Stanley Renshon's blog

Responding to the President's Immigration Fiat, Pt. 4

By Stanley Renshon, September 27, 2014

In taking his immigration executive actions – especially if, as expected, they are expansive – the president will have thrown down a monumental, even radical, challenge to the American tradition of governance as well as to the American public and, not incidentally, to the Republican Party.

He and his allies can be expected justify his actions by all the means at his disposal, and they will be considerable. They are, however, by no means insurmountable. Read more...

Responding to the President's Immigration Fiat, Pt. 3

By Stanley Renshon, September 25, 2014

The Obama administration will field a formidable array of political resources to rationalize and legitimize the president's forthcoming executive immigration amnesty. Those who oppose his executive order will have nowhere near the president's resources and thus will begin with a decided disadvantage.

In that sense it will be round two of another immigration "David vs. Goliath" fight, the first one having been won by House Republican Davids who managed to stop the "comprehensive reform" juggernaut that reached its culmination with the passage of the massive 2013 Senate Democratic immigration legislation.

That fight was fought on different grounds than the executive actions fight will be fought. Broadly speaking, the difference will be a fight that was won by doing nothing versus a fight that can only be won by doing something. Read more...

Responding to the President's Immigration Fiat, Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, September 23, 2014

Responding to the President's Immigration Fiat, Pt. 2
Responding to the President's Immigration Fiat, Pt. 3

The president is very likely to take executive action "before the end of the holiday season" that grants administrative amnesty to large groups of illegal aliens and may contain other provisions that reward his corporate and political supporters. The administration has not disclosed the exact provisions and it is likely that at this stage there are several drafts, each with somewhat different elements. It's likely that the final version will be dependent in part on the midterm election results as well as domestic and foreign circumstances.

However extensive the provisions are, responding to the president's immigration legislation-by-executive-order will not be easy. Read more...

The Executive Immigration Order That Breaks the Obama Presidency? Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, September 19, 2014

When a president's major policy initiative, like President Obama's healthcare initiative, never gains public support, he is in trouble. When, in addition, the public no longer supports many of the president's other major domestic or foreign policies, the trouble is far more serious. And when both of the preceding are true and the public views the president as "weak", ineffective", or "dishonest", it is appropriate to use the word "collapse" to describe that presidency.

That is the current state of the Obama presidency. Read more...

The Executive Immigration Order That Breaks the Obama Presidency?

By Stanley Renshon, September 12, 2014

"The straw that broke the camel's back". Definition: "The last little burden or problem that causes everything to collapse."

There have been so many avoidable domestic and international missteps in the Obama presidency that is it is hard to single out one and say: That did him in!

There is, at the core, the most profound mismatch between the president's ambitions and the preferences of ordinary Americans. They want reform; he wants transformation. Read more...

President Obama's Self-Imposed Immigration Dilemmas, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, September 11, 2014

The truth of presidential intelligence is that, ultimately, smart is what smart does, not what smart could do but doesn't. Calling attention to your intelligence by using such self-congratulatory terms as "smart diplomacy" to describe your policies does not make them so. Nor does the admonition "don't do stupid stuff" make you immune from doing just that. Read more...

President Obama's Self-Imposed Immigration Dilemmas, Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, September 10, 2014

It is an article of faith and certainty among liberals that the Barack Obama is "the smartest guy ever to become president." Less well know is that this view, "that Obama is one of our smartest presidents," has also found a foothold among some thoughtful informed scholars on the right, like Max Boot.

There is no doubt that the President Obama is smart in the conventional understanding of that term. He is able to engage the factual and conceptual complexities of the issues that the country faces. He is able to grasp the alternative formulations of a problem and their implications. And, he can as well, be an articulate spokesman for the policies he prefers.

Regrettably, while being "smart" is an important and useful attribute for any president, it is not the same as being effective, successful, or having good judgment. Read more...

Another Case of Immigration Self-Sabotage by "the Smartest Guy Ever to Become President"?

By Stanley Renshon, September 9, 2014

The president's decision to delay his potentially (and most likely) sweeping executive immigration action until after the November elections must seem quite clever, as well as necessary, for the White House. After all, a sweeping immigration executive action would doubtlessly embroil the country in a heated debate about its legitimacy and the president's domestic leadership strategies just before Americans are set to go to the polls with the Democrats' Senate majority in peril.

Why take the chance? Read more...

President Obama's Thoroughly Tawdry Executive Action Delay on Immigration

By Stanley Renshon, September 8, 2014

Well, its official.

Cueing up speculation, anticipation, and expectation, the president announced to reporters at the end of his recent NATO summit that he had received recommendations on his immigration executive order from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice and that, "I suspect that on my flight back, this'll be part of my reading, taking a look at some of the specifics that we've looked at. And I'll be making an announcement soon."

