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All articles with the "Immigration" tag.

Published: Fri, 28 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2017 00:02:56 -0400


Texas Bill Adds Actual Teeth to Immigration Enforcement Demands in Sanctuary Cities

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:15:00 -0400

President Donald Trump's efforts to force so-called "sanctuary cities" to comply with federal immigration laws ran aground earlier in the week when a federal district court judge found his executive order threatening city funding likely unconstitutional and blocked it. The courts often take a dim view at the federal government attempting to dragoon states and cities into enforcing federal laws on their behalf. But in Texas, where many Republican lawmakers are more than willing to help deport people who are in the country illegally, there is a bill in play that would actually force law enforcement to do more to assist the feds, including cooperating with detainer requests from immigration officials. In the wee hours of the morning, the Texas House voted, pretty much along party lines, to pass SB 4. The bill would allow the state of Texas to withhold money from cities that decline to enforce federal immigration laws and even provide for the state to charge police officials with misdemeanor misconduct if they refuse to enforce immigration law. There are also potential civil penalties against cities for each violation reaching up to more than $25,000 if the violations persist. But it's worth asking here, "What do we mean by 'enforcing immigration law?'" because here is where the bill really matters. While the Trump administration frequently wants to present sanctuary cities as defying federal law when they refuse to detain illegal immigrants so that federal authorities can round them up for deportation, there is no requirement under federal law to assist (and it would likely be unconstitutional should such a law be crafted). The "detainer" orders from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are just requests. In reality, most "sanctuary cities" in the United States are not violating any federal laws at all. When the Department of Justice sent out letters threatening funding for non-compliant communities, they targeted only eight cities and one county. And even that was only because these cities were believed to be out of compliance with a federal regulation that prohibits them from stopping police from communicating with ICE or any federal agency about the immigration or citizenship status of a person. The federal regulation is about keeping lines of communication open. It doesn't require cities or local governments to actually do anything about illegal immigration. In Texas, that all changes under SB 4. This bill specifically requires for law enforcement officials within Texas to comply with detainer orders from federal immigration officials. Failing to do so is what counts as the misdemeanor misconduct. So SB 4 should be seen as a very significant piece of legislation. State lawmakers are passing a bill requiring that local law enforcement officials actively participate in the deportation process by holding suspected deportable immigrants on the demand of the federal government (note that the law doesn't apply if the detained person has proof of U.S. citizenship). The law will also permit police to check the immigration status of not just anybody they arrest but anybody they detain, and critics of the law warned that this will significantly discourage immigrants who are crime victims or witnesses from cooperating with or turning to the police. Read the law for yourself here. Because the version the House passed is significantly different from what the Senate initially crafted, SB 4 has to go back to the Senate for another vote and the two chambers need to hammer out some sort of compromise.[...]

Can You Lose Your Citizenship by Lying About Your Weight?

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 10:31:00 -0400

If you want to become a citizen of the United States, you have to answer a lot of questions, some of which are very broad and many of which seek potentially embarrassing information. In a case the Supreme Court heard yesterday, the U.S. government takes the position that a false answer to any of those questions, no matter how trivial or irrelevant the subject, is enough to strip you of your citizenship years after you were naturalized. That argument encountered a lot of resistance from the Court and prompted a startling confession from Chief Justice John Roberts. "Some time ago," Roberts told Assistant to the Solicitor General Robert Parker, "outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone....I was not arrested." Had Roberts done that as a green-card holder seeking citizenship, he would have been obligated to check the "yes" box next to Question 22 in Part 12 of his application for naturalization: "Have you EVER committed, assisted in committing, or attempted to commit a crime or offense for which you were NOT arrested?" According to the government, checking the "no" box could have life-altering consequences. "You say that if I answer that question no," Roberts said, "20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door and say, 'Guess what, you're not an American citizen after all.'" Parker confirmed that was indeed what he was saying. "Oh, come on," the chief justice replied. At the center of the case, Maslenjak v. United States, is the meaning of 18 USC 1425, which makes it a felony to "procure" citizenship "contrary to law." In addition to a prison term of up to 25 years, a conviction under that statute triggers automatic loss of citizenship. Divna Maslenjak, an ethnic Serb from Bosnia who became a citizen in 2007, was convicted of violating 18 USC 1425 because she lied about her husband's military service while seeking refugee status in 1998 and did not acknowledge the lie when she applied for citizenship. It is a matter of dispute whether that lie, which violated another law making it a crime for a naturalization applicant to knowingly make a false statement under oath, actually helped Maslenjak become a citizen. But during her trial the prosecution argued that it did not matter. The judge agreed, telling jurors they could convict Maslenjak of illegally procuring citizenship "even if you find that a false statement did not influence the decision to approve the defendant's naturalization." Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit approved that interpretation of the law, parting company with four other federal appeals courts. Yesterday Parker urged the Supreme Court to uphold the 6th Circuit's decision. "What Congress was concerned here with is not what people lied about," he said. "Rather, it was the fact that they lied." Several justices seemed skeptical. "How can an immaterial statement procure naturalization?" asked Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Elena Kagan said it "seems quite natural" to require some causal connection between the false statement and obtaining citizenship. Samuel Alito suggested it was rather odd to say that someone "procured X contrary to law, but the thing that she did had no potential to help her get that thing." Several justices also were dismayed by the sweeping implications of the government's position. Stephen Breyer said it is "rather surprising that the government of the United States thinks that Congress is interpreting this statute and wanted it interpreted in a way that would throw into doubt the citizenship of vast percentages of all naturalized citizens." Noting that the questions posed to would-be citizens "are unbelievably broad," Breyer added his own hypothetical to Roberts' speeding example: "I walked into the immigration hearing with a pocketknife in a government building, a Boy Scout knife I carry on my key chain....No one ever saw it. It was there the whole time, and then I walked out." That offense likewise would require a "yes" to Question 22, and a "no" would be grounds for denatur[...]

Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration from Enforcing Executive Order on Sanctuary Cities

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 17:20:00 -0400

(image) Today Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that blocks the Trump administration from enforcing President Donald Trump's executive order denying federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities. "The confusion caused by [the executive order's] facially unconstitutional directives and its coercive effects weigh heavily against leaving it in place," Judge Orrick wrote. "The balance of harms weighs in favor of an injunction."

Today's ruling came in the matter of County of Santa Clara v. Trump and in the related matter of City and County of San Francisco v. Trump, a pair of constitutional challenges filed against the president's executive order. In brief, Santa Clara and San Francisco argue that the Trump administration's threat to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities violates multiple constitutional provisions, including the separation of powers, the Spending Clause, and the 10th Amendment. They asked for the order to be put on hold while their legal challenges proceed in federal court.

"To succeed in their motions," Judge Orrick wrote today, "the Counties must show that they are likely to face immediate irreparable harm absent an injunction, that they are likely to succeed on the merits, and that the balance of harms and public interest weighs in their favor. The Counties have met this burden." The Trump administration is now blocked from enforcing the executive order anywhere in the country while the constitutional challenges move forward.

The Trump administration may not want to hear it, but sanctuary cities 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." Furthermore, as the Supreme Court held in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012), the threat to withhold existing federal funds from a state in order to coerce that state into doing the bidding of the federal government is an unconstitutional act of "economic dragooning." Finally, it should be noted that the federal spending power is located in Article I of the Constitution, among the enumerated powers of Congress; it is not located among the enumerated powers of the president in Article II.

Judge Orrick's opinion in County of Santa Clara v. Trump is available here.

Justice Dept.’s Threatening Letter to Sanctuary Cities Is Less Than It Seems, and That’s Good

