Tag Archives: Mark Krikorian

“Here I Am. Tell Me I Didn’t Do The Things That I Did.”

Sharyl Attkisson at CBS News:

Federal agent John Dodson says what he was asked to do was beyond belief.

He was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico?

“Yes ma’am,” Dodson told CBS News. “The agency was.”

An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms senior agent assigned to the Phoenix office in 2010, Dodson’s job is to stop gun trafficking across the border. Instead, he says he was ordered to sit by and watch it happen.

Investigators call the tactic letting guns “walk.” In this case, walking into the hands of criminals who would use them in Mexico and the United States.

Dodson’s bosses say that never happened. Now, he’s risking his job to go public.

“I’m boots on the ground in Phoenix, telling you we’ve been doing it every day since I’ve been here,” he said. “Here I am. Tell me I didn’t do the things that I did. Tell me you didn’t order me to do the things I did. Tell me it didn’t happen. Now you have a name on it. You have a face to put with it. Here I am. Someone now, tell me it didn’t happen.”

Agent Dodson and other sources say the gun walking strategy was approved all the way up to the Justice Department. The idea was to see where the guns ended up, build a big case and take down a cartel. And it was all kept secret from Mexico.

ATF named the case “Fast and Furious.”

[…]

On Dec. 14, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down. Dodson got the bad news from a colleague.

According to Dodson, “They said, ‘Did you hear about the border patrol agent?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And they said ‘Well it was one of the Fast and Furious guns.’ There’s not really much you can say after that.”

Two assault rifles ATF had let go nearly a year before were found at Terry’s murder.

Dodson said, “I felt guilty. I mean it’s crushing. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Sen. Grassley began investigating after his office spoke to Dodson and a dozen other ATF sources — all telling the same story.

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

When Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered by drug smugglers in Arizona last December, Tom Tancredo revealed that Terry’s BORTAC unit (the Border Patrol’s equivalent of a SWAT team) were armed with bean-bag rounds in their weapons:

Here’s the part Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Border Patrol management are trying to hide: Border Patrol Agent Terry and the BORTAC team were under standing orders to always use (“non-lethal”) bean-bag rounds first before using live ammunition. When the smugglers heard the first rounds, they returned fire with real bullets, and Agent Terry was killed in that exchange. Real bullets outperform bean bags every time.

At the time, the government denied such “bizarre Internet-fueled rumors”:

“There was no order given to CBP law enforcement personnel – now or in the past – that dictates the use of less-than-lethal devices before using deadly force,” stated CBP’s Southwest Border Field Branch Office of Public Affairs.

Oops:

Records show agents fired beanbags in fatal border gunfight
Brady McCombs Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2011 12:00 am

Border Patrol agents shot beanbags at a group of suspected bandits before the men returned fire during a confrontation in a remote canyon, killing agent Brian Terry with a single gunshot, records show.

And an illegal immigrant wounded in the gunbattle who is now the only person in custody linked to the slaying contends he never fired a shot, according to FBI search warrant requests filed in the U.S. District Court in Tucson.

The documents provide the most detailed version yet of what happened in the deadly gunbattle Dec. 14 in Peck Canyon, northwest of Nogales.

The documents say the group of illegal border entrants refused commands to drop their weapons after agents confronted them at about 11:15 p.m. Two agents fired beanbags at the migrants, who responded with gunfire. Two agents returned fire, one with a long gun and one with a pistol, but Terry was mortally wounded in the gunfight.

Border Patrol officials declined to answer questions about protocol for use of force, citing the ongoing investigation.

Bryan Preston at PJ Tatler:

It seems highly unlikely that officers would choose to load beanbags instead of live rounds. That’s not the kind of thing field agents come up with. It’s a policy that’s so stupid it had to come from Washington.

And even worse than Washington’s policy stupidity: No one will be held to account for the killing of BP agent Brian Terry

The Jawa Report

Brian Doherty at Reason:

Presented as an interesting case study in the way law enforcement actually thinks–not to say that it is an essential task of U.S. law enforcement to “keep guns out of Mexico.” Our real culpability in Mexican gun violence lies, of course, in our drug prohibition, as see Jacob Sullum from earlier today.

Patterico at Patterico’s Pontifications:

How were they tracing the guns across the border? Was this murder also the result of guns that the Obama administration deliberately allowed into Mexico?

Keep a close eye on this one.

Regardless of whether that is the case, it is clear that this was a stupid idea in any event. Who knows how much violence has increased due to the new availability of thousands of assault rifles and other powerful weapons?

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

But, don’t worry.
Barack Obama says the border is as safe today as it’s ever been.

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Filed under Crime, War On Drugs

I’ll Take Skynet Is Taking Over The World For $800, Alex

Ken Jennings at Slate:

When I was selected as one of the two human players to be pitted against IBM’s “Watson” supercomputer in a special man-vs.-machine Jeopardy! exhibition match, I felt honored, even heroic. I envisioned myself as the Great Carbon-Based Hope against a new generation of thinking machines—which, if Hollywood is to believed, will inevitably run amok, build unstoppable robot shells, and destroy us all. But at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Lab, an Eero Saarinen-designed fortress in the snowy wilds of New York’s Westchester County, where the shows taped last month, I wasn’t the hero at all. I was the villain.

This was to be an away game for humanity, I realized as I walked onto the slightly-smaller-than-regulation Jeopardy! set that had been mocked up in the building’s main auditorium. In the middle of the floor was a huge image of Watson’s on-camera avatar, a glowing blue ball crisscrossed by “threads” of thought—42 threads, to be precise, an in-joke for Douglas Adams fans. The stands were full of hopeful IBM programmers and executives, whispering excitedly and pumping their fists every time their digital darling nailed a question. A Watson loss would be invigorating for Luddites and computer-phobes everywhere, but bad news for IBM shareholders.

The IBM team had every reason to be hopeful. Watson seems to represent a giant leap forward in the field of natural-language processing—the ability to understand and respond to everyday English, the way Ask Jeeves did (with uneven results) in the dot-com boom. Jeopardy! clues cover an open domain of human knowledge—every subject imaginable—and are full of booby traps for computers: puns, slang, wordplay, oblique allusions. But in just a few years, Watson has learned—yes, it learns—to deal with some of the myriad complexities of English. When it sees the word “Blondie,” it’s very good at figuring out whether Jeopardy! means the cookie, the comic strip, or the new-wave band.

I expected Watson’s bag of cognitive tricks to be fairly shallow, but I felt an uneasy sense of familiarity as its programmers briefed us before the big match: The computer’s techniques for unraveling Jeopardy! clues sounded just like mine. That machine zeroes in on key words in a clue, then combs its memory (in Watson’s case, a 15-terabyte data bank of human knowledge) for clusters of associations with those words. It rigorously checks the top hits against all the contextual information it can muster: the category name; the kind of answer being sought; the time, place, and gender hinted at in the clue; and so on. And when it feels “sure” enough, it decides to buzz. This is all an instant, intuitive process for a human Jeopardy! player, but I felt convinced that under the hood my brain was doing more or less the same thing.

