Left Wing Europe? Reprise

My initial post saying that EU governments are far less left-wing than many Americans believe, drew with a few exceptions sceptical comments here at RBC and at Washington Monthly.

If you are in the camp that sees Europe as the backyard of the hard left, take a gander at Erik Voeten’s description of politics in his homeland. He lives in the Netherlands, the country that been drastically curtailing cannabis cafes.

We asked for workers, but they sent us men (and women, too)

Denying Medicaid-funded prenatal care to undocumented immigrants.

Denying Medicaid-funded prenatal care to undocumented immigrants. Cross-listed at The Century Foundation’s Taking Note section

I happen to be an immigration moderate. It seems a bit crazy to me that we handle birthright citizenship the way that we do, and that we don’t have a credible national ID card system to enforce immigration law. If there is a humane, intellectually coherent, administratively effective, politically feasible pathway to decent immigration policies, I haven’t seen it. One tragedy of the last decade has been the failure of such disparate figures as George W Bush, John McCain, Ted Kennedy, and Barack Obama to forge a sensible compromise.

The enemies of such a sensible policy continue to be an odd combination of hypocrisy across the political spectrum, xenophobia within the Republican base, and employers’ powerful desire to legally or illegally employ compliant and productive low-wage workers. There is also the unstated–but possibly correct–belief held by many people that the human and economic costs of our current muddle would be worsened if our dysfunctional political system now attempted to meet the challenge of comprehensive immigration reform.

Postscript: For further administrative details (including its harmful effects on low-income women legally authorized to be in the country), see Table 7 of this Voices for Children issue brief.
Continue reading “We asked for workers, but they sent us men (and women, too)”

GOP Busily Locking Down the Latino Vote

…for the Democrats.

…for the Democrats.

1)  Senate Republicans are planning a big push against the DREAM Act, because it’s extremely important to deny citizenship to college students and soldiers;

2)  Idaho Republicans are working on replicating SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law, in their state; and

3)  House Republicans will begin their new majority to repeal the 14th Amendment and deny “birthright citizenship” to children born in the United States.

The Pacific and Mountain West contained some of the few bright spots for the Democrats in the midterms, with Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid, and Michael Bennet all pulling through, relatively small losses of House seats, capturing the California Governorship and retaining the Colorado governorship.  And this was in large part due to the Latino vote.

Keep at it, guys: you had a good midterm during the worst recession in 70 years, but in a couple of decades, you’ll have Idaho, Utah, and the Confederacy.

“Love ye therefore the alien …

… and count his votes. Why white evangelical leaders are pushing comprehensive immigration reform.

… for you were aliens, (Deut. 10:19) and besides, we’re gonna need their votes.

That’s the deeply Biblical reason some non-Hispanic right-wing evangelical leaders are pushing hard for comprehensive immigration reform, according to Laurie Goodstein in Monday’s NYT.

The evangelical pulpit has been a reliable ally for the looniest part of the GOP, but the preachers don’t have to win Republican primaries, and some of them, such as Richard Land, can do the demographic arithmetic: if the Republicans, who have forfeited any claim on the African-American vote and are increasingly despised by the well-educated, lose the Latinos as well, then, in a country becoming less white and better educated, their political goose is cooked.

Moreover, those storefront iglisias pentacostales are largely run by hard-core gay-bashers, right-to-lifers, and “God wants you to be rich so taxes on the rich are sinful, and anyway the poor deserve their poverty” hustlers, who have been happy to team up with their English-speaking brethren. Now they’re presenting the bill for their services, and some of the evangelicals have enough morals to pay what they owe.

Naturally, there will be an attempt to use gay-bashing to split the pro-immigrant coalition, since the Latino evangelicals aren’t at all interested in allowing same-sex couples to benefit from immigration reform.

Ordinarily, I’d figure what’s good for the Christian Right is bad for the country. In this case, though, as conservative as the Protestant Latinos may be, they’re going to be a lot more use to the preachers than they are to Republican politicians. Even if the white evangelicals manage to peel off a few lame-duck Republican votes for immigration reform, Gov. Brewer and Tom Tancredo will make it impossible for any self-respecting Latino to vote Republican for another generation to come.

Immigration and Respect for the “Rule of Law”

To right-wingers who say that the Arizona immigration law is necessary to protect “respect for the rule of law,” there is a simple two word answer: John Yoo.

So just a few minutes ago I was having a conversation with a very conservative Republican colleague about immigration and the Arizona law.  I agree on virtually nothing with this colleague, but always like to hear his views.  but then he said something that would have made me go ballistic if I hadn’t been able to control myself.

“The problem if we don’t enforce immigration statutes,” he told me, “is that it breeds disrespect for the rule of law.”

To which there is a simple two-word answer: John Yoo.

