Nate Smith

Immigration

83 posts in this topic

I am repulsed by the criticism of Americans for not providing others with just what these others want.
I too am repulsed by criticism of Americans for not providing healthcare to their poor ...

By saying "I too" this gives the impression that your words which follow reflect the point that I made. But, as the full context of my actual quote would make clear, my repulsion was not directed towards internal conditions such as health care but rather it was directed towards "Tired Immigrant," yourself, and any other immigrant with the audacity to lay blame at the feet of the American people for not providing whatever is wanted. In the future I would prefer that you not respond to my postings rather than selectively quoting from me in a manner that creates the impression that I said something other than what in fact I did.

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I want to migrate to the US on the somewhat longer term, as soon as I finish my education in 2 years or so. Compared to where I live the social security in the United States is a lot less pronounced, and that is actually one of the things that attracts me to the country.

I am confident that I can get into the country legally if I put my mind to it, so to speak. However, if it was possible to sign something that said you would be allowed to enter the country legally, but waive all rights to governmental subsidy in the future I would sign it in a heartbeat.

As someone who is sick of the welfare state over here, I can sympathise very much with those who don't want to sacrifice even more of their hard-earned wealth to others who have done nothing to deserve it. I think that the alternative mentioned earlier in this thread would be a good temporary solution, though. Would anyone here object to such a program being implemented?

(For the sake of clarity, I am talking about making some sort of contract where you can enter the country legally if you agree to surrender any claim to governmental subsidy later on)

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However, if it was possible to sign something that said you would be allowed to enter the country legally, but waive all rights to governmental subsidy in the future I would sign it in a heartbeat.

If I could sign something that would waive all of my rights to future "social security" payments in exchange for no longer having to pay S.S. taxes, I would sign it even faster. Unfortunately the communists who came up with S.S. in the first place know that when you "let" people opt out of either end of things, it spells the start of the end of their welfare transfer, so you can bet that any voluntary action will be fought tooth and nail by them - even including the kind of waiver you mention, even if it meant that you still paid all of the taxes. The kind of people most for welfare would hate your guts for wanting to sign it because it says one thing to them: I Don't Need You.

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If I could sign something that would waive all of my rights to future "social security" payments in exchange for no longer having to pay S.S. taxes, I would sign it even faster. Unfortunately the communists who came up with S.S. in the first place know that when you "let" people opt out of either end of things, it spells the start of the end of their welfare transfer, so you can bet that any voluntary action will be fought tooth and nail by them - even including the kind of waiver you mention, even if it meant that you still paid all of the taxes. The kind of people most for welfare would hate your guts for wanting to sign it because it says one thing to them: I Don't Need You.
I was not aware that there were that many communists in the U.S. government. I mean, I am sure there are plenty of socialists around, but real communists?

I think you have a point, though, but this suggestion is infinitely easier to implement than throwing social security on the scrapheap altogether, I would say.

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My involvement in this thread originally stemmed from an interest in addressing the question of whether we should first abolish unjust immigration laws or first abolish unjust welfare-state laws. I asked:

[W]hy do we stand to benefit more in the long run from repealing one set of unjust laws over another in this particular instance?
And Stephen responded:
That's a fair question, and I think the answer depends, in part, on how long between respective repeals, and who is the "we" to focus on. I've given some arguments from my personal perspective; convince me I am wrong and I will change my mind. Incidentally, what do you think of the intermediate idea of opening up our borders but requiring all immigrants to be completely self-sufficient? No public education, etc.
Before I answer your question, Stephen, let me explain my perspective on the whole issue.

The question at hand seems to be: Considering we have welfare-state laws and unjust immigration laws, should the government repeal the immigration laws (open the boarders) yet in principle allow immigrants to feed off of the welfare-state system (thereby increasing confiscation of wealth of citizens and legal residents)?

My perspective to this question is: In debating the path the government should take, I ask "Which path holds a greater chance of leading to a more rights-respecting government, since having such a government is of interest to me personally and to my loved ones?" It is of value to me that in my (or my loved-ones') lifetime there be a government heading toward a direction of greater respect for individual rights. This is my standard in judging the alternatives we face today. Is yours different?