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 15:15:00 -0400

The Department of Justice has sent threatening letters to eight American cities and one county warning them that they face having their federal grants withheld because of their behavior as "sanctuary cities"—but it's not exactly how it might appear. President Donald Trump famously campaigned on a promise to eject illegal immigrants and to go after the cities that were protecting them. This has in turn prompted a massive effort by pro-immigration forces in major cities to resist the federal government's deportation efforts. So let's be very clear what's going on, because both sides have good political reason to overemphasize what's happening in order to appeal to their voting bases: These letters are not demanding that police and municipal governments assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in rounding up illegal immigrants subject to deportation orders. The federal government cannot force cities to help them enforce immigration laws. It's important to understand that, just as they can't force cities to enforce the federal ban on marijuana possession or consumption. In both cases, federal officials can (and frequently do) go into these cities and enforce these laws themselves. Through the use of detainer requests, ICE can ask police, prisons, and jails to hold immigrants they believe are subject to deportation orders, but these are requests. There is, however, a federal immigration regulation that this small group of cities may be violating. Federal regulations forbid any state or local government from prohibiting its employees from communicating with the feds about any person's immigration status. So, for example, if a local police officer arrests somebody he knows is an immigrant in the United States illegally, he cannot be prohibited from passing that information along to ICE. The targets of these letters are cities—New Orleans, Miami, Chicago (and Cook County), Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, New York City, Sacramento (California)—that have policies or ordinances that prohibit this communication. An inspector general's report written back when Barack Obama was president determined these cities may be out of compliance with the law. The Justice Department is ordering them to make sure they are following this one code if they want to keep getting grants. The regulation also doesn't require the local governments even keep track of the residency status of people living within their boundaries. "Sanctuary cities" get their identities partly because officials simply refuse to determine whether the people who live there are legal residents of the United States during interactions or arrests. So even those rules won't change. But in the event local law enforcement officers actually do know the immigration status of a citizen, the city or county can't stop him from communicating that information to the feds. The Justice Department put out a short press release announcing the demand that the affected cities and county prove their compliance with the law. There's a bit of "editorializing" in the press release: Additionally, many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime. The number of murders in Chicago has skyrocketed, rising more than 50 percent from the 2015 levels. New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city's "soft on crime" stance. And just several weeks ago in California's Bay Area, after a raid captured 11 MS-13 members on charges including murder, extortion and drug trafficking, city officials seemed more concerned with reassuring illegal immigrants that the raid was unrelated to immigration than with warning other MS-13 members that they were next. The punchline here is that none of the cities in the California Bay Area are recipients of these letters or are accused of being out of compliance with the law. It's just a swipe at the officials there.[...]

The Bogus Claims Behind Trump's H-1B Crackdown: New at Reason

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 08:29:00 -0400

There was a time when Republicans were only against illegal immigration of the Hispanic variety. President Donald Trump's executive order cracking down on H-1Bs today shows that those days are gone. Now it is open season on all immigrants — legal, illegal; low-skilled, high-skilled.(image)

Immigration foes have used stories about Disney and Southern California Edison to argue that companies use the H-1B visa program to replace American workers with cheap labor, not obtain specialized talent that they can't find at home. But National Foundation for American Policy's Stuart Anderson shows that there is more to the Disney and Edison cases than meets the eye. Moreover, these fallacious examples fly in the face of credible studies that debunk restrictionist claims that foreign professionals hurt American wages and jobs. He writes:

The central flaw in arguments alleging a negative impact on native employment due to the presence of foreign scientists and engineers is that they are based on the "lump of labor fallacy" – or the notion that there is a fixed number of jobs in the economy. Hence, the argument goes, if you increase the number of workers, you get lower wages and rising unemployment. But high-skilled tech workers grow the economic pie by boosting productivity, encouraging more investment and increasing entrepreneurship. Overall, they create jobs.

President Trump's Executive Order Targeting Foreign Techies Will Hurt American Companies and Workers

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 00:15:00 -0400

Immigration authorities opened up the annual H-1B visa lottery for American companies that want to hire foreign tech professionals on April 3. And this week they announced that they received 199,000 petitions—or more than double the number allowed. Clearly, current law fails to meet the needs of American employers. But instead of relaxing this program as would befit a president who promised to remove the regulatory handcuffs on American businesses, President Donald Trump has issued a "Buy American, Hire American" executive order that will pass new regulations making it even more difficult to recruit high-skilled foreign workers—never mind the overwhelming evidence that these workers help, not hurt, American jobs and wages. The H-1B cap is reached every year because the annual 65,000 limit—0.04 percent of the U.S. labor force—was set in 1990. Since then, technological advances like the World Wide Web and smartphones have turbocharged the demand for high-skilled technical labor. "Mobile app developers" -- a highly prized job today—didn't even exist 15 years ago. However, when companies recruit for tech talent at U.S. universities, they find Americans, to be sure—but the vast majority consists of international students, who make up an astounding 77 percent of the full-time graduate students in electrical engineering and 71 percent in computer science. An H-1B visa is often the only way for these students or high-skilled foreign nationals educated abroad to work legally in America. That means new restrictions on H-1B visas would likely block the only feasible means for any foreign-born computer specialists, engineers, doctors or scientists to work in the United States. Despite this, several conservative bills in Congress are trying to squash even this meager program. A bill co-sponsored last year by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions wanted to force employers to pay well above market rates for these tech professionals and also require international students from U.S. universities to work for 10 years outside the United States before they could work in America. Another bill co-sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) would require companies to prove to labor authorities that they tried to recruit an American before hiring a foreign national, which will expose employers to massive legal liability for every such hire. Meanwhile, the Trump administration's pledge to build a wall around excessive regulation has a giant hole in it when it comes to immigration, as his executive order directing federal agencies to implement new rules and policies discouraging the hiring of H-1Bs shows. Part of this will no doubt involve stepped up site visits by Department of Labor investigators to companies with H-1Bs in their employ. "The moves seemed designed to appease President Trump's supporters, who urged him to make good on campaign promises to eviscerate the H-1B program," reported the Washington Times. To discredit the hiring of all high-skilled foreign nationals and set the stage for draconian legislative and regulatory measures, Congressional critics and anti-immigration activists have skillfully publicized stories alleging that companies lay off U.S. workers and replace them with H-1B visa holders. However, in these stories—and the same ones involving Disney or Southern California Edison have received repeated media attention, including recently on 60 Minutes—what is actually happening is that companies are focusing on their primary business line and contracting out functions considered either non-essential, underperforming or technologically out of date. Everyone sympathizes with the U.S. workers at Disney and Southern California Edison who lost their jobs. The question is whether these personal misfortunes require changes in the law. After all, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that every year in America approximately 20 million people are laid off or di[...]

