Tag: Immigration law

The Amnesty that Dare Not Speak Its Name

So Obama gave his big speech last night about immigration. The big change is he will extend temporary legal status to about 4-5 million illegal immigrants. To qualify, they will have to have been here five years, have US citizen relatives and have not broken the law (I mean, other than the ones they broke getting here). There is no path to legal status, a green card or citizenship (at least, not yet). And, of course, the next President could undo it.

I’ve made it clear where I stand on this: we need to make it easier for people to legally come here and work; we need to make it harder for people to come here illegally; people who came here illegally should not be moved to the front of the line when it comes to getting legal status. The underlying problem is that we have a broken immigration system. We have a system where coming to America to work involves a long, drawn-out, frustrating and expensive process and becomes a big driver of illegal immigration. Until we fix that, illegal immigration is still going to be a problem. I’m also sympathetic to the arguments that our immigration policy shouldn’t break up families or send people back to countries they’ve never lived in.

But …

All that having been said, I still don’t like what the President is doing.

First, he is doing this by executive fiat without any consultation with Congress. Now I absolutely agree that Congress has dropped the ball on this. Over and over again, they have refused to do anything about our immigration mess. But this does not make the President’s unilateral action wise or even constitutional. Our Constitution does not have a “Congress are being assholes” clause. In fact, the Justice Department informed Obama, they day before his speech, that his actions were of dubious legality. When your own justice department tells you that, that translates into plain english as “this is fucking illegal.”

Even if you assume that he has the authority to act here, that still doesn’t make it right. He’s not even giving Congress a chance to do something about immigration. Obama told the last Congress to stall on immigration until after the election. He has not given the lame duck Congress a chance to act nor has he given the new Congress a chance to act. If he were doing this six months into a Republican Congress, he might have a point. But then again, the new Congress is unlikely to give him the kind of immigration reform he wants. Thus, the petulant act.

Second, Obama can dress this up all he wants. He can claim this isn’t an amnesty. But as noted Matt Welch — a supporter of massively expanded immigration — this is amnesty. When you say you will not deport people who break the law, that’s pretty much the definition of amnesty.

My fellow supporters of vastly increased legal immigration to this country do not, I believe, further their cause by retreating into soft-focus euphemism (DREAMers!) or sidestepping uncomfortable language just because it has proven politically effective for people on the other side of the issue.

If you recognized the existence of more than 10 million unpermitted residents in this country as the product more of prohibition than of criminality, and acted upon that insight foremostly by expanding and deregulating legal immigration, then I predict the word “amnesty” would start to lose some of its negative potency. People really resent line-jumpers when the queue stretches back as far as the eye can see; speed up that process and our national debate would look a lot more reasoned and thoughtful.

Exactly. I lived in Texas for four years. We had a lot of people who did work for us that I’m sure were of questionable legal status. They worked hard, they took care of their families, they obeyed any laws unrelated to immigration. But they were still law-breakers. I want to see them get a chance to come to this country legally. I do not want to see them get that chance ahead of people who have obeyed the law.

The laws against illegal immigration aren’t like a law against free speech or for discrimination. Coming to this country illegally is not an act of civil disobedience. This is a serious business.

Finally, the President’s verbal gymnastics did not persuade me; they annoyed me. He argued very well that we need immigration reform. He didn’t persuade me at all that this was what we needed McArdle:

As an act of rare semantic derring-do, this was a towering achievement. As a political speech, I don’t think it was very effective. It puts one in mind of the debate in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which ends when one side manages to prove that black is white — and gets themselves killed at the next pedestrian crosswalk.

To be honest, it’s not clear to me that the president was trying to be persuasive. He seemed, rather, to be triple-dog-daring Republicans to jump off the bridge with him, and if history is any guide, they will probably oblige. But there’s a real risk that Democrats will come to regret having the president jump first.

(McArdle also points out the significance that his speech was only broadcast on Univision. And that is a key point. A lot of this speech wasn’t about advancing policy; it was about trawling for latino votes. Expect the ability of the next President to undo Obama’s amnesty to become a big issues in 2016.)

So what should Republicans do? The most common tactic I hear is recession — using the budget process to defund the President’s actions. I would support that but I think it’s small. A better idea would be for the Republicans to pass their own version of immigration reform and dare the President to veto it. Force his hand. Force him to choose his executive fiat over the legal and constitutional moves of the Congress. Show that Republicans are not a bunch of anti-immigrants racists; they just want the law to be obeyed.