Now, I think it is unrealistic to expect the government to allow immigrants to come on the condition that they wave their 'right' to welfare. So, while I support your intermediate plan, Stephen, I don't think it is realizable in today's culture. Given that, if something must be done, the only two options seem to be:

1.) Loosen up immigration laws to allow more immigration (no change in welfare-state situation).

2.) Keep immigration laws as is (in fact, enforce them to a greater degree).

In 2.) the right to not have more property taken from citizens and legal residents is upheld, while the rights of an immigrant and a property owner to exchange (for property, work, etc.) is violated. In 1.), legal residents and citizens are stolen from to a greater degree to the extent which new immigrants feed off the welfare state (which, in principle, immigrants can always do). Both options are losers, but it seems to me that we can judge them based on which, if any, can lead to a government in a position to increase its respect for rights.

As I'm thinking of it, I think neither will provide this "rights-respecting-momentum," i.e. neither will lead to a government in a better position to respect rights, because no one in the mainstream of these positions (i.e. those who will be making the decision) above support their position from the perspective of rights: mainstream people in 1.) are usually left-leaning people who want to feed the world and blame America for not doing so or perhaps worse are infected with "me-too-ism," thinking it's "their turn" to have a civil rights movement ("the blacks had their dream", etc.) ; mainstream people in 2.) are usually just plain bigots and feel like immigrants are a threat to them not because they feed off the welfare state, but because they "dilute our culture."

So where does that leave us, people who desire a government that respects rights? I don't think the answer is obvious. Since there is no way for either of the alternatives to lead to a greater respect for rights, what is my secondary standard of judgment? I would say: which option gives me the better chance of fighting for my way of life. And in this, I must say that Stephen is right: stop forcefully taking my wealth so that I can be more able to fight for freedom. At the same time, I am for open borders in general, and am for your intermediate solution, Stephen, should it ever be realizable. These are my thoughts so far.

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By "immigration", do people in this thread actually mean "illegal immigration"? I don't think legal immigrants don't mooch off of the welfare system and my more than poor Americans do. On the other hand, the illegal immigrants clearly do I think derive benefits from the social welfare in this country, without contributing much themselves.

So, if it's illegal immigrants that we're talking about, what argument could there possibly be about loosening the immigration laws? And besides, regardless of the laws, the immigration policy (e.g. vast stretches of open border with Mexico) are lax beyond measure. The attitude towards illegal immigration in US is relaxed to an enormous degree. What argument could possibly be made for making it even more relaxed? I think the opposite is true, that illegal immigration be curtailed immediately, a wall built against Mexico, and laws enforced much more strictly. Many of the illegal (as opposed to legal) immigrants coming from Mexico don't know the first thing about America, what it stands for, or what it means, and yet they now increasingly possess a stronger voice in the politics of the country. I mean look at Democrats (Hillary, Ted Kennedy) shamelessly pandering at recent immigration rallies.

I say, the immigration policy has the be strengthened tenfold, immigration laws revised and made more objective and fair (no loopholes for cheaters while denying citizenship to decent people), and enforcement of this policy and those laws be strengthened to the utmost degree possible.

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1. Should any government (whether laissez-faire or mixed) have the power to exclude any peaceful, honest, self-supporting individual from entering that government's territory?

(If any government should have that power, from where would it come politically and ethically?)

2. Does every individual -- who is peaceful, honest, and self-supporting -- have a right to enter any laissez-faire or mixed-economy government's territory at any time?

These are good questions. I think that the "at any time" portion is important. Context would matter here I think. For example, is the nation in question at war? Is the immigrant from the part of the world that the nation is at war against? Etc. My guess is that even under laissez faire, the government would want to monitor immigrants that could pose a danger. It may even want to monitor all immigrants for a short period to ensure that they are assimilating. For a philosophical justification for this I would think that one could argue that the government is charged with protecting its citizens and that would include not letting potential dangers into the country in the form of dangerous immigrants.

To give an example using today's context. If our war policy had been rational and we declared war against the hostile Middle Eastern regimes that threaten us, it may have been neccessary to temporarily ban all immigration from the Middle East until the war had been declared over and all military objectives had been acomplished. Also, given the hatred that far too many muslims feel towards the West, it may be neccessary to monitor these immigrants for a period to see that they are not involved with bogus Islamic charities or inciting Jihad in local mosques, etc. If muslim immigrants were found to be engaging in such activities they would be immediately deported. Innocent muslims would be affected but that is unavoidable and justifiable given the context.

