from the June 23, 2008 edition
What’s needed to discourage illegal immigration into the United States has been known for years: Enforce existing law.
Amazingly, that is happening now – to some degree. This trend may already be shrinking the flood across the Mexican border and have a modest positive impact on job prospects for “native born” Americans during the present economic slump.
Immigration prosecutions reached an all-time high in March, reports the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data research and distribution group at Syracuse University in New York. Using data from the Justice Department, it calculates that prosecutions were up 49 percent from February and 72.7 percent from March of last year. This highly unusual surge is filling up US detention centers and jails.
March prosecutions numbered 9,360. That’s small compared to the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US. Nonetheless, “It’s working,” says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank that would like immigration levels reduced considerably.
The hike in prosecutions stems from an expansion of “Operation Streamline” last year by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Under the effort, undocumented aliens caught by border guards are no longer simply steered into “air-conditioned buses,” as Mr. Krikorian puts it, and driven back across the border to try crossing again. Instead, they are charged with crimes and detained.
The most common charge is “reentry of a deported alien.” But there are at least nine other crimes, including entry of an alien at an improper time or place. The result is detention until trial, usually before US Magistrate Courts. A typical sentence is one month, and then “removal.”
That time under detention, DHS hopes, will deter these aliens from trying again and discourage others from even trying. Border crossings have plunged, especially in areas where those caught are put into lockups. Border patrol apprehensions along the Mexican border were down 17 percent to 347,372 between October 2007 and March 2008, compared with the same period a year previous.
In addition to the border measures, immigration officials have stepped up well-publicized raids on meatpacking firms and other companies hiring undocumented workers. States, including Arizona, also have been cracking down on employers of illegal immigrants, a crime often harder to prove in court than illegal border crossing.
Krikorian guesses that in the past, 800,000 to 900,000 illegal immigrants successfully entered the US every year, and about 400,000 left voluntarily or were deported each year – a net growth of about 500,000 illegal immigrants a year.
If current moves to restrain illegal immigration trim that growth by 100,000 to 200,000 immigrants, it should have some effect on the nation’s labor supply, notes University of Chicago economist Jeffrey Grogger. He’s coauthor of a paper calculating that a 10 percent increase in the supply of a particular skill group caused by higher immigration prompted a reduction in the wages of similarly low-skilled black men by 4 percent between 1960 and 2000, lowered their employment rate by a huge 3.5 percentage points, and increased their incarceration rate by almost a full percentage point.
So, presumably, fewer low-skilled immigrants could gradually induce more work for low-skilled native Americans.
The weaker economy and labor market should also prove less of a draw for immigrants, mostly undocumented ones, over the next year or two, cutting the flow by “several hundred thousand” per year, reckons a new study by four economists with Goldman Sachs, a prominent Wall Street investment bank. That would reduce labor-force growth by 0.2 to 0.3 percentage points compared with the growth rate in the past few years – and thus the potential for greater economic growth. The Goldman Sachs economists would welcome an increase in the flow of immigrants as a way to absorb the excess inventory of homes troubling the housing industry, and mitigate the “incipient pressures on the federal budget due to the impending retirement of the baby boom generation.”
But a study by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies in Boston attributes the “unprecedented” levels of legal, illegal, and temporary immigration as a factor underlying the “devastation” in the job scene for America’s teens and young adults over the past seven years. That’s especially the case for males with no schooling beyond high school and youths from low-income families. Summer seasonal jobs as a proportion of all jobs are at the lowest level now in the past 30 years.
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To the editor of the Wall Street Journal:
What Kind of Change?
By Victor Davis Hanson
The Washington Times | 6/23/2008
By this point in the presidential campaign, the public knows a charismatic Barack Obama wants sweeping “change.”
While the national media have often fallen hard for the Illinois senator’s rhetoric – MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said he felt a “thrill going up my leg” during an Obama speech – exactly what kind of change can Mr. Obama bring if he’s elected in November?
Foreign Policy: Take Mr. Obama’s foreign-policy pronouncements, which promise a break with the unhappy past. Two doctrines are most prominent. One is to engage our enemies and be nicer to our allies. The other calls for leaving Iraq on a set timetable.
