Driver's Licenses for Illegal Immigrants
Every once in a while a debate arises in some state about giving driver's licenses to people living in the US illegally. Massachusetts is taking its turn with the recently proposed Safe Driving Bill. As I see it it makes little sense to oppose giving licenses to such people. The Registry of Motor Vehicles exists for a reason.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles Division is responsible for vehicle operator licensing and vehicle and aircraft registration, available online and at branch offices across the Commonwealth. The Registry oversees commercial and non-commercial vehicle inspection stations.
Licensing and inspection. In short, the RMV exists to enhance safety on public roads. If people are going to drive let's make sure they're competent. We lose over 30,000 people a year to automobile deaths. There's no reason for the RMV to focus on anything more than that.
The United States spends $18 billion on immigration enforcement, more than any other law enforcement activity the federal government engages in. I get that people get really upset about illegal immigration, but if they want it fixed, the RMV is not the place to do it. It's federal law and it's the federal government's job. I don't really understand why people can't divorce licensing people for driving a vehicle with a person's immigration status. The two aren't related.
If we want the Pittsfield RMV to be checking on immigration status, what other federal laws should it be enforcing? While we're at it, what other state agencies should be enforcing federal law? And when we're adding extra process that doesn't further the stated goals of whatever state agency is enforcing whatever federal law, how much more complaining are we going to do about slow and inefficient our government is?
I get that people want to stop illegal immigration, even if I wouldn't be as upset about it, but the RMV is not the place to make that stand.
1/28/2014 1:12:34 AM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: immigration massachusetts
Making it Easier to Vote
The Massachusetts Senate passed updates to the state’s election laws this week. The bill includes online voter registration, early voting, pre-registration for teens, and election day registration.
When I moved into my new suburban lifestyle last year (2012, technically) I had to update my license. I renewed it at the Natick RMV*** on the Mass Pike. I also needed to register to vote. On top of that I had a bunch of other "just moved" errands to do that day so I decided to take the day off (note that for later) and get everything done. I thought I was going to have to go to town hall but, lo and behold, the clerk asked me if my wife and I needed to register to vote.
I can thank the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 for that pleasantry.
The legislation required state governments to allow for registration when a qualifying voter applied for or renewed their driver's license or applied for social services.
At the time I had a lot of vacation saved up so it - wait, let’s step back for a second. I had (still have) a job that has generous vacation day benefits and I had saved a lot of vacation days, so it wasn’t a burden to make two stops. There are plenty of jobs that don’t afford that benefit. I’m sure most people would make the extra effort to register to vote, but you can see how it would deter some. There’s no reason to make it hard though, and it’s quite easy to make it convenient. In fact, it turned out that I registered too late to be able to vote in the Democratic primary for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat. While I was happy with the ease at which I registered I, like others, wondered why I still shouldn’t have been able to vote. The addition of same-day registration to Massachusetts election law Massachusetts would have allowed me to vote that day.
The "Motor Voter Act", as it is sometimes called, and the recent changes in Massachusetts are examples of laws designed to make it easy to register to vote and vote. Those are in stark contrast to laws Republicans across the country have been proposing and enacting that make it harder to vote. Disturbingly you see it a lot in major swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For example, it's estimated that thousands of people were deterred from voting in Florida because of long lines in 2012. Coincidentally, in 2011, Florida reduced early voting from 14 days to 8 days.
Don’t mistake these laws for misguided attempts to stop vote fraud. Vote fraud happens at a statistically insignificant rate, meaning there's little need for these laws. I'll say it again: vote fraud is a myth, These laws are blatant attempts to keep people from voting under the guise of stopping something that doesn't exist.
*** I must have some sort of good luck, because I have very few problems at government offices. Maybe it’s because I pay most of my bills online so I don’t go as often as most people, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad experience at a post office, certainly not the one back in Coolidge Corner. The people at the Social Security Administration in Boston were lovely. I think I had one bad experience with a complete moron at the RMV in Boston, but every other time I’ve gone it’s been pleasant. I almost didn’t have to go to the office, but I had to take an eye test (in the loosest definition of the word). My only complaint would be that they didn’t tell me I needed to update my picture, so I came in looking like a bag of crap.
