Is "Sanctuary Cities" the Willie Horton of 2016 and other observations from last night's GOP debate

Last night, the top 10 polling GOP candidates entered into their first live debate on Fox News.  Thanks in part to Donald Trump, the subject of immigration garnered over 1,400 questions from Facebook and Twitter users in advance of the debate. For those that missed it, the transcript of the debate is here.  Several trends were apparent.

1.    "Sanctuary Cities" in the role of Willie Horton for 2016.  It is clear that Kathryn Steinle's murder will continue to be politicized and put Democrats on the defense.  Republicans have repeatedly invoked the specter of "sanctuary cities" at every opportunity as Jeb! did last night when he said:

We need to be much more strategic on how we deal with border enforcement, border security. We need to eliminate the sanctuary cities in this country. It is ridiculous and tragic…(APPLAUSE)— that people are dying because of the fact that — that local governments are not following the federal law.

The Democrats need to more effectively counter the GOP use of "sanctuary cities" as a soundbite.  The term itself has no legal meaning and is purely political.  But the public has no way of knowing that cities and localities cannot actually "refuse to follow federal law."  The beauty of the "sanctuary cities" soundbite is that it does double duty in eliding major complexities within immigration federalism while tapping into nativist and xenophobic fears of immigrants as criminals, a tired but persistent trope that won't go away despite countervailing evidence.  It is also being deployed at a time when many white ethnics are insecure not just about the economy, but about the cultural and racial changes wrought by immigration--indeed this is the sentiment Donald Trump's inartful rants about Mexicans is channeling. The issue is as complex as this recent explainer shows. Still, Democrats have to come up with a way to more succinctly convey that information to the public because even some liberals are confused about the sanctuary cities bullshit.

2. Assiduous avoidance of what to do with the 11 million. Consistent with the discussion on the "happy hour" debate held at 5pm earlier,  the candidates each pledged their support for securing the border and more enforcement.  Wishing to avoid a Romney "self-deportation" self-inflicted wound, noticeably absent was any discussion of what to do with the 11 million undocumented persons already here in the country.  The only hint is that the candidates have said that benefits would not roll out until the "border is secure", which is akin to saying "I won't marry you until you rectify every flaw in yourself", that is to say, to set out an impossible standard. 

3.  Jeb!'s big flip-flop from "path to citizenship" to "earned legal status".  Many of the candidates have changed their positions on immigration over time like Scott Walker who used to support comprehensive immigration reform but now is all about enforcement, but the whopper flopper award goes to Jeb Bush who in 2012 on the Charlie Rose show said the following: 

You have to deal with this issue. You can’t ignore it. And so, either a path to citizenship, which I would support and that does put me probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives; Or a path to legalization, a path to residency of some kind.

By 2013, in the publication of his book on immigration, Jeb! had again changed his mind and now wants a path to "earned legal status", which means he believes the undocumented should be able to apply for a status that would allow them to become documented, but would in no way put them on a path to citizenship, what political theorist Elizabeth Cohen has referred to as a state of "semi-citizenship".

Any way you cut it, immigration will remain a central issue in the 2016 presidential contest and all the candidates would be wise to staff up on immigration specialists. 

Cheat sheet on 2016 GOP candidate positions on immigration

From last night's CSPAN event which occurred ahead of Thursday's first GOP primary debate, we learned the immigration position of 14 of the 17 contenders for the GOP nomination, and there is some variation, although not a lot.  Even though no one mentioned Donald Trump in the 2 hour long event, it was clear his remarks had an effect in making the candidates skew right on the immigration issue since no one wanted to cede ground to The Donald's tough stance.  (Trump was not present at the event.) While several candidates had previously backed comprehensive immigration reform, now all said that the border must be secured before there could be any talk about what to do about the roughly 11 million undocumented.  Of note:  not one candidate said that the 11 million should be deported or self-deport a la Mitt Romney. Here are some highlights:

Rick Perry:  Quelle surprise.  Wants to focus on enforcement before anything else.  "Until we get that border secure, it's not going to stop... It's like a serious wound, you want to staunch the flow and that's not what's happening in this country now." With regard to visa overstays, "You go find 'em, you pick 'em up and you send 'em back where they're from."

Jeb Bush:  Who formerly supported comprehensive immigration reform now says that the number of legal immigration should also be limited to those coming to join family in the U.S. rather than open to immigrants bringing a variety of relatives. He is worried about chain migration. His major policy shift is that he supports "a rigorous path to earned legal status" for the undocumented, which is distinct from his past support for a path to citizenship.

Marco Rubio:  Has a very similar version of Jeb's policy which advocates limiting legal immigration to people who have ties to relatives already living here and also people who have job skills.  "We admit one million people a year legally to the United States, but we do so primarily on the basis of whether or not they have a relative living here....We cannot afford to do it that way anymore.  In the 21st century, legal immigration must be based on merit, on what you can contribute economically, basically whether you are coming to be an American as opposed to simply live in America." Rubio who formerly supported comprehensive immigration reform, now says that the border must be secure before any talk of relief for the undocumented is to be had.

Rick Santorum:  Wanted a 25% reduction to the number of low skilled immigrants allowed into the country.  "Everyone else is dancing around it. I'm going to stand for the American worker."

John Kaisch:  Called for an expansion in temporary guest worker programs and those undocumented who obeyed the rules, should be allowed to stay.  "Law-abiding, God-fearing" immigrants should be allowed to stay. Those who break the law, "have to be deported or put in prison."

