Some Heresy on Immigration

    Just thinking out loud here about possible legitimate avenues moving away from rather than further into the current mess.

    Key elements of today's GOP and GOP constituencies act like an increasingly cornered endangered species.  They are reacting in desperation, now while they may believe they still have a chance to do something about it.  This seems to be a major reason why the immigration issue is such a flashpoint now.  Demographic, along with what they believe or assume to be inevitable cultural, dread.

    The offended or angry response to concerns about too much immigration, along lines of "well, f*** them [partly because, well, they are one of those thems], let's support more immigration, legal and illegal, can also be a kind of knee-jerk or temper tantrum reaction.  

    Some changes can be deeply destabilizing to a society.  Rapid demographic change can be, and often is.  The Europeans are certainly struggling with how to deal with it.  But really this seems to be a major challenge in a great many contexts around the world, and historically.

    One response to the part of the more longstanding current native population that is concerned or upset about the extent of immigration is: "Tough.  Deal with it." 

    Another is "Well, maybe you have a point.  What levels of immigration do you believe we should we be aiming for, based on multiple considerations including labor market dynamics, foreign policy implications, pace of demographic change and consequences it is having, etc.?" 

    The US at present does not seem to have any ability to ratchet back the mutual hostility and mistrust and consider the latter sort of response,  Partly that is because the immigration issue and discussions surrounding it are so polarized that having reasonable, substantive discussion about it is difficult.  But partly that may also be because we don't have any strategy or policy approach for more effectively regulating who comes into the country that even potentially appears able to reduce the rate of illegal immigration below what it is now and has been for a while now, and beyond that exert greater influence ("control" is probably too strong a word) more generally over who enters the country.    

    Should consideration, in policymaking, of reasonable limits to the speed of demographic change, based on a concern that too much demographic change too quickly can lead to dangerous levels of political instability, be beyond the pale?  Or are any such notions too hot or toxic for us to be able to deal with? 

    That such a consideration could have some legitimacy seems to be a minority view among Democrats these days.  I don't think it should be.  Democrats don't want to be called xenophobes or racists (it seems as though I am much more often sticking up for the left than criticizing it, but this is one thing I do blame some elements of the left for), so there is reluctance even to make this seemingly straightforward, not particularly controversial, point. 

    We expect drivers to have, on their person, a driver's license, available to present if need be.  Why, again, should we consider a national ID card, which could be incorporated into a driver's license or could be a separate driver's license-type physical object for those who do not have driver's licenses, to be a non-discussable?

    It would seem to make enforcement of the immigration laws far more practical and feasible, without any need to get into discussions of building walls and such.  

    I completely get, I think, how, even though immigration now is an issue that, as it has in the past, cut across partisan lines.  There are a wide range of views and policy preferences on immigration within the two major parties, clearly.

    Democrats have been reluctant to take public positions suggesting any discouragement of immigration because Latinas and Latinos, in particular, as by far the largest immigrant population, lean strongly Democratic and Democrats want to push things further in that direction.  There are other views on immigration with the party, and the dynamics vary by region among other factors.  But this is the predominant one now.

    Insofar as the Republicans go, large elements of their base are extremely upset, and energized, by what they view as too much immigration.  Some of this ethnic/racial anxiety.  Some of this is cultural anxiety.  And what is ethnic/racial vs. what is cultural anxiety can be difficult to distinguish in practice, even for the person experiencing feelings of anxiety.  Some of it is competition for jobs in parts of the GOP South where the economy is in rough shape, jobs and hope are already scarce, and such jobs as there are are often not living wage, relatively stable jobs with decent benefits.  There is an expectation this creates that GOP candidates and elected officials take a hard line stance highly unsympathetic to immigration and immigrants.

    A far smaller but highly influential part of the Republican constituency is CEOs, corporate managers, and many business owners.  Some of their companies are hurt by immigration.  But some are helped by it and indeed require it.  Where hiring illegal immigrants is an essential part of a particular organization's business strategy, since we don't really have a very effective way of enforcing laws barring hiring of illegal immigrants even where there is political will to attempt to enforce those laws, the status quo is a bit dicey.  But, notwithstanding some highly publicized raids in some parts of the country, the status quo, pre-Trump anyway, is usually not so problematic as to be a concern that keeps them from doing what they want or feel they need to do to run their business.