1/18/2014 1:17:31 AM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: voter+ID voting vote+fraud massachusetts florida ohio pennsylvania
The Worst Marriage Advice
I broke out The Suit to go to a wedding on the Cape last summer. Beautiful couple. Delicious food. Open bar. The Horah. Double freaking rainbow out over the ocean. Absolutely lovely.
With marriage comes marriage advice. Everyone’s got some advice for you, and it’s always good to listen. One of the most common pieces of advice Carol and I received around the time of our wedding - and which was mentioned in the vows of the wedding this summer - was “don’t go to bed angry”.
Now at first I wanted to write a post about how terrible this advice is. But first I did a little searching for the correct wording of the advice and came across an article on not going to bed angry that changed my mind a little.
Basically, the point of my post was going to be that sleep is totally awesome and vital to your personal and marital health. I learned this quickly after my first son was born. I was never of the opinion that arguments absolutely had to be worked out before we went to bed. My wife was more insistent that things get worked out. Combine that with the fact that I can be stubborn and we had a few all-nighters. That wrecked us the next day when we didn’t have kids. It made us irritable to each other and worsened our productivity at work. When the kids did come there wasn’t any discussion about changing the rules of our arguments. We just recognized that most of what we argued about wasn’t worth the loss of sleep.
The article linked above modified my position on DGTBA. Before reading the article I saw two sides to the debate: resolve it (i.e. “don’t go to bed angry”) or drop it. Before the article I was a strong advocate for dropping it. What you really have is three options though. “Resolve it” is still there, and I still think it’s a terrible rule. “Drop it” though needs to get broken into two options. There’s dropping it and letting the argument fester because neither side really dropped it. Many a time I would let an argument fester in the days and weeks after a late night argument, whether we “resolved” or dropped it. Inevitably it would come up in a different situation, making things worse. Then there’s dropping it and truly forgetting about it because you realize it’s not worth the loss of sleep and more importantly it’s not worth hanging over your relationship with the person you love. The latter option is actually a combination of how I saw “resolve it, aka don’t go to bed angry” and “drop it”. This interpretation of DGTBA is saying drop it because it’s not worth it - and believe that it’s not worth it.
The wife and I are at this position. It might just be because we’re too tired to care about certain disagreements anymore. It might be that we’ve come to long term agreements on old conflicts. But I think we’ve also realized most of the things we used to argue about aren’t worth it. And you know what, we have a damn good marriage now.
1/4/2014 8:34:57 PM
Filed Under: Personal
Keywords: marriage wedding advice
Does Obamacare Restrict Religious Freedom
At some point I wrote about this and I was a little more charitable about the opposing opinion, but the more I think about it attempts to oppose parts of Obamacare on religious freedom grounds are way off.
For instance, let's take Hobby Lobby. Last year Hobby Lobby sued the federal government over contraception coverage regulations in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby's position is (my emphasis):
On November 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., a case arising out of commitment of the Green family, the sole owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., to live out their deeply held religious convictions by “operating their company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.”
The logic doesn't hold up though. The federal government isn't mandating that Hobby Lobby pay for "four specific potentially life-terminating drugs and devices". They're mandating that insurance companies pay for it (because they're used in accepted medical practices). But, you say, Hobby Lobby is required to offer one of these plans (or pay a fine). True, but Hobby Lobby is also required to pay wages to its employees, which they can use to buy all the abortions they want. Should Hobby Lobby be exempt from paying its employees a wage because its employees can go buy things that Hobby Lobby finds morally objectionable? Of course not. Hobby Lobby isn't being forced to use nor pay for these drugs and devices. The decision to do so is on the employee who's using the plan.
These principles were put to the test when the federal government mandated that the Greens and their family businesses provide four specific potentially life-terminating drugs and devices through their employee health plan in conflict with their deeply held religious convictions. While the Green family has no moral objection to providing 16 of the 20 FDA-approved drugs and devices that are part of the federal mandate, providing drugs or devices that have the potential to terminate a life conflicts with their faith.
11/27/2013 1:25:05 AM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: religion obamacare religious+freedom health+care abortion
The Shutdown is Bullshit
What the Republicans are doing right now is bullshit. And let's be clear, this government shutdown - plus the maybe possible, but hopefully they're not that crazy, debt default - is almost completely the Republicans' fault.