2014 Herbert Kurz Chair Roundtable: The Politics of Immigration and Citizenship--Past as Prologue

As the Herbert Kurz Chair in Constituional Rights, each year I have the pleasure of putting together public programing around the theme of constitutional rights.  In 2012, we took on NYPD's controversial Stop and Frisk policy.  Last year, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education, we tackled school desegregation.  This year, we investigate the politics of immigration, a subject that has been described as the "new third rail of American politics."

Individuals and groups as diverse as the NAACP, Mark Zuckerberg, Al Sharpton, MALDEF, SEIU, the Chamber of Commerce, and many others including leading CEOS in the Silicon Valley have loudly called for comprehensive immigration reform.  Zuckerberg has said that immigration is the civil rights issue of our time.  All feel that the system is profoundly broken and is harming individuals and families, and also puts U.S. businesses in an uncompetitive position.  In the summer of 2013, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive and bipartisan immigration bill.  The initial elation quickly evaporated when the House failed to follow suit and openly stymied the process.  The immigration reform effort was declared officially dead in the summer of 2014.  Was immigration reform always mission impossible?

To address that question and related ones, I am convening a round-table of prominent immigration scholars who study immigration in historical context.  Common to all the participants is that they believe why something happens in American politics is often explained by when it happens.  These scholars are adept at drawing insight from our immigrant past to explain our present. 

WHAT:      Round-table on the politics of immigration and citizenship

WHEN:     Thursday, October 16, 4:30-6pm, with informal reception to follow

WHERE:  CUNY Graduate Center,  365 Fifth Avenue (@ 34th St.), Sociology Lounge (Room 6112)

WHO:  The participants are prominent immigration history, law, and public policy scholars.

Cybelle Fox, Assistant Professor of Sociology, UC Berkely, author of  Three Worlds of Relief that won 6 book awards.

Rebecca Hamlin, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Grinnel College, author of the recent Let Me Be a Refugee.

Rogers Smith, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, U. of Pennsylvania, and author of Civic Ideals, a finalist for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History.

Dan Tichenor, Philip H. Knight Professor of Social Science, U. of Oregon, and author of Dividing Lines, winner of the Gladys Kammerer Award.

As moderator, I have asked the participants to take 3-5 minutes to address what aspect of our immigrant past best illuminates our current situation, and then we will immediately open the floor to audience questions.

You can run like Rand, but you can't hide--the GOP's immigration dilemma

The New Republic has already mocked Rand Paul's (R-KY) inelegant dine-and-dash mid-bite of his burger in Iowa recently with a reference to Monty Python.  In watching the painful footage of Steve King (R-IA) being confronted by two very articulate and educated DREAMERS, an Arizona State graduate and another law student, both brought by their parents to this country when they were young and are undocumented, you see the crux of the GOP's immigration dilemma.

First, here's the footage of the now famous Rand Paul profile in courage.  You need to see for yourself King's words.

ith regard to Rand Paul's quick exit--he really had no choice--that old Flock of Seagulls song comes to mind.

But King comments, as he alternates between complimenting Ms. Andiola repeatedly on her command of the English language and asks her if she is a drug smuggler (because that's allegedly the only kind of undocumented immigrant he's opposed to) encapsulates the GOP's bigger problems with immigration.  The party will be repeatedly challenged by a growing generation of DREAMERs like the two in the video, educated in the U.S., articulated, and bold.  And unfortunately for King and Running Rand, the Latino community see King and his ilk as emblematic of the entire party's stance on immigration rather than an outliers of the party.

Analysis of Obama's $3.7 billion request for immigration control

Today the Obama Administration announced it's 3.7 billion dollar request to stem the tide of unaccompanied minors children at our nation's borders.  In recent months, the U.S. has witnessed a sharp increase of children arriving from Mexico and Central American countries.  The breakdown of that mammoth request is driven by political concerns rather than actually an attempt to solve the problem.

Every immigration decision is two pronged; some factors are pushing the migrant to leave their home country, and other considerations are drawing them to the United States, as opposed to another nation as a final destination.  In recent days, there has been media coverage of the changes in immigration law that have led to this current crisis of so many children traveling alone and risking their lives to reach the U.S.  That may explain while unprecedented numbers are trying to get to the U.S.  But according to a recent report, the minors are leaving their home country because of the desperate poverty, widespread violence, and a desire to reunite with other family members.

The breakdown of the $3.7 billion dollar request does not seem to reflect the reality of the migration calculus.  It is as follows (h/t Phil Wolgin):

-$1.8 million to the Department of Health and Human Services for the care of the migrants.

-$1.1 billion to the Department of Homeland Security for the detention, prosecution, apprehension, and removal of the migrants.

-$433 million to Customs and Border Protection for apprehension of migrants.

-$300 million to the Department of State, of which $295 million is to help governments of the sending countries be aware of and to address the problems that cause people to leave.

-$64 million to the Department of Justice for more staff to process the deportations and some funds for the legal representation of some of the minors.

The bottom line is this, most of the $3.7 billion is going to enforcement and repatriation, some of it is going to the care of the immigrants while they are in the U.S., and less than 10% of the funds is going to address push factors in the sending countries.  If one wants to address the root causes of this phenomenon, it would appear that the breakdown of the spending will not actually do that and this  itemization is a political response to what should be treated as a humanitarian crisis.

