Country of Origin Matters

by Rich Lowry

Jeremy Carl already noted some of the statistics from Steven Camarota and his colleagues at CIS, but I wanted to post some tables, demonstrating how the national origin of immigrants does matter. This doesn’t mean any given immigrant from a certain place is going to have a hard time here. It doesn’t mean that any of the immigrants who are poor or on means-tested government programs are bad people. What it mostly means is that education matters a lot, and that immigrants who tend to be poorly educated are going to struggle and there are clear patterns based on national origin.

Countries that are close enough to send desperate migrants, including illegal immigrants, look much worse; this is why the numbers for Central America and Mexico are so poor. Countries like Germany, Japan, and Canada sending people who have more wherewithal look much better. It’s worth noting that in these tables Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa are not the worst by any means, probably reflecting how we are able to skim doctors, nurses, and students from these countries and how it takes some resources for them to get over here in the first place. This is why Trump’s statements were overly simplistic — it’s not the s***holes that matter most, it’s who we are getting from the s***holes.

Finally, none of this can determine the value question central to our immigration debate — should immigration to the U.S. fundamentally be about the interests of the immigrants (in which case you don’t care so much about these outcomes, since the immigrants themselves are better off than in their home countries), or should it the interests of the United States (in which case, you are going to want to put more emphasis on skills). I’m in the latter camp.

Here is the poverty rate by country of origin:

Here is language skills:

Here is use of welfare:

It all tracks pretty strongly with levels of education:

‘Yes’ to the FCC’s Proposed Office of Economics

by Veronique de Rugy

Under the leadership of Chairman Pai, the FCC just released a proposed Order to create an Office of Economics and Analytics. The office would provide an important and systematic feedback during the regulation-making process on whether a real problem exists that regulation might solve, as well as about what the costs and benefits of proposed rules and orders. The feedback is clearly lacking today not for lack of economists working at the FCC but because as the chairman noted in a speech in April:

[E]conomists are not systematically incorporated into policy work at the FCC. Instead, their expertise is typically applied in an ad hoc fashion, often late in the process. There is no consistent approach to their use.

In other words, the FCC hires economists but does not always use their specific skills to of systematically informing the regulatory decision making process about what we theoretically and empirically know works or doesn’t work, what the expected costs and unintended consequences of rule may be, and whom the winners and losers should be expected to be. My college Brent Skorup explains:

Several years ago when I was in law school, I was a legal clerk for the FCC Wireless Bureau and for the FCC Office of General Counsel. During that ten-month stint, I was surprised at the number of economists, who were all excellent, at the FCC. I assisted several of them closely (and helped organize what one FCC official dubbed, unofficially, “The Economists’ Cage Match” for outside experts sparring over the competitive effects of the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger). …

And since the economists are sprinkled about the agency, their work is often “siloed” within their respective bureau. Economics as an afterthought in telecom is not good for the development of US tech industries, nor for consumers.

It is the problem considering the regulatory reach that the FCC has and the consequences of over-regulation. Well, now this will change. Skorup rightfully notes:

Bringing economic rigor to the FCC’s notoriously vague “public interest” standard seemed to be occurring (slowly) during the Clinton and Bush administrations. However, during the Obama years, this progress was de-railed, largely by the net neutrality silliness, which not only distracted US regulators from actual problems like rural broadband expansion but also reinvigorated the media-access movement, whose followers believe the FCC should have a major role in shaping US culture, media, and technologies.

Good for the FCC. Hopefully, this will inspire and influence changes in other federal agencies. Unfortunately, there are many instances where bureaucrats ignore economics entirely when making decisions that will affect millions of American individuals and companies. In some cases, like in the case of the FCC, it is because economists are not systematically integrated in the decision making process. In other cases, it is because by law, the decision-makers are required to ignore the economic impact their decisions will have. A great example, and very timely, is the way the antidumping cases are decided.

When an American firm accuses a foreign firm of dumping in the U.S. market, the company files a petition to the International Trade Administration at the Department of Commerce. If the Commerce Department decides that there is merit to the claim (the process itself is biased toward deciding in most cases that it is), an investigation will take place to determine whether the foreign company’s competition is causing “injury” to the domestic industry. The determination is based on:

(1) whether there is a “reasonable indication” that an industry is materially injured or is threatened with material injury, or (2) whether the establishment of an industry is materially retarded, by reason of imports under investigation by the Department of Commerce that are allegedly sold at less than fair value in the United States or subsidized.

