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Published: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:14:57 -0400


College Republicans Get In Huge Trouble for Posting 'I.C.E. I.C.E. Baby' Signs

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 10:15:00 -0400

The College Republicans at the University of California, Merced advertised their club last month with signs that read "I.C.E. I.C.E. Baby" and provided the phone number for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Now the student government is considering defunding them and similar organizations, in part because College Republicans might use those funds to attend conservative conferences and spread hateful rhetoric on campus. The initial advertising campaign provoked a response from school administrators several days after the incident. The officials condemned the group's "bigoted and hateful" tactics but reminded students that "as nasty as the club's signs were, they are protected by the First Amendment." When the student legislature got wind of this, it released a statement saying it "would like to apologize to the student body for not taking a definitive stance against the violent actions from the College Republicans sooner." It continued: "Members of the senate believe that we should not tolerate or support any individual or organization that perpetuates hate speech on our campus. Direct endangerment of any kind should be condemned on this campus." If any students saw the I.C.E. phone number on the College Republicans' sign and did, in fact, call it to report an undocumented student who was then deported or questioned, that would indeed be direct endangerment. But the reference to "hate speech" takes the statement in a different direction, veering toward the "words are violence" jargon that has become all too common on campuses. On March 21, the legislative branch of the student government released a statement lamenting the fact that another student government division––the Inter Club Council––granted funding to the CRs to attend the California College Republicans state convention, saying that the conference "will enable their organization to network with individuals that share their harmful views" and that those hateful sentiments would be brought back to the Merced campus. The College Fix reports that "Senators asked students to attend an April 4 Senate meeting to discuss 'financial bylaw changes that will prohibit student fees from funding partisan organizations on campus, a policy implemented on other UC campuses.'" This meeting was allegedly coupled with a discussion of the "formal timeline of the violent actions committed" by College Republicans, making it pretty clear that the discussion of withholding funds was related to the conduct of these conservative provocateurs. It's not clear how a prohibition on student fee funding for partisan organizations will be applied, or which organizations will be considered partisan––would a pro-choice group, for example, fall into that category? A genuinely neutral removal of student funds for all political organizations would be constitutionally acceptable, but any discrimination on the basis of a group's point of view could run into First Amendment problems. In an April 16 statement, the California College Republicans say they "view any attempt to defund CRUCM as an explicitly biased attack against conservative values and ideas....Any repercussive action by UC Merced student government or campus administration is an assault on First Amendment rights." They don't say whether they plan to take legal action if they lose their fees, but they're hinting that this issue won't be resolved quietly. This is, after all, the same litigious College Republicans chapter that threatened to sue their school when administrators quoted high security fees for bringing the right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro to campus. Fears of deportation, or of having their Dreamer or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) revoked, are real for many students. A call to I.C.E. from an antagonistic fellow student would be life-altering to some in UC-Merced's student body. But even shitty, loathsome speech is protected by the First Amendment. The more we equate words with violence, the easier it becomes to justify suppressing speech––and who would be in charge of drawing those boundaries for what type of spee[...]

Trump to Indian Wives: Forget About Your American Dream

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 16:00:00 -0400

The Trump administration doesn't want to make life miserable for immigrants who don't play by the rules of America's broken(image) immigration system but even those who do. Consider its treatment of the spouses of high-skilled H-1B immigrants, the vast majority from India.

These spouses aren't allowed to work till their husbands'—and their—green cards are processed. When I came to the United States from India in 1985, I note in a column in The New York Times, the average wait times to switch from these visas to green cards was four years.

But things have gotten infinitely worse for Indian spouses who came after me because, thanks to a layer of quotas, green card backlogs for Indian nationals now span decades. This means that Indian wives are essentially frozen out of the U.S. labor market for life, even though they tend to be highly qualified. Hence they've taken to calling their visa "the involuntary housewife visa."

The real solution to their plight would be to get rid of the quotas that have created the green card backlogs. And, indeed, there is a bipartisan bill called the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017 that would eliminate both the per country quota for employment-based green cards and increase the quota for family-based ones.

But any such legislation did not have a prayer of passing during President Obama's term. So he took a small step in addressing their plight by handing work authorization to those H-1B spouses whose green card application had been filed and accepted and so it was just a matter of time—a very lon....g time, to be sure—before they got their green cards. This made complete sense given that at that stage these women are here to stay, and so what would be the point of preventing them from working and paying taxes?

The policy offered relief to about 100,000 primarily Indian women, but the Trump administration has announced that, come June, it will rescind the Obama-era rule—no doubt because it has succumbed to the restrictionist argument that work authorization for H-1B spouses means that the United States would end up "importing" two foreign workers for every one.

