Migrants 1.

Social scientists posit that people experiencing disturbing social change can seize on particularist identities like ethnicity or nationality.  Demographic change and economic change and shifting social values all can trigger such a response.  On the other hand, cultural and economic elites in Western countries celebrate the free flow of goods and labor.  They also have developed more cosmopolitan views than have many fellow citizens.[1]

Illegal immigration provides a good example of the particularist-cosmopolitan tension.  In recent times, illegal migration has become easier than ever before in history.  In both Europe and America bitter quarrels over immigration rack politics.[2]  These controversies arise not from heavy current immigration, but from heavy prior immigration.  More importantly, the general backlash against elites–who led us to war in Iraq and then into the financial crisis—has ensnared migrants.

Illegal migration to the United States dropped sharply during the Great Recession.  It hasn’t picked up immensely in the past year.  However, that still leaves 10-12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.  Human symbols of elite failure.  Liberals insisting on calling them “undocumented immigrants”—as if there is just some bureaucratic foul-up in Washington—adds fuel to the fire.  President Obama’s skirting of the law angered many people.  Illegal immigration in the European Union is more recent.  There the flood of migrants from various failed states mixes with refugees from war-torn Muslim states.

People leave their “shithole” countries for good reasons and not just on a whim.  Until conditions in those countries improve, there is not likely to be a significant drop in attempts at illegal immigration.  To complicate matters further, while many of the migrants are economic migrants, the law allows them to request asylum as victims of persecution.  This clogs the immigration system and delays repatriation.

In light of this reality, attention has turned to deterring them from reaching American or European soil in the first place.  Europeans have negotiated with pathway countries—Libya, Sudan, and Turkey—to stem the departures for Europe.  The implementation of those agreements involves a good deal of brutality that is much worse than anything suffered by Central American migrants to the United States.  Mexico is unwilling to play that sort of role for the United States.  The “zero tolerance” policy attempted by a Trump administration grown tired of waiting for Congressional approval of a border wall offers another form of deterrence.

Cosmopolitans sometimes phrase the choice in a misleading way: “What sort of society do they wish to be?  Do they wish to be immigrant nations with continual demographic and cultural change?”  First, both the European Union and the United States have long had substantial legal immigration.  Second, it is legitimate to debate what kinds of immigrants best serve the interests of the community.

[1] Benjamin Barber, Jihad and McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Shaping World Society (1996).  Barber’s analysis remains engaging, but it wasn’t new.  Late-Nineteenth Century sociologists had identified the problem of anomie.  For that matter, historians long ago diagnosed the rise of “mystery” religions as a response to the cosmopolitanism of the Hellenistic kingdoms.

[2] Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, “In U.S. and Europe, Conflict Over Migration Points to Political Problems,” NYT, 30 June 2018.

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Halloween on the Border 2.

Entering the United States illegally is a crime, a misdemeanor on the first offense and a felony on any subsequent offense.[1]  The courts have held that people who enter the United States illegally are entitled to due process before they can be deported.[2]  The courts have also held that Congress may determine what constitutes due process.  In 1996 Congress passed the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.”  Among other provisions, this law allows illegal immigrants to be deported without any hearing, lawyer, or right of appeal.  This is called “expedited removal.”[3]

For their part, illegal immigrants can try to dodge expedited removal by claiming asylum.  To gain asylum, the immigrants must demonstrate a credible fear of persecution if they remain in their home country.  What constitutes “persecution” is itself contested.  Most of the people now showing up at the border are trying to escape endemic poverty, violent crime, and ineffective and corrupt government in Central American so-called countries.[4]  Liberals regard these conditions as legitimate grounds for claiming asylum; conservatives want to restrict asylum to the traditional definition of people fleeing political or religious persecution by national governments.

Different administrations have applied the law in different ways.  Although the 1996 law sets no geographic boundaries to where the law may be applied, the current policy has been to apply it to illegal immigrants found within 100 miles of the border and within two weeks after they entered the United States.[5]  Furthermore, the government can either treat illegal immigration as a civil matter or as a criminal matter.

The Obama administration largely treated illegal immigrants as a civil matter.  This allowed illegal immigrants to work through the process of the immigration courts, to be represented by a lawyer, to appeal decisions of immigration judges multiple times.  This could extend the time to deportation to a year or more.  While the civil procedures dragged on, the illegal immigrants were paroled, rather than detained in custody.

