View 852 Sunday, November 23, 2014
“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”
President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009
If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.
Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983
The temptation is to respond to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration with rage, but there are good reasons not to do that. First, what he proposes, although outside the powers of the presidency as I interpret the Constitution, are not so outrageously so as to produce anything like universal rejection.
There are many learned and respectable people who would argue that he may indeed have that power.
For example: All executives have prosecutorial discretion, de facto if not explicitly de jure. There are just too many laws and too few resources for every law to be faithfully executed. In addition the President has the unquestionable authority to issue pardons to anyone, including those sentenced to deportation. It would be pointless to apprehend and prosecute those who would be pardoned anyway.
Has the President exceeded his authority in these executive orders? One may argue that, but the odds of getting a bill of impeachment from the House are very low, and of getting a conviction of the Senate by two thirds of those voting are practically non-existent; while the energy used, and the hatreds generated, by impeachment and trial are not likely to be compensated by any satisfactions gained.
One may wish the nation were free of Mr. Obama, but that will happen in January of 2017 whatever we do. The result of a successful impeachment can remove Mr. Obama before then, after which we would be at the tender mercies of Joe Biden. This might not be a great improvement. “Stand up, Chuck, Let ‘em see you. Oh God bless you…” And if Mr. Biden were to resign, Nancy Pelosi would become President. And after her the Senator from Vermont. Are these improvements? [OOOPS. Of course Mrs. Pelosi is no longer Speaker; that’s Mr. Boehner. But first there is Mr. Biden. It’s idle to begin with: there is no chance that an impeachment and conviction will happen over stretching prosecutorial discretion. If the Republicans pin their hopes on impeachment they are doomed.]
After January, Congress will have the option of detaching from the budget the funds needed to implement the executive orders, but this is only one of a number of possible strategies, and it is not obvious that it is the best one. It would probably lead to another experiment in shutting down the government, and that cannot end well. Also there are parts of Mr. Obama’s program that are likely to be popular, not just among the immigrant population but among the American people in general. The newspapers are already full of stories about the joy of those chosen, and the grief of those who fail to qualify for the new amnesty. The burden will be placed on those who seek to justify deporting a nanny, mother of two US citizens, who has been resident in the US for 12 years, has never been arrested, is loved by her single-mother employer. etc., etc. I would not want to be the prosecutor assigned to that case, and I don’t know many who would.
If we have come to the point at which conducting a rational discussion is somehow selling out the conservative cause, we have a poor definition of the conservative cause. It is not being a Republican in Name Only to look for alternatives to raising a constitutional crisis over this particular issue. It is a political move and deserves a political answer.
I am told I have overestimated the cost of apprehending and deporting 10 million illegal immigrants, some of them parents of US citizens. Perhaps I have, but I doubt it. It is certainly true that similar numbers of people were displaced in the turmoil following World War IT, with hundreds of thousands of Germans forced out of the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia, millions from Silesia which was given to Poland, millions of Ukrainian speaking citizens moved from lands given to Poland by Russia, Poles moved from what had been Poland and was now part of Russia. And of course
1944 to 1948: Flight and expulsion of Germans after World War II. Between 13.5 and 16.5 million Germans were expelled, evacuated or fled from Central and Eastern Europe, making this the largest single instance of ethnic cleansing in recorded history. Estimated number of those who died in the process is being debated by historians and estimated between 500,000 and 3,000,000.
Deporting ten million people over a period of some years would not be the largest such activity in modern history, but it would not be small. There would be protests, lawsuits, tearful scenes that would arouse pity from stone angels, and vast media coverage. It is not something to be undertaken lightly, and I think I can safely say it will be neither easy nor cheap. I suspect it is beyond the resolve of any Congress likely to be elected.
As to whose fault it is that there are now ten million when President Reagan thought his amnesty would solve the problem of four million, certainly part of it was Reagan’s fallibility in believing that the border enforcement provisions of the law would be implemented by Congress; part by his failure to use executive action and the military to close the border in accord with the letter of the law (he would of course be accused of imperial ambitions for defying Congress to enforce laws Congress had passed but not funded); part by the American people, many of whom wanted their nannies and housekeepers and gardeners and were pleased that their faithful employees were now safe and enrolled in various Federal programs.
And we still have no agreement on what the next Congress, solidly Republican, should do.
I want to admit the unpopular position and I’ll use some horrific examples to prove a point. This president says that mass deportation is not feasible. That’s nonsense and history proves it to be nonsense.