Ignoring for now the problems with the arcane and arbitrary way by which Department of Commerce determines that “dumping” has occurred, it is striking that by law the determination about whether or not an injury has taken place can only take under consideration effects that could very well be the result of regular competition between firms. In addition, the ITC Commissioners that vote (decide the case) can’t take under consideration the things that an economist would look at like the impact of the import duties on consumers or firms downstream of the industry. Commissioners can only look at the competition effects on the industry of the petitioner and none of the effects on the economy overall.

Now, this is not to say that in some cases the importer is not largely subsidized by their home country, or that the imports don’t hurt domestic firms. However, if you want to assess the real economic impact of the imports, you need to allow commissioners to look beyond the domestic firms. Imports could hurt domestic companies on some margins and yet be a tremendous net positive for the economy as a whole. Indeed, the reverse is true. As you have heard me complain about many times, a subsidy to a domestic firm can be beneficial for the company and yet be a net negative for the economy.

Failing to take under consideration the overall economic impact of a given import as the law requires, more than anything else, creates a fundamental bias against importers whose activities were targeted by US companies. It also is a system built to give an incredible edge in the fight to the US firm complaining about a given import.

Making a small change to the law in order for the ITC to get a full view of the impacts before they make their decisions would go a long way towards bringing some sanity to this process.


Norway or Haiti?

by Rich Lowry

On CNN, last night, I asked Joan Walsh whether she would rather live in Norway or Haiti? The answer is obvious, but she refused to answer, saying that she had never been to either country and it was none of my business. People have pointed out, including the anchor Erin Burnett in real time, that my question doesn’t get to the real issue, which is whether people from both those countries can make good immigrants, not whether Americans would want to live in either place. Fair enough. But the reason I asked is if you are making a highly reductive argument that acknowledging any distinction between Norway and Haiti in Norway’s favor is tantamount to racism, you can’t even say where you’d prefer to live. And that is exactly why Walsh couldn’t answer.

Trump Is Wrong: U.S. Should Move to Merit-Based Immigration System

by Alexandra DeSanctis

As has already been ably pointed out, in NRO and elsewhere, the comments from President Trump that came to light yesterday evening were obviously abhorrent. The president evidently doesn’t understand the substance of the immigration issue in any demonstrable way, nor does he appear to have much respect for human beings as individuals with unique personal dignity. And it surely isn’t a shock to any of us that he continues to be inarticulate and unpresidential. He deserves the blowback he’s getting, and you won’t hear me defend him on any of this.

We shouldn’t, however, allow his heinous remark to pass for a real, thoughtful articulation of a suitable immigration policy. And we mustn’t let it distract us from having a substantive conversation about our immigration system and the ways in which we might shape immigration policy going forward.

It is wrong, of course, to discriminate between immigration applicants based on immutable characteristics such as race. It is a shame that we even have to state that. But it is not wrong to discriminate based on other criteria such as literacy, education level, and other skills. To claim otherwise is akin to advocating open borders, or at least a first-come, first-served immigration policy.

Consider, too, that some of our existing immigration policies already discriminate between applicants based on their country of origin. Many on the left praise the diversity lottery, which explicitly prioritizes applicants from some countries over others based on how many immigrants from each are already present in the U.S., giving priority to under-represented groups.

Temporary-protected status, meanwhile, grants admission to the U.S. based on where individuals are from, explicitly on the grounds that their home country is, in some way, an undesirable place to live, at least for the time being. Interestingly, Haiti is one such country whose residents were given protected status by the U.S. in recent years.

When immigrant-enforcement advocates suggested last year that conditions in some of these countries have improved enough to require temporarily protected immigrants to return home, the Left screamed foul, insisting that these places are too horrific to even contemplate forcing immigrants to return. Is Haiti a great place to vacation, as progressives have suddenly determined over the last 24 hours? Or is it such an inconceivably terrible place to live that we can’t possibly send anyone back there?

The conditions in Haiti — or any other country — aren’t really the point. Consistent thinking is necessary if we are to reshape our broken immigration system, and it is evidently lacking in this ongoing debate. The simplest and most effective solution to all of this controversy would be to move to an immigration system like Canada’s — a points-based system that prioritizes applicants based on merit alone.

Durbin’s Dim ‘History’ Lesson

by Jonah Goldberg

I think Trump’s sh**hole comment was bad, and I have a G-File coming out shortly explaining why. But I just heard Dick Durbin say, “I cannot believe in this history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.”

I call shenanigans.

