A lot of time has been spent recently, mostly by folks who have nothing better to do with their time, arguing about the citizenship of Obama and McCain. While the accusations against Obama are completely without merit and were caused by a hoax, and gullible Republicans (hey, if you’ll vote for Dubya, you’ll pretty much buy into anything I guess), the questions about McCain’s status are unfortunately very real. Now this isn’t to say that I think McCain should be ineligible for the presidency. I’m pretty sure McCain bleeds red, white, and blue, and personally wouldn’t be upset if he was elected. He’s a fine citizen and would probably make a pretty good president. The problem, as always is Congress.

The problem with McCain’s questionable status stems from those crazy kooks on Capitol Hill, as John Adams reminds us in the musical 1776:

…one useless man is called a disgrace, …two are called a law firm, and …three or more become a Congress!

You see, back in 1790, Congress had the whole issue solved and cleared up. The United States Naturalization Law of March 26, 1790 stated that “the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond Sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born Citizens.” There we go, case closed, all with a simple easy to understand law that is hard to abuse. This could have been the end of the story, but no, we have a whole Congress of useless men in this country which meant that 5 years later, things got more complicated.

In 1795, Congress complicated immigration issues by issuing the United States Naturalization Act of January 29, 1795. This act, which says nothing of natural born Citizens, explicitly repealed the US Naturalization Law of 1790, throwing the question of who was a natural born Citizen back up into the air.

But don’t worry, the Act of 1795 isn’t in play any longer either, today we have 8 USC 1401 to define Citizenship for us, and with a name like “8 USC 1401” you know it’s liable to be easy to understand! And simple and easy it is… if you’re a lawyer… maybe. 8 USC 1401 is written in essay format, and does not conform to the 500 word limit. To sum up the verbose law:

  • A person born outside the US whose parents are both US citizens is a citizen

    • IF one of them is a resident of a US State, Territory, or Possession prior to the birth.
    • OR one of them was physically present in a US State, Territory, or Possession for a period of no less than one year prior birth.

  • OR A person born outside the US whose parents include a citizen and a US national (but non-citizen)

    • IF the parent who is a citizen was physically present in a US State, Territory, or Possession for a period of no less than one year prior birth.

  • OR a person born outside the US whose parents include a citizen and an alien

    • IF the parent who is a citizen was physically present in a US State, Territory, or Possession for a period of no less than five years prior birth, at least two years of which must have been after the parent turned 14 years of age
    • PROVIDED that the citizen was honorably serving in the US Military, or working for the US Government those periods may be used to fulfill the five years if the person was born after December 24, 1952.

  • OR a person born outside the US whose parents were an alien father and a citizen mother, and the individual was born before May 24, 1934.

Clear enough? To make matters worse that just includes folks born OUTSIDE of the US. Aptly named 8 USC 1401 also covers every other case of citizenship, but makes absolutely no mention of what it means to be a naturally born Citizen.

I don’t know about you folks, but I thought the law of 1790 did a fine enough job defining things, why we need the obfuscated 8 USC 1401 is beyond me. Thanks to Congress we’ve eschewed a simple and fair law that would make it clear McCain is a natural born citizen, in favor of a confusing loopy law that leaves his status as subject to inane and stupid Internet debate.

-Angry Midwesterner

The world is not linear. No matter how much we would like to believe that B follows A in some simple predictable manner, it has been my experience that the best that can be observed is some sort of first order differential equation where B is dependent on A but also on itself (B), when it is not dependent on C, D and E. In fact most of my observations fall into the second order non-linear camp. This is true for tax policy (Laffer curve), population dynamics, and global warming just to mention a few.

The lack of Congressional strategic planning ability or the ability to even somewhat accurately project the consequences of policy is annoying. Without even going to Washington DC, you also can observe the problem, which appears to be endemic, in the corporate world. People want simple answers and typically want them in time for quarterly earnings reports or next year’s elections.

Some time ago I wrote about a hit-and-run involving my daughter. That missive was based on the report from a bystander that the driver of the other vehicle (my daughter’s vehicle was parked and she in bed) was “Mexican looking” and presumably illegal.

Now my daughter has been involved in three hit-and-runs and two comprehensive claims where her windows were smashed out. Not one of these were her fault, and in four out of the five claims she was not even present. As a result of these “excessive” claims, my unnamed insurance company sent me a notice that they were dropping insurance on both my daughter and her vehicle. Now as it turns out, on her way to Seattle she did encounter a revenue-needy jurisdiction in Wyoming. After a 200 mile stretch of 75 MPH highway, Lovell has strategically placed 35 MPH speed limit signs with 35 MPH AHEAD signs well short of the necessary typical stopping distance for 75 MPH. Considering that the mimimum fine was $100 for a 1-10 over the limit offense, this burg needs to be listed. So we have five claims and one instance of a seriously dangerous driver at 1-10 over the limit.