Recently, the Trump administration broke with the policy of the previous administration.  It adopted a policy of “zero tolerance” for illegal immigration and it chose to treat illegal immigration as a criminal, rather than civil, matter.  Thus, illegal immigrants, even when claiming asylum, were arrested.  The government is legally-obligated to separate children from arrested parents within 20 days of arrest, then to place them in a suitable child care facility or foster family.  During the Obama administration, all but one family detention facility were closed.  This had the unpleasant knock-on effect that has garnered so much attention.[6]

[1] “In the United States, the federal government generally considers a crime punishable with incarceration for one year or less to be a misdemeanor. All other crimes are considered felonies.”—Wikipedia.

[2] Katie Benner and Charlie Savage, “Migrants to the U.S. Are Entitled to Due Process, With Some Exceptions,” NYT, 26 June 2018.

[3] Which is like calling illegal immigrants “undocumented.”  See George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language.”

[4] Ryan Duee, “Migrants Risk U.S. Crackdown to Flee Crime and Poverty,” WSJ, 26 June 2018.

[5] Obviously, there is some wiggle room here for the government.  It can be pretty difficult for migrants to prove when they entered the country.

[6] On the background to the “Flores Settlement” case, see: https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/flores-settlement-brief-history-and-next-steps

Chain Migration.

From 1789 to 1808 the United States had a policy of unrestricted immigration; from 1808 to the 1920s the United States had a policy of unrestricted immigration for people of European origins; and from the 1920s to the 1960s the United States had a policy of restricted immigration that favored people from Northwestern Europe.[1]  These changes reflected struggles between economic necessity and national identity.

In 1960, 70 percent of immigrants came from Europe.[2]  Early in 1964, in a little noticed part of his campaign for a “Great Society,” President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed that “a nation that was built by immigrants of all lands can ask those who now seek admission “What can you do for our country?’  But we should not be asking ‘In what country were you born?’”  The election of a liberal Congress in November 1964 opened the flood-gates for a host of long-stalled reforms.[3]

A new immigration law compromised between the traditional policy that prioritized immigration from northwestern Europe and a new policy that prioritized candidates with skills and education needed by the United States.  Conservatives chose family re-unification as the device for defending the traditional sources of immigration.  The new “Immigration and Nationality Act” of 1965 capped annual immigration at about a million people and assigned about 80 percent of the slots to ‘family reunification” candidates, but only about 20 percent to “needed” candidates.  Moreover, eligible family members shifted from spouse and small children to add adult children, brothers and sisters, and parents.

What looked to be a resounding victory for conservatives turned out to be something else entirely.  While the Irish and Italians continued to migrate in droves from desperately broken societies, the rest of Europe dried up as a major source of migration to America.  Britain, France, and Germany were both short of labor themselves and building “social” states that offered steadily rising standards of living for most people.  Eastern Europe lay within the Soviet empire, from which few could escape.  As a result, the large share of family reunification slots increasingly flowed toward the previous minority sources of Asia, Latin America, and Africa.  By 2010, 90 percent of immigrants were from non-European sources.

Is there anything wrong with this approach?  From the economic point of view, there is—at least in some eyes and some ways.  On the one hand, traditionally, most immigrants came to America as young people seeking economic opportunity and political freedom.  They found a hard and demanding land that gave nothing away and insisted that immigrants assimilate to an “Anglo-Saxon” culture.  America ended up with lots of adaptable strivers.  An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study has reported that skill-based immigrants are more likely to be younger, better educated, more fluent in English, and quicker to get work than are the family-based immigrants.  Thus, American immigration policy misses the opportunity to fully enrich the country’s human capital.  On the other hand, a battle over limiting or reducing immigration is counter-productive for a country that is short of skilled labor and likely to suffer slower economic growth as a result.

So there is a case for immigration reform.  However, it should involve shifting (even reversing) the distribution of slots between “family” and “skill” immigrants.  Of course, even this solution dodges the question of whether the United States should be aggressively recruiting from countries with a dim future—like Taiwan.

[1] From 1808 the involuntary immigration of African slaves was restricted; from the 1880s Asian immigration to the West Coast was restricted; and from 1924 the immigration of people from southern and eastern Europe was restricted.