    The national ID card idea might be something some might consider as, possibly, worth discussing as a policy matter, but not as a political matter.  It might be thought of as just another maybe interesting, to some, policy avenue with not enough of a potential political constituency to generate any sort of real discussion among media, concerned and active citizens, and people who have authority to make decisions on immigration policy. 

    Here at dag we don't have to be constrained but notions of what is considered, or assumed to have a potential political constituency vs. what is considered or assumed not to have such potential.  Fortunately there are places like this around where currently undiscussed ideas can be floated for discussion, among any interested. 

    Pete Wilson ran for governor of California as a Republican years back on a platform of cracking down on illegal, but no legal immigration.  He was thrashed at the polls.  I suspect part of this was because of the modern-day GOP's ugly history on race, making his claims of "I'm not against immigration; I'm against illegal immigration" not quite credible among many voters.  

    I believe there are people who genuinely are not at all "against immigration", indeed believe it has many beneficial impacts (as well as some negative ones, on wages near the bottom of the wage scale) and support it, but believe we need to be able to regulate it far more effectively, including by greatly reducing illegal immigration.  In fact, I know there are such people, because I am one of them.  I don't believe I am alone by any means. 

    I think that IF we are at a point in our country now where what passes for "debate" about immigration is dominated by people who are, alternatively, accusing one another of being either (because one must be one or the other, right? obviously so) a) xenophobes and/or racists because they believe more effective approaches to reducing illegal immigration, and regulating immigration generally to the point where legitimate public policy decisions have some chance of more or less sticking (so voters can vote out the people who made those decisions if they don't like them), are needed and are interested in exploring ways to do so so, even controversial ones, because which non-controversial ones are available to discuss? OR b) one of those elite cultural snobs/hypocrites/Democrats/libruls/(fill in the blank) who looks down their noses at those expressing concerns about immigration as, clearly and obviously, racists and/or xenophobes who could not possibly have any legitimate concerns, THEN this effort probably will go the way of attempts to discuss any number of other apparent non-discussable issues in our day. 

    OTOH, once, many years ago (either here or at tpmcafe; arta probably remembers as she might have been reading me back then), I wrote something on I-P.  As we know, anything whatever that one writes on I-P is destined to be taken as inflammatory.  Yet...that was an entirely civil (I know; horrible thing to praise just now) and productive exchange, I thought. 

    A reasonable immigration policy, it seems to me, would take into consideration not whether we should facilitate immigration.  Clearly we should.  We need to.  The issues are how much, under what circumstances, using what mix of prevailing guidelines (family unification?  qualified job applicants? accepting refugees in some circumstances? other considerations?), and....crucially, I believe, how will we go about attempting to make policy decisions, made by democratically accountable officials (still, largely), stick?

    Right now, we have great difficulty, it seems, making immigration policy decisions stick because we do not have very good, quick, relatively non-intrusive ways of determining whether individuals are legally in the country or not.

    I am led to wonder if a national ID card might be the least problematic way to try to deal with this matter, and permit some sort of sane approach to immigration (only possibly leading to some sort of saner public reaction to immigration policy decisions, but possibly so, some of us might dare to dream).  

    I am not an expert on immigration, by any means.  I know some about the issue.  But mainly I am trying to better inform myself about it, by doing some further reading on it and now with this effort.  If you disagree with or want to argue with me about any of the above, please don't assume I am automatically hostile, by any means.  In fact, I would appreciate being educated by others here who know more on this issue.  Thank you for reading this.  And thank you in advance for your patience with my highly limited knowledge on this issue.  I am not deliberately aiming to be offensive or stupid on this stuff (such talent, rather, may come naturally.)

    I thought I would start here at dag, to see if any here may care to comment, rather than look around for other fora where this issue probably has been discussed.  At least here I have some context for knowing a few things about where different fellow denizens are coming from, what they've written on various matters in the past, etc. 

