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Joshua Sharf

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March 28, 2008

Shuler Blindsided...Again

This morning on a blogger conference call, a spokesman for the McCain campaign wondered aloud if Heath Shuler hadn't taken one too many hits from a linebacker during his playing days, and categorically denied that Senator McCain was calling Republicans, trying to get them to block the discharge petition of the Save Act.

Perhaps it's time that Shuler see another echo of his football career - benching.

September 11, 2007


I've always been skeptical of the idea of, "self-deportation," the notion that people would return to a basket case in order to escape a temporarily deferred Land of Opportunity. But when DeutscheBank published a report a couple of months ago, claiming that homebuilders may have laid off 500,000 illegals nationwide, I thought that would be a good test of the theory.

Now, Mickey Kaus reports that LA, Tulsa, and Atlanta schools are all reporting that large numbers of hispanic children expected at school haven't shown up.

Has anyone seen anything similar here in Colorado? We're looking at hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants living here, many connected with homebuilders. And if we are seeing this phenomenon here, it could be evidence that demand-side enforcement may be more effective than I had thought.

August 8, 2007

Immigration Fear Factor

Apparently, the Undocumented-American community is having a tough time of it. No, really.

A year after state lawmakers passed what they called the toughest illegal-immigration laws in the nation, there is no proof illegal immigrants have been caught taking advantage of taxpayers. Instead, there are abundant stories of citizens eligible for services who can't prove it because they lack the required ID.

Of one side, the side that wants to prevent illegal aliens from taking our tax dollars, "proof" is demanded. From the other, anecdotal evidence comprising "abundant stories" is sufficient. Of course, abundance is also in the eye of the reporter.

"We have nothing to show that this law is doing what it was intended to do," said Maureen Farrell, executive director of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. "The reality is that more citizens appear to be impacted than illegal immigrants."

The Post, as freuqently happens when referencing liberal think tanks, fails to identify them as such. The CCLP's mission: "The Colorado Center on Law and Policy's mission is to promote justice and economic security for all Coloradans, particularly lower income people. CCLP advocates on behalf of the the poor, working poor and other vulnerable populations though legislative, administrative and legal advocacy." Maybe so you won't notice there's no "balancing" conservative opinion.

Beyond the effects on hospitals and social-service providers, businesses have also complained that the anti- immigrant fervor generated by HB 1023 and other laws has made it harder to find employees.

Ah, that's why! There is no balancing conservative opinion! Or at least no balanced conservative opinion. There's merely, "fervor." Fervor all through the Right. Fervor! Funnily enough, it's actually generated by the law in question, rather than helping to generate it. Oh, and note that it's no longer about illegal immigrants, but all immigrants.

Other lawmakers, meanwhile, argue HB 1023 doesn't go far enough.

Sen. David Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, said tales of how the law is hurting the homeless and indigent are a diversion tactic by social-service providers.

"That is being used as an excuse to make sure that this procedure is loose enough to ensure that anyone can apply," he said.

Schultheis never actually says the laws don't go far enough. What he does say is that social service providers want to, well, provide services, and that their claims are misleading.

Others argue that such immigrants were never draining Colorado coffers.

"People who are undocumented are here to work - not use social services," said Deb DeBoutez with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

Except for the gang members who are here to funnel drug money to jihadists, that is. They're fine, law-abiding illegals.

State agencies reported this year that the package of immigration laws cost them about $2 million to put in place. But they found no cost savings through kicking illegal immigrants off of state rolls.

This is the WMD method of argument. Fine enough for a Presidential debate, not so good for what supposed to pass for journalism. In fact, cost savings was only one reason for this law. Perhaps more important was taking away a reason for people to come here.

It is estimated there are nearly 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and about 225,000 to 275,000 in Colorado.

If this doesn't conjure up images of Drew Carey standing on a stage, asking these reporters to make a guess, with the audience yelling, as one, "higher, higher!" There's no source for the national numbers, they're clearly at the low end of the range. Apparently, the numbers for Colorado come from a study by the left-leaning Pew Hispanic Center, but you wouldn't know this, either.

A large number of those who are affected, especially in the case of health care, are indigent citizens. Just try mentioning that mentally ill homeless should be put in state facilities, though, and see how many syllables make it out before, "warehousing!"

Denver Health, which serves a large percentage of the indigent and homeless population, has spent nearly $2 million in the past year treating indigent patients who don't have enough identification to prove they are legal residents. The hospital cannot include such charges in its application for a refund through the Colorado Indigent Care Program.

"It means that we have $2 million less in our operating budget," said Bobbi Barrow, a spokeswoman for Denver Health.

A shooting victim who arrived at Denver Health's emergency room without insurance or state-approved ID stayed for more than a month, leaving behind a $182,000 medical bill.

Denver Health's loss will not save the state any money.

Hospitals are refunded a percentage of the money they spend each year on indigent patients. But there is a fixed amount of grant money each year, and the state divides it up among the hospitals. So just because a hospital spent more money on indigent care, it doesn't mean that it will get a bigger check from the state.

This is simply incoherent. According to the logic, they weren't going to be able to recover the money, anyway, because there's a cap on how much the state pays out. We're not told what the algorithm for dividing up the money is (did the reporters even bother to ask?), so we have no idea whether spending more or less is better.

There's more, largely about the amount of paperwork the rule is causing non-profits. Don't hold your breath waiting for the paper to endorse a flat tax.

Oh, and that "fear factor" headline. Apparently Jim Spencer was able to find work after the buyout, after all.

July 19, 2007

Cutting For Sign

I first heard of WIlliam Langewiesche when he appeared on "Fresh Air," discussing flight dynamics and piloting in the wake of JFK, Jr's poor judgment and ultimate death. The Atlantic republished his article, "The Turn." Recently, I remembered another book had of his, published in 1993, about the US-Mexican border, Cutting for Sign" target="_blank">Cutting For Sign. Things have gotten worse since then in some ways, but even then, only a few years after Simpson-Mizzoli, the signs were there.

Langewiesche raises questions that conservatives, like myself, who support a border fence, need to take seriously. The border is 1951 miles long, and we're talking about 800 miles of fencing. There is considerable commerce along the border from day shoppers. Much of the land, though, is remote, mountainous, or thick with brush, and therefore difficult to patrol. Other portions are dense with people, and therefore difficult to control.

The boundary runs just to the south along the crest of low hills. All day the crowds gather in increasing numbers at the fence. By late afternoon you see hundreds up there, dark lines of people waiting for the sun to set. Vendors sell drinks and tacos. Where the fence is torn, the immigrants swell through and stand inside the United States. Border guards square offagainst them in scattered trucks, radios crackling. They face a near riot, an aftermoon ritual. The fence marks the territory they intend to defend, but they keep a wary distance from it: it serves the unintended purpose of sheltering the Tijuana toughs who jeer and throw rocks. The irony is not lost on the guards. (P. 38-39)

Later on, he talks with a San Diegan disgusted at the damage and accidents caused by immigrants trying to run across the Interstate. "They ought to build a fence," he says. We had a fence, and still the Border Patrol was completely overwhelmed. If we're going to push for a fence, we need to know what technology exists that will make the next one more effective, or we're going to have to know how many men it will take to make it safe.

