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Tuesday, December 6, 2005
On “Controlling” the Border
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:51 am

I was looking through a text while preparing an exam and noted the following:

In one year 475 million people, 125 million vehicles, and 21 million import shipments come into the country at 3700 terminals in 301 ports of entry. It takes five hours to inspect a fully loaded 40-foot shipping container, and more than 5 million enter each year.

Given these figures, which are really quite staggering (not to mention likely to increase substantially in the coming decades) it should underscore why talk of “control” of the borders is nonsense. The best we can hope to achieve is management of the flow. The flow itself, however, is here to stay and is immense.

Source: Joseph S. Nye, Jr. 2005. Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History, 222.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005
It’s Back: Abortion at SCOTUS
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:31 am

Via the NYT: Case Reopens Abortion Issue for Justices

When the Supreme Court meets on Wednesday to hear its first abortion case in five years, the topic will be familiar: a requirement that doctors notify a pregnant teenager’s parent before performing an abortion.

The court has upheld such laws for years, even in its more liberal days, and nearly all states now have them. But in the current climate, with the court in transition and the abortion debate as raucous as it has ever been, there is no such thing as just another abortion case.

I’m not sure there is ever an abortion case that is just an abortion case. However, there is no doubt that this case will get extra-special coverage.

And there’s another abortion case on the docket…

Filed under: Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary, Immigration | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Monday, November 28, 2005
More on Fencing the Border
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:49 pm

One of the reasons I have a hard time with the idea of building a two-thousand mile fence from Brownsville to the Pacific is wholly philosophical. The behavior that such a fence is intended to punish is the very embodiment of the American dream-in fact, of the dream of democracy and of capitalism: self-improvement through personal hard work and sacrifice. There is no denying that the the main motivation for illegal crossing of the US-Mexican border is for precisely that reason.

The fence in Israel is designed to keep murderers from blowing up cafés filled with innocent people; there can be no qualms about such a preventive measures. However, when we are discussing illegal immigrants who risk their lives to cross the open desert, we are talking about human beings seeking a better economic circumstance for themselves and their families. One has to respect that. One doesn’t have to have open borders, but one has to respect what is going on here. Yes, it is a crime to cross the border without permission; and yes, some of those who cross the border do so with specific illegality in mind beyond the crossing (i.e., drug running-although most drugs do not enter via the vast deserts between Mexico and the United States, but rather via legitimate border crossings-it is simply easier to do it that way). However, the vast majority of the persons who might be stopped by a fence are not coming to commit crimes, they are coming to work. Again: on some fundamental level, one has to respect that fact.

Further, the fact of the matter is that the US economy does benefit from immigrant labor, and specifically from illegal immigrant labor. Given that as a society we are hardly without benefit or blameless, it is further difficult for me to want to see electrified chain-link and barbed wire for miles and miles and miles on the US frontier.

Please don’t misunderstand: I am not calling for open borders (although I will confess, on the spectrum between wholly sealed borders and open ones, my position is on the more open side of the equation). Some things call for massive fences, and some things do not. Stopping the Mongol hordes is a worthy security goal for a wall; stopping Pablo from cleaning up the Las Cruces McDonalds isn’t.

Beyond all of that, which I think is actually quite important, I continue to maintain that I have sincere doubts about the efficacy of such a structure and believe that the billions that would be required to construct, maintain and patrol it could be better spent in a host of ways.

Given the nature of the action a fence seeks to deter, the fact that US economy benefits from illegal immigrants, and the cost/efficacy issues, I cannot support the idea of a fence across the US-Mexican border.

This is perhaps not the best elucidation of this line of thinking, but as I like to say, this place is for a rough draft of my thoughts. I also know that many will disagree with the premise proffered here. So it goes. For me, however, at some level people are people. We can’t ignore that fact and still be true to our own American democratic values that we hold so dear. If we forget that basic truth, then we cannot claim to be a shining city on a hill that others should look to and emulate.

Filed under: Immigration | Comments (6) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Harshly Mellow linked with [...] ption, and he has a long post up about the advisability--or rather, the lack thereof--of a border fence between the U.S. and Mexico. His points about the significance of such a fence, [...]
A Knight’s Blog » More On The Topic Of The Month linked with [...] em quite lengthy, is a pretty big deal. This morning I discovered Steven Taylor’s follow-up post on the border fence idea, and I thought I’d respond a bit to that, because I find the ide [...]
More on the US-Mexcian Border
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:00 pm

Clearly, immigration has become “the” topic all of a sudden. For example, my piece in the paper yesterday and the discussion as identified by Scott Gosnell (who links to several other recent posts on the subject elsewhere).