While I am not advocating genocide or mass graves, Hitler and Stalin inter alios proved that it is feasible to identify, apprehend, and transport groups of people of certain persuasions to another location.
Mass deportation is feasible and, because we are not the Nazis or the Bolsheviks, we can undertake the activity in a way that maintains respect for human dignity.
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Joshua Jordan, KSC
Perhaps. But it would not be at low cost, and I think I would not care to run for office on that ticket. It may be feasible but it will neither quick nor pleasant.
Hello Dr Pournelle. I’ve thought a bit about the flood of illegal immigrants and what it does to society. You can list the downsides, economic, social and political, as well as I can. Let us then examine what can be done about it.
You have opined that it is not really practical to do mass deportations. I’ve not seen any serious calls for that, but there are certainly some practical steps we could take, if we had competent legal authority involved.
The first, and most glaringly obvious, is to control our border. Since we actually have enemies in the world, since random illegals bring out of area diseases with them, this is just a basic requirement and I would infer it from the statement that the purpose of national government includes providing for the common defense. We even have federal organizations intended to do just that, so actually doing this is almost painless. Reducing the flood is the first step, the one our government can’t figure out.
The second obvious step is to deport, with prejudice, anyone committing a crime in the US, against a US citizen or a serious crime in their home country which gives us reason to doubt he will play nicely with others here. It should be obvious that criminals fleeing the law are more likely than the average person to want to try a different country to live in, and we should be prepared to deal with that. Again, we have legal mechanisms to do this, and it is a combination of federal, state and local jurisdictions which screw this one up, which most of the citizenry would consider an obvious way to help keep them safe.
Finally, we can actually use the mechanisms in place to check whether those who work in the US have citizenship or official permission to work in this nation. Given the amazingly low proportion of our own population working, and the large amount who have given up attempts to find a job, it doesn’t seem likely that this will be a major challenge, even if it forces some industries to pass labor costs on to the public. Since this will end some price distortions, I’ll consider it a burden worth bearing.
What will this accomplish? Well, if the rewards of living in the US illegally drop, we can expect to see corresponding reactions. These will include fewer illegals violating our borders, and some of those present going back home where life will appear to offer higher rewards for the efforts required. I bet that many of those will take their families home, eliminating the need to do mass deportations for anyone other than criminals who have been convicted in this country, and I bet you wouldn’t really defend keeping them. We might quibble over where to draw the line, saying perhaps that misdemeanors aren’t worthy of deportation, but since we have multiple murderers to deal with, that can be treated as a lower priority.
Finally, there are the routes to citizenship other than the currently legal one. Flat out, I want no illegal to be made legal by getting higher education in the US. Sure, let them get such an education, and then go back home to use the benefits to improve the way of life of their fellow citizens. Since I expect many will have learned subjects of no actual value, been taught to hate America and been given preferential treatment for political reasons, I’d rather have them away. Military service is trickier, but there are existing mechanisms for that, requiring them to follow established procedure. I’ve helped set up citizenship ceremonies overseas, including Afghanistan, so I know it can and does happen. What I don’t want is to accept as soldiers men who are willing to flout our laws and who might not have a comfortable grasp of English. Military life is often low tempo garrison life, but when we get the occasional exciting bit, it really does help if the guy screaming orders and the guy listening are both expecting the same language. I have been frustrated trying to talk to soldiers whose understanding of, and ability to speak, English was insufficient to pass high school. At least when I attended.
As to why, it seems obvious. Business wants lower costs, and after decades of increasing the cost of labor through direct and indirect means, they want to bypass it. Government wants more compliant voters who are cheaper to please. As always, big government and big business work against the people, all while claiming to champion them.
Retired Military (and old friend)
I find little to disagree with, although I think you underestimate the number who want immediate and full deportation of illegal aliens of any sort and condition.
Regarding the military path to citizenship, note that my proposal was citizenship after not one but two four-year hitches – meaning that the military wanted him/her to reenlist after first term, and acceptable to the military for a third hitch, but chose honorable discharge instead. I am willing to accept improvements. Make it three hitches: what I want to do is make it obvious that we are talking about someone we, including the military, want as a citizen.
What I am trying to do is come up with ways to deal with the obvious. You do not want to give green cards – not an automatic path to citizenship – to advanced degree graduates. Others say there ought to be a green card stapled to any MS in mathematics, physics, chemistry, or engineering degree granted to a non-citizen. I tend to agree. Given the wretched state of our liberal arts and voodoo science – oops, social sciences – I would not extend that to graduates of those departments. I would think an MD or RN degree might be a good qualification for a green card. This is debatable; it’s the principle I want to establish. Some people we very obviously want to stay here. And I would argue strongly that 8 or 12, and certainly 20 years military service (and thus retirement) would earn citizenship. If we fix the schools we can change the laws, but at the moment we are in need of importing brains.