Some analysts argue that the United States must let the border function as a pressure-relief valve, to give the Mexicans time to turn their economy around and to allow free trade an opportunity to work. They say Mexicans prefer Mexico and will stay there if their economy develops. It is a good theory, but there is evidence that Mexicans will not cooperate. To the extent that Mexico's economic growth is linked to the United States, it will continue to be concentrated along the border. As still greater numbers of workers are drawn to northern Mexico and their material expectations increase, the United States may continue to appear not less, but more desirable. The lesson of Tijuana is that the flow of immigrants may actually increase. Despite their denials, true free traders must in their hearts accept this possibility, the human exchange, as part of the package. (P. 53-54)

This was written 14 years ago. Attention Wall Street Journal editorial board, please pick up the white courtesy telephone. It's true now, even though US companies are building plants further and further away from the border, in Linares, for instance. to be the hottest town in the United States. Over the last five years its population has swelled from 1,900 to more than 3,800. The newcomers are Mexicans granted permanent residency under the immigration amnesty program. Most are not yet U.S. citizens and cannot vote. Still, their political weight is felt; by their numbers alone, they speak of the future and promise permanence to Latino power. (P. 165-166)

Which says all you need to know about the Democrats' position. Well, that and the fact that national security is a figment of their imaginations. The weak-kneed Republicans are another matter.

When Acosta (who ran the drug trade in the Mexican border town of Ojinaga -ed.) began to lose power, U.S. narcotics officers who were trying to work through him to get at his Colombian sources actually worried about his decline. In one of the more bizarre episodes, FBI agents fearfu of Libyan terrorists sneaking into the United States traveled to Ojinaga to ask Acosta if he knew of any. He did not, but volunteered to fight them for free if they showed up. He pointed out correctly that he owed his success to the United States.

Which is pretty much why Mexico helps us catch terrorists, too.

It's a good book, and most of it still seems to be true.

July 17, 2007

Iraqi Smuggling Ring Operating on US-Mexican Border?

Smuggling Iraqis, that is.

ABC News is reporting that the FBI is investigating a smuggling operation geared towards getting Iraqis across the US-Mexican border into the US:

The FBI is investigating an alleged human smuggling operation based in Chaparral, N.M., that agents say is bringing "Iraqis and other Middle Eastern" individuals across the Rio Grande from Mexico.

An FBI intelligence report distributed by the Washington, D.C. Joint Terrorism Task Force, obtained by the Blotter on, says the illegal ring has been bringing Iraqis across the border illegally for more than a year.

Some reporter should investigate this, or something.

Still, the way Bensman discusses this, it sounds as though we'd need regime change in most of Latin America to put a stop to it. The FBI will probably announce some high-profile arrests, or not, depending on how the political fallout vis-a-vis the war is calculated, and then others will rush in to provide this highly lucrative service.

July 13, 2007

Tood Bensman Radio Interview

I promised to link to the radio interview with Todd Bensman when it was up, and here it is. The first segment starts with John and me bantering for a few minutes about the failure of the immigration bill, and Todd joins us about 4 1/2 minutes through.

Segment I:

Segment II:

July 12, 2007

A Test On Immigration

Proponents of stricter enforcement of laws against hiring illegals often argue that this will result in "self-deportation." In other words, large numbers of illegals will pick themselves up and leave a place where things always get better to go back to a place where things never seem to.

Now, we may have a chance to put this to the test. The Wall Street Journal's Economics Blog reports that four researchers from Deutsche Bank believe that, a year and a half into the housing slump, builders have laid off as many as 500,000 illegal aliens.

The title of the post, "Report Illegal Hispanics Bear Housing Slump Brunt," recalls "World Ends, Women, Minorities Hardest Hit," but the point is clear. 500,000 jobs lost translates to just over a 4 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate for illegals, assuming 12 million illegals in the country. It's not 1930, but it's also not

Since we all believe that neither illegals nor their informal network are stupid, word should be getting around that it's not so easy to find work pounding shingles and hanging sheet rock right now. Despite the fact that we've seen about 40 feet of actual fencing built, we should still be seeing fewer people trying to sneak in. If we do, there may be some merit to the demand-side enforcement argument. If we don't, then the draw of the American idea remains stronger than any transient economics.

July 6, 2007

Interview With Todd Bensman

On Backbone Radio last week, John Andrews, Matt Dunn, and I had the pleasure of interviewing Todd Bensman of the San Antonion Express-News about his four-part series, "Breaching America," that ran earlier in the year. The series followed an illegal immigrant and asylum-seeker from his homeland across the US-Mexican border, to his release by US authorities to join his family in the States.

His homeland: Iraq.

It turns out that there's a pipeline of illegals from "Countries of Special Interest" - mostly in the Middle East, almost all Muslim - that runs through Latin American into the United States.

The original series can be found here, here, here, and here.

After the interview, Todd graciously agreed to take follow-up questions for this blog by email. It took place in two parts, an initial round of questions and then a follow-up round. Except where noted below, the questions and answers are presented in order below.

1) What led you to do the series?

For the last several years, working as a reporter in Dallas, I'd occasionally heard through my ICE and FBI friends about Arabs being caught crossing the Mexican border. Not until I took a special projects reporting job closer to the border, with The San Antonio Express News, did it become feasible for me to think harder about substantiating these reports. At the same time, national immigration reform had been in the air for a couple of years - and was heating up - but none of the media reporting or political talk ever seemed to consider the primary underlying assumption for reform: is the border indeed vulnerable to terrorist infiltration? I decided the time was ripe for an American news reporter to finally step up and take a serious, considered look at the issue of Arab migrants jumping U.S. borders post-9-11.

2) Describe the role of Russia in this transit process?

Russia seems to figure in only one or two popular routes that move people from the Middle East to South- or Central America, and then over the U.S. border. It's mainly a transit country that U.S.-bound immigrants from places like Syria, a so-called State Sponsor of Terror, use to fly to Cuba and then on to, say, Guatemala. There's a larger unaddressed issue here: Russia is one of many, what I call, "stepping stone" countries because it is generally hostile to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and indifferent enough to American security concerns to not ask many questions about its Iraqi or Syrian friends who are on their way to the Western Hemisphere.

3) Describe the consulates that the central and South American counties keep in Syria and Jordan?

Middle Eastern immigrants bound for the U.S. border wouldn't be able to get within reach without tourist visas issued by Latin American countries like Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Peru and the like. All of the countries I just named, and more, have embassies or consulate offices that issue travel visas to locals in Damascus, Syria; Amman, Jordan; Beirut, Lebanon; and elsewhere. Of course, Latin America has every right to keep diplomatic presences in the Middle East, to serve large populations in their own territories of Middle Eastern settlers who have legitimate reasons to move back and forth. A perceived U.S. national security problem here, however, is that theseconsulate offices routinely hand out visas to Middle Easternerswithout thoroughly checking who they are or their stated travelpurposes, several consuls in Syria and Jordan told me. In addition, at least one convicted Hezbollah terrorist crossed the Mexico/U.S. border in 2001 after bribing Mexican consulate office in Beirut. That means, bribery is likely playing out elsewhere.

4) Would more concerted operations in those countries make a difference?

Probably in some but not in others. Venezuela, for instance, is openly hostile to the U.S. and is establishing many kinds of ties to countries like Iran. The Chavez government is not likely to allow U.S. law enforcement in, while its opening the continent's first airline routes to Iran. The same can be said of Cuba, which happily supplies transit visas to Middle Easterners on their way to Mexico, no questions asked. Corruption and weak central governments elsewhere would make U.S. efforts to interdict this human traffic difficult, in places like Ecuador and Guatemala. Some large smuggling operations have been brought down in Guatemala since 9-11, but they've been quickly replaced.

