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Tuesday, January 8, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via WaTi: Huckabee vows to defy birthright citizenship

Mike Huckabee wants to amend the Constitution to prevent children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens from automatically becoming American citizens, according to his top immigration surrogate — a radical step no other major presidential candidate has embraced.

Mr. Huckabee, who won last week’s Republican Iowa caucuses, promised Minuteman Project founder James Gilchrist that he would force a test case to the Supreme Court to challenge birthright citizenship, and would push Congress to pass a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to remove any doubt.

First off, this article seems wholly predicated on a second-hand retelling of what Huckabee supposedly said, so I take the whole thing with a grain of salt. No doubt Gilchrist would like this to happen, but it is a sloppy reporting job to take someone else’s word for a major position being taken by a candidate.

Second, WaTi is frequently sensational and unreliable for my tastes and has been prone, for some reason, to inflammatory reporting regarding immigration (see for example).

Third, while I suppose it is possible that 2./3rds of both chambers of the Congress could be persuaded to amend the 14th Amendment (which simply states “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”) it strikes me as a pretty extreme act, and not one that really solves the main problem at hand. Further, tampering with the constitution tends to have unintended consequences.1

Beyond that, while there are clearly problems created when persons in the county illegally have children on US soil, it is also the fact that birthright citizenship is the fastest way to assimilate persons into the US. If we start creating more complex pathways to citizenship we will find ourselves with some of the problems that Europe currently has with disaffected, unassimilated populations who are neither citizens nor really foreigners either. This is not a desirable direction in which to head.

Beyond the implications, it is not as easy as it sounds for a president to come in and get the Congress to initiate the amendment process.

Update: James Joyner notes that Huckabee has denied the story.

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  1. Indeed, the 14th Amendment language in question was meant as a means of making former slaves citizens and was not envisioning anything to do with the immigrants, per se []
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Sunday, December 30, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

At the beginning of December, I noted that Huckabee was promising the impossible, i.e., “sealing” the border. I was first challenged by an e-mailer (who worked for the Huckabee campaign, in fact) and a commenter that Huckabee didn’t actually use the word “seal” (however, ends up he did).

Well, today on MTP he was deploying the phrase “seal the border” yet again (and rather emphatically, I might add). I will post the appropriate transcript portion when available.

This type of rhetoric is, no doubt, music to the ears of many in the pool of potential GOP primary voters. However, it is utter nonsense and wholly fantastical (for reasons detailed in this post). It is very difficult to take seriously anyone’s propositions on the border/immigration who deploys such language. Further, the “plan” that he is touting that would have all 12-15 million illegals leave the US in a 120 day window and start the process of return in their home countries is similarly from the Land of Wish.

It would be nice for someone to talk about the border intelligently for a change, including that simple fact that it is impossible to stop illegal crossings, and that the economic interchange between the US and Mexico (which is vital to both countries) makes talk about “sealing” the border utter nonsense.

I will give him credit–he gives a nod to the notion that a) we need these workers in our economy, and b) the US bureaucracy regarding the processing of persons entering to work is broken. However, the vagueness to which he addresses the issue, coupled with the breezy way he deals with impossible actions (such as getting millions to voluntarily leave) makes it impossible to take his position seriously. The fact that he has changed views from his time as Governor on the question of illegal immigrants to make them more palatable to the GOP electorate also makes it difficult to take him seriously on this issue.

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Thursday, December 20, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

I guess Tancredo didn’t think he could hang on long enough for the brokered convention: Tom Tancredo to Drop Out of Presidential Race

Tancredo, who has aggressively pushed his anti-illegal immigration message throughout the GOP primary race, has not been able to break through in the polls against his better known competitors. He and California Rep. Duncan Hunter typically poll in the single digits behind Texas Rep. Ron Paul in national surveys.

Tancredo would not personally confirm whether he will pull out of the race.

“I will neither confirm nor deny that report,” Tancredo told FOX News. But he added, “I wouldn’t have a press conference if I didn’t have anything to say.”

I guess the operative question is: apart from being allowed to participate in a series of joint press conference/PR stops debates, was he every really in the race to begin with?

It is comforting that someone as nativist as Tancredo could only break into the single digits. Still, it isn’t as if candidates from both parties aren’t trying to pick up the mantle.

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Sunday, December 9, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the AP: Huckabee says he’d seal Mexican border

Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee says he’d seal the Mexican border, hire more agents to patrol it and make illegal immigrants go home before they could apply to return to this country.

