Supreme Court blocks Trump’s attempt to dismantle DACA

June 18, 2020 • 9:52 am

This just in: by a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to leave in place Obama’s DACA (“Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”) plan, protecting those immigrants known as “Dreamers” from being deported. The Trump administration had signaled that it was going to dismantle DACA. (There are about 700,000 of the Dreamers., who are surely breathing a sigh of relief.) According to the New York Times report below, the majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Roberts, who joined the other four liberals (Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Breyer), with Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch voting on Trump’s side. (Last November the paper predicted that the Court would allow Trump to dismantle DACA.)

This is one of several recent votes for progressive policies, including Obamacare and extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to gays and transgender people, and in all cases Roberts helped swing the tide. And this despite several justices, including Roberts, having been nominated by Republican Presidents. (Roberts was appointed by George W. Bush.)

Trump is probably fuming now, as he’s just been rebuked twice by the highest court in the land, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Good for Roberts et al., and let’s hope Trump doesn’t get another term in which he could replace, say, Ginsburg with a conservative dinosaur.

You can read the full court opinion here.

The tweet below, however, implies that the Trump administration might be able to dismantle DACA by following the “correct procedures.” Fortunately, if I’m correct and Trump loses in November, there won’t be time.

“You clap for me now”: a poignant video about immigrant “coronavirus helpers”

April 17, 2020 • 9:30 am

I saw this video on Twitter yesterday, and was really moved by it. I looked for it on YouTube and luckily found a Guardian version I could embed here.

The poem, “You clap for me now”, is by Darren James Smith, and refers to immigrants in Britain, who, previously subject to xenophobia, are now being applauded for their work during the pandemic. Pointing out this hypocrisy, the poem and video are both angry and sweet—and if they don’t make people examine their attitudes about immigrants and immigration, I don’t know what will.

Unfortunately, the Spectator excoriates the poem and the video for being “self congratulatory,” but I don’t think it is. I think it’s clever and thoughtful. After all, it’s undeniable that a lot of people in the UK (and in the rest of Europe and the US) don’t like immigrants, and yet now applaud them for their “heroism” during the pandemic. Some work voluntarily, knowing the risks but wanting to help. Others are involuntary heroes: they have to take low-paying jobs that are dangerous and involve contact with the public.

In any case, the Spectator can shove it.

The beginning is nice, analogizing the fear of the virus and of immigrants. According to the video’s notes, it was produced by Sachini Imbuldeniya.

Weekend reading

August 17, 2019 • 1:00 pm

Saturday is a slow day (it’s supposed to be my day off, but that never happens), and so I’ll reserve anything substantive for the rest of the week. But there are two items I recommend reading today—actually three, but I’ll save the other for tomorrow. The first is Andrew Sullivan’s weekly “Interesting Times” column in New York Magazine (click on screenshot below). He always has one long segment and two short ones. The former is about the difference between conservatives and reactionaries (who are extreme conservatives), while the other two are on a previous column comparing Trump’s America to Imperial Rome and on the unholy Trump/Netanyahu alliance.

While I usually agree with what Sullivan says, I think he goes a bit wrong on the Israel segment, faulting it for not wanting a two-state solution (he doesn’t seem to know that the Palestinians want it even less!), and calling Israel an “apartheid state”. The latter is an uncharacteristic act of Sullivan buying into anti-Israel propaganda as well as his failure to both understand apartheid and to realize that the Palestinian territories are far more of an apartheid state. But I digress: his main piece is what I want to discuss here. In the spectrum from reactionaries to conservatives, Sullivan finds himself firmly ensconced in the latter camp.

I’m not exactly sure why Sullivan still considers himself a conservative, unless it’s because, as he says, he wants the pace of social change to go slowly as people’s minds are changed gradually, rather than being imposed from the top, as “The Squad” and candidates like Elizabeth Warren apparently want. And he argues that reactionary politics simply drives centrists to the Right and turns right-wingers into extremists.

Here’s his distinction:

And that’s why I often listen to him [Michael Anton, a reactionary]. He reminds me why I’m a conservative, why the distinction between a reactionary and a conservative is an important one in this particular moment, and how the left unwittingly is becoming reactionism’s most potent enabler.

