What Is Our Actual Position on Illegal Immigration?


Not talking about Muslim bans and immigration orders here. Talking about illegal immigration as a general matter.

I don’t know how many people read Josh Barro at Business Insider. But if you don’t read him, please start doing so, because he always has useful things to say.

Yesterday’s column was Democrats are lost on immigration — and they’d better rethink their ideas to beat Trump. Not exactly an enticing headline for progressives, but Barro raises some important points.

Sometimes, you need to hear some things that you would rather not hear.

Quickly moving past the chaos surrounding the executive order on immigration, Barro argues,

Eventually, Trump will get to more comfortable political ground: the question of whether immigration to the US is in the interest of American citizens. He has a theory of why restrictive policies are good for Americans, one that was the centerpiece of his successful presidential campaign.

Democrats are much less clear about what they see as the purpose of immigration and how they believe their policies would serve the interests of existing American citizens. Often, their arguments for immigration focus on the opportunities it affords to potential immigrants — that is, people who cannot vote.

Is our position that borders should be open to any and all immigrants? If so, that’s not a politically winning position, nor is it a practical position.

But if we agree that there are to be some limitations, there must be some rules. And there must be some consequences for those who don’t obey the rules.

But what policies—and whose interests—should immigration law promote? “Trump has been clear: His view is that immigration policy, like all policy, should be made foremost on the basis of the interests of American citizens,” Barro writes. Democrats have good arguments about the inaccuracy of Trump’s claims about immigrants. But what is their own policy, and whose interests does that policy promote, Barro wants to know.

There are broad appeals to the economic and cultural benefits of immigration.

But the economic case is undermined by the arbitrary nature of the way the consensus reform position would admit immigrants: guest-worker programs at both the high and the low ends of the skill spectrum, as well as millions of admissions allocated to existing unauthorized immigrants primarily on the basis of when they arrived in the US rather than their ability to contribute economically.

As for the cultural case, the desirability of “taco trucks on every corner” is a matter of opinion.

Immigration policy really is a matter of globalism versus nationalism.

I think the true reason that immigration advocates fail to make strong national-interest arguments for immigration is that the pro-immigration impulse is not really about the national interest.

Potential immigrants are human beings with moral worth. Especially in the case of refugees, they have been disadvantaged by the place of their birth. The human condition is improved by their admission to the US. This — a global, humanistic concern — is a driving factor behind support for immigration.

Plus, elites in government, media, and business tend to be in positions where they stand to derive disproportionate benefits from immigration to the US and bear relatively few costs related to it. Thus immigration is a relatively easy area to favor policy altruism.

But what if about half the electorate disagrees? What’s in it for them?

Progressives need to rethink their arguments—and, somehow, to synthesize nationalism and globalism. And, they must seriously address the enforcement of immigration laws.

For the last 20 years or more, the federal government has pursued a policy of benign neglect. Trump presents this as a problem of “weak borders,” but the main issue is a failure of interior enforcement — particularly a failure to aggressively enforce laws against working in the US without authorization.

Members of Congress in both parties have bent to the will of employers who do not want to have to prove their employees are authorized to work. …

A lender should not foreclose on every homeowner in default, but you cannot have mortgage lending without the option of foreclosure. Similarly, you do not have an immigration policy if you cannot deport non-citizens for violating immigration law.

This neglect is a major reason for the failure of comprehensive immigration reform.

Immigration reform is supposed to be a trade: amnesty for unauthorized immigrants and high future levels of legal immigration, in exchange for stringent enforcement of immigration laws in the future.

But why would anyone believe that Democrats or pre-Trump Republicans would follow through on a promise to enforce immigration law effectively? Even Trump has not (yet) made workplace enforcement a priority.

The Ayatollah’s Amicus Curiae Brief to the Ninth Circuit


From an official Iranian web site, not from The Onion, not from Aardvark:

We thank Trump for exposing the reality of the U.S.: Ayatollah Khamenei

His Eminence stated: “We actually thank this new president [Trump]! We thank him, because he made it easier for us to reveal the real face of the United States. What we have been saying, for over thirty years, about political, economic, moral, and social corruption within the U.S. ruling establishment, he came out and exposed during the election campaigns and after the elections. Now, with everything he is doing—handcuffing a child as young as 5 at an airport—he is showing the reality of American human rights.”

Signed, Love & Kisses,

The Ayatollah

Where This Is All Headed, or, Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin


Aardvark has looked into his crystal ball and there he sees confusion visited on his enemies. But Aardvark is not gleeful. He is not even happy. Aardvark is sad, very sad.

