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Sunday, May 21, 2006
Free Market Foreign Aid?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:45 pm

One of the items that is often ignored in the immigration debate is that of remittances from workers in the US to Mexico.

The San Francisco Chronicle has an excellent piece on this topic today: Give and take across the border / 1 in 7 Mexican workers migrates — most send money home. The numbers in question:

Last year, Mexico received a record $20 billion in remittances from migrant workers. That is equal to Mexico’s 2004 income from oil exports and dwarfing tourism revenue.

Arriving in small monthly transfers of $100 and $200, remittances have formed a vast river of “migra-dollars” that now exceeds lending by multilateral development agencies and foreign direct investment combined, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

Now, the initial response may be that that is money that should stay in the US economy. However, if the money in question is helping to under-gird the Mexican economy without the US taxpayer having to give that money in direct aid to Mexico, this is a substantial benefit. Further, much of that money will find its way back into our economy, given that Mexico is our second largest trading partner.

Beyond dollars and sense, if security is the reason that one is worried about the southern border, consider that the worst thing that one could imagine in terms of potential terrorism would be a failed state to our south.

As the article notes:

“We want Mexico to look like Canada,” said Stephen Haber, director of Stanford University’s Social Science History Institute and a Latin America specialist at the Hoover Institution. “That’s the optimal for the United States. We never talk about instability in Canada. We’re never concerned about a Canadian security problem. Because Canada is wealthy and stable. It’s so wealthy and stable we barely know it’s there most of the time. That’s the optimal for Mexico: a wealthy and stable country.”

What isn’t wanted, Haber said, “is an unstable country on your border, especially an unstable country that hates you.”

Exactly. And if further economic integration with the US through vehicles like NAFTA and immigration, then so much the better for avoiding political and economic upheaval in Mexico.

Back to the foreign aid issue, the article notes the following:

The money Mexican migrants send home almost equals the U.S. foreign aid budget for the entire world, said Arturo Valenzuela, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University and former head of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.

“Where are we going to come up with $20 billion?” to ensure stability in Mexico, Valenzuela asked at a recent conference. “Has anybody in the raging immigration debate over the last few weeks thought, could it be good for the fundamental interests of the United States … to serve as something of a safety valve for those that can’t be employed in Mexico?”

Valenzuela makes some substantially important points here. If that money were to evaporate, it would have a substantial impact on the Mexican economy–and commensurately on our own. In terms of pure economics, a healthy Mexico is good for the United States. Further, if one is concerned about security, there is something to be said about avoiding a large class of unemployed young men sitting around in Mexico looking for something to do. While I doubt that they would be joining al Qaeda, but there is a substantial drug industry that could lure them in.

Again: this entire is far more complicated than simply: “we are a nation of laws and we must stop the lawbreaking.”

The whole piece is worth reading, as it covers a number of key issues in this debate.

When Swift Boaters Come Home to Roost (Immigration Edition)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:24 am

The paranoia of elements of the anti-immigration movement has now hit a new level.

Jerome Corsi, one of the co-authors of Unfit for Command (the anti-Kerry book by Swift Book Veterans for Truth) has entered the fray. (I commented on Corsi here, here and here ). I have noted some of his writing online recently, but have largely ignored them.

However, his current piece at Human Events requires comment, as it underscores a deep xenophobia that seems to permeate segments of those opposed to immigration/immigration reform: A North American Union to Replace the United States of America?

In the piece Corsi claims, rather boldly, the following:

President Bush is pursuing a globalist agenda to create a North American Union, effectively erasing our borders with both Mexico and Canada. This was the hidden agenda behind the Bush administration’s true open borders policy.

Secretly, the Bush administration is pursuing a policy to expand NAFTA to include Canada, setting the stage for North American Union designed to encompass the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. What the Bush administration truly wants is the free, unimpeded movement of people across open borders with Mexico and Canada.

First off, please note the bolded portion, as it demonstrates that Corsi has no idea what he is talking about. Canada is already a part of NAFTA. Moreover, what we now know of as NAFTA started as a US-Canada trade agreement. Quite frankly, at that point one probably can stop reading, as it is clear that the author simply doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Nonetheless, we continue, and wonder if Corsi really believes what he is writing when he declares:

President Bush intends to abrogate U.S. sovereignty to the North American Union, a new economic and political entity which the President is quietly forming, much as the European Union has formed.

