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Published: Sun, 25 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sun, 25 Jun 2017 01:02:20 -0400


SCOTUS Says You Can't Lose Your Citizenship for Lying About Your Weight

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 09:15:00 -0400

Can a naturalized American lose his citizenship because he misrepresented his weight on his application form, neglected to mention that he once belonged to a Barry Manilow fan club, or failed to acknowledge the various occasions on which he exceeded the speed limit without being caught? The Justice Department, under Barack Obama as well as Donald Trump, said yes. Yesterday the Supreme Court unanimously disagreed. The issue in Maslenjak v. United States was 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. That is what happened to Divna Maslenjak, an ethnic Serb from Bosnia who became a citizen in 2007. Malenjak 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. Instead she swore under oath that she had never provided false information while seeking an immigration benefit or entry to the United States. That denial violated another law making it a crime for a naturalization applicant to knowingly make a false statement under oath. Whether Maslenjak's lie helped her obtain citizenship is a matter of dispute. But during her trial, the prosecution argued that it did not matter, and the judge agreed, telling the 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, opening the door to fishing expeditions that could strip people of their citizenship based on trivial misstatements made years ago. According to the Supreme Court, the interpretation approved by the 6th Circuit relies on an unnatural reading of the words Congress used. "The most natural understanding is that the illegal act must have somehow contributed to the obtaining of citizenship," writes Justice Elena Kagan in the majority opinion. "To get citizenship unlawfully, we understand, is to get it through an unlawful means—and that is just to say that an illegality played some role in its acquisition." She elucidates the point with an example: Suppose that an applicant for citizenship fills out the necessary paperwork in a government office with a knife tucked away in her handbag (but never mentioned or used). She has violated the law—specifically, a statute criminalizing the possession of a weapon in a federal building....And she has surely done so "in the course of " procuring citizenship. But would you say, using English as you ordinarily would, that she has "procure[d]" her citizenship "contrary to law" (or, as you would really speak, "illegally")? Once again, no. That is because the violation of law and the acquisition of citizenship are in that example merely coincidental: The one has no causal relation to the other. Kagan notes that the government's counterintuitive reading of the law leads to some strange results. People could lose their citizenship, for example, by lying about facts that would not have prevented their naturalization to begin with. "Lies told out of 'embarrassment, fear, or a desire for privacy' (rather than 'for the purpose of obtaining [immigration] benefits') are not generally disqualifying under the statutory requirement of 'good moral character,'" she writes. But those same lies, according to the government, are enough to revoke citizenship after it has been granted. The upshot, Kagan says, is that the government could "take away on one day what it was required to give the day before." Kagan also calls attention, as several justices did during oral argument, to the sweeping impact of the government's position. "Suppose, for reasons of embarrassment or what-have-you, a person concealed her membership in an online support group or failed to disclose a prior speeding violation," she writes. "Under the Go[...]

As World Refugee Population Hits All-Time High, U.S. on Pace to Welcome Third-Lowest Percentage in Recorded History

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 13:05:00 -0400

Today, like every June 20 this century, is World Refugee Day. Yesterday, to get the grim occasion rolling, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released its annual report on displaced people. The results? A record "65.6 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2016 – a total bigger than the population of the United Kingdom and about 300,000 more than last year." Also: "the total seeking safety across international borders as refugees topped 22.5 million, the highest number seen since UNHCR was founded in 1950 in the aftermath of the Second World War." Happy June 20! The refugee population has spiked alarmingly over the past half-decade, due to civil war and societal breakdown in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan. As I detailed here after President Donald Trump's original travel ban executive order, the worldwide population of refugees (minus the 5.3 million registered with the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestinians in the Near East), was stable between 2008-2012, at between 10.4 million and 10.6 million. But since then, according to the UNHCR, things have gone like this: 2013: 11.7 million 2014: 14.4 million 2015: 16.1 million 2016: 17.2 million That 64 percent jump since 2012 is the largest five-year increase since 1979-1983, a tumultuous period that saw southeast Asian boat people, exiles from the Iranian Revolution, Flordia Straits-crossers on the Mariel boatlift, and more. Back then, as the refugee population swelled from 6.3 million to 10.6 million, presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter took in an average of 127,000 refugees per yer*, or approximately one out of every 71 worldwide, and assumed a global leadership role in tackling a devilishly complex issue. How does the Trump administration compare? Consider that in the first four full months of his presidency, during this historic spike in displaced people, the United States admitted a total of 13,955 refugees. Over a full year that would be just a tick under 56,000, or one out of every 307 worldwide at last year's refugee population. Trump's target is actually lower than that (50,000), and the number of refugees in 2017 is almost certain to be higher, due to the four famines expected this year in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen, in addition to ongoing wars and civil conflict. And though we inevitably and understandably see such crises through the lens of our domestic policies, the UNHCR report is careful to underline that "Developing regions hosted 84 per cent of the world's refugees," led by Turkey (2.9 million), Pakistan (1.4 million), Lebanon (1.0 million), Iran (979,400), Uganda (940,800), and Ethiopia (791,600). Plenty of other fascinating nuggets, including Germany doubling its refugee population in 2016 alone, in the full report. * The U.S. measures its refugee intake by fiscal year (October-September), while the UNHCR adheres to the calendar. Even so, fiscal 2017, which includes four generous months of Barack Obama's intake (with more than 32,000 admitted), is currently on pace to represent the third-lowest percentage of global refugees taken in by the United States, at 0.35 percent (based on the UN's 2016 baseline of 17.2 million refugees). The only more stingy years on a percentage basis were George W. Bush's 2002 (0.25) and 2003 (0.29). More refugee number-crunching in this post, including this from Reason TV: src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]

