Immigration Thoughts

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I haven't had much to say recently about the substance of the immigration debate playing itself out in the U.S. Congress, media, and presidential debates. I did discuss it when he first proposed it. I agree with Republican politicians at most about 55% of the time and Democrats at most about 35% of the time (and that's people like Joe Lieberman), according to a rough estimate from this test. This is an issue on which I don't agree with the main base of either party. I probably agree more with the president, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and Senator Kennedy (D-MA) on the general kind of mediating position to take, and I probably would have grave concerns about the way it's being implemented in the current bill, but I've not looked at it in enough detail to have a lot to say. Justin Taylor links to several Hugh Hewitt posts that get into the legal details and practical implications, but I don't have the patience or time to look into any of that carefully enough to evaluate it. I do think it's interesting that hardly anything Hewitt says has all that much to do with the main complaints of the base of either party.

I did want to register some thoughts I've had over the last few weeks about some arguments I'm seeing. They seem to me to be terrible arguments, and some of what I've been thinking hasn't been emphasized very much in what I've had the time to hear on the radio and read on a few blogs I've managed to check in on.

1. Here's one argument I won't accept. Some say that finding a pathway for illegal immigrants to mend their ways and become legal is somehow condoning their illegal entry. I disagree. It would be bad if people who enter illegally can get a pathway to citizenship that's easier than people who enter legally. That would be rewarding illegal entry. But you can condone without rewarding. What does condoning involve? Reducing a penalty is not condoning. It is reducing a penalty. Condoning would be saying that it's not wrong. Changing a law so that the penalty is different, even if you do so retroactively for people who've already broken the law, does not mean the act was not criminal. There is still a stiff penalty even in the proposed bill. It requires temporary deportation and a pretty severa fine. How is it condoning something to reduce a penalty from permanent deportation to temporary deportation and a huge fine? The very notion seems to me to misunderstand what condoning even is.

2. The motivation for this bill is an attempt to find a middle ground between two extremes, and I think most people will agree that both of those extremes are bad even if they don't accept that this particular middle ground is the right way to go. Some will see it as too close to one or the other extreme. I think it's worth keeping in mind that the intent is good, since it's at least in principle trying to find that mediating position.

One extreme would be simple amnesty. Those who have committed crimes in entering this country will be pardoned, and they will be allowed to enter the pathway to citizenship more easily (because of their cheating shortcut) than those who entered legally. I don't think anyone wants that, once you put it that way, although some have offered policy changes that would have that effect. The other extreme would be to insist on carrying out the impossible task of finding and deporting all illegal immigrants and preventing the people responsible for doing that kind of thing from fighting more serious problems like Islamicist terrorism.

The mediating path sought by the president, Senator McCain, and Senator Kennedy allows for some grace in terms of past penalties but a severe penalty if they want to remain here and continue to avail themselves of that grace. This is the basic idea behind this bill. It diminishes the problem considerably without denying the seriousness of the crime committed, and it doesn't require a ridiculous and unmanageable amount of effort, while allowing the U.S. to continue to benefit to some degree from the things that illegal immigrants have contributed toward in this country.

Now maybe this bill isn't the best of all possible mediating positions, but it seems to me to be a decent attempt in principle. In that, I can see how someone might think this is the kind of thing that would be good policy on the broader issues. Again, I don't know if the details of the bill work that out correctly, but it seems to me that most of the arguments I'm seeing are arguments against the principle of the thing, and it's those arguments that I haven't been able to accept.

3. The presidential candidates for the GOP nomination are fighting over which candidate is the best heir to the Reagan legacy. One thing worth observing is that the current venom from all these Reaganites against the Bush plan, as if it's a violation of conservative principle, is that Bush's views on immigration are much closer to Reagan's views on immigration than those of Bush's conservative critics are. That doesn't mean he's right, but his critics ought not to make wild and false claims about Bush betraying the Reagan legacy on an issue where he's closer to Reagan than they are. The Reagan position is actually much closer to the leftward extreme, and the Bush-McCain-Kennedy view seems downright conservative in comparison.