Part of this, of course, is the typical response from US isolationists who see any international trade regime to be the US “surrendering its sovereignty.” However, as I like to point out about organization like the WTO, which is also seen by many as a group to which we have “surrendered sovereignty”: whose rules primarily shape the functioning of the WTO? The answer: ours. Further, could the US leave the WTO if it so wanted? Answer: yes. As such, the degree to which we have engaged in some alarming “surrender of sovereignty” is highly, highly questionable.

Even if we assume that the US is pursuing an EU-like structure for North America (which it isn’t), then does anyone in the class have any idea who would be the hegemonic power that would dominate such a North American Union? Yes, you in the back? Correct! That would be the United States. The power disparities among the US, Mexico and Canada mean that something like the EU is utterly impossible in North America.

Indeed, anyone who think that Canada and Mexico want to surrender real sovereignty to the US for such an organization doesn’t know much about inter-American relations.

Further, the notion that this could all be done in secret, and then unveiled by the President to the shock of the American people is utter nonsense.

Corsi’s evidence for his grand conspiracy theory is a CFR document (here in PDF) entitled Building a North American Community.

The dreaded evidence that Corsi himself cites to show the pending erasure of our borders is as follows:

At their meeting in Waco, Texas, at the end of March 2005, U.S. President George W. Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin committed their governments to a path of cooperation and joint action.

My, but that’s damning. A commitment to “a path of cooperation and joint action”! Hide the women! Lock up the children!

Ah, but it gets worse:

In March 2005, the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States adopted a Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), establishing ministerial-level working groups to address key security and economic issues facing North America and setting a short deadline for reporting progress back to their governments. President Bush described the significance of the SPP as putting forward a common commitment “to markets and democracy, freedom and trade, and mutual prosperity and security.” The policy framework articulated by the three leaders is a significant commitment that will benefit from broad discussion and advice. The Task Force is pleased to provide specific advice on how the partnership can be pursued and realized.

Egads! Ministerial-level working groups! Task Forces! Why, I can feel our sovereignty slipping away even as I type.

In all seriousness, if one knows anything about the way government interact with one another knows that these types of things are established all the time. In April of this year, the US sent representatives from foreign policy related Departments to a meeting of the Central American Integration System to discuss joint security issues. Is that a surrendering of sovereignty?

Now, it is true that Corsi sights issues about a common external tariff and rules about movement of persons that would not sit well with the seal-the-border crowd:

The three governments should commit themselves to the long-term goal of dramatically diminishing the need for the current intensity of the governments’ physical control of cross-border traffic, travel, and trade within North America. A long-term goal for a North American border action plan should be joint screening of travelers from third countries at their first point of entry into North America and the elimination of most controls over the temporary movement of these travelers within North America.

Such ideas have been around since the signing of NAFTA and is nothing radical, unless one is seriously afraid of Mexican hordes pouring over the border. It is hardly the erasure of borders and the ceding of sovereign power to some new North American government. Further, I would note that the statement is rather vague.

Regardless, Corsi draws a rather radical conclusion:

Why doesn’t President Bush just tell the truth? His secret agenda is to dissolve the United States of America into the North American Union.

Amazing. I would find it all laughable, expect that I am pretty sure that there are many people out there who will take it seriously.

Filed under: General, US Politics, Immigration, Border Security | Comments (6) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

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PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Revisionism at Human Events linked with [...] Revisionism at Human Events By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:42 am Yesterday morning I noted that Jerome Corsi had written a ridiculous piece in which he claimed the Bush administration was secr [...]
Saturday, May 20, 2006
We’ll be Flooded With Immigrants!
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:13 pm

There are numerous reasons why I find much of the current rhetoric on immigration to be nothing more than so much hot air (for example see here). One of them is that it seems that rational empirical analysis doesn’t seem to have much to do with the conversation.

For example, I had noted (but not comment upon at the time) a number of folks talking about the sheer numbers of immigrants that would be flooding into the US if the Senate got its way on the matter. Indeed, there was some chart that was deployed on the Senate floor showing some massive projections of the numbers going forward. I recall several references to 93 million new immigrants as a result of the legislation.

