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Tilting at Windmills

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December 20, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

IMMIGRATION.... Matt Yglesias browses through a Democracy Corps strategy memo about immigration and highlights the chart on the right:

This graph plays to my prejudices. But since I found it in the midst of an analysis designed to play against my prejudices, I find it pretty noteworthy. And, of course, it backs up other surveys indicating that the immigration issue only really plays with a minority of the public. And, of course, it's now well known that immigration is the biggest concern in areas where immigration is a new phenomenon and my guesstimate is that this leaves the target audience pretty small.

Maybe, but I'm less sure about that. One of the problems with polls is that they rarely measure depth of feeling. So you get polls where 70% of the country wants more money for education, 70% wants universal healthcare, 70% supports the UN, etc. etc. But this doesn't really tell you much. These are all default "feel good" answers that rarely give you any insight into the way people vote.

But here we have just the opposite. Yes, 31% is a minority, but if the survey is to be believed, that's 31% who feel pretty damn strongly about the issue and are likely to base their votes on it. That's a pretty sizable number.

Now, I agree with Matt that this doesn't necessarily mean that Democrats need to get medieval on immigration. For starters, there's a downside with other groups, and in any case the fact that lots of people think it's a big priority doesn't mean those people are all demanding that we seed the border with tactical nukes. In fact, this is the kind of issue that very well might lend itself to modestly tougher rhetoric combined with moderation on the actual policy side of things. Which, it turns out, is pretty much what DC says:

Voters want to know first, that leaders 'get it' — that they share their common sense frustration with the problem and second, that they will act against employers, on the borders and on government programs to get things under control. But most in the broad public hold positive views of the new immigrants and will support an inclusive American response, including a path to citizenship for the responsible, tax-paying and law-abiding — if they believe first that America has acted to get this national problem under control. They really want to hear that Democrats 'get it' — because it says a lot about the Democrats' values and ability to solve real problems.

I don't really have any problem with this. In fact, on a policy basis, it's not that far from the mainstream Democratic view: later in the report we learn that employer sanctions and a path to citizenship are popular, whereas deportation and fence-building aren't. (Cutting back on government benefits gets a mixed response.) Just make sure that everyone knows you "get it" first.

Kevin Drum 1:17 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Tom Tancredo abandons White House bid
...Tancredo is a fierce proponent of stricter illegal immigration laws, but his campaign struggled to gain traction with the Republican base. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out Wednesday night showed the congressman registered less than 1 percent support nationally, and a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll in Iowa Thursday put Tancredo at only 3 percent....

This was his burning issue, he and Lou Dobbs, but apparently all the Nativism and demagoguing has not resonated with the electorate all that much.

Posted by: Mike on December 20, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

There has never been a time in the history of this "nation of immigrants" that immigrants have been initially accepted. I think Matt is right. The issue is strongest where it is newest. Eventually, when they see that the newcomers aren't raping their daughters and burning down their houses, people get over it.

Posted by: Ed Thibodeau on December 20, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Is it possible to have a discussion about what sort of immigration demographic we should prioritize? As productivity improves, the number of jobs for unskilled immigrants diminishes. To the extent we fail to automate, we maintain a larger base of low paying jobs.

America's ability to provide universal health care and meaningful social security (requiring funding during each worker's years in the workforce) is directly undermined by the percentage of workers in America who are not earning enough to realistically fund the value of their benefits. That is, immigration that enlarges the pool of unskilled workers encourages formation of low wage jobs, and this is a crucial factor in whether or not as a nation we can fund improved universal health care and social security. Virtually unrestricted immigration of engineers with graduate degrees, on the other hand, by this argument, would be helpful to the US economy and our ability to provide better health and retirement benefits to all workers.

There may be long-term economic harm to America by continuing to have an immigration policy that favors the entry of unskilled workers, when our existing communities of recent immigrants have high birth rates, and academic scores 20% below the national average. That reality would suggest we have plenty of people already here to take low paying jobs.

Posted by: George Antrobus on December 20, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Goddamned Canadians. They're takin' err jobs!

Posted by: cazart on December 20, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm, I keep seeing numbers like that and think "crazification factor".