Via Reuters: Bush to tackle immigration on Mexican border - Yahoo! News

Fueled by fears of terrorists slipping into the country, escalating violence and drug smuggling, Americans have become increasingly worried about illegal immigration. More than three-quarters think the government is not doing enough to control the borders, according to a CBS News poll last month.

Given that the 911 terrorists all came into the country legally, I am not sure that this is as big a concern as people make it out to be. Even if we sealed off Mexico with a 500 foot high concrete wall, it isn’t as if terrorists couldn’t get into the country. I am sympathetic to the concern, but it strikes me as really a non-issue. If al Qaeda wants to get into the US, it doesn’t need to go through Mexico.

And, at least in a general sense, I support the idea of a guest worker program.

In Tucson, Arizona, on Monday and El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday, Bush will focus on border security, portraying his temporary worker program — which some Republicans say rewards lawbreakers — as a way to relieve pressure on enforcement by bringing illegal immigrants “out of the shadows.”

It seems to me that it would help funnel the economic supply and demand issues with the proper incentive structure and would allow for more control of flow.

Of course no system will utterly eliminate illegal aliens entering the US from the South and a guest worker program beats building a wall.

Filed under: Immigration | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Sunday, November 27, 2005
PoliColumn II: On a Border Fence
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:57 am

A two-fer Sunday.

From today’s Birmingham News: Fence won’t fix illegal immigration

Fence won’t fix illegal immigration
Sunday, November 27, 2005

Not long ago, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions was one of three principle sponsors of the Border Security and Interior Enforcement Improvement Act of 2005, which seeks to fortify our borders. Among a number of orthodox proposals to fortify the U.S.-Mexican border was the idea of a security fence from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Such a fence would have to cover almost 2,000 miles and would cost $5 billion to $7 billion.

Clearly, the inspiration of this type of proposal is the security fences that have been constructed in Israel (as well as a nine-mile fence the United States already has constructed near San Diego). It is worth noting that the Israeli fence, which is concrete in portions but mainly chain link (two layers, combined with ditches, barbed wire and other such measures), was proposed to cross a total of 480 miles, according to Israeli government documents. It currently is about 365 miles long.

Not only is the Israeli fence a far smaller structure than would be required for the U.S.-Mexican border, it is constructed in an area with far more population density, making it easier to patrol the perimeter.

All of this calls into question whether it serves as an adequate model for the United States.

Of course, how effective would such a fence even be? There is no doubt a fence would slow illegals from crossing. However, building a wall is not, in and of itself, sufficient to achieve the goals being discussed. A barrier would still have to be patrolled, as there will be those who breach it in some fashion. It is worth recalling that there have already been examples of tunnels being dug under the border - a practice that would no doubt proliferate if a wall were constructed.

Concern over illegal immigration often ignores the economics of the situation. There are clear supply-and-demand forces at work that create a pull across the border. Millions of people clearly want work, and there are jobs beckoning them. The forces of a natural market are difficult to combat, as it requires striking directly at human nature.

These incentives are so strong that people are willing to die to cross into the United States to find jobs. They walk across the desert or come packed into trucks, and many do not make it. These are people who face death so they can work the night shift cleaning up the local McDonald’s. That should at least partially put into perspective the difficulties involved in controlling the border.

There also is ugly imagery associated with a wall. Don’t forget the wall constructed to separate east and west Berlin. The very possibility of a Mexican president some day standing at the Laredo Gate calling out “Mr. President, tear down this wall” should concern anyone with historical perspective.

Granted, the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in, and a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border would be designed to keep people out, but should the country that President Reagan described as a “shining city on a hill” be building walls to keep people out? What would the Statue of Liberty say?

The fact that the immigration laws of the United States are being broken en masse, not to mention drug smuggling and the possibility that terrorists could cross the border, is a worry. However, the fantasy that we can actually control the border ignores not only the vastness of the territory, but also the remarkable amount of legitimate traffic that crosses the border daily.

Laredo, Texas, alone has more than 9,000 daily crossings of vehicles, and it is impossible to adequately inspect every truck. Even if a fence substantially slowed border crossings on the frontier, there still would be opportunities to illegally enter the country.

If this appears to be a pessimistic viewpoint, so be it. Asserting total control of such a vast amount of territory against the forces that draw tens of thousands of people northward is probably impossible. As such, we have to ask ourselves if spending billions of dollars on a 2,000-mile fence is wise or desirable - especially since it is highly unlikely that a fence will do away with illegal immigration.