Woodrow Wilson lamented that the South lost the Civil War and screened Birth of a Nation in the White House. Teddy Roosevelt was not exactly a master of sensitivity. Harry Truman was legendary for his barnyard language and more than once used offensive language about Jews. LBJ dropped the N-word often and with gusto. He also said, “I never met a man from Indiana who was worth a sh**” — for what that’s worth. Richard Nixon had a lot of choice language for Jews and gays. He also famously observed that “Aristotle was a homo” in a rant about the TV show All in the Family and gays. I can only imagine some of the things Andrew Jackson said in the White House.

Yes, yes, I know: Times have changed, and we’re all so much more enlightened. But you can criticize Trump for what he did and said without making a fool of yourself. Then again, Durbin has a history beclowning himself with bad historical analysis.

Quick Thoughts on the Latest

by Jay Nordlinger

What a president says, matters. His language is important. He’s not just another guy at the bar. His words have repercussions, at home and abroad.

His words affect foreign policy, as realists understand. They affect our relations with other countries and they affect our image in the world at large. This has a lot to do with our leeway, our leverage, our ability to shape events.

When you’re the top dog, as America is, you don’t have to put other countries down. You don’t have to refer to them as sh**holes. They know they’re sh**holes. You can afford a little graciousness, even a touch of nobility. Think of the conservatism of Burke or Buckley. There is a long tradition of this.

Kindness, courtesy, honesty, integrity — these are not the qualities of weaklings. These do not indicate an absence of strength. Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan — to name three presidents — were strong. They were also humane.

Over the generations, many “losers” from sh**hole countries have come to America to start a new life. Those who are sittin’ pretty in the Old Country tend not to come. Why should they? My ancestors weren’t doctors, lawyers, and nuclear engineers. How about yours?

Think of Italy and Ireland. Today, they are fairly happy and prosperous countries. Once upon a time, they were not. You could even have described them as sh**holes. That’s why a lot of people emigrated from those countries, coming to America. They were not necessarily sh**ty people. Far from it.

“But it was different then!” you might say. “It’s different now!” You may be right. But bear in mind that Americans in every generation have said those same words: “It was different then! It’s different now!” Remember how they complained about the Italians and the Irish: wrong religion, too many children, too alien — all of it.

The Left is loath to acknowledge any problems with immigration. They are apt to denounce our concerns and prescriptions as racist, xenophobic, etc. The Right, I’m afraid, is often loath to acknowledge any blessings of immigration. It would behoove us to offer a good word about immigration from time to time. You can be for e-verify — even the Wall — and still appreciate the place of immigration in the American story and the American Dream.

Last year, Anthony Daniels, a.k.a. Theodore Dalrymple, had this to say about Trump: “By his crudity, he will end up strengthening the forces of political correctness.” Will Trump end up hurting the cause of restriction in immigration? I don’t know — but it’s something to think about.

In the ’80s, I heard Alan Simpson say something in a Senate hearing on immigration. It was charming. “No fair quotin’ the Statue of Liberty,” he said. Well, if it’s no fair quotin’ the Statue of Liberty, it’s doubly unfair to quote Reagan at the Statue of Liberty, as he was in 1986, celebrating the Lady’s centennial. He spoke of people “who had a special love for freedom and a special courage that enabled them to leave their own land, leave their friends and their countrymen, and come to this new and strange land to build a New World of peace and freedom and hope.”

Reagan was a conservative too. His strain was not the strain that is dominant or popular today, but it still exists, within the broader orbit of conservatism.

We are in a huge mess, where immigration is concerned. We must curb illegal immigration. We must do something about the ruinous combination of mass immigration and social-welfare programs. We must honor the rule of law (which has been left in tatters). We must be mindful of jobs and wages. We have to work out some sensible policy.

I know that “merit” is all the rage now — merit as in graduate degrees and other credentials. Maybe that ought to be the standard. But I can’t help thinking that, sometimes, your merit is that you cross an ocean, embrace America, and work your tail off.

Above all, we should try to solve this problem amicably, remembering that the issue is tangled and that lives of various kinds are involved.

(End of sermon. Don’t forget to stuff your largest bills in the velvet pouch as it passes.)

Senator Durbin and the Corruption of the English Language

by Charles C. W. Cooke

Some choice nonsense from Senator Durbin:

This is not what “chain migration” means, and Durbin knows it. The term has been used for decades — by both sides — and never, ever to refer to chattel slavery. That the word “chain” can mean both “sequential” and “shackle” is neither here nor there. “Chain” is also used in “chainsaw” and “blockchain” and “supermarket chain” and so forth. The context is key. The context here is clear.