    Let the rock throwing




    Just thinking out loud here about possible legitimate avenues moving away from rather than further into the current mess

    I really don't understand how you think you are doing so by talking about a nationally required ID card. That essentially means you are advocating that the federal government tightly regulate who gets to stay here.That means a political argument all the time, forever, about who gets to stay here. And a huge government system to deal with that. And refugee and immigrant centers while they wait.

    Trump likes his idiotic wall idea because he thinks it avoids all of that. He refuses to hire new immigration judges precisely because he doesn't want all the bureaucracy. In his eyes, a wall would work better than government employees figuring out who gets to stay. Supposedly keeping out all the dumb poor who don't have the money or werewithal to go through a bureaucratic process, leaving us with smarter people and/orwith more money sneaking in who know how to work the system or to hide from it.

    For the left, ID requirements bring up the voter suppression thing.

    It is ironic that the GOP has used ID requirements against the left and the left is fighting against them because real conservatives should believe that someone should be able to live in freedom from government "off the grid" if they so desire. While more socialist types should want to require that everyone is "on the grid," paying their taxes, voting and receiving the government benefits due them.

    Two things on those issues on the reality of the situation:

    1) most western governments require a photo ID to vote and everyone's got one. (And Europe has small enough countries to know who everyone is and what they are up to. Even the ones in refugee camps.

    2) while the U.S. still has a relatively easy ability to be undocumented in this country, make-do systems pop up to help that along until the country's politicians straighten it all out. Like Undocumented immigrants pay taxes too. Here's how they do it. As that Vox article points out, they are paying in under false ID numbers, and not getting benefits like Social Security back.

    Everyone here who argues against ID cards, both libertarians and liberals who don't want to see that used for "voter suppression", is living in denial of the reality of what eventually has to be done.Libertarians shouldn't be fighting against ID cards, they should be realizing that, like a Social Security number, they are the place to draw the line and say "no more". I.E., no government facial recognition system of everyone and everything they are doing like already is present in many places in China. Liberals shouldn't be doing it just because the GOP does voter suppression using the fact, because they should want a system where everyone pays in and gets the benefits due them.

    Wild west is long gone, unless you want to live in Afghanistan or Syria without a cell phone. Actually, the Wild West was actually a little like that.

    Myself, it's one thing I don't like about the modern world, I like the idea of hiding and being off the grid sometimes, but it is what it is, it's what we got.

    While we have another interim period where Congress has decided to put it on the back burner again, I suspect the DACA "kids" are going to force the issue back on their plate after Nov. elections. Especially if we have a Dem Congress and a still President Trump or even if we have a President Pence.

    But again, nothing will be solved about who gets to come in and who needs to go when we have ID cards and a sensible system. It will be an eternal argument like it is in Europe, every time there is a crisis somewhere that forces people to leave their country.


    Legally I'm supposed to carry a national ID card at all times, and I rather dislike it, even though I've only been checked once perhaps 15 years ago.
    When I lived in the US, even as a passenger having a drivers license meant the police could check everybody in a car for any possible overdue tickets or other infractions, so at any moment showing your ID meant you could be fucked. And I'm white. For blacks and Hispanics, an ID is much more dangerous - including inevitable mistakes with similar names - oh, triple quadruple that for Muslims with lots of Ali's and Muhammed's and Omar's.
    This of course is one of the big issues with IDs for voting - let's check for overdue child support, unpaid tickets, etc. - exercising your vote while black especially carries a whole load of risk.
    Anyway, I think it's a bad idea and misses the mark, but don't want to pound on Dreamer for bringing it up.

    WaPo has done a new detailed poll on immigration, I know you're a regular reader so you're probably aware, so just posting it here for everyone else:

    Most Americans oppose key parts of Trump immigration plans, including wall, limits on citizens bringing family to U.S., poll says

    By Dan Balz & Scott Clement, July 6

    Americans overwhelmingly oppose the Trump administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, and smaller majorities also disagree with the president’s call to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to restrict legal immigration by limiting citizens from bringing parents and siblings to this country, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll.