Now, part of the reason I did not comment at the time was that I did not have the time to get into the numbers, and still haven’t, but something struck me about the 93-100 million figure that was being bandied about: the current population of Mexico is only 107,449,525 (as estimated for July 2006 by the CIA). It would seem, therefore, that many of those oppossed to immigration reform are arguing that essentially the entire current population of Mexico will be moving to the US if the Senate/President’s verison of immigration policy is put into practice. That strikes me as, well, absurd.

Now, I recognize that not all immigrants come from Mexico, but let’s face facts: the current debate is primarily (if not exclusively in a practical sense) about the immigration of Mexicans. Far and away the largest subgroup of immigrants is from Mexico and and most of the 11-ish million estimated illegal aliens in the US are Mexican.

Therefore, if the current population of Mexico is around 100 million, how in the name of goodness and light can we be projecting a likely 100 million immigrants in the next 20 years of the policy?

Can you say “scaremongering”? I bet you can.

I do understand population growth, but please.

The only readily available example of the concern over the flood of immigrants is from the Heritage Foundation from a link left by a commenter: Senate Immigration Bill Would Allow 100 Million New Legal Immigrants over the Next Twenty Years.

Let’s just say I am currently quite skeptical of the “analysis.”

Filed under: US Politics, Immigration | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, May 18, 2006
WND Edits Vox Column
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:21 am


I noted on Memeorandum a post from Vox Day, so given the business from earlier in the week, I thought I’d take a look. Ends up that World Net Daily decided to expunge Vox’s Holocaust-derived calculation for determining how long it would take to remove all the illegal aliens from the United States.

The new version reads like this:

It couldn’t possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don’t speak English and are not integrated into American society. In fact, the hysterical response to the post-rally enforcement rumors tends to indicate that the mere announcement of a massive deportation program would probably cause a third of that 12 million to depart for points south within a week.

The old version like this:

If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn’t possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don’t speak English and are not integrated into American society.

So, WND editors change the columns, but they didn’t put up a note that it was changed in the hope that no one would notice. However, given the Blogospheric attention given to the piece means that not only people notice, they will have the relevant excerpts already archived.

So, on that level the editors don’t look too swift.

But more to the point: the fact that it took the uproar that occurred to get them to realize that the paragraph was problematic really speaks poorly of them.


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PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Revisionism at Human Events linked with [...] the free, unimpeded movement of people across open borders with Mexico and Canada. Like the World Net Daily revisionism from last week, there is no note on the Corsi piece indicating that an error h [...]
Fence Politics
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:08 am

Via the NYT: Senate Votes to Extend Fence Along Border

The measure calling for an additional 370 miles of fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers carried by 83 to 16. Since the House of Representatives has already approved some 700 miles of additional fencing, it is likely that whatever immigration legislation emerges from the full Congress will provide for extra barriers.

Last time I checked, the border was about 2,000 miles in length. What this will likely is what current border fortification have done: shift the flow, but not dampen it. For example, the current problems being experienced in Arizona, especially the crossing of private lands, are a direct result of border barriers built in more urban areas.

And I still predict that with more fencing will come more direct (and successful) attempts at penetrating said object.

One of Alabama’s Senators got into the act with a little poetic citation:

The Senate fence measure was embodied in an amendment offered by Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who borrowed from the poet Robert Frost. “Good fences make good neighbors,” he said. “Fences don’t make bad neighbors.”

Amusingly, however, as Mike Munger notes, Sessions misses the point of the poem he is quoting (Frost’s oft-quoted verse is actually anti-fence).

Regardless (the point of the poem is ultimately unimportant, although the misapplication is amusing), of the items that will survive the conference, there is no doubt that the fence/barrier elements will be one of them.

Of course, the conference is likely to be highly contentious, and will almost have to craft brand new legislation out of the ashes of the House and Senate bills:

Whatever emerges from the Senate will have to be reconciled with a House bill that emphasizes border security rather than chances at citizenship, and those negotiations are sure to be hard-fought.

Back to the question of the overall efficacy of a border fence, a piece in WaPo today has the information:

Starting in 1993, the Border Patrol blockaded major urban crossing points from San Diego to El Paso, where large groups of immigrants simply dashed across in what were known as “banzai runs.” In El Paso, agents continuously patrolled the Rio Grande, hoping to deter immigrants. A year later in San Diego, the government built a 10-foot-high steel fence for Operation Gatekeeper. Eventually, 106 miles of fencing was constructed near every metropolis along the border with Mexico.