Indeed, playing against Watson turned out to be a lot like any other Jeopardy! game, though out of the corner of my eye I could see that the middle player had a plasma screen for a face. Watson has lots in common with a top-ranked human Jeopardy! player: It’s very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman. But unlike us, Watson cannot be intimidated. It never gets cocky or discouraged. It plays its game coldly, implacably, always offering a perfectly timed buzz when it’s confident about an answer. Jeopardy! devotees know that buzzer skill is crucial—games between humans are more often won by the fastest thumb than the fastest brain. This advantage is only magnified when one of the “thumbs” is an electromagnetic solenoid trigged by a microsecond-precise jolt of current. I knew it would take some lucky breaks to keep up with the computer, since it couldn’t be beaten on speed.

Instapundit:

DID THE SINGULARITY just happen on Jeopardy? The Singularity is a process, more than an event, even if, from a long-term historical perspective, it may look like an event. (Kind of like the invention of agriculture looks to us now). So, yeah. “In the CNN story one of the machine’s creators admitted that he was a very poor Jeopardy player. Somehow he was able to make a machine that could do better than himself in that contest. The creators aren’t even able to follow the reasoning of the computer. The system is showing emergent complexity.”

mistermix:

I’m not a big Jeopardy geek, but my understanding is that players are surprised at how big a role button management plays in winning or losing a round. In the few minutes of the Watson game that I watched, it was pretty clear that Watson was excellent at pressing the button at exactly the right moment if it knew the answer, which is more a measure of electromechanical reflex than human-like intelligence.

To the credit of IBM engineers, Watson almost always did know the right answer. Still, there were a few bloopers, such as the final Jeopardy question from yesterday (paraphrasing): “This city has two airports, one named after a World War II hero, and the other named after a World War II battle.” Watson’s guess, “Toronto”, was just laughably bad—Lester Pearson and Billy Bishop fought in World War I, and neither person is a battle. The right answer, “Chicago”, was pretty obvious, but apparently Watson couldn’t connect Midway or O’Hare with WW II.

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

I was on the show, in 1996 or ’97, and success is based almost entirely on your reflexes — i.e., pushing the buzzer as soon as Trebek finishes reading the question, er, the answer. (I came in second, winning a dining-room set and other fabulous parting gifts, which I had to sell to pay the taxes on them.)The benefit to society would come if we could turn Alex Trebek into Captain Dunsel.

Jim Behrle at The Awl:

If I owned a gun, it would probably be in my mouth as I type this. I don’t know how the physics of that arrangement would work, but the mood in Chez Jim is darker than Mothra’s hairy crotch. I’ve just been sitting here listening to Weird Al’s weirdly prescient “I Lost on Jeopardy” in the dark, cuddling with a tapped-out bottle of WD-40. Humanity took a hit tonight. Our valiant human heroes made it close, but that Watson tore us new assholes in our foreheads. ALL OF US. That noise you heard driving to work was your GPS system laughing at you. While you were sneezing on the D train this morning your Kindle was giving you the finger. There is blood in the water this morning and this afternoon and forever more. This wasn’t like losing some Nerdgame like chess. Who the hell even knows how to play chess? The horsies go in little circles, right? “Jeopardy!” is the game that makes dumb people feel smart. Like National Public Radio, it’s designed to make people feel superior. And we just found out that people are not superior. No, not at all.I might personally call the whole thing a draw. I read Ken Jennings’ piece in Slate and I can tell the machine was just better at ringing the buzzer than him. If it was truly a battle of Humanity versus Accursed Frankensteinian Monstrosity there should have been one human and one monstrosity. Or one smart human, one machine and me. I could answer sportsy questions. And the rest of the time stay out of Ken’s way. No disrespect to Brad, but this is one fight that ought to have been fought one-on-one. Don’t make humans battle each other to save the world from machines. It’s too cruel. I’d sit back and let the goddamned human expert answer the tough questions. I’d just be there to figure out a way how to unplug the fucking thing when no one was watching. So, here’s the lineup for this Rematch that I demand, formally, right here on The Awl—which I know everyone at IBM reads—Me, Ken and your little Betamax.

And you have to put a little more at stake than just money. For Ken, Me and the Watson. Why did they call it Watson, anyway? Wasn’t Watson just Sherlock Holmes’ butler? And Alexander Graham Bell’s friend who was in the other room and got the first phone call. Why not call the thing what it is: HYDE. Or LILITH. Or Beezelbub of the Underland? Its dark, soulless visage no doubt crushed the very spirit of our human champions. Maybe force it to wear a blonde wig. And talk in Valley Girl language. “Like Oh My God, Gag Me with a Spoon, Alex. I’ll like take like Potpourri for like $800!”

This rematch should happen on Neutral Ground. I suggest Indianapolis. Halftime at the next Super Bowl. This gives Ken a chance to put the pieces of his broken ego back together. And for me to eat some Twinkies. There probably won’t even Be a Super Bowl because of the Looming Lockout, so America will just be watching commercials and various superstars mangling America’s Favorite Patriotic songs. Make IBM take their little Cabinet of Wonders on the Road. Get the military involved to make sure there are no shenanigans this time like plugging it into the Internet or texting it answers from the audience. Also, I want the damned thing to NOT be plugged into the Jeopardy game. It needs to be able to hear Alex and to read the hint on the little blue screen. How much time does it take a human to hear Alex and see it printed out and understand just what the hell the half-idiot writers of “Jeopardy!” were getting at? (Was a Dave Eggers mention really necessary during Wednesday night’s episode? The category was Non-fiction. And it’s obvious that Watson has some kind of super Amazon app embedded in its evil systems. The first 200 pages of Dave’s Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius were pretty good. Everything else is Twee Bullshit. “I am a dog from a short story. I am fast and strong. Too bad you know I die in the river from the title of this short story. Woooof!” I mean, seriously, “Jeopardy!” Get a library card. There are billions of other writers and I’ve seen at least 5 shows in which you’ve used some form of Dave Eggers. )

Ben Wieder at The Chronicle Of Higher Education:

The victory made one group of people very happy.

The computer-science department at the University of Texas at Austin hosted viewing parties for the first two nights of the competition.

“People were cheering for Watson,” says Ken Barker, a research scientist at Texas. “When they introduced Brad and Ken, there were a few boos in the audience.”

Texas is one of eight universities whose researchers helped develop the technology on which Watson is based. Many of the other universities hosted viewing parties for the three days of competition as well.

Mr. Barker says he was blown away by Watson’s performance on the show, particularly the computer’s ability to make sense of Jeopardy!‘s cleverly worded clues.

But the computer did make a few mistakes along the way.

Most notably, Watson incorrectly wrote “Toronto” in response to a Final Jeopardy clue in the category of U.S. Cities. Both Mr. Jennings and Mr. Rutter returned the correct response, which was Chicago.

Mr. Barker says Watson may have considered U.S. to be a synonym of America and, as such, considered Toronto, a North American city, to be a suitable response.

Raymond J. Mooney, a computer-science professor at Texas, says Final Jeopardy is the Achilles heel of the computer.

“If it didn’t have to answer that question, it wouldn’t have,” he says.

Clues in that final round are often more complicated than others in the show because they involve multiple parts.

The phrasing of the question Watson got wrong included what linguists refer to as an ellipsis, an omitted phrase whose meaning is implicit from other parts of the sentence. The clue that tripped up Watson, “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle,” left out “airport is named” in the second clause.

Mr. Mooney says it will be some time before the average person will be using a computer with the capabilities of Watson, but he did see one potential immediate impact from the show.