Trump's Executive Order Targeting the H-1B Visa Program Is Pure Theater

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 12:30:00 -0400

Donald Trump was back in campaign mode yesterday doing what he does best: Beat up on immigrants. But this time he didn't go after low-skilled undocumented workers. He trained his fire on high-skilled foreigners on H-1B visas. He travelled to the headquarters of Snap-On Inc, a tool manufacturer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and announced that he was signing a "Buy American, Hire American" executive order to stop companies from using this program to replace high-skilled Americans with cheaper foreign workers. "Right now, widespread abuse in our immigration system is allowing American workers of all backgrounds to be replaced by workers brought in from other countries," Trump harrumphed. This is complete and utter nonsense. There is no evidence that "widespread abuse" of the program exists much less that it is hurting American workers. Indeed, as I recently wrote, unemployment among Americans with advanced STEM degrees is about 3 percent and in certain specialized professions such as computer network architecture near 1 percent. In other words, fullest of full employment! Typically, STEM jobs go unfilled for several weeks longer than non-STEM jobs, suggesting a tight market for talent in those fields. Furthermore, H-1Bs are not "cheap" – they are paid almost $5,000 more than natives with bachelor's degrees in the same occupation. Snap-On CEO Nick Pinchuk even complained to Trump about how hard it is for his company, which manufactures high-end diagnostic tools for the transportation industry, to find "workers with the necessary training for the high-tech work," according to a White House travel pool report. But instead of reassuring him, Trump joked that he would take a "sledgehammer" to the H-1B visa program, one of the few avenues that folks like Pinchuk have to meet their labor needs. Trump declared that he would end the "random lottery" that is used to allocate the 85,000 H-1B visas handed out every year and replace it with a "merit-based" system that ensures that the visas go to the most skilled, best-paid immigrant workers. (This lottery, which draws twice more applications than the slots available, gets filled within few weeks of opening every year, leaving the unlucky employers cooling their heels for another year.) By this he presumably means that he wants to prioritize these visas for foreign techies with advanced degrees commanding higher wages. Trump has ordered a review of the program. Regardless of what the review shows, the fact of the matter is that he can't implement radical reforms via executive order. Indeed, Theresa Brown of the Bipartisan Policy Center points out that the 85,000 H-1B cap and its method of allocation is set by statute. The 1965 Immigration and Nationalization Act expressly says: "the numerical limitations [pertaining to H-1B] shall be issued visas (or otherwise provided nonimmigrants status) in the order in which petitions are filed for such visas or status." This means that Trump will need Congressional action to reform the program. And, indeed, there are a couple of bipartisan bills already in the works that want to make such reforms. So why is Trump going it alone instead of working with Congress? After all, any executive action that messes with the existing system will be sued before it makes it through the door. One would have thought that the travel ban debacle would give him some pause.The only plausible explanation is that he is baiting opponents and wants litigation so that he can look like the hero valiantly trying to champion the cause of American workers. It's a cynical strategy that isn't likely to accomplish much. And he wouldn't be the first president to play politics with this issue. His predecessor's games doomed immigration reform. The tragedy, however, is that Trump has totally changed the conversation on immigration from where it needs to be. So far there was a consensus that whatever the case with low-skilled i[...]

