Illegal Immigration is Not a Criminal Offense

30 11 2007

At the Republican Presidential CNN/YouTube debate on Wednesday night, Mike Huckabee tried to explain a plan he introduced as governor of Arkansas to provide the children of undocumented immigrants a college education. He said:

Huckabee: I supported the bill that would’ve allowed those children who had been in our schools their entire school life the opportunity to have the same scholarship that their peers had, who had also gone to high school with them and sat in the same classrooms.

They couldn’t just move in in their senior year and go to college. It wasn’t about out of state tuition. It was an academic, meritorious scholarship called the Academic Challenge Scholarship.

Now, let me tell you a couple of provisions of it. And, by the way, it didn’t pass. It passed the House but got in the Senate and got caught up in the same kind of controversy that this country is caught up in.

And here’s what happened. This bill would’ve said that if you came here, not because you made the choice but because your parents did, that we’re not going to punish a child because the parent committed a crime.

That’s not what we typically do in this country.

I thought this was an interesting response because while Huckabee is trying to appeal to the better angels of our nature here, he is still getting some wrong.  And probably deliberately, which is undocumented immigration is not a crime, its a civil violation. That is to say, unauthorized immigration to the United States, is not punishable through the U.S. criminal code.

In fact, deportation or removal proceedings are actually conducted in civil court, not criminal court.

But so many of us have had it beat into our heads that undocumented immigrants carry this aura of inherent criminality around them because all we here is illegal immigration, illegal immigration, illegal immigration, illegal immigration.

Even Republican front runner Rudy Guiliani got slaughtered by his base when he tried to inform people about this distinction.

And assuming that we could charged all immigrants without papers or who are unauthorized with criminal charges, that would lead to a administrative nightmare that would do more harm than good. Our courts could not handle those cases and there is no where near the manpower to conduct mass deportation. Not to mention families would be broken apart and many of those charged would be detained almost indefinitely while the government figures out what to do with them.

Some of this is obviously already happening.

Of course, some people may think this is a mere semantic distinction, but its not. Its about trying to think straight about a problem before it gets worse.


Broken Windows Theory Justifies Voter ID Laws?

30 11 2007

Voter ID proponents say the strangest things.

Take, for example, Capital University law professor Bradley Smith who tried to rationalize his support for Indiana’s onerous voter ID law by comparing it to the broken window theory.

First a little background on the Indiana law.

Prior to the enactment of the Indiana voter ID law in July of 2005, Indiana election officials verified the identities of voters by comparing photographed signatures or by satisfying other HAVA requirements which included both photo and non-photo IDs.

But under the new law, voters must present a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot, such as drivers license or a passport. Other forms of identification even a military or a Congressional ID will not cut it. Additionally, even provisional ballots can only be counted, if a government issue ID is provided. With the sole exception of Georgia no other state voting identification requirements are as restrictive.

Now onto the broken windows theory. This theory was first articulated by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in a 1982 article in the Atlantic Monthly, where they describe the theory in the following manner:

Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.

Apparently, in Bradley Smith’s mind there is a link between the pending anarchy due to rampant crime and the scant evidence of voter fraud. You can find his explanation in an online debate with law professor Edward Foley of Moritz law school. But the most striking example of his line of argument can be found in this passage:

It may be true that a voter ID law prevents very little fraud in a direct sense, though a few such cases almost certainly exist; but like fixing broken windows and cleaning up litter and graffiti, such a basic procedure may prevent fraud from growing. It sends a message that voting is serious—at least as serious as cashing a paycheck or buying cigarettes, both of which require photo ID.

The mere sense that someone is likely to ask for ID may be perceived by would-be perpetrators as increasing the odds of being caught and identified in some other type of fraud (or, we should add, voter intimidation scheme). It brings a sense of order and modernity to elections, and as such may be perceived as indicative that other forms of fraud, such as absentee ballot fraud, are also being watched and are likely to be caught. Judge Posner’s Crawford opinion may inadvertently come closest to applying the “broken windows” analogy when it briefly compared voter fraud to littering, in that both crimes are exceedingly hard to catch in the act.

Read the rest of this entry »

Immigrants and GDP

28 11 2007

According to a study by the Fiscal Policy Institute, immigrants added $229 billion to the New York State economy in 2006 alone. That figure amounted to 22.4 percent of NY state’s Gross Domestic Product.

Hypothetically speaking, this means if those immigrants just in New York state succeeded and became their own country, they would be ranked 30th in the world in terms of their GDP rating. They would be ahead of countries such as Israel, Ireland, South Africa, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates.

Thats kinda mind blowing.

For a quick look at how your state’s GDP compares to that of other countries, check out this cool map.

Biden Neck and Neck with Guiliani in NH

27 11 2007

No matter how optimistic Guiliani supporters are there is nothing encouraging about seeing a guy who is basically running for Secretary of State and has been all but ignored by the national media, run neck and neck with the GOP frontrunner. That’s right Sen. Biden is keeping pace with Guiliani in New Hampshire, according to Rasmussen.