Ezra Klein:

The sentient computers of the future are going to think it pretty hilarious that a knowledge-based showdown between one of their own and a creature with a liver was ever considered a fair fight.

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Filed under Go Meta, Technology, TV

Butch Schumer And The Sundance Graham

Carrie Burdoff Brown at Politico:

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have rekindled their alliance on immigration reform, taking some early steps to test the political will for addressing the contentious issue this year.

Their call list hasn’t focused so much on House and Senate members who’ve been reliable pro-immigration votes in the past. Instead, they’re looking to a strange-bedfellows mix of conservative and liberal constituencies that can provide a “safety net” of support, as Graham put it, once the issue heats up.

It’s in the infant stage,” Graham told POLITICO. “I don’t know what the political appetite is to do something.”

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

Only one month into the new Congress, and Lindsey Graham has already started scheming with Chuck Schumer on how to pass an illegal-alien amnesty. I’m surprised he waited that long. McCain won’t be far behind.

Weasel Zippers:

Time for Lindsey to be shown the door by South Carolina voters.

Ed Morrissey:

Strange bedfellows?  No, not really:

Now, conservative evangelicals, the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, business organizations and immigrant advocacy groups say they have gotten word from Schumer’s office that a renewed effort is under way. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce confirmed that it is back in the mix, after a hasty exit last year when Schumer proposed a legislative framework with a temporary worker program that favored labor unions.

Unions and big business partnering on amnesty?  Say it ain’t so! Why, that’s as shocking as the opposition of both to ICE raids and e-Verify.  There’s nothing strange at all at this partnership; it’s business as usual.

Congress and the last two administrations could easily have had immigration “reform” had they performed their duties to (a) secure the borders, and (b) fix the visa program that has nearly no follow-up on expirations.  The 9/11 Commission demanded both from Congress in the summer of 2004.  To date, not only has Congress mostly ignored those recommendations, they defunded the one project that addressed the commission’s concerns — the border fence.

Secure the border, and fix the visa system.  Those should be the prerequisites to any discussion on “reform.”  When Congress proves that they’re serious about securing this nation, then we can debate what to do with those who are in the country illegally now, but not before.

Michelle Malkin

Robert Stacy McCain:

Any such legislation would be DOA in the House, which means that this is just a scam to hustle campaign cash from open-borders advocates, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Yeah, too bad Mike Castle lost that GOP primary in Delaware. Also too bad Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter aren’t in the Senate, so they could cash in on this RINO fundraising windfall.

Please: Explain to me again why it’s so damned important to elect Republicans to the Senate.

Steve Benen:

Comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue, and the basic framework of a worthwhile package is already in place — Bush, congressional Democrats, and some reform-minded Republicans agreed on a path several years ago, and the Obama White House would very likely endorse a very similar, if not identical, policy.

With this in mind, I’m glad Graham and Schumer at least have their hearts in the right place. They’re reaching out to newly-sensible GOP senators like Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and have apparently brought John McCain back into the discussions (though he promised voters last year he would refuse to negotiate on the issue).

But putting aside questions of whether it’s even possible to craft an immigration bill that could get 60 votes and overcome Republican obstructionism, I haven’t the foggiest idea why anyone would think the GOP-led House would even consider such a measure.

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Filed under Immigration

What DREAMs May Come

John Hudson at The Atlantic with a round-up. Hudson:

In conservative blogging circles, the Democrat’s proposed DREAM Act is causing quite a stir.

Heather MacDonald at The Corner:

An illegal alien who brings his or her child into the country illegally undoubtedly assumes that that child will attend American schools at taxpayer expense.  The parent may also hope that the child will graduate from high school and go on to college. The DREAM Act, newly reintroduced by Sen. Harry Reid to the lame-duck session, puts the official imprimatur on those unofficial intentions, declaring that the U.S. expects and even welcomes such behavior.

Under the DREAM Act, any illegal alien under the age of 35 who entered the country before the age of 16 can apply for legal status if he obtains a GED or graduates from high school and begins post-secondary education. Gang members and those with DUI convictions are not barred from DREAM Act eligibility. The act signals to prospective illegal aliens the world over that if they can just get their child across the border illegally, they have put him on the path towards U.S. citizenship — and, as significant, the child will then be able to apply for legal status for his parents and siblings. And every such student will be granted in-state tuition rates by federal fiat, even if the state in which he resides bans in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

DREAM Act beneficiaries are certainly the most sympathetic category of amnesty candidates, and opponents of the act have been accused of hard-heartedness. Yet the act indisputably encourages and incentivizes more illegal behavior. It continues to send the message that the U.S. is not serious about its immigration laws, but will always eventually confer the same benefits on people who break the law entering the country as on those immigrants who respected American law. The huge administrative costs of the act — it is conservatively expected to qualify 2.1 million illegal aliens for amnesty — will be borne by U.S. taxpayers and by legal aliens, whose fees fund the citizenship service

Will Wilkinson at Democracy in America at The Economist:

I think it’s useful in this debate to be as clear we can be. We’re mostly talking about Mexicans, so let’s just talk about Mexicans. Lots and lots and lots of Mexicans come across the border to the United States not because they’re a nation of heedless antinomians, but because this is (was?) where the work is. Many come because much of their their family resides here, legally or ilegally. It’s worth noting that the southwestern portion of the United States just was Mexico, once upon a time. There is an undeniable economic and cultural continuity between Mexico and the United States. The border distorts and disrupts it, but it cannot and will never put an end to it. The pattern of traffic between these two countries is not something to choke off, but something sensibly to regulate and rationalise.

“But we do regulate it sensibly!” you may insist. Well, suppose you’re a hardworking and ambitious Mexican with no family legally in the States and not much education, but you’ve got friends there, 50 miles away, and they tell you they’re getting steady, relatively well-paying work. One of the things that’s so attractive to you about America is it’s sound institutions, including its sturdy rule of law. You would very much like to migrate to the United States legally. So what are your options? Zip. Zilch. Zero. You have no options!  There is no way to “get in line” and “wait your turn” because there is no line for you to stand in that leads to the legal right to live and work in the United States. So you pack up one day, take a hair-raising hike through the desert with your young daughter, meet up with your friends in Tucson, and get to work on the American dream. What were you supposed to do? Consign yourself and your daughter to a life on the edge of poverty out of respect for the American rule of law? Please.

The DREAM Act sends the message that although American immigration law in effect tries to make water run uphill, we are not monsters. It says that we will not hobble the prospects of young people raised and schooled in America just because we were so perverse to demand that their parents wait in a line before a door that never opens. It signals that we were once a nation of immigrants, and even if we have become too fearful and small to properly honour that noble legacy, America in some small way remains a land of opportunity.

Yes, the DREAM Act also incentivises illegal activity. But if the activity is not one that ought to be illegal, perhaps we should consider changing the law? Something to consider, anyway. In the meantime, this small reform will make America a somewhat more decent place.

David Frum at The Week:

Well that seems compassionate! And it’s only a small group of people we’re talking about, right? Just 60,000 a year.

Wrong. Hugely wrong.

Let me give some alternative scenarios, all of which would become possible if the DREAM Act were enacted.

Possibility No. 1: You are an illegal alien who entered the country at age 21, too old to qualify for DREAM. You’ve been apprehended and are threatened with deportation. What to do? Simple — using falsified papers, you file an application under DREAM anyway. Filing an application immediately halts deportation proceedings.

