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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.


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).


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.


Different Risks for Different Faiths Suggest That Religious Consideration for Refugees Is Reasonable

This Perry Chiaramonte article on FoxNews provides an important reminder both to Western Christians and to our non-Christian peers who see us as the enemy:

The report comes on the heels of another study by the Center for Studies on New Religions that showed nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016 and that as many as 600 million were prevented from practicing their faith through intimidation, forced conversions, bodily harm or even death.

“These numbers underscore what we already know,” Robert Nicholson of the Philos Project, an advocacy group for Christianity in the Middle East, told Fox News at the time of the report’s release. “There are many places on Earth where being a Christian is the most dangerous thing you can be. Those who think of Christianity as a religion of the powerful need to see that in many places it’s a religion of the powerless. And the powerless deserve to be protected.”

The reality of different degrees of risk around the world for people of different religions shines a different light on domestic arguments about policy.  In discussion of who can come to the United States in order to escape persecution and danger — refugees, which derives from the word “refuge,” let’s not forget — I have to confess that I find religion to be an absolutely appropriate criterion.  A blanket ban on a particular religion goes too far, in my view, but if left-wingers scream about a “Muslim ban” based on geographic restrictions, they’d obviously find religious-preference rules beyond the pale, even though it would arguably be more reasonable and humane.

Taking a step back, progressives should understand that a great many people agree with me on this point, and harassing them into silence only hardens positions and makes problems more difficult to solve.


The Effect of Socialist-Friendly Policies

Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s Wall Street Journal column is eye opening:

… many Guatemalans I spoke with here last week are not dreading an anti-immigrant, protectionist Donald Trump in the White House. They’re focused on the exit of Barack Obama, whose foreign policy they saw as politicized in favor of left-wing causes and environmental extremism that harm Guatemalan development. …

The complaints extend beyond a difference of opinion about the role of the state. During the Obama years Uncle Sam repeatedly backed those who flouted the rule of law in the name of “social justice.”

Let me summarize what one might infer the Obama administration’s policy accomplished based on what O’Grady is saying.  Yes, I’m insinuating a more cohesive plan than there may have been, but it’s telling whether intentional or not:

  • One: Back corrupt groups that share Obama’s general ideology.
  • Two: Drive people out of those countries and toward America.
  • Three: Open the borders with selective border enforcement and promised benefits.
  • Four: Change the electorate of the United States (they think) in favor of the former president’s party.

If that were, in any degree, the plan, one can’t help but wonder whether it assumes too much to think people driven from their homes by leftist governments wouldn’t carry that lesson with them. It seems like there ought to be opportunity for conservatives, here, if we can figure out how to communicate on the level of core values with communities that have this sort of experience in their background.


Census Numbers and Replacement Rhode Islanders

New U.S. Census estimates of states’ populations are out, and Rhode Island just like last year, experienced a small increase in population.  And once again the details of the numbers give reason for concern.

For the second year in a row, total population increased by a smaller number.  That is, 2014’s increase was 1,447, 2015’s was 1,127, and 2016’s is 819.  The natural population increase resulting from having more births than deaths was the smallest since 2010.

Of more concern, though, is that more Rhode Islanders continue to leave for other states than to head in the other direction, but those departures are over-compensated with immigration from other countries.  This year, we lost 3,784 Rhode Islanders to other states but gained 4,203 from other countries.  (Illegal immigrants would be included in these numbers.)  According to the Census, Rhode Island lost 28,565 residents to other states but imported 25,406 residents from other countries.


Putting aside the fact that people who arrived from other countries may have later left for other states, Rhode Island has, roughly speaking, swapped out 2.4% of its population for people from other countries.  One needn’t be xenophobic to worry that this trend might not be ideal.

As the Rhode Island Family Prosperity Index report suggests, the Ocean State’s policy decisions are pushing our neighbors to leave.  Meanwhile, the government plantation model of the state’s major industry (government) creates incentive for elected officials and bureaucrats to seek to import clients who’ll require their services (and provide them votes).