But squandering talent won't only not Make America Great Again, it'll make the restrictionist worry that immigrants today prefer to live transnational lives rather than assimilate a self-fulfilling prophecy. "A job is not just income," I note. "It is also an assimilation program because it offers an entry into a new culture and a chance to form new friendships."

Go here to read the piece.

Can Extremer Vetting Reduce the Already Tiny Risk of Terrorism?

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 14:55:00 -0400

Donald Trump has defended his executive orders restricting travel to the United States, the latest of which will be considered by the Supreme Court next week, as stopgaps necessary to allow development of "extreme vetting" procedures aimed at preventing terrorists from entering the country. But as a new report from the Cato Institute shows, vetting of visitors, immigrants, and refugees is about as thorough as can reasonably be expected, and making it more "extreme" is apt to impose costs that far exceed any conceivable benefits. "The evidence indicates that the U.S. vetting system is already 'extreme' enough to handle the challenge of foreign terrorist infiltration," writes Cato immigration policy analyst David Bier in the new study (which Shikha Dalmia noted in a post about Syrian refugees this morning). "The country has maxed out its capacity to improve immigration vetting. Fortunately, vetting failures are very rare and pose a small risk to the United States." Bier reviews how the 9/11 attacks, which revealed screening procedures that were in many ways embarrassingly lax, prompted various reforms, including more and better-trained personnel, increased collection and sharing of information, greater use of interviews and biometric data, and a new focus on terrorism prevention among immigration and State Department officials. These reforms seem to have made vetting failures much less likely. "Vetting failures are rare and have become much rarer since 9/11," Bier writes. "There were 52 vetting failures in the 15 years leading up to 9/11, four times as many as in the 15 years since the attacks." During that period, the vetting failure rate—vetting failures as a share of entry approvals—fell by 84 percent, from 1 in 4.8 million to 1 in 29.1 million. Bier defines a vetting failure as a case in which the U.S. government grants entry to a foreigner "who had, at the time of approval, terrorist associations or sympathies and later went on to commit any kind of terrorism offense, including support for terrorist groups abroad." Unless there is evidence to the contrary, Bier assumes pre-existing terrorist inclinations whenever the crime happens within 10 years of arrival but excludes people who entered the country when they were younger than 16. Only one of the 13 post-9/11 vetting failures identified by Bier resulted in a fatal attack within the United States, the focus of Trump's concern. That case involved Tashfeen Malik, a native of Pakistan who, together with her U.S.-born husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, carried out the 2015 shooting that killed 14 people in San Bernardino. Attributing all of those fatalities to her, vetting failures have been tied to an average of less than one death a year in the United States since 9/11. To put it another way, an American's risk of dying as a result of a vetting failure—the risk that Trump is supposedly trying to reduce—is 1 in 328 million per year. It is not at all clear what can be done to make that tiny risk tinier. The San Bernardino attack, for example, has encouraged increased attention to the social media activity of would-be visitors and immigrants, because Malik had expressed support for ISIS and terrorism in Facebook messages before receiving a green card as Farook's fiancée. But as Bier points out, "social-media screening would not have identified these messages because she had strict privacy settings—and she used a pseudonym online to hide her identity." Bier notes that added safeguards, especially ones as hamhanded as those Trump seems to prefer (such as excluding all travelers from certain countries), impose costs by preventing economically beneficial tourism and immigration. "No vetting regime will ever catch every bad actor," he writes. "The government has already responded to 9/11 and the visa vetting failures over the last 15 years in targeted ways, addressing the specific shortcoming that those failures revealed. Blindly enacting new requirements without any evidence that these standards are capable of protect[...]

These California Kids Got In Trouble for Playing La Migra, a Game Where 'Border Agents' Chase 'Illegal Immigrants'

