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MARK KRIKORIAN: The immigration issue du jour is the DREAM Act, as anybody who follows the news knows. But that is really a skirmish in a larger conflict and that obviously gets the attention at any particular time but the broader issue is this issue of comprehensive immigration reform, as the advocates have come to call it; in other words, a grand bargain between amnesty for the illegal immigrants here and future increased immigration in exchange for legal status – I mean, in exchange for promises of enforcement in the future.
It’s sort of the basic deal that’s been floating around for 10 years, and supporters of this comprehensive immigration reform laid the groundwork – political groundwork for it in 2000 and 2001. They did focus groups. They actually focus grouped what to call it. They came up with – they found out that amnesty was something that the focus groups really didn’t like, really didn’t like and so they came up with this whole panoply of euphemisms for it.
They put together the advocacy group coalitions, odd bedfellow coalitions of business and labor and all of this stuff. What they didn’t really do, though, is develop an intellectual case for so-called comprehensive immigration reform. My sense is they figured that why bother because only troglodytes and cooks disagreed. So it’s kind of like the story about the writer for New York magazine who in 1972 said, how could Nixon have won, nobody I know voted for him.
Well, it’s the same sort of thing. The people pushing for comprehensive immigration reform didn’t know any people who disagreed. I mean, they just didn’t seem like it was a necessary thing to make an intellectual case for it. But when that turned out not to be such a great strategy and the public basically vomited up the idea of comprehensive immigration reform, the supporters seem to have come to the realization they needed an intellectual case for it.
And I think the three blue ribbon task forces that the paper we’re releasing today examines were efforts not necessarily coordinated or anything but really were efforts at developing a kind of intellectual case for this so-called ground bargain and as a think-tank, what CIS does is not the wrangling on Capitol Hill – as important as that is – but examining these kind of attempts at offering an intellectual argument on a particular immigration issue and so that’s what this paper tries to do is unpack the grand bargain idea and its various pieces and the author is eminently qualified to do that.
Stanley Renshon is a CIS fellow and professor of political science at the City University of New York Graduate Center and the coordinator there of the interdisciplinary program in the psychology of social and political behavior. I think I have that right.
STANLEY RENSHON: Sorry, it’s a mouthful.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yes. He’s also a certified psychoanalyst and author of 16 books, dozens of articles on a variety of subjects. Your upcoming one is on the Obama administration, right?
MR. RENSHON: Yeah.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Would it be accurate to call it, sort of, you’re shrinking his head kind of?
MR. RENSHON: That would be accurate.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Sort of a psychology assessment of Obama, you know, Obama’s administration so far; also, a number of books based on papers published for the center on dual citizenship, non-citizen voting.
After Stanley describes what he found in examining these blue ribbon commissions, our discussant will be Hans von Spakovsky. He’s a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has written on a variety of issues including immigration but also civil justice and election issues and what have you. Before coming to Heritage, he was a member of the Federal Election Commission and was an attorney at the Justice Department before that as a counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights. So, Stanley?
MR. RENSHON: Thank you, Mark. Thank you for hosting this. I appreciate that and CIS’s work and my work with them. I wanted to start out with an admission, perhaps a confession, which is that I am decidedly in favor of legal immigration and what’s more, I think in general legal immigrants contribute a great deal to our country and that there is very good reason why immigration has an iconic status in our national identity.
Almost all of our families originally come from somewhere else. I mention these views because there’s a substantial political and emotional investment in what has become the conventional wisdom about immigration grand bargains and its rhetorical twin, comprehensive immigration reform, and it turns out that anybody who doesn’t agree with what those things are defined as by others and what “sensible”, in quotes, and correct initiatives are found or thought to not be thinking clearly, perhaps purposefully.
It seems now that with the midterm in back of us there is now no clear policy momentum for big immigration reform and that actually presents us with an opportunity which is part of what this paper is about. I’m probably in a minority on this matter but I think that paradoxically the new Republican Congress and the number of Republicans in the Senate, coupled with the possibility of Republican increases in the Senate in 2012, make it possible that over the next couple of years there may be a way to find new common ground for a different kind of immigration reform.
This revised immigration reform would begin with different premises, those based on the larger public interest rather than on political bargains. It would build on an ethical framework that does not depend on one-sided Biblical arguments about the moral incentive to help strangers. It would not be a bipartisan plan in the sense that we usually have bipartisan plans, which is you get, you know, the dominant group has the plan and then they enlist one or two other people from the opposing party.
But rather, it would be an American immigration plan that finds its common ground in response to what ordinary Americans from all walks of life have been calling for, I think loudly, for several years and it is possible, I think, that such a plan will be able to enlist Hispanic Americans in a reform that goes beyond extending family reunification categories. I’m working on these projects as part of the center’s wide-ranging activities over the next couple of years and I’m very happy to be associated to them.
Now, one of the ways in which this new deal could possibly – new deal – (chuckles) – I hadn’t thought about it quite like that. I have to think about that one – might come about is by attempting to clear away some of the conceptual and logical underbrush that now permeates most immigration discussions and that’s essentially the basis of the report here today and of course there’s no place – no better place in which to examine conventional wisdom than in the three blue ribbon reports that have been issued – the Brookings-Duke report, the Council on Foreign Relations and Migration Policy Institute.
The working idea of these is now fairly well-known. You get a large institution who sponsors a group. They’re chaired by establishment figures. They appoint an executive director, generally from that institution. A group of notables are then recruited. They discuss the issues. They issue a report. There are a few brief dissents but not of the major underlying assumptions. A press conference is called. The plan is announced and then people go out and try to get it put into practice by Congress.
Now, task forces are diverse in many ways but my first point about them is that they tend to operate within a very narrow band of policy consideration. If you look over the three task forces, it’s hard to find anybody that can really be identified as a, quote, unquote, “restrictionist” among the group.
Moreover, not one task force took seriously the idea of ending the policy of mass immigration, nor did they consider the idea of having a moratorium on high immigration numbers until the immigrants that we have now can be integrated more easily into American life nor did they consider lowering the actual number of immigrants that we take in each year, as the Jordan Commission had done some years ago, and they didn’t consider diversifying the stream of immigrants that we take into the United States.
Now, I mention all of these things not because I think each and every one of these specific ideas is something that we ought to be doing without thought but because they seem to me to represent the kinds of things that immigration blue ribbon panels don’t touch. There are lots of things that are off limits and of course if you’re going to have comprehensive immigration reform, you have to be able to think about some basic questions and try to provide some basic answers.
Now, why does this matter? Why does it matter that they did some things but not other things and the answer is that it matters because the president is on record as favoring comprehensive immigration reform with several exclamation points right next to it and it would be a very savvy political move for him to try to get something done before the 2012 presidential election and my prediction is that he will try to do that and what will be base that on?
Well, he’ll obviously point to the blue ribbon panels and say, well, you know, these august bodies have said that we ought to have this tradeoff and this grand bargain and I’m actually in favor of it. So let’s get rolling on that and he would actually then be able to also up his perception, the perception of him as a centrist.