Immigration and the Choices Your Government Makes

Writing in the Washington Examiner, Paul Bedard lists some programs for American citizens that are seeing their funding drained in order to pay for services for illegal immigrants making their way over the border:

The Department of Health and Human Services is raiding several of its accounts, including money for Medicare, the Ryan White AIDS/HIV program and those for cancer and flu research to cover a shortfall in housing illegal youths pouring over the border at a rate of 255 a day.

HHS is trying to come up with $167 million to fund the Office of Refugee Resettlement that is accepting the youths, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. …

The money, [Policy Director Jessica Vaughan] said, pays for “shelters, health care, schooling, recreation, and other services for the new illegal arrivals, who typically were brought to the border by smugglers paid by their parents, who often are living in the United States illegally.”

I’m most definitely not one to assume that the eight specific transfers mentioned will not come from waste, and I’d rather use money that’s already been confiscated from taxpayers (or put on our massive debt tab) to provide basic necessities for poor children anywhere in the world than to fund the adult-entertainment habits of employees of the federal government (for example).

But the article is useful in framing a basic policy reality.  As a point of fact, money spent on welfare and other services for illegal immigrants necessarily comes from some other expenditure, whether reducing government services for citizens or leading to more taxes.

For that matter, it’s worth reminding people that money collected through taxes, fees, and fines doesn’t just appear out of people’s bank accounts.  It necessarily means the money isn’t spent on something else, especially in an era in which vanishingly few people truly keep cash lying around unused.

Even those who are willing to simply brush aside questions about the government’s right to take people’s money away to pay for things that powerful people value still have to ask whether the thing to be purchased is worth sacrificing the things not purchased.  Too often, we allow government officials and their satellites to spend money as if there is no downside to doing so.


The Party of Trump, Which I Cannot Support

Maggie Gallagher succinctly describes the Trump policy platform, inasmuch as it is possible to discern and predict:

Here is the new Party of Trump that we saw in this convention: liberal in expanding entitlements, pro-business in terms of tax and regulations, non-interventionist in foreign policy, socially center-left (with the possible, but only possible, exception of abortion).

Americans who pay attention to politics and policy tend to err, I think, in allowing themselves to be drawn toward the exchange of discrete, independent policies as a form of compromise.  I give you this social policy; you give me that regulatory reform.  That’s how we end up with a worst-of-all-possibilities mix of policies that, for example, encourages dependency while socializing the losses of major corporations, all to the benefit of the inside players who are well positioned to manipulate the system to serve their interests.

Broadly speaking, policies are components of a machine that have to work together, with a basic operating principle.  As the most-charitable interpretation, the machine that Gallagher describes is designed to drive corporations forward in order to generate enough wealth for government to redistribute as a means of providing comfort and accommodating the consequences of an anything-goes society, with the world blocked out at the borders and not engaged in socio-political terms so as to avoid bleeding of the wealth.  (The only difference between that vision and a fully progressive one is that progressives don’t want the machine to be independent, but to be plugged in as a component of a bigger, international machine.)

Put that way (again, most charitably), Trumpian nationalism doesn’t sound too bad.  Unfortunately, the lesson of the past few decades (at least) is that the machine doesn’t work.  The corporations recalculate to the reality that the politicians’ plan makes them (not the people) the engine of the whole machine, while the value of promising entitlements leads politicians to over-promise and the people to over-demand, particularly in response to the consequences of loose culture, while the world outside the borders erodes the supports of our society and allows implacable enemies to rally.

Now add in the stated intention of Donald Trump to actively agitate against members of his own political party because they show insufficient fealty, and the policy mix points toward disaster.  The aphorism that “success is the best revenge” is apparently not good enough for Trump.  More than that, though, from his late-night tweets about the pope to this planned attack on Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and some unnamed foe, Trump shows no realization that these leaders have supporters.  Trump is free not to respect Pope Francis, but his behavior shows that he has little concern for the vast world of Roman Catholics.  His own supporters Trump loves, and he’s happy to condescend to them; those who aren’t his supporters are either enemies or inconsequential.