    On other aspects of the immigration debate, however, a more mixed picture emerges. Americans are more closely divided on the question of whether enough is being done to prevent illegal immigration and whether the country has gone too far in welcoming immigrants. Also, more people say they trust President Trump than congressional Democrats to deal with the issue of border security. The support for Trump on the border-security issue is especially evident in congressional districts considered key battlegrounds in this fall’s midterm elections [....]

    First of several charts:


    First, thanks, aa and pp, for your comments.  I view this thread as a long-term project of sorts.  I've been chewing on what you wrote even as I am trying to read up to educate myself more on immigration issues.

    I'm about halfway into British political theorist and Oxford professor David Miller's 173-page book Strangers In Our Midst: The Political Philosophy of Immigration.  It is clearly written and I believe is likely to help anyone who wants to do so both challenge and clarify their own views on immigration.  

    I want to quote two paragraphs, on pages 64-65, for now:

    There is a second, rather different, way in which admitting immigrants may affect democratic self-determination.  There is evidence that cultural divisions among the members of a political community may reduce both inter-personal trust and trust in political institutions.  This reduction by no means entails the end of democracy, but it may change the way in which democratic institutions function.  It will become less likely that these institutions can operate in a deliberative manner, in which participants try to reach a consensus on what is to be done, guided by general considerations of fairness to all affected parties.  Deliberation requires confidence that the concessions you are willing to make in the search for an agreement will be reciprocated by other participants, that participants are sincere in the reasons they give in support of their demands, and so forth.  Where trust is lacking, deliberation is likely to be replaced by self-interested bargaining on the part of each group, where the outcome reflects the balance of power between them.  This has a number of side effects.  One is that it becomes less likely that public goods will be provided, since suspicious group representatives would rather bargain for goods that only their own members can enjoy.  Another is that it becomes harder to gain support for policies that involve economic redistribution in favor of the poor, again for the reason that general considerations of social justice are displaced by group-specific demands.

    So trust is important to a well-functioning democracy, but how does this relate to immigration?  The effect of immigration is normally to increase ethnic and religious diversity in the host society, and as we saw in Chapter 1, most social scientists believe that a further effect is to reduce interpersonal trust.  However, the relationship is not straightforward.  One variable factor is the degree to which the society becomes segregated, with incoming minority groups clustering in urban ghettos--or on the other hand, integrated through participation in voluntary associations and political movements that cut across ethnic and religious divisions.  Another is the presence or absence of an inclusive national identity which can provide a bond that overrides sectional identities.  Public policy, therefore, can be used to offset the potentially damaging effects of immigration on trust by encouraging integration and promoting a shared identity (I discuss this at much greater length in Chapter 8.)  The conclusion we should draw is not that immigration should be stopped forthwith, but that we should include among its possible costs a decline in trust and the ensuing political consequences --or else the cost of the measures needed to ensure that integration is successful.  As I suggested in Chapter 1, economic assessments of immigration tend to leave these factors out of the equation when calculating costs and benefits.  A democratic policy decision on the size and composition of the immigrant cohort needs to include them.

    (footnotes omitted)

    Elsewhere, on pages 67, he writes about what "culture" means for purposes of the immigration debate.  He distinguishes between private and public culture, and observes "one can have a state made up of meat eaters and vegetarians in roughly equal numbers [private culture], but not one similarly composed of democrats and theocrats [public culture].  The issue, therefore, is not just the extent of cultural diversity but the kind of diversity that is involved."  (bracketed text is my inserts)  On page 68 he offers provocative comments on culture as a source of identity, and connects that to immigration debates as well.  

    As a Brit obviously familiar with his own country's situation Miller is nonetheless not writing about immigration in Britain but immigration in general.  In including this quote I am not suggesting that the US situation is analogous to the British situation vis a vis the Muslim presence there, probably informing his example above, in particular.  Miller repeatedly affirms that diversity has or can have a great many benefits for a society.  He is not at all "anti-immigration".     

    Regardless of whether one reads or ends up agreeing with him or not, I think he is insightful in identifying considerations that I have not seen receive much attention in US immigration debates, that are nonetheless important, and that should obviously be resonant to any of us observing and trying to understand the political and cultural situation in our country.  

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