Now, I think as everybody knows, the basic premise is that you couple border and workplace enforcement with the legalization of anywhere between 10 and 12 million illegal immigrants, whatever the count is. But those terms, you know, the grand bargain and comprehensive immigration reform, really refer to two different things. The grand bargain is the legalization enforcement relationship. The comprehensive immigration reform has to do with all the questions about immigration, some of which get answered.
For example, what you do about family reunification processes or what you do about having skilled immigrants as opposed to unskilled immigrants and also the questions that I raised just now in the beginning which is how many immigrants are a good number for the United States to have every year. Is that 550, as the Jordan Commission suggested some years ago? Is that 1.1 million, as the Duke Commission suggests? Is it 1.5 million, as the MPI people suggest or is it sort of unlimited as the Council on Foreign Relations says because they have – they won’t give out an actual number.
But they want to put into the mix all of the workers who come here who now are asked to go home but now we won’t ask them to go home so we’ll bring those in and we’ll bring their family members in as well. So we have a large variation in the numbers that these reforms will bring about but nobody talks about the underlying question which is, you know, what would be a reasonable good number of immigrants to have every year and really set that as a place where we really aim to get that done.
Now, the focus of this paper is on a lot of issues that the three blue ribbon task forces don’t take up and which I think they need to. But I don’t want to say that they don’t have a lot of good ideas. They’ve come up with several very good things. The transition to higher levels of educated and skilled immigrants seems to me very sensible. The idea that immigrant immigration into the American national community, and I would add emotional attachment, is very important, seems to me like a very good idea. All of those things are I think advantages that we should say thank you to them for.
But the three task forces begin with the premise that you have to exchange legalization for enforcement and that’s where things start to go wrong. This is from the Duke report but it’s not the only indication of this and I’d like to read it if I may.
Their report says, “Even if sending 12 million people home were feasible, it would be a catastrophic choice, enormously expensive, diplomatically disastrous and hugely costly in human terms. Neighborhoods would be torn apart. Families would be separated and a new sorry chapter written in American race relations, less draconian measures enforced by immigration officials at all levels of government to encourage illegal immigrants to leave on their own was examined by our roundtable and none would pass muster,” a lovely phrase.
But if you look and you ask yourself, well, why wouldn’t they pass muster, there’s actually no explanation. It simply said they wouldn’t pass muster and some of us, this is the panel talking again, not ours, theirs, “Attrition through enforcement was offensive to our values.” Now, what values would they be? Would it be the values of enforcement? Because there’s a paradox here. If you’re trading legalization for enforcement, the enforcement part of it is exactly what’s behind the attrition idea.
So if you’re in favor of attrition, workplace enforcement it will lead to attrition, you’re saying, well, that’s bad unless you couple it with legalization the logic doesn’t really hold and here’s my next favorite on that, which is that others thought, and this is in their report, “others thought that because such a strategy would not likely to be rigorously or consistently implemented, it would therefore be ineffective.”
So catch the logic of this. If you have enforcement strategies, they won’t be effectively implemented. Therefore we shouldn’t have enforcement strategies but we need an enforcement strategy in order to make the trade to get the 10 to 12 million illegal immigrants. I’m sorry. It didn’t make much sense to me. Well, these quotes lay out the stark differences between deportation and attrition.
Now, the deportation idea can generally be thought of as you round them up and you ship them home and critics say that it’s draconian and impossible to enforce and would to damage to American interests and I think they are absolutely right. I think it would. I would add to that can you imagine the scenes of, you know, police officers coming in and tearing people away from each other? They would be highly televised, and believe me, you would see a lot of them, and frankly, emotionally and politically, American could not sustain such a strategy.
But you don’t need to have that deportation strategy. What you need to have is the lynchpin which the Jordan Commission talked about, which is workplace enforcement.
Now, workplace enforcement is something that everybody, every commission member, you know, thinks of as very important. But the idea of workplace enforcement – and they all want to have e-verify and they all want to have biometric cards and they all want to make sure that, you know, nobody could get a job who shouldn’t and that is something that sounds very strong. The only problem is that e-verify is not very far along in being the kind of system that we can depend on.
I go through in the paper a number of studies that have shown, including one by the people who developed it, that they really only can catch people who shouldn’t be there half the time and that’s not a good record. The idea it’s not – it’s now voluntary, there are no penalties involved and even if you made it mandatory, you would have to get up to speed over a couple of years for millions and millions of job applicants who would have to be checked and I simply don’t have confidence that that can be done.
So what’s the problem with that? Well, the bottom line of the problem of this is what I call asymmetric gains, which is that in any grand bargain you have two sides of an issue and they don’t necessarily like the premises of the other side and they don’t necessarily accept the other side. But each side is willing to accept the other’s existence to go ahead and get some kind of resolution of the issue.
But the asymmetry of this is precisely that legalization happens with a stroke of the pen and people who are legalized have their status changed for the better immediately, as it happens, whereas the people who want to have stronger enforcement must await the day when enforcement verification procedures are up to the burden that are being placed on their shoulders. So it’s legalization now versus enforcement down the road sometime in the distance which may or may not happen and it seems to me an unfair advantage in the grand bargain calculation.
Now, why is that important, you might ask. Well, the issues of fairness and issues of reciprocity and the basic premises underlying such a grand bargain and strategy but there’s another reason down the road and that is that America continues to be the destination of preference for tens and tens of millions of immigrants, possible immigrants from all over the country and I quote a number of resources in my paper and let me just give you one.
The Pew Foundation, which is, you know, center, reputable place, suggested that for one country, Mexico, about 33 percent of over 23 million, or about of the 71 million persons of immigration age in Mexico, say they would like to live in the United States, and of those, nearly 13 million say that they would do it even if they weren’t legalized and so that’s just one country.
If you take that from all over the world, the number of people who would like to come here, even having a grand bargain now is not going to be able to shut off the hopes of people who want to come here and their determination to do that and all of the blue ribbon panels are in agreement that immigration amnesties are magnets for future expectations and it stands to reason.
If it happened before and then it happens again and yet it happens again, a reasonable expectation is that if you wait around long enough and you can get into the country, that somewhere down the road people will say, well, you know what, we have all these people living in the shadows. We have to do something about them. Now, I mentioned that the three blue ribbon panels do not take on the question of how many immigrants we really ought to have, which is a question of our resources and our ability to deal with them.
The Duke report, as I mentioned, has 1.1 million. The MPI says 1.5 million. Some people want to – some of the reformers want to have all the workers and their dependents come over. Others leave that sort of iffy. The MPI report changes the calculation of family preferences and educated workers so that the percentages are changed but the actual numbers of people coming in under the family preferences are exactly the same, about 620,000 a year in estimates.
And so that raises the question how is it possible to change the percentage and still get the exact numbers of immigrants coming in that you had before whereas this was the idea of reform and the answer to the question is a simple word: addition. You add categories and preferences until you get the numbers that you want to reach that make the immigration numbers that you want to have.