5) Describe the growing Arab and Muslim populations in those countries, and the role they play in smuggling? While the people you followed were Christian, I seem to remember reading about a growing Muslim population in the tri-border region (Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela) in South America. How could a hostile Venezuelan government, working with Iran, make use of these groups?

Hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners (fleeing various wars and disturbances over the past 70 years) have resettled in places you'd least expect, opening legal and illegal businesses and becoming Latin American citizens. Among these countries are Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala and even Mexico, where hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have settled over the years. An examination of about a dozen U.S. prosecutions of smuggling organizations shows that a number of major ringleaders turned out to be Middle Easterners with dual citizenship in places like Mexico, Guatemala and Ecuador. The court cases also show that these ringleaders made much use of local citizenry of Middle East descent to provide safe haven, transportation and staging services for "clients" on their way to the U.S. I found a number of situations where Iraqis found work and smuggling connections in Guatemala, for instance, by making their way to the capitol's Zone One marketplace, where thousands of Arab merchants make their livings. This makes a lot of sense, when you think about it. There's a shared language and a sympathy.

6) It sounds as though increased border security would have the perverse effect of depriving the Mexican government of its incentive to cooperate, but would also reduce the traffic from the Guatemala and other transit states (by raising the price, but drastically reducing the actual number of migrants)?

Mexico makes no bones about wanting a liberal border policy allowing its millions of workers to send home billions a year in remittances. This money quite literally keeps the Mexican economy afloat. But I found in my reporting that the Mexican government has no tolerance for one group of illegal migrant: those from Arab countries. The idea is if one gets through Mexico to bomb an American target, the U.S. will promptly militarize the border for all of the Mexican, remittance-sending laborers. At least according to Mexico's new ambassador. So a top Mexican national security policy tracks quite well with the American one: stop the Arab migration. The Mexican government has been extremely aggressive in doing so. It's locking up Arab migrants in droves, and goes so far as to allow American intelligence and FBI officials inside its detention centers to do interrogations, a program that has remained secret until the Breaching America series. The Mexicans also have aggressively prosecuted smugglers of Middle Easterners, while going easy on other kinds of smugglers.

6) (Follow-up:) I guess what I'm asking here is if you think that increasing border security, say, by building a fence, will remove the Mexican government's incentive for cooperating. After all, if we're stopping the illegals as best as we can at the Rio Grande, that will by definition cut down on the remittances...

That's an interesting supposition. I think a fence would indeed reduce Mexico's incentive to interdict special interest migrants from the Middle East - but only if the fence is pretty effective at slowing and rerouting illegals. And if the fence is effective, the need for Mexican interdiction should diminish also, no? Middle Eastern immigrants are attracted to the U.S. border because it's always been so easy to sneak over.

I'd base my own supposition on what the Mexican reaction to the fence has been all along: stiff, heated, unremitting opposition at every level. Opponents of the fence always give great ode to the idea that the fence wouldn't be very effective keeping determined Mexicanworkers out, so why bother? Yet the Mexican government's persistent opposition to it shows, at least to me, that THEY believe it will be highly effective and constitutes a grave threat to the remittance money flow. You have to give the Mexican government credit for one thing: consistency; it wants those remittances flowing back. If the Mexican government is working so hard at both stopping the fence and capturing Islamic migrants, it's for the same reason, that $25 billion in annual remittances. I'd argue that an EFFECTIVE fence would reduce Mexico's incentive in rough proportion to the special interest migrants' willingness to bother breaching it.

7) Why do you think the rest of the mainstream media has been so reluctant to pick up on the story?

I sort of consider myself mainstream media, but I know what you mean...This lapse by major American news organizations like The New York Times is a very happy mystery to me, especially given all the nonstop political talk about terrorist infiltration over the borders since 9-11. But it's also a lapse for which I'm eternally grateful. I don't like competition for great stories, and I don't do them if someone else already has. So from my perspective, I can only hope they keep that attitude and stay the hell away!

8) What reason does the FBI give for being so poorly staffed for interrogating illegals from States of Interest, and in your opinion, is this valid, or is there an actual reluctance to confront the problem?

I think the FBI's failure to properly staff its border offices - and most especially its Mexico station - for the purpose of conducting threat assessments and interrogations is a product of the absence of media attention. That will change the day someone gets over the border and commits a terrorist act - and FBI supervisors are standing before congressional committees explaining what went wrong in Mexico.

9) In your report, you quote a number of foreign nationals poo-poohing the idea of terrorists transiting the border this way. Yet the Millenium Bomber, the Fort Dix Six, and others have crossed borders, or attempted to, illegally. Clearly other sheiks and hostile clerics have gotten in this way. To what other uses could a hostile terrorist organization put a porous border?

Last year, General Accounting Office investigators went undercover in Mexico. They mail-ordered enough radioactive material for two "dirty bombs," and drove several different loads of it in passenger cars over the U.S. borders to see if they'd get caught. They were stopped, in one case, in Texas but were allowed to pass after presenting a bogus cover story. The GAO report is available on their web site.

Follow-up questions:

New: is there any evidence of coordination between Muslim groups here in the US, like CAIR and the Muslim American Society (which is the group that the > Muslim Brotherhood operates under here), and the Muslim communities in Latin America?

Not that I'm aware of, but I believe U.S. intelligence agencies know a lot more than what's been publicly released. They firmly believe that Hezbollah and other designated terrorist groups have found firm footing throughout South America, particularly in the lawless "Tri-border" region where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil meet. In December, the U.S. Treasury Department, for instance, released a "fact sheet" naming specific individuals and organizations from the border region who are tied to terrorist organizations and are wanted for material support activities ranging from gun-running to money-laundering. But as far as direct links to U.S.-based organizations, I'm pretty sure any evidence of that remains secret.

New: Are you aware of any intellingence or law enforcement activities directed at those communities, as opposed to the smuggling rings, which are probably dominated by native Guatemalans, Hondurans, etc.

No, I am not, though top American intelligence officials have publicly warned they have seen intelligence about Islamic extremists recruiting poor native Latin American Muslim converts, who would easily pass for an illegal laborer, and because these converts would be "clean" they'd never show on a terror watch list screening if caught on this side.

New: Are there any other countries: Ecudaor, Costa Rica, El Salvador, who are more friendly, whom we could also be using as stoppers? Since the land corridor is usually one country wide, this would seem to be a way of limiting the problem geographically.

Past U.S. prosecutions of human smugglers specializing in Middle Easterners shows that all of these friendly countries have been used as stepping stones for a northward journey. Most of their borders are lawless, vast and unpatrollable. Ecuador, one of the busiest of these stop-over countries, has cooperated with U.S. authorities to penetrate Middle East smuggling rings but the sense I get from some of those who were involved is that these made hardly a dent in the trade. Enforcement activities by us in these countries can't be episodic; there has to be a sustained activity with local authorities who have been vetted for corruption, which is another problem that has to be tackled separately.

June 28, 2007

And Here's the Roll Call

Here's the roll call.

Now, let's see who's up for re-election in '08. My guess is not many of the yeas...