Seriously, the same people now talking about the rule of law, ran roughshod over decades of settled opinions concerning torture, concerning the separation of powers, concerning search and seizure, concerning, well, just about anything if it stood in their way, and they are now lecturing us on the rule of law?

I realize that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, but this tribute is a little too high — which makes it rancid.

A biometric work eligibility card is not a national ID card

It appears that civil libertarians and wingnuts have united in opposition to the new Democratic immigration bill, with some progressives borrowing wingnut language:

Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives. Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy — one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA

No, that’s not Sarah Palin, that’s a spokesman for the ACLU.

I haven’t studied the bill, but at first blush the biometric work-eligibility card proposed in the Democrats’ immigration bill is not a national ID card. In any case, it needn’t be to do its job. The key is whether it carries the bearer’s name.

A “national ID card” would be a uniform document that does the job of the current driver’s license or DMV-issued non-driver ID card: it shows that you are who you say you are. I’m not sure that’s a bad idea. But it is certainly much more than is needed to verify work eligibility.

What an employer needs to know is that the person applying for a job is either a citizen or an immigrant legally entitled to work. The work eligibility card doesn’t need a name for that purpose.

A citizen or green-card holder should be able to get a document verifying that fact by showing some official the documents that establish his or her claim to that right. (If an official can’t do it, how is an employer supposed to?) Given that document, an employer just needs to verify that the person presenting it is the person who obtained it. The combination of some sort of digitized biometric (photo, fingerprint, retina scan) and a serial number will do that job. The employer compares the biometric on the card with the person presenting it, and then checks to see if the number on the card is on the master list of those eligible to work, and that the biometric on the card matches the biometric on the list.

Note that even the master list doesn’t need to include any names. It’s just a set of biometric scans of people who have proven work eligibility, arranged by serial number. If you want to get six cards with six different numbers, go ahead. That means that knowing someone’s number tells you nothing about him other than that he holds that number. He can shed that “identity” for a new one on a whim.

You still need a driver’s license or the equivalent to cash a check; the driver’s license is, and the work eligibility card is not, an actual identification document. The police would have no reason to ask to see those cards; not only doesn’t the biometric card prove an identity, lots of people with perfect legal rights to be in the US (e.g., students and tourists) will never get such a card.

I wrote all of this down a long time ago and published it in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Again, I don’t know whether the authors of the bill figured this out, but if not it’s an easy change to make.

The real question isn’t whether we want a national ID card, it’s whether we want to enforce the law against employing people who aren’t eligible to work by reason of immigration status. Occasional busts don’t do that job: verifying eligibility has to be an employer responsibility. And you can’t ask employers to be responsible unless you make the job technically feasible. A biometric work eligibility card doesn’t solve the deeper problem of faking source documents, but it would make the U.S. a vastly less attractive place to come illegally.

Shutting off the flow of new unauthorized entrants while making life easier for existing unauthorized entrants seems like an obvious formula. But if you’re not willing to back that up with a work eligibility verification system, then you’re not serious about dealing with the problem. And pretending that a biometric work eligibility card has anything to do with “Your Papers, Please” is just confusion. It’s what we can do instead of “Your Papers, Please.”

If Reid, Schumer & Co. can survive the current hysteria, this may turn out to be a brilliant political ploy. Obviously, the teabaggers are going to hate the idea of any sort of new document; paranoia is in their DNA. But they’re also hate “illeeeeeguls.” In addition, the Chamber of Commerce, many of whose members derive their profit margins from paying substandard wages to undocumented workers, won’t be happy with anything that makes that trick harder. But opposing the only effective policy to restrict illegal immigration isn’t going to go over well with most voters.

On the other hand, this serves the interests of key Democratic constituencies: unions, who want to limit the flow of low-wage competition from the south, and advocates for immigrants who want a path to regular status for those currently here and who don’t want an Arizona-style crackdown on anyone who looks brown.

This proposal may be a brilliant wedge.

‘Your papers, please” and the tort reformers

The Arizona law creates a right of private action, with attorney-fee awards, against “any agency or official” who isn’t maximally mean to people who look as if they might be illegal immigrants. Why doesn’t this bother the “tort reform” crowd?

If there’s anything libertarians and social conservatives hate more than Big Government, it’s the Greedy Plaintiff’s Bar. Defenders of the Arizona “Your Papers, Please?” bill don’t seem to have noticed is that it creates a right of private action.  Any citizen can sue any “official or agency” for having a “policy or practice” of  failing to be mean to brown people “to less than the full extent permitted by Federal law,” and if the suit succeeds the plaintiff can collect attorneys’ fees.  (Relevant text at the jump.) Law enforcement officers are personally liable if they are found to have acted in “bad faith.” Rachel Maddow points out that FAIR, which helped write the bill, would stand to benefit financially from this provision.

