Tag: immigration

Bootleggers & Baptists, Sugary Soda Edition

Here’s a poor, unsuccessful letter that impressed the relevant New York Times reporters, but not their editorial overlords:

It may seem counter-intuitive that bleeding-heart anti-hunger groups and “Big Food and Big Beverage” would ally to oppose Mayor Bloomberg’s request to prevent New Yorkers from using food stamps to purchase sugary sodas [“Unlikely Allies in Food Stamp Debate,” October 16].  Yet the “bootleggers and Baptists” theory of regulation explains that this “strange bedfellows” phenomenon is actually the norm, rather than the exception.

Most laws have two types of supporters: the true believers and those who benefit financially.  Baptists don’t want you drinking on the Lord ’s Day, for example, while bootleggers profit from the above-market prices that Blue Laws enable them to charge on Sundays.  Consequently, both groups support politicians who support Blue Laws.

Baptists-and-bootleggers coalitions underlie almost all government activities. Defense spending: (neo)conservatives and defense contractors.  President Obama’s new health care law: the political left and the health care and insurance industries. Ethanol subsidies: environmentalists and agribusiness. Education: egalitarians and teachers’ unions. The list goes on.

It’s easier to illustrate the theory (and sexier) when the bootleggers are non-believers who cynically manipulate government solely for their own gain.  Yet one can be both a Baptist and a bootlegger. The Coca-Cola Company may sincerely believe that society benefits when the government subsidizes sugary sodas for poor people.  Even so, a bootlegger-cum-Baptist can still rip off taxpayers.

This morning, NPR reported on another bootleggers-and-Baptists coalition: anti-immigration zealots and the prison industry.

Another New Supreme Court Term, Another New Justice

Today is the first Monday in October, the traditional start of the Supreme Court term.  While we have yet to see as many blockbuster constitutional cases on the docket as we did last term—which, despite the high profile 5-4 splits in McDonald v. Chicago and Citizens United actually produced fewer dissents than any in recent memory—we do look forward to:

  • Two big free speech challenges, one over a statute prohibiting the sale of violent video games to minors, another the offensive protesting of a fallen soldier’s funeral;
  • An Establishment Clause lawsuit against Arizona’s tax credit for private tuition funds (an alternative to educational voucher programs);
  • Regulatory federalism (or “preemption”) cases involving:
    • safety standards for seatbelts;
    • an Arizona statute regarding the hiring of illegal aliens; and
    • the forbidding of class-arbitration waivers as unconscionable components of arbitration agreements;
  • Important ERISA and copyright cases;
  • A case examining privacy concerns attending the federal government’s background checks for contractors; and
  • A criminal procedure dispute regarding access to DNA testing that may support a claim of innocence.

Cato has filed amicus briefs in several of these cases—and in various others which the Court may decide to review later this year—so I will be paying extra-close attention.

Perhaps more importantly, we again have a new justice—and, as Justice White often said, a new justice makes a new Court.  While her confirmation was never in any serious doubt, Elena Kagan faced strong criticism (including from me) on a variety of issues—most importantly on her refusal to “grade” past Court decisions or identify any specific limits to government power.  The 37 votes against Kagan were the most ever for a successful Democratic nominee, which is emblematic of a turbulent political environment in which the Constitution and the basic question of where government derives its power figure prominently.  

Given Kagan’s political and professional background, it is safe to assume that she’s not the second coming of Clarence Thomas.  And because she replaces the “liberal lion” Justice Stevens, her elevation from “tenth justice” (as the solicitor general is known) to ninth is unlikely to cause an immediate change in issues that most divide the Court—particularly because she is recused from nearly half the cases this term.  She could, however, add an interesting and nuanced perspective on a variety of lower-profile issues.  Only time will tell what kind of justice Kagan will be now that she is, seemingly for the first time in her ambitious life, unconstrained to speak her mind.

Here’s to another interesting, varied, and (hopefully) liberty-enhancing year!

Pro-War, Anti-Immigration Folks Are Confused

USA Today runs an interesting article about the DREAM Act, which Senate Republicans torpedoed this week, and which would have paved the way for many illegal immigrants to become legal.

As journalist Alan Gomez notes, the “less publicized part of the [DREAM Act] is that the Pentagon is pushing for it as a means to staff the armed forces.”

When the Department of Defense published its three-year strategic plan, it listed the DREAM Act as a way it could replenish its ranks.