Undocumented Workers Do Indeed Pay State Taxes

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 10:20:00 -0400

(image) Undocumented immigrants pay state taxes—a lot of taxes, as it turns out. So says the Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP), a left-leaning think tank. In a policy analysis released Monday, the OCPP found that the estimated 116,000-strong population of undocumented Oregonians paid a rough $81 million into state coffers.

Most of what the undocumented pay, says the OCPP report, was from property and income taxes which make up about $66 of the overall $81 million. The other $15 million comes from excise taxes paid on gasoline and alcohol (hopefully not purchased at the same time).

These numbers fit closely with much of the research done on the national level about the effect of undocumented workers on state and local budgets.

A March 2017 study released by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy (on whose numbers the OCPP study is largely derived) estimated that of the 11 million undocumented workers in the United States pay an average of 8 percent of their income to their state and local governments, for a grand national total of $11.74 billion a year.

The effective tax rate between states varies considerably however. The OCPP finds that Oregon's unauthorized workers pay a more modest 5.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes, likely thanks in part to that state's lack of a sales tax. The state of Illinois in contrast eats up about over 10 percent of income produced by undocumented residents.

These numbers clash with much of the rhetoric about illegal immigrants emanating from President Trump, who has long complained about the supposed free ride undocumented immigrants are getting in America.

As far back as October 2015, Trump had suggested that only 5 to 10 percent of illegal immigrants paid taxes, while costing the United State economy an alleged $300 billion a year.

Trump has since ridden that message all the way to the White House, repeatedly promising both on the campaign trail and in office to save Americans' tax dollars by deporting those who entered the country illegally.

In his January joint address to Congress, he promised "billions and billions of dollars" would be saved by stricter enforcement of immigration laws.

The numbers coming from the OCPP report and others suggest that the opposite approach might actually be more of a budget winner.

"When previously undocumented workers become authorized, they tend to earn and spend more," writes OCPP policy analyst Janet Bauer. This she says would in turn boost tax revenue, saying that " a path to citizenship would result in about a 48 percent increase in the tax contributions of Oregonians who are currently undocumented."

Whether the possibility of bilking aspiring Americans of more of their hard-earned income will get many immigration skeptics to come around to the idea of reform is certainly an open question. On whether undocumented immigrants do indeed pay into state coffers however, the research leaves little doubt.

Taxes, Testosterone, and the Virtues of Overbooking [Reason Podcast]

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 19:30:00 -0400

The best way to solve the problem of too many people on an airplane is to "offer a price to get people to voluntarily give up a seat," says Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty. "But it only works really well if they keep raising the price until they get the volunteer."

On today's podcast, Doherty joins Nick Gillespie and Katherine Mangu-Ward to talk about why busting heads and not overbooking was to blame for last week's United Airlines crisis, the libertarian case for free trade and immigration, how to convince non-libertarians that one person's gain isn't necessarily another person's loss, Arkansas' legal fight to execute eight men, filing taxes, and the virtues of recreational testosterone.

Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

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Welcoming Immigrants Means Higher Wages

