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“Trump’s ‘Operation Wetback’ Delusion”: No, Donald, Most Americans Want Something Very Simple; It’s Called Immigration Reform

I don’t know about you, but I think it says something interesting that in the eight presidential campaigns I’ve covered and written about, this is the first time I’ve seen the need to weave The Daily Stormer into my normal news diet.

But how could one not, with Donald Trump still walking among us? The neo-Nazi Stormer has loved The Donald ever since the famous Mexican rapists speech, so when Trump invoked Dwight Eisenhower last night as the last president who understood how to get those people out of the country, I knew immediately which trusted news source I wanted to go to first.

James Kirkpatrick’s write-up did not disappoint. He opened his dispatch with the complaint (legitimate, it must be said) that Marco Rubio has now walked off the stage of four debates without having been asked to utter a word about his immigration reform support of 2012. When he turned to Trump, the Stormer correspondent first sniffed about the candidate’s “usual lack of polish.”

There followed a string of Trump criticisms, but then came the bolt of thunder: “But none of that matters as Trump stood strong even while being aggressively pressed on immigration… This represents a milestone in the immigration debate. At a stroke, Trump demolished the argument that deporting illegals is not feasible. The only question now is whether we have the will to do it.”

By now, you’ve read all about how Trump was referring, albeit not by name, to Operation Wetback, the program undertaken by the Eisenhower administration in conjunction with the Mexican government to send workers who’d come to America illegally back to the home country. Mexico wanted them back because it was then an under-industrialized country that needed all of its able-bodied men.

This isn’t the first time Trump has mentioned Operation Wetback without mentioning it. He did it on 60 Minutes back in September. At the time, the pro-immigration reform group America’s Voice put out a white paper explaining what Operation Wetback was and what bringing it back would mean. The long and short of it was that we quite simply rounded people up and sent them back at gunpoint. It was ugly business. In the summer of 1955, hundreds of Mexicans we’d sent back got left in the high desert to die.

Would we really do something like that today? No, we wouldn’t. Those were different times. Eisenhower’s attorney general was a fellow named Herbert Brownell. A Nebraska native who went East to Yale Law and practiced at Lord Day & Lord in New York, Brownell was a cultivated man and, as far as I knew until recently, a supporter of civil rights who endorsed Ike’s move to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School. But with respect to the “wetbacks,” Brownell endorsed shooting a few border crossers on site to send a message to the rest of them. I don’t think even Trump’s AG would say something like that.

But the main point isn’t even that we wouldn’t do it today. The main point is that we couldn’t even if we had a president who wanted to. In the 1950s, most of the Mexicans in the United States illegally, in fact virtually all of them, were single males (or maybe married men, but alone) who came here to work. So they were solo players. And they were typically located in only a handful of places—Los Angeles, San Francisco, some other cities, the border area itself.

Today, undocumented immigrants are every kind of person, and they live everywhere. “It’s not like today you’re talking about some easily identifiable group of mostly single men,” Frank Sharry of America’s Voice told me Wednesday. “It’s all kinds of people fully integrated into American life.”

The average time living in the United States among the 11.3 or so million here without papers, says Sharry, is 13 years. They’ve put down roots. One third are homeowners! They’re fathers, mothers, grandparents. And many or even most families involved here are what they call “mixed status”: maybe the husband has a green card, the wife doesn’t, two kids came over the border with them, but two other kids were born here and are citizens. What do you do with these people? The United States of America is going to start breaking up loving families? What I do mean start? We’ve done it. It wasn’t one of our more glorious chapters. It was called slavery.

It’s a practical impossibility. And that’s to say nothing of the mountains of lawsuits that would quickly pile up. Oh, and also public opinion, which strongly supports legalization over deportation. Sharry says the ratio is about four-to-one among the general public, but that even among Republicans, it’s 60 percent for legalization, 20 percent who would prefer deportation but don’t think it’s practical, and the remaining 20 percent who are over in the Trump-Stormer corner.

