The Hubris of the Gang of 47

Speaker of the House Jim Wright addresses the media outside the Vatican embassy after a private meeting with Daniel Ortega (Source: Getty Images)

Speaker of the House Jim Wright addresses the media outside the Vatican embassy after a private meeting with Daniel Ortega (Source: Getty Images)

It is hard to fathom that one letter, misguided and fool-hearted as it may be, can stir up such rage in American society. But, the letter (Cotton letter) penned by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark) and signed by 46 other Republicans did just that. It is just a letter right? An opinion?

Apparently not.

Petitions have been put forth to try all 47 Senators for Treason under the Logan Act. Editorials have been written about the ignorance of the Senators and proof that Republicans are dimwitted yokels who’d lose their stills if they were right in front of them. But this letter is nothing new. There are many examples from recent years that highlight the divisive ground that any foreign policy that the United States contemplates can be. Here are few examples:

  • Jim Wright (then Democratic Speaker of the House) travelled to Nicaragua in 1987 to begin talks with Daniel Ortega. But, closer to home, in 1984, he and 10 other Senate Democrats penned a letter (Dear Comandante letter) to Mr. Ortega in an effort to negotiate freer and open elections. Even the current Sect. of State, John Kerry, then a freshman Democratic Senator with as many months in Congress as Cotton, travelled to visit with Ortega in 1985 and brought back word that Ortega would be willing to negotiate a cease-fire if Congress voted to stop aiding the Contra rebels. By the way, this trip happened a few weeks prior to that exact vote.
  • In 2012, Obama retreated from the International Arms Trade Treaty, presumably based on one letter. Known as the Moran Letter, it is a detailed list as to why 44 members of the Senate would not vote for ratification of the International Arms Trade Treaty.

So, what then sets the Wright and Moran letters apart from the Cotton one? Not much.

The Wright and Cotton letters are both subversive in their tones. The Moran letter, while still direct and decisive, is far less subversive but makes clear that Congress will not support the President. The Wright letter basically states that if Ortega were to listen to Wright and the Democrats, Reagan’s power would be neutered.

If this [stipulations put forth by Wright, et al] were to occur, the prospects for peace and stability throughout Central America would be dramatically enhanced. Those responsible for supporting violence against your government, and for obstructing serious negotiations for broad political participation in El Salvador would have far greater difficulty winning support for their policies than they do today.

 

The Cotton letter intonates the same neutering of Obama’s power.

What these two Constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khameni. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

 

Neither of these paths are productive for a government that is attempting to maneuver through difficult foreign affairs. One thing that the Dear Comandante and Cotton letter also share in common, and where they are in stark contrast to the Moran letter, is that they are addressed to the leaders of a foreign nation. This in itself appears to be a violation of the Logan Act, but since Wright and the other Senators were never prosecuted, we can expect the same for Cotton and his cohorts. The Moran letter took a more sensible approach and directed the letter to the President. They could have CC’d it to the UN and all the other nations that were pushing for the Treaty, but they took a high road. Kudos to them. Cotton could have learned a lesson from the Moran letter, but, why bother knowing our history, right?

So, before John Kerry digs a hole any deeper by repeating what he told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that

“It [the Cotton letter] purports to tell the world that if you want to have any confidence in your dealings with America, they have to negotiate with 535 members of Congress,” he said. “That is both untrue and a profoundly bad suggestion to make.”

he may just want to look back at history and see that that is the exact message the Congress has been saying in many of our foreign policy negotiations. And if this letter is truly treasonous, it is wise to remember that there is no statute of limitations for treason.

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Putin, Ukraine and Japan

Photo credit: NBC News

Photo credit: NBC News

Just as the world’s attention was nearly fully and completely drawn into the ISIL/Turkey crisis and the good word that both Nigeria and Senegal are Ebola free, Vladimir Putin had to stick his nose back into world affairs and remind everyone that the mad Russian is still around and has some 5000 nuclear weapons. Trying to ascertain Putin’s foreign policy is akin to attempting to drive cross country blind. However, there are a few historical precedents that we can use to predict possible future outcomes.