Apart from the dedication of substantial military assets to the border (and by that I mean more than what we have in Iraq at the moment) and turning the entire 2,000-mile stretch into a militarized zone, there is no way to “seal” the border. The Pentagon did an estimate for the Congress back in the 1980s as to what it would take to stop all drug-flow into the country from the south and the numbers were quite large–large enough that one could extrapolate that a true policy of “sealing” the US-Mexican border would become the mission of the US military (the number is in Betram, et al.’s Drug War Politics: The Price of Denial, which I do not have handy at the moment). Even sans such a number, it should be obvious that the idea of “sealing” 2,000 miles of territory is ludicrous without a radical increase of force on that border–to the point that any other activities of the US military would be seriously compromised. I would like to see some of these guys campaign on the notion that forget the war on terror, forget protecting the US homeland, let’s transform the US military into a border-sealing mechanism. Of course, the bottom line is that those who speak of such things are either a) ignorant of what they are talking about, or b) utterly disingenuous about what they are saying.

Huckabee also promised a fence by 2024. As it stand, there is only approval for funding for a total of 700 miles of fencing, half of which is “virtual.” The notion that the entire border could be fenced within roughly three years is a delusional proposition.

Also, one of the key numbers that these types of declarations always ignore is that not all of the illegal aliens in the US are here because they crossed the border illegally, many are here who crossed legally, but over-stayed their visas. Sealed borders won’t solve that problem. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that as of March 2024, between 4 and 5.5 million of the estimated 11.5 to 12 million illegals immigrants in the US entered legally. No one talks about that very much, if at all. Instead, they speak in simplistic ways about walls. As such, a “sealed” border will still leave as much as ~45% of the problem in place (not to mention that “sealed” borders will lead to increased attempts, and likely successes, of those who cross legally, but then simply stay).

In fairness to Huckabee, the AP story does not quote him using the word “seal” (and, as such, it may be the reporter’s word). Still, that does not mitigate my critique.

Update: He said it.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Wonders K-Lo at The Corner

My question is: Do we really have to stake out presidential candidates homes? It’s a wonder anyone decent runs for office.

Really, did she type this with a straight face? If it were Hillary who had illegals mowing the grass, meguesses that the NRO folks would be all over it. Further, if a candidate is running on the notion that he will clean up illegal immigration, it is hardly out of bounds to note that he has been employing illegals himself.

All of this is especially problematic if one reads what Lopez has said about immigration in the recent past. If she is concerned, as she claims, about border security (and all those terrorists coming across the Sonoran Desert to mow lawns and clean McDonalds’ bathrooms) and is against amnesty and all that, surely pointing out that a key anti-immigration politician has a history of employing illegals is wholly fair.

But, like I said earlier this morning, it is unclear that even those who are “serious” about the immigration debate, are not especially serious and really don’t understand what they are arguing for and about.

h/t: John Cole.

Update: One of John’s readers notes that Michelle Malkin is upset as well.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the BoGlo: Lawn work at Romney’s home still done by illegal immigrants

Standing on stage at a Republican debate on the Gulf Coast of Florida last week, Mitt Romney repeatedly lashed out at rival Rudy Giuliani for providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants in New York City.

Yet, the very next morning, on Thursday, at least two illegal immigrants stepped out of a hulking maroon pickup truck in the driveway of Romney’s Belmont house, then proceeded to spend several hours raking leaves, clearing debris from Romney’s tennis court, and loading the refuse back on to the truck.

In fact, their work was part of a regular pattern. Despite a Globe story in Dec. 2024 that highlighted Romney’s use of illegal immigrants to tend to his lawn, Romney continued to employ the same landscaping company — until today. The landscaping company, in turn, continued to employ illegal immigrants.

Romney has now fired the company in question, although as the story notes, the situation will give his opponents plenty of ammo:

For Romney, who has made curtailing illegal immigration a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, the revelation that he continued to employ the same landscaping company was likely to fuel criticism from his rivals, at least one of whom — Giuliani — has already mocked Romney’s commitment to the issue on the trail.

