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“A Skeptical Argument”: It’s Silly To Oppose A Path To Citizenship Because It’s “Unfair”

Senator Ted Cruz isn’t a fan of the “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants already in the United States. His remarks on the subject were a response to a new immigration proposal in Congress. “There are some good elements in this proposal, especially increasing the resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration,” he said. “I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with the rule of law and profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who waited years, if not decades, to come to America legally.”

Over the years, I’ve grown increasingly skeptical of that argument.

The typical illegal immigrant is born, through no fault of his own, into an impoverished country with low standards of living, endemic corruption, and few economic opportunities for bettering his lot. There are richer countries where he could live a much better life. But the people born into those richer countries, owing to nothing but dumb luck, have enacted restrictive immigration laws that make it effectively impossible for someone of his stature to immigrate legally.

In one of those rich countries, the United States, most people who made the restrictive laws wouldn’t even be here but for the unrestricted immigration policy that prevailed when their ancestors arrived.

But back to the typical illegal immigrant.

In his impoverished land, he faces a choice: severely limit his life opportunities by staying in his home country; play the lottery of immigrating legally, which almost always consigns him to the same fate; or bid his family goodbye, sneak across the border, get a job, send much-needed money home to his loved ones, and radically improve his own life prospects by performing honest labor for people who want to buy it. His sneaking in doesn’t take anyone else’s “spot.” No legal immigrant was slowed down by his illegal entry. But he did break a duly codified law.

Is that unfair? Let’s say that it is.

Here he is in the United States seven years later. He’s been regularly employed. He hasn’t committed any crimes. He’s better off. His family back home is better off. His employer is better off. There may be people without high-school diplomas who are slightly worse off due to lower wages.

Am I to understand that fairness demands that the people born into the rich country through sheer luck forcibly repatriate the man to the poor country where he was born through no fault of his own?

That’s counterintuitive!

In fact, it’s among the worst of the arguments against a path to citizenship. And it isn’t improved by invoking supposedly wronged legal immigrants. There’s a tiny subset of people from other countries so unusually lucky that they win the immigration lottery — they get to come here legally, without sneaking across a dangerous border, because of luck. You’re telling me that fairness is advanced if, for those lucky few, we deport the guy who lost the immigration lottery?

When he is arrested, jailed for a few months, flown to a city not his own in his home country, and returns to the place of his birth, an impoverished village where he has no friends or prospects, I’m supposed to look at that outcome and think, Well, good, the fair thing happened!?

There may be good arguments for opposing a “path to citizenship.” Fairness is not one of them.


By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, January 29, 2013

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Immigration | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Batty Birtherville”: Birthers Still Trying To Stop President Obama’s Inauguration

They’re willing to give him a pass on the first time, but if Chief Justice John Roberts swears in President Barack Obama this time around, the birthers are ready for him.

In an op-ed published last week by WND, Craige McMillan says Roberts could be impeached by Congress if he swears in the president, whom McMillan says is not a natural-born citizen.

From McMillan’s op-ed:

If you choose the easy course of ignoring our Constitution, it does not change the fact that Mr. Obama is barred by that same Constitution from acting as president. I am sure that if you turn your judicial mind to the ramifications of this fraud, both foreign and domestic, you will understand that the harm you will have done insures your impeachment and eternal dishonor at some point down the road: If not this House of Representatives, then the next, or the next, or the next.

These things do not end well. One need only look to the aftermath of World War II and the Nuremberg Trials to see what awaits. Illegal wars. Illegal debts. Illegal laws. Will the rest of the Supreme Court’s justices, now knowing they are violating their own oath of office, continue the sham through a second presidential term?

The rant, first brought to our attention by The Huffington Post, goes on to urge Roberts to refuse to administer the oath of office.

But The National Memo, a political newsletter and website, is not having it.

In an op-ed called “Today In Crazy,” the publication writes “the reliably unhinged crazies over at WorldNetDaily” are just being melodramatic.

From The National Memo:

“Too bad this particular trip to Batty Birtherville, despite its darkly turgid undertones, is about as legitimate as all the others. It’s the same old song and dance… they demand to see the birth certificate. They are shown the birth certificate. They claim birth certificate can’t be real. Then they start shrieking that he “refuses” to show the birth certificate. They are again shown the birth certificate. They’re then shown the birth announcement from the local Hawaii newspaper from 1961. So they scream louder, “WHERE’S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?” because the proof that it exists is overwhelming, and everyone knows that the louder you scream, the more right you are… even in the face of mounting and irrefutable proof that you’re wrong.”