As with “alien” before it, this is nothing more and nothing less than an attempt to corrupt the language so as to make it more difficult to discuss ideas. And even then, it doesn’t make any sense. If “chain migration” is a reference to the slave trade, surely those who oppose it are correct, and those who support it are wrong? What nonsense our politicians talk these days.

Should All Political Meetings Be Taped?

by Charles C. W. Cooke

I have been wondering of late if there is a good case for taping all political meetings. I can’t know for sure what Trump said in yesterday’s confab — although, given that there were Republicans there too, and they haven’t pushed back, it seems highly unlikely that Dick Durbin or the Washington Post are making it up — and, if he said what he seems to have said, I certainly have no intention of defending it (I agree with Ramesh). Either way, I think it would be useful to have a tape that could be released if the details of a given meeting are disputed.

In theory, we draw a clear distinction between public and private political meetings. And for good reason. Trump aside, it’s important for our representatives to be able to bat around ideas, to negotiate, to ask questions, to play hardball, to be blunt, and so forth, and to do so without being heard or taken out of context. Just as in, say, a big company, details tend to be hammered out behind closed doors, and agreements tend to be announced in public. It is tough to deliberate in front of the cameras. 

In practice, though, there is no such thing as a private meeting any more; habitual leaking has taken care of that. The result is the worst of both worlds. Those who are in the meetings cannot take advantage of the promise of off-the-record conversation, given the ever-present threat of publication. And those who are outside are never entirely sure what has happened. It seems almost certain that President Trump said what he is being accused of having said. But if you don’t want to believe it, you have an easy out. A mutually agreed-to recording is impossible to wave away; attenuated sourcing and post hoc guesswork is not, especially when there are different versions and when the source of the quote issues a denial. Is it time to roll the tapes?

College Versus Apprenticeships

by George Leef

Why don’t more young Americans go for apprenticeships as opposed to enrolling in college? That question becomes more and more important as a) huge numbers of college “educated” students struggle to repay their student loans, b) many college grads end up working in entry-level jobs they could have gotten right out of high school (or even while still in high school), and c) employers are struggling to find capable workers for many skilled trades jobs that pay well.

In today’s Martin Center article, Anthony Hennen looks into that question. It isn’t an ideological issue, Hennen writes: “Both the political left and right favor apprenticeships as a way to educate and train America’s youth for future success while also meeting the demands of the economy.”

The main problem seems to be one of perception. Most of us seem to have accepted the notion that it’s far better to have a college degree to your name than not. It’s something of a stigma to admit that you don’t have college credentials. Parents push their children toward college. So do high-school guidance counselors — even students who perform poorly are encouraged to try for college instead of looking for apprenticeships or vocational training.

But for people who don’t care about the stigma, apprenticeships have a lot of offer in comparison with college. Hennen writes, “For many young people, apprenticeships should be especially attractive because they offer an immediate paycheck for work and also teach skills in both hands-on and classroom settings. The average apprenticeship period tends to be about four years, according to Department of Labor statistics, and workers usually become full employees upon program completion.” That looks much better than four or more years to get a BA, then perhaps settling for a mundane job.

To that, I’ll add this point: For a great many young people, education is boring. They don’t like sitting in classes, reading books, or writing papers. They look for courses that are somewhat fun and easy, and are happy when classes are called off. Most people would be happier learning and then doing something useful, a point that Bryan Caplan stresses in his new book The Case Against Education, which I will review for the Martin Center soon.

Apprenticeships are growing, and probably will grow faster as more Americans realize that having a BA is not all it has been cracked up to be. Hennen concludes,

With more apprentices ignoring the possible stigma, that could result in workers finding jobs that match their skills and a reduction in student debt — for students and for the taxpayers who subsidize the loans. However, it’s important to treat apprenticeships as one option of many for education and economic training with its own costs and benefits — much like a college degree.

On I, Tonya

by Kevin D. Williamson

I’m not sure I agree with Kyle’s take on I, Tonya, a film I thought was very good. The point of structuring the film as a comedy is to (in the parlance of undergraduate lit-crit classes) implicate the audience in what happened to Harding, which was the transformation of a vulnerable human being into a figure of fun for the purpose of national mass-media amusement. The filmmakers highlight that point by helpfully having Tonya explain it to the audience—2018 is not a time of subtlety.