Nobody should have any trust that they’ll continue to have Trump’s support starting the moment their interests conflict with his, and that has implications for the instructions he’ll attempt to give the machine.

Yes, one of the very few arguments in favor of a Trump presidency is that he may remind certain sectors of American civic society about the importance of the checks and balances designed into our system.  However, Trump’s behavior has also proven that we should not assume he’ll moderate or react well to the reinstated rules of the game.

This isn’t to say that our electoral alternative is any better.  As I’ve written before, more than any I’ve ever seen, this election hinges on the timing of oscillating disgust with the two major candidates.  The wise move may very well be not to invest much wealth, energy, or emotion in the outcome, devoting personal resources instead to battening down the hatches.


Raimondo Vetoes Reasonable Compromise with Wartime Rationale

Early on in this session, asked for an opinion on a bill that would allow the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (i.e., the executive branch, i.e., the governor) to enter reciprocity agreements with other countries with respect to driver’s licenses, I suggested that it contained a loophole for executive granting of licenses to illegal immigrants so big that a truck could drive through it, with room for a toll gantry.  The final version of the legislation, which passed the General Assembly, answered that concern to a high degree.

Well, surprise, surprise, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo vetoed it, with a strange rationale:

In a veto letter signed late Wednesday night, Raimondo said she supports the reciprocity aspects of the bill that would have potentially allowed someone with a foreign driver’s license and an active visa or green card to get a Rhode Island license without taking a test. But she took issue with a section that would have narrowed existing standards — requiring those drivers to submit additional documents before their foreign licenses could be recognized in Rhode Island. …

“The additional application and certification requirements of this bill are at odds with the [Geneva Convention’s] purpose of simplifying and unifying driving regulations on an international level. As such, these restrictions limit rights granted by the Convention and thereby violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution,” Raimondo wrote.

I’m no expert on the Geneva Conventions, and the governor’s veto message doesn’t appear to be online, so I don’t know if she provided some additional legal explanation.  However, the Geneva Conventions are mainly addressed to war-time matters.  A 2009 booklet for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators gives the impression that what’s really at issue is a United Nations Convention on Road Traffic, to which the United States agreed in Geneva in 1949.  There, one finds the “establishing uniform rules” language, but also that the convention doesn’t have any mandates for foreigners in a country for more than a year, and it also refers to international driver permits (IDPs), which could easily be interpreted to be the foreign nation’s way of validating the person’s driver’s license as required in the bill.

Who would have thought that this issue would be so complicated, both politically and legally?  If the legislation comes up again next year, it’ll be worth a deeper dive, but at the moment it seems to me that either the governor’s goal is to secure the loophole mentioned above or the legislation isn’t needed in the first place, because anybody with a license and an IDP can drive here for up to a year, anyway.


The Illegal Activity That the Government Will Tolerate

It’s good news, of course, that the powers who be in Rhode Island have held off for at least another year before amplifying Rhode Island’s magnetism for illegal immigrants, but this sentence in a related Providence Journal article struck me:

“There are many undocumented Rhode Islanders who work and pay taxes, but don’t have the right to obtain a license, like they do in 12 other states (and Washington, D.C.),” Raimondo’s statement said. “The reality is that they are driving on the roads right now without a license, and that presents a public safety issue.”

I can’t help but see this statement from the governor in the context of all the legislation that I read, with proposals like license-plate scanners to catch anybody who dares to drive with lapsed insurance and, as I mentioned the other day, pervasive linkage of databases centered around personal prescriptions of Rhode Islanders and their personal connections, to track the distribution of certain drugs.

It’s one thing to acknowledge that some laws will be broken in our society, but why, do you suppose, the governor is so keen to accommodate just a certain group of law breakers?


The IRS as the Government’s Leading Criminal Enterprise

So, it turns out that the same Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that suppressed conservative Tea Party groups in order to help a progressive president win reelection is helping illegal immigrants to commit tax fraud:

Asked to explain those practices, [IRS Commissioner John] Koskinen replied, “What happens in these situations is someone is using a Social Security number to get a job, but they’re filing their tax return with their [taxpayer identification number].” What that means, he said, is that “they are undocumented aliens … . They’re paying taxes. It’s in everybody’s interest to have them pay the taxes they owe.”