Posted by: Randall Flagg on December 20, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, if Kevin Drum knew anything about this issue he would have pointed out that the survey conflates all different types of immigration together. And, Kevin Drum would have pointed out that the problem is with our leaders: if they weren't corrupt this wouldn't be much of an issue in the first place.

And, (if he knew anything about this issue), Kevin Drum would have pointed out that their belief that the public would support a "path" is fanciful at best. The public might support such a "path", but only as long as you don't reveal everything that would result, such as even more IllegalImmigration and, less noticed by most, even more PoliticalPower inside the U.S. for the MexicanGovernment. Why, that government has even explicitly stated that they're going to be using U.S. nonprofits to push their agenda inside the U.S., and they already have direct or indirect links to various well-known groups such as the ACLU. They also have links to various Democratic politicians.

And, continuing on, Kevin Drum (if he were familiar with this issue) would have pointed out that immigration plays a large role in other issues, including health care (listed as a different issue in the survey).

Let me bottom line this for Kevin Drum and maybe he can post it to the mailing list or something: eventually someone who's familiar with this issue is going to go to an Obama appearance and make these points and then upload Obama's response to Youtube.

Think of it as a MacacaMoment, but about policy.

(As for Hillary, the question for her has already gotten over 15,000 views: youtube.com/watch?v=Q_l4Lawj14A )

Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on December 20, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

As usual, the Democrats attempt to combine/confuse polls by including illegal and legal immigration thus obtaining useless data. While it may be true that illegal immigration (and I will stick to that group only here) is more of an issue in places where it is a newer phenomena, in Southern California, where it would seem not to be an issue, you could also be wrong.
I live there and many of us are just weary of the fight because we don't seem to get anywhere with it in our state. What you do see happen in places like the Greater Los Angeles Area is that Los Angeles the city has gone through the process of becoming largely Latino, with a huge majority of Latino (legal) voters and even they don't want illegal immigrants in their communities because they must compete for jobs with them and it results in the suppression of wages.
What you see on the linked articles first graphic, which only focuses on illegals' is more of a breakdown of strong feelings along economic lines...it is not, as one might surmise from first look a breakdown according to how much education a particular group has. This is where the Democrats seem to go off the tracks and where they 'fail to get it'

Posted by: Merg on December 20, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

If immigration were only "academic" my life would be far easier. And I mention that I am Chicano and only for purpose of emphasis, and nothing more.

Take, for example, in Phoenix, Arizona, the Democratic Mayor appointed a commission comprised of a majority of Republicans and which are chartered to provide him with some "illumniation" with respect to changing the public policies of the Police Department. In the latest public meeting (last week) of this commission held in South Phoenix and which is predominantly Hispanic, the angst, anxiety and anger before the completion of the introduction of the commission members, surfaced and the miscreants had to be escorted out of the building by the security staff. At the conclusion of this two and a half hour meeting, nothing changed.

In the interim, a lawsuit has been filed against the City of Phoenix and its Police Department and which will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. To wit, a vehicle was stopped in which the driver-Anglo was asked for his driver's license and insurance papers. The passenger (non-Anglo) was asked "papers please" and which the passenger did and quite politely. Moreover, the passenger was an immigrant and with the proper papers to be in the United States.

However, he-the passenger was detained, taken to jail and later released after nine hours of incarceration. And yet, there were 10 ICE officers assigned to the Bureau of Violent Crimes responsible for investigating murders, kidnappings, robberies and other crimes. Sadly, no police officer took the time to walk across the aisle to request the assistance of any ICE officer in order to verify or attest to the accuracy of the passenger's documents. And historically-speaking, anyone booked into the jail is automatically verified for an immigration status.

As an aside, Arizona's Department of Public Safety is under a "consent decree" for its behavior for 'racial profiling' and the DPS has never been timid in its behavior.

And in a parallel effort, the Chief of Police has his task force developing a change in public policies to recommend to the City Manager and the City Council.

Now, getting back to the "academics" of immigration. There is none since "immigrants" have become the proxy for most public policy.

Years ago, the City of Phoenix resisted the establishment of a Civilian Review Board, and if I am correct, I think that this political behavior is a last gasp effort to derail any CRB.

