Tag Archives: immigration

The Dangers of Politicization

In the wake of the Arizona shooting, Stephen Budiansky makes the analogy between guns and cars:

We have made a reasonable social decision, I think, that the benefits of the automobile outweigh its harm; yet that has not prevented us from honestly acknowledging its harm and the perfectly plain fact that how roads and cars are designed and regulated have an enormous impact on death and injury, completely apart from human volition. (Per capita auto-related fatalities are today half what they were in 1950; deaths per vehicle-mile have dropped sixfold, almost entirely through technological modifications.)

Yet only when it comes to guns do people attempt, usually furiously, to deny that anything but individual responsibilitymatters, as I mentioned the other day. If we are ever to have a real discussion on this topic, we need to begin with the simple admission that guns — like drugs, medicines, cars, power tools, ski helmets, and every other piece of technology in the universe — can be built and employed in ways that are inherently safer or ways that are less safe.

The real difference between gun control and auto safety, it seems to me, is that one is politicized and one is not. You can discuss auto safety in detail because you don’t have to spend your time debating the broader principles of how far the ‘freedom to drive’ extends.   Changes in policy are not seen as an assault on fundamental values or a slippery slope toward governmental tyranny (if you’re a gun-nut) or indiscriminate violence (if you’re a pacifism-nut).

If gun control wasn’t politicized to the degree that it is, it could be discussed and regulated at the detail rather than the principle level, with the full participation of gun owners, gun manufacturers and gun opponents. If you accept good faith on all sides, of course no one wants guns to be unnecessarily abundant or unsafe. If the NRA wasn’t a de facto political organization, I’m sure they would have great insight into the factors that increase and exacerbate gun violence, and how to rally gun owners behind preventing them.

A number of other issues suffer from the same politicization-imposed mass blindness, immigration being the most prominent. The details of immigration policies, including their actual economic and social impacts, can’t be discussed honestly or in detail because they’ve become signifiers for a larger debate. You want to relax immigration rules because you don’t care about falling domestic wages! You want to tighten immigration rules because you’re a racist!

But once you get into the details, of course no one is advocating for open borders. And of course there are impacts of immigration that need to be prevented and mitigated. But we’re so busy debating the principles we don’t share that we forget the details we do.

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Immigration as recruitment


In the middle of a week of Breaking Newses on two topics I care about, global warming and health care, I've strangely found myself thinking more about immigration. Specifically this:

There is a near consensus in America that unlimited immigration via entirely open borders is not viable. What frustrates me is that, among many of the folks who style themselves immigrant advocates or pro-immigration, there is an utter refusal to articulate specific, workable views about what the limits should be, let alone to abide enforcing limits that are duly signed into law. One pernicious effect is that restrictionists are the only game in town for folks who want to enforce some limits on immigration.

I'm always complaining that whenever the topic of immigration comes up, we forget that the reasonable parts of the left and the right are so close on the issue that they're practically spooning. We just don't notice because five seconds after the topic comes up, they get smothered by a duvet of idiocy from the radicals.

So what should America actually do?

…we should reconceptualize immigration as recruiting.

Assimilating immigrants is a demonstrated core capability of America's political economy — and it is one we should take advantage of. A robust-yet-reasonable amount of immigration is healthy for America. It is a continuing source of vitality — and, in combination with birth rates around the replacement level, creates a sustainable rate of overall ­population growth and age-demographic balance.

But unfortunately, the manner in which we have actually handled immigration since the 1970s has yielded large-scale legal and illegal immigration of a low-skilled population from Latin America. It is hard to imagine a more damaging way to expose the fault lines of America's political economy: We have chosen a strategy that provides low-wage gardeners and nannies for the elite, low-cost home improvement and fresh produce for the middle class, and fierce wage competition for the working class.

I never thought of the ability of America to assimilate immigrants as a competitive advantage until I lived in Europe. I totally agree that this is a pretty fundamental competence, and could be utilized far more than it is now. You think of all the well-educated people in the world whose entrepreneurship and talents don't go anywhere because their home countries don't have the capacities, and you wish we would start courting, rather than discouraging, them.

The article mentions Australia and Canada as two countries who have developed skills-based immigration programs, from which they have benefited greatly.

It's amazing toggling between the immigration cultures of Denmark, Australia and America. In America, the attitude is 'well, somebody's gotta clean our toilets and pick our fruit.' In Denmark it's mostly 'They don't belong here! Cloth on head bad!' And in Australia, it seems to be 'bring 'em on!'

There are, of course, nuances to these, but it would be great for a country to really run with the recruitment model and see where it got them. It's depressing that throughout Europe, this is as politically impossible as making Ramadan a national holiday. 

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Letter from Mom: Protec’ yo’ paperwork, son!


My mom forwarded me an e-mail from a friend of hers, describing the ordeal of her daughter trying to get into the UK:

In a nutshell, Kelly left the States to go back to England after spending Christmas break at home, returning on her still-valid student visa. She had decided to take a year off between Masters and Ph.D., and had applied for a post-student work visa, as she had a good chance of working as a research assistant at the Royal Academy of Music in London. That visa application had been initially denied due to a one-word discrepancy in Cambridge's supporting letter (they used the term 'end date' rather than 'approval date' (for her degree) – though, in any event, the new wording only came into effect on Nov. 1, and they had sent their letter on Oct. 31). Kelly was appealing this, with Cambridge's full support.