As long as the information is being used only to fraudulently obtain jobs, Koskinen said, rather than to claim false tax returns, the agency has an interest in helping them. “The question is whether the Social Security number they’re using to get the job has been stolen. It’s not the normal identity theft situation,” he said.

On the immediate issue, one must wonder how much these folks are actually paying in taxes.  More likely than not, they’re having taxes withheld from their paychecks and are filing in order to secure a return.  How many, do you think, wind up getting money back as earned-income tax credit (EITC) handouts?

More important, though, is the lackadaisical handling of the law.  The message to the American people is consistent from the abetting of illegal immigrants Social Security fraud to the handling of Hillary Clinton’s apparent misuse of classified documents as secretary of state:  The law does not apply equally to everybody, and may not apply at all to politically favored groups.

Then there’s the notion that using false Social Security numbers to secure jobs is a victimless crime.  The public should be assured that time worked on a friend’s Social Security account doesn’t wind up giving that friend a boost in benefits down the road, but more to the point, people who take jobs fraudulently prevent other people from taking those jobs and drive down the wages that employers must pay in order to find employees at market rate.

So, if it’s questionable whether these illegal immigrants ultimately pay taxes and if it’s certain that they drive down wages for American workers, why would a government agency whose whole reason for being is supposed to be to serve citizens assist in perpetuating fraud rather than assist in maintaining the rule of law?  I don’t know, but I happened to be reviewing election law, yesterday, in relation to a local controversy in Tiverton, and I was reminded of Rhode Island General Law 17-1-3.1(b)(3), which states that “the address from which [a person] filed his last federal income tax return… shall be considered prima facie evidence of [his] residence for voting purposes.”

Would an IRS that concludes that it’s “in everybody’s interest” to have illegal immigrants working and paying taxes think the same about having them vote?


“Smart Growth” and Radical Islam

Away up north, Jeff Jacoby uses his Boston Globe column to offer some explanation for “Why there are Muslim ghettos in Belgium, but not in the US“:

At a time when populist demagogues are doing so much damage to our social fabric, it is well to remember why Molenbeek is a European phenomenon, and not an American one. At the core of the American experience is a conviction that immigrants who come to America can and should become Americans. Patriotic assimilation turns profoundly dissimilar foreigners into proud and happy Americans. “Muslims in the United States,” Pew found, “reject extremism by much larger margins than most Muslim publics” around the world.

That aspect can’t be disputed, although it’s a little too easy to stop there.  Another factor one would have to cite would be that the United States is not reachable by land from all-Muslim countries, so the poor immigrants we draw here for work tend to be Central and South American Hispanics, who tend to be Christians.

I suspect, as well, that the sheer vastness of the United States helps, as well.  In fact, I wonder if that bane of progressives, sprawl, doesn’t have some benefits.  The thought occurred to me while reading about Grow Smart Rhode Island’s objections to Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s helping Citizens Financial move its operations to an area currently covered with trees:

“We object … to the decision by the Raimondo Administration to commit public resources to help facilitate the type of move that undermines Rhode Island’s progress in incentivizing the revitalization of its cities and town centers while protecting and preserving its remaining farmland and forestland,” Grow Smart said in a news release.

Cities and dense, “walkable” town centers would seem much more conducive to the development of ethnic enclaves.  Part of assimilation is interacting with people who are different.  It’s one thing to hear radical messages from a religious figure and then go live and shop among the people you’re supposed to hate.  It’s another to hear those messages and then go about your life among a community that explicitly or tacitly shares your worldview.

As Jacoby admits, as well, that isn’t to say that one can’t become radicalized in just about any setting, but one suspects that when it comes to being willing and able to develop terror networks, the immersion has an exponential effect.


Drivers Licenses for Illegal Aliens Are Exactly the Wrong Thing For Rhode Island

Tuesday at the State House:

Debate over making it legal for undocumented immigrants to drive automobiles in Rhode Island echoed through the State House Tuesday as hundreds turned out to have their voices heard on a series of bills on opposing sides of the issue.

