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Published: Wed, 22 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Wed, 22 Feb 2017 23:56:01 -0500


Trump's Fake News Attack on Sweden, Immigrants, and Crime

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 15:45:00 -0500

Is it really safe for you to return to Sweden, asked an American friend, jokingly, when I prepared to check out from my hotel in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump had just warned his audience in Melbourne, Florida, about Muslim immigrants and terrorism in Europe. "You look at what happened last night in Sweden" the president yelled, "Sweden! Who would believe this!" Swedes took to social media to speculate about which awful event he referred to. An aged pop star had technical problems during rehearsal for a popular music contest, observed someone. Another Swede tweeted that out of respect for the families of victims we should not speculate about the terrible event until after it actually occurs. #lastnightinsweden quickly became a meme. Soon Trump took to Twitter to admit that he was not referring to something that happened in Sweden last night, but something that happened on Fox News last night. Tucker Carlson had interviewed Ami Horowitz about a documentary claiming that Muslim refugees were the cause of an "incredible surge in violence" in Sweden. This short segment was so full of distortions that it could be used as exhibit A for Trump's claim that the media peddles fake news. A Swedish policeman who was interviewed for the documentary claimed that Horowitz edited the footage to make it seem like he answered other questions, making it seem like the officer warned about refugees when the officer did not. The officer referred to Horowitz as "a madman." According to Ami Horowitz, "it was not long ago that the first Islamist terrorist attack occurred in the country." In fact, the only known attempt was in December 2010, more than six years ago (and no one was harmed but the attacker). But Trump's defenders have countered by arguing that violent crime has risen dramatically in Sweden since the surge of refugees began arriving in 2014. Swedish crime, you see, is not about Swedish crime any more. It's about the risk posed by Muslims and refugees. But if crime is rising dramatically, that phenomenon would not just be picked up by Fox News and Breitbart, but also by crime statistics. So what does the data say? Yes, immigrants to Sweden do commit more crimes than people born in Sweden, in contrast to countries like the United States, where immigrants commit less crime than the native-born. That's partly because refugees to Sweden are much poorer and less educated, and because they have a much harder time finding a job. The Swedish economy has been liberalized over the last two decades, but we've made exceptions for the labor market, which still makes it difficult to work and easy to claim welfare. There has also been an increase in organized crime in recent years. In a country with harsh drug laws, gangs fight over who gets to sell cannabis in specific territories. Large-scale immigration has contributed since new entrants want a piece of the pie. And yet the data fail to record the incredible surge in violence that Trump's defenders talk about. The homicide rate is almost exactly what it was a decade ago, despite the gang wars. The latest Swedish Crime Survey, from the Swedish Council for Crime Prevention, shows that the population exposed to assault has declined by 0.7 percentage point in the last 10 years, and offenses against the person in general "is approximately the same level as in 2005"—almost a decade before the surge of refugees. But isn't Sweden the rape capital of the world, as members of the alt-right constantly point out? Sure, Sweden has more registered sex offenses than other countries. But the willingness to report such crimes differs dramatically between countries. A culture where you talk openly about such crimes, and don't blame the victims, will also have more cases reported. Sweden has made a conscious effort to get women to report any offense, whereas countries like Saudi Arabia and Mozambique do everything to stop women from reporting. (They have almost no offenses. Fabulous!) Sweden differs from other countries in two more ways. The definition of rape has been extended to include sexual abuse [...]

Deported for Giving a Handjob?