These are some preliminary thoughts on the subject. It seems to me that the immigration debate is made all but impossible by the welfare state. Objectivists argue for open immigration but under the right circumstances and for the right reasons. Those circumstances (laissez faire) are not going to appear in our lifetimes so we are left trying to argue for the best possible policies given the current political climate. And the threat posed by weak borders and muslim infiltration doesn't make things easier.

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I think the opposite is true, that illegal immigration be curtailed immediately, a wall built against Mexico, and laws enforced much more strictly. Many of the illegal (as opposed to legal) immigrants coming from Mexico don't know the first thing about America, what it stands for, or what it means, and yet they now increasingly possess a stronger voice in the politics of the country. I mean look at Democrats (Hillary, Ted Kennedy) shamelessly pandering at recent immigration rallies.

I used to disagree adamantly with the wall. I felt that, in the end, the walls built by Rome did not protect her and the same would be the case for America. But now I am not so opposed to the idea. My thinking is that if such a defensive manuever can buy the republic some time to let Ayn Rand's ideas grow than it would by worth it. From what I have read, the cost would be around 6 to 8 billion. Compared to the vast sums we spend for all the redistributive schemes what's another 6 billion? There is a police state element to it that still bothers me; ie the idea of periodic watch towers with machine gun turrets on them (and here I am guessing that is what they will have). But what's a wall without the ability to defend it? I'm still not 100% on the wall, but it doesn't sound crazy to me anymore.

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I used to disagree adamantly with the wall. I felt that, in the end, the walls built by Rome did not protect her and the same would be the case for America. But now I am not so opposed to the idea. My thinking is that if such a defensive manuever can buy the republic some time to let Ayn Rand's ideas grow than it would by worth it. From what I have read, the cost would be around 6 to 8 billion. Compared to the vast sums we spend for all the redistributive schemes what's another 6 billion? There is a police state element to it that still bothers me; ie the idea of periodic watch towers with machine gun turrets on them (and here I am guessing that is what they will have). But what's a wall without the ability to defend it? I'm still not 100% on the wall, but it doesn't sound crazy to me anymore.

I agree, if they decide to build a wall they might as well do it right. Having the equivalent of a fence that any child can get past would be pointless, and a waste of money and effort.

One thing I wonder about, myself, though. How are illegal immigrants deriving benefits from the social security system? Do they not have to register anywhere to get the benefits, and if they do, wouldn't that make it fairly obvious that they are not allowed to be there and should be expelled? Or is it possible to simply send your kids to school without anyone ever checking if you are actually legally in the country?

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One thing I wonder about, myself, though. How are illegal immigrants deriving benefits from the social security system?

Well, for example, they can walk into a public hospital and receive care. They can enroll in public schools merely by providing proof of residence, etc. And if anyone, say a school official, finds out they are illegal, what can he do? As far as I know, by law almost nothing. In fact, universities are forbidden by law, as I understand it, to report illegal immigrants, and if the police catch a criminal and find out he's illegal they cannot report him to the INS but must treat him (prison time, lawyer) as they would anyone else. I haven't verified the police part, only read about it, but despite it being so shocking I think there's a good chance it could be true. The immigration laws are becoming largely incomprehensible, due to being driven not by right but by politics (Democrats and some Republicans advocating and enacting these laws to shore up their base).

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Could this not be a good avenue for change, then? It is a far less drastic action than closing the borders entirely, for example, and it might make a really big difference, because then you could open up your borders without being robbed blind, so to speak.

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The immigration laws are becoming largely incomprehensible, due to being driven not by right but by politics (Democrats and some Republicans advocating and enacting these laws to shore up their base).

Aint that the truth. The Left wants open immigration not for reasons pertaining to individual rights but in order to provide more Democratic voters and to expand the welfare state; they want needy immigrants and I would bet anything that they would oppose immigration of productive immigrants. The Right's anti-immigrant stand is motiviated in large part (though not exclusively) by either racist, ethnic, or protectionist ideas. There is also a concern for national security which is valid but I'm not convinced that is the main motiviation for opposing immigration by conservatives. Some might argue that conservatives oppose immigration b/c they don't want immigrants leaching off the system. I see little evidence of that as conservatives have no problem with native Americans ( :angry2: ) being leeches; witness Massachussettes. The non-objective battle b/w Left and Right has created a contradictory, incomprehensible mess of legislation that is impossible to enforce.