[2] Greg Ip, “Kinship Emerges as Immigration Flashpoint,” WSJ, 18 January 2018; Tom Gjelten, “The Curious History of ‘Chain Migration’,” WSJ, 20-21 January 2018

[3] See: Julian Zelizer, “The Fierce Urgency of Now.”  Greg Ip argues that Jonson saw immigrants as deserving the same right to equal treatment without regard to race that he wished to insure for American citizens.

To Europe by land and sea.

Lots of people in Sub-Saharan Africa want to go to Europe.  As of late June 2017, 72,000 immigrants have completed the journey this year.  For the most part, they are fleeing poverty above all else.  Population growth dramatically exceeds economic growth in these countries.[1]  The poverty is particularly serious in rural areas.  “We have no machinery to cultivate the land [and] no rain,” one person told a New York Times reporter.[2]  However, “fleeing poverty” has a larger meaning here.  In the absence of any social security system or local pathway to an adequate income, sons are expected to support their parents.  Often this means leaving home in search of work elsewhere.  Many are pulled to the capital city of Dakar, where there is more opportunity and lower poverty levels.  Other go to Gabon or Congo to work in mines.

Best of all is to reach Europe.  Sons who have made it to Europe and found work send home part of their earnings.  Even a share of the meager earnings of those working in Europe pay for “luxuries” in West Africa: concrete block houses instead of mud huts; iPhones and satellite dishes (and the electricity to power them); sometimes a car instead of a bicycle.[3]  Parents or spouses often encourage men with small future prospects to migrate in search of work.

For those living in West Africa, the route generally takes them east along Route 5 of the Trans-Africa Highway system.[4]  That route passes from Dakar (Senegal) through Bamako (Mali), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Niamey (Niger), and Kano (Nigeria), to N’Djamene (Chad).  In its longest extent, this is a journey of about 2,700 miles.  That’s like driving from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Reno, Nevada.  Without the Rockies, but also without much in the way of paved roads.  From there they join Highway 3 as it runs north across the Sahara to Tripoli (Libya).  From Tripoli and other Libyan ports, they “take ship” for Italy.

Almost every leg of the journey is dangerous.  Human traffickers organize much of the migration in order to prey upon the migrants.  Travelers can find themselves extorted for further payments or abandoned en route.  Africa’s transportation infrastructure is in poor condition.  It’s one thing if you’re a rich Westerner (but I repeat myself).  Airlines connect European capitals with important cities endowed with comfortable hotels.  For ordinary people, travel is more difficult.  Some roads are unpaved dirt tracks.  Many paved roads haven’t been maintained for a long time.  The few railroads mostly haul freight, with infrequent or no passenger service.  There aren’t enough vehicles of any kind, so overloading is common-place.  So are vehicle break-downs.  The vast distances pose another challenge.

The sea passage is worst of all.  Most of the deaths come in the crossing from Libya to Italy.  Vessels starting the sea-crossing are over-loaded, under-powered, and badly crewed/captained.  In the first half of 2017, an estimated 2,100 migrants have drowned in ship-wrecks on the Mediterranean.  In April 2015, one terrible disaster killed more than 800 migrants.

Yet people—those who go and those who urge them to go—rarely understand the dangers involved.  “We only heard success stories” said the mother of two sons drowned at sea.  Death lists are sometimes published in Europe, then reported by those who made it to relatives at home.  Yet still the migrants come.

[1] According to the World Bank, almost half (47 percent) of Senegalese live in poverty.

[2] Dionne Searcy and Jaime Yaya Barry, “Leaving Home, One by One, Along “Deadliest Route” to Europe,” NYT, 23 June 2017.

[3] But not more farmland or tractors?  Well, perhaps.  Some of the emigrants sell their land to raise the money for the trip.  So, someone is buying.

[4] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-African_Highway_network

The Selective Immigration Pause.

U.S. immigration law grants to the president the right to “by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or as non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”  All s/he has to do is to “find that the entry of any aliens or any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

The portion of immigration law that bars discrimination on the basis of race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence appliers specifically to the issuing of visas.  It appears to not supersede or to limit the right of the president to bar visa-holders from entering the country.

Little-noticed in the popular discussion of the case, Washington’s solicitor-general appeared to narrow the reach of the suit to a sub-set of the affected people.  “The focus of our claim is on people who have been here and have, overnight, lost the right to travel,… to visit their families,…to go perform research,…to go speak at conferences around the world.  And also, people who had lived here for a long time and happened to be overseas at the time of this order…and suddenly lost the right of return to return to the United States.”  In short, people with green cards or long-term visas.[1]  Judge James Robart appeared to accept this argument in his decision.