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 14:15:00 -0500

On September 1, 2016, "Sunny" Kimnam gave a massage and a hand-job to an undercover police informant. Since that day, she has been incarcerated, and faces likely deportation to Korea. Kimnam's story is far from unique. Tucked in tales of "human trafficking investigations" and massage-parlor prostitution busts across the U.S., you'll find that these efforts are almost always aided or led by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents. Sometimes it's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), sometimes the Enforcement and Removal Operations unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE). Since January 1, 2017, DHS has been involved in at least a dozen massage-parlor raids, arresting at least 26 people. Twenty-three of these arrests were women, all Asian and mostly in their 50s. None were found to be involved in human trafficking, but they were arrested on charges such as prostitution, promoting prostitution, and giving an unlicensed massage. And for those who are immigrants—whether in the country legally or not—it could be just the beginning. Arrest... But First, Ejaculation Since at least 2012, Ace Acupressure Spa operated out of the small mountain town of Larksville, Pennsylvania, tucked between a laundromat and a used-car lot in part of town that looks like it has seen better days. Online ads for Ace tout deep tissue massage, care for "frozen shoulder," and remedies for head, back, and neck pain provided by a professional Asian massage therapist. But the placement of these ads (in "adult" and sensual body-rub sections of ad sites) and the images they contain (wholesome-looking but marginally clothed young women) leave little question that the spa's appeal might not rest solely in employees' masseuse skills. Larksville sits in Luzerne County, a place suggested by Newsweek to hold the key to Donald Trump's election. It's one of those oft-mythologized areas that broke for Barack Obama in 2012 but turned to Trump—by 20 points—in the past election. Newsweek called it "a county of 'Firewood for Sale' signs and volunteer fire departments [and] beautiful views from the tops of mountains." But it's also a place where manufacturing jobs have long been disappearing, more than 20 percent of families with children live in poverty, and the Hispanic population in some areas has skyrocketed in recent years. Immigration enforcement was big on the minds of residents that Newsweek talked to post-election. The employees of Ace Accupressure—"Sunny" Kimnam and at least two other Korean women—were part of a small minority of Asians and Asian-Americans in Luzerne County—just about 1 percent, according to U.S. census data, and just 0.28 percent in Larksville proper. With the stigma already associated with Asian massage parlors, it's not surprising that Ace attracted local law-enforcement attention. But what's strange (or should be) in this small-time, small-town vice investigation is its orchestration by DHS officials. Ultimately, just two women were arrested in the operation, Sunny and 55-year-old K. Suk, both Korean nationals. On September 1, Suk had greeted the undercover police informant at the door, led him to a massage room, and collected $60, the price of a standard massage, before leaving the room. The masseuse, Sunny, went on to explain that it would be $60 more "for topless," according to the state's Affadavit for Probable Cause, "and made a hand motion for a hand job." After starting with a regular massage, Sunny "began to massage the [informant's] penis until he ejaculated," the police affidavit states. He "cleaned himself up and was then escorted out." About three hours later, police showed up with a search warrant. They found unused condoms and cash, including the cash paid by the informant earlier, and arrested Sunny and Suk, later determining that both had previous convictions for prostitution and both were involved in Ace Accupressure's management. From that day on, Sunny and Suk would remain prisoners in county jail until pleading guilty, in January, to one count each of misdemeanor[...]

The Trump-Obama Immigration Continuum

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:45:00 -0500

(image) Is President Donald Trump breaking brand new ground with his deportation raids? A little bit yes, and whole lotta bit no.

In today's L.A. Times, I point out some of the conspiracy theories and newly rediscovered enforcement practices that have come with the Trump presidency, and suggest that you cannot hope to rouse a meaningful defense against today's crackdown without also grappling with yesterday's expulsions. Excerpt:

The recent raids, however, were planned before Trump had lifted a finger on immigration policy, ICE Field Office Director for Los Angeles David Marin told reporters. And of the 161 people arrested in the California sweeps, "all but five would've been cases we would've prioritized for enforcement previously."

Much of what Trump has done is set the immigration enforcement clock all the way back to 2013. The Secure Communities federal/local data-sharing program that Trump is exhuming was only shuttered by Obama at the end of 2014. The resumed collection of non-targeted "collateral" aliens during immigration raids was the norm well past the 2012 Democratic National Convention paean to "DREAMers."

Even Trump's announced intentions to prioritize the expulsion of "bad hombres" has echoes of Obama in both policy and rhetoric. As recently as 2015, the 44th president described his approach as "making sure that people who are dangerous, people who are gangbangers or criminals, that we're deporting them as quickly as possible, that we're focusing our resources there." Trump is hardly the first resident of 1600 Pennsylvania to be tagged as the "deporter in chief." […]

The fact is, starting with the 2006 collapse of comprehensive immigration reform, successive pro-reform administrations deliberately used stepped-up enforcement as a political tool—George W. Bush to call the bluff on restrictionists who derailed a treasured second-term goal, Obama to build up "credibility" for legislative negotiations that never took off.

When we give that much power and discretion to the president, and subject millions of lives to the passions of national politics, whimsical and arbitrary punishment will be the norm, not the exception.

Read the whole thing here.

