Tag: immigration

How ObamaCare Threw Gays, Immigrants under the Bus

In the wake of Senate Democrats’ inability to break a GOP filibuster of the defense appropriations bill, to which Democrats hoped to attach the pro-immigration Dream Act and a repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the Reason Foundation’s Shikha Dalmia writes in Forbes:

But if Harry Reid was the proximate cause of this bill’s demise, ObamaCare was the fundamental cause. The ugly, hardball tactics that Democrats deployed to shove this unpopular legislation down everyone’s throat have so poisoned the well on Capitol Hill that Democrats have no good will left to make strategic alliances on even reasonable legislation anymore. When a party has such huge majorities, even small gestures of reconciliation are enough to splinter the ranks of opponents and obtain cooperation. But Democrats played the game of our way or the highway with ObamaCare, ignoring warnings that this would render them completely impotent for the rest of President Obama’s term. Indeed, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina,who had been working with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York to craft comprehensive immigration reform, gave up in disgust in the wake of ObamaCare.

How ironic that a president who got elected on the promise of bipartisan comity has produced nothing but partisan rancor. And his signature legislation that was supposed to save America’s most vulnerable has begun by throwing them under the bus.

Dalmia assigns Republicans their (ample) share of the blame, too.  Read the whole thing.

Slouching Towards a New Supreme Court Term

We’re now three weeks away from the new Supreme Court term – I know you’re as excited as I am – and after a summer that included big opinions from The Nine, more confirmation hearings, and front-page district court decisions (on ObamaCare, immigration, and gay marriage), we roll into a fall full of even more legal intrigue.  Indeed, the first Monday of October that marks the first high court arguments of the new season is pretty much the first day of school for us Court-watchers.  And what better way to go back to school than to attend Cato’s ninth annual Constitution Day symposium this coming Thursday?

But don’t think that Constitution Day marks my re-emergence into the public sphere after a long six weeks slaving away at the Cato Supreme Court Review.  No, that moment, when I opened my office door, shook off the cobwebs, and went forward into our glorious future came last week, with panels on ObamaCare and immigration reform at the University of Virginia and Liberty University, respectively.  Those two law schools did a wonderful job in organizing and publicizing their events.  And here’s the rest of my schedule through the end of October, many of which continue my ObamaCare debate challenge (events sponsored by the Federalist Society are asterisked):

  • Sept. 13 at 1pm at Boston University Law School - Preview of the New Supreme Court Term*
  • Sept. 14 at noon at Harvard Law School - Debate on the Constitutionality of Obamacare against Prof. Mark Tushnet*
  • Sept. 17 at noon at Rayburn House Office Building B-340 - Capitol Hill Briefing on the Supreme Court and Economic Liberty
  • Sept. 20 at 5pm at Loyola University Law School (Chicago) - Panel on the Constitutionality of Obamacare*
  • Sept. 21 at noon at Northwestern University Law School (Chicago) - Preview of the New Supreme Court Term*
  • Sept. 22 at noon at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Debate on the Constitutionality of ObamaCare*
  • Sept. 25 - George Mason law professor and Cato adjunct scholar Ilya Somin’s wedding - Please do congratulate him!
  • Sept. 28 at 12:30 - University of Kansas Law School - Debate on the Constitutionality of ObamaCare*
  • Sept. 29 at lunch - Kansas City Federalist Society Lawyers Chapter - ObamaCare and Missouri’s Prop C*
  • Sept. 30 at 8:30 - Missouri Bar Association Annual Meeting - Panel on the Supreme Court
  • Sept. 30 at 1pm - University of Missouri Law School - The Constitutionality of Obamacare*
  • Oct. 4 at 10am - U.S. Supreme Court - First Monday!
  • Oct. 5 at 5pm - Widener University Law School (Delaware) - The Constitutionality of Obamacare*
  • Oct. 9 at 7pm - Washington Capitals home opener against the New Jersey Devils (I’m a season-ticket holder)
  • Oct. 12 at noon - Lewis & Clark University Law School (Portland, OR) - TBD*
  • Oct. 12 in the evening - Portland Federalist Society Lawyers Chapter - TBD*
  • Oct. 13 at noon - Willamette University Law School - TBD*
  • Oct. 16 at 6pm - University of Toronto Schools Centennial Gala (Go Blues!)
  • Oct. 19 at noon - University of Southern California Law School (L.A.) - Immigration*
  • Oct. 20 at noon - Chapman University Law School - Immigration*
  • Oct. 21 at noon - Orange County Federalist Society Lawyers Chapter - TBD*
  • Oct. 22 all day - Chapman University Law School Nexus Journal of Law & Policy Symposium - “Citizens Divided on Citizens United: Campaign Finance Reform and the First Amendment”
  • Oct. 26 at lunch - Stanford University Law School - TBD*
  • Oct. 27 at noon - University of the Pacific Law School (Stockton, CA) - Debate on the Constitutionality of Obamacare*
  • Oct. 28 at 12:45 - University of California at Berkeley Law School - Debate on Judicial Activism*

If you come out to any of these events, please do come up and introduce yourself.