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 14:20:00 -0400

For decades, high school students have played a game called La Migra in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Benicia, California. It's a mix of cops-and-robbers and tag. Upperclassmen assume the role of border agents (the aforementioned migra) as they look for freshmen and sophomores, who assume the role of immigrants. The "immigrants" get a 10-minute head-start on la migra, who scour the town to find them. Everyone has one giant fiesta. And when the freshmen become seniors, they get to become migra, too! Who can possibly be upset by a game like that? Everyone, it turns out. Fans and friends started tagging me almost immediately on Twitter and Facebook when news broke. The story cropped up on The Drudge Report; local television stations interviewed "concerned parent" Daniel Serna, who compared the game to Nazis chasing Jews and the Klan lynching blacks (the correct historical corollary is the Texas Rangers against Tejanos, pendejo). School administrators sent a letter to Benicia parents vowing to crack down on the game. Meanwhile, the kids who actually played La Migra had no idea what the furor was about—to them, it was just an excuse to run around. My pals expected outrage from me. Instead, most of them got upset at my reaction: "Oh, yeah, I remember that game. It was fun! Kids still play it? Cool!" It's true. My friends and I played La Migra over 30 years ago as second-graders at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Anaheim. And so did my brother, who is 12 years younger than me. Cousins even younger than us played it. So did people older than me. We weren't upper-middle-class white kids like those in Benicia, but rather working-class Mexicans, almost all of us the children of immigrants, many of them undocumented. None of us were triggered; none of us called those who participated "problematic." Hell, we were more offensive than Benicia High: The only safe space for the immigrant team in our game was on the other side of a human wall that you had to break through. And we started the game with someone screaming "¡LA MIGRA!"—you know, just like in real life. We were boys and girls who knew all about the terrors of the Border Patrol—and we were going to have fun at their expense, dammit. The true offense of Benicia's La Migra is something the left doesn't like to acknowledge and the right can't even comprehend. The act of coming to el Norte without papers can be a fun adventure. Just ask my dad and his brothers. They came to the United States repeatedly as mojados ("wetbacks"—their word to describe themselves, not mine) from the 1960s through the 1980s, a Golden Age of illegal immigration. Those were the days when deportation was always imminent yet the state of California documented mojados by giving them drivers licenses and Social Security numbers, as if for a job well done. And the stories they tell! My tíos light up when they recall coyotes they paid, bushes they hid in, identities they assumed, all while evading the migra. My dad, in particular, loves to tell the tale of the first time he entered illegally, in 1968. He travelled in the trunk of a Chevy alongside his cousin and a stranger, while the Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face" blasted on the stereo (would've been better if it was "Ticket to Ride," amirite?). They each paid a blonde hippie girl from Huntington Beach and her assimilated Mexican-American boyfriend $50 apiece to drive them over the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro. My dad and his brothers make illegal immigration sound like one decades-long Keystone Kops sketch, mixed in with some Three Stooges pratfalls. And it wasn't just them. For decades, Mexican culture hailed illegal immigrants as mythical tricksters who came and went across la frontera with ease, humiliating Uncle Sam every step of the way. There were songs that pointed out Superman was an illegal (don't get mad at my word choice, SJWs, the tune is called "Superman es Ilegal" and the album cover depicts la migra capturing Superman in a phone booth) and that h[...]

Thanks, Trump! Los Angeles Finally Legalizing Street Vendors to Protect Poor Immigrants From Crackdowns

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 13:10:00 -0400

The dude with the elote cart who shows up as school lets out in my Los Angeles neighborhood will soon be able to breathe easier. The city is moving forward and finally, after years of debate, legalizing street vending. Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council voted 11-4 to have the city attorney draft a permitting system for street vendors so that they can sell their wares legally. And while this will come with all sorts of regulation (and in all likelihood, overregulation), the city has decided to reject a provision that would give nearby shop owners veto power over where street vendors can peddle their goods. One street vendor told the council that nearby businesses had used threats to call the police as a way to extort money from her. So the lack of veto power matters. In its place, the city will be implementing an appeals process where businesses can complain about health and safety issues connected to particular vendors. The ordinance will also restrict the number of street vendors per block and will ban street vending entirely in some busy areas like Hollywood Boulevard and Dodger Stadium. So there may still be some problems when street vendors want to sell where people actually congregate. (The street vendors in my calm residential neighborhood are in no actual danger of being shuttered by police—the residents like them and there are no storefronts nearby competing, so the cops are not getting any complaints.) At the same time that Los Angeles is finally moving forward with legalizing street vending, there is also legislation winding its way through the State Senate in Sacramento that will legalize street vending throughout California. SB 946 would allow local authorities to license and regulate—but not entirely ban—street vending. The bill would require that persons who violate street vending ordinances face only administrative fines (as opposed to potential jail time) and would require that those fines go into local government treasuries, no doubt inspired by police encounters like this one where a Berkeley police officer shut down an unlicensed hot dog vendor and seized the money out of his wallet. The bill would also allow those convicted of past misdemeanors for sidewalk vending to petition to get those convictions dismissed. That could be a big deal for the many poor immigrants in the state who are concerned that getting punished or imprisoned for something as harmless as street vending could get them picked up by immigration officials and deported. And that's partly what is pushing all this action forward after years of squabbling. The anti-immigrant nativism of President Donald Trump (he just tweeted something loathsome this morning directed toward sanctuary cities in California) and his administration have helped to turn every arrest by local police into a larger threat of deportment. We now need to figure out how to get the Trump administration to go after people who violate occupational licensing laws so that the state will start scaling those back as well. Bonus link: Check out Gustavo Arellano on L.A.'s long war against working class food choices from Reason's August/September 2015 issue.[...]