3 Changes We Are Likely to See in Trump's Revised Travel Ban

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 08:15:00 -0500

Instead of seeking a rehearing on the question of whether the temporary restraining order against his travel ban should be lifted, President Trump plans to issue a revised executive order next week that addresses the due process concerns raised by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. In a brief filed yesterday, Acting Solicitor General Noel Francisco and Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler say Trump will "rescind the Order," which suspended the admission of refugees for 120 days and imposed a 90-day ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, and "replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order to eliminate what the [appeals court] panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns." At his press conference yesterday, Trump said he will issue the revised order "toward the beginning or middle" of next week. Here are three changes he is likely to make: 1. The new order will explicitly exclude lawful permanent residents from the travel ban. The Supreme Court has said green-card holders have a right to due process if the government tries to stop them from re-entering the country after traveling abroad. The Trump administration concedes that point but says the travel ban should not be interpreted as covering lawful permanent residents (LPRs), even though officials at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security initially said it did. "The principal basis of the panel's decision was its conclusion that the Order applies to LPRs," Francisco and Kneedler say. "The Order is ambiguous in this respect and, at the time it was issued, was reasonably interpreted to encompass LPRs. However, it is also reasonably interpreted to exclude LPRs, and the White House Counsel's '[a]uthoritative guidance' confirms that narrower interpretation." 2. The new order probably will exclude people who do not have green cards but are already legally living in the United States. The Trump administration thinks the 9th Circuit was wrong to suggest that people from the seven banned countries who are legally working or studying in the U.S. on nonimmigrant visas have any due process rights when the government decides to revoke their visas. Francisco and Kneedler say "no court has adopted" that position, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has rejected it. But the visas of students and scholars at state universities are at the center of the case before the 9th Circuit, which was brought by Washington and Minnesota, so it seems likely that Trump's revised order will leave them alone. "The Order's principal focus is on aliens who have never entered this country and have no connection to it," Francisco and Kneedler say. "The Supreme Court 'has long held that an alien seeking initial admission to the United States requests a privilege and has no constitutional rights regarding his application.'" It sounds like Trump will narrow the order so that its scope is defined by this "principal focus." 3. The new order will clarify that it has no impact on asylum applications. The 9th Circuit noted that refugees have a statutory right to seek asylum once they have arrived in the United States, meaning they have potential due process claims if they are summarily ejected from the country. Francisco and Kneedler say the 120-day ban on refugees "does not address the existing statutes or regulations for aliens who are physically present or arriving in the United States and are seeking asylum or similar protection." In declining to override the TRO against Trump's order, the 9th Circuit also said the travel ban raises due process concerns insofar as it applies to foreign nationals "who have a relationship with a U.S. resident or an institution that might have rights of its own to assert." The Supreme Court has neither accepted such third-party claims nor definitively ruled them out. In Kerry v. Din, a 2015 case involving a U.S. citizen whose Afghan husband was denied an immigration visa, three justices said she had no due process ri[...]

An Immigration Crackdown That Could Make Crime Problems Worse

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 12:20:00 -0500

Immigration officials descending on a woman who went to court seeking protection from an allegedly abusive boyfriend is exactly the kind of enforcement problem sanctuary cities are worried about—with good reason. This is not behavior that's going to make America safer (or even safe "again," since some are concerned that the recent increase in crime is the start of a new trend). A woman in El Paso County, Texas, went to court to try to get a protective order against a boyfriend she claimed was abusing her. At the courthouse, according to a county attorney, a pack of immigration officials staked the woman out and then detained her. This was not some random occurrence as a result of President Donald Trump's call for tougher enforcement. Immigration officials tracked down the woman because of a tip. The attorney, who represents domestic violence victims seeking help from the court, worried that it was the abusive boyfriend who snitched on her. In the inevitable "This person is no angel" category of reporting, she had apparently been deported before repeatedly and had also been charged with crimes in the past. We don't want to ignore those details. The attorney assisting her with the protective order said she was unaware of her criminal background at the time. But just as we should not allow the "He's no angel" excuse to let possible incidences of police abuse of citizens to slide, we shouldn't use it to ignore the potential consequences of this mechanism of immigration enforcement. The image of a bunch of immigration officers descending on a woman who turned to the court for protection from a violent man is exactly the kind of thing that's going to spread around and discourage immigrants from cooperating with the police or turning to the police for help. The consequence will be a festering of criminal behavior, not a cure. Step away from immigration and consider the context of our drug wars and our war on sex work and prostitution. We know that because of enforcement of the law, people who voluntarily participate in these black markets cannot easily turn to police for help if they're victimized or harmed because they have to worry that they'll be arrested themselves. And so we have pushes for things like "Good Samaritan" laws that would protect those who report drug overdoses to authorities from being arrested for possession. This helps save lives. Making immigration enforcement harsher makes it harder for people to turn to the government for assistance and to inform about those actual "bad dudes" Trump worries about. The great paradox of black markets (and illegal immigration is certainly an example of a black market) is that harsher government intervention doesn't eliminate them—it makes participation all the more dangerous. As Matt Welch previously noted, even Trump crony Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor, understood that overly harsh enforcement attitudes toward otherwise peaceful illegal immigrants made his communities less safe: As [Giuliani] once put it, you need to "protect undocumented immigrants...from being reported to the [Immigration and Naturalization Service] while they are using city services that are critical for their health and safety, and for the health and safety of the entire city." If residents live in fear that each interaction with a government employee could lead to deportation, they are not going to report crime, seek medical attention for communicable diseases, or send their kids to school. And when that happens, perhaps just like the drug war, there will be calls for even harsher government crackdowns from those who think the government just isn't trying hard enough. If you don't believe me, check out Kentucky, where lawmakers are considering even harsher criminal penalties for opioid trafficking.[...]