Border Patrol Raids a Non-Profit Providing Medical Aid to Immigrants in the Arizona Desert

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 10:45:00 -0400

About 30 armed Border Patrol agents swarmed a small camp in a remote part of the Arizona desert last Thursday. From the intensity of the raid, you might think they were hitting a drug smuggling depot. Instead, it was a humanitarian relief station run by the nonprofit No More Deaths. There volunteers provide water and urgent medical services to migrants crossing the inhospitable region. Thursday's raid, in which four migrants were arrested, didn't just represent an escalation of interference with No More Deaths' work. It's part of a growing securitization of the southern border, a crackdown that is compelling immigrants to take increasingly hazardous and remote desert routes into the United States. At the beginning of the 21st century, the country's border security infrastructure was much smaller: The 1,954-mile frontier between the U.S. and Mexico had a mere 60 miles of fencing and about 8,500 immigratrion officials patrolling it. After 9/11, the border fence stretched to 700 miles and the number of border patrol agents exploded to over 17,000 stationed in the Southwest alone. The border also became a surveillance state, with 8,000 cameras, 11,000 motion sensors, and even drones watching out for unwanted immigrants. As Cato policy analyst David Bier pointed out in a recent Reason feature, "one byproduct of making it harder to enter is that people will choose to cross in increasingly dangerous points along the border." In 2000, the U.S. government arrested 1,643,679 illegal immigrants attempting to cross the southern border; at least 380 migrants died making the crossing. Last year, Border Patrol agents apprehended only 408,000 people for entering the country illegally, but the number of reported dead stayed roughly the same, at 322. In other words, in 2000 one migrant died on the U.S.'s southern border for every 4,325 migrants detained by the Border Patrol. In 2016, the ratio was one dead migrant for every 1,269 apprehended alive. The Office of the Medical Examiner in Pima County, Arizona—where the No More Deaths raid took place—recovers the remains of dead immigrants once every two to three days. The overwhelming cause of death is exposure to extreme temperatures and dehydration. Since 2000, 6,700 migrants have died in this way while traversing the American Southwest. No More Deaths was established to bring that number down to zero. For the past 13 years they have been operating a desert outpost in Arivaca, Arizona. From there volunteers carry water to remote foot trails known to be used by immigrants. Throughout that time, immigration officials have reportedly harassed the group. Volunteers have been charged with littering for leaving full jugs of water in the desert. Border patrol agents have also been caught on film pouring water jugs onto the ground. In 2013, however, the group reached an agreement with the Tucson branch of Border Patrol: The government would not interfere with the organization's medical and humanitarian work. That agreement was supposedly affirmed just two months ago. No More Deaths has released a statement calling last Thursday's raid a violation of that agreement, saying it "has deterred people from accessing critical humanitarian assistance in this period of hot and deadly weather." "People crossing the deadly and remote regions of the US–Mexico border," the statement added, "often avoid seeking urgent medical care for fear of deportation and incarceration." Being allowed to provide that care in a safe environment was crucial to that work. But with raids like this—and with the Trump administration escalating immigration arrests and looking to hire another 15,000 Border Patrol agents—that lifesaving help may become far more difficult.[...]