As for the racial observation, of course there are comedies, celebrated ones, about hardscrabble black life, with unkind gags often organized around disgust for familiar stereotypes. That’s how “Bye, Felicia” became a national catchphrase for contemptuous dismissal.

It may very well be the case that self-righteous Hollywood types are politically more comfortable satirizing the defects of white underclass culture than they are taking a similarly unsparing eye to the defects of black underclass culture (though I am not entirely sure that is true). I don’t think that actually tells us very much about a film such as I, Tonya or why it is interesting.

On a related subject, I rewatched Idiocracy a few nights ago, and would like to here repeat my apology to Mike Judge for originally having judged that film to be too cynical, too uncharitable, and cruel. Turns out Mike Judge is a prophet. Peace be upon him.

Trump’s Sh**ty Remark

by Ramesh Ponnuru

We have seen this pattern play out before. The president reportedly says something, a lot of people take offense to that something, and two groups of defenders of the president spring into action. The first group denies the president said what he reportedly said, and the second group accepts that he said it and defends him while, perhaps, calling his remarks “inartful” or “imprecise.”

This time the controversy concerns the president’s reported comment that we do not need more immigrants from “sh**hole countries” in Africa (some versions have it as “sh**house”). The initial response from the White House was not to deny the comment but to explain that this is just how American patriots talk. “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” said spokesman Raj Shah. I trust that someone will ask the follow-up question: Which politicians, in the administration’s view, choose to fight for foreign countries rather than the American people? And that the administration will have the guts to answer forthrightly?

Now Trump denies saying it. Maybe he didn’t have the nerve to fight for the American people after all.

Outside the administration, the main defense of the remark the president supposedly didn’t make is that some places really are crummy. But most of the outrage that has greeted the report has been directed, as it should be, against the idea that we should discourage immigration from places that are poor or badly governed. American immigration policy has usually not followed that principle. The skills-based reform of legal immigration that Trump has previously endorsed would not discriminate in this fashion: It would welcome highly skilled people leaving such places.

The reaction to the report reflects familiarity with Trump’s history. This is the same man who said that a judge of Mexican descent could not do his job fairly because of his ancestry; the same man who went out of his way to avoid condemning David Duke for as long as possible; the same man whose businesses have been repeatedly accused, long before he got involved in politics, of discriminating on the basis of race. We have ample reason to doubt that the president judges people based on the content of their character. Ample reason, as well, to judge his remarks based on what we know about the content of his.

An Execrable Presidential Comment

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

An Execrable Presidential Comment

Yes, the world has many unpleasant places.

Yes, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, and many other presidents used crude and salty language in private settings as president.

Yes, one can fairly ask why the United States takes in a particular number of immigrants from a particular country.

But the president’s comment is appalling. For starters, this is the Oval Office and it is a responsibility of the president show some respect for his surroundings. Conservatives objected to Bill Clinton’s infamous behavior in the office, and then blew a gasket when President Obama put his feet on the Resolute desk. Any conservative who raged about all of that but shrugs at this sort of language in one of our national secular sacred spaces is a grade-A hypocrite.

Vulgarity is a choice. No one forced the president to use that particular term, and anyone with even the smallest amount of self-awareness would have recognized that in a meeting with lawmakers, discussing a highly-charged issue, dismissing whole countries and apparently an entire continent with that term was spectacularly unwise and unlikely to win over any skeptics to the president’s position.

Beyond that, it is now abundantly clear that President Trump believes that certain countries have absolutely no value, and that the United States should not welcome or accept anyone from it. A few weeks ago, the White House denied that the president said all Haitans have AIDS and that Nigerians live in huts. That denial is harder to believe now; a president who will use the S-word to refer to Haiti and Africa might very well make those other offensive comments.

The message from the president – and the subsequent refusal to deny, retract, or disavow the comments – is clear: people from these places have no value. A person with even the most cursory knowledge of American history should see parallels to past bigotry, such as the hostility to German-Americans during and after World War One. One wonders if Trump’s grandfather, the Kallstadt, Germany-born Friedrich Drumpf, experienced it before his death in 1918, or if Trump’s father experienced it himself. Irish, Italians, Jews, Catholics – at one point or another, all kinds of groups now largely seen as “white” were seen as outsiders, untrustworthy, “dirty”, “unhealthy,” and incompatible with American values.

It was present in the United States from the very beginning: “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion?” That was written by Benjamin Franklin in 1751.