Are immigrants a captured constituency of the Democratic Party?

It's not been a good year for immigrants and their supporters.  Last summer, the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill, but elation soon gave way to frustration as the House refused to move on the bill and even a piecemeal approach died.  Then Eric Cantor (R-VA) was unceremoniously shown the door and many saw that development as the death blow for any hopes of immigration reform this year because he was replaced by an opponent that campaigned explicitly on an anti-amnesty stance. 

Last week, a memo declassified by the Clinton Library showed Rahm Emanuel advising then President Clinton in 1996 to out-Nixon even Nixon on law and order issues and specifically to deport "a record number" of immigrants.  Finally, two days ago, Obama announced a new emergency effort to streamline the deportation process to make it easier to return persons showing up on our southwestern border including unaccompanied minors.  Particularly egregious is that the Administration's new request for funding and change of policy is being made while the White House is also simultaneously referring to  the large number of child arrivals as a "humanitarian crisis", which would suggest a non-punitive response.  Are immigrants and their supporters a captured constituency of the Democratic Party?

Political Scientist, Paul Frymer argued in Uneasy Alliances Race and Party Competition in America that the two party system in the U.S. allows the Democratic Party to blow off the concerns of African Americans who are a numerical minority in order to appeal to moderate white voters who will help them win elections.  Frymer used the term "electoral capture" by which he meant:

[T]hose circumstances when the group has no choice but to remain in the party.  The opposing party does not want the group's vote, so the group cannot threaten it's party leaders with defection.  The party leadership, then, can take the group for granted because it recognizes that short of abstention or an independent (and usually electoral suicide) third party, the group has no where else to go.

Given that the Democratic Party seems to be trying to outdo the Republicans on toughness against immigrants, do immigrants and their supporters really have any good options except to stick with the Democratic Party and its schizophrenic immigration policies?   On the one hand, Obama has removed/deported a record numbers of immigrants and now is seeking to further streamline return/removal requirements.  On the other hand, Obama also created a program that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, giving certain immigrants reprieve from enforcement. 

On balance though, it would not be accurate to consider immigrants a captured Democratic constituency, for now.  One reason is that many of the GOP leadership and even the rank and file  of the party do not oppose immigration reform--but a vocal and vociferous Tea Party wing does.  Indeed most Republicans realize that given the electoral calculus, moving on immigration policy has to happen at some point so the party does not continue to hemorrhage Latino voters and lose national elections repeatedly.  So it's not out of the question that the Republican Party would support immigration reform.  And, it also cannot be said that the Republican Party does not want the immigrant vote, quite the opposite.  BUT...while the GOP figures out how to deal with its Tea Party wing, the immigrants are temporarily captured by the Democratic Party.

Even if immigrants are not permanently electorally caputred yet, the two party system is one of the main culprits in enabling the continued lack of much needed immigration reform, and, indeed a lack of any bold legislation, to drag on now for several more years.  The structural incentives are such that both parties' main goal is to appeal to the median/moderate voters first to get themselves reelected before being responsive to a minority constituency on a controversial topic.

McCullen v Coakley, When a qualified right trumped a fundamental right

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued its opinion in McCullen v Coakley, about a Massachusetts law that creates a 35 foot buffer zone around abortion clinics.  The Court unanimously struck down that law as an impermissible violation of one's speech rights.  Apparently in yesterday's decision, the Court left intact their finding in Hill v CO that Colorados's law that persons cannot "knowingly approach" a person without that person's consent within 100 feet of an abortion clinic to talk to the person, hand them a leaflet, display a sign, or engage in conversation or protest.  The issue seems to be the manner in which the MA law restricted speech.  The Court apparently believed that the persons whose free speech rights were being infringed upon were not "protesters" (who are allowed outside buffer zones) but, persons who are sidewalk "counselors" who  "seek to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about alternatives."  Egregiously the Court has privileged the zealots speech rights over one's fundamental right to privacy.

How is the Massachusetts law a restriction of speech?  It just restricts the place that speech can take place. There is no unqualified, unrestricted right to speech.  Through many cases, except this one, the Court has said that one's free speech rights is relational to the public welfare and public safety also.  Speech never was an absolute right.  The Court noted there was not enough evidence for the MA law. Huh?  Indeed, Massachusetts had passed the law to address not just the harassment and intimidation women face upon entering the clinics, but also outright violence as evidence by the shooting rampage at two clinics in 1994.  So the Massachusetts law restricts speech within a space roughly half the distance from a pitcher's mound and home plate, and only in that space.

This case is not about free speech being balanced against the autonomy of women.  What happened to a women's right to privacy, which the Court has said is a fundamental right?  I don't mean the privacy that underwrites the Roe v Wade case that grants a right to an abortion.  I mean more practical immediate privacy.  Planned Parenthood and other women's health clinics typically provide not just abortion services but mammograms and pap smears.  Does every women have to explain herself to the sidewalk "counselors" as she enters a clinic about what actual health services she is about to receive?  Or more likely, are the "counselors" simply going to assume that any and every woman walking into a clinic is going to get an abortion and therefore bestow their "counseling" on all entering women anyway.  What happened to the privacy rights of women granted in Griswold v CT of a woman to choose to discuss her health concerns only with her doctor and medical staff? Or to paraphrase former Justice Louis Brandeis, the right to be left the fuck alone?