That followed a June 30 Rose Garden appearance in which the president vowed "to issue broad directives to overhaul the immigration system soon after summer's end."

No he won't. Read more...

A Gratuitous Insult from the Mexican President

By Stanley Renshon, September 2, 2014

Ordinarily when a foreign leader visits the United States you can expect platitudes, not insults. Yet insults are what Americans got when Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto recently visited California.

The young (48) president, with what one biography touts as "movie-star good looks", was on his first state visit to the United States since being sworn in as president of Mexico two years ago. His first and only stop was described, with no irony intended, as the "immigrant-friendly [state of] California", where he held meetings with the state's Democratic governor, Jerry Brown. Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration Views: Future Immigration Levels, Pt. 4

By Stanley Renshon, August 29, 2014

Trying to answer the question: What would Americans think about future of levels of immigration if they were given different kinds of information, researchers conducted an experiment. They gave a portion of their larger survey samples (1) no new information — that was the control condition; (2) information about the estimates of current numbers of both legal immigrants and illegal immigrants; and (3) these estimates of legal immigrants and illegal migrants coupled with the information that about 40 percent of both groups living in America were from Spanish-speaking backgrounds. Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration Views-Future Immigration Levels, Pt. 3

By Stanley Renshon, August 25, 2014

Trying to ascertain Americans' preferences for future immigration levels when they were given information that might stimulate them to feel threatened or xenophobic, researchers asked three versions on the question future levels question (p.16): Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration Views: Future Immigration Levels, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, August 22, 2014

Americans have consistently said that they want immigration levels to "remain the same" or be decreased. Many so-called immigration "reformers" have simply ignored them.

As a result, one of the most egregious elements of the Senate's 2013 bill was that it would have enormously increased the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States. Just how many new legal immigrants would have been allowed in is a matter of debate, but by any fair look, the numbers would be substantial — at least double and most likely more. Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration View: Future Immigration Levels

By Stanley Renshon, August 20, 2014

In the last few entries, we have been exploring the fact that ordinary Americans hold basic, bedrock views on several subjects that that are cornerstones of the immigration debate – their views on the impact of large-scale immigration, as reflected in the numbers of the foreign-born in the population, and their views on illegal immigration.

The vehicle of our examination has been a large, sophisticated immigration survey, with an experiment design component embedded within it (for the experimental parts, different groups within the larger sample are given different question and the results compared), conducted by two very reputable political scientists. Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration Views: How Many is Too Much?

By Stanley Renshon, August 19, 2014

Researchers asking if providing "accurate" information about the percentage of foreign-born persons and illegal immigrants in the population of the United States would lead survey respondents to feel less of a "threat" from, and be more welcoming to, ethnic "others" (immigrants), were surprised to find accurate numbers (i.e., the estimates that researchers provided) didn't make much difference (p. 15). Americans were not happy with the figures, even when they were given the "correct" (i.e. estimated) numbers.

The researchers wondered why and speculated as follows (p. 15): Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration Views

By Stanley Renshon, August 15, 2014

Americans do have some bedrock views on immigration, but how legitimate are they given the lack of specific information that ordinarily accompanies them?

The criticism of ordinary Americans' lack of specific information about immigration and other public matters often masks a conceit and several false premises. It also provides an opening to manipulate the public that many advocates and pundits feel no qualms about taking advantage of if it suits their policy preferences, for example by arguing that legalizing illegal immigrants will require them to pay their back taxes when that is patently untrue and misleading. Read more...

Illegal Migrants: A Silent Invasion No More, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, August 14, 2014

The hidden tsunami of new immigrants, both legal and illegal, have been operating under the public's attention radar for many decades. In part this reflects the fact that immigration is not, ordinarily, a high-attention issue for most Americans. As a result, ordinary Americans don't have a great deal of factual information about the substantive foundations of the many complex elements that make up immigration policy. Read more...

Illegal Migrants: A Silent Invasion No More

By Stanley Renshon, August 7, 2014

According to Gallup, immigration has ranked near the bottom of Americans' concerns for many years. No more.

In 1994, the number of Americans who said immigration was "America's biggest problem" reached a highpoint of 2 percent. In 1996, the highpoint was 6 percent. In 1997, it was 4 percent. In 1998, it was 2 percent. In 1999 it was 1 percent. In 2000 it was 2 percent, and in 2001 it was 3 percent.

Fast forward to now, the summer of 2014 and Gallup reports, "With thousands of undocumented immigrant minors crossing the nation's southern border in recent months, the percentage of Americans citing immigration as the top problem has surged to 17 percent this month, up from 5 percent in June, and the highest seen since 2006." Read more...