GOP Anti-Import Border-Adjustment Tax Is Protectionist Garbage

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 11:30:00 -0500

I was on Fox Business' Kennedy last night, talking with the eponymous host about the Republican plan to levy a "border-adjustment tax" on imports. This is part of a larger tax plan, some of which President Trump has said he supports, to cut corporate rates from 35 percent to 20 percent. Cutting corporate taxes—which are mostly passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices—is a good idea, especially if it also includes a provision to tax companies on a territorial rather than global basis. As it stands, U.S. corporate rates are not only among the highest on the planet, our government taxes American companies on all profits, regardless of where they are earned. American companies get a credit for taxes paid abroad but they also get a bill for the difference between foreign taxes paid and what the U.S. government says is theirs. That's one reason why companies as diverse as Burger King and Apple park so much of their profits or operations overseas. It's to avoid high domestic rates. For a number of reasons, I'm not a fan of border-adjustment taxes. For starters, the scheme is incredibly complicated and does nothing to effect the simplification of taxes, which should be part and parcel of every tax reform. Beyond that, it's of a piece with the GOP's growing and stupid protectionist posture to "make America great again" by making life more difficult and expensive for most people. So much produce and so many consumer goods come from abroad any tax hike on them will pick your pocket at Best Buy, Walmart, and Kroger. And while proponents claim the import tax will be mostly paid for by non-taxation of exports and a strengthened dollar (like I said, incredibly complicated), at this point in time, the only acceptable policy all the way around is to cut tax rates and then pay for the trims by reducing spending even more. It's not as if we have deficits and debt because we're not raking in enough dough, after all. It's because we spend too much. With very few exceptions, the hallmark of the Trump presidency (what are we, like three weeks in?) seems to me to be insularity. His policy-making operations are unpredictable and unknowable and he doesn't want to have to explain himself. He wants to keep foreign people and goods out of the country. The Republican Party seems extremely happy to play along with all that, especially if its longstanding grudge against immigrants gets taken care of and dollars continue to flow to old people in the form of non-diminished spending on Social Security and Medicare. Free markets might have once been part of the GOP catechism but it seems to been left out of the latest edition of the prayer book. To the extent that Trump and the Republicans insist on closing ranks, closing borders, and closing trade, they absolutely represent a dead end (the Democrats are not any better in this regard, to be sure). We live in a world of forced transparency, where closed systems are increasingly giving way to open ones. Power, meaning, and population are being democratized and dispersed via technology and changes in mind-set and temperament even in the face of Islamic terrorism and other reactionary forces. Political alliances predicated upon exerting more and finer control over what is allowable will be among the biggest casualties. There's a reason neither the Republican nor the Democratic candidate for president won a majority of the popular vote: Nobody much liked what either one stood for. [...]

President Trump's Travel Ban Requires Intellectual Honesty and Political Indifference on the Part of Judges

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 00:01:00 -0500

Over the past weekend, Trump administration officials offered harsh criticisms of the judicial interference with the enforcement of the president's immigration order. The Jan. 27 order suspended the immigration privileges of all refugees from Syria indefinitely and all immigrants from seven designated countries for 90 days. After a federal district judge in Seattle enjoined the federal government from enforcing the executive order and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that injunction, President Donald Trump's folks pounced. They argued that we have an imperial judiciary that thinks it has the final say on public policy — one that will freely second-guess the president in areas that are exclusively his under the Constitution. Here is the back story. The Constitution provides for essentially a shared responsibility in the creation of laws. Congress passes bills, and the president signs them into law. Sometimes bills become laws over the president's veto. Bills are often proposed by presidents and disposed of by Congress. When challenges to the meaning or application of the laws are properly made, the judiciary decides what the laws mean and whether they are consistent with the Constitution. My point is that there are substantial roles for the legislative and executive branches in the process of lawmaking and that there is an exclusive role for the judiciary in interpreting the meaning of the law. When it comes to articulating and carrying out the foreign policy of the nation, the president is superior to the other branches. Though the House of Representatives and the Senate appropriate money for foreign policy expenses and the Senate ratifies treaties and confirms ambassadors, the president alone determines who our friends and enemies are. Congress has given him many tools with which to make and carry out those determinations. Among those tools is substantial discretion with respect to immigration. That discretion permits the president, on his own, to suspend the immigration privileges of any person or group he believes poses a danger to national security. Though the effect of his suspension may, from time to time, fall more heavily on one religious group, the purpose of that suspension may not be to target a religious group. Can an immigrant who has been banned from entering the United States challenge the ban? In a word, yes. Once an immigrant has arrived here, that person has due process rights (the right to know the law, to have a hearing before a fair and neutral authority, and to appeal to a superior neutral and fair authority). This is so because the Constitution protects all persons. The challenge to the president's exercise of his discretion cannot be based on a political disagreement with him or an objection to the inconveniences caused by the enforcement; it can only be based on an alleged constitutional violation. In the Seattle case, the states of Washington and Minnesota had sued the president and alleged that he had issued his Jan. 27 order to target Muslims, many of whom study or work at state universities. Can the courts hear such a case? In a word, yes; but they must do so with intellectual honesty and political indifference. The judiciary is an independent branch of the government, and it is co-equal to the president and the Congress. It is answerable to its own sense of scrupulous intellectual honesty about the Constitution. It is not answerable to the people. Yet in return for the life tenure and unaccountability its members enjoy, we expect political indifference — that judges' decisions shall not be made in order to produce their own politically desired outcomes. It is the job of the judiciary to say what the Constitution means, say what the statutes mean and determine with finality whether a governmental actor used governmental power consistent with the Constitution and the statutes. When the courts do this with intellectua[...]