Now let me be clear. I don't think the tactics being used break any rules. There's more to being a politician than just policy. There are a lot of techniques for getting what you want that don't involve convincing others of the merit of your position. In fact, that's mostly how it works. I dislike things like the filibuster and log rolling and earmarks, and I want them changed, but that's how the system works right now. And what the Republicans are doing is within the bounds of a flawed system.
But here's why it's bullshit. In what we consider normal political battles winning means you get your legislation passed and losing means you don't. If the legislation improves people's lives (or is perceived to) then more people vote for the winning side, and less for the losing side. If the legislation does the opposite then the reverse happens. The reward and punishment come at the ballot box for the different sides of the fight.
What the Republicans are doing is punishing the entire country for their inability to pass legislation (which is, in this case, the repeal of legislation). They're saying that if the other side doesn't agree with them they're not going to punish them by beating them in election, they're saying they're going to punish the entire country by shutting down its government or possibly letting it default on its debt.
It's ridiculous, and it's pretty clearly not that lazy "both sides do it" crap that people fall back on when they don't want to have to defend their position.
Think of it this way, what if the Democrats threatened to shut down the government or have the US default if the Republicans wouldn't pass Obamacare?
10/7/2013 12:50:39 AM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: obamacare republicans
How Breaking Bad Will End
There are three new Breaking Bad episodes left. Stop crying. The most recent episode ended in the middle of a gunfight between Todd's Merry Band of Neo-Nazis and DEA agents Hank and Gomez. Walt is handcuffed in an SUV in the middle of the shooting, while Jesse is cowering in a car behind Hank and Gomez. We know this needs to be resolved, but we also know two other things. We know Walt spends his 52nd birthday on the run, in a Denny's, with all his hair back. We also know that he returns to his abandoned house looking for his ricin, with a pretty bad-ass gun in his trunk.
Let me tell you my theory about how this all ends. I don't actually think this is the way Vince Gilligan ends it, but it makes sense to me given what we know.
First, I think Gomez dies. I don't want him to, but one of the good guys probably has to get it. How those Nazi scumbags missed Hank and Gomez after having them lined up for a good 60 seconds and firing first I'll never know. Hank survives. Walt survives. The bad guys round up Jesse.
Next, I think they take Hank, Jesse, and Walt back to Nazi headquarters. Walt is on their team and they need him so he's OK. Jesse might be spared because he's nobody to them. But Hank, Hank's a DEA agent. The Nazis know he has to die. But Walt doesn't want to let that happen. Walt is all sorts of evil but maybe the one redeeming quality he has is that he really does see Hank and Jesse as family. He is a despicable liar, but I actually believe him at this point when he says he doesn't want them harmed. I also believe he didn't want Todd to shoot Drew Sharp, and I believe he knew how to poison Brock without killing him. While his ego has allowed him to do unspeakable things, I think there's some good left in him. And he has leverage with the Nazis because he's the only guy who can cook that blue meth.
Maybe the Nazis are waffling a little because Walt represents a lot of money. But then Lydia shows up. And you know she's going to tie up every loose end. The Nazis are about to kill Hank and Jesse, but Walt uses Science! to help Hank or Jesse or Hank and Jesse to escape. That's tonight's episode.
The Nazis are obviously pissed off now. So flash forward to Hank on the run in the next episode. Lydia is after Walt, but remember, she's won't leave anything to chance. She's probably after Jesse, Hank and his family, Walt's family, probably Saul, and maybe even the staff of the car wash. She's after everyone Walt cares about. Blah, blah, blah, a bunch of stuff happens.
In the finale, Walt comes back to his vandalized house to get his ricin. He's going to use this to kill Lydia or Jack because they are going after his family. After all of Walt's bullshit about doing this for his family we're coming full circle. The video confession this season, just like in the first season. Burying his money where he first cooked in the RV in the first season. If we're going full circle let's go back to why Walt started this in the first place. At the very beginning he was doing it for his family. Sure, it was ego that made him do it the way he did it. He eschewed help when he could have had it. And he cooked meth way longer than he had to. But at the beginning he wanted to provide for his family.
