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Washington Supreme Court Decides Against Religious Freedom

People across the political spectrum concerned about religious liberty should give a read to an article by Matt Hadro of Catholic News Agency.  The Supreme Court of Washington state has upheld a ruling that a Christian florist is not free to choose her jobs:

“It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will. Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees,” Kristin Waggoner, senior counsel with the group Alliance Defending Freedom who argued the case before the Washington Supreme Court, stated Feb. 16.

“This case is about crushing dissent. In a free America, people with differing beliefs must have room to coexist,” she added.

Consider the dangerous reasoning of the court:

The law “does not compel speech or association,” the court added, stating that it “is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.”

What couldn’t fall under this construct?  Particularly problematic is that it’s built on a patently false premise:  The law does “compel speech or association,” whether or not it is “neutral” or “generally applicable” or “serves [a] compelling interest.”  As a legal matter, the question would be whether the law can compel such speech or association, which it clearly cannot — hence the dissembling.

As for the neutrality and general applicability, that’s of no comfort at all.  A legislature (or executive or court, in our corrupted version of representative democracy) need only declare a particular group (and its behavior) as exempt from moral criticism and then forbid everybody from discriminating against it.

Furthermore, if the state government has this “compelling interest in eradicating discrimination,” why is it limited to public accommodations?  And why does it protect some types of human activity and identity and not others?

People who agree with the Washington Supreme Court simply don’t believe in religious liberty for people of whom they do not approve.  Whether they realize it or not, they’re implicit tyrants and very possibly bigots, too.

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A Well-Planned “Shock” To The System Is, Indeed, Warranted

According to the Rhode Island Family Prosperity Index, “startups aren’t the only thing when it comes to job growth. They’re the only thing.” The only way to incentivize enough start-up activity to make a difference in our state is to create a business climate that is attractive enough to make thousands of entrepreneurs want to invest here. Crony deals for a few dozen companies will not get it done.

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Keeping Information from the Deplorables Constructs a False Reality

CBC Radio Canada News takes up a second-order aspect to a news story about a man who is alleged to have inappropriately touched several teenage girls at a water park in Canada:

When Edmonton police announced the charges on Wednesday, they urged any other complainants or witnesses to contact them. One more complainant and one more witness have since come forward, police spokesperson Scott Pattison said Thursday.

The man charged in the case was a Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada in January 2016, a fact that was reported Wednesday by numerous news outlets, including CBC News.

The story was quickly picked up by alt-right websites and anti-immigration groups. It was shared widely on social media.

As CBC tweeted, “When a refugee faces criminal charges, should the public be told?” How can there be any other answer than “yes”?  As reaction to the story has proven, the detail is absolutely relevant to public discourse.  Sure, the new bogeymen on the “alt-right” will attempt to amplify any such stories to advance their own point of view.  But then, failing to report the detail is to aid and abet the “ctrl-left,” by maintaining talking points about how there’s no evidence of any problems with refugees.

The area across Northern America and Europe is sufficiently large that a unified decision among our media betters to withhold information they don’t find relevant in isolated cases could brush away hundreds of stories and present a false impression of reality to news consumers.  It would be Rotherham on a Western Civilizational scale.

A news media that doesn’t trust us to be sufficiently intelligent to absorb and process this information is just feeding us ideological propaganda because they think they’re better than us.  It’s that clear.

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Voters Must Be the Adults in the Process or Idiocy Will Reign

In keeping with my post, yesterday, about the government’s impositions on people who dare to work with others’ hair without a license, Jeff Jacoby highlights, in his Boston Globe column, an exchange between Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders and hair salon owner LaRonda Hunter during the senator’s debate last week with his Republican peer Senator Ted Cruz.

Ms. Hunter wanted to know how she’s supposed to grow her business when the government imposes thresholds for benefits, like health care, that don’t work within her profit margin.  Jacoby:

The exchange could not have been more enlightening. For entrepreneurs like Hunter, a mandate to supply health insurance triggers inescapable, and unignorable, consequences. For Sanders and other defenders of Obamacare, those consequences are irrelevant. They believe in the employer mandate — a belief impervious to facts on the ground.

Lawmakers so often enact far-reaching rules with worthy intentions, but little awareness of how much harm government burdens can cause.

Jacoby goes on to note this classic anecdote about liberal Democrat Senator George McGovern:

After a long career in Congress, former senator George McGovern tried his hand at running a business — a small hotel in Connecticut. “In retrospect,” McGovern wrote after the inn went bankrupt, “I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business. . . . I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day.”