There are parallels between modern Russia and its former satellite states and the pre-1941 Japanese empire. They share a similar–though not exact–economic philosophy, both nations worked toward a politically stable region based not solely on politics but also on culture, and each nation was pushed into a corner by aggressive economic policies of Western nations.

Economic Liberalism

Japan burst onto the new world economy in the early 20th Century. The Meiji Era turned Japan into a modern industrialized nation. Unfortunately for Japan, the modern world had already co-opted Asia, specifically China, into powerful spheres of influence which favored Europe and the United States. Early in Japan’s economic growth they experienced a very mercantile system where they provided goods–chiefly textiles–to Asian markets. the primary motive in mercantilism is to better the home state. This mercantilistic nature would eventually mold into the nationalistic identity of Japan pre-WWII where the state ruled and the individual served the state. However, no matter how hard the Japanese leadership tried to integrate into the Asian sphere of influence they found themselves on the outside looking in. To compound their troubles, the Great Depression of the 1930s found the rest of the world insulating themselves and placing economic barriers on Japan in order to protect their colonial markets. So, in the 1930s, a new economic philosophy merged with Japan’s economic liberalism. One that would pit it squarely against the Western world.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break up of the former Soviet Union, Russians werecartoon_1862a thrust into a world of crass consumer capitalism. They were sheep without a shepherd only to find themselves flocking to the siren call of oligarchs disguised as wolves. As with Japan, Russia found itself surrounded by pro-Western nations whose ambitions lay not with the betterment of a whole but the betterment of themselves. Under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin those powerful oligarchs gained both political and economic power in Russia. In light of this and Putin’s own limited experience with capitalism as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, Russian economic liberalism still has the individual as its focus, but is skewed from the winners in the system being those who provided the best goods and services to those who are able to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of the competition. When you take into context Putin’s “Millennium Message” of December 29, 1999, the individual serves the state and it is those individuals who take the advantage of vulnerabilities who serve the state best.

For both Japan and Russia, economic liberalism had, at it’s heart, the needs of the state and that need would be viewed by Western powers as a threat.

Pan-Asian Society and Russian Hegemony

For both the Meiji and Putin their success was one of their greatest defeats. Both, through widely divergent means, brought about a modern nation that embraced Western culture and “civilization”. A rising middle class began to make demands on a political structure that was uncertain where it should go. For Japan, it meant Pan-Asian brotherhood. For Putin, it means a domestic stability fashioned around concepts from the former Soviet Union.

Faced with restriction on trade, shipping, and immigration, a nationalistic and eventually asian_monroe_doctrinemilitaristic view of a Pan-Asian brotherhood–later called hakko ichiu (“eight crown cords, one roof”)—emerged. It was a cry for “Asians for Asians” and would lead to Japan’s invasions of Korea–then a puppet state of China–and Manchuria. The rise of Pan-Asianism is a complicated story, but it has at its roots a conflict of interests between conservative and military elitists and a liberal base comprised of the new middle class who were, for the first time, finding a voice in political discourse. One thing these two groups shared was the idea that there was a distinction between the “civilizations” of Eastern (Asian) and Western (European) societies. The liberals studied the colonialism of Europe in Asia and viewed Japan’s place in Asia through the adaptation of Western practices into a Japanese sphere. Western hegemony would be replaced by a true Asian hegemony with Japan at its head. The militarists saw Pan-Asianism as a means to further a conquest mentality of Asia. But both groups sought to protect Japan’s domestic politics through a form of Asian hegemony. Japan understood that the only way to wrest political and economic power in Asia from Western nations was to control the Asian market and continent.

