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Published: Mon, 16 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2017 02:41:10 -0500


Obama’s Last-Minute Cuba Change Scrambles Immigration Politics, Disrupts Lives

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 13:50:00 -0500

It's not every day that an immigration decision made by President Barack Obama draws praise both from liberalizers such as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and restrictionists like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, yet that's precisely what happened after yesterday's abruptly announced policy change to end the decades-old "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy of giving Cubans who manage to arrive on American soil automatic residency, access to welfare, and a pathway to citizenship. The White House also terminated the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which had allowed Cuban doctors who are conscripted by their government to work in a foreign country to defect. As Obama worded it in his statement, Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities. By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea. FAIR issued Obama a congratulatory press release, saying that "In his final week in office we are pleased to be able to say for once that he has acted wisely." Flake, who has long championed both immigration reform and an opening up of U.S.-Cuba relations (read his interview with Reason on these subjects from a year ago in Cuba), told Politico that "Individuals on both sides of the U.S.-Cuba debate recognize and agree that ending 'wet foot, dry foot' is in our national interest," and added: It is a win for taxpayers, border security, and our allies in the Western Hemisphere. It's a move that brings our Cuba policy into the modern era while allowing the United States to continue its generous approach to those individuals and refugees with a legitimate claim for asylum. President-elect Donald Trump has yet to weigh in on the proposal, but as I pointed out in an L.A. Times op-ed 11 months ago, he had been critical of Cubans' special immigration status on the campaign trail: "I don't think that's fair. I mean why would that be a fair thing?" Trump responded [to a question from the Tampa Bay Times]. "I don't think it would be fair.... You have people that have been in the system for years [waiting to immigrate to America], and it's very unfair when people who just walk across the border, and you have other people that do it legally." In later interviews later interviews he was more non-committal, saying he needed to consult more with Cuban-Americans. And what are those emigres and their families saying? As with many aspects of U.S.-Cuba policy, the reaction is mixed, though largely sorted along partisan lines. For example Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who had previously introduced legislation changing Cuba policy to require that immigrants prove they are political refugees ("We have people living in Cuba off Social Security benefits," he said while running for president. "They never worked here….This is an outrageous abuse"), was nevertheless largely negative about Obama's move, because it's part of a Washington-Havana rapprochement that Rubio despises: "While I have acknowledged the need to reform the Cuban Adjustment Act for some time now, the Obama administration's characterization of this change as part of the ongoing normalization with the Castro regime is absurd," Rubio said on Thursday. "It is in fact President Obama's failed Cuba policy, combined with the Castro regime's increased repression, that has led to a rise in Cuban migration since 2014." That last bit is certainly true, though Rubio left out two other important factors: Many Cubans now have more money to travel (thanks to the U.S. easing on remittances, and the Cuban easing on private-sector activity), and Raul Castro lifted his dictatorship's longstanding exit-visa requirement. Still, the sharp spike in Cuban immigration across the Mexican border the past two years has b[...]

Meet California’s Face of Federal Government Resistance—Eric Holder?

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 12:00:00 -0500

(image) When Eric Holder was attorney general for President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice used the federal ban on marijuana possession to arrest and imprison Californians who were legally growing under the state's medical marijuana laws.

But never mind—that Donald Trump sure is a monster! Concerned about what Trump might do to increase enforcement of immigration laws and to loosen environmental regulations, California's state legislature has hired Holder from his law firm, Covington & Burling, to serve as outside legal counsel. Mind you, California has a very powerful and expensive crew of state-level attorneys, but what's an additional $25,000 a month (for now)?

From The New York Times:

[State Senate leader Kevin] de León said he expected California to challenge Washington — and defend itself from policies instituted in Washington — on issues including the environment, immigration and criminal justice. He said California Democrats decided to turn to Mr. Holder as they watched Mr. Trump assemble his cabinet and begin to set the tone for his presidency.

"It was very clear that it wasn't just campaign rhetoric," Mr. de León said of Mr. Trump's proposals over the past year. "He was surrounding himself with people who are a very clear and present danger to the economic prosperity of California."

They're going to fight the Trump administration over differences on criminal justice, they say. But there's no reference to how Holder himself treated California and its citizens when he was attorney general when it came to marijuana enforcement. Or maybe that's the point? Holder knows full well all the awful things the federal government can do to the citizens of California because he used to be the guy doing it?

