Archive | Immigration

Immigration and Discrimination

In this recent CNN column, Philippe Legrain explains the injustice of many current immigration restrictions:

It is no longer acceptable to discriminate against people on the basis of a whole range of characteristics that they happen to be born with, notably their gender, their race and their sexuality. So why is it still deemed acceptable to discriminate against people on the basis of where they happen to have been born?

The world is anything but flat: the biggest determinant of your life chances is not how talented you are or how hard you work, it is where you were born and who your parents are. Anyone lucky enough to have been born in the United States who doubts this should try to imagine how different their life would have been if they had been born in Africa.

A hard-working entrepreneur born in a remote African village has far fewer opportunities to achieve his dreams than a lazy dimwit born in America. Even if the African seizes all her chances and the American none, the American is still likely to enjoy a more comfortable life. And the surest thing that African could do to transform her (and her family’s) life chances is to go and work in the U.S.

But only if governments allow her to. Unfortunately, we live in a system of global apartheid, where the rich and the educated can move about increasingly freely, while the poor are expected to stay put, like serfs tied to the land where they were born.

For the most part, people are oblivious to the injustice of this: it is seen as part of the natural order of things, like slavery once was. But insofar as people try to justify this unnatural and unjust state of affairs, they claim immigration controls are

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The New York Times on the Politics of Russian Immigrants

The New York Times has an interesting article on the political attitudes of New York City’s Russian immigrant community. Unlike most New Yorkers and especially most New York Jews (the Russian immigrant community is overwhelmingly Jewish), they tend to support the GOP over the Democrats:

To many Russian and Ukrainian immigrants, the cornucopia in the shops along Brighton Beach Avenue — pyramids of oranges, heaps of Kirby cucumbers, bushels of tomatoes with their vines still attached and a variety of fish, sausages and pastries — seems like an exuberant rebuke of the meager produce that was available to them when they lived in the Soviet Union.

This contrast helps explain a striking political anomaly: immigrants from the former Soviet Union are far more apt to vote for Republicans than are most New Yorkers, who often drink in Democratic Party allegiance with their mothers’ milk and are four times as likely to register as Democrats than as Republicans….

One reason these voters tend to support Republicans is that they see them as more ardent warriors against the kind of big-government, business-stifling programs that soured their lives in the Soviet Union. Their conservative stances on issues like taxes and Israel seem to outweigh their more liberal views on social issues like abortion.

Tatiana Varzar came to the United States in 1979, at age 21, from the Ukrainian seaport of Odessa. She worked as a manicurist and then opened a small restaurant on the boardwalk that grew into Tatiana Restaurant, a spacious magnet for foodies who like a whiff of salt air and a sea view with their pirogen…..

“I am what I am because of capitalism,” Ms. Varzar said, “and Republicans are more capitalistic.”

Obviously, this article is not the first to point out the stark contrast between Russian Jewish political attitudes [...]

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Hispanics on Arizona’s Anti-Illegal-Immigrant Statute

From a Quinnipiac poll, conducted April 11 to April 17:

47. As you may know, in 2010 the state of Arizona passed a law that requires police to verify the legal status of someone they have already stopped or arrested if they suspect that the person is in the country illegally. Do you approve or disapprove of Arizona’s immigration law?

The answers by race/ethnicity: Whites approve 66%-28%, blacks approve 55%-37%, and Hispanics disapprove 49%-47%. I thought the near even division among Hispanics was noteworthy, and indicative of just how broad anti-illegal-immigration sentiment is, including among the group whose citizen and legal resident members are most likely to suffer the side effects of such enforcement (e.g., extended detention if there’s some mistake, or possibly a stop that is motivated partly by a concern about the person’s possibly being an illegal immigrant).

On the other hand, that a May 7-12, 2010 AP-Univision Poll poll, which asked, “Do you think that local police forces should have the power to enforce immigration laws, or do you think the job of enforcing immigration laws should be reserved only for the federal government?,” reported that 16% of Hispanics said local police should have such power, and 81% said it should be reserved for the federal government. (There was similar hostility to the Arizona law in particular, but without details on what the Arizona law does.) I’m not sure how to reconcile these results with the Quinnipiac results, though obviously the text of the question must make something of a difference.

Incidentally, the 2010 AP-Univision poll concluded, among other things, 52% of Hispanics said the U.S. government “should do more to keep illegal immigrants from entering and staying in the U.S.” (42% disagreed), even though 74% of Hispanics said that on balance “illegal immigrants mostly make [...]