But the illegal crossings have continued.

Gatekeeper and the other efforts did nothing to stem the tide of illegal entries to the United States. In fiscal 2005, the Border Patrol apprehended 1.1 million people, about the same as in 1993. Several academic studies have estimated that 500,000 got through, also the same as in 1993, despite the number of Border Patrol agents tripling to more than 11,000 in 12 years. But Gatekeeper and the rest of the deterrence campaign did have real effect: Instead of dashing across in urban areas, illegal immigrants turned to paths through the deserts of eastern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. They began employing “coyotes,” smugglers who demanded thousands of dollars, to lead them and often traveled under hot sun with little water. More than 2,500 have died attempting such crossings in the past decade.

As noted above: the numbers coming through the San Diego area have no doubt diminished, but the flow simply shifted.

As, as the story notes, with the increased security at major urban crossings increased, once people cross, they are less likely to cross back for fear of being captured/the difficulty associated with re-crossing. In other words: our increased security and expense hasn’t stemmed the tide of illegals entering the country, but those policies have increased the odds that illegal aliens ill take up permanent residence in the United States:

Because it became riskier and more expensive to cross — coyotes charge $1,500 per person, on average — once illegal immigrants were here, they tended to stay. Also, a decade ago, most people crossing were men. Now, Van Wagenen said, “We catch whole families. Mother, children, grandma and grandpa are in the group.”

And the policy results have been perverse, in the sense that that which is often noted as one of the major problems with illegal immigration has been made worse by our policies aimed at stopped the flow:

“This means an increased rate of settlement, an increased rate of population growth, increased costs to society for schools, housing and medical care,” said Douglas S. Massey, a Princeton University sociologist who is running the study. “We’ve accomplished the very thing we set out to avoid.”

And, of course, there’s this:

The perilous journey has also left thousands dead. In 1993, 23 people died crossing the border, most of them hit on Interstate 5 north of the border in California. Now, on average, 1.5 people die a day

Regardless of anything else, this underscores what we are dealing with in terms of the forces we are trying to reshape via legislation. To date we have been singularly poor at accomplishing our stated goals.

Filed under: US Politics, Immigration, Border Security | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Immigration Law Pre-1965
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:07 pm

In regards to the Gonzalez post, the question has emerged as to the legal regime vis-a-vis immigrants prior to the 1965 law.

There’s was the The National Origins Act of 1924 that control the number and country of origin of immigrants until the 1965 law was passed:

The National Origins Act of 1924 set a quota of about 150,000 total immigrants a year disporportionately distributed to England and Northern Europe, with few slots allotted to southern and Eastern Europe (and none for Asians). This law was the basis of U.S. immigration policy until 1965.

Also, in 1917 a law requiring literacy was passed by Congress.

Via PBS here is a timeline of 20th Century immigration law pre-1965:

1917 Literacy test introduced. All immigrants 16 years of age or older must demonstrate the ability to read a forty-word passage in their native language. Also, virtually all Asian immigrants are banned from entry into the United States.

1921 Quota Act. An annual immigration ceiling is set at 350,000. Moreover, a new nationality quota is instituted, limiting admissions to 3 percent of each nationality group’s representation in the 1910 U.S. Census. The law is designed primarily to restrict the flow of immigrants coming from eastern and southern Europe.

1924 National Origins Act. The Act reduces the annual immigration ceiling to 165,000. A revised quota reduces admissions to 2 percent of each nationality group’s representation in the 1890 census. The U.S. Border Patrol is created.

1927 Immigration Ceiling Further Reduced. The annual immigration ceiling is further reduced to 150,000; the quota is revised to 2 percent of each nationality’s representation in the 1920 census. This basic law remains in effect through 1965.

1929 National Origins Act. The annual immigration ceiling of 150,000 is made permanent, with 70 percent of admissions slated for those coming from northern and Western Europe, while the other 30 percent are reserved for those coming from Southern and Eastern Europe.

