March 30, 2006 | 10:18 AM ET

Radio host Hugh Hewitt interviewed columnist -- and legal immigrant to the United States -- Mark Steyn, and what Steyn said echoes the experience of my own legal-immigrant relatives:

MS: And if you talk to legal immigrants, they're the ones who are the most resentful of this whole illegal business, because we're the ones, we pay the huge fees to immigration lawyers, we filled in all the paperwork.  I've stood in line at these dreary government offices to get these stupid cards and these stupid government numbers, to go through the whole process officially. And everyone whose done that is resentful to the idea that somehow if you just make it across the border, and you get here, you can stay here, and half the state governments in this country will do what they can to make your situation as painless as possible, and the public schools...I'll give you a small example of schools. If you're a legal immigrant, and you enroll your children in a local grade school, they want to know whether they've had all the shots, you know, for this and that.

HH: Sure. Vaccinations.

MS: If you're a legal immigrant, you have to then, you're faced with then getting the documentation out of whatever country you happen to have come from. And sometimes, that can be difficult, because they give them different things at different times, and the school nurse will give you a lot of harrassment. If you actually just say okay, scrub that, they're not legal immigrants, I want them redesignated as illegal immigrants, then you won't be asked for any paperwork. It's a lot easier. The problem at the moment is that it's a rational decision, coming into this country, to be an illegal immigrant. And that is the problem.

My question is, if the fact that lots of people break a law is a reason to get rid of it, why don't we get rid of the Drug War next?  That would be OK with me.  But it doesn't seem to be the way they think in Washington.

The problem with the current system -- and with the amnesty proposal -- is that it makes people who obey the law feel like suckers.  That's a very destructive thing, socially.  Whatever solution is offered is going to have to do better than that, or it's going to have unpleasant long-term consequences, whatever happens to immigration, legal or otherwise.

March 29, 2006 | 10:46 AM ET

A net cast widely

Michelle Malkin says I'm wrong about immigration and national security.  I haven't read her book on the subject, but I think that any net cast widely will always be full of holes.  Border security can't be strong enough everywhere to stop the really determined.  For keeping out casual illegals that doesn't matter.  For keeping out terrorists it does.

There's been more movement on the subject, with additional protests including student walkouts (with, according to Malkin, the encouragement of school authorities, though that seems to be coming under pressure from elsewhere in the government), and further progress on federal legislation.

Personally, I'm inclined to agree with Jim Bennett, who says that the issue is less about immigration than assimilation.  Perhaps we can find some common ground.

March 27, 2006 | 12:49 PM ET

An immigration brouhaha

It looks like illegal immigration is shaping up to be the issue of the week, in the wake of mass rallies opposing new immigration legislation in Los Angeles, Chicago, and elsewhere.

Mickey Kaus has been paying a lot of attention to this subject and thinks it will be bad for Democrats.  I think it may well be bad for everyone.

As I've noted here before , I'm in favor of pretty easy immigration -- my family includes immigrants from Nigeria.  But they're legal immigrants, who jumped through numerous hoops to get here and who are, if anything, more unhappy with illegal immigration than most native-born Americans.  If we're going to have open immigration, let's change the law, not achieve that end through failure to enforce the laws we have.

Still there are a few parts of the debate worth stressing:

  • It's not really about security:  Even if we tighten up the border with Mexico immensely, it won't stop terrorists from sneaking through if they want to.  And even if we could accomplish that impossible end, they could still come in other ways.  As long as we have easy visas for Saudi citizens, worrying about the Mexican border seems silly.

  • It's only sort of about economics:  President Bush likes to say that immigrants do the jobs Americans won't do.  That's true, of course, but it's really more accurate to say that immigrants do the jobs Americans won't do at the wages businesses want to pay.  In my area, for example, American-born drywallers make 5-7 dollars more an hour than illegal immigrants.  They're willing to do the work, just not for what the contractors want to pay.  But I've talked to many of them and they actually admire the Mexican workers, who work hard and support their families. 

    Where I hear resentment of illegal immigrants, it's not so much based on the idea of them taking American jobs.  At the moment, at least, unemployment is very, very low so people aren't thinking that way as much as they might if there were a recession.  Instead, the resentment is based on the idea that people who come here illegally feel entitled to demand that they be treated like Americans.  It's the devaluing of citizenship, as much as the loss of jobs, that seems to upset most people at the moment.

  • A lot of it is anger at Washington:  "We pay taxes, they say there's a war on terror, and they can't even secure the border."  People don't necessarily expect perfection, but the powers that be don't even seem to be trying.  That anger, I suspect, has a lot to do with the sudden interest of politicians in doing something -- or at least looking as if they're doing something -- about the issue.