4.On the other hand, a better argument than most against the bill can be found here. Defenders of the bill have to consider immigration crimes to be a lesser offense than other crimes, or else they must explain why the approach the bill is taking warrants treating immigration criminals differently from other criminals (even though neither kind deserves this kind of mercy). I'm not sure that distinction can't be justified, but it's a much bigger challenge than I would want to tackle at the moment. So my criticism of most of the arguments against this kind of immigration reform doesn't mean I don't think there are serious philosophical objections to it. I suspect these objections might be surmountable. These are very different kinds of crimes, after all, even if they both indeed are crimes. But even if the arguments against this bill in principle seem to me to be misguided, I don't want to say that it's easy to see that in every case. Some of the arguments are much more difficult to overcome than others. It's just that the most common ones I'm seeing are the bad ones.

5. Then, of course, you won't hear too many conservatives giving this argument, which seems much stronger to me than almost anything I do hear from conservatives on this issue. This is a way that options for legal immigration will be severely limited by this bill, at least as it's being currently proposed. It isn't tied to the principle of the bill, so this touches none of my above points. But when it comes to the particular issues this bill raises because of the fine print, I'm sure there are a whole host of policy objections against it that I'd agree with. Since I haven't been paying attention to those issues, I have little to say.

But I do want to register my suspicion that many of the objections Democrats are raising are just as serious and important than the ones Republicans are raising, and I unfortunately don't see many conservatives acknowledging that. I don't see how recognizing the particular problem in the article I just linked to requires sacrificing any conservative principles. It's sad, therefore, to see conservatives avoiding a whole category of moral reason simply because that doesn't get the base fired up.

I can think of two explanations for this. One possibility is that there's something seriously wrong with the moral sensibilities of the Republican base. If that's true, it would go a long way toward justifying the comments supporters of the bill are making that those who oppose it on the right are doing so in part out of little concern for the actual people involved, which can be explained in part by recognizing that a good deal of opposition to illegal immigration is simply opposition to any immigration from undesirable groups, in other words pure racist or otherwise ethnocentric conceptions of what Americans are supposed to be and who is supposed to be here. That sort of view deserves harsh moral condemnation.

Another possibility is that those who determine the bulk of the complaints being issued against this bill from the right are just not very good at knowing what will fire up the base. I can imagine that might be true to some extent when it comes to pundits and high-level politicians. I have a little more trouble imagining how it could be true of bloggers, who represent the base much more directly. But that still might be part of the explanation.

Either possibility disturbs me, however. I don't think the conservatives I know personally are anti-immigrant, but the conservatives I know probably aren't representative of the base, in part because they're mostly in the northeast and mostly intellectuals and in part because I wouldn't spend much time associating with people who hate my wife (who is a naturalized citizen) or think she shouldn't be in this country. I don't tend to think very highly of people who want to protect American culture against the invasion of other cultures  or those who see an entire ethnic group (a fairly diverse one, no less) as something inferior or culturally depraved. The conservative positions I'm attracted to aren't like that. But it does seem to me that a fair amount of the rhetoric I'm seeing on this issue leans very strongly in that direction, and it's hard for me to see it as anything but evil.

6. The Democratic leadership has been doing exactly the kind of thing with this bill that they complained about Republicans doing. They tried to push the bill through without giving time to the opposition to read it carefully, something they regularly complained about the Republican leadership doing before the changeover. They didn't have the committees working the bill but had a small coterie of people who all agreed with each other put it together without input from those who had other proposals. The bill was completed, therefore, before debate could influence it.

I remember specific condemnation of this kind of thing when the wave of euphoria at the Democratic takeover was in full force after the election. There were statements that were designed to send word to voters that they'd been heard and that this sort of thing was over. I've argued before that this constitutes the moral equivalent of a broken promise, even if the word 'promise' was never used. I was consoling myself after the election that the Democratic leadership at least seemed interested in ending some of that stuff. This isn't the first time I've been disappointed by them on this kind of issue.

12 Comments

I totally agree, you should post this over at MyBiggestComplaint.com. It looks like the whole bill is soon to be shredded with compromises and nothing will get done one way or the other.