A topic we have not discussed here.. much

None of the authors here at this blog have paid much attention to the horribly misnamed immigration reform initiative. Yeah, our government calls this thing immigration reform, but like the Affordable Healthcare Act – a.k.a Obamacare – had absolutely nothing to do with making healthcare affordable, good, or more accessible, this immigration reform isn’t about reforming the broken US immigration system as much as it is an attempt to reward some 11 million border jumping illegals for doing just that, with citizenship and lots of government cheese in return for their votes. We don’t even have to play the “guess which party is doing this” game. If you still have issues figuring out which political party is the master at using US tax payer money to buy themselves votes, power, and line their pockets with wealth, you haven’t been paying attention. Especially for the last 5 years.

And no, I am not giving republicans a pass on this issue. There are quite a few of them willing to go along with this terrible plan to reward these illegals and help the democrats get a lot of new voters, for whatever insane reason. I do laugh heartily at the people that say those of us that do not want to go along with this “noble” effort by donkeys to buy themselves some votes on the backs of the American tax payers, because we are racists or want to exploit these poor people, since it is utter bullshit. My main problem is that this done back in the 80s already, and we were promised then that we would actually fix our immigration policies and never have to do this again, and we find ourselves doing it yet again. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. And have no doubt that this immigration reform bill that these fuckers are pushing now, like the one from the 80s, does nothing to prevent a repeat some 20-30 years down the line. More importantly, it doesn’t fix our broken immigration system that leaves those that actually follow the legal requirements to come here in limbo for years, and more often than not then denies them their request anyway.

What we really need is reform that streamlines the immigration process for those that follow the law and makes it easier for qualified people – those without a criminal background, that will not show up to suck at the government’s teat, and especially those that come with special skills – to come to this country. A bill that is totally7 focused on rewarding 11 million border jumpers for breaking the law, isn’t a good deal for the American people. Especially since it is blatantly obvious how easy it is for the politicians to later, once they get this terrible bill passed, to strip out any of the language they had to add to buy support for their maneuver, that restricted these illegals, once made into citizens, from becoming freeloaders sucking on the government’s teat.

Look, I am not crazy enough to think we can deport 11 million plus people. Even if our government actually wanted to do that, something that is definitely not the case today, I think they couldn’t. But we can’t reward them for breaking the law and expect that there will not be more of that law breaking down the line. I, and many like me made that same argument back in the 80s, and the fact that we are here today, with an even larger number of illegals now on the path to getting rewarded for breaking our laws, proves us right. If we do this like the people that only see this maneuver as a quick way for them to garner a few million extra votes want us to, we are domed to end up repeating this mess again down the line. At a minimum, whatever solution we have should serve as both a deterrent to more illegal immigration and, and this is the big and t me, a deterrent for our political master to encourage the illegal immigration followed by the amnesty gimmick.

Let’s fix legal immigration first. Make the path to citizenship easier for those that follow the law. Especially the highly skilled and hardworking people that right now seem the ones hardest hit and punished by our failed existing system. Encourage immigration from people that are going to come here and not become dependent on the American tax payer for subsistence. Definitely keep out the criminal element as much as feasible possible, since we do an awesome job creating our own home grown ones already. And make it unpalatable for illegal immigration to occur at the current rate. I am not crazy enough to think we can stop it all, but we can stop most of it. The first move is to stop rewarding the law breakers and expect them to pay for their crime in cash or otherwise. After we do these things, we can discuss what we do with all these illegals. Rewarding them with amnesty and tax payer funded largess just so politicians in either party can get more votes is a disservice to the American people. And most important of all, let’s make sure that our immigration policy doesn’t harm Americans as much as the current plan does.

Dream On


The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.

The policy change, announced Friday by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the so-called DREAM Act, a long-sought but never enacted plan to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who attend college or join the military.

The plan would allow anyone to stay here if they arrived before they were 16, have been here at least five years, are currently under 30, have no criminal history beyond a low-level misdemeanor are either in students, high school graduates or veterans.

A few points to roll around here. First, while this does bypass Congress, it does so in a way that is legal and constitutional as far as I can tell. The Executive does have some discretion on deportations. This does not put them on a path to citizenship; it merely gives them legal work permits.

Second, I have no doubt this is political. Most things in Washington are and the President knows that Latino voters, who tend to be conservative, can be wooed by this. And the Latino community was frustrated by record-high deportations under Obama. That doesn’t make it a bad policy, per se. As Matt Yglesias pointed out, the Emancipation Proclamation was political too. But let’s not pretend Obama had a moment of truth here. He’s straddling the issue as he always does, for better or for worse.