So whether it’s by not reforming the family preference categories or by adding new levels of skilled workers and their families while keeping the number of non-skilled workers the same, each of the task forces, each in their own way solves the problem of illegal immigration by issuing more green cards.
Now, this seems to me somewhat analogous to decreasing the number of bank robberies by simply telling your tellers to give out more money every time people ask for it. It’s in a sense making the category of illegal immigration a null category because you’ll be giving out enough visas so that there’ll always be enough spaces in the visa line for people. Let me turn quickly – how am I doing on time there, Mark?
MR. KRIKORIAN: (Off mike.)
MR. RENSHON: Okay. You know, obviously I’m an analyst and a political scientist, not an economist. But I do know one thing about economics. When a desirable object is available and subsidized, you increase the demand for it, and my point was before that America is a desirable commodity. People want to come here and they’re going to keep trying to do that. Personally I generally think that’s a plus and we should encourage that.
But let me now turn to an iconic word in American politics that surprisingly is found nowhere in the three immigration reports and that word is diversity. Now, diversity has become for those who believe that the encouragement and accommodation of difference reflects the best traditions of this country, that has become a driving force for fairness arguments in domestic policy and yet paradoxically we don’t see any question of immigration diversity in any of the three task force reports and they all three strenuously avoid, and I just can’t think it’s accidental that they would ignore this sort of obvious thing that they all must know about.
The growing imbalance among ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups in the United States, which is a direct result of family preference categories and past legalizations and the additional legalization of 10 to 12 million new illegal immigrants would in fact just exacerbate that problem.
Now, when you have very large numbers of one cultural or linguistic group, it creates incentives for such groups or more accurately their – you know, their self-appointed advocates to press for the accommodation of their assimilation preferences and to get more political clout and, you know, it gives rise to what I call the politics of fright. We were talking outside and Mark was just on a program with a representative of the Center for American –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Progress.
MR. RENSHON: American Progress, thank you, and they were talking about the DREAM Act but her final words were really telling. You know, Hispanics will be watching, you know, they’re going to get you if you don’t do that and of course the worst example of that, one of the worst episodes in the Obama presidency in my view is when he called on Hispanics to punish their enemies and it’s that kind of divisive racial and ethnic rhetoric that gets revved up when people start to appeal to groups on the basis of their ethnic composition rather than on the basis of their identity as Americans.
And my point here is that, you know, Americans – American immigration policy takes in immigrants from over 200 countries and territories and so it’s diverse in that way. But it is in some respects a very shallow diversity. We have many more from small groups of people than we do from the larger group. Now, you know, maybe because – it’s because I’m an only child and maybe because I’m, you know, a moderate right person in an academic world of, you know, less than moderate leftists.
I know that just raising this issue is going to be a difficult one. You know, immigrants living in the United States, you know, are going to, you know, respond to this. They want to have large members – numbers of their own group. Large numbers attract political attention and efforts to further the group’s preferences and so forth and I understand that. But we’ve got to find a way, I think, to talk to such groups to try to talk about America’s national interest rather than the interest of one particular group.
I thought – I’ve only found one quote by somebody that I would call mainstream in The New York Times sense of mainstream and it’s a column by – well, you know, that’s a narrow ban, Mark. It’s a column by a man who I think is a pretty fair – he’s a very good thinker. He’s, you know, not – he’s good, Ross Douthat, who supports, by the way, higher levels of legal immigration but also workplace enforcement and in, you know, a pretty stunning, you know, op-ed piece, he writes a column.
Here’s what he said and I think it’s worth mentioning. He said:
In a better world, the United States would welcome legal immigrants from a much wider array of countries. A more diverse immigrant population would have fewer opportunities for self-segregation and stronger incentives to assimilate.
Fears of a Spanish-speaking reconquista would diminish and so would the likelihood of backlash and instead of being heavily skilled towards low skilled immigrants, our system could tilt towards higher skilled applicants making America more competitive and less stratified. Such a system would also be fairer to the would-be immigrants themselves. It’s a point that is rarely heard on the other side of the ledger. America has always prided itself on attracting people from every culture, continent and creed.
In a globalized world, aspiring Americans in Zimbabwe or Burma would compete on a level playing field with Mexicans and Salvadorians.
Now, diversity in our immigration system is important in and of itself but it’s even more important when assimilation or integration, as I prefer, itself comes under pressure and all three task forces recommend increasing the efforts to make immigrants more a part of the American national community and they are efforts which I have supported for many years and which I have written about and which I think are very important for us to do.
But there’s a lot that we might have to worry a bit about and I quote several studies in the paper and I’ll just give you the flavor of one here briefly which is the 2009 Pew Hispanic Study of what it called millennials. These are three generation people, people who, you know, come here, you know, just come here, people have a parent who come and then people who have both parents who have come here and the point is how do they identify themselves and the answer is that after, you know, three generations here, 48 percent identify themselves by their country of origin – that’s not the United States – or the term Hispanic.
That to me is a troubling statistic because it shows that while people may be integrated instrumentally here, that is they may own homes, they have bank accounts and so forth, it’s the emotional attachment part of it that doesn’t seem to be getting as much traction. And further, the study suggests that in these families, there’s much more of a likelihood that he parents are talking with pride about their home country and much less with pride about their American country and not surprisingly, you know anything about political socialization studies, which I used to do some of when I was younger, you know, the family impact has a big impact on kids’ attitudes.
If the family is saying look back to your home country and speak Spanish, don’t worry too much about what’s here, you know, kids are going to take the cue and it turns up in their data and that’s true. Lastly, last point, let me take a look at the political context of these blue ribbon panels which are odd ducks, sort of like the lame ducks but just odd ducks. These are panels that are hip – no, eye deep in politics.
You know, they speak of themselves as being independent experts, and they are experts and I think they are, but in many, many ways they are creatures of politics. Their institutions, for example, are in the business of conventional wisdom that will become law. You couldn’t get joined at the hip with the political process any more than that. I’m not saying they sell themselves out in any way. That’s not my point at all.
But they narrow the band of what they look like. They recruit people on the basis of that narrow band and by what they look at and what they don’t look at and who they have and who they don’t have and the agreements that come to bear before people sign on, everybody signs on to a good faith agreement to reach common ground and they try and they generally do, do that. All of these panels suggest that we ought to take the politics out of immigration studies. But they present what to me is a laughable idea.
What they want to set up are “independent,” in quotes, panels or to report to commissions. The MPI wants a standing commission on immigration and the labor market. The Brookings-Duke institution wants an independent commission on immigration which would answer, you know, every immigration question. They had social scientists, economic people and so forth. But the bottom line of all this is that these groups would be tasked with presenting to Congress every two years a report telling them what the immigration levels ought to be of skilled labor or unskilled labor.
Now, just think about that for a minute. Just give that a moment in your mind. What has happened before in the United States is that we have periods where there’s a big buildup of energy and commotion for getting some kind of immigration policy and we get, you know, something like IRCA. IRCA’s passed, you know, 2.8 million illegal immigrants become legal, we have the, you know, the residue of that and pretty soon we’ve got backlogs.