Think of all the idiotic (yes, idiotic) legislation being submitted by the likes of the General Assembly’s quintessentially inexperienced Ivy League legislator Aaron Regunberg.  Voters must become the adults in the process, because too many of the politicians and their special-interest-or-ideologue supporters are not capable of playing the role.

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What You Are and Aren’t Allowed to Try to Change on the Left

Although some of us on the right find their viewpoints intellectually incoherent, progressives do have consistent guildelines that can help one to predict what their opinions will be on particular issues.  On matters of biology and sexuality, the guideline appears to be that any movement away from the attitudes and lifestyles that facilitated human society’s advancement through to the 1960s is good.  Consider legislation that Steve Ahlquist promotes on RI Future:

House Bill 5277, which if passed would prohibit “conversion therapy” by licensed health care professionals with respect to children under 18 years of age was popularly supported at the House Health Education and Welfare Committee meeting Wednesday evening. Conversion therapy as defined in the bill includes any practice that “seeks or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, practices which attempt or purport to change behavioral expression of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or attempt or purport to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

So, to review:  Progressive legislators have submitted an extremely broad and radical bill that would prevent just about any government interference when women want to kill their babies in the womb.  The Department of Education has issued regulations authorizing schools to guide students along the path of changing their genders, even if it means deceiving their parents.

And yet, progressives want to forbid people who wish to reduce or eliminate their same-sex attractions from working with professionals who might be able to help them do that.  This is pure ideology, like a fundamentalist dogma with no tolerance for individual choices that stray from the accepted beliefs.

Not to play Internet psychotherapist, but one gets the impression that people who’ve made radical lifestyle choices want to use the law to prevent others from choosing differently if their doing so might imply that the radical choice is wrong.  As for the progressive movement, as a movement, undermining the social structures and freedoms that empower individuals in the context of their families leaves a hurting population ripe for progressive rule.

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The State Police Catch the Diversity Virus

It would seem that progressive identity politics are now working their way up the scale of priorities of the state police:

In one of her first moves as the state’s top cop, Rhode Island State Police Col. Ann Assumpico has commissioned a study of recruitment practices aimed at retaining a “racially and gender-diverse department,” the state police announced Friday.

The project is expected to cost $225,000 and will be paid for from the state police’s remaining portion of funds secured in the federal settlement with Google.

Hopefully law enforcement remains the agency’s top priority, but two years of the Gina Raimondo in the governor’s chair haven’t been good for the institution’s once-impeccable reputation.  A diversity obsession can do a lot of damage.

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The Poster Hairdresser for How Government Interferes with Civil Society

Rhode Islanders may have noticed that Providence Democrat Representative Anastasia Williams has submitted legislation to allow people to braid hair for pay without requiring a license.  This is actually a subject that the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has raised in the past (although I can’t find a link, just now) and is consistent with both our long-running insistence that the state government is strangling our economy with regulations and our more-recent emphasis on shifting policy in favor of helping Rhode Island families and facilitating non-government civil society.

Via Instapundit, however, comes an entry by Eric Boehm of Reason, who may very well have spotted the poster child for the government’s overreach in directing our lives and preventing us from serving one another as human beings:

The Arizona State Board of Cosmetology is investigating Juan Carlos Montesdeoca after receiving complaints that he was cutting hair without a license, Tucson News Now reported Monday. According to the complaint, which Montesdeoca shared with the TV station, the board received an anonymous complaint alleging that Montesdeoca was “requesting local businesses and local stylists to help out with free haircuts (unlicensed individuals) to the homeless.”

This morning, the Tiverton Budget Committee (of which I’m a member) toured the town’s Senior Center, and the new director related some of the anecdotes that she’s heard about the 100-year-old building.  Back when it was a school, apparently doctors would open weekend clinics for various procedures, including the removal of tonsils.

Now, given advancements in knowledge, we can surely agree on a role for government in requiring sanitary conditions and licensed professionals to perform such surgeries.  At the same time, we should be able to agree that rules against hair braiding and charity trims don’t really protect anybody but established practitioners who are able to charge more money the less competition they have.

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Anybody Buying the UHIP Spin?

Come on, now. This is like lie-detector 101:

“There was pressure [to launch UHIP despite its not being ready], no doubt about it,” Raimondo told reporters. “High ranking members of the General Assembly said, ‘Deliver this now.'” …

[Department of Human Services Director Eric] Beane, called to testify about his month-long probe of UHIP, tempered his answer, saying employees he spoke with at DHS and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services talked about pressure from former House Finance Committee Chairman Raymond Gallison and former Rep. Eileen Naughton, who chaired the finance subcommittee on health and human services.

