Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

Factor price equalization due to trade and investment flows across economies would substantially reduce economic reasons for immigration to rich countries. (Trade and investment flows will not eliminate economic reasons for migration because if polities differ in total factor productivity due to political institutions, there can still be an advantage to migrating to a more efficient economy in a fully globalized world.) Therefore, if you are an American who is deeply concerned about immigration to the U.S. for cultural or political reasons, one way to encourage less immigration is to press for full trade and investment liberalization in this country and around the world.

Now, does opposition to immigration correlate positively or negatively with support for free trade and “outsourcing” in voters’ attitudes? In my experience, negatively.

Chalk this up to one more way in which politics is about symbolism rather than substance, due to public ignorance.

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Following the defeat of his amendment that would give Congress the right to vote to verify border security as a condition of permitting the path to citizenship for illegal immigrants to go forward, Senator Rand Paul has decided to oppose the immigration reform bill.

While the immigration bill has many flaws, it is certainly a pro-liberty bill on balance (and I am not quite the open-borders absolutist that some libertarians are, but the current state of immigration control is deeply illiberal and contrary to the best American values). Moreover, the bill’s bad aspects are almost entirely the result of the demands of “border security hawks” like Paul and his fellow right-wingers. Even if Paul really is, deep down, a libertarian of sorts, it seems he is likely to stick with whatever the right wing of his party wants. That bodes poorly for any future Paul presidency. Presidents tend to adapt to the culture of the executive bureaucracy: witness Obama’s u-turns on civil liberties issues. Paul’s actions on the immigration bill suggest that he lacks the courage to buck his party even for a popular cause. As Will Wilkinson put it at economist.com,

The energetic ideological base of the Republican Party is a nationalist, identity-politics movement for relatively well-to-do older white Americans known as the “tea party”. The tea party is interested in bald eagles, American flags, the founding fathers, Jesus Christ, fighter jets, empty libertarian rhetoric, and other markers of “authentic” American identity and supremacy.

Does Rand Paul really want to go down in history as a standard-bearer for that ilk? It seems so.

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That’s the subtitle of a new working paper from Peterson, Pandya, and Leblang. Here’s the abstract:

Skills are often occupation-specific, a fact missing from existing research on the political economy of immigration. Although analyses of survey data suggest broad support for skilled migration occupational licensing regulations persist as formidable barriers to skilled migrants’ labor market entry. Regulations ostensibly serve the public interest by certifying competence but are simultaneously rent-preserving entry barriers. We analyze both the sources of US states’ licensure requirements for international medical graduates (IMGs), and the effect of these regulations on migrant physicians’ choice of US state in which to work over the period 1973-2010. Analysis of original data shows that states with self-financing state medical licensing boards, which can more easily be captured by incumbent physicians, have more stringent IMG licensure requirements. Additionally, we find that states that require IMGs to complete longer periods of supervised training receive fewer migrants. Our empirical results are robust to controls for states’ physician labor market. This research identifies an overlooked dimension of international economic integration: implicit barriers to the cross-national mobility of human capital, and the public policy implications of such barriers.

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Several commentators have weighed in on President Obama’s decision to stop deporting certain immigrants under 30 who were brought illegally to the country when they were under 16. This morning, Andrew Napolitano and Ilya Somin have come down firmly on opposite sides of this issue.


Along comes the president, and he has decided that he can fix some of our immigration woes by rewriting the laws to his liking. Never mind that the Constitution provides that his job is “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” and that “all legislative power” in the federal government has been granted to Congress. He has chosen to bypass Congress and disregard the Constitution. Can he do this?

There is a valid and constitutional argument to be made that the president may refrain from defending and enforcing laws that he believes are palpably and demonstrably unconstitutional. These arguments go back to Thomas Jefferson, who refused to defend or enforce the Alien and Sedition Acts because, by punishing speech, they directly contradicted the First Amendment. Jefferson argued that when a law contradicts the Constitution, the law must give way because the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and all other laws are inferior and must conform to it. This argument is itself now universally accepted jurisprudence — except by President Obama, who recently and inexplicably questioned the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Health Care Act on the basis that it is unconstitutional.