A lot of us thought we had largely left that behind. The story of the United States of America is a long and difficult journey towards the ever-wider recognition that a person’s value as a human being has nothing to do about where he or she comes from. A person’s value is shaped by his or her character, decisions and willingness to work hard and play by the rules.

If you want to concur with the president that Haiti is execrable, and that no one of value can possibly come from there, then you’re stating that you wish Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah had never been born in this country. Needless to say, she is disgusted by the president’s statement:

“The President’ comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values. This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation. My parents came from one of those countries but proudly took an oath of allegiance to the United States and took on the responsibilities of everything that being a citizen comes with. They never took a thing from our federal government. They worked hard, paid taxes, and rose from nothing to take care of and provide opportunities for their children. They taught their children to do the same. That’s the American Dream,” the statement continued. “The President must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned.”

A person’s value is also shaped by what kind of behavior they exhibit in a position of responsibility. The president made every American parent’s life just a little bit more difficult yesterday: “In an unusual move, the word “s*******” was repeated in print and on air Thursday evening, in capital letters on the CNN and MSNBC headlines that appear on the lower part of the screen. Fox News censored the word with asterisks.”

I’m not happy with the media’s decision to use and print the word, but they wouldn’t be in this situation if the president hadn’t said it in a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office.

Friday links

by debbywitt

Director John Ford’s WWII-era movies made for the pre-CIA OSS How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines and Sex Hygiene.

Why Can’t I Take an Orange Through Customs?

A Victorian dinosaur park.

Sunday, January 14: Happy Feast of the Ass.

People Walked Differently in Medieval Times.

Thomas Edison’s sci-fi novel.

ICYMI, Wednesday’s links are here, and include an $800 belt with airbags to protect your hips, the anniversary of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon River, how illegal shipping containers reshaped the world economy, and (via video x-ray camera) how hamsters fit so much in their cheeks.

Of Trump, Holes, and Our Real Immigration Scandals

by Jeremy Carl

Once again Donald Trump has inartfully stumbled on a truth—and our thoroughly corrupt media, race-baiting Democrats, and too many amnesty-loving GOP politicians couldn’t be angrier.

Of course, it would be best if the president didn’t denigrate other countries, even in a semi-private setting. And of course, his language was crude. And yes, of course, America gets a lot of wonderful immigrants from all around the globe, and we should always point that out.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t profound geography-related differences in how successful our immigrants are. The UN Human Development Index, the most widely accepted metric for how not like a well — you know what — a given country is, ranks Norway (the country Trump mentioned he wanted more immigrants from), as No. 1 in the world. El Salvador ranked 117th. Haiti was 163rd, and every single one of the 25 countries ranked below it (with the exception of the garden spots of Afghanistan and Yemen) was in Africa. All other things being relatively equal, why shouldn’t we want immigrants from countries with healthy functioning societies that are doing well, people who have grown up enmeshed in strong institutions—rather than some of the world’s most impoverished and dysfunctional places?

The Center for Immigration Studies has exhaustively examined welfare use by immigrant area of origin. Central America and Mexico are at 73 percent, the Caribbean at 51 perrcent and Africa at 48 percent. Europe was far lower at 26 percent. East Asia was at 32 percent and South Asia the lowest of all groups at 17 percent. And such disparate outcomes for immigrants by nation-of-origin continue multi-generationally.

Of course, even within continents, America gets immigrants of widely varying skills and suitability. I’ve inveighed at length against our Somali immigration insanity but coming from the same continent, large numbers of Nigerians have thrived, largely due to the fact that unlike the Somalis, many of the Nigerians America has attracted are highly educated. But there’s no requirement for the president to parse these subtleties in every statement of entirely justified frustration at the amnesty-loving swamp.

Keep reading this post . . .

No Deal Yet on DACA

by Robert VerBruggen

That’s the upshot of a chaotic day, per the AP:

A group of bipartisan senators has reached a deal on legislation to protect younger immigrants brought to the country illegally, two GOP senators said Thursday.

One of them, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he shopped the framework to the White House in hopes President Donald Trump would bless the effort. Trump’s sign-off would be crucial to any hopes of pushing a compromise on the divisive issue through Congress — but the White House didn’t appear to be on board.

Reacting to word of progress, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “There has not been a deal reached yet.” She said the White House would keep working with Congress to try to get something done.

And that’s a relief, because the senators’ current plan, at least as it’s being reported tonight, is not very good.