Everyone has their own definition of "Amnesty." Mine is: "If you get to keep what you stole, it's 'Amnesty.'" Here are a few dates and numbers to contemplate: November 6, 1986 is the date when the Simpson-Mazzoli Bill told the federal government to enforce border security and set employer sanctions against hiring illegal aliens. President Bush was elected the President and Chief Law Enforcement Officer on January 20, 2001. Congress under Democrats and Republicans have failed to enforce the law. Both Congress and the President have failed to build the 700 mile fence passed and funded by both Houses of Congress and signed by President Bush. And politicians wonder why the President has a terrible popularity rating, and the Democratic Congress has a still lower approval rating? Get serious! We have a government that currently has 600,000 illegal aliens under deportation Order by federal courts -- and this government does not know where they are! Still, they expect us to believe the same government can do a background check on 12-20 million people within 24 hours, track them through paying back taxes and penalties, studying English and civics? There must be something in the water of the Potomac that makes them think the remainder of the nation is stoned. I helped two "illegals" get citizenship under the 1986 bill, and believed the government would seal the border and enforce the employer sanction laws as the law required. Fool me once...

I think it's important to keep several concepts straight. These are technical terms, and they have long-standing meanings. I don't think it's all that bad to use a word in an idiosyncratic way, but you ought to tell people how you are using it. You've done that here, but it will get annoying if you have to do it every time you use the word. Politicians don't generally do so at all. I think it's much better just to use terms in their established ways.

A pardon removes a criminal indictment from someone who would otherwise count as a criminal (or might be expected to become one given a trial). But I don't think it counts as a pardon if you change the law and have it take effect retroactively. A pardon is directed to individuals.

Amnesty is even stronger than a pardon. It involves erasing every record that an offense was committed. This is certainly weaker than that. They did this in South Africa after the end of apartheid to recognize that there were wrongs done on both sides and to move toward the future. Battlestar Galactica had a recent episode with something similar after a situation similar to France during WWII, with people occupying both the puppet government and a resistance and committing atrocities on both sides. Amnesty is usually for political crimes.

Commutation is when a sentence is removed or lessened, but the guilty charge remains. This seems to be more like that, but commutation is usually done on an individual basis. This is more like a retroactive law change such that the penalty for the offense is changed as if it had always been lesser.

See Wikipedia for one place that makes some of these distinctions clear.

I have no comment on the issues you point out that are orthogonal to any of my actual points. Since I don't have any objections to keeping the laws the same and enforcing them (which my preferred candidate Mitt Romney is endorsing), at least in principle, but this assumes (1) that it can be done (and I'm not sure if it can) and (2) that enforcing the set of laws on the books wouldn't be immoral given how large the group of people involved turns out to be, how long some have been here, how significant their ties to their community are, and how many of their children, who are U.S. citizens, will be affected. I am unconvinced that enforcing the laws as written would be morally ok. I'm going to need to see an argument for that. Laws aren't morally correct merely because they're on the books.

I don't object to some of what you say. What I do object to is particular arguments against this policy that I outlined in the post above, and I would add to that the inaccurate calling of this policy "amnesty" (which, regrettably, Mitt Romney has been doing).

Today is the 7,501st day since the Simpson-Mazzoli Bill of November 6, 1986 promised the American people that the border would be enforced and the employers would be sanctioned if they employed illegals. I implore ANYONE to tell us why he thinks we will believe that the government he is a part of will enforce the new bill any better than the one that is still on the books -- un-enforced. Tomorrow is a new day for the Simpson-Mazzoli Bill to be enforced -- and tomorrow will be day 7,502, followed by 7,503, 7,504,...I personally participated in that 1986 amnesty because I trusted the government to enforce the law -- and I stood in line at the Escondido, California office of La Migra to help two "illegals" get their citizenship based on mmy trust of the government. The government fooled me once...

1. Amnesty is an injustice to people waiting for years under oppressive situations to get into the US. It rewards the lawless and effectively punishes the lawful. Is this a good moral foundation for our nation?

2. Amnesty confirms the belief that the US can be manipulated by corporate interests and the race card to adopt policies that are not in the best interests of Americans. Illegal Mexican children show up in my workplace bearing names like "Cindy" and "Kenneth" because Mexicans are giving their children American names with the certain belief that we will be FORCED to offer them amnesty at some point.

3. Amnesty is a blow against the US working poor and lower middle-class. It will drive down wages and create job competition in those non-skilled jobs which are still paying reasonable wages and benefits.

4. Amnesty imposes taxation without representation on US taxpayers. We foot the burden of social welfare expenses for people that our laws prohibit from being here.

As for family separation? That was the excuse for allowing polygamy to perpetuate itself in the western United States. We didn't want to break up families. Now we must deal with the fallout: child marriage, child rape, abuse, neglect, welfare dependence and so forth.