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:30:00 -0400

"The benefits that immigration brings to society far outweigh their costs," declares an open letter to congressional leaders and President Donald Trump. The letter, published on Wednesday and signed by nearly 1,500 economists—including six Nobel Prize winners—notes that immigrant entrepreneurs start new businesses that hire lots of Americans; that immigrants are far more likely to work in innovative, job-creating fields such as science, technology, and engineering; and that they bring diverse skill sets that keep our workforce flexible, help companies grow, and increase the productivity of American workers. A new study parsing employment data between 1991 and 2008 confirms that immigrants significantly boost both the productivity and the wages of workers. The paper, published this week in the journal Economic Geography, compares how 160 U.S. metropolitan areas are faring according to the statistics compiled by the Census Bureau's Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics program. (This dataset has information on more than 30 million workers at 1.2 million businesses, including their sex, age, race, wages, length of employment, education, and country of birth.) The authors, economic geographers Abigail Cooke of SUNY-Buffalo and Tom Kemeny of the University of Southampton, note that "inclusive institutions" encourage trust, lowering costs and fostering cooperation. To get a handle on how inclusive various American cities are with respect to immigrants, the two researchers devise two indicators. The first measures how widespread social capital is in each city, and the second accounts for pro- and anti-immigrant ordinances adopted by local governments. Social capital consists of the connections of trust between individuals and entities that can be economically valuable. The authors constructed their indicator for social capital by assessing data from the County Business Patterns on the number of social, political, advocacy, business, professional, and labor associations per 10,000 residents in each metropolitan area. They also take into account the number of gathering places, such as specialty food shops, restaurants, cafés, bars, hair salons, corner stores, fitness centers, sports clubs, and bowling alleys. For a stark contrast between places with inclusive institutions and those without, the researchers focus their analysis on the cities that scored in the top and bottom third of their social capital indicator. Municipalities with the highest social capital included Appleton, Wisconsin; Des Moines, Iowa; and Trenton, New Jersey. Those with the lowest include McAllen, Texas; Fayetteville, North Carolina; and San Bernardino, California. Next they develop an inclusiveness indicator based on pro- and anti-immigration ordinances enacted by various metropolitan areas. They note that most of the ordinances specifically focus on undocumented immigrants, but they argue that their adoption indicates residents' attitudes toward immigration more generally. Some cities pass English-only rules or try to punish employers who hire undocumented immigrants; others pass sanctuary laws. In their analysis, they include the 160 urban areas that alternatively crossed thresholds in which at least 50 percent of their municipalities and counties had adopted either pro- or anti-immigrant ordinances. Metropolitan regions with more mixed policies were excluded. Among the cities scoring highest on the pro-immigrant indicator were Salem, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and Fresno, California. Anti-immigrant areas included Charlotte, North Carolina; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Harrisonburg, Virginia. On top of all that, the researchers used the Census data to determine what percentage of people in each urban area is native and foreign-born. They also follow people's work and wage histories. The results? "What we found w[...]

Immigrant Diversity Boosts Native-Born Wages: New at Reason

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:30:00 -0400

(image) "The benefits that immigration brings to society far outweigh their costs," declares an open letter to congressional leaders and President Donald Trump. The letter, published on Wednesday and signed by nearly 1,500 economists—including six Nobel Prize winners—notes that immigrant entrepreneurs start new businesses that hire lots of Americans; that immigrants are far more likely to work in innovative, job-creating fields such as science, technology, and engineering; and that they bring diverse skill sets that keep our workforce flexible, help companies grow, and increase the productivity of American workers. A new study in the journal Economic Geography parsing employment data between 1991 and 2008 confirms that immigrants significantly boost both the productivity and the wages of workers.

Customs and Border Patrol Wants to Get Rid of Hiring Polygraphs Because of How Many Applicants Use Drugs

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 12:45:00 -0400

(image) U.S. Customs and Border Protection has 1,800 unfilled positions, and President Trump wants the agency to hire an additional 5,000 employees over five years. But there's a problem, according to the Wall Street Journal: 60 percent of CPB applicants can't pass the agency's polygraph test.

While none of the Journal's sources knew exactly why so many people who want to work for CPB end up lying during interviews, several sources suggested "it was likely because applicants were untruthful about past drug use, even though that doesn't automatically disqualify them from being hired."

The polygraph was instituted in 2010 after a series of corruption prosecutions involving CPB employees. Now that it's clearly impeding the agency from realizing a neck-stomping vision of an impenetrable border, what should the agency do? "Is there a way," Rep. Martha McSally (R., Ariz.) said to the Journal, "for us to make sure we're upholding the standards—we all want to make sure there is no corruption—but a way to provide some common sense?"

Officials in and around CPB are considering an easier polygraph test, exempting applicants with military and law enforcement backgrounds, and even doing away with the polygraph altogether (ICE doesn't have one, and now they're getting all the good people). How making it easier for nominal lawbreakers to land federal law enforcement jobs comports with Trump's pledge to reduce corruption in the federal workforce is a fair question in want of a president coherent enough to answer it.

What's really odd about the Journal's piece is that no one--not a single person!--acknowledges the possibility that the hiring problem is bigger than nervous nellies lying about their weed (maybe meth) habits. Last December, The New York Times obtained records revealing that over 200 DHS employees were known by the agency to have received $15 million in bribes to make investigations go away, provide intelligence to drug cartels, and sell immigration documents, among other things. Again, those were the cases the department knew about and this was six years after passage of the Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010. The FBI, meanwhile, can't seem to find good hackers who don't blaze.

Is there a way to both eradicate corruption and fill federal positions with the best people? No, not when the incentives driving corruption and deterring candidates are so closely tied to our crappy drug and immigration laws.