Gutless Wonder

So with the Senate phone lines down this morning, thus ensuring that the coccoon is complete, I called Senator Salazar's local office to register my opinion, and to ask a question: Had the Senator conducted any Townhall-style meetings on the Immigration Bill since it was introduced to the Senate? The response was typical of Salazar's behavior on this bill. First, I was lied to: I was told that the bill was introduced in the Senate last year. Not this bill. This bill was created by a group of Senators in an unofficial committee this year. Then, I was told that the Senator had had "input" from "stakeholders," and was asked if that answered my question. Ah, yes, it said the answer was, "no," he hadn't really solicited public opinion on this specific bill. Then I asked who the "stakeholders" in question were.

I was hung up on.

It's symptomatic of what we used to call "Potomac Fever" that the stricken think "stakeholders" are spokesmen and self-appointed "community leaders," but it's a new, pathological mutation that they won't tell you who they are.

UPDATE: Someone, who thinks she's clever, points out that Dick Cheney doesn't want to reveal who his advisors are, either.

Well, ok. Except that I'd see your energy plan and raise you HillaryCare. And she wsan't even a government employee, or so she thought.

Now the executive, including the vice president, hasgenerally been accorded this sort of latitude for several reasons. First, their role is one of decision-making, whereas the legislative process involves much more consensus-building. This necessarily involves some level of private advice that should stay private. Secondly, any legislation they propose still has to go through the congressional process, which usually includes committee hearings and a fair chance at amendments.

This legislation included neither, being drafted in secret and then force-fed past the debate and amendment processes. The "stakeholders" in question were La Raza and LULAC. And refusing public comment, actively resenting public comment, and then refusing to discuss who helped draft this legislation, is all of a piece. No doubt Salazar will find time for townhall events, where he will either a) avoid putting immigration on the agenda, and ignore the issue yet again, or b) face public anger well after the event, and be complimented by sycophants for his "courage" in subjecting himself to that. The real courage would have been listening beforehand.

June 12, 2007

Referendum C = Immigration

President Bush is making exactly the same mistake with immigraiton as Governor Owens made when he supported Referendum C. By undercutting his own party on a major issue to partner with the opposition - which clearly sees this deal as a first, not a last, step, President Bush risks demoralizing his party, and robbing it of a signature, defining issue, just as Governor Owens did out here.

And it's no good running against the bill once it passes. People very shortly accept the new reality, won't see any new, immediate, or dramatic changes in their lives, and won't be tempted to vote on this issue next year, after it's been fact for a year or so.

However, if the bill can be defeated, killed, then it can still be a live campaign issue next year, one that poses the promise of recapturing many of the Reagan Democrats. In fact, the immigration bill probably has a better chance than Ref C did of helping Republicans, since it's much less popular and won't be put to a referendum. Should it pass, all this will be moot, but should it fail, it will provide a terrific issue for the Republican candidate to run on.

We've seen this movie before. We can give it a different ending.

May 28, 2007

Informed, Intelligent, Wrong

Today's Washington Post carries a column by the normally thoughtful Sebastian Mallaby, on the question of the terrorist threat from illegal immigration. Mallaby argues that 1) because the number of non-Latino immigrants coming across the border is small, the threat is similarly small, and that by implication, 2) those proposing national security as a reason to build the border fence are acting in bad faith.

Mallaby tries both to wish away a serious problem, and to defame those who are more adult about the problem through straw men and diversionary arguments.

As a starting point, anyone interested in the threat from Muslim radicals via our southern border should read this four-part series from the San Antonio Express-News, here, here, here, and here.

Of the many infuriating assertions in the immigration debate, perhaps this one takes top prize: that we have to keep illegal immigrants out for the sake of our security. This notion is wrong, not just because undocumented workers are statistically less likely than native-born Americans to commit crimes or because they are serenely indifferent to al-Qaeda's teachings. It is wrong because it misses the most basic rule of smart homeland security.

This argument takes the subject of the debate - Muslim radicals slipping across the border - and expands it to all illegals. It then looks like it's shrinking the debate back down by assuming that the two parts of his argument are independent. We're not concerned here about "crimes" in general, but about very specific crimes: terrorist acts designed to kill and maim large numbers of Americans, and to destroy significant parts of our infrastructure. The illegals he's talking about are largely indifferent to the dream of the Caliphate. Those we're talking about think that every step closer to the Rio Grande is a step closer to its restoration.

Smart homeland security starts with the reality that you can't protect everything. ... Even if you doubled spending and then doubled it again, there would be too many targets to protect. Total security is unattainable.

So the name of the game is prioritization. There are two schools of thought as to how this should be done, and neither of them involves clamping down on immigrants. The first school says: Figure out what sort of attack would cause the most damage -- for example, an attack on an urban chemical plant that would unleash deadly gases. The second school says: Figure out which attacks are most likely -- al-Qaeda has demonstrated a fascination with aircraft, so spending $9.16 per passenger on aviation security but only 6 cents for each mass-transit rider (as the federal government was found to do in 2004) may not actually be crazy.

By all means! Let's post special-forces units outside every hospital, school, water tower, office building, check-in counter, and subway station! Of course, to do so, we'd probably have to go ahead and annex Mexico outright for the manpower, and put some immigrants with skills and who can actually read (read: Europeans) on the path to citizenship, both of which Mallaby seems to have problems with.

The distinction between School One (hedge your risk), and School Two (out-guess the universe), is an illuminating but ultimately irrelevant discussion. Neither one explicitly addresses immigration, in the same way that neither explicitly addresses the mechanics of obtaining anti-tank missiles.

At a time when the US is actually paying attention to likely domestic terrorist training camps, and is preventing such prevaricators as Tariq Ramadan from entering the country, both organizers and operatives could be trained on foreign soil and trickled in one or a few at a time to create cells here in the US.

Actually, Mallaby plays the game here three times. First, he paints the grudging nods to security as some sort of medieval, crocodile-filled moat. Second, he downplays the threat from illegals by talking about whichever subset fits his point at the time. Third, ignores the means to which such a porous border may be put to use by our enemies. Fourth, he implies that those of us making these arguments are deliberately lying in order to put up some sort of nativist policy.

If this isn't the sign of massively dysfunctional political debate, nothing is.

November 20, 2006

More Media Post-Election Honesty

The Denver Post this morning admits that some Mexican move here illegally for the benefits, like decent health care. Funny that we didn't hear more about this before the election.

June 23, 2006

The Governor, the Tsar, and the Duchess

So with the Democrats stamping their feet and threatening to hold their breath until they turn - er - blue, Governor Owens found time to meet with them yesterday about the proposed immigration special session. Since the Republicans are backing the governor on this one, the Dems really have no leverage. They'd need 15 Republicans to support their call rather than the governor's and that's not going to happen.

The Dems, in the meantime, sound less than sincere in their discomfort with the Court's decision:

Fitz-Gerald questioned whether the legislature has the authority to overturn a court decision. She said she didn't think it was the legislature's role to rubber-stamp flawed ballot questions.

No word on what she thinks of flawed Supreme Court decisions. In a statement that was in the initial Rocky report last night, but later edited out, Romanoff said that they could spend all summer overturning State Supreme Court decisions they didn't like.

So which is it, guys? You don't have the authority, or you don't like the idea?

Since the call defines the parameters of the special session, Owens ostensibly called the meeting to find out what the Dems wanted included. When they asked to include employer enforcement, he pointed out that, along with a number of other Republican bills, the Democratic leadership had killed this one on a party-line vote in committee. (Committee votes are significant precisely because they're a way of killing a bill without a floor vote that might put vulnerable members on the record with an unpopular position.)

