Archive for the ‘current events’ Category
My view of the Obama administration is that immigration reform is a second tier issue and they have little interest in pushing hard for change. For six years, Obama’s administration did little, or might have even encouraged, the massive increase in deportations, including those without criminal records. Obama proposed some extremely modest reforms which have had almost no effect on making it easier to lawfully move between nations. In some cases, he has been blocked in the courts. In other cases, the administration has been unable to properly implement its own very modest reforms.
For example, one reform was that children escaping from gang violence in Latin America could apply for asylum. Seems reasonable, but not when you learn that 0 children out of 5,400 applicants have actually moved to the United States from crime ridden nations. From The New York Times:
“Really, it’s pathetic that no child has come through this program,” said Lavinia Limón, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a nonprofit organization. Pointing to administration officials, she added, “I wonder if it were their child living in the murder capital of the world, whether they would have more sense of urgency.”
When you read the details of the policy, you quickly realize that the policy was never intended to actually let anyone in. Like most immigration policy, the rules are designed to prevent migration, not make it legal:
State Department officials said the program was also slowed by the requirement of DNA tests for parents in the United States and their children in Central America before the children could be granted entry. The officials said some parents had taken a long time to have those tests performed, further extending the delays. The process also includes security checks, medical screenings, payments for airline flights, and other paperwork.
It should be no surprise that people in impoverished areas would have problems with paying for medical tests, paternity tests, airline tickets, and endless paperwork. Most native born Americans would be hard pressed to produce this amount of materials.
In my book, Obama will go down as the deporter of children, many to their deaths. May his successor see the world as a place for free people.
You see the occasional article about how we are now in a “libertarian moment” or that the GOP has been captured by libertarians. It is true that libertarians are getting more publicity than before, but it truly hard to argue that libertarianism – a consistent demand that the state scale back across the board – is actually here. For example, in the Real Clear Politics average of presidential primary polls, Rand Paul, the most libertarian candidate, has a huge 2% of support from GOP voters. Gary Johnson, the libertarian GOP former governor of New Mexico, could barely register support above the margin of error of polling, also gaining 2%. Ron Paul has done the best with an enormous 8% of polling in 2008 – and he ran against only two other people! And of course, the Libertarian Party itself has done very poorly at the polls and has shown no ability to pull a significant number of GOP votes.
Why does the media periodically report that libertarians are having a “moment?” Why does Salon think that libertarians run America? Three hypotheses: (a) Republican voters and politicians conveniently co-opt anti-state rhetoric when it suits them, even if they clearly do not have libertarian sympathies; (b) Some libertarians, like Ron Paul, are charismatic and have more media presence than the average GOP politician; and (c) libertarians are disproportionately drawn to the GOP due to demographic or cultural factors. An alternative version of (c) is that the GOP is a coalition of high-SES groups who have populist grievances, which would attract libertarians. My hunch is that (a) and (c) reinforce each other, while (b) has little explanatory power. Add your own thoughts in the comments.
In August and September, the Open Borders group sponsored a contest for a No Deportation logo. Here is the winner, submitted by Stefan from Austria. You have permission to re-post it. If you are against deportations, forced refugee camps, and migration restriction, please feel free to use it in your Facebook account, Twitter feed or other media.
I was speaking about open borders to a European television show* and they asked bluntly, “Open Borders is a far off goal. Is it even reasonable to think about such a policy?” I responded that yes, we can think about broad policy change. I then mentioned how people never thought the Berlin Wall would be gone, but it happened. Still, one can ask: what path can be taken to implement such a radical change in policy?
In the US context, I think there is a reasonable, if extremely challenging, path to open borders. The intuition is that there are smaller steps that are possible and lead in the right direction. Closed borders are not one policy, they are a bundle of policies that each need to be attacked separately:
- No Deportations:Simple to explain and would have an immediate impact. Let people live without fear. The only people who are to be removed are those subject to criminal investigations and we should use the system of extradition to deal with crime.
- Visa simplification: I have learned that haggling over the visa system is a waste of time. You can spend enormous effort battling a complex administrative system and get nothing for your effort. Instead, propose a massive simplification. Simplification is simple to understand and would create a mass of people who can obey the law overnight. For example, we might have three categories: a student visa that would be automatically renewed as long as the student was enrolled in an institution of higher education; a visa for short term workers that could be renewed as long as the person shows employment; and a long term visa for people who wish to permanently reside in the US.
- The bridge to citizenship: The US is not based hereditary status or an aristocracy. Anyone in the world can be an American. The law should reflect that. Once we stop deporting people, and we stop making laws that are nearly impossible to obey, we should make it easy to become a citizen after a few years.
- Open borders: Abolish all quotas, let anyone come. If they live crime free and pay their taxes for a few years, let them stay as long as they want.
A dream? Sure, but we dreamed the end of slavery, the end of serfdom, the end of apartheid, the end of fascism, and the end of the Berlin Wall … and they happened.
