Immigrants: Faceless Abstractions and Political Fodder (Part 1)

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We are in the thick of a national debate about immigration. Most people on both sides of the dispute think our borders should be secure. I will take border security to be an uncontroversial topic of this debate. The most contentious issue has to with immigrants who were brought to the US as children.

Entrenched ideologies and unchecked emotions rule the debate. Immigrants are treated as faceless abstractions as a result of this intransigence. This blog series seeks to humanize immigrants and offer facts that are relevant to the discussion.

Jorge Garcia was brought to US in 1989 when he was only ten years old. Garcia married his wife Cindy in 2002. Garcia was ordered to leave the US in June of 2006. Garcia was not an immigrant who was hiding in the shadows. He filed an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2008. The case was sent to the lower courts and Garcia was allowed to voluntarily deport. ICE didn’t forget about Garcia’s case. Garcia secured attorneys in an effort to become a legal resident. ICE decided to exercise prosecutorial discretion in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

ICE decided against deporting Garcia, meanwhile his American roots grew deeper. Garcia has two children. His family photo is at the top of this bolg. Unfortunately, ICE decided to deport Garcia this year. Garcia’s family is now geographically fragmented.

I don’t see the moral rationale for Garcia’s deportation. This case is all the more morally dubious when we learn that Garcia’s deportation proceedings were triggered by his attempt to get legal status in 2005. Cindy Garcia said her husband checked in with ICE officials on a regular basis.

Garcia’s case is not unique. Deportations like these increased under Donald Trump.

Untold Stories

Garcia’s story now has a national profile. What about those lesser known cases of deportation with similar circumstances?

Human Rights Watch published a 109-page report, “The Deported: Immigrants Uprooted from the Country They Call Home,” on its website on December 5, 2017. In it, they detail the lives of many immigrants who were deported. Here is a sample of the people featured in the report:

• Linda C., a 29-year-old mother of three US citizen children who came to the US when she was 4 years old, deported after a traffic stop;
• Manuel G., a father with US citizen children and a local leader in Alcoholics Anonymous, deported after 29 years in the US after he was stopped by police for making a wide U-turn;
• Sergio H., a US military veteran, lawful permanent resident, and owner of an auto body shop, deported after convictions related to drug dependency

How should we adjudicate these cases? What moral principles govern these complex cases? We will answer these questions in subsequent posts.

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Trump the Racist Administration

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Carl Higbie just resigned as the chief of external affairs for the federal government’s volunteer service organization. Higbie’s resignation follows an investigation of him by CNN. This incident proves that there were racists in the Trump administration. Racists love the Trump message and they want to be a part of his program.

I take the charge of racism seriously, so I will provide evidence to support my claim. Here is what Higbie said about a woman who has five kinds:

In one of the comments unearthed by [CNN] KFile, Higbie said you could “guess the color” of a family he described that lived in his condo association.

“I told this story the other day on my show. Somebody who lives in my condo association that has five kids, and it’s her and her husband with the five kids and the mother, the grandmother of the kids, and they don’t have jobs, they’re there all the time — I bet you can guess what color they are — and they have no job,” he said.

Perhaps this statement can be interpreted in a non-racist way. Try this one:

Speaking on ‘Sound of Freedom’ in December 2013, Higbie, while recounting a time he placed an advertisement to give away free firewood, said “the black race” had “lax” morals. He added that black women think “breeding is a form of government employment.”

“Only one person was actually cordial to me,” Higbie said. “Every other black person was rude. They wanted me to either load the wood, completely split it for them or some sort of you know assistance in labor. Now, mind you the ad was for free firewood, come take it all you want. And I believe that this translates directly into the culture that is breeding this welfare and the high percentage of people on welfare in the black race. It’s a lax of morality.”

Higbie is not only a racist, but he harbors thoughts of murdering undocumented immigrants:

“What’s so wrong with wanting to put up a fence and saying, ‘hey, everybody with a gun, if you want to go shoot people coming across our border illegally, you can do it fo’ free,'” Higbie said. “And you can do it on your own, and you’ll be under the command of the, you know, National Guard unit or a Border Patrol, I think stick a fence six feet high with signs on it in both English and Spanish and it says ‘if you cross this border, this is the American border, you cross it, we’re going to shoot you.'”

