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.

Brexit and the Government Town

Brexit and Luton don’t indicate a tension between latent nationalism and a more-enlightened elite, but between an economic model that creates opportunity and one that relies on mutual dependency.

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.

Shout Down the Hate

When a mob of Brown University students brought their politically correct disease down the street to Rhode Island’s State House, they made it near impossible to resist writing a parody song about their symptoms.

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 JNS.org, 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.

Can’t Battle Full Fantasy Socialism with Quasi Self-Serving Socialism

Those who fear the threat of Millennials’ full socialism must embrace a more-full conservatism.

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.

Quick Thoughts from a Rhode Island Republican, on the Presidential Primary Vote

Really quick thoughts: Saying no to Donald Trump, and choosing between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

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?

The Slippery Ground of Driver’s Licenses and Voting

The barriers between driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and their ability to vote are not very daunting, and citizens who suspect the rule of law has eroded should be concerned about the government’s intentions.

Syria Refugees and Imagining a Good President

Some recent posts in this space and arguments on Facebook prove that I’m happy to argue over the moral principles and civic practicalities around United States policy on Syrian refugees, but I have to admit a level of disbelief that this is what we’re arguing about and holding competing rallies over at this particular time in history.  With that disbelief comes an urge to imagine how this issue might have proceeded under a decent U.S. president.

Imagine if, rather than taunting members of the opposing party, which is expressing views that appear to be held by a significant majority of Americans, President Obama had said something like this:

Events in Syria are a matter of war and national security, but they are also creating a humanitarian disaster.  My administration will therefore continue to hold a higher target for admitting refugees into our country.  But I understand that the American people have reasonable apprehensions about the refugee process, in light of the atrocity in Paris, and that large lines of differing opinion currently run across our nation.

My administration will therefore be pausing the acceptance of such refugees for a very brief time — so brief, I’ll be honest, that I expect it to have a negligible effect on the program.  We’re already in the process of inviting people with widely varying views on the matter — people with credibility among those who hold each viewpoint — to gather together to review our process and our projections.  That review will be wide open to the public, and when it is done, we will adjust our policy or modify our process in a way that addresses valid concerns.  We’ll also put out a brief report explaining how refugee review works and giving the American people some sense of who is in the pipeline now and whether that will change.

Personally, I have great confidence that the concern about these refugees is more a misunderstanding than a disagreement, so I expect we’ll move forward with the policy with little or no change.  But we’ll have to see.

I’d probably want more than that, but such an approach would defuse a lot of the discord and address, not dismiss, Americans’ real and legitimate concerns.

Of course, seven years in, that ship has sailed for the Obama Administration.  He staged some performances along those lines early on, but they were obviously for show.  Just look at the party-line votes on ObamaCare, including one on Christmas Eve, followed by procedural tricks to pass it into law.

The Conditions for Refugees in the U.S. and Rhode Island

The heated debate over accepting refugees from the Middle East in greater numbers than usual cannot skip the most-important consideration: Whether the American people can trust their government.

A Thought on the Purpose of Government

Nicki makes an important point at The Liberty Zone (via Sarah Hoyt in Instapundit), related to the Paris attack:

So yes. They need to shut their borders down. It might be callous, but it’s the only way to protect the citizens of those nations, and after all, isn’t that the basic role of government?

Americans and other Westerners need to spend some time with that question and discuss each other’s responses.  It should be a basic question during debates and interviews with politicians: What is the basic role of government?

Whatever they might say, it’s obvious that progressives, including the current President of the United States, believe the basic role of government is to organize and run society.  One consequence of that view (which, I’d argue, is really one of its primary motivations) is that a basic role of government is the dispensation of benefits.

When it comes down to it, that’s a central principle behind the governments in Europe and the United States that are throwing open doors for masses of low-skilled immigrants.  They’re offering the benefit of safety, first, but then the security of government welfare and the promise of complete education, healthcare, and nutrition for the immigrants’s children.  Most of the supporters of such activity would probably acknowledge that there is another side — namely, the question of how much our society can bear.  But their thinking generally seems to be no deeper than that of the college student who doesn’t quite know how much “the 1%” can or should hand over, but is certain that it’s more than is currently confiscated and is confident that they’ll always be there to take the hit.