A journalist friend recently reminded me of one of America's iconic humorists, and George Carlin to be specific, in which Carlin suggested that the Department of Homeland Security should come in two parts, first the "What Happened?" Department and secondly, the "What Now?" Department.

Just as in presidential politics with respect to the 'down' ticket, immigration too has its 'down' ticket impact and its not a pretty sight to behold in the least. Proxyism has become prevalent in almost all things, and I kid you not. And it needs to be said, I refuse to suffer quietly this indignity being heaped on me!

Respectfully Submitted.

Jaango

Posted by: Jaango on December 20, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

As for Hillary, the question for her has already gotten over 15,000 views [on YT]

Fifteen thousand?! Why, that's almost as many as my nephew's meniscus operation!

Posted by: shortstop on December 20, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I don't know about the rest of you folks, but I'm all in favor of erasing the contributions that over 10 million hard working people make to the US economy.

Who's with me?!

Posted by: Osama Bin Laden on December 20, 2007 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, illegal labor only makes up a very small part of our economy, and it's one that we could deal with if most IllegalAliens left over time. In fact, being less reliant on an imported serf class might actually do us a lot of good: instead of throwing cheap labor at a problem we'd invent machines and stuff, just like we used to. Of course, those who are basically crooks would lose some money and some power, but there really isn't much of a reason to help them out.

As for the number of views, another Obama one has gotten almost 14,000 (youtube.com/watch?v=EiullH5jU1A) and one for Huck has gotten over 25,000 (youtube.com/watch?v=1KxDhesWutc). Which isn't bad considering that no major sites have linked to them and that neither video serves the interests of their respective Parties.

And, I'd say there's a good chance that if a MacacaMoment-but-about-policy video appears that reveals that Obama doesn't have a clue that it would get a lot of hits, perhaps even from Drudge.

Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on December 20, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's counterproductive for any Democrat to engage in any way in the right wing's latest racist GOTV effort.

Posted by: david on December 20, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Americans do strongly support a path to citizenship for illegal aliens- they leave and apply to immigrate legally. Democrats are deluding themselves if they believe otherwise (like Kevin Drum seems to). Really, did you not see what has happened to Eliot Spitzer in New York?

And I write this as someone who thought McCain's plan was a good and decent one.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on December 20, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

31% of Americans are raging racists. It is a serious problem that will lead to enormous hardship and probably mass murder. If a similar study had been made in Germany in 1937 about Jews, the numbers would probably look the same. We know the German minority opinion prevailed, and the minority racist anti-immigrant opinion looks to prevail in the US.

Posted by: Brojo on December 20, 2007 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Eventually, when they see that the newcomers aren't raping their daughters and burning down their houses, people get over it."
Posted by: Ed Thibodeau on December 20, 2007

-------

Nowadays we just let Halliburton do the raping and the military does the house burning (in Iraq).

Why let the immigrants have all the fun?

Of course, the original immigrants who did all the killin', rapin' and burnin' were the White Anglo Europeans. Has anything changed?

Posted by: MarkH on December 20, 2007 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo,

Shhh! If anyone finds out about our giant concentration camp south of the Rio Grande, we could all be indicted for crimes against political correctness!

Posted by: alex on December 20, 2007 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

the original immigrants who did all the killin', rapin' and burnin' were the White Anglo Europeans

Don't leave out the contributions of the Spanish and French -- they'll be pissed.

Posted by: Disputo on December 20, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Speak for yourself, Yancey, not clear you speak for a majority of Americans, by a long shot.

And Kevin. Why is it you see the 31% as really strongly racist, er, anti-immigration, but you don't thing the 48% feel strongly, even though they say they do? The 48% are saying to the 31%, "Shut UP!"

Posted by: David in NY on December 20, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

I know that the progressive thing is to defend immigration always...with the occasional smack at the White Anglo Europeans who settled North America and displaced the Native Americans...but I worry that Progressives are in danger of missing the forest for the trees on this issue.

According to recent work by Robert Putnam, high levels of diversity also has social costs. Higher diversity results in lower social capital--not only across cultural groups but within groups. And lower social capital translates into less support for public funding of schools, aid to the poor and--ouch!--health care.