No, Donald, most Americans want something very simple and straightforward. It’s called immigration reform. With a path to citizenship for people who follow the new rules. That’s what America wants, but that’s what America cannot get, because of the yahoo right wing and because of cowards and milksops like Marco Rubio, who are even worse. At least the yahoos are straightforward in their stupidity and hatred. Rubio, who first tried to ride immigration reform to the White House and is now trying to ride opposition to same to the identical destination, should be made to answer for it. On this, at least, the Stormer correspondent and I agree.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 11, 2015

November 12, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigration Reform, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Obama Boxed In Republicans With His Immigration Order”: Revoking It In 2017 Will Be A Lot More Complicated

If there’s an elected Republican who thinks it wasn’t a bad idea for President Obama to take executive action on immigration, he or she has yet to make that opinion known. Not surprisingly, the 20 or 30 men (and one woman) hoping to get the GOP nomination for president in 2016 have been particularly vocal on the topic. But while thunderous denunciations of the Constitution-shredding socialist dictator in the White House may seem to them today like exactly what the situation demands, before long they’re going to be asked a simple yet dangerous question: If you become president, what are you going to do about it?

Although they haven’t actually answered that question yet, their feelings have been unambiguous. Ted Cruz said Obama has “gotten in the job of counterfeiting immigration papers, because there’s no legal authority to do what he’s doing.” Rand Paul compared the order to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Rick Perry threatened to sue over it. So did Scott Walker. So did Mike Pence.

Because these guys would all like to be president, we have to place their opposition in a different context from their current jobs as senators and governors. So let’s imagine it’s January 2017. You, Republican candidate, have just been sworn in as president. Two years ago, Barack Obama made this policy change, and as a result, millions of undocumented immigrants registered with the government, submitted to background checks, paid back taxes, and obtained work permits. They’re now working legally and not living in fear of immigration authorities. You have to decide what’s going to happen to them. This is a very different situation than it was back in 2014 when the move was announced. Instead of wondering whether we should give legal status to a group of undocumented immigrants, we’re now wondering whether to take away legal status from a group of people who are documented, even if they’re not actually on a path to citizenship.

And don’t forget, these are pretty sympathetic folks — they’ve been in the United States for at least seven years now (under the order, only those who came before 2010 are eligible), and they were either brought here as children and grew up in America, or are the parents of children who were born in the U.S., or are legal residents. Deporting them would mean breaking up families. Just think how that’s going to play on the evening news—the image of children crying desperately as their parents are carted off by law enforcement on your orders isn’t exactly going to go over well.

That’s what the next president will confront. So what are the possible answers a Republican candidate could give to the question of what they will do about Obama’s order? They might say what a lot of Republicans fear, which is that however much they opposed the move in the first place, by 2017, undoing it will be impractical and cruel. But saying that would pretty much doom them with the extremely conservative white Republican primary electorate, because it both capitulates on the substance and reflects a stance of less than maximal opposition toward something Barack Obama did.

Alternatively, they could say they’ll immediately reverse the order and start deporting these immigrants. In fact, if they believe as they say that the order is illegal, wouldn’t they have no choice but to revoke it? And immediately? The trouble is that saying so would risk both alienating and mobilizing Latino voters, for whom undocumented people aren’t an abstraction or an invading horde but individual human beings.

If the eventual nominee said explicitly that he’ll revoke Obama’s order, it could remind a lot of people of 2012, when Mitt Romney suggested that given the impracticality of rounding up millions of undocumented immigrants, the way to deal with the problem was “self-deportation” — in other words, making life so miserable for them that they decided to return to the countries from which they fled. Even RNC chairman Reince Priebus later called that comment “horrific” because of the message it sent to Latinos. Pledging to start breaking up families would be even worse.

Since both those answers are extremely unappealing, the GOP candidates might try to retreat to a dodge — something like, “I’ll sit down with congressional leaders to determine a way forward.” Any reporter or debate monitor with a pulse is likely to follow up with, “O.K., but legislation can take time, and there’s little appetite among Republicans in Congress for immigration reform that goes much beyond building fences. So in the meantime, would you leave Obama’s order in place or issue your own order revoking it?” And they’d be right back where they started.

There are times when it’s perfectly reasonable for a candidate to answer a tough question with “It depends,” and this could be one of those times; for instance, how a Republican president would address the issue could depend on how many people actually sign up for this new legal status. But let’s be realistic: Republican primary voters are unlikely to accept that as an answer. They’re going to want a declaration of resolve and commitment, a signal that the candidates feel the same way about undocumented immigrants that they do. And there is bound to be at least one candidate (Ted Cruz, I’m guessing) who will open the bidding with an emphatic pledge to reverse Obama’s order on his first day in office. That will raise the pressure on all the other candidates to follow suit.