  • The debate stinks:  Most opponents of illegal immigration aren't racists.  Most supporters aren't enemies of American civilization.  The immigration problem is hard because it pits two things we care about -- freedom of opportunity and control of our borders -- against one another.  It's also made harder because people fear that immigrants -- without the pressures of earlier eras -- won't try very hard to assimilate.  Those fears may be overblown, but they're real, and the cries of racism, plus the occasional bit of Aztlan-irredentism from the fringes (calling for the reconquest of California, Arizona, etc., by Mexico), make them stronger.

  • It could be poison for both parties:  The people organizing these rallies don't seem to care if they're bad for the Democrats.  Maybe they won't be.  More likely the organizers don't care, because even if they are, the organizers will wind up more powerful within the Party.  There's a similar, if more diffuse, phenomenon in the GOP.  But it's entirely possible that both parties will suffer in different ways if the debate gets overheated.  Political debate in America is poisonous enough; this won't help.  At any rate, stay tuned.  It's likely to be a rocky ride.

March 24, 2006 | 11:00 AM ET

Oh, that liberal media

Are the media biased to the left?

Of course they are, but sometimes you hear people call that notion a "myth."  Now a top ABC News producer is in hot water for e-mailing his colleagues that " Bush makes me sick. . . l'm going to puke."

Roger Simon observes:

Good Morning America producer John Green is "mortified" that he was caught with his pants down in an e-mail he wrote to others at ABC that President Bush made him want "to puke."  Frankly, Green should not be so upset. This is his opinion and he's welcome to it in a free society. The idea that he would be impartial is simply a myth. Last I heard John Green was a human being. Only machines (so far) are impartial. In fact, it's good viewers of ABC are informed of the opinions of those producing the network's shows. It gives those viewers much more ability to evaluate what they are seeing.

Yes, it does -- just as, back during the Presidential campaign in 2004, we learned a lot from Evan Thomas's admission that "The media, I think, wants Kerry to win and I think they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards... I'm talking about the establishment media, not Fox...  They're going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and there's going to be this glow about them, collective glow, the two of them, that's going to be worth maybe 15 points."  (Kerry was such a dreadful candidate that he may actually have needed all 15 of those points to come as close as he did, though Thomas later revised his estimate downward to five percent.)

But what's really revealing isn't what Green said:  It's that he felt safe saying it.  As Mark Steyn observed:

I wouldn't put Bush makes me...you know, a lot of people make me nauseous, but I wouldn't put it on an e-mail, because I wouldn't assume that everyone who saw that e-mail agreed with me.  What it reveals is that what the media think of as their impartiality is in fact rather a bland assumption that they all think the same way.  And that's what's revealing about this, that he knew he could send that e-mail to all his chums at ABC, and that they would all agree that Bush makes them puke.

It's pretty much a media monoculture (Look at the results of this survey of reporters' political donations:  "President George Bush didn't receive a single donation from any outlet or reporter in my search.").  Sometimes Bush-hatred leads them to actually wish for American defeat in Iraq.  Other times it just produces a one-sided fear of manipulation, in which the media is careful to resist spin from the U.S. military, but not so careful to resist the spin of the other sides.  Often it causes them to miss important stories, or to bend over backward to make the Administration look bad.  And over time, it has caused many media outlets to lose the trust of large sectors of their audience.

Honest and open bias would be better than a uniformly left-leaning media pretending to be above politics -- though, of course, honesty, competence, and fairness would be better still -- but the pretense of neutrality has worn a bit thin nowadays.  As audiences continue to shrink, perhaps media folks will rethink the political monoculture, and strive for more diversity. After all, people used to think it was OK to make racist remarks at work, too, until workplaces ceased to be monoracial.  Open up guys, and let in some air.

March 22, 2006 | 12:28 PM ET

Oh, yeah, the war

A few readers want to know what I think about the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion. Well, I pretty much covered that topic elsewhere, so you can follow that link if you're interested.

I do, however, recommend this piece by Christopher Hitchens on how the "international community" should have responded to the run-up to war.  Excerpt:

Let us start with President Bush's speech to the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002, which I recommend that you read.  Contrary to innumerable sneers, he did not speak only about WMD and terrorism, important though those considerations were. He presented an argument for regime change and democracy in Iraq and said, in effect, that the international community had tolerated Saddam's deadly system for far too long. Who could disagree with that? Here's what should have happened. The other member states of the United Nations should have said: Mr. President, in principle you are correct. The list of flouted U.N. resolutions is disgracefully long. Law has been broken, genocide has been committed, other member-states have been invaded, and our own weapons inspectors insulted and coerced and cheated. Let us all collectively decide how to move long-suffering Iraq into the post-Saddam era. We shall need to consider how much to set aside to rebuild the Iraqi economy, how to sponsor free elections, how to recuperate the devastated areas of the marshes and Kurdistan, how to try the war criminals, and how many multinational forces to ready for this task. In the meantime—this is of special importance—all governments will make it unmistakably plain to Saddam Hussein that he can count on nobody to save him. All Iraqi diplomats outside the country, and all officers and officials within it, will receive the single message that it is time for them to switch sides or face the consequences. Then, when we are ready, we shall issue a unanimous ultimatum backed by the threat of overwhelming force. We call on all democratic forces in all countries to prepare to lend a hand to the Iraqi people and assist them in recovering from more than three decades of fascism and war.

