Monday, October 17, 2011

Jose, Alabama and Federal Court

Last week I had a meeting with Jose.  [Use the "search" tool to read more about his case and that of his cousin, Monica.]

Jose came to the United States when he was a very young child.  No one in the family had the documents needed to be in the country legally.  Like almost all  immigrants to the U. S., Jose's family came to find and to make a better life. 

Today, Jose faces deportation.  Recently, Jose married his sweetheart, an American citizen.  He is in the process of working through the system so that he can stay in this country.  He will be required to leave and go back "home" to Mexico, even though he won't know anyone when he arrives.   He is nervously trying to line out his plan with high hopes of returning to his wife as soon as possible.

Like in the case of lots of controversial issues, once you know someone personally who faces a very difficult situation like Jose's you just look at things differently.  Jose is a fine young man.  He comes from a very fine family of extremely hardworking people.  He has never been in trouble with the law.  He has been a good young man.  He is exactly the sort of person we need to stay in the country. 

I'm wondering why our leaders can't step up and deal with immigration reform so that we create a new way for our neighbors to the south to come and go to the benefit of all concerned. 

Because of my friendship with Jose and his family, the following story about a federal court's ruling on the very harsh immigration laws now in force in Alabama caught my eye. 

We've got to find a way to do better and to do the right thing by our fellow human beings.  After all, we are a nation of immigrants. 

Court Rules Alabama Can Detain Illegal Immigrants

by The Associated Press
October 14, 2011

A federal appeals court issued a ruling Friday that temporarily blocked parts of an Alabama law requiring schools to check the immigration status of students but let stand a provision that allows police to detain immigrants that are suspected of being in the country illegally.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the order after the Justice Department challenged what is considered the toughest immigration law in the nation. The opinion also blocked a part of the law that makes it a crime for immigrants to not have proper documentation.

A final decision on the law won't be made for months to allow time for more arguments.

Since a federal judge upheld much of the law in late September, many frightened Hispanics have been driven away from Alabama, fearing they could be arrested or targeted by police. Construction workers, landscapers and field hands have stopped showing up for work, and large numbers of Hispanic students have been absent from public schools.

Read the entire report here.


rcorum said...

What if the reforms that you want became law? What would you do with the people who still entered without their papers? I am not trying to be sarcastic at all.

Anonymous said...

Is there a reason for immigration laws?

Anonymous said...

Sort of like Robin Hood - even though he broke laws, some good came from it, and therefore excusing the guilty party is warranted? Is this something that should be codified in our legal system?

Anonymous said...

All law students learn that there are two kinds of laws: "malum in se" - something that is wrong in and of itself, or a moral wrong - and "malum prohibitum" - something that we simply decide and declare is wrong because we say so. An obvious example of the former is murder. A simple example of the latter is a stop sign.

All immigration laws are "malum prohibitum." Moving from that piece of land to this one is not inherently wrong, it's wrong only because we say so. So we can decide that the first law was wrong and discard it at will. Just as if we thought it a mistake to have put up a stop sign, we could take it down.

So we could decide that people in the country for 10 years, or 5, or 7, who had committed no crimes, would have a path to citizenship. Is there a reason for immigration laws? Yes. Just like there's a reason for stop signs. Can we change them as we see fit? Absolutely.

Robin Hood is an intersting analogy. He stole from King John and his voracious, greedy nobility to give to the poor, who were poor in large measure because of the King's onerous taxes. Should he have obeyed unjust laws without pause and let people suffer and even die? A strong argument can be made otherwise. Should we stand by and watch people suffer under unjust immigration laws? Maybe not.


rcorum said...

Ken, I appreciate you good effort, but I just don't find your answer helpful. Forget the young man who has been in the US for most of his life. I am all for him having a chance to stay, but does it really make sense to have borders that are so porous that people seen to enter at will. We have a legal way to enter this country. Will someone please tell me what is fundamentally wrong with our current immigration laws in general. I am all for compassion, but I am not for meaningless borders. I also wonder if there is another country that has immigration laws that liberals look up to as a model? Someone please answer that question. I would really like to know.

Anonymous said...

So we should choose those laws which are unjust and ignore them? Who, among the citizenry should make such a decision that will impact society? Ken, it sounds like you have a good plan for anarchy.

Anonymous said...

Here is what is wrong with illegal immigration. The populace of the US, bound by various laws are taxed by their govt. to fund the federal and state budgets. As citizens we agree with this system in exchange for the benefits it provides. Individually, we may disagree with particular laws, but in general we agree that such laws exist to serve the general welfare. These laws represent a "closed system" in that the taxes, budget, and programs reach real limits and there are no outside resources flowing in. Citizens pay taxes and the budget addresses defined goals and programs.