And I wouldn't be doing this topic justice if I didn't also encourage you to watch's episode on the criminal penalties for teaching people how to beat a polygraph:

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Portland Resistance Radicals Trying to Disrupt an Anti-Immigration Speaker Thwarted by Lewis & Clark Students

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 17:22:00 -0400

Note: The original version of this article mistakenly stated that John Tanton, founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is deceased. He is not and I regret the error. Protests broke out at the International Affairs Symposium at Portland's Lewis & Clark College Tuesday when radicals outside, frustrated at being stymied, started pounding on the door of a debate on immigration, as if trying to break in. But the true hero of the event was a black Muslim student from Sudan, a country included in Trump's travel ban, who heroically grabbed the bullhorn from one of the screaming yahoos and lambasted them for disrupting the event. He told them that because of them, the event ended abruptly, robbing him of an opportunity to ask his question. He pointed out that if they want change and reform, they are going about it the wrong way if they won't even let people talk—showing that, ironically, a foreigner, has a better grasp of free speech, tolerance, pluralism, and open dialogue than the protesters speaking on his behalf. I had been invited to the country's oldest student-run symposium along with former Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra to kick off the three-day event with a debate on open borders and immigration. But last night things got "interesting"—as the Chinese would say. That's because the student organizers had invited Center for Immigration Studies' Jessica Vaughan to debate Northwestern University's Gayla Ruffer on the international community's obligations towards refugees. The Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes CIS as a hate group, which may be debatable. But what is not is that it is a crappy outfit and countering its steady stream of misinformation and half-truths accusing immigrants of everything—including raising global greenhouse gas emissions — could keep an army of fact-checkers gainfully employed for a long time. (Its latest scrape with the truth occurred just last week when Harvard University's Robert Putnam accused CIS head Mark Krikorian of "cherry-picking" his work in an anti-immigration piece for The Wall Street Journal.) As I wrote last year, CIS is a spinoff of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a racist organization. Indeed, FAIR founder John Tanton, a tireless anti-immigration crusader, worked to create CIS (along with NumbersUSA, another awful outfit) because his many eye-popping comments over the years had put FAIR on the losing side of the "battle of ideas." For example, he's on record regretting that Hitler had given eugenics a bad name. Tanton was also a member of Zero Population Growth and his broader aim was a planet inhabited by fewer and whiter humans. (He once quipped that the high Latino fertility rates meant that "those with their pants up [whites] are going to get caught by those with their pants down!") Krikorian (whom I have debated) cut his intellectual teeth at FAIR and has been spectacularly successful in whitewashing (so to speak) its link with FAIR. (This is partly because of the writing perch he and other CIS writers have acquired at the National Review which, incidenatlly, suggests that NR's staunchly pro-life editors love the unborn less than they hate immigrants.) So successful in fact that the rather progressive-minded student committee that organized the conference was simply not aware of CIS's nefarious connections and history when it invited Vaughan. However, having extended the invitation, it wanted to go ahead with it. But Lewis & Clark history professor Elliott Young, a campus firebrand, wrote a scathing piece earlier in the week in the Huffington Post chastising the student organizers for providing a "safe space" for those with the radical right. His piece mobilized the local Portland Resi[...]

Will a Constitutionally Questionable Doctrine Save Trump's Travel Ban?