In April 2005, Putin said that “the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical  catastrophe of the century.” While some analysts have viewed this as Putin’s secret longing from his KGB days of a Soviet Union that expanded into the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the northern Middle East, what Putin is lamenting in his statement is quite the opposite. Often, he has chastised the West, and the United States primarily, for violating the sovereignty of the state (for example, his March 2003 condemnation of the UN ruling allowing for force in Iraq). Like the Japanese, Putin–a keen student of history himself–watches as Western hegemony increasingly disrupts the fabric of Russian life and the fragile tapestry of the “civilizations” that border his nation–especially Islamic nations. What countries like the United States saw as a pro-Democracy revolt in the 1990s, Putin knows was a revolution of ethnic, religious, and economic ideals that released an “epidemic of disintegration that spread to Russia itself.” Russian statehood stands to collapse. It was this ideal that drove Russia into Georgia and again into Crimea. While Putin doesn’t have a “Pan-Russianism” in his mind and nor could he since the break-up of the former Soviet Union was strongly along ethnic lines, there is an economic hegemony to his goals. Putin understands that Russia straddles the bridge between Asia and Europe and to control that power controls the much of the world. However, he can only do this if he has his borders under control.

Economic Sanctions

In 1899, the United States issued the “Open Door Notes” which outlined the U.S.’s economic and political agenda in China. Through these, the U.S. sought to protect trade in China gained after the Spanish-American War. Though the policy intended to protect China’s political structure, the United States would only tacitly act upon the ideals set for in the notes. This was especially true after Japan levied their 21 Demands on China in 1915. The U.S. gave into Japanese “special interests” in Chinese Manchuria, Mongolia and Shandong. As the Japanese continued to expand–militaristically after the 1931 invasion of Manchuria–the U.S. adopted a policy of economic sanctions and verbal rebukes of Japanese territorial gains. The sanctions had little impact on Japan’s desire to grow its Pan-Asian “civilization”, and as the U.S. continued to place embargoes on Japan and then ignore its own sanctions, Japan realized that the only thing stopping them from achieving their goals was the United States and they were showing a weak hand. Coupled with the coups in the mid-30s that brought the hardline military back into power, the liberal cabinet groups and the Prime Minister had to walk a delicate balance of moderate political-economic reform with a growing tide of militaristic nationalism. That the United States hardly aided China when Japan invaded province after province only served to bolster Japan’s motivation. While the economic embargoes and lack of military aid to China may not have wholly brought on World War II, the decisions made by the United States during these years were a decisive factor.

And now, the United States has resorted to imposing economic sanctions on a nation once again. It is possible that these sanctions will either back Russia into a corner that it cannot, without losing face, retreat from or illustrate a general weakness in the United States’ ideal of “global leadership.” Either way, Russia and Putin will continue to operate as a regional hegemon. But why?

406301One of Putin’s greatest skills is that he is a man of history. Both Soviet history and the history of the world. He knows the past. And he is watching it being played out all over again on his doorstep. No matter how hard Ukraine’s President Poroshenko lobbies for stronger economic sanctions against Russia, the West has been reluctant to impose further sanctions, and in the case of Germany grudgingly to do so in the first place. Ukraine is today’s China of the 1930s. A nation toyed with by the West, but when push comes to shove will be left to deal with Russia on its own. And Putin is counting on this politically learned behavior. If Putin can discredit the West’s actions he could force the Ukraine into a closer relationship thus securing a Russian hegemony in an Eastern European space.

Beyond any sanctions, Putin also knows how the West tacitly allowed Japan into Manchuria in 1915 and again in the 1930s. Putin’s Manchuria was the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. When the dust settled the United States never sent direct military aid to Georgia and George Bush imposed limited economic sanctions which would eventually be lifted by President Obama in 2012. Germany remained an intermediary never taking sides. Italy actually sided with Russia in its territorial gains. The West could not allow relations with Russia to be undermined by a conflict in “tiny and insignificant Georgia.”

As both nations, Japan and Russia, stepped up their need to protect their state, both politically and economically, the United States levied what they viewed as the strongest sanctions upon each nation: Oil embargoes. On July 26th, 1941, four months ahead of the Pearl Harbor attacks, FDR, in reaction to the Japanese occupation of French Indo-China, froze all Japanese assets in America and forced Japan to lose 88 percent of all its oil imports. The hope was to cripple Japan into submission. Though Japan had a three year reserve, Japanese leadership realized war with the United States was inevitable. The militaristic leadership in Japan had been pushed into a corner. Instead of backing down, Japan just reached out for more territory and eventually attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor.