The Rocky's reporting on this was less-than-stellar. Initially, they stated as fact that the governor was considering including Republican bills that the Dems had committee-killed. A call to the governor's press office revealed that that was only Fitz-Gerald's interpretation of the conversation. The governor's point was that the Dems had the chance to deal with these issues, and decided not to, so to come back now with a raft of half-baked ideas smacks of playing catch-up.

The Rocky took out that paragraph in this morning's draft, but reporting Sen. Fitz-Gerald's comments as fact without attribution is just sloppy at best, and credulous as worst.

June 20, 2006

The Immigration Debate Expands?

The Republican Study Committee of Colorado is encouraging Governor Owens to expand the terms of his special session to include Official English and proof of citizenship for voting & driving.

The politics are obvious - force the Democrats to take unpopular and unwise positions. It'll be much harder for Romanoff and Fitz-Gerald to bury these issues in committee, and virtually impossible for Democrats in close races to vote against them on the floor. Not if they want to be back in January.

Ken Gordon's already on record opposing proof of citizenship for voting and driver's licenses (which act as id for voting). Now he'll have to vote that way on camera. In the campaign ads, they'll put him in front of a Mexican flag.

The only possible downside is that you give away the issue of the Supreme Court by focusing on substance rather than process.

June 19, 2006

A "New Direction" For Wages?

Let's continue to pretend that the border doesn't exist, while raising the minimum wage!

This is like making the hole at the bottom of the tub larger, while pouring in more water and adding suction at the same time. You're increasing the hiring incentive for US employers, simultaneously reducing their incentive to hire US workers.

Electorally, you get to add numbers both to an oppressed underclass and the idle government dependants. Economically, you get to increase government spending at both ends.

If the Democrats weren't so clearly incompetent, this might actually constitute a plan.

June 13, 2006

Special Session Update

Governor Owens has threatened to call a special legislative session if the Court stands by its - remarkable - decision on the initiative to deny non-emergency services to illegal aliens. (Memo to Justice Mularky: You can call a tail a leg, but don't try to stand on it.) Good for him.

"I urge the state Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling, but if that doesn't happen, it's likely that I will be bringing lawmakers back to the Capitol this summer."

Bob Beauprez was way out in front of this (although his latest press release lauds the Governor for calling a special session, which he hasn't actually done yet). Bill Ritter was last seen trying to find a way to be "moderate" while not offending his base. Ritter has until the Court rules again, if it does, to avoid being overtaken by events, but he'd probably be best off criticizing the Court and giving his legislative brethern some cover.

In the meantime, we'll see if the Court uses the interim period to actually read the law. And then, if they believe that reading the law would constitute backing down, whether the Governor actually does follow through here.

UPDATE: We've confirmed that there's no truth to the rumor that the Governor will call a special session to propose legislation giving him the right to appoint a new Supreme Court justice for each sitting justice with an IQ under 80.

Around The Fence

With the Colorado Supreme Court having erected a barrier protecting the status quo on illegal immigration, Republican legislators are asking Governor Owens to call a special session to get the measure on the ballot.

''The state Supreme Court illegally denied access to the ballot on an issue I think enjoys overwhelming support. The question is access to the ballot. To have that taken away by the courts needs to be resolved,'' May said.

Significantly, the governor isn't closing the door on this, although he wants to wait and see if the peyote has worn off by the time DCN's motion to reconsider is heard.

In the meantime, State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald is doing everything possible to give that body back to the Republicans:

She said May was trying to make immigration a political issue in a pivotal election year, with control of the Legislature and the governor's office up for grabs. Owens cannot run again because of term limits.

''I think Mike May is engaging in political grandstanding,'' she said. ''It's an opportunity for them to have their issue in the forefront instead of all the accomplishments we have made over the past few years.''

From the DCN site:

The current registered agent for the Defend Colorado Now initiative is former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm, with additional contacts listed as Waldo Benavidez, Director of the Auraria Community Center - a west Denver social service agency, and DCN's director, Fred Elbel (all three are registered Democrats).

This is a perfect chance for Governor Owens to get back his conservative bona fides at a time when he's seen as having thrown away a career's worth of political capital over Ref C. I was at the Assembly, and I can tell you that Owens's career restrospective film got a less-than-Clintonian receptiona among the delegates.

To take a public stand like this, to force the Democrats in the legislature to take a wildly unpopular stand on an issue that people will actually go to the polls over would help remind people of what a good, conservative governor he was for six years. (The Beauprez campaign has already figured this out, forcing Ritter into a deafening "no-comment.")

It would entail a certain amount of personal risk, if the soon-to-be-former governor had been expecting a friendly reception from a Democratic state capitol.

But it would be a parting gift to a party where a significant number of activists feel abandoned, and it would almost certainly win him back a great deal of forgiveness among those activists.

June 12, 2006

Our Postmodern Judiciary

For decades, conservatives have been claiming that liberals only like judicial activism out of expediancy, not out of principle. Today's Colorado Supreme Court ruling on Defend Colorado Now's ballot initiative to deny non-essential services to illegal aliens is the new Exhibit A in that debate.

In a 4-2 opinion, which (sic) one justice abstaining, the court ruled the proposed constitutional amendment violates a requirement that ballot questions deal only with one subject.

The ruling brought sharp words from members of Defend Colorado Now, the group pushing the measure.

"This is outrageous judicial activism, Exhibit A in how courts disregard precedent to reach a political result," former Democratic Gov. Richard Lamm said in a statement. "This isn’t law, it is raw, naked politics."

Dick Lamm appointed most of these jokers in the first place, and the number of judicially active rulings he's applauded over the years is countless.

Here's the operative part of the amendment, lifted from its complete text:

Except as mandated by federal law, the provision of non-emergency services by the state of Colorado, or any county, city, or other political subdivision thereof, is restricted to citizens of and aliens lawfully present in the United States of America.

And here is the Court's reasoning:

The ruling said Defend Colorado Now touts the possibility of reducing taxpayer expenditures by restricting illegal immigrants’ access to services, as well as the goal of restricting access to services.

"Because we determine these purposes are unrelated, we conclude they comprise multiple subjects connected only by a broad and overarching theme," the ruling said.

Note that the text of the amendment says nothing at all about revenues, it only speaks of spending. In fact, it doesn't even speak of spending, it speaks of services to be provided or denied. The fact that these services cost money is, while an unfortunate fact of life and governance, completely incidental to the language of the amendment. Were Marx to be proven triumphant, and the State be able to provide services without paying for them, the text of the amendment would still be operative. The idea that arguments used in the advocacy of any amendment actually have any force of law is bizarre to say the least, especially for a Court that has a pronounced distaste for the actual legislative histories of bills.

In fact, it's hard to conceive of any ballot initiative which would pass this test. Measures directly related to revenue by definition potentially affect the tax burden in a state with a balanced budget law and TABOR spending restrictions. That's reading the decision narrowly. Reading it broadly, any sentence containing more than one word necessarily encompasses two things.

A cynic would suggest that the four justices involved are unrelated, comprising multiple intelligences connected only by a broad and overarching need for remedial logic and English instruction.

Such cynicism would mask the truly dangerous, indeed dictatorial nature of this ruling. In effect, it opens the door for the Court to overturn any checks on its powers. Try, just try, to imagine any restraint on judicial authority which can't be separated into multiple purposes. And then remember who the final arbiter in such matters is.