I think of other paths to earned citizenship once the principle is established, but I am hoping to find a level at which we can all agree; adjustments can be made after that.
‘Some Republicans would like to modify it to help Mark Zuckerberg bring cheaper third world programmers and engineers to replace the Americans over at Facebook. Why settle for just wiping out the working class, when you can also take out chunks of the middle class?’
But of course the cause of that problem is the abysmal state of the school system that has resulted from the creation of the Department of Education and “Federal aid to education”, arguably the worst disaster to the future of the US in our history.
What laws are illegal immigrants breaking?
The issue has come up on your site: what laws are foreign nationals who illegally enter and remain in the United States breaking? Obviously the immigration laws, and well as a slew of tax and labor laws, but in thinking about why illegal immigration should be illegal we are perhaps missing the point. The single most important function of any government is to defend the people from foreign invasion. Indeed, if a government refuses to perform this function one could argue that it is illegitimate. The foreign nationals who, having fouled their own lands, and are now moving into the United States, are nothing less than invaders. It does not matter if a castle is breached by shot and shell or because the gatekeeper has been bribed, invasion is invasion. What is the traditional point of invasion? To steal the resources of another nation, to dispossess its people and make room for your own. If you came home one day and found that a dozen strangers had entered your house and were helping themselves to your food and your money and your living space would you debate whether their presence added or detracted from the tax base? Would you care that they invaded your home with weapons drawn or ‘peacefully’ in search of a better life (as do all thieves and invaders). No, you would simply demand that these trespassers be removed, because they will make you poorer and more crowded and you need not apologize for a such a view. And no more should the American people apologize for wanting the laws against illegal immigration enforced.
I think you would find that your description does not fit all the illegal aliens in the US: I have met many who have not fouled their own land, and did not come here for welfare. They work and work hard, in many cases at farm labor that I know from personal experience is nothing I would do for any wage you would pay unless there were literally no alternative. I know nannies and housekeepers who are trusted with the houses and fortunes and children of wealthy people, and are trusted implicitly; and who have not invaded anyone’s home and whose weapons consist of vacuum cleaners and mops and diaper pails.
I have read The Camp of the Saints and I congratulated Tom Doherty on publishing that book in paperback. I have never disagreed that border enforcement is important, and I have supported every move to build more and larger fences: the cost of fencing the southern border is high, but we can afford it. And having done so, having perhaps magically closed the southern border to those coming across at other than authorized border crossing stations, we still face the problem that a great number of illegal aliens – some tell me a majority of them – entered quite legally and then overstayed a visa.
I am also aware of the consequences of crackdowns, more raids on employers, more activity to identify illegals; the results are considerable divisiveness in the rest of the population. That is not a healthy state for a Republic. If it is unavoidable it is unavoidable, but bitter social division is not a condition to be sought.
I have been looking at some of the comments on Obama’s cheap-labor-uber-alles immigration policy. There are many fine comments – refreshingly free of most of the knee-jerk sloganeering on most of the so-called mainstream press.
I would like to point out, however, that the narrow issue of amnesty for illegals who are already here is largely a distraction. Granted this would likely increase the incentive for future illegal immigration, and rewarding lawlessness is always a bad thing, but by itself it would have a negligible impact on the US labor market. Which is why the rich really don’t care about that, it’s just a cover designed to distract us. The real game is the massive increases in legal immigration, and allowing effectively unlimited illegal/refugee immigration in the future – because adding massive numbers of new workers WILL drive down wages, which will drive up profits. Which is the plan.
I also point out that until about 1970 the United States enforced the law against illegal immigration, and as a result, before that time illegal immigration had negligible impact on the US labor market or demographics. Enforcing the law does work. I mean, the rich have no problems keeping poor American children out of rich school districts, do they? We could as easily keep poor Mexican children out of lower-class American school districts, but the rich want their cheap labor…
Globus Pallidus XI
I have no objection whatever to vigorous enforcement of border laws and regaining control over the border. I would enlist the states in that effort so that it did not create a new permanent bureaucracy at the federal level, which would be free to do more mischief with our citizens and the concept of liberty. There are prices to be paid for giving the government the resources to enforce laws involving millions of people.
employment of illegals
On the subject of illegal immigrants finding jobs, a proposal occurred to me a few years ago, though it may be more of a modest proposal in the Swiftian sense:
(1) Anyone who employs illegal immigrants is subject to a substantial fine for each such immigrant.