That is, the basic role of government is to dispense the benefits, with the protection of current citizens as a secondary consideration.  If they start to hurt, maybe we’ll adjust things.  (Or better yet, we’ll offer government benefits to those among them whom we deem worthy, whether the ultra-rich investors or the lower classes.)

As a civic matter, this is backwards.  We institute governments to secure our rights and, yes, to preserve our culture.  That view of government can go too far, of course, and become a dangerously aggressive nationalism, but that’s the basic principle with which we should start.  No doubt, it’s easier to run away from that particular duty as the inverse of nationalism, because the consequences are less direct, but the boot comes down on the throat regardless.

Acknowledging Multiple Perspectives on Immigration

Early yesterday, I bookmarked a few things to consider posting, and last night’s atrocity in Paris only made the connections more relevant.  Start with Mark Steyn’s take on the latest GOP presidential debate:

Ted Cruz had a strong night without any breakout moments, unless you count his venture into the immigration debate. It is striking that no moderators want to bring it up. For many Trump supporters, it’s the issue – because, if you don’t have borders, it doesn’t matter having a president or a tax code or a school system or a health-care plan, because they’ll all be overwhelmed. It’s a timelier subject than ever, given the Great Migrations across the Atlantic. Since Chancellor Merkel announced she was abolishing Germany’s borders and embracing all these “Syrian” “refugees”, for example, the country has run out of …diapers? blankets? No, pepper spray. Hmm. …

It is striking that, even in a conservative debate, mass, remorseless, illegal immigration is discussed almost entirely from the illegals’ point of view: as Kasich advises, think of the families, think of the children. Their families, their children. The families of those they’ve supplanted are of less consequence. The argument made by Bush and Kasich against enforcing the immigration laws is an appeal to moral preening: this is “not who we are”. But using mass immigration to destroy the lives of your own citizens? That’s exactly who we are.

This is part of a thread that I’ve been following more closely, lately, with evidence that Rhode Island policies are literally switching out native Rhode Islanders with immigrants, perhaps as part of a push to bring in more clients for the inside interests that make Rhode Island a “company state.”  But to put a sharp point on it, turn to a chilling viral video, running about twenty minutes, that pieces together clips of the massive migration (some say, “invasion”) persisting throughout Europe.

To be sure, 20 minutes of footage from months of activity allows for a slanted view, but the points can’t be ignored.  Toward the beginning of the video, for example, a European woman exclaims, “We are the victims, here, not them.  We have to live like we did before.  We have to live our lives; they took it from us.”  The commentary running throughout the video addresses increasing incidents of rape and violence (including among school children) as well as the cultural displacement of Europeans from their ancestral home: “The Great Replacement.”

We’ve been trained to avoid any hint of xenophobia or racism, and that inclination is right and just, but we — all of us, Americans of every race and ethnicity — have a right to our homes and our heritage.  When those marching across Europe are quite explicit in their aims, when our political leaders speak of changing demographics as marking an unavoidable, often a preferable, future, we have a duty to consider the ramifications.  We have a right to worry about our families, our children.

Refugees and Benefits

Terry Gorman, of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement (RIILE), sent out a Facebook post linking to a Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) analysis of the cost of accepting Middle Eastern refugees:

As Americans continue to debate what to do about the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, this analysis attempts to estimate the costs of resettling refugees from that region in the United States. Although we do not consider all costs, our best estimate is that in their first five years in the United States each refugee from the Middle East costs taxpayers $64,370 — 12 times what the UN estimates it costs to care for one refugee in neighboring Middle Eastern countries. The cost of resettlement includes heavy welfare use by Middle Eastern refugees; 91 percent receive food stamps and 68 percent receive cash assistance. Costs also include processing refugees, assistance given to new refugees, and aid to refugee-receiving communities. Given the high costs of resettling refugees in the United States, providing for them in neighboring countries in the Middle East may be a more cost-effective way to help them.

Gorman says Rhode Island takes in about 500 refugees a year, which equates to more than $32 million over five years, or $6.4 million accumulating every year.