Yes, I believe that we should round up every illegal immigrant, send them back to Mexico and set up a new system of guest worker visas for carefully vetted workers.

Amnesty is an injustice to people waiting for years under oppressive situations to get into the US. It rewards the lawless and effectively punishes the lawful. Is this a good moral foundation for our nation?

Aside from the issue of whether this is amnesty (which I think I've already said enough about), I said very clearly that I wouldn't support such a policy if it made it easier for people who entered illegally to become citizens than it is for people who enter legally. I also said I don't know all the details of this law, so I can't judge it on this score, but I do know there's immediate deportation and an incredibly huge fine.

Amnesty confirms the belief that the US can be manipulated by corporate interests and the race card to adopt policies that are not in the best interests of Americans.

I need to see an argument that it's not in the best interest of Americans. I can name one group of Americans whose interest it very plainly does seem to be in. That group is the children of illegal immigrants who are American citizens because they were born in this country. They are indeed Americans as guaranteed by the Constitution. (As for people naming their children, I don't see why it's wrong to name your children whatever you want to name them.)

As for some of the other issues, I will repeat what I've said several times now. I haven't studied this issue very carefully and have little interest in doing so. It's not the kind of issue that what I'm good at lends itself well to. All I was doing was pointing out some arguments that are bad and explaining why they are bad. I said there might be better arguments against this as a matter of good policy. Most of your claims are just assertions, and I wouldn't have the slightest idea where to begin looking to evaluate them and not even close to the amount of time to do a decent job doing so.

Amnesty imposes taxation without representation on US taxpayers. We foot the burden of social welfare expenses for people that our laws prohibit from being here.

I'm going to need to see an argument that it's taxation without representation. It doesn't seem like that to me. If you change a law, change a penalty for a law, or retroactively change a penalty for a law, then that counts as a legitimate change. If this is done by elected officials, then those who elected them were indeed represented. If the people who elected them happen to disagree with that policy, then they can vote against them the next time around. I live in a state where I have little chance at the moment of getting Senate representation for most of my views, because the overwhelmingly liberal New York City outvotes the rest of the state, which usually votes Republican except in a couple smaller cities (including mine, but it's in a very red county). In a sense I'm without representation, but it isn't the kind of lack of representation the founders insisted on when they spoke of no taxation without representation. Taxing children who can't vote and and non-citizens who can't vote, however, is taxation without representation, and we seem to have no problem allowing that.

As for family separation? That was the excuse for allowing polygamy to perpetuate itself in the western United States. We didn't want to break up families. Now we must deal with the fallout: child marriage, child rape, abuse, neglect, welfare dependence and so forth.

It seems to me that it would be immoral to break up families that are together if indeed they are fairly healthy and the people involved aren't trying to get out. This is so even if it's a polygamous family. That is not a reason to allow any future polygamous marriages, of course, but we need to distinguish between those two things. I'm not sure you're doing that in the case at hand.
I don't know what child marriage, child rape, abuse, neglect, or welfare dependence have to do with Mormon polygamists, or are you suggesting that someone's being in this country illegally somehow causes them to do all those things?

Yes, I believe that we should round up every illegal immigrant, send them back to Mexico and set up a new system of guest worker visas for carefully vetted workers.

Who is going to do this massive rounding up of people who are indeed criminals but who have broken laws that are not anywhere near some of the crimes law enforcement officials are often busy dealing with? I wouldn't want to pull them off cases involving actual ongoing harm. Our military is pretty busy with a much more serious task at the moment. I don't really think you can do this without spending a lot of money hiring people specifically for this task and training them (and then paying for their ongoing service or firing them when it's done). I'm not ruling out the possibility that it ultimately is the best thing to do. I do think it involves some serious negatives, and those ought to be factored in when adding up the serious negatives of any other proposal.

"I need to see an argument that it's not in the best interest of Americans."

Quotes from the Center for Immigration Studies:
http://www.cis.org/articles/2004/fiscalexec.html
Taxpayer costs:
" * Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household. Among the largest costs are Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches ($1.9 billion); the federal prison and court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion)."

Depression in wages for working class Americans:
"• By increasing the supply of labor between 1980 and 2000, immigration reduced the average annual earnings of native-born men by an estimated $1,700 or roughly 4 percent.
• Among natives without a high school education, who roughly correspond to the poorest tenth of the workforce, the estimated impact was even larger, reducing their wages by 7.4 percent."