* If they use the material, I’ll post it.
At Aeon Ideas (under reconstruction for a few weeks), I wrote an essay about the morality of migration restrictions. I ended my essay with the following passage:
If anti-immigration laws are unjust, is there a moral duty to obey anti-migration laws? The migrant has no more duty to obey modern anti-migration laws as the African-American had a duty to obey Jim Crow laws. They are simply cruel and humiliating regulations. They should be ended immediately.
A lot of folks thought that this was a misleading comparison. I disagree. No two social regimes are identical, but it is helpful to point out that current policies can be just as destructive and violent as policies from a previous era.
People have also argued that blocking someone from migrating to a new country is like making them wait for a building permit, so it is not like Jim Crow. This is categorically false. When you prevent someone from moving to a new nation, you prevent them taking a job, which costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars; you prevent them from being with family; and you prevent them from living a better life. In cases of people fleeing natural disaster or war, you are accelerating their likely death. Ultimately, any policy that makes a completely safe activity – moving to a new place- into a an activity that might result in death is morally unsound. Jim Crow and border controls are not identical but they are vicious policies aimed at specific populations and the policies wreck lives.
I am a big believer in social science. For example, I believe there is a lot of evidence supporting the view that elite endorsements do predict party nominations, as documented in The Party Decides. So how does one explain Donald Trump’s current popularity?
The answer, I think, is simple. Normally, politicians need party elites because they don’t have the money, name recognition, organization, or media presence to run for office. Trump has all of these:
- A billion dollar fortune he is willing spend from.
- Decades of media presence.
- His own business organization.
- Name recognition from books, tv, and even a board game.
Add to this that Trump is charismatic, then it is easy to see what the issue is. The Party Decides model is mainly about people who need parties for help. If you need a party, and it doesn’t like you, you’ll loose. Trump has his own resources and he’s great at projecting himself on tv. Thus, he has a chance at bucking the system.
This doesn’t mean that he’s a shoe-in. He could easily turn out to be one of the many also-rans in presidential races. But this reasoning does increase my small belief that he could win a state, or run a Ross Perot style campaign and get 10% or 20% of the popular vote. The deeper lesson here is that politicians, relatively speaking, are poor and need parties. That is why most people have to play by the party’s rules. If you have your own bank account, and you’re good on tv, you can write your own rules.
How do we know if restrictionism is unjust? Is it ethically good or bad to prevent migration between countries? In this post, I draw on Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail to argue that restriction laws are unjust. King sets out the problem and offers a solution: “How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.” In other words, there is no intrinsic demand that the law be followed. You don’t have to follow the law just because it is a law.
But there arises a problem, how do we know if a law is in accordance with “moral law?” King begins by pointing out that just laws try to help people, but unjust laws degrade people and create privilege and superiority: “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.”
King makes a behavioral argument. If a law were indeed just, the group that passed the law would apply it to themselves. “An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.”
Let us now turn to border controls and deportation. How do these laws “uplift human personality?” Restrictionist laws clearly do not “uplift” the people who are banned from entry. People who migrate may want jobs, or they want to be with family, or they simply want to be in another place that they deem safe. By preventing people from being with family, they clearly degrade people. By preventing people from earning a living and peacefully enjoying property, they degrade people.
What about the native citizen? How do restrictionist laws “uplift” her personality? They can’t because they are aimed at others. One’s moral standing is based on their action, not the action of others. Simply living in a nation that excludes others does nothing for one’s moral worth. To the contrary, the active approval of laws that degrade others decreases one’s moral standing. Supporting migration restrictions and deportations gives, in King’s words, the restrictionist a “false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.”
King’s behavioral criteria implies that migration restrictions are unjust. If these laws are so wise and proper, then why do we not see border controls between the states of the Union? Or between different cities? If the restrictionist is truly concerned about the dangers of outsiders, why shouldn’t Northerners build a fence to keep Southerners out because of their different values? Should Catholics and Protestants dig a moat around Utah to stop Mormons from entering their territory? If the restrictionist is truly concerned about outsiders exploiting public assistance, why doesn’t New York City build a wall to prevent New Hampshire’s citizens from exploiting that state’s more generous government services? The fact that such walls do not exist, and the restrictionists do not ask for them, says to me that these laws can’t truly be just.
From the founding of the United States to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, this nation had 106 years of free movement across its borders. Millions of Jews, Poles, Chinese, Mexican, German, and Russian people came to this shore, relieved that they could live their lives as they saw fit, free from deportation, exile, and murder. Since then, wave after wave of anti-immigration law has been passed by this nation’s citizens. It is time to recognize that these laws are unwise and unjust and have same moral standing as the laws of Jim Crow. They do not command respect or honor and should be seen for what they are: attempts to harass people who, by chance, were born in another nation. Ignore them at will.