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.”

[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.

Trump l’oeil 1.

Just over a third (38 percent) of Republicans are satisfied with Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee.[1]  How will they respond in November?  Will they turn out in full force to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House?  Will some sit out the election?  The Republican Party needs a big turn-out.  Even if they don’t want Trump as president, they do want lots of Republicans to vote for all the other candidates down ballot.  The Republicans seem likely to retain control of the House, but control of the Senate doesn’t seem to be a lock.  Then there are all the state and local races.  How to get Republicans to turn out in large numbers?

There are two answers.  First, Clinton is deeply unpopular with all Republicans (and many Independents).  Keeping Clinton out of the White House probably will overshadow putting Trump into the White House as a Republican campaign theme.[2]  This is going to get very ugly, even by current standards.  The foolish Benghazi investigation has been done to death.  However, F.B.I. Director James Comey’s brutally honest assessment of her e-mail issue hurt her on the competence argument that she wants to make against Trump.  Polls run after Comey’s press conference reported a 5 point fall in her favorability rating and a 7 point fall in her honesty and trustworthiness ratings.[3]  This is worth pondering.  The honesty and trustworthy score fell more than the favorability score.  Some 2 percent of the respondents think worse of her as a person, but still prefer her as the candidate.  That’s because Trump is the rival candidate.  However, it also shows that personal attacks can drive down her favorability rate.

Clinton has provided a lot to work with here.  Both the Clinton Foundation and her post-Secretary of State speeches are still ripe for the plucking.  It should come as no surprise if the Republican rage-generators use these topics as a device to portray Clinton as an influence-peddler, or bribe-taker, or even extortionist.  This could end in a scorched-earth campaign founded on fanning the flames of personal animus.[4]  The day after the election, Americans are going to wake up to a legacy of ill-feeling and failure to address real issues.

Second, Republicans have already begun to sell themselves on the idea that a President Trump could be “managed” by Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.  Solid Republican majorities in the House and Senate would give them control over the Trump administration’s legislative agenda.  In this view, Trump really is just an empty suit who wants to fly around on Air Force One and tell the U.N. to its face where it can get off.  There is a large measure of self-delusion in this view.  Trump is a guy from New York City.  Regardless of anything he has said so far, he probably doesn’t believe in a “right to life”; probably isn’t any more homophobic than most Americans (Republican or Democrat); and isn’t a racist just because he takes a really hard line on both illegal immigration and immigration from Muslim countries “compromised” by Islamist terrorism.  “Because the New York Times says so” isn’t much of an argument.[5]  A guy who has used corporate bankruptcy to force his creditors to write down a lot of debt isn’t going to feel that McConnell and Ryan have got him over a barrel once he becomes President.  What is a Republican Senate going to do if Trump nominates Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court?

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 29 July 2016, p. 17.

[2] Probably there will be a lot of work for Trump-wranglers to keep him from saying or doing something that makes her seem the less-repellant candidate.

[3] “Clinton: a wounded candidate,” The Week, 29 July 2016.

[4] There is a certain passing similarity to Democrats’ personality-based attacks on Richard Nixon throughout his career.  None of that did America any good.

[5] See the column by NYT Public Editor Liz Spayd, “Why Readers See The Times as Liberal,” NYT, 24 July 2016.

Look at what I almost stepped in.

Western European countries needed extra workers during the great economic boom that took off after the Second World War.[1]  They imported these workers from the old empires and other developing areas.  Then the European Union allowed a considerable mobility of the immigrants after they arrived.  Generally, these countries didn’t give any thought to the assimilation of the immigrant “guest workers.”  Either it was assumed that they would go home after working in Europe or the possibility of problems didn’t occur to any government official.  So, all countries now have a problem with the descendants of the immigrants who never went home and—often—did not assimilate.