It is to no one’s surprise that small towns derive a significant portion of their revenue from speeding tickes. Some juristictions, fondly mentioned in other Angry Man entries, also seem to use tickets as an extended revenue source. So we have the situation where insurance companies are rating driver and vehicles on moving violations, and jurisdictions using those same violations as a major source of revenue, and using the insurance rating process as a justification for setting fines higher and higher. We even have the absurd situation where the legal jurisdictions offer non-permanent settlements, at a higher cost, for clearing the violation. (See Illinois and Missouri DMVs).

So the jurisdictions view the problem as one of revenue with the insurance companies providing a means for extorting higher fines. The insurance companies, looking to next quarter’s revenues, see their policy as a loss control mechanism. Dumping drivers with “bad” records is a loss stopper. Dumping good drivers with excessive claims without regard to fault is a loss stopper. States who pass no-fault laws in auto accidents have succeeded only in changing the limits from x number of at-cause claims to x number of any claims. States have made it illegal to drive without insurance, yet also apply financial responsibility taxes to violations. This is all enabled by the fact that America is now a mobile society rather than a stationary one. (The milkman used to deliver to you.) So to recap:

  • America is mobile – driving is more or less a necessity
  • States require insurance by law
  • Insurance companies attempt to stop loss by cancelling policies with excessive claims
  • Jurisdictions use moving violations as a source of revenue
  • Jurisdictions use the potential loss of your policy as a means of extorting additional revenue by offering cash alternatives to permanent violations on record

Insurance companies offer policies with uninsured/underinsured driver coverage. In my daughter’s case, even though she was not at fault, since the other driver could not be located, the company was responsible for the loss. That this is an endemic problem can be deduced by the fact that comprehensive and under/un-insured motorist coverage now comes with a deductible as high as collision, and the liability limits on this coverage are now as high as on the vehicle underwritten. Translation: There are a lot of accidents involving hit-and-runs or uninsured motorists.

So here is where the strategic planning comes in, or lack thereof. Insurance companies by promoting their loss policies are, in fact, limiting their losses in the short term. People who are dropped from coverage, and cannot afford the “high-risk” coverage, naturally drive without insurance. As their numbers increase, and they will because of the requirements imposed by a mobile society, the pool of potential long term customers shrinks. Further, jurisdictions using the same instrument the insurance company uses as a risk metric (tickets) as a revenue source, drive the number of excessive claims cancels and further limit the pool. Overall, the probability of non-insured-vs-insured collisions increases. This of course flows into the loss limit which further exacerbates the problem. The end result is either a stable phase point of no revenue, or of no market for insurance.

In fact, this is nearly homologous to the dog-flea problem, an example of two first order coupled differential equations in its simplist formulation. In that problem, if there are too many bites, the dogs die out. Too many fleas and they starve for lack of dogs and die out. Stable solutions exist trivially with no dogs and fleas or non-trivially in stationary points in phase space or phase-space limit cycles.

Unfortunately, none of this phase state analysis makes it to the policy makers at the local government or to the risk analysts at the insurance companies. Each is acting as if the problem were purely linear and totally decoupled. At the very least, both should acknowledge that actions taken effect the other and at least jointly consider the long term consequences.

The short term consequence to the particular insurance company mentioned in this specific case was the loss of all policies held with that company (6 or so policies); the douchbags.

Sometimes it takes somebody to step back from the tactical morass of the pending primaries and presidential elections and take a look at the significant issues. I am referring to actual decision trees that must be traversed to establish policies that affect the United States, as opposed to emotional and class-divisive issues that are used for political short-term electoral positions.

Now political pundits will say that there is nothing other than the tactical political position — after all, the goal is to get elected and you can’t resolve real issues if you aren’t in a position of power or authority. But candidates mired in the short term tactical issues — addressing irrelevancies for a point here or there against their opponents — can become intellectually bankrupt of vision. Then, even if elected, they cannot address the real issues, or perhaps have compromised their political capital to the extent they are totally ineffective.

By and large, I want to address issues that can be managed in some concrete fashion, not issues that parties believe should be managed. Party issues that are litmus test issues, such as abortion, cannot have a resolution in the current political system. 40% of people oppose abortion, 40% are “pro-choice”, and the rest either don’t care or have mixed positions. Given this distribution, any executive is not going to be able to generate a policy that has an immediate impact on the United States. One might be able to create an environment where one position or another might be enabled in a future act, but such environments are very fragile. The issue of stem cells is a case in point — for all the posturing, the issue became irrelevant when Japanese scientists persuaded ordinary skin cells to transform back into undifferentiated stem cells (and with the added benefit that they were donor specific.)

So enumerated below are some issues and my tags:

AbortionAbortion — (easy since I’ve already addressed it in brief) Doesn’t matter. Can’t be resolved in the current system. Trying to make this a plank is a waste of time. Yes, there are moral and ethical issues on both sides and the current treatment is inconsistent and there are deep feelings on both sides. Doesn’t matter. Irrelevant.