Breaking Bad has always kept us guessing. Walt has been trending further evil ever since his first cook. What better way to end the season than to turn Walt back into the anti-hero?
Here's what convinced me, even though I don't have any confidence that my theory will happen. In the flash forwards Walt has his hair back, just like he did at the beginning before the evil inside him came out.
9/15/2013 5:43:54 PM
Filed Under: Art and Culture
Keywords: breaking+bad amc tv
The X-Files at 20
The X-Files is 20! This write-up by Brian Phillips isn't great, but this paragraph is a great description of the "monster of the week" episodes:
The X-Files was probably the first great TV show to be galvanized by the Internet and the last great TV show to depict a world in which the Internet played no part. Its fan culture found a home online early in the series' run, but though the role of computers became both more central and more realistic as the show progressed,3 it was possible at least through the fifth season or so to see the Web as a distraction, something with no important bearing on anyone's life. Remember when you could turn it on and off? We often credit the Internet with the disintegration of the old American monoculture, because it liberated us to be absorbed by our own interests, to spend our time downloading obscure anime, say, rather than caring about Madonna or ABC. But the Internet also created a new type of monoculture: It made every place accessible to every other place. We could no longer assume that the peculiarities of our own environments were private. Our hometown murders might appear on CNN.com. The world of small-town X-Files episodes is still that older world of extreme locality, where everyone in town grows up knowing that the rules here are different and we handle it ourselves. Children vanish or trees kill people or bright lights appear in the sky, but there is no higher authority to appeal to and it has nothing to do with what goes on 10 miles down the road. In my hometown we knew that the spillway by the lake was where you painted a memorial if your friend was killed in a drunk-driving crash. It's the same thing. Here is here. And this, it goes without saying, is just the opposite of the here-is-everywhere world inhabited by the conspiracy, which is global in scale, utterly connected, and ruled by pseudonymous men whose flat-affect, no-eye-contact meetings were almost the personification of a chat window.
In fact, I wrote something similar to this a while ago about The X-Files:
Fringe is a modern-day knock off of X Files. From what I've seen it follows the same mythology/MOTW structure. I don't mean that as an insult; I enjoyed what I saw of Fringe in its first season (Lance Reddick and Kirk Acevedo are great), but I just didn't have the time to keep watching it. A problem with Fringe is that I don't really believe it the way I did with X Files. X Files happened in a time when it was possible to have government conspiracies to cover up aliens or a fluke man swimming in the sewers all just beneath the public's view. Today a satanic cult of teachers would get tweeted before it killed any school children. A freaky carnival killer would get seen by Google street view. Messages boards would gin up all those monsters of the week and spill them out onto local TV news.
A great show, and worth another watch some time. Thanks to my brother for the link.
9/12/2013 1:03:48 AM
Filed Under: Art and Culture
Keywords: the+x-files tv
The Case Against Syria
I fall on the side of not attacking Syria, but I don’t think it’s a clear cut decision.
There have been over 100,000 deaths in the war, about half of which have been civilians. Now the Syrian government has apparently killed over 1,400 people in a chemical weapons attack. The Obama administration warned Syria not to use chemical weapons and now wants to attack Syria as punishment for that attack.
There are a lot of issues here.
For one, after finding no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, do we trust the intelligence pointing to the Syrian government? After reading Legacy of Ashes I have a hard time believing most intelligence. I happen to think the Syrian government was probably behind the attack. But I do have some doubts.
The number of civilian deaths rivals what happened on 9/11. Without a doubt it was an atrocity. Then again, so are 100,000 deaths. It’s hard to justify a response based on a death count when we’ve let this many die so far. I’m the type of person who thinks stopping the deaths of innocent people in other countries is worth something. So in that respect I don’t think Syria is “none of our business”.
If we’re talking about this attack being an immediate threat to national security that warrants an act of war though, it is none of our business. Syria has not attacked the United States nor any of its allies. Action against Syria further stretches the American military, making us less safe. Furthermore, unlike Iraq a decade ago, what is happening in Syria is a civil war. The rebels are more than capable of fighting back. Getting involved in a brutal civil war puts American lives at risk and could bog us down in a conflict for longer than we want. Will we get the Obama who helped get troops out of Iraq and limited the America’s engagement with Libya, or the one who continues to drag the war in Afghanistan on?