1948 Displaced Persons Act. Entry is allowed for 400,000 persons displaced by World War II. However, such refugees must pass a security check and have proof of employment and housing that does not threaten U.S. citizens’ jobs and homes.

1952 McCarran-Walter Act. The Act consolidates earlier immigration laws and removes race as a basis for exclusion. In addition, the Act introduces an ideological criterion for admission: immigrants and visitors to the United States can now be denied entry on the basis of their political ideology (e.g., if they are Communists or former Nazis).

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But Will They Assimilate? (Alberto Gonzalez Edition)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:10 pm

Earlier this week, AG Alberto Gonzalez appeared on CNN with Wolf Blitzer and the issue of his grandparents’ immigration status emerged.

From the transcript:

GONZALES: Well, three of my grandparents were born in Mexico. They came to Texas. My parents — both my parents were born in Texas extremely poor. My mother…

BLITZER: When they came to Texas, were they legally documented, were they un-legally documented?

GONZALES: You know what? It’s unclear. It’s unclear.

And I’ve looked at this issue, I’ve talked to my parents about it and it’s just not clear.

But in any event, my mother had a 2nd grade education — my father had a 2nd grade education, my mother had a 6th grade education. And my father worked construction.

And so, for me, my life has — represents the American dream.


Think Progress has the video.

While it be would foolish to state that by the third generation the children of migrant workers will be members of the Supreme Court of Texas or working in the White House, however, the notion that by the third generation these folks would be fully integrated into US society tracks with what I have noted before.

h/t: Sully

Filed under: US Politics, Immigration | Comments (6) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
PoliPundit Says: Agree With Me or Else!
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:17 am

Via Ann Althouse I found the rather remarkable tale of PoliPundit ordering his co-bloggers to agree with him on the immigration issue, or else.

The short version of this story is that Lorie Byrd, a very prominent blogger at PoliPundit (indeed, for some time now I have associated the PoliPundit site more with Byrd than I did with PoliPundit himself) and her other co-bloggers apparently have been arguing in public with PoliPundit on the immigration issue (I say apparently because I rarely read PoliPundit).

This caused PoliPundit to issue an editorial decision:

So far, I’ve allowed the guest bloggers here to write pretty much what they pleased about all issues, including illegal immigration.

But on the illegal immigration issue, I now find myself having to contend with at least three out of four guest bloggers who will reflexively try to poke holes in any argument I make.

Suppose three out of four columnists at the Old York Times were pro-Republican. You can bet publisher “Pinch” Sulzberger would do something about that right quick.

Suppose a Bush administration official came out openly against amnesty. The Bushies would show him the door.

Similarly, the writers at need to respect the editorial position of on the most important issue to this blog, as the “publisher” sees it - illegal immigration.

We wouldn’t want any free exchange of ideas or anything. And while it is PoliPundit’s site, there is no denying that Lorie has been a major contributor to the site’s growth in the last two-plus years. As such, the whole “editorial” decision is rather heavy-handed.

Further, on this I Agree with Ann:

Wow! What a lame defense! I’m the publisher, so let me speculate on what a publisher I hate would do, and justify myself by saying I’m only doing that. How unappealing! The commenters over there are letting him have it.

I find this interesting for another reason, insofar as the only communication I ever had with PoliPundit was back in January of 2004 over, you guessed it, the immigration issue. I noted his rather dramatic reaction to Bush’s position on immigration (see here and here), and the result was some e-mails (that were civil, btw) between us on the subject.

Lorie posted her goodbye from PoliPundit last night on both the PoliPundit site and her own blog.

Remarkably, PoliPundit suspended everyone’s posting rights, to the point that another of the contributors, DJ Drummond, had to respond in the comments section.

The whole thing is quite bizarre.

And on the point, I also agree with Ann:

Why is immigration suddenly making everyone crazy? The problem has been with us forever.

Although I would note: this isn’t “suddenly” making everyone crazy–it has long been an extremely emotional issue.

Update: In skimming some of the posts, I can see why PP got upset (see this post and this one)–although I still disagree with the action. It also reminded me why I don’t read the site all that often. The writing and agumenation is often strident and shrill. What happened here is that they started to get strident and shrill with each other. Mostly it seems to have been DJ Drummond and PoliPundit, for that matter, and not Byrd.