ImmigrationImmigration — The United States needs to get its act together here. We have two contradictory processes at work that need to be reconciled. Our food supply is dependent on manual labor imported from outside. To increase the pay scale to the point compatible with a job an American Union Worker would take will increase the cost of food. Economically we are chained to cheap imported labor. The presence of people in the country who exist outside the legal system creates massive economic costs, yet it still somewhat to our benefit to educate and care for a certain number of these people — the cost of not doing so may be greater still.

Further, much of America’s growth is due to legal immigration, its innovation due to contributions from immigrants. From the technological and innovative point of view, why would be want to train and educate students from other countries, and rather than employ them here with a H1B, send them back to India, or China, or Pakistan where they can use what we have taught them to develop competing businesses.

The current set of immigration policies are horrible with no consistent underlying vision or plan. We need to restore the United States to that land of opportunity that calls people from all walks of life to participate in achieving their dreams, and makes them want to be legal participating citizens in the American democratic process.

The Plank: Recognize that America is built on immigration and adjust policies to reflect this fact. Increase or eliminate H1B visa limitations. Devise a guest worker program as a means to satisfy our current economic dependency while at the same time requiring such workers to exist within our legal framework (i.e., valid driver licenses, auto insurance, immunizations, etc.). Finally, enforce the subsequent laws.

BusinessBusiness Investment — The current governmental bureaucracies (both State and Federal) have created an environment where investment is going elsewhere: London, China, Russia. Our policies and laws like Sarbanes-Oxley have made the hurdle of listing in the United States financially onerous. The FDA has made developing new drugs near-impossible with the result that corporations are being fined millions of dollars for reporting their research protocols to doctors (off-label touting is a crime); deciding drugs need not be approved because existing drugs are already available (competition anyone?); and generally making the process so complex and lengthy that the evil pharmaceutical companies have to charge an arm and a leg to break even of the research and development. The Justice department obtains some of its own budget from the fines levied in actions. (oops)

These, and many more government bureaucracies have to be checked, reduced or eliminated. The government can and should regulate commerce so that the playing field is level, but by and large, issues such as who can compete should be left to the market to decide.

The sub-prime/securitization/derivatives financial liquidity crisis is providing another opening for government to over-regulate. The market is already sorting out (in the British SAS sense of the phrase) the people who were stupid. Banks are moving assets back to their balance sheets. Hedge funds are unwinding and assets are being marked to real market value. Government interference here is what created the mess. Let’s not multiply the problems.

The plank: The Government’s role should be to provide transparency. Hold hearings, investigate processes and systems but without moralizing and demonizing the industries. And then do nothing while the system, now aware of the problems, corrects itself.

In general, any law passed by Congress establishing a regulatory or oversight mission (and its associated bureaucracy) needs a sunset provision and a requirement for periodic review to determine whether its still needed. Establish a goal to cut by 10% annually both the budget and employee count of every major department. (The Jack Walsh method.)

TaxA Rational Tax Policy — The current situation is not sustainable. The class-based tax warfare must stop. Now we have the situation where the top 1% of the country’s earners pay 39% of the Federal income tax; and that 60% of the people pay less than 1%, if any. And what do we hear from Congress: “Taxes need to be more progressive.” and “We can’t have executives making $30 million dollars.” and (of course) “We have to ensure that the rich pay their fair share.” So what occurs when 0.1% of the earning population pays 99% of the income tax? What happens if they get pissed off and leave? (oops!)

Also, it is unconscionable that a PhD in accounting and mathematics, let alone a typical citizen can’t read their tax return instructions. The entire system (and the IRS) needs to be abolished and replaced with a simplified taxation system that requires no more than one page to fill out. And keep Congress out of it. Their attempts to “fix” things got us into this mess. Remember the AMT, supposedly legislated to insure that 140 people who paid no tax forty years ago, never ever got a free pass again? And now 30 million Americans have to figure their taxes twice and pay because they are now “rich”!

The Plank: Set up a commission to oversee the collection of taxes — ten members max — like the Fed. Make any revision to the code require a supermajority of 80% Congress. Make it flat or at most two tiered with no exclusions. Most people would pay a higher rate just to not fill out the forms ( or pay their tax accountants to do it for them — they would save money.) Dump the AMT, eliminate capital gains tax or any reinvestment double taxation. Simplify — forbid social reform and manipulation via taxation.

WarThe War in Iraq — Doesn’t matter. We are there, we can’t leave until its stable. Why beat a dead horse. We kill more teenagers on the highways than in the armed forces. Fix foreign policy and this will go away. Irrelevant

Foreign PolicyForeign Policy — Which one? The White House, The State Department, The Trade Office, the CIA?

