Archive for the ‘Immigration’ category

The Week That Wasn’t

June 24, 2019

If one looks and listens closely, there is evidence that President Trump is getting his “number” called fairly often. In addition, it appears his rhetoric is not as effective as in the past to get the public’s eye off his mistake. 

China is sinking the President’s ship without much effort.  China’s selective tariffs have hurt farmers and Trump’s tariffs have hurt untold businesses and are now hurting Americans in their pocketbooks.  The President claims China is hurting big time but where is the evidence to support that claim?

The southern border continues to be a joke where each blustery Trump statement acts like a puff of smoke.  When the air clears, the immigrant situation is the same or worse.

This past week the President struck new colors with Iran and diplomacy.  Chicken hawks such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, both whooping up a war cry against Iran (recognize that it will be other Americans sons and daughters going off to fight), the President talked tough and then he didn’t.  The President blinked and called off punitive airstrikes at the last minute showing his own “red line” was mostly pink or white.

The President offered a humanitarian justification for choking at the last minute.  Hmmm.  From someone who doesn’t know how to tell the truth, and believing now the President suddenly tell the truth, is a big pill to swallow.   Most Americans assume Trump was telling another falsehood.  Americans were relieved since there is little stomach in the nation for another Middle East conflict. 

Why the pull back?  Maybe, the President got concerned about getting involved in a Middle East War, this one on his watch.   And, without a doubt, President Trump was cognizant of the 2020 campaign and the promises of no interventions.  While voters can’t be sure what the President’s reasoning really was, past experience strongly suggests Trump wanted no parts of anything that could blow back on him.

Not to be outdone by foreign affairs, the President hyped a stepped up ICE campaign to “round up millions” of illegal residents.  The tough guy had spoken.  At the last minute, once again the President blinked and called off the program for at least two weeks.

“The program”, even in its suspended state, is unclear.  News reports identified up to a million refugees who sought asylum, were given a court date, released, and then disappeared.  Pundits, however, suggest that ICE lacks the capability to find a million people as well as the resources to deport them. 

Just the same, the President probably thinks he scored a victory with his supporters with his threat and by not following through, never revealed how hollow a threat he had made.

The lesson involved in these two situation is sadly that both never should have occurred and calling them off at the last minute teaches all others how to call the President’s bluff.  Hmmm.

Iran is a bad regional actor and as a theocracy, should be carefully watched and even more carefully approached.  As a theocracy, Iran can always justify its action (no matter how devastating to Iranians) because god (Allah) said so.

There is practically nothing this President or any one else can do to shut off the flood of refugees and undocumented immigrants… at the border.  Central America is poor and America is wealthy.  If the President, instead, devoted his attention to finding a political solution with a comprehensive immigration reform, there is hope that undocumented immigration could be controlled.  But it is clear that a solution does not fit the President’s needs and he will continue to use the border as a campaign prop.   

Lessons From “We Hate To See You Go”

April 8, 2019

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen got her walking papers Sunday evening in a White House meeting with President Trump.  The sudden but not surprising announcement ended a shaky and troubled 18 month tenure for Nielsen.  Like so many other high level Trump Administration appointees, Nielsen turned out just not to be “Trump’s type of guy”.  Hmmm.

Late last week, the President pulled his ICE Director nomination (Ron Vitiello).  President Trump termed his bizarre change of mind as a sign “we must get tougher” on border security.  In other words, I made this nomination for Senate approval… but I have changed my mind…   Is there any connection between Nielsen’s and Vitiello’s firings?