The opinion really raises more questions than it answers.  When does "quiet conversation" cross the line into intimidation and harassment?  I don't have to raise my voice or swear to be intimidating.  Questioning/badgering/asking for moral justification of someone about their private life choices, even in the most "polite" way, can be intimidating and harassing.  Why does some religious zealot with no actual psychological or social work counseling get elevated to "counselor" who is entitled to offer their uninformed and unwanted ideological opinion to women?  And are such laws really neutral in application? How many "counselors" outside of these clinics are abortion supporters affirming the woman's right to choice?

So much for one's fundamental right to privacy.

With Friends Like These...Rahm Emanuel's Advice to then President Clinton on Immigration

It's apparently been 12 years since the Clinton White House and some of the presidential documents are now being unsealed.  (h/t Corey Robin) This memo was in that trove, an internal memo by Rahm Emanuel, then Clinton's adviser now Mayor of Chicago, advising Clinton on immigration and other issues.  (The immigration discussion begins on the bottom of page 3 of the memo.) The tone is the cut and dried matter-of -factness of any policy memo, and Machiavellian.  The overall advice is to be like Nixon(!), be tough on crime, a perennial weakness of Democratic candidates, by coopting some GOP language and strategies.

Some historical context:  by the time President Clinton read this memo, the Anti-Terrorism and Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) had passed and so had the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA).  AEDPA was passed on the one year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, and it is worth reminding everyone that terror attack was carried out by a home grown terrorist.  But both AEDPA and IIRIRA had profound immigration consequences.  It worked to eliminate waivers to deportation (usually granted based on close ties to U.S. citizen and Lawful Permanent Resident Family members) ,and strip federal court review for immigrants convicted of serious crimes.  (Side note:  anyone who read my book knows why federal court review is often the last line of defense against administrative errors.) It also created mandatory detention for all, including persons seeking political asylum. 

The laws also greatly expanded the kinds of crimes considered "serious", which depended on state law definitions of crime, which of course vary across states.  In short, AEDPA and IIRIRA made it much easier for the government to deport people. Immigrant advocates decried the legislation as unnecessarily punitive.  The list of horribles is enumerated here.  No immigration attorney or anyone who cares about due process likes these two bills.  Thousands of mix status families (some immigrant, some U.S. citizen in the same family) have been torn apart due to these laws.

Now, reading Emanuel's Nov. 1996 memo to Clinton, we know that Emanuel didn't think they went far enough with AEDPA and IIRIRA. 1)  He counsels Clinton to expand a hearing program that will result in "record deportation of criminal aliens".  2) Taking a page out of the McCarthy Era described in Patrick Weil's book, he advises that Clinton should call a one month moratorium on naturalizations to review cases for "criminal misconduct" so Clinton can look tough on crime. 3)  He advises that Clinton force the INS to expand an employment verification procedure so that Clinton can claim certain industries are now "free of illegal immigration", even though that procedure is flawed.  4) He counsels what every other Democratic and Republican president does, which is to announce periodically resources to be thrown at the southwestern border, whether it is efficacious  or not, but for the sake of political theater.  5)  He suggests enlisting the Coast Guard to help police immigration which "avoids the charge of militarizing the border."

Notably, all Emanuel's suggestions are about enforcement on immigrants instead of providing relief of any kind.  Moreover, his advice does not include cracking down on U.S. employers who hire immigrants and therefore also break immigration law, by deploying more resources to interior and worksite enforcement and strengthening sanctions and financial penalties against those who hire the undocumented.  Without turning off the magnet attracting undocumented immigration, Emanuel's suggestions just further hurt immigrant families while letting exploitative U.S. employers off the hook

It's reasonable to assume that Emanuel passed along his electoral policy suggestions to Obama as well, but Obama's huge deportation rates are now coming back to bite him and his party with Latino constituents.  And the worst thing is Clinton and Obama seemed to have followed Emanuel's suggestion to deport "a record number" of people, but they have not targeted criminal aliens and instead bagged many persons who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and who were indeed in violation of immigration laws and minor crimes, but were not hardened criminals.

Dude,  with "liberal" presidents "friends" like Bill Clinton and Rahm Emanuel who are trying to out-law-and-order the GOP, who needs enemies?

Why Eric Cantor's Loss is not a rejection of immigration reform

Pundits are likely to claim that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) loss to his Tea Party backed challenger David Brat was a resounding rejection of amnesty.  It is no such thing.  It is true that Brat conflated Cantor's acquiesce to piecemeal immigration reform  (much of it different versions of enforcement) into support for amnesty.  But Cantor's loss should not be read as a referendum on immigration.

Mainly, Cantor's loss should be attributed to an anti-establishment mentality among the electorate.  (h/t Lina Newton who noted Cantor's win follows the pattern of other Tea Party wins i.e. longtime incumbent TKO'd by unknown, under-funded challenger.)  One VA voter said:  "There are some very angry people upset with the status quo, and Eric became part of that,” said former Representative Thomas M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican. “He was the only conduit they have to express their anger right now."

More evidence that the immigration issue alone did not cause Cantor's loss is Lindsay Graham's (R-SC) comfortable primary win.  Graham has unabashedly and unswervingly backed comprehensive immigration reform as one of the bipartisan Gang of 8 Senators that managed to pass the Senate immigration bill last summer.  He supports immigration reform in part because he does not believe the GOP's long term prospects are sustainable without it.