Trump Administration Rescinds Obama's DAPA Immigration Order

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 17:00:00 -0400

Late Thursday Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly announced he was rescinding an Obama-era immigration memorandum staying the deportation of undocumented immigrants whose children are American citizens. Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, never went into effect but was a target of President Trump, who promised as a candidate to revoke it as part of his broader goal of cracking down on illegal immigration. DAPA spawned an intense legal controversy in the libertarian legal community as well as dividing the normal cast of immigration advocates and border hawks. President Barak Obama issued his memo in November 2014, promising temporary legal status to some 4 million undocumented immigrants to allow them to get work authorizations and state benefits. Almost immediately, 26 state attorneys general challenged DAPA, calling it an overreach of executive power and a dereliction of the president's constitutional duty to enforce laws passed by Congress. A Texas judge agreed with them, blocking the order from being implemented in February 2015, which ultimately sent the case to the Supreme Court. Cato constitutional scholar Ilya Shapiro argued in an April 2016 piece for Reason that DAPA directly contradicted current immigration statutes and should be struck down. "In our constitutional architecture, executive action based on Congress's resistance to the president's agenda has no place," Shapiro wrote. "Countermanding congressional enactments is the epitome of a violation of the president's constitutional duty to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed.'" Another libertarian legal scholar, George Mason law professor Ilya Somin countered Shapiro in another Reason piece, contending the immigration statutes themselves were unconstitutional. "The detailed list of congressional powers in Article I of the Constitution does not include any general power to restrict migration," Somin wrote. "The Naturalization Clause gives Congress the power to establish a 'uniform Rule of Naturalization.' But it does not grant any authority over migration." Somin framed his argument as one of constitutional originalism. Without a specific grant, Congress lacks the power to regulate migration to the United States. Thus, DAPA's deferral of deportations merely prevents unconstitutional deportations from occurring in the first place. The Supreme Court was just as divided as the libertarian community on the question of DAPA, with a 4-4 split decision that kept the Texas injunction in place. Kelly's action effectively ends the policy limbo. Reactions from right and left have been fairly typical. Tom Jawetz, Vice President for Immigration Policy at the left-wing Center for American Progress, called the decision "disappointing" and representative of the administration's "misguided zeal to deport as many people as possible." On the right, Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch said on Twitter,"the restoration of our republican form of government advances" while he called on Trump to go further and "end lawless Dreamer amnesty for illegal alien children and adults." For a more in-depth look at the libertarian legal arguments for and against DAPA, check out this video, featuring the battling Ilyas. src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">[...]

More Immigration Does Not Mean Less Economic Freedom

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 10:15:00 -0400

It is not easy to maintain a society's commitment to freedom and limited government. The social consensus on which these values are based requires constant work. And many conservative intellectuals fear that large-scale immigration, especially from poor and unfree countries, makes this job much harder because immigrants bring with them the attitudes and beliefs of their home country that have an impact on their destination countries. However, new research shows that the fear that immigration undermines economic freedom may be overblown. Conservative pundit Victor Davis Hanson, expressing such anxieties, recently wrote that borders naturally arise to reflect common bonds of language, culture, habit, and tradition. And "when borders disappear" because there is no control over who comes in, these ties "become attenuated." Similarly, British scholar Paul Collier observes that "migrants are essentially escaping from countries with dysfunctional social models" that are the "primary cause of their poverty." Letting these migrants bring their culture and norms risks compromising their new countries' institutions. Even the famed Austrian-school economist Ludwig von Mises, who viewed free migration as an essential component of the (classical) liberal program, feared that in any country where the state already intervenes in the economy, migrants might exploit opportunities to further erode the economic freedom of the native-born. The main evidence for such fears has been offered by Harvard University's George Borjas. In a paper and a recent book he argues that estimates showing that opening up the borders would result in trillions of dollars in gains in global wealth assume that immigrants don't compromise the institutional environment of their destination that makes them prosperous. "What would happen to the institutions and social norms that govern economic exchanges in specific countries after the entry/exit of perhaps hundreds of millions of people?," he asks. He then proceeds to model the impact on national productivity given various levels of immigration and concludes that with enough immigration, productivity losses from negative "spill overs" become greater than economic gains. But he simply assumes the levels of negative spill overs that he models. He offers no evidence that such spill overs actually exist in the first place. A new strain of research, which I have contributed to, has examined the relationship between increased immigration and changes in the destination countries' economic freedom. It finds the exact opposite of what these critics contend. The first of these studies in 2015, which I co-authored, examined whether immigrants undermine economic institutions as measured by the Economic Freedom of the World Annual Report. This economic freedom index, which includes the size of government, the security of property rights, the integrity of the monetary system, the freedom to trade internationally, and the amount of government regulation, is a reasonable proxy for the type of institutions that conservatives worry immigration might destroy. Prior research has found a strong relationship between greater economic freedom and prosperity. Our study compared 110 countries to examine how immigration impacted their economic freedom from 1990 to 2011. We examined how the economic freedom of countries with a greater initial percentage – "stock" -- of immigrants in 1990 was impacted 20 years later. We also examined how economic freedom was impacted in countries that allowed a greater "flow" of immigrants between 1990 and 2011. We found that rather than decreasing economic freedom, there was a statistically significant positive correlation between more immigration and more economic freedom. In the 32 reported regressions, some of which parsimoniously controlled for only immigration measures and initial levels of freedom, while others controlled for multiple other factors which might influence changes in economic free[...]