So, the governor tried to deflect some blame, and the administration realized it was starting a political fight, so a flunky ostensibly testifying with a neutral assessment of what went wrong implied (indirectly, notice) that the blame should fall on two legislators whom a governor would hardly take seriously as directing the administration’s actions and who, conveniently, are no longer in office (one because he was jammed up with criminal investigations).

This is cover-up land. The governor can’t be trusted.  As I suggested in my “Last Impressions” podcast this week, it appears that Raimondo has invested in the tagline that she’s the “governor who gets things done,” and sliding down the UHIP wormhole had to be a major concern.

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A New Winner for Most Pro-Government-Spin Headline in the Providence Journal?

I’ve been meaning to nominate the headline that the Providence Journal used in its print edition for this article (from the Associated Press):

‘Obamacare’ sees high enrollment

To be fair, the Projo headline writer was taking his or her cue from and amplifying the spin of AP writers, Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar and Kevin S. Vineys who try to slip in the real story in the third paragraph:

Although initial enrollment is about 4 percent lower than last year, the sizable number of sign-ups illustrates the risk Republicans face as they begin moving to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and put in its place a yet-to-be-defined conservative approach.

You can’t get from a 4% drop in enrollment to a headline proclaiming “high enrollment” without being something more like propagandists than journalists.  If I were an objective journalist working for one of these organizations, I’d be furious with my coworkers for undermining our publication’s credibility.

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Educational Efficiency Requires Lower Spending

Here’s an interesting study.  It’s from GEMS Educational Solutions, and I found it via a positive mention in a Guardian article, so we’re probably not talking a right-wing group, here.

The study compares certain educational statistics across countries, and one of its principles is that “inefficiency can be a result of either underpaying or overpaying teachers.”  By that measure, the United States would become more efficient (better managing results versus tax rates) by lowering salaries by five percent and increasing class sizes by 10%.

Rhode Island’s teacher salaries are top 10 for the country, so 5% would be too low for our state.  Also, the 15.3 student:teacher ratio listed on GEMS’s application compares with a Rhode Island average of 8.

To be clear, these are back-of-the-envelope comparisons.  A more-thorough review might require adjustments of the numbers (different years, different teacher roles included in the student ratios, etc.).  I come across people, though, especially locally, who find inconceivable the idea that less spending on anything government does might be bad.

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News Flash: The Law Even Applies to People Progressives Like

Over on RI Future, Steve Ahlquist complains that, under President Donald Trump, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is now detaining people for “even minor crimes.”  Here’s Ahlquist’s example:

According to sources familiar with the incident, José Eduardo Cames (the third part of his name may be misspelled) lied to immigration officials at the border when he and his wife entered the country. They carried a baby with them that was not theirs, loaned to them from another family, to make a better case for themselves to stay in the United States.

An investigation revealed the lie, but under Obama, that did not make the couple a high priority for deportation and as long as they made periodic visits to an ICE office in Warwick, they were allowed to stay in the country. At their most recent visit to the Warwick ICE offices on Friday, ICE did not let them leave and detained them, said a source familiar with the case.

In other words, the “minor crime” that the couple broke was entering the country illegally, with the added dynamic of fraud, and the agency that the federal government has created at great expense to enforce that particular area of the law is holding them, perhaps to deport them.  (Never mind that they “borrowed” a baby, as one borrows a car, perhaps with the intention that the child’s actual parents would then have an excuse to enter the country, which is arguably a form of exploitation and human trafficking.)

As I’ve written before, there are legitimately difficult cases in the immigration debate, but one gets the impression that progressives don’t actually believe that any of the cases are difficult.  Their view appears to be that we should let everybody in at the border and then let them stay (seeding the government plantation and giving progressives political leverage).

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Attorney General Kilmartin’s View of Legal Process

An article by Tim White on WPRI raises an interesting question.  State Trooper James Donnelly-Taylor pleaded no contest to charges of assaulting a Central Falls man who had been arrested, and now he faces a civil lawsuit in the matter:

… the attorney general’s office has refused to represent Donnelly-Taylor in the civil suit. But they are representing the other defendants, including the state of Rhode Island, former State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell, Gov. Gina Raimondo, another trooper who took part in the traffic stop, and other officials. …

A spokesperson for Attorney General Kilmartin said his office believes this is the first time the office has not represented a state trooper in a legal action.

“As attorney general, I will never accept that criminal conduct falls within the job description of any Rhode Island state employee,” Kilmartin said in a statement. “Committing the crime of assault upon a prisoner – or anyone – is outside of the course and scope of the duties of a state trooper, and the taxpayers should not have to defend or pay for the criminal actions of Donnelly-Taylor.”