Nevertheless, there is no intellectually honest argument to be made that the president can pick and choose which laws to enforce based on his personal preferences. And it is a profound violation of the Constitution for the president to engage in rewriting the laws. That’s what he has done here. He has rewritten federal law. (emphasis original)


Some critics, such as John Yoo and Arnold Kling, attack the president’s decision not on the merits, but on the grounds that he lacks legal authority to choose not to enforce the law in this case.

This criticism runs afoul of the reality that the federal government already chooses not to enforce its laws against the vast majority of those who violate them. Current federal criminal law is so expansive that the majority of Americans are probably federal criminals. That includes whole categories of people who get away with violating federal law because the president and the Justice Department believe that going after them isn’t worth the effort, and possibly morally dubious. For example, the feds almost never go after the hundreds of thousands of college students who are guilty of using illegal drugs in their dorms. The last three presidents of the United States – all have reason to be grateful for this restraint.

Yoo contends that there is a difference between using “prosecutorial discretion” to “choose priorities and prosecute cases that are the most important” and “refusing to enforce laws because of disagreements over policy.” I don’t think the distinction holds water. Policy considerations are inevitably among the criteria by which presidents and prosecutors “choose priorities” and decide which cases are “the most important.” One reason why the federal government has not launched a crackdown on illegal drug use in college dorms is precisely because they think it would be bad policy, and probably unjust to boot. That, of course, is very similar to Obama’s decision here.

Finally,Yoo also argues that prosecutorial discretion does not allow the president to refuse to enforce an “entire law,” as opposed to merely doing so in specific cases. But Obama has not in fact refused to enforce the entire relevant law requiring deportation of illegal immigrants. He has simply chosen to do so with respect to people who fit certain specified criteria, that the vast majority of illegal immigrants do not meet. Even if the president did choose to forego enforcement of an entire law, it’s not clear to me that that is outside the scope of prosecutorial discretion. A president who uses his discretion to “choose priorities” could reasonably conclude that enforcement of federal laws A, B, and C is so much more valuable than enforcement of D that no resources should be devoted to the latter if they could possibly be used for the former.

This is a tough one. If you adopt the constitutional text as your guide, Obama’s actions seem clearly illegal. On the other hand, the constitutional text, interpreted literally, may demand something that is impossible: perfect enforcement. What say you, Pileus readers?

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The ACLU has just released a candidate report card on certain civil liberties issues. It includes all Republican candidates, Barack Obama, and Gary Johnson. It doesn’t provide an aggregate score, but it scores all candidates on the issue areas of “humane immigration policy,” “closing Guantanamo Bay and indefinite detention,” “gays and lesbians serving openly in the military,” “ending torture,” “ending a surveillance state,” “freedom to marry for gay couples,” and “reproductive choice.”

I have some issues with the scoring on some of these. For instance, opposing torture, including waterboarding, is apparently not enough to get you full marks on torture. More importantly, I would differ from their scoring of “reproductive choice.” My views are similar to Gary Johnson’s: Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided law and should be overturned, states should be able to make their own laws on abortion, but generally I favor legal abortion before viability and a strict ban with the only exception for the life of the mother after viability, as well as a ban on taxpayer funding for abortions.

Nevertheless, it may be a useful tool for Pileus readers in making judgments about whom to support in the primaries and beyond. In general, the only candidates the ACLU gives reasonably good marks on civil liberties are Johnson and Paul, with Huntsman and Obama clocking in at mediocre. The other Republicans are truly abysmal.