Putin and his close associate Igor Sechin--head of Rosneft

Putin and his close associate Igor Sechin–head of Rosneft

The Obama Administration is trying the exact same policy. In March 2014, the U.S. froze the assets of a number of Russian businessmen who are believed to have close ties to Putin. Recently, the United States brought to bear additional pressures on the two largest banks in Russia by not allowing them raise long-term loans. Bank Rossiya is widely considered the “personal bank” for major Russian officials who are also closely tied to Putin. Also, the United States, along with the EU, placed export restrictions on oil from Russia’s Gazprom (the EU also placed restrictions on Rosneft and Transneft). However, there were no restrictions placed on natural gas output. All this in the hope that Putin will back down from his firm Ukraine stance. All the U.S. and the EU got in return was an import ban from Russia on fresh fruit, meat, vegetables, and dairy products. Food exporters are already facing large losses.

The Future Viewed From The Past

While these restrictions may hurt Russia in the short-term, a devaluation of the Rubble to dirt status is inevitable, Russia–and its people– can weather this storm. Russia will still have trade partners with China. Oil will still get to market. Gas is still getting to market. EU nations like Germany depend on Russian oil and gas. A large portion of Germany’s exports go into Russia, especially luxury goods. The EU’s trade with Russia is worth nearly 300 billion euros. There will come a breaking point, and I’m not sure that Russia will break. Putin knows that no European nation will come to the Ukraine’s defense at the risk of an economic blackout. The United States has shown that it is nearly indifferent to giving direct aid to the Ukraine, not unlike we did with Georgia and with China.

In the end, history has taught us that economic sanctions may weaken the Russian economy at the cost of many Western industries, but it will only strengthen Putin’s resolve to expand Russia’s political and economical hegemony. Will Russia unleash another “Pearl Harbor”? Unlikely. But will Putin back down? Also, unlikely.

Breaking Down President Obama’s Immigration Speech–20 Nov. 2014, Part II

Obama: Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already had live in our country. I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why over the past six years deportations of criminals are up 80 percent, and that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day….[purposely skipping portion] Now here is the thing. We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve with been in America more than five years. If you have children who are American citizens or illegal residents. If you register, pass a criminal background check and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.

Breakdown: This is where the President steps into murky waters. On the one hand, he is appealing to the segment of America that uses the term illegal immigrant while, on the other hand, tries to mollify those that use undocumented immigrant. He says, “Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws.” Then he says, “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children.” According to Title 8 Section 1325, anyone entering the United States without proper inspection has committed a crime. It is a misdemeanor. He is correct in saying that they broke the law. That these immigrants do not have documents matters nothing.

Every person here that has either overstayed their visa or are considered “Entry Without Inspection” (EWI)–the technical term for crossing the border illegally–has a Federal Criminalcriminal misdemeanor on their record. If these people are expected to pass a criminal background check, they will fail. A misdemeanor is a misdemeanor. Adrian Peterson is suspended without pay for a misdemeanor. I do not wish to get into the argument of spanking or not spanking your child (switch or not), but want to point out that he is without pay until at least April 15, 2015 for a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor DUI is enough to cause you to not gain employment when your background is checked; your admission to a university, or scholarship could be withdrawn or not given. Source. According to a Time Magazine article, something as seemingly innocuous as a misdemeanor driving with a suspended license “can trigger the same legal hindrances, known as collateral consequences, as felonies.” Source.

In this light, not a single illegal immigrant would be able to pass a background check. The President acknowledges they committed a crime, but is that crime enough to warrant their denial to access to his plan?

If the answer is no, then is the President attempting to re-write a law that he says these immigrants broke? Is the Federal misdemeanor of EWI to be ignored? If so, what other misdemeanors are to be ignored? Should Adrian Peterson be reinstated immediately and his private life ignored? Should a person with a DUI be allowed to operate a bus for a local municipality?

