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.

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 1.25.19 PM

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


White House Confident that Jay-Z, Solange Crisis Will Resolve Itself

Obama and Jay Z

Obama and Jay Z

Washington DC–White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the media that the White House was anxious over “Elevatorgate” and that the President was preparing to broker a peace settlement between the warring factions. “As with any foreign issue, the President is reluctant to get himself involved, but was willing to offer languid assistance. The crisis in the elevator had shaken the President to his core.” Rumors that the First Lady was preparing a hashtag campaign to raise awareness for the situation have yet to be confirmed. “At this time, our sources tell us that Jay-Z, Solange, and Beyonce have worked things out claiming that it was a ‘private family matter’,” Carney said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and will evaluate our response accordingly.” When asked if another beer summit was involved Carney responded, “We are in contact with Jay-Z’s publicist to find out if he is a Bud, Coors, or Michelob guy.”

On writing–language and bias

If you haven’t accepted that words have the power to manipulate, take a look at this headline recently from the Huffington Post:


Here’s a link to the article in question.

Shame on UPS, you “heartless” evil corporation. Its what the majority of Americans believe corporations are: Heartless, Unfeeling, Thieving, Conniving, etc., etc. The article goes on to say that the UPS facility in Queens will be firing 256 people. Gutless evil entity! And why? Well, because one employee decided to question work hours, got fired, and 250 walked out in protest. Saying it like this, you’d think, absolutely, what a “heartless” way to treat your employees. But this is where the biased language of our current media comes in to play. And they are all guilty of it. I’m looking at you Fox, CNN, MSNBC. It just so happens that Huffington Post committed the latest one. And it is a whopper.

Look closely at the published and updated dates/times. If you are not on the link, here they are:

Posted: 04/02/2014 4:38 pm EDT Updated: 04/03/2014 2:59 pm EDT

What I find amusing is that it took a day for Kevin Short, the author of the piece, to ask a simple question: Can the employees of UPS walk out? You’d think not since a work stoppage at a place like UPS or FedEx or the Post Office would cost the company millions. Of course, we all want our latest thing from Amazon shipped on time and would raise Cain if delivered late. And so, a day later, this is posted:

Update 4/3: Thursday, a UPS spokesperson informed The Huffington Post that the contract between UPS and the Teamsters includes a no-strike clause. Management at the Maspeth facility, where employees worked, warned the employees as they were leaving that their jobs were at risk, the spokesperson said. The Teamsters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Too little too late, or maybe just perfectly executed, depending on your position in politics. Reading the comments section, you find the battle lines clearly drawn by the people who will never ship with the “heartless” UPS and those who believe that UPS is in the right to fire the employees. I’d be amazed if some of the posters who said that UPS should face a nationwide boycott even read the article or just caught the tag on Huffington Post’s main page and commented. There’s even a petition available. Of course, the petition says nothing about the language of the contract that these employees worked under. It all comes down to language.

One simple word–“heartless”–has energized what really should be a non-issue. Amazing. In this case it is not the power of words but the power of one word. As writers it we should be cognizant of the words we choose in our own writing. But we aren’t or we choose not to be. In the realm of published media, I’d argue it’s the choose-not-to-be category. Huffington Post, Fox, MSNBC, CNN all have an agenda to drive. Where this agenda comes from is usually clouded in conspiracy, but there’s a clear agenda. Sadly, many readers and viewers are blinded by that agenda. We hate corporations. We love unions. We hate the 1%. Hence, we’ll say that UPS is a “heartless” company and our followers will agree. What a wonderful way to continue to divide and conquer.

Maybe it is time that we have a truly unbiased, truly “fair and balanced” (sorry FOX, you can’t claim this), source of news where the bias is obvious. There is none.

Those of you who cannot read the bias in the Huffington Post (or FOX, CNN, MSNBC) article, and see it in their delay of reporting all the facts of the issue, welcome to the Church of the Blind. Services are being held daily. They will provide you with the liturgy. Don’t think for yourself. Just rinse and repeat.


The destruction of a U.S. institution

In 1972, Richard Nixon went about collecting as much power as he could find and insulating himself within a nest of lies and deception. What is known about Watergate is limited to the idea of a break-in at the now infamous hotel and Nixon’s attempts to utilize Executive Privilege to insulate himself and his tapes. There is a bit of irony in the fact that Nixon came to power by “discovering” the Pumpkin Tapes, and it was the taping of White House conversations that brought him down.