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  1. Jordan Rappaport, “Moving to Nice Weather,” Regional Science and Urban Economics. U.S. residents have been moving en masse to places with nice weather. Well known is the migration towards places with warm winters, which is often attributed to the introduction of air conditioning. But people have also been moving to places with cooler, less-humid summers, which is the opposite of what is expected from the introduction of air conditioning. Nor can the movement to nice weather be primarily explained by shifting industrial composition or by migration of the elderly. Instead, a large portion of weather-related movement appears to be driven by an increased valuation of nice weather as a consumption amenity, probably due to broad-based rising per capita income.
  2. Nathan J. Ashby, “Freedom and International Migration,” Southern Economic Journal. Economic freedom attracts immigrants.
  3. Duggan, Hjalmarsson, & Jacob, “The Short Term and Localized Effect of Gun Shows: Evidence from California and Texas,” Review of Economics and Statistics. We examine the effect of more than 3,400 gun shows using data from Gun and Knife Show Calendar and vital statistics data from California and Texas. Considering the one month following each show and a surrounding area ranging from 80 to 2,000 square miles, we find no evidence that gun shows increase either gun homicides or suicides. The similarity of our estimates for California and Texas suggests that the much tighter California gun show regulations do not substantially reduce the number of firearms-related deaths in that state. Using incident-level crime data for Houston, Texas, we also find no evidence of an effect on other crime categories.

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According to reporting today, the DREAM Act is set to fail in the Senate due to a Republican filibuster. The DREAM Act would provide illegal immigrants brought to this country as children a path to legal residency and citizenship, provided certain conditions are met.

Putting aside questions of the economic contributions of immigrants, this bill is a matter of basic justice. These kids are not at fault for being here illegally. In many cases these kids have grown up in the country and are now illegal adults – “nonpersons” who are subject to sudden deportation to a country they’ve never known, who are excluded from universities and desirable employment. Rejecting the DREAM Act means abandoning them to a cruel fate not of their own making. Surely if conservatives believe what they spout about America as a land of opportunity and capitalism as a system in which people largely are rewarded for skill and hard work, they would see the sense in lessening the persecution of these unfortunates?

But no, rightist blogs are up in arms about the DREAM Act; they claim it is “amnesty,” that it will just encourage more illegal immigration. But of course, utilitarian considerations such as these can never override the demands of basic justice. Next time a conservative tries to chat you up about “natural rights,” ask his position on the DREAM Act to determine if he’s just talking codswallop.

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The Migration Policy Institute estimates that the total stock of illegal immigrants in the United States has fallen slightly, from 12.1 to 11.9 million, between July 2008 and July 2009, due to the poor economy. (Inflows of legal migrants continue.) What’s interesting is that those numbers haven’t fallen more. The Economist argues that even in a recession, there are substantial economic gains to be had by remaining in the country. I wonder as well whether the political uncertainty surrounding immigration enforcement and the possibility of much stricter border enforcement in the future are keeping immigrants here because they fear having to try to get back over the border once the economy improves. The Economist story above also reports on a study showing the economic benefits that migrants bring back to their homelands when they return, benefits that are presumably now being foregone. So someone explain to me again: why can’t we get a broad-based guest worker program set up?


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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in Ecuador last week that the Obama Administration plans to commence legal proceedings against the State of Arizona to invalidate its recently enacted SB 1070. The new law directs state and local law enforcement officers and agencies to enforce federal immigration law by detaining or reporting persons giving rise to a “reasonable suspicion” of being in violation of it. The announcement was a surprise, not only because of who made it and where she made it, but also because of when she made it. Since Arizona SB 1070 becomes effective on July 29, any lawsuit announced now against implementation is premature or, as we lawyers put it, not “ripe.” Unless the Justice Department can envision no constitutional manner by which the law can be implemented, the contemplated lawsuit must be one that challenges the constitutionality of the law on its face. In other words, the Justice Department must be asserting that the statute is unconstitutional as written, rather than unconstitutional as implemented or enforced. But is there a legal basis for a facial challenge to the law?