Washington Attorney-General Bob Ferguson went beyond this claim.  He acknowledged that the “courts generally give more latitude to the political branches in the immigration context.”  However, “Federal courts have no more sacred role than protecting marginalized groups against irrational, discriminatory conduct.”[2]  Are the Arab immigrants a “marginalized group”?  Is President Trump’s executive order “irrational”?

The Washington suit is likely to be sustained by the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit.  It is the most liberal of the Courts of Appeal.  If these were normal times, then an appeal to the Supreme Court by the Trump administration probably would end with the Court of Appeal’s judgement being reversed.[3]  However, these are not normal times.  Republican refusal to pass on a replacement for the late Antonin Scalia has left the Supreme Court dead-locked between liberals and conservatives.  When the Supreme Court cannot agree, then the decision of the lower court is affirmed.[4]  So, it would appear that the immigration pause is about to go down in flames.

For most of the Obama administration, Republican attorneys-general sued to block executive orders and rules.   Many times, they won.  Now a Democratic attorney-general has sued to block President Trump’s temporary-for-the-moment ban on some immigrants and refugees.  It is curious that this one suit has brought on “a constitutional showdown that could leave a mark on the law for generations to come…”[5]   A constitutional showdown would arise only if the Trump administration refused to abide by a court decision.  Which it has not yet done.

But I’m not a lawyer.  Obviously.

[1] If this reading is correct, then Washington is not challenging the executive’s authority to bar refugees or new entrants to the United States.

[2] No one who grew up in the Pacific Northwest or California can have any doubt that Ferguson is referring to the criminalization of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast during the Second World War.

[3] A 2010 study by the American Bar Association found that of the small number of the Ninth Circuit’s decisions reviewed by the Supreme Court, 80 percent were overturned, compared for a national median of 68.29 percent.

[4] If I understand what I read.  Hmmm…

[5] Adam Liptak, “The President Has Much Power Over Immigration, but How Much?” NYT, 6 February @017.

Memoirs of the Addams Administration 3.

Last week, a team of people from the Trump administration told a number of senior professionals at the State Department that their resignations had been accepted and that there would be no need for them to remain in their positions until the administration’s nominees for replacements had gotten up to speed.  (Is this the case in other Departments[1] or is it unique to the State Department?  If it is unique to the State Department, then was it the decision of President Trump or of his Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson or of someone else who shall remain nameless, but whose initials are Steven Bannon?  If the decision originated with Tillerson, did it reflect previous contact with the State Department while negotiating oil deals with foreign countries?)

Over the week-end, President Trump reconfigured the “principals committee” of the National Security Council.  While this has been characterized as, among other things, a diminution of the role of the professional military, both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security are retired Marine Corps generals.  Thus, it could be construed—OK, misconstrued—as a shift from the Bureaucratasaurus to the Parrisasaurus Rex.

Currently, an estimated 90,000 people from radical-Islamist-ridden “countries” have received visas to enter the United States.[2]  On Friday, 27 January 2017 (one week after taking office) elected-President Donald Trump issued an executive order imposing a 90-day “pause” on immigrants from the seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.[3]  This disrupted the late-stage travel plans of about 700 people, who were prevented from boarding U.S.-bound planes.  An additional 300 were halted upon arrival in the United States.[4]

Critics quickly pointed out that no one from these countries had ever committed an act of terror in the United States.  Implicitly, this left liberals in the awkward position of defending Sudan, which has waged a war of aggression—that the left has been quick to denounce as “genocide–in western Sudan, and that Sudan provided a safe haven to Osama bin Laden until President Bill Clinton launched cruise missile attacks against suspected al-Qaeda terrorist sites inside Sudan.  In contrast, countries whose citizens have engaged in terrorism against the United States—Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia—escaped the ban.

Massive protests followed at airports, in the streets, in Congress, and on editorial pages.  Not to mention that Iran launched a ballistic missile in a “test” shot: Syria, Iraq, and Yemen are Iranian-dominated countries, in the Iranian view.[5]  None the less, a snap poll revealed that almost half (49 percent) of Americans approved President Trump’s order, while 41 percent disapproved the order.  Various courts were quick to block the order.  All the same, neither refugees nor those foreigners seeking visas are protected by the Bill of Rights.  Indeed, that’s why so many people want to come to the United States.

