Saturday, September 4, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

From me @OTB:  Governor Brewer Retracts Beheading Claim (Kinda)

Filed under: Border Security,US Politics,elections | Comments Off|
Sunday, August 15, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Again, despite the rhetoric of some, the US does continue to enforce laws relevant to the border and, indeed, enforcement has been on the rise.

From me @OTB:  More Border Enforcement.

Filed under: Border Security,OTB,US Politics,immigration | Comments Off|
Wednesday, August 4, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

The predicted spill-over of drug violence has yet to happen in the place where one might expect such a spill-over to be taking place:  at the intersection of Mexico and in the United States in far west Texas.

From me at OTB:  A Tale of Two Cities: El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.

Thursday, July 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

From me @OTB:  Death and the Arizona Border.

Filed under: Border Security,Headline Reaction,OTB,US Politics | Comments Off|
Tuesday, July 13, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Well, no.

From me at OTB:

Saturday, June 26, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Originally written for OTB. 

In a debate amongst Republicans vying to be the party’s nominee for governor in Arizona, the current governor, Jan Brewer, had the following interchange with fellow primary participant, Matthew Jette:

Jette said of illegal immigrants, “These people, a lot of them, are just trying to feed their family… They just want to work.”

Brewer immediately jumped in, saying, “We are a nation of laws. And they are coming across our border illegally. And the majority of them in my opinion and I think in the opinion of law enforcement is that they are not coming here to work. They are coming here and they’re bringing drugs. And they’re doing drop houses and they’re extorting people and they’re terrorizing the families. That is the truth, Matt. That is the truth…”

The video can be found here (the relevant timestamp is 49:00-50:00) with the transcription above provided by E.J. Montini of The Arizona Republic.

Now, I fully understand that there have been violent incidences, including the murder of rancher near the border and cases of violence against police.  However, to assert that “the majority” of illegal immigrants are drug-runners is so stunningly incorrect as to be the kind of thing that one does not originally believe that one is reading when one is reading it.  Indeed, I made sure that the transcript was correct by finding the quote in the video linked above.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there are an estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants in the United States (a 2024 estimate), of which 76% are of Latin American origin (59% are of  Mexican origin).  That would give us an estimated 9 million illegal immigrants from the south (source).  If “the majority” are involved with the drug industry, let’s be conservative and go with a bare majority, 50.1%, which would give us about 4.5 million drug-industry related illegal immigrants or roughly the population of my state of residence (Alabama).  This is an absurd figure.  And yes, I realize that Brewer made no numerical claims apart from the “majority” issue in the debate, but I point it all out to note the kind of scale we are talking about here if we were to take the claim seriously.

I suppose that Brewer could be arguing that there is something special about the persons crossing into Arizona or that of late there has been a majority shift in the type of person crossing the border.  However, she would be wrong.  The fundamental fact is, has been, and will continue to be that the main attraction for illegal border crossing is jobs.  We know that most illegal immigrants work in agriculture, construction and food services not drug trafficking.  It is worth noting that the intensity of the drug war in Mexico is a relatively new phenomenon while the issue of migrant labor is a multi-decade one.

The bottom line is that if Brewer and her allies are going to define the problem as fundamentally one of drug trafficking then they are radically misdiagnosing the problem.  And just as misdiagnosis is problematic in medicine, so too is it in public policy.  The resources and approach needed to fight migrants laborers sneaking into the country are substantially different than the resources and approaches needed to fight drug traffickers.  Yes, there is some overlap, but there is also quite bit that is different.

Further, to cast the situation as one of drug traffickers instead of migrant labor to further demonize said laborers (and, really, the hispanic community as well).

As an update to the original version of this post, I would note that Greg Weeks to wonder “does she really believe it?” and goes on to note that she is either demonstrating an “alarming lack of interest in understanding immigration” or:

it is potentially a) a political bone for her base; and b) a message to the Obama administration that it needs to help her politically with enforcement.  A letter she sent to Obama at least suggests the possibility of the second option:

While neither option is admirable, I have to agree with Greg that “Feigned ignorance is not good, but slightly better than the real thing.”

Filed under: Border Security,US Politics,immigration | Comments Off|
Friday, May 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Note:  originally written for OTB.

James Joyner’s post on President Obama’s move to send National Guard troops to the US-Mexican border is pretty much spot-on in regards to its criticisms of the policy move.  He specifically notes:

We’re not dealing here with terrorists.   Nor, despite heated rhetoric to the contrary, are we suffering an “invasion.”  The problems we’re dealing with are migrant workers desperate for work and drug cartels fighting for turf.

