Midterm issues: Immigration (E-50)

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Question one in a recent Newt Gingrich survey was whether immigration (no alternatives specified) was the top issue for the mid-terms. For any respondents who suggested otherwise, the second question (optional) was why (in their opinion) some other issue belonged at the top of the list.

To disagree with the survey premise, one would have to look to intangibles such as “dissatisfaction with government.” The
only policy issue currently on the front burner, according to Gallup, is “immigration/illegal immigrants.” Government back on top as nation’s leading problem, Jim Norman, gallup.com, 8/16/18.

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The immigration issue boils down to discrepancies between provisions of the immigration laws (statues, regulations, etc.) of the United States and the manner in which the immigration laws are enforced (or not enforced) in practice. Given over 10 million illegal immigrants living in the United States on a long-term basis, said discrepancies are clearly substantial.

One might think our political leaders should agree to either enforce the existing immigration laws or amend them to better suit the national sense of what policies should apply in this area. But illegal immigration has been tolerated for decades, and aside from the president’s proposals there seems to be no political will to stop it.

President Trump wants to “build a wall” (physical and/or electronic) along the southern border, switch to a merit-based immigration system, crack down on “sanctuary cities” that are protecting illegal immigrants from deportation, etc. Some members of the president’s party don’t seem to agree, however, witness their tepid support for funding the wall that he has repeatedly promised will be built.

As for those who favor liberal immigration policies (effectively “open borders”), the president’s proposals are anathema. No opportunity has been missed to attack him and his subordinates for statements or actions that could be characterized as unfeeling, racist, etc.

Recent pushback against the administration’s efforts to stop a surge of family units and unaccompanied minors across the southern border included strident demands (supported by demonstrations, and in some instances violence) for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Although the abolish ICE mantra smacked of overreach, the president found it necessary to reverse a “no tolerance” policy that had resulted in family separations. The resistance campaign Dems turn to immigration as winning election issue, Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner,

As for curative legislation, there hasn’t been a serious effort to overhaul the immigration laws in five years. A massive immigration package was passed by the Senate (then under Democratic control) in 2013, which in our judgment would have done more to perpetuate illegal immigration than to stop it. For example, the bill included no provision for turning off the “jobs magnet” for illegal immigrants by requiring compliance with the E-Verify system. Senate bill wouldn’t stop illegal immigration, section 4,

There would be no deadline for implementing the E-Verify system (which is designed to enable employers to identify and reject illegal immigrant applicants). An amendment to require full E-Verify implementation within 18 months was rejected in committee.

The Senate bill went nowhere in the Republican-controlled House and there have been no follow-up efforts of note. One of the current Democratic talking points is that Republicans rejected “comprehensive immigration reform” when it was proposed so they should not expect bipartisan cooperation now.

Why has illegal immigration been allowed to continue year after year? We suspect the status quo is acceptable to many Republicans, who are aware that businesses and farms appreciate a continuing supply of cheap imported labor. Ryan adds 1.35 million low-wage visa-workers to revive his fading amnesty bill, Neil Munro, breitbart.com,

The guest-worker program is attached to a mandate that companies use the E-Verify system to screen new hires for eligibility to work. E-Verify is backed by populists who oppose Ryan’s bill but is strongly opposed by Senate Democrats and business groups because it would allow federal penalties against employers who hire any of the 8 million illegal-immigrant workers in the United States.

For their part, Democrats apparently see a continuing influx of low-income immigrants as a source of voters that can help them to win elections. [Re the reference to illegal voting, see Section III, infra.] The Democratic game plan, Robert Knight, Washington Times,

The “progressives” game plan to re-acquire power in Washington and make it permanent has been shockingly obvious for some time: Import millions of illegal immigrants, hook them on government aid and turn them into voters — legally or illegally.

The two sides will probably stick to negative talking points this fall, each trying to blame the other for the sorry situation that exists. But the illegal immigration problem needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, and a real debate would seem more constructive Here are three points that we would like to see covered.

I. Border security – Should the US “build a wall” along the southern border or not? The benefits of measures to prevent illegal entry into the United States seem obvious, but enhanced physical barriers aren’t the only alternative and the purported benefits should be evaluated realistically.

#PRO - It’s far easier to deny access at the border than to deport new arrivals after they enter the country and acquire procedural rights. Consider, for example, the track record for deporting immigrant families that arrived in fiscal year 2017; less than 2% of them have been sent back. Illegal immigrant families exploit “catch-and-release” loopholes, surge over border at record level, Stephen Dinan, Washington Times,

While adults who arrive at the border without children are usually detained until they can be deported, migrants who show up with children in tow get quickly released from custody. They rarely return for their deportations, instead taking the chance to disappear into the shadows. [A border control official] said the incentives are so skewed that families and children actually want to get caught when they show up at the border.

