Saturday, November 21, 2009

Profiling and immigration

Now that the semester is almost over, we have only two more meetings, I hope that we are all familiar with the many instances that have stressed race as a factor in setting immigration policy in the US. The most salient example of such a discriminatory policy is the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Chinese had started immigrating in large numbers to the United States in 1848 as a result of the Gold Rush. But as gold became more difficult to find and as unemployment increased after the civil war nativists resentment towards those that looked different grew and Congress was lobbied to exclude the Chinese from coming to the US. Ultimately the Supreme Court, in 1889, approved the Congress’ power to exclude and the act was even widened to include other Asians. This remained the case until 1943 when the exclusion was finally removed.
Ask yourself have things changed much over the past 120 years. The backlash then was against the Chinese, after all, they looked different and many were looking for an easy scapegoat. Currently it is the Hispanic that are blamed for everything from abuse of Medicare, to unemployment and one more time we have a strong lobby that wishes to stop immigration from the southern border. Things have progressively gotten more complicated after the dastardly events of 9/11. Currently the strict enforcement of laws, have ensnared many an innocent person whose only guilt is to be of an Arab decent or to belong to a Moslem sect.
Since there is no denying of the use of racial, religious and ethnic profiling by the Department of Homeland security then we have to ask ourselves whether such a use is justifiable. Let me be very clear about this, under the law as it now stands it is not illegal to use racial profiling in some sense in order to enforce the law. Most objections rest on the solid evidence that the broad use of this technique is totally ineffective. It just does not work. So what is to be done? May I suggest the adoption of positive selection instead of the broad nets that are currently used? What that simply means is that an individual is not subjected to strict and harsh selection criteria unless there is evidence that the person in question has close association with or is a member of a “dangerous” group. What do you think?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is Amnesty in the air?

I decided not to edit the important speech delivered by Secretary Napolitano on immigration reform but to ask you instead to listen to the whole 47 minute presentation. Listen carefully and decide for yourself about the message that she was sending out. It seems to this listener that she is preparing the public opinion for some form of an amnesty plan. If I am right do you think that the nativists will accept this without a raucous and if they scream loud enough would the administration be willing to hold the line or would it blink?

(I decided to correct the title upon the suggestion of Prof. Picoulas despite the fact that the original story carried the word Asylum instead of amnesty. Hat tip George)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Undocummented and Congressional Redistricting.

Preparations for the 2010 census are proceeding with haste. One of the most visible effects of the decennial census is the reapportionment of the seats from the house of Representative among the states.
California is already the most populace state in the union with 53 House of Representatives seats. Texas is the second largest with 32 seats followed by NY that claims a net total number of 29 seats. The fourth most populace state is Florida with 25 seats. So how is any of this connected to undocumented immigrants and the census?
The census counts all those that live in the United States but does not differentiate between citizens and non citizens or legal and illegal residents. That is why many of the Republican members of the House of Representatives have been on a mission to force the upcoming census to ask residents whether they are US citizens or not. As you might have already guessed the motivation for such efforts is far from being purely an interest in the truth. California and New York attract almost fifty percent of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants and since these two states are overwhelmingly democratic then it behooves the Republicans to prevent the Democrats from gaining any “unearned” and “undeserved” advantage over the more “patriotic” and” jingoistic” Republican nativists.
The Bennet-Vitter amendment was defeated today in a vote totally along party lines. All the 58 Democrats voted to reject including the citizenship question on the census forms while each of the 39 Republicans voted to include the question, the two left leaning independents voted with the Democrats. Senator Bennett vowed to continue the fight but it looks very highly unlikely that he would succeed. The Department of Commerce has already sent the forms out for printing and the census is to start by March.
So how big could the discrepancy from this potential miscount be? Here is my rough back of the envelope estimate. Based on an estimated population of approximately 309,000,000 for the country then each congressional districts represents approximately 708,000 US residents. If we are to assume that the 10 million undocumented immigrants are distributed essentially among five states as such: California 4.0 million; NY 2.0 million; Texas 1.6 million; Florida 1.3 million and NJ 1.1 and if one is to assume that California and NY are safe Democratic states while Texas is a safe Republican state while Florida and NJ are to be split between the two parties then it becomes obvious that all this fuss is a big ado about nothing. The greatest potential windfall for the Democratic Party is not more than 2 seats out of the 435 voting seats in the House.