What it now comes down to is whether the use of chemical weapons warrants punishment. The use of chemical weapons around the world does actually endanger American interests. If Syria can use chemical weapons without punishment it might be more likely to use them against US troops or allies.
The use of chemical weapons is also against international law. This is where many Americans will guffaw about the UN, but I do believe international law is important. I think you could make the case that laws against using chemical weapons have in fact reduced casualty counts since they were implemented, especially in wars involving European countries. If we don’t attack are we signaling that the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction will not be opposed anymore? That is a powerful argument in favor of action.
Then again, if this is international law then this should be an international action. I’ve said this a hundred times on this blog, but that’s a very hard thing to do because nations around the world - especially the nations of the security council - have wildly different goals and standards of human rights. The Iraq War kind of ended the American people’s concern for international law, so I doubt this paragraph is going to persuade anyone. Still, there are few countries that seem willing to join the United States. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” was mostly just countries that the United States bribed whose citizens vehemently opposed the war, but even Bush convinced the government of the United Kingdom.
There is the added issue of US credibility. Obama made a mistake in warning Assad if he did not already have support for the attacks from the American people, Congress, American allies, and/or the UN. While I think attempting to get authorization from congress is the right decision, I also think it’s a tacit admission by Obama that the American people are not behind. He’s looking for cover. Just because he made a mistake earlier doesn't mean America should commit to another more costly mistake now.
Assuming we do get involved, what are we trying to accomplish? Are we just bombing random targets as punishment? Or are we trying to take out Syrian chemical weapons. Given that Obama has rightly gone to Congress for authorization, it might be weeks before an attack. At that point will we be able to find them given our recent intelligence failure with regards to weapons of mass destruction?
Having that goal is paramount because there will be more civilian deaths as a result of our attacks. As a nation with tremendous military power, it is time to acknowledge that our actions will always cause unwanted deaths. These will not be “surgical strikes”. There is no such thing. There needs to be a strong case against the Syrian government and there needs to be a clear plan of action to justify those deaths.
I haven’t seen enough of either to convince me that the Obama administration is advocating the right course of action, despite all the arguments in favor of the attack.
9/4/2013 11:31:59 PM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: syria war barrack+obama
Bradley Manning Verdict
I didn’t take too many non-engineering classes in college. One I did take was about Greek civilization. I enjoyed reading the tragedies so much that I’d often pick them out if I was browsing a used book store. Euripides' The Trojan Women (my review) takes place after the Trojan War as the Greeks go about collecting their spoils. I was always a fan of Hector, him having lost his battle with Achilles on account of some bullshit trickery by Athena. When the prince of Troy dies his wife Andromache is taken by Achilles’ son. That leaves the question of Astyanax, her infant son. The child obviously cannot hurt the Greeks, but they refuse to take the chance that he will grow up and avenge his father’s death. In a final act of dishonor in a dishonorable war, they throw him to his death from the walls of Troy. The great Greek army, you see, was so scared of an event that might happen decades in the future that it killed a baby.
I’m reminded of the end of that story when I read about Bradley Manning. (No, his case is not as severe as the murder of a child.) The final verdicts have been made in the Manning trial. In all he was convicted of 20 of the 22 charges against him, but found not-guilty of the most serious charge of "aiding the enemy".
Manning was arrested in May of 2010, but his trial did not start until June of 2013. That’s three years without a trial. I’m not sure how close court-martial proceedings must adhere to the Constitution, but at the very least 3 years violates the spirit of the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. Furthermore, the conditions of his confinement were so egregious that his sentence will be reduced by 112 days, telling me that his right to avoid cruel punishment (the Eighth Amendment) was violated as well.
Manning was not a dangerous inmate. It’s hard to imagine the length and severity of his confinement were necessary for his "safety" either. This was clearly punitive treatment before Manning was convicted of anything - i.e. before there was reason for punitive treatment.