The Plank: Downsize the bureaucracies and reduce the competing agendas. Let’s get some consistency in the message America sends to the rest of the world. Like Patrick Swayce in Roadhouse: Be nice, be nice, be nice until it’s time to stop being nice. Let’s treat Russia and China and other countries with respect and some understanding that they have legitimate concerns. America, for better or worse, is a superpower and is likely to remain so.

Castle RomeoNuclear Proliferation — Doesn’t matter. The first world knows this through detente. The third world has to learn. And it’s not as if we can really do anything about it — any physics grad with some practical engineering experience can do it.

Few alive today have an understanding of the effects of these weapons. If a state uses one against another state, that state is toast. Self-correcting problem. Irrelevant.

JudicialThe Judiciary — At first I was going to assign this a ‘doesn’t matter’ but I rapidly came to the conclusion that it does in the long term. Two things:

Any president should have the right to select and should have the expectation that his selection be confirmed unless there are really significant problems with the choice. By problems, I mean competency, legal and qualification problems, not fundamental philosophical differences. When the people select a president through an election, they are (hopefully) voting for a vision and a philosophy and they expect that that vision will have its day in the sun. Selecting like-minded people is an executive’s prerogative. This includes judges and attorneys-general. This is part of the implementation of the vision (and philosophy). Using the confirmation process as a weapon deprives the People of the United States of their choice of a vision. Conflicting visions each deserve a chance so confirmation should be competency-driven instead of philosophically-driven.

Since certain judicial positions are life positions, judicial appointments establish long-term trends and enable conditions for follow-on legislation by establishing the interpretative environment for that legislation. When the judicial system is strictly constructionalist, this does not matter, but whenever judges use their authority to bypass legislative strictures, and have become ‘activists’, different concerns arise. For those who believe that certain positions are warranted and have an intrinsic value independent of that determined by the will of the people (as expressed by a majority of the legislative body), judical activism is a key component in achieving these positions. Consequently, judicial appointments become critical in preserving this channel of change, and this is reflected in the acrimonious confirmation process of today.

I note in passing that a conservative position of strict construction with regard the the US Constitution is not inherently an adverse position. At most it is a neutral position with respect to ‘active change’. At most, supporters of changes currently enabled via judicial activism have only to assure that their laws pass Constitutional muster. Of course, the entire reason for judicial activism is not for reviewing laws, but for circumventing the legislative process in the first place. If they could get their laws passed, there would be no need for judicial activism. This activism is also not the exclusive province of the left. In the early 20th century, laissez-faire courts blocked Federal regulation of interstate commerce on the basis of the ‘santity of private commerce’, an appeal beyond any reasonable Constitutional interpretation.

The Plank: Confirm presidential appointments on the basis of competency and not philosophy. Develop policy to prevent and avoid judicial activism. Let the process work by confirming presidential selections, and let Democracy work by reducing judicial activism.

[Many thanks to AOC for his erudite analysis and review.]

The AM highlighted this article for discussion.

Angry Midwesterner:
Doesn’t it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when they stick it
to the poor and help out their rich buddies?

Angry Immigrant:
Yeah, those dang “Republicans” who took 6,000 acres of her land without any payment in the 1930s… And that $0 of repayment was worth more back then…

Angry Midwesterner:
At least they weren’t skipping over the nearby resort and the local Bush friend.

Angry Immigrant:
Well, for now they’re skipping over everyone and not building anything. But as for making the case for skipping Republicans, argue about the Hunt plantation/trade corridor — that one’s easier. The golf course doesn’t seem to have direct connections up the chain anywhere, and could just be avoiding rich people.

What pisses me off even more than regular government bureaucracy (apart from the ridiculous spelling of the word) is partisan bureaucracy (admittedly, these fence shenanigans seem applicable at the moment). The last thing I want is a CIA more loyal to Clinton than the U.S. and a DHS more loyal to Bush. With that policy we’ll eventually end up with the INS kicking down the door of some Indian family with the “same name as” and finding a CIA wet team waiting for them instead. And how is HillaryCare going to reimburse the widows after that mess?

I want anyone appointed to their job to be loyal to the country, not to the DNC or the RNC (GNC, P&FNC, BIRPNC…). You get your Obama dude to fix that by 2012, and I’ll consider voting to re-elect him.

Plus, this isn’t the right response of a poor-or-brown-people hating Republican. This is hosing our own people — that’s the Democrats’ job. A good evil Republican looks at this as says, “The problem comes from Mexico, so the solution goes inside Mexico.” We want to build the fence outside the flood plain, but there’s no reason to build it on our side of the river… If Mexico doesn’t enforce their own border, we’ll do it for them, with a 2 mile deep occupational fence zone. Any fence will piss them off, so why not go all the way? Plus, if they want to push us back from building the fence, they’ll have to send their military to the border; which will fix the original problem of them not policing the para-military groups running border incursions… Q.E.D. Where’s my consulting fee?