In the current philosophical climate I really don't see how anything productive will be done. There would have to be a sizeable opposition to multi-culturalism, wellfare statism, and protectionism for good policies to be enacted. I see no evidence of this in the current culture. The US is going to suffer through a similar version of what is going on in Europe and for the same reasons.

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Incidentally, what do you think of the intermediate idea of opening up our borders but requiring all immigrants to be completely self-sufficient? No public education, etc.

My perspective to this question is: In debating the path the government should take, I ask "Which path holds a greater chance of leading to a more rights-respecting government, since having such a government is of interest to me personally and to my loved ones?" It is of value to me that in my (or my loved-ones') lifetime there be a government heading toward a direction of greater respect for individual rights. This is my standard in judging the alternatives we face today. Is yours different?

I certainly share your standard as a consideration, but more generally my concern is for the most moral and realistic course of action taken within the confines of the non-objective laws by which we are bound.

At the same time, I am for open borders in general, and am for your intermediate solution, Stephen, should it ever be realizable. These are my thoughts so far.

Thanks for explaining. I doubt there is anyone here (or, at least, very few) who needs to be convinced of the value of open borders in general, or who is not aware historically of the important role played by immigrants in building this country. But extricating ourselves from the oppression of the non-objective laws that now govern our immigration policy should not be done in a vacuum waving the banner of rights, without due consideration for the moral and realistic implications of the manner in which those changes are made. (Not that I mean to imply that HaloNoble6 thinks differently.)

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The attitude towards illegal immigration in US is relaxed to an enormous degree. What argument could possibly be made for making it even more relaxed? I think the opposite is true, that illegal immigration be curtailed immediately, a wall built against Mexico, and laws enforced much more strictly. Many of the illegal (as opposed to legal) immigrants coming from Mexico don't know the first thing about America, what it stands for, or what it means, and yet they now increasingly possess a stronger voice in the politics of the country. I mean look at Democrats (Hillary, Ted Kennedy) shamelessly pandering at recent immigration rallies.

I say, the immigration policy has the be strengthened tenfold, immigration laws revised and made more objective and fair (no loopholes for cheaters while denying citizenship to decent people), and enforcement of this policy and those laws be strengthened to the utmost degree possible.

I am not sure of the position that you hold. Are you objecting to illegal immigrants in the context of today's laws, or do you object to the very idea of completely open immigration in a proper society? (To be clear, by "open immigration" I mean the complete absence of quotas. All people should be free to come and go, except for health or security reasons.)

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My guess is that even under laissez faire, the government would want to monitor immigrants that could pose a danger. It may even want to monitor all immigrants for a short period to ensure that they are assimilating. For a philosophical justification for this I would think that one could argue that the government is charged with protecting its citizens and that would include not letting potential dangers into the country in the form of dangerous immigrants.

Well, yes, if someone crosses the border with bazooka in hand, that would indeed constitute a threat. But from what philosophy does "monitor all immigrants for a short period to ensure that they are assimilating," come? Does the government need to define "assimilation" and make sure that all immigrants adhere to that standard? That sounds more like a totalitarian than a proper society to me. I don't see what sort of "philosophical justification" there can be for such actions.

To give an example using today's context. If our war policy had been rational and we declared war against the hostile Middle Eastern regimes that threaten us ...

I would agree that when we are at war extraordinary measures may be required (though I am not sure I agree with the specifics suggested), but still this example is one of objective threat and not one of just "assimilation."

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I was not aware that there were that many communists in the U.S. government. I mean, I am sure there are plenty of socialists around, but real communists?

I meant FDR and his ilk, who originally installed the social security system. I suspect that they could be called socialists only because they could only get away with so much before Americans rebelled. FDR was buddies with Stalin, so given the chance I doubt his actions would add up to less than outright communism.

That isn't to say that communists-in-spirit aren't in Washington today, who find anything less than 100% taxation to be a gift from the government.

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Well, yes, if someone crosses the border with bazooka in hand, that would indeed constitute a threat. But from what philosophy does "monitor all immigrants for a short period to ensure that they are assimilating," come? Does the government need to define "assimilation" and make sure that all immigrants adhere to that standard? That sounds more like a totalitarian than a proper society to me. I don't see what sort of "philosophical justification" there can be for such actions.