Who would have imagined that the immigration community would be ambivalent about Cantor's loss because it throws any immigration reform this year into serious doubt, with some already pronouncing the subject matter dead on arrival?  I, for one, am more upset at what the Cantor loss says about the state of the polity.  When someone like Eric Cantor can be considered an "establishment Republican" and not conservative enough, we're in for a rough ride.

Summary 2014 Kurz Panel: Are we More Equal? 60 years after Brown v Board

As part of my duties as Kurz Chair in Constitutional Law and Civil Liberties, I am charged with producing public programing relating to civil liberties and civil rights.  In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court desegregation decision, Brown v Board of Education, I brought together three experts in education policy and history for the 2014 Kurz Panel.  The panel discussion took place at Brooklyn College on April 7, 2014 and was attended by about 50 faculty members and students of the college.  I had asked the panelists to assess how far we as a nation had come since Brown v Board and how much further we need to go.

David Bloomfield of Brooklyn College started off the discussion.  Having served as a former General Counsel to the New York City Board of Education and adviser to Manhattan borough president, Bloomfield is an expert in educational policy and law generally, but also on the situation in NY in particular. He noted that while the Presidential order by President Carter was issued many decades ago, we are no closer to eliminating school desegregation.  Moreover, there are persistent problems beyond just physical and racial segregation of schools.  There is still an achievement gap between white and minority students.  He reported some of the findings of a recent UCLA study issued by Gary Orfield, the leading school segregation researcher, that noted NYC is home to the nation's most racially segregated school districts. Among some of the negative effects of this racial segregation:  schools that contain predominantly black and Latino students have less experienced teachers, less resources, and students of these groups face more suspensions out of proportion of their numbers in the school population.

Bloomfield especially hammered home the point that in NYC, "geography is destiny" for your education opportunities in the sense that where you live dictates the quality of your schools if you cannot afford to attend private schools.  Much of the effect of racial segregation in NYC schools results from income inequality, housing patterns, and its overlap with race.  He notes the many school districts that are predominantly minority could not afford to run a gifted and talented programs because allegedly, too few students qualified for them.  On the flip side, the number of black and Latino students admitted to NYC's specialized high schools was abysmal.  He quoted the statistic that Stuyvesant High School admitted all of 7 African American students this year.

Chris Bonastia, a Sociologist from CUNY Lehman and the Grad Center, then presented some historical context for the struggle for desegregation.  Bonastia has written a book about Prince Edward County in Virginia which closed down its public school system from 1959-1963 in order to halt the integration demanded by Brown and repeated federal court orders.  Prince Edward County was in fact one of the counties included in the second Brown compliance case.  Bonastia noted the problems with court decrees that lacked specific enforcement and compliance mechanisms.  There was quite a bit of resistance not just from Prince Edward County, but among many counties in both the North and South, due to the lack of clarity about what actually constituted compliance with the Brown decision.  Nevertheless, compared to other counties and states, what made Prince Edward County stand out was the duration and concertedness of the resistance to integration.

Bonastia recounted what happened in Prince Edward County after the closure of the public school system in 1959.  Essentially private schools popped up to coincide with the closing of the public schools and most of the white students went to those private schools.  Meanwhile, 3/4 of the black students from that county missed 5 years of education.  In 1964, when the federal courts ordered the public schools to reopen, the county simply starved them for funding.  Bonastia further noted that the problem with segregated schools was mainly a resource issue; minority schools were simply not funded with comparable resources to white schools.

Karolyn Tyson, a Sociologist from UNC Chapel Hill gave the last presentation.  Tyson has authored a book calling attention not to the racial segregation across schools, but within schools.  She started by saying there is no question we as a nation have come a long way since Brown, but persistent racial inequality within schools continues to undermine the many gains made since Brown.  Her research is about the problems of racial inequality that persist within integrated schools within the tracking system.  White students dominate AP and Honors track classes while black and Latino students dominate lower track classes.  The problem with this tracking system that correlates with race is that lower track classes regularly suffer more disruptive classrooms, are less challenging, have fewer experienced teachers, and fewer resources than higher track classes.

She also conducted ethnographic research among high performing black high school students to see how they were making sense of the racial segregation within schools.  The results are devastating.  When these black students see in all their Honors and AP classes that they are among less than 3 black students in those classes, they start drawing negative conclusions.  One student said, "It [the pattern] looks like black people aren't that smart and black people can't cut it."  Or from another student, "Black people just don't take Honors/AP classes".  Tyson said these tortured comments result from the constant messages we all are sent that your educational quality and result are a result of merit alone, not the structural racism that she had documented.

The three presentations together painted a sobering picture of persistent racial segregation patterns 60 years after Brown.  Although de jure segregation has been eliminated, the effects of property values, income patterns, and their correlation with race conspire to ensure that de facto segregation persists in areas like NYC.  In addition, one cannot look just for segregation across schools when there are racial disparities within integrated schools.  Finally, as Bonastia cautioned, given the shameful legacy of how private schools were used in Prince Edward County to avoid integration, one must be vigilant against siren song of privatization of schools as the magic bullet that will solve problems.  Some charter schools, as Bloomfield noted, are contributing to the racial segregation problem in NYC.