How about

  1. President Trump has a bogus and un-winnable Mexican border strategy.  Trump will not, however, take responsibility for anything which is viewed as a failure or mistake.  Cleaning house is one way to deflect attention from the President to underlings.  
  2. White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller has been an outspoken hawk on immigration.  His fingerprints are all over the “Zero Tolerance” and “Separation of Children” policies which have experienced shameful consequences as Trump’s team tried to implement.  Miller is said to have constantly urged Trump to follow this path.   When events did not go well, setting up Nielsen and in effect Vitiello to take the fall is a class act for people like Miller (and Trump).
  3. President Trump has a serious character flaw.  He instinctively knows how to get others (most who are willing) to engage in unethical and mean spirited activities (following ends justify means philosophy).  When events do not turn out as the President wanted, or the President realizes the outcomes he sought are flawed, the President just cuts free the subordinates who did what he asked.  The pictures of helpless children separated from their parents will be linked with Nielsen and less so with Trump.  Hmmm.
  4. The Trump Administration has hired few “Elliot Richardson-type” political appointees and there is a reason why.  Elliot Richardson was Richard Nixon’s Attorney General who was asked by Nixon to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox.  Richardson said no on principle and resigned.  Trump does not seek any subordinates of character, just those who will do as Trump says.

While Secretary Nielsen must be disappointed in being forced to submit her resignation, she will come to realize how lucky she is to get out before the ship does sink.   

I’m Really Serious

April 2, 2019

President Trump told us this week that “he” would close the US-Mexican border… for a very long time… he was very serious…  This was all due to the tactics the Trump Administration has used to curtail central American attempts to immigrate.  President Trump, as he has told us, is so much smarter than previous Presidents and knows how to deal with problems like this.  Hmmm.

Not unlike trade, immigration is a complex problem which bites both ways.  Placing tariffs on another country’s goods and services almost always does two things… (1) tariffs bring higher prices to your own country’s consumers, and (2) brings on tariffs from the other country which impedes sales of your own country’s exports.  Hmmm.  Sounds to me like a lose-lose.

Now the President has huffed and puffed that he will close the US-Mexican border (which does almost $2 billion in trade each day).  The President thinks that Mexico is not doing enough to slow down the flow of refugees from Mexico and Central America across the southwest US border.  The President has told Americans he is so smart and knows how to solve complex problems like immigration.  I guess this current situation is a proof.

It should take Americans no more than a few moments to realize that this President Trump solution is as bozo  as any of this previous out of sight solutions.  Like tariffs on China, ask the midwest farmers how things are working out.  The cure the President is recommending will cost Americans dearly.

Who exactly is advising this President?

President Trump’s Mexican policies are on the surface self defeating measures.  US supply chains are fully integrated into Mexican customers and suppliers.  No Presidential blah-hah-hah will alter reality.  And of all Trump’s “let me cry wolf” statements, the President saying he is really serious.  How come his words sound like “wolf, wolf”?

 

National Emergency. Hmmm

March 7, 2019

President Trump has proclaimed a “national emergency” and accordingly, announced a plan to transfer already authorized funding to build his vision of a tall border wall.  The law the President is using has been used numerous times before by previous Presidents, mostly for events like hurricanes or tornados. Congress has never objected to the Presidential declaration but this time is different.  Why?

The law envisioned an emergency situation which would be urgent and temporary in nature.  Congress anticipated situations where speed was appropriate. The law did allow Congress to subsequently deny approval if Congress so felt necessary.   Congress is now poised to vote non-approval and the reasons are many.

Commonsense would conclude that in the third year of the President’s term, and after the GOP controlled Congress for the first two years, and the President has made no secret of his desire to build a wall without success in getting funding, there must be some new event which constitute a bonafide “emergency”.  In other words, what is different now?

The short answer is nothing. 

The President insists, however, that through the US-Mexico border passes drugs, undocumented aliens, criminals, and sex traffickers. There is no evidence that (1) that these situations occur predominantly in the non-walled or non-fenced border areas and once walled these incidents would dramatically decrease.  Or, (2) that prevailing expert opinion supports the view that border security improvements in the authorized ports of entry would be effective and make a far larger return on the money spent.  For example, an estimated 80% of drug smuggling occurs in freight passing through legal ports of entry.  New border walls will not impact this.

Republican Senators are caught in a pickle.  These GOP members are not absent commonsense and can understand the “national emergency” does not exist, or even if it did, building more barriers is a waste of time and money.  Instead these GOP members are mincing words about supporting the President because he is the President. Other GOP members cite “separation of powers” between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch and wish the President had not invoked a national emergency… without addressing the fact that there is no emergency, rather there is a chronic border situation.