Further, it should noted that the two problems are different.  Yes, there are some smugglers who traffic both in people and drugs, and yes, they are crossing the same border, but ultimately the situations are different ones that have to be dealt with as distinct policy realms, even if they have overlap.  In simple terms, the solutions for the drug trafficking problem are not the same as the solutions for illegal immigrant problem and we need to understand that fact.  Simplistic cries of “seal of the border” do not amount to actual policy solutions.

There is one way in which both drugs and migrant labor are linked:  both are driven by supply and demand.

Writing on the topic of illegal immigration, Patrick Corcoran rightly observes:

Illegal immigrants respond to the labor market, not an independently existing desire to leave their homeland and, in many cases, their family. When either the labor demand in the US or the labor supply in Mexico dries up, so will Mexican immigration.

It is both that simple and that complex.

He further notes:

One point that gets lost in a lot of the anger about immigration is that, generally speaking, immigration is a mutually beneficial relationship: both the immigrant and the country that receives him win.

I am sure some readers will greatly dispute this fact, but it is nonetheless true.  As problematic as the entire process is, it is clear that the maids, gardeners, fast food workers, fruit pickers, construction workers and the like are serving a purpose in our economy.  Further, despite popular perception in some quarters, they do pay taxes:  sales taxes, property taxes via rent, excise taxes, and frequently payroll taxes.  In regards to said payroll taxes, the irony is that any social security taxes paid by undocumented workers goes to subsidize social security (because the workers in question are using SS numbers not their own and they cannot collect on the system).  As the NYT reported back in 2024:  Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions:

As the debate over Social Security heats up, the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.

None of this is to argue that there is no cost to illegal immigrants or that they represent an unvarnished good.  However, the situation is far, far more complex than many who get really upset about the situation make it out to be (where it is often painted all all cost and no benefit).  Certainly it should be clear that illegal immigrations is far from only a problem.  Again, the labor demand is there and I have long maintained (for example) the forces of supply and demand are quite powerful and more difficult to contain than many proponents of border control wish to acknowledge.  Indeed, the clear existence of this labor market is a solid argument for comprehensive immigration reform that would include making it far easier for this market to work.

Back to Corocan:

The Arizona ranchers who don’t want their land tramped through every night have a legitimate grievance, but that’s more of an argument for the government establishing a nationwide quota for manual labor roughly in line with what the market demands. Today, however, the quantity of low-skilled immigrant visas stands at about 1 percent of the total undocumented population.

The Arizona law can’t overcome the laws of supply and demand. It may drive immigrants into ranches in New Mexico and Texas, but the national panorama won’t be very different. And any law draconian enough to actually put a dent into illegal immigration will necessarily offend our sensibilities and harm our economy.

It would be nice if we could get a more realistic discussion on this topic.

Also, it should be noted that roughly 40% of illegal immigrants in the US are not border crossers, but rather visa over-stayers.  As such, even if we could totally seal the border between the US and Mexico with a force shield of Trekian proportions, we still wouldn’t have solved the problem.

One of the political observations I would make is that the segment of US politics that is most vehement on the question of border control is also the segment that is most interested (at least rhetorically) in both promoting capitalism and smaller government.  However, on this topic that appear to wish to repeal the laws of supply and demand and to increase the power of the government.

Wednesday, May 5, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

James Joyner notes a story I was going to blog last night:  Los Suns Cinco de Mayo Jerseys.

The stated purpose of the Los Suns jerseys is allegedly twofold:  1) to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, and 2) to protest the new Arizona immigration law.

James, however, notes a third reason (quite frankly, the most important reason) which I was going to point out as well:  “if they happen to make a ton of money selling jerseys, that’s a consequence they’re willing to live with.”


The teams do this to make money—and that is really all one needs to know to understand the choice.  They do it with St. Patrick’s Day jerseys as well.1

While the immigration law related aspect of this does overtly inject politics into the situation, we seem to go through outrage over Spanish language jerseys at this time of year on a regular basis.  For example, see my post on Michelle Malkin’s outrage on the subject from 2024:  ¡El horror de los Rangers!

Indeed, as James post notes with a photo, Spanish-version jerseys are nothing new.  Here’s another example:  Los Spurs (whom I hope beats Los Suns tonight!).