I have a problem with how to classify our enemey in this war. I am at the point where I feel it is possible to argue that any muslim could be conceived as a potential enemy. Islam is a blueprint for conquest and supremecy. If a person seriously believes in Islam I think you could argue that they are the equivalent of a card carrying communist. (Here I will mention the North Carolina case of the muslim who drove a truck into a group of people associated with the student newspaper who printed the cartoons; its being called "sudden jihad syndrome") Therefore they should be monitored during a time of war. My use of the term assimilation was in error; the problem with reading too many conservative blogs. But my point was that I feel that much of what far too many "peaceful" muslims do today is treasonous; namely much of the jihad rousing that goes on in mosques, essentially all political activism of Islamic 5th column groups like CAIR, and much of charity activities (so many of which have connection to Saudi money). These things need to be monitored and transgeressions needed to be treated with immediate deportation or worse.

Again, I agree that my use of the term "assimiliation" was sloppy and could easily be seen as totalitarian. My basic point is that people from an enemey population needs to be monitored during a time of war. I am not wedded to the consideration of all muslims as part of an "enemy population" but after reading a bazillion press releases of world wide muslim savagery, I incline towards that disposition.

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If a person seriously believes in Islam I think you could argue that they are the equivalent of a card carrying communist.

That may be, but the problem is that there are millions of home-grown Muslims who are American citizens. The terrorist-supporting Wahabi branch out of Saudi Arabia has spent millions funding the construction of mosques in America. Still, I doubt that American muslims pose anything approaching the threat level of an Iran. I think the key is to assure the destruction of *theocracies*, organized religious governments with an agenda and billions of dollars to fund mayhem and destruction.

Fundie Christians are not essentially better. If it were not for them, I think it is more likely that the U.S. would have incinerated Iran by now - but deep down, I think they do not want to attack fellow religionists. And what's life anyway? If civilization is extinguished by religious fanatics, God will sort it all out in the afterlife. :angry2:

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Again, I agree that my use of the term "assimiliation" was sloppy and could easily be seen as totalitarian.

Yes, assimilation in the context of immigrants usually refers to being absorbed into the culture, which historically was characteristic of many immigrant families whose children, if not themselves, became "Americanized." While I think this process can, in general, be of value, it is certainly not a requirement for immigration and not deserving of being "monitored."

My basic point is that people from an enemey population needs to be monitored during a time of war.

I think we have to be careful here, and be very clear about what is meant. Do you suggest, or would you support, internment camps as was done to the Japanese during WW II? After all, the Japanese were the "enemey[sic] population." My own view is that such internment was a disgraceful abortion. I think that during wartime potential threats certainly should be "monitored," but I don't think that includes a race or religion per se.

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My own view is that such internment was a disgraceful abortion. I think that during wartime potential threats certainly should be "monitored," but I don't think that includes a race or religion per se.

I agree with you about internment. But the Japanese were interned b/c of their race not b/c of ideology. This is the unique thing about Islam; namely that it is both a religion and a political ideology complete with such concepts as dhimmitude, the Jizya, taquiya (sp?), jihad, etc.. And it seems that even seemingly peacful people can turn violent if they get the "calling". It is essentially a death worshiping cult with a population of 1.3 billion to draw from. This is why I was thinking that w/ regard to immigration, the gov't could have a legitimate responsibility to pay special attention to muslim immigrants. I don't say this happily. I wish for the kind of world where there were no need for policing borders. But sadly that's not the case now and I struggle in my own head with just how much immigrant policing the gov't should do.

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I agree with you about internment. But the Japanese were interned b/c of their race not b/c of ideology. This is the unique thing about Islam; namely that it is both a religion and a political ideology complete with such concepts as dhimmitude, the Jizya, taquiya (sp?), jihad, etc.. And it seems that even seemingly peacful people can turn violent if they get the "calling". It is essentially a death worshiping cult with a population of 1.3 billion to draw from. This is why I was thinking that w/ regard to immigration, the gov't could have a legitimate responsibility to pay special attention to muslim immigrants. I don't say this happily. I wish for the kind of world where there were no need for policing borders. But sadly that's not the case now and I struggle in my own head with just how much immigrant policing the gov't should do.