Should the U.S. Open Its Borders to Everyone? (Reason Podcast)

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 17:24:00 -0500

When the government puts "quantitative restrictions on immigration" it's attempting to centrally plan "a complicated market with people who have heterogeneous skills," argued economist Ben Powell at an immigration debate held Monday night in New York City. Powell, who's head of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University, went up against Mark Krikorian from the Center for Immigration Studies, who argued that if the U.S. were to eliminate numerical caps on immigration "100 million people per decade" might come here—"a revolutionary policy" that would destroy our social fabric.

The event was hosted by the Soho Forum, a monthly libertarian-themed debate series. The following proposition was on the table: "U.S. immigration policy should be to issue migration visas, without any numerical limitations, to all applicants who are not on a terrorist watch list, and who do not otherwise have criminal records or contagious diseases."

It was an Oxford-style debate, in which audience members vote before and after the speakers have their say, and the side that gets the most people to change their minds wins. Krikorian, arguing against the resolution, won the contest by a narrow margin. As we've done in the past, Reason is running audio from the Soho Forum's debate series on its podcast.

Listen below—and subscribe to our podcast at iTunes so you'll never miss an episode!

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You’re Not Really a ‘Sanctuary City’ If You Keep Sending the Police to Harass the Poor

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 12:40:00 -0500

After years and years of harassment, arrests, and private property destruction, the City of Los Angeles has finally decriminalized street vending. Jesse Walker took note of the decision a few weeks ago. There are tens of thousands of street vendors within the Los Angeles area who now have a legal avenue to make a living (money-grubbing city permitting and inspection schemes notwithstanding). The Los Angeles City Council didn't make this abrupt change because they suddenly realized their oppressive municipal regulations were harming its poorest citizens. It happened because Los Angeles has declared itself to be a "sanctuary city," where police decline to check to immigration status of those they interact with or those who end up in their custody. President Donald Trump promised a crackdown on illegal immigration, particularly down near the border to Mexico. By arresting street vendors, they could potentially be introducing them into a legal system where federal immigration agents would step in and deport them if it turned out they were in the country illegally. But that's just one tiny chunk of the massive iceberg of municipal laws and codes that can trip up immigrants and city residents and force encounters with police. Why stop with just street vending? Shakeer Rahman and Robin Steinberg of Bronx Defenders, a criminal defense advocacy organization for the poor in that New York community, took to The New York Times op-ed pages to point out that there are all sorts of ways that cities use law enforcement and oppressive regulations that harm poor immigrants. These have always been bad policies that made life miserable and even harsher for urban citizens. Now they have an even greater potential to sweep immigrants up in a system that could separate them from their families and deport them: Many of these unnecessary arrests stem from the discredited idea that a draconian crackdown on the most minor offenses — littering, selling loose cigarettes, biking on the sidewalk — will prevent more serious crimes. This model of policing, known as broken windows or zero tolerance, helped to drive mass incarceration. Its next cost could be mass deportation. While the federal government runs immigration courts and prisons, local police departments are its eyes and ears. Across the country, whenever they arrest someone, city departments send fingerprints and other identifying information to federal officials. Whether the offense is as trivial as selling mango slices on the street without a license or taking a shortcut through a park after dark, federal agents are notified of an immigrant's name and how to find him or her. President Trump has announced his plans for all those names. Each week, the White House will publish a list of crimes that immigrants have been accused of, and the government will prioritize the deportation of anyone "charged with any criminal offense," even if it never leads to a conviction. They conclude: "Until cities reject the failed thinking that led to mass incarceration, local police and prosecutors will be doing the legwork for mass deportation." Granted, the Bronx Defenders are using the circumstances to advance an argument they've been pushing for some time, and so is Reason. We've done a lot of reporting and blogging about how overcriminalization of "quality of life" issues in cities overwhelmingly ends up with law enforcement officials cracking down on poor people. And yet, when these encounters go bad and lead to police violence, the emphasis is almost entirely on police abuse and never the underlying crime enforcement issues that brought the city to this point. It was wrong for New York police to strangle Eric Garner to death for selling black market cigarettes, but urban progressives flat out do not want to discuss the oppressive taxation and regulatory atmosphere that forced that inte[...]

Bush and Obama's Immigration Raids Were Outrageous Too (Reason Podcast)

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 17:52:00 -0500

"There's a shocking level of continuity from Bush's policies to Obama's policies to Trump's policies," says Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie. "And that's what's so frustrating about partisan politics...if you don't want the government to be able to kick people out of the country who've broken no crime other than to come here without the authorization to work, you should really be a libertarian."

