Immigration Crisis?

Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 14:24 | Category : Politics
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I go back to my initial question of this post yesterday – What made immigration suddenly become Topic Number One on the national political scene? Have we suddenly had a dramatic increase in some immigration statistic? I decided to do a little digging, and ended up at the Department Of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics Materials site. Let’s start with inspections done at all DHS points of entry. The latest monthly report was from February 2006. It shows that inspections for February 2006 are down from February 2005 in all categories:

Nothing particularly dramatic, but the trends in all categories are down, even if only slightly in some. So what about apprehensions along the Southwest border? Maybe those are up significantly? Well, yes and no…

Apprehensions are indeed a little higher, but voluntary returns are up even more, meaning a slightly higher percentage of those caught are voluntarily returning to their country of origin. So that couldn’t be the trigger.

What about deportations, those illegals caught once inside the US and sent packing? Are those numbers up? Are we seeing more inadmissables, those turned away because they don’t meet one of the criteria? Are those up? Nope – criminals aren’t even up:

2005 wasn’t up over 2004; 2004 was lower than 2003; 2003 was pretty much flat, or slightly lower, than 2002. 2002 was up sabout 20% over 2001, but I suspect that can be seen as a response to 9/11.

So are they sapping Social Security? In fact, they’re subsidizing it. In 2004, it’s estimated that illegal workers paid $7 billion in Social Security. About 1 dollar in 10 paid into Social Security in 2004 came from an illegal worker, who won’t ever see a penny of that money unless they become citizens. So precisely why the illegal immigration issue has suddenly become such a hot topic is a bit mysterious; you have to wonder how fast it will disappear.

Immigration Man

Monday, 15 May 2006, 10:20 | Category : Politics
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Let me in, immigration man
Can I cross the line and pray
I can stay another day

-Graham Nash

I have to say up front that I don’t have an answer to the immigration question(s). I’m not even sure what the questions are. Not that I haven’t read enough about it, but the issue seems to change the harder I look at it. There are facts, figures, opinions, and tales of woe coming from all points of the political compass on this one. And I began to wonder – where did it all come from? What made immigration suddenly become Topic Number One on the national political scene? There has been talk about immigration for years, but in the past six months it seems to have exploded.

I have a theory.

One of my favorite lines from a political movie comes from “The American President”. Yes, I know it’s more of a romantic movie than a political movie, but it does have a political undertone. But in the movie, the President, speaking about his opponent in the election, says “He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.“. I think that’s what has happened here. Somewhere deep in the Republican political advisor bunkers, someone had an idea. Make immigration the central issue in the 2006 elections. George Bush’s approval ratings, and those of Republicans generally, were plummeting like the proverbial stone tossed in a lake. US soldiers were still dying in a war that had yet to be justified by any explanation that wasn’t proven false or trumped up. The Federal government had bungled Katrina and Rita, gas prices were rising, and it was beginning to look like 2006 could possibly become a Republican nightmare. So they reached down into the bag of tricks and pulled out the bottle with the immigration genie inside, and decided to pop it open, thinking they could make people afraid of immigration and blame it on the Democrats, thereby insuring the continuance of Republican control of the government.

Then something unforeseen happened. The Republican Party had two great camps within it that saw immigration differently, and were, apparently, diametrically opposed. There were those that wanted to bring legal status to the millions of illegal immigrants already here, bring them out into the open so that they could continue to work and raise their families, contribute to society openly and perhaps get on some sort of track towards citizenship. And there were those who wanted to get rid of all illegal immigrants. The middle ground between now seems vacant and wide.

But why such a huge miscalculation? Why the inability to put the genie back into the bottle (other than the fact that genies, once out, tend to love that freedom and resist being re-bottled). I think it has happened because both sides tried to take a comples issue and reduce it to simplistic talking points. There are too many things we don’t know. What would be the effect on the economy if we suddenly removed a significant part of the lowest rung of wage earners? Which industries would be most affected, how, and for how long? Why do we have so many illegal immigrants, and why aren’t we catching them?