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 15:00:00 -0400

A federal judge in Hawaii recently refused to lift his block on President Trump's revised travel ban. The reason he refused, he said, was because the legal challenge against the ban — which will surely reach the Supreme Court — has a "strong" likelihood of succeeding. But this may be overly optimistic, thanks to the lingering hold of something called the plenary power doctrine, which gives the president and Congress sweeping powers to set immigration policy without regard to the Constitution's usual checks. If there were ever a case crying for this doctrine to be thrown out, Trump's travel ban would surely be it. The national security rationale that the administration is offering to justify its ban is so pathetically weak that the Supreme Court justices will have to suspend a lot of disbelief to swallow it. But still, Trump might prevail. The plenary power doctrine has its genesis in 19th century case law. In a series of three cases, the Supreme Court ruled that: A Chinese worker based in the United States had no right to re-enter after a brief visit to his native country because Congress had changed the rules in the interim (Chae Chan Ping v. United States, 1889). The court would not second-guess political authorities who without due process or an explanation had refused to let a Japanese woman enter so that she could join her husband in the United States (Nishimura Ekiu v. United States, 1892). The government could indefinitely detain, pending deportation, any Chinese citizen living in the United States who had failed to obtain residency permits even if they had committed no other crime (Fong Yue Ting vs. United States, 1893). The underlying rationale in all these cases was that, in order to protect itself, the government of a sovereign nation like America must be able to exclude any foreigner from its soil without constitutional objections from courts. The only "rights" foreigners are entitled to when it comes to their ability to enter or stay in the country are those that the political branches decide to extend to them. So, actions that might be illicit when applied to citizens are unobjectionable when it comes to foreigners, especially those not living in the United States. The court doubled down on this rationale during the heyday of the Red Scare. In 1950, it refused to allow Ellen Knauff, the Jewish-German wife of a U.S. army employee fleeing Czechoslovakia, from entering the country. Immigration officials claimed, based on the word of a jealous ex-girlfriend, that she was a spy. In another case, the justices reaffirmed the right of authorities, without explanation or due process, to bar a Hungarian legal permanent resident, Ignatz Mezei, from re-entering, even though he'd lived in America for 20 years. Why? Because he was a union supporter and therefore a likely Communist sympathizer. Despite such history, most legal scholars believe that the doctrine has softened enough that Uncle Sam could no longer get away with barring from the country legal permanent residents or green card holders except in some very limited circumstances (like if they had been involved in terrorist activity while away). That's why the original Trump order, which wouldn't let even green card holders from seven majority-Muslim countries enter, did not have a prayer of being upheld. But legal scholars also believe that the plenary power doctrine is still strict enough that tourists, students, temporary foreign workers, and others applying for non-immigrant visas from Trump's new list of six countries can be banned (although Hawaii is challenging even this aspect on grounds that it'll affect the state's tourism industry and universities). The gray area concerns Trump's efforts to deny for[...]

'I'm Not Willing to Sacrifice Freedom of Expression on the Altar of Cultural Diversity'

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 06:00:00 -0400

In 2005, while an editor at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Flemming Rose commissioned a series of cartoons about the prophet Muhammad. His goal was to highlight the dangers of self-censorship in an age of political correctness. The response was explosive: Islamic terrorists greeted the cartoons with violence, riots, and attacks on western embassies that left at least 200 dead, according to The New York Times. Rose has been under threat ever since, frequently traveling with bodyguards. Yet he remains one of the planet's most committed and articulate defenders of free speech, the open society, and the enlightenment values of tolerance and universal rights. Rose sat down with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie in February to talk about his book The Tyranny of Silence (Cato), a defense of his decision to publish the cartoons and a guide to unfettered expression in the 21st century. Reason: Since the Muhammed cartoons came out, we've seen any number of violent reprisals against free speech, most catastrophically the gunning down of a good part of the staff of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. We've also seen the continuing rise of hate speech laws in Europe and a stultifying climate on college campuses. Are things good for free speech right now or not? Rose: If we take the long-term historical view, 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. You can see it when you check out statistics. Freedom House puts out a report every year; Reporters Without Borders in Europe does the same thing. And the trend is the same all over. For the past approximately 10 years, freedom of the press and freedom of speech are in decline. 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 that freedom of expression is in decline even in Western Europe. What forms does it take, say, in Western Europe? Are there legal actions against reporters, or is it a chilled atmosphere where people just don't talk about certain things? It's both. In the first half of 2015, France—of all countries in the world—was the most dangerous place to live for a journalist. That's, of course, not the case anymore, but a couple of years ago, I interviewed the most famous French cartoonist, Plantu, who works for Le Monde. I asked him when was the last time a cartoonist was killed in Europe, and he couldn't recall. The only name he came up with was a Palestinian cartoonist who was killed in London in 1987, by either the Mossad or the [Palestine Liberation Organization]. Even Honoré Daumier, the most famous French cartoonist who worked in the 19th century—he was sent to jail several times but he came out and he continued mocking the king. He was not killed. He was not physically threatened. Where are the threats coming from? Are they exclusively coming out of religious intolerance? Is it Islamic jihadists? It is broader than that? It's far broader than that. It has to do with our ability to manage diversity in a world that is getting increasingly globalized. The debate of free speech is going on in a qualitatively new situation driven by migration, the fact that people move across borders in numbers [and] at a speed never seen before in the history of mankind. The consequence being that almost every society in the world right now is getting more and more diverse in terms of culture and religion. That's one factor. The second factor is digital technology. The fact that what is being published somew[...]