Crime:
http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/mac_donald04-13-05.htm
"--A confidential California Department of Justice study reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in southern California is illegal; police officers say the proportion is actually much greater. The bloody gang collaborates with the Mexican Mafia, the dominant force in California prisons, on complex drug-distribution schemes, extortion, and drive-by assassinations. It commits an assault or robbery every day in L.A. County. The gang has grown dramatically over the last two decades by recruiting recently arrived youngsters, most of them illegal, from Central America and Mexico."

Medical care crisis:
http://www.jhu.edu/hurj/issue7/focus-draoua.html
"In other words, hospitals must give unpaid services to their communities, without any guarantee of repayment by a government facility that made it do so. Although a very sensible idea (it is unethical for hospitals to deny care to an uninsured gunshot victim), certain areas of the nation have become overwhelmed by an abuse of this system. As a prime example, between 1993 and present day, over 60 hospitals have closed down in the state of California due to the surge in critical care given to those without insurance, mainly illegal immigrants (WND)."

"I can name one group of Americans whose interest it very plainly does seem to be in. That group is the children of illegal immigrants who are American citizens because they were born in this country. They are indeed Americans as guaranteed by the Constitution. (As for people naming their children, I don't see why it's wrong to name your children whatever you want to name them.)"

The term for those children is "anchor babies". They are born in America to people who 1)have violated our laws by being here illegally 2) are exploiting an aspect of our laws in order to get their baby citizenship and manipulate the public into allowing adult family members of the "citizen" to remain in the country and 3)are literally bankrupting American hospitals with the medical expenses needed to provide for obstetrics and neonatal costs.

I'm usually a softie, but I'm unwilling to allow illegals to hide behind their children in order to get absolution for the crime they have committed in coming to our country illegally.

Giving your child a name associated with the crime you are planning to commit is not the innocuous thing that you make it out to be.

I used Mormon polygamy as an example of a situation in which we backed off and allowed a community to behave illegally, and for which many innocent women and children have paid a terrible price. http://thehopeorg.org/history_LibertyMagazine_not_so_spiritual_mariage.html

"Who is going to do this massive rounding up of people who are indeed criminals but who have broken laws that are not anywhere near some of the crimes law enforcement officials are often busy dealing with?"

Mexicans go back and forth across the border whenever they want. Entire school systems have altered their calendars to accommodate the Christmas migration of Mexicans to celebrate the holidays with their near and dear ones.

Here's how to start encouraging illegals to go home:
1. Go forcefully after employers, imposing fierce economic consequences on those hiring illegals.
2. Go forcefully after banks, apartment buildings or other organizations who aid illegals.
3. Cut off all social benefits. Require evidence of citizenship for all who receive Medicare, school enrollment, food stamps and so forth.
4. Change the law allowing anchor baby birth citizenship.
5. Re-vamp the guest worker system used for so many years to allow a carefully managed number of Mexicans to work in the US.

I can't provide an argument that US taxpayers supporting people who came illegally and then were retroactively given amnesty constitutes taxation without representation. I can tell you that I think it is very underhanded of our government to
refuse to enforce our laws and borders, allow millions of illegal immigrants across the border and then try to convince the American public that the only thing to do is give amnesty and have US taxpayers foot the bill.

By the way, if you're worried about the threat of muslim fundamentalists, why are you not worried about this?
http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=36128

"I haven't studied this issue very carefully and have little interest in doing so. It's not the kind of issue that what I'm good at lends itself well to."

You live apart from the very real problems resulting from illegal immigration: crime, drunk driving, drug smuggling, gang activity, racial tension, poverty, the formation of shantytowns in border states, very serious diseases such as Chagas which are being brought in and contaminating our blood supply, border violence, human smuggling, domestic violence, disintegration of education, overwhelming strain to public health systems in some places, strain on the criminal justice system and on and on.

The effects of illegal immigration are mostly felt by those providing certain services and those living and working at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

However, those who must deal with these problems are your fellow citizens, and as an American it is your duty to find out what is going on.

