Category Archives: Immigration Policy

Fences & Neighbors: A Blast From The Past

Published / by Stephen

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Robert Reich wrote this for the November 30, 1998 issue of the New Yorker magazine. He posted it to his blog today. It could not be more time appropriate.

Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

It used to be that people who owned a lot of things could protect themselves and their things by erecting sturdy houses and, if necessary, putting a lock on the door. Today, it seems, that’s not enough. It’s estimated that three million American households live within gated communities – twenty thousand of them, often equipped with private security guards and electronic surveillance systems. Some years ago, the town of Rosemont, Illinois, erected a beige wrought-iron fence. Rosemont is a suburb of Chicago, with a population of four thousand, and it has one of the largest auxiliary police forces in the United States.

A wall is being erected around the nation, too – an outer perimeter, separating the United States from the Third World. So far, our national wall extends along only sixty-four miles of the nearly two-thousand-mile border with Mexico, but Congress has appropriated funds for lengthening it and also fortifying it.

The urge to erect walls seems to be growing, just as disparities in wealth are widening. Many of the Americans who reside within gates like Rosemont’s have become substantially wealthier during the past several years, whereas a great many Americans who live outside the gates have not. (One man, appropriately named Bill Gates, has a net worth roughly equaling the combined net worth of the least wealthy forty percent of American households.)

On a much larger scale, inhabitants of the planet who reside at latitudes north of the national wall are diverging economically from those who live south of it. The consequence is that at both perimeters – the town wall and the national wall – outsiders are more desperate to get in and insiders are more determined to keep them out. Yet the inconvenient fact is that increasingly, in the modern world, the value of what the insiders own and of the work they do depends on what occurs outside.

Half a world away from Rosemont are places whose currencies, denominated in bahts, ringgits, rupiahs, and won, began toppling more than a year ago, and seem to have come to rest only in the last several weeks at levels far below where they started. This has caused most of these countries’ citizens to become far poorer. An Indonesian who had worked for the equivalent of three dollars and thirty-three cents a day before the rupiah’s decent is now working for about one dollar and twelve cents. Efforts by the International Monetary Fund to build back the “confidence” of global investors in these nations by conditioning loans on the nation’s willingness to raise interest rates and cut their public spending have had the unfortunate side effect of propelling more of their citizens into ever more desperate poverty. After the tremors spread to Russia last summer, and it defaulted on its short-term loans, the worldwide anxiety grew, spreading all the way to Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, with the widest gap between rich and poor. In return for its promise of austerity, Brazil is now set to receive an international line of credit totaling forty-one and a half billion dollars, designed to convince global investors that its currency will not lose its value, and that, therefore, there is no reason for them to take their money and run.

All this commotion has also diminished the economic security of quite a number of people who thought of themselves as safely walled in. …. Recent government data show that in the third quarter of 1998 the profits and investments of Americans companies shrank for the first time since the recession year of 1991. This is largely because their exports to Asia and Latin America have continued to drop, while cheap imports from these regions are undercutting their sales in the United States. In consequence, they have been laying off American workers at a higher pace, and creating new jobs at a slower pace, than at any time in recent years.

We do not know how many residents of Rosemont will lose their jobs or the value of their stock portfolios because of the continuing global crisis. No burglars will climb over the steel barrier now walling off the United States and then scale Rosemont’s beige wrought-iron fence, but some residents of Rosemont will lose a bundle nonetheless.

The major risks of modern live now move through or over walls, sometimes electronically, as with global investments, but occasionally by other means. A lethal influenza virus originating among a few Hong Kong chickens could find its way to Rosemont via a globe-trotting business executive. Drugs are flowing across the border as well, not because the walls are insufficiently think but because the people behind them are eager to buy. Something these is in capitalism that doesn’t love a wall.

So why do we feverishly build more walls when they offer us less and less protection? Perhaps it is because we feel so unprotected of late. Amid all the blather about taking more personal responsibility for this or that, there is a growing fear that random and terrible things can happen to us. Solid walls at least create the illusion of control over what we call our own, and control is something we seem to need more of these days, when almost anyone can be clobbered by a falling baht.