A review of the statute leaves little reason to believe that a facial challenge to the law stands much chance of success. Federal law specifically empowers state and local law enforcement officials to enforce it; indeed, it often mandates enforcement of federal law by state and local officials. SB 1070 merely directs state and local officials to enforce federal immigration law when they have a “reasonable suspicion” that a person might be in violation of federal immigration law. It might be fashionable to imagine the horror scenarios of police officers asking anyone with Hispanic or Native American features or surnames to produce their “papers.” The law, however, does not, on its face, direct police to do so. Nor does it confer upon them unfettered discretion in its enforcement.

What the law does require is the application of a standard with which law enforcement is intimately familiar, namely, the “reasonable suspicion” standard. It is the same standard applied in numerous settings. Police are experienced at having to articulate the basis upon which they formed a reasonable suspicion. They have to be, because any proceeding flowing from their reasonable suspicion will require them to recite the facts upon which it was formed. The test of reasonableness is a “third-party,” objective standard; it does not reside within the subjective control of the officer applying it. In other words, a judge or magistrate will determine whether the suspicion was indeed reasonable, and the officer making the determination must persuade the judge that, given the facts of the case, it was.

While one can imagine a “parade of horribles” in the application of this law, it is much easier to envision the patently constitutional implementation of it. Consider, for example, what is likely to be the most common way in which the law will be administered. An Arizona law enforcement officer notices a traffic violation and conducts a traffic stop. When, as is standard, the officer requests the driver’s license and vehicle registration, the failure to produce these documents could give rise to a “reasonable suspicion” that the driver is without legal authorization to be in the United States.

To be sure, there may be many reasons why someone may be without a driver’s license. Dispositive proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not, however, required for a police officer to form a reasonable suspicion. Nor should it be. As a society, we want police to investigate when they suspect a crime. We want police to be able to search for evidence of surreptitious criminal activity when they have reason to suspect it, not merely to escort criminals who brazenly offer proof of open and notorious crimes. Indeed, a reading of the statute appears to direct otherwise unwilling officers and agencies to cease turning a “blind eye” toward the presence of illegal aliens when encountered. SB 1070 effectively outlaws “sanctuary cities” in Arizona.

Arizona law enforcement officials are reportedly undergoing training on how to constitutionally implement the law. It is quite possible that the Justice Department has monitored the substance of this training, and is anticipatorily crafting a lawsuit to challenge the law’s implementation. If the announcement now, before the law has taken effect, is indicative of the intention to mount a facial challenge, it may be more of a political move than a legal one. But would it be considered a good political move if such a lawsuit fails? Would a successful defense of the statute encourage Texas, Colorado, California, or other states to follow Arizona’s lead?

There may be many reasons to disagree with the policy choices underlying SB 1070, including, for example, the fact that the statute appears to criminalize the “day labor markets” that form in the parking lots of home improvement centers. However imprudent the policy underlying SB 1070 might be, a politically motivated lawsuit might prove more imprudent.


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As the world focuses on its most watched sporting event, many Americans (including an occasional Pileus political scientist or two) remain oblivious to every aspect of the game, missing many of the nuances that reveal volumes about national character, culture and politics. These Americans are missing something important.

To the true football fan, the World Cup itself is part of an ideological struggle between two competing corporate goliaths, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (“FIFA”) and the Union of European Football Associations (“UEFA”). Even the names of the two organizations are themselves indicative of the ideological divide. The stakes are high – in the hundreds of billions of the currency of your choice. The goal is nothing short of world domination. And the time for choosing sides is closing in upon us.

FIFA represents the distinctly twentieth century notion that nationhood is the most important and powerful bond between humans. While nations are free to define themselves, individuals, for the most part, are not. FIFA insists upon a competition between nations qua nations, but FIFA does not demand that nations define themselves in a particular way. There is no requirement that “a national,” or what we Americans commonly refer to as “a citizen,” be defined in same way that Germany, Serbia, Italy, or Spain choose to define those terms, namely, by ethnicity. Nationality, under these ethnic conceptions of it, is “closed” to those born outside the required genetic boundaries. As in race-horses, it is a matter of breeding.

