A Reformed US Immigration Policy

On Christmas Day, Pogonip asked:

Can you post your view of the ideal immigration policy? I’d like to read it.

Pogonip asked for it and now you all will have to suffer… This post will, as a result of the topic, be long, so a lot of it will be after the jump.

I think that there are several policy changes that could and should be made to US immigration policy to bring the overall US immigration policy into the 21st century. Right now, like so much of US foreign and domestic policy, US immigration policy is a hodgepodge of specific policies on each issue or set of issues that are rooted in both statutory and presidential/executive branch decision making. Often the latter, executive branch policies are both built onto the statutory derived policy in an attempt to keep the policy relevant to what has both changed and is actually occurring in the years since the legislation on the issue was passed. And while these policies may be coherent and make sense individually or within selected sets, they are not necessarily working well overall. The last major and comprehensive legislative adjustment to US immigration policy was the US Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Since then there have been both large and small adjustments, such as both the Reagan and Bush 41 amnesties for undocumented workers in the US, as well as several attempts at comprehensive reform, including attempts supported by both the Bush 43 and Obama administrations. These latter two attempts at comprehensive reform were killed off by the most extreme nativists within the GOP Caucuses in the House and the Senate.

Given this history, here are four policy changes that would make progress in improving how the US deals with immigration in the second decade of the 21st century.

Establish a Guest Worker Registry

The creation of a guest worker registry, specifically to get those who are in the US and working in an undocumented status. This would also provide the guest worker or workers the ability to move not just themselves, but also their families and dependents who are with them, into a documented status. There are several advantages to instituting a guest worker registry and begin its implementation for those who are already in the US and functioning in this capacity. The most important one is that it gets them out of the shadow economy. Having undocumented immigrants, whether they entered the US without proper immigration papers in search of work or they overstayed their entry visits and are working without the appropriate paperwork, on the licit economy will have several benefits.It will create the economic benefits of being able to properly account for their labor in the tax rolls at all levels of government. This way guest workers will contribute to the municipal, state, and Federal tax base and be able to draw appropriate social services – from attendance of children in public schools to healthcare – without being considered tax cheats.  There inclusion within the licit economy will also bring in needed revenue for social security, medicare, and medicaid. A guest worker program and registry will also reduce crime. Undocumented immigrants are easy prey. They are easy prey for employers that would exploit them, just as they are tempting targets for criminals who know that they are unlikely to go to the police for fear of being detained and deported.

A properly established guest worker registry would include a vetting process to determine which undocumented immigrants and workers already in the US should be eligible for and awarded guest worker status, as well as eligibility for those not currently here, but wishing to come to the US and work without seeking permanent resident status or citizenship. For instance, convictions for violent and serious non-violent crimes should and would be cause for rejection of an application. And since we know that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants and workers in the US commit far fewer crimes, including violent crimes, a guest worker program would establish a more equitable system for dealing with undocumented immigrants and workers currently in the US instead of whipsawing back and forth from one presidential administration to the next’s determination of what makes an undocumented immigrant eligible for detention and deportation.

Adjust Grants of Asylum and Awards of Refugee Status

While the US has both congressionally originated legislation, as well as treaty obligations that function as if they are US statutory requirements, regarding who is and is not eligible for grants of asylum and being awarded refugee status, the reality is that each presidential administration adjusts both the who and the how many. Currently, Stephen Miller and the fellow travelers he’s salted away across several executive branch departments and agencies, have managed to short circuit the normal, State Department led annual determination of how many foreigners qualify for refugee status and resettlement in the US. And Miller, as well as his fellow travelers, have also been attempting to rewrite US asylum laws and treaty obligations pertaining to asylum through executive orders issued by the President. While some adjustment from one administration to the next is normal, what Miller has been able to orchestrate is both something completely different and, frankly, un-American in terms of America’s ideals. It is, unfortunately, all to American in actual application. And, I fear, will be used by Miller’s fellow travelers in both the nativist, anti-immigration community as a whole and in the Republican Party to scream bloody murder when the next Democratic administration seeks to return the annual totals back to normalcy. Miller and his fellow travelers ability to severely restrict the quota numbers create a ticket time bomb for them to exploit when a future administration seeks to reestablish appropriate numbers regarding refugees.

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Live Feed: Opening of the 116th Congress

For those not near a TV who want to see Nancy Pelosi retake the gavel as the Speaker of the House, here’s the live feed:

Swamp Drama (Open Thread)

So, a couple of days ago, as we were entertaining visitors in the Swamp Compound, we all got to see a “nature, red in tooth and claw” drama play out right under our noses. First, this Great Blue Heron speared a big old bullfrog:

Sad for the frog, but at least its ordeal was short-lived. It soon became clear that the heron couldn’t figure out how to get the dead frog off its face, which it needed to do in order to eat the frog. It tried shaking its head vigorously, snapping its beak, etc., but the frog remained firmly affixed.

Meanwhile, the heron’s frantic frog-dislodging activities attracted the attention of a nearby hawk, which offered to assist by dive-bombing the heron and trying to snatch the frog away in its talons. It tried several times as we watched. (And as I fumbled with the damned camera to try to switch to video mode to capture the hawk attack — unsuccessfully!)