Wait a minute, you wonder: won’t using false papers get me in trouble? Not a bit. Just the opposite. Even if the fraud is detected and your application is refused, you simply revert to your previous status. In the process, however, you have gained a new legal advantage: DREAM forbids the Department of Homeland Security from using any information in a DREAM application in deportation proceedings. So now you argue that the deportation proceedings are fatally tainted because you have yourself provided DHS with information that they could now use against you.

The ploy might fail. Still: what a great no-risk option!

Possibility No. 2:. You’re a 40-year-old illegal alien who entered the country as an adult. You have a third-grade education. You are barely literate even in Spanish. Your back is bothering you; you are not sure how long you can continue working. Quite frankly, no country on earth would regard you as a desirable immigrant. Don’t despair. DREAM can offer you too an amnesty and gain you access to a lifetime of taxpayer-funded disability payments.

You have kids don’t you? If they apply successfully under DREAM, they can sponsor you. While some talk about DREAM applicants as “skilled” immigrants, in fact the law’s requirements are so lenient that your kids would have to mess up very seriously to forfeit the law’s benefits. All they need to do is enroll in some institution of higher learning or the military and survive there for two years. Graduation is not required.

Does that sound expensive? Don’t worry: your kids will receive in-state tuition rates and will be eligible for federal student aid.

They’re too young for university? Don’t worry: They can file the papers at age 12. As soon as they give notice of their future intent to attend to college or join the military, they immediately receive safe haven.

They don’t find military life attractive? If they can show “significant hardship,” they can quit before their two years have been fulfilled. Honorable discharge is NOT a requirement under the DREAM law.

They have had a little trouble with the law? Maybe a history of moving violations that put people’s lives at risk? So long as they have not been convicted of a serious crime, they’re okay.

DREAM is an amnesty not only for the people described by The Economist blogger, but also for all their parents and siblings.

Possibility No. 3. I’m still living in Guatemala, but I’d dearly like to come to the United States. Can DREAM help me?

Si se puede.

DREAM sends a message to every teenager on planet Earth: Come to America. If you enter the United States before age 16, and if you can remain here for five years (or can buy papers that purport to show you have lived here for five years), you’re as good as a citizen already. No deportation proceedings. No risk that your application will be used against you. Lenient and subsidized requirements for permanent residency. What’s not to love?

Wilkinson responds:

First, it’s not quite right to think of DREAM, a narrowly tailored provision that offers a relatively small group of young people a path to citizenship only if they are able to clear a number or hurdles, as an “amnesty”. Second, the process by which our notional 40-year-old undocumented immigrant can become a citizen is precisely the same as the process by which Mr Frum’s Canadian father could become a citizen through Mr Frum’s sponsorship. It’s not amnesty, and Mr Frum is simply goading the nativist rabble by choosing to misuse language in this way. Moreover, Mr Frum effectively misrepresents his scenario by conveniently omitting the dispiritng timeline. Let’s fix that.So, you’re Mr Frum’s 40-year-old undocumented immigrant. DREAM, which requires you to be between 12 and 35 at the time of application, does nothing for you, even if you did come into the country as a child. But you have a daughter who does qualifies. Woohoo! You’re in like Flynn, right? Well, no. Probably not.

Suppose DREAM becomes law in 2011. Your kid applies right away and earns status as a “conditional legal resident” (or “CLR”). Now, can you your kid sponsor you for legal permanent residency? No, she cannot. Only citizens can sponsor their parents. Suppose your kid goes to college and stays out of trouble. The earliest she can apply to become an “LPR” or “legal permanent resident” (ie, get a green card) is 5 1/2 years after approval for conditional permament residency. That’s some time in 2016 at the earliest. Now, a green card-holder can apply for citizenship after five years. Under DREAM, as I understand it, once a CLR is approved for a green card, the time spent as a CLR counts toward citizenship. So someone approved for a green card under the auspices of DREAM ought to be able to apply for citizenship right away. Let’s assume miracles from the bureaucracy and say all these applications are processed and approved at the speed of light. So, thanks to DREAM, your daughter will be a citizen no sooner than 2016, at which point she can finally sponsor you (as long as she’s over the age of 21). But don’t get excited yet! You entered the country illegally, and were working illegally before applying for a green card, and that means you aren’t eligible for a green card. ( See question 10 here.) So, sorry, DREAM can’t help you.

Suppose you entered the United States legally on a visa and then left your minor daughter here once your visa expired, or something like that. In that case, she could sponsor you for permanent residency after qualifying for citizenship through DREAM. In this case, you could be an American as soon as 2021, assuming magical bureaucratic efficiency. Of course, among those young people able to work their way to citizenship through DREAM, how many will have parents who qualify for sponsorship? Not many.

Mr Frum ends by spreading a falsehood. He writes:

And best of all: DREAM stands as an ongoing invitation, forever and ever. DREAM’s benefits extend not only to people who happen NOW to be illegally present inside the United States. DREAM’s benefits will be extended to all those who may enter illegally in future.

This is flat-out wrong. Unfortunately, DREAM is a niggardly, one-time affair. According to the text of the bill, DREAM applies only if “the alien has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding the date of enactment of this Act…” That is to say, DREAM wouldn’t apply to kids who came to America three years ago, much less to any kids who comes in the future. Mr Frum is sowing confusion when he says that

DREAM sends a message to every teenager on planet Earth: Come to America. If you enter the United States before age 16, and if you can remain here for five years (or can buy papers that purport to show you have lived here for five years), you’re as good as a citizen already.

Were Mr Frum to read the bill, he would see that he has made a serious error. DREAM is a stopgap measure of exceedingly limited scope which would slightly mitigate the injustices wrought by America’s reality-defying immigration and citizenship law. I look forward to his correction.

David Frum here, here and here. Frum:

I’ll answer Will Wilkinson’s specific points, but I first have to say this: Wilkinson’s mode of arguing exemplifies why the immigration debate doesn’t ever seem to go anywhere.

Advocates of more and more immigration habitually use a 4-stage method best identified by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn in the Yes Minister series. The stages go as follows:

1) Nothing is going to happen.

2) Something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.

3) Maybe we should do something about it, but there’s nothing we *can* do.

4) Maybe there was something we could have done, but it’s too late now.

Immigration proponents are so convinced that more immigration is good in itself that they do not always worry as much as they should about the way in which they achieve their aims. They sell huge society-changing transformations as small incremental steps.

When the sales pitch proves wrong or hugely exaggerated, they seem untroubled. Wilkinson’s own blitheness perfectly exemplifies the pattern. Running through his first post is a persistent undertone that the very idea of immigration laws is a big mistake. “Yes, the DREAM Act also incentivises illegal activity. But if the activity is not one that ought to be illegal, perhaps we should consider changing the law?”

Then when I point out the various ways in which this incentive operates, he squawks that the law in fact is “narrowly tailored” and applies only to “a relatively small group.”

Is it too Freudian to suspect that the lurid accusation of deceit repeatedly lodged by Will Wilkinson reveal an awareness of the credibility problems on his side of the argument?

Adam Ozimek at Modeled Behavior

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

The Democrats are trying to tinker with the DREAM Act to make it more palatable. Most notably, they’ve lowered the top age for eligibility from 35 to 30, but that misses the point. As I note in my piece on the homepage, what’s important is the age when they arrived, not how old they are now — someone who’s lived here continuously since they were 12 months old is simply not in the same boat as someone who arrived a month before their 16th birthday and is now 21, but DREAM treats them the same.

