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Published: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 14:09:42 -0400


Sessions’ Targeting of Sanctuary Cities Not Exactly What It Appears

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 12:30:00 -0400

When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) put out its first President Donald Trump-administration-ordered report detailing sanctuary cities that refused to cooperate with the feds by detaining illegal immigrants charged or convicted of crimes, attention fell on Travis County, Texas, home of Austin. The majority of the immigrants listed on the first report had been jailed or held in Austin. So when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced yesterday that the Department of Justice was going to crack down and threaten the federal DOJ grants to sanctuary cities, naturally people might be curious as to how much this is going to hurt that particular progressive island in generally conservative Texas. Turns out, perhaps not so much. The Austin American-Statesman asked local law enforcement officials, and they said Sessions' actions probably won't affect them because they're actually complying with the federal regulation he's pointing to: U.S. Code 1373. Furthermore, even if the DOJ does yank grants, they calculated it affected about $1 million dollars for three programs. So what gives here? As is thoroughly typical when politicians give a speech, the actual policies don't really match the rhetoric. When Sessions spoke yesterday, he definitely wanted people to make a connection here that the Department of Justice was planning to punish sanctuary cities that refused to help the feds enforce immigration laws and deport illegal immigrants who had been charged or convicted of crimes: The American people are justifiably angry. They know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe. Failure to deport aliens who are convicted for criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk – especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators. DUIs, assaults, burglaries, drug crimes, gang crimes, rapes, crimes against children and murders. Countless Americans would be alive today – and countless loved ones would not be grieving today – if the policies of these sanctuary jurisdictions were ended. Not only do these policies endanger the lives of every American; just last May, the Department of Justice Inspector General found that these policies also violate federal law. The President has rightly said that this disregard for the law must end. In his executive order, he stated that it is the policy of the executive branch to ensure that states and cities comply with all federal laws, including our immigration laws. That sounds very much like Sessions is saying that sanctuary cities are violating federal law by not helping deport immigrants. But that's not what U.S. Code 1373 says. That code is merely about communication about immigration status between various law enforcement agencies and immigration services. It says that government entities may not prohibit communications between law enforcement agencies and immigration officials about somebody's status as an immigrant or citizen. The code does not require local law enforcement agencies to assist the federal government in deporting immigrants, nor does it require them to honor federal requests to hold illegal immigrants so that ICE can pick them up. So when Austin officials say they're in compliance with this federal regulation, it means that they're not prohibiting communication about an immigrant's legal status. But since the code doesn't require their police to assist immigration officials otherwise, they've declined to do provide further assistance and ended up on the administration's list. When Sessions says some sanctuary cities may be violating federal law, what he means are municipal regulations that attempt to prohibit even communications between law enforcement officials or city employees and the feds about a person's status as an immigrant. That's what the federal inspector general's report was actually about. It states that municipal regulations that prohibit employees from passing along information to immigration officials about a person's status as an immigrant violate fed[...]