We’ve got more people coming into the country, consternation begins to develop, people want to have more and more new immigration policy. That builds up and we got to the point in 2007 many, many years later when we build up a crescendo and it crashes. That’s been the history of immigration reform. Now, just imagine Congress meets – every two years we reelect a new Congress.
So every two years what we’re going to do is to throw into the political hopper a charged account. Well, we ought to have this many immigrants. We ought to have that many immigrants. You ought to have this many skilled workers. We ought to have that many non-skilled workers. It’s a recipe for total political disaster and I don’t think it’s an idea that’s very good from the standpoint of the ongoing emotional health of the American public. I don’t mean that as an analyst. I just mean that as a political scientist.
I take up inside this report the various ways in which the staffing ideas for this, you know, really are not too well thought out. One of the groups wants to have, you know, an odd number of people and that way, you know, you’ll have a majority.
Well, you know, a 4-3 recommendation is not going to buy much legitimacy and another one says, well, you know, legitimacy of these independent minded people will be, you know, will have Republicans, Democrats and Independents and Hans, you know more about this than I do, but I do know a little bit about the civil rights commission, which over the last couple of years has been a policy disaster with people, you know, at each other’s throats, contrivances to get so-called independents on the commission.
These commissions will not remove politics from the immigration process. What they will do, and what I am very much against, is that they will remove the voice of the American people from making immigration reform.
And I’ll end by saying – by making this observation, which is that one of the things about the last election, the midterm election, that I find really reassuring about the United States is that for the first time in a long while ordinary Americans – I was, you know, reminded – I was out to dinner last night with somebody who was – we were talking about immigration and I reminded him, you know, there’s a lot of America in between Washington and San Francisco, you know?
It’s a – you know, a lot of people live out there in in-between and they have spoken up strongly and uniformly in a way which, you know, I think personally is very good for the country and so to remove them from the process and to hand that process to the very people who got us into these jams in the first place strikes me as poor policy and a very bad idea and on that note I will end.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Stanley. Hans?
HANS VON SPAKOVSKY: Well, I’d say that what you ended with is a very important point. I am going to talk about that when I get to it. But I have to say that Stanley Renshon has written a very incisive analysis of the immigration issue and the recommendations that have been made for reform, particularly highlighting the false assumptions and faulty theories that underlie so much of the policy discussions in Washington on this very contentious issue.
Now, as he correctly surmises with the president repeatedly vowing to pursue so-called “comprehensive” immigration reform, and I put comprehensive in quotes, there’s no doubt that the policies that will be pushed are going to be some combination of the recommendations made by these three prior task forces that Dr. Renshon has analyzed.
Now, one steadfast and unbroken rule in Washington is that every time members of Congress and the executive branch want to avoid having to pay the political cost of proposing solutions to a vexing public policy problem, they inevitably appoint a blue ribbon panel that will supposedly take an unbiased objective view of the problem and make so-called bipartisan recommendations on how the problem should be solved.
As Dr. Renshon aptly says in his analysis, such panels give presidents and Congress the appearance of doing something without necessarily committing them to any particular action. I found very amusing, particularly because of its accuracy, Dr. Renshon’s description of what the title of a doctoral thesis on the impact of blue ribbon commissions on policy development would be. He suggests that the primary title of such a graduate thesis might reasonably be “Dead-end”.
The supposed objectiveness of these types of panels is almost always a total mirage, one that the news media buys into unless of course they disagree with its conclusions. My experience in this political town is that the claimed detachment and unprejudiced nature is usually a grand illusion, if I can borrow the name of Jean Renoir’s film masterpiece.
Their conclusions and Dr. Renshon I think points this out very well, are invariably based on the biases of the individuals appointed, which of course comes from what is the selection criteria used by the institutions that set up the panels and also depend very much on the deliberative process implemented for their work, which as Dr. Renshon says, can, quote, “influence the discussions and result in varied and sometimes subtle ways.”
Individuals with strongly held views that depart from what is the politically correct and politically accepted wisdom in Washington, even if it’s not wisdom at all, almost never make it onto these types of task forces. Mark, I think you and I probably would not be appointed to any of these task forces.
MR. KRIKORIAN: No, although I have a bet that the next immigration task force that happens, you never know if I’ll be on it – (chuckles) – still holding out hope.
MR. VON SPAKOVSKY: As Dr. Renshon points out, all of the recent proposals in Washington for so-called comprehensive immigration reforms supposedly couple border and enforcement strategies with support for some form of legalization for the 10 to 12 million illegal aliens in the United States. That’s what he calls the grand bargain.
But the experiences of the American people who watched the 1986 deal that legalized 3 million illegal aliens in exchange for what was supposedly going to finally be real enforcement of our immigrant laws – immigration laws, which did not occur, shows what a grand illusion another such grand bargain would be. You know, it’s said fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
The American people do not trust the American government to enforce immigration laws. That’s because the last several decades have demonstrated the almost complete unwillingness of the political leadership of the executive branch, no matter which party, to strictly enforce our immigration requirements.
The American people have watched this with dismay, which is why polls show almost overwhelming opposition to any grand bargain to any comprehensive immigration reform and I should add, as Dr. Renshon said at the beginning of his talk, look, I’m very much in favor of the legal immigration to this country. I am a first generation son of immigrants who came here in 1951 and legal immigration has helped make us a great country.
But I don’t believe that the advocates, for example, for amnesty for the huge numbers of illegal aliens in this country understand that both that push and the unwillingness of political leaders in Washington to actually enforce our existing immigration laws actually imperil legal immigration because it makes the American people, who a majority, they understand that we’re a country of immigrants and they support legal immigration.
But it makes them distrust the government and how it’s handling immigration and I think that that can have a very bad effect on legal immigration in this country.
Americans want to see the federal government finally enforcing our immigration laws, securing the border, deporting illegal aliens who are caught instead of ignoring them and releasing them again, punishing employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens and they want them to help state and local governments with their problems in this area rather than suing them, as the Justice Department has against Arizona, and they see the word comprehensive, which is one of these focus group words that they came up with to cover this as what it really is which is just another word for amnesty.
Now, as Dr. Renshon shows in his paper, and this is a very important point, many of the assumptions that these three panels have based their recommendations on were faulty and they have ignored crucial factors that affect both legal and – illegal immigration and the ability of the federal government to enforce our immigration requirements.
For example, when proposals were made to provide amnesty for a certain number of illegal aliens such as the proposals made just recently in the DREAM Act, the numbers don’t actually reflect the real numbers that will end up being there in the end. They’re deceptive. To give you a quick example, you know, the estimates on the DREAM Act were that it would provide amnesty to anywhere between 1.1 million and 2 million illegal aliens.
But that is untrue. The end result of that DREAM Act, if it had been passed, would be probably 6 to 7 million aliens because we have chain migration in this country. Once you become a naturalized citizen, you can sponsor your parents, your brothers and sisters, your spouses, your children and once all of them are in, they can do the same for their families and once their families are in, their families can do the same for their families.