Hola amigos! Angry New Mexican here to talk a bit about the Land of Enchantment, and our neighbors. You see, New Mexico, the land of chile (red or green) and piñon, is a unique place. Granted, we have our problems, like crappy schools, the proliferation of pueblo casinos, and the influx of hippies in Taos and Santa Fe who drive up prices for the honest Joses like me, but overall New Mexico is a great place… except for the neighbors. Que? Let me explain.

First we have Arizona, which is like the dirty old man next door who spends his time staring sketchily out the window and muttering to himself. Like any good little kids, we just avoid him. Arizona is populated almost exclusively by retired Anglos who somehow thought that Phoenix would be paradise. And they’ve diverted enough water from the Colorado River to make their very own garden of Eden in the desert. What about Nuevo Mexico, you might say? Isn’t it a desert too? Si, compadres, but the high desert of New Mexico can actually grow things, like green chile (the non-Anglos in the audience are nodding their heads in agreement, I can tell), while plants would naturally waste away in the fiery hell-hole which is Phoenix. Besides having poor taste in places to settle, the geriatric Arizonans have a tendency to elect politicians who compulsively avoid Latinos who aren’t busy landscaping their freakishly lush yards. Barring the honorable Senior McCain, who (oddly among Arizona politicians) sees Latinos as human beings, many politicians in Arizona are fighting Don Quixote-esque battles against the illegal immigrant boogyman (he’ll deal drugs to your children and seduce your wife; the horror!). Folks like Russell Pearce and JD Hayworth seem to think that nothing screams “America” like oppressing Latinos (evidently it now surpasses both mom and apple pie). With my muchachos y muchachas in mind, I won’t say exactly what I think of these individuals, but rest assured, when they’re hitting up the geritol we’ll still be alive and voting, thank you very much.

Now we have Colorado, who I’d liken to the nice family next door who has a penchant for lavish ski vacations. Lucky for us we’re almost always invited along. Skiing in New Mexico is alright, but it’s worth the drive to Copper, Vail or Snowbird to get the real deal. I only wish that the Coloradans would stop diverting so much water from the Rio Grande (you see, the neighbor is a heavy drinker), which is decidedly not grande, if you know what I mean. Gazing at that sickly little stream which runs through the Land of Enchantment, I wonder, what did it once look like which earned it the name Rio Grande? Perhaps one day we might again know, but Colorado needs to lay off the water for us to find out.

And now we have Texas. Texas is like the neighbor who’s always sitting on his porch, cleaning his gun, minding everyone else’s business. By virtue of having the biggest house on the block, he’s cocky, obnoxious and self-righteous. If there’s a neighbor we’d want our neighborhood association to kick out, it’d be Texas. But thankfully, no matter how much he’s always talking about his gun, he’s not really good at using it. Perhaps he needs more gun control…

Exhibit #1 is the Battle of the Alamo, where the bravest Texans (and their heroic allies) needlessly wasted their lives to accomplish absolutely nothing. I’m sure that Santa Anna was laughing his head off when he found out just who his troops killed there. Heck, the swollen rivers slowed Santa Anna down more than the fools at the Alamo.

Exhibit #2: In addition to being a state full of traitors, they had the cajones to attempt to invade New Mexico. After marching through Los Cruces and bypassing Fort Craig (leaving an American army blocking the traitors’ supply lines), confederate forces took the (almost abandoned) Duke City and pushed up the Santa Fe Trail towards Fort Union. Confronted by American forces under the command of Col. Slough (1st Colorado Volunteers) the confederates fought a pitched battle in Glorietta Pass. Meanwhile, Maj. Chivington (1st Colorado) and New Mexico’s own Lt. Chaves ambushed and captured the entire confederate supply train. Without supplies and cut off from Texas by Maj. Canby (Commander, Dept. of New Mexico) at Fort Craig, the Texans beat a hasty retreat back to their home stomping grounds. The Texans would never again threaten New Mexico.

Well, that’s the neighborhood here in the Southwest… a dirty old man, the nice family next door with a bit of a drinking problem and the gun nut who can’t shoot straight. It’s a wacky place to live, but where else can I get Sopaipillas like this, hombre? It’s home and nobody’s going to take the Land of Enchantment from me. Except maybe the aliens if they show up at Roswell again…

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“”Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!”” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

Now that the “comprehensive immigration reform bill” has gone down in flames (reminding us that “comprehensive” is Congressese for “will piss absolutely everyone off”), it seems a good time to take a moment to think about the deeper issues in immigration. After all, before we can undertake to our immigration problems, we should probably think about what kind of nation we want to be, and what kind of stance we should take towards those who want to come here.