The chief justice doesn’t seem too concerned about the impeachment threats since he’s scheduled to administer the oath both on Sunday, Jan. 20, and Monday, Jan. 21, CBS News reported last week.


By: Abby Rogers, Business Insider, January 10, 2013

January 11, 2013 Posted by | Birthers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hope And Change 2012”: Building On An Existing Narrative With A Forward Vision

The man who ran on hope and change didn’t walk away from them. He redefined them for the long haul.

And a president who has been accused of being a collectivist and a socialist didn’t abandon a vision of shared burdens and purposes. He replied forcefully with a call for a renewal of citizenship, “the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.”

“We, the people, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights,” he declared, “that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom that only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.

Rarely has an American election been defined by such a sharp clash of philosophies. When Obama told a fired-up Convention crowd that the contest will involve “the clearest choice of any time in a generation” and “a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future,” he was not exaggerating. On Wednesday, he took the Republicans’ new radical individualism head on.

Obama’s was a speech aimed less at shaking up the campaign than in building on an existing narrative. The president did not defend his economic record. He left that to Bill Clinton. He did not even promise rapid recovery. On the contrary, he told voters: “I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick and easy.”

Indeed, he seemed to reach back to John F. Kennedy’s call on the nation to ask not what the country could do for them, but what they could do for the country. “As citizens,” Obama said, “we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating work of self-government.”

And thus his redefinition of hope and change. Faced with assertions that he can no longer inspire the elation he called forth four years ago, Obama challenged those who had supported him to stay in the fight for the longer-term and do the work required for saving their original vision.

“If you turn away now — if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible…well, change will not happen,” the president said. “If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are making it harder for you to vote. . . .”

Of course, this is an election, not a philosophical exercise, so Obama was concrete about his differences with Mitt Romney and the Republicans’ vision of a spare government that would ask even less of the already successful. He criticized his foes on Medicare and Social Security, on their refusal to accept any deficit plans that included higher taxes on the wealthy, on education spending and tuition aid.

“Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing,” he said. “If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress.”

And he mocked the GOP’s diagnosis of more tax cuts in all economic circumstances: “Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”

In defining his vision for “moving forward,” Obama spoke more of goals than of policies, highlighting an expansion of manufacturing, energy independence, education and job training, and climate change, an issue that has largely been absent from the public discussion since 2010.

Politicians usually run campaigns based on what they will do, or have done, for voters. Obama will certainly do his share of this, and did some of it Thursday.

Yet his heart seems not to lie in transactional politics. He prefers challenges to promises, obligations to privileges, reason to emotion. “The path we offer may be harder,” he said, “but it leads to a better place.” This is not a typical campaign pledge. It implies neither ease nor comfort but burdens worth bearing and responsibilities worth shouldering. It is still a form of hope, but one that requires far more than going to rallies and cheering.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 7, 2012


September 7, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Last Gasp Candidate”: Is Mitt Romney A Real American?

If it’s our ideals and not our origins that make us countrymen, Romney’s tactics suggest that he’s the one whose Americanness should come under question.

Nobody’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. But as someone of Chinese descent I have been asked plenty of times where I’m from — and when I say “Poughkeepsie,” I often get the follow-up question that’s almost a cliché now among Asian Americans: “No, where are you really from?”

It’s always disheartening to get that question, even though I’ve learned to answer it with equanimity and usually take care to make the inquisitor feel not-stupid. But it’s always clarifying, for it reveals the default picture in the minds of some of my fellow Americans about who they are, who we are, and who I am.

That’s why Mitt Romney’s birther-baiting remarks today are, in a way, welcome. Let there be no doubt: He is the candidate for people who think the name Obama must be Muslim and its bearer indelibly foreign. He is also the candidate for the greater number of people who do not initially imagine that someone with my face, my eyes, my skin could be from this country.

Even in one of his home states (Michigan, the site of today’s remarks), Mitt Romney is not some iconic American hero whose patriotism is beyond reproach. The reason no one questions where Romney was born is simply this: he is white. If that’s good enough for you, then you’re good enough for Romney.