OK, so you have some negatives for some and perhaps many Americans. It doesn't follow that it's better for Americans as a whole to deport all these people immediately, but it does count as a negative on options that involve keeping something like the status quo. But I think there are serious negatives to pretty much any response. So I don't think these negatives show by themselves that the status quo is worse for Americans in general than one of the other options or that a policy like the Bush plan (but perhaps with some of the worse aspects not directly related to the main element removed) would be worse than the status quo.

As for my time constraints, let me know when you have spent ten years working on a Ph.D. and still not gotten halfway through your dissertation while trying to support a family of five financially entirely by yourself all the while dealing with two autistic children and all the problems they present. If you think someone in that position has a moral obligation to spend ten hours a week doing serious research on every single major problem the world presents after that, then maybe I'll take it more seriously. As it is, there are some issues I have taken on as the ones I focus on. This isn't one of them. Some things I have some understanding of do have a bearing on the issue, and I have said something along those lines. I'm not a sociologist, economist, social worker, psychologist, law enforcement specialist, or anything remotely related. I'm a philosopher, and I can evaluate philosophical arguments that I see and notice fallacies in. It's obvious to me that people on both sides of this issue are relying on fallacious reasoning, and I think I can point that out without having to read the hundreds of pages in this bill or studying all the relevant evidence necessary for me to have an exhaustive understanding of the issues people in Congress really do need to have to make a good decision on this issue.

I never said I was worried about Muslim "fundamentalists" (a word I loathe). I never said I was worried about anything. I generally don't worry about politics. God knows what he's doing, and if we end up with bad policymakers making bad decisions, even disastrous ones, it doesn't worry me most of the time. It's probably a judgment on us, and if it's not then it's meant to strengthen us in some way, at least those who are his followers.

But to whatever extent I think Islamic extremism is bad and ought to paid attention to, I do think people who watch out for that sort of thing should be as interested in the Mexican border for that. I never said or implied otherwise, however. I don't remember ever expressing any view about border control in the entire history of this blog, certainly not in this post. Your comment assumes I have been spending lots of time saying that we should ignore border security.

Cut off all social benefits. Require evidence of citizenship for all who receive Medicare, school enrollment, food stamps and so forth.

Sure, initiate penalties to the legal immigrants just to get the illegal ones. No thanks.

Change the law allowing anchor baby birth citizenship.

That's not a law. It's called the U.S. Constitution. It would require an amendment, which is an extremely difficult process, something that almost never succeeds unless the majority of both major parties is on board with it, and it also isn't likely to succeed unless the bipartisan support for it is geographically distributed and not just in one part of the country, since a certain very high percentage of state legislatures have to go for it. I think the chances of this are about nil.

"It doesn't follow that it's better for Americans as a whole to deport all these people immediately, but it does count as a negative on options that involve keeping something like the status quo."

The status quo is your standard of living. Where are you willing to take a hit? On your ability to access emergency medical care when you need it? On the safety of your environment and your family's exposure to violent crime? On your ability to have affordable medical insurance? On the ability of your neighbors to make a living wage? On the tax burden you will pay to absorb the costs of millions of newly minted citizens, some of which come from rural villages, don't speak even Spanish and have little or no education? Are you prepared to have the highly corrupt Mexican political structure get a foothold here?

"If you think someone in that position has a moral obligation to spend ten hours a week doing serious research on every single major problem the world presents after that, then maybe I'll take it more seriously."

Ten minutes a week, tops.

"Some things I have some understanding of do have a bearing on the issue, and I have said something along those lines. I'm not a sociologist, economist, social worker, psychologist, law enforcement specialist, or anything remotely related. I'm a philosopher, and I can evaluate philosophical arguments that I see and notice fallacies in."

We must all be generalists if we want to have a say in our democracy. There are an estimated 18-20 million illegal aliens in this country. Are we going to give them and all their problems citizenship because there are philosophical fallacies in the arguments against doing so?

It is like falling on a sword because one found philosophical fallacies with the idea of standing up.

The political elite will blow something up to get votes for themselves or start a war to get some extra bucks for their pet corporation, while the rest of us sit around browbeating and sweating out every decision, examining ourselves for selfishness, ethnocentrism, improper logic, lack of patriotism, presence of patriotism, etc, etc.

I said: "Cut off all social benefits. Require evidence of citizenship for all who receive Medicare, school enrollment, food stamps and so forth."

You said: "Sure, initiate penalties to the legal immigrants just to get the illegal ones. No thanks."