At the conclusion of the presentations, the panelists took questions for about 20 minutes.  The audiences was very engaged and asked a variety of questions including, "Who is to be held responsible for the mess that is NYC public school?" and "Is culture a factor in different student groups' academic success.?" Some of my students who attended the panel told me the information they learned was "eye opening". 

McCutcheon: Speak Loudly by Carrying a Huge Wad of Cash

Judicial modesty is on life support.  Restrictions on campaign spending are starting to look positively quaint.  An activist Court has struck again.  The conservative turn taken by the federal courts in about 1980s was viewed as a reaction to the liberal Warren Court.  But as Tom Keck has argued in his outstanding book, The Most Activist Supreme Court in History, observers had expected a return to judicial restraint.  Instead, the Rehnquist Court and now the Roberts Court, while upholding most of the Warren Court rulings, also created their own brand of "conservative activism" by overturning long settled law in several areas including and not limited to campaign finance.  In so doing, one of the Roberts Court's distinction is unleashing an unprecedented flow of cash into campaigns and elections.

The opening salvo in dismantling limits on campaign contributions put in place for decades by Buckley v Valeo  (1976) began with Citizens United in 2008.  Buckley v Valeo had created dollar amount limits that an individual could contribute to a candidate, political party, and political action committee. The decision upheld laws passed in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal that had the intent to restrict cash flowing into the electoral system because of the unscrupulous practices that may result.  Moreover, in the per curiam decision the majority noted that Congress was right to guard against not just actual unscrupulous behavior, but even "the appearance of impropriety".  424 U.S. 1 @ 30.   (Buckley also  held that a wealthy individual could spend unlimited amounts of his/her own money in an effort to get themselves elected to public office).  

Citizens United did not address these individual limits but instead took up the question how much corporate entities and unions could spend in campaigns and elections and whether these entities had to disclose their spending which is now equated with "political speech".  These entities did so by challenging The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA).  In that case, the Roberts Court returned a sweeping decision which granted corporate entities the same status as individual persons saying that if individuals had protection for free speech, so did corporations and unions.  Further, this speech right of corporations cannot be limited to a dollar amount, although the spending of corporations cannot be done in active concert and affiliation with a party or candidate.  That decision has been roundly criticized, not the least by conservatives like Judge Richard Posner of the 7th circuit.  Posner writes:

The Supreme Court allows donations to political campaigns to be regulated (and limited) because of fear that donations unlimited in amount corrupt the political process, because the candidate recipient knows that a donor of a large amount of money expects something in return, usually favorable consideration of a policy that would benefit the donor, and hence a large donation is likely to be a tacit bribe. But the Court, rather naively as it seems to most observers, reasoned in the Citizens United case that the risk of corruption would be slight if the donor was not contributing to a candidate or a political party, but merely expressing his political preferences through an independent organization such as a super PAC—an organization neither controlled by nor even coordinating with a candidate or political party.

Posner's goes on to question the ability of anyone to police the "coordination", or collusion between corporations and campaigns/candidates and he absolutely rejects the idea that more cash poured into campaigns equals a more informed citizenry since most of the ads don't aim to smear the opponent instead of actually educating in a positive way.

I disagree with Posner that the Citizens United majority was naive.  The conservative majority knew full well what would result.  The Roberts Court in Citizens United and McCutcheon seem to be thinking one thing:  payback.  Now that the conservatives have the majority on the Court, they will unabashedly reshape society through laws into their preferred view.  The Warren Court had mollycoddled the poor, minorities, and criminal defendants enough--it's time now for the moneyed interests to get some love.  They have accomplished this task by creating the legal fiction of corporations having speech rights like persons and in equating spending to speech.

Thanks to Citizens United, corporate interests can now not only spend unlimited amounts on campaigns, but also hid behind bland labels like Restore Our Future and FreedomWorks for America.  How this move and those in McCutcheon avoid the appearance of impropriety is a mystery.

Now comes McCutcheon v FEC to follow up on easing limits on individual donors.  Although McCutcheon is a less sweeping decision than Citizens United, it does the following as described by Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog:

The per-donation limits now in effect that the Court did not disturb are $2,600 per election to a candidate (with primary and general elections treated separately), $32,400 per year to a national party committee, $10,000 per year to a state or local party committee, and $5,000 per year to a regular political action committee (but that cap does not apply to the new “Super PACs” that only spend independently and do not give money to candidates).

What the Court struck down were these two-year ceilings that would have been operating during 2013 and 2014: $48,600 to federal candidates, and $74,600 to political committees.  Of that $74,600, no more than $48,600 can be donated to state and local party committees and PACs.

The majority in McCutcheon believes that by leaving the individual spending limits to each candidate, party, and regular PACs in place, these restrictions will be enough to prevent corruption which in Citizens United they had defined as preventing "quid pro quo corruption". (pg. 3 of the District Court opinion).  Donors are now free to send unlimited amounts not on one candidate, but on many, say to fund 500 Republican candidates instead of spending it all on 5. 

Of my many objections to McCutcheon, I will point out one that many other analysts have already indicated, and that is the cramped definition of "corruption" as only of the quid pro quo variety.  When a donor, whether a corporation or an individual gives a candidate a large sum of money, few hand over the cash without expectations, even if those expectations are not explicitly stated.  The burden of the obligation felt by the candidate to the large donor may be unspoken but no less weighty on the recipient. 