It all looks like the actions of scared people. Certainly "we the people" have shown ourselves to be very scared since 9/11. (I'll admit to that.) "We" are quite willing to reduce our liberties and ignore human rights violations if we think it makes us safer. (I won't admit to that.) But I doubt most people know much about the Bradley Manning story. That’s sad, because the amount of scandalous data he released should be enough to keep more than a few journalists fed for years. There is a compelling case to be made that Manning is a very important whistleblower in that respect. On the other hand, there is a good case to be made that Manning should be in jail. I think each side of that debate can be separated from this discussion though.
I think also our national security apparatus was scared by what Manning did. And I do think that part of the government can be honestly separated from "we the people". I tire of people complaining about "the government" as if it’s some entity they have no control over. We live in a nation with many democratic points of control, so it's often a lack of effort that stops people from getting what they want out of the government. So more and more I try to make my arguments be not about what the government is doing, but about what we are letting the government do (or asking it to do). But there is a legitimate level of secrecy and autonomy that should be afforded to those who work in national security. They've taken some more than they were given, and we've given them more than is needed, but I think there is a level of secrecy that is necessary and acceptable. So I think it's accurate to treat them as separate in this discussion.
These people are a different type of scared. While "we the people" are scared in a general sense, the national security part of the government can point to specific fears that arise from Manning’s actions. What Manning exposed might not be the most damaging information, but it still shocked the people who were keeping it secret. I don’t consider these people evil, but I think they know they've gone too far, that what they’re doing does not jibe with how most Americans think of their country. The treatment of Bradley Manning is in response to this, and response was almost juvenile in nature. It showed fear. It was certainly unprofessional and tainted the legitimacy of the verdict. They had him and they had a case against him.
I think there are few debates where there is really an “American” side versus an "un-American" side, but I certainly feel what has been done in the Manning case flies in the face of my views on what America is and should be.
8/9/2013 1:32:29 PM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: bradley+manning 6th+amendment 8th+amendment wikileaks
Stopping Those Damn Illegal Immigrants
Illegal immigration is illegal. There are people who are really upset about this.
It’s true, the US should enforce it’s laws. I’m amazed though at how angry people get at the illegal immigration issue. I have friends on Facebook who post any news story that shows illegal immigrants in a bad light. They’ll call them rats and all sorts of dehumanizing language. Any negative story is proof of the rottenness of the entire lot.
I get some of the anger. There’s a law and it’s being broken. Here’s the thing though, illegal immigration is not really illegal. It provides too much of a benefit to be truly illegal.
Illegal immigration is illegal like going 60 MPH in a 55 MPH zone is illegal on a road designed for safe travel at 65 MPH. It’s like steroid use in baseball after the ‘94 strike. It’s illegal and the police can stop you, but there’s little incentive too. The law is violated too much to realistically enforce it completely. More importantly, it not only doesn’t cause much harm, but it actually provides a benefit. Let me outsource this argument to Eric Posner:
But the reality is that the United States has long been well served by a three-tiered system of immigration. The top tier consists of highly desired foreign workers, who are offered green cards, which typically lead to citizenship. The second tier consists of skilled and semi-skilled people who can obtain short-term visas, usually for three years. Some of them prove themselves while here, and end up acquiring a green card as well. Then there is a third tier, typically unskilled people, who can be removed at any time and for any reason, yet are frequently permitted certain privileges, such as a driver’s license. They are also permitted to work—while in practice being denied the protection of employment and labor laws. We call these people "illegal immigrants" but that is a misnomer. Little effort is made to stop them from working or to expel them. And those who proved themselves by staying employed, learning English, and making enough money to afford a moderate fine, were given a path to citizenship in 1986, as may occur again if Congress passes immigration reform this year.
If you’ve been railing against illegal immigration then this is going to upset you, but it’s true. Even the harshest critics of the federal government’s handling of immigration law reap huge benefits from illegal immigration. If you took a minute to actually add the benefits up, it would embarrass you how much you benefit. It makes calls for mass deportation particularly disappointing.
Illegal immigrants do break the law, but they break the law in the sense that everyone breaks the law. Think of traffic laws, which everyone breaks but which are also only enforced selectively—largely against people suspected of committing drug crimes or other misdeeds. The law against illegal entry is (sort of) enforced at the border, but hardly at all against people once they arrive, except if they commit serious crimes, in which case they are sent to jail and then deported.