If the misdemeanor issue was not messy enough, Obama then says, “Felons, not families.” According to U.S. Immigration law, anyone who was deported from the United States and then attempts to enter is guilty of a felony crime. How many of these parents fall into this category? How many fathers tried to come to the U.S., got caught, were deported, came back in and started a family? The question becomes complicated again. Which felonies are okay and not okay? Can we pick and choose which laws we are going to obey and not? President Obama would argue, from this speech, that we cannot just pick and choose. “We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules.” So, in this light, a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor and a felony is a felony. These immigrants cannot pass a simple background check.


Obama: Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we’re saying isgetoutofjail we’re not going to deport you. I know some of the critics of the action call it amnesty. Well, it’s the not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today. Millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That’s the real amnesty, leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary it to our character. What I’m describing is accountability. A common sense middle- ground approach. If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

Breakdown: The murk gets thicker here, however, there are some truths that should be acknowledged: Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary it [sic] to our character. Mass amnesty would grant certain rights to people that as a society we would deem unfit for our nation–felons, gang member, etc. Mass deportation would be akin to herding cats and has the danger of also rounding up people who are in the U.S. legally.

Unfortunately, when the President says that it is not amnesty, it is. Amnesty is defined as:

1. a general pardon of offenses, especially political offenses, against a government, often granted before any trial or conviction.

2. Law. an act of forgiveness for past offenses, especially to a class of persons as a whole.

3. a forgetting or overlooking of any past offense.

Obama admits that these immigrants are breaking American law. Then we are giving them a means to “get right with the law.” We are forgiving their past offenses, especially if we are to ignore the misdemeanor EWI in their background check. But, the President is correct when he says that the real amnesty is our current system. Though we are not forgiving past offenses, we definitely are overlooking them. But this applies to both the immigrant and the employers hiring them.

One sentence in Obama’s speech leads to a possible conclusion that the President is not sure that his policy is even legal: Only Congress can do that. In this one statement, the President is admitting that Congress has the legal authority to write immigration law. Though he states that his policy is not intended to grant citizenship or right to stay permanently, there is little in either his speech or Senate Bill 744 that deals with people who opt out of the program.


Obama: The actions I’m taken are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century. And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.

Breakdown: If the President is going to use the playground rule, “He did it, so can I” then he better use it correctly. Saying that previous presidents used Executive Orders to get things done is like lighting a short fuse on a bomb glued to your hand. Just because other fdr_signing_9066Presidents used an executive order does not make it a good policy. In 1942, FDR issued Executive Order (EO) 9066 which made it possible for the U.S. to send thousands of American citizens of Japanese decent into internment camps scattered throughout the American west. George W. Bush took the EO powers to frightening level with EO 13233 effectively throwing government transparency out the door, and Bill Clinton’s EO 13107 made it so the Executive branch could enforce UN treaties within America without Congress’ consent. This is what happens when one person rules unchecked.

Another problem with the President’s claim that other’s before him issues EO’s regarding immigrations is fraught with half-truths and distortions. If we go back a half-century there are three examples of a President using EO’s in dealing with immigration. In 1956, President Eisenhower used EOs to expand the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Refugee Relief Act whose quotas prevented adopted children of Americans working internationally to bring their children home with them. In the same year, Ike used a provision within the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act to grant close to 32,000 Hungarian war refugees temporary admittance into the United States. In 1960, he used the same law to aid Cuban refugees. None of these actions used EOs to create new laws, but worked within the bounds of ones already established.

One of the biggest issues with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was that it was intentionally vague on the status of mixed eligibility families. At the urging of Congress, Reagan used his EO powers to fix this problem for some 100,000 families. In 1990, George H.W. Bush used his EO powers to scrap the Reagan EO and created a means for not only the children ignored in the 1986 Act to be secured, but also the spouses of these people. Though somewhat similar, neither Presidential EO acted independently of Congress as President Obama is threatening to do. You can read more on these at FactCheck.org.


