We can't let the politics of asylum kill the golden goose
Just to get this off my chest. One bipartisan place to start is here. If you helped us fight a war, we won’t abandon you and your families to the regime we all were fighting.
The beneficial selection effects of immigration are underrated IMO. Basically anyone who is willing and able to jump through the many hoops required to immigrate (leaving all your friends and family, adapting to a new culture, learning a new language, finding some way to actually get a visa, etc.) is an exceptional person likely to make a great contribution to the USA. Immigration isn't just generic population growth; immigrants self-select to be awesome (and then we can and do further select them to be even better).
Harking back to the previous post that Harris should try to be popular, she should double down on her "do not come" comments, and maybe publicly pick a fight with the AOC contingent that's criticizing her for that.
Harris was right, and their myopic inability to see the forest for the trees on this issue is endangering much larger policy goals. Harris, or someone, needs to be the adult who shuts them down. Preventing chaos at the border is necessary to create political space for her longer term "root causes" project to get off the ground.
Enforcing the laws on the books is a prerequisite for good faith negotiations to change them, not to mention the sworn constitutional duty of every President. Viewing it from the perspective of those who generally want less immigration (and there are real nonracist, if misguided, reasons to hold that view - see David Abbott comment below), how why would someone trust Democrats as dealing in good faith on changes to immigration law if Democratic administrations have a track record of being unwilling to enforce the immigration laws that are agreed on as a result of any negotiations?
One of the superficial ironies here is that it's often conservatives who push for exclusively skilled immigration while liberals remain open to unskilled. But high-skilled immigrants are more likely to have highly-educated kids who are therefore more likely to be progressive, while blue-collar immigrants are more likely to have conservative kids. (I say "superficial" because for a variety of reasons it actually isn't as ironic as it seems, but still.)
Sometimes I drive around Queens, going through neighborhoods made up mostly of immigrants from dozens of countries, and I think, is this what people are afraid of? Because this is a great place to live and raise a family and work and visit! So, on some level I just genuinely don't get it.
If there's one constant in immigration-related threads, it's that at least a few dozen posters will turn up with anecdotes about how immigration adversely impacts the native-born in myriad ways. I've already counted 4-5 and it's 9 am.
There's never any evidence that the problems they cite stem from immigration, nor that lowering immigration would solve them... but I think it's illustrative of one of Matt's points: immigration is an easy scapegoat, which makes it hard to formulate and enforce rational policy.
I think this is largely spot on. I think the crux of the issue is that until Obama's second term immigration was not a polarized issue along partisan lines. Democrats had anti-immigration union leaders trying to protect their workers. Republicans had big-business interests trying to grow markets and add cheaper labor. For various reasons this shifted and now it's pretty clean that the GOP is just anti-immigration (relative to status quo) and Dems are pro-immigration.
Now that this is the case, the Dems have to be very clear about what kind of immigration they are for. During the primary campaign certain candidates came dangerously close to backing true open borders, decriminalizing all immigration, and declaring any restrictions presumptively racist. Regardless of your moral views of this it is certainly not a winning political position, and Democratic leaders should call it out and decry it. Democratic leaders need to be crystal clear and disciplined in messaging about what they want for 1) legal skilled immigration, 2) legal unskilled immigration, 3) illegal immigration enforcement (both existing and future immigrants), and 4) asylum seekers. Otherwise it is too easy to paint any accommodation towards any of these groups as part of a secret plan for open borders (I could draw a worrisome analogy as to how the NRA paints any move towards modest gun control as a step towards full confiscation of arms and repeal of the 2nd amendment).
Hard to message this issue in a nuanced way...my impression of the Democratic party's public position since the failure of the 2013 bill has been mostly "anything short of open borders is racist." That's mostly a result of anti-Trump posturing, as well as conflating the different parts of the immigration issue this post is pointing out (DREAMers vs. asylum seekers vs. legal entry priorities). The "American Dream" messaging is probably the right way to go, but it may be less convincing for various reasons as that dream slips out of reach for more and more people who are already here.
The salience of this issue all over the world will only increase, of course, with the coming environmental upheaval. Fun times.
I’m not sure I want to live in a “talent magnet.”. I don’t live to work and I don’t want to become a grind. My goal is to maintain a comfortable position with low to moderate work effort.