UPDATE: It gets better. The Court, in arguing an agenda hidden in plain view on DCN's website, notes:

Because “emergency services” are commonly defined, as Defend Colorado Now does, as including police and fire protection and emergency room medical services, a voter might well assume that the converse of “emergency” would pertain to the single subject of nonemergency medical or social services. In the absence of a definition for “services” or a description of the purposes effected by restricting nonemergency services, the unrelated purpose of restricting access to administrative services is hidden from the voter.

And yet, isn't that exactly the first thing that public debate would illuminate? The Court want to both discount the usefulness of political debate and to use that debate (i.e., DCN's stated arguments in favor of their amendment) as a reason for disqualifying the initiative.

Nathan Coats's dissent is worth reading in its entirety, but here's the money paragraph:

Of course, the majority might just as easily have found that the proposal was motivated by a host of other reasons, including the deterrence of unlawful presence in the state, it’s clear and expressed ultimate objective. The susceptibility of any group motivation or objective to being thinly sliced is limited only by the ingenuity (and desire) of the court doing the slicing. And according to the majority’s logic, each such “purpose,” apparently constitutes a “subject” of the initiative. The constitutional limitation itself, however, does not purport to examine the hearts of those advancing an initiative but merely prescribes the form an initiative must take for it to be considered by the electorate.

May 28, 2006

Lincoln on Immigration

Friday's Claremont luncheon lecture by Cal State San Bernadino professor Ed Erler on immigration got me thinking about the Founders. Now it turns out that the Constitutional debate didn't really have much to do with immigration, except for the fear that Congress would try to restrict European immigration.

But by Lincoln's time, the overwhelming tide of German immigration was scaring some people. Lincoln himself seems to have favored a policy of encouraging immigration - to help fill up the continent - but also held in contempt those immigrants who abused the system. He addressed immigration in both of his last two State of the Union addresses. Here's the first, given on December 8, 1863:

There is reason to believe that many persons born in foreign countries, who have declared their intention to become citizens, or who have been fully naturalized, have evaded the military duty required of them by denying the fact, and thereby throwing upon the government the burden of proof. It has been found difficult or impracticable to obtain this proof from the wayt of guides to the proper sources of information. [Lincoln then goes on to suggest an administrative solution to the problem of keeping track of who's in the country]

There is also reason to believe that foreigners frequently become citizens of the United States for the sole purpose of evading duties imposed by the laws of their native countries, to which, on becoming naturalized here, they at once repair, and though never returning to the United States, they still claim the interposition of this government as citizens. Many altercations and great prejudices have heretofore arisen out of this abuse. It might be advisable to fix a limit, beyond which no Citizen of the United States residing abroad may claim the interposition of the government.

The right of suffrage has often been assumed and exercised by aliens, under pretences of naturalization, which they have disavowed when drafted into the military service. I submit the expediency of such an amendment of the law as will make the fact of voting an estoppel against any plea of exemption from military service, or other civil obligation, on the ground of alienage.

In other words: if you're here, you're liable to military service. You have no business coming here and gaining citizenship just so you don't have to do military service in your own country. If you like living there so much, we're not going to waste our time and money protecting you from the government that you obviously are loyal to. And since retinal scans are some time in the future, we may not be able to stop you from voting, but then you're declaring where your community lies, and you'll be expected to serve it.

And here's the second, given on December 6, 1864. Apparently, the terms "immigrant" and "emigrant" were used more or less interchangeably. Remember that this speech was given after the fall of Atlanta, and during the time of the static lines outside Petersburg. The Union was on the verge of wrapping up the war, and Lincoln was already looking past its end.

...A liberal disposition towards this great national policy is manifested by most of the European States, and ought to be reciprocated on our part by giving the immigrants effective national protection. I regard our emigrants as one of the principal replenishing streams which are appointed by Providence to repair the ravages of internal war, and its wastes of national strength and health. All that is necessary is to secure the flow of that stream in its present fullness, and to that end the government must, in evey way, make it manifest that it neither needs nor designs to impose involuntary military service upon those who come from other lands to cast their lot in our country.

The fact that Lincoln justified his open immigration policy by the need to recover manpower and energy after the war suggests that he at least understood that any immigration policy needs to be tailored to the country's needs of the moment.

Jacques Barzun on German-Americans

Germans in America, that is. We forget that before there were Mexicans, there were Germans. The great immigration threat from Benjamin Franklin's time until late in the 19th Century came from Germans, who were largely responsible for settling the midwest in force. Much of the discussion about immigration policy was driven by the nature of German immigration. In fact, today, there are more Americans of German descent than of any other nationality.

Barzun, in his affectionate mid-century discussion of American society, culture, and the American role in the world, God's Country and Mine, writes:

Our popular culture Germanic? Yes. It is not merely that at Christmas time we all eat Pfeffernusse and sing "Heilige Nacht," nor that our GIs in the last war found ever country queer except Germany....

One could go on forever; our appalling academic jargon bears a deep and dangerous likeness to its German counterpart; our sentimentality about children and weddings and Christmas trees; our taste in and for music; our love of taking hikes in groupsm singing as we go; our passion for dumplings and starchy messes generally, coupled with our instinct for putting sweet things alongside badly cooked meats and ill-treated vegetables - all that and our chosen forms of cleanliness (every people is clean in different ways about different things) show how far a characteristic culture has spread from the three or four centers where Germans first settled.

I had never thought about this before, but it has the ring of truth for his time, although by the 70s many of these cultural preferences were already passing from scene, driven out by natural cultural change and, at least in the case of food, the nascent Health Fascists.

While Barzun plays it down a little, it's clear that the influx of Germans, to be German-Americans, who published German-language newspapers as late as WWI, essentially took over American popular culture. But because of effective assimilation and instruction in civic duty, we have so far not fallen prey to the catastrophic European "isms."

Barzun himself was a naturalized American, having come here from France as a student at Columbia in the 20s, gained citizenship in the 30s, eventually rising to be dean at Columbia. He was considered one of the century's great public intellectuals, and published a massive survey of Western culture as recently as 2000, at age 93.

His star has dimmed somewhat over the last couple of decades, probably because he devoted time to university administration as much as writing, and because his writing was all over the map. His best-known work is probably the frequently-updated Modern Researcher. He published on race, William James, European and American history, Leftism, Romanticism, and of course, academia.

May 17, 2006

The Senate Approves The Fence

Hugh Hewitt reports that the Senate has voted to construct 370 miles of fence along the border with Mexico.

Maria Cantwell must be feeling pretty chipper about her chances, because she's just handed Mike McGavick a campaign issue. While Canadians aren't rafting down to the Grand Coulee Dam looking for work, the Millenium Bomber was caught at the Washington State border in late 1999. Likewise Bob Menendez and Tom Kean in New Jersey.

Lieberman, facing a primary challenge, had to vote to the left on this one.

Historical Echoes

Am I the only one who sees a parallel between the Goths on the Eastern Frontier and the current Mexican immigrant population? They claim to want to be American (as the Goths wanted to be “Roman”), but aren’t making much of an effort to assimilate, nor are they being encouraged to. I don’t think they’re going to burn down Washington or anything, but since we’re clearly not going to ship them back, we clearly need to cut their lines back to Mexico and get them and their kids assimilated, pronto.

May 16, 2006

The President And Immigration II

Another quick hit here.