But that’s not good enough for America. I have as much a claim to be the image of an American as Romney and his offspring do. So does Barack Obama. So, by the way, does Bobby Jindal or Ted Cruz or Susana Martinez — nonwhites in Romney’s own party who likely have also been asked (no, really) where they are from.

Romney’s implicit pledge of allegiance to the birther movement is as revealing of his character as anything else in his campaign of half-deliberate opacity. He appears to lack a core capacity for empathy. He literally cannot see himself as someone not white, as someone accented or a newcomer.

In fact, Romney’s tactics suggest that he’s the one whose Americanness should come under question. True Americanness is not about how WASPy your surname is, how pale your skin, or how many generations your family has lived here — or how much you can lord those facts over others. Nor is it about how subtly you can stir up secret prejudices against people who could be deemed outsiders.

True Americanness is about fidelity to a creed that by design transcends color or place of family origin. Yes, we as a nation have often subverted that creed, or averted our gaze, but it still stands in timeless judgment, measuring our willingness to deliver on the promise of equal citizenship. True Americans see in a sea of colored faces a chance to bring everyone into the fold, so that the team is stronger and the creed redeemed. Mitt Romney can prance all he wants but his words today were those of a second-rate American.

And the more he plays his Donald Trump card, the more his becomes a last-gasp candidacy: the inarticulate paroxysm of those who still silently believe, as was once permissible to declare in public, that America is a white nation and that the interests, mores, and preferences of whites should predominate.

Romney may yet win in November. But he and this whole odious line of attack are on the losing side of history. The tide of demographics is irresistible, and soon enough it’ll sweep up his birth certificate and mine into a new notion of who is truly from this country.


By: Eric Liu, The Atlantic, August 24, 2012

August 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Un-American Ignorant Exceptionalism”: Why John Sununu Is Romney’s Favorite Attack Dog

Stop the presses — John Sununu said something over-the-top.

The 73-year-old former governor of New Hampshire, a top surrogate for Mitt Romney, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” He also said President Obama comes from “that murky political world in Chicago where politician and felon has become synonymous,” and brought up what he described as a “smarmy” real estate deal with convicted felon Tony Rezko. And he called the Obama campaign “stupid” and “a bunch of liars.”

Before the call was even over, Sununu was backpedaling on the “learn how to be an American” bit, saying that what he meant was that “the president has to learn the American formula for creating business,” which is not government-driven but creating “a climate where entrepreneurs can thrive.” But it was hardly an isolated outburst. Earlier in the day, Sununu had posited that Obama’s lack of appreciation for the American system of job creation stemmed from the fact that he president “spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something.”

No one should be shocked to hear this kind of language from Sununu. He’s long been the Romney campaign’s designated attack dog and provocateur, from calling Newt Gingrich “self-serving” in December to decrying Rick Santorum’s “emotional outbursts” in March. Sununu’s trademark bluster follows a famously undisciplined career as White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush, a job he left under fire in 1991 after such memorable stunts as taking a military jet for a trip to the dentist and a taxpayer-funded limousine to attend an auction of rare stamps.

When the Romney campaign wants to make headlines by going aggressively on the offensive, it summons Sununu, and he never fails to oblige. Sununu’s occasional gaffes are the price of admission; they may even be desirable for a campaign trying desperately to change the subject. If you want the fire of Sununu’s passion, you have to accept a burned-down building every once in a while.

The question is whether, in describing Obama as un-American, the Cuban-born Greek-Palestinian Sununu crossed a line, dog-whistling to those on the fringes who persist in believing that the president wasn’t born in the United States. But even the Obama campaign didn’t see it as that sinister. Campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith issued a statement accusing Sununu of having “gone off the deep end” — more of an eye-roll than a denunciation.

But it would also be a mistake to see this as the singular case of a particularly undisciplined surrogate. If it’s out of bounds to imply that Obama is less than fully American, Romney has been treading close to the line for quite some time. He frequently asserts that the president “doesn’t understand America,” a claim that, like Sununu’s, comes in the context of accusing Obama of insufficiently appreciating entrepreneurial capitalism, but carries other overtones as well.

Sununu, Romney, and plenty of other Republicans really do believe that Obama harbors a deeply un-American worldview — one that sees the amassing of wealth as suspect and favors a more communitarian society. Sununu may have articulated it particularly artlessly on Tuesday. But he wasn’t so much going off message as taking Romney’s message to its logical conclusion.


By: Molly Ball, The Atlantic, July 17, 2012

July 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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