Illegal immigration erodes taxpayer-funded budgets, wages, jobs for legal immigrants and citizens, public safety and sovereignty. The only way to address it is to stop offering incentives for people to come here – here to the United States and, in this case, here to Rhode Island. For the State of Rhode Island to issue drivers licenses to illegal aliens would be a step in exactly the wrong direction as it would encourage rather than discourage illegal immigration into the state. Most deplorably, state elected officials who are advocating for these licenses are doing so for crassly selfish, politically-self-promotional reasons and definitely not with the best interest of Rhode Island – or, laughably, public safety – at heart.


The Trick Behind the Heartstrings on Ethnic Grievance

Rhode Islanders need to learn how to translate activist-speak into practical terms so they’ll understand what the advocates who constantly swarm for more money and special privileges are actually requesting.  Consider the latest groundwork-setting for more resources for Rhode Island’s Latino population:

[Anna Cano Morales, director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University], who was to unveil a report Monday afternoon that details the state of the Latino workforce in Rhode Island, said education and skills training are the keys to having this ever-growing segment of the population flourish.

While state leaders are concentrating their jobs-development agenda on what employers want, Morales said they should also address what potential workers want, what their skills are and what they need to improve those skills.

The headline of the Providence Journal article is “R.I. Latinos lag their white counterparts,” which allows a fundamental dishonesty into the conversation right from the start.  One can’t really claim a group is “lagging” unless you know its starting point.  If family A has been building itself up within American society for six generations and family B arrived last year, family B isn’t “lagging”; they just started later.

It would be unfair and unjust to use government to take from family A that which its members have earned in order to put family B on the fast track.  Indeed, one can go a step farther and observe that Rhode Island government is creating barriers to family A, leading many such families to flee to other states.

Of course, all people should help each other, and the risk is always there for the “I got mine” attitude that Rhode Island has in surplus.  But a voluntary interaction has different effects on both sides of the equation.  The giver reaps the rewards of voluntary giving, and the receiver has gratitude.  When the government forces the exchange, it breeds resentment on one side and entitlement on the other.

What’s really going on here, though, is my frequent theme of a “company state.”  Government agencies and their private-sector satellites are importing people because they will require their services and create a pretense for forcing somebody else to pay for those services.  Far from being virtuous, that process treats people like objects to be manipulated and harmed in the name of helping.


Portrait of America: Shouting Down the Peaceful “Hate”

Upon some reflection, I actually find it difficult to disagree with progressive state senator Joshua Miller (D, Cranston) when he describes conflicting rallies at the Rhode Island State House regarding Syrian refugees as “one of the most American moments I’ve seen in this building.”

According to Karen Lee Ziner’s Providence Journal telling, “hundreds” of people — including many from the nearby elite Ivy League college where students complain that their academics interfere with their activism — “shouted down speakers” who disagreed with them on a matter of public policy and “jeered” the spokesman from Americans for Peace and Tolerance.

According to Jacob Kamaras, writing for, a Jewish speaker concerned about the proliferation of anti-Semitism in Syria was unable to finish his speech because of the “group of about 100 protesters.”  (That number seems more plausible, given photos, than Ziner’s plural “hundreds.”)

When it came time for the angry mob’s own turn at the podium they took the opportunity to denounce the peaceful group’s “hatred and fear-mongering.”  If this isn’t a snapshot of modern American politics, I don’t know what would be.  Young agitators trained in elite institutions to believe that disagreeing with them is tantamount to violence refuse to let a man from a religious minority finish his description of how students in another country are taught to hate people like him.

If the complete impossibility of turning actual reality into any more of a dark, vicious satire doesn’t wake Americans up, I don’t know what would.


When the Federal Government Turns Against Voters

Hans Von Spakovsky checks in on the legal battle over efforts by the Obama administration and various progressive activist groups to prevent states from ensuring that people registering to vote are citizens.  Note this:

If these allegations are true (and based on the history of the Voting Rights Section during this administration, they may well be), then the Eric Holder–run Justice Department was actively engaged in blocking an independent bipartisan federal agency from allowing a state to verify that only citizens are registering to vote.