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Remarkable Rhetoric on Immigration
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:14 am

Normally I avoid World Net Daily, as I have been underwhelmed, shall we say, by the accuracy of their often breathless “news” coverage.

However, in surfing around to read reactions to Bush’s immigration speech I noted the following via Digby: a column from a regular contributor to WND named Vox Day (who also has a blog).

In the third paragraph of the piece he makes the following utterly remarkable statement:

If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn’t possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don’t speak English and are not integrated into American society.

One doesn’t have to be a member of Mensa (something which Mr. Day’s bio line states that he is) to know that such a statement is explosive and evokes not only racial politics of the worst kind but also the need for a massive deployment of state power to extract the people in question. I am not suggesting that Day is recommending genocide for illegal immigrants, but certainly he is pointing to a police state as some sort of model for application in America’s immigration situation. An odd prescription for someone who claims to be libertarian.

I must concur with Ed Morrissey, who dubs the whole thing “reprehensible.” Ed goes on to say:

This column is so ill-advised that it is difficult to imagine that a responsible news organization would not have attempted to keep the writer from discrediting himself before publishing it. Vox owes us an apology, and so does World Net Daily.


Of course, Day considers Ed’s remarks to prove that the Captain has chosen to “to align himself with the illiterate Left.” He then engages in some rather odd (indeed, poor) argumentation:

So, there are no lessons to be learned from the National Socialists? Better disown our nuclear weapons program and NASA! Some of those combined arms military tactics look pretty suspicious too….

I would note: nuclear weapons, space programs and militaries were not inventions of National Socialism, nor where they the direct manifestations of Nazi ideology. The entire “defense” that Day mounts in the face of Ed’s criticism is equally poor.

The Anchoress, in her round-up of reactions to Bush’s speech calls the piece “deplorable.”

Also indeed.

Of course, on his blog Day suggests that he would prefer other methods to removing illegals, specifically the offering of bounties for those who would finger illegals:

Granting additional funding to state and local agencies on a per-illegal-identified basis for each illegal deported would likely suffice by itself. If each school teacher, nurse, social services or police officer received $500 per illegal reported and deported, we’d probably run out before Christmas*. And we probably wouldn’t spend $500 million, since 10 illegals leave for every one deported.

Because, of course, a society in which we are all watching one another and informing the state that we might not be legal is a far more desirable one than what we have now wherein the janitor may, in fact, be illegally in the country. Better to turn us all into informants. And, of course, there would be no abuse in such a system. My word.

Others who have commented on this column:

Filed under: US Politics, Immigration | Comments (6) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Outside The Beltway | OTB linked with Immigration: The Final Solution
PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » WND Edits Vox Column linked with [...] Taylor @ 9:21 am Amusing. I noted on Memeorandum a post from Vox Day, so given the business from earlier in the week, I thought I’d take a look. Ends up that World Net Daily decided [...]
Reacting to the Speech
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:14 am

I have now listened to the speech (the text of which (as well as video) can be found here). In the speech Bush outlined five “clear objectives.” Here are some of my reactions.


the United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward: The border should be open to trade and lawful immigration, and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists.

I suppose no one would argue with this. The question becomes, and it is one no one has really dealt with, what constitutes a “secure” border. If it means the utter elimination of drugs and illegal immigrants crossing it, then “secure” is impossible.

As a practical matter, how low must those flows get before we can deem it “secure”?

I think that, on balance, most people who do not live near the border have no clue as to how much legitimate traffic passes over it on a daily basis. When one considers the amount, the notion of a truly “secure” border is a chimera, unless we have a fairly loose definition of “secure.”

Still, it would be helpful to know what the President (and his critics, for that matter) would consider to be a “secure” border.

Some numbers to consider from a previous post (citations for quotes at end of this post):

In 2000 alone, 489 million people, 127 million passenger vehicles, 11.6 million maritime containers, 11.5 million trucks, 2.2 million railroad cars, 829,000 planes, and 211,000 vessels passed through U.S. border inspection systems (Flynn 2002).


“US Customs officials must clear one container every 20 seconds in southern California, and one truck every 12 seconds in Detroit” ( Flynn 2000:59).

Consider: those are old numbers–the figures will have gone up in the last six years.