(2) A specified fraction of the fine is to be available to anyone not a government employee who turns such a person in (it’s the job of government employees already, and we don’t want to give law enforcement an incentive to trump up charges or entrap people).
(3) The illegal immigrants themselves are eligible for the reward.
This creates an interesting cost/benefit calculus: Do I want to go on working for this employer, for a low rate of pay, or do I want to get a big lump sum for turning them in and ending my job? Am I angry with my employer because they treated me badly? or for the employer, Do I want to hire a larger illegal workforce, at the cost of having a bigger reward for turning me in and a larger pool who are at risk of doing it?
It’s kind of inspired by Heinlein’s observation about factories being required to place their water intakes downstream from their outflows. . . .
William H. Stoddard
I have proposed other systems of rewards, as for example, $2000 cash for turning yourself in and accepting deportation without further litigation. We could go from there to ways of finking on your friends and employers for fun and profit, and of course accepting deportation as a condition of receiving the award.
Of course we have in California now a murder case involving a man deported four times already, at least one for domestic violence against the woman he killed. A reward system would not work without some means of making it difficult to impossible to return illegally. I suppose there are technical means, some kind of refined electronic equivalent of the Bertillon system.
Tickle me pink you addressed my letter – and in detail to boot.
Apropos the subject line:
And OK, these are my observations and assumptions – I am neither a prophet nor son of a prophet.
1. A "second class citizenship" will never be tolerated over the long term so all normalized illegals will eventually become citizens.
2. Having lived in California off and on since the ’60s, the state went from the closest thing to paradise for a middle class American to the quintessential Latin American rich-poor (white/asian-brown) stratification we see now. The left was able to "achieve" this goal based on its overwhelming support by immigrants. Without the 8-9 million foreign-born residents of California, we would see a political balance in the State favoring more conservative governance and (presumably) an environment much more favorable to the middle class e.g. Texas.
3. Add to the national political mix a new cohort of 10’s of millions of left-leaning voters concentrated in key states like Virginia and Texas — We will settle into a European political dynamic of Left and Lefter.
4. Say’s law notwithstanding, adding workers to this economy has resulted, not in job growth due to immigration, but in job absorption and job displacement by the immigrants. It is notable that exactly 100 years ago the US shut down mass immigration. The result: wage growth and the migration of American workers from poor and marginally poor to the middle class. By the 1950’s the tenements chock full of new immigrants were a memory. And those post war years without meaningful levels of immigration were good years. Unfortunately, the mass immigration resulted in the Democratic party gaining overwhelming power and setting us on a path from which we have yet to turn (See bullet #3).
5. So, while acknowledging the difficult task of returning millions of illegals to their homes, I see no choice. And, for similar reasons, it’s time to shut the tap on mass legal immigration. Without a change, my crystal ball says — Best case: The United States (of Brazil). Worst case: No more united States.
You see no choice. Perhaps there is none, but surely it is worth examining the alternatives. I apologize for turning you pink. It was not my intention.
The Nihilist in the White House
This administration doesn’t build, it divides and tears down. Vindication is assumed.
Updated Nov. 21, 2014 6:36 p.m. ET
There is an odd, magical-thinking element in the psychology of recent White Houses. It is now common for those within them to assume that history will declare their greatness down the road. They proceed as if this is automatic, guaranteed: They will leave someday, history will ponder their accomplishments and announce their genius.
The assumption of history’s inevitable vindication is sharper in the current White House, due to general conceit—they really do think they possess a higher wisdom and play a deeper game—and the expectation that liberal historians will write the history.
The illusion becomes a form of license. We don’t have to listen to critics, adversaries, worriers and warn-ers, we just have to force through our higher vision and let history say down the road we got it right.
They make this assumption because they don’t know much about history—they really are people who saw the movie but didn’t read the book—and because historical vindication is what happened so spectacularly in the case of Ronald Reagan. So it will happen to them, too.
… … …
The president’s executive action on immigration is an act of willful nihilism that he himself had argued against in the past. It is a sharp stick in the eye of the new congressional majority. It is at odds with—it defies—the meaning and message of the last election, and therefore is destructive to the reputation of democracy itself. It is huge in its impact but has only a sole cause, the president’s lone will. It damages the standing of our tottery political institutions rather than strengthening them, which is what they desperately need, and sets a template for future executive abuse. It will surely encourage increased illegal immigration and thus further erode the position of the American working class.
