information on it is still correct, as far as I know.

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