You can read Part III here

Breaking Down President Obama’s Immigration Speech–20 Nov. 2014, Part I

I thought I’d step away from focusing on the past to glean lessons for today and spend some time breaking down President Obama’s immigration speech given on 20 Nov. 2014. I am using the transcripts provided by the Washington Post.

color-anchor-babies-webAs a point of full disclosure, I am a child of immigrants. Technically, I am an anchor baby. My parents are here under their resident green cards. They moved to the United States because of an illness that my sister suffers. Doctors advised my parents to move my sister to a dryer, warmer climate in order to help her health. They settled in Los Angeles because my uncle immigrated a number of years earlier and they would have family nearby. Their other option was Australia. There were times I wished I was an Aussie.

My parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1970. They applied for immigration in 1969 and were told it was up to a seven year wait. That is, unless my dad volunteered for Vietnam. My dad was a Lieutenant in the Royal Dutch Air Force and said, maybe naively, “Okay.” They were then “fast-tracked” immigration, but when they arrived in the U.S., the military told my dad that only citizens of the U.S. could be officers and that he’d be a grunt. Before they arrived, my parents had to provide the United States government with a list of family and friends who were interviewed and asked questions regarding my family’s health and political nature. In the height of the Cold War, the U.S. wanted to make sure no one in my family had communist ties. With a family newly arrived and a daughter who was sick he ended up not serving. My family signed all the affidavits that said they’d not be dependent on the government for support, that they had medical insurance, and had a job or a sponsor that could vouch for a job in the near future. The government was even kind enough to give my mother a middle name since she didn’t have one–the letter “X”.

I will be using the term “illegal” to describe immigrants for no other reason than because in the world of black and white, legal and illegal, these immigrants–either the overstayers or the border crossers–are in violation of U.S. Immigration Law and broke the law, something that the President agrees to in this speech.

So, let’s break down the speech.


Obama: But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it. Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules.

Breakdown: This line brings up one thing that we hear quite a bit: Immigration Reform. Really, the immigration system is not broken. We have laws on the books. “Immigration 800px-US-border-noticeReform” implies that these laws are broken and need to be fixed, reformed. This isn’t true. The President is bringing up the fallacy of immigration being broken. It is the enforcement of immigration laws that is broken. Whether it be companies hiring workers that do not have permissions/rights to work here, to the perceived blind eye to immigrants here in violation of the laws, or just the nomenclature around the immigration: Illegal vs. Undocumented. The second part is true. There are many, my family included, who abide by the rules. My parents just paid their $450/person to renew their legal residence of the United States. Since I’m an anchor baby, I say that they should ask that this money be reimbursed to them.


Obama: It’s been this way for decades. And for decades we haven’t done much about it. When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders.

Breakdown: In 1986, Congress put the Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Bill on President Reagan’s desk. And, yes, to those who say, “Well, Reagan brought in 2 million illegal immigrants”, he did sign it. However, this was not an Executive Order. This was a C37895-16bipartisan bill sponsored by Romano Mazzoli (D-KY) and Alan Simpson (R-WY) and was worked through by the bipartisan Commission on Immigration (and here’s that scary word again) Reform. The hope behind this bill is best summarized by Sen. Ted Kennedy when he said, “This amnesty will give citizenship to only 1.1 to 1.3 million illegal aliens. We will secure the borders henceforth. We will never again bring forward another amnesty bill like this.” When the President says, “And for decades we haven’t done much about it” I wonder why. We were supposed to never have an amnesty bill again. It goes back to the notion that the laws are suspect. They aren’t. The enforcement of them is.