Given the behavior of President Obama on a variety of regulatory and administrative fronts, as well as my observations about New England governments’ desire to change their populations to better suit the people in power (and their employees), it’s absolutely reasonable to conclude that politicians, mainly in the Democrat Party, want to import a large client class on which they can rely to counter any contrary votes from actual Americans.

When Americans read history (a category whose small number is, no doubt, a large part of our present problem) and wonder that those of previous eras did not see the clear and obvious trends, they should look around the landscape of current events for the clear and obvious actions that largely go without comment, much less criticism, from those we entrust to keep an eye out for us.


If Non-Freedom Economic Development Doesn’t Work… Try, Try Again

Those who find Rhode Island’s governance maddeningly self serving, obtuse, and inept might have difficulty getting past the opening portion of this Sunday column by Providence Journal Assistant Managing Editor John Kostrzewa:

The difficulty of matching unemployed workers with available jobs, a problem called “closing the skills gap,” has bedeviled Rhode Island governors for decades.

Despite spending millions of dollars, the state still has tens of thousands of out-of-work or underemployed people and thousands of employers who complain they can’t find the help they need.

Now, Governor Raimondo is trying again.

She and Scott Jensen, her hand-picked Department of Labor and Training director, have started a new effort, called Real Jobs Rhode Island, that puts the design of skills-training programs in the hands of business managers who know what they need, not state bureaucrats. They already have handed out $5 million in grants to 26 teams of private companies, nonprofits, educational institutions and industrial associations.

In other words, to the list of now-discarded pretenses that used to allow us to pretend that we lived under a representative democracy, we can add the idea that government can take economic development on as one of its core responsibilities without undermining our free marketplace of rights and opportunities. No longer is the State of Rhode Island pretending that it’s confiscating our money in order to improve our neighbors’ capabilities. No, having failed to educate the public and having restricted our ability to make the economy work, the state is now simply confiscating our money to let businesses shape the population to their own needs.

Of course, the businesses aren’t alone in this. Kostrzewa also cites some progressives studies in support of the idea that the state should shift even more of its emphasis toward catering to the immigrant population that it has been luring here in order to justify its many social service programs:

“We need more resources focused on helping adults learn English so they can gain skills they need to support their children’s education and so they can get better jobs,” said Mario Bueno, executive director of Progreso Latino, in the report.

The referenced report is by the Economic Progress Institute, which Kostrzewa strangely characterizes as simply a “nonpartisan research and policy organization based in Providence.” He could have added that the institute is housed with a sweetheart rental agreement at the public Rhode Island College, after having been birthed (if I’m not mistaken) with funding from the private nonprofit Rhode Island College Foundation, which is currently under scrutiny for helping Governor Gina Raimondo hire a cabinet member outside the reach of the state’s transparency and ethics laws. The institute has also received funding from the state government and, as Kevin Mooney reports, is among the left-wing organizations supported by the Rhode Island Foundation.

Incidentally, Progreso Latino is also on the Rhode Island Foundation’s list of grant recipients, but its funding comes mainly from state and local government, having received over $600,000 from the state last year and almost $900,000 from the federal government.


Government’s Unsurprising Preferred Demographic

Apparently for the first time, Bryant’s Hassenfeld Institute released detailed crosstabs from its most recent public-opinion survey. It’s interesting stuff.

Readers may have seen reports that Governor Gina Raimondo’s toll proposal is under water, with more people opposing it than supporting it. Republicans’ pay-as-you-go alternative is also under water, by even more, but the question may have caused that result with the phrase, “may take longer to repair the roads and bridges.” Given a list of four alternatives for funding infrastructure repairs, voters overwhelmingly support “reallocating state money to pay for the repairs,” 37.2% versus a toll-and-borrow plan’s 21.9%. In fact, people are even less supportive of pay-as-you-go with a truck toll (12.5%).