So that 2 million figure and the 1 million that supporters were throwing around is completely deceptive because it did not show the actual end result of that kind of an amnesty program. Amnesty proposals without a change in family sponsorship rules are the equivalent of an open checkbook for uncontrolled immigration. Yet none of the task forces could apparently come to an agreement on this key issue and as Dr. Renshon said, none of them even considered this type of mass migration, which is a key issue in the immigration area.
All three of these task force reports are permeated by the assumption of the members that we must offer amnesty to those who have broken our laws to come here, that there really is no other alternative and that somehow it would be immoral to do otherwise. I believe that is a faulty assumption, one that is not the view of the American people and I also think it is one that ignores a very important fact and that is that we are a unique country in the world.
Why are we unique? What makes us so different is because we are a country based on the rule of law and that makes us very different. It’s what has made us a special place. It is what permeates American exceptionalism, although I know the president doesn’t believe we’re exceptional. And the American people do not believe that individuals should be rewarded for breaking the law and that is something that is behind almost every so-called comprehensive immigration reform package that has been put forward.
As Dr. Renshon points out, not one of the task forces even considered any proposals to institute a moratorium on high levels of immigration until the country has assimilated the millions already here and strengthen the infrastructure and functioning of the immigration service, which today has a problem even handling the large numbers of legal immigrants who are trying to become citizens.
You know, he doesn’t necessarily recommend those solutions but I think what is important is that he shows that those issues were not even considered by these task forces. Now, although Dr. Renshon is too polite to say so directly, I was certainly struck by the – what I thought was the deceptiveness and hypocrisy of these reports. You know, they claim for example the mass deportation of illegal aliens is not possible and the CFR report calls is morally unacceptable. Yet these reports also say that strong enforcement of immigration rules against the hiring of illegal aliens by employers are the lynchpin of effective enforcement.
Neither report, the Council on Foreign Relations or the Brookings report, considers the probability that if you actually do what they say needs to be done, which is to have enforcement of employment rules, then by removing the ability of illegal aliens to work, to earn money, to support their families if they have one and to send money back to their home countries, that they will self-deport in large numbers.
I mean, we’ve already seen that in Arizona, which has had a large decrease in illegal aliens there and most people don’t realize this, but I think the second largest source of income in Mexico are remittances from the United States and I could tell you that in fact, one of the problems with our not enforcing our rules into illegal immigration from Mexico is that we help prop up an inefficient and badly run government and a bad economic system in Mexico because as long as they have all of this money coming back into the country from the United States, they don’t have to make the changes that they should be making to, you know, revitalize their economy.
What is also amazing about these reports is, for example, that the Council on Foreign Relations report admits that there’s no question that legalization would create an incentive for others to try and enter the United States illegally in the hope that they too would be allowed to stay and another future act of amnesty and yet all of them recommend exactly that. They know what the result will be and yet they still recommend large scale amnesties.
They also all conclude without any basis for doing so that an enforcement first strategy is not a viable option. They also refuse, as Dr. Renshon points out, to answer two vital questions in the immigration issue, which is what’s the right number of immigrants to allow to come into the United States legally and should we broaden the diversity of the immigration stream so that no one ethnic language or cultural group determines the number of immigrants admitted.
Why didn’t they touch this? Well, because this is a politically sensitive issue and they did not want to deal with it or be on record with it. That to me, again, throws into fundamental question the conclusion and recommendations of these reports because it shows that the members did not want to deal with sensitive political issues that might hurt them in their future political careers.
I think Dr. Renshon has written the only substantive, real analysis of the reports of these three task forces that analyze the problems and errors they made and I think it’s a very valuable addition in this issue. Now, I would end with something that Dr. Renshon points out in his conclusion that to me is quite frankly the most obnoxious and offensive aspect of these task forces and their members.
They present themselves as being above or beyond politics, as if they are experts whose advice is untainted by the rough and tumble of partisan politics. Yet all of them are deeply enmeshed in Washington policy-making. They’re staffed by individuals who have worked in the government either in appointed or elected positions in the past and might very well do so again in the future.
Their very reason for being and being on these task forces is to influence government policy. The idea that they are somehow wiser, better informed and have better judgment about immigration issues than, as Dr. Renshon says, quote, “the raucous den that is the sound of ordinary Americans demanding that their voices be heard and their preferences considered,” is frankly typical of the arrogance that pervades Washington.
It is antidemocratic and antithetical to our most basic principles of self-government. This paper is an important and vital addition to the work that’s been done on immigration reforms and the problems we face in solving what is one of our most serious problems in this country. Thank you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thanks, Hans. I had a couple of thoughts. The first thing – one of the things that occurred to me when we were talking about this whole commission idea and narrowing the range of thoughts and, you now, the rest of it is a joke about bipartisanship.
But John O’Sullivan tells this joke where some foreign visitors come to visit a congressional office and the staff member kind of gives them a little orientation about American politics and what he says is, look, we have two parties in America. One is the evil party and one is the stupid party and then sometimes congressmen get together and do something that’s both stupid and evil – (laughter) – and it’s called bipartisanship – (laughter.)
You know, when they talk about these commissions having, you know, range of view, Republicans and Democrats and Independents on them, and it’s true. They do. Spence Abraham was the Republican co-chairman of one of the commissions that Stanley wrote about. Jeb Bush was the Republican co-chairman of one of the other ones. But what they have is they have Republicans, Democrats and Independents who all think the same way on immigration.
This whole idea of kind of de-politicizing the issue, what it really reminded me of where I thought of it when I read about this no labels movement that – or not movement but they had a press conference this week. There’s some effort to promote this group called No Labels. You know, let’s not have labels. Let’s just do what’s right for the American people and move forward, blah, blah, blah.
Well, what it was, was Democrats and liberal Republicans getting together and saying, you shouldn’t label us for the particular policy preferences that we have and if you disagree then there’s something wrong with you. I mean, it is very similar actually to this whole dynamic that involved – that these kind of task forces on immigration in particular exemplify.
Stanley actually when he said the goal of them – or what they do or what they potentially would do if their recommendations were followed would be to remove the voice of the American people from immigration policy. But that’s the point in a sense and it’s the point precisely because there is an enormous elite-public gap on immigration. In other words,
I think what we see with these blue ribbon commissions is a manifestation of that huge gap. The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations had actually done survey research on this and they found that on immigration, and they asked questions sort of different aspects of the immigration issue in different ways. So it wasn’t just one question.
But what they found is that the gap between elite views and opinion leader views, public, you now, elite views, basically the kinds of people who would be on these task forces, the gap between elite and public views was bigger on immigration than on any other issue they polled on, even things like support for foreign aid or support for the UN where you would expect there would be a big gap between public views and elite views and there was a big gap. Immigration, though, was an even bigger gap.