Jeff Sessions Threatens Unconstitutional Action Against Sanctuary Cities

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 11:45:00 -0400

Yesterday Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to withhold, terminate, and "claw-back" federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities and states, which are those jurisdictions that either won't help the federal government round up and deport undocumented immigrants or otherwise refuse to participate in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. "I urge our nation's states and cities to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and to re-think these policies," Sessions said. "Such policies make their cities and states less safe, and put them at risk of losing valuable federal dollars." Sessions may not like the idea of sanctuary cities, but sanctuary cites are protected by both the Constitution and by Supreme Court precedent. As Justice Antonin Scalia observed in his 2007 majority opinion in Printz v. United States, "the Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States' officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program." In other words, thanks to the 10th Amendment and to the constitutional principles of federalism, the federal government may not commandeer the states for federal purposes. What that means here is that state and local officials have every right to refuse to enforce federal immigration laws. But what about when the federal government threatens to withhold federal funding from those states or cities that refuse to do its bidding? Yes, that too can be unconstitutional. Under Article I, Section 8, Congress possesses to powers to tax and to spend. But as the Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear, those powers may not be used in illegal ways. For example, the Court has said that it is unconstitutional for the feds to impose "coercive" conditions on federal grants to the states. To be sure, the Supreme Court has allowed the feds to attach certain strings to federal dollars. Most famously, in South Dakota v. Dole (1987), that state lost 5 percent of its federal highway funding because it refused to raise its legal drinking age from 19 to 21. The Supreme Court ruled for the federal government in that dispute because it found the threatened loss of just 5 percent of federal highway dollars to be non-coercive. It was a nudge, not a gun to the head. But South Dakota v. Dole is not the last word on the matter. The most recent case on point is National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, the 2012 dispute over the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. One of the central questions in that case was whether Congress had overstepped its lawful bounds when it threatened to cut off all existing Medicaid funding to any state that refused to expand Medicaid in accordance with Obamacare. The Obama administration lost on that question by 7-2. The federal government's Medicaid expansion amounted to a "gun to the head," the Supreme Court held. "A State that opts out of the Affordable Care Act's expansion in health care coverage...stands to lose not merely 'a relatively small percentage' of its existing Medicaid funding, but all of it." That sort of "economic dragooning...leaves the States with no real option but to acquiesce." Jeff Sessions's threats against sanctuary cities would seem to be equally unconstitutional under this standard. Just like the Medicaid expansion, Sessions aims to dragoon state and local officials and leave them "no real option but to acquiesce." If the Trump administration makes good on those threats, its actions will most likely violate the Constitution.[...]

Steve Bannon vs. the Tea Party Libertarians [Reason podcast]

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:55:00 -0400

In American politics, "when it really looks like we're forever going to be in X, that's a pretty good sign to start betting on Y," says Reason's Matt Welch. After a period of wall-building and anti-immigrant fervor, in which "more people die in the desert," we can expect that the political pendulum will swing way back in the opposite direction.

On today's podcast, Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward, and Welch discuss Trump and immigration in the context of Robert Draper's masterful New York Times Magazine story on Steve Bannon, in which the presidential adviser slimes libertarians for "not living in the real world." The Reason crew also talks about what do about "the giant loogie" hanging off Paul Ryan's face after the collapse of the GOP's health care bill and the Speaker's failure to live up to the title of "wonk king;" whether the coming push for tax reform will go any better than the health care debacle; and the Associated Press' controversial decision to permit journalists to use "they" as a single, gender-neutral pronoun. Is it language evolution or devolution? What would rap super-producer DJ Khaled—famous for invoking the phrase they don't want you to...—think?

To wrap things up, Katherine Mangu-Ward explains the genesis of Reason magazine's buzz-generating new punctured-wall cover. Need to know how to import marijuana from Mexico via catapult? Subscribe!

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The Divisive Logic of the Welfare State

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 13:00:00 -0400

The 21st C West is experiencing a 19th C worthy nativist spasm that few thought imaginable two decades ago. There are many reasons for it of course: The rise of global terrorism, the(image) alleged ravages of globalization etc. But one big reason is the welfare state. Indeed, protecting social programs from foreign moochers has become the biggest rallying cry for restrictionists in Europe, America and even Canada – the paragon of human compassion, I note in my column at The Week.

Whether immigrants really strain – rather than strengthen – the welfare state is debatable. (In America, where the welfare state is relatively smaller, all credible studies suggest that they strengthen it. The situation may vary in different European countries.)

But what is not debatable is that the welfare state has failed in its central project to create a new kind of person whose humane commitments are driven not by parochial attachments to self, family, and clan – but a more cosmopolitan sensibility. In fact, far from making people more benevolent, just the theoretical possibility that foreigners may flock to these social programs is generating a fierce us-versus-them politics -- showing that the more you try and take self-interest out of politics, the more this interest asserts itself in ever uglier ways.

And this is the case not only in America and Europe but also in Canada. Indeed, the lengths that this sweet land of maple syrup goes to protect its social programs – especially its national health system – would give even Scrooge a sour taste in his mouth.

Go here to read the piece.