This represents a massive failure of leadership on the President's part. He could have faced down both Vincente Fox - who has no vote - and Tom Tancredo, who does. Instead, he's left the door open for the Democrats to paint the issue as one of living standards, make businesses the bad guys, and then to combine the issue with protectionism.

At this point, the Democratic party stands for economic populism of the most destructive kind - raise taxes, control gas prices, slap tariffs on China, prevent existing energy alternatives, and increase entitlements. The President is at risk of giving them the room to sell border security on protectionist lines, opening up debates that should have been settled in the 1970s.

The President on Immigration

We can only hope that it's a shrewd strategy to rescue Congressional Republicans by giving them room to run to the President's right.

May 2, 2006

Denver Rally Pix

I'm going to post most of these without too much comment. The crowd was in a good mood, although once again, there were lots and lots and lots of Mexican flags to go along with the American ones. No chants really got going, although there were sporadic attempts at both, "Si se puede," and "U-S-A."


The signs contained more than a touch of arrogance, combining the right to criminal activity with the right to vote, and mixing up civil rights with human rights, but despite the May Day timing, few if any signs were calling for illegals to price themselves out of the market: (Although, it is worth pointing out that while Mexicans looking for jobs aren't terrorists, they also aren't the ones leaving Korans and prayer rugs on cross-border property.)


In fact, the only socialist, anti-war signs were carried by white men and women. I wonder if the press will cover the distinctive paucity of the Angry White Sign?


May 1, 2006

Rally in Denver

I met up with Michael Sandoval, aka El Presidente of Slapstick Politics, and we chatted and took pictures of some of the better signs.

The latest accessory for Mexicans who proclaim, "We Are America," but can't bring themselves to give up their flag? Just put both flags together!

Despite the sponsorship by the Wobblies and other socialists, the attitude was fairly upbeat, with only a few signs decrying the exploitation of the masses. My guess is that they won't be any more successful radicalizing this group of immigrants than they were 100 years ago.

Pix on the way this evening.

April 30, 2006

Half the Illegal Immigration Story

I had the chance to talk with Fred Elbel, executive director of Defend Colorado Now, this evening on John Andrews's Backbone Radio. DCN is sponsoring a petition drive for a ballot initiative that would prevent non-emergency state services from going to illegal immigrants. It's pitched as part of the overall solution - not the entire solution itself - and it makes sense. I'll find time to trundle down to their downtown office sometime this week and sign the thing myself.

Still, part of Mr. Elbel's pitch disturbed me. It's undoubtedly true that illegal immigrants are costing the state a ton of money in services. But Mr. Elbel also said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that the only beneficiaries were the businesses that hire them. That's obviously untrue, and it's so obviously untrue that it requires a response.

Businesses compete. They compete on price and they compete on service. But for many services, they compete on price alone. Lawn-mowing and gardening services, housecleaning services, for instance, compete mostly, although not exclusively on price. Which means that lower labor costs are not a sustainable competitive advantage. Which means that if Colorado wages really are being affected, it can only be because consumers are paying less for those services, as well. This translates directly to an increased standard of living.

If I can make more after taxes in an hour than it costs me to have my house cleaned, I'm better off working that hour than cleaning my house. If, on the other hand, it costs me more to have my house cleaned, I'm better off cleaning my house myself. Likewise mowing my yard, washing my car, or pretty much any other service. And with the money left over, I can either save or buy things.

In short, it's not amorphous "businesses" who benefit, at all. In the long run, they're no better off than before, although they no longer have the option of going back to higher-priced labor unless they cater to a specialty market. It's consumers and homeowners, because they pay less for services that free up their time. And honest accounting of the effects of illegal immigration needs to include this basic economic fact.

This logic, and this rhetoric, are eerily similar to those used to demonize Wal Mart. If free-market conservatives aren't careful, they'll find they've won one debate, but on terms that guarantee them losses elsewhere.

April 12, 2006

NBC's Political Director Fabricates Own Poll Results

This morning's NBC "First Read," ostensibly an analysis by NBC News's Political Director Elizabeth Wilner (and others), lies about the contents of an NBC/WSJ Poll:

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll and other surveys continue to show that Americans have little appetite for extending the tax cuts in the face of more pressing domestic concerns -- including energy prices.

The poll contains exactly two questions about taxes. By a 49-29 margin, respondents said they were more likely to vote for a candidate favoring "making the tax cuts of the past few years permanent." And by a 56-39 margin, respondents support the tax cuts (Question 18). Gas prices do not show up on the list of questions. The only support for Wilner's comment is that by a 49-19 margin, people asked are more likely to vote for someone who "emphasizes domestic issues over military and foreign policy issues," leaving those issues completely unspecified.

By the way, "favors tighter controls on illegal immigration" wins 71-11, the largest more-likely/less-likely result of any split. Somehow, that little nugget didn't make it into their analysis of the political dyanmics of the immigration debate.

April 11, 2006

Denver Illegal Immigration Rally

Take a look at the following filmstrip. As always, click to enlarge.


First, it's obvious that someone got a memo about having more American flags. Still a fair number of Mexican flags, but many more American ones, most of them right-side up. (I will also note that the reporter from the CBS Colorado Springs TV affiliate thought that was, "pretty funny.") Also, note the waiting-for-Guantanamo garb of the woman holding the Cuban flag defaced by Che.

There was also a fellow wearing a t-shirt with pre-1845 Mexico, that read, "Reoccupado America." For some reason, he declined to be photographed.

You won't see those pictures on the evening news. Most of the people out there weren't interested in la Revolucion, but this is how movements get hijacked. If this really is a nascent political movement, it's important that it not be run by these people.

Slapstick Politics, a Colorado conservative Latino blog, has more.

April 9, 2006

National Day of Action - Denver

Denver's contribution to tomorrow's schedule of pro-illegal immigration events is a candlelight vigil at Sloan's Lake. Ostensibly to memorialize all those who've lost their lives trying to get into the country. Frankly, there's nothing funny and something moving about people willing to risk the lives they have for a better one. But somehow, I don't think they're going to be protesting in favor of a wall and organized entry points.

There's also something not so funny about one of the more, er, irredentist sponsors of tomorrow's "Take Back the Southwest" event.

On the other hand, there is something funny about that map. Apparently, one of the more shadowy parts of the Aztlan plan is to annex northern Utah to Colorado. Just what we need: three or four more counties without any water.

UPDATE: In response to the question about the movie, it's hard to tell without seeing it, but it looks like there's both good and bad, according to the description. First, I know of no situations, that is to say, none, zero, zilch, nada, where the Minutemen or private landowners are using illegals for target practice, picking them off if they happen to drift over the property line. Immigration has been a hot topic for over a year now, and if someone were actually doing this, we would have heard about it. The media who caricatured the Minutemen as trigger-happy vigilantes would have made sure of that.

In fact, the one situation I do remember hearing about was a fellow who picked up some illegals, tried to detain them (not kill, mind you, detain), and then sent them on their way with some cookies and blankets. He was, as I recall, arrested for kidnapping.

A movie that takes as its premise the idea that private border-snipers are picking up jobs from newspaper want-ads is asking to be treated as propaganda. The premises have to be realistic. This is how the movie is characterizing itself. If I've got the wrong impression, many others probably do as well, and they'd do well to correct their website.

That said, the guys running minivans up and down the highway, or worse, running moving vans without ventilation are barely human. And if there are land barons using border-front property as a hook for human smuggling, that's where I'd put up the wal first.