So what these – what the dynamic that these task forces represent I think really is the elite talking to itself and the reason they don’t address some of these questions that Stanley highlighted and Hans referred to is because, you know, they’re just – when members of the elite talk to each other about immigration, those things just don’t come up. I mean, in some cases I think it really is an intentional decision not to address them.
But I’m actually willing to give some of these people at least the benefit of the doubt that it’s literally just not something that’s on their radar. I mean, they just – they have no conception that the astonishing lack of diversity in the immigration flow is a problem or that even it exists. I mean, it’s just not – I think for some of these people, they just don’t get it. They don’t even know that it’s there.
That’s why I think Bill Buckley’s comment from years ago applies to the immigration policy, is that I’d rather immigration policy be made by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone directory than by either the faculty of Harvard, which is what he was talking about, or all the members of these blue ribbon commissions.
But see, that’s my point about removing the voice of the American people from immigration policy clearly is – would be a problematic result from these recommendations but I think they – those members of these task forces who are sort of self-aware enough to understand that their fish – you know, the fish swimming in the water doesn’t know he’s wet.
Well, those that do know they’re wet, if you will, to use that analogy, they want to take the voice of the American people out of immigration policy because they really don’t like or trust the American people all that much, especially on this issue, maybe on all issues and so the whole point is to prevent the public from having a voice in immigration policy because the public is atavistic and backward and benighted and all the rest of it and so they shouldn’t be able to have that kind of voice.
I think that’s clearly part of the point and the only other thing I wanted to touch on that’s a different aspect of this. Stanley, you talked about the asymmetry of the deal; in other words, that the amnesty supporters got their amnesty right up front and people concerned about enforcement, you know, got promises of it in the future. You know, the check is in the mail. That’s very true.
But adding to that asymmetry, one of the things that actually sort of makes that even more asymmetrical is that it’s not just that the enforcement mechanisms we have in place like e-verify still, you know, require more road testing and improvement and all the rest of it. It’s not even just that we don’t have in other areas the full capacity, in other words, maybe enough enforcement agents, enough ICE agents, all of that kind of capacity issues which are very important.
But it’s also that every single enforcement measure, every single one without exception will be litigated in the courts. The ACLU will – I mean, the ACLU and its – and I use it sort of as a shorthand – but MALDEF and PRLDEF and all of its related groups, their reason for existence at this point is to prevent enforcement of immigration laws. I mean, it’s not too much to say that for MALDEF and PRLDEF but I think even for the ACLU because, you know, there’s nobody – there’s no real restrictions on political speech, you know.
I guess there’s not a lot of Nazis marching through neighborhoods of Holocaust survivors for them to defend and so now what they’re doing is they’re focusing on preventing immigration laws. That is their goal. So I mean, I would just point out that part of the asymmetry I think is actually intentional.
In other words, let’s get the amnesty now and we’ll rely on the ACLU to make sure that the other side of the deal will never happen anyway. It’s not just that they hope it won’t happen or that it will be stretched out into the future. It’s that they know perfectly well and are in fact involved in helping fund efforts to make sure that the bait and switch works out the way they would want it to work out.
The only other thing I would add, this sort of relates to the first point about the narrowing options. I actually know one of the people who was originally on – I don’t want to name names – but was on one of these panels or was invited to be on and went initially and he was kind of a skunk at the garden party and ended up not being on the commission anymore.
I mean, it wasn’t even just pre-selection, although that was part of it. But even efforts at broadening the variety of people who would be on one of these task forces resulted in like somebody who was too in favor of enforcement and so he was kind of ostracized, eased out and you know, sort of erased, sent down the memory hole.
And so, I mean, in other words it’s not even just an accidental result. It’s not even a result of planning ahead of time. But when they’re faced with someone offering them options that they don’t want to address, then they sort of got rid of the person.
So I mean, it really is striking how narrow and how sort of almost blinders these kind of task – these specific task forces have had as opposed to things like, you know, the debt reduction or the deficit task force that Simpson and I forget who the other one was, where they seemed to actually have embraced a pretty broad, whether they endorsed it or not, whether I endorse it or not is not even the point. The point is they actually looked at a whole variety of options.
MR. VON SPAKOVSKY: Erskine Bowles.
MR. KRIKORIAN: That’s right, the Democrat co-chairman. They looked at a lot of options pretty much the full range of kind of realistic options, short of, you know, selling the Washington Monument or something. In other words, they looked at real – the real panoply of options. On immigration, you know, a whole group of the options are simply, you know, they’re considered absurd.
They’re like, you know, Jonathan Swift talking about eating Irish babies. Well, obviously it’s not serious and so obviously any consideration of an immigration reduction, that’s as absurd to them as Swift’s recommendations and so it’s not even something that is on their radar in a way that’s just not true with other commissions. So anyway, that’s all I’d like to say.
MR. VON SPAKOVSY: I just wanted to add two things –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Please.
MR. VON SPAKOVSKY: -to what you just said. The first is when you talk about the asymmetry and the fact that you have all these organizations from La Raza or the ACLU who will litigate to make sure that there’s no enforcement, it’s not – it’s even more asymmetrical than that because of the fact, and I know this because I worked there for four years, is that the Justice Department, particularly the civil rights division, is just now a branch office of those organizations and I mean almost literally.
Not only do they – not only do the political appointees there and share all of the same views on this issue that are shared – that they share with La Raza and MALDEF and those organizations, but many of the career lawyers now who have been hired in the past two years and who work in the civil rights division who work on these kind of cases, they all left those organizations to go to work in the Justice Department.
So they don’t see any difference and I can tell you that the lawyers, the career lawyers there, and I know this because I write a lot about the Justice Department and I have a lot of sources still there, the lawyers there, whether they’re the political appointees or the career lawyers, they don’t see their clients as the American people. They consider their clients to be the ACLU, MALDEF and La Raza.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Right.
MR. VON SPAKOVSKY: And that is one of the reasons that we have what is really an unprecedented lawsuit by the Justice Department against the State of Arizona which basically put in force in law a policy that states all over the country have been carrying out for years.
And the only other thing I was going to say was there are occasionally, as you said, blue ribbon panels that are set up that actually do have people with widely differing views and another good example of one, and this is one I was involved in because I was consulted as an expert on it, was the Carter-Baker Commission that was set up after the 2000 presidential election and this was a commission that was set up by Jimmy Carter and James Baker to take a look at the American election system and to make recommendations for reform.
And they looked at extremely contentious issues in the voting area like requiring voters to have voter ID when they go vote and they actually looked at those contentious issues and like I said, they had widely diverging views on how that should be handled. But they actually did that and I just don’t see that as having happened on these three immigration task forces that Stanley took a look at.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Any comments?
MR. RENSHON: Well, I just have, you know, just a couple of comments. First of all, there is as section in the paper on implementation and it made the point that you have to really be careful about what happens after the bill becomes a law because for precisely what happened with the last round of amnesties, precisely that. Everything was litigated and, you know, sort of Congress caved in on many of it because it became a court issue and the courts went back and forth on, you know, who could be involved and what kind of papers they needed.