Third, staying on politics, the proper response of the Republicans would be to applaud the move. It’s no secret that Marco Rubio and other Republicans were crafting a better version of the DREAM Act that would do this exact same thing. There is an opening for them to point that the President did by executive order what could have been accomplished by bipartisan legislation.

Finally, policy: is this is the right thing to do? As Cato points out, these things tend to benefit the economy as we move people out of the shadow economy. These people did not choose to break the law but were brought here. If they are working, schooling and staying out of trouble, I’m frankly glad to have them. I’ll happily swap them out for Americans who aren’t working, schooling or soldiering and have no intention of doing so. This does create incentives for illegal immigrans to bring kids here, which is troubling.

In the end, I would prefer this to come from the legislative side, with a comprehensive overhaul that makes it easier to work here legally and harder to do so illegally. Preferably without money burned on useless fences. And I would like to see a Congressional law supersede this. But Congress has been dicking around with this for going on two decades. Maybe this is the nudge they need to do, you know, their jobs.

Update: This.

Alabama’s Strict Immigration Law Upheld In Large Part

Judge upholds key parts of Alabama immigration enforcement law

Ah, I can feel the construction jobs coming back to Alabama as I type, reserved for Americans and/or legal residents.

One of the provisions upheld by Judge Blackburn is the section requiring that the immigration status of students be checked. While I personally don’t regard this as the most important provision, I put it at the top of this post specifically to draw a distinction between the kinds of Republicans who wrote, passed and signed this law into effect, and the kind, like Rick Perry, who think illegal aliens ought to not only be allowed to enroll in state colleges, but should enjoy the same discounts as Texas residents do by paying in-state tuition rather than the higher out-of-state prices that non-Texan American citizens and legal residents must pay. Our new law, for as long as it survives the appeals, will prevent, or at least vastly reduce, illegals from enrolling in state colleges at all.

Just for a little background for those who don’t know, this law is the direct result of Alabamians putting the legislative and executive branches of state government in the hands of Republicans for the first time in 136 years in last year’s election. Generally-speaking, the Republicans elected here are reasonably described as true conservatives, and not RINOs. I think this law is the first of many more to come that reflects that bit of smart scrutiny applied by our citizenry last November.

From the Michelle Malkin piece linked to above:

Also upheld: The provisions authorizing local police to inquire about detainees’ immigration status.

Alabama didn’t wait for the feds to do the job they should be doing. Before the ruling, they implemented “AL-Verify:”

Monday Governor Robert Bentley unveiled a new development in the illegal immigration debate. It’s a state-developed computer system that can verify citizenship as quickly as you can show your driver’s license.

It’s called AL-Verify. Some say this isn’t needed until a judge rules on Alabama’s new immigration law.

John McMillan, with the Alabama Commission of Agriculture and Industries says he will definitely be watching.

“Some of our farmers have been in talks with legislators. I have been involved in some of those meetings, and my role is going to be keeping legislators informed of what I see out there on the ground,” said McMillan.

McMillan, and many others are waiting to see what an up or down vote for Alabama’s immigration law means, or if there will be any provisions.

While many people wait, the governor and his cabinet members are moving forward, and they’re doing it through the AL-Verify program.

“We provided an automated way to be compliant so the process for getting a title or a tag hasn’t really changed but because of the immigration bill we had a compliance issue. Now with this technology we’ve solved the compliance issue,” said Julie Magee, the Commissioner for the Department of Revenue.

Magee said she didn’t know how much the technology cost, but the program is live, and here’s the way it works: You put your driver’s license info in and AL-Verify tells you whether it’s valid.

Cries of “heartless!” in 3, 2, 1…

First time since we moved here 20 years ago that we’ve had a friend in the Department of Revenue!

Meantime, Mr. Irascible — our thin-skinned commander-in-chief — gets peeved over an illegal alien student’s carping about lack of DREAM Act passage…and then doubles down by telling Latino leaders to quit complaining.

Heal thyself, whiner.

Here’s the only place I disagree with Michelle in this piece. No, Michelle, we do not need to count on Obama or his ilk to heal thyself, we need to heal the country ourselves by ousting every last one of them. Even if we did that in one fell swoop, true healing is still a long-shot. Still, Alabama has shown the way towards restoring the ideal of America being  for Americans. It’s a good sign. I just hope other states and the .fedgov follow suit in 2012 the way us Alabamians did in 2010.