Why do we have so many illegal immigrants, and why aren’t we catching them? That last one bears repeating. I thought of an analogy, perhaps not a great one. Think about drivers on the highway. How many are exceeding the speed limit? Just based on my daily commute, I’d say somewhere between 35% and 50%. Why do we allow this? Mostly because we don’t want to invest in the vast numbers of police and highway patrolmen it would take to apprehend all the speeders, and we don’t want to pay for all the traffic courts that would have to be set up. Certainly there would be a benefit – safer roads, and less stressful commute – but of course, it would also mean that for many of us, that commute would take longer. We aren’t catching all the illegals because we don’t want to pay for the immense number of immigration officials it would take to find and detain all the illegal immigrants, and the immigration courts, and the vast detention centers required. Many businesses don’t want to lose part of their workforce. Nor would we really want to see the sort of armed border that would be necessary, harking back to the Soviet style of border control. If we become sufficiently concerned about illegal immigration, that could change. But for now, we’re treated to the spectacle of a political talking point that turned into a heated national debate, and a President desparately trying to reconcile two irreconcilable parts of his party. If he ever needed Karl Rove, he needs him now. Karl, unfortunately, may have other things on his mind.

More bloggers on this issue:
Kingdaddy has thoughts on militarizing the border.

Steven Taylor at Poliblog reacts to sending in the National Guard.

Joe Gandleman has a comprehensive write-up at The Moderate Voice, covering news items and bloggers from both sides of the spectrum and in between.

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Netherworld Musings

Friday, 5 May 2006, 10:12 | Category : Geek Stuff
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Inner life of trees
Who knows what they think about
Not databases

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The Netherworld

Thursday, 4 May 2006, 15:27 | Category : Life
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Today I’m inhabiting that antihistamine-induced netherworld between life and death. The world seems to be about 3 1/2 degrees out of kilter, north by northwest. I’m too pathetic to even be bothered by people coming in to bother me. The cottony substance that has replaced my brain has me too spaced out to notice that I’m being bothered. But the day hasn’t been a total loss. I’ve discovered that indeed, you can’t use an Oracle9i listener against an Oracle 10g database, although an Oracle9i database is quite the happy with an Oracle10g listener. I’ve discovered that a single space in a table column will cause the XMLForest function to get all froggy about the output; although why there is a single space in a column that should be null is beyond me at the moment. I suppose, at some point, I put it there. I’ve discovered that putting 3 packs of Wendy’s chili seasoning in a small Wendy’s chili, eaten with a Wendy’s Spicy Chicken sandwich, means you need to make sure you keep you cup of root beer close to full. It was a futile attempt to clear up my head. I’ve discovered that it’s possible to feel like you have to sneeze for two hours, without ever actually sneezing. There is no way that can be good either for your sinuses, your psyche, or your mind. I’ve discovered that the Oracle XDB install and dictionary build can cause some of the underlying XML views to become invalid, which will prevent a database export. I bet you never knew you were missing that particular piece of information, but there you are. And I discovered that some Oracle functionality that isn’t licensed in Standard Edition, only in Enterprise Edition, is actually available in SE, Oracle just doesn’t tell you. They probably tell you somewhere deep in the licensese, along with warnings of dire consequences if you actually do it. I don’t know if I’ll ever care.

La Estrella Spangled La Bandera

Monday, 1 May 2006, 21:15 | Category : Politics
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Over the weekend, lots of folks got their pants all twisted up about the Spanish-language version of The Star Spangled Banner. I suspect these are pretty much the same people who keep wanting an amendment to band flag-burning. I don’t mean to demean their motives – I understand that symbols such as the national anthem and the national flag can have powerful connections to our personal and national psyche. But why is it so many of these people don’t seem to be bothered to threats to the real essence of our national being? Don’t burn the flag, don’t sing the anthem in another language, but as long as you’re not trying to limit guns it’s OK to tinker with the Bill of Rights? Such as:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. ”

or:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. ”

or:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. ”

Warrantless surveillance by the government; detaining suspects at Guantanamo (and who knows where else) indefinitely without charge; allowing the President to appear in public facilities before a carefully-screened crowd guaranteed to consist of only his most ardent supporters; the selling of Congressional favors – these seem to me to be far more dangerous to our national integrity than a piece of burning cloth, or a song sung in a language other than English. But the reaction to them seems far less intense than that we’ve seen this weekend. Americans have become a nation of people that seems to value form over function, and this looks like just another example of that. Would I be so cynical as to suggest that it, and the immigration debate that has suddenly become such a hot topic, have more to do with falling favorability rating for the President, and Republicans in general, than anything else?