If they do, it will send a message of hostility that Latino voters will hear loud and clear, a message the GOP has been trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid for the last couple of years. Barack Obama sure boxed them in on this one, didn’t he?


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 1, 2014

December 3, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration Reform, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Busting Another Myth About Immigration Reform”: Conservative “Reality” Just Happens To Be An Ideological Constructed Fallacy

Conservatives like to complain that immigrants not only take jobs citizens would otherwise do (mostly untrue), but also constitute a drain on social services. It’s not only an inhumane argument but also impractical: if you need people to perform difficult and dangerous jobs, do you really want them not to be able to get medical treatment or for their kids to go uneducated?

But these arguments aren’t just impractical and immoral. They’re also wrong. As it turns out, undocumented immigrants are a net positive to the social security system:

Here’s how the math works. Five percent of the U.S. work force is undocumented, which is some 8.1 million people. Thirty-eight percent of the 8.1 million pay social security taxes, which comes to roughly $12 billion a year, according to CAP estimates. That’s a pretty nice cushion for a graying America.

Stephen Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration, told the Daily Beast, “Even as it stands under current policy, unauthorized immigrants contribute positively to the financing of social security not only in terms of their own contributions, but in the succeeding generations when they have children on our soil that are citizens from day one.”

Bringing them out of the shadows will let them actually collect on the money they have paid into the system, but it would still be a net positive:

Obama’s executive order would allow newly legalized workers to eventually collect benefits when they reach retirement age. But that’s a long way off for many of them, and any potential loss would be more than offset by the millions of young workers who will be brought into the system to pay taxes for three or four decades before they can collect benefits.

Conservative arguments present reasonable people with a quandary: do you attack their arguments for their heartless immorality? Or their functional impracticality? Or their ill-informed simple wrongness? Whether it’s socialized medicine, immigration policy, climate change, social issues, tax policy, foreign policy or so much else, conservatives are constantly pursuing policies that fail basic moral tests, are largely unworkable, and that are proven wrong by actual evidence at every turn. And yet (or perhaps as a consequence) conservatism veers ever further rightward.

It’s not just a political disagreement. We’re living in different realities at this point. Conservative “reality” just happens to be an ideological constructed fallacy.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, November 29, 2014

December 1, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Immigration Reform, Social Security | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And Has The Legal Authority”: Poll; Americans Broadly Back Obama’s Immigration Executive Action

Americans are very open to President Barack Obama’s newly announced executive action to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, according to a Hart Research Associates survey released Friday.

The poll, which was conducted on behalf of the liberal 501(c)(4) “dark money” group Americans United for Change, described the president’s policy as follows:

The action would direct immigration enforcement officials to focus on threats to national security and public safety, and not on deporting otherwise law-abiding immigrants. Immigrants who are parents of children who are legal US residents could qualify to stay and work temporarily in the United States, without being deported, if they have lived in the United States for at least five years, pay taxes, and pass a criminal background check.

After hearing that description, voters overwhelmingly backed President Obama’s move: 67 percent viewed it favorably, while just 28 percent viewed it unfavorably. The support was fairly bipartisan, with 91 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Independents, and 41 percent of Republicans viewing the executive action favorably. Among Tea Party Republicans, however, 64 percent opposed the policy while just 30 percent viewed it favorably.

The results underscore the importance of President Obama’s sales job with regard to his executive action. Previous polls have found that voters abstractly disapprove of the president circumventing Congress to deal with immigration. A USA Today poll released Monday, asking “Should President Obama take executive action this year to deal with illegal immigration or should he wait until January for the new Republican Congress to pass legislation on this issue,” found that 42 percent wanted the president to act now, while 46 percent preferred that he wait. Similarly, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday found that 48 percent disapproved of President Obama taking executive action while 38 percent approved, without being told any of the details of the president’s plan.