The problem with the first is that key allies like the conservative French, German and Italian governments – unlike the days of rage in 2003 – now embrace pretty much the same policies we do. Britain and the European Union just called for imposing tougher sanctions on Iran, while France and Britain promise more troops for Afghanistan.
In February 2007, Mr. Obama called for American troops out of Iraq by March 2008. But in the last four months since that proposed final departure, violence is way down: The U.S. military and Iraqi army have stabilized much of the country.
The world in January 2009 will not be the same as it was in February 2007. So would a President Obama really engage Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just as the Europeans are isolating him, or give up on Iraq when the American military may well gradually draw down in victory, not defeat?
Energy: Gas prices are soaring. Americans are frustrated (and a bit ashamed) that we continue to beg the Saudis to pump another half-million barrels a day on their soil and off their shores to ease global tight supplies, when we could pump much more than that in Alaska, off our coasts and on the Outer Continental Shelf – and thus save hundreds of billions of dollars.
Yet Mr. Obama’s change probably wouldn’t include more drilling; more nuclear power plants; or fuel extraction from tar sands, shale or coal. Instead, his strategy emphasizes more conservation; mass transit; and wind, solar and alternate green energy. All that is certainly wise and could be a winning combination by 2030, but right now it won’t fill our tanks.
Taxes: Mr. Obama also wishes to raise trillions in new taxes by upping the capital-gains margins, restoring inheritance taxes, raising the income rates on the upper brackets and lifting the income caps on Social Security payroll taxes. Such an old-fashioned soak-the-rich plan will please a strapped public tired of overpaid CEOs and Wall Street jet-setting.
Yet forcing the affluent to pay even more won’t necessarily reduce annual deficits of the last eight years or pay down the huge national debt – not when Mr. Obama promises more vast entitlements in health care, education and housing, and current federal revenues were increased by past tax cuts that spurred economic growth.
Mr. Obama promises a new style of politics that is issue-based, rather than attack-dog. But so far, he has campaigned in conventional fashion: He is tough on his opponents and as prone to overstatements and mischaracterizations as any other candidate.
The take-no-prisoners Moveon.org, which gave us the “General Betray Us” ads, is now an ally running third-party hit pieces on John McCain. Such outside help is customary in an election but seems inconsistent with Mr. Obama’s disavowals of the hardball politics of the past.
Mr. Obama has promised a new dialogue on race and tolerance. His own impressive personal journey may make that possible. But his 20-year intimate relationship with the racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright suggests that for years he was heavily invested in the rather tired and predictable identity politics of grievance rather than a vocal advocate of novel racial transcendence.
Overall, Mr. Obama’s announced policies are sounding pretty much the same old, same old once promised by candidates like George McGovern, Mike Dukakis, Walter Mondale, Al Gore and John Kerry. Of course, a return to the standard big-government nostrums of the past may well be what the angry voters want after 20 years of the Bushes and Clintons. But it is not a novel agenda, much less championed by a post-racial, post-political emissary.
So what are the Democrats thinking? That a mesmerizing, path-breaking African-American candidate – coupled with Bush exhaustion – will overcome past public skepticism of Northern presidential Democratic candidates, traditional liberal agendas and Mr. Obama’s own relative lack of experience.
In other words, we should count on hope rather than change.
Muslim Mindset: ‘The hatred is in Muhammad himself’
To Westerners and moderate Muslims shocked by the radical form of Islam now topping nightly newscasts, the efforts of liberal-minded Muslims like Tawfik Hamid, Italian Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi and a handful of others may seem like the perfect solution. Not so for Ali Sina, who has a different suggestion: destroy Islam.
Sina, who runs Faith Freedom International – an Internet forum dedicated to debunking Islam – calls himself “probably the biggest anti-Islam person alive.” The publication of his latest book, Understanding Muhammad: A Psychobiography of Allah’s Prophet, will likely cement that position. In it, Sina suggests that Islam’s central figure suffered from a series of mental disorders, including narcissistic personality disorder, temporal lobe epilepsy and obsessive compulsive disorder.
“These disorders,” he says via telephone, “can explain the phenomenon known as Islam… which is nothing but one man’s insanity.”
Sina grew up a non-practicing Muslim. Raised in Iran, educated in Pakistan and Italy and now living in Canada, he began jousting with believers in the 1990s. What bothered him, he tells The Jerusalem Post, was not the penchant for jihad and intolerance that certain fanatical Muslims displayed, but the foundation for such ills in the Koran and core Islamic texts.