You may personally regard ethnic restaurants and music as the greatest cultural good imaginable and figure that we can have our sushi and eat it too, but I have begun to wonder if America needs a period of stabilization.

The period of greatest progressivity in American history came during the period when the US was least open to immigration. How would we feel if our hopes for a progressive society--eg, decent health care for all Americans, less income/wealth inequality, greater access to higher education--were being stymied by policies that created a more diverse society? There are times when I wonder if government pro-immigration, pro-growth policies are really a pyramid scheme for avoiding meaningful change in the US.

By the way, reality check. I know the number of illegal aliens in the US is estimated to be 10-12 million people, but I keep wondering--10% of the population of Mexico is in the US illegally. Really??? We really think that? People who are against immigration have reasons to exaggerate. People who are pro-immigration have reasons to exaggerate. My hunch is that the number--and therefore the threat--is much smaller than advertised.

Posted by: PTate in MN on December 20, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK
31% of Americans are raging racists.

The poll does not show that, even if you assume that everyone who favors more restrictive immigration policy is a "raging racist".

Its quite possible to think that immigration is a problem due to a broken immigration policy, and should be a high-priority for reform, without thinking that the reform that should be made involves a more restrictive policy.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 20, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK
According to recent work by Robert Putnam, high levels of diversity also has social costs.

A restrictive policy (like the status quo) that creates vast illegality does not substantially differ from a permissive policy that seeks to address costs through fees, based on preference categories, assessed on personally-qualified immigrants in the degree of diversity in society that is produced, but in the resources available to address the social costs. The former consumes resources in enforcing prohibition and does nothing to provide resources to address the costs, while the latter produces resources to address social costs in direct relation to the magnitude of immigration permitted.

Which is why I favor keeping problematic individuals out through prohibition, but addressing the costs of the overall magnitude of immigration through a permissive, fee-based system rather than by prohibitive quotas.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 20, 2007 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK
By the way, reality check. I know the number of illegal aliens in the US is estimated to be 10-12 million people

Some estimates are that high, some are much lower. Estimates from sources that have some credibility, IIRC, span the range from 6 to 12 million, rather than being clustered at the top of that range.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 20, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

According to recent work by Robert Putnam, high levels of diversity also has social costs.

Which are nothing compared to the social costs brought about by low levels of ethnic diversity (cf, the first half of the 20th century).

To paraphrase Churchill, ethnic diversity is the worst form of social organization, except for all the others.

Posted by: Disputo on December 20, 2007 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Ok, maybe the 31% who strongly think immigration should be among our top priorities are not raging racists or even racists. And maybe the anti-Semitic minority of Germans were not genocidal. Ethnic discrimination still leads to institutionalized mass murder when a group is targeted by such a substantial minority whose message resonates throughout the population and is taken up by demagogues.

The high level of diversity argument does not work for me as an anti-immigration argument because most immigrants assimilate and want to assimilate. It is said, by academics, that the Hispanic immigrants assimilate faster than any other immigrant group has. I think the diversity movement is coming from the religious and neo-conservative Americans, who send their children to charter schools to prevent them from assimilating with liberals, African Americans and immigrants.

Posted by: Brojo on December 20, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

One estimate is that 14% of Mexico's WorkForce is in the U.S.

In one Mexican state, an estimate is that half the former population lives in the U.S..

Obviously, people like Kevin Drum aren't able or willing to look at everything involved in this issue, but, as indicated in my first comment, his Party might be forced to deal with this issue, and in a big way.

Imagine it's October 2008, with either Clinton or Obama as the nominee. They're asked a series of questions at a public appearance which makes them look very bad and reveals that they just can't think things through. And, it appears on Youtube and is even linked by Drudge. A few hundred thousand views later, and say hello to four more years of a Republican president.

Maybe at that point in time hacks like Kevin Drum will realize what all the fuss was about.

Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on December 20, 2007 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

How many Okies are in California?

Posted by: Brojo on December 20, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo: "Which are nothing compared to the social costs brought about by low levels of ethnic diversity (cf, the first half of the 20th century)"

I'm sorry to go here, but do so because you raised the interesting point that lack of ethnic diversity also has social costs. I would agree. Certainly, the murder of eight million people because the German people were racists is a terrible price to pay for a lack of respect for ethnic diversity.