Some very bad actors have gained admission in this manner. See, e.g., ICE busts 39 MS-13 members in New York operation, Bob Price, breitbart.com,

ICE officials stated that of the 39 MS-13 gang members arrested in Operation Matador, 12 had entered the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. Three other members entered the U.S. under Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Some of those arrested had previously been deported and now face felony charges for illegal re-entry after removal, officials stated.

Not all illegal immigrants become MS-13 gang members, and one study (by the Cato Institute) purported to show that illegal immigrants are less likely to be involved in criminal activities than native-born Americans. The study methodology was somewhat sketchy, however, and other studies have reached a contrary conclusion. Illegal aliens commit fewer crimes than US-born? Not so fast, Julie Kelly, amgreatness.com,

#CON – Although a wall might prevent people from crossing the southern border on foot, it wouldn’t do much to close other means of ingress.

•Refugees have been imported in motor vehicles, e.g., crammed in the back of trucks, sometimes with deadly consequences. Truck driver in custody after 9 suspected migrants are found dead in parking lot, Saphora Smith et al., nbcnews.com,

• The northern border is nearly 4,000 miles long and largely unprotected. Some immigrants have crossed it, although far more have crossed the southern border. Canadian man from Guatemala arrested for smuggling people from Canada through train tunnel, Anna Giaritelli, Washington Examiner,

•Many simply enter the US on visas and overstay the expiration date. Modes of entry for the unauthorized migrant population, pewhispanic.org,

As much as 45% of the total unauthorized migrant population entered the country with visas that allowed them to visit or reside in the U.S. for a limited amount of time. Known as “overstayers,” these migrants became part of the unauthorized population when they remained in the country after their visas had expired.

In any case, it’s been suggested that a border wall isn’t needed because the new arrivals are seeking a better life for themselves and we should all be able to get along. Ted Cruz’s challenger says US “doesn’t need walls,” advocates for amnesty, Kaylee McGhee, libertyheadlines.com,

[Beto] O’Rourke, who is running against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, challenged President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies, arguing Texas is made up of “safe cities” where people “treat one another with respect and dignity.” He cited his home town of El Paso as an example, calling it a “city of immigrants” and one of the “safest cities in the United States of America.”

#COST – Assuming a net benefit from building or enhancing the wall, it’s still necessary to justify the cost – which has been estimated as some $25 billion over a period of several years.

Despite repeated demands by the president , Congress has yet to appropriate any significant funding for this purpose, which probably reflects political opposition versus a sincere desire to spend taxpayer dollars wisely. Note that other appropriation bills are moving forward with unaccustomed dispatch this year. Senate approves spending bill, hoping to avert a shutdown, westernjournal.com,

Now is not the time to worry about the border wall, say Republican congressional leaders, wait until after the elections. It should be possible to secure some funding then. Trump poised to win $5 billion to build border wall, Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner,

However, a wishy washy approach on this issue could make the GOP look ineffectual Failure to fund Trump’s border wall could haunt Republicans in the midterms, Natalia Castro, dailytorch.com,
9/12/18. And the promise of wall funding would presumably be null and void if the Democratic Party won back control of the House and/or Senate in November.

II. Admission policies – In addition to pushing for enhanced border security, the president has proposed a merit-based immigration system. End lottery based admissions, chain migration (based on reuniting with family members already in the US), etc. As a result, the focus of the immigration laws would shift from (a) accommodating people who want to come here but are only qualified for unskilled jobs, to (b) attracting new citizens who could make a bigger contribution to the US economy based on their education and/or job experience.

Others point to the US tradition of being a haven for the unfortunate and oppressed (perhaps quoting the inspirational message inscribed on the Statute of Liberty). Immigrants currently entering the country are contributing to the economy, they say, and will add to the cultural diversity of our nation.

OK, but a sense of national identity is crucial and it may be endangered by the rapid pace of immigration. 5 shocking immigration trends ignored by the political class, Daniel Horowtiz, conservativereview.com,

The immigrant population is currently about 45.6 million. Just 17 years ago there, were only 31 million immigrants, and in 1990 there were just 19.8 million. We’ve never seen such growth before. While the percentage of immigrants as a share of the population, 13.5 percent, isn’t a record high, it’s the highest level since 1910, which was at the height of the great wave. That was at a time when the country was still relatively new and filling up, assimilation was successful, there was no welfare state, and — most importantly — there was a shutoff 10 years later.

Perhaps 13.5% foreign born (or 20.0% immigrant population including US-born minor children) is manageable, but expect serious problems if current trends continue. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that a major policy change is needed.

Assimilation is a numbers game, much like the melting-pot analogy. Immigration is great for everyone when there is patriotic assimilation, but with one in five individuals already part of an immigrant family and the trajectory slated to skyrocket, it’s hard to see how America is not fundamentally transformed beyond anything that happened during the great wave [of immigration that peaked around 1910]. According to Pew, by 2065, 36.5 percent of all individuals in America will be from immigrant families (up from 20 percent now).