Higbie makes the rounds. The LGBTQ community is also the object of his disdain:

In May 2013 on Sound of Freedom, Higbie said he did not like gay people.

“Rhode Island, land of more liberals, has just OK’ed, gay marriage,” Higbie said. “Congratuf’in’lations, you suck, Rhode Island. Why would you do that? Go ahead and twist the knife a little, little bit more. I mean, you are breaking the morals, the moral fiber of our country. You know, I don’t like gay people. I just don’t.”

You would think a former NAVY SEAL like Higbie would have compassion for his fellow military members. No, he disparages soldiers of war who suffer from PTSD:

“I’d say 75% of people with PTSD don’t actually have it, and they’re either milking something for a little extra money in disability or they’re just, they honestly are just lying,” Higbie said in August 2014, as a guest on an Internet radio show. “Twenty-five percent legitimately do have problems. They have bad dreams. They can’t cope. They have problems with noises and things like that. And I really think there are people that cannot deal with the stress of combat and some people can.”

As I veteran, I find this statement particularly abhorrent. Should we view Higbie as a patriot?

Higbie admitted he made these statements and offered the following apology:

“I’m sorry. I’m not sorry that my words were published, I am sorry that I said them in 2013,” he wrote. “Those words do not reflect who I am or what I stand for, I regret saying them. Last night I informed the WH that I was resigning so as not to distract from POTUS’ many success. #noexcuses”

Where did a man like this find a political home? Which administration did he find most congruent with his views? Do I have to say it?

Did the Trump administration vet Higbie? How many current members of the administration hold similar views? Presumably, Higbie would still be employed in the Trump administration if it had not been for CNN’s reporting.

The Truth About Immigrants

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We’ve heard a number of disparaging comments about immigrants in the past two weeks. I want to devote some time to setting the record straight on immigrants.

1. The Diversity Immigrant Program (DV) – Donald Trump said this program was taking in “the real worst” from other countries. This is not true. To be clear, the DV program does use a computer lottery system, but eligible participants are required to undergo an extensive vetting process.
2. Claim: “More than 50% of all immigrant households receive welfare benefits.”

The source of this claim appears to be a study performed by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). The true story is a lot more complicated. First, the definition of welfare used in this study includes students who receive free and reduced school lunches. This is a problematic assumption because students who receive free and reduced lunch aren’t always on welfare.

Second, University of California, Davis Law School Dean and immigration expert Kevin Johnson said, “To say that the general rate of use by immigrants of public benefits is anywhere close to 50 percent is an exaggeration and just isn’t supported by the evidence.” Johnson reached this conclusion in part because new immigrants are generally banned from receiving welfare.

The following categories of immigrants qualify for federal benefits, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services:

• LPRs
• refugees
• asylees
• persons paroled into the United States for at least one year
• persons granted withholding of deportation or removal
• persons granted conditional entry (before April 1, 1980)
• battered spouses and children (with a pending or approved spousal visa or a self-petition for relief under the Violence Against Women Act)
• Cuban and Haitian entrants (nationals of Cuba and Haiti who were paroled into the United States, applied for asylum, or are in exclusion or deportation proceedings without a final order)
• victims of severe human trafficking (since 2000, victims of trafficking and their derivative beneficiaries [e.g., children], are eligible for federal benefits to the same extent as refugees/asylees)

Immigrants are excluded from federal benefits if they don’t fit into these categories. Do typical Mexican immigrants fall into any of these categories?

The libertarian CATO Institute, criticized the CIS study because it “exaggerates the cost of immigrant welfare use.” CATO’s analysis opens by saying:

The CIS headline result, that immigrant-headed households consume more welfare than natives, lacks any kind of reasonable statistical controls. To CIS’s credit, they do include tables with proper controls buried in their report and its appendix. Those tables with proper controls undermine many of their headline findings. In the first section, I will discuss how CIS’ buried results undermine their own headline findings.