The remarkable thing about this story is that it doesn’t make people realize that what we are seeing here is the power of the market at work–the simple, yet nearly irresistible influence of supply and demand. If there are so many illegal immigrants working in landscaping that something like 25% of all of them (according to NPR this morning) are illegal aliens, perhaps that should tell us we should find a way to allow more workers into the US, rather that promising to further clamp down on immigrations (to what, protect us from gardeners?). The fact of the matter is that the evidence is clear: despite the claims of xenophobes, the influx of Mexican labor hasn’t destroyed the United States. Further, the evidence is also clear that even increased border security is not stopping the influx–rather all it is doing is costing us money (that is ill spent, if the test of spending is policy success, anyway).

In other words, when I listen to the candidates (of both parties) talk about immigration, the rhetoric sounds so hollow, as none of them really have a viable plan to stop illegal immigration, and all of them clearly know that they are pandering rather then offering viable policies. The cost both to the government and the economy in general of really getting rid of illegal immigrants would be huge (assuming it could even really be done), and it simply isn’t going to happen. And while many citizens think that is what they want, if they really understood what it would mean in tax revenue and other pocketbook issues, they wouldn’t be so keen on the notion. But since it is impossible to talk about managing the flow of immigrants across the border (as recent attempts at immigration reform made clear) we instead get platitudes and fantasies about “getting tough” on border security. At the end of the day we are going to get ineffective policies, mostly in the form of an expensive, ineffective semi-wall coupled with a basic maintenance of the status quo.

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Thursday, November 8, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the AP: Texas border agents find man in suitcase

A man hiding in a suitcase and a driver have been detained by Customs and Border Protection officers after a failed smuggling attempt. Authorities believe both men were headed for Denver.


Customs officials said the main in the bag was 5-foot-7, and weighs about 160 pounds.

And the funny thing is, I am in the middle of preparing a lecture on illegal immigration for tomorrow and just happened to see this on Yahoo.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the LAT: Immigration activist deported to Mexico

U.S. immigration officials announced Monday that Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant who symbolized inhumane treatment of migrants to some and brazen lawlessness to others, has been deported to her native Mexico, as immigrant-rights groups vowed to respond with massive protests.

Arellano, a 32-year-old single mother, was “a criminal fugitive alien who spent a year seeking to elude federal capture” by taking refuge in a Chicago church, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.

The main focus of Arellano’s story is that her 8 year-old son is a US citizen and Arellano wants to stay in the US with her son, who lives with legal guardians in the US.

There is no arguing the fact that Elvira Arellano broke the law, and did so more than once:

Arellano first entered the U.S. in 1997; she was caught and deported. A few days later, she reentered the country, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. In 2024, she was arrested and convicted of using a false Social Security number in Chicago.

As such, deportation beats twenty years in jail. Also, one can understand why she would want her son to live in the US and why she would want to be with her son. Any parent can understand the impulse to do the best one can for one’s children.

Still, her type of story does get to the bottom line of what the immigration debate is really about:

In 2024, she was arrested and later convicted of using a false Social Security number to find work cleaning airplanes at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, gaining access to a secure area of a major airport one year after 9/11, said Jim Hayes, director of the immigration agency’s detention and removal operations in Los Angeles.

“We see her not as an icon but as a priority and example of the type of person we want to ensure we’re removing from the United States,” Hayes said.

I think that this is exactly right: the main issue here is that people are entering the US looking for jobs, like cleaning airplanes, restaurants and houses (although Hayes’ emphasis is clearly on the law-breaking angle). I point this out for two reasons. First, there is far too much hysteria over the issue of terrorism and illegal immigration. As I (and others) have noted many times before: it is easier for would-be terrorists to enter legally than it would be to go to the trouble to enter illegally. Second, and more importantly, the bottom line is that illegal immigration remains a market-driven function more than anything else, and there will be no solution until it is addressed in that manner. However, there are large swaths of the population who wish to ignore this fact and treat the entire situation like a black-and-white issue of law and order. The problem with trying to frame this discussion as simply one of law-breaking is that the law can be changed. The current immigrations rules were not carved in stone by the finger of God, i.e., they are not part of some immutable moral code that can never be altered.

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Monday, July 9, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via McClatchy: Why do terrorists attack Britain time and again?

So why do attacks keep happening here [Europe]? And why, since the horror of 9-11, has America avoided another assault?

Karl-Heinz Kamp, the security policy coordinator at Germany’s prestigious Konrad Adenauer research center, said it was easy to understand why.

“The U.S. has a historical advantage; America is still the land of opportunity to the whole world. The people moving there believe the American dream of social mobility,” he said. “In Europe, we’ve historically treated our immigrants as hired help, and waited for them to finish the work they arrived for and go home.”