(Through the Faith Freedom Web site, Sina lists canonical references to Muhammad’s actions and offers $50,000 to anyone who can disprove Sina’s charge that Islam’s prophet was “a narcissist, a misogynist, a rapist, a pedophile, a lecher, a torturer, a mass murderer, a cult leader, an assassin, a terrorist, a mad man and a looter.” Respondents relentlessly attack Sina’s motives, but none has won the prize.)
With violent conquest and contempt for non-believers central to the tenets of the faith, Sina argues, attempts to forge a moderate form of Islam are doomed.
“The idea that Islam can be reformed is a fallacy,” he scoffs. “It’s like saying we can reform Nazism and it will be a wonderful party.”
No, says Sina, “The only way to reform Islam is to throw away the Koran; 90 percent of it should be thrown away. You also have to throw away the history of Islam, and you have to completely disregard the Sira” – the Arabic term used for the various traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad, from which most historical information about his life and the early period of Islam is derived.
For this reason, Sina says, Western suggestions that extremism in Islam can be eradicated if certain imams are quieted, or if Muslims are encouraged to embrace the universalist elements of their faith – but without addressing the extremism inherent in the religion’s texts – are based on a mistaken comparison of Islam to Christianity.
“In the West, people ask whether Islam can undergo a reformation like the one that Christianity underwent. That’s a poor parallel,” he says. “In Christianity, it wasn’t the religion that needed to be reformed, but the church; what Jesus preached was good.”
On the other hand, Sina continues, “In Islam, it’s not the community that is bad, but the religion. Islam has nothing like ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ Islam is full of hatred, and the hatred is in Muhammad himself. I argue in my book that Muhammad was insane – and that Muslims, by emulating him and by emulating his ways, his insanity is bequeathed to them.”
BY NOW, CRITICS of Islam are fairly common in the West. And there are more than a few former Muslims who have rejected Islam in favor of Christianity, citing the difference between their former religion’s overwhelming focus on hatred and their newfound faith’s central teaching of love and forgiveness. But, like Wafa Sultan, Ibn Warraq, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the handful of other apostate Muslims demanding that Muslims reject the negative aspects of their religion, Sina’s critiques are especially problematic.
“People have to dismiss me some way, they have to put me down in one way or another. I’m a Jew, I’m a Christian, I’m a Hindu. I’m whatever people want to say in order to discredit me,” says Sina, who closely guards his true identity because of the death threats he receives. “But they can’t ignore my questions.”
Sina has little patience for those who believe they can temper Islam with reason and mutual respect, or for those who remain cowed by the masses of Muslim devotees around the world.
“Islam is the biggest hoax, the biggest lie,” he says. “Yes, a billion people believe it. But truth is truth. People will eventually see it. Believe me, there is no other answer. We will pay a great price until we realize that this is the solution – to undermine Islam itself, to show Muslims that this religion is not from God, that Muhammad was a charlatan and a liar.”
Sina knows that his blunt, outspoken approach can be “problematic.” But he is confident nonetheless that the force of his arguments will ultimately prevail.
“I am sure that, with time, I will convince millions and millions of Muslims, and the foundations of Islam will collapse,” he says.
Already, he continues, Faith Freedom has attracted an impressive amount of attention.
“In Iran, my site is banned. In many parts of Pakistan, it is banned. The list goes on,” he says. “Despite this, I have over 10 million readers in just over two and a half years. And I have received letters from Muslims from all over the world. Muslims everywhere are paying attention. I believe that Muslims everywhere are realizing that something is amiss.
“If I didn’t have so much success in convincing people, then I would not be so confident. But I see that truth works. So many people who are now writing for me and putting things up on Youtube; seven or eight years ago, we were having fierce debates. Now, they are my greatest allies. There are many people who have seen the light after reading FFI and many of them are now working on my side, trying to help others to see the truth.
“This is the way to fight evil. I do not want to kill the enemy. I want to win them as friends and allies. That is the real victory. In this way, we win because we eliminate our enemy, and our enemy wins by eliminating his ignorance and hate. That is why I believe in my cause. That is why I think I am an instrument of peace.”