Trump Should Bring Syrians to America, Not Dispatch American Missiles to Syria

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 09:02:00 -0400

President Donald Trump cares so deeply about the suffering of the Syrian people that he didn't even feel the need to obtain congressional authorization before launching air strikes against Bashar al-Assad's regime. But if Trump really wanted to help Syrians escape Assad's chemical butchery, he wouldn't be dispatching Tomahawk missiles to Syria—he would be sending American ships to bring Syrians here. Instead, Trump has systematically gutted America's refugee program. In particular, he has spurned the very Syrians he is now trying to save from a man he has called a "monster" and an "animal." When Trump assumed office, the Syrian conflict had displaced about 12 million people, producing the worst refugee crisis that Europe had experienced since World War II. Yet America had taken in fewer desperate Syrians than the Middle East, Turkey, Europe, or Canada. Indeed, Canada, a country that has less than a tenth of America's population, has admitted more than twice as many Syrian refugees. As if that was not bad enough, one of Trump's first acts as president was to suspend America's refugee program for six months to ensure that no terrorist could sneak in through it. When he reinstated it, he slashed America's total refugee quota from 110,000 to 45,000—the lowest in the program's history—and made an already onerous screening process practically unusable. Even before Trump's extreme vetting, refugees had to endure a two-year-long, multi-agency process that automatically disqualified anyone who had so much as served a sandwich to a jihadi. (That counted as "material support" for terrorism!) It took non-Syrian refugees about two years from the time they approached a U.S. embassy abroad or an intermediary such as the United Nations to get a referral to the relevant American authorities. After that, the refugee still would have a dozen or so other hurdles to cross in the U.S., including medical screening, several in-person interviews, and background checks by various federal agencies, among other things. If the refugees were from Syria—ISISland—they faced an additional "Enhanced Syrian Review" to rule out fraud, adding several more years to their processing time. Even under the regular visa vetting process, according to a study released by the Cato Institute's David Bier yesterday, America experienced a dramatic drop in its already low vetting failure rate after 9/11. Indeed, from 2002 to 2016, it experienced one vetting failure for every 29 million visa or status approvals, for a grand total of 13 failures. And that's using a ridiculously broad definition of failure in which Bier counted even private thoughts that later became public. He also included anyone who committed an offense within a decade of entry even without evidence that they radicalized before entry. After 9/11, he found, vetting failures accounted for just 9 percent of terrorism deaths, while U.S.-born offenders killed 82 percent of the country's terrorism victims. Only God could make the vetting process more foolproof, which doesn't mean Trump would leave it to Him. Indeed, the administration has added more hurdles to the refugee screening process overall and for Syrians in particular (and is working on making the regular process equally insane). Bob Carey, a former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, observes that the refugee program isn't just being managed, "its being managed to fail." The recent admission numbers testify to that. The Niskanen Institute's Matthew La Corte has documented that from last October to March this year, the administration has settled only 10,548 refugees—about a quarter allowed under its own truncated quota. How many Syrians are among them? A grand total of 44! "The overall monthly refugee admissions...are the lowest they have been since 2012 and it's not close," La Corte notes. Nor is the administration likely to make up the deficit in the remainder of this fiscal year, given th[...]

Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas Clash Over Due Process and Immigration Law