Eventually, the heron flew away across the river, with the frog still attached to its face. There’s probably a metaphor in there somewhere.

Open thread!

Open Thread: The Xmasing

“About last night…”

Lloyd sat in her kitchen on hold for about six minutes, she told The Post and Courier. There was no hold music, just silence. She expected to hear a voice recording when it picked up, if anything.

“He has a lot to do on the night of Christmas Eve,” she said.

Then came the New York accent…
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A Nativity for Our Times

Sometime last year, right around Christmas, I came across the following drawing:

(Jose y Maria by Everett Patterson)

The drawing was done in 2014 by comics artist Everett Patterson. Since I came across this in a tweet or someone’s blog post after last Christmas had come and gone, I saved the image knowing I’d likely, and unfortunately, have a chance to use it this year. Here’s Patterson’s description of his drawing (emphasis mine):

This was our Christmas card for 2014, depicting Jesus’s parents in a modern setting. I was inspired by a number of evocative “imagine what it would have been like”-type sermons I heard earlier this year, and also (as usual) by the work of Will Eisner, who so often depicted, with religious reverence, noble individuals enduring the many minor discomforts and petty indignities of urban America.

The main goal of this illustration was to pack as many clever biblical references into the scene as possible. I won’t list every one (there are at least a dozen), but a few that I’m proudest of are: the verse from the prophet Ezekiel in the graffiti on the phone kiosk, the way the “Save More!” behind Mary’s head looks kinda like “Ave Maria!,” and the two ads for “Glad” and “Tide” on the newspaper (get it?).

A word on perspective: for this image, I chose very, very wide vanishing points. The result is what I occasionally call “middle-class white people perspective.” Rather than feeling immersed in the scene, the viewer is looking at it as if from across the street or from the warmth and safety of his or her passing car. I have a small hope that this Christmas image will come to mind when we see other “down and out” people huddling outside of gas stations, reminding us that our Savior’s parents (and indeed, Jesus himself) were at one time similarly troubled.

As I’m sure everyone is aware by now, I’m not a Christian, but it seems to me that all of the winter holidays – Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa – of 2018 are being celebrated by many in what seems to be the twilight of America. A twilight that has brought the rudest, meanest, smallest in terms of their ethical and moral stature, small minded, and bigoted people to power who seek, for a variety of reasons, to rule not to govern. Some, like the President, his family, the Secretary of Commerce, and the former Secretaries of HHS and Interior, and the Director of the EPA, seek merely to enrich themselves. Some, like the Vice President, the Secretaries of Education and HUD, the former Attorney General, the Acting Attorney General, and the White House Press Secretary, seek to impose a white, largely evangelical* Christian herrenvolk democracy. Some, like Senator McConnell, Leonard Leo, Stephen Miller, John Bolton, and far too many others, seek to manipulate the President into fulfilling their own personal revanchist, anti-liberal democracy agendas. These men and women, some true believers, some merely opportunists, would have turned away Joseph, Mary, and Jesus as they fled from the danger of Herod through the dangers of the desert to the dangers of being strangers in the Land of Egypt even though most of them profess to be the most devoted followers of Jesus and his teachings.

There is, however, always hope. There are people who are doing good things for others. Who are trying to make a difference one good act, act of kindness, and/or act of charity at a time. Who are doing their best to embody the real meaning and ethic of the Christmas holiday season.

Hope is not a strategy, but it is essential for survival. And America is not simply an outline on a map, it is an ideal. So keep the faith and hold the line.

Merry Christmas to all those Juicers and jackals who observe it!

Open thread!

* The coalition of religious conservatives is, of course, larger than just those from the evangelical Christian denominations that we refer to as Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Fundamentalists. It also includes traditionalist Catholics, some members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and some ultra-Orthodox Jews. The reality, however, is that if the goals of religious conservatives are ever achieved in the US, the evangelical Christians will turn on the traditionalist Catholics, the Mormons, and the ultra-Orthodox Jews. Then they will turn on each other as the Evangelicals, the Charismatics, and the Fundamentalists don’t actually agree on matters of theology and dogma. The pursuit of doctrinal purity can only lead to purge after purge.

Footage of the President Meeting With (What’s Left of) His Cabinet

Thanks to an intrepid White House pool videographer, we have footage of the President meeting with his cabinet today.

Open thread!

A Dispatch From the War on Christmas

The brave resistance fighters in the War on Christmas have risked life and limb to smuggle out this footage from War on Christmas detainee camp #6, also known by its official name of Camp Kringle. The conditions in the war on Christmas detainee camps are worse than anyone could have imagined…

The resistance informs me that since Camp Kringle is full, new detainees are being sent to Camp Sugar Plum Fairies (Camp 17), Camp Sleigh Bells (Camp 72), and Camp Lords a Leaping (Camp 134). All resistance units should be on alert for infiltrators and informants!

Stay Frosty. Just like those three guys in the front row the between the Santas…

Open thread!