Filed under: US Politics, My Columns, Immigration | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Pererro linked with Illegal Immigration
A Knight’s Blog » Topic For The Day (Week? Month?): Immigration linked with [...] to be formost in the minds of many. The Sultan of Brunei (Poliblogger Steven Taylor) has posted a column he wrote for the Birmingham News about Senator Jeff Sessions’ sponsorship of a fence spa [...]
Thursday, November 3, 2005
Paris Riots Continue
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:31 am

Via Reuters: French youths riot for seventh night running

Violence broke out in Paris suburbs for the seventh night running overnight on Thursday after French youths set fire to dozens of cars.

The continuing unrest compounds pressure on Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin’s government, which has promised to restore order but is battling to paper over differences between ministers over the best way to tackle the unrest.

As I noted yesterday, this clearly underscores the problem of immigration without integration.

Filed under: Global Politics, Immigration | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
What is Going on in France?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:38 am

Via the BBC: Riots erupt in more Paris suburbs

Rioting has spread to more suburbs of Paris on a sixth night of unrest in the north-east of the French capital.

At Aulnay-sous-Bois, at least 15 cars were torched as youths hurled stones and firebombs. Police fired rubber bullets and arrested 34 people.

Although the initial flashpoint of Clichy-sous-Bois stayed calm, trouble spread across much of north-east Paris.

Unrest has flared since two north African boys died. Local people say they had been fleeing the police.

I noted a headline about riots a day or so ago, but never got around to reading it.

Via the AP/NYT we have the following details:

The area, home mainly to families of immigrant origin, often from Muslim North Africa, is marked by soaring unemployment and delinquency. Anger and despair thrive in the tall cinder-block towers and long ‘’bars'’ that typically make up housing projects in France.


Tension had mounted throughout Tuesday after young men torched cars, garbage bins and even a primary school 24 hours earlier. Scores of cars were reported burned Monday night in Clichy-sous-Bois and 13 people were jailed.

Youths set two rooms of a primary school in Sevran on fire Monday along with several cars, Mayor Stephane Gatignon said in a statement.

Unrest was triggered by the deaths of two teenagers electrocuted in a power substation where they hid to escape police. A third was injured. Officials have said police were not pursuing the boys, aged 15 and 17.

One guesses that this will all be fodder for the xenophobic far-right in France. No doubt it will become similar fuel for the anti-immigration groups in the US.

It certainly raises questions, as have problems (though nowhere as severe) in Germany, over the way immigrants are assimilated into Europe (which is to say, quite poorly).

Filed under: Global Politics, Immigration | Comments (8) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, August 18, 2005
It Gets Worse
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:20 pm

Yesterday I noted the sinking of a boat off the coast of Colombia in which 100+ people died.

Via Reuters, we find that it gets worse: Ecuadorean says people locked in sinking boat

n Ecuadorean teenager who survived days in the sea clinging to a barrel of fuel said on Friday that dozens of people who hoped to emigrate to the United States were locked in the hold of a boat when it sank.

More than 100 Ecuadoreans drowned when the wooden fishing boat with a capacity for 13 people sank in the Pacific Ocean last week. Nine people survived by hanging on to fuel and water tanks until a passing boat picked them up on Sunday. Four others who initially escaped the sinking vessel gave in to exhaustion and drowned.

The trip was organized by smugglers charging $10,000 to bring people to the United States. No arrests have been made.

Filed under: Latin America, Immigration | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:04 pm

Via CNN: 100 missing after boat sinks off Colombia:

More than 100 people have disappeared after an Ecuadorean boat carrying illegal immigrants sank in the Pacific Ocean, the Colombian navy said Wednesday.

A fishing boat rescued seven men and two women of about 120 people who had been aboard the vessel, the Colombian navy said in a statement, adding that a Colombian navy plane and boat were searching for victims.

And if you want evidence of what people will do to get to the US from the South:

The boat had left the port of Manta, Ecuador, without permission, the Colombian navy said. About 120 were crammed into the boat, which had a normal capacity of 15.

Illegal immigrants have in the past been jammed into boats leaving South America in an attempt to reach Central America and then continue to the United States.


Sadly, the death toll is high, as the AFP is reporting: 104 killed as ship sinks off Colombia.

Take this and the plane crashes in Greece and Venezuela and that’s over 300 people killed in major transportation-related accidents since Sunday.

Filed under: Latin America, Immigration | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Drink this... linked with Drowning your way to this...
PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » It Gets Worse linked with [...] ugust 18, 2005 It Gets Worse By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:20 pm Yesterday I noted the sinking of a boat off the coast of Colombia in which 100+ people died. Via Reuters, we find that [...]
Saturday, August 6, 2005
Dean Strikes Again
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:35 am

Via the AP: Dean: GOP Will Try to Scapegoat Immigrants

At a rally, Dean garnered the loudest applause when he said Republicans would make immigration a pivotal issue during upcoming elections, as they did gay marriage and affirmative action in previous elections.