CATO arrived at this conclusion and the institute cannot be accused of being liberal.
3. Claim: Most Immigrants don’t have jobs

This is simply not the case. The conservative publication The Washington Examiner said 72 percent of illegal immigrants have jobs. They arrived at this conclusion based on research done by Pew.
4. Claim: Immigrants are stealing American jobs and they’re a drain on the American economy

Immigrants take jobs Americans don’t want. According to the Brookings Institution, “many of the jobs occupied by undocumented workers in the United States are physically demanding jobs that Americans do not want, such as gutting fish or work on farm fields.”

Tim Worstall, a contributor to Forbes magazine and Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, offers nuanced reasoning here:

President Donald Trump is backing a significant restriction upon immigration into the United States. The claimed benefit is that this will protect American jobs and raise wages thereby. Sadly, this isn’t really how it works. The general consensus among economists is that immigration is beneficial to an economy and even the dissenters there are arguing for perhaps a near zero effect upon the indigenes.

Of course, immigrants do indeed take jobs from Americans, but that’s just the first order effect. It’s what happens next that matters. The number of jobs in an economy is determined by the level of aggregate demand in that economy. This is why trade doesn’t change the number of jobs even as it changes which jobs. An immigrant arriving has just added to aggregate demand of course–and if they get a job then of course they’re spending their money inside the US economy and adding to aggregate demand. We could point to remittances, the money they send home, but that’s pretty weak beer as leakage out of American demand.

So, our first and second order effects together indicate that there is no effect upon the domestic economy from immigration.

I hope this blog post provides more facts to the charged immigration debate.

Is Donald Trump a Racist?

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We featured Trump’s derogatory comments about people from other countries in a previous post. Yesterday, Trump made new degrading comments that were written in the Washington Post:

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt they help the United States economically.

In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.”

Racist? What do you think?

More Russia Connections

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I don’t normally read The Daily Beast, but they released a story that demands our attention. The story says that Kevin Harrington “proposed withdrawing some U.S. military forces from Eastern Europe as an overture to Vladimir Putin.” This means that a Trump official offered to withdraw our troops as a favorable gesture to Vladimir Putin. The story says:

A senior National Security Council official proposed withdrawing some U.S. military forces from Eastern Europe as an overture to Vladimir Putin during the early days of the Trump presidency, according to two former administration officials.

While the proposal was ultimately not adopted, it is the first known case of senior aides to Donald Trump seeking to reposition U.S. military forces to please Putin—something that smelled, to a colleague, like a return on Russia’s election-time investment in President Trump. The White House did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

What strategic purpose does this serve? This is a troubling revelation in light of the ongoing investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. I hope we are not carrying out Putin’s international strategic interests.

The Picture is becoming Clear

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Disturbing details are emerging about Republicans’ efforts to undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch are founders of Fusion GPS and constant targets of Republican political attacks. We profiled Fusion GPS and the Christopher Stele dossier in a previous blog post. You can read that post for more background on this story.

Simpson and Fritsch wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times defending their actions. The piece makes some explosives claims along the way:

1. Fusion GPS gained access to, and handed over bank records pertaining to Donald Trump:

We walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter. And we handed over our relevant bank records — while drawing the line at a fishing expedition for the records of companies we work for that have nothing to do with the Trump case.

2. There is suggestive evidence that Trump was involved in the money laundering:

We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.

3. Christopher Stele was not given specific direction from Fusion GPS on how to conduct his investigation. This bit of information makes Stele’s investigation appear all the more objective:

Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?

What came back shocked us. Mr. Steele’s sources in Russia (who were not paid) reported on an extensive — and now confirmed — effort by the Kremlin to help elect Mr. Trump president. Mr. Steele saw this as a crime in progress and decided he needed to report it to the F.B.I.

We did not discuss that decision with our clients, or anyone else. Instead, we deferred to Mr. Steele, a trusted friend and intelligence professional with a long history of working with law enforcement. We did not speak to the F.B.I. and haven’t since.

The Russia investigation continues apace and the end thereof doesn’t seem to be exoneration. Republicans should think long and hard about jumping from the Trump train.

The Truth About Donald Trump

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USA Today’s editorial board wrote a scathing editorial about Donald Trump. The piece is forthright and shocking. I agree with a number of points and I want to rehearse them here:

A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.