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 17:05:00 -0400

A significant constitutional split has emerged between Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas over the meaning of the Due Process Clause. The division emerged in Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling in Sessions v. Dimaya, in which the Court struck down a provision of the Immigration and Nationalities Act for being unconstitutionally vague. Justice Gorsuch concurred in Justice Elena Kagan's 5-4 opinion invalidating the provision. Writing in dissent, Justice Thomas questioned whether the Supreme Court had any busines voiding this or any other statute on vagueness grounds. "I continue to doubt that our practice of striking down statues as unconstitutionally vague is consistent with the original meaning of the Due Process Clause," Thomas declared. In his view, "the modern vagueness doctrine, which claims the judicial power to 'strike down' vague legislation on its face, did not emerge until the turn of the 20th century." Justice Gorsuch took the opposite view in his concurrence. The "void for vagueness doctrine, at least properly conceived, serves as a faithful expression of ancient due process and separation of powers principles the framers recognized as vital to ordered liberty under our Constitution," he wrote. For Gorsuch, the phrase "due process of law" should be read as imposing a key check on government overreach. "Vague laws invite arbitrary power," Gorsuch argued. "Before the Revolution, the crime of treason in English law was so capaciously construed that the mere expression of disfavored opinions could invite transportation or death. The founders cited the crown's abuse of 'pretended' crimes like this as one of their reasons for revolution. Today's vague laws may not be as invidious, but they can invite the exercise of arbitrary power all the same—by leaving people in the dark about what the law demands and allowing prosecutors and courts to make it up." One of the sharpest disagreements between Gorsuch and Thomas came over the question of whether the Due Process Clause, as originally understood, offers any protection for aliens facing deportation from U.S. soil by the federal government. Thomas seems to think that the clause offers no such protection. "Less than a decade after the ratification of the Bill of Rights," he observed in his Dimaya dissent, "the founding generation had an extensive debate about the relationship between the Constitution and federal removal statutes. In 1798, the Fifth Congress enacted the…Alien Friends Act, [which] gave the President unfettered discretion to expel any aliens 'he shall judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States, or shall have reasonable grounds to suspect are concerned in any treasonable or secret machinations against the government itself." Gorsuch responded directly to this point with a forceful dismissal. "But the Alien Friends Act—better known as the 'Alien' part of the Alien and Sedition Acts—is one of the most notorious laws in our country's history," he wrote. "It was understood as a temporary war measure, not one that the legislature would endorse in a time of tranquility. Yet even then it was widely condemned as unconstitutional by Madison and others…. With this fuller view, it seems doubtful the Act tells us a great deal about aliens' due process rights at the founding." This is not the first time that Gorsuch has butted heads with another right-leaning justice. As I've previously reported, Gorsuch and Justice Samuel Alito have clashed repeatedly this term during oral arguments over questions of privacy and the Fourth Amendment.[...]

Neil Gorsuch Joins Liberals in 5-4 SCOTUS Opinion Striking Down Portion of Federal Immigration Law

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 11:15:00 -0400

(image) Today the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act which dealt with the power of the U.S. government to deport any alien, including a lawful permanent resident, convicted of an "aggravated felony." The 5-4 ruling was written by Justice Elena Kagan and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who concurred in part and joined in the judgment, provided the tie-breaking fifth vote.

At issue in Sessions v. Dimaya is a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act which lists being convicted of "a crime of violence" as one of the types of aggravated felony convictions that can trigger an alien's deportation. This provision defines "a crime of violence" to include any offense that "is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense."

In its opinion today, the Court struck down that provision as unconstitutionally vague. "The void-for-vagueness doctrine, as we have called it," observed the majority opinion of Justice Kagan, "guarantees that ordinary people have 'fair notice' of the conduct a statute proscribes."

In his concurrence, Justice Gorsuch explained the constitutional principle that demanded this result:

Before holding a lawful permanent resident alien like James Dimaya subject to removal for having committed a crime, the Immigration and Nationality Act requires a judge to determine that the ordinary case of the alien's crime of conviction involves a substantial risk that physical force may be used. But what does that mean? Just take the crime at issue in this case, California burglary, which applies to everyone from armed home intruders to door-to-door salesmen peddling shady products. How, on that vast spectrum, is anyone supposed to locate the ordinary case and say whether it includes a substantial risk of physical force? The truth is, no one knows. The law's silence leaves judges to their intuitions and the people to their fate. In my judgment, the Constitution demands more.

The upshot of today's ruling is that it is now more difficult for the federal government to deport aliens under the terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Supreme Court's decision in Sessions v. Dimaya is available here.

Bombs Away in Syria: Podcast

Mon, 09 Apr 2018 15:00:00 -0400

"Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria," President Donald Trump tweeted over the weekend. "Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big pay." So what will that mean, precisely? The president said this morning that he would make a decision on responding to the "heinous attack" within the next 24-48 hours, adding that such a "barbaric attack...can't be allowed to happen." As he was making that announcement, the Reason Podcast, featuring Katherine Mangu-Ward, Nick Gillespie, Peter Suderman, and me, was wrapping up its Monday episode. In addition to wargaming Syria, assessing new National Security Adviser John Bolton, and wondering what this all does to Trump's favored policy of troop withdrawal, the editorial quartet discussed refugee policy, the president's deployment of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, our burgeoning trade war with China, and Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg's coming perp walk on Capitol Hill. Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="" width="100%" height="166" frameborder="0"> Audio production by Ian Keyser. Relevant links from the show: "Hawks Cheer and Doves Cry as Trump Fails to Follow Through on Syrian Withdrawal," by Christian Britschgi "The Trump Administration Is Pursuing Regime Change in Syria Under the Guise of Fighting Terrorism," by Daniel DePetris "5 Things About John Bolton That Are Worse Than His Mustache," by Jacob Sullum "As World Refugee Population Hits All-Time High, U.S. on Pace to Welcome Third-Lowest Percentage in Recorded History," by Matt Welch "Wait: Why Do We Need MORE Troops To Stop FEWER Illegals?" by Nick Gillespie "Trump's National Guard Deployment to the Border Is Political Theater, Just Like Obama's and Bush's," by Matt Welch "How Congress Could Stop Trump's Trade War, and Why It Might Not," by Eric Boehm "Trump's Trade War Will Crush American Farmers, Fuel Soy Boys," by Eric Boehm "Trump, the Anti-Business President," by Steve Chapman "'Free-Market' Conservatives Welcome Their New Protectionist Overlord," by Matt Welch "Beware Censorship by Proxy," by Jesse Walker "Apple Wants Washington to Fix Facebook," by Ira Stoll "Don't Look to the State to Keep Social Media Companies From Imposing Ideological Conformity," by J.D. Tuccille "Obama Harvested Data from Facebook and Bragged About It. Why Are We Only Freaking Out About This Now?," by Declan McCullagh Don't miss a single Reason Podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.[...]