Further, in 2005 the combined imports and exports between the US and Mexico were US$ 290.2 billion (see here). That makes Mexico our second largest trading partner in the world after Canada. That trade crosses the border. There is a level at which security on the border hampers that economic flow. How far are we willing to go? It is a legitimate question that I don’t think has been adequately answered.


to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program. The reality is that there are many people on the other side of our border who will do anything to come to America to work and build a better life. They walk across miles of desert in the summer heat, or hide in the back of 18-wheelers to reach our country. This creates enormous pressure on our border that walls and patrols alone will not stop. To secure the border effectively, we must reduce the numbers of people trying to sneak across.

I think that this gets to the heart of the matter: even as we have increased security on the border, and as we have increased the number of border patrol agents, the number of illegal immigrants making into the US has not slowed. The pull here is primal and one that cannot be legislated away. Further, there are clear economic forces of supply and demand at work here that need to be recognized and considered as laws are written. A guest worker program would allow for a greater management of those forces. There are legitimate issues to be considered with such a program, as it has the potential to create a caste system of sorts, which is something to consider. I think that the number of immigrants in general from Mexico ought to be raised as well. Let those who want to be citizens seek that route, and let those who simply want to work temporarily, work temporarily. In all of this, examine the economic realities as any program is designed.


we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire. It is against the law to hire someone who is in this country illegally. Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees because of the widespread problem of document fraud. Therefore, comprehensive immigration reform must include a better system for verifying documents and work eligibility. A key part of that system should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker. This card should use biometric technology, such as digital fingerprints, to make it tamper-proof. A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law, and leave employers with no excuse for violating it. And by making it harder for illegal immigrants to find work in our country, we would discourage people from crossing the border illegally in the first place.

I have to wonder about this point. I understand the concept–in its simplest form the notion is make it possible for employers to know for sure (which is not possible now) whether or not they are hiring illegals or legals. However, this strikes me as a nod to a technological solution that doesn’t currently exist. I know that the tech to do the task exists, but the mass-production and implementation of it is different matter. Further, unless we also have such identification for US citizens (which isn’t a popular notion), then all this program would do (assuming that the new docs would, indeed, be forgery-proof), would simply result in forgery of documents that make an illegal appear to be a citizen.

If a guy has a driver’s license, social security card and birth certificate, what’s an employer going to do? I’ll tell you: they’ll do what they do now, gladly accept the documents as real and give the guy a hammer, broom or spatula.


we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are here already. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. This is amnesty, and I oppose it. Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully, and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration.


I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English, and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law. What I’ve just described is not amnesty, it is a way for those who have broken the law to pay their debt to society, and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen.

This all seems rather reasonable. Of course, one can almost hear the collective rolling of the eyes of Michelle Malkin and her compadres on this topic as they say that this is amnesty.


we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one nation out of many peoples. The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society, and embrace our common identity as Americans. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, an appreciation of our history, respect for the flag we fly, and an ability to speak and write the English language. English is also the key to unlocking the opportunity of America. English allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery, from cleaning offices to running offices, from a life of low-paying jobs to a diploma, a career, and a home of their own. When immigrants assimilate and advance in our society, they realize their dreams, they renew our spirit, and they add to the unity of America.

I concur with this concept, and think it is clear that the route to success in the US requires the learning of English.

On balance, it was a fairly moderate speech. I continue to find the deployment of thousands of National Guard troops to be problematic. And, in general, I am not sure that there was rally much new here. It will be interesting to see how/if the speech affects the debate in the Congress.

I found the speech to also contain a number of assumptions about how technology (biometric, border sensors, drones, etc.) will solve the problem. Take tech and add the military and we have two of America’s favorite magic bullets. However, there are no magic bullets that can be utilized to solve this issue. Ultimately, I have to wonder whether any of this will solve much of anything.

Of course, as James Joyner notes, the speech didn’t really make anyone happy.

Works Cited
Flynn, Stephen E. (2002) “America the Vulnerable” Foreign Affairs. Jan/Feb.

Flynn, Stephen E. (2000) “Beyond Border Control” Foreign Affairs. NovDec.

Update: Some typos corrected.