By Trump's Logic, His Foot-Dragging on 'Extreme Vetting' Endangers Us All

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 09:15:00 -0400

By upholding another injunction against President Trump's travel ban yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reinforced the impression that his attempts to protect Americans from terrorism have been stymied by unaccountable judges. The appeals court ruled that Trump's executive order exceeded his statutory authority because he did not make an evidence-based determination that admitting the people he wants to exclude would be "detrimental to the interests of the United States." Yet the same ruling eliminated the administration's last excuse for failing to impose the "extreme vetting" that Trump has been promising since his campaign. When Trump issued his first executive order restricting entry into the country on January 27, he presented it as a temporary measure aimed at facilitating better screening procedures. "We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days," he said on Facebook. White House Press Secetary Sean Spicer likewise emphasized that the whole point was to "make sure that the people who are coming in are vetted properly." According to the order itself, the 90-day ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and the 120-day ban on refugees were supposed to give the administration time to "ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals." That was 137 days ago. The first order instructed the secretary of homeland security, in consultation with the secretary of state and the director of national intelligence, to "immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the [Immigration and Nationality Act] in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat." Although courts prevented the traveler and refugee bans from taking effect, the administration was still free to work on that review. Instead it focused on revising the executive order to address some of the concerns raised by critics and the courts. The revised order, published on March 6, reiterated that the administration wants to "improve the screening and vetting protocols and procedures associated with the visa-issuance process and the [refugee program]." At that point there was no legal barrier to such improvements. That remained true until March 15, when Derrick Watson, a federal judge in Hawaii, issued a temporary restraining order (later converted into a preliminary injunction) that not only blocked the bans on travelers and refugees but impeded the internal review mandated by the order. Yesterday the 9th Circuit overturned the latter aspect of the injunction, saying Watson had overreached. "Although other unenjoined sections of [the executive order] permit interagency coordination to review vetting procedures," the appeals court said, "the district court nonetheless abused its discretion in enjoining the inward-facing tasks of Sections 2 and 6." The upshot is that the administration is once again perfectly free to develop better screening procedures for travelers and refugees. But instead it is focused on convincing the Supreme Court to overturn the injunctions against the executive order. Even allowing for the inhibiting impact of Watson's injunction, Trump has done remarkably little to improve admission standards he claims are dangerously lax. The New York Times notes that "the rules for admitting people from the six countries covered by the latest travel ban [who were also covered by the previous ban] have remained almost entirely unchanged." Trump has argued that courts are endangering national security by blocking his travel ban. "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril," he tweeted in response to a February 3 ruling that blocked the o[...]

The Trump Administration's Extraordinary Plans to Use Local Cops for Immigration Enforcement

Wed, 07 Jun 2017 10:45:00 -0400

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose future in his job is a bit uncertain right now, issued a memo two weeks ago clarifying that he'd employ a narrow definition of sanctuary cities when determining which cities to target for defunding. This might make it easier for the Trump administration to defend its executive order cracking down on these cities in court. However, that doesn't mean that its efforts to coax, cajole and coerce local cooperation for immigration enforcement are constitutionally unproblematic. In fact, they may pose the biggest challenge to federalist principles since the Civil Rights era. Following the July 2015 murder of Kate Steinle by a clearly deranged undocumented immigrant in San Francisco, a sanctuary city, then-candidate Trump declared that he would end sanctuary cities. "Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars," he assured. But exactly which jurisdiction counts as a sanctuary city is up for debate. There is no definition in law or regulation. According to the most common usage of the term, these are cities that refuse to honor "detainers" issued by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to hold undocumented Immigrants until its agents can take them away. However, several federal courts have ruled that local authorities can't detain anyone—even undocumented immigrants—for longer than warrants based on the infraction for which they were brought in without running afoul of the Fourth Amendment. This opens communities to lawsuits, which they are understandably eager to avoid. But that's not the only reason that many of them decline to honor these detainers. They also argue that detainers distort their crime fighting priorities, forcing them to divert precious law enforcement resources from bigger violent crimes to minor non-violent infractions. And in immigrant-heavy communities, such efforts breed fear and distrust of the local police, discouraging people from reporting serious crimes. More to the point, as a matter of law, detainers are merely requests, not legal orders. And the federal government cannot defund cities for not honoring something that it cannot order. That's why a California judge last month halted the implementation of the administration's executive order, noting that, as written, it was too ambiguous and could potentially target jurisdictions that merely refuse to obey detainers. Sessions' new guidance tries to address that objection by clarifying that the order's defunding threat would apply only to localities that violate 8 U.S.C. Section 1373. This law prohibits jurisdictions from barring their officials from sharing immigration and citizenship information with federal authorities. This likely makes the executive order more defensible in court. But here's the thing: it'll apply only to a handful of cities since there are very few cities that actually bar such information sharing. But even they can ultimately escape the defunding threat by simply opting not to collect this information in the first place. The Justice Department last week asked the court to vacate its order based on this exact argument—the order, and the memo, essentially do nothing. Even though the prospects of a legal defeat may have forced this administration to water down its anti-sanctuary city executive order, that does not mean that it has given up on trying to commandeer a local immigration enforcement force. Earlier this year, ICE started issuing—and updating every week—a "shame list" of jurisdictions that decline to honor its detainer requests. However, it paused updating this list in April after only three weeks when some cities objected that the list contained significant errors, including on the list cities that honored detainers. But that does not exhaust the administration's efforts. Its recently released budget calls Congress to pass laws that would make detainers manda[...]

Jeff Sessions Wants to Recruit Local Cops for Border Patrol: New at Reason

Wed, 07 Jun 2017 10:45:00 -0400

(image) Thanks to the massive legal pushback, perhaps-soon-to-be-ex Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to water down his executive order threatening to defund sanctuary cities. But that does not mean that the Justice Department has given up on its efforts to rope in local cops for immigration enforcement purposes. In fact, the Bipartisan Policy Institute's Theresa Brown reveals that beyond deputizing locals for "interior enforcement," the administration is trying to get them to assist in border patrol functions, which have to date been an uncontroverted federal responsibility. This in an unprecedented move that may pose the "biggest challenge to federalist principles since the Civil Rights era," she writes.