Julian Simon Would Tell Us: America Needs More Immigrants

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:00:00 -0400

The late economist Julian Simon taught us that people are the "ultimate resource." In the short-term, population growth causes problems. It increases traffic, crowds our schools, and stretches family and government budgets. But over time, population growth pushes us to innovate and find solutions that leave us better off. Population growth drives economic expansion. It makes us richer. And it improves our health and environment. Simon died in 1998, but he left behind decades of controversial and path-breaking work—and an unusually good track record. In 1980, Simon famously offered a wager to back up his work showing that natural resources generally become less scarce and less expensive. Doomsayer Paul Ehrlich accepted the challenge, chose five metals, and bet that between 1980 and 1990, their prices would rise because they would become scarcer. Simon bet that the prices of the metals would fall. In 1990, Simon won the bet. Prices of all five metals fell. I miss Julian Simon more than most. He was my father. I often think about what he would say about the economic issues we face today. On the subject of immigration, I know what he would say: The economic evidence is clear that America needs more immigrants. In his book The Economic Consequences of Immigration, praised by Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, Simon showed that immigrants improve our economy. They work more, save more and start more businesses per person than native-born Americans. They raise the overall incomes of native-born Americans. And, particularly through the taxes they pay, they have an overall positive impact on the public coffers. Their positive impact on federal government finances is greater than their negative impact on state and local government finances. Given Simon's great track record predicting economic and societal outcomes, it is not surprising that so many of his findings still hold true. In 2016, the National Academy of Sciences reported that immigration "is integral to the nation's economic growth." Immigrants have "helped the United States avoid the problems facing stagnant economies created by unfavorable demographics," particularly an aging workforce. Immigrants (who are now better educated than ever) have "boosted the nation's capacity for innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological change." The National Academy of Sciences confirmed that immigrants make us richer and contribute more to the public coffers than they take out. What kinds of immigrants does the U.S. need? All kinds, Simon would tell us. We need the innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs who will create the next Google, Comcast and Tesla (all founded or co-founded by immigrants). And we need the immigrants who pick fruit and do other back-breaking work that almost no other Americans will do. Simon also would point out that immigrants make America safer. Immigrants commit fewer crimes than other Americans. The American Immigration Council reported in 2015 that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to engage in either violent or nonviolent "antisocial" behaviors, and less likely than the native-born to be behind bars. Finally, Simon would tell us that the understanding of immigrants' crucial role in America's economic success dates back to July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence attacked King George for obstructing immigration to America. "He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither…" The bottom line, Simon would tell us, is that people who sacrifice so much, and leave everything and everyone they know to come hundreds or thousands of miles to America, are exactly the kind of people our country needs and should want. They provide America with one of its great advantages over the rest of the world. Immigrants are a key reason that the American economy grows faster, innovates more, and has m[...]

First ICE Report on Police Who Won’t Detain Immigrants Shows How Small the Problem Is

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 11:50:00 -0400

As President Donald Trump ordered in the earliest days of his leadership, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released its first weekly list of law enforcement agencies that refuse to cooperate with orders to detain immigrants in the United States illegally. ICE's first report covers people released by law enforcement agencies between January 28 and February 3, but the actual detainer requests can go back much longer, even several years. But of the 3,083 requests by ICE to detain immigrants and hand them over to the feds, only 206 requests were declined. And the majority of the refusals were concentrated in a handful of communities, particularly Travis County, Texas, home of Austin. Furthermore, of those declined requests, slightly more than half the immigrants on the list are people who have only been charged with crimes and not yet convicted. And while some of the charged crimes are very serious and violent (there's a person charged with homicide in Philadelphia), ICE is also trying to detain and possibly deport people charged with much lesser crimes like prostitution and drug possession. They're even trying to get their hands on a Venezuelan in Florida convicted of a traffic violation. It's also not clear how accurately we should treat the report. A section of the report lists all the law enforcement agencies in the country who have limits or restrictions on how much they cooperate with ICE on detaining and handing over immigrants. The New York Times notes that Nassau County in New York is listed among these agencies, but in fact the county's sheriff's office assures they're very, very cooperative with ICE. In Texas, Williamson County's sheriff said the same thing. He says the four people ICE claims they refuse to detain for them were actually moved to other jurisdictions that subsequently refused to cooperate. It's the first report of its kind, so perhaps some kinks are to be expected. The numbers may also end up increasing, though it's not clear of the degree. The report introduction notes that law enforcement agencies don't often inform ICE that they're refusing the detainer request, so the report is based on what ICE employees are able to figure out for themselves. This could explain the Williamson County mistake. The report also notes that ICE had previously stopped sending detainer requests to law enforcement agencies with a history of non-cooperation. Under Trump's orders, ICE is going to start sending them requests again. The report notes, "As a result, the number of issued detainers will increase over the next several reporting periods." So the number of refusals may increase, but that doesn't mean that there's a dramatic increase in crime caused by immigrants here illegally. Keep that in mind (and the fact that many people on the list have merely been charged) when examining future trend coverage of these reports. Evidence shows that immigrants are not major sources of criminal activity. Read through the report yourself here. Note that a lot of the agencies listed as not cooperating aren't simply flat-out refusing to detain immigrants on ICE's demand. Many require a warrant or a court order of some sort.[...]