Lawrence Lessig has objected to the overly-narrow and ahistorical conception of "corruption" being used in Citizens United and now McCutcheon.   He notes that the framers, whom Scalia and Thomas allegedly hold up as authorities, had a far more expansive definition of "corruption":

What was absolutely clear from that research was that by “corruption,” the Framers certainly did not mean quid pro quo corruption alone. That exclusive usage is completely modern. And while there were cases where by “corruption” the Framers plainly meant quid pro quo corruption, these cases were the exception. The much more common usage was “corruption” as in improper dependence. Parliament, for example, was “corrupt,” according to the Framers, because it had developed an improper dependence on the King. That impropriety had nothing to do with any quid pro quo. It had everything to do with the wrong incentives being allowed into the system because of that improper dependence.

When I read the miserly definition of "corruption" as only encompassing quid pro quo malfeasance, it brought to mind then Assistant Attorney General John Yoo's definition of torture as: “The victim must experience intense pain or suffering of the kind that is equivalent to the pain that would be associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body functions will likely result.”  By so narrowly defining "corruption" Citizens United and McCutcheon leave as possible many permutations of undue influence that would fall short of, but be no less damaging to our democracy than quid pro quo corruption.

The success of the NAACP to dismantle the wall of racial segregation took more than half a century.  Copying the tactics of the NAACP, conservatives will likely bring down attempts to hold back the undue influence of the rich on the electoral process much sooner by taking brick by brick out of the wall that guards against undue financial influence in elections.  As one of my former students who is a fundraiser for the DNC notes, the immediate effect of flooding the electoral system with money is that we get people running for public office who are not necessarily the best leaders or statespersons--just the best fundraisers.  The long term effect of these decisions remain to be seen.

2014 Kurz Chair panel: Are we More Equal? 60 years after Brown v Board

In my position as the Herbert Kurz Chair of Constitutional Law and Civil Liberties at CUNY Brooklyn College, I have the ability to create public programing about constitutional law and civil rights issues that are of concern to our Brooklyn College community and to citizens more broadly.  The first inaugural Kurz Chair panel last year was a vigorous discussion of NYPD's controversial Stop and Frisk policy.  I am equally excited about this year's event and invite all to attend.

WHAT:  2014 Kurz Chair panel

WHEN:  April 7 from 12:50 to 2:15 pm

WHERE:  CUNY Brooklyn College's student center at Campus Road and E. 27th Street, State Lounge, 5th Floor (Bdlg. 1 on linked campus map)

WHO:  All are invited.  This year's group of scholars are education integration experts and they will assess the legacy, progress, and challenges that remain after the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v Board decision.

The distinguished panelists include:

David Bloomfieldis a Professor of Education at Brooklyn College with a joint appointment at the Grad Center’s Urban Education Program. He is the founding chair at Brooklyn College Dept. of Childhood, Bilingual, and Special Education.  His areas of expertise include education law, legislation and policy; school and district management; parent and community outreach and NYC school governance.  He is a former elementary and secondary school teacher; general counsel, NYC Board of Education; general counsel and senior education adviser to the Manhattan borough president; Exec. Dir. for public education programs.  He is the author of American Public Education Law(Peter Lang, 2011) and many other articles and book chapters about education policy.

Chris Bonastiais a Sociologist at CUNY Lehman and the Grad Center who specializes race and politics in historical perspective. His second book, Southern Stalematewith University of Chicago Press examines Prince Edward County, Virginia, the only school district to close its schools for an extended period–1959 to 1964–rather than desegregate them. Bonastia describes the struggle over education during the civil rights era and the human suffering that came with it, as well as the inspiring determination of black residents to see justice served. Artfully exploring the lessons of the Prince Edward saga, Southern Stalemate unearths new insights about the evolution of modern conservatism and the politics of race in America.

Karolyn Tyson is a Sociologist from UNC Chapel Hill. Her expertise is in the sociology of education, equality of educational opportunity, and qualitative research methods. She is particularly interested in understanding the complex interactions between schooling processes and the achievement outcomes of black students. Tyson has published Integration Interrupted: Tracking, Black Students, and Acting White after Brown (Oxford, 2011). The book examines how and why black students have come to equate school success with whiteness. Based on more than ten years of research, Integration Interrupted shows how the practice of curriculum tracking in the aftermath of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision contributed to students casting academic achievement as a “white thing.”

I wish to thank all the cosponsoring units and departments listed below for their support of the event.

Panel Poster Draft9 middle text-1
Panel Poster Draft9 middle text-1

What do asylum statistics actually say?

On Saturday, The New York Times published an article by Semple, Goldstein and Singer about a cottage industry of asylum fraud in New York's Chinatown. The article shines a light on a murky world where fake stories and fraudulent documents about political persecution are sold, rehearsed, coached, and disseminated. It is an inevitable part of the immigration system given the difficulty of obtaining a Greencard if one is not closely related to a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent resident or does not possess the employment skills needed by U.S. employers.

The article also recounts some statistics in an attempt to assess the phenomenon of fraudulent Chinese asylum claims.

Though the prevalence of fraud is unknown, federal officials appear to regard the applicant pool in New York with considerable suspicion. In fiscal year 2013, asylum officers around the country granted 40 percent of all Chinese asylum requests, according to government data. In New York City, asylum officers approved only 15 percent.