'Immigrants Are Responsible for Substantial Economic Growth'

Wed, 07 Jun 2017 09:50:00 -0400

President Donald Trump may be resolutely anti-immigrant, but he is also studiously wrong about the positive impact that immigrants have on the U.S. economy. Far from taking "our" jobs, causing crime, and slurping up government handouts, immigrants are more likely than natives to create billion-dollar companies, work in the high-tech industry, and help create a bigger, better American future. That's the inescapable conclusion of "The Economic Impact of Immigration in the U.S., a massive (and massively documented) study from the Mass Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC), a trade nonprofit, that grew out of the group's efforts to blunt Trump's immigration bans. As of January 1, 2016, "[i]mmigrants have started more than half (44 of 87) of America's startup companies valued at $1 billion dollars or more and are key members of management or product development teams in over 70 percent (62 of 87) of these companies." More than half of Silicon Valley's corporate founders are immigrants. The integral role that immigrants play in the technology industry is one of job creation, innovation, and leadership. Far from taking jobs, immigrants are creating jobs for the native-born population and helping meet the needs of an industry constrained by a lack of skilled workers. By 2020, for example, projections indicate that 1.4 million computer specialist positions will be open in the United States, but domestic universities will only produce enough graduates to fill 29 percent of those jobs. In Massachusetts today, there are seventeen technology jobs for every person who graduates with a college degree in computer science or information technology. Immigrants are responsible for substantial economic growth. This is true of the U.S. economy where, in 2015, immigrants contributed $2 trillion to the U.S. GDP, representing 11 percent of the country's total GDP. It is also true of the Massachusetts economy, where one study found that if half of Massachusetts' 3,608 advanced level graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related fields, studying on temporary visas, remained in Massachusetts upon graduation, then 4,726 new jobs would be created for U.S.-born workers by 2021. Research indicates that immigrant students are disproportionately more likely to get their degrees in a STEM field – an area of critical domestic talent shortages – and that international students make up over 30 percent of the post-baccalaureate degrees in STEM fields. Furthermore, individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – the six countries subject to the President's revised Executive Order – are more likely to have a bachelor's degree, approximately twice as likely to have a graduate degree, and four times as likely to have a doctoral degree relative to the native-born population. In addition to this population being disproportionately educated and skilled, they are also part of a population making immediate impacts on the U.S economy. During the 2015-16 academic year alone, international students contributed $32.8 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 400,000 jobs. The study notes that according to national surveys by Pew, Gallup, and others, majorities of Americans believe that immigrants (particularly illegal immigrants) increase crime rates. The actual correlation runs in the other direction: As the immigrant share of the population has risen, crime has gone down: While immigrants are more likely to be the victim of a hate crime, they are no more likely than native-born Americans to be radicalized, according to the database Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS). It's notoriously difficult to have a fact-based, rational argument over immigration policy, especially when elected officials such as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and the president are attacki[...]

Trump's Travel Ban Is Security Theater

Wed, 07 Jun 2017 00:01:00 -0400

Donald Trump is starting to sound like a critic of his own administration. "The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.," he tweeted on Monday, referring to the executive order currently before the Supreme Court. It was Trump, not the Justice Department, who decided to issue that revised order, based on the reasonable expectation that it would be easier to defend in court. And contrary to Trump's claim that his "smart, vigilant and tough" policy provides "an extra level of safety," there is little reason to think either version of the travel ban would reduce the average American's already tiny risk of being killed by a terrorist. Trump's original order, issued on January 27, imposed a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. It suspended admission of refugees for 120 days, indefinitely for Syrians. The revised order, issued on March 6 after the first version was blocked by the courts, removed Iraq from the list of targeted countries and eliminated the distinction between Syrians and other refugees. Two other changes were more legally significant. The revised order clarified that the travel ban does not apply to lawful permanent residents, who according to the Supreme Court have a right to due process when the government tries to exclude them, or current visa holders, whose American hosts might have standing to sue. Trump's lawyers also excised a preference for refugees from religious minorities (typically Christians), which critics cited as evidence of unconstitutional anti-Muslim bias. Trump, who approved those changes, now says they were a mistake. "The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court," he tweeted on Monday, "& seek much tougher version!" That comment misconstrues the roles of the Justice Department, which is defending Trump's order, not rewriting it, and the Supreme Court, which can only review the order as it stands. And if Trump plans to revive the original ban after the second one passes muster, he will only prolong the litigation he claims is endangering national security. That claim is highly implausible. Trump says he picked the seven (now six) countries covered by the travel ban because they were on a list of nations excluded from the visa waiver program as sponsors of terrorism or havens for terrorists. But people from those countries seem to pose a much smaller terrorist threat than people from countries that were omitted from the order. Based on his count of domestic plots and attacks by foreign-born terrorists from 1975 through 2015, Cato Institute immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh reports that 19 perpetrators came from Saudi Arabia, 14 from Pakistan, 11 from Egypt, and 11 from Cuba. Their combined death toll was 2,537. During the same period, Nowrasteh found, six foreign-born terrorists came from Iran, six from Sudan, two from Somalia, and one from Yemen. None came from Libya or Syria. The combined death toll for terrorists from those six countries was zero. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sociologist Charles Kurzman compiled information on Muslims who carried out or were accused of planning domestic attacks last year. Most (12 out of 23) were American-born converts. Just two, both Somalis who were shot and killed during nonfatal knife attacks, came from a country on Trump's list or had parents who did. Even if the list made sense, it is hard to imagine how the "extreme vetting" Trump promises could identify future terrorists. As an internal Department of Homeland Security report noted last March, "most foreign-born, US-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after th[...]