Back in September I explained what conservatives should demand in a deal to preserve DACA, the Obama-era executive order giving work permits to illegal immigrants who arrived as minors. Here’s the thrust of it:

Some immigration hardliners object to giving Dreamers legal status at all, but more common is the concern that doing so could create a magnet for future illegal immigration. Thus legalization must be paired with effective enforcement going forward if it is to command the support it needs for passage.

. . .

Both Trump and House speaker Paul Ryan have said they would like to trade DACA for “border security.” But this is the wrong focus, because approximately two-thirds of illegal immigrants today enter the U.S. legally but overstay their visas. This can be addressed only by enforcement in the country’s interior.

The most urgent priority in this regard is E-Verify, a program that employers may voluntarily use to confirm that their workers are in the country legally. Making the system mandatory should be non-negotiable; it is the best way to turn off the jobs magnet for illegal immigrants regardless of how they got here. Only once this is agreed to should legislators hash out the details of wall funding or other enforcement measures, such as hiring more Border Patrol officers and immigration judges or implementing a system to track those here on temporary visas.

There’s another issue that must be addressed in a DACA deal as well: If these individuals are given full citizenship instead of some other form of legal status, they will be able to sponsor their parents — i.e., the people who broke the law to get them here — for permanent residency. This is obviously not acceptable. Either the Dreamers shouldn’t become full citizens, or their parents should be banned from applying for green cards.

The deal currently in the works evidently does not include E-Verify. And while it stops Dreamers’ parents from becoming citizens (so they won’t be able to sponsor others to come here), it gives them a protected status, directly rewarding them for breaking the law.

Mainly, though, it just swaps a path to citizenship for the Dreamers (including those who were eligible for DACA but didn’t apply) for a few billion in border-security funding. Back to the drawing board, guys.

Providing Paid Leave Benefits, Without Growing Government

by Carrie Lukas

People on the right and the left are concerned that some Americans don’t have paid leave time off from work, which can create a particular hardship for new parents and people with family members facing a serious illness. The Trump campaign highlighted this as an issue that they planned to address during his presidency.

The challenge has always been how to create a program that doesn’t discourage employers from providing their own leave benefits, require new taxes (which would lower people’s take home pay), or reduce job opportunities. These are all problems with the typical approach to the issue, which is to create a new entitlement program or mandate on employers.

Kristin Shapiro has developed an innovative alternative approach: Reform the Social Security program so that people have the option of taking benefits for qualifying time off from work in exchange for delaying their retirement benefits to compensate for the benefits they receive while working.

The benefits of the approach are many: Workers could be eligible to receive benefits earlier in their careers, when they tend to have the greatest financial need. This approach would preserve flexibility (no one would have to use these leave benefits if they didn’t want to). Most importantly, this reform would provide support to people who really need it, but without growing government or changing economic incentives.

Read this briefing paper published by Independent Women’s Forum to learn more about this innovative new idea, which has the potential to be both a policy and political winner.  

Trump, the Rule of Law, and Republicans

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Gabriel Schoenfeld, writing in USA Today, excoriates the president for undermining the rule of law and criticizes his allies and supporters for abetting him.

Where are House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee? Where are they as the rule of law is subverted, as ongoing criminal cases are publicly prejudged by the president, as the attorney general is demeaned by the president for following recusal rules, as the FBI is baselessly attacked, as sterling law-enforcement men such as James Comey and Robert Mueller are smeared while Roy Cohn, one of the worst scoundrels ever to pass the bar, is posthumously rehabilitated by the president? Deafening silence from them all.

But the Republican majority in Congress has done worse than turn a blind eye to gross irregularities. Keeping silent about appalling transgressions at the Justice Department, they are voluble about invented ones. The entirely ginned up set of accusations against Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is one case in point. The criminal referral by Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham against Christopher Steele, the author of the “Trump dossier,” is another on a list too lengthy to include here.

I agree with some of this—the president should not be commenting on pending trials, for example—but not with most of it. I have no idea whether the criminal referral of Steele is for an “invented” transgression, and neither does Schoenfeld. If the senators uncovered evidence that the man lied to the FBI, they were right to make the referral.

Anyway, Schoenfeld continues:

But Republicans have evidently mastered the art of the Faustian deal. If the president gives them what they want, they will support him come what may, ignoring his trespasses on custom, decency and law.

“Donald Trump deserves thunderous acclaim from conservatives for his outstanding record of judicial appointments during his first year as president,” writes Ed Whelan at National Review, without devoting so much as a syllable to the assault on justice being carried out by a president who has dragged his career of grifting into the White House.