But nationality need not be determined by ethnicity. It can be circumscribed, as we Americans have chosen, by shared values. We have no official language or blood-line requirements that prove dispositive of citizenship. As the pre-eminent bastion of individual freedom and personal responsibility, American nationality is largely a matter of choice. It is “open.” During the twentieth century, we Americans moved closer to the rest of the world by placing strictures upon the choice, but these markers are still largely markers of choice.

The American conception of “American nationality” explains why our football team, like our citizenry, looks like a melting pot. While other examples of more open conceptions of nationality can be found in the faces of the teams representing France, England, and the Netherlands, many nations competing in FIFA’s World Cup can be characterized as having closed conceptions of nationality.

UEFA, on the other hand, represents a distinctly different ideal, one that is timeless. It is also one with which Americans ought to sympathize, namely, freedom of contract. To be sure, UEFA also satisfies some of the thirst for nationalism, sponsoring its own competition between national teams every four years, the European Cup, in the interstices of the World Cup. But UEFA’s real claim to fame is its sponsorship of club competitions, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa Cup. These two competitions are between club teams, not nations. These clubs are organized, for the most part, on free association and freedom of contract.

While some countries place limitations on the number of foreign nationals that can play on their club teams, European club competition permits footballers to play for whichever employer is willing to pay or develop them. These teams, and the UEFA-sponsored international competitions between them, generate billions of dollars, and drive the market for players around the world. The economic effectiveness of UEFA is evidenced by the ability of European clubs to draw players from around the globe. The best teams in the world (Barcelona, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Ajax, Chelsea and Bayern München) are the truest melting pots, boasting teammates from every continent, speaking as many as twenty different languages, and all focused upon one goal: the UEFA Champions League Cup.

FIFA and UEFA are openly critical of each other, and it is no secret that FIFA craves the power and success of UEFA. FIFA has tried to promote its own club competition, the World Club Cup, in which the winners of the various continental competitions around the world participate. This competition is largely ignored however, with virtually no television coverage, even in Europe. Instead, the real football world is focused annually on the Champions League, which every pre-eminent international footballer considers one of the two trophies he must hoist in a successful career. The other, of course, is FIFA’s World Cup.

But UEFA understands what FIFA does not, namely, that freedom works. National teams will never be as good, as entertaining, or as compelling as teams composed of free individuals willingly and contractually cooperating toward one common purpose. Open systems of nationality come closer to the ideal of freedom than closed systems, and the national teams themselves recognize this. Germany, for example, is a successful national team drawn from a “closed” conception of nationhood. But Germany fields players born outside the formal genetic constraints applied to mere mortal would-be citizens. The German national team boasts Cacau (a native of Brazil) and Jerome Boateng, one of the two Boateng brothers playing in the 2010 World Cup; the other is a member of the starting line-up for their native Ghana. In other words, if you are good enough, even closed nationalities can be open to you.

FIFA and its World Cup, like nationalism, will persist as long as we have nations and nationalists, ethnic pride and prejudice, to perpetuate them. These ideas that destroyed so many lives on so many occasions throughout the twentieth century are the not-so-beautiful underside of the beautiful game. The game is unquestionably more beautiful without them.

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Texas State political scientist William Ruger and I give our take on the Arizona boycott here. Quick take: the politicians denouncing Arizona’s “police state” need to take a good look at the planks in their own eyes.

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In a feat of logical gymnastics so convoluted it is surprising it passed editorial review even on on opinion page, Frank Rich made the following argument in the New York Times not long ago:

The crowd that wants Latinos to show their papers if there’s a ”reasonable suspicion” of illegality is often the same crowd still demanding that the president produce a document proving his own citizenship. Lest there be any doubt of that confluence, Rush Limbaugh hammered the point home after Obama criticized Arizona’s action. ”I can understand Obama being touchy on the subject of producing your papers,” he said. ”Maybe he’s afraid somebody’s going to ask him for his.”