In the latest podcast, Nick Gillespie, Matt Welch, and Katherine Mangu-Ward discuss immigration raids, the "selective sense of moral outrage" over Trump, our surprisingly apolitical Grammys, Beyoncé's rebirth as a goddess of fertility, deep-state douche bags, and more.

Produced by Mark McDaniel.

Click below to listen to the conversation—or subscribe to our podcast at iTunes and never miss an episode.

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Flipping the Script: The Case for Trump

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 12:00:00 -0500

"The spirit of liberty," wrote Judge Learned Hand, "is the spirit that is not too sure it is right." Authoritarianism starts with absolute certainty: Why tolerate any dissent when it is so clearly wrong? Why allow people their own choices if they choose incorrectly? The antidote to absolute certainty is a spirit of inquiry—but that spirit runs up against various mental habits we're all wired with, such as confirmation bias and the backfire effect: People confronted with information that contradicts their belief often end up digging in their mental heels. In one experiment, conservatives were presented with Bush administration claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Some also were given information refuting those claims. Thirty-four percent of the first group accepted the administration's claim. But 64 percent of those presented with the refutation accepted the administration's claim. The contradictory evidence made them truculent. This has serious consequences in more than one way. As Bloomberg columnist and George Mason University economics professor Tyler Cowen recently wrote, "a few years ago, when I read people I disagreed with, they swayed my opinion in their direction to some degree. These days, it's more likely that I simply end up thinking less of them." (His comment is reminiscent of Santayana's remark about newspapers: "When I read them I form perhaps a new opinion of the newspaper, but seldom a new opinion on the subject discussed.") As an antidote to such cognitive biases, Cowen suggests not merely reading things you disagree with, but actually writing them—and, he further advises, "try to make them sound as persuasive as possible." The exercise is similar to the invention of another GMU economist, Bryan Caplan, who came up with the Ideological Turing Test: Try to write an essay in the voice of an ideological opponent. If a neutral judge can't tell the difference, then you pass. These are excellent proposals that might help break the political logjam America seems to have gotten itself into. Instead of knocking down straw men and rebutting claims nobody actually believes, they make us take on the best arguments from the other side. If nothing else, this makes our own case stronger. If you don't comprehend your opponent's point, then you can't counter it. And if you can't counter it, then you can't convince anybody who believes it. More hopefully, arguing for the other side might inculcate a healthy sense of self-doubt. To that end, then, here is one case that could be made for Donald Trump, from someone who has spilled a lot of ink making the opposite case. Let's begin with Trump's most controversial act, his executive order on immigration and refugees. While it's fair to quibble over his selection of countries or the legal technicalities of the measure, nobody should oppose its core assumptions—liberals least of all. In fact, Trump's order epitomizes a concept that liberals gave birth to: the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle says that if a particular policy carries a potential risk to the public, then it should be avoided until it can be proven safe. Put another way, the principle says we should take action to protect the public even when the science is not yet settled. A classic example is the introduction of genetically modified foods. We don't know that GM foods are dangerous (in fact, there is much evidence that they are not)—but we don't know they are perfectly safe, either. So why take the unnecessary risk of permitting them? The parallel to immigrants and refugees should be obvious. Liberals have made a similar argument about nuclear power for years: Yes, it is a carbon-free source of energy that can help in the fight against global warming. But while the odds of a nuclear catastrophe are low, t[...]

White House Adviser Revises History in Defense of Trump's Travel Ban

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 08:00:00 -0500

On ABC's This Week yesterday, George Stephanopoulos asked Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to Donald Trump, about the possibility that the president will issue a revised version of his travel ban aimed at addressing some of the legal concerns it has raised. In response, Miller revised history to brush over the chaos and confusion caused by the half-baked executive order as well as a lingering question about its scope that has played an important part in the legal case against it: Stephanopoulos: A lot of your allies think the best move would be to replace the current executive order with a new one that exempts legal permanent residents and visa holders who have already been admitted to the country. Are you thinking along these lines? Miller: Well, the existing order does exempt legal permanent residents, and legal permanent residents were not subject to the travel restrictions. Stephanopoulos: Well, that was the guidance put out by the White House counsel....It wasn't formally— Miller: Well, it was the guidance put out by the White House counsel because that was the meaning of the executive order. And that was the same fact that caused the Boston judge to issue the positive ruling that they issued. Trump's executive order, which he issued on Friday, January 27, suspends the admission of refugees and imposes a 90-day ban on travelers from seven overwhelmingly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Contrary to Miller's claim that "legal permanent residents were not subject to the travel restrictions," green-card holders initially were prevented from boarding flights to the United States, detained after arriving in U.S. airports, and in some cases sent back to the countries from which they had traveled. "The Department of Homeland Security said that the order also barred green card holders from those countries from re-entering the United States," The New York Times reported that Saturday. "In a briefing for reporters, White House officials said that green card holders from the seven affected countries who are outside the United States would need a case-by-case waiver to return." The fact that the government was preventing legal permanent residents from returning to their homes (and discouraging others from leaving the United States lest they be stuck abroad) was the biggest objection raised by Republican critics of the order. Given the formidable process required to obtain a green card, legal permanent residents, many of whom will shortly become citizens, can hardly be deemed unvetted, so the security rationale for excluding them was rather mysterious. Criticism of the ban on green-card holders quickly led to a reversal of the policy. "The order is not affecting green-card holders moving forward," Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, declared on Meet the Press two days after the order was issued. That same day, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly announced a blanket waiver for legal permanent residents returning to the United States. "I hereby deem the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest," he said. "Accordingly, absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations." In other words, green-card holders from the seven banned countries were covered by the terms of the order, but they would generally be admitted anyway, under a provision allowing "case-by-case" waivers "in the national interest." On February 1—three days after Kelly's announcement and five days after Trump's order was published—White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II issued the memo mentioned by Stephanopoulos in his interview with [...]