My new "The Hill" Op Ed on Federalism and the Legal Battle Over Sanctuary Cities

Sun, 08 Apr 2018 10:15:00 -0400

The Hill recently published my new op ed on federalism and the legal battles between the Trump and administration and various sanctuary jurisdictions. Here is an excerpt: Over the last year, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have waged an ongoing series of legal battles against "sanctuary" jurisdictions — cities... and states that refuse to aid federal government efforts to deport undocumented immigrants.... If the administration prevails, it will be a major blow to state and local autonomy in our constitutional system. Both left and right have good reason to fear such an outcome.... Only Congress has the power to spend money or impose conditions on federal grants to states. And Congress never passed any laws mandating that recipients of grants must meet the conditions Trump and Sessions seek to impose. That's why the executive order and the Sessions policy have suffered a series of embarrassing defeats in federal court at the hands of both Republican and Democratic judges. If the administration wins these cases on appeal, it will set a dangerous precedent going far beyond the specific issue of sanctuary cities. If the president can unilaterally add new conditions to one federal grant program, he can do the same with others. Since there is a vast array of federal grants, that would give the executive a massive club to coerce states and localities on a wide range of issues.... The sanctuary cases represent a political role reversal: Liberal sanctuary jurisdictions are relying on federalism arguments traditionally associated with conservatives. Right-wing defenders of the administration are arguing for sweeping notions of federal power, including by relying on a broad interpretation of Arizona v. United States, a ruling conservatives condemned at the time it came down. Yet in a deeply divided nation, both left and right have much to gain from imposing tighter limits on federal power and allowing diversity to flourish at the state and local levels. [...]

Wait: Why Do We Need MORE Troops To Stop FEWER Illegals?

Thu, 05 Apr 2018 18:45:00 -0400

(image) Let's be clear. When a cabinet head says she's going to send "as many troops as we need to get the mission done," she's using governmentese to say "we have no idea what we're talking about."

But that's the, er, exact number of National Guard members who will be ordered immediately to the border between the United States and Mexico to stop migrants, says Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen:

Matt Welch has noted that in sending troops to the southern border, Donald Trump is merely following in the footsteps of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who did the same thing at various points. In fact, so did Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan. Sending troops to the border turns out to be, like violence, as "American as cherry pie."

So what's different this time around? Illegal border crossings dropped 25 percent between 2016 and 2017 and are currently at a 40-year low:


Donald Trump ran as a nativist who said, against all evidence, that Mexico was flooding our country with criminals, rapists, drug dealers, gang members, and welfare cheats. So in a fantastically gross way, he is simply fulfilling his signature campaign promise.

But he also ran as a savvy businessman who would "drain the swamp" and make government more effective, efficient, and cost-effective. This latest move is the opposite of all that and perhaps stressing that perspective might make the 89 percent of self-described Republicans who voted for him to think twice about meekly going along with every gesture President Trump makes.

Trump’s National Guard Deployment to the Border Is Political Theater, Just Like Obama’s and Bush’s

