Learning the right lessons from Maximum Canada
Jonah Goldberg regularly says, "My position on immigration policy is that we should have one." and that really sums up the most important bit. I'm pretty thoroughly inclined toward basically limitless immigration, but fighting over just where to set the dial is way way secondary to the need to actually have a dial you can adjust, rather than simply, as Matt points to, leaving it up to how effectively the lawyers can manipulate the asylum system in lieu of actual policy.
I've noticed a trend lately in your writing, as well as some other places recently, that is kind of an anti-legalistic turn.
Seems like the broad pattern is that starting in the 70s, both progressives and conservatives embraced legal battles as a way to short-circuit Congress and impose unpopular policies. The result is that now policy is shaped almost entirely by esoteric legal rulings and politicians are reduced to griping about it or playing dumb constitutional games to try and get their way.
I hope this trend in critique holds. I think it would be tremendously helpful to get back to a world where elected officials are the main drivers of policy change, not judges and lawyers.
The following is politically realistic and would fix most of the asylum problem:
1) Asylum is available only to those who enter at a regular port of entry and request asylum the day they enter
2) Asylum seekers are detained until their claims are heard. Conditions are austere but better than a typical jail, Im thinking college dorm rooms or super 8 motels with some outdoor space and a fence around them.
3) All applications are adjudicated within 21 days of entry, witnesses in foreign countries can testify via zoom or webex
4) Temporary administrative judgeships are created until the backlog is cleared. Retired/former JAG officers, state prosecutors and state level magistrates would be perfect.
Under the status quo, many people with marginal claims come to take advantage of the delay in adjudication. Many never show up for their hearing. Legalism can’t function without judges and prompt hearings.
This seems broadly correct but I’m missing the next step. Are Canadian levels of immigration, even if mostly of skilled/educated workers, socially sustainable ? And if so, under what *cultural* policies? Let me put it differently: how do you maintain a national ethos and national solidarity in this manner? To use stark examples: can you maintain national solidarity levels that will allow the country to function well in a war scenario (I hope Ukraine has disillusioned those who think this worry is in the past)?
Another example: how does one maintain the unique values of western countries (eg gender and lgbt equality )?
My worry is that American born upper middle clsss people such as MY, are specially insular in their understanding of the world (much more than their European peer btw). They think they know “diversity” but actually have very little familiarity with real cultural gaps and the challenges they pose. Too few of them lived abroad or speak a foreign language. They also seem to seriously under appreciate the challenges of great power competition that will require social cohesion in addition to ecocnomic power.
All this is *not* to say high level immigration is bad (on the contrary it’s probably necessary) but rather that the debate has to broaden to include social and cultural concerns and how to address them.
The immigration debate makes me realize that despite all the discourse, very few people out there actually clearly state their policy preferences.
Personally, I think anyone who speaks English, cares about western/liberal values (e.g., women and racial and sexual minorities are not second class citizens, freedom of speech is important, etc.), will pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits, and (most importantly) *wants* to be an American should be able to come here legally and easily.
What are your all's policy preferences on the matter?
Is it relevant where they are coming from and whether they are in iminent danger of harm? A refugee from Venezuela that has travelwd through Mexico to get to the United States would seem to have a poor case by that standard, since they were most recently in Mexico, not Venezuela, and were therefore no longer in iminent danger.
The Texas busing to Chicago has been super effective at raising the salience of the boarder crisis around here. My parents are talking about it. It's great politics. Lightfoot just declared a "state of emergency". It perfectly exposes the hypocrisy of the "Sanctuary City" Trump-era rhetoric. It's all fun and games until facilities are overrun -- and what do you think is happening in Texas right now? I hope Abbott keeps it up and it pushes the democrats to police / close the illegal boarder flow.
The right's position on immigration is bad.
The left's position on immigration is incoherent.
Just adding some context as an Australian.
1. Useful to think about where the majority of our migrants come from. By a wide margin it’s New Zealand, followed by the UK and Western Europe (China and India round out the top 5).
2. Australia (like the US) considers itself a nation of immigrants and the country has been notably changed by different waves of migration. Polish migration post WWI, mass British and Italian migration post WWII and mass Vietnamese migration after the war.
3. There has definitely been backlash to migration - see the reasonably successful ‘One Nation’ party.
4. There’s been bipartisan support for what is a quite inhumane system of offshore detention.
5. Most migration is skills based and works on a points system.
Assuming we accept this premise it seems like the question becomes, given that we do have a large southern border, is there a good, humane, cost effective way to control the flow of people so that we can get support for immigration that we do want?