Gov. Barbour Breaks with GOP on Immigration

OK, the headline may be a bit overstated, but recent comments on immigration by Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi are different enough from what most of his fellow Republicans are saying to be newsworthy.

In a video interview released earlier this week (see link below), Barbour expressed appreciation for the Hispanic immigrant workers who helped rebuild his state after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and for the need to be more open to highly skilled immigrants from countries such as India.

Barbour is an important figure in the GOP. He is in his second term, chairs the Republican Governors Association, and led the Republican National Committee back in 1994 when the party swept into power in Congress.

When asked what he would say to people in California who are upset about illegal immigration, Barbour responded:

Let me just tell you, I’ve had a different experience than perhaps some other governors. I don’t know where we would have been in Mississippi after Katrina if it hadn’t been for the Spanish speakers that came in to help rebuild, and there’s no doubt in my mind some of them weren’t here legally. Some of them were, some of them weren’t. But they came in, they looked for the work—if they hadn’t been there, if they hadn’t come and stayed for a few months or a couple of years, we would be way, way, way behind where we are now.

Every country—I don’t care if it’s the United States of America or Papua New Guinea, every country has gotta have a secure border. If you can’t secure your border, you’re not much of a country, and we’ve gotta secure our border. But we’ve gotta do so with the recognition that even in our lifetime we’re gonna have a labor shortage in the United States. We don’t want to be like Japan, where the aging population is supported by fewer and fewer and fewer and fewer.

So there’s gotta be a way—a) we gotta secure the border, but b) we’ve got to work through how are we gonna make sure we’ve got the labor we need in the United States. H1B visas—a huge, huge thing. My idea is everybody from Stanford who’s from India that gets a PhD, we oughta stamp citizenship on his diploma, so instead of him going back to India and starting a business that employs 1,800 people, that he’ll start a business that employs 1,800 people in Des Moines, Iowa, instead of India. A lot of this is just common sense, and common sense tells us we’re not gonna take ten or twelve or fourteen million people [currently here illegally] and put them in jail and deport them. We’re not gonna do it, and we need to quit—some people need to quit acting like we are, and let’s talk about real solutions.

You can view the video here, where the subject of immigration comes up at the 5:50 mark.

Although Barbour may be a minority voice on the issue within his party, he is not alone. The host of the show, the Hoover Institution’s Peter Robinson, is a former speech writer for Ronald Reagan who wrote back in June on the former president’s more inclusive view of immigrants. And I was joined at a Cato Hill Briefing in July by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., on the need for a temporary worker program as a key to immigration reform.

Let’s hope their fellow Republicans are listening.

Travel after the Fall of the Iron Curtain

In the sumer of 1992, I lived and studied in Prague. I was keen on seeing life in Eastern Europe after the end of Soviet domination.

It was invigorating to think that my local law professor headed over the Vltava River in the afternoons to work on the new constitution in the Prague Castle. It was fascinating to learn of the “lustration” process by which participants in Soviet-era wrongs were penalized but not ostracized. Out of habit, no Czechs ever talked on the subway. Americans did.

There were other reminders of the old order. My overnight train to Katowice, Poland, from which I planned a connection to Krakow, stopped in the middle of nowhere. In the pitch black night, the sound of border guards throwing open train compartments and making demands in a foreign tongue brought forth fearsome movie-memories of life under totalitarianism.

They pulled a young man from my compartment and took him off the train. I don’t remember if it was a Central or South American passport, but it was one that doesn’t afford its bearer the luxury of easy international travel that Americans enjoy.

I honestly don’t remember if he was allowed back on the train. I’m just glad that era is over.

‘Border Enforcement’ Bill Driven by Election-Year Politics

A $600-million bill to enhance border enforcement has hit a temporary snag in the Senate, but it is almost inevitable, with an election only a few months away, that Congress and the president will spend yet more money trying to enforce our unworkable immigration laws.

“Getting control of the border” is the buzz phrase of the day for politicians in both parties, from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Never mind that apprehensions are down sharply along our Southwest border with Mexico, mostly I suspect because of the lack of robust job creation in the unstimulated Obama economy.

Meanwhile, since the early 1990s, spending on border enforcement has increased more than 700 percent, and the number of agents along the border has increased five-fold, from 3,500 to more than 17.000. (See pages 3-4 of a January 2010 report from the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center.) Yet the population of illegal immigrants in America tripled during that period. If this were a federal education program, conservatives would rightly accuse the big spenders of merely throwing more money at a problem without result.

To pay for this politically driven expenditure, Congress plans to nearly double fees charged for H1-B and L visas used by foreign high-tech firms to staff their operations in the United States. The increased visa tax will fall especially hard on companies such as the Indian high-tech leaders Wipro, Infosys, and Tata.

This all has the ring of election-year populism. Congress pretends to move us closer to solving the problem of illegal immigrants entering from Latin America by raising barriers to skilled professionals coming to the United States from India and elsewhere to help us maintain our edge in competitive global technology markets.