Every little thing was – and so, you know, the gates were opened quite a bit wider than was originally the case and so, you know, apropos there’s a precedent for that. You know, I’m struck by the difference between the Carter commission on the elections that you talked about and also the debt commission and it makes me wonder, you know, what the difference is about immigration that there are so many things that you can’t even raise.
Is it a question of the conventional wisdom is so set cognitively that people simply don’t know or don’t appreciate that they’re swimming in the sea, as Mark said, or is it something – I don’t know. It strikes me as a puzzle, given the alternatives.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, I mean, I’m not sure it’s that. I mean, it is puzzling. I’ve written about it with regard specifically to the left not being able to think outside its box and, you know, my conclusion was immigration sort of broadly put, in other words, open borders for a shorthand purpose, shorthand sense, is an immutable value of the left. In other words, there’s no – there’s no constituency and issue that an organization won’t sacrifice -
MR. RENSHON: Right.
MR. KRIKORIAN: -if it conflicts with open borders. I mean, the ACLU is a good example here. A few years back, a number of years back some activist put billboards up in New York City, very generic anodyne billboards. One of them – the one that was relevant here said something like, immigration will double America’s population in my lifetime, U.S. Census Bureau, and some picture of a kid, very kind of generic thing. Take it or leave it, it’s just the numbers, you know what I mean?
The City of New York, city government of New York came to the owner of the billboard and said that they were going to make his life hell unless he took that thing down, an explicit censorship of political speech. The sponsor of the billboard went to the New York ACLU and said, you know, I mean, guys this is, you know, this is pretty obvious. I mean, there’s no – this isn’t somebody smearing chocolate on themselves with a grant from the federal government claiming some right.
This is actual political speech actually directly being censored by the government and they said, well, we really can’t do anything for you because it’s an immigrant – we have a lot of immigrants’ rights people in our – so I mean, the ACLU, in other words, people who are willing to defend Nazis waving their obscenities in the faces of Holocaust survivors because of some principle were unwilling to defend someone who dissented on immigration.
Every single constituency or interest group like that, whether it’s labor, whether it’s black organizations, feminists, it doesn’t matter, population control folks. All of them sacrifice the supposed interests that they’re defending or promoting if they conflict with immigration. So I mean, I think that’s one of the things that you see.
MR. RENSHON: Mark, how does that explain the Brookings Institution finding because a number of those people are people who, you know, I don’t consider to be anywhere near the left that you’re talking about. They seem, you know, much more soft left/center types. They certainly know a lot about immigration. You know, how does that get by them?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, good – I mean, I don’t know. I mean, that’s a good question. I think it’s a whole variety of things. I think because it touches on race and ethnicity in a sort of post-Civil Rights era, it’s a harder thing for people to talk about or think about and when you combine that with our own mythology, sort of American – I don’t mean that in a bad way but sort of our own American mythology about immigration, you know, it just becomes – people are paralyzed.
It’s impossible for them to think about it without thinking that they’re doing something bad or wrong and so people don’t want to think that so they either avoid the issue all together or they embrace some view that makes them feel better about themselves. You’re the shrink. So I don’t know. You tell me – (chuckles.)
MR. RENSHON: Well, I don’t want to reduce the bulk of the problem to a private one. That’s verboten.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Right, yes.
MR. VON SPAKOVSKY: I think part of the problem is, and I mentioned this a little bit earlier, is that one of the problems in this area is that individuals who want open borders and amnesty, they mix together legal and illegal immigration and they push this assumption, and unfortunately the media picks up on this, that if you’re somehow against legalizing people who are here illegally or have broken our laws to come here, then you must be against all immigrants and you must be against legal immigration and they conflate the two issues as if they are the same thing and I’m not sure that we are always as careful as we should be in differentiating between the two because they are two very distinct issues.
I mean, they have some overlap but they’re two very distinct issues and the other side likes to conflate that because that’s when the can bring in, you know, these truly, you know, stupid arguments that you’re somehow a racist or something just because you have particular views on this immigration issue.
MR. RENSHON: Mark, I’ve got a suggestion for you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Sure. Go ahead.
MR. RENSHON: I think what we should do is I think we should get together the Heritage Foundation, CIS and several other institutions in Washington and we should look forward to having a conference perhaps in the fall and we should call that conference “Taboo Subjects in Immigration.”
MR. KRIKORIAN: There you go. Our own commission.
MR. RENSHON: I’m very serious about that.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Right, yeah, that’s interesting. That’s a good idea. On that note, any questions? Erin (sp), Ed (sp)? Go ahead.
Q: I have several but I’ll start out with just one. One of the groups I’ve observed who always tends to be more pro illegal alien are Christian groups. When I spoke to a gentleman once who was attending one of the tea parties and he went by his church where he was very active and there were all these school buses lined up out front and he thought, oh good, they’re organizing buses to take us into the city.
But when he went up to it, he found out – up to his church where these school buses were lined up, oddly enough they were all full of the illegal aliens to be able to be driven into – onto the National Mall so they could protest for their own rights and he was furious because here he was an active member of his church and he had no indication whatsoever from the minister or it was never put out in the Sunday bulletin that they had this other activity that they were funding and organizing and he was, you know, very upset about this.
So I’m curious about your observations or was it in these reports studying those groups supporting this activity.
MR. KRIKORIAN: I mean, I have some thoughts on it. Stanley didn’t address it but my sense is that this is really just a playing out of the same elite-public split that you see in every other institution. In other words, union leaders are for amnesty. Union members are against it. Business leaders and big businesses are for amnesty. Small businesses are against it and you see the same thing with religious institutions.
You know, the Catholic bishops are for amnesty. Ordinary Catholics aren’t and so it’s just that among evangelical Protestants, I think there actually has been less of a gap between elite and public views. But we’re now seeing that same thing happen. The National Association of Evangelicals has now backed amnesty and so I think – in other words, I don’t think it’s anything unique.
I think it’s the same pattern that you see in one institution after another where the people on top favor essentially open borders and I don’t think that’s an unfair assessment to describe it that way and the public want controls of one kind or another. Even, you know, people have thought about it in detail but they want controlled immigration and the people on the top don’t. I mean, that’s what it amounts to.
MR. VON SPAKOVSKY: Yeah, and I particularly have seen this in the – you know, I do a lot in the civil rights area and I’ve particularly seen this with civil rights organizations and one of the best examples of this, frankly, is the NAACP. You know, the leadership of the NAACP is very much in favor of illegal immigration and providing amnesty. I can tell you if you poll their ordinary every day member that they would not be and this was dramatically shown to me about two months ago.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which was mentioned earlier, had a conference here in Washington on current and future civil rights issues and this issue came up during the conference and one of the speakers is a gentleman who was a counsel and speechwriter to Martin Luther King and he did not have the view that most of the leadership of organizations like the NAACP has had.
He said, look, one of the biggest reasons for the unfortunate and very high unemployment rate in the black community in America is because of illegal immigrants who come here and are willing to work for lower wages. You know, they bring down wages.