Reacting to London Attack, Trump Says Travel Ban Is Tough and Smart. He's Half Right.

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 08:15:00 -0400

Reacting to the terrorist attack in London on Saturday night, Donald Trump tweeted that "we need to be smart, vigilant and tough," "stop being politically correct," and "get down to the business of security for our people." But the only concrete policy he mentioned was his temporary ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries, which is unlikely to make the already tiny risk of dying in a terrorist attack any smaller. "We need the courts to give us back our rights," the president said on Saturday, meaning he wants the Supreme Court to lift the preliminary injunction against his executive order. "We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!" We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2017 If that is Trump's aim, the focus of his travel ban is rather puzzling. The executive order covers six countries (down from seven in the original version): Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Since 1975 no one in the United States has died in an attack by a terrorist from any of those countries, although there have been less serious incidents, including two nonfatal knife attacks last year by people with Somali backgrounds, both of whom were killed in the midst of their assaults. From 1975 through 2015, according to a count by Cato Institute immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh, six Iranians, six Sudanese, two Somalis, and one Yemini were "convicted of attempting or carrying out terrorist attacks on U.S. soil." Continuing the administration's pattern of ignoring relevant evidence, Trump's order mentions just one of those cases, involving "a native of Somalia who had been brought to the United States as a child refugee and later became a naturalized United States citizen." As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit noted when it upheld the injunction against the travel ban, the order "does not include any examples of individuals from Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen committing terrorism-related offenses in the United States." But according to Nowrasteh, there are at least 13 such cases involving people from Iran, Sudan, and Yemen. Even if Trump had included all the relevant examples, the case for targeting these six countries would be weak, since citizens of other countries account for a much larger share of terrorist plots, attacks, and casualties in the United States. From 1975 through 2015, Nowrasteh found, 19 foreign-born terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, 14 came from Pakistan, 11 came from Egypt, and 11 more came from Cuba. Their combined death toll was 2,537. During the same period, six foreign-born terrorists came from Iran, six from Sudan, two from Somalia, and one from Yemen. Zero came from Libya or Syria. The combined death toll for terrorists from those six countries was zero. Nor is it clear how Trump's plan, which calls for the development of improved vetting procedures during the three months when citizens of the six countries would be forbidden to enter the United States, can reasonably be expected to catch the tiny percentage prone to terrorism. As an internal Department of Homeland Security report prepared last March notes, "most foreign-born, US-based violent extremists likely radicalized several years after their entry to the United States, limiting the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry because of national security concerns." In the one relevant case cited by Trump's executive order, for instance, better vetting would have made no difference, since the offender entered the country as a child. In a declaration cited by the 4th Circuit, 10 former national security, foreign policy, and intelligence officials (mostly from Democratic administrations) [...]