Belgium brought in lots of Turks and Moroccans.  Today there are about 640,000 Muslims living in Belgium, where they make up about 5 percent of the population.  Belgium turned out to be a particularly difficult country for assimilation.  It is, in a sense, a “made-up” country created for the convenience of other countries back in the 19th Century.[2]  It is divided between French-speaking Walloons and Dutch-speaking Flemings.  Efforts to pacify the factions produced competing and overlapping government bureaucracies. Quarrels between the two groups continue, so no one gave much thought to the immigrants and the immigrants had no clear national identity to try to join.

Then the oil shocks of the 1970s heralded a period of economic troubles that included the dying of the coal and steel industries in which the immigrants and many native Belgians labored.  The immigrants and their descendants adapted less well to the changes than did the native Belgians.  Poverty and isolation compounded each other.  Now Belgium has a large population of citizens who are considerably angrier with their country than are the supporters of Donald Trump.  Many of them turned to petty crime and drugs.  In these miserable conditions, street preachers arose and won followers by preaching that their victimization arose from their faith.  An uncertain share of them has embraced radical Islam.[3]  Even when not violent activists themselves, many Belgian Muslims are so estranged from Belgian society that they are willing to turn a blind eye to the violent among them.

Then came the Islamic State.  Some 560 Belgian Muslims are believed to have gone to fight for the Caliphate. Belgian cops were glad to see them go.  Belgium’s counter-terrorism forces are under-staffed and overwhelmed.  Maybe the Islamists would get killed.  Many did die in all likelihood.  Now, some 120 of the veterans have returned.  They have been at the heart of the recent spectacular terrorism: the guns for the January 2015 “Charlie Hebdo” attack came from Belgium; the November 2015 Paris attack was planned in Belgium; and the March 2016 attack in Brussels was carried out by Belgian-born Islamists.[4]

Now Belgium is trying to make up a lot of lost ground in both security and assimilation.

NB: The title to this piece is the punch-line to a French “Belgian joke,” equivalent to the one-time Polish or Blonde jokes in the United States.

[1] In Germany it’s called the “wirtschaftwunder” (the Economic Miracle); in France it’s called “Les trente glorieuse” (the Glorious Thirty [Years].”

[2] The Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) redrew the map of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars.  To guard against a resurgence of French imperialism, the Congress tried to strengthen the countries on France’s northeastern and southeastern borders.  In one case this meant adding the Catholic former Austrian Netherlands (today Belgium) to the Protestant Kingdom of Holland.  The Catholics rebelled against Protestant rule in 1830.  Rather than  resist this by force or partition the territory between France and Holland, the Great Powers accepted independence.  Ooops.

[3] See:

[4] “Belgium’s jihadi problem,” The Week, 8 April 2016, p. 11.

More Young People.

If we look at the history of the last quarter century, we see two dominant and inter-related trends.  Radical Islam isn’t one of them.  First, the collapse of Soviet Communism inspired other followers to abandon the controlled economy for participation in the world market.  Second, information technology destroyed many old barriers.  Upheaval and opportunity resulted.   Currently, about a quarter of all the people in the world are aged 10 to 24.[1]  That is, they were born between 1992 and 2006.  The world in which they have grown up is that same world that older people have often found so disorienting.   Now young people face their own problems.

Those billions of young people are not equally distributed around the world.  They account for only 17 percent of the population in economically developed countries; for 29 percent in less-developed countries, and 32 percent in the least developed countries.  In the United States, the median age is 37; in Russia, 39; in Germany, 46.  In Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, the median age is 18.  China offers a particularly interesting case of a transition.  Faced with a swiftly rising population, China declared a one-child policy for married couples.  It worked so well that the youth base of the population narrowed to a frightening degree.  A shortage of workers to replace those who are approaching retirement loomed.  At the same time, young couples found themselves providing care for up to four aging parents, while trying to work and raise their own child.  Recently, the government ended to one-child policy.