Bob Ayers, a security and terrorism expert with London’s Chatham House, a foreign-policy research center, thinks that immigrants to the U.S. actually become Americans, giving the United States a huge advantage in avoiding homegrown al Qaida terrorists. Europeans encourage immigrants to retain their native cultures, causing them to be ostracized more readily.

“The Islamic population in the United States is better assimilated into the general population, whereas here, in Germany, in France, they’re very much on the outside looking in,” he said. “When people get disaffected, sadly, there’s not much loyalty to country in that sort of situation.”

There is quite a bit to this–in Europe is it is difficult, if not impossible, for first-generation immigrants to achieve citizenship in their new country-indeed, it is often a trial for second and third generations to do so. Many in the anti-immigration faction often malign the application of the 14th Amendment that results in all being born on US soil automatically gaining US citizenship, but that provision does simplify a situation that otherwise would be radically complicated and it is one that automatically offers hope to the progeny of all who immigrate to the US. Yes, there are problems that emerge, such as children who are citizens and parents who are illegally in the country, but that beats the kinds of problems we have seen in recent years in places like France and Britain. Hope is a very important human emotion, and knowledge of the security of one’s children is a driving force in our behavior. In the US an immigrant (legal or illegal) knows that any of their children born in the US will have citizenship, and therefore a significant amount of security. Such a situation creates a forward-thinking attitude that is infused with hope. This is not the case for most (all?)* immigrants to Europe.

If the concern is that migrant groups will not assimilate into the culture, it is rather obvious that in Europe, where citizenship is either impossible to achieve or is extremely difficult to acquire, that assimilation is more difficult over time and that the only option for immigrants to is to live in semi-autonomous enclaves.

Now, I would agree that part of the appeal of Europe is that it is easier to get to than is the US (there’s that whole ocean thing)–however, the 7/7/05 attackers in London were home-grown types. And, indeed, the primary concern in the UK has been about existing communities and the ability of Islamists to radicalize those groups. If one considers all the pent-up frustration (and sometimes not so pent-up) of North African immigrants in France of late, one can see how it is easier in Europe to radicalize members of those populations. These are problems we don’t have in the US.

h/t: Kevin Drum.

* I am not an expert on the citizenship laws of various European states, but am aware that guest-worker policies have long created a situation in which first generation immigrants have no chance of citizenship in many locales. Germany, for example, has long had such policies. I want to say that in the German case that citizenship doesn’t become easy until the third generation, but it has been a while since I reviewed those rules. I am unaware of any 14th Amendment-like policies in Europeans countries (i.e., where birth alone confers citizenship regardless of the legal status of the parent).

If anyone has specific knowledge of citizenship rules for migrant workers and their children, please feel free to share.

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Thursday, June 28, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

GWU economist Robert Dunn writes in TCS today about How the Mexican Immigration Problem Will Solve Itself.

By this he means that the demographic trends mean that there will be a smaller pool of young Mexicans looking for jobs in the future, and therefore less immigration to the United States:

There has been a stunning decline in the fertility rate in Mexico, which means that, in a few years there will not be many teenagers in Mexico looking for work in the United States or anywhere else. If this trend in the fertility rate continues, Mexico will resemble Japan and Italy - rapidly aging populations with too few young workers to support the economy.

According to the World Bank’s 2024 Annual Development Indicators, in 1990 Mexico had a fertility rate of 3.3 children per female, but by 2024, that number had fallen by 36 percent to 2.1, which is the Zero Population Growth rate. That is an enormous decline in the number of Mexican infants per female.


There have been significant declines in fertility rates across Latin America, but Mexico’s has been unusually sharp. In El Salvador, another country from which immigrants come, a 3.7 rate in 1990 became 2.5 by 2024. Guatemala is now at 4.3, but that is far lower than it was in 1990. Jamaica, another source of illegal U. S. immigrants, has fallen from 2.9 to 2.4 over the same period. Chile and Costa Rica, at 2.0, are actually slightly below a replacement rate. Trinidad and Tobago, at 1.6, is well below ZPG. For all of Latin American and the Caribbean, a rate of 3.2 in 1990 fell to 2.4 in 2024, a decline of 25 percent.

It is an interesting point and worth thinking about as we try to make assessments about policy.

He also makes a salient point about US influence over Mexican culture in the piece, which I also commented upon over at this post OTB. (Although I am not sure I buy Dunn’s statement that US influence over Mexico is what had led to the decline in fertility rates in Mexico).

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