I say: if people getting benefits have to show evidence of citizenship, then we are not penalizing the legal citizens.

The status quo is your standard of living. Where are you willing to take a hit?

I didn't say I was willing to do or not to do anything. All I said is that certain arguments aren't very good ones.

We must all be generalists if we want to have a say in our democracy.

Yes, and that's what I'm saying I have to remain: a generalist, i.e. someone who can bring to bear on the subject the things I can come up with from the training I do have, which is philosophical and not sociological, psychological, economic, and so on. If I devote ten minutes to this issue every week and then ten minutes to every other important issue every week, I'll be spending several hours a day on things distracting me from my kids, my wife, my dissertation, and my teaching. I already have enough things to distract me from that with the issues I've taken a much more direct interest in. I don't need to add more.

Are we going to give them and all their problems citizenship because there are philosophical fallacies in the arguments against doing so?

No. Even if this bill had passed, no one would be giving anyone citizenship. It would cost several thousand dollars and a deportation just to get a guest worker visa, and that merely allows someone the possibility of eventually achieving citizenship with a harder path than people who didn't initially break immigration law. That process is still not quick and not guaranteed, and only those on their best behavior should reach citizenship.

What's worse is that I said nothing about going along with the bill. My conclusion is that some of the arguments against it are bad, even if some of them might be good. That doesn't mean we should do it, and I said so several times. I have not endorsed this policy. I have said that there are some things about it that I appreciate and some things I don't and that some arguments against it are pretty poor. I'm making my views on those matters public in the hope that some of these points will get to those whose wider appreciation of all the issues will take these particular points into account when looking at the broader picture. That does not constitute a willingness to accept the guest worker program as written or a willingness to accept it in a modified form. I have endorsed no policy at all on this matter.

As for giving someone's problems citizenship, that kind of deliberate category mistake in order to make something sound worse than it is seems to me to be at best disingenuous rhetoric.

The political elite will blow something up to get votes for themselves or start a war to get some extra bucks for their pet corporation

I almost didn't notice this the first time I read through your comment, but it's hard to resist calling you on it now that I've noticed it. I don't have much tolerance for conspiracy theories in general, but the "9-11 planned by Bush" is one of the most despicable and immoral conspiracy theories out there, on the same level as Holocaust denial. The "we invaded Iraq merely to benefit Halliburton" one isn't far behind.

I say: if people getting benefits have to show evidence of citizenship, then we are not penalizing the legal citizens.

But we are penalizing those with green cards, student visas, work visas, and so on. They have no proof of citizenship, because they have no citizenship. Taking away to their access to these programs thus harms those who are in this country legally, some of whom have been here legally for most of their lives.

"Yes, and that's what I'm saying I have to remain: a generalist, i.e. someone who can bring to bear on the subject the things I can come up with from the training I do have, which is philosophical and not sociological, psychological, economic, and so on."

All right. You are entitled to be apolitical, or to view politics from your framework of philosophy, if that's what you really want to do.

I only pay attention to the politics/philosophy synergism when I want to figure out how Leo Strauss produced the neo-conservative movement or how the Frankfurt School produced political correctness (and probably our immigration crisis).

"As for giving someone's problems citizenship, that kind of deliberate category mistake in order to make something sound worse than it is seems to me to be at best disingenuous rhetoric."

I don't know what a category mistake is.

"I almost didn't notice this the first time I read through your comment, but it's hard to resist calling you on it now that I've noticed it. I don't have much tolerance for conspiracy theories in general, but the "9-11 planned by Bush" is one of the most despicable and immoral conspiracy theories out there"

George Bush couldn't plan a church picnic. I know for sure it wasn't him.

I likewise do not think that Caveman bin Laden planned it. Like many terrorists, he likes taking credit for things he has not done.

Everything else is up in the air.

The political elite DO blow things up to get votes or achieve political goals. I can certainly give you concrete examples if you want.

"on the same level as Holocaust denial."

I leave the Holocaust to the historians. It is an academic issue for people with an intimate interest in WWII history. I don't happen to be one of those people.

"The "we invaded Iraq merely to benefit Halliburton" one isn't far behind."

We invaded Iraq for Israel and the strange aspirations of the neo-cons.

The benefit to the military-industrial complex was a side benefit. Eugene Jarecki's "Why We Fight" is a great documentary about this topic.

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