A disproportionate share of young people lives in the countries least well able to provide them with either an adequate education or a decent standard of living.  Take the example of India.  There are more than 420 million Indians between the ages of 15 and 34.  The median age is 27.  Desperate measures to expand primary education have had mixed results.  Although almost all Indian children now attend primary school, half of fifth graders can neither read at a second grade level nor do subtraction.[2]

Then, India needs to create 12-17 million new jobs every year to absorb the population growth.  In India and in other countries in similar dire straits, young people are forced into spotty, badly-paid just to get any jobs at all.  India’s reluctance to end the carbon-burning that drives economic growth in that country is easier to understand in light of that imperative.  The here and now weighs more heavily in the balance of decision-makers than does the future.[3]

Migration from “young” countries to “aging” countries might offer a solution.  However, there are several big barriers here.  First, even in the developed countries there is a problem of youth unemployment: in the United States, almost 17 percent of people between 16 and 29 are not in school and not working; in the European Union the youth unemployment rate averages 25 percent.[4]  It will be difficult to make the case for expanded immigration of young people when a country cannot even provide work for its own young people.  Second, the poor quality of education in many developing countries means that only some people will be viable migrants.

Even so, migration from the Lands of Inopportunity to the Lands of Opportunity may be inevitable.  There are 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.  The current refugee crisis in Europe shows just how difficult it can be to keep out hordes of determined people.

[1] Somini Sengupta, “The World’s Big Problem: Young People,” NYT, 6 March 2016.

[2] The wretched state of education can be glimpsed in Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger (2008), and Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013).

[3] A third problem is anti-female sex selection.  There are 17 million more Indian males than females aged 10 to 24.

[4] Sengupta argues that the high European rate results from a combination of a slow economy and the absence of economically valuable skills.  The same may be true in the United States, although some economists would argue that the skills-deficit argument is false.

In re: Donald Trump as crazy person.

Three months ago, Paul Krugman pointed out that Donald Trump is the only Republican candidates who is willing to raise taxes on the rich and who has something to say in favor of universal health care.[1] While Krugman goes on to denounce Trump for “his implicit racism” what is really interesting about Krugman’s analysis comes later in the column. Krugman argues that, when it comes to economics, Trump is voicing what a lot of the Republican base actually believes. However, their views have never been articulated in recent years because the Republican Party’s elected representatives are chained to a demonstrably failed economic ideology. The chains are campaign donations from wealthy donors.[2] The Republican politicians have been living in a fool’s paradise. Trump is rich enough in his own right to run for president while speaking his own mind. Even if Trump doesn’t capture (Please, oh please) the Republican nomination, his campaign is likely to shift the terms of debate inside the party, and not necessarily in the way that Democratic pundits have been predicting.

What if Donald Trump is also articulating what a lot of Americans think on other issues?

Opinion polls in October 2015 revealed that almost half of Americans (46 percent) supported building a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico.[3] A slightly larger share (48 percent) opposes building a wall. Six percent aren’t sure. While the core of the base for building is Republican (73 percent of them approve it), there are also a good number of Democrats (perhaps a third) and fewer than half (less than 48 percent) of Independents. Nothing in the polling reveals how much voters assign primacy to this issue in comparison to other issues.

In 2011, 47 percent of Americans thought that Islam’s values were “at odds” with America’s values. By November 2015, 56 percent of Americans thought that Islam’s values were “at odds” with America’s values.[4] In late November 2015, 56 percent of Americans were against allowing Syrian refugees into the United States. In contrast, 41 percent favored accepting Syrian refugees.[5] That leaves only 3 percent who “aren’t sure.” In sum, on these issues at least, America is divided into two big and solid blocks. To my mind, President Obama is right in his belief that Muslims and America are compatible and in his willingness to accept Syrian refugees. However, right at the moment, he isn’t with the country on these issues.

Well, he doesn’t have to be. He’s a lame-duck president facing a Republicans opposition in control of both houses of Congress. He isn’t going to get any legislation passed unless it’s in line with what Republicans want. He is likely to rely on executive orders and regulatory changes that get tied up in the courts, and on public excoriation of the voters for not “getting it.”