Philadelphia Cancels Cinco de Mayo Parade Over ICE Raid Fears

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 10:05:00 -0400

(image) Organizers of the largest Cinco de Mayo-related annual event held in Philadelphia, El Carneval de Puebla, have canceled the parade over fears it could be targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. "Everyone is offended by the actions of ICE. They did not feel comfortable holding the event," organizer Edgar Ramirez told the local NBC affiliate of his co-organizers.

ICE recently announced that over a two-week period it had made nearly 250 arrests of illegal immigrants in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware that it said had previous records, as ICE noted in its press release. But such enforcement actions are not new. A week-long operation in the three states last May yielded 84 arrests, and a similar ICE press release highlighting the prior arrest and criminal records of some of those individuals apprehended. A spokesperson at the ICE Philly office, Khaalid Walls, told NBC that ICE "enforcement actions are targeted and lead driven" and that the agency did not "conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately." Organizers did not say they had a specific warning that their event would be targeted.

While President Trump has described recent immigration enforcement actions as unprecedented, and even as a "military operation," Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has resisted such characterizations, insisting recent raids were not different than raids conducted regularly in previous years, and that there would be "no—repeat—no mass deportations" and "no—repeat—no use of military force in immigration operations."

The Trump administration has relied on hyping up and amplifying news of its raids in order to push other immigrants to self-deport and to discourage migrants from trying to cross the border. The administration says there has been a 40 percent drop in Southern border crossings. As Dara Lind noted at, nothing ICE did in raids in early February was unprecedented, but it "feels different with President Trump in the White House." Lind pointed out that the truth of the raids, which did include practices not used during the Obama administration, like arresting other illegal immigrants found while targeting someone with a deportation order, was nevertheless "sometimes been overshadowed by rumors that sound much worse than anything that's been documented."

Arguably, those kinds of rumors, and reporting on immigration raids that conflates increased attention due to the political atmosphere with a marked increase in enforcement, are a powerful tool for the Trump administration. Any effort to deport millions of illegal immigrants will rely in part on self-deportations. Trump, through his rhetoric, has helped to create a climate of fear where that's more likely to happen. Organizers like Ramirez are doing their part to signal boost that climate instead of resisting it.