Congress over the past two years has had ample time to prepare budget authorization for border security.  In each offering, Congress has dodged the option to fund a “big beautiful wall” which President Trump says he wants.  The President’s invoking of a “national emergency” is a naked attempt to subvert the Constitutional responsibility Congress has to approve appropriations.

Worse, the President’s attempts will accomplish nothing versus his stated reasons for a wall.  Any wall would require years (maybe 5-10) to be built assuming the President could overcome legal challenges. 

Could this kerfuffle be really intended as a distraction from other Presidential missteps?

The Last Word On The Wall

February 6, 2019

In a democracy there is a vote, and who ever receives more votes, carries the verdict.  In the case of the Trump monument “wall” (big and beautiful) the President apparently thinks his vote is all that is needed.  Fortunately, the “wall” the President says, will be the key difference in boarder security (with the Wall Americans are safe, without, big problems), also requires Congress’ vote to appropriate the funding before the President can build it.  The Democrat controlled House has said “no” (actually even stronger, “no way”).  So, is that the end of this idea?

In Trumpian “smash mouth” style, the President forced the closure of government by refusing to sign government funding legislation and held out for 37 days.  One must think that the President knows something that everyone else does not.  Why would President Trump close about one third of government functions and interrupt the lives of several hundred thousand government workers causing many to have to seek food through charity?  Any sensible President would immediately realize that the “cost” government workers would bear could not justify the unproven and unsupported benefits the President claimed would flow to Americans in general.  

Consider, the “caravan refugees” go to legal ports of entry, not isolated stretches of the border, in order to seek asylum, no wall needed for them.  Drug smugglers, for the most part (like 80%) use legal ports of entry too and simply hide drugs in otherwise normal trade in order to gain US entry.  And most migrant workers or anyone else just wanting to live in the US, enter legally (like with a tourist visa), go where they wish, and simply “over stay” their visa.  Hmmm.

The last word on the Wall, that President Trump would understand begins with “no” and ends with “make me a sweet offer”, like comprehensive immigration reform with paths to citizenship.  That in not going to happen, since the same people President Trump is attempting to please with his “wall” are even more against comprehensive immigration reform.  Hmmm.

Practically speaking, the “wall” is not going to happen at least until the 2020 election, and then only if the President wins and Republicans control Congress.  Not likely.

So maybe the last word is “no”.

The Season For Being Thankful

November 26, 2018

Once Thanksgiving arrives and the New Year is in sight, most people begin thinking about what they are thankful for.  To be sure “New Year” does mean different dates to different faiths but the notion of self reflection and focusing on what goals lie ahead seems somewhat universal.  For 2018, as in 2017, Donald Trump remains the “elephant in the room”.

President Trump, IMO, history will record as having been the worst US President rivaling Buchanan, Grant, and Harding if not the worst ever.  So what is it about President Trump to be thankful about?

Here are three observations to think about.

1. In today’s New York Times “Sunday Review” section, Maureen Dowd writes a featured opinion piece capturing the schism in her otherwise very conservative family.  The schism was exposed when she wrote about George W Bush and most recently about Bret Kavanaugh.  In her piece one can feel the pain Maureen feels when she, as a journalist, calls out the short comings of various Republican targets.  

In this piece, Ms Dowd speaks of the “deal with the devil” (quotes are mine) her brother Kevin made with his 2016 vote for Trump.  She references his rationale for “over looking” some of Trump’s behaviors because of the “greater good” (my quotes) Kevin sees flowing from Trump (and would not have flowed from Hillary Clinton).  Kevin cites Gorsuch and Kavanaugh as two examples.

2. In the grocery store on Saturday, I was awaiting my turn to check out.  I noticed a man pacing nearby seemingly unsure which line to enter.  Since he had only two items, it seemed to me the “self check out” should be his choice.  Just as it became my turn to put my groceries on the belt, the man returned and stood there silently but looking as if I was expected to let him go before me.  Hmmm.  He had only two items so I said, “please you only have two items, please go ahead of me.”

