Can We Just Calm Down for a Minute, and Discuss Sensible Immigration?

Radical Centrism Papers: Immigration I

Immigration is a hot-wired topic. Both Democrats and Republicans  — understanding how frequently and baldly the issue has been demagogued — “play to the gallery,”  because, well, immigrants are a powerless constituency, so who gets hurt??? The not-surprising answer is that a few individuals and families get badly hurt, and that nothing actually gets done.

Trump is right in his overall push to get actual legislation on DACA — though I don’t think his subsequent actions have helped the actual legislative process forward much. It is an injustice to all concerned if immigration policy is implemented by executive fiat (whether it’s Trump or Obama, or Bush or Clinton) rather than a clear, honestly-debated immigration policy that passes the legislature and has gained enough consensus that it can be improved over time by congressional action or within specific parameters of executive action.

Particular blame must be laid on the conservative know-nothings who just obstinately resist anything. But blame must also be shared Democrats craven advertising for minority votes, so often without results; as well as by Republicans-who-know-better fearful of the Trump ethno-base.

For the sake of our country, Radical Centrism seeks a center that can hold. This will depend on 1) Senate consensus about core elements of a legislated immigration policy and 2) Paul Ryan having the guts to bring reasonable immigration reform to a vote of the house, in spite of a small knot of total resistance from the so-called Freedom Caucus.

It would be helpful if both houses were to publicize their debate and agree to avoid demagoguery to help reveal the rationale for why immigration policy matters — as well as what is working now, and what actually needs changing. I would bet that most people who weigh in so loudly on the topic have no idea what our immigration policy under Obama actually was. They just know it wasn’t enough to quell their manufactured fears. I know, vaguely, that Obama was seen as one of the most rigorous enforcers of legal immigration and extreme vetting policy in recent memory, until he finally gave up on the notion that Congress could actually pass something he could sign — the same problem Trump is having now.

Yet Trump was able to ramp up fear to the maximum during the campaign, and ominously point to the “failures” of Obama’s policy without anything beyond anecdotal evidence of his claims. Fanning fear without knowledge makes reasonable policy decisions extremely rare and always, always subject to fingerpointing and more demagoguery.  Who needs that? Can we declare a truce while we actually try to understand and solve this problem?

To make a “problem-based solution” possible, the public needs to have a better idea of what are the motivating rationales for and against various immigration regulations. Certainly our inconstant history, which includes long stretches of  welcoming immigrants to participate in building our nation, has resulted — not in harm as nativists insist — but in one of the most exciting, innovative and strongest economies in history.  What is problematic is that immigration is a process that occurs out of sight, often in dramatic surges and ebbs, and happens to people who we don’t know, until they show up in our communities.

But there’s a simple answer to that feeling of threat: the most anti-immigrant fervor exists not where there are the most immigrants, but where there are the least. Go HERE to see the facts backing that claim. That one documented fact tells a lot about the story of how the immigration issue is flogged in US politics. When combined with Trump’s base-approved preference for white Norweigan immigrants instead of the brown ones, it’s not too hard to figure out the narrative that is actually playing to the gallery. Do we really want to base our policy on something so rotten at its core?

It is important for our citizens to have a better understanding of what is happening. It is important to expose the numbers of people who are crossing the border illegally and which employers are providing them jobs. Instead of anecdotal horror stories, it would be important to consult actual data regarding crime committed by undocumented immigrants (not just the “crime” of not having valid papers). It would be helpful as well to have more transparency regarding the frequently brutal activities of ICE (who, because they typically operate out of sight of the general public, appear to succumb more readily to the frequent police notion that they should act as sole constable, judge and jury in their godlike decision over helpless malefactors).

Radical Centrism seeks Democrats and Republicans that will actually sit down and debate the issues in the absence of demagoguery and try to arrive at something more sensible than just throwing their hands up with a blanket no — and throwing the decision back to executive fiat. Here are some of the issues of importance to weigh.

Vetting and Limits. Should we have a borderless global community and just welcome in everybody? This appears to be a straw man argument that actually has no adherents, even if some people in their enthusiasm for the growth of a “world” consciousness consider such an inevitable result. But just like we have always had a very serious vetting process for immigrants, we have also had immigration limits. I would guess that fewer than .01% of our population has any significant grasp of what those are.  But our debate of exactly what, how and who has to stop  playing to the gallery, and needs to take account of sensible demographic realities.

Redressing the Age Imbalance: Here’s the rub, we have a very definite need for population age-equalization in the U.S. Baby Boomers are aging out of the workforce, and declining birthrates in our country show that far too few workers will be supporting Social Security for it to survive the tsunami of baby boomers. One of the only vehicles that can address that imbalance (short of mandating more births) is  immigration — both to fill up available work and to provide a pipeline of young employed to support the social security safety net for an aging workforce.