I think after several iterations you may be zeroing in on a position that is somewhat different from those that were expressed before. When we are at war with Islamic terrorists it is perfectly appropriate "to pay special attention to muslim immigrants."

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I was not aware that there were that many communists in the U.S. government. I mean, I am sure there are plenty of socialists around, but real communists?
I meant FDR and his ilk, who originally installed the social security system. I suspect that they could be called socialists only because they could only get away with so much before Americans rebelled. FDR was buddies with Stalin, so given the chance I doubt his actions would add up to less than outright communism.
Absolutley there were communists and national socialist fascists in the government under FDR. In the 1930s they sympathesized, to the point of emulation, with the fascists in Europe and with communists in the Soviet Union and China. They were all over the State Department, and in the 1940s there were even spies among the scientists at Los Alamos supplying classified information on nuclear weapons to the Soviets.

For the domestic socialist agenda see John T. Flynn's As We Go Marching: A Biting Indictment of the Coming of Domestic Fascism in American, and of course his The Roosevelt Myth.

VP Henry Wallace was one of them. Here is an example from As We Go Marching:

An example of this planning would be that outlined by Mordecai Ezekiel, chief economic advisor of the Agricultural Deptartment, and also one of Vice President Wallace's advisors. Under this plan -- which he called "Jobs for All" -- industry would be organized into categories, that is into trade associations. The planning would actually be done by the employers. In the shoe industry, for instance, the producers and distributors in each locality would determine the number of shoes needed by the people in that community. All the local groups would unite in a regional council which would coordinate these estimates. The regional councils would be brought together in a national council or federation or commission or corporative where employers and employees would be represented. A program of shoe production for the whole period under survey would be outlined together with all the related problems of labor, financing, etc. Sitting over all this would be the government commissar. A program would be agreed upon including the number and kinds of shoes to be produced, each region would receive its allocation or quota which in turn would assign to each community and its producers their quota. Then the whole industry would be directed to produce that many shoes, and the government would underwrite the operation, taking off the hands of the producers the surplus, if any, which they could not sell. Thus "full blast employment", to use a favorite phrase, would be ensured in the shoe and every other industry.

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I wish for the kind of world where there were no need for policing borders. But sadly that's not the case now and I struggle in my own head with just how much immigrant policing the gov't should do.
Whatever is required to protect the country, erring on the side of caution in favor of that. It is frightening that illegal immigrants from Muslim countries are still sneaking into the country with forged documents, thumbing their noses at us.

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Non-citizens demanding to vote.

Apr. 14 – Tapping into momentum from the recent nationwide outpouring of pro-immigrant rallies, a coalition of rights groups in New York City has won the re-introduction of a bill that would give more than a million legal residents the right to vote in city elections.
Currently, several towns and cities in Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois allow undocumented immigrants to vote in school board or municipal elections.

http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.c.../printmode/true

Documented Immigrants Demand Vote in New York City

by Shreema Mehta

As the immigration issue heats up nationwide, noncitizen New Yorkers – where documented immigrants constitute a huge minority – want the right to have a say in local politics.

Apr. 14 – Tapping into momentum from the recent nationwide outpouring of pro-immigrant rallies, a coalition of rights groups in New York City has won the re-introduction of a bill that would give more than a million legal residents the right to vote in city elections.

The measure is the result of a long campaign to gain citywide support for noncitizen voting by the New York Coalition to Expand Voting Rights, which represents around 70 immigrant-rights, labor, religious and other advocacy groups. After two years of community forums, direct mail outreach, and meetings with 40 local lawmakers, last week the Coalition worked with Brooklyn Councilor Charles Barron to re-introduce the Voting Rights Restoration Act in City Council. The bill would enfranchise approximately 1.3 million immigrant residents age eighteen or older who are not yet citizens. Advocates are currently working on gaining co-sponsors and pushing a council hearing on the bill.

Under the measure, immigrants who have resided legally in New York City for at least six months would be eligible to vote in all city elections. While the coalition originally sought to extend voting rights to undocumented immigrants as well, members said they ultimately restricted the bill to legal residents in order to make the measure more politically viable, and out of concern that undocumented immigrants whose names showed up in voter-registration rolls could be discovered and deported by authorities.