Now, neither I nor (apparently) the Times has very high expectations for Frank Rich.  But this sad excuse for an argument had even me shaking my head.  First, anyone who thinks non-citizens should have to carry documents with them (a long-standing requirement of federal law, by the way) is naturally a Birther.  How do we know this beyond “any doubt?”  Simple.  The entertainer Rush Limbaugh used the Birthers to make a mildly funny dig at President Obama.

No reason for careful polling or analysis.  Apparently Frank Rich can divine the feelings of the electorate by listening to Rush Limbaugh and looking at the tea leaves in his cup.

Rich does say that “Arizonans, like all Americans, have every right to be furious about Washington’s protracted and bipartisan failure to address the immigration stalemate. To be angry about illegal immigration is hardly tantamount to being a bigot.”

My sense is that those who have “every right to be furious” are, for the most part, furious for very different reasons than those Frank Rich imagines.  He and others on the Left are trying to claim affinity with the public by acknowledging Washington’s failure on immigration.  But were Frank Rich to write an immigration bill, how much support could it possibly have?

Rich fails to mention that something like 70% of the good people of Arizona supported the recent law, and just over half the country in a recent poll did, too.  If we generously put the percentage of people who are both bigoted and birthers at, say, 25% of the country (surely its much less), that leaves a whole lot of people who would be supportive of Arizona’s measures and a whole lot more who are frustrated with illegal immigration but don’t support the Arizona law.

I’ve often wondered why this group is so angry.  Partly it is due to bad information and bad arguments spewed forth by demagogues like Limbaugh and Beck.  For instance, a lot of people think that illegal immigrants are getting a host of government benefits without paying into the system, when the truth is that illegals pay a lot of taxes, but will not qualify for most entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare.  They are for the most part, a young, healthy, hard-working group with a relatively low crime rate.

When they tried to tackle the illegal immigration problem during the Bush Administration, the Republicans got burned badly.  Now people like John McCain are running for their political lives.  I’m wondering if Democrats are really foolish enough to take up the issue, rather than just watching the Republicans implode.  True, they hope to increase their electoral advantage among Latinos, an increasingly important group, but I seriously doubt they have the math right if they think this is a winner issue.  Given that there are some smart Democrats, I bet their real agenda is to bring up the issue enough to generate the anti-immigrant comments that Republicans are certain to make–comments that will get a lot of play among Latinos–and then quietly back down from actually passing anything.

The angry middle is already upset about an overreaching new health care system, voluminous federal deficits, and a stubbornly persistent unemployment problem.   They have, with good reason, an enormous amount of anxiety about the future, and they are looking for scapegoats.  Whoever thinks this anxiety is going to be lessened by giving illegals a pathway to citizenship or anything like that, are seriously deluded.

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Both sides of the current immigration debate assume that regulating immigration is the right and duty of the federal government. For conservatives, the federal government has failed in its job of enforcement, which makes it sadly necessary for states to step in. Thus we have this typical defense of the Arizona law:

The same idea applies to our borders.  It’s unquestionably the responsibility of the federal government, and yet – going back through Republican and Democratic administrations – the feds seem to be too busy interfering with how American citizens lead their lives to bother doing their job at our nation’s borders.

And liberals argue that because immigration is the federal government’s job, states shouldn’t be interfering. Take it away, Tim Rutten:

The people behind Arizona’s new anti-immigrant statute have at least one thing right: This mean-spirited law was enacted because the federal government has abdicated its responsibility to address the immigration system’s moral and functional failures.

And the Obama Administration is considering using the same logic for a lawsuit: pursuant to the Supremacy clause, state regulation of immigration is pre-empted by federal law.