However, when she went through Immigration at Heathrow on Jan. 5, her work visa refusal came up on the computer and she was detained. Those six hours in a detention cell were a nightmare, as she was denied her rights in several ways. She did finally manage to ring our dear friends (who were colleagues in Fiji, now in Cambridge – with whom Kelly had been living since graduation). Felicity is a lawyer and was able to reach a topnotch immigration lawyer, who immediately faxed through the required injunction halting Kelly's (illegal) deportation. Unfortunately, the immigration officials refused to read the fax and deported Kelly anyway. Seeing how she and her fellow detainees were treated was a shocking eye-opener for Kelly, to say the least.

Kelly is now with me in North Carolina, having to completely reorient her life. She had planned to stay in the UK indefinitely, to do her Ph.D. there, and so on. Her things are still in Cambridge, including her cello and most of her clothes, and she has a 10-year ban on entering the UK (now being appealed by a lawyer – so there will be a lengthy and expensive court case).

Kelly is now penniless, and it is now too late to apply for Ph.D. programs in the U.S. for the upcoming academic year, which starts in September, so she will have to wait another year and a half. She is beginning to get some work now as a music editor, which she can do from her laptop here, and she will try to take on some voice or cello students, although given the economic meltdown that will be difficult.

Living in Denmark, you hear stories like this all the time. Unread applications, drunk-with-power officials, misunderstandings blown up to felonies, etc. A French friend of mine was left in a holding cell at the German-Danish border in his underwear for 12 hours because a guard didn't trust his vehicle registration. For example.

I haven't had to deal with the capricio-crats of the Danish Immigration Service for about 18 months now, since I'm on a 3-year bid, but this story makes me feel like I should be preparing my waiting room poker-face for the next round.

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The most sane article on immigration I’ve read in eons

It's about the U.S., but I would imagine that many of the arguments apply to Denmark.

Many Americans think illegal immigrants are prone to all sorts of destructive behavior—committing crime, having children out of wedlock, dropping out of school and refusing to learn English.

This is not a full and fair portrayal. […] The belief that this group is prone to felonious habits is largely unfounded. Crime rates plummeted in the 1990s even as illegal immigration surged, and Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson has documented that "living in a neighborhood of concentrated immigration is directly associated with lower violence."

The evidence is surprising but clear: Foreign-born Hispanics are far less likely to end up in prison than native-born whites. They also have low divorce rates.

As for learning English, the truth is also more appealing than the myth. Many of the people who have immigrated here don't speak the language well, if at all. But that's a transient phenomenon with a time-tested treatment: reproduction.

Surveys indicate that the majority of U.S.-born children of Latino immigrants mainly speak English, and by the third generation, 96 percent prefer English.

But some indicators provide ample cause for worry. Latino men born in this country are seven times more likely to end up in prison than those who came here from abroad. Unwed mothers account for nearly half of all Hispanic births.

If this leads you to think we are creating a permanent new underclass, though, don't be so sure. High crime rates were common among previous immigrant groups when they were still newcomers—particularly the Irish, Italians and Jews. Yet those groups are now as safe, sane and successful as you can get.

Just like America, the debate here in Denmark regarding the 'immigrant problem' is crippled by the fact that no one wants to talk about what the problems actually are. For example, I read the other day that, though foreign-born citizens make up 8 percent of the population here, they receive 35 percent of the social welfare. That strikes me as an objective problem that needs to be discussed in a constructive way, somewhere between 'Just keep giving everybody money' and 'Throw them all out!'

Just like the U.S. has a hell of a lot to learn from Denmark (health care, urban density, self-tanner), maybe it's time Denmark started admitting it has something to learn from the U.S.

My second-favorite two cents on this was from Undercover Black Man last month, who noted that America's non-white population is now more than 100 million people, or one-third of the population. Quoting another blogger who called this a 'catastrophe for the white race', UBC retorted 'Only if you don't like burritos.'

I feel like about 90 percent of the 'they don't want to integrate!' bitching I hear in Copenhagen can be dismissed if you just replace 'burritos' with 'shawarma'.

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Gode nyheder

That means 'good news' in Danish. The pronunciation goes something like 'mmfffsskr grnddghrwqqs (cough)'

Anyway, I've been reading a lot of Danish news lately. Trying to participate in the cultural life and all. Yesterday dumped favorable developments by the truckload:

  • Remember that Sri Lankan orphan that the Danish government wanted to send back home to his civil-warring, pastryless nation? Well, they've had a change of heart (Pronounced 'The UN talked all kinds of shit on them') and are allowing him to stay. The kid's still stranded in Ebeltoft, which is pretty much Denmark's answer to Detroit, but at least he's not tribed-up in the 'Lank.
  • New green card rules taking effect next spring aim to make it easier for educated foreigners to stay in Denmark and find work. 'Bout time these low-birth-rate-having motherfuckers figured out that you have to let some people stick around. This is exceedingly good news for me. Like the Australian system, the new rules give points for things like being young (check), being educated (check) speaking Danish (ehhhh), and having useful skills (does ping pong count?). I'm not getting my hopes up because the immigration service here already hates me, but it will at least be interesting to see just what roadblocks they construct to thwart my Danish dreams this time.
  • In a story that begins with the 'Duh' Award-winning statement "The brand 'Denmark' doesn't have the same recognition as Coca-Cola and Apple," culture minister Bendt Bendtsen details his plan to brand Denmark as an "intelligent society which has found solutions to difficult problems." A worldwide survey found that most people only know the 'stereotypical' Danish character of bacon farmers, pastry makers, and Muslim-violence incitors. U.S. respondents named 'nudity, divorce and women's liberation' as the most prominent associations with Denmark. I love my people sometimes. The survey also revealed that, no matter what country you're from or what language you speak, Bendt Bendtsen is a hella funny name.

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