Currently, several towns and cities in Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois allow undocumented immigrants to vote in school board or municipal elections.

Foreign-born residents account for 36 percent of New York City's total population, according to the Department of City Planning. In neighborhoods such as Washington Heights in Manhattan and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the figure climbs as high as six in ten.

Diana Salas, chief researcher for the Women of Color Policy Network, a think-tank on race and gender issues based out of New York University, said many immigrants are long-time legal, taxpaying residents who feel they have no say in elections that affect them.

"People who've lived here for quite some time have a stake in what happens locally. These people are very excited about voting," said Salas, who has worked to register voters in communities of color and is herself a non-citizen.

One of these residents is Yolanda Andersson, a coordinator with the Humanist Center of Cultures and a New York resident for seven years.

"I work every day in my community. I know about the law. I pay taxes," Andersson told The NewStandard. "Why do I not have these rights?" She added that her biggest concern was improving public schools, especially in her diverse neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens where classrooms are overcrowded and after-school programs are underfunded.

Legal residents can only apply for naturalization after living in the United States for five years. In 2002, it took an average of eight years for immigrants to naturalize, from the first day of legal residence to the signing of the oath, according to a report released by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that manages naturalization applications.

Salas, who recently started the naturalization process, said she hopes getting the right to vote in city elections herself will make her voter registration efforts easier.

"All I can do is say my peace and keep moving because I can't vote," she said. "Granted, you could go to public hearings, but that's not leveraging power."

Michele Wucker, co-founder of the Immigrant Voting Project, argued that allowing noncitizen voting would benefit all New Yorkers, not just immigrants.

"I lived up in Washington Heights last year, and I learned very quickly you could not rely on the A Train. Further down, in neighborhoods with a lot of gentrification, they were able to improve the train service to eliminate skip stops," she said. "If my neighbors can't vote, it's harder for me to make sure the bus will come in time, that the streets are safe."

But Stephan Thernstrom, Winthrop professor of history at Harvard University and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said such a measure would "pretty much abandon the concept of citizenship today."

He said voting is one of the few distinctions between a citizen and resident. "It seems questionable to me," he said, "throwing the ballot box to people who may not have a commitment, who may be here temporarily and may return, who didn't pass a citizenship test."

Cheryl Wertz, at New Immigration Community Empowerment, which has helped lead the outreach efforts for the New York City voting-rights campaign, said her group's biggest challenge is to combat this view.

"The most negative response we get is, 'you're giving away the essence of noncitizenship.' The fact is that's not true. For those people who do become a citizen, the process takes a minimum of six years and a maximum of 20 years. While people are pursuing this process, their kids are growing in schools where they have no say."

Until recently, the school system in New York City did allow noncitizens to participate in elections. According to the Gotham Gazette, a New York City reference website, noncitizens, including undocumented immigrants, were able to vote in school board elections from 1969 until school boards were disbanded in 2003.

"The community benefit is high enough" for allowing noncitizen voting, Wucker said. "Everyone recognizes the benefit of having parents involved in their [children's] education."

The Chicago Public school system still allows parents to vote in board elections regardless of their citizenship status.

Immigrants' rights advocates have launched movements to enfranchise noncitizens all over the country. In Massachusetts, the city of Cambridge and town of Amherst have both passed laws allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections and are currently awaiting state approval. Six communities in Maryland have extended voting rights for all immigrants regardless of their legal status in local elections for more than a decade.

Kimberly Propeack, a community organizer with Casa de Maryland, said that towns in the Washington area had an unusually high number of diplomats, as well as peace activists who have fled Central American dictatorships, and other highly educated immigrants with a keen interest in voting. Since district lines are drawn around census counts that make no distinctions in citizenship status, Propeack told TNS the measures allow for fairer governmental representation.

"There's a lot of legislators I work with all the time who say, 'I represent undocumented people, too, because my numbers are based on their inclusion," said Propeack, whose organization is based in Takoma Park, one of the six Maryland communities with expanded voting rights.

Ron Hayduk, co-founder of the Immigrant Voting Project and political-science professor at the City University of New York, said the city could adopt the same policies, and that the time to do it is now, while the political mobilization of immigrants is making national news.

"If the immigrants' rights movement is today's civil rights movement," he said, "then noncitizen voting is today's suffrage movement."

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