As White goes on to explain, Rhode Island law allows the attorney general to do as Kilmartin has done if “the act or the failure to act was because of actual fraud, willful misconduct, or actual malice.”  The question is at what point an AG gets to make the decision that these characterizations apply.

If Donnelly-Taylor had been found innocent in the criminal case, or if it hadn’t been completed, one could argue that Kilmartin’s decision would be wrong, for the same reason that journalists tack “alleged” onto their stories even when the crime seems obvious: People charged with crimes get their day in court.

Another aspect to consider is that U.S. District Court Judge John McConnell has prohibited the release of a video of the incident so as to prevent its spread from tainting the pool of people who may be assigned to the jury.  If that’s a concern, isn’t the attorney general doing something similar by calling it “criminal conduct”?

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Mike Stenhouse on GoLocal LIVE – Gov’s Manufacturing Council

Thanks to Kate Nagle and GoLocalProv for inviting the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s Mike Stenhouse on their new GoLocal LIVE program yesterday. They discussed, in part, Governor Raimondo’s recently announced manufacturing advisory council, which is comprised of lots of people but not a whole lot of economic diversity.

Meanwhile, congratulations and best wishes to Kate Nagle, Molly O’Brien and GoLocalProv on the launch of their cutting edge new program!

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The Creeping Grim Reaper of Euthanasia

Just in case you’re thinking the grim reaper of euthanasia won’t be a creeping killer, here’s a Catholic News Agency article to consider:

An Oregon bill on advanced medical directive rules could allow patients who suffer from dementia or mental illness to be starved or dehydrated, opponents warned.

These are patients who are awake, can chew and swallow and want to eat, even though in some cases they may need help in delivering food to their mouths,” Gayle Atteberry of Oregon Right to Life said Jan. 31. “Current safeguards in Oregon’s law protect these patients from this type of cruelty. This bill take away these safeguards.”

Whether proponents see euthanasia as compassion or as a scheme to slough off some excess population, it has no boundaries once one cedes the argument over the sacred value of human life.

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Isn’t That Just Liberal Jurisprudence?

Not to seem too caustic and cynical (who me?), but I’m not sure what specific controversy Kate Bramson intends to highlight in this article, deriving from the broader controversy of one Rhode Island judge’s turn on the other side of the bench:

It was a Superior Court judge who brought to the attention of the District Court chief a transcript that appeared to show that District Court Judge Rafael A. Ovalles didn’t understand the legal concept of beyond a reasonable doubt.

I mean this sincerely:  In all of my dealings with and readings of people who take a liberal view of the act of judging according to the law, right up to the Supreme Court, I’ve found that text and precedence mean much less than the perceived good of what the judge wants to achieve.  After all, we can almost always count on the block of four liberal Supreme Court Justices to fall on the side that benefits the Left in any case.

So what is Ovalles’s particular legal sin, here?  Is it just that he took the next obvious step and — rather than go through the work of correctly explaining a term only to bend its meaning or ignore its implications — simply defined a term as he needed it to be defined?  That seems to me a minor difference, having more to do with showmanship than the application of the law.

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The Rigged System of Unions and Town Government

The cliché about the news media is that readers will always find reports in their own areas of expertise erroneous, and something similar applies to news reports from one’s own town:  What’s happening locally seems to prove the point of the whole broad world.

Even adjusting for that tendency, though, I have to say that Tiverton controversies are starting to feel as if we’ve come just an inch away from making it legal for town employees to walk into our homes and take our money. As I write on Tiverton Fact Check:

Such proclamations become more difficult to believe each time it appears that town employees are learning the lesson from former colleagues’ reaping the rewards of (alleged) bad behavior. We had Town Foreman Bob Martin and his pal, former Town Administrator Jim Goncalo. Last year, it was an entire shift of police officers led by overtime king Lieutenant Timothy Panell. And now it’s the fire department’s turn, with firefighter Patrick White:

The case of a firefighter who was terminated in early 2015 for allegedly abusing sick leave has been settled, with the town agreeing to pay $175,000.

That’s right. We paid him (and his union lawyer, naturally). The “neutral” arbitrator in the complaint sided with the union member.

One of the problems with settling is that neither side can claim vindication.  The institutional bias toward that sort of ambiguity, like union contracts and arbitration practices, is part of the problem.  Rhode Island has created a fundamentally dishonest system of government.

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Selling Cars with Classism in a Dress

If the Super Bowl commercial for Audi cars caught your attention (in a good or bad way), be sure to read Jack Baruth’s  frame-by-frame analysis of the commercial:

After watching the one-minute advertisement carefully, however, I understood feminism, or equal pay, is the last thing Audi wants you to take away from it. The message is far subtler, and more powerful, than the dull recitation of the pseudo-progressive catechism droning on in the background. This spot is visual — and as you’ll see below, you can’t understand it until you watch it and see what it’s really telling you.