What if the Republican Party isn’t the only party whose leaders are tied to an ideology that its voters really don’t accept? What if, just for the sake of speculation, there are a bunch of Democrats who are social progressives, but economic moderates? Bernie Sanders appeals to social and economic “progressives.” In November 2016 that seems likely to be a small slice of the pie. It’s easy and comforting to think that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump. Can she?

[1] Paul Krugman, “Trump Is Right on Economics,” NYT, 7 September 2015.

[2] This suggests that Republican voters have supported people who don’t share their economic beliefs because the alternative would be to vote for Democrats who might share some of their economic beliefs, but whose views on social issues they reject. So much for Marxism.

[3] This is a separate question from who should pay for such a wall.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 27 November 2015, p. 17.

[5] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 4 December 2015, p. 19.

Immigration Politics.

After the Civil War, the stream of European immigrants to the United States turned into a flood. By 1890, 14.8 percent of the people living in the United States had been born abroad. Many “old-stock” Americans found this deeply disturbing. While the First World War temporarily choked down on emigration from Europe, a powerful movement for immigration restriction had sprung up. In the early Twenties, new laws imposed a system of quotas on future immigrants. Decades later various new laws eased restrictions on legal immigration, while a large number of Mexican and Central American immigrants had entered the country illegally. By 2015, 13.7 percent of the population had been born abroad. Demographers now project that this share of the population will grow. By 2015, 14.9 percent of the population may be foreign-born.[1] Is there some kind of “saturation point”?

Today, Americans aren’t opposed to immigration. OK, I have to qualify that a bit. As recently as 2013, a huge majority of Americans (73 percent) thought that immigration was good for America, while only 24 percent thought that it was bad.[2] However, one recent Pew poll found that only 45 percent of Americans believe that immigrants improve America—over the long run at least.[3] A majority (55 percent) of Democrats and a minority (31 percent) of Republicans believe that immigrants improve America. On the other hand, that means that 45 percent of Democrats either don’t think immigrants make the country better or they’re not sure. In addition, 34 percent of Democrats think that immigrants are making the economy worse. Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Tommy Carchetti should think about this. (See: Donald Trump in the general election.) On the other hand, the vast majority of Republicans either think that immigrants don’t make the country better or they aren’t sure. This is pretty bizarre within my own notion of what the Republican Party should be: an opportunity society that creams off the best and the brightest from all those sweat-soaked hell-holes around the globe. Of which there are a great many.

In a discombobulating perception, while at most (69 percent) Republicans (100-31=69) think immigrants do not make the country better, 71 percent of Republicans think that immigrants are making the economy worse. Apparently, at least 2 percent of Republicans think that immigrants are making the economy worse and also believe that this is good for the country. Probably some kind of sampling error. As in: Pew interviewed a bunch of idiots. Well, they get to vote so I suppose they deserve to be polled.

Still, there are intricacies to the issue that don’t always receive adequate discussion. For example, one tricky bit appears to be the difference between legal and illegal immigration. In November 2013, 63 percent of Americans favored a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal immigrants. In contrast, 18 percent want all the illegals rounded up and shipped home.[4] In June 2014, the great majority (62 percent) of Americans favored granting full citizenship to illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements; 17 percent favored granting “green cards,” but not full citizenship; and 19 percent wanted them all deported.[5]

Also, the composition of immigration has been changing. In 2010, Mexicans amounted to 45 percent of the immigrants to the US. In 2012 this fell to 14 percent of immigrants. Who picked up the slack? India sent 12 percent, and China 10 percent, while other Asian countries sent 23 percent. That makes Asia, at a total of 45 percent, the current chief source of immigrants to the United States.[6] According to the Census Bureau, in 2013 alone, 147,000 people of Chinese origin migrated to the United States. This puts China in first-place in the list of countries sending migrants to the United States. In 2013, Mexico sent 125,000.[7]

Liberals are counting on Hispanics to vote en mass Democratic. It may not happen. About one-sixth of Hispanics (16 percent) now identify as evangelical Christians (who lean Republican). Another 18 percent express no religious affiliation. Religious Hispanics remain overwhelmingly Catholic (55 percent) but that number is noticeably down from where it was in 2010 (67 percent).[8]

In one sense, Republicans have little to gain from seeking to the Hispanic vote. Only about 16 percent of Congressional districts held by Republicans have at least 20 percent Hispanics in their populations.[9] However, would swinging the Hispanic vote allow Republicans to make further inroads in currently Democratic districts?