The system exists because it serves America’s interests. Americans have a voracious appetite for unskilled labor—in the form of nannies, gardeners, restaurant workers, agricultural laborers, construction workers, and factory hands. And foreign countries contain huge pools of unskilled labor. Unskilled Mexican laborers would rather pick strawberries in the United States for a pittance than pick strawberries in Mexico that are exported to the United States, and for which they are paid even less than a pittance. U.S. businesses would rather pay illegal workers a pittance than Americans a pittance and a half.
What is ingenious about our system is that it allows us to take advantage of unskilled labor at low cost; exile those people who cause trouble; and ultimately grant amnesty to those who prove their worth by working steadily, learning English, and obeying criminal law. They will leave on their own when unemployment rises, and come back when labor is in demand. In this way public policy recognizes a sliding scale of legal protections for aliens, offering the strongest protections to those we want the most, and the weakest protections to those we are less sure about.
Contrary to what you may have heard on South Park, I subscribe to the theory that illegal immigrants actually create jobs in the US. For instance, in the agricultural sector
"It’s a simple story," says Edward Taylor, an agricultural economist at U.C. Davis and one of the study’s authors. "By the mid-twentieth century, Americans stopped doing farm work. And we were only able to avoid a farm-labor crisis by bringing in workers from a nearby country that was at an earlier stage of development. Now that era is coming to an end."
If those jobs aren’t held by illegal immigrants in the United States, they’ll be held by legal residents of other countries. The market, if given the opportunity, will hit the price the consumer wants for a given commodity.
This is not to say illegal immigration doesn’t cause problems. Any influx of people will put extra strain on social services and infrastructure. The scale of these problems though is overblown. Rhetoric and anecdotal evidence is too often played up over broad statistics.
Illegal immigrants are blamed for all sorts of things. They’re blamed for disrupting American society, but in reality they assimilate just fine. They are blamed for putting an undue strain on social services, but their tax contributions are often ignored.
The most heated claims are about the amount of violent crime illegal immigrants commit. Violent crime makes people emotional, so often one such incident will skew people's perceptions of the entire situation. Statistics show Hispanics as a whole commit crime at a rate comparable to white Americans. As Hispanic populations grow in the Southwest - a growth fueled by both legal and illegal immigration - crime rates have been dropping. There are certainly violent illegal immigrants, but the overall picture is of a group that commits slightly more crime due largely to the fact that it is poorer, younger, and more male. Critics may point out that these people are committing a crime just by being in the United States and that that means they are more likely to commit other crimes. I think the opposite. To quote from yet another article debunking the illegal immigrant high crime myth:
For one thing, the consequences of being arrested can be enormous for illegal immigrants, which is an obvious deterrent to crime. For another, immigrants, as a group, aren’t typical of the population. The fact that they have picked up and moved to another country suggests that they have more ambition, and perhaps even more skill, than the average person. This could help explain why the United States, a nation of immigrants, is such an economic powerhouse.
It amazes me what we are willing to do to stop this "problem". Look at what states like Alabama and Arizona have done. They are willing to give authorities extra power to detain people simply for not having proper identification. This American Life recently did an episode on Alabama where the state comes off as a straight-up police state.
Given that illegal immigrants must live lives outside of work, they will set up families and build communities. You can call that a crime if you will, but families and communities are what our society stable. So when we get tough on illegal immigration we'll break up
those families and disrupt those communities across the country, making people less secure.
On the federal level it's worse. In the midst of the NSA spying scandals we've seen recently, I wish people would have the same concern about government overreach when it comes to immigration. The current immigration reform talk has some good ideas in it, but as with any talk of leniency there always has to be a show of toughness. The law-and-order types want to build a giant wall spanning the 2,000 mile border between America and Mexico. They want tens of thousands of new federal border agents. They want to militarize a peaceful border with one of our allies. Our society has become much safer over the years, both in terms of violent domestic crime and external threats, yet the militarization of the US-Mexico border is in direct contrast.
Look what we’re willing to do to our society to stop something that is a net benefit to our economy. I keep asking myself, what are we trying to stop?
7/30/2013 2:24:02 AM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: illegal+immigration immigration