Filed under: US Politics, Immigration, Border Security | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Pros and Cons linked with Is a border fence about to become reality?
Politics In Alabama » Blog Archive » Was the Speech Even Worth Making? linked with [...] t we can start a mass production in the biometric technology field, he has really lost it. Dr. Steven Taylor agrees: I understand the concept–in its simplest form the notion is make it possible for [...]
Monday, May 15, 2006
6,000 Troops to Border
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:44 pm

Via the AP: Bush to Send Up to 6,000 Troops to Border

President Bush said Monday night he would order as many as 6,000 National Guard troops to secure the U.S. border with Mexico and urged Congress to give millions of illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship, as he tried to build support for a major overhaul of the nation’s tattered immigration laws.


The Guard troops would mostly serve two-week stints before rotating out of the assignment, so keeping the force level at 6,000 over the course of a year could require up to 156,000 troops.

Still, Bush insisted, “The United States is not going to militarize the southern border.”

I am not sure what else you would call it. The only wiggle room would be that we aren’t permanently militarizing it.

Based on the summary (I have neither read nor watched the speech), it would seem that he tried to take the middle ground. One wonders if the net effect will be to make no one happy, or to make enough of the middle on this topic happy so as to allow for legislation to be passed.

We shall see.

And wow: the involvement of 156,000 troops. Given the strain on the Guard in recent years because of Afghanistan and Iraq (not to mention places like Bosnia before that), I can’t help but think that this puts an additional strain on those men and women.

More from me later.

Meanwhile, James Joyner live-blogged the speech and has the whole text as well.

Filed under: US Politics, Immigration, Border Security | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Outside The Beltway | OTB linked with Bush Immigration Speech Doesn’t Satisfy Critics
PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Reacting to the Speech linked with [...] in the US requires the learning of English. On balance, it was a fairly moderate speech. I continue to find the deployment of thousands of National Guard troops to be problematic. And, in general, I [...]
Bush’s Immigration Speech
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:50 pm

Eldest son has a strings concert (he plays the violin) tonight, so no immediate commentary from me on the speech.

The press release I received indicates that the speech will have a threefold attack: a detailing of successes in the area under Bush, a discussion of new policies (including a guest-worker program) and the proposing of new security measures, including the usage of the Guard.

Reaction in the Blogosphere should be easy to find. I, no doubt, will have something to say about tonight or tomorrow morning.

Feel free to leaves comments and reactions here.

Filed under: General, US Politics, Immigration, Border Security | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Friday, May 12, 2006
Immigration Compromise Emerges in Senate
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:56 am

Via the NYT: Senate Leaders Expect Immigration Bill Next Week

Senate leaders said today that they had broken a political stalemate and would bring to the floor next week an immigration bill that could put millions of illegals on the road to eventual American citizenship.

As I have noted before, I am not sanguine about a bill passing this session. Nor am I, for that matter, convinced that a bill at this moment at time would be a good thing. Still, we shall see.

Indeed, from the GOP’s POV, I have to wonder why they would want to even touch this issue at this point in time.

The piece does not detail what the nature of the compromise is, but correctly notes the following:

Even if the Senate passes an immigration bill, it would have to be reconciled with a bill enacted in December by the House. That bill generally emphasizes border security rather than attainment of citizenship, so negotiations between Senate and House would probably be long and heated.

No joke.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Impeachment over Immigration?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:46 pm

This morning I noted that one of the factors that is damaging President Bush’s approval numbers with his base is the issue of immigration.

For an example of this fact, look no further than one-time Bush stalwart, LaShawn Barber, who asks Should George Bush Be Impeached?

It would appear that she believes that, yes, he should, because of his immigration proposals.

I shan’t get into the absurdity of the idea, but thought it noteworthy nonetheless. I think it also underscores the hysteria in some quarters on this topic.

Confederate Yankee, another pro-Bush site, finds the idea worthy of consideration. Indeed, there are a number of commenters who like the notion, as well as several supporting trackbacks.

At any rate, this does feed into my general point this morning about presidential approval ratings: how anyone could doubt the veracity of the numbers is beyond me.

Filed under: US Politics, Immigration | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Diggers Realm linked with Bush Should Be Impeached For Lack Of Action On Immigration
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
Neil Diamond: Balladeer of the Immigrant
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:41 am

Interesting and amusing (via the LAT): Latinos give new life to Neil Diamond anthem.

Filed under: Pop Culture, Immigration | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
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