Then, if one is to judge by the attacks on Asian shop-keepers during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, or the off-hand comments of people I know, African-Americans don’t much like Asians or Hispanics. Much of the traditional Democratic base is concentrated in a handful of major cities and in the South. The Democratic obsession with affirmative action is going to alienate the Asian and Hispanic voters.  In sum, the Democrats have some long-term problems cooking.

[1] “Noted,” The Week, 9 October 2-15, p. 18.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week,

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 16 October 2015, p. 17.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 6 December 2013, p. 17,

[5] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 20 June 2014, p. 17.

[6] “Noted,” The Week, 25 July 2014, p. 14.

[7] “Noted,” The Week, 15 May 2015, p. 16.

[8] “Noted,” The Week, 23 May 2014, p. 14.

[9] “Noted,” The Week, 19 July 2013, p. 14.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis.

A civil war between the Sunni majority and the Shi’ite minority has been ravaging the Middle East. Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, more than four million refugees have fled the country.[1] While many went first to all the surrounding countries (Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq), most went to Turkey. By late 2011, the number of refugees in Turkey reached 7,600. By the end of 2012 the number of refugees in Turkey topped 135,000; the number in Egypt passed 150,000. In summer 2014 the appearance of ISIS in eastern Syria and western Iraq sent the number of refugees soaring. By August 2014 the number of refugees in Turkey reached an estimate 850,000. Then the CrISIS just exploded in the second half of 2014. Western aid workers were decapitated, a Jordanian pilot was burned to death, and Yazidis were enslaved. Huge numbers of Syrians “loaded up the truck and moved to Turkey-ey.” By early 2015, Turkey had 2.1 million Syrian refugees within its borders. Camps expanded and proliferated.

Then, in late summer 2015, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees suddenly sought to scale the walls of the European Union (EU). More than 300,000 refugees from Syria entered the EU between January and July 2015. It accelerated from there, with 100,000 refugees entering the EU during July 2015. Now hundreds of thousands are pressing their noses against the glass in Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia. Media attention has focused on the appalling human suffering in the West.

How did hundreds of thousands of refugees get from camps in southern Turkey to either the Greco-Turkish frontier near Edirne or to the Turkish coast opposite the nearby Greek island of Lesbos? Most of the refugee camps are in Hatay Province in the far south. There is a railroad station in Iskenderun in Hatay province. The line from Iskerderun runs through Adana, Konya, Afyon, and Izmir (Smyrna) to the port of Dikili, on the Aegean. Dikili faces the island of Lesbos, the nearest Greek land. Lesbos has been swamped in refugees crossing from Turkey. How has the Turkish government failed to perceive or resist this huge movement of people? Are the Turks actually trying to organize the movement of refugees from the camps to the coast?

The 100,000 refugees to be taken in by the United States in the next several years seem ridiculous compared to the need. However, the Gulf states have taken in no Syrian refugees. None, nada, zip. They have pitched in a bunch of money to support the refugees. Those sums are piddly compared to what the United States has contributed. The refugee-aid sums provided by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar amount to 60 percent of what the US alone has contributed. In short, the Sunni Arab states aren’t concerned.

The Syrian refugee migration is best understood as part of the larger civil war in the Muslim world between Sunnis and Shi’ites. The Sunni Turks and the Sunni Saudis want the Alawite (a sect of Shi’ism) government of Bashar al-Assad gone. Shi’ite Iran wants the Assad regime to remain in place. How to get the western powers to intervene more effectively against the Assad regime? How about you cause them a bunch of problems? Hence, the refugee crisis.

