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

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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

 

Something to Celebrate today! 9 July 2013

On today’s date, sixty-two years ago, the United States formally ended the war with Germany. Yep. 9 July 1951. You can read the request from President Truman to the Vice President (President of the Senate) here.

Why so late?

The answer is complicated in its simplicity, so let me try.

The Soviets.

There’s the simple. Now, the complicated…

After World War II, Germany was torn asunder by the allies (and to a lesser extent the Germans themselves). The Soviets and the United States each had plans for the occupied country. The U.S. followed Wilsonian ideals of self-determination, democracy, and the spread of capitalism. The Soviets, on the other hand, wanted to demolish Germany. They’d been invaded three major times through and by Germany. They vowed never to let that happen again.

Hence, the divided Germany which lasted until 1989.

So. Happy V-E-G day to everyone. Let us all hoist a stein in honor of this momentous day…

…or, like I say, just another excuse history gives me to drink a beer!

Sect. of State Kerry took the “stupid” option

IG_stupid

As if there wasn’t enough rancor in the realm of politics, our new Secretary of State, John Kerry, stood at a clearly divergent path and had the opportunity to close the chasm. Instead, he opted for the cliff and dove head long, like a political lemur, into the abyss.

In one of his first public statements as the newly appointed Secretary of State, Kerry addressed a gathered audience of German students and said,

“The reason is, that’s freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be. And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be.”

Unfortunately, the following statement went mostly unheard by both the German students, who were laughing–either at the statement, or, more likely, at the U.S.–and by Americans.

“And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that. Now, I think that’s a virtue. I think that’s something worth fighting for. The important thing is to have the tolerance to say, you know, you can have a different point of view.”

Sadly, there is no tolerance.

Google “Christianity is a mental illness” and you get 2,420,000 hits. That’s the tolerance that Kerry insists we have? Read the comments following the articles (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/26/us-usa-kerry-liberties-idUSBRE91P0HJ20130226 or http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/26/john-kerry-right-to-be-stupid_n_2764973.html). I suppose that’s tolerance? Blaming Democrats for the Obama re-election because of “stupidity”? Blaming Republican “stupidity” for eight years of George Bush?

If anyone really wonders, and I mean with sincere curiosity, as to why we have faced a fiscal cliff and now face sequestration, all they need to do is look at how each side of the political aisle views one another. To steal a line from Mrs. Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Right now, Republicans are stupid, Democrats are idiots. Congress is an insane asylum, and the inmates are running the institution. The idea that there is any way that for civil discussion is remote simply because neither party is willing to concede that the other has even the slightest mental faculties. This is a top down issue. Obama commented recently,

“Maybe they couldn’t understand the whole thing [his jobs bill] at once,” the president said to laughter. “We’re going to break it up into bite-sized pieces, so they –they can take a thoughtful approach…We’re going to give members of Congress another chance to step up to the plate and do the right thing.”

There is something inherently wrong when the President is pandering the his political base by calling the other side too dumb to understand a complex proposal. It is sad that the audience found humor in this. Worse yet, no one in the main stream has called him out. And for every example one can find for Democrats debasing the Republican party, you can find just as many the other way.

Meanwhile, our new Secretary of State announces to Europe that Americans have the right to be stupid. I wonder which “Americans” he is referring to? Is this another attempt to pander to Democrats during the sequestration boondoggle? If so, then John Kerry took the stupid option. If not, all Mr. Kerry did was add fuel to a tire fire called American politics. I suppose we’re all just stupid since we have an opinion that stands contrary to those of others. Welcome to American tolerance. Thank you Mr. Kerry for finally clarifying what some of us in the middle already knew.

Popular Vote vs. Congressional districting vote

Since the election and with the impending lemur-like plunge over the fiscal cliff looming, the vitriol from either side of me has become rampant. Accusations of the President not willing to concede to “Plan B” and reduced government spending, and the Republican House stonewalling on any attempt to raise taxes.

I started thinking, as have a few other pundits including David Wasserman over at the Cook Political Report, if the election would have turned out differently had all the states awarded their electoral vote a la Maine and Nebraska. (For those of you who do not know, these states award one vote per congressional district, not winner take all based on popular vote.)

After some searching, and data crunching, this is what I’ve come up with. (My sources are listed at the bottom of this article.)

In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney would have won.

how would the elections have changed if we used the congressional method

how would the elections have changed if we used the congressional method

And there it is.

Or is it? I suppose the Republicans will call this a victory and prance about saying that while Obama won the popular vote, he isn’t the majority of the nation’s president. But, really, it doesn’t change any other election result. I took this further back, and the next election swung by the ME/NB method was the 1960 election. We end up with a tie in 1976.

Looking at the results post 1988, I wonder what effect gerrymandering had on the results.

Gerrymander2We all know that gerrymandering is “bad”.

We all have heard one side vs. the other lambasting each other for their redistricting at the other party’s expense.

And we’ve all, I hope, stood in amazement at the sheer hypocrisy of the parties.

If the election shifted to the ME/NB method how often would the parties attempt to gerrymander their way to victory?

In California, they’ve attempted to dampen the ill-affects of the gerrymandering game by having a non-partisan standing committee to address the boundaries of the state’s congressional districts. By all accounts, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission works.

Looking at the results above, did gerrymandering affect the outcomes?

Nope.

Well, okay. Twice.

1960 and 2012.

2012 can be attributed to more people coming out to vote against the incumbant.

1960 election came down to a difference of 0.17% in the popular vote. With numbers this tight, it is fairly obvious that a switch to any different accounting method would change the results.

In the long-run, however, even with the gerrymandering game in play, whether we elect the president via a popular vote-winner-take-all election or the ME/NB method, the results, at least for the past, would be fair and equal.

What the ME/NB would mean for America, is that people may feel that their voice actually matters. For Republicans living in the rural districts of California (eighteen total districts voted Republican), their vote wouldn’t be washed away by the urban centers along the coast. Democrats in Texas (9th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 20th, 23rd, 28th-30th, 33rd-35th districts) can legitimately claim that their vote went to their candidate.

If the end goal of the elections, as trumpeted by the Obama machine, is to get out the vote, then what better way than to have everyone in each district feel that they had their own little part in the election?

I say that America gives this a try. Let’s end the winner take all method where a candidate need only win a quarter of the states to become president.

Sources:

http://www.uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=2012&off=0&elect=0&f=0

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/19/1163009/-Daily-Kos-Elections-presidential-results-by-congressional-district-for-the-2012-2008-elections#

http://www.polidata.us/books/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering#Recent_steps

http://www.fairvote.org/redistricting#.UNyQIKVrhzI

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2012/11/the_supreme_court_may_gut_the_voting_rights_act_and_make_gerrymandering.html

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2083189,00.html