If a prudent limit on the number of immigrants is to be established, what would be wrong with taking the most promising candidates available? Politicians base immigration policy on abstractions, Thomas Sowell, Washington Examiner,

Immigrants from some countries are seldom on welfare but immigrants from other countries often are. Immigrants from some countries are typically people with high levels of education and skills, while immigrants from other countries seldom have much schooling or skills. Nevertheless, many of our current discussions of immigration issues talk about immigrants in general, as if they were abstract people in an abstract world. But the concrete differences between immigrants from different countries affect whether their coming here is good or bad for the American people.

There are no cut and dried answers as to what the admission policies should be, but it strikes us that the president has raised an issue that deserves to be thoughtfully considered rather than dismissed as mean-spirited or “too controversial.”

III. Voting rights – Everyone claims to oppose voter fraud, but liberals contend that this phenomenon is very uncommon. Thus, one of the reports of the Brennan Center for Justice cites a higher probability that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.” Debunking the voter fraud myth, brennancenter.org, 1/31/17.

OK, it may be a bit tricky for would-be voters to pass themselves off as other people, but what about cases in which the names of foreign nationals or illegal immigrants have been entered on the voting rolls via “motor voter” laws? All they have to do is show up, present a driver’s license or other government-issued document, and perhaps check a box on some form that they are a US citizen.

Nothing very complicated about that, although the potential penalties are severe if unlawful voters are caught and prosecuted, and a pending case in North Carolina shows that this can happen. DOJ charges nearly two dozen illegal aliens for voting in the 2016 elections, Katie Pavlich, townhall.com,

It’s not known how widespread this problem may be in the Tarheel State, and so far the North Carolina authorities haven’t shown much interest in finding out. NC elections board fights ICE effort to investigate illegals’ voting, Joshua Paladino, libertyheadlines.com,

•The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted without opposition to dispute the federal government’s subpoena of millions of voter records. The state will oppose the subpoenas on the grounds that state law prohibits them from sharing information on individual voters.

•These instances [grand jury indictment of 19 illegal immigrants for voting illegally and an audit of North Carolina elections that found 40 more non-citizen voters] were not evidence enough for the state board of elections, which teamed with the American Civil Liberties Union to litigate the case.

Serious as the situation seems in North Carolina, it may be far worse in jurisdictions (e.g., Chicago and San Francisco) that have taken steps to normalize the idea of illegal immigrant voting. Technically, voting is only authorized for local elections, but there aren’t any effective barriers to voting for national candidates as well. And it remains to be seen whether Rep. Jeff Duncan’s (R-SC) bill to address this practice will get enacted. Finally, action to combat true interference in US elections by non-citizens voting, Printus LeBlanc, dailytorch.com,

Duncan has introduced H.R. 6482, the Eliminating Foreign Intervention in Elections Act. The bill states, “None of the funds made available in any Act may be used to make payments to any unit of local government that permits individuals who are not citizens of the United States to vote in elections for State or local office.” The cities will have to decide what is more important, illegal immigrant votes or federal funds.

A Public Interest Legal Foundation study reports significant problems in other jurisdictions, including Los Angeles & Alameda Counties in CA, Fairfax County in VA, Harris Country [Houston] in TX, PA and NJ. Report: Voter fraud rampant in sanctuary cities, Quin HIlyer, libertyheadlines.com,

With all this smoke, there is probably some real fire. Yet the response of liberals has been dismissive as it serves their interests to enhance the political influence of illegal immigrants. The Democratic game plan,
op. cit.

Oppose voter ID laws – advocate the abolition of ICE – rail about adding a question about citizenship to the US census – support determining congressional seats and presidential electors based on population [which includes illegal immigrants].

Continuing failure to have it out on these issues could have grave consequences down the road, and there is already talk in California about secession (shades of the conflicts that led to the Civil War). Secessionists exploit red states’ “deep hatred for California” in bid to exit union, Valerie Richardson, Washington Times,


# Unfortunately, it sounds like a “dreamer” writing! – SAFE member and a Cuban immigrant

# Breakdown of the rule of law is already happening re immigration, drug laws, tax evasion, and more. There is no law in the inner cities of our biggest 10. – SAFE director and former California resident

# Thanks for your emphasis on Constitution Day! It's my favorite day of the year. If I "have" a Constitution, anyone can have my vote.
I find the Trump trade policies unacceptable from beginning to end. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer is a complete cipher when it comes to Economics.
All in all, the Trump agenda is proving hopeless and unsupportable. It is therefore giving a negative aura to the Trump Administration, and biasing the possibility of getting Judge Kavanaugh confirmed.
I do not see much hope here for the next several years. – SAFE member (GA) and economist

#Well done. The law is the law, and must be followed. – Retired finance manager

GENERAL COMMENT: The entry was intended to report the legal conflicts re immigration in a realistic way and hopefully it accomplished that objective. Nevertheless, your faithful scribe must acknowledge that the majority feedback here seems to be that the chance of resolving these problems through the political process falls in the “slim to none” category. If that’s true, the outlook looks very dim because the problems will keep worse if they aren’t addressed.

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