Note that if two law enforcement agencies, or two different cops, in Arizona have different rates of asking brown people to show their papers, that’s prima facie evidence that the agency with the lower rate has a policy or practice of not acting to “the full extent permitted by federal law.” It’s a plaintiff’s lawyer’s fantasy.

And yet none of the loudmouth “tort reformers” seems to mind. I wonder why that might be. (Perhaps for the same reason that the people who kicked up the “vote fraud” hysteria about ACORN won’t mention that the California Republican Party has been caught – again – hiring a contractor to defraud people into registering Republican?

Footnote Add Mike Huckabee to the list of Republicans criticizing the Arizona law. As I keep saying, Huckabee is dangerous; he’s very conservative and not very well educated, but he’s smart and sane and has a conscience. Unlike Sarah Palin, he could wind up as President.

Continue reading “‘Your papers, please” and the tort reformers”

Why aren’t libertarians and tea-partiers complaining about Arizona?

Any Arizona cop can now demand “your papers” from anyone with a suspiciously brown skin or suspiciously Latino accent. But the libertarians and tea-partiers don’t seem to have much of a problem with this huge extension of the power of the state over the individual. Steve Benen has it right: “It’s almost as if the right-wing crowd is only offended by government abuses when they’re imaginary.”

The new Arizona immigration law authorizes any police officer who has “reasonable suspicion” that someone might be in this country illegally to demand that the person show documents to prove his right to be here. In other words, “Your papers, please?”

Even Joe Scarborough finds this “un-American.” But apparently Lincoln Diaz-Balart is alone among Republican office-holders in having denounced the bill.

And where’s that “anti-big-government” movement we’ve been hearing so much about about? Nowhere, as far as I can tell. The Arizona “your-papers” law doesn’t seem to be on the list of Tea Party grievances. Jacob Sullum at Reason Hit & Run objects to the law, but a scan of the Volokh Conspiracy and Instapundit came up with only one nasty reference each to people criticizing “your-papers-please” and no criticism of the underlying statute. You might have thought that libertarians would be at least as appalled by this unprecedented extension of state power as they are over red-light cameras, but apparently not.

Steve Benen has it right: “It’s almost as if the right-wing crowd is only offended by government abuses when they’re imaginary.”

Update Marco Rubio (who needs Cuban votes) has decided for consistency with the principles of limited government on this point.  Jeb Bush, too. That makes three Republicans from Florida, zero from the rest of the country.

Second update And, weakly, Lindsey Graham, who says (1) the Arizona approach isn’t the best; (2) it’s understandable that Arizonans want to do something if Washington won’t fix it; and (3) Washington isn’t ready to fix it until at least 2012. (In fact, Graham threatens to filibuster his own energy/climate bill unless Harry Reid promises to take immigration off the table for this session of Congress.) So his position is that Arizona’s plan is a natural reaction to Congressional inaction, and that he wants inaction to continue for at least another two years. That’s way short of denouncing an outrageous expansion of state power with the sort of fury the wingers reserve for imaginary threats such as “socialism,”  gun confiscation, the Fairness Doctrine, and death panels.

Note that the harassment issue is only half the problem. The other half is that the law as written makes it impossible for those here illegally to complain if they’re crime victims, or to testify if they see crimes against others, without risking arrest and deportation. Creating a class of unprotected victims would be a nightmare for crime control.

The Uighurs Find a Home — Finally

Palau has agreed to take in the Uighurs — and has demonstrated just about every other nation’s hypocrisy and cowardice.

So it looks like Palau has agreed to temporarily resettle the Uighurs, who have been detained at Guantanamo for no apparent reason for several years. As background, the Uighurs are Chinese Muslims. 17 of then were detained by the United States in Afghanistan, locked up in Guantanamo even though there wasn’t a shred of evidence that they were dangerous, were officially exonerated — and then still had to remain in Guantanamo because no one wanted to take them.

This has been a really nauseating episode. Remember: these people were completely innocent, except that the Chinese government continued to insist that they were somehow dangerous. Lots and lots of hypocrisy here.

The Obama Administration? It refused to admit them to the United States. So much for give me your tired, your poor.

What about the Muslim world, and all those leaders and fighters who claim that they are warriors for the umma? Didn’t hear a peep out of them. Apparently, supporting Islam means shooting up half of Bombay, but you can’t be bothered with, you know, actually caring for innocent Muslims.

I always thought that Israel should take them. Wouldn’t that have been a great PR coup? But apparently Israel is too busy talking about how it shares enlightened western values and being a light unto the nations to actually do the right thing.

So they are off to Palau.

“What they will encounter in Palau is paradise,” said Stuart Beck, an American lawyer who is Palau’s permanent United Nations representative. “From the time the first British vessel hit a reef in Palau in 1783, it has welcomed refugees.”

And now maybe it’s the only place left that does.