St. Patrick's Day Parades Were the Cinco De Mayo Festivals of 18th-Century

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 14:30:00 -0400

In 2006, Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs, then with CNN, made a splash when he declared, "Let's be clear. I don't think there should be a St. Patrick's Day." Why the hell should we be celebrating anything other American holidays, he asked, anticipating the rise of Donald Trump's economic and ethnic nationalism by a decade. Ever since returning to cable after a brief sojourn in Space (, that is), Dobbs has trafficked in populist attacks on illegal immigration (and most forms of legal immigration, too). Today is, of course, St. Patrick's Day and many cities across the country mark the day with a parade that blocks traffic and congregates drunks who have not one drop of Hibernian blood pulsing in their veins along with alcohol metabolized from green beer. I've celebrated St. Patrick's at least once in some of the "Irish" cities in the country (Boston, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago) and many times in New York. The essential fact about St. Patrick's Day in America—and especially St. Patrick's Day parades—is that it's not at all about being Irish, despite trappings that indulge in the worst sort of Darby O'Gill and the Little People-style ephemera. The first St. Patrick's Day parade wasn't held in Dublin or Belfast, but in Manhattan, in 1762. In fact, it took until 1903 for St. Patrick's Day to be more than a Catholic holy day of obligation in Ireland; the first St. Paddy's Day parade in the Old Sod took place the same year. Stick that in your $4.35 leprechaun clay pipe (+ shipping) and smoke it. The point of the 18th-century parade in New York was to show solidarity in the face of English social, economic, and political power. It turns out nothing is more purely American than ethnic identity politics. Remember that when Cinco de Mayo rolls around and on Pulaski Day (look it up), and remember it, too, on Columbus Day as well. One of the ways we show that we're truly American is by recalling real and imagined hardships that our ancestors faced and over which they triumphed. And by letting others join in the legacy, even if that legacy is reduced to drinking until you puke. That's a lesson worth remembering in the 21st century, especially the day after President Trump, who wants to put America first, just hosted Ireland's prime minister and read what he took to be an old Irish proverb but actually seems to be some doggerel written by a Nigerian banker. "As we stand together with our Irish friends," said Trump, "I'm reminded of proverb, and this is a good one, this is one I like. I've heard it for many, many years and I love it. 'Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue. But never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.'" It's OK, President Trump. Everyone—and everything—is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. In 2010, Reason TV documented why immigrants come to America: src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]

The Dubious Premise of the TRO Against Trump's Revised Travel Ban

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 16:15:00 -0400

Issuing a temporary restraining order against President Trump's revised travel ban yesterday, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson declared that "a reasonable, objective observer—enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance—would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously neutral purpose." Watson, who was responding to a lawsuit by the state of Hawaii and the imam of a Honolulu mosque, therefore concluded that Trump's order does not have "a primary secular purpose," as required by the First Amendment's ban on "an establishment of religion." That conclusion seems dubious to me. It is pretty clear, based on Trump's public statements, that anti-Muslim prejudice affects his thinking about immigration and national security. But that does not mean animus against Muslims was the motive for his order. It seems much more likely that the motive was a desire to seem like he was doing something to protect Americans from terrorist attacks, as he promised to do during his campaign. While it is unlikely that the travel ban will have any noticeable effect on terrorism, courts generally defer to the president's judgment in cases involving immigration and national security. The question is whether that deference should go out the window because of stupid stuff Trump said while running for president. In December 2015, following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Trump recommended "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." A few months later, in a March 2016 interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, Trump said, "I think Islam hates us." When Cooper asked him whether there is "a war between the West and radical Islam, or between the West and Islam itself," Trump replied, "It's very hard to separate, because you don't know who's who." After catching flak for that sort of talk, Trump started talking about "extreme vetting" of immigrants from countries "compromised by terrorism," instead of focusing on Muslims per se. "I don't think it's a rollback," he said on Meet the Press last July. "In fact, you could say it's an expansion. I'm looking now at territories. People were so upset when I used the word Muslim. Oh, you can't use the word Muslim. Remember this. And I'm OK with that, because I'm talking territory instead of Muslim." During his October 9 debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump said, "The Muslim ban is something that in some form has morphed into a[n] extreme vetting from certain areas of the world." When a moderator asked him to "explain whether or not the Muslim ban still stands," Trump replied, "It's called extreme vetting." In January, two days before he issued his original travel ban, Trump told ABC News, "It's not the Muslim ban, but it's countries that have tremendous terror....It's countries that people are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems." Those countries turned out to be Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, all of which had been excluded from the visa waiver program under the Obama administration because they were deemed sponsors of terrorism or havens for terrorists. The seven countries also happen to be overwhelmingly Muslim, with Muslims accounting for 91 percent to 99.8 percent of their populations. After Trump issued his order, his adviser Rudy Giuliani, in an interview on Fox News, recalled that "when [Trump] first announced it, he said 'Muslim ban.' He called me up. He said, 'Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.'" The revised travel ban, which Trump issued on March 6, dropped Iraq from the list of banned countries and exempted current visa holders as well as permanent[...]

Do Crimes Against Immigrants Deserve More Attention?