Thu, 05 Apr 2018 16:47:00 -0400

President Donald Trump, like his two immediate predecessors, has signed an order that will send an as-yet unknown number of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico to assist Border Patrol agents and also attend to the president's own short-term political needs. If you think the above sentence is unfair in any way to the more immigrant-friendly George W. Bush, dial the wayback machine to May 2006, and note that Bush made the announcement on the exact same friggin' day that the Senate began debating an ill-fated comprehensive immigration reform package. If you think I'm being mean to Barack Obama, check out the Washington Post in 2010 noting that Obama's muscle-flexing, like Bush's, was openly intended to demonstrate credibility in advance of reform negotiations: "Then, as now, the troop deployment was fueled by heightened concerns about lawlessness—then it was illegal immigration, now it is drug traffickers—as well as political maneuvering in Washington to lay the groundwork for an effort to change immigration policy." And if you think Trump alone of the three should be spared charges of political theatricality, consider that the 19,437 agents who work for the Border Patrol arrested between them 37,393 people attempting to cross northward across the border in March. That's two arrests per agent, on average, in a month. The month prior to Obama's move, there were 55,237 arrests made by 17,000 or so agents, or more than three per agent. And apprehensions the month before Bush moved were 126,538, or more than 12 per agent. So the president is throwing more money and manpower at a problem that is shrinking by the minute. You can't go very wrong in 21st century American politics throwing ever-larger buckets of money at enforcement along the southern border. As Greg Beato noted in these pages six years ago, money and manpower along the Rio Grande had already tripled over the previous decade. But as El Paso–based Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) told me in 2015 after Trump first rode anti-illegal-immigration sentiment to the top of the polls, "You're really working against the law of diminishing returns at this point." When you double the size of an agency in less than a decade, bad things can happen. "That rapid increase in staffing [under Bush] came with some problems," the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last year. "Hiring standards were lowered, training at the Border Patrol Academy truncated, and background checks—a crucial step—were delayed or not performed at all....About 170 border law enforcement agents and officers who have been arrested, indicted or convicted in corruption cases since 2002. Officials would later acknowledge the pressure to meet the hiring goals allowed less qualified candidates onto the force, and fueled in part a surge in the cases." Trump is not necessarily governing in response to facts on the ground (which as he noted this morning in a rare moment of immigration policy honesty includes a historic low in illegal border crossings), but rather to the political imperatives created by his apocalyptic fantasies. This is someone who campaigned on nightmare border-footage that came from, um, Morocco. And just today, referencing the migrant caravan that's losing steam in Mexico, the president said, "Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened. Everybody said, 'Oh, he was so tough.' And I used the word 'rape.' And yesterday it came out where, this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don't want to mention that." With Congress continuing to refuse Trump his border money, and failing to present to him any immigration compromise (not that he has been anything but unhelpful during negotiations), the chief executive is left to that old standby: "Ston[...]

Trump’s Tribal Immigration Policies Hit a Wall of Facts

Wed, 04 Apr 2018 12:00:00 -0400

President Trump and his myrmidons are in a state over the possibility that a "caravan" of somewhere between 1,000 and 1,200 Latin Americans are heading north toward Mexico, and some percentage of them might travel so far as the United States. "Must build Wall," Trump tweeted about this the other day. Wall good! Hulk like Wall. As of this writing, Trump has posted 10 tweets on immigration since the first of the month, which is the equivalent of a Ph.D. dissertation for anyone else. Like so many things the president utters, though, his immigration tweets are not on good terms with the truth. He says the caravan and other migrants from the south represent a "massive inflow" of people. But border crossings have fallen sharply, and about the caravan a Border Patrol agent says: "Not to be flippant, but it's similar numbers to what we are seeing every day pretty much." Trump says illegal aliens bring "drugs and crime." As Cato Institute scholar Alex Nowrasteh has pointed out, "The vast majority of research finds that immigrants do not increase local crime rates and that they are less likely to cause crime and less likely to be incarcerated than their native-born peers." Besides: A wall would do almost nothing to stanch the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S., most of which comes through legal ports of entry. The president laments that "our country is being stolen!" This doesn't hold up under even a moment's scrutiny. In any other milieu, having more people join qualifies as a good thing. A thousand new members of the Republican Party? Sign them up. A record-breaking freshman class at State U.? All the better for State U. The reverse is also true: Here in Virginia, it is cause for alarm that more people are moving out of the state than moving into it—and that has been the case for four years running. It is cause for alarm because a slow or negative rate of population growth impedes economic growth. Economic growth is a function of two factors: worker productivity and population. It is not surprising that Trump fails to grasp this, given his associated belief that Americans can be made better off by using tariffs to raise the price of things Americans want to buy. More immigration is better for America economically for a second reason: Immigrants are more likely to start a business than native-born Americans. Harvard Business Review reports that "immigrants constitute 15 percent of the general U.S. workforce, but they account for around a quarter of U.S. entrepreneurs." (Pre-emptive retort to rebuttals: While Trump lately has focused on illegal immigration, that focus is part of a general hostility to immigration overall: He supports proposals to cut legal immigration in half and to make it harder for refugees to obtain asylum, for instance.) The president's fans like to echo his claim that "a nation without borders is not a nation at all." An editorial Tuesday in The Washington Examiner went so far as to contend that "border enforcement isn't any old aspect of law enforcement. Democratic self-determination and the rule of law hinge on it. ... In a democratic nation, self-determination includes determining who is part of the nation. If we really believe in the ideas of the Enlightenment, then we have to believe in self-determining, democratic nations. That means we have to believe in immigration control." The Enlightenment? Zowie. Pause for a moment to unpack this. Sure, geographic limits help define a political entity. But it hardly follows that controlling who crosses those boundaries is a necessary condition for democracy and self-determination. If that were the case, then every one of America's 50 states would lack both. States let people move freely across the border all the time. They don't issue vis[...]