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Immigration — An Informed Fact-Based Approach

Published / by Stephen

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From Sonia Nazario, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite With His Mother,” is a board member of Kids in Need of Defense and a contributing NYT opinion writer.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans will like it. But it would be humane, it would adhere to the rule of law, and it would work.

I’m a Child of Immigrants. And I Have a Plan to Fix Immigration.

7 Truths About Immigration

Published / by Stephen

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7 Truths With Supporting Evidence. From Robert Reich:

1. A record high of 75 percent of Americans now say immigration is a “good thing” for the country.

2. America needs more immigrants, not fewer, because our population is rapidly aging.

3. Historically, new immigrants have contributed more to society in taxes than they have taken from society in terms of public assistance.

4. Most immigrants don’t take jobs away from native-born Americans. To the contrary, their spending creates more jobs.

5. Trump’s claim that undocumented immigrants generate more crime is dead wrong. Both legal and undocumented immigrants are significantly less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States.

6. Violent crime rates in America are actually at historical lows, with the homicide rate back to its level from the early 1960s.

7. Illegal border crossings have been declining since 2014 – long before Trump’s “crackdown.” There is no “surge” in illegal immigration.

The Republican Party Disrobed

Published / by Stephen

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Again Trump has shown his true colors. His latest racist tirade, no immigrants from s*hole countries, demonstrated that his approach is to exclude whole groups of people, especially people of color. He is a bigot and a racist – definitions below.

His comments also reveal the true motives of the republican party. The republican reaction is telling – Paul Ryan “it is unfortunate, not helpful.” Others denying that the words were spoken. The party is mostly a racial group, old wealthy white men, protecting their power. The emperor has no clothes. They are a racist party. It is time to throw the rascals out.

Vox explains Trump’s latest racist tirade.  Also The New Your Times has put together a definitive list of Trump’s racial comments. Check it out here.

It is instructive to to examine the meanings of the words prejudice, bigotry and racism. Debby Irving a racial justice educator and writer provides the following definitions:

Are prejudice, bigotry, and racism the same thing?

No. And this is a HUGE source of misunderstanding.

Prejudice is when a person negatively pre-judges another person or group without getting to know the beliefs, thoughts, and feelings behind their words and actions. A person of any racial group can be prejudiced towards a person of any other racial group. There is no power dynamic involved.

Bigotry is stronger than prejudice, a more severe mindset and often accompanied by discriminatory behavior. It’s arrogant and mean-spirited, but requires neither systems nor power to engage in.

Racism is the system that allows the racial group that’s already in power to retain power. Since arriving on U.S. soil white people have used their power to create preferential access to survival resources (housing, education, jobs, food, health, legal protection, etc.) for white people while simultaneously impeding people of color’s access to these same resources.Though “reverse racism” is a term I sometimes hear, it has never existed in America. White people are the only racial group to have ever established and retained power in the United States.

Trump’s Speech To Congress

Published / by Stephen

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Long on rhetoric short on specifics. The speech was clearly scripted. Looking more “presidential” but just a few hours earlier signing an executive order to gut clean water rules.

I watched this on public television. The talking heads there, sans one, gave Trump a thumbs up for it being a good speech. They must have had a special hearing filter. It is revealing to watch the speech with the sound turned off. The body language is revealing. Another source of straight information is tweets by Nicholas Kristof, My Take on Trump’s Address to Congress.

The Trump agenda is a disaster. He is going to kill people with heath care changes, the economy is going to suffer with his trade war and anti-immigration policies, the budget deficit is going to explode, and his national security and diplomacy actions are truly scary.

The Republicans support of Trump shows just how little Republicans care about the economy and our democracy. Their statesmanship is nonexistent.

The Travel Ban

Published / by Stephen

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In the words of Dan Rather

In the past few days Mr. Trump has launched a very serious and very dangerous campaign of suggesting that if an attack occurs it will be the fault of federal judges who ruled that his Executive Order on immigration was Constitutionally problematic. And more recently he suggested it might be the fault of the press for not reporting on terrorist attacks – an assertion which any fair read of the evidence shows is a lie. As with the sweeping allegations of millions of fraudulent voters (where is the investigation of that dire threat to our democracy now?), the White House cannot supply facts to back up the President’s claim.