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 12:00:00 -0400

My 20-something nephew from India is thinking of canceling his planned summer trip to the U.S. because, as he explained to me, "of all the Indians getting killed in America." He was referring to the three recent shootings — two fatal — of Indians in America. The first one, in Kansas, involved a white army veteran, Adam Purinton, who allegedly opened fire on two Indian tech workers in a bar, killing one and injuring another, while shouting, "Go back to your country." The second shooting involved a Sikh man in a Seattle suburb who was injured in his driveway after a gunman opened fire, allegedly yelling the same thing. And in the third case, a South Carolina Speedie Mart owner who'd been in the country for 14 years was gunned down outside his house. The motive is still unclear. The wall-to-wall coverage of these incidents in the Indian press has spooked Indians, even leading to calls that the Indian government issue a travel advisory for America. Social media and newspapers have issued purple condemnations of President Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric, which many Indians assume to be driving the spate of killings. "Long years of struggle lie ahead, for the damage Trump has inflicted on the United States' most cherished values will, almost certainly, outlast his years in office," lamented an editorial by the Indian Express, one of the nation's biggest publications. Meanwhile, the coverage in American papers has been relatively muted. India's blanket coverage is irrational, but understandable. America's apparent blissful ignorance is rational but less understandable. National hate crime data is notoriously unreliable. The Southern Poverty Law Center's stats, which are cited frequently, use a rather elastic definition of hate crimes, and are little more than a loose collection of anecdotes culled from media accounts and subjective self reports. The FBI dataset, which is based on a more objective metric of "prosecutable" hate crimes, depends on voluntary reports by local police departments and hence is hopelessly incomplete. Still, after many years of decline, the FBI registered a 6.8 percent uptick in hate crimes in 2015, the last year for which data is available. A bit more than half of these attacks were racially motivated against blacks. Meanwhile, crimes against Muslims spiked by 67 percent — although they still constitute a small percentage of the total. Hate crimes against Asians were just 3.3 percent of the total. Even if it turns out that these numbers have gone up significantly since President Trump's election, it would still likely be the case that Indian Americans (and other minorities), on the whole, are less likely to be targeted by a fellow American than, say, Muslims are by fellow Indians in majority-Hindu India. And Muslims in India are less likely to be targeted than Hindus in majority-Muslim Pakistan (all of which I pointed out to my nephew!). A country's record of protecting its minorities gets better as we move farther across the liberal democracy continuum. But people don't form their threat perception through statistics and data. After just one terrorist attack on 9/11, America launched a 17-year-and-still-counting war on terrorism, invaded countries and toppled regimes, spent trillions of dollars in homeland security, and subjected travelers — domestic and international — to onerous TSA checks for a minuscule increase in safety given that the odds of an American getting killed by a terrorist attack are already lower than getting struck by lightning. But Indian Americans, like other people of color who look remotely like they may be Muslim, face a triple threat: They face the same odds as other Americans of being targeted in a terrorist attack. In addition, they are vulnerable to hate crimes (post-9/11, there was a definite spike in attacks against India[...]