A conservative who becomes fixated on the contemporary left’s attempt to transform traditional society, and who views its zeal in remaking America as an existential crisis, can decide that in this war, there can be no neutrality or passivity or compromise. It is not enough to resist, slow, query, or even mock the nostrums of the left; it is essential that they be attacked — and forcefully. If the left is engaged in a project of social engineering, the right should do the same: abandon liberal democratic moderation and join the fray.

More about the divide, and where Sullivan sees himself:

This, it strikes me, is one core divide on the right: between those who see the social, cultural, and demographic changes of the last few decades as requiring an assault and reversal, and those who seek to reform its excesses, manage its unintended consequences, but otherwise live with it. Anton is a reactionary; I’m a conservative. I’m older than Anton but am obviously far more comfortable in a multicultural world, and see many of the changes of the last few decades as welcome and overdue: the triumph of women in education and the workplace; the integration of gays and lesbians; the emergence of a thriving black middle class; the relaxation of sexual repression; the growing interdependence of Western democracies; the pushback against male sexual harassment and assault.

Yes, a conservative is worried about the scale and pace of change, its unintended consequences, and its excesses, but he’s still comfortable with change. Nothing is ever fixed. No nation stays the same. Culture mutates and mashes things up. And in America, change has always been a motor engine in a restless continent.

To me, this doesn’t sound like a conservative but a centrist, and I’m not sure why those who favor progressive social change, but gradually, are conservatives. Well, Sullivan gets the right to use his own personal pronoun, and so be it. But I do agree with him when he argues that the denial of plain facts by the Left is going to do us in. It will surely contribute to that, but I’m hoping that if Trump is counting on a victory borne on wheels of a strong economy, he’ll lose. Regardless, Sullivan gives punch after punch to the Authoritarian Left, and I think most of them land hard:

Many leftists somehow believe that sustained indoctrination will work in abolishing human nature, and when it doesn’t, because it can’t, they demonize those who have failed the various tests of PC purity as inherently wicked. In the end, the alienated and despised see no reason not to gravitate to ever-more extreme positions. They support people and ideas simply because they piss off their indoctrinators. And, in the end, they reelect Trump. None of this is necessary. You can be in favor of women’s equality without buying into the toxicity of men; you can support legal immigration if the government gets serious about stopping illegal immigration; you can be inclusive of trans people without abolishing the bimodality of human sex and gender; you can support criminal-justice reform without believing — as the New York Times now apparently does — that America is an inherently racist invention, founded in 1619 and not 1775.

Moderate change within existing structures wins converts and creates conservatives, willing to defend incremental liberal advances. Radical change bent on transforming human nature generates resistance and creates reactionaries. Leftists have to decide at some point: Do they want to push more conservatives into Michael Anton’s reactionary camp or more reactionaries into the conservative one? And begin to ponder their own role in bringing this extreme reactionism into the mainstream.

The second piece is a NYT op-ed by Yale Law Professor Peter Shuck, who specializes in “law and public policy; tort law; immigration, citizenship, and refugee law; groups, diversity, and law; and administrative law.” Click on the screenshot to read it:

I’m recommending it because I agree with his premise: immigration has become a big issue in the 2020 campaign, and if Democrats don’t come up with a sensible immigration plan, they’re cooked (or so I think). That involves admitting that not all people who claim to be refugees are refugees (many are here for economic gain, which doesn’t qualify as for refugee status), and taking concrete steps so that Democrats can’t be characterized as The Party of Open Borders.  That said, the policy must be humane, must not involve separating children and parents, and must have a speeded-up way to adjudicate claims. But I’ll let Shuck speak:

First, the issue:

Before Mr. Trump’s campaign, immigration was fairly low on voters’ lists of their top issues. Since Mr. Trump’s election, this has changed strikingly: In a Gallup poll of registered voters taken days before the 2018 midterms, immigration tied with the economy as the “most” or an “extremely” important issue, at 78 percent, just below health care. The concern is bipartisan — 74 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners ranked it similarly near the top.

Mr. Trump understands that these voters represent a ripe target for fearmongering and for extremist policies that play off that fear. At heart, voters have legitimate concerns about undocumented immigration and the possibility of ever-larger numbers of people attempting to cross the southern border. But Democrats’ leading candidates have responded defensively, with rhetoric and policy ideas that are sometimes extreme and incoherent in the opposite direction.