When the system is opened to allow for non-citizens to participate in programs, the number of people served and the quality of service in programs is necessarily decreased. We borrow and we ration, but resource allocation must cease or become so thinly applied that the goals of the system can not be meet.

Many of you will argue that our uninvited guests bring in enough money (sales taxes and income taxes) that they make up for reallocation. But this is not true - numerous closed hospitals in California and overcrowding in public schools across the southwest clearly signal otherwise.

If I had known that the system I was bound to pay into would be later modified, to include those who did not pay in the same amount and/or manner as I did, I would not have agreed to be part of the system. I would have agreed to some sort of system, but not this one.

So, I have participated until I realize what I've invested in the system will never be returned to me in the form of system benefits. The very things illegal immigrants move into our country for are the things I paid for. The job exists, not because a govt. caused it to exist, but because I (or some set of persons) demanded a good or a service. And I (along with many legal citizens) paid for infrastructure to facilitate access to and use of that good or service.

My kids used to play Amusement Park Tycoon. Never once when they built their theme parks did they develop a policy where some theme park guests paid admission fees and paid for meals, drinks, and gifts while allowing a back gate into the park for non-paying persons to enjoy the same access and services. Even small children know such a system would be inherently unfair.

Built into our system is a fair way for non citizens to enter into and participate in our system. Any method of getting service and opportunity within our system, without a fair investment, is wrong b/c it unfairly reduces my access to resources.

Anonymous said...

Thus, it is "wrong in and of itself" to change a system when those who supported the system will lose resources and access to existing resources. Thanks for the legal foundation, Ken.

Anonymous said...

Ken, one more point, referencing your law student lecture - who or how is moral wrong determined? Who determines what is moral? An example you use is murder. Who determines that this is morally wrong?

rcorum said...

Anon 8:30. I love to read your posts, and there is seldom even an attempt to answer them.

Larry James said...

8:30 anon, your facts need checking on the taxes provided by undocumented immigrants. The hospital example you cite in CA is not the result of immigrants alone and countless studies have shown that the total tax issue s basically a wash.

As to what kind of border we need to the south: the same kind we have to the north, one where a passport and a reason for entering the country is stated, including work, education, visiting family, etc. It works to the north, it can work to the south. As in the north, the border can be guarded, regulated, etc. Clearly, American markets depend on immigrant labor. If we want to stop the flow, convict employers. If we want to bring reason, humanity and public benefit to the nation, create an entirely different immigration policy that allows for controlled, up open flow back and forth to the south.

And, in the case of chldren like Jose, pass the DREAM Act and do it now.

Anonymous said...

If the southern border were as open as the one with Canada, the whole of Mexico would pour in. The standard of living makes a difference.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:30:

Our system is constantly in flux. It is not some closed system that guarantees tomorrow will be exactly like today. We vote for politicians who vote in a dynamic, constantly changing political landscape. I disagree with RCorum that your post cannot be answered. If so, it's only because I don't even recognize the landscape you paint.

Most non-partisan analysis suggests that taxes paid by undocumented immigrants are about a wash with benefits they receive. They pay sales, income and property taxes and get schools and emergency (only) medical care in return. They cannot access many benefits that require a social security number, such as social security and medicaid, and the taxes they pay to support those systems flow elsewhere. Any difficulty is mainly due to the funds not going where they are needed in our 3 tier system - federal, state and local. But this can be fixed. And if we allowed them to stay legally, it would all be moot since they would become full members of our taxation scheme. This is a red herring issue.

My point was not that our borders necessarily need to be porous. It was simply that we should drop the pretense that our borders and how we treat them are sacrosanct and untouchable. We have decided how to handle our borders - and have handled them radically differently in the past - and we can decide to change that system anytime.

Oh, and if you want to argue that murder is not wrong in and of itself, I would be glad to respond. For myself, I find it more self-evident than the rights Jefferson outlined in the Declaration of Independence.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Ken. My question remains who determines what is moral?

Anonymous said...

Ken, you have not addressed my argument that illegal immigration is inherently wrong b/c those of us who support our system of taxation and receipt of benefits through government programs are not getting what we paid for. I did state that if knowledge that those outside the system would benefit from our system then I would agreed to some sort of system, just not the one we currently have.

In short, it is morally & inherently wrong to make an agreement with another party, then change the agreement without further consent.