The United States is like no other nation on earth. More than any other nation, even Australia and Canada our colonial brothers, we have transcended ethnicity and culture to become a truly pluralistic society. We are a nation whose culture and citizenry is woven from nearly every culture and race on the planet. That reality has profound meaning for the debate on immigration, and it demands that we treat it with the respect it deserves.

The first step in doing this is to recapture a real sense of why our nation really is not just “a nation of immigrants” but “the Mother of Exiles” in those immortal words honoring the most beloved symbol of American freedom and opportunity. We need to understand why immigrants are central to our identity as a nation, and why the freest possible immigration policy is vital to our future prosperity and even to our survival.

We Americans are not, and have never been, conquerers. We “do” Empire really badly (as we’re proving yet again in Iraq). But we are, and always have been, something far more subversive and dangerous to the tyrants of the world than mere conquerers: we are Dreamers who have managed to make their Dream a reality and who invite the rest of the world to join the Dream. We must recover that central truth and once again shine forth as the beacon which draws to our shores those willing to risk all to gain all.

Our policies of openness and freedom combined with our willingness to welcome those sharing our vision from around the world have led to incredible prosperity and innovation. America is not merely the richest nation the world has ever known, it is also the most innovative. With 4-5% of the world’s population, the United States is responsible for 40% of the world’s Nobel laureates, as good a measure as any for its dominance in science and technology. Even the Internet itself and virtually all the technologies that underlie it are the product of that amazing American engine of progress and prosperity.

And all of it is a consequence—philosophically and practically—of being the Mother of Exiles. Of being not just a nation that welcomes wealthy, talented immigrants, but one that welcomes “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” many of whom seem at first glance to deserve being called “wretched refuse.” Why is it vital to our identity and prosperity to welcome poor immigrants coming more for economic opportunity than to escape political or religious oppression? Because it is precisely these immigrants, these poor desperate people willing to leave everything they know for just the chance of a better life, who become the torch bearers of liberty.

As anyone knows who has spoken to one of these new Americans, they know the value and cost of liberty and freedom more than most. And they’re more willing than most to work hard to achieve the American Dream. They are the vital fuel of that great engine of prosperity. And many of them have risen from poverty to the ranks of the mighty. The wealthy, the successful, and the educated should all be welcome, but—in a great paradox—it is precisely those poor and humble who are the most vital to us, because it is only they who truly appreciate the beauty, rarity, and subversive power of the American Dream.

In the months to come, I’ll examine the best arguments for limiting immigration, and explain why immigration is central to our identity as Americans and vital to our national survival. We must move beyond mere “reform” of our immigration laws to a radical revision. Our laws must again reflect the principles of the New Colossus, returning us to our rightful place as the beacon of liberty and prosperity for the world. A beacon which shines not merely to be seen, but to draw those around the world who have the courage and desire to join us in building the land which is—in the timeless words of Abraham Lincoln—the last best hope of earth.

Just after having her car repaired following a Seattle hit and run incident, my daughter was sleeping when her roommate woke her up and told her that her car had just been sideswiped. Witnesses identified a white truck with a Mexican-appearing driver and passenger. Rather than stop, as is required by law, they merrily sped away from the scene of the collision. The result: $2800 collision repair bill borne by the insurance company and a $250 deductible covered by the daughter — since the ability to find the other party is negligible.

Unfortunately this seems to be the rule rather than the exception. While there is some large amount of data available on illegal immigration, it is difficult to obtain any specifically on hit-and-runs. Oddly, the Department of Transportation doesn’t specifically compile this particular set of statistics. The associated graph addresses only fatalities not accidents with just property damage. Only recently has the Insurance Research Council (IRC) attempted this where a possible correlation is found here and here.

A Side-By-Side Correlation
Illegal Immigrants by State
State Number of Illegals
California 2,209,000
Texas 1,041,000
New York 489,000
Illinois 432,000
Florida 337,000
Arizona 283,000
Georgia 228,000
New Jersey 221,000
North Carolina 206,000
Colorado 144,000

Arizona has a hit-and-run problem. California has a hit-and-run problem. “Coincidentally” these states also have a large population of illegals. Whatever one might say about the economic necessity of having illegals in the country, a guest worker program, whereby guests would actually have to obey the laws of the country, obtain insurance, driver’s licenses, and behave in a financially responsible manner would sure beat what we have now.

While researching, I came across this similar post. This guy went to a lot of trouble to document similar findings.

At least one precept of our ‘new’ immigration policy should be adherence to the Rule of Law. Whatever the congresscritters come up with should at least insure that citizens are not saddled with the costs of bad behavior on the part of the unlicensed , uninsured, and undocumented drivers.

[Part I in a series on Immigration.]