We now have an administration that had promised to right the wrongs enacted during the Bush years–including a revisit of the Patriot Act.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has fallen short on this promise. However, I am not about to cast stones; surely if this were the Puritan era I’d have been pressed long ago.

Rather, the three scandals–Benghazi, IRS, and the AP wire-tapping–are doing more to discredit an institution and that’s what I think we need to be focusing on right now.

Here’s where things are going sour for the American people. The Watergate scandal brought a sense of mistrust to the office of President; Ford didn’t do much to help and WIN wasn’t “win”ning over any voters. Sure, every president had their detractors, but you have to dig deep into the darker corners of the opposing party, or even outside of it. No matter how hard FDR tried to stomp on the Constitution, and he did, the American people, all of them, rallied behind their president to the tune of four elections. The only opposition he faced came from firebrands and radicals–chiefly Father Coughlin and Huey Long.

Now, hating a president has become the new zeitgeist. Recently, President Obama joked at the Correspondent’s Dinner about a new architecture to go with presidents… he was going to build his own “Blame Bush Library” next door to the recently opened Bush library in Dallas. George could have one next door to Clinton’s library. Imagine walking in and in the foyer you find a mannequin dressed in the infamous blue dress.

I would love to save all the comments on the various web sites out there were Republicans lambast Obama and Democrats cry fowl, just so that when the roles are reversed, they could see how idiotic the statements are since they’d be parroting exactly what the other side was saying earlier.

What we’ve had for the last thirty or so years is the slow destruction of the office of President. The termites have nested, undetected, and are rotting out the insides. I won’t say that I have the perfect solution to any of this. There are far too many people in America that view politics like the finals in a sporting event, pitting two opposing giants against each other for a meaningless trophy–or the right to re-write American history to their narrow world view.

I would suggest, however, that we step back from press and shock radio. Reading the trending articles now one would think that the Democrats are completely innocent of attacks on a President and that Republicans are one screw short of insanity. Here’s an example from the National Journal:

Red-faced Republicans, circling and preparing to pounce on a second-term Democratic president they loathe, do not respect, and certainly do not fear. Sound familiar? Perhaps reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s second term, after the Monica Lewinsky story broke? During that time, Republicans became so consumed by their hatred of Clinton and their conviction that this event would bring him down that they convinced themselves the rest of the country was just as outraged by his behavior as they were.

There were plenty of Red-faced Democrats, circling and preparing to pounce on Bush over Iraq, WMDs, Patriot Act, World Trade Center, etc. Sadly, it goes both ways and it only serves to divide this nation into the few haves and the many have nots.

If we allow this to continue, the smokescreens that will be sent up from Washington will become so dense that no one will know what is happening until it is beyond too late. A few politicians will learn how to utilize the polarization, get Americans to yell at one another during family gatherings, our kids sporting events, church, wherever, and then use the distraction to undermine the very fabric of a democracy we fought for.

The institution is crumbling.

For the most part, we are letting it.

Sistine Chapel Goes Rogue Elects Its Own Pope

Vatican City–The Sistine Chapel, long suspected of harboring spirits of dead cardinals and bishops, took it upon itself to elect a new pope last night. The few tourists and citizens of Rome who lingered in St. Peter’s Square after the first announcement noticed that the small chimney atop the Sistine Chapel was billowing white smoke. “We were very surprised to see smoke,” Dieter Schmidt, a German-Catholic who’d come to the Vatican with his wife and daughter to greet the new Pope, said. “We are very confused, and were the people with us.”

They weren’t the only ones. A spokesperson for the Vatican, speaking on the condition of anonymity said, “When the smoke was first noticed, we rushed to wake the Cardinals. Everyone ran to the Sistine Chapel. We found it empty.” Rumors swirled that Pope Francis wasn’t truly elected, but the Vatican spokespeople confirmed that he had received the necessary two-thirds vote. Though the details were spartan, it would appear that within the Sistine Chapel senior Cardinals found a charred piece of paper that looks to have been spit out of the fire. Though not confirmed by an official source, the spokesperson said that the name on the paper was that of a fourteen-year-old boy living in Venezuela. “It is all a bit Harry Potterish,” the spokesperson said, referring to the J.K. Rowling novel The Goblet of Fire.

It is uncertain at this time what, if anything, the Church will do about this second Pope, but already fears have started across the internet that the boy will be moved to the Vatican and housed with the new Pope. Fearing a possible public-relations crisis, the Vatican immediately posted via twitter that the Church was going to imposed stiffer punishments on any member of its church committing “vile sins against children.”