They take jobs and he said, you want to solve – help solve that employment problem, then enforce our immigration laws and he had, you know, a very different view than you would normally see from the kind of elites that occupy their offices in Washington where they’re headquartered.
MR. RENSHON: I have – before you go on to your next question – just a different angle on that. You know, I’m a political scientist and academic and so I think in terms of the way things are conceptualized and ideas and I am a believer that re-framing ideas and putting forward new ways of thinking about things can make a difference.
It can get people to think about things in a way they haven’t done before and so I mentioned at the very beginning of my talk some work that I’m doing for CIS on trying to re-frame the ethical and moral issues that go into immigration and I think this is really very important because often what we get, if you mention the Catholics for example, you get people who quote selectively from the Vatican.
But there are lots of other quotes from the pope himself on the right of states to determine their own immigration policies. They certainly want them to be humane and they ought to be humane. But there’s a different there and also the moral arguments about fairness or what you ought to do with strangers.
So there’s a whole moral set of arguments which are consistent with the kinds of things we’d like to see going on in the United States but they’re never made or articulated and so people just really don’t know that they’re there to exist. The other minor point on this is that with the evangelicals there’s a guy by the name of Richard Land. I believe I have it.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Land, yeah.
MR. RENSHON: Land, whose name I have correct, he’s been testifying before Congress about the importance of deriving amnesty from the Bible. But then he in his testimony makes a very interesting admission, which is of course they’re in the business of saving souls and there are no souls more in need of being saved than those coming into the United States, whether legally or illegally.
So this is a growth group for religious leaders and yet – now, I’m not accusing him of anything. I’m simply stating the fact of what he said and so I hope that in the future and in the near future we’ll be able to have an alternative framework for asking and answering those questions which will allow people to have some perspective, let us say, on the nature of the issues involved.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Can I just – let me just read one quote that sort of relates to this issue of self-interest in immigration. Just a couple of days ago in immigration lawyers daily webzine had a little thing about why the immigration bar should be for the DREAM Act specifically and their reason number two was, quote, “a not insignificant fraction of DREAM beneficiaries will need legal counsel, one of the few bright spots on the horizon for law firms suffering from the Great Recession,” unquote.
I mean, it’s the most naked assessment of we’re going to make money off of this, that even the, you know, the landscapers and nurseryman’s association isn’t quite that blunt about the interest they have in immigration. Anyway, just one more because I want to respect people’s time. Do you have another question?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Just one more and then we’ve got to cut it short.
Q: The other is, again, referring to Arizona and what Arizona is doing and you were talking about the fact that a cross-section of American citizenry between here and San Francisco, they’re not being heard and that’s been going on for a decade now to the point where I think the citizenry out there recognize it and have long since been striving to address the issue at their own level, at the state, county and local level, thus the introduction of all these various anti-illegal immigration laws or more stringent enforcement laws in the state legislatures.
And as a consequence I suspect, and I’d like your comments on this, that middle America is looking to Arizona as the lead, the point of the spear, when addressing this issue and they have dismissed Capitol Hill because Capitol Hill and these wondrously elite, thoughtful think tanks here in the D.C., area put out these silly blue ribbon commissions have got a tin ear to them.
They’re not even including the citizenry. They’re not even hearing them. So the citizenry said, fine, you’re not going to listen to us. Well, then we’ll take the matter into our own hands and therefore that’s why you see this kind of flurry of activity in the state capitols and Arizona -
MR. KRIKORIAN: Right, Stanley, any comments on that?
MR. RENSHON: Well, the one basic point I would say is that I love the Arizona law, not only for what it accomplishes. There’s a lot of misinformation about it but people I was out with dinner last night were both of the opinion that the law required policemen to stop anybody on the street to ask them about their thing. I mean, these are informed people. This guy’s at the head of the CIA on national security stuff. This is what he thought and his wife did too. I said, well, that’s, you know, totally not right. At any rate –
MR. KRIKORIAN: (Chuckles) – maybe being involved with the CIA isn’t good -
MR. RENSHON: But he’s an informed guy. I mean, you know, at any rate, what I like about the Arizona law is that it pierced the dome of silence. I wrote a paper for Mark about that. You know, wow, you can do something. You’re not awful if you pass this law.
You’re not, you know, beyond the pale. It’s a reasonable thing to want to make sure that people who are there ought to be there. This is not, you know, Nazihood and so, you know, that to me is the most striking part, and you know, I think it will have an effect, a ripple effect because it gives people the sense of what is possible. That’s what really important about that to me.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, I mean – go ahead.
MR. VON SPAKOVSKY: I agree and the thing is most people don’t understand that the current Arizona law that’s been such a contention, I mean, that’s their third law in this area, okay? In 2004, Arizonans passed in a referendum a law that requires you to provide proof of citizenship when you register to vote because they’ve had a problem with finding people who were not U.S. citizens who had registered were voting in the state.
Now, that was upheld at federal district court, because of course the ACLU sued. It was upheld in the Ninth Circuit and then went back down. It came back up and about two weeks ago a three judge panel unfortunately threw the law out, said it was unconstitutional.
I believe that is going to get overturned when it gets to the U.S. Supreme Court and we have the second law Arizona passed which was a law punishing employers if they knowingly hire illegal aliens. That is before the Supreme Court now. It was upheld at the trial level. It was upheld in the Ninth Circuit, which is unusual.
The Ninth Circuit is the most liberal court in the country and then it was up for oral arguments two weeks ago in the Supreme Court and it was a very odd situation because that lawsuit actually was brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and who was supporting them in the lawsuit? Why, of course, the ACLU and other unions.
But again, I think in that case there’s a good chance that Arizona is going to get upheld and as those three laws hopefully get upheld in the higher courts, you’re going to see states all over the country starting to pass similar laws so that even if the federal government continues to lack the willpower to actually enforce our immigration laws, you’re going to see states all over the country starting to supplement and help them do that.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, let me just make one last point on this. When they polled the public outside of Arizona, you know, do you support the Arizona law or state legislators say, you know, we want to have an Arizona – you know, the public doesn’t know any more about it than Stanley’s dinner companions – (chuckles) – as far as the specifics go and they have much more reason to not know the specifics.
But what they’re saying, the question they’re answering, what they’re hearing is do you support S.B. 1070. What they’re hearing is do you want America’s immigration laws enforced.
MR. RENSHON: Yes.
MR. KRIKORIAN: And so when 60 percent or whatever it is back the Arizona law, people who live in, you know, Hawaii and New Jersey and whatever it is, what they’re saying is enforce the freaking law.
I mean, that’s what those poll results suggest and it really is a manifestation of that fundamental distrust that the public has for the elite on immigration in a way that I think is not true on welfare policy necessarily or crime policy or tax policy or other things where I think because that gap isn’t as big there isn’t the same kind of fundamental distrust and disbelief in anything that comes out of the elite, including these kind of blue ribbon task forces.
Well, let me cut it short there. I appreciate everybody’s coming and this is online at CIS.org and thanks for coming.
MR. RENSHON: Thank you – (applause.)