GOP Maps Out New Ways to Throw People in Federal Prison

Thu, 01 Jun 2017 10:00:00 -0400

New legislation being drafted by House and Senate Republicans would serve essentially as a clearinghouse for their tough-on-crime, tough-on-immigration stances. It would create new mandatory minimums, prepare the feds to imprison thousands more people, find new ways to punish sanctuary cities, and collect biometric and biographic data on anybody immigration takes into custody, regardless of citizenship status. The 333-page "Building America's Trust through Border and National Security Act of 2017" is being assembled by two Texans, Sen. John Cornyn and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul. Like omnibus legislation, it's a Frankenstein's monster of cobbled-together bills that probably couldn't get passed on their own, certainly not before Republicans controlled both Congress and the White House. A source provided Reason a copy of the draft legislation. Among the measures currently included in the bill's text: The bill includes "Kate's Law," legislation designed to increase federal mandatory minimum sentences for illegal immigrants in crime cases. It's named after Kathryn Steinle, who was killed by a felon who had been deported but returned illegally to the United States. It creates a new mandatory minimum sentences for illegal immigrants who commit crimes. An illegal alien who commits any drug trafficking or violent crime gets a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. If that person had previously been kicked out of the country before for committing a crime, the mandatory minimum sentence jumps to 15 years. In addition, those who continue to return illegally to the United States after being deported (regardless of any criminal record) face 10-year sentences if they get caught. The bill authorizes the construction of "tactical infrastructure"—as in physical barriers or a "wall"—along the southwest border of the United States, and it orders the Department of Homeland Security to get such infrastructure into place by January 2021. It doesn't specifically define what the infrastructure should look like, and it doesn't appear to provide for its funding. (It does call for $33 billion to improve border surveillance.) The bill spends 60 pages authorizing a host of border patrol operations and functions. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would see a staff increase of 1,500 special agents, 500 of which would be assigned to the border. The number of ICE investigators would increase by 1,000. The bill offers a host of financial incentives and bonuses to hire and keep border patrol officers. The bill's authors want to fund an increase of "not less than 50 percent per day" over the previous year in the number of prosecutions for illegal border crossings along the Mexican border, and they want to fund all the personnel needs that would entail. The legislation would provide federal grants to border states to assist local law enforcement agents if they help with border control and immigration enforcement. The bill calls for a biometric data collecting system for any person entering and leaving the United States who is not a citizen, and for checking their identities against several databases. (The databases would cover not just suspected terrorists, but also everyone who is in the United States illegally, has violated the terms of their visas, or has overstayed their visas.) It calls for collecting DNA samples from any detained aliens that are subject to deportation. The bill calls for the detention and removal of immigrants who are in the country illegally regardless of any involvement in any other crimes. It also authorizes Homeland Security to detain a deportable alien for removal if he has been tried for a crime, even if he hasn't been convicted. To make space for all these people, it funds an additional 10,000 beds in[...]

This Son of Immigrants Fought For His Country While Rep. Steve King Dodged the Draft

Tue, 30 May 2017 17:00:00 -0400

My Uncle Nick—my godfather and the man for whom I'm named—died last week at the age of 84. He was a really great uncle, brother to my mother and his other siblings, husband to his wife, and father to his daughters. He was also, in the repugnant, nativist parlance of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), "somebody else's baby." That is, he was born to immigrants from Italy and thus, according to King and other xenophobes, incapable of helping to "restore our civilization." (For more on that, go here.) Except that Nick Guida did make America a better place, first and foremost by being a good son, brother, husband, father, and uncle. He was a hardworking guy and even started his own business. He also served in Korea when called up to that bloodbath. (Steve King, in contrast, avoided service in Vietnam via college three college deferments even though he never actually graduated.) Nick's older brother, my Uncle John, served in World War II during the invasion of Italy, the very country his parents had left behind. My mother and my Aunt Lee, the only surviving member of her family, did their share to make America a better place, too, in all sorts of ways despite only learning English when they went to school. I don't want to waste much time just a couple of days before my uncle's funeral thinking about politicians, pundits, and demagogues who grotesquely dismiss whole groups of people who were, or are, "somebody else's babies." But for those of us who are within a few generations of being American, I think it's vitally important to remember how much our parents and grandparents were vilified for wanting to come here to create a better life for themselves and their children. In fact, my Italian grandmother, homesick for her family, traveled back to her birthplace with her oldest child and got locked out of America for several years due to immigration restrictions passed in the early 1920s. Like Mexicans and Arabs today, Italians were not considered desirable. In the 1890s, in the wake of a mass lynching of nine Italians accused of murdering the New Orleans chief of police, Theodore Roosevelt said the extra-judicial killings were "a rather good thing." A future governor of Louisiana proclaimed Italians as "just a little worse than the Negro, being if anything filthier in [their] habits, lawless, and treacherous." In reality, Italians in early 20th-century America had it much better than blacks, but it didn't mean they had it particularly easy. Today's immigrants (legal and illegal) come from different countries than 100 years ago, but like those in the past, they start businesses at higher rates than natives, use less welfare, and cause less crime. Go ahead, look it up. Despite the rhetoric of the Steve Kings and Donald J. Trumps of the world, immigrants and immigration are not antithetical to "making America great again" or, less dramatically, making the country a slightly better place than it was before my Uncle Nick was born. I won't be thinking about Steve King during Thursday's funeral, I'll be thinking about all the people my uncle helped during his life and how lucky we all were to know him. I'll be thinking, too, about my Italian grandparents, who never spoke English and yet somehow helped build this country nonetheless. And I'll be thinking about today's immigrants and children of immigrants, and hoping they get a fair shake in 21st-century America. And maybe next week, I'll start thinking about what sort of arguments might actually help change the contemporary discussion about immigrants and immigration from one that is filled with anger and invective to one characterized by a sense of history and a willingness to talk about facts.[...]