How the Travel Ban Helps Terrorists

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 00:01:00 -0500

If you're afraid that terrorists from a particular country will come to kill your citizens, it makes sense to ban anyone from that place. So brace yourselves, Americans. Any day now, the Syrian government may impose a complete and total shutdown on travelers from the United States. Donald Trump thinks there is a pipeline of violent extremists from Syria and other predominantly Muslim countries. He's right, but he's wrong about the direction of the flow. Islamic State recruits aren't coming from Syria to the United States. They are going from the United States to Syria. Nora Ellingsen, who spent five years working on international counterterrorism investigations at the FBI, went through all the cases she could find over the past two years. Over that time, the agency "has arrested 34 Americans who aspired to leave, attempted to leave or actually left the United States to join a terrorist group overseas," she writes—compared with two refugees it has arrested from the seven countries included in Trump's travel ban. A report from Congress found that 250 U.S. nationals have gone to Syria or Iraq to fight for the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL and ISIS. "More Americans have snuck into Syria to join ISIL," she writes on the Lawfare blog, "than ISIL members have snuck into the United States." In ruling against the president's executive order, a panel of three judges for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals couldn't help noticing that "the government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States." Now we know why. The Trump administration portrays itself as the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, trying to block a flood of militants disguised as Syrian kindergarteners. John Kelly, secretary of homeland security, explained the abruptness of the travel ban: "The thinking was to get it out quick so that potentially, people that might be coming here to harm us would not take advantage of some period of time that they could jump on an airplane." Even before the ban, though, Syrians couldn't just claim to be refugees and proceed to the airport. They had to spend 18 to 24 months being screened and processed. It's not an option for someone in a hurry. Kelly also left out the large, honking fact that the danger Americans face is less from without than from within. That's clear from a new study done by the Chicago Project on Security and Threats at the University of Chicago. "The American Face of ISIS" examines 112 cases of people known to have been involved in "ISIS-related offenses"—including carrying out attacks, plotting them, traveling to take part in them or helping other confederates. It reports that 83 percent are U.S. citizens, with 65 percent born here. None came as a refugee from Syria. Only three of the 112 were refugees, two from Bosnia and one from Iraq. CPOST Director Robert Pape said the researchers found "no evidence of ISIS smuggling in fighters into the United States alongside with refugees." Sniffing out incoming terrorists among those arriving from these nations is like scouting for future NHL stars in Jamaica. In the past two years, Ellingsen says, the FBI has arrested more Americans plotting violent attacks on Muslims in the U.S. than it has refugees from all the banned countries combined. Skittish sorts may figure it's better to be safe than sorry. But the travel ban doesn't enhance our safety even marginally. Just the opposite. Middle Eastern terrorists figured out long ago it was too hard to get their people into this country. What is easy is transmitting propaganda. As Pape points out, "ISIS terrorists in America are walk-in volunteers"—people living in the U.S. who have been ra[...]

Hundreds Apprehended in More than a Half-Dozen U.S. Cities in Immigration Law Crackdown