Let me tell you up front: chances are you won’t like what Audi has to say.

Basically, the commercial is about wealthy whites dominating working-class whites in all ways, including their virtue signaling. So, it’s pretty much an articulation of liberalism in a sixty seconds.

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For the Part of the Country That Sees the Refugee Program as a Danger

Given that every tweet and extemporaneous comment from the Trump administration is being deemed newsworthy even by local papers, this — reported by Leo Hohmann on World Net Daily — would seem worthy of mention:

Doetsch retired about two months ago as a refugee coordinator. One of her assignments was at a United Nations refugee camp in Jordan, from which many of the Syrian refugees are flowing into the U.S. She did three tours of duty, in Cairo, Egypt, dealing with Middle East refugees; in Vienna, Austria, with mostly African refugees coming in through Malta; and in Cuba.

Her letter affirms two-and-a-half years of reporting by WND, which has reported that the “vetting” of refugees from broken countries such as Somalia, Syria and Sudan often consists largely of a personal interview with the refugee. These countries have no law enforcement data to vet against the personal story relayed to the U.S. government about the refugee’s background. Sometimes even their name and identity is fabricated and they have no documentation, such as a valid passport, or they have fraudulent documentation.

We really are dividing into a nation of two realities.  In the case at hand, one part of the country sees the refugee program as a clear vulnerability that has resulted in atrocities in other countries and (at the least) warning signs in the United States; the other part of the country sees it as a way to save good people from a terrible situation at little cost and no significant risk.

This state of affairs might change if the supposedly objective news organizations weren’t so slanted or, alternatively, if their slant were more honestly acknowledged and people felt it their duty to get both sides of every issue.

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How the Media Will Help Trump Get Away with Things

Even while reporting a correction in the Washington Post to a bit of fake news from the mainstream media that had (and probably still has) broad currency around the country, Jackson Diehl can’t help but push blame onto the Trump administration:

One thing Trump has decidedly not done, however, is downgrade the participation of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the deliberations of the National Security Council. You may have heard and read otherwise, repeatedly. Therein lies an illustration of how communication between the executive and mainstream media, and with it coverage of the Trump administration, has already come unhinged.

So a hostile media blames the administration for the media’s own inability to do its job while hopped up on hatred of said administration.  Instead, we get loud blasts of outrage and scandal over every little change or misstatement that members of the administration make, walked back or corrected in quieter, easier-to-miss follow-up stories.

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Some Day, My Prince … Er, Cheap, Green Energy Will Come

You may have been keeping half an eye on the proposed power plant that a firm called Invenergy would like to build in Burrillville. Friday, the Providence Journal reported that

Invenergy has failed to sell the second half of the power output of its proposed fossil fuel-burning power plant in Burrillville to the regional electric grid.

Opponents of the proposed plant understandably view this development as good news. However, it is not a fatal blow for the proposed power plant, as the article notes.

Further along, the article also notes that New England has had 4,200 megawatts of generating capacity taken off line (my observation: this happened in large part due to out-of-control EPA regulations by the Obama administration), and another 6,000 megawatts are at risk of going off line. Accordingly, many of us are concerned about the cost and continued adequate supply of electricity.

Environmentalists believe they have the answer.

But opponents of the plant say that renewable sources can fill in any need for new power in New England.

Yikes. Sorry, no, that is simply not the case.

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Support for Lots of Immigration, Not Necessarily Altruistic

Funny how moral principle in politics seems so often to align with self interest.  Here’s Byron York in the Washington Examiner:

Why is Washington State mounting such a vigorous challenge to President Trump’s executive order temporarily suspending non-American entry from seven terrorism-plagued countries? Of course there are several lawsuits against the president, and there are lots of motives among the various litigants. But Washington State’s is the suit that stopped the order, at least temporarily. And a look at the state’s case suggests that, behind high-minded rhetoric about religious liberty and constitutional protections, there is a lot of money at stake.

Judging by the briefs filed by Washington State, as well as statements made by its representatives, some of the state’s top priorities in challenging Trump are: 1) To ensure an uninterrupted supply of relatively low-wage H-1B foreign workers for Microsoft and other state businesses; 2) To ensure a continuing flow of high-tuition-paying foreign student visa holders; and 3) To preserve the flow of tax revenues that results from those and other sources.

And don’t forget Medicaid, SNAP, public education, and other federally subsidized welfare programs available to legal and (probably) illegal immigrants on the government plantation.

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