The deep polarization of American politics continues into the post-election period.  However, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton appeared to be much of a healer.  So,,,

[1] This leaves the estimable-I’m-instructed Sally Yates out of the discussion.

[2] The seven countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen.  To be picky, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian-born “underwear bomber” who tried to bring down an airliner headed to Detroit (why?) had been recruited, trained, and armed in Yemen; al-Shabab in Somalia has recruited a number of Somali-Americans from the upper Midwest.

[3] The temporary and limited ban easily could be extended and broadened.  But why would it have to be?  President Trump has already succeeded in scaring the be-Muhammad out of Muslims and potential immigrants.

[4] “Travel ban prompts chaos, protests,” The Week, 10 February 2017, p. 4.

[5] “How they see us: Trapped by Trump’s travel ban,” The Week, 10 February 2017, p. 15.

The Wall.

The border between Mexico and the United States runs for almost 2,000 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.  Most of that border is delimited by a simple barbed-wire fence (easily cut or trampled down) or by nothing at all.  In the late 1990s and early 2000s there occurred a huge increase in the number of illegal immigrants from south of the border.  Thus, in 2005, an estimated 1.7 million people tried to enter the United States illegally and more than 1 million succeeded.  In 2006 Congress responded with the Secure Fence Act.  This led to the construction of about 700 miles of razor-wire-capped concrete walls in places where the border adjoined dense urban areas.  Such areas allowed illegal immigrants to quickly disappear, while wilder, more remote areas provided a sort of back-stop area in which it was more difficult to disappear.  In these areas the Border Patrol uses drones, motion sensors, and vehicle patrols.[1]

How well do these methods work?  Either pretty well or not well at all.  On the one hand, the success rate at entering the United States has fallen from 64 percent in 2005 to 46 percent in 2015; the total number entering the United States has collapsed from more than 1 million a year to an estimated 170,000.  On the other hand, an average of 465 illegal immigrants per day succeed in entering the United States.  The walls merely divert illegal immigrants around the walls and into other channels.[2]  Moreover, the 46 percent success rate suggests that only about 350,000 people try to enter the United States.  This, in turn suggests that either the “push” factor driving Mexicans into the United States or the “pull” factor attracting Mexicans to the United States have declined.  Certainly, the “push” factor from Mexico has declined.  First, Mexican birth-rates have been dropping from 7 children per woman in the 1960s to 2.2 children per woman today.  Second, in spite of the horrific drug war underway in Mexico, the economy is doing pretty well.  So, there are fewer “surplus” Mexicans with less of a motive to leave.  Third, most of the captured illegals are actually people in flight from the murderous violence plaguing Central American countries.[3]  Also, the stagnant American economy since the financial crisis has exerted much less demand for cheap foreign labor.  However, should either the “push” or “pull” factors be heightened, then it seems reasonable to conclude that illegal immigration would increase in spite of any existing barriers.

Then, an estimated 40 percent of the people who become illegal immigrants actually enter the country legally.  They get regular time-limited visas, then just overstay those visas and disappear into the community.[4]  Whether anything can be done in the context of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) remains to be seen.  President-elect Donald Trump has said that he wants to re-negotiate NAFTA.  Most people focus on the commercial aspects of this, but travel to the United States could also be included in any new talks.

Much of the discourse around Donald Trump’s “build a wall” proposal centers on its impracticality.  For example, the Border Patrol itself opposes much construction.  Instead, it favors a huge increase in spending on a “virtual wall” (drones, sensors, and—of course—many more Border Patrol agents) that has already proved a costly failure.  Opponents of immigration control and the deportation of illegal immigrants often take a similar line.  How convenient.

[1] “Securing the border,” The Week, 16 December 2016, p. 11.

[2] The problem will be familiar to any home-owner who has ever tried to find a water leak.

[3] See: “Halloween on the Border.”  https://waroftheworldblog.com/2014/08/13/halloween-on-the-border/

[4] The government could just slam the brakes on visas for Mexicans coming for something other than official business or demonstrable commercial reason.  The State Department did this with visitors from Saudi Arabia after 9/11.  Consular officers, acting on orders from Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, have cut Saudi Arabian visitors by about 80 percent of the pre-9/11 figure.