The piece is not simply a stream of incendiary rhetoric. Trump’s sins are listed in detail:

• Trump apparently is going for some sort of record for lying while in office. As of mid-November, he had made 1,628 misleading or false statements in 298 days in office. That’s 5.5 false claims per day, according to a count kept by The Washington Post’s fact-checkers.
• Trump takes advantage of any occasion — even Monday’s failed terrorist attack in New York — to stir racial, religious or ethnic strife. Congress “must end chain migration,” he said Monday, because the terror suspect “entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.” So because one man — 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who came from Bangladesh on a family immigrant visa in 2011 — is accused of attacking America, all immigrants brought to this country by family are suspect? Trump might have some credibility if his criticism of immigrants was solely about terrorists. It isn’t. It makes no difference to him if an immigrant is a terrorist or a federal judge. He once smeared an Indiana-born judge whose parents emigrated from Mexico. It’s all the same to this president.
• A man who clearly wants to put his stamp on the government, Trump hasn’t even done his job when it comes to filling key government positions that require Senate confirmation. As of last week, Trump had failed to nominate anyone for 60% of 1,200 key positions he can fill to keep the government running smoothly.
• Trump has shown contempt for ethical strictures that have bound every president in recent memory. He has refused to release his tax returns, with the absurd excuse that it’s because he is under audit. He has refused to put his multibillion dollar business interests in a blind trust and peddles the fiction that putting them in the hands of his sons does the same thing.
• Not to mention calling white supremacists “very fine people,” pardoning a lawless sheriff, firing a respected FBI director, and pushing the Justice Department to investigate his political foes.

Keep in mind the editorial board is different from the news staff. The news staff seeks to maintain the objectivity necessary to produce accurate news reports.

Donald Trump is a failed president.

Trump on Nigerians, Haitians, and Immigrants

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The New York Times issued a long piece about Donald Trump and his administration. I want to quote two comments made by Trump. First, his comment about Nigerians:

Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

I’m not surprised that Trump doesn’t know about cities like Lagos:

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Or Abuja:

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Here is what Trump said about Haitians:

Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he [Trump] grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

Here is what he said about immigration in 2014:

Friends say Mr. Trump, a developer turned reality TV star, grew to see immigration as a zero-sum issue: What is good for immigrants is bad for America. In 2014, well before becoming a candidate, he tweeted: “Our government now imports illegal immigrants and deadly diseases. Our leaders are inept.”

Administration officials deny the comments were ever made:

While the White House did not deny the overall description of the meeting, officials strenuously insisted that Mr. Trump never used the words “AIDS” or “huts” to describe people from any country. Several participants in the meeting told Times reporters that they did not recall the president using those words and did not think he had, but the two officials who described the comments found them so noteworthy that they related them to others at the time.

Are these comments out of character for Trump? Who should we believe? Does this show that Donald Trump is a racist?

I have no reason to think the New York Times fabricated the comments.

The Mueller Investigation Marches On

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Foreign Policy (FP) magazine just broke a potentially damning story about the ongoing FBI investigation. Donald Trump’s own lawyer, Don McGahn, allegedly confirmed that he informed Trump that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI and possibly violated the Logan Act. Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Why is this story significant? Trump tried to get James Comey to let the investigation against Michael Flynn go. The FP shows that Donald Trump knew Michael Flynn broke the law and tried to pressure James Comey to drop the case. A portion of the article says:

The White House turned over records this fall to special counsel Robert Mueller revealing that in the very first days of the Trump presidency, Don McGahn researched federal law dealing both with lying to federal investigators and with violations of the Logan Act, a centuries-old federal law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments, according to three people with direct knowledge of the confidential government documents.

The records reflected concerns that McGahn, the White House counsel, had that Michael Flynn, then the president’s national security advisor, had possibly violated either one or both laws at the time, according to two of the sources. The disclosure that these records exist and that they are in the possession of the special counsel could bolster any potential obstruction of justice case against President Donald Trump.

The records that McGahn turned over to the special counsel, portions of which were read to this reporter, indicate he researched both statutes and warned Trump about Flynn’s possible violations.

FP is only one news source and other news organizations are working to verify the story. We will wait to see if the FP’s reporting is corroborated and stand under scrutiny.