And I didn’t even address the cost issue, about which my colleague Steven Camarota writes today. He estimates that the bill’s college-attendance requirements will cost U.S. taxpayers $6.2 billion in subsidies for educating the illegal aliens who are expected to enroll to get a green card. And the roughly 1 million additional illegal-alien students at state universities and community colleges will reduce the educational opportunities that would otherwise have been available to Americans.

Jena McNeill at Heritage:

There is a big reason why the DREAM Act was a campaign promise for Reid, the same reason the White House recently hosted high-level meetings with members of the Hispanic caucus regarding the bill and has expressed so much interest in passing it: The act would be an amnesty for millions of illegal aliens inside the United States. This is something the White House and Reid have been desperately seeking through a comprehensive immigration bill, but has yet to gain traction in Congress.

Amnesty has never been a good way to solve the illegal immigration problem—whether through the DREAM Act or a mass legalization. As we learned in the 1986 amnesty, doing so simply encourages more individuals to break the law and enter the United States illegally. Among several other concerns, the DREAM Act rewards those who violated immigration laws by granting them in-state tuition while state laws deny legal aliens on student visas tuition benefits. The act’s lax standards would make it tough to police for fraudulent applicants, while the government would be prohibited using information submitted to deport anyone who files a DREAM Act application and does not qualify.

If Reid moves forward, the DREAM Act debate will almost certainly be filled with nice anecdotes about college education, military service, and additional tax revenues. Don’t be misled. Despite these seemingly humanitarian aims, the White House and Reid know what the DREAM Act debate it really about—finding a way to avoid the law and legalize illegal immigrants inside the United States. Packing amnesty in pretty paper doesn’t mean it isn’t still an amnesty. Congress and the White House need to focus instead on reforms to the immigration system that will enforce the law, maintain security, and promote the economy. Such a system requires robust enforcement of immigration laws inside the U.S., a secure border, reforms in the visa system, and cooperation with Mexico and other appropriate countries on law enforcement/public safety issues as well as free market initiatives.

David Knowles at AOL:

The Dream Act, legislation designed to give children of undocumented workers who came to the United States under the age 16 a path to citizenship in exchange for a promise to attend college or join the military, will be debated in Congress today.

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, a staunch opponent of the Dream Act, penned an op-ed for CNN in which he stated the following:

Because the Dream Act does not expire, or impose any numerical cap, the scope of the bill’s amnesty program could be enormous. And by rewarding illegality, the legislation will incentivize even more of it — and send the message that future illegal immigrants will be rewarded with amnesty as well.

Meanwhile, one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pointed out that punishing the children of illegal immigrants who have grown up as Americans is itself un-American.

These brave young men and women, who have all this energy and all this dedication, have no country. They have no legal status in this country. They didn’t have any voice in that decision about whether to come here. They were the kids brought in the back of a car or the back of a truck into the United States. But they grew up here believing America was home.

Gary Locke, President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary, agrees with Durbin, telling reporters:

The American taxpayer has invested in them, and unless we pass the Dream Act, we will keep throwing away this hard-earned investment. Also, a quarter of startup companies that eventually went public in the past 15 years were started by immigrants, he said, meaning some of these students could “develop the next Google or Intel.

The conservative Heritage Foundation, on the other hand, sees little to like about the proposed legislation:

Among several other concerns, the Dream Act rewards those who violated immigration laws by granting them in-state tuition while state laws deny legal aliens on student visas tuition benefits. The act’s lax standards would make it tough to police for fraudulent applicants, while the government would be prohibited using information submitted to deport anyone who files a Dream Act application and does not qualify.

 

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Filed under Immigration, Legislation Pending

Number 14… Number 14… Number 14

Heather Horn at The Atlantic with the round-up:

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell became the latest Republican to call for a reexamination of the Fourteenth Amendment and the issue of “birthright citizenship.” Senators Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl have also recently spoken out against the policy of granting automatic citizenship to all born in the U.S., even if they are the children of illegal immigrants. The birthright citizenship issue, though, doesn’t split quite along party lines. In the ensuing debate, several conservatives have come out opposing the proposed revision. Some maintain, though, that the Republican senators have a point.

Alex Altman at Swampland at Time:

The relevant facet of the 14th Amendment, which ensures due process and equal protection, states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” While proponents of repeal say the language–specifically the phrase, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof”–is ambiguous, judicial precedent is stacked against them. That’s one reason why the notion of revisiting the citizenship clause may be more of a political gambit than a realistic proposal. Bills challenging the citizenship provision have been proposed multiple times in recent years without success–former Rep. Nathan Deal, who’s running for governor of Georgia, submitted such an idea last year, and Rep. Ron Paul did so in 2007 without success. “Anchor babies,” as critics of birthright citizenship have dubbed children born to illegal immigrants, have long been a subject of scorn for conservatives. But a constitutional amendment requires the backing of two-thirds of both chambers of Congress and ratification by 38 states–which is highly unlikely, to say the least.

It’s unclear how far the party is willing to push the issue, or whether conference members are on the same page. A GOP aide told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent that “nobody is talking about an all out repeal of the 14th Amendment,” and that McConnell merely supported holding hearings to revisit the concept of birthright citizenship. But the topic has sparked a pitched battle in the Senate, as The Hill reports, and Senators like Graham and James Inhofe seem to have their minds made up.

A majority of Americans support Arizona’s new law, and in the short term a hard-line stance on illegal immigration may give Republicans a boost. As a long-term political strategy, however, attacking birthright citizenship is an easy way to alienate the nation’s largest and fastest-growing minority group. In one recent poll, 49% of respondents supported birthright citizenship, while 46% said the law should be tweaked. But that poll found nearly 80% of Latinos are in favor of the provision–a figure that’s surprising only because it wasn’t greater. Many conservatives have argued the GOP risks kneecapping itself with the Hispanic electorate. “If the Republican Party embraces ending birthright citizenship, then it will be assured losing Latino and ethnic voters — and presidential elections for the foreseeable future,” wrote Cesar Conda, former domestic policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

Would it be cynical of me to think that McCain’s “little jerk” is just trying to burnish his tough-on-immigration bona fides?:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced Wednesday night that he is considering introducing a constitutional amendment that would change existing law to no longer grant citizenship to the children of immigrants born in the United States.

Yeah, right. So the guy doesn’t want to do what’s necessary to actually stop illegal immigration, but he wants to make sure that the children born to all the illegals he helps bring here become U.S.-born illegal aliens? I’m afraid, though, that his rationale, whether he actually believes it or not, is in fact one shared by a lot of immigration hawks:

“People come here to have babies,” he said. “They come here to drop a child. It’s called ‘drop and leave.’ To have a child in America, they cross the border, they go to the emergency room, have a child, and that child’s automatically an American citizen. That shouldn’t be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”

I don’t like illegals having U.S.-citizen kids any more than anyone else, but there’s no evidence suggesting that this “drop and leave” stuff is true — anything’s possible, I suppose, but it’s just an assertion at this point. My own sense is that most illegal alien women who have kids here (accounting for nearly 10 percent of all children born in the U.S. each year) didn’t come for that purpose; they came for jobs or to join relatives, and one thing led to another, birds-and-bees style, and they had kids. There are no doubt some people who dash across the border illegally to have kids, but they just can’t amount to a large share of the problem. Nor does the problem of “birth tourism” require a change in the Constitution — we just need to permit (and require) our consular officers to reject visa applications from pregnant women, inviting them to re-apply once they’ve given birth in their own countries.