Now you can say that immigration isn’t really a problem, and we shouldn’t formulate policy driven by Trump’s agenda. But even Democrats are concerned about immigration, and failure to address it sensibly is almost a guarantee (barring economic meltdown) that Trump will be re-elected—a nightmare for all of us. (In my heart, I’m hoping he won’t run, but that seems unlikely.)

Then some (and only some) of Shuck’s recommendations:

For the most part. . . Democratic candidates appear unwilling to make the hard choices that a difficult situation like the one along the border demands. For example, facilities on the American side are inadequate to house all the people seeking asylum; it makes sense, then, to house them on the Mexican side, so long as the United States, along with human rights groups, ensures that the applicants have safe, decent housing conditions and due process in immigration court. But most of the candidates reject that option out of hand — even though we know that a vast majority of asylum claims will be rejected.

Their unrealistic position seems to imply that most people who arrive at the border asking for asylum have a valid claim. But as much as we can sympathize with their plight, the poverty and generalized fear of violence that most at the border hope to escape do not qualify them for asylum under American or international law. “Membership in a particular social group” (the legal category they invoke) is sometimes interpreted to cover fear of targeted gang violence and domestic violence. But courts traditionally have rejected this reading, because such fears are so common and are not tied to a qualifying “particular social group.” Democrats should propose more rigorous criteria for adjudicating such claims, rather than just pretend that the law means something it mostly doesn’t.

It is the oft-heard Democratic claim that all refugees need to be let in, and the equating of economically-driven migrants with “real” refugees, that make Democrats sound unconvincing to many Americans. The public is not that credulous.

Another remedy:

Democrats should also endorse much stronger interior enforcement, although it is more socially disruptive than border control: Roughly half of the 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in America entered illegally, and the other half overstayed their visas and melted into the population. President Barack Obama took interior enforcement seriously, and Democrats today should not apologize for his actions, deriding him as “deporter in chief” — as they too often do on the stump and the debate stage.

And three more:

Democrats rightly favor legal status for millions of the undocumented, especially the Dreamers and many of their parents (Mr. Trump favored this, then reneged). Congress should extend this status to other longtime-resident, law-abiding undocumented people. The easiest fix would legalize all long-term, continuously resident applicants who can show good moral character — easy because a statutory remedy dating to 1929 uses a very old eligibility cutoff; it cries out for updating to include those who arrived before, say, 2009.

The United States should also welcome many more new immigrants than the 1.1 million we now admit annually. Democrats should call for an end to the misbegotten “diversity lottery,” which eats up 50,000 precious visas each year, and instead use those visas for a pilot program for a points-based system like Canada’s (which proportionately admits many more immigrants than we do).

Democrats should call for a return to the norm for refugee admissions of roughly 75,000 to 85,000 a year, from the shamefully low 22,000 admitted per year under Mr. Trump. They should also support some conservatives’ proposals to modernize the larger system, such as reforming the clotted approval process for admitting temporary farmworkers and H-1Bs, and reassessing the troubled investor visa program.

Feel free to agree or disagree. For the most part I agree. 


Andrew Sullivan on the Democrats and immigration

June 15, 2019 • 12:00 pm

I enjoy reading Andrew Sullivan’s weekly “Interesting Times” columns, and they’re worth following. Each Friday column covers three subjects, and although I don’t agree with Andrew all of the time, more often than not I do. You may still count him as a conservative, but he sure doesn’t sound like one, especially when, as he does this week, he goes after Trump and his mendacity. But I want to highlight the third of Sullivan’s mini-articles this week: the one on immigration. Click on the screenshot to read.

First, though, a few excerpts from the other two bits.

On Trump and his lying:

No, Trump’s only rival in this department — denying what everyone can see is true — was Sarah Palin, the lipsticked John the Baptist of the Trump cult. During the 2008 campaign, gobsmacked that this lunatic could be in line for the presidency, I began to keep track of everything she said out loud that was provably, empirically untrue. In the two months she was running to be vice-president, I catalogued 34 demonstrably untrue statements, which she refused to correct. She compiled nowhere near Trump’s volume of lies — it’s close to inhuman to lie the way he does — but her capacity to move swiftly on from them, along with the press’s supine failure to keep up, was very Trumpy. The short attention span of digital media has made this worse. And she got away with it. The base didn’t care; the media couldn’t cope.