It is true that we can change agreements and include those outside the initial agreement. But it must be done under terms of full disclosure, which is not the case presently. I noted in my argument that many on this site would claim the uninvited guests essentially pay their own way. This is simply not the case. I lived in California and drove past vacated clinics and hospitals and also saw with my own eyes the glutted hallways and waiting rooms of the health facilities that remained open. when I show up to an emergency room with a sick child I should not have to wait behind 13 uninvited guests to have their diabetes treated - which they have contributed to due to diet and weight problems. I paid my insurance, I have a copay, and I have an immediate need. This was the system I bought into. But instead my tax dollars and higher insurance premiums are paying for my guest's expenses while I wait.

Jose is a good poster child for the open immigration advocates, like you and Larry, because he already fits into the needs of our system. He is young, was educated here, and even has a girlfriend here. He really is ready to move into a job and live a life here, paying his own way as a citizen. But he is atypical of the vast number of illegal immigrants crossing our southern border. Most are uneducated, many do not speak English, and not equipped to work outside the service or labor intensive job sectors. One may argue that American citizens won't work these jobs, but that is the red herring. It's a moot point. When these uninvited guests enter the country they show up with an invoice attached. Tax dollars flow from our coffers into their unpaid education and medical accounts, not to mention court fees. Jose is an easy example to defend.

None of my arguments can or should be misconstrued to be an attack on the character of the persons engaged in illegal immigration. They are simply doing in the US what they did in Mexico or their home country. It doesn't work there but it does work here, otherwise they would not cross our borders.

Children of illegal immigrants are particularly problematic. They are, in many ways, victims of their own parents. The system is not capable of addressing this problem without adjustment. In fact there is a term applied to systems design, mutual adjustment, that means where the system leaves off a unique adjustment is required. A poorly defined system requires too many mutual adjustments to achieve stability. If the system we have is nearly as dynamic as you describe then further mutual adjustment would be unnecessary. But implicit in the demand for legislative action is the need for further mutual adjustment. In other words, advocates of legalizing the status of nearly 20 million illegal immigrant know they must pass laws to get their wish b/c the system is not a fluid as you describe.


Anonymous said...

"You have not addressed my argument that illegal immigration is inherently wrong b/c those of us who support our system of taxation and receipt of benefits through government programs are not getting what we paid for."

In fact, I did. Undocumented immigrants pay taxes - mostly the same ones we all do. I think your anecdotal evidence they do not pay their way is mistaken. Most research shows they do.

"I did state that if knowledge that those outside the system would benefit from our system then I would agreed to some sort of system, just not the one we currently have."

You have not "agreed" to a system. You were borm here. You pay taxes because the government tells you to and has enforcement powers, and you get whatever our elected officials say you get - no more, no less. It can change any time. Your option is, I guess, moving somewhere else ... maybe Mexico?

I think your whole premise that there is some sort of "agreement" with another party (I'm not sure who) is flawed. Democracy's messy and in constant flux. We have even changed the Constitution 17 times. As Churchill said: "democracy is the worst form of government devised by man, except all the others that have been tried.” But it's what we've got.

Taxes, benefits, border control - we collectively decided what each would look like, and we can decide to change them.


rcorum said...

Everyone on this blog should take away a lesson from Ken and Anon. Both are quiet articulate and more importantly they do not waste time in personal attacks. I think they are both informative and present their different positions well. You ought to go to many of our newspapers and just take a few moment and read the comments there. The often degenerate in crude name calling and nothing more.

Anonymous said...

So, paying taxes levels the moral playing field? And, yes, I continue to dispute your claim that illegals pay roughly the same amount in taxes as legal citizens. In 2007 the Census Bureau reported some fun facts:

The nation's immigrant population (legal and illegal) reached a record of 37.9 million in 2007.

Immigrants account for one in eight U.S. residents, the highest level in 80 years. In 1970 it was one in 21; in 1980 it was one in 16; and in 1990 it was one in 13.

Overall, nearly one in three immigrants is an illegal alien. Half of Mexican and Central American immigrants and one-third of South American immigrants are illegal.

Since 2000, 10.3 million immigrants have arrived, the highest seven-year period of immigration in U.S. history. More than half of post-2000 arrivals (5.6 million) are estimated to be illegal aliens.

The largest increases in immigrants were in California, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Arizona, Virginia, Maryland, Washington, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

Of adult immigrants, 31 percent have not completed high school, compared to 8 percent of natives. Since 2000, immigration increased the number of workers without a high school diploma by 14 percent, and all other workers by 3 percent.

The share of immigrants and natives who are college graduates is about the same. Immigrants were once much more likely than natives to be college graduates.

The proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 33 percent, compared to 19 percent for native households.