Democratic Senator Joe Biden isn’t on the map of the Democratic nomination race. And almost 30% of likely voters nationwide don’t know enough to have an opinion of him. But a new Rasmussen Reports survey shows Biden within two points of the GOP national frontrunner and tied with the Republican leader in New Hampshire.

I guess a good joke told at the right moment can get you pretty far.

Iraqi Refugees

26 11 2007

On his blog for the New Yorker, “Interesting Times,” George Packer described the harrowing experience of one Iraqi he calls Ibrahim who to fled Baghdad after receiving death threats from a co-worker aligned with the Mahdi militia. Realizing his life was in danger, Ibrahim tried to navigate the byzantine world of human trafficking to get himself smuggled out of country. Packer’s source, Ibrahim, says the journey led him from Dubai to Bombay, among other countries, before landing him in Egypt where he was repeatedly tortured by his captors after they discovered Ibrahim’s forged traveling papers.

Packer relays Ibrahim telling of the underground torture haven in excruciating detail here.

In March, Ibrahim says, an Egyptian intelligence officer involved in the smuggling ring that brought him to Cairo sent a Palestinian middleman to persuade Ibrahim to go to the airport with his fake passport. At the airport, he could have his entry into Egypt legalized. Desperate to keep the police at bay, Ibrahim overcame his fear of deportation and did as he was told. But instead of receiving a permit, he was arrested and taken to a prison beneath the airport. There, other lost souls who had run afoul of the Egyptian authorities languished underground for weeks on end. Moldavian girls, charged with prostitution, were regularly raped in prison; men from Ghana, Liberia, Algeria, and even Europe, arrested on one charge or another, suffered brutal beatings and electric shocks administered with a lamp. Ibrahim was among those beaten. One day he heard the cries of a Somali boy of about twelve who was being tortured in a bathroom. The place was swarming with cockroaches, and Ibrahim’s Portuguese cellmate instructed him to stuff his nostrils and ears with paper before going to sleep so that they didn’t crawl in and lay eggs. “Under the floor where tourists from all around the world go,” Ibrahim told me, “this is what exists.”

But miraculously, Ibrahim managed to get himself released from captivity and even fast tracked by the U.S. State Department for asylum in the U.S. with the help of an American attorney named Kirk Johnson of the law firm of Holland & Knight who tirelessly worked pro bono on Ibrahim’s behalf.

Once Packer and Ibrahim met face to face, the latter had questions that center as much on human nature as it did on policy matters.

When I saw Ibrahim last week, the questions kept pouring out of him: Who are the real Americans? The officials who treated him badly in Baghdad, or the volunteers who showered him with gifts in Tucson? The ones who threw up barriers to his rescue, or the ones who made it their personal business? Why did Egyptians care less about a fellow-Arab than some Americans did? Are people basically bad or good?

Since those questions are difficult to answer in a single book much less a blog post, I thought I would leave readers of IntheKut with a few stats and figures that might convey how unlikely it is that Ibrahim would actually find refuge in the United States.

The UN says that 2 million Iraqi refugees now live in Syria and Jordan alone.

The Bush administration promised to settle 7,000 refuges in February, before revising that number to 2,000 in September. So far approximately 1,600 have been resettled in the U.S.

And, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, at Syracuse University fewer than 3,000 Iraqis were given asylum between 2001 and 2006 compared to 40,000 for Chinese nationals.


FBI Reports Spike in Hate Crimes

20 11 2007

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reported a spike in hate crimes last year (see graph below.) But as the Associated Press notes the stats are rather incomplete:

Police across the nation reported 7,722 criminal incidents in 2006 targeting victims or property as a result of bias against a race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic or national origin or physical or mental disability. That was up 7.8 percent from 7,163 incidents reported in 2005.

More than half the incidents were motivated by racial prejudice, but the report did not even pick up all the racially motivated incidents last year.

More importantly, all we can say is that there has been an increase in the available data, but we do not know for sure which states or cites have seen a spike and which have not. That is not to say, however, that the anecdotal evidence of a surge in hate crimes isn’t off base. But it is worth mentioning that only one city in Alabama reported any stats and that city reported only one instance. In Georgia, only three cities reported at all. More pressure needs to be applied on local and state authorities to discourage such data suppression. As for Mississippi, the Clarion Ledger put it best:

The number of hate crimes increased across the nation last year, but in Mississippi it remained the same in 2006 as it did in 2005: zero.

Plus, there are a number of victims of hate crimes who choose not to report because they fear retaliation from their community or having their immigration status revealed.


And, of course, the fact that numbers are being reported now only begs the question if the federal government intentionally delayed releasing the stats until after the march on the Justice Department took place. John Miller, FBI spokesman, of course, flatly dismissed such suggestions as “absurd.”

See what your state reported here.

Guiliani’s Noun + Verb + 9/11 Problem

20 11 2007

Warning: The following video may have a mind numbing and desensitizing affect on the viewer.

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