An up front disclaimer: I support open immigration. To spend billions of dollars to prevent millions of people from coming here to seek a better life is offensive to me both politically and morally. To impose quotas based on national origin, world region, or numerous other arbitrary factors is also repugnant. Our nation is not only a nation of immigrants, it’s a nation of dirt-poor, shifty immigrants—who schemed their way across the oceans to flee poverty and oppression. Those “huddled masses yearning to be free” built many of our great cities, staffed our factories, made our slumlords rich, and built a better life for themselves and a downright decent life for their children or grandchildren.

So I don’t like this modern tendency to view those “poor brown people” with disdain and fear. But I know why many people fall back on that: they’re scared and mad. And they have every right to be. This is not their father’s America, or—more to the point—their great-grandfather’s.

In those days, the American Dream was simple: you come here, you work your tail off and maybe, just maybe you get lucky and get rich. But, mostly, you probably die still pretty poor. However, and here’s the kicker that drove the engine of immigration for decades, your children start slightly-less dirt poor. Now, they work their tails off, maybe get lucky, but probably die somewhat poor. Their children, however, start only modestly poor. And so on. Repeat that over a few (not many) generations and you go from someone having (literally) nothing but the clothes on their back to Americans indistinguishable from everyone else except for a few extra holidays and some colorful language.

That dream, the dream of a better life for your children, drew millions across oceans. They endured poverty, abuse, racism, and everything else because America—for all its sins—was a place you could build a life for yourself, and certainly for your kids. And that’s still the main reason for most immigrants. We don’t have millions of undocumented Mexicans because they came to be on the dole. You don’t see illegal immigrants littering the homeless shelters. You see them crammed dozens to an apartment, working three jobs, trying to make enough to support families back home or bring those families to America.

So what’s the problem? In the 1960s the Left gained a major victory for what they termed “the Great Society.” They rammed through massive social entitlements going far beyond FDR’s wildest socialist dreams. And they’ve continued to expand and “improve” those entitlements. Heck, they’ve even gotten the Republicans to fund massive new entitlements, for goodness sake. We now spend nearly $700 billion on Health and Human Services and over $200 billion more on agriculture, education, and Housing and Urban Development. (That’s of course not including Social Security, which would not be an entitlement if it were actually fully funded.) That’s over $2500 for every man, woman, and child in the country.

Now, those on the Left may not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they certainly realized that the key to this massive wealth transfer is prosperity. Of course, this directly conflicts with their endless desire to humiliate, despoil, and impoverish the rich and successful. But, since the Republicans are still pretty much a wholly-owned subsidiary of the country-club set, the Left could allow them to shield the rich just enough to keep the whole thing shuddering along, wasting tremendous amounts of capital, generating tremendous amounts of graft and corruption, but transferring trillions of dollars to the favorite money pits of the Left.

There’s just one problem: to keep the party going, you’ve got to limit the guests. If every poor person is going to get massive amounts of government handouts—far above their tax contribution—then clearly you can’t operate a system open to the flood of those “huddled masses.” So, with the deepest irony, at least some of those self-described “advocates for the poor” found themselves arguing against admitting hard-working foreign poor people to protect domestic poor people already on the dole (and in the pocket of the “advocates”).

At the same time, poor Americans whose work ethic was being systematically destroyed by the honey trap of the welfare system naturally feared the competition from immigrants to whom the wages—never mind the government benefits—of a sub-minimum wage job seemed heavenly. Of course, this fear of competition from immigrants is nothing new, nor is the sense of entitlement that drives it. But now, rather than simply being obviously self-serving, it can cloak itself in concerns about the “cost” to society. If everyone, foreign or domestic, who fails to prosper winds up in the welfare net, then there’s a decent argument against risking adding too many new welfare cases. Let those “huddled masses” wallow in misery in their own countries, the argument goes, rather than coming here and either sucking off the welfare teat or (worse) forcing us to do the same.

So, nativism reared its ugly head for about the ten millionth time in American history. Once more, those despicable “foreigners” were swarming over the border to “take our jobs.” (Completely disregarding the evidence that many of those foreigners were “taking” jobs nobody much wanted.) And, as always, they smelled, lived in filth, spoke funny languages, and committed the deadly sin of working their tails off in ways most “real Americans” aren’t willing to do.

Of course, the nativists have some legitimate points, as well. The traditional pluralism of the melting pot—in which common ties like English, patriotism, and the rule of law were exalted, while cultural and religious ties to the old country were grudgingly accepted—has given way to Euro-style touchy-feely multiculturalism in many places. And, as it always, does this multi-culti nonsense produces division and tension, and often an ugly sense of entitlement among those immigrants who adhere to it. Another fine gift from the Left—this time the New Left.

So, forget illegal immigration, many on both sides aren’t too happy with immigration at all. As long as it’s limited to a relative handful of people (each year the U.S. admits somewhere between 700,000 and 900,000 legal immigrants), it’s not a problem. But with a veritable swarm flowing over the southern border, both sides are up in arms. That number of gate crashers might just crash the party.