Limiting the Impact on Existing Communities. There are temporary conditions caused by a surge in local immigrant populations that can make towns and cities feel an uncomfortable distance between cultures. Those anxieties usually are dispelled by the second, Americanized generation who come up in a totally different world.  Still, fear is born, and our policies, while not yielding to fear, should be aware of its incipience, and take pains to relieve it. Typically this is done by transparency of process, rational directed discussions with the community and a common education conducted in English, with ancillary support for foreign language speakers.

Guest Workers or Higher Pay: In addition to the need to rebalance the age of the workforce, there are jobs in the U.S. that are typically difficult and unappetizing to the American workforce. For both issues, immigration is one of the most immediate solutions, but not the ONLY solution. Another approach might be to just pay higher wages so that the privileged American worker can be convinced the pain and suffering of these demanding jobs is worth it. This would likely mean a subsequent sacrifice for the American consumer: higher prices for food, houses, health care, house cleaners, etc.

Getting and Retaining the Best of the Best: American business has found that making a place for the best and the brightest immigrants in a (reasonably) meritocratic system of advancement has made American business among the most innovative and competitive in the world. Not only in Silicon Valley, but throughout the global business community. We are fortunate that many of these high-value contributors to America still want to come here, in the light of our recent immigrant-bashing. To continue leading the world, this means welcoming and honoring these people, granting education visas, long-term work visas, and providing a certain path to citizenship for these amazing people.

Fighting Terrorism: People have been convinced that immigrants are a major source of crime and especially violent religious crime. In reality, that description apparently applies more to native-born, radicalized jihadists, but also to radicalized right wing Americans. But many Americans just don’t believe these facts, when fear is so high in their souls. So let us compile a fact-base with every known country and the number of existing immigrants, the actual number of crimes committed as percentage of population, and a number range we feel can be integrated comfortably into American Society. At the same time it may be more urgent to develop a strategy to combat radicalization sites on the web, which provide an ample umbrella for American sociopaths to find inspiration. Jihadist terrorism in the U.S. has not come from immigrants so much as radicalized American-born or naturalized citizens. Strong actions must be designed to understand, monitor and de-fang these violent sites.

Expanding Trade and Opportunity in Neighboring States: Hard to believe, but most people would prefer to stay in their country of origin along with their families. It is usually the prospect of privation, crime, or political violence that motivates them to consider emigrating. To prevent mass immigration and surges of immigrants from specific countries, the most important we can do is NOT to build walls, but to take real substantive actions to improve conditions in countries of their origin. For proof, there could be no better case study than Mexico: in simple terms, the improvement in Mexican economic conditions produced by NAFTA has reduced both birth rate, and immigration to the U.S. to a dribble. Has it cost the U.S.? Yes… a number of jobs have been exported to Mexico. But the reduction of economic disparity between the two countries has had a dramatic and dynamic effect on immigration.

The improvement of third world economies throughout the world caused by the expansion of world trade and the reduction of trade barriers has reduced poverty and increased stability in many third world countries.  This one of the great, anticipated, successes of free trade that has been lost in the current demonizing of global trade agreements. Yet there is a good case that trade has in fact opened opportunities, increased living standards, lowered birthrates and emigration in second- and third-world countries throughout the world. This remarkable change has offset one of the great tragedies of the current iteration of globalized trading nations: the rise of a lawless global corporate class that sucks a disproportionate amount of wealth out of all workers and all countries to advantage the investor class. More about that later…

The plutocrats that have starved the the middle class, have invested a small portion of their plunder in successfully and cynically  maintaining a false narrative designed to misdirect blame for wealth disparities and lack of wage growth. Who better to blame than poor, hard-working immigrants seeking a better life?

Deeper look: for a deeper look at the philosophy of immigration as administered by the Trump administration, clicking the link above will take you to an insightful article by fivethirtyeight that I just published in my curated magazine Metadada ‘Pocalypse Review.


By the way, I have taken to collecting news articles in special curated magazines on the Flipboard program. These are facts and opinions that interest me and which provide some of the statistical rationale for the concerns I write about. I’m still getting organized on this front, but it’s fun, and I think you might find it informative to check them out.

Metadada ‘Pocalypse Review is a catch-all magazine and media repository for articles that influenced what I am writing or have written… I really try to avoid anything directly about Trump…
OK. It’s the Trump Show is a craven giving in to the daily entertainment spectacle currently running in the United States government. It’s curated news articles about Trump, Trump, Trump. 

Radical Centrism Review is my search to recover an agenda for a dynamic center to our politics
Culture: Wars and Pieces is relating books, movies, music and art to the current state of our social and political structure. 
Let me know what you think!  

  1. The most rational intelligent blog you have written

    Problem is that the strident voices on both sides control the debate. I have no hope of hearing moderate calm voices on either side. Not pointing any fingers this time except at the media that breathlessly fans the fires of outrage. Are there any adults left in Washington?