The man nodded and put his items on the belt, and then said, “what do you think about those politicians?”  I had no idea what he was talking about and asked him to explain.  The man replied, “you know, not dealing with those caravan people marching up and trying to cross our border.”  Hmmm.  (This was two days after Thanksgiving and two minutes after he had been offered a kindness of getting into line out of order. 

“That’s a big problem”, he said.  I replied, “how can that be, there are already 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the US.  The caravan is a drop in the bucket”.  The man went on with other irrelevant information like an immigrant who killed some family and that would not have happened if the immigrant was not here.  The man apparently did not hear me say that real data shows less crime from these new immigrants than long term US residents.  Hmmm.

We concluded our conversation just before his two items were rung up on the cash register with a reference to the likelihood that he was an immigrant or the son of one.  And, yes he was.  His parents were from Lithuania and they had had problems early in the assimilation process.  But now  was a different time.

3. Moving on, I received a Facebook post in which a “friend” shared someone else’s post that 12,500 central Americans were matching, not the 2,000 previously reported.  And these 12,500 were filled with some very bad hombres.

The “friend” was someone in her early 80’s, and who herself was a two time immigrant from the Ukraine!  This woman whose family had immigrated to Canada and then she immigrated to the US with her Ukrainian-Canadian husband.  Apparently it was ok for her, but not for those from south of the border.

Hmmm.

In a strange and bazaar way the election of President Trump is shining a bright light on hypocrisies we all have.  For Irish catholic Kavanaugh supporters, seeing their church teachings against abortion gain two anti-abortion Supreme Court votes was enough to look the other way on a President who routinely flaunts the Constitution, disparages women, and see no value in telling the truth, a good trade off they think.  

For the stranger in the check out line who just got an invitation to move up felt the appropriate “thank you” was to gratuitously disparage another generation of immigrants.  

And to my “friend” who also is a devote Trump supporter, passing on inflated information without any hint of a positive resolution colors the picture of fellow Americans who do not see the world as I do.

This year I am thankful that I am now seeing there may be a broken logic behind Trump supporters.  There is a rationale to be sure, but a fact based logic should not be expected.  It will take something very personal for these Trump supporters to recognize reality and find him unnecessary.  IMO, events demonstrating President Trump’s qualifications to be considered one of the worst US President, are about to arrive.  

Unfortunately, when these events arrive, those hurt most by them will be some of Trump’s most fervent supporters.  Hmmm.   

Trump’s DACA

September 6, 2017

A lot of people, (some estimates most Americans), have found President Trump’s decision to end DACA (Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals) using an executive order, unfathomable. Why would a President signal all Americans (as well as the world at large) that values and facts no longer count in determining American Government policies. Hmmm, like the Paris Climate Agreement or the Trans Pacific Partnership?

What could be the greater purpose for tuning against an estimated 800,000 DACA registered but illegal Mexicans?

Conservatives have long objected to Mexicans entering the country or over staying their lawful visa. Arguments have ranged from “we must have secure borders” to “these Mexicans are taking jobs from Americans”. Occasionally a conservative will give a nod to the potentially changed voting demographic should these undocumented Mexicans gain US citizenship.

For these hard right conservatives, the preferred positions are based upon fear. What else is new?

The President’s standard line that growing the economy will “make America great again” fails the smell test should a process actually begin to deport these DACA Americans. Mexicans are religious, hold strong family values, and work tirelessly to better themselves and their families. Can this be said of many American citizens?

President “Braveheart” tapped his Attorney General to make the public announcement and in his sniveling way, Jeff Sessions, tossed out one easily refuted excuse after another. The net effect showed that the Trump Administration neither cares about the facts or appreciates the strategic implications. Why would the President approve of ending DACA?

The most popular explanation says President Trump is just following his political base’s wishes. The more sophisticated of this base favor a sharply divided American electorate and see division as the best route to reelect President Trump in 2020.

A second reason shifts the responsibility away from executive orders to Congress where laws are suppose to originate. Money and special interests have thwarted previous attempt at comprehensive immigration reforms and earlier versions of aid for the “dreamers”. But why not ask Congress to act before ending DACA?