But the millions who died in Communist Russia or other 20th century genocides--Africa, Cambodia, Kosovo--those genocides occurred in relatively homogeneous societies (Russia, Cambodia) or highly diverse ones--Africa, Kosovo. The murderous motive was usually political, the distribution of power rather than simply race or culture, yes?

So I'm not sure your broad generalization, clever though it is, stands up to scrutiny. I don't think it sufficient to dismiss Putnam's decade of research evidence and conclusions.

Posted by: PTate in MN on December 20, 2007 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

One thing is certain, I get a heck of a lot of emails from my right-leaning relatives that basically say Democrats are scum for allowing illegal aliens to run amok, access public assistance, and threaten the English language. I can't believe the number of emails.

I keep sending them links to Scopes.com that debunks some of them, but I think they ignore my responses. They wanna believe the fearmongers.

Posted by: little ole jim on December 20, 2007 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK
But the millions who died in Communist Russia or other 20th century genocides--Africa, Cambodia, Kosovo--those genocides occurred in relatively homogeneous societies (Russia, Cambodia) or highly diverse ones--Africa, Kosovo..

Yes, it’s amazing the way even people who are genetically fairly homogeneous still find ways to categorize each other into “competing and threatening” groups. It’s as though a certain percentage of any population is hardwired to be ethnocentric.

Posted by: little ole jim on December 20, 2007 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

DavidinNY,

All the evidence shows that is what Americans want as a path to citizenship. Otherwise it is very, very difficult to explain how a NY governor got his political head handed to him for only proposing illegal immigrants be allowed to get driver's licenses. A solid majority of Americans want the illegal immigrants out- they just disagree on the method to bring about this outcome. Any politician that swims against this fact, Democrat or Republican, and proposes allowing illegals obtain citizenship without leaving and/or paying an extortionate fine will pay a heavy political price.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on December 20, 2007 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

Wacko,

Are you still trying to pedal that line about illegal immigration being a key component of the health-care crisis? Didn't you get your ass handed to you the last time you tried that?

Let me refresh your memory a little: when called on your assertions, you offered a couple of links to JAMA articles which offered no support at all to your position, and in fact addressed the impact of immigrants (legal as well as illegal) on public health. When this was pointed out to you, you replied that you had not actually read the articles in question, and added that they still supported you because they showed that "people are talking about immigration."

In other words, you're both dishonest and a fool, which is why no one takes you seriously.

Posted by: keith on December 20, 2007 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

social capital

An interesting topic. When I survey the groups most opposed to immigrants, I think they diminish social capital. When we deny immigrants rights and citizenship, that diminishes social capital. Preventing immigrants from assimilating drives them away from social capital contribution and creates a counter culture which Putnam would probably say reduces social capital further. When immigrants are too afraid to join a bowling league for fear of reprisal from a minuteman or a visit by la migra, that reduces social capital. Many immigrants have children born in the US. They are unable to become involved with school boards and PTA because of institutional prejudice and fear of la migra. The social capital argument leads me to think that it is in the best interests of our society to offer as much help as we can to new entrants to our society, not erect barriers to their participation and assimilation.

I recall an old story from a history class. Back before WW II, elementary schools would have class pageants where students would represent Pilgrims, Indians, Africans, and the current immigrant identities like Slavs, Italians, Irish, etc. who would enter a pantomime melting pot and come out Americans. This little school play was the symbol that all were welcome in America, but all became Americans, too. (Perhaps there weren't Indians or Africans in the play.)

A lot of Americans today feel Hispanic immigrants do not assimilate. They hear Spanish spoken and think these people should learn English. Many Spanish speaking people in the US were here before their geographical area became the US. Because of racial discrimination they were excluded from participating in America's progress, preventing them from contributing social capital. When that kind of institutionalized discrimination takes place people naturally resort to the inherent cultural elements available, like language, to provide them with an identity for some stability and safety. The same thing happened to African Americans. It is the work of groups like the KKK and Minutemen who push people out of the mainstream and the response is a counterculture. Over time people take pride in themselves and demand respect for their customs. Perhaps initially this diminishes social capital, but maybe in the long run it contributes as well. Jazz and the long history of Latin music in American culture have contributed something to our culture. As African Americans and Hispanic Americans have become more accepted by the dominant European ethnic, which itself is a combination of many different and self-respecting cultures, their contribution to overall social capital is just as important as any other groups'. After all, American was not settled by any homogeneous group. We are an amalgam. We have always been amalgam. Today's immigrants are just another element to our mixture. The sooner we embrace them, the sooner they return a higher investment to our social capital.