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Conservatives and Immigration

Politico’s Arena site recently asked contributors to weigh in on whether the GOP is likely to be “wounded” by its support for severe restrictions on immigration. My answer is available here:

The real tragedy here is not that the GOP might suffer politically, but that so many conservative Republicans have turned against immigration in the first place. Conservatives claim to support free markets, yet many of them also wish to use massive government intervention to close off an international free market in labor. They extol the virtues of self-help, economic opportunity, and individual achievement. Yet many of them also want to build a wall to keep out immigrants who come seeking greater freedom and opportunity than they could hope for in their native lands.

Had the restrictive immigration policies favored by some of today’s conservatives been in force a century ago, the ancestors of most of those conservatives would never have been able to come to America in the first place….

Ronald Reagan said that America should be “a tall, proud city… teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace.. and … doors …. open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” More recently, former Florida governor Jeb Bush urged Republicans to rethink their views on immigration. Conservative Republicans should heed their call.

In this post, I explained why conservatives (and some libertarians) are wrong to worry that increased immigration will lead to a larger welfare state. Evidence from many countries suggests that increased immigration and ethnic diversity actually reduces support for welfare state policies.

For this reason, among others, Jeb Bush is right to urge a change in the GOP position on this issue:

Republicans should reengage on this issue and reframe it. Start by recognizing that new Americans strengthen

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Federalism, Immigration, and Interjurisdictional Competition

Temple law professor Peter Spiro has an interesting New York Times column arguing that supporters of immigration should not fear a Supreme Court decision upholding Arizona’s draconian anti-illegal immigrant law, because interjurisdictional competition is likely to take care of the problem. By contrast, he fears that if the Court strikes down the law, the result could be the enactment of much more dangerous federal legislation:

Arizona is one of several states, including Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana, that, frustrated by Congress’s idling on immigration reform, have challenged federal authority by taking it upon themselves to devise draconian policies for undocumented immigrants….

Such laws are misguided at best, mean-spirited and racially tainted at worst. The conventional wisdom among immigration advocates is that immigrant interests will be best served if the Supreme Court makes an example of Arizona’s law by striking it down.

But in the long run, immigrant interests will be better helped if the Supreme Court upholds S.B. 1070….

Undocumented immigrants may themselves be politically powerless, but they have powerful allies. In Alabama and Georgia, dismayed farmers have watched crops rot in the fields for want of immigrant labor. Arizona is estimated to have lost more than $140 million from convention cancellations made in protest.

Even more important is the prospect of lost foreign investment. Caught in the net of Alabama’s law in November was a German Mercedes-Benz executive, who left his passport at home while out for a drive and as a result found himself in a county jail. Mercedes has a plant in Tuscaloosa that employs thousands of Alabamians and adds many hundreds of millions of dollars to the state economy. That embarrassment will make the next foreign company think twice as it scouts out a location for a manufacturing facility in the United States….

In those

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HIAS Book of Immigration Memoirs by Soviet Jewish immigrants Now Available Online

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society has just published a book of thirty immigration memoirs by Soviet Jewish immigrants, which is available for sale here. My father, Yefim Somin, and I are among the contributors. There are also several well-known contributors such as novelist Gary Shteyngart and artist Marc Klionsky.

I blogged about my contribution here. [...]

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HIAS Event Launching a Book of Memoirs of Soviet Jewish Immigrants

This Sunday from 3 to 5 PM, I will be at an event sponsored by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in New York City, for the launch of a book of memoirs of immigration by Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

The book includes contributions by thirty different immigrants, including a short version of my own immigration memoir. Among the speakers at the event are several authors of chapters in the book, and Gal Beckerman, author of an important recent work on Jewish emigration from the USSR that I commented on here. The location is the Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16 Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues) New York, NY 10011. You can get tickets at the door or here. [...]

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Jeb Bush on Immigration

In this recent Washington Post op ed on how the GOP can increase its appeal to Hispanic voters, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush says the following about immigration:

The American immigrant experience is the most aspirational story ever told. Immigrants left all that was familiar to them to come here and make a better life for their families. That they believe this is possible only in America is the best expression of American exceptionalism I know. And on this score, Republicans have a winning message and record as the party of the entrepreneur….

[W]e need to think of immigration reform as an economic issue, not just a border security issue…..

Republicans should reengage on this issue and reframe it. Start by recognizing that new Americans strengthen our economy. We need more people to come to this country, ready to work and to contribute their creativity to our economy. U.S. immigration policies should reflect that principle. Just as Republicans believe in free trade of goods, we should support the freer flow of human talent.