Western states are deluged in migrants. These refugees are unwelcome in the West. It would be best if they went home. How to get them to go home? We’ll, no one is going home if the Assad government or ISIS is in a position to do them harm. So, get rid of Assad and ISIS. The Sunni states (Turkey, Saudi Arabia) are muscling the West by indirect means to overthrow the Assad regime. The Syrian refugee crisis is an act of aggression against the West by its nominal allies.


The owl and the pussycat 2.

After Libya collapsed, power passed to the hands of various militia groups.[1] Politics soon merged with crime. Italian criminal organizations—the Mafia—struck a deal with many of the militia commanders to move people from Libya to Italy. Some 31 percent are refugees from the civil war in Syria. Some are refugees from Iraq, either from the earlier fighting following the American invasion or from the more recent disaster following the rise of ISIS. Most are “economic refugees” from the failed or failing states of Sahelian Africa. In 2014, about 170,000 illegal immigrants paid an estimated $170 million to reach Europe from Libya.

Responsibility for dealing with this problem fell first to the Italians. After 300 migrants drowned near the island of Lampedusa in October 2013, the Italian Navy and Coast Guard launched Operation “Mare Nostrum.”  Italian vessels collected about 140,000 migrants during 2014. The death toll fell from 300 in October 2013 to 56 in April 2014.

While this might be regarded as a remarkable humanitarian achievement, not everyone was best pleased. “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea”) cost almost $10 million a month at a time when Italy was trying to fend off recession and imposing a degree of budget austerity. Operation “Mare Nostrum” started to look like Operation “Tasse Nostrum” (“Our Taxes”). Northern Europeans weren’t happy with Italy serving as an open door for illegal immigrants. The Navy landed the immigrants in mainland Italy. Most of them then continued their search for better lives by heading for Northern Europe.[2] Britain argued that “Mare Nostrum” created a kind of insurance policy for the migrants: the boats might not be sea-worthy, but the captains could always hunt up a rescue ship soon after leaving port. Once they were “rescued,” the migrants were put ashore in a country that maintained no serious watch over their further movements. Inevitably, they flooded North. These arguments resonated with other EU countries. When the Italian government asked the European Union for financial assistance, the EU called on the Italians to stop giving the immigrants a free lift. “Mare Nostrum” ended with the return of winter weather to the Mediterranean.

In place of “Mare Nostrum,” the EU both strengthened its controls on land border and launched “Operation Triton.” “Triton” restricted the rescue zone of naval patrols to within 30 miles of the Italian coast. “Make it more dangerous. That’ll stop them.”   It didn’t.

By early 2015, perhaps as many as a million potential immigrants were waiting in Libya to cross the Mediterranean to Italy. In economic terms, Demand vastly outstrips Supply. There are critical shortages of vessels, crews, and competent captains. Older and smaller vessels are used, crewed by men working beyond their skill-level, and packed to the gun-whales with passengers. A ticket on one of these death traps has risen from $1,000 in 2014 to $2,000 today.

Over-loaded and under-ballasted vessels are top heavy. Even passenger movements can lead to a capsizing, but so can heavy seas or a collision with another vessel or taking on water. In the first four months of 2015, an estimated 1,750 people drowned from the sinking of boats carrying illegal immigrants from North Africa to Europe.

The appalling death-toll caused an up-roar and a belated response from the EU. Two realities present themselves. First, while an aging Europe needs immigrants, the cultural resistance to increased diversity is very strong. Second, the core problem here is the failure of many African states to provide security and prosperity to their citizens. Even taking the risks of crossing the Sahara, then crossing the Mediterranean seems preferable.

[1] “Europe’s migrant crisis,” The Week, 8 May 2015, p. 11.

[2] A further 45,000 reached Europe by other routes.