Territorial Integrity, the Rule of Law, and Immigration Enforcement

By Stanley Renshon, July 30, 2014

Americans are accustomed to taking the territorial integrity of their country for granted. They do not sit directly astride a former empire that wants to regain its former glory and territory. The United States is not surrounded by countries that wish to destroy us. Nor are our territorial boundaries subject to international dispute, debate, or forceful efforts to change them. Read more...

Three Core Presidential Responsibilities: Territorial, Cultural, and Governing Integrity

By Stanley Renshon, July 29, 2014

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion.

— United States Constitution, Article 4, Section 4

In the push to respond to the substantial pressures of public expectations and, in some cases, their own enormous ambitions, some presidents have lost sight of three of their core responsibilities: the integrity of the country's established boundaries, the integrity of the cultural premises on which the country was founded and developed, and the responsibility of governing integrity that comes with the grant of public and political power. Read more...

The President's Dereliction of His Basic Governing Responsibilities

By Stanley Renshon, July 28, 2014

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: — "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

— United States Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8 Read more...

The Border Surge Is Much More than a Humanitarian Issue

By Stanley Renshon, July 22, 2014

The president's framing of the unprecedented surge of illegal aliens turning themselves into border officials in the expectation of being allowed to stay in the United States, as an "urgent humanitarian situation", is only partially correct. The phase is designed to misdirect public attention away from the more damming truths of the surge; it is equally, if not more so, a crisis of enforcement, governing, and the president's responsibility carry out his oath of office. It is an ethical issue for the public as well as the president.

None of these considerations are captured or even suggested by the administration's preferred phasing. Nor are they meant to do so. Read more...

The Damaging Civic Consequences of Illegal Migration, Pt. 4: Rhetorical Slights of Hand

By Stanley Renshon, July 18, 2014

American politics, and immigration debates are certainly no exception, has become riddled with "narratives", "framing", and "optics" designed to convey an impression that doesn't really exist — at least in the way it is presented.

A narrative is the construction of a set of "facts", specifically designed to advance the interests of those who construct it. Or as a Democratic political operative put it recently to journalist Ron Fournier of the National Journal, "Every political cause has a narrative. And every narrative has a plot." Read more...

The Damaging Civic Consequences of Illegal Migration, Pt. 3: Sowing Deliberate Euphemistic Confusion

By Stanley Renshon, July 16, 2014

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

       — Attributed to Sigmund Freud

Language is the key to human insight, but also a key culprit in undermining it. Read more...

The Damaging Civic Consequences of Illegal Migration, Pt. 2: The 'Better Lives' Argument

By Stanley Renshon, July 15, 2014

The essential core of real immigration reform is enforcement.

That is not because of some harsh "anti-immigrant" sentiment. Rather, it is because real enforcement is very pro-immigration. Why? Because the wholesale violation of immigration laws and procedures and the failure of federal, state, and local authorities to be consistent in their efforts to enforce the law undermine public support for immigration. Read more...

The Damaging Civic Consequences of Illegal Migration, Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, July 14, 2014

Illegal migration is at the core of America's immigration problems. And it is likely to become an even more divisive issue as the surge of Central American children, adolescents, and women continue to turn themselves in at the border and are dispersed throughout the United States without much fear of being sent back to their home countries. Read more...

The Myth of Political Cost-Free Immigration, Pt. 3

By Stanley Renshon, July 11, 2014

One of the reasons that the American immigration system needs reform so badly is that it has been changed part-by-part over time without great attention to its overall design or consequences. And when the obvious unintended problems crop up, or the intended fixes worsen other problems, calls are heard for "comprehensive reform" that attempts to fix every problem by giving more of what every connected group favors. Such was the rationale of the failed 2007 "comprehensive reform" and the stalled and almost certainly dead 2013 Senate bill. Read more...

The Myth of Political Cost-Free Immigration, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, July 9, 2014

America has always placed a large bet on immigration. It is clear that immigrants migrate to the United States for freedom and opportunity and in doing so they pursue their self-interest.

The bet we have placed, largely successfully in the past, is that we could leverage that self-interest into genuine attachment over time. That meant that they would not only work to improve their educational and economic circumstances, but would develop a real emotional attachment and identification with the their new home. In short, the bet was that immigrants would become, over time, Americans. Read more...

The Myth of Political Cost-Free Immigration, Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, July 8, 2014

The myth of economic cost-free immigration has its political counterpart.

It is the view that massively increasing immigration by tens of millions of new legal immigrants, as proposed in the Senate bill and by its advocates, is simply and unequivocally positive for the United States, its culture, and democracy. To assume or suggest anything less is to immediately open yourself to the charge that you are "anti-immigrant" or worse. Read more...