4th Circuit Exaggerates the Ambiguous Evidence Against Trump's Travel Ban

Fri, 26 May 2017 10:15:00 -0400

Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction against President Trump's revised travel ban, concluding that the facially neutral executive order probably amounts to an unconstitutional "establishment of religion" because it was motivated primarily by anti-Muslim sentiment. The order "in text speaks with vague words of national security," says the majority opinion by Chief Judge Roger Gregory, "but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination." That context is much more ambiguous than Gregory suggests. Ten judges, all appointed by Democrats, agreed that the injunction should stand. The three dissenting judges, all Republican appointees, argue that the majority improperly went beyond the text of the order, which suspends travel to the United States by citizens of six Muslim-majority countries, to consider statements made by Trump and his associates during and after his presidential campaign. "The danger of the majority's new rule is that it will enable any court to justify its decision to strike down any executive action with which it disagrees," says the dissent by Judge Paul Niemeyer. "It need only find one statement that contradicts the stated reasons for a subsequent executive action and thereby pronounce that reasons for the executive action are a pretext." I find myself disagreeing with both sides in this case, which was brought by six U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents with relatives in the targeted countries and three organizations that serve Muslims who want to visit or live in the United States. Niemeyer exaggerates the danger of considering a president's public statements about his own policies, while Gregory exaggerates the strength of the evidence provided by those statements. The president has broad authority to decide which foreign nationals may enter the country. The Supreme Court has said an executive-branch decision to exclude a would-be visitor or immigrant should be upheld as long as it is based on "a facially legitimate and bona fide reason." The 4th Circuit reads "facially" as modifying "legitimate" but not "bona fide." Although Trump's travel ban is facially legitimate, the majority says, it is not bona fide, because there's "ample evidence" that Trump acted in "bad faith," that the national security rationale is a cover for religious discrimination. The dissenters read "facially" as modifying "bona fide" as well as "legitimate," meaning the courts have no business considering the evidence that the majority finds persuasive. Either way, it seems unlikely that the plaintiffs will prevail when this case gets to the Supreme Court. Even if the justices agree to look beyond the text of the order, the evidence cited by the 4th Circuit is not enough to establish either that the reason for Trump's order is not bona fide or that the travel ban unconstitutionally discriminates against Muslims (two propositions that amount to essentially the same thing in the appeals court's analysis). As a presidential candidate, Trump openly and repeatedly recommended "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," suggesting that "Islam hates us" and "we can't allow people coming into the country who have this hatred." According to the plaintiffs challenging the travel ban, Trump never really abandoned the idea of using religion to screen travelers. Instead he recast his ban based on religion as a ban based on national origin, at first vaguely referring to countries "compromised by terrorism" and eventually focusing on six (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen). The executive order says these countries are particularly problematic because they sponsor terrorism or pro[...]

Cory Doctorow on Cyber Warfare, Lawbreaking, and His New Novel 'Walkaway'

Thu, 25 May 2017 09:37:00 -0400

Cory Doctorow, author of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Little Brother, and Makers, is a three-time Prometheus Award winner, an honor bestowed on the best works of libertarian science fiction. In his most recent book, Walkaway, the super rich engineer their own immortality, while everyone else walks away from the post-scarcity utopia to rebuild the dead cities they left behind. Reason Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward spoke with Doctorow about cyber warfare, Uber-style reputation economics, and that most overused and poorly understood of sci-fi themes: dystopia. Edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Mark McDaniel and Krainin. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Katherine Mangu-Ward: Do you think that the underlying conditions of free speech as it is associated with dubious technologies, are they getting better or worse? Cory Doctorow: There is the—there is a pure free speech argument and there's a scientific argument that just says you know it's not science if it's not published. You have to let people who disagree with you—and who dislike you—read your work and find the dumb mistakes you've made and call you an idiot for having made them otherwise you just end up hitting yourself and then you know your h-bomb blows up in your face, right? And atomic knowledge was the first category of knowledge that scientists weren't allowed to freely talk about—as opposed to like trade secrets—but, like, scientific knowledge. That knowing it was a crime. And so it's the kind of original sin of science. But there's a difference between an atomic secret and a framework for keeping that a secret and a secret about a vulnerability in a computer system. And they're often lumped together. I was on a family holiday. We were on like a scuba resort in the Caribbean, in a little island called Roatan in Honduras. And there was this family of D.C.-area spooks. Like multigenerational. And Grandpa what had been like with USAID when the tanks rolled on Hungary and in Budapest. And all of the kids worked for undisclosed three-letter agencies. And so we're like sitting in in the pool one day and talking about cyberweapons and cyberwar. Katherine Mangu-Ward: Like you do. On vacation. Cory Doctorow: On vacation. That's what I do. That's my idea of a good time. So the guy said like, "Well what about cyber weapons? Like why shouldn't we develop cyberweapons? Why shouldn't we a cyberwar?" And I said, "There's a difference between a secret bomb and a secret vulnerability in a computer operating system." Because if I invent the h-bomb, it may be unwise. But keeping the physics of the h-bomb a secret does not make Americans more vulnerable to atomic attack than disclosing it. Maybe it would help them at the margins build slightly better bomb shelters. But it's really—it's not the same thing as me discovering a vulnerability in Windows and saying, "It would be great if I could attack former Soviet bloc countries or countries in Middle East or jihadis or drug runners by keeping this vulnerability a secret and assuming that nobody else discovers that vulnerability and uses it to attack the people I'm charged to protect." That mistake calls into question the whole scientific enterprise. Because we really only know one way to make computers secure and that is to publish what we think we know about why they're secure now and see what dumb mistakes our enemies and friends can locate and help us remediate. And so you end up in this place where these vulnerabilities—that you are blithely assuming won't be independently red[...]