Immigration Law Ruling Half-Right But Crucially Wrong

The ruling demonstrates the problems the federal government creates when it fails to either enforce or reform our immigration laws.  Judge Bolton’s hyper-technical decision – anybody who tells you this case was black-and-white isn’t a serious lawyer – got it half-right: She correctly upheld most of SB 1070 and correctly struck down two sections of SB 1070 (a small part of section 5 and all of section 6), but incorrectly struck down two other sections (2 and 3).

One of the latter, section 2 – requiring police to determine the immigration status of persons they stop, detain, or arrest if they have a reasonable suspicion that said persons are unlawfully in the United States – is the most controversial part of SB 1070 and also the most controversial part of the ruling.  Judge Bolton construed section 2 as conflicting with federal law because it burdens federal resources and impedes federal agency functions, but how can it do that when the resources and agency functions in question are already (supposed to be) devoted to immigration enforcement?  The government’s decision not to enforce its own laws can’t possibly preempt a state law that merely mirrors those laws – laws the federal the government is charged with enforcing.

SB 1070 is a valiant attempt to deal with the breakdown in the rule of law caused by so many people living in the legal shadows.  While it’s not the best public policy – because it diverts law enforcement resources, divides police from their communities, burdens lawful residents, and ultimately harms the economy – it’s a frustrated citizenry’s perfectly understandable response to government failure.  Probably the best thing to come out of this whole episode – which isn’t over by any stretch – is that it thrusts the debate over comprehensive immigration reform into the forefront of national political debates.  This is a tough and nuanced issue that will end up in the Supreme Court again and again if Congress neglects to act.

Immigration Law Enforcement and False Arrests

Cato hosted a forum the other day about immigration policy and the controversial Arizona law that will be going into effect on July 29.   Dan Griswold made the case for comprehensive immigration reform while I offered a critique of the Arizona law.  Mark Krikorian from the Center for Immigration Studies was invited to offer a contrary perspective, which is the type of event we like to host — where a civil exchange of views can take place. 

Mr. Krikorian is continuing the debate now on his blog.  Since his blog post takes a shot at my remarks, I’ll offer a rejoinder here.

By way of background, there are at least four problems with Arizona’s move to involve local police in immigration law enforcement.  First, crime victims will be more reluctant to call on the police about violent crimes because they will fear deportation.  Second, police resources are scarce.  Priorities must be set.  Why divert personnel who are trying to respond to (or investigating) violent crimes so that they can arrest, book, and process men and women who pose no danger to the community? The police chief in Phoenix, Jack Harris, among many others, says the Arizona law will make things worse, not better.  Third, the Arizona law criminalizes honest work.  It is now a crime for an “unauthorized alien” to pick fruit in a field, wash cars, or clean homes or offices.  The worry used to be that people were crossing the border to take advantage of welfare benefits.  Now policymakers are making work a crime!  My fourth point was that involving local police in immigration enforcement will lead to scores of false arrests and that Hispanic Americans and Hispanic legal residents will be the ones enduring these false arrests. 

The first thing to note about Mr. Krikorian’s post is that he did not respond to any of those points. What he does say is that I showed a video clip of an obnoxious and boorish guy who refused to answer questions from the police.  He says that I believe the guy is a “hero” and that libertarians are “utopian” and favor “anarchism.” Hmmm. These are fanciful statements and I will leave it to fair-minded readers to judge the merits of those claims for themselves.  (To follow this exchange further, one should check out the film clip here, though I only showed about a 4 minute excerpt at the Cato forum due to our time constraints.)

In order to examine the scope of government power regarding detentions and questioning, one must necessarily find that line between a lawful detention and an illegal false arrest.  These encounters are very rarely captured on film so I thought the film clip might prove useful.  In a contest of manners, Mr. Krikorian may be right, that the activist in the car gets indignant very quickly as the police refuse to answer his question, “Am I being detained or am I free to leave?”  Let’s concede that right here.  On the law, however, the police are wrong.  And that was my point.

Let me explain.  This incident did not occur at a border crossing where passports must be shown.  This was not a traffic stop where license and registration must be presented by the driver.  This was some “checkpoint” where the police were trying to question all comers without a warrant, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion.  The police did their best to use a “show of authority” to pressure drivers to answer questions that they were under no legal obligation to answer. It was a false arrest. Was it a really awful false arrest?  No – it was a false arrest that lasted about ten minutes. 

One problem in this area is that 99 out of 100 people will cave in under the illegal pressure by the cops (“you are not free to go until you answer our questions”). Now I know that many are quite happy to answer the questions – that is their choice.  Others may get upset when they discover that their right to decline to answer questions was violated – but how many will go to the trouble of hiring a lawyer to bring a lawsuit to check this kind of government overreaching?  Virtually none, which means the law offers little practical protection for persons against false arrests, which means there might be quite a lot of them. 

Mr. Krikorian may believe that illegal immigration is so serious a problem that it requires more soldiers, more highway checkpoints, stiffer employer sanctions, the criminalization of work, and more ID checks for pedestrians inland, but it is just silly to say that those who disagree with him are “utopian.”