Trump, too stupid to ape Clinton, and far more accomplished a liar than Palin, combines the sinister Bush-era kind of lie — “We do not torture” — with the Palin compulsion to just make things up all the time to avoid any sense of vulnerability. What Trump adds is a level of salesmanship that is truly a wonder to behold. He is a con man of surpassing brilliance and conviction, and every time he survives the fallout of a con, he gets more confident about the next one.

At some point, the law usually catches up with this kind of con artist, and Trump has had quite a few close calls over the years (and paid out a lot in settlements). But a presidential con man at this level of talent, legitimized by public opinion, enlarged and enhanced by the office and its trappings, is far harder to catch. It seems to me we had one shot of doing this definitively —the Mueller investigation — and we failed.

On Boris Johnson.  Sullivan agrees with many that the risible Boris Johnson is about to become Britain’s next Prime Minister. So now Brits get their own orange clown! Sullivan recounts how he knew Johnson—they were both presidents of the Oxford Union, a debating society—and Sullivan avers that he still likes Johnson. Why? I guess because he finds Johnson entertaining and “great company”, though he can’t take Johnson seriously. And, although he doesn’t share Johnson’s pro-Brexit stand, he can’t manage to rouse the usual Sullivanish opprobrium against his old mate. He concludes this way:

[Johnson’s] support for Brexit was a critical moment in the credibility of the Leave campaign. It’s not a huge leap to say that without him, it might not have happened.

And that’s why the impossible conundrum of Brexit is now rightly in his ample lap. Unlike May, he voted for it (or said he did). Panicked by the rise of the Brexit party, the Tories believe he will bring the faithful back and get out of the E.U. definitively by Halloween — even though there is no parliamentary majority for it, and if Boris thinks he will have more luck negotiating a better deal with the E.U., he’s crackers. You think Macron will go easier on Boris than May?

He once said, with characteristic brio, that “my chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.” That was as colorful as it was untrue. But there is some sweet cosmic justice in Boris having to take responsibility for the Brexit he backed. It may be a catastrophe, but it will be his, and, for him at least, it sure will be fun.

On immigration.  Nearly everyone agrees that we now have an immigration crisis on our hands. Republicans try to solve it by flailing about, sometimes proposing cruel solutions and sometimes stupid ones. But Democrats—my side—seem to ignore the whole mess. As I’ve said before, one might think, by listening to Dem party leaders, that they favor open borders.  Now they really don’t, but a big failure of the Democrats is their failure to propose and unify behind a sensible immigration policy. A failure to do that will be a big minus for us in next year’s elections.

We all know that many immigrants aren’t coming as political refugees or refugees from violence, but pretend to do so because it guarantees them entry. If there’s one thing most of us agree on, it’s that true refugees deserve pride of place in immigration, while “economic refugees”—those who come here simply to attain a better life, have to take a back seat. And most of us agree that we simply can’t let everyone in, unless perhaps you’re an extreme Democratic Socialist.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, notes Sullivan, defines “refugee status” this way:

“Refugee status or asylum may be granted to people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

In his piece, Sullivan, who used to be on the board of an organization that helped gay couples gain asylum because they were persecuted in their home countries, draws this distinction, using as his centerpiece the story of a Guatemalan coffee-bean farmer who is planning to claim asylum in the U.S. because the price of coffee has dropped and he’s losing money.

I agree with Sullivan that if we’re going to abide by American principles, we must first of all be a haven for those persecuted in other lands. After that we can look at non-persecution claims. But the Democrats don’t seem to be doing much about anything, and, given the sentiment of the country, they simply must propose some reasonable way to vet those who want to move here.


Sympathizing with people whose livelihoods have vanished is entirely the moral thing to do. But unemployment and poverty are not the same as persecution, and the migration is self-evidently economic. Nonetheless, Sieff’s central figure in the story is going to claim asylum when he reaches the border. In other words, the generosity of America in providing asylum for the persecuted is being fraudulently exploited by hundreds of thousands of immigrants.

An asylum claim is not immediately granted, of course, but it is an immediate guarantee of entry to America, because we recognize that people genuinely seeking asylum need refuge immediately. But that’s not what’s happening here. The current crisis in immigration is, in fact, a giant and flagrant abuse of the very meaning of asylum. Just as illegal immigration is an affront to legal immigration, so blatantly fraudulent asylum pleas trivialize and exploit those who genuinely need our help.

I have yet to see or hear any Democratic candidate object in any way to this abuse. As core principles of American law and decency are openly flaunted, they really, really don’t seem to give a damn.