And there is the Keystone XL pipeline and the administration’s apparent intent to veto a bill that allows it. There the issue is not only the jobs the pipeline would create, and not only the infrastructure element. It is something more. If it is done right, the people who build the pipeline could be pressed to take on young men—skill-less, aimless—and get them learning, as part of a crew, how things are built and what it is to be a man who builds them.
On top of that, the building of the pipeline would show the world that America is capable of coming back, that we’re not only aware of our good fortune and engineering genius, we are pushing it hard into the future. America’s got her hard-hat on again. America is dynamic. “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Not just this endless talk of limits, restrictions, fears and “Oh, we’re all going to melt in the warm global future!”
Which is sort of the spirit of this White House.
Great presidencies have a different one. They expand, move on, reach out.
The future acknowledgment of greatness only follows actual greatness. History takes the long view but in the end relies on facts.
“But history will be written by liberals.” Fair enough, and they will judge the president the more harshly because he failed to do anything that lasts. ObamaCare will be corrected and torn down piece by piece. The immigration order will be changed, slowed or undone by the courts, Congress or through executive actions down the road. Keystone will pass and a veto overridden.
And the president has failed liberals through unpopularity, which is another word for incompetence.
Her entire essay is well worth your attention.
We will continue this discussion of immigration so long as there is anything new to discuss. I do not intend endlessly to go through the same arguments. This was received not long after posting.
According to Bob Cringely, illegal immigrants actually have excellent credit, and enhance the credit ratings of the Americans whose SSN they steal in order to function. They don’t want to be caught, so they make sure they pay their bills on time, which is more than can be said of the average citizen. The utilities know what is going on, but turn a blind eye as long as they get paid:
He also estimates total illegal immigrant levels at 17 million.
As for deportation, in many cases the would-be deportee is not the nanny but the actual parent of a U.S. Citizen child. Official US policy in these cases is to separate the family and put the child in the tender mercies of the foster care program, which is of course utterly nuts. People completely underestimate how devastating an impact proper enforcement would have on whole swathes of the economy like agriculture, food service, construction and so on.
The best way to reduce illegal immigration is a Marshall Plan for Mexico, to reduce the wealth gradient across the border. It would need to be combined with a serious effort to clean up corruption there. Perhaps the NSA can allocate some portion of its eavesdropping to exposing corrupt officials. Then again, that could be turned against our own corrupt officials, and cannot be tolerated.
I do not believe that there is any possibility whatever of imposing law and order and civilized development on Mexico, and a US attempt at a Marshal Plan in an area over which we have no control and no means of taking control other than outright conquest would be a disaster unparalleled in US history. It is not our job to solve Mexico’s problems, and attempts to do so would provoke civil war.
re: impeachment. I agree – and have said repeatedly – that the one lesson that the Republicans learned from Gingrich is that they will never again attempt an impeachment of a sitting president, still adequately popular within his own party that removal from office cannot be effected.
If enough Democrats in both houses approached McConnell and Boehner willing to sign their names to impeachment charges, demonstrating dissatisfaction within the party and enough votes for removal from office, I am confident that Mr. Obama would be out of office within days. (In his case, probably not through resignation as with Mr. Nixon.)
However, not only do I not see that happening, enough Democrats applaud his action and are sufficiently accepting of its illegality (either through the desire to see the Constitution overturned or for the shear political folly of wishing to watch the Republicans squirm with their base for not being able to impeach) that removal from office could not be effected.
Emotionally, this distresses me, because this is just the most recent in a long line of potentially impeachable offenses going back to Mr. Obama’s first month in office (the overrule of bankruptcy laws and use of thuggish tactics to disenfranchise the legitimate creditors of GM and Chrysler in favor of the UAW). Logically, I have to concede the political reality of the situation – and note the collaboration of the Democrats in the House and Senate with these crimes.
I don’t disagree. It might have been better had there been a tradition of impeachment and Congressional supervision, but the nation didn’t grow that way, and impeachment has become unusual and emotion charged. It remains a means of removing an absolutely mad official, but as you note it takes both parties: indeed Mr. Nixon resigned when Senator Goldwater told him that he did not have sufficient support in the Senate. Andrew Johnson was not convicted by one vote, and remained in office, a very lame duck indeed. Nixon resigned. Clinton was not convicted and may have profited from the impeachment.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.