Not a huge amount to ask, when you think about it. But what did the president get instead? The threat of unilateral veto from Paris, Moscow, and Beijing. Private assurances to Saddam Hussein from members of the U.N. Security Council. Pharisaic fatuities from the United Nations' secretary-general, who had never had a single problem wheeling and dealing with Baghdad. The refusal to reappoint Rolf Ekeus—the only serious man in the U.N. inspectorate—to the job of invigilation. A tirade of opprobrium, accusing Bush of everything from an oil grab to a vendetta on behalf of his father to a secret subordination to a Jewish cabal. Platforms set up in major cities so that crowds could be harangued by hardened supporters of Milosevic and Saddam, some of them paid out of the oil-for-food bordello.

Well, if everyone else is allowed to rewind the tape and replay it, so can I. We could have been living in a different world, and so could the people of Iraq, and I shall go on keeping score about this until the last phony pacifist has been strangled with the entrails of the last suicide-murderer.

Indeed.  And speaking of the failures of the "international community," you might want to read this.

The alternative to "unilateralism" on the part of the United States is responsible governance on the part of the often-invoked but seldom-responsible "international community."  We don't have even a hint of that now.

March 21, 2006 | 2:19 PM ET

Jobs and riots

Students are rioting in France, opposing a government program that is designed to help them get jobs.

No, really.

The Brussels Journal reports:

French university students have been rioting for over more than a week against a new labour bill recently passed by a large majority in parliament: the First Employment Contract (CPE, Contract Premier Embauche).  In a country where the street is more powerful than parliament it is highly unlikely that the CPE will ever be enforced. Moreover, it looks like the CPE is going to be Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's Waterloo.

Villepin proposed the CPE to provide jobs for young workers, a group with staggering unemployment rates.  Job creation in France is severely hampered by "social" legislation which makes it virtually impossible for employers to lay off employees unless the latter are paid high damages.  The CPE enables French employers to lower the cost of job creation by allowing them to hire workers under the age of 26 for a conditional two-year period during which they can be fired without compensation.  Parliament had good arguments for approving the CPE.  Last August a similar bill was introduced to allow small companies, with fewer than 20 employees, to fire new employees during a trial period without the normal prohibitive procedures that make it impossible for companies to hire and fire in response to market demands.  In barely five months these small companies created 335,000 new jobs.  According to the Parisian research institute Ifop one third of these new jobs were the direct result of the new bill.

Unemployment in France is about 10%, but unemployment among 18 to 25 year olds hovers around 25% and is as high as 40% for the unskilled youths in the predominantly immigrant neighbourhoods – the banlieus – surrounding the large cities.  Last November's violent rioting of immigrant youths in the suburbs prompted Villepin to introduce the CPE. Though these riots were ethnic rather than social, social dissatisfaction certainly exacerbated the situation.

It's not that shocking, really -- if every job is a job-for-life, employers will hire as few people as possible, and they'll be especially reluctant to hire people without track records.  Meanwhile, here in the United States, where employment laws are far more liberal, employment is booming:

U.S. college graduates are facing the best job market since 2001, with business, computer, engineering, education and health care grads in highest demand, a report by an employment consulting firm showed on Monday.

"We are approaching full employment and some employers are already dreaming up perks to attract the best talent," said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In its annual outlook of entry-level jobs, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said strong job growth and falling unemployment makes this spring the hottest job market for America's 1.4 million college graduates since the dot-com collapse in 2001.

Even the French government takes the lesson, but French students apparently don't get it.  What are they teaching them in schools there?

March 16, 2006 | 11:47 PM ET

The ports deal fallout

You can't read him because it's "Times Select," but Tom Friedman was unhappy with the fallout from the Dubai Ports deal. You can read Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post, and she's unhappy too.

But I think that Andrew Apostolou says it best:

The ports controversy has involved a display of not terribly soft bigotry by supposedly moderate American politicians, the sort of posturing pols who often tell us that the Bush Administration has needlessly offended foreigners and burned bridges with the rest of the world. The United States, the world's largest recipient of foreign direct investment and the world's largest foreign direct investor, has a self-evident interest in not sending out the message that globalization is a one-way street--or at least self-evident if you are neither Lou Dobbs nor a cut-price demagogue.

They say that countries get the leadership they deserve. Let's hope that's wrong.

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