Posted by: Brojo on December 21, 2007 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a more scientific poll:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,155413,00.html

5/03/05 FOX Poll: Illegal Immigration Seen as Serious Problem For U.S.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005, By Dana Blanton

The poll finds 91 percent think the illegal or undocumented immigration situation in the United States today is a "very" serious (63 percent) or "somewhat" serious (28 percent) problem. Only 5 percent think the problem is "not very" serious and 2 percent "not at all" serious.

Posted by: Luther on December 21, 2007 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

Not sure we need to spend too much time worrying about this issue.

Housing starts have fallen off a cliff, with a large part of current construction activity consisting of completions of projects already in the pipeline. As those projects finish up during the next six months, most of those Mexican guys will be going home because their jobs will no longer exist. Or they'll have moved on to Canada, LOL.

By the time Nov. 2008 rolls around, the people who're freaking out when they hear Spanish on the street will have calmed down quite a bit, IMO.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on December 21, 2007 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

The rabid anti-immigrant organizations, like the Minutemen and Bikers Who Hate Mexicans (American Freedom Riders), destroy social capital.

The KKK used to raid ex-slave schools and burn them to the ground. That destroyed social capital.

When la migra raids businesses and deports thousands of hard working immigrants, that destroys social capital just as much as the KKK did. The big difference is we now have institutionalized social capital destruction.

Posted by: Brojo on December 21, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

We would be foolish to think this wasn't a big deal. Yes, common sense should prevail but most reasonable people will agree that we have to get a handle on who is here, get them documented and out of the shadows, and limit the number of people who come in. Ideally we should provide those here who wish to stay with some kind of hope for a path to citizenship in the future. If we can't agree on a few minor restrictions we will not get very far as a party with the American people.

Regards.

Posted by: luko on December 21, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK
Ok, maybe the 31% who strongly think immigration should be among our top priorities are not raging racists or even racists. And maybe the anti-Semitic minority of Germans were not genocidal.

These two statements are not parallel.

Once again, one can think our immigration policy is broken and that fixing it ought to be a high priority without being anti-immigrant or support a more restrictive policy, much less being racist.


Ethnic discrimination still leads to institutionalized mass murder when a group is targeted by such a substantial minority whose message resonates throughout the population and is taken up by demagogues.

So? Again, that's simply not relevant to the poll results, since they do not distinguish those who think that immigration policy needs to be a priority because it is currently not restrictive enough, those who think it needs to be a priority because the current policy is too restrictive, and those who think it needs to be a priority because (e.g., to pick something that has nothing to do with overall restrictiveness) it gives too much preference to in-demand wage employees in the H1B system and too little to talented freelance artists and other independent entrepreneurs.


Posted by: cmdicely on December 21, 2007 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

The ironic thing is that a more restrictive approach would likely just increase the number of illegal immigrants as 1) there would be a rush to the border to get in before legislation passed and 2) people who previously would have been here legally would then be here illegally. It is government policy and law that defines legality. Just as there is nothing inherently wrong with smoking pot but the government makes it illegal, there is nothing wrong with wanting a better life, but restrictionist policies make reaching one's goal insurmountable when one is a living in a poor village with poor infrastructure in Mexico. In addition, there are things we could do to make living in Mexico relative to the US more attractive, such as re-visiting NAFTA to make it illegal for the US to continue to subsidize agricultural goods also produced in Mexico that are then dumped on the Mexican market. However, many of those goods are produced in parts of the South and West where the local population is freaking out because they haven't really had immigrants before. Offering the restrictionists yelling about this an actual, practical and enforceable solution isn't going to make them happy. They want policies that will make the problem worse, which will only make them angrier, which will make them happy because they love to be angry (otherwise, why listen to right-wing radio?).

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