Particularly interesting, though, is the right-direction/wrong-direction question. Rhode Islanders are notably less optimistic than they were in September, although still a little more optimistic than last April. According to the newly available information in the latest poll, a large part of the “right direction” results come from people under 40 with household income under $25,000.

Tracing those groups through the other questions — especially measured by income — shows they tend to fall on what might be called the pro-government side. They are the least likely, for example, to support reallocating other money to infrastructure. They are the least likely to say “locally elected officials” are doing a “fair/poor” job (although more than half still say it). They give elected state officials the best marks.

When it comes to education reform, those with incomes under $25,000, they are the most likely to say principals need more authority, yet the least likely to say that the system has to “make it easier to deal with under performing teachers. (Perhaps they don’t see principals as the managerial employees who would handle underperforming teachers, but more like head teachers, themselves.) They are also among the least likely to support expanded school choice.

Not surprisingly, those with incomes under $25,000 are also the most likely to say that they are Democrats, as the only income group among which more than half of respondents say they are a member of a particular party.

That sheds some light, I’d say, on the state government’s preference for policies to make ours a “company state,” in which the government imports clients for itself, largely from other countries. It also seems relevant to an approach to economic development that places a premium on, as the Brookings Institution report put it, “coveted Millennials.”

The young and the least wealthy also made up the smallest groups in the Hassenfeld Institute’s survey. Many of the policies that our state government pursues can be explained if we assume that government officials want to change that.


A Conservative Path to Open Borders

A long-time reader of Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, I would certainly not challenge his conservative bona fides, but he’s apparently feeling as if that may soon be a risk:

One of those ideals has always been the encouragement of immigration as an engine of American progress and prosperity. I grew up in Ohio, a state filled with Americans-by-choice — including my father, who came from Czechoslovakia in 1948. As my conservatism deepened, so did my conviction that an open and welcoming immigration policy was a self-evident part of the conservative creed. In one of my earliest columns for The Boston Globe, a plea to open the door to Haitian refugees, I described immigrants as the great “growth hormone” of American history. “The vast majority of immigrants repay their adopted homeland with energy, enthusiasm, hard work, and new wealth,” I wrote.

I wrote it as a Republican-leaning conservative. Twenty-two years later, my view hasn’t changed. I’m distressed that that of so many Republicans and conservatives has.

Even as a conservative who would currently characterize himself as non-open-borders, I’m sympathetic to contrary arguments based on both economics and freedom.  The problem, as I see it, is another principle that I would characterize as fundamentally conservative: Policies cannot be developed and implemented as if in an abstract model, as if, to paraphrase Melville’s criticism of Emerson, we believe we could have offered some helpful pointers to God upon the world’s creation.  We have to look at reality, both current circumstances and enduring realities.

It is not conservative to allow indiscriminate waves of immigrants into a country where a political machine is primed to make them dependent, to prevent them from assimilating (see Mike Gonzalez’s thoughts on “Obama’s Ethnic Divide-and-Conquer Strategy“), and to harvest their votes for a party intent on ending America’s run of capitalistic representative democracy.  Such a policy is not conservative any more than it is libertarian to attack cultural institutions that keep people from relying on government or than it’s respectful of freedom to let somebody accidentally fall into a pit with spikes at the bottom rather than to push him back from the edge.

We see this dynamic again and again in history.  The vast majority of people on any side of a question won’t give even their issues of greatest concern the level of nuanced consideration that people who think and write about them for a living do.  Therefore, the latter shouldn’t cling to a nuanced policy when its foundations are gone. That is when the prerequisites to benefit from open immigration are gone, one can’t argue that we must maintain open immigration.

To get to open immigration from where we are now, we have to repair our civic society and economy.  I happen to think that means restricting the flood of immigrants so we have room to fix the ship of state, but at the very least, it means electing people who appear to disagree with Jacoby about the long-term goal.


Where RI Leads in Foreign-Born Workers

Pew Charitable Trusts has a still-new interactive tool to investigate estimated “Immigrant Employment by State and Industry.”  Beginning with national numbers, the tool provides the comparative likelihood that immigrants will be employed in a particular industry compared with those born within the United States.