Trump Wants the U.S. Military 'To Secure' the U.S.-Mexico Border

Tue, 03 Apr 2018 16:15:00 -0400

(image) President Donald Trump said today that he is "preparing for the military to secure" the U.S. border with Mexico. "We have very bad laws for our border," Trump declared. "Until we can have a wall and proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military."

Trump offered no additional details, so it's not clear exactly what sort of military personnel he has in mind for the border security job. Depending on how he plans to proceed, his hands may already be tied by federal law.

Under the terms of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, no part of the Army or Air Force may be used for domestic law enforcement purposes "except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress." The act also applies to the Marines and the Navy via Department of Defense regulations, though not to the Coast Guard, which routinely performs domestic maritime police work.

The restrictions set by the Posse Comitatus Act do not apply to National Guard troops, however, when those troops are operating under state authority. In recent years, such troops have performed border security work. In 2008, for example, President George W. Bush launched "Operation Jump Start," in which 6,000 National Guard troops were deployed to California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas to offer various forms of border control assistance. President Barack Obama did much the same, deploying 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in 2010.

In short, if President Trump attempts to place active-duty Army troops at the U.S. border without congressional approval, he will be acting in violation of federal law. If he sends National Guard troops to the border, and those troops work with state authorities, he will be following in the footsteps of recent presidents.

Trump's Increasingly Lawless Quest to Enforce a Bogus Rule of Law on Immigration

Tue, 03 Apr 2018 12:12:00 -0400

The Trump administration has opened a whole new front in its War on Immigration. In a bid to stifle the backlash against its harsh enforcement policies, it is targeting high-profile immigration activists and citizens in addition to immigrants themselves. This is an affront to the First Amendment that shows that in a bogus quest to uphold the "rule of law," the administration is itself degenerating into lawlessness. Soon after President Trump entered the White House, the Department of Homeland Security scrapped the Obama-era policy that prioritized enforcement action against undocumented aliens who had committed serious crimes while leaving others alone. In the name of bringing undocumented "lawbreakers" to book, Trump made everyone fair game—including those who have lived and worked peacefully in this country for decades while paying taxes and building lives with American spouses and children. Still, few foresaw that this administration would actually go after activists just for trying to raise public awareness about their plight. In the last 14 months, the American Civil Liberties Union along with various immigration groups has documented about two-dozen instances around the country where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have detained immigrant activists. The agency arrested six leaders of Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based non-profit outfit that seeks not just better government policies but also less exploitative working conditions for vulnerable undocumented workers, particularly in the state's dairy industry where many of them are employed. Its "Milk with Dignity" campaign, for example, shamed Ben & Jerry's, the ice cream company that bills itself the paragon of progressive virtue, into offering better living conditions, shorter shifts, and higher wages for late-night milking. Undercover ICE agents recently arrested two of Migrant Justice's most prominent leaders, Zully Palacios Rodriguez and Enrique Balcazar Sanchez, as they were driving away from the group's Burlington headquarters. They are both outspoken advocates of immigrant rights, and Balcazar serves on the Vermont attorney general's immigration task force that was formed specifically in response to Trump's harsh enforcement policies. Palacios and Balcazar both had clean records, so ICE specifically interrogated one of their detained colleagues for dirt. After learning that Palacios had overstayed a student visa and Balcazar had entered the country illegally, ICE had pretext to apprehend them. It even held Palacios without bail—a highly unusual step for someone who has never committed a criminal offense, her lawyer noted. ICE allowed its true intentions to slip on the rap sheet of at least one Migrant Justice detainee, noting that he was a part of the "local immigrant advocate group." This is not the only instance when ICE has officially alluded to the advocacy record of those it has targeted. In December, the agency detained and started deportation proceedings against Maru Mora-Villalpando, a 47-year-old Mexican who came to the U.S. on a student visa 25 years ago and lives near Seattle. The agency targeted her, it said, because "she has extensive involvement with anti-ICE protests and Latino advocacy programs." Mora-Villalpando's arrest is so egregious that it compelled the United Nations Office of Human Rights to beseech ICE to "guarantee that no action, including detention and deportation, as a means of retaliation" would be taken against her. At the same time as Mora-Villalpando was apprehended, The Intercept reports, Baltazar Aburto Gutierrez, a 35-year-old clam harvester also in Washington, was detained after he commented on his girlfriend's deportation to a local p[...]