That Holder oversaw an agency that sent Californians to federal prison even though what they were doing was legal in the state does make one wonder how (or if) the state would respond if the Trump administration were to initiate a new drug war crackdown now that the Justice Dept. has finally actually backed off. Californians just voted in November to legalize recreational marijuana use, but Trump's nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), is a noted drug warrior.

Hypocrisy aside, perhaps Holder's involvement will help protect California citizens from harsh federal criminal enforcement. Though, based on the arguments presented by the state, Holder's involvement is also designed to keep the feds from freeing California citizens from the state's massive oppressive regulatory apparatuses on environmental and development issues.

Below, watch ReasonTV detail the federal government's imprisonment of Californian medical marijuana grower Aaron Sandusky under Holder's watch:

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You Do Realize that if You Keep All the Jobs in America, the Mexicans Will Return?

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 10:45:00 -0500

God bless President-elect Donald Trump, who hath already saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of jobs from running to Mexico like desperadoes fleeing south from the scene of a crime! That's swell, but even he can't repeal the law of uninteded consequences, can he? And the fact of the matter is that if you build jobs here explictly at the cost of jobs in Mexico, you will start to see Mexicans migrating northwards That's the way immigration works for most people. They go to where the jobs are and they stop coming when the jobs dry up. In an open society, you can either have a whiz-bang economy or little-to-no immigration. Even Donald Trump can't have it all. In recent weeks, Trump has taken credit for keeping 700 or 800 jobs at an Indiana plant for Carrier and some more at a ball-bearing factory in the Hoosier State (needless to say, taxpayer-supplied sweeteners were part of the deals). After railing against GM and threatening punitive tariffs on autos made in Mexico and sold here, the car maker changed plans to placate Trump. Ford Motors proactively announced it was keeping a plant open in Michigan, earning this badge of honor: Thank you to Ford for scrapping a new plant in Mexico and creating 700 new jobs in the U.S. This is just the beginning - much more to follow — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017 This is just the beginning, vows Trump, much more to follow! Who knows where next he'll strike, but if his twitterhea is any indication, it'll be against another car maker: Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2017 Actions have consequences, though, and not always the ones people expect or want. Consider what is likely to happen if U.S. investment in Mexico slows down or stops completely. America is Mexico's biggest trading partner and we get a bunch of stuff from them—trade isn't a one-way street, which is one of the great things about it. From the New York Post: Ford's announcement sent shockwaves across Mexico, which has become tightly meshed with the U.S. economy since the advent of the North American Free Trade Agreement, sending 80 percent of its $532 billion in exports across the border in 2015. The U.S. government says $100 billion of that was in vehicles and parts, making Mexico the biggest exporter of automotive products to the United States. Mexico's auto plants now account for 20 percent of all light vehicles built in North America, industry figures say.... Four clustered states in central Mexico — San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Aguascalientes and Guanajuato — have seven auto assembly plants that are operating or will be within the next two years. Around them are nearly 800 auto parts suppliers, Puente said. In San Luis Potosi alone, between 50,000 and 60,000 jobs depend on the auto industry. An average worker in Mexico costs automakers $8 an hour, including wages and benefits, compared to the $60 an hour that Ford said it was spending on an auto worker in the U.S. at the end of 2015. In Villa de Reyes' town square, residents said the younger generation would be hurt most by the cancellation. Retiree Ignacio Segura Rocha said fewer people from town are migrating to the U.S. now because the crossing has gotten harder than when he went in 1977 and 1978. He said the auto industry offers good alternatives for kids growing up on the region's isolated ranches. "They were already dreaming of going there (to Ford), and at the last minute there's nothing," he said. Read more here. Two things to consider: How much more expensive will cars (and other products) become once Trump has made all the calls to CEOs he's threatened to make? If labor costs jack up from $8 an hour to $60, that's going to cause sticker shock, isn't it? More important, perhaps, Trump needs to ask: Where are those Mexicans going to go when their $8-an-hour job doesn't materialize? An informed guess is that they're[...]