These points are not new. That immigration “strengthen[s] our economy” is the longstanding consensus view of most economists. Others have previously noted that there is a deep contradiction between anti-immigration conservatives’ support for free markets and their opposition to the free flow of labor across national borders. Ronald Reagan recognized this many years ago, and supported freer immigration throughout most of his political career, even touting an America whose “doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here” in his 1989 farewell address to the nation. The importance of Bush’s op ed is not that it says anything new, but that the person saying it is a prominent Republican whom many conservatives see as a preferable alternative to the party’s [...]

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What’s Distinctive About America?

The Metafilter site has an interesting thread consisting of comments by foreigners about what they think is most distinctive about the US [HT: Tyler Cowen]. I’ve lived in the US since I was six, so I can’t really see the country from the perspective of a foreigner or a recent immigrant. On the other hand, I did grow up in an immigrant family, have spent time in many foreign countries (including teaching at universities in Germany and Argentina), and have lived in several different parts of the US. So I have some perspective on the issue.

Obviously, there are the ideological and political differences that some of the commenters cite: compared to most other advanced democracies the US is more politically decentralized (though a few European nations, such as Switzerland, are even more so); more pro-free market (though Canada is now roughly equal to the US on various measures of economic freedom); more religious; and less class-conscious. These traits are, I think, well-known. The Metafilter commenters focus mostly on differences in everyday life, and so will I.

Some of the points they stress strike me as valid. Compared to most other countries, America has much better customer service and Americans are more friendly than Europeans and Asians in casual social interactions. My father (who has visited some thirty countries) jokes that the US and Canada are the only truly civilized nations because they’re the only ones that have really good customer service. I would add Japan to that list.

However, outside customer service settings, the US edge in niceness over some European countries is not as great as many people suppose. I was, for example, impressed with how nice people were in Germany, despite the country’s mediocre reputation in that regard.

It is also true that Americans are, [...]

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Immigration and the Future of the United States

How can the U.S. maintain its standard of living, and its position of world leadership (technological, economic, and political)? Obviously it’s getting harder, partly because we’ve been so successful at sharing our free enterprise economic model with the world (a model that we itself inherited from others, though we improved on it), so that countries that once couldn’t effectively compete with us economically now can compete. And though the surge in international trade benefits us as consumers — and often as producers — as well as competing with our producers, competing with lower-wage countries has naturally gotten harder as international trade has gotten freed up.

Of course, we might be able to improve our competitiveness in various ways, such as improving our educational system, removing counterproductive regulations and taxes, and so on. But again these sort of ideas can be copied by our competitors — to everyone’s aggregate benefit, but in a way that reduces our leadership position.

We do, however, have one huge advantage over many countries that is hard to compete with: We have a long-term history of political freedom, political stability, economic freedom, military security, and relative freedom from corruption. This is something that other countries can’t reliably copy, partly because it takes a long time to establish relatively certain protections along these lines.

Moreover, I think that on balance size does matter when it comes to national influence. China and India are especially important players partly (though of course not solely) because they’re so big, and we have long benefited from this as well. A materially larger population would obviously cause density problems, including in places like my own Los Angeles, but I suspect that it is on balance something that would help the country as a whole.

This suggests that one of the most valuable [...]

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Immigration and the Welfare State

Conservative and libertarian critics of immigration like to cite Milton Friedman’s observation that “[y]ou cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state,” which co-blogger Ken Anderson recently endorsed. The fear is that, given relatively open borders, immigrants from poor countries will flock to wealthy ones and undermine their economies by consuming huge amounts of welfare benefits.

I am a great admirer of Friedman and his scholarship. But he was not an expert on immigration, and, as far as I can tell, he never systematically studied the evidence on the impact of immigration on political support for the welfare state. That evidence overwhelmingly shows that ethnic heterogeneity greatly reduces support for welfare state spending because voters are less willing to support welfare programs if they believe that a large percentage of the money is going to members of a different racial or ethnic group.

I cite some of the relevant studies in a recent article in the International Affairs Forum on Immigration (pg. 43). The research shows that this effect holds true even in a strongly left-wing country like Sweden. This book by political scientists Donald Kinder and Cindy Kam presents the evidence for the United States (and to a lesser extent, several European countries). Historically, the greater ethnic diversity of the US is one of the main reasons why we have a smaller welfare state than most European nations; the evidence on that point is summarized in a well-known study by Edward Glaeser and Alberto Alesina. Because people are most likely to support welfare programs when the money goes to recipients who are “like us,” immigration actually undermines the welfare state rather than reinforces it. Even if the new immigrants themselves vote for expanded welfare state benefits (which is far from always a given), [...]