But is this left-right consensus correct? The text of the U.S. Constitution says nothing about immigration, only that Congress has the power to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.” Thus, the Constitution grants Congress the power to pass regulations determining the process by which residents may become citizens. The only crimes for which Congress is allowed to establish punishments are “Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations” and “counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States.” Congress also has the power to regulate international commerce, which must mean the trade of goods and services but probably also capital investment from abroad. But crossing a border isn’t, in itself, “commerce.”

Is regulating immigration “necessary and proper” to any of the foregoing powers of Congress? I don’t see how it is. Congress can very well establish rules for citizenship while leaving immigration itself unregulated, as it essentially did until after World War I, with the notorious exception of the Alien Friends and Enemies Acts, or while leaving states to regulate immigration.

Surprisingly, a textualist reading of the Constitution therefore reveals that regulating immigration is the job of the states, not the federal government.

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The new Arizona immigration law is provoking charges of the genetic fallacy on both sides. The genetic fallacy is criticizing an argument or proposition not on its merits but on the basis of its origin or genesis—where it originally came from, what sort of motivations the people who propose it have, and so on. It is standardly considered a fallacy because a view or position’s (or law’s) origins are usually taken to be irrelevant to whether it is true, good, or just.

So, some supporters of the Arizona law are claiming that opposition is motivated by political correctness on the Left that tends to hold that anything supported by racial minorities is good, whereas what is supported by whites is bad. This is Dennis Prager’s recent argument, for example. On the other hand, quite a few opponents claim that the law is motivated by latent, or even overt, racism. This is the claim of everyone from Arizona’s Pima County Sheriff to the Major League Baseball Player’s union.

Thus both are addressing the (alleged) motives of people supporting or opposing the law at least as much as they are addressing the law itself, and hence to that extent committing the fallacy.

But is the genetic fallacy always a fallacy? Jack Weinstein recently raises this provocative question: Suppose that some of the people behind the passage of the law had racism (either anti-Hispanic or white supremacy racism) as one of their main motivations; would that qualify as a reason to reject it? Can an origin of a law become a justifiable reason for rejecting the law itself if that origin is sufficiently discreditable?

The standard reason for rejecting criticisms of origins or intent is easy to see. Kekule allegedly discovered the structure of the benzine ring in a dream, but that suspicious origin of the belief does not invalidate the structure he proposed; Hitler loved Richard Wagner’s music, but that doesn’t mean that Wagner’s music isn’t good; and so on. But is the Arizona law—which, whatever one’s view about it, is clearly fraught with racial issues—sufficiently inflammatory that it is, or should be, an exception to the standard view on genetic fallacies?

Race is certainly an inflammatory issue in America today, perhaps the most inflammatory issue; and some might argue that our continuing racial antagonisms rise to the level of moral repugnance exemplified by, for example, Nazism. But whether Wagner’s music is any good—just as whether one should be a vegetarian, a teetotaler, or a non-smoker (all practices of Hitler’s)—remain separate questions and thus must be distinguished from their origins or associations if they are themselves to be evaluated. The origins of a judgment or view may be condemnable or laudatory, and should be evaluated accordingly. But whether the view is itself true or good is a separate question, and should be evaluated separately.*

We may think that racist motivations are so bad that whatever they touch is thereby tainted as well, and in the heat of the moment we may be forgiven for allowing our condemnation of origins or motivations to bleed into a condemnation of the view or position itself. Moreover, given how incendiary racial issues in America are, one might mount a prudential argument against (or in favor of) a view or position that does draw on origins or motivations.

But that would remain a prudential or strategic consideration, not an evaluation of the view, position, judgment, or belief itself. Thus I suggest that the evaluation of a law will have to be on its merits—its comportment with other laws or the Constitution, its comportment with proper morality, the relative conduciveness of its likely actual effects to general welfare, etc.—and the origins of the law or the motivations of those favoring or opposing the law should be subject to their own separate and independent evaluation.

*[Note: I acknowledge one exception to this general maxim, namely when God is acknowledged to be the source of the view or law in question. But, as David Hume says in another context, this instance is so singular that it is scarcely worth our observing and does not merit that for it alone we should alter our general maxim.]