Work Americans Won’t Do

See, this is why I think you create a guest worker program before you kick people out of the country:

After enacting House Bill 87, a law designed to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia, state officials appear shocked to discover that HB 87 is, well, driving a lot of illegal immigrants out of Georgia.

It might be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Thanks to the resulting labor shortage, Georgia farmers have been forced to leave millions of dollars’ worth of blueberries, onions, melons and other crops unharvested and rotting in the fields. It has also put state officials into something of a panic at the damage they’ve done to Georgia’s largest industry.

Georgia needs about 11,000 low-skill low-wage workers to harvest its crops. They can now find only a fraction of the hands they need, thanks to illegals leaving the state. The governor — being a politician — is unable to admit that they fucked up and is suggesting that they hire convicted criminals (seriously). Georgia farmers could raise wages to hire Americans, but that would make their crops more expensive than neighboring states.

In short, they’re fucked.

First thought: this just shows how badly our system of unemployment and food stamps and other aide needs to be overhauled. Many people who are out of work won’t take these jobs because the pay would not make up for the loss of governments benefits. I’m in favor of keeping people from starving when they’re out of work but it should be child’s play to taper those benefits so that work, any work, always pays. And work is work. If someone is out of work, they should be willing to take any job they can find. I know picking onions isn’t on anyone’s career path. I would be miserable doing unskilled labor. But if I were hiring and heard someone had made ends meet by working a farm in the hot Georgia sun, I’d be more impressed.

(I’m under no delusion that this attitude is common. Our country has come to prize career path and “relevant experience” over fortitude, commitment, responsibility and a good work ethic.)

Second, it’s worth re-iterating what I’ve said before on the subject of immigration. Rather than just restate it, I’ll just quote myself:

When it comes to immigration, most people’s priority is to “seal the border”. Whether this is wise or not, I’m dubious that it’s even possible. Penn and Teller demonstrated that it takes minutes for illegals to tunnel under, cut through or climb over a border fence. We have a very very long border with Mexico and our attempts to seal the border are always and must be reactive—responding to new ways people find to get in after they’re already here.

No, the first step in fixing our immigration problem has to be the creation of a guest worker program—a way for people to easily, cheaply and legally come into this country for temporary or seasonal work. Such a system would work the problem, producing gigantic immediate benefits:

1) It would stem the flow of illegals across our border by shunting the otherwise law-abiding into the guest worker system. This would make it much easier to seal the borders. Think of it as diverting the river before you damn it.

2) It would shift millions of immigrants from violent coyotes to safe border guards and immigration officials, depriving drug gangs and other thugs of money, victims and smugglers.

3) It would make it easier for people to leave their families in Mexico, since they know they will be going back. This would alleviate the mythical “anchor baby” problem while giving Mexicans an incentive to improve their own country.

4) It could raise revenue. If people are willing to pay coyotes $1700 to smuggle them into this country, will they not be willing to pay $1000 to come in legally? Or $500? We could be talking about a few billion in revenue, enough to help fund the border patrol and pay for the necessary bureaucracy.

5) Call it the Law of iTunes: when you make it relatively easy to obey the law, people will obey it rather than break it. When businesses can hire immigrants above board, when immigrants can work without fear, that creates a massive incentive to obey the law. Illegal immigration will never completely vanish. But this would reduce it dramatically and allow us to concentrate our efforts on people we really really don’t want in this country—like violent psychotic criminals.

6) Part (5) will have the side effect of sending illegals currently in this country back to Mexico. Once there is an easy legal way to hire immigrants for temporary work, the labor market for illegals will dry up. Without work, many will head back to Mexico to get in line.

7) With workers properly documented, this will make it much harder for them to vote in our elections or collect social benefits.

Part (6) is appealing to me personally. As the husband of a legal immigrant, I don’t want illegals jumping the line.

Our current immigration law makes it almost impossible for our country to get the low-wage workers it needs and makes it almost impossible for people to come here legally for low-wage work. The line for visas in Mexico is over a million names long. That’s not because of Mexican bureaucracy; that’s because of our insanely complicated and arbitrary immigration laws.

Georgia has now clearly demonstrated why we need to fix the immigration law before we enforce anti-illegal statutes. They have crippled their agricultural industry and political stubbornness prevents them from going back on their bad decision. Let’s not follow their example. Let’s fix the law first.