Deterrence methods and obstacles seem like they may increase the danger and enforcement by border agents or law enforcement seems like a tough area.
"And while Ron DeSantis’ weird stunt of flying people to Martha’s Vineyard mostly backfired..."
Did it? This stunt completely dominated the media for several days. Plenty of people got huge satisfaction at seeing the absolute pandemonium caused by delivering a mere ~50 asylum seekers to a location associated with wealthy leftists.
Another point: I think america functioned well in the recent past -both generally and esp as a nation of immigrants- because of a strong ethos of respect for the law. Whereas other countries attempted to entice compliance with seat belt by stressing the benefits, in America you could have a slogan like “buckle up it’s the law”. But there is a sense of growing lawlessness and chaos. At the top you have a former President (and presidential candidate) doubly indicted. At the bottom you have homeless encampments taking over more and more public spaces, people urinating in broad daylight or smoking in public transport with impunity. It’s not nostalgia- it really didn’t use to be like that (in living memory) and it’s not sustainable. We need to go back to enforce the laws, both in terms of the police and party discipline (ie kick out politicians who deviate from norms a fortiori laws)
This is the hardest political issue, because the normal, rational, practical person in me agrees wholeheartedly with the sensible reforms outlined here and in the comments (tougher asylum policy and a more orderly legal process), but on a deeper, darker level I feel like anything short of open borders is basically morally indefensible.
What does the US owe non-citizens? Nothing? Well, no, the premise of the international asylum regime is that we do have some obligation towards them simply as fellow humans under some circumstances. It’s not just charity; it’s something we owe.
But the problem is that no matter how you define the specifics, admitting that we owe *something* opens the door to other things. (Why should a wealthy Venezuelan with a credible fear of political violence have a greater claim than an “economic” migrant trying to escape crushing poverty?) Once you agree we do have obligations towards non-citizens, the whole shaky premise of the state having immutable sovereignty over a particular patch of land and the citizens of a country being special parties to a “contract” bound up with that land starts to feel absurd.
There’s only one reason a Honduran migrant has less claim on the resources of the US than I do: The accident of birth means the power of the state is on my side and not his. Which is whatever, but that cold hard explanation just refuses to square with the universalism at the heart of all liberal political ideas. Asylum is the wedge that exposes the arbitrariness of the international system and the disturbing fact that the state as such is fundamentally incompatible with seeing all humans as fully human.
OK and now I snap back to the world of daylight and think “why can’t the US have a sane conversation about immigration policy?”
This is why despite having mostly conservative viewpoints, I subscribe to this Substack. I want to see Progressives who aren't histrionic, and he seems to be one of the few that gets any attention. It is good to see his opinions, even when I disagree. Matt mentioned in a previous article that he didn't think he reached any Republicans, but I bet he reaches plenty of normie Republicans. At least I read his stuff, FWIW.
It has been disgusting to me to see that people freak out when Trump talked about building a wall (even a broken clock is right twice a day), but yet Matt is intelligently pointing out that uncontrolled illegal immigration seems to be a big negative for most any thinking human being.
I think it could be summed up that most Americans think that illegal immigration should be harder and legal immigration should be easier. But you have to shut down the illegal pipeline to do that, and Progressives immediately scream racism and the whole conversation goes up in smoke. Therefore we don't really have any sensible immigration policy in the USA.
One point Eric Kaufman makes is that the conservative movement in Canada is basically bifurcated between conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois. Imagine if an evangelical party almost exclusive to the Deep South ran alongside Republicans in national elections. This probably makes it harder for conservative issues to win nationally in Canada.
I think this suggestion isn’t particularly politically realistic. Categorically, grand bargains on contentious social issues are a sort of centrist political myth. Bipartisan deals on the specific issue of immigration have been failing since the 1980s— even under conditions when elements of Republican leadership were much less hostile to immigration than the party is now. The incentives for the most hardcore restrictionists to tank the process have always been too strong— they get closer to getting what they really want by maintaining the muddled policy status quo and stoking anti-immigration sentiment than they would by compromising.
Biden trying to do a compromise deal now would set him up for an embarrassing “Lucy pulls the football away”-type public legislative failure and raise the salience of immigration going into an election cycle— which David Shor and others have found tends to help Republicans even when Democrats’ particular position statements test well. Much better at this point to use administrative and diplomatic levers to manage the situation at the border and use the admin’s legislative agenda and public messaging for either pushing bills that have a genuine chance to pass or highlighting issues where the Dems have their strongest public opinion advantages.