The phenomenon of citizen-children of illegal aliens is a symptom of too much illegal immigration, not a cause. Comprehensive immigration enforcement — abroad, at the borders, and in the interior — plus deep, permanent cuts in future legal immigration (which is the catalyst for illegal immigration) are the solution, because when we have less illegal immigration, we’ll have fewer kids born to illegals and the problem goes away. I’m afraid that if the citizenship issue makes progress, the libertarians will co-opt us, backing the citizenship change as a way of diverting attention from real immigration control.

Krikorian responds to e-mails

Daniel Foster at The Corner:

When I first read this anonymous Huffington Post story suggesting that Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) had signed on to the wholesale repeal of the 14th Amendment, I thought it was a gross mis-characterization, sloppy at best, a bold-faced lie at worst:

On Sunday, Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) became the highest-ranking Republican to call for the repeal of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, Kyl said that he opposes allowing children of undocumented immigrants to be granted U.S. citizenship and wants Congress to hold hearings on the matter.

But it turns out the blogger was just aping CBS News’s write-up of Kyl’s appearance on Face the Nation. That post contains the same non-sense about Kyl wanting to repeal the 14th Amendment:

Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., said today that Congress should hold hearings to look into denying citizenship to illegal aliens’ children born in the United States, as the fight over immigration widens into the explosive “birthright” issue.

Kyl told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he supports a call by fellow Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to introduce a new amendment to repeal the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

This is absurd. Here’s the text of the 14th Amendment, in full:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

[…]

What Kyl, Graham and others have tentatively embraced is an amendment that would clarify the first sentence of section 1 — and indeed, there is a credible argument that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” already excludes individuals who are here illegally, meaning that one might be able to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens by statutory as opposed to constitutional action.

Neither Kyl nor Graham,  nor any other elected Republican I know of, has talked about repealing the Due Process or Equal Protection clauses — which are prime constitutional underwriters of so much legislation favored by progressives. Nor, of course, has anybody talked about reestablishing the 3/5 Compromise or limiting suffrage for African-Americans.

Michael Brendan Dougherty at The American Conservative:

Of course, Graham was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2007. Back then dropped babies weren’t his concerns, rather he wanted to “tell the bigots to shut-up.”

There is no good reason for immigration restrictionists to soften up to Graham now. Overturning birthright citizenship doesn’t bring order or justice to America’s decades long problem of illegal immigration. There may be good reasons to think that overturning it would do little reverse illegal immigration, and much to prevent assimilation.

In any case, Graham’s re-framing of the immigration issue in one of the silliest and most counter-productive possible and his chosen method signals that he is not serious. Constitutional amendments are almost impossible to pass, especially in this age of gridlock and ideological sorting of parties. In other words, this is a stunt, just as his former denunciation of “bigots” was a stunt.

John Sides:

Everyone knows this controversy by now. Here is the bill. Here is Mitch McConnell yesterday. It’s highly unlikely that this push to end birthright citizenship will go anywhere, but it’s worth probing public opinion on this question and on an underlying question: what should be the boundaries of the American national community?

Some quick searching did not turn up many polls on birthright citizenship per se. Rasmussen recently asked whether children of illegal immigrants should be citizens. In their sample, 58% of respondents said no, and 33% said yes. It would be interesting to know whether this is an objection to birthright citizenship per se or essentially an objection to illegal immigration.

Now to the broader question. In 2004, the General Social Survey asked a battery of questions on potential qualifications for being American. This was the preamble:

Some people say the following things are important for being truly American. Others say they are not important. How important do you think each of the following is…

Here is the average importance that respondents accorded to each qualification.

americanqualifications.png

On average, respondents saw all of these qualifications are more important than unimportant. However, they also saw some qualifications as more important than others. In general, the more important qualifications reflect things that an immigrant can achieve: speaking English, becoming naturalized, respecting American institutions and laws. More exclusive criteria, and ones that immigrants cannot change (or change easily), are less important: being born in America, being Christian, or having American ancestry.

How might we interpret these results in light of the debate over birthright citizenship? Here are two possibilities.

First, Lindsey Graham and other opponents of birthright citizenship could take heart. Look, they might say, the public doesn’t even think being born in America is as important as other things. Given the importance accorded to American citizenship, we could make native-born children of immigrants go through the naturalization process and Americans would still see them as American. No harm done.

Second, some might object to that interpretation as a violation of the “spirit” underlying American public opinion. Americans’ sense of their national community is more inclusive than exclusive. Shifting American law in a more exclusive direction is not in this spirit. Why not recognize that more important than birthplace is speaking English, loyalty to the United States, and respect for its laws? And why not take heart that immigrants do learn English and are no less patriotic than native-born Americans?

Jill Lawrence at Politics Daily:

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is playing down his party’s new scrutiny of the 14th Amendment, which among other things confers U.S. citizenship on anyone born in the United States. McConnell on Thursday portrayed calls for hearings on the amendment as simply an attempt to examine what he calls the “unseemly” business of foreigners showing up just in time to have their babies, then going back home.

“I’m not aware of anybody who’s come out for altering the 14th Amendment,” McConnell said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. He said the push for hearings stems from a Washington Post story about foreign businesses that supply visas to expectant mothers. “This is the kind of thing that irritates Americans quite a lot,” he said. “I don’t think having hearings on an obvious unseemly business is a threat to the 14th Amendment. What’s wrong with looking into this? The Post did.”

McConnell added that “the remedy for it is not yet clear. But I am not advocating revisiting the 14th Amendment and I don’t think any others have. I think the view is, why don’t we take a look at this?”

UPDATE: Doug Mataconis

UPDATE #2: Via Andrew Sullivan,

Will Wilkinson

Tim Lee

More Wilkinson

John J. Miller at The Corner

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Filed under Immigration, The Constitution

Susan Enjoins, The Right Sphere Reacts

Tom Diemer at Politics Daily:

A federal judge has blocked a section of a controversial Arizona immigration law that empowered local police to check the immigration status of suspects they detain for other offenses, and also a requirement that immigrants carry identification papers at all times.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, considering several challenges to the polarizing state law — including a lawsuit filed by the Obama administration — left other sections in place, according to the New York Times. It is supposed to take effect Thursday.

Lawyers for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer are expected to appeal the ruling on a law that raised a furor across the country among both those favoring a crackdown on illegal immigration and others who believed the law was a violation of civil liberties and would lead to racial profiling of Hispanics .

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard

Daniel Foster at The Corner:

The preliminary ruling by Judge Susan R. Bolton of the U.S. District Court in Arizona enjoins the meatiest parts of the bill, putting their enactment on hold while the issue is slugged out in the courts.

The court blocked sections of SB1070 that would: require police to make “reasonable attempts” to determine the immigration status of persons stopped under suspicion of a crime; authorize police to arrest persons under probable cause that they have committed infractions that could lead to deportation; make it a crime for aliens not to carry immigration papers; make it a crime for an illegal aliens to apply for work.

The parts of the bill not enjoined by the ruling  include fairly anodyne provisions that make it easier for Arizona citizens and officials to help enforce federal immigration law, along with amendments to criminal statutes dealing with a number of other immigration-related crimes.