Well, since Whelan’s article was expressly about Trump’s judicial appointments, it is not especially surprising that he did not comment on other topics. Should Whelan have included a disclaimer saying that praise for the president’s judicial appointments is not to be construed as agreement with everything he has said about the Russia investigation? Or as support for his frequent dishonesty? At some point we have to count on our readers to be able to make elementary distinctions, even if some of them fail to do so.

Throwing Money at Educational Disparities

by Peter Kirsanow

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report today entitled “Public Education Funding Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation.” The gist of the report is, “spend more money. Lots.”

This novel and groundbreaking recommendation is somewhat undermined by the fact that per-pupil yearly expenditures in constant 2015-2016 dollars have increased from $496 in 1919-1920 to $11, 011 in 2013-2014. Even taking into account increases in enrollment and curricula, it’s difficult to argue that the average contemporary American student’s academic performance is 22 times better than that of his 1919 counterpart. Indeed, in some respects, it’s inarguable student performance has gotten worse. Indeed, just since the United States began administering the National Assessment of Education Progress in 1971, per-pupil spending has more than doubled, but the reading and math scores of 17-year-olds have remained essentially flat. Any NAEP gains made among younger students evaporate by the time they graduate from high school.

According to the Commission’s report, “school districts spend an average of $11,066 on each student each year,” but “the highest poverty districts receive an average of $1,200 less per-pupil than the lowest-poverty districts, and districts serving the largest numbers of students of color receive about $2,000 less per student than districts who serve fewer students of color.” Okay. But if more than doubling per-pupil expenditures since 1970 has made almost no difference in NAEP scores, an extra $1,200 or $2,000 per pupil per year won’t make much of a difference. In fact, some of our panelists stated as much. One witness opined that low-income students needed to receive 150 to 200 percent as much per-pupil spending as more affluent students. It’s simply not financially feasible to double per-pupil spending — and history suggests that doing so would accomplish little.

What my fellow commissioners (with the laudable exception of Commissioner Gail Heriot) and the progressive panelists studiously avoided saying was that lack of school funding isn’t the primary problem facing these students. Not by a long shot. All the talk of the need for additional meal programs and aftercare programs and wraparound services and counseling services and paying teachers more for working in “challenging environments” obscures what almost everyone is too politically correct and polite to say: The bigger problem facing many of these children is that they come from dysfunctional, chaotic homes headed by an unmarried parent. Government is good at throwing money at problems, but it has a dubious track record at improving families.

My full dissent is available here.

The report is available here.

‘Color of Skin, Not Content of Character’

by Roger Clegg & Hans A. von Spakovsky

On Monday, we’ll be honoring Martin Luther King Jr., whose most famous quote is, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death at the hands of an assassin; it is also the 50th anniversary of the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act.

So there’s some irony in a news story from this week: A Fair Housing Act lawsuit has been settled, with each plaintiff getting $8000, where the theory was that the landlord and local government discriminated against people not because they had a particular skin color, but because they had a criminal record. That is, it was illegal to judge people by the content of their character, and it didn’t matter if the color of their skin had nothing to do with it.

That’s because the Fair Housing Act – thanks to a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling a couple of years ago, where Justice Kennedy joined the Court’s four liberals – allows “disparate impact” causes of action. Under this theory, a housing policy that is racially nondiscriminatory in its terms, in its enforcement, and in its intent, can still be held illegal if its leads to statistically different results for different racial and ethnic groups. In the case here, disqualifying people with a criminal record apparently has a disproportionate result in this particular locale on African Americans.

Thanks a lot, Justice Kennedy.

By the way, landlords now face a Catch-22: If they try to keep convicted criminals out of their properties, they will risk a Fair Housing Act lawsuit. If they don’t, and a tenant with a criminal background injures another tenant, then they risk a lawsuit by the latter for the foreseeable harm caused by the former.

All is not completely lost, however. Congress, of course, could amend the statute. Maybe some day a better Supreme Court will undo its damage. And in the meantime, the Trump administration can at least revise the Obama administration’s regulations under the statute so that they are no worse than they have to be under the Supreme Court’s decision. Indeed, to his credit Justice Kennedy did put some constraints on the scope of disparate-impact lawsuits, and those constraints should be reflected in the executive branch’s regulations.

Here’s hoping that each branch does its part to restore a statute that forbids judging people by the color of their skin, but allows them to be treated differently according to the content to their character.

An Intelligence Question

by Ramesh Ponnuru

President Trump managed to get on both sides of legislation on surveillance and civil liberties in one day, without making sense either time.