Steve King's Fear of Immigrants Is Ignorant of History

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0400

During Cold War debates about the merits of capitalism and communism, Americans offered a simple gauge: the movement of people. "You have the Berlin Wall," the argument went. "We have the Statue of Liberty. If communism is a blessing, why do people flee Cuba for America, not the other way around?" Ronald Reagan, the hero of modern Republicans, knew that immigrants were not a threat to our way of life but a reinforcement of it. He welcomed them as allies, self-selected for their attraction to democratic ideals. They came here not because they wanted to change America but because they admired it as it was. "I have always believed there was some divine providence that placed this great land here between the two great oceans," he said in 1986, "to be found by a special kind of people from every corner of the world who had a special love for freedom and a special courage that enabled them to leave their own land, leave their friends and their countrymen, and come to this new and strange land to build a new world of peace and freedom and hope." Imagine what Reagan would think of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who abhors foreigners like a deadly virus. On Monday, King tweeted, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." Last year, he declared, "Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end." This week, King insisted that immigrants are "importing a different culture, a different civilization, and that culture and civilization, the imported one, rejects the host's culture." King was talking about Middle Easterners, but his suspicions extend to undocumented immigrants, most of whom come from Latin America. He claims they are "refusing to assimilate into the American culture and civilization." Among the alleged sins of Latino immigrants are that they drag down wages and give birth at public expense. But if there's anything worse than poor foreigners, it's rich ones. Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's chief White House strategist, has complained (inaccurately) that "two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia." He sees their numbers as trouble because, he says, "a country is more than an economy. (It's) a civic society." Yes, it is. And Silicon Valley is a proud product of ours, showcasing the wonders that intellectual and economic freedom can create. It's absurd to think immigration undermines our civic life. Immigration has always been inseparable from our civic life. What is it about high-achieving Asian-Americans that Bannon finds threatening to our way of life—aside, that is, from their race? From the start, immigrants have elicited groundless panic. Bannon, a Catholic, forgets that Catholic immigrants were once seen as fundamentally hostile to democratic principles. The eminent 19th-century Presbyterian minister Lyman Beecher warned that "the subjects of the pope" would "subvert our free institutions." Beecher would be surprised that subjects of the pope now dominate that free institution called the Supreme Court. The court also has three Jewish justices, which would offend supporters of the Immigration Act of 1924. It was designed to keep out Jews, among others, who were seen as genetically inferior and politically radical. Jews, however, confounded anti-Semites by succeeding and integrating into American society just as every previous immigrant group had. There is no reason to think newcomers from Latin America or the Middle East will be any different. King and others believe Islam is irredeemably violent and hostile to freedom and democracy—hence his opinion that admitting Muslim refugees amounts to "cultural suicide." But he underestimates the power of American culture. A 2011 Gallup poll found that 89 percent of American Muslims say there is never a justification for an individual o[...]

Border Guards Now Snatching and Searching 5,000 Cellphones a Month

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 14:39:00 -0400

(image) As Scott Shackford laid out in detail last month, there is a renewed journalistic interest during the Trump presidency in documenting aggressive Customs and Border Protection searches that long pre-date Donald Trump's election. This is particularly true of practices that—like many crackdowns on illegal immigrants and/or terrorists—restrict the freedom and arguably infringe on the rights of perfectly law-abiding U.S. citizens.

NBC News has a thorough report out on a tactic that hits close to home: CBP agents snatching Americans' cell phones at the border, demanding passwords, swiping information, and sharing copiously with other federal law enforcement agencies. Here's the nut:

Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security shows that searches of cellphones by border agents has exploded, growing fivefold in just one year, from fewer than 5,000 in 2015 to nearly 25,000 in 2016.

According to DHS officials, 2017 will be a blockbuster year. Five-thousand devices were searched in February alone, more than in all of 2015. […]

DHS has published more than two dozen reports detailing its extensive technological capability to forensically extract data from mobile devices, regardless of password protection on most Apple and Android phones. The reports document its proven ability to access deleted call logs, videos, photos, and emails to name a few, in addition to the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram apps.

Some Americans are also getting their cell phones swiped while leaving the country, with a CBP spokesperson telling NBC that agents may be acting on concerns over industrial policy, whatever the hell that means. "CBP has adapted and adjusted to align with current threat information, which is based on intelligence," is how the spokesperson explained the sharp increase.

The NBC News piece has other tales of individual outrage, including quotes from those detained and searched, plus legal analysis that mostly amounts to: We're screwed. Scott Shackford's post contains plenty of other information, including about counter legislation being introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). This New York Times how-to suggests we get in the habit of buying travel burner phones. This keeps up and even technologically incompetent Americans (coughs) will deploy the evasion techniques of master criminals.

Below, enjoy some fiction, from Reason TV:

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My Parents Were 'Somebody Else's Babies' - And Model Americans