Ed Morrissey:

A temporary injunction gets put into place when a judge thinks that a court review has some likelihood of overturning a law in a full hearing.  That doesn’t amount to a decision on the merits, but it does indicate that Bolton thinks the Department of Justice can make a case for blocking the law.

What will be interesting will be to see whether this impacts public opinion.  The Obama administration has taken a beating in the polls on this issue, with poll after poll showing majorities of Americans supporting the Arizona law.  A temporary injunction on portions of the bill may get some people rethinking the issue, but I’d be surprised if there was any substantial movement. If a judge later rules against the law after a full hearing, it might change feelings about the law specifically, but probably not about enforcement.

I’d also expect the White House to claim this as vindication, but only because they have been utterly tone-deaf on this issue for the last three months.  They should wait on the I-told-you-so for the full hearing.

Michelle Malkin

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

It’s no surprise that key parts of the Arizona immigration law were just suspended by Judge Bolton, pending the full trial. Assuming the state doesn’t give up, which it won’t, everyone understood this would take several years and reach the Supreme Court. It’s a stupid way to make policy, but with ACLU lawyers (both those inside and those outside the government) fanatically committed to open borders, there’s no alternative.

William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection:

The decision has to be viewed as a near complete victory for opponents of the law, as it restricts the state from routine and compulsory checks of immigration status as a matter of legislative mandate.

The decision would not, as I read it, prevent police from checking immigration status in a particular case, but would prevent a statewide system to do so.

The result of the decision will be to have a chilling effect on law enforcement officers who, in the absense of the law, would have checked immigration status based on reasonable suspicion anyway. Enforcement of immigration laws in Arizona, as a result of the decision, will be even more difficult than prior to S.B. 1070.

The only portions of the law upheld were:

A.R.S. § 13-2929: creating a separate crime for a person in violation of a criminal offense to transport or harbor an unlawfully present alien or encourage or induce an unlawfully present alien to come to or live in Arizona

and

A.R.S. § 28-3511: amending the provisions for the removal or impoundment of a vehicle to permit impoundment of vehicles used in the transporting or harboring of unlawfully present aliens

[Note to readers: The analysis above has been adjusted from the original as time permitted a more complete reading of the decision]

Update: My thoughts on the result, Helplessness and Anarchy

Dave Poff at Redstate:

I just can’t stop myself…I feel like that kid in church that just loses it when his big brother does something goofy in the middle of the sermon…

So, if I have this right, what this “Judge” has just told us is that the time spent while we wait for Law Enforcement to “run” our licenses and plate numbers is time during which our liberties are being restricted. Please let me be the next white guy to get pulled over so I can tell a State Trooper he is not allowed to run my numbers because it would be a burden on me, and it would restrict my liberty…that right there is made of teh awesome…but wait! There’s more:

Gisela and Eduardo Diaz went to the Mexican consulate in Phoenix on Wednesday seeking advice because they were worried about what would happen to their 3-year-old granddaughter if they were pulled over by police and taken to a detention center.

“I knew the judge would say that part of the law was just not right,” said Diaz, a 50-year-old from Mexico City who came to Arizona on a since-expired tourist visa in 1989. “It’s the part we were worried about. This is a big relief for us.”e-expired tourist visa…hunh-nothing wrong with THAT now, is there?

You do the math there folks? Here since 1989 on a since-expired tourist visa…hunh-nothing wrong with THAT now, is there? And of course, Judge Bolton steps in it even deeper by suggesting:

“There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens under the new (law),” Bolton ruled. She added that a requirement of the law that police determine the immigration status of all arrested people will prompt legal immigrants to be “swept up by this requirement.”

Just how will we wrongfully arrest legal aliens? Never mind; I’m running out of popcorn.

Don’t miss the hilarious sideshow via the LA Times about Union thugs and pro-Federal-law-violation-by-non-Americans activists…caravaning to AZ to protest the law that never made it to the streets of AZ because of this so-called federal Judge.

Check the calendars folks, and wait for the date to be published for the appeals process…I take cash and credit cards… I BET the appeals will be delayed until that magical and mysterious date of November 3, 2010…a day AFTER all those illegal votes can be cast to keep Democrats in office for two MORE years of doing nothing about the problem they created in the first place.

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The Future Of Bipartisan Legislation Is Cloudy, With A Slight Chance Of Immigration Reform

Photo by Brendan Smialowski of Reuters

Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Lindsey Graham in WaPo:

Our immigration system is badly broken. Although our borders have become far more secure in recent years, too many people seeking illegal entry get through. We have no way to track whether the millions who enter the United States on valid visas each year leave when they are supposed to. And employers are burdened by a complicated system for verifying workers’ immigration status.

Last week we met with President Obama to discuss our draft framework for action on immigration. We expressed our belief that America’s security and economic well-being depend on enacting sensible immigration policies.

The answer is simple: Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration and support legal immigration. Throughout our history, immigrants have contributed to making this country more vibrant and economically dynamic. Once it is clear that in 20 years our nation will not again confront the specter of another 11 million people coming here illegally, Americans will embrace more welcoming immigration policies.

Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.

Besides border security, ending illegal immigration will also require an effective employment verification system that holds employers accountable for hiring illegal workers. A tamper-proof ID system would dramatically decrease illegal immigration, experts have said, and would reduce the government revenue lost when employers and workers here illegally fail to pay taxes.

We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card. Each card’s unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone’s information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information, nor tracking devices. The card will be a high-tech version of the Social Security card that citizens already have.

Prospective employers would be responsible for swiping the cards through a machine to confirm a person’s identity and immigration status. Employers who refused to swipe the card or who otherwise knowingly hired unauthorized workers would face stiff fines and, for repeat offenses, prison sentences.

We propose a zero-tolerance policy for gang members, smugglers, terrorists and those who commit other felonies after coming here illegally. We would bolster recent efforts to secure our borders by increasing the Border Patrol’s staffing and funding for infrastructure and technology. More personnel would be deployed to the border immediately to fill gaps in apprehension capabilities.

Spencer Hsu at WaPo:

Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) announced the building blocks Thursday for a new push in Congress to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, outlining a plan to require U.S. citizens and legal immigrants to obtain a new high-tech Social Security card tied to their fingerprints or other biometric identifiers and to create a system to bring in temporary workers as the U.S. economy demands.

The immigration “blueprint,” outlined in an editorial posted on The Washington Post’s Web site, drew an immediate vow of support from President Obama, who urged Congress “to act at the earliest possible opportunity.”

“I . . . pledge to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus on this important issue so we can continue to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. Obama congratulated Schumer and Graham on what he called “a promising, bipartisan framework which can and should be the basis for moving forward.”

In the editorial, Graham and Schumer shied away from details, and did not say when they would produce a bill.

Advocates set an April deadline, but that would require additional Republican support. Schumer and Graham asked Obama at a Tuesday meeting to help in coming days, according to a source familiar with talks.

Chris Lawrence:

There isn’t anything terribly original here; Hsu points out that most of these elements were part of the failed comprehensive proposals under the Bush administration as well, which were eventually abandoned in favor of stricter enforcement and building both a virtual (and bug-ridden) and real fence along the border; while perhaps rhetorically appealing to some on both sides of the aisle, neither solution was likely to have any real effect on the informal economy or most of the millions of illegal aliens already in the United States.