But, as Hart Research found, voters strongly support the specifics of President Obama’s executive action. They favor allowing the parents of children living legally in the United States to stay in the country by a 40 percent margin, expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by 36 percent, providing temporary work permits to qualifying immigrants by 55 percent, and shifting more security resources to the U.S.-Mexico border by 63 percent.

Democrats already seem to be winning one important aspect of the messaging fight; the poll found that — despite outspoken Republican outrage — voters agree, 51 to 41 percent, that President Obama has the legal authority to change the nation’s immigration enforcement policies.

The Hart Research Associates poll surveyed 800 likely 2016 voters from November 19 to 20, 2014, and has a +/- 3.5 percent margin of error.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, November 21, 2014

November 30, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Immigration Reform, Nativism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We’ve Adapted Before, And We’ll Adapt Again”: Immigrants’ Energy And Vitality Ought To Be Celebrated

“This is a blessing from God.”

“I’ve always had to look behind my back. Now I don’t have to worry so much.”

“This is a very amazing moment.”

According to news reports, those sentiments — hope, relief, gratitude, joy — have been expressed by immigrants heartened by President Obama’s decision to delay deportation for as many as 4 million people who entered the country without papers. They are ordinary folks eager for a semblance of normalcy — the right to a driver’s license, the ability to get a job legally, the respite from constant worry — in the adopted country they now call home.

While Obama’s action has drawn withering criticism from his conservative critics, the president framed his decision as an attempt to keep families from being torn apart. According to the Migration Policy Institute, some 3.7 million adults who came into the United States without authorization have at least one child who was born here or has legal permanent status and has been here five or more years.

Those children are firmly ensconced in their communities, anchored in their schools or workplaces, and strangers to the nations in which their parents were born. They speak English; they surf the Internet; they obsess over the latest smartphone. In other words, they are as American as your kids and mine.

What sort of country would separate them from their parents or force them to leave? Why not embrace them for the vitality they bring to us?

Opponents of Obama’s executive order are given to a heavy reliance on the rules and regulations of permissible entry, the legal codes that govern borders and visas and citizenship. It’s certainly true that unauthorized immigrants have violated those statutes — stealing across a river, sneaking through a desert, ignoring a previously agreed-upon departure.

But surely there is something to be said for leniency, for mercy, for generosity toward those who have, after all, committed only a misdemeanor, which is how the law characterizes a first-time illegal entry. (Obama’s executive order pointedly excludes those who have committed felonies.)

That mercy ought to be freely meted out since Americans bear some complicity in the law-breaking, some responsibility for the unauthorized sojourns taken by so many gardeners, cooks and nannies, painters, ditch diggers and fruit pickers. Back in the go-go 1990s, we practically threw open the gates and invited in low-skilled workers who were happy to do the jobs that Americans didn’t want to do.

There was more than enough work to go around in an economy where the unemployment rate dropped to as low as 4 percent, and native-born laborers shunned sweaty work picking Vidalia onions, toting drain pipe and laying sod. Undocumented workers proved cheap and compliant, unable to complain when safety regulations were violated and wages were substandard.

So they came by the millions, in Democratic and Republican administrations. They stayed, they worked hard, they married and had children. They adopted our values and called this country their own.

Perhaps it was inevitable that a backlash would be swift and furious, especially after the economy turned sour and the middle class shrank. Besides, every immigrant wave in the nation’s history — whether Irish or Polish or Chinese — has provoked an eruption of anger and resentment.

This backlash has been building since at least the early aughts, when President George W. Bush tried to pass legislation that would give the undocumented legal status and a path to citizenship. Ultraconservatives in his party rebelled, even as business executives pleaded for a compromise that would satisfy their need for workers.

The resentment was seeded, in part, by the reality of demographic change — by, yes, the discomfort produced by racial and ethnic differences. Older Americans, especially, have recoiled at a country that grows browner and more diverse, where Spanish-language signs dominate some neighborhoods and soccer fields replace baseball diamonds. That, too, has happened before in our history as immigrants brought their customs and religions and languages.

But the nation adapted before, and we’ll adapt again. That constant rejuvenation is one of the nation’s strengths, that energy and vitality is one of our advantages. We, too, ought to be grateful those immigrants are getting a shot at the American dream.


By: Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, November 29, 2014

November 30, 2014 Posted by | Executive Orders, Immigrants, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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