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 13:05:00 -0400

Both of my parents were "somebody else's babies." According to Rep. Steve King, the Republican from Iowa, that means they could never really be American. In fact, King implies that people like my parents—born to Irish and Italian immigrants, in 1923 and 1927, respectively—were part of Western Civilization's decline. Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies. — Steve King (@SteveKingIA) March 12, 2017 You've got to wonder about King, citing a nativist Dutch politician for wisdom on American immigration policy. Doesn't he understand that, unlike America, European countries are notoriously rotten at assimilating newcomers? For decades after World War II, for instance, West Germany permitted Gastarbeiter from lesser countries such as Turkey, Italy, and Tunisia to come and clean toilets and do work Germans didn't want to do. The children of immigrants, even those born in Germany, could legally reside there but they could never become citizens (the laws eventually changed). Rooted in traditions of "blood and soil"—what King calls "culture and demographics"—most European countries had or still have some variation on what Germany had. Going way back, even before there was a United States, we had a tradition of human alchemy. In 1782, Jean de Crevecoeur—a French emigre, of all things—wrote, What then is the American, this new man? He is either an European, or the descendant of an European, hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations. He is an American, who leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. Crevecoeur had his limits, to be sure. He speaks only of men and he owned slaves for a time. And yet he sketched a fundamentally different way of thinking about "culture and demographics" than the one that prevailed in Europe and elsewhere. King should spend some time with Letters From an American Farmer. It's in texts such as that one that true "American Exceptionalism" was born. What is different about America isn't that we're richer or more powerful than other countries. Certainly, it's not that our gene pool is better. It's that relative to most of the rest, we let everyone in, confident that giving people space and freedom would create something special and unique. A hundred years ago, real Americans—folks such as Teddy Roosevelt and his friend Madison Grant, the head of the Museum of Natural History in New York and the author of The Passing of the Great Race—didn't care much for the Irish and the Italians. The Immigration Act of 1917 changed who was allowed to come here and in what numbers. Building off such predecessors as The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (which did exactly what it promised), the 1917 law barred Asians completely and imposed literacy tests as a way of keeping out Europeans from undesirable nations. It set the stage for 1924 legislation that would impose quotas based on national origins. According to Grant, whose grasp of geography was every bit as shaky as he was certain about race, both the Irish and most Italians were "Mediterraneans," the lowest form of whites. The historian Geoff[...]

Steve King Wants Us to Become More Like Europe So That We Don’t Become More Like Europe

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 10:00:00 -0400

One of the oddest things about Steve King's lame comments about how "You cannot rebuild your civilization with someone else's babies" is that it reflects a kind of Europhilic Europhobia. By which I mean, it's based on a Eurocentric view of Western "civilization," it is often spoken of in the context of praising European nationalists like Geert Wilders, and it comes advertised as a warning that America must not follow the same dangerous path of immigration/assimilation/insufficient-babymaking as Europe:

Most paradoxical of all, as I explain in today's L.A. Times, is that the very immigration politics and polices the likes of Steve King (and Donald Trump, and Steve Bannon, and Jeff Sessions) prefers are much more likely to make America more like…Europe! Excerpt:

"We need to get our birth rates up," Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) warned Monday on CNN, "or Europe will be entirely transformed within a half a century or a little more." Rarely has the first-person plural revealed so much confusion. […]

The ascendant America First brigade just can't get enough of their nationalist brethren across the pond, from the U.K.'s Nigel Farage to France's Marine Le Pen to Hungary's Viktor Orban. Wilders, King enthused, understands "that culture and demographics are our destiny." […]

Such pessimistic cultural determinism is the polar opposite of the creed-based optimism made famous by Ronald Reagan. "You can go to live in France, but you can't become a Frenchman," the Gipper said in a 1990 speech, paraphrasing a correspondent. "But … anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American."

King's not having any of that.

Read the whole thing here. Yesterday, Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward and I discussed the Kingfuffle (and more) on the Reason Podcast.

Donald Trump Makes Sh*t Up, Justin Amash Misses a Vote, Steve King Disses Immigrants (Reason Podcast)

Mon, 13 Mar 2017 19:56:00 -0400

In the newest Reason Podcast (archive here), Reason mag Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward, Editor at Large Matt Welch, and I discuss Donald Trump's evidence-free accusation that Barack Obama "tapped" his phones, why his presidential transition is taking so long, and whether his deregulatory moves will come to fruition. Also in the mix: What is wrong with former Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who can barely go a few days without insulting the children of immigrants ("other people's babies," in King-ese), why libertarian-leaning Republican Justin Amash finally missed his first vote in 4,000-plus votes, and why privacy is probably gone for good (and why that's not always such a bad thing).

Produced by Mark McDaniel.

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