“If we needed to expand the pool of eligible youth, the (DREAM) initiative would be one of several ways to do it,” spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said in an e-mail.

Retired Army lieutenant colonel Margaret Stock says a “crisis in military manpower” is looming as the population ages and the economy improves. She says the military struggled to recruit enough people when the economy was booming just a few years ago because people had more employment options.

“DREAM would give us the ability to tap into a huge number of people who grew up in the United States, were educated here, they talk like Americans, they look like Americans and their loyalty lies with America,” says Stock, a former West Point professor who teaches political science at the University of Alaska-Anchorage.

[…]

The military part of the act worries Jorge Mariscal, director of Latino studies at the University of California-San Diego.

He says many illegal immigrant families are too poor to pay for college.

“Our concern is that people are just going to get trapped for economic reasons into the military,” says Mariscal, who otherwise supports the DREAM Act.

A few thoughts on this: First, we might be experiencing a “crisis in military manpower” because we’re fighting too many wars and trying to do too much abroad, rather than as a necessary consequence of our aging population.

Second, Mariscal’s concern about illegal immigrants joining the military out of financial considerations rather than support for the nation’s wars makes them…a lot like the people who are in the military already.  In a poll of active-duty military personnel published in the April 12, 2010 Defense News, responses to the question “What are the three most important reasons you would stay in the military?” were as follows:

  • Job security (50%)
  • Pension (49%)
  • Patriotism (48%)
  • Health care for my family and me (42%)
  • Career satisfaction (32%)
  • Pay (31%)
  • Educational opportunities (21%)
  • Travel, adventure (16%)
  • Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (11%)
Credit: Jamie Rose for The New York Times

 
Finally, those in Congress who support American militarism but oppose immigration have a few contradictions to reconcile.  The late Samuel Huntington, whose last book was searingly unpersuasive and draped a veneer of scholarly credibility over rank nativism, nonetheless got it right when he wrote that

[W]ars have furthered assimilation of immigrants not only by reducing their numbers but also by giving them the opportunity and the impetus to demonstrate their loyalty to America.  Readiness to fight and if necessary die in war cemented their attachment to their new home and made it difficult if not impossible for nativist, anti-immigrant groups to oppose their full membership in American society.

So if you’re in any way interested in “assimilation,” getting people into the military is one of the best ways to do it.

Further, when you have DOD pushing for a bill on the grounds that it provides for a future where the nation’s armed forces can be fully staffed, and congressional war hawks spiking it because–well, for whatever variety of reasons they might have–it raises the question what the pro-war, anti-immgration folks’ plan is for perpetuating American hegemony while keeping immigrants out of the armed forces.  Keeping unemployment at 10%?  Cranking up pay and benefits even faster, making the military budget even less sustainable?

Actually, one additional point: Mark Haas wrote an interesting article a few years back positing a “geriatric peace” on the grounds that large and powerful countries may age so fast that they may not have concentrations of young men (or women) needed to fight and die in war.  In that article, Haas wrote that

The United States is currently the youngest of all the Group of Eight nations.  Because it has the highest fertility and immigration rates of all these countries, it will maintain, even strengthen, this position in coming decades.

[…]

Both the opportunities and challenges for U.S. security in an aging world are substantial. The United States’ aging crisis is less acute than in the other great powers, and its ability to pay the costs associated with this phenomenon is significantly better than most of these states. These facts, however, should not disguise the magnitude of these costs for the United States nor lull U.S. leaders into inaction on this critical issue. The more the United States maintains its enviable demographic position (compared with the other great powers) and relatively superior ability to pay for  the costs of its elderly population, the more it will be able both to preserve its own position of international power dominance and to help other states address their aging (and other) problems when it is in U.S. interests to do so. A critical implication of these facts is that such domestic policies as means-testing Social Security and Medicare payments, raising the retirement age to reflect increases in life expectancies, maintaining  largely open immigration policies to help keep the United States’ median age relatively low, encouraging individual behaviors that result in better personal health, and perhaps above all restraining the rising costs of its health-care system are critical international security concerns.  A defining political question of the twenty-first century for U.S. international interests is whether U.S. leaders have sufficient political  will and wisdom to implement these and related policies. The more proactive U.S. leaders are in minimizing the scope of its aging population and the costs associated with it, the more protected U.S. international interests will be. To ignore these costs, or even to delay implementing various reforms designed to limit their size, will jeopardize the level of global influence and security that the United States enjoys today.

Food for thought.

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.