Most Trump critics see phasing out DACA and shifting responsibility to Congress as a cop out (shifting the blame). The likelihood of Congressional action is extremely low. Look at seven years of “repeal and replace” Obamacare and failure to do so when Republicans finally had control.

The Mexican Americans caught in the DACA category are here in the US through no fault of their own (parents brought them to the US as children).  DACA, for those current enrolled,  should not be ended based upon a fairness and justice argument.

US history would demand some sort of accommodation for these worthy residents. Just as important, immigrant labor, given the low American citizen population growth, is even more important than the past. Most economists favor this view and predict a slowing US economy if undocumented workers are purged.

The President’s actions are both cynical and sinister. Immediately these dreamers will suffer but in the fullness of time (lacking a change of Presidential heart or Congressional action), it will be the American citizens who pay the price.

Remember, Americans elected Donald Trump and we all own the consequences.

Head To Tail Thinking, Oops, And Wrong Again

August 3, 2017

President Trump joined Senators Cotton and Perdue at the White House in announcing his support for a change in US immigration law. The proposed legislation would sharply reduce the total number of immigrants allowed to enter each year and completely alter the mix of immigrants. The President boasted that this plan would dramatically improve US economic competitiveness and quickly put even more countries in the US rear view mirror. Hmmm.

The essence of the proposed legislation was to reduce the total number of immigrants, and to select immigrants based upon economic, educational, and sought after skills (a meritocratic policy). Current US immigration policy favors family and friends of current immigrants without regard to any special qualifications. So what’s wrong with this approach since most of the rest of modern wealthy countries use a system similar to what Senator Cotton and Perdue have suggested?

The President offered a clue when he said the lucky immigrants would have to already speak english. Of course there is nothing wrong with welcoming immigrants who speak english but farm laborers and hospitality workers (maids, janitorial, etc) most often speak Spanish or some Eastern European tongue.  The President was more interested in looking to bolster his white only, english only view of America.

That is not what is really wrong with this proposal. Rather, it is the total number of immigrants (guest workers) is set far below what the economy needs. While trying to bump up programmers and other technical employees is a good idea, shorting the manpower needed to harvest crops or process foods or keep hotels clean will not lead to a desired outcome.

The absence of any mention of “comprehensive immigration reform” confirms that the President is far from serious about immigration. But the President is serious about using whatever dog whistles he can find which communicate to his political base the same message, “I care about you and the other side doesn’t”.

Dog whistles are effective political tools. These euphemisms and half baked policy statements mislead the base and set the stage for a crashing disappointment when these policies come home to roost.

Give Me A Home (Sanctuary) Where The Buffalo Roam

March 29, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a White House press briefing that his department would crack down on those municipalities known as “Sanctuary Cities” by withholding Government grant money. Observers thought this familiar threat was made mainly to change the media subjects from the rejection of the Republicans healthcare bill and the controversy surrounding potential Russian collusion with Trump campaign staff members. Good try but probably too little to late.

The sanctuary city theme is both provocative and Constitutionally important. Both points seem to be missed with AG Sessions in favor of partisan political ground fire.

Sanctuary Cities are municipalities which have said they will not actively help Immigration Agents unless the agents have a warrant (so as to not violate the 4th Amendment). At first blush, this refusal of Federal Immigration officers request seems unjustified. But in most cases, Immigration Officers want local officers to notify them whenever they take into custody any undocumented alien.

In practice, the Immigration agent must then get a warrant (taking up to several days) during which time the local municipality must house and feed someone for whom they have dropped charges. Again, this is a violation of the 4th Amendment, not to mention a costly decision.

Most Sanctuary Cities claim that in addition to the 4th Amendment, a policy of turning over all undocumenteds would drive that community underground. The fear is that both petty and serious crimes which took place in neighborhoods where undocumented lived would go unreported resulting in increased violence and make a larger area unsafe. This argument has fallen on deaf ears with the arrival of the Trump Administration.

Of course, Sessions threats could be simply a “shot across the bow” and intended to bully local municipalities into a more cooperative role. Sessions and the Trump Administration, however, will be in for a surprise should they actually withhold funds from a major city or county. This bully practice will be met with a counter suit, plenty of undesirable publicity, and a predictable losing court fight. Another black eye for the Administration.