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Ninth Circuit Panel Finds (by 2-1 Vote) That Jordanian Government Acquiesces in Honor Killings, Holds Jordanian Woman May Not Be Deported

The decision came Wednesday, in Suradi v. Holder; it’s not unprecedented, but my sense is that such decisions are rare enough to be noteworthy. An excerpt from the memorandum signed by Judges D.W. Nelson and Bybee, together with a dissent by Chief Judge Kozinski:

Iman Khalil Suradi (“Suradi”), a native and citizen of Jordan, petitions for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) rejection of her application for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). We grant the petition and remand to the BIA for further proceedings consistent with this disposition.

To establish eligibility for deferral of removal under CAT, Suradi must demonstrate “only a chance greater than fifty percent that [she] will be tortured if removed” to Jordan. The torture may be “inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.” “Acquiescence of a public official requires that the public official, prior to the activity constituting torture, have awareness of such activity and thereafter breach his or her legal responsibility to intervene to prevent such activity.” …

The record compels the conclusion that Suradi will more likely than not be killed in an honor killing if she is removed to Jordan. Suradi testified that it is “something definite” that she will be killed due to the shame of her extramarital affairs and drug conviction. Under § 1208.16(c)(2), this testimony alone, even if not corroborated, may be sufficient to sustain her burden. However, her brother corroborated her testimony, stating, “It’s not I think. I know that she will [be killed].” In addition, Suradi provided several articles and country reports describing the problem of honor killings in Jordan, a fact which the IJ acknowledged.

Substantial evidence does not support the IJ’s

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Tyler Cowen on the Political Attitudes of Russian Jewish Immigrants

In this post, Tyler Cowen asks why Russian Jewish immigrants tend to overwhelmingly support the GOP rather than the Democrats. The reasons are actually no mystery. As I have previously explained here and here, Russian Jews are hawkish on foreign policy and their experience with communism leads them to be suspicious of domestic policies that seem socialistic. Also, they dislike the Democratic Party because it was relatively dovish during the Cold War. Immigrants from other communist countries, such as the Cubans and Vietnamese, tend to be Republican for much the same reasons. So Russian Jews are not unusual in this regard. They only seem so by comparison with native-born American Jews, who are overwhelmingly liberal Democrats.

Tyler asks why Russian Jews tend to be opposed to affirmative action and gay marriage. But the vast majority of all white Americans are opposed to affirmative action (64% in this 2009 poll). So Russian immigrant attitudes on this issue are not surprising. They only seem so by comparison with native-born American Jews, who are the only white ethnic group that tends to support affirmative action.

As for gay rights, Russian Jews are indeed far more opposed to them, on average, than native-born whites. The reason, unfortunately, is probably simple homophobia. Anti-gay prejudice is widespread in Russia, with 74% of Russians endorsing the view that gays and lesbians are “morally dissolute or mentally defective persons,” according to a 2010 poll. At least in my experience, Russian Jews are no exception to this general tendency, though younger, more assimilated immigrants are less likely to be anti-gay than those who were older when they arrived. Homophobia aside, most Russian Jews are not socially conservative generally. For example, the vast majority are secular and pro-choice.

Tyler is probably wrong to suggest that [...]

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Per Se Negligence, the Police, and Illegal Immigration

From Bologna v. City & County of San Francisco (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 31, 2011):

This case arises from the tragic and senseless killings of Anthony Bologna and his sons Michael and Matthew, who were stopped in traffic in San Francisco when Edwin Ramos, an illegal immigrant, allegedly shot and killed them…. The narrow question posed in this appeal is whether the surviving family members can proceed in tort against the City under a theory that San Francisco’s policy to provide sanctuary to illegal immigrants was a legal cause of decedents’ murders because it shielded Ramos from deportation in violation of state and federal statutes. We conclude, as did the trial court, that the alleged breaches of those statutes support neither a legally viable claim of negligence per se [i.e., negligence found because of a violation of a statute -EV] under Evidence Code section 669 nor breach of mandatory duties under Government Code section 815.6. We therefore affirm the judgment….

Central to claims asserting both negligence per se and violation of a mandatory duty is the requirement that the harm allegedly caused is of the precise nature a statute was designed to prevent….

Section 11369 of the Health and Safety Code (section 11369) provides: “When there is reason to believe that any person arrested for a violation of [any of 14 specified drug offenses] may not be a citizen of the United States, the arresting agency shall notify the appropriate agency of the United States having charge of deportation matters.” Plaintiffs contend the City violated this provision by “adopting, and enforcing [its] illegal sanctuary policies so as to cause Ramos to not be reported to ICE and to not be subjected to deportation proceedings. As a result, Ramos was free to commit crimes on the streets of San Francisco.”

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