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 21:53:00 -0500

Hundreds of people have been apprehended in at least a half dozen states by federal agents as part of a Trump administration crackdown on people in the country without proper paperwork. According to a Washington Post report this afternoon, immigrants without criminal records are also being "netted." "Last month [Trump]....made a change to the Obama administration's policy of prioritizing deportation for convicted criminals, substantially broadening the scope of who the Department of Homeland Security can target, to include those with only minor offenses or those with no convictions at all," the Post reports. This week, the L.A. area, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and North and South Carolina have all seen action from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, though the Post notes that a spokeswoman for them doesn't like the term "raids" and calls them "routine" and "targeted enforcement actions." That spokeswoman insisted, said the Post, that a "majority" captured this week were "serious criminals, including some who had been convicted of murder and domestic violence." An ICE field director in L.A. said that 75 percent of the 160 people grabbed had felony convictions, and 37 of them had already been deported to Mexico. From the Post: A video that circulated on social media Friday appeared to show ICE agents detaining people in an Austin shopping center parking lot. Immigration advocates also reported roadway checkpoints, where ICE appeared to be targeting immigrants for random ID checks, in North Carolina and in Austin. ICE officials denied that authorities used checkpoints during the operations.... Some activists in Austin and Los Angeles suggested that the raids might be retaliation for those cities' so-called "sanctuary city" policies. A government aide familiar with the raids said it is possible the predominantly daytime operations — a departure from the Obama administration's night raids — meant to "send a message to the community that the Trump deportation force is in effect." A DHS official acknowledged that "given the broader range defined by Trump's executive order they also were sweeping up non-criminals in the vicinity who were found to be lacking documentation." What that means is that many people who have done nothing to harm anyone are having their lives, and the lives of their families, employers and employees, friends and communities disrupted or ruined at public expense for no good reason. Huffington Post reports that: Activists and elected officials in Austin [Texas] said ICE had stopped undocumented immigrants in traffic, attempted to arrest them in their homes and patrolled the area around an HEB grocery store in the northwestern part of the city.... Grassroots Leadership, an immigrant rights group, has meanwhile received calls from about 20 different people's families on its hotline. Heavy quotes an ICE press release that in fiscal 2016, 240,255 people total were deported. While ICE spokespeople in various stories insist, given that context of an organization that is always working to deport people, that there is nothing untoward or unusual about this week's operations, the Austin-American Statesman reports: The Mexican Consulate in Austin has confirmed to the American-Statesman that 30 Mexican immigrants were detained by ICE on Friday and 14 were detained Thursday. By comparison, the Austin consulate had seen an average of four to five Mexican immigrants detained daily in recent years. Other immigration activists or lawyers in other cities have also expressed to the press that what's happened this week is of a level of intensity above normal. The Orange County Register on arrests, and protests, in Southern California. Fusion notes that scattered r[...]

Flemming Rose Against the Worldwide Suppression of Speech

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 12:11:00 -0500

Flemming Rose isn't going to watch the decline of free speech without a fight. In 2005, while an editor at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Rose commissioned twelve cartoons about Muhammad to encourage artists to overcome self-censorship. Extremists responded to the cartoons with attacks on western embassies and riots, resulting in the deaths of over 200 people. Now Rose has written The Tyranny of Silence, a defense of his decision to publish the cartoons and a guide to unfettered expression in the 21st century. "I'm not willing to sacrifice freedom of expression on the altar of cultural diversity," he says. As politicians across the world respond to the challenge of multiculturalism with censorship, campus speech codes, and the persecution of journalists, Rose explains why openness is the proper political response to a globalized world. Rose is no rogue provocateur. He is one of the planet's most committed defenders of free speech, the open society, and enlightenment values of tolerance and human rights. Edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Josh Swain and Mark McDaniel. INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT Nick Gillespie: Today we're interviewing Flemming Rose at the Cato Institute and the author most recently of The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate Over the Future of Free Speech. In 2005, while an editor at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Rose commissioned a series of cartoons about the prophet Mohammed as an exercise to stop self-censorship. Eventually, terrorists and extremists responded to the cartoons with violence, attacks on western embassies and riots creating a death toll that reached at least 200 according to the New York Times. Rose is no rogue provocateur. He is one of the planet's most committed and articulate defenders of free speech, the open society and enlightenment values of tolerance and universal rights and that is why I'm particularly happy to have the opportunity to talk with him today. Flemming Rose, welcome. Flemming Rose: Thank you for those nice words, Nick. It's wonderful to be here. Nick Gillespie: Let's take the pulse of free speech in the decade since the Mohammed cartoons came out. Since then, we've seen any number of violent reprisals against free speech, probably most catastrophically the gunning down of a good part of the staff of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France, but we've also seen the continuing rise of hate speech laws in Europe and a stultifying climate rise on U.S. campuses and other college campuses. Are things good for free speech generally right now or not? Flemming Rose: If we take the long-term historical view, yes, free speech is in better shape than in the 17th century or the 18th century or even the beginning of the 20th century. No doubt about that, but if we look in a shorter-term perspective, let's say the past 20, 30 years, I think free speech is in worse shape. Free speech is in bad standing. You can see it when you check out statistics. Freedom House puts out a report every year; Reporters Without Borders in Europe do the same thing in other institutions and the trend is the same all over. For the past approximately 10 years, freedom of the press and freedom of speech is in decline and I think that is the new thing. We know China. We know Cuba. We know North Korea, Russia, where things usually are in bad shape, but the new trend is the freedom of expression is in decline even in western Europe. Nick Gillespie: What forms does it take, say, in Western Europe? Are reporters being, if not put in jail, are there legal actions against them or is it a chilled atmosphere where people just don't talk about certain things? Flemming Rose: It's both. I mean, just to give you an indic[...]