Obama: Today we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Breakdown: In this piece, Obama is trying to take credit for something that isn’t really his doing–of course, this also depends on your perspective of how the President has handled the economy. In 2007, the U.S. fell into a deep recession. This recession made the job opportunities that illegal immigrants sought harder, or near impossible, to get. The sluggish economy made for a snail’s pace immigration to the U.S. One thing that it didn’t do, however, was turn the tide of migrants back to places like Mexico. One odd fact was that during the recession, families in Mexico were sending money into the United States. So, when Obama says illegal immigration is at its lowest levels since the 1970s and that those are facts, he’s right. But what he isn’t telling you is that these numbers have nothing to do with his immigration policies, but rather the impact the weakened U.S. economy had as a draw for immigrants to come to America. Source


Obama: Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix. And last year 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Breakdown: Here’s a link to the Washington Post that highlights the “key provisions in the Senate Bill”. The President isn’t far off when he says that it isn’t perfect, but it was a step in the right direction. The fees that immigrants would have to pay are on par with what my parents pay to renew their green card. The idea of “back to the line” (illegal immigrants have to have been here for 10 years and all legal immigrants have to be processed before their application is processed) should appeal to even the strictest immigrant “reformer”. But there are flaws. Generalizations are bad. Generalizations in the hands of politicians are dangerous. The President’s bill stipulated that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for most federal benefits, including health care and welfare. What about aid given to groups like La Raza that would turn around and use their money as a form of welfare? The loopholes need to be closed. The word “most” needs to be erased and a clearly defined list of what can and cannot be received needs to be written. One issue with the bill is that it is still amnesty which we weren’t supposed to have. It flies in the face of law. It is understandable that we are dealing with people, but there is still a black and white line here. According the PEW Research Center 55% of immigrants in this country illegally are considered Entry Without Inspection which is a misdemeanor under Federal law. What the President is having issue here is what is and isn’t a misdemeanor. I will get into this more later. With regard to the President’s last statement here are the CBO’s numbers for Senate Bill 744. Economic Impact. CBO revised score after increased Border Patrol Amendment.


Obama: First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do cross over. Second, I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders proposed.

Breakdown: In this case, we need to look to the past: The Berlin Wall. In 1961, East Germany erected a concrete barrier with a lethal no-man’s land to isolate the small island of freedom buried deep behind the Iron Curtain. In 1961, prior to the Wall’s construction, 8,507 people escaped the GDR into West Berlin. After the Wall’s construction that numberGrenzdurchbruche_en fell to approximately 2,300 per year for the rest of the 1960s. As the NVA and Stasi studied escape attempts, the Wall’s weaknesses were further secured and the number that crossed in the 1970s fell to approximately 830 per year. By the 1980s, that number was reduced to 330 per year. Even something as formidable as the Berlin Wall proved to be porous. No matter the number of men and women patrolling the border, no matter how tall the fence, there will still be people finding a way over, through, or under the U.S. border. And we are talking about a concrete wall, patrolled by vicious dogs, with armed soldiers that had shoot to kill orders, not the fence we are trying to put up, and it was still imperfect. Proponents of increased border patrol presence will tout the numbers of apprehensions and deportations as a sign that additional spending and agents is a good thing. However, a 2010 Congressional Research Service report shows that this trend does not hold. Below is a graph from this report that illustrates that the population of illegal immigrants operates separate of apprehensions. If apprehensions were impacting immigration then apprehensions and the illegal population should decline together.

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As to the President’s second point, the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning, progressive think-tank, has this to say: “Immigration policies that facilitate large flows of guestworkers will supply labor at wages that are too low to induce significant increases in supply from the domestic workforce.” Source. This may not be a positive immigration plan in light of an economy that is still struggling to get college educated workers employment in the fields they studied in.


 

Click here for Part II–Breaking Down President Obama’s Immigration Speech–20 Nov. 2014

 

A quiz for you….

So, in light of last night’s State of the Union address, I post this for you and ask: Who issued this rallying cry? No cheating. Just take your best guess in the comments.

Let this session of Congress be known as the session which did more for civil rights than the last hundred sessions combined; as the session which enacted the most far-reaching tax cut of our time; as the session which declared all-out war on human poverty and unemployment in these United States; as the session which finally recognized the health needs of all our older citizens; as the session which reformed our tangled transportation and transit policies; as the session which achieved the most effective, efficient foreign aid program ever; and as the session which helped to build more homes, more schools, more libraries, and more hospitals than any single session of Congress in the history of our Republic.