In construction, for example, the national ratio is 1.5, meaning that an immigrant is 1.5 times more likely to be working in construction than somebody born here.  So, if you randomly selected 100 each of foreign-born U.S. workers and U.S.-born U.S. workers, for every two native-born construction workers, there would be three immigrants.  Viewed this way, the data won’t tell us how many immigrants there are in the state or what portion of the workforce they represent, but it does have some interesting lessons, nonetheless.

Compared with the national numbers, Rhode Island stands out in four industries.  In both “agriculture and extraction” and “construction,” Rhode Island has significantly lower immigrant employment than the national figures, which makes sense in agriculture, although not quite so much in construction.

On the other hand, immigrant employment is notably strong in both “administrative services” (which includes, among other things, low-end office-, facilities-, and waste-related services) and “manufacturing.”  Working immigrants are 2.6 times more likely to work in administrative services than U.S.-born Rhode Islanders, versus a national ratio of 1.7, and 2.1 times more likely to work in manufacturing , versus a national ratio of 1.2.

At another layer of analysis, immigrants tend to be more prominent in those industries that constitute more of Rhode Island’s employment than is true for the United States overall.  Of the 13 industry sectors listed, four account for more Rhode Island jobs than is true nationally.  Of those four, RI has a higher immigrant employment ratio than the nation in three.  By contrast, all of the industries that are less significant for employment in Rhode Island than in the country overall lean toward U.S.-born employees.

Manufacturing adds another interesting data point.  Although the industry is more significant for RI employment than national employment (11% to 10% of all employment, respectively), it is less significant for GDP (8% RI versus 12% U.S.).  To some degree, the specific mix of manufacturing in the United States is likely to play a role in that, but it does make one wonder whether manufacturers in Rhode Island are turning to immigrant workers at a greater rate specifically to trim costs and stay in business despite the hostile economic environment.

One final observation: In both Rhode Island and nationally, “public administration” (i.e., government) leans the most toward U.S.-born employees, and although this “industry” accounts for the same amount of employment, in the Ocean State, it accounts for a little bit more of GDP (14% versus 13% nationally).  Combined with the increased prominence of other industries closely associated with government in Rhode Island, such as education and healthcare (also relatively likely to have U.S.-born employees), that would seem to be evidence of my “company state” thesis, with government importing foreign clients for its services.


The Odd Language of Progressive Activism

A line in Kathy Gregg’s Providence Journal article about protests at the State House today — one against the truck toll proposal and one in favor of giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants — seemed to stumble on language in a telling way:

“No more second class status. All Rhode Islanders should come in from the shadows. It is time for all of RI’s workers to have equal access to our roads,” said Mike Araujo, executive director of the coalition known as “RI Jobs With Justice,” in a media advisory for this 3-to-4:30 p.m. march and rally.

“Second class” is an adjective, and “status” isn’t a very descriptive word.  Second-class what?  Most commonly, in American politics, one would expect the noun to be “citizens,” but that’s clearly not the case, here.  Second-class residents?  That still seems odd.

The phrase “second class status” deliberately attempts to skirt this question in a way that insinuates rights without thought, skipping a legitimate question:  Are there rights and privileges that somebody who came to this country and this state illegally should be denied?  Clearly, the answer is “yes,” unless one intends to claim that anybody who manages to cross a border should be entitled to vote and hold public office.

Such rhetoric, frankly, reveals the lie behind claims like Raimondo’s assurances that granting licenses to illegal immigrants is simply a safety issue.  It’s all about safety in much the same way that same-sex marriage was all about allowing gay partners to visit each other in the hospital… until to turned out to be about forcing Christian bakers to help celebrate same-sex marriages or Catholic adoption agencies to place children in same-sex households.

Americans should stop falling for the bait and switch.  If advocates and progressive Democrat politicians want to push our society in a particular direction, they should make the case.  They shouldn’t try to sneak it in as simply a practical tweak.  Supply the noun.  Giving illegal immigrants licenses would make them “full” whats?