Mr. Trump is the Commander in Chief. The armed services and intelligence community report to him. Searching for scapegoats to blame even before an event occurs is to sow the seeds of destabilization to the very fabric of our republic. These are the tactics of a thin-skinned bully who may realize he is in far over his head… This is a common tactic of authoritarian rulers I have seen around the globe.

… I do not see either judges or reporters backing down. Quite the contrary.

Is Trump a Populist or Authoritarian?

Published / by Stephen

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With regard to Trump being a “populist'” Krugman has some things to say about this,  Reality TV Populism. For example:

Europe’s populist parties are actually populist; they pursue policies that really do help workers, as long as those workers are the right color and ethnicity. As someone put it, they’re selling a herrenvolk welfare state.

Trump, however, is different. He said lots of things on the campaign trail, but his personnel choices indicate that in practice he’s going to be a standard hard-line economic-right Republican.

…in what sense is Trump a populist? Basically, he plays one on TV — he claims to stand for the common man, disparages elites, trashes political correctness; but it’s all for show. When it comes to substance, he’s pro-elite all the way.

So what is the evidence that he an “Authoritarian?” Recently there has been lots written about this. For example Trump’s Authoritarian Approach to Managing Public Opinion, Trump ‘Is a Fraud’ Sending Nation in ‘Authoritarian Direction’. A CNN opinion piece by Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Trump is following the authoritarian playbook, makes a couple of persuasive arguments:

  1. Trump is targeting the media.
  2. Strongmen also target the judiciary.

Strongmen show aggression to the press as part of a slow-drip strategy of discrediting all information that is not dispensed by their close allies. Many were surprised at Trump’s rude treatment of CNN at his recent press conference. Calling the media outlet “fake news,” he refused to allow reporter Jim Acosta to ask a question. This was classic authoritarian posturing.

Strongmen also target the judiciary, since it stands in the way of their “reforms” that often veer into extra-legality. ..So look forward to Trump administration efforts to tar individual judges who seem to block the fulfillment of GOP agendas or interfere with Trump’s personal interests.[e.g., U.S. District Judge James Robart temporary block of the travel ban]

Assuming that Thump and his set of White House advisors are “Authoritarians” — probability 1.0 — what should we do?  I found two sets of advice that appeal to me. One is from a Keith Ellison interview on Trevor North Feb. 6 where Ellison gives advice on strategy for dealing with Trump and the current set of Republicans. The other is from Global Voices, These Venezuelans Have Some Ideas to Share With Trump Opponents. Both argue that we have to fight tooth and nail to regain the support of those that depend on us the most.

From the Keith Ellison Interview: We have to fight him at every turn. People do not expect you to be always successful but they expect you to be faithful.

From Global, Voices: Recognize you’re the enemy they need; show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those that brought Trump to power; by all means be patient with democracy and struggle relentlessly to free yourself from the shackles of the caricature the populists have drawn of you.

 

 

Facts Not Fear

Published / by Stephen

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New York Times Opinion Pages, Feb 2: Op-Ed Contributor Angelina Jolie: Refugee Policy Should Be Based on Facts, Not Fear.

Selected excerpts:

Every government must balance the needs of its citizens with its international responsibilities. But our response must be measured and should be based on facts, not fear.

Refugees are in fact subject to the highest level of screening of any category of traveler to the United States.

Furthermore, only the most vulnerable people are put forward for resettlement in the first place: survivors of torture, and women and children at risk or who might not survive without urgent, specialized medical assistance.

And in fact only a minuscule fraction — less than 1 percent — of all refugees in the world are ever resettled in the United States or any other country.

If we create a tier of second-class refugees, implying Muslims are less worthy of protection, we fuel extremism abroad, and at home we undermine the ideal of diversity cherished by Democrats and Republicans alike: “America is committed to the world because so much of the world is inside America,” in the words of Ronald Reagan.