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My New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is angry that “legal citizens and permanent residents of the U.S.” will be detained and asked for their “papers” in Arizona. In a CNN interview yesterday, the Senator says that “Arizona has become a ‘show me your papers’ state,” and he declares that, if asked, “the only papers [he] would show is the Constitution.”

Has Senator Menendez been to an airport recently? Every time I fly I have to produce papers, even though I am a native-born legal citizen and a permanent resident of the United States. I am routinely treated like a criminal—I have to partially disrobe, my bags are routinely opened and their contents searched and examined, I am patted down—even though I have committed no crime, I am not accused of committing any crime, and I am not even suspected of committing any crime. And, of course, I am not the only one.

As I wrote many years ago, before 9/11 I used to refuse permission to airport security personnel to inspect my bags. Since 9/11, however, I no longer have that choice. Either I submit to whatever the security personnel want, or I am indefinitely detained. Of course, I also have the option not to fly, which seems an awfully high price to pay.

If Senator Menendez believes that legal citizens of the United States should not be subject to random detaining and should not be required to provide proof of their identities and of their citizenship, why is he not organizing protests at our airports?

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I’m interested in people’s opinions on the new Arizona anti-immigration law.  I have a hard time coming to a consensus in my own mind about the immigration issue and laws like the one Arizona passed.

My civil libertarian mind hates the police state and harassment of anyone—citizen or otherwise.

My rule-of-law mind hates that we mostly look the other way when our immigration laws are flouted—not just by the immigrants crossing the border, but by businesses who hire them and by local governments who provide them sanctuary from the law.

My utilitarian economist mind realizes how essential low-wage immigrant labor is to our economy.  A sudden extraction of illegal immigrants (not that that is possible) would be disastrous, economically speaking.

My selfish elitist mind realizes that I am part of the socioeconomic class that benefits most from this immigrant labor, since I don’t face much wage competition from them (though American academics do face a lot of pressure from educated immigrants in both obtaining jobs and getting into graduate schools).

My partisan political mind understands the importance of the Latino vote in the future.  Even a small-brained Republican like George W. realized this and tried to avoid alienating Hispanics.  Of course even smaller-brained Republican Congressmen have succeeded in sticking a racist knife into the party’s future.  Democrats (who, ironically, rely much more on electoral support from the unskilled laborers who are the principal losers from illegal immigration) just get to sit back and laugh as the Republicans do themselves in.

My cosmopolitan egalitarian mind hates that ugly racism underlying the anti-immigration view and sees open immigration as lifting at least some people around the world out of poverty.

My Christian mind is cognizant that many of these illegal immigrants are surely among “the least of these” that Christ talked about when he said, “For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in.” (Matt. 25:35)  I generally don’t like to use religious arguments as policy justifications, since the things that determine private morality often cannot justify public policy,  but I have to say these biblical verses definitely come to mind.

So what is a civil-liberatarian-rule-of-law-utilitarian-economist-selfish-elitest-Republican-cosmopolitan-egalitarian-Christian to do?

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Today an Arizona bill allowing police to arrest anyone not carrying valid identification went to the governor’s desk for her signature. The bill also makes lacking proper immigration papers a state misdemeanor offense. In a shocking display of gutlessness, John McCain has endorsed the bill, presumably because he’s facing a primary challenge from hard-rightist J.D. Hayworth.

I’m a privacy-conscious person, and if I’m cycling or walking around town (i.e., not driving), I try not to carry identification. The growing “papers, please” mentality in this country is just one more disturbing indication of how far the civil liberties revolution of mid-century is being rolled back.

Arizona was #12 in personal freedom in a study I co-authored based on 2007 data. I’ve got to think that with laws like this, they are going to drop a peg or two. FWIW, according to Wikipedia 26 states allow you to refuse to provide identification to police, even if you are being legally detained.

HT: Hit & Run

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