“Do you know who the scapegoats are going to be? Immigrants,” he said. “In Colorado, the chairman of the Republican Party endorsed Tom Tancredo for re-election. That is morally reprehensible. The governor of California, a supposed moderate Republican, invited the Minutemen to visit California. We do not need vigilante justice.”

I will concede that some Republicans oversimplify and demagogue the immigration issue.

However, the DNC Chair seems to be forgetting that Senator Clinton has been one of the more prominent potential contenders for the presidency who appears poised to make immigration an issue (more specifically the thightening of immigration controls) and it was President Bush who sought to make it easier for Mexican laborers to enter the US to work.

In all honesty, this sounds more like a cynical attempt to damage the in-roads that Republicans have made into the Hispanic vote than anything else.

It certainly isn’t a realistic exploration of the issue.

I understand that “red meat” rhetoric is of use to leaders of political parties, but as with any diet, one strictly composed of one item isn’t good for the system, and I don’t think that Dean’s steady flow of inflammatory rhetoric is actually helping his party in terms of potential electoral success. He may be making the hardcore base happy, but beyond that, I am not sure what he is accomplishing.

I would also wonder what the intellectually honest amongst the hardcore base think of his constant verbal antics.

Filed under: US Politics, Immigration | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, June 9, 2005
The Role of Hispanics in US Population Growth
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:38 am

Via the BBC: Hispanics fuel US population rise

Hispanics account for about half the current growth rate of the US population, according to new figures released by the US Census Bureau.

Hispanics rose 3.6% to 41.3m in the year to July 2004. Overall, the US population went up 1% to 296m.

In 2003, Hispanics overtook blacks to become the largest US minority group.

The population growth for Asians ran a close second. The rises in both cases are attributed to higher birth rates and immigration.

In the 1990s, Hispanics accounted for 40% of the country’s population increase. From 2000 to 2004, that figure grew to 49%.

For those concerned that this is an immigration issue should note the following:

in contrast to the 1990s, births in the US have now overtaken immigration as the largest source of Hispanic growth.

I think that this is of great significance, insofar as there is no particular reason that an American of hispanic descent should be any lesser American than one of any other ancestry. Further, many, many hispanics have been in this country for as long, if not longer than, citizens from other backgrounds (i.e., this is not just a quesiton of second generation types).

That is to say: while it is impossible to separate a discussion of growth in the hispanic population from the question of immigration, a discussion of hispanics in the US is far from simply a discussion about immigration.

There is also a generic benefit here:

“If we didn’t have those elements, we would be moving into a situation like Japan and Europe, where the populations are greying in a way that is very alarming and endangering their productivity and endangering even their social security systems,” Lewis W Goodman told the Associated Press news agency.

Of course, these categorizations are problematic :

The Census Bureau classifies Hispanics as an ethnicity rather than a race, so Hispanics can be of any race.

This explains why the numbers for all races and ethnic groups do not match the total of almost 300m people who make up the US population as a whole.

Indeed, the entire classification system of persons into segments have a certain distastefulness to it. The bottom line: we are talking about Americans.

Filed under: US Politics, Immigration | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Lost in Translation?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:34 pm

Via the AP: Fox Says Comments Were Misinterpreted .

Hmm. While Fox says that he meant no disrepect, and that the comments were misinterpreted, I don’t see any actual explanation.

Filed under: Immigration | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Don Singleton linked with Fox's Regret Over Remark Satisfies U.S.
Signifying Nothing linked with Vicente Fox retracts anti-black comments
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Putting One’s Foot in it
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:36 am

And I am not sure he knows that’s what he did. Said Mexican President Vincente Fox:

“There is no doubt that Mexicans, filled with dignity, willingness and ability to work are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there in the United States.”


Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, Immigration | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Diggers Realm linked with Mexican President Vicente Fox Apologizes To Jesse Jackson And Al Sharpton For His Racist Comments
Diggers Realm linked with Vicente Fox: Illegal Aliens "doing jobs that not even blacks want to do "
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Yet More on Immigration
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:43 am

The immigration exchange continues between myself and the denizens of Pros and Cons.

Scott Gosnell weighs in, and raises the issue of dealing the underlying incentives that draw immigrants to the US. As a generic point, I wholly concur that dealing with incentive structures is a key may to affect behavior. He further rightly notes that a more efficacious approach would be to punish those who hire illegals. As a side note: the incentives that need the most addressing are finding ways to spur economic grow in Mexico, so that leaving won’t be as attractive.