Immigrants and their children hustle. They come from places where falling into the working class is disastrous, even physically dangerous, so they work hard to avoid that fate.
Relatively few old-stock Americans go to medical school. The infusion of immigrant hustle into the applicant pool has allowed medical education to maintain the same brutal, all-consuming time demands it imposed in the 1940s and 1950s, when most middle class men worked grim hours to support stay at home wives. Women’s liberation has freed middle class men to have work-life balance, I don’t want meritocratic fantasies about being a “talent magnet” to blow up those gains.
I’m certainly for allowing the best doctors, scientists and programmers to come here. A few thousand stars can create a lot of value. The top of any profession should be extremely competitive, and I don’t much care whether the top biologists were born in the U.S. or China. However, I’m leery of opening the door so wide that my son’s path to the professions would become more onerous. Becoming a doctor basically requires amputating your 20s. We would have more doctors if becoming a doctor were a 40-hour a week proposition. I went to law school precisely because I knew it would be a relatively easy path to a professional salary— most lawyers never work for biglaw, those who do rarely last more than five years and almost never enjoy the grind.
I would like the medical path to be gentler and I don’t want other professional paths to become that brutal. I’d rather live in a chill, affluent country than a frenetic “talent magnet.”
Since we’re talking about Biden’s immigration policy, I once more want to raise the issue of the travel ban that includes fully vaccinated Europeans (for very obvious reasons of self interest). I don’t see much coverage of it, even though when one of Trump’s travel bans hit my Iranian friend, I saw a lot of outrage, a lot of press coverage and I think the issue also reached the Supreme Court.
Since one of my European friends really wants to go back and see his family, I did suggest (jokingly of course) that he flies to Mexico afterwards and tries to illegally cross the border. Maybe the border patrol won’t turn him away but allow him to stay for “processing”, once he shows that he has all the required documents to be legally present in the US. :P
But overall, I don’t understand why Biden hates us so much. We have gone through all the hoops to be legally present here. I really hope that the policy will change at some point.
This was a really good post.
I think progressives tend to get really caught up in the moral case for asylum seekers, and tend to basically ignore the idea of any political constraints on issue.
On such a salient issue, voters can't just be handwaved away.
'People would like strict enforcement of the immigration rules' is the key sentence here. We want to make the rules, and we want our government to enforce them. Whether immigration is good or bad for already-here Americans is a matter of debate and where you lie in American society. I'm sure all of us beyond a certain age have personal experiences. I'll give mine. When I was in college, I spent three summers working at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park, a National Park concession. Every worker there was an American college kid that the Park concessionaire worked hard to find each summer. 25 years later I returned with my kids and every employee at the Pond House was an Eastern European on a J1 visa. Not a single American. During the same years, I told my teenage son to go get job and knock on every door on every restaurant and shop in our Brooklyn neighborhood. Every one told him we don't hire people like you.
> I talked this over with some leading Effective Altruism types and they convinced me that Denmark’s mix of generous foreign aid and stingy immigration is more beneficial to the world than the U.S. mix.
Matt, who did you hear this from? I'm pretty plugged into the EAsphere and I'm not familiar with this take.
It's interesting to note the Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde claims that situations such as the 2007 bipartisan elite consensus in opposition to a large voting block are precisely situations that give rise to populist movements. Basically, when political elites act in tandem to block out representation of a viewpoint with enough support it creates fertile ground for political outsiders to take the populist route.
I think trade policy probably fits even better with that formulation.
Is C-69 the visa for the comedians?
The best thing that Biden can do about immigration, including asylum seekers, is to deprioritize it. Do what you can to kick it back to page A12. Shut the flows of people seeking asylum in ways that the law never intended, and do everything possible to reduce the television-friendly hordes at the border. Meanwhile, cut back on deportations of those long-established here by following a policy of benign neglect. Trim back the Trump actions, but don't seek to ratchet up eligibility too far. See if there's any legislation that can meet muster in the "Secret Congress" which means at best it will be modest.
Immigration policy is a loser for Democrats now, becoming the third rail that Social Security and Medicare were for the Republicans (and who may have finally learned that lesson). We have lots of incendiary issues that will be problematic enough to make progress on -- climate change, voting rights -- so there's no reason to fall on our swords over something that helps strengthen the country over the very long term *if* we can pass something but more likely hurts our ability to maintain power in the near and medium term.