No, they don’t.


American Democratic socialists pass resolution favoring open borders

May 31, 2019 • 1:00 pm

UPDATE AND ERRATA: I have erred, and I am to blame. The DSA Convention hasn’t yet taken place, and will be held August 2-4 in Atlanta, Georgia. This is just a resolution which is proposed to the membership, but it’s not clear that even if this is adopted somehow, it will become part of the DSA’s political platform for the next election.

However, the Immigrants’ Rights Working Group of the DSA has published its goals:

Our Objectives
Our policy objectives are ultimately abolitionist:

Abolish ICE
Abolish Borders
Abolish Detentions
Abolish Travel Bans
Abolish Deportations

So this remains a viable option for the DSA. It is not, however, part of their present official platform, and I apologize for my error. However, what I say about the necessity of Democrats’ proposing serious immigration reform is unchanged.
I’ve often said that the Democratic Party is cagey in limning its own immigration program in response to Trump’s own odious, kneejerk, and constantly changing policy. I haven’t seen much about a Democratic immigration program, though I haven’t paid a lot of attention. My own take is that Democrats are struggling to formulate such a policy. And to many voters it seems that the Democrats want open borders in the U.S.—a policy that simply won’t work, either for the functioning of the country or as a stand that could help Democrats get elected in 2020.

But one party to which at least two House Democrats and one Senator belong, has just espoused open borders at its national convention: The Democratic Socialists of America. Two congresswomen elected as Democrats are also members of the DSA: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Bernie Sanders is also a Democratic Socialist. While I support some of the DSA’s stands, including its pro-labor position and its endorsement of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election (I voted for him in the primary, and for Clinton in the general election), I disagree with others, such as their anti-Zionism and view that Israel has no right to exist in its present form. Tlaib adheres to this policy, while Ocasio-Cortez refuses to give her position on Israel for fear it would hurt her image.

Well, if you’re a fan of the DSA, which the Republicans will deliberately conflate with the Democratic Party when it suits their needs, be aware that they just passed a resolution for open borders. Click on the screenshot to see the resolution, of which I quote only a part below:


Whereas borders serve to undermine the international working class, by pitting immigrant and citizen workers in America — and foreign and American workers — against each other in a race to the bottom;

Whereas border and immigration enforcement are tools of white supremacy, capitalism and imperialism;

Whereas borders, their creation, and their enforcement, erase the existence and sovereignty of indigenous peoples;

Whereas borders are, and will increasingly be, utilized to violently dominate and restrict people’s movement as climate change pushes people from their homes;

Whereas border and interior immigration enforcement threaten immigrant workers’ ability to organize;

Whereas Comprehensive Immigration Reform policies seek to control who “deserves” entrance to and/ or permanence in the US, and offer empty promises of protection for resident immigrants in exchange for increased border enforcement, and thus will continue to undermine solidarity and organizing efforts for immigrant justice;

Whereas immigration policy, and its enforcement practices, are set on the federal level, without democratic input or accountability and thus demands a nationally coordinated response;

Whereas the continual assault on immigrants’ rights from both the right and the center produces a reactionary, short-sighted view on immigration that reinforces border securitization, which pervades even leftist spaces and thus necessitates a positive, radical vision for immigration justice and internationalism;

Be it resolved that DSA supports the demand for open borders;

Be it resolved that DSA supports the the uninhibited transnational free movement of people, the demilitarization of the US-Mexico border, the abolition of ICE and CPB without replacement, decriminalization of immigration, full amnesty for all asylum seekers and a pathway to citizenship for all non-citizen residents;

This is a recipe for disaster on all fronts, and shows how clueless the DSA really is. It supports no borders anywhere, not just in the U.S.

But we don’t have a One World Society, and it’s hard to envision the ratchet of different countries having different cultures being reversed. At one time borders were more fluid than today, but those days are gone.

I’d be curious if the press asked Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Sanders if they favored open borders. They would dissimulate, of course, because it would hurt their own reputations and their standing within the Democratic Party and the Left in general. (I’d also like someone to ask Donald Trump if he believes in evolution.)

One of the most effective things that the Democratic Party could do before next year is to formulate a coherent immigration policy. While most Americans favor some continuing form of immigration, and say that immigrants strengthen this country (I agree), most Americans would bridle at the thought of open borders, and many would bridle at voting for a party or a President without a clearly stated immigration policy.