The CIS study does take into account usage rates, which brings down the average cost per program (because not all refugees utilize every program).  The table included with the report provides a total possible average annual payment amount for 10 common programs of $55,374 per year.  That’s almost Rhode Island’s median household income.

Consider that number in the context of the fact that Rhode Island has actively been changing its demographic mix to include higher proportions of people who use these programs as well as the investments that Rhode Island is making in ways to ensure that everybody gets as much government assistance as possible.

RI More Oppressive than Afghanistan?

This part of a New York Times article about the flood of people into Europe caught my eye:

A quarter of Afghans told a Gallup Poll that they want to leave, and more than 100,000 are expected to try to flee to Europe this year.

What’s surprising about that is a comparison to other recent poll results:

Rhode Island ranked at the bottom of yet another national poll.

A recently published Gallup Poll found 42 percent of residents said they would like to move to another state.

Sure, this speaks to the proximity of better options and the ease of movement within the United States, but it’s still another red flag.

Drivers Licenses for Illegals in Brown Daily Herald

Writing for the Brown Daily Herald, Shawn Young notes that Governor Raimondo’s plan appears to have stalled, and I get to be the opposition voice:

“There should be a clear legislative channel for the state to discuss” the issue of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, said Justin Katz, a writer for the Ocean State Current. The government should follow a predictable path so that Rhode Islanders are able to keep track of and control it, Katz said. Right now, there is no state law that “prevents the interpretation that driver’s licenses can go to non-citizens,” Katz said.

Even though it would not be illegal for Raimondo to issue an executive order, Katz does not think she will take this route because there is not enough support for the issue.

One important area of our conversation that Young didn’t include is the “and so.”  In order to ensure that a legislative approach is followed, the General Assembly should immediately (or as soon as possible) pass legislation that either (A) reinforces the status quo of no licenses for illegal immigrants explicitly within state law or (B) forbids the use of executive action to make the change.

Neither is likely, though, because politicians like to ensure that all disputes are political, not legal.  If that’s the game they want to play, then those opposing the driver’s licenses should begin campaigning on the issue, now, so politicians who are ambivalent don’t let the rope slip, either accidentally or greased with the deals and special favors that characterize Rhode Island government.

Arthur Christopher Schaper: No Enforcement, No Peace

Whether the appointment of illegal immigrants to California city commissions or whitewashing corrupt crony deals in Rhode Island, insiders who refuse to enforce the rule of law must be reminded that power resides with the people

A Lesson for the Fed’s Intended Involvement in Rhode Island

The Boston Fed cites Lawrence, MA, as an example of success for the program that it would like to bring to Rhode Island. That struggling city is actually a great case study in why Rhode Islanders should resist the Fed and any other top-down program to save the state.

When the Government Finds a Better Tenant

Yesterday, I mentioned, by the by, that folks who support a broad scope for government tend to assume that the things that they like and that they receive will always be included within that scope.  Well, turn your eyes to Europe:

A woman in Germany is being evicted from her home of 23 years to make way for asylum-seekers, in the second such case to emerge.

Gabrielle Keller has been given until the end of the year to leave her flat in the small southern town of Eschbach, near the border with France.

The flat belongs to the local municipality, which says it is needed to house refugees.

As I’ve also suggested recently, a government built on a central-planning philosophy will also tend to resemble private organizations for which we assume action in self interest.  When the government finds a better use for its apartment buildings, well, it will give the current tenants notice.

The crucial question, in this instance, is why the government believes housing for refugees trumps housing for citizens and how much this example is symbolic more broadly in the West, as Sarah Hoyt implies.

The Short Path to Executively Ordered Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

The idea that driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants should require legislative action is entirely a matter of politics, meaning that advocates cannot wait in order to protect it.

Terry Gorman: Number of Anchor Babies Born in Rhode Island Almost Doubled From 2012 to 2013

RIILE’s Terry Gorman has uncovered information that is especially disturbing in light of the revelation this week that that Governor Gina Raimondo would like to find a path to drivers licenses/permits for illegal aliens.

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