But in the run-up to a midterm election where many Democrats in marginal seats are already running scared of Obamacare and likely facing Tea Party-energized Republicans and independents, scaring up enough votes for the Schumer-Graham plan in both chambers of Congress will be a serious challenge. With a biometric social security card that looks suspiciously like a mandatory national ID card (at the moment, the social security card is an optional form of ID for people who can prove the right to work with a citizenship document), a “path to legalization” that strongly resembles the paths in the past that were spun by opponents as “amnesty,” and a guest worker system that working-class union members and non-union employees alike probably fear will amount to “foreigners stealing American jobs,” the bill’s chances of passage in any form, particularly before November, seem very slim.

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

Hey, I thought to myself, maybe they’ve resolved some of the disputes among the various pro-amnesty factions that had been delaying the presentation of a bill. Eagerly anticipating some new development or formulation I made the time to read the op-ed all the way through.

Nothing.

No specifics whatsoever. I thought I was reading an op-ed from 2001 (or 2002 or 2003 or 2004 or…). It’s just the same grand bargain of amnesty and increased immigration in exchange for promises of future enforcement (their version includes a biometric national ID card), without any details about how legalization would work or how many indentured servants would be provided to cheap-labor employers each year. It’s not clear why the Post even agreed to publish the piece, other than it seemed salient in anticipation of Sunday’s illegal-alien-palooza on the Mall. Until labor agrees to support an indentured labor program for “temporary” workers, business isn’t going to back any bill and nothing’s going to move. Wake me when something happens.

Andrea Nill at Think Progress:

Earlier this week, the Houston Chronicle reported that Texas clergy members were meeting with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) that they would “have his back if he risks becoming a target of that anger by helping craft and pass comprehensive immigration reform.” Cornyn responded by punting on the issue and saying that it is up to President Obama to lead. Members of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) responded urging its 30,000 members to flood Cornyn’s phone lines “asking Senator Cornyn to turn down Obama, Graham, Schumer and McCain’s requests for him to support comprehensive immigration reform amnesty.” Today, ALIPAC patted itself on the back and took credit for Cornyn stating “I do not and will not support amnesty” after the calls were made.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-TX) has indicated that he will not go forward with the comprehensive immigration reform bill that he is working on with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) if they cannot find another Republican co-sponsor. Given that fact, if ALIPAC did succeed in bullying Cornyn out of supporting an effort that a majority of the American people want to see, ALIPAC can also credit itself with bringing the nation another step farther away from fixing the nation’s broken immigration sytem.

Chances are it’s more complicated than that. To begin with, Schumer and Graham aren’t proposing simply pardoning 12 million unauthorized immigrants and overlooking the fact that they have broken the law by entering and most likely working in the country without proper documentation, as the term “amnesty” implies. Schumer and Graham have proposed putting undocumented immigrants on an “earned path to legalization” that would involve paying a fine, registering with the government, learning English, and undergoing a background check. It’s possible that Cornyn is against “amnesty,” but is open to the approach that Schumer and Graham have put forth.

What’s more likely is that Cornyn is simply playing politics with the White House. Cornyn has repeatedly said he is willing to work on comprehensive immigration reform, but that it’s up to President Obama to lead

Jonathan Weiseman at WSJ:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who is currently trying to help President Barack Obama out of the thickets of immigration, Guantanamo Bay and climate change, showed his claws Friday, declaring he’ll drop out of negotiations on a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws if health care passes.

“The first casualty of the Democratic health care bill will be immigration reform. If the health care bill goes through this weekend, that will, in my view, pretty much kill any chance of immigration reform passing the Senate this year,” Graham said in a statement blast-emailed to the Washington press corps. Just this morning, Graham and Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) had an op-ed in the Washington Post touting a bipartisan immigration overhaul. “The American people deserve more than empty rhetoric and impractical calls for mass deportation,” the two lawmakers wrote. “We urge the public and our colleagues to join our bipartisan efforts in enacting these reforms.”

An immigration bill was a long shot anyway, and even long-shot status is probably too generous. The negotiations on closing Guantanamo in exchange for Democratic concessions on detaining and trying terrorism suspects are far closer to fruition. Still, in a deeply polarized Washington, Graham understands he holds most of the cards in the talks.

Gabriel Arana at The American Prospect:

Yesterday’s major immigration-reform demonstration on the National Mall took a back seat to the eleventh-hour wrangling over health care in the House of Representatives – and the histrionics of the much smaller Tea Party crowd yelling racial and homophobic slurs at members of Congress. That seemed to underscore the very reason the pro-immigration crowd is so frustrated: Despite having promised to make immigration reform a “top priority” in his first year, Obama’s efforts have been concentrated on health care. But the demonstrators drew a line in the sand. Speaker after speaker said the immigrant community would “hold Obama accountable.” Nydia M. Velázquez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told the crowd that they should tell lawmakers “that you will not forget which side of this debate they stood on.” Others threatened not to support Democrats in the midterm elections if there was no movement.

If the Schumer-Graham blueprint is any indication, bi-partisan momentum is building toward a major overhaul of the immigration system, but how likely are we to see a bill proposed and passed this year? Despite grass-roots enthusiasm, there is reason for cynicism: We’ve been here many times before. Even with bipartisan support – and sometimes even sponsorship from members of both parties – comprehensive immigration reform failed in 2005, 2006, and 2007. The most recent failed proposal, the 2007 “Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act,” was supported by President Bush and included provisions sought by Republicans (increased enforcement) and Democrats (a path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country). A cloture vote came up short in the Senate, killing the bill.

The real hurdle for immigration reform is the question of whether undocumented immigrants who are already here should be given amnesty. In anticipation of an amnesty battle, the right is sounding the alarm:

The bill doesn’t have a prayer, because the American people oppose rewarding lawbreakers, which then encourages illegal immigration … Allowing millions of illegal immigrants to stay and take jobs away from citizens is like giving a burglar a key to the house. Illegal immigrants should return home and play by the rules like millions of legal immigrants. — Rep. Lamar Smith, top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, to the Washington Times

This entire situation is analogous to the immigration of destitute Goth masses across the Danube river into the Roman Empire, which began with the permission of the Emperor in about 376 A.D. Thirty-four years later King Alaric and the Visi-Goths over-ran and sacked the City of Rome, itself. Eventually, the collapse of that empire ushered in the Dark Ages. … This nation may very well fall in a much more civilized way, without a shot being fired. — John Work at David Horowitz’s Newsreel

If this immigration amnesty proposal is successful, America, this great beacon of freedom in the world, will be turned into a communist, third world, multi-lingual, dumbed down, uneducated mass of humanity that can more easily be controlled and manipulated by their new Masters, the new American politburo and the old establishment oligarchy. — John Wallace at Right Side News

The comparison to burglars, the stock analogy to Rome (let’s face it, what hasn’t been blamed for bringing down the empire?), and the suggestion that providing a path to citizenship for undocumented workers will “dumb the country” down are either amusingly hyperbolic or just plain offensive, but they show the sort of resistance from the right that supporters of immigration reform are up against. I am not optimistic that any immigration reform plan that includes a path to citizenship will have a filibuster-proof chance this year given the partisan rancor left in health care’s wake, the increasing radicalism among Republicans, and Democrats’ fatigue after a bruising fight.

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Filed under Immigration, Legislation Pending