Let the record reflect that  at midday on January 29 the spirit of the Lord came down upon Aardvark, and, based on the immigration clusterfuck and the other news of the week, Aardvark prophesied thusly:

  1. A president names about 4,000 officials, of whom 1,212 must be confirmed by the Senate. Many remain unfilled, including, for example, the successors to the senior State Department managers who were fired last week.
  2. The Bannon/Trump plan is to hire people with plausible credentials as figureheads, while filling the positions below them with Trumpkins who will do what Steve Bannon tells them to do.
  3. There remain a large number of Trumpkins in the United States, but lots of the folks that Bannon will want to insert into leadership positions will lack plausible qualifications, or will suffer from other disabilities, such as a long history of racist and misogynist tweets. Some of those that need Senate confirmation won’t get confirmed.
  4. The designated figureheads like Tillerson and Mattis will begin to get the message that they are designated figureheads. They will become restless. They will threaten to resign. Some of them probably will resign. (But the new HUD Secretary will welcome his role as designated figurehead and be relieved to be surrounded by Trumpkins.)
  5. About the time that all of this becomes clear, even to those of the meanest intelligence, other results that inevitably follow from governance by magical thinking will become clear. To take only two examples: appellate courts will enjoin Trump from implementing his immigration policies. And the magical health fix will fail be long, long overdue.
  6. Trump will deny that any of this is happening. As his delusions manifest themselves with even greater clarity, the Reince Priebuses and Sean Spicers that surround him will desert the sinking ship. (But Kellyanne Conway will go down with the ship.)
  7. Bannon and Trump will implement what they think is their ace in the hole strategy: call out the mobs. Trump will schedule a series of rallies around the country. But in a city where 30,000 showed up for him during the campaign, 3,000 will appear this time. Mosf of them will be dressed in Nazi regalia and waving Confederate flags.
  8. Trump will look out over the crowd and “see” the 30,000 people who were there last time. When photographs appear the next day, he will declare that the lying New York Times has photoshopped them. He will believe that to be true.
  9. Trump’s delusional utterances will make him a laughingstock in red states as well as blue states.
  10. Trump and Bannon will begin to issue illegal orders directed at the suppression of their enemies.
  11. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will realize that their wet dream of a billionaire tax cut will never take place under Trump—but could well take place under President Pence.
  12. Learned legal memoranda on the 25th Amendment will circulate throughout Washington
  13. The men in the white coats will gather outside the Oval Office.


It’s a Snowy Day in Hell: Jonathan Chait is Wrong, Jennifer Rubin is Right


A Delusional Goofball, Not a Koch Brothers/Paul Ryan Sock Puppet

Aardvark enjoys reading Jonathan Chait, benefits from his insight, and stands in awe of his erudition and progressive fervor. Occasionally, however, Atlas shrugs. Yesterday Chait advised us that The Fight for the Soul of the Reopublican Party Has Been Canceled. After a meandering discussion of Trump’s singular inaugural speech, the role of Andrew Jackson in American history, and other topics, Chait concluded, “Far from being at odds with the agenda of a party allied with entrenched wealth, that populist style [of McCarthy, Wallace, Palin, and Trump] is the best way to lend that agenda mass appeal. We should stop seeing Trumpism as a challenge to the GOP and instead understand it as the party’s natural historical evolution.”

But today Jennifer Rubin—she of the burning passion for Mitt Romney—lets us in on the secret that Trump isn’t opn the same page as Ryan. He’s not even in the same library. Rubin writes,

Ryan may be heartened by hearing, The President wants tax reform. That means nothing. One cannot tell if Congress and Trump are on the same page until Trump knows what he wants, and Ryan will never get a definitive answer until Trump either supports what Congress produces or declares it “stupid” or a “loser.” Trump wants crowds, “wins,” acclaim, respect and adulation; what legislative product he gets matters only insofar as it provides him with emotional sustenance. …

To state the obvious, Ryan’s agenda is not Trump’s agenda. The things that motivate Trump are the wall, massive voter fraud and other shiny objects that his low-information base delights in. Trump devotes time to the things that matter to him, and this week demonstrates amply that trivial, fictional and personal issues matter. If he waves his hand and tells Ryan, Whatever you guys have is good, that’s no sign of agreement, or even interest. Lawmakers should understand that they really have no idea where Trump is on the details that matter.

They will spend months working on issues as Trump heckles from the sidelines, never supporting them when the heat rises. The sooner lawmakers grasp this, the more intelligent choices they can make about prioritizing objectives.

Meanwhile, at the Washington Monthly, Nancy LeTourneau asks, Are Republicans Starting to Recognize Trump’s Mental Instability? Good question.