April 7, 2006

Business Sanctions: A Red Herring

Very popular among Republicans and Democrats pushing for immigration reform is the notion of business sanctions. There's this hotline, run by the government, that companies can call (even franchise restaurants in Denver, ahem) and see if a given Social Security number is valid. The idea is that if business owners can't be bothered to call that number and check on applicants, they should be fined, then jailed, and then presumably have their businesses confiscated a la Kelo.

It won't help, but it sure sounds good.

The problem is that Social Security numbers are traded around among illegals like steroid needles in a baseball clubhouse. A business can call the highly-organized government, which operates with ruthless efficiency and incorruptibility, and get a "yes" on a number that's been used by everyone else out there picking grapes, too. A friend of mine once checked on a number for a janitor, and it reported something like $4 million in income the previous year.

If the system for keeping these numbers doesn't work now, is that efficiency going to be improved by the agency's knowledge that someone else is going to take the fall if they keep getting it wrong? And if businesses aren't held responsible for a system they don't control - certainly a reasonbale approach - then why should they press to clean up this mess?

In the end, it becomes nobody's problem. Worse, it stays in nobody's interest to fix. Not the bureaucracy, which collects taxes regardless, and is relatively immune from punishment for anything short of actually trafficking in illegal SS numbers. Not the businesses, who can get off the hook by calling a phone number virtually guaranteed to give them fraudulent information. Not the politicians, who can claim to have made "tough enforcement" a priority. And obviously not the illegals themselves.

March 29, 2006

Just Passing Through

Colorado has apparently turned into Staging Area Alpha for illegals coming into the country. Last week, in the middle of the annual tussle between winter and spring, winter got the upper hand on the plains. In the aftermath, a few of the highly-profitable jitneys running illegals from Mexico to points east spun out and closed the interstates.

Now, traffic's bad enough around here without this sort of complication, but it points to Colorado's central position as a collection and distribution point for the free flow of labor across the border. Take a look at a map. Colorado's got I-25 heading north-south, I-70 and I-76 heading east-west, and an hour farther north to I-80. (I-80, where "This is the place," takes on a whole new meaning.)

The inability of local law enforcement to help out is only making things worse. Denver's mayor hasn't exactly made this a high priority; the local latino politicos in Weld County openly oppose an ICE office in Greeley, and, this morning's Rocky details the long-haul meter-free taxi running from Denver to points east:

Law enforcement officials and local residents regularly see vehicles that they suspect are ferrying illegal immigrants to points east and west.

"With the need for agricultural workers beginning to increase, there will be more travelers in the next few weeks," Morgan County Sheriff Jim Crone said. "If we went out and focused on the interstate, I think we could get two or three loads of people a day, with anywhere from 10 to 25 people in a load. And that would overtax our jail."


The Morgan County population was 31 percent Hispanic in the last census, compared to 17 percent Hispanic statewide. But, the sheriff said, some local Hispanics believe the figure is now closer to 50 percent.

Some time ago, Crone said, law enforcement officials planned a week-long sweep in Morgan County to arrest illegal immigrants. However, "They stopped it after two days because they had taken so many people into custody that there was no room (in the jail) for any more."

Tancredo may be right that the protests on Saturday could have been broken up by a few ICE agents checking for papers, but cleaning up the problem that way would require either an armada of C-130s or a holding facility the size of the state.

I have to write this every time, because the issue has at least two parts: for me, this is a question of sovereignty and security as well as economics. We're not going to ship out 11 million people, no matter what Derbyshire says. Steve King can claim that Americans will work for $10 an hour, including employers' insurance, payroll tax, and unemployment insurance costs, but I haven't seen it. We need to come up with a solution that cements the loyalty of those already living here, while cutting off the flow of illegals who undermine that loyalty.

I'm also more than a little worried about importing workers whose intention is to make money and leave. I want people coming in who have a stake in the country and in building a community. There's a strong argument to be made that the reason Mexico is poor has nothing to do with our having stole half their country (and the half with the paved roads, at that), and everything to do with the attitude of the initial settlers.

North of the Rio Grande, people came to build and create. South of that line, people came to pull as much metal out of the ground as they could, and then go home. That's changed, but it's only now that they're starting to get out from under that corruption. I'm pretty sure we don't want to be importing it here, and the only way to prevent it is to limit immigration to assimilable numbers.

The protests in Denver featured many more Mexican than American flags (although the DenPo decided to magnify the latter in its photo). We are rapidly approaching a tipping point, beyond which the politics of the issue will start to resemble that of hijabs in Europe. SB90 is good news, and a start, but without local support, it'll be a dead letter involving years of litigation to prove and enforce, years we don't have any more.

March 26, 2006

AP: Criminalizing Illegality

Apparently, the AP doesn't think that illegal immigrants are breaking the law:

More than 50,000 people gathered downtown Saturday as part of a national protest against a crackdown in immigration laws, including federal legislation aimed at criminalizing illegal immigrants and building more walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. (emphasis added -ed.)

In fact, the proposed legislation would make being here in the country a felony. It's already a crime, of course.

This is at least a two-part issue. We can have an open immigration policy, or a closed policy, or something in-between. But we can't have any policy at all without control of our borders. The fact is, and it is a fact, one can be for strong border control and support a large flow of immigrants, or even a guest-worker program. This kind of obfuscation lumps all immigrants together, makes it easier to accuse border-control advocates of racism, and is part of a larger set of talking points designed to politicize the issue along partisan lines. The ultimate goal, of course, is to preserve the Hispanic vote for Democrats:

Speakers during the rally ridiculed the Republican party telling participants that "they're not on our side and they're pitting Americans against us."

Right. That's why the Democratic governors of Arizona and New Mexico - and Bill Richardson himself is Hispanic - have declared states of emergency along their borders with Mexico. If the rally itself was this politicized, the AP made no attempt to discern the political leanings of its organizing groups.

"This is the standing point of a new beginning," said protester Eli Chairez-Clendenin, 36, of Denver, who immigrated to Colorado in 1974. "We're not going to be intimidated or afraid to speak our mind. We're going to be who we are."

Mr. Chairez-Clendenin thus came here when he was, what, four years old? So he came here with his family. It's not as though he made this decision himself, as an adult, responsible for his decisions. To all intents and purposes, the man's a native, and his opinions on recent illegals need to be weighed with that in mind.

This was the wire service. It'll be interesting to see what the Denver Post does with it tomorrow.

March 3, 2006

Booming Border Business

The Journal today reports on the bomming retail business on the US side of the Mexican border. This is, of course, what NAFTA promised. It also highlights the problems with people who want an iron wall across the southern border. Along with employees, US businesses are now getting lots of customers from Mexico, and some of them may be illegal.

American stores that don't have Mexican outlets, such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap Inc., American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and Victoria's Secret, are the most popular with Mexican shoppers, who buy large quantities of clothes to bring back to friends and family. The average Mexican shopper spends twice as much per trip as an American shopper, according to Simon Property Group.

Carmen Soto, mall manager at Valle Vista Mall in nearby Harlingen, says Mexicans sometimes buy clothes without even trying them on. "They think, 'It's American! It's authentic! So what if it doesn't fit?' " Ms. Soto says.

Of course, the clientele implies a Mexican staff, as well, raising the question as to how much of the sales staff is here illegally as well.

Still, in addition to a guest worker program, maybe we also need a guest-shopper program.


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud