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“Immigrants Don’t Drain Welfare; They Fund It”: Immigrants Have Long Given More To The Welfare System Than They Take From It

Republican presidential candidates who want to deport undocumented immigrants en masse, end birthright citizenship, and build a wall along the Mexican border just got some new ammunition. A report released Wednesday by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that advocates for reducing immigration to the United States, has concluded that 51 percent of households headed by immigrants—legal or undocumented—receive some kind of welfare. “They are creating a significant burden on public coffers,” writes Steven Camarota, the study’s author and the director of research for CIS. “By using welfare programs immigrants may strain public resources, harming taxpayers and making it more difficult to assist the low-income population already in the country.”

While that sentiment is likely to resonate with conservatives, the facts prove otherwise: Native-born Americans aren’t footing the bill for immigrants so much as immigrants are contributing to a welfare system that many of them can’t take advantage of.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 cut back on welfare extended to immigrants. It categorized green card holders and refugees granted asylum as “qualified,” and all other immigrants—including undocumented workers and many people lawfully here in the United States—as “not qualified” and therefore ineligible for welfare. But the law stipulated that even qualified immigrants had to spend five years in the United States before they could apply for benefits like Medicaid, food stamps, or cash assistance for families with children. Since that major welfare reform, some states have responded by providing for immigrants with programs that offer health care to the children of immigrants or pregnant mothers, and a few states—like California and New York—offer nutritional or cash assistance. But those efforts are mostly limited to qualified residents, while all other immigrants are still almost universally banned from receiving welfare.

The CIS study exaggerates the number of immigrants on welfare by using households as the unit of analysis; as long as the head of household is an immigrant, they consider it an immigrant household, and Camarota counts a household “as using welfare if any one of its members used welfare during 2012.” This means that a household with an American spouse who therefore qualified for welfare could be counted as “using welfare.” The same would go for a child born in the United States to immigrant parents. If he or she received subsidized lunch at school, the whole household would be categorized as “using welfare.” As the Cato Institute notes in its critique of the study, that measure is “ambiguous, poorly defined, and less used in modern research for those reasons.” Relying on such mutable methodology let Camarota exaggerate the number of immigrants on welfare to back up the claim that Americans are footing the bill for immigrants.

Groups like The American Immigration Council have long argued that, contra conservative depictions of “moocher,” immigrants have long given more to the welfare system than they take from it. “In one estimate, immigrants earn about $240 billion a year, pay about $90 billion a year in taxes, and use about $5 billion in public benefits,” a 2010 report by the Council found. “In another cut of the data, immigrant tax payments total $20 to $30 billion more than the amount of government services they use.” And a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2013 found that “more than half of undocumented immigrants have federal and state income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes automatically deducted from their paychecks.” Those immigrants are essentially helping to underwrite the welfare system, providing an enormous subsidy to it every year without being able to reap any of the benefits.

Camarota rejects that conclusion.

“We have an immigration system that lets in vast numbers of unskilled laborers. We tolerate illegal immigration,” he said in an interview. “Pretty much everyone concludes that it’s going to be a net drain.” He wants to institute a “selective” immigration system, one that cuts back on the number of immigrants and places an emphasis on allowing only educated, not unskilled, workers into the country.

Many economists would advise against such a plan. From construction sites in Virginia to farms along the California coastline, immigrants provide essential labor in an evolving economy. The Chamber of Commerce report found they are more than twice as likely as native-born Americans to start a new business each month. In fact, immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses in the United States in 2011. Immigrants pay billions in taxes to the government every year; in Texas alone, they generate $1.6 billion annually in taxes. To deport millions en masse, sending them back to their home countries—to say nothing of Donald Trump’s proposal to uproot American citizens born here—would be economically disastrous.

 

By: Laura Reston, The New Republic, September 3, 2015

September 4, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigrant Laborers, Immigration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Keeping America American”: The Koch Brothers Have An Immigration Problem

Every year, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the political group backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, gathers thousands of conservative activists to share strategies for building a popular movement to advance their small-government, low-tax philosophy. This year’s Defending the American Dream Summit, held in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 21-22, attracted about 3,600 people to compare notes for weakening labor unions and stopping Medicaid expansion. Yet everyone on the floor seemed to be talking about the one topic left off the agenda: immigration.

That may be a problem for the Kochs and their network of like-minded donors, who’ve invested heavily in broadening their appeal beyond the traditional conservative base of older, white voters—and, specifically, in appealing to minorities, immigrants, and young people. In Columbus, activists got training on how to reach Snapchat-happy millennials and knock on doors in black neighborhoods to spread the gospel of the free market. They heard a former farm laborer, the son of Mexican immigrants, describe a Koch-backed program in Las Vegas that helped Latinos pass their driver’s tests and get licenses. The crowd dutifully took notes and applauded politely.

When it was time to file into the bleachers to see presidential candidates speak, talk of outreach faded away. The crowd went wild for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose plan for guarding the Mexican frontier includes 90,000 repurposed IRS employees, and for Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, who promised to build a wall on the nation’s southern border within six months. “Immigration without assimilation is invasion!” proclaimed Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants.

The message struck a chord with summit-goers as they filed into a nearby bar for an AFP-sponsored “Buckeye bash.” “Send ’em back,” said David Dandrea, an 82-year-old former school custodian from Altoona, Pa., referring to undocumented immigrants. “A lot of them are coming over and getting on welfare. They overload the hospitals. A woman who’s eight months pregnant comes over the border to have her kid.” Fellow conservatives in bright red and highlighter-yellow AFP T-shirts wandered past. John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” blared from the speakers.

Donald Trump, who’s dominated media coverage of the presidential race and made a crackdown on “the illegals” the centerpiece of his campaign, was never far from people’s minds in Columbus. Praise for Trump, who wasn’t invited to speak, was virtually unanimous, even from those who said they were backing other candidates. “He’s like the last little bit of salt you put in the stew to bring out the flavor,” said Rita Singer, a retired fabric store saleswoman from Moncks Corner, S.C. “He says what everyone else is thinking.”

Tim Phillips, the president of AFP, cautioned against reading too much into the Trump buzz. “It’s partly impacted by the breathless 24/7 coverage,” he says across the street from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, where the event was held. “If the summit were in two more months, and it’s 24/7 coverage of the Iran nuclear deal, you would find people bringing that up more.” Phillips pointed out that the activists the Koch network cultivates care about all kinds of issues, from abortion to gun control, but AFP, he said, remains solely focused on shrinking government and taxes. “We still have good friends who care passionately about these issues,” he says. “It shows a healthy, vibrant movement to have those discussions.”

The Kochs’ wealth comes from Koch Industries, the Wichita industrial behemoth they run. Their net worth is estimated at about $49 billion each. They’ve bankrolled libertarian causes for decades, although in recent years they’ve forged bonds with nontraditional allies. They gave $25 million to the United Negro College Fund and are working with the Obama administration to reduce the ranks of nonviolent drug offenders in the nation’s prisons. Yet they’ve also come to rival the Republican Party as an organizing body of the American right, securing pledges from other wealthy donors to spend as much as $889 million this year and next pushing their agenda.

Their strategy for recruiting Latinos hinges on Daniel Garza, a son of migrant fruit pickers who runs the Libre Initiative, funded by Koch-affiliated groups including the nonprofit Freedom Partners. Seated before more than 500 AFP members in Columbus, he described going door-to-door in Latino neighborhoods to make the case against Obamacare. When someone asked if Trump is threatening conservatives’ chances with Latinos, Garza said conservatives need to be respectful and appreciate the crucial role that immigrants play in the U.S. economy. He called Trump’s proposal to deny citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants “not realistic.”

Dorothy Osborne, a stay-at-home mom from Tennessee, disagreed. “Yes it is!” she called out as Garza spoke. In the hallway outside, Osborne said she agrees with much of Garza’s message. “We have to go and talk to these people,” she said. “We want them to love freedom.” But she said she doesn’t think an immigration crackdown would alienate Latinos who live here legally. “It’s economics, it’s crime, it’s the drain on our resources. And it’s keeping America American,” she said. “If our country becomes more like Venezuela, that’s not helping anyone.”

 

By: Zachary Mider, Bloomberg Politics, August 27, 2015

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigration, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“When Representation Fails, Demagogues Thrive”: How America’s Political And Economic Elite Gave Birth To The Trump Campaign

“Trump talks about Mexicans the way anti-Semites talk about Jews.”

There’s a lot of truth in that Christopher Hayes tweet from the night of the first Republican debate. Ominous (and unsubstantiated) talk of rapists and murders streaming over the southern border, demonization of “anchor babies,” calls to end birthright citizenship — Donald Trump’s surging campaign for president has brought xenophobic fears and hostility into the political mainstream in a big way. No one should be surprised that just a couple of clicks to Trump’s right, Iowa radio personality Jan Mickelson has begun to muse with his listeners about whether the U.S. should enslave undocumented immigrants who fail to leave the country.

But political commentators would be wise to avoid sliding too quickly into denunciations of Trump’s supporters and his campaign for falling prey to fascism. Yes, their rhetoric is often illiberal and sometimes blatantly racist. But that doesn’t mean their concerns deserve to be dismissed entirely. Trump’s supporters have reasons for their views, and some of those reasons are worth taking seriously.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has been on the rise (in intensity if not always in sheer numbers) throughout the Western world in recent years. The severe economic downturn that began in 2008 and the painfully slow recovery that followed has no doubt helped to fuel it. But so has a visceral frustration at what many believe to be a failure of representative institutions to respond to popular discontent about the changing ethnic and economic character of Western nation states over the past several decades.

These institutions have been sluggish to respond to this discontent because two (sometimes overlapping) factions of our political and economic elite strongly support high levels of immigration — or at least oppose doing very much to stop it.

One of the factions — the business class and its neoliberal champions in government, think tanks, and NGOs — believes in a free-flowing international labor market that treats borders as superfluous.

The other faction — liberal lawyers, activists, intellectuals, journalists, academics, members of the clergy, and (once again) NGO staffers — has a deep-seated moral suspicion of nations and political boundaries in general. Why should an American count for more than a Mexican who crosses the border into the United States? Shouldn’t a refugee fleeing violence in North Africa enjoy full political rights upon setting foot in the European Union? Don’t all human beings deserve to be treated equally under the law? Isn’t opposition to such equality an example of bald-faced racism?

Both of these factions make deeply anti-political assumptions, denying the legitimacy of particularistic affiliations and dismissing the intuition that citizenship in a particular political community is a distinction that should not be open to all comers. The first faction denies these fundamentally political distinctions in the name of economic universalism; the second denies them in the name of moral universalism.

Universalism might be the gold standard of truth in economics, moral philosophy, and in every field of inquiry that aims to model itself on the natural sciences. But politics is always about how these particular people choose to govern themselves. Which means that politics can never be conducted entirely in universalistic terms.

It would be one thing if we had reason to believe that the human race was evolving in the direction of a universal, homogenous state in which there would be no one “outside,” and therefore also no one “inside,” a single political community of worldwide extent. The trouble is that there is little evidence that politically based solidarity is withering away. On the contrary, the more that economic and moral universalists get their way in the policy arena, the more they inspire a radically particularistic (nationalistic, often race-based) backlash.

That describes exactly what’s been happening in the United States (and Europe) in recent years. Not only has the federal government been half-hearted at policing the nation’s southern border, but millions of individuals and business owners have flouted the nation’s immigration laws by hiring undocumented workers, most of them below minimum wage. (I wonder: Will the dramatic increases in the minimum wage being enacted and contemplated around the country alleviate or exacerbate this problem?)

The combination of a porous border and abundant jobs is what keeps attracting immigrants to risk crossing into the United States. Then once they’re here, the moralists deny the legitimacy of finding and deporting them. That creates something close to an open-border policy.

A majority of American citizens may support a generally liberal immigration policy — I certainly do — but there’s no evidence they think the border should be effectively abolished. Those for whom this is an important issue are not wrong to see our drift in that direction as, in part, a failure of democratic representation.

And when representation fails, demagogues thrive, promising to serve as something more than a mere representative — something more like a living embodiment of the people’s will.

Enter Donald Trump.

The magnate from Manhattan is still a long-shot to land the Republican nomination, let alone to win the general election against a halfway competent Democrat. But the passions he’s drawn on and stirred up are unlikely to disappear. And that’s where the dysfunction of our political system rightly inspires serious concern.

Everybody in Washington understands perfectly well what the solution will have to be — some combination of much more stringent border controls with a path to citizenship for those already here. This is precisely the kind of deal that Congress (led by GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio) worked hard, and failed, to pass after the 2012 election. It went down in large part because those who care about the issue no longer trust the federal government to impose the crucially important first half of the deal (enforcement of the border). They fear, and not without reason, that the path to citizenship will be enacted with enthusiasm while the border controls will be half-hearted — a combination that would likely inspire even more people to come to the U.S. illegally.

That leaves us stuck: knowing what we need to do but unable to get it done, with some of us tempted to treat a billionaire snake oil salesman as the nation’s savior.

It’s unclear how to go about righting our course. But it certainly couldn’t hurt for the moral universalists among us to acknowledge that their contempt for particularistic political attachments is helping to provoke the very xenophobic passions they rightly decry.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, August 25, 2015

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigrant Laborers, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Get The Facts Jeb”: Why Jeb Bush Should Pledge To Roll Out The Welcome Mat For Asian Birth Tourists

Jeb Bush used to be the Mr. Rogers of GOP presidential candidates — a gentle fellow who would put you to sleep a few minutes after coming on TV. Now Bush is the GOP’s Bambi — a frozen deer who doesn’t know which way to turn as the headline-beaming monster truck that is Donald Trump bears down upon him.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Bush’s recent cringe-inducing suggestion that the real abusers of America’s birthright citizenship are Asian birth tourists — not Latino “anchor babies,” as Trump claims.

But as the GOP’s token pro-immigration candidate, if Bush had half of Trump’s cojones, he wouldn’t throw Asians under the bus to save Latinos. He’d tell Trump that “anchor babies” are a problem more hyped up than Trump’s bouffant — and birth tourism is a blessing that America should wholeheartedly welcome.

“Anchor babies” are a myth invented by restrictionists to try and scrap America’s constitutionally guaranteed right to birthright citizenship. The term used to refer to pregnant Latino women who supposedly deliberately and illegally came to America to give birth to American children who would become mom and dad’s green card sponsors. But this scheme can involve wait times of up to 31 years (kids can’t sponsor before age 21, and parents sometimes have to wait 10 years outside America before qualifying). Hence, restrictionists couldn’t find many examples to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria. So now they have dubbed every one of the 300,000 children born to undocumented parents annually as anchor babies whose real purpose is to prevent their unauthorized parents from being deported.

This argument is ridiculous. Vanishingly few undocumented immigrants have children specifically to escape deportation. They have children because they want to — for any number of non-cynical reasons. And yes, this can sometimes help them escape deportation. But don’t conflate that consequence of birth with the motives for pregnancy.

Anchor babies don’t exist in any meaningful sense. Birth tourism, however, does. And that’s a good thing.

No super-reliable figures are available, but the number commonly bandied about puts birth tourist babies at a mere 35,000 annually. Unlike the poor, unauthorized Latino parents of mythical “anchor babies,” birth tourism involves relatively well-off couples, the vast majority from China, who come to America when it comes time to give birth so their kid will score U.S. citizenship.

Another benefit for these Chinese couples: Beijing’s autocrats don’t count children born with other nationalities against a couple’s one-child quota. No doubt, a U.S. passport for their newborn is a huge attraction. But America is not the only destination for couples trying to dodge China’s draconian birth control policies. Mainland Chinese couples also flock to Hong Kong (all of which the pro-life, pro-family conservative editors of National Review Online should understand and applaud rather than running confused pieces like this conflating “anchor babies” and birth tourists to promote their anti-birthright citizenship crusade).

Immigration restrictionists love to deride “anchor baby” parents for being in the United States illegally. But that’s not true with birth tourists. They come here legally. Even a recent Rolling Stone “expose” of Los Angeles-based maternity agencies acknowledged: “Birth tourists, arriving on legal visas, aren’t breaking any laws while in the country.” Meanwhile, a May Bloomberg Businessweek story about these agencies — that for a fee of up to $50,000 help a couple obtain U.S. visas, put them up in hotels during their long stay in America, arrange doctors and hospitals and then passports for their infant — found that most of them go out of their way to coach their clients in “cheng shi qian” (honest visa applications). This is not to say that no one lies, but it is far from standard practice — which is why a Department of Homeland Security raid on maternity hotels earlier this year didn’t seem to come up with many instances of visa fraud, despite a long undercover investigation.

Restrictionists constantly accuse “anchor baby” parents of mooching off American taxpayers by using emergency services for child delivery and collecting welfare through their American child. (Never mind that unauthorized parent-headed households receive far less welfare than native ones of similar income, and are far less prone to welfare dependency.) But none of that applies to birth tourists, who, with few exceptions, pay for the entire cost of delivery out of pocket. In fact, the agency that formed the cornerstone of the Bloomberg story went out of its way to ensure that its clients don’t use public money, and keep copious documentation to prove that.

More to the point, birth tourist babies go home to be raised during their most expensive phase — only to possibly return to America after their 18th birthday, during their most productive phase. In effect, birth tourism allows America to outsource the raising of its citizens, resulting in enormous savings, given that it costs a whopping $300,000 to raise a child in a middle-income family in America today.

Every adult immigrant, even poor Latinos, constitute a windfall for America, given that America reaps the dividends of another society’s investment in them. (Indeed, immigration is arguably a far cheaper way than having children for a society to maintain its population level.) But birth tourist babies are a special boon because they are the product of super-ambitious parents who are obviously sparing no expense or effort to build their child’s full potential and give him/her options.

This is why it is all the more unfortunate that Jeb Bush put birth tourists in the crosshairs of his party’s ugly war on immigration. He has said in the past that Latinos who come to America illegally to give their children a better life are engaging in an “act of love.” This is equally true for Asian birth tourists.

Bush should have used their example to defend and strengthen America’s birthright citizenship against Trump’s attacks. Instead, in his panic about his nose-diving poll numbers, he may have done the opposite — none of which inspires much confidence in another Bush presidency.

 

By: Shika Dalmia, The Week, August 28, 2015

August 30, 2015 Posted by | Birth Tourism, Immigrants, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republicans Still Pandering To Voters’ Worst Instincts”: Appealing To The Most Nativist Elements Of The Republican Base

Not so long ago, leaders of a chastened Republican Party issued a report urging a new way forward for a GOP spurned by voters of color. Following Mitt Romney’s unfortunate language about “self-deportation,” which likely contributed to his defeat, party strategists were especially concerned that the GOP find a way to reach out to Latinos, the fastest-growing voting bloc.

The report of the Growth and Opportunity Project urged the GOP not only to embrace comprehensive immigration reform but also to adopt a very different rhetoric in addressing Latinos, including those without documents. “If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence,” the report said.

Let’s just say the report’s recommendations haven’t been widely embraced by the 2016 Republican presidential field. Led by the odious Donald Trump, several candidates have raced to appeal to the most nativist elements of the Republican base.

That’s a train wreck for the Republican Party — a strategy that will not only make it difficult for the party to regain the White House in 2016, but which will also weaken it for decades to come. Latinos coming of age now are unlikely to forget the hostility shown by a GOP that can no longer be called the party of Abraham Lincoln.

Trump’s immigration policy — if it can be called that — doesn’t back away from his inflammatory rhetoric. He would build a wall, which he insists Mexico could be forced to pay for, and he’d deport the estimated 11 million immigrants who crossed the border illegally. But the proposal that has blasted through the primary field is this: He would end automatic citizenship for babies born to mothers without papers.

Not to be outdone, several of his rivals clambered aboard. Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Ben Carson all echoed some degree of support. Ted Cruz elbowed in with the claim that it’s “a view I have long held.” Together with the candidates who have previously expressed their opposition to birthright citizenship, which is bestowed by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, about half the field of 17 GOP presidential candidates agrees with Trump, according to Politico.

This is a minefield for a Republican Party already struggling to reach beyond its overwhelmingly white base. The 14th Amendment has deep historic resonance because it’s a post-Civil War amendment, intended to rectify the injustice of a constitutional system that did not extend citizenship to black people. It grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” And while it’s unlikely that any president could garner enough support to repeal that, the willingness of so many Republicans to bandy about the proposition can only remind more moderate voters that the party is a small and homogeneous tent.

“It’s a terrible idea,” Peter Wehner, a former official in the administration of George W. Bush, told Politico. “It’s a politically insane idea. It can’t be done. It’s impossible to achieve. So what’s the point? It’s symbolism, and it’s exactly the wrong kind of symbolism. If Republicans want to make this their symbol … they’ll pay a high price for it.”

As much as the Republican establishment has wished that Donald Trump would disappear, it ought to be quite clear to them by now that the problem isn’t The Donald. It’s the Trump phenomenon. And that’s a problem for which the establishment has only itself to blame.

For decades, otherwise clearheaded Republicans have stood by as their rising stars pandered to the worst instincts of the most conservative voters, especially those troubled by the social and cultural transformation wrought by the civil rights movement.

That Southern strategy has been modernized, refurbished and refreshed, but it has never been retired. Since the election of President Barack Obama, it has taken the form of skepticism about his citizenship, assaults on voting rights, and a braying and insulting nativism.

Trump simply came along to harvest the fruits of that destructive strategy. And what a harvest it is.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, August 22, 2015

August 29, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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