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  2. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have discovered a wonderful thing about immigration: it’s an issue with virtually zero direct constituency. So they can hang their hats on demonizing or glorifying without regard to any actuality. It’s only when it comes down to immigration “no tolerance” child concentration camps (or totally porous borders) that the humanity of it comes into view. So now that this “human” insight has occurred and we have discovered some Republican humanity, as well as apparently responsible family advocacy agencies, perhaps it’s a moment to stop demagoguery and introduce rationality to the legislative process. Congress was built by the founders for “reasonable consensus” but it will be hard to create legislation that reflects that until a significant caucus of Republican no-compromise”
    Nuts gets defanged by the Republican leadership. That group was built to obstruct, not to govern. And I’m sorry, Shal, but since Clinton took the party to a kind of business friendly Centrism, there is no equivalent obstructive radical caucus on the democratic side.

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  3. Cue up Maxine Waters. Until you can post 1 nice thing to say about Trump and what he has done over the past 2 years we cannot have a meaningful conversation. I am capable of saying nice things about Obama despite the fact that I opposed almost all of his agenda. If you cannot reciprocate about Trump and continue to view him as a lower case Benito Mussolini’s we have little to discuss. I did not vote for Trump last election, but unlike most of the craven and back biting GOP House/Senate he has kept his campaign promises. I agree with his economic plan. I agree with his basic take on immigration. I agree with his taking on our European and Asian trading partners to look for a better deal. I am totally delighted with his repudiation of the Iran and Paris accords and I recognize his moving the US embassy to Jerusalem as long long overdue
    His rolling back of Obama’s exec orders is as fair as Obama’s actions in the first place. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If you rule by edictyou can expect the next guy to do the same

    None of this is Satan’s work as characterized by the Left. It is simply the mirror image of Obama’s Center Left agenda. I think that is where the center 2/3 of this nation sees it, despite the boiling tar that comes from the mainstream media. And that is why I don’t think there will be a Blue Wave this fall

    Has he made errors in judgement? Absolutely. He was totally tone deaf about the child immigrant issue
    Credit him with being nimble enough to ‘pivot’ (love the term when applied to BO) and issue an order to remedy some of the problem. He also was a fool to back a pervert like Roy Moore. His initial handling of Kim Un was juvenile. Credit him with finding a way to at least start a dialog. I think the next time he sees that weasel Trudeau he should drop kick him in the nuts. Did not think there was ever a worse Canadian Pol than Pierre, but this guy is absolutely the worst
    Merkel is sliding into oblivion politically because the Germans have had enough of her immigration policy
    There isn’t one single foreign leader I actually like except Netanyahu

    So although I didn’t vote for Trump and considered him deeply flawed as a man he has grown as President and reminds me a little of another man who became President by accident and was savaged often by the press in his first term. Came to office as a political hack with no one thinking he was worth anything and was supposed to be a one term loser. Right up to Election Day. Harry Truman. Another deeply flawed politician who became an embattled President and eventually won grudging respect. But then that was a different time

    Another 2 years like the first 2 years and I will vote for Trump—— especially over the likes of Warren or Kamala or, God help us, Bernie- who has suddenly developed a love for money. Have you seen the latest press on how much this bastard has earned in the past 2 years? He is the real life Wizard of Oz

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    1. Shal
      You’ve made this challenge before and I’ve responded with a number things that I think Trump has done that I can say positive things about, so please stop with the ultimatum. You’re like far too many Trump supporters that are so aggrieved by every damn thing they can’t even stop to consider what I am actually saying. Still, just because I can say some nice things about Trump, that doesn’t mean I will retreat from the overwhelming evidence that he admires and aspires to be a tinpot dictator. Overwhelming evidence that he ran the most racist campaign since George Wallace and has followed it up with policies that deliberately, symbolically, and openly penalize people of color. His followers pretend “colorblindness” in order to remain blind to the obvious racism. Not to mention corruption documented by people who are supposed investigate it at a scale beyond anything since Nixon.
      Alt-right is NOT a mirror of Center left.
      On a policy basis, I think his economic plan is in shambles. He is a racist bullhorn on immigration- every policy is aimed at brown-skinned immigrants and is based on the great Trump being the solution to a non-existent problems that have come solely from high-fear quotient anecdote. His health care ‘policy’ is throwing millions of people off coverage. You may love Netanyahu, but he’s a liar who single-handedly violated every effort at peace that his country had committed to, and has settled into an apartheid supported by US arms. You may feel ‘delighted’ to ignore and encourage global warming: i do not. You may feel fine with restarting Iran’s nuclear weapons program, but it can only lead to 1) invasion and another disaster of imperialism or 2) a nuclear power besides Israel in in the Middle East.
      It is not my obligation to shut up in the face of clear evidence of Trump’s venality, racism and corruption. It is not my responsibility to follow you into a cult of personality that threatens our democratic checks and balances. Neither is it your responsibility to love Obama and what he did while he was in office. It IS our responsibility as citizens to find a way to talk with each other about the issues raised and see if we can come up with policy solutions that aren’t just about sticking to the other side.

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  4. I like your analysis and discussion. It’s reasonable, perceptive and humane. Keep it up!

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    1. Thanks Doug… and thanks for commenting.

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