  1. Which no one freaks out about, oddly enough. []
Tuesday, May 4, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

The following NYT headline should surprise no one:  Poll Shows Most in U.S. Want Overhaul of Immigration Laws.

Indeed, the story notes:  “The public broadly agrees, across party lines, that the United States could be doing more along its border to keep illegal immigrants out. The view was shared by 78 percent of the respondents.”

The problem, of course, is that that is absolutely no consensus on what is to be done:  “That unity, however, fractures on the question of what to do with illegal immigrants who are already here and the role of states in enforcing immigration law, normally a federal responsibility.”

There is majority support (51%) for the Arizona approach, but of course that law ultimately has nothing to do with how to control the border itself, let alone thorny questions about what realistically can and should be done with the 12-15 million persons currently in the US illegally.

Given the disparate (and explosive) views held in various sectors of the public on this topic, I do not expect serious, comprehensive reform to be produced any time soon.

Filed under: Border Security,US Politics,immigration | Comments Off|
Monday, April 26, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

I have refrained from commenting on the new law, as I wanted to do some reading, and I allowed myself to be distracted by site tweaking over the weekend, and also had to help out on a science project with Middle Son (amongst other things).  At any rate, I have now read the bill for myself.

The controversial provision is as follows (caps in original):


The main document that needs to be produced is a valid Arizona driver’s license.  And, I have checked the process for getting a driver’s license in AZ and one does have to prove one’s legal status to obtain said document.

Now, on the one hand, having to provide a driver’s license is not especially onerous, and it is something that many of us have had to do.  However, almost certainly the only reason we have ever had to do so to police was in the context of driving, not to prove citizenship/legal status.  Beyond when driving, one does not have to have one’s driver’s license on one’s person if one does not wish to have it with them.   And, for that matter, not everyone has a license.

The problem here is pretty clear:  what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” that “a person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States”?  It is unavoidable that in the context of illegal immigration from Mexico that the main criteria that will be applied here is skin color and language (either in terms of speaking Spanish or accented English).  Can there be any doubt that if one is white that one’s chances of the aforementioned reasonable suspicion alighting about one is extremely slim (to the point of being nonexistent?).  Even Tom Tancredo, as hardcore a supporter of tough immigration laws as one can get, sees the potential for problems:  "I do not want people here, there in Arizona, pulled over because you look like should be pulled over."1

It is also clear that this bill will empower people like Maricopa Country Sherriff Joe Arpaio who has been criticized by the Goldwater Institute (named after conservative Barry Goldwater) for diverting “resources away from basic law-enforcement functions to highly publicized immigration sweeps, which are ineffective in policing illegal immigration and in reducing crime generally.” 2

In terms of the politics of the situation, I think that Andrew Napolitano of Fox News has a point (from an appearance on Neil Cavuto’s show last week):

Napolitano: She’s gonna bankrupt the Republican Party and the state of Arizona. Look at what happened to the Republicans in California with the proposition –

Cavuto: What happens?

Napolitano: Ah, Hispanics — who have a natural home in the Republican Party because they are socially conservative — will flee in droves. She’s also gonna bankrupt her state, because no insurance company will provide coverage for this. And for all the lawsuits that will happen — for all the people that are wrongfully stopped — her budget will be paying for it. Her budget will be paying the legal bills of the lawyers who sue on behalf of those that were stopped.

This will be a disaster for Arizona — to say nothing of the fact that it’s so unconstitutional that I predict a federal judge will prevent Arizona from enforcing it as soon as they attempt to do so. That will probably be tomorrow.

Transcript courtesy of Crooks and Liars, which also has the video.

I think he overstates his case a bit, but I think he makes very valid points.  The first is that this bill will very likely negatively effect the GOP with Arizona Hispanics (and there are a lot of Hispanics in Arizona).  I think that there will be short-term political gains, but potentially serious long-term political damage to the party.  And the bill will generate lawsuits.  Indeed, it allows people to sue government entities if they aren’t enforcing the law.  Further, there are going to be any number of court challenges to this process.

There is also a cost to be paid in terms of law enforcement.  Citizens in many communities are going to be less willing to interact with the police because of this law.  And, further, illegal immigrants who are witnesses to crimes are going to be too fearful to cooperate with police.

  1. Source []
  2. Source:  Mission Unaccomplished:
    The Misplaced Priorities of the Maricopa County Sheriff ’s Office [PDF]  h/t to Crooks and Liars. []

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