The irony, of course, is that the vast majority of those streaming in have no desire or intent to become welfare drones or diversity activists. They’re beating a path straight for good old-fashioned low paying jobs, living twelve to a room to keep the rent down, scraping up money to send back to the folks, and scheming either to return to the “Old Country” with pockets full of dollars or to get their families over to the Promised Land as well. But that’s the problem, then, isn’t it? Everything about them—from their struggle to get here to their incredible work ethic—loudly proclaims that all they want or need is a paycheck and a chance, no government goodies required, no special recognition of their “unique culture” needed.

In other words, they’re still “living the dream,” the old-style American Dream. They just don’t realize that many Americans have cashed that Dream in for a fistful of government greenbacks and a headful of “identity politics”. They’d have thrived in great-grandpa’s America, and they’ll thrive here now. But maybe we’d all thrive a bit more in the long run if we took a long, hard look at all those government handouts and diversity perks we’re “entitled” to, and the barriers they put in the way of all those “huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

In an era marked by extremely divisive politics and deep partisan mistrust, truly bipartisan efforts are rare. But we were treated to one such wonder recently when Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Kyl (R-AZ), in league with the Bush White House no less, hammered out a bill on immigration which has truly bipartisan support, and truly bipartisan criticism.

The bill does many things, some of them not at all controversial. But it also does certain things which have stirred up a hornet’s nest on the issue of immigration:

  • Make immigration dependent upon accruing “points” for such things as: fluency with English, education, job skills, and certain family connections. (Currently it would seem that 28.6% of the yearly quota is allocated for “priority workers”. The bill would make that 95% and change some of the definitions involved.)
  • Regularization of certain illegal immigrants, allowing those here illegally to automatically get a “probationary” visa which does not allow them to apply for citizenship OR a regular visa if difficult requirements are met (returning to the country of origin, undergoing a criminal background check, paying a $4000 fine, paying certain other fees or penalties, and going to the back of the list of legal immigrants waiting for citizenship). [This last means that citizenship for former illegals will take 13-18 years, since there is a current 8-year backlog, and a 5-year delay after holding a valid visa before one may apply for citizenship.]
  • A guest-worker program, separate from normal immigration, which is easy to participate in but conveys no advantage in earning citizenship. Also, guest workers can work in the US for only two years and must then return to their country of origin for at least one year. After three such cycles, they could no longer participate in the program (total time in the US: 6 years over a 9 year period).
  • Require real border security work to at least begin before implementing regularization or temporary-worker portions. This would include border fencing, additional Border Patrol agents, and an employee-verification system.

Now, this hardly seems like the stuff of madness, and in fact seems like a pretty reasonable compromise, dealing with the two real dilemmas here. It prevents those who have broken our country’s laws from jumping in line before those who have obeyed them, and it deals with the reality of millions of undocumented workers who are hard at work in the United States. Naturally, this means it will satisfy nobody.

Some of the criticism of the bill has merit. Surely, Newt Gingrich is right when he points out that the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli “amnesty” law made very similar promises about border control, worker verification, and no future amnesty laws—and then utterly broke each and every promise. Businesses are right to worry about the what they might be required to do if a worker verification law is mandated. Various people were right to be outraged at the Bush Administration’s attempt to remove the requirement for former illegals to pay back taxes. (And their outrage paid off, since the provision to pay back taxes is still in the bill.)

But surely the general thrust of the bill isn’t worth some of the vitriol: secure the borders, deal with current illegal immigrants in a way that gives them a path out without cheating the honest applicants for legal immigration or letting them completely off the hook, and provide a reasonably sane way for workers who don’t really want to immigrate to live and work here in large numbers.

In short, on an issue over which passions run very, very hot, it has the coldly rational feel of an actual compromise: which satisfies nobody but maybe, just maybe, takes a few steps towards a solution. Only a few steps, naturally, since the bill leaves large issues unresolved.

For example: what about the many applicants for legal immigration still waiting for admission (the “line” behind which the new Z-visa immigrants must queue up)? Why not speed this process by raising the rates of immigration, at least for those already in the line? If millions of undocumented workers are (on the balance) good for the nation, why wouldn’t millions of fully documented, legal, and eager ones be?

More generally, the compromise misses the real problem: we have stupid immigration laws. When millions of people risk death, injury, robbery, rape, and deportation to come here to work low-paying jobs, we should realize that those people aren’t the problem. The laws that prevent reasonable immigration and that obscure the benefits of free immigration are the problem. Sadly, these laws have become treasured sacred cows of the Left and Right and reforming them will be very hard. Until we can muster up the courage to do just that, this compromise represents at least a first tottering step towards sanity.

[Beneath the political wrangling and the natural opposition to law-breaking by illegal immigrants lurk deep and dark currents. I’ll explore these currents, how they’ve led us away from the open immigration that catapulted our nation to world-power status, and how we might rekindle that spirit in an upcoming series. – AOC]