The undocumented situation is a complex problem and Sessions’ promised actions won’t make a dent in the estimated 11 million currently living throughout the US. Comprehensive immigration reform, where immigrants from Mexico (and maybe central America) are documented, taxed, and required to have a known address, and are treated as guest workers with a defined path to citizenship, is the only path to solving this situation.

Comprehensive reform is politically difficult but Session rhetoric is unhelpful and potentially an action to make the situation even more difficult to improve.

Beginning To Look Back

January 11, 2017

President Obama gave his farewell speech yesterday in Chicago. Pundits suggested President Obama wanted to write his “legacy” before the Trump Administration has a chance to eviscerate it. George W Bush, when asked in the ashes of his failed Presidency, what would his legacy be, replied to the effect, “don’t know. History will determine that and history takes a long time”. Hmmm.

Comparing the two men and their terms in office, President Obama would look hands down the more successful President. But with whom would you rather have a beer?

George W Bush, despite his wealth and familiarity with the moneyed class, seemed such an easy going person and a comfortable person to be around. Barack Obama could also at times display a friendly look but too frequently flashed a message of disdain or intellectual arrogance.

President Obama appeared not to suffer fools well. And in Washington there is no shortage of self centered, free loading, bureaucrats and legislators only too ready to claim something based on half truths or no truths at all.

President Bush was quite correct in saying history takes a long time before it renders a clear verdict. President Obama has much to be proud about but the repeal and replace of Obamacare may obscure his bold (but not bold enough) steps towards universal healthcare coverage. His efforts towards renewable energy and other quality of life issues may confront an unsympathetic Congress and Presidency once Donald Trump is inaugurated. Obama’s 8 year efforts around immigration reform, voting rights support, and inclusion will be an afterthought with the new Administration. What will remain in 8 years is open to question.

On the foreign stage, IMO, President Obama has diagnosed the Middle East (including Israel) correctly. One can argue whether the Arab world should offer the peace branch to Israel or Israel should initiate a sincere proposal first. But until the Arab world settles its power and Islamic sect differences, there is little reason to expect success. The next Administration is likely to take sides, picking which ever group seems most useful short term. Hmmm.

With respect to China and Russia, President Obama rowed against long held State Department views of a proper world order. China and Russia both have a different view, not surprisingly placing their country’s interest ahead of other countries including the US. President Obama diagnosed Asia and in particular China as the country to watch and to update US China foreign policy accordingly.

China is far wealthier and more populated than Russia. Maintaining government control requires meeting the economic needs of its 1+ billion head population.  Unfortunately it will not be easy task for China to continue spreading new wealth to Chinese peasants without 10% growth each year.  Authoritarian countries usually look for outsiders to blame when domestic policies falter.

A fair President Obama criticism might be that in all matters, his preference for “no drama” and “no theater” probably kept him from communicating effectively to the American people in terms they would understand. Whether the issue was healthcare where America spend twice as much as the modern world, and do not provide coverage to all Americans, or where America’s defense budget is 10 times as large as the next biggest spending country, or where America spends more per student on K-12 education than any other country, yet produces test score results in the middle of the pack, President Obama shunned any attempts to bring about change by dramatizing these facts.

President Obama will, however, be remembered from day 1 as a decent man with a smart and gracious wife who lead a White House life, with their children, which was above the fray but not aloof. President Obama’s few emotional occasions dealt with tragedies like the Newtown Elementary School shootings, not whether the Dow Jones Average reached a new high.

Strangely some of President Obama’s most vocal critics come from the African American community. And some of the unkindest words reference little or no progress in jobs and opportunities. Using a football analogy, offensive linemen can out block defensive linemen for just a few seconds creating an opening for a running back. If the back is not ready, or does not run through the opening quickly enough, the running back will be caught for no gain. I wonder why the African American community does not see the chance they had and squandered?

The next Administration will initially be graded in comparison to President Obama’s record. Soon however, Trump Administration policies and unforeseen world events will shape America’s history and the Obama comparisons will cease being relevant. Then historians will have their chance to cast a more informed light on legacy.