Tom Cotton's Immigration Restrictions Are Delusional and Counterproductive

Mon, 02 Jan 2017 17:40:00 -0500

The junior senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, appeared on Fox News Sunday on New Year's Day and was asked about The New York Times op-ed piece about immigration that had appeared under his byline a few days earlier. The Fox News anchor Shannon Bream asked Cotton "whether you're saying, we also need to slow legal immigration?" Cotton's answer was unequivocal: "Yes, absolutely. … our immigration system for too long has brought in too many unskilled and low skilled workers which has undercut wages for working Americans." Cotton spelled out his reasoning in his New York Times op-ed: "As immigrant labor has flooded the country, working-class wages have collapsed… No doubt automation and globalization have also affected wages, but mass immigration accelerates these trends with surplus labor, which of course decreases wages." Cotton wrote: "companies in labor-intensive industries want to sustain or even increase current immigration flows. It's not hard to understand why. Cheap labor helps the bottom line. It is hard to understand why so many politicians would go along. The short-term interest of businesses isn't the same as the long-term national interest." He concluded with a call for "a large reduction in legal immigration." I've been a fan of Cotton's criticism of President Obama's foreign policy, but on this one, he is so thoroughly wrong that it's hard even to know where to start. Begin with the bizarre scenario of a politician openly advocating lower corporate profits— i.e., a stock market decline, and along with it plunging values of retirement funds for the very ordinary Americans Cotton claims to represent. It's not even clear that the higher wages Cotton advocates would achieve his sought-after result of reducing corporate profits. It's also possible that firms would respond to increased labor costs by holding profits steady and instead passing along price increases to customers, or by moving even more aggressively toward offshore or robot labor. Cotton's idea that a flood of immigrant labor is to blame for depressed low-skill wages is just flaky. A whole series of other factors have had much greater effects on both the size of the labor force and on wages. The labor force swelled because of both the post-World War II Baby Boom and the increase in women's participation that was a result of the feminist revolution. What's next, a call by Cotton to shrink the American labor supply by promoting small families and stay-at-home motherhood? To call the current population of immigrants a "flood" is a misnomer. It is more like a trickle. From 1905 to 1907 America absorbed more than 1 million immigrants a year into a nation with a population of about 85 million. We're now accepting about 1 million immigrants a year into a country with a population of about 320 million. Keeping proportionally even with historic growth levels would require quadrupling current levels of legal immigration, not reducing them. Many of our nation's greatest gateway cities have still not recovered from the ravages of the restrictive immigration policy wrought by the nativism of the early 20th century. My home of Boston, for example, is about 200,000 souls emptier than it was before the immigration door slammed shut. Baltimore has lost 200,000 residents since its peak, too. The city of Detroit has lost more than 1 million residents. Chicago has lost half a million. Buffalo, N.Y. has lost 300,000. Cleveland lost 400,000. Some of these losses are the result of other things—suburbanization, the population shift South and West to the Sunbelt, and government welfare, transportation, and slum clearance policies that damaged cities. But restoring the full vibrancy of these places will require either an influx of immigrants or more children than Americans are used to having. The long view of history can help us understand how relatively small is the current influx of immigrants. It can show us how empty our cities currently are. And it can demonstrate how nonexistent is t[...]

Obama Officially Kills Bush-Era Muslim Registry Program Before Trump Can Resurrect It

Thu, 22 Dec 2016 12:05:00 -0500

He didn't close Guantanamo Bay, end American drone strikes on foreign countries, or roll back the surveillance operations created after 9/11, but less than a month before leaving office, President Barack Obama killed at least one civil-liberties-violating program from the George W. Bush era. The Obama administration on Thursday officially shuttered the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS. From 2002 until 2011, NSEERS required visitors from 25 "high risk" countries (24 of them were in the Middle East; North Korea was the other) to register with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, undergo interrogations and fingerprinting when they entered the United States, and periodically check-in at government offices while they were here. While it was operational, some 93,000 immigrants were put through the NSEERS program without a single one being convicted on any terrorism charges. That poor track record caused the Obama administration to put the NSEERS program into hibernation in 2011. Thursday's action, though somewhat symbolic because the program hasn't really existed for more than five years, was important because it makes it more difficult for the incoming Trump administration to resurrect NSEERS. As I wrote last month, members of Trump's transition team were reportedly considering using the registration program as a way to meet The Donald's campaign promise to implement "extreme vetting" for Muslim immigrants. Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and an immigration hardliner who is serving on Trump's transition team, helped develop NSEERS as a member of Bush's Department of Justice. According to the New York Times, the White House's decision to end the registry "is among the actions being taken in the final weeks of the administration that could prevent, or at least slow, what Democrats fear may be a swift rollback of President Obama's efforts on immigration and climate change." It's a shame that it took the threat of Donald Trump's inauguration for Obama to do away with NSEERS. The program was an abusive failure. According to the ACLU, NSEERS "singled out immigrant men and boys from designated countries for extraordinary registration requirements with DHS, ranging from an extra half-hour of screening on arrival, through tracking of whereabouts while in the United States, to limitations on points of departure." The scale of profiling was something not seen in the United States since the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II and "Operation Wetback" deportations to Mexico in the 1950s. It's not hard to figure out why the program failed to identify any potential terrorists. It was, by nature, targeting only law-abiding immigrants. As Reason's Shikha Dalmia wrote last year: "Expecting terrorists to voluntarily stroll to an immigration office to be fingerprinted and IDed is absurd, of course. So the entirely predictable upshot of the program was that although it managed to obtain not a single terrorism-related conviction, it did ruin plenty of lives of peaceful Muslims caught in its dragnet." KellyAnne Conway, Trump's campaign manager and newly appointed White House aide, told CNN on Thursday the incoming administration would not pursue an immigration policy based on religion. But Trump, following attacks in Germany carried out by ISIS sympathizers, seemed to indicate that restrictions on Muslim immigrants were still part of his plans. Either way, getting rid of the NSEERS program is worthy of applause, even if I'd prefer to have a president who cares about protecting civil liberties without needing the motivation of protecting his own political legacy. For more on Obama's legacy and his administration's failure to rein-in Bush era excesses of the War on Terror, pick up a copy of the latest dead-tree edition of Reason (or, if you're a subscriber, you can read Gene Healy's look back at the past eight years here).[...]

Texas Is a Model for a More-Libertarian, More-Diverse America: Avik Roy

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 16:15:00 -0500

"In Texas, the Mexicans have always been there.... There's not this sense that Mexicans are foreigners," says Avik Roy, Forbes opinion editor and the co-founder and president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP).

Roy believes Texas, a majority-minority state, offers a good counter-example for libertarians and conservatives anxious about immigrants and non-Europeans changing American political culture. The Lone Star State is not only doing very well economically, says Roy, there's a sense of inclusion that doesn't exist in many other states.

"It's not just a free state in the sense of policy, but there really is a sense that everyone feels, whether Anglo or Latino, that freedom has made their lives better," Roy tells Reason's Nick Gillespie. "This indigenous thing called Tex-Mex has been around for a very long time. It's simply not treating the others as if they were others...that attitude makes a huge difference."

According to Roy, who has advised politicians such as Rick Perry and Marco Rubio, one of the goals of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity is to challenge the conservative view that holds racial and ethnic minority groups can only be appeased through more statism and redistribution and should thus be written off when it comes to building political and economic coalitions.

"Free markets have lifted more people out of poverty than anything that has been invented by man," says Roy, "We don't usually talk about free markets in that way."

Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Austin Bragg and Meredith Bragg. Music by Simon Mathewson.

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Libertarianism in a Rapidly Diversifying America: Reason Debate on 12/8 in DC

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 18:42:00 -0500

(image) Anti-immigration conservatives and liberals have long argued that as the United States brings in more foreigners, our common culture and values slip further and further away from the nation's founding ideals of limited government and self-sufficiency. Donald Trump supporters who cheered the candidate's plan to curtail immigration from Mexico and ban Muslims from entering the country often stressed the we're just importing "Democratic" voters who will expand welfare. Is any of that true? And what about the large numbers of native-born whites who, while perhaps shrinking as a percentage of the population nonetheless had the clout to elect (if barely) the most restrictionist (and protectionist) president since at least World War II?

Government debt continues to grow and spending as a percentage of the GDP has stayed at or near post-WWII highs. Trump's spending plan hardly reins in such largess even as his tax plan threatens to reduce revenues (and thus raise deficits) by massive amounts. What is the effect of such policies on libertarian visions for smaller, cheaper, and less-intrusive government? Will Trump end the federal war on pot even if he's ramping up the war on immigrants? Will more protectionist economic policy be offset by more wide-open energy or education plans? We're just a few weeks away from the start of President Trump's first term and only this much is certain: It is going to be a hell of a ride.

The event is free and open to the public. Here are the details:

Prospects for Liberty in a Diversifying America

Location: 1747 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington D.C. 20009

  • December 8, 2016

Now that the election is over, libertarians and conservatives are wondering what the Trump administration will mean for those who favor limited government, free markets, and the rule of law.

On Tuesday, December 8, you are cordially invited to a panel discussion moderated by Nick Gillespie featuring Reason's Shikha Dalmia, Avik Roy, Co-Founder of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity; and journalist Charles Cooke of National Review.

"Prospects for Liberty in a Diversifying America"

Panel Discussion moderated by Nick Gillespie,

Tuesday, December 8

Reason HQ, 1747 Connecticut Ave. NW

Doors open 6:00 p.m., Program 6:30 p.m.

RSVP to Jordan King at

Please join us for drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and conversation about the future of liberty in America.

If You Care About the Second Amendment—And Incredibly Terrible Reporting That's Biased Against Guns—Support Reason!

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 17:13:00 -0500

Today through Tuesday, December 6, Reason is running its annual webathon. We're asking readers of this site to make tax-deductible donations in dollars and Bitcoin to Reason Foundation, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit that publishes our award-winning journalism in video, audio, and print form. Different giving levels come with different levels of swag, which you can read about here. All school killings are horrifying and yet they are made somehow even more terrible when you know the place in question. Monday's attempted mass killing at Ohio State University, in which the would-be mastermind ended up being the only death, was particularly harrowing for me because my older son had just graduated from the place this past spring (thankfully, he was sitting just a few feet from me when the news reports started coming in). Jesus, really, what kind of world are we living in? Another day, another mass attack, right? The world is getting more dangerous, according to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. No, but it seems that way, which is good enough for partisans of the right and the left who are constantly looking for ways to lock down your freedom. Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the apparent assailant who was shot to death after running at people in his car and wielding a butcher knife, was born in Somalia and was Muslim, so the right is already shouting about how this proves we need to kick out all immigrants, especially Muslims, and wall off (or is it wall in?) America. Never mind that native-born Americans commit 90 percent of terrorism-related murders and that the odds of being killed in such an event come in around 1 in 3.6 million. Donald Trump and a host of conservative types know what they know: Trump has recommended "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on"—a plan that his own running mate called "offensive and unconstitutional." More recently Trump has said the moratorium should apply to all visitors from countries "compromised by terrorism," a category that arguably includes most of the world. On the broadly defined left, the Ohio State attack is ultimately about the need to curtail gun ownership and all that implies. The incident was initially (and erroneously) reported as an "active shooter" event, leading to folks ranging from Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine to California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to the news site calling for more gun control. Just as Republicans and conservatives feel compelled to act out certain scripts over and over again (like the "hosts" on HBO's Westworld), so too do Democrats and liberals. At Reason, we've got our default settings too, and we wear them on our sleeves and every issue of the magazine: We believe in "Free Minds and Free Markets." As libertarians, we think the starting point should always be in favor of individual liberty to live how you want; to eat, smoke, drink, and marry whom you want; to dress how you want; and on and on. But we're not mindless automatons running the same script over and over. We work to engage the world and discover new facts and frameworks that change how we might think about things. The right can't internalize the idea that crime has gone down as immigrants have gone up any more than the left can deal with more guns correlating with less crime. I write as the world's most reluctant and worst shot—I've fired real guns a few times in my life and am lucky when I hit the sky or the ground—but I'm in favor of strong Second Amendment rights. That's less than simply because they are in the Consitution and more because I can recognize that over the past quarter-century gun laws have been vastly liberalized (as liberals never stop to remind us) and violent gun crime and murder have decreased by half. One good reason to support Reason's journalism is that in a world[...]

The Ethical Argument for Free Trade - Daniel Hannan on Brexit

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 12:00:00 -0500

Daniel Hannan is one of Brexit's biggest champions. A Member of the European Parliament and a leading Euroskeptic, Hannan's advocacy of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union has earned him international attention. While critics regarded the "Vote Leave" campaign as a dangerous retreat from globalization, Hannan has made consistent, libertarian arguments for withdrawal as a path towards greater democracy and free markets.

Noting the E.U.'s sluggish economic growth rates and its failure to establish free trade agreements with China and India, Hannan believes the U.K. should take charge of its own economic destiny. "I want people to be making the ethical argument for free trade as the supreme instrument of poverty alleviation, of conflict resolution and of social justice," Hannan says. He adds, "It's the multinationals that thrive on the distortions and the tariffs and the quotas, he says. "And it's the poor who will benefit most from their removal."

Hannan pushes back against the charge of Brexit as a symptom of xenophobia. Following the Brexit win, he says, poll numbers demonstrate that voters were most concerned with sovereignty. "All of the polls were very clear that the biggest issue was democracy. Immigration was a very distant second," he says. "People wanted a sense of control and I think that's a perfectly legitimate thing."

With Brexit not taking effect until 2019 and the terms of withdrawal not yet negotiated, the United Kingdom's future has rarely seemed so uncertain. In two year's time, the U.K. will have the opportunity to decide on its own policies of trade and immigration. Hannan is confident his country will do the right thing.


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Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Alex Manning. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein.

Trump Says Millions Voted Illegally but Any Recount Would Be Pointless

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:15:00 -0500

Any hope that the prospect of occupying the White House would dampen Donald Trump's fondness for conspiracist crap seems to have been misplaced. Likewise the hope that he would prove gracious in victory. After a brief burst of magnanimity on election night, he has reverted to form. "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide," he bragged on Twitter yesterday, "I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." Trump says any recount of votes in the presidential election is "a scam," since it will not affect the outcome. Yet he also claims "millions of people" voted illegally. Can both propositions be true? Only if you assume, as Trump apparently does, that millions of illegal voters 1) exist and 2) favor Hillary Clinton. A couple of weeks ago, Politifact found no evidence to back up reports by websites such as InfoWars, Milo, The New American, and Freedom Daily that more than 3 million votes were cast by noncitizens in this month's election. The source of that claim, Republican activist Gregg Phillips, said it was based on an "analysis of [a] database of 180 million voter registrations," but he declined to say where the information came from or how he had analyzed it. Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, told Politifact "the idea that 3 million noncitizens could have illegally voted in our elections without being detected is obscenely ludicrous." Here is what Hasen told Politico about Trump's claim that "millions of people" voted illegally: There's no reason to believe this is true. The level of fraud in US elections is quite low....We're talking claims in the dozens. We're not talking voting in the millions, or the thousands, or even the hundreds. Politifact's Allison Graves noted that claims about widespread voting by noncitizens got a boost from a 2014 study estimating that 6.4 percent of noncitizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent voted in 2010. But the survey data on which that study was based were flawed because some respondents accidentally gave the wrong answer to a question about their citizenship. Three researchers who reinterviewed participants in the survey found that a small percentage changed their answers to that question. "It appears as though about 0.1-0.3 percent of respondents are citizens who incorrectly identify themselves as non-citizens in the survey," they explained in The Washington Post last month. "With a sample size of 19,000, even this low rate of error can result in a number of responses that appear notable when they are not."[...]

Two Immigrants Debate Immigration

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 12:00:00 -0500

Even as the mighty Statue of Liberty beckons the world's "poor and huddled masses" to America's shores, Americans themselves have been ambivalent, to put it mildly, about how many newcomers ought to be welcomed and from where. To the extent that a pro-immigration consensus has existed, it was always an uneasy one. But Donald Trump's meteoric political rise after embracing an extreme restrictionist agenda has shattered that fragile status quo, dividing pundits and public, academics and analysts throughout the 2016 election season. There's an absence of good polling data to shine a light on how immigrants themselves feel about this issue, but it's clear that even they don't all agree. George J. Borjas is a celebrated Harvard University economist who emigrated from Cuba to the United States with his mother at the age of 12, three years after Fidel Castro's regime took over the country and confiscated his father's garment factory. He has made vital contributions to many fields of economics, especially immigration, and has a new book, We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative, out this month. In it, he challenges the notion that immigration is "universally beneficial." Shikha Dalmia is a Reason Foundation analyst and a native of New Delhi, India, who came to America 31 years ago as an idealistic student looking to escape the corruption of a socialistic mixed economy. She writes extensively about immigration and firmly believes America shuts the door on outsiders at its economic and spiritual peril. What follows is a spirited exchange between the two on the empirical claims and proposed policy prescriptions in We Wanted Workers. Dear Professor Borjas:Let me congratulate you on a book that is a model of clarity. We Wanted Workers systematically walks readers through the immigration literature. Along the way, it offers a sense of the immensely knotty methodological problems that bedevil the dismal science. Also, I agree completely that the "overreliance on economic modeling and statistical findings" on this subject is a regrettable development that fosters the notion that "purely technocratic determinations of public policy" are possible. In fact, the scientific hubris underlying such efforts prevents a full airing of the normative and ideological commitments that ultimately do—and perhaps should—guide policy. That said, the more I read, the more despondent I got. The publisher's teaser promises that the book "takes a fresh and thought-provoking new look" that parses the claims on the "two extreme poles" of those calling for "tougher laws…in a racially tinged discourse" on one end and those pushing for "more open policies" on the other. But the book focused almost exclusively on the second target while largely ignoring the first, even when its own facts warranted a smackdown. You point out that the pro-immigration camp's claims that America is a magnet for the "best and brightest" are overblown because which foreigners—high-skilled or low-skilled—make a beeline for America depends on how well their skills are rewarded in their own country. Highly egalitarian countries such as Denmark lose their highly skilled workers because, relative to less-skilled counterparts, their labor is rewarded less well, whereas the reverse is the case in highly inegalitarian countries such as Mexico. That's an interesting thesis, but it doesn't explain India, my native country, which has extreme inequality and is among the biggest "donors" of high-skilled talent. It was odd that you shoehorned India into the same category as Canada and Australia as a country with "less inequality." But America's genius is not that it draws the best people but that it draws out the best from people, which is why even the world's "wretched" manage to make something of themselv[...]

Trump Could Resurrect a Failed Bush-Era Screening Program for Muslim Immigrants

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 12:15:00 -0500

Today's lesson in why you shouldn't build a pervasive and all-powerful surveillance state because it might one day end up in the tiny hands of a Donald Trump comes courtesy of the news that Trump could resurrect a Bush-era registration system for Muslims entering the United States. According to Reuters, which spoke with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an immigration hardliner and key member of Trump's transition team, the new administration could reconstitute the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. The NSEERS program was implemented after 9/11 and required people from so-called "higher risk" countries to undergo interrogations and fingerprinting when they entered the United States and were required to periodically "check in" at government offices while they were here. Trump's transition team is reportedly considering using the registration program as a way to meet The Donald's campaign promise to implement "extreme vetting" for Muslim immigrants. Kobach helped develop NSEERS as a member of Bush's Department of Justice. The only problem with The NSEERS program—which was shuttered in 2011—was that it was completely ineffective at its stated goal: catching potential terrorists. During the nine years that the program was in place, more than 93,000 immigrants were screened and none—not a single one—was ever convicted on terrorism-related charges. According to the ACLU, the program "singled out immigrant men and boys from designated countries for extraordinary registration requirements with DHS, ranging from an extra half-hour of screening on arrival, through tracking of whereabouts while in the United States, to limitations on points of departure." The scale of profiling was something not seen in the United States since the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II and "Operation Wetback" deportations to Mexico in the 1950s. Even within the federal government's immigration and anti-terrorism apparatuses, it was looked on as a mistake. James Ziegler, the former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Commission, told the New York Times that the program disrupted the United States' relationship with immigrant communities after 9/11 and wasted resources that could have been better deployed elsewhere. It's not hard to figure out why the program failed to identify any potential terrorists. It was, by nature, targeting only law-abiding immigrants. As Reason's Shikha Dalmia wrote last year: "Expecting terrorists to voluntarily stroll to an immigration office to be fingerprinted and IDed is absurd, of course. So the entirely predictable upshot of the program was that although it managed to obtain not a single terrorism-related conviction, it did ruin plenty of lives of peaceful Muslims caught in its dragnet." People like Abdulameer Yousef Habeeb, a refugee from Iraq whose story demonstrates exactly how the NSEERS program was abused by law enforcement. As a refugee, Habeeb was not required to register with NSEERS, but he was stopped by border agents while traveling via train from Seattle to Washington, D.C., in April 2003. The agents wrongly accused Habeeb of violating NSEERS mandatory registration and detained him for more than a week, causing him to lose the job that he was traveling to Washington, D.C., to accept. After a lawsuit from the ACLU, the federal government eventually admitted they were wrong to have detained Habeeb. And people like Imad Daou, a Lebanese national and graduate student at Texas A&M who was engaged to be married when he was detained for two months and eventually deported for failing to register in the NSEERS program. Though the program was no good at catching terrorists, it did help authorities deport thousands of immigrants, like Daou, who had done nothing wor[...]

Donald Trump and the Coming Battle Over Legal and Illegal Immigration

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 10:50:00 -0500

"So long as people are coming here to live peacefully and work peacefully," says Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia, the burden should be on the government "to show to us why they shouldn't be here."

Dalmia sat down with Nick Gillespie to talk about the scary prospects for U.S. immigration policy in the incoming Trump administration. Particularly worrisome is that Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) is Trump's chief adviser on immigration. He's uniquely dangerous, Dalmia says, and has broken with the Republican Party by opposing high-skilled immigration—even floating a proposal to scrap the H1-B visa program.

Watch the video above for the full conversation.

Interview by Nick Gillespie. Produced by Justin Monticello. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein. Music by Silent Partner.

For more from Dalmia on immigration, listen to our recent podcast interview below.

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Trump's War on Immigration Will Reprise the War on Drugs

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 15:30:00 -0500

Trump is setting the stage "for a full scale war on immigration [that will] reprise the war on drugs," says Shikha Dalmia, a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation and a columnist at The Week. She fears that the federal government will start "giving incentives to catch illegals" just as it does in the drug war. The mayors of so-called sanctuary cities like New York and Chicago have vowed to protect illegal immigrant residents from Trump, but with the right incentives, Dalmia say, they may "come to heel after all."

Nick Gillespie interviewed Dalmia in our latest podcast. Click below to listen to that conversation, or better yet subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

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The Coming Resistance to Trump's Immigration Crackdown

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:50:00 -0500

(image) Thanks to his predecessors, Donald Trump already has the tools to launch an amped-up immigration crackdown as soon as he takes office. That doesn't mean he won't ask for yet more powers, but a formidable police apparatus is already in place. So when it comes to immigration, the immediate political conflict to watch will the one that pits that apparatus and the president atop it against the people in a position to slow it down.

We got an early glimpse of that last week, when New York Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested that he might destroy a city database that contains information on undocumented New Yorkers (*) rather than allow the feds to get their hands on it. (If you're in New York City illegally you can still apply for a city ID card, making it easier to report crimes, open bank accounts, and otherwise participate more smoothly in social life. Immigrants aren't the only people who use the program, but the info would obviously be useful to the deportation squads.) Several other cities—including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington—issue similar cards, setting up other potential federal/local conflicts.

New York is also a "sanctuary city," which basically means that its local cops do not investigate people's immigration status. More than 200 cities and counties have adopted such policies, in part because of human-rights concerns but mostly for practical reasons: If people are worried about being arrested for immigration violations, they're much less likely to cooperate with police investigating other crimes. Trump has threatened to use the power of the purse to bring the sanctuary cities in line, declaring that he'll cut off all their federal funding if they don't yield. That in turn has inspired some defiant talk from urban officials: Besides de Blasio, the mayors of Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Providence, San Francisco, and Seattle have all said they'll stand by their sanctuary status.

On the state level, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo struck a similar note over the weekend: "If anyone feels that they are under attack, I want them to know that the state of New York—the state that has the Statue of Liberty in its harbor—is their refuge....We won't allow a federal government that attacks immigrants to do so in our state." It's unclear what that might mean in policy terms, and it could just turn out to be posturing. But if the deportation drive sparks a serious civil disobedience movement—meaning not simply marches and the like, but active refusal to cooperate with the enforcers and organized attempts to shield immigrants from removal—then a sympathetic governor could make a genuine difference. If the movement can hold him to his words.

(* OK: They're otherwise undocumented, as a stickler in the comments points out.)