He also addresses the incentive issue as follows:

Also, illegals should be entitled to no benefits. If you’re injured, tough — no hospital care. No driver’s license. No education. No welfare. No nothing. No access to civil courts (note, I said civil courts). If you manage to sneak into the United States illegally, you do so at your own risk.

An analogy (imperfect, I grant you): a Wyoming corporation is required to register as a foreign corporation before it can do business in Alabama. If it fails to do so, it can still do business in Alabama, but if it get’s screwed on a contract or has some sort of civil complaint or cause of action, it has no access to Alabama courts — it is essentially an illegal alien.

Now, I understand the underlying logic, and it has a certain amount of appeal. However, let’s consider the hospital issue. For one thing, if a guy comes in on a stretcher after a traffic accident, how in Heaven’s name will the doctors know if the guy is an illegal alien, a legal one, a resident, or a citizen? Further, are we really going to advocate pushing the gurney in the corner and letting the guy die if we find out that he’s illegal? There are moral and basic human rights issues here. Further, I would think that such actions would violate the fundaments of the medical profession.

Certainly, I can see no justification for welfare payments or the issuing of drivers licenses to illegals. Of course, there is the sticky problem of the mother who is illegal, yet her child is an American citizen (that whole 14th Amendment thing). It is rather difficult not to give her assistance.

Indeed, all this gets to the real fundamental problem: we are dealing with human being here, and primarily decent human beings who are simply trying to better their own circumstances.

Along these lines a discussion ensues between Scott and fellow P&Cer Doug Flinn, who notes Jesus’ admonition to feed the poor and such. Scott responds with a discussion of personal responsibilities v. those of government. I take his point to a point, but given that government is nothing more that a reflection of collected individuals (certainly true in a democracy, at any rate), I am not sure that his logic holds—especially since what his policy prescriptions could boil down to is individual action, as per the hospital example above.

Really, what all of this points out is the deep complexity of this issue and further underscores my visceral reaction to the Minuteman Project—as it reduced the whole problem to one of bodies on the border and the idea of interdicting those who cross. The problem is far more multifaceted than that.

On a side note, this interchange has underscored one of the great advantages of blogging—it helps me has out ideas. In this particular case it helps tease out in my own mind what it was about the MM that really caused read flags to wave in my head—it was less the “vigilante? aspect of the situation, but rather the feeding of a popular mis-perception (often fed by Bill O’Reilly, amongst others) that the problem really is simple to solve, and it is just the lack of will in Washington to solve it that is the real problem.

Filed under: Immigration | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Hands Across the Border
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:42 am

Clearly, our current border policies aren’t working. As such, I propose “Hands Across the Border? from Brownsville to San Diego: a human chain of patriots making sure that no illegals enter (at least on foot). Given a stance of about six feet each, and with roughly 10,560,000 feet, the project would only take about 1,760,000 persons (just short of the entire population of New Mexico). Of course, we’d need four shifts a day, so that’s 7,040,000 folks (basically the population of Virginia)—not to mention support staff—for a 24 hour period.

Just for the ChainPeople, that would be 56,320,000 man hours a day. At minimum wage ($5.15) that would be $290,048,000 a day, and $10.5 billion a year. I am not sure what kind of support staff would be needed, let alone transportation and supplies.

Of course, getting people to work for minimum wage for such a job might be a trick. Perhaps we could employ illegal aliens!

To be less silly (at least slightly), let’s consider the Minuteman Project itself as a model.

The project utilized approximately 900 persons to patrol a 23-mile swath of the border in the “Tombstone Triangle? for a month.

Now, if we take this as a basis for the entire border, that would require about 87 such units to cover the entire 2000 mile border (yes, I am over-simplifying here—as some places would need more, and others would need less), and that’s 78,300 persons.

Again, at minimum wage ($5.15), that’s 626,400 man hours a day (assuming each of the 78,300 persons working 8 hour shifts a day), that’s $3,225,960 a day in wages (and that doesn’t account for any other costs associated with an employee or the cost to maintain these persons). That’s $1,776,754,00 (i.e., $1.8 billion) a year in wages alone at this level.

If we paid these people, on average, $30,000 a year, the figure would be $2.35 billion for salaries alone—and if one takes into account health care, social security taxes and other elements (say a cost of roughly$50k a year), that number would be more like $3.9 billion. And this figure has nothing to do with the cost to outfit these persons with gear, the money needed to maintain vehicles (not to mention aircraft), or the offices out of which these folks would operate—and there would have to be a lot of them to adequately patrol the border using the Minutemen model.

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