And Martrin Longman, channeling Aardvark—or, more likely, it’s the other way around—laments,

Whatever this is, it’s not sanity. This isn’t some crazy like a fox cunning aimed at distracting us while Trump steals our lunch. It’s out-and-out racist-drunk-at-the-end-of-the-bar insanity. In fact, Cliff Clavin look reliable in comparison.

The media is treating this with appropriate astonishment. They’re really not sugarcoating it except that they’re not willing, like me, to come out and call this man exactly what he is, which is critically, urgently, unfit for office.

He must go soon.


Aardvark has checked his WordPress stats and welcomes back his Russian readers. Are you suffering buyers’ remorse yet?

Nibbling the Bullet


A few days into the new presidency, more observers are beginning to acknowledge the elephant in the room: Trump’s delusional thinking. The Plum Line, for example, nibbles at the bullet with this headline: Sean Spicer just said Trump believes millions voted illegally. Here’s the problem: No one can tell him otherwise.

Almost there, Plum Line, almost there. Because “the” problem isn’t the advisers, “the” problem is the President’s ingrained delusional thinking.

And so we arrive at this scenario from the Twilight Zone; The Plum Line concludes,

The White House’s actual position is that Trump genuinely believes that millions of people voted illegally, which would have dire implications for our democracy — yet Trump also doesn’t think this is a big enough deal to merit a serious accounting, because it didn’t prevent him from winning.

A final thought: Aardvark much prefers reading stories about what has happened to reading stories about what might happen or could happen or will probably happen, unless something else happens. That said, here’s what I’ll be watching for.

You remember that almost –completed health care bill—just need to run it through spell check—that was going to fix everything? The bill that the HHS candidate doesn’t know anything about? Let’s see what happens when Trump’s magical thinking on health care meets right wing ideology and the two of them meet the five million Trump supporters about to lose their health care coverage.

Maybe this clown car can reach unity on some health care policy that is at least coherent, even if abhorrent. That is a metaphysical possibility. But if you believe it, then Aardvark has a nice bridge in Brooklyn to sell you at a really good price.


Trump calls for ‘major investigation’ into alleged voter fraud, according to his latest tweet. And why would he possibly do such a thing? I think that you, gentle reader, already know the answer: BECAUSE HE BELIEVES IT TO BE TRUE.

“O Tempora, O Mores,” Laments David Brooks


Observing that the women’s marches focused on “reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change,” David Brooks concedes that “these are all important matters, and they tend to be voting issues for many upper-middle-class voters in university towns and coastal cities.” Having made that concession, he goes on to argue,

All the big things that were once taken for granted are now under assault: globalization, capitalism, adherence to the Constitution, the American-led global order. If you’re not engaging these issues first, you’re not going to be in the main arena of national life.

He faults the marchers for indulging in “identify politics”—for wearing pussy hats when they “could have offered a red, white and blue alternative patriotism, a modern, forward-looking patriotism based on pluralism, dynamism, growth, racial and gender equality and global engagement.”

Brooks concludes,

If the anti-Trump forces are to have a chance, they have to offer a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a central mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.

Well, you have to be selective about that “biblical morality”:

And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. [Numbers 31:9]

Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you. [Deuteronomy 20:14]

Instead, I think Brooks had in mind something like Rabbi Jesus’s teaching that where much is given, much is required. Aardvark would go along with that, though he would settle for Confucian morality, or even just plain old morality, to temper global capitalism.

The times are badly out of joint. The zeitgeist is gravely ill. David Brooks has accurately diagnosed the form of cancer from which it suffers. The nature of the problem, I think, is how to return to some sense that the elites of this world have a moral duty to the rest of us, and, concomitantly, how to make them feel shame when they disregard that duty.

The Oval Office Effect, Vindictive Tweets, and No Freakin’ Idea*


Once again this morning, Morning BLO and his merry band plead with the Donald to start acting like a grownup and try to marshal evidence that his long awaited maturity from childhood into adolescence might at least be taking place.

Meanwhile, Tom Friedman reports that he has pretty much given up on any hopes for mature and decent behavior—and marshals overwhelming evidence of “immaturity, a lack of respect for the office he’s about to hold, a person easily distracted by shiny objects, and a lack of basic decency.” He illustrates his point with multiple retweets.

Will Trump take a stroll down the road to Damascus, or will he be be the same person that 48.2 percent of us wisely voted against and 46.1 percent of us unwisely voted to elect? The correct answer comes, of course, from Joe Biden: “We have no freakin’ idea what he’s gonna do.”

*Thanks to Vasari for calling the image to my attention. It’s subject to copyright, but this is fair use.