The poverty rate for immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) is 17 percent, nearly 50 percent higher than the rate for natives and their children.

34 percent of immigrants lack health insurance, compared to 13 percent of natives. Immigrants and their U.S.-born children account for 71 percent of the increase in the uninsured since 1989.

Immigrants make significant progress over time. But even those who have been here for 20 years are more likely to be in poverty, lack insurance, or use welfare than are natives.

The primary reason for the high rates of immigrant poverty, lack of health insurance, and welfare use is their low education levels, not their legal status or an unwillingness to work.

There is a worker present in 78 percent of immigrant households using at least one welfare program.

Immigration accounts for virtually all of the national increase in public school enrollment over the last two decades. In 2007, there were 10.8 million school-age children from immigrant families in the United States.

**SOURCE: March 2007 Current Population Survey (CPS)**

Thus, typically illegal immigrants are largely poor, uneducated, and and disproportionately living on some form of US Govt. assistance.

How can they pay their fair share of taxes, Ken?

Anonymous said...

Your fact list keeps switching back and forth between "immigrants" and "illegal immigrants, " muddying the issue. Only legal immigrants can access most benefit programs, so illegal immigrants are not likely a drain on benefit programs. And if legal immigrants are the "problem," well, we're already letting them in by choice.

I agree undocumented immigrants are largely poor and uneducated compared to other groups, and probably pay little in means based taxes like income tax. But they often pay social security and medicare taxes they will never get back, as well as sales and property taxes (even if through rent) that are not means based. They pay less and use less. The studies that suggest it's about an even trade strike me as inherently plausible.

But I'm glad we're getting back to the point I made earlier: this is just an argument about accounting, and whether and what level of immigration is good for the country.

For those crossing in a desperate search for a better life, it's not a character or moral issue. However, for those of us who already have that good life they want so badly for their children, it may be a moral issue.

And thanks, RC.


Anonymous said...

So what do you think is the probability that illegal immigrants are more financially stable and less dependent that legal immigrants?

And, you're still not acknowledging the central argument. Laws are introduced by pliticians who claim they represent us. We (a majority of us) elected them. No illegal alien elected them. The politician was not elected to represent the interests of persons who are not our citizens and their constituents. Put another way, the "system" I was born into, pay for, and depend upon, was "of the people, by the people, for the people" - and I believe that phrase did not include non citizens.

True enough, no one asked my permission to tax me, generally speaking. But they did swear to uphold the constitution and to abide by all the laws of the land, including election laws and immigration laws. So, in effect, based upon the system of laws governing this country, I am granted rights as a citizen that non citizens are not entitled to.

If this were simply an argument about accounting, then we would not be shocked or morally offended when dictators of other countries treat their citizens as objects. Instead of military advisers we might just send in a team of accountants to help them adjust their budgets to account for their poor and uneducated citizens.

Tell the poor Mexican woman who sneaked across the border to go back to Mexico and report an accounting error to the Mexican govt. and see what kind of reaction you get. No, this is not about accounting. This is about what kind of govt. best respects the individual. The Mexican govt. respects some, but not all of its citizens. And it uses the poor by not containing corruption, and by allowing them to scurry across the border and send US dollars back home to take care of their family members. I don't know what the figure is today, but at one point 1/8th of the Mexican economy was "prduced" by cash wire transfers from the US to Mexico. Govt. is inherently about morality.

Let's say a candidate runs on the platform of eliminating the concept of legalizing 50% of all currently illegal citizens on the basis of practicality - and a majority of voters agree. The system is changed and we move forward. But what if politicians get elected and then after the election band together to pass the same law? That is what liberals do. Get elected as moderates and then serve as liberals. Whenever they expose their plans to transition those already in-country they are voted out of office, except for those who are in heavily liberal districts.

There is a system, there is an agreement about what it means to be a citizen. And the majority of voters recognize these differences quite clearly.

And when 9 people share a two bedroom apartment, property taxes are underpaid.

Anonymous said...

OK, let me restate this:

Let's say a candidate runs on the platform of eliminating the concept of legalizing 50% of all currently illegal citizens on the basis of practicality - and a majority of voters agree.

to say,

Let's say a candidate runs on the platform of legalizing 50% of all currently illegal aliens on the vasis of practicality and a majority of voters agree. ...

Anonymous said...

Ken,my question remains who determines what is moral?

Anonymous said...

Dallas Ken ,"malum in se" - is obsolete and not possible in today's left driven "meaning de jour". Citing your example of murder - with a little left shifting, it is not wrong in and of itself. Consider abortion as the proof!