The underlying assumption in these statements is a misplaced trust in the "objectivity" of statistics and an erroneous assumption that the adjudicators are in fact correct and therefore the low grant rate suggests that the fraud must indeed be high. But that low grant rate of 15% must be taken into context. The reporters assume uniformity, consistency, and objectivity in the asylum adjudications across the country when in fact there are wild variations within the same immigration court as reported by TRAC and even acknowledged by the government's own General Accounting Office.

What these two reports show is that even when holding a host of relevant variables constant, including the underlying case facts that should drive the decision, the most frequent explanation for the denial or grant of asylum was the identity of the judge. It wasn't about one's story or what the aylum seeker said, it was about which Immigration Judge the applicant got.

The arbitrariness which plagues the asylum system was also well documented in Phil Schrag, Andy Schoenholtz, and Jaya Ramji-Nogales' Refugee Roulette.

No one would say there is no fraud in the asylum system and that those shady facilitators do not exist.  The reporters are right that people try to game the system, but larger problems are also inherent in the system itself that adjudicates asylum claims without consistency or neutrality thereby harming bonafide asylum seekers and the crediblity of the asylum process.

"The Uninvited Guest": Indoctrination of the young on immigration policy

Inculcating the "us" versus "them" mentality is starting young these days.  The Washington Post reported yesterday that a school in Prince George's County in MD cancelled a skit called "The Uninvited Guest" that was to be performed in a third grade class after objections from parents over the skit's content.  (h/t Hillary Stebbins)  The skit was downloaded from a website providing supplementary material to secondary school teachers.  The Post has reprinted that skit here.  It is true it is a skit for the third grade class, but still, there is a difference between glossing over major complexities to make the material age appropriate and feeding biased propaganda to small children.

It is essentially about a number of guests who meet at Uncle Sam's party in the "Country Haven."  The name of the fictitious country alone, particularly the word "haven" already evokes drawbridges and moats, and the need to guard against undesirables.   The character of "Uncle Sam" is obviously to symbolize the U.S., but elides the democratic processes and inputs that go into making U.S. immigration policy.  No public policy is ever just about one person "liking" you or not.  Even third graders should learn that.

A guest asks Uncle Sam whether the has really invited "all these people" to the party.  This exchange follows:

Uncle Sam:  No invitations are needed to come to Country Haven.  It's open to everyone who lives here.

Guest #3:  But I overheard that guest say something about someone being on a visa.

Uncle Sam:  Oh yes.  A visa lets in people who don't live here.  People who want to come for a visit just need to get my approval.  If I like them and I have the space, I welcome them in.  I tell them how long they can stay and if they want to stay longer, I think it over.

Guest #3:  So getting a visa is like being invited to the party, right? And it's a party that anyone can come to?

Uncle Sam:  Well, not just anyone.  Outsiders who may pose a threat to the health or safety of my family aren't welcome here.  I don't want anyone drug addicts or drug traffickers to come in either.  No criminals.  We have enough problems, we don't need to invite more!

Guest #3:  That makes sense.  I wouldn't invite those people into my house. That's just asking for trouble.

Where does one even start?

"And I have enough space" co-notates geographical territory in the U.S. rather than an issue of resource scarcity, the use of public goods, and access to the freedom and privileges and immunities of the nation. I suppose the analogy to "space" was to get across there are limited (geographical?) resources, but there is no discussion of why those lucky enough to win the birth lottery are more entitled to those resources than others.

The analogy of "a party" also leads one  astray in that a party is a private affair where one can limit guests at will. 

In addition to being wrong on so many levels, the skit suggests that "unwanted guests", presumably undocumented immigrants, only mean the nation harm and could not never be a boon to Country Haven. Undocumented immigrants are only drug dealers, traffickers and criminals? Hmm.

I suppose it's a minor technicality that the Native Americans most certainly did not invite the pilgrims and colonists into Country Haven. Details, details, that we need not concern third graders with.

Rescuing LBJ's legacy: The Immigration Act of 1965

Yesterday's New York Times contained an article  by Adam Nagourney about the interest of the Johnson family and their supporters to rehab LBJ's legacy that they view as being unfairly dominated by the Vietnam War.  In particular, the article details the efforts underway to draw attention to many of LBJ's domestic policy achievements which are numerous but always overshadowed by the Vietnam War.  LBJ's domestic legislative achievements are many, varied, and deserve revisiting.  They include: Civil Rights, Medicare, Head Start, The National Endowment for the Humanities, and public broadcasting.  And of course immigration, which many except immigration specialists may not know.

Asked about her father's legacy, Lynda Bird Johnson Robb told The Times

“I think that’s something the historians will look at. But can you think of where we would be without Lyndon Johnson? If we had not passed a civil rights bill? Before Daddy, we didn’t have any federal aid to education. The immigration bill. Think of what we would be like if Daddy hadn’t signed that bill.”

She was referring to The landmark Immigration Act of 1965 which set the basic template for immigration policy that endures to this day. What was so revolutionary about that law? Basically it overturned national origins discrimination. Prior to the 1965 Act, Western Hemisphere countries enjoyed much more generous immigration quotas than the rest of the world. Particularly harsh were restrictions on immigration from countries in the Asia-Pacific triangle (that stretched from the Far East to the Middle East), where each nation was awarded a symbolic quota of 100 persons per nation per year. The Asia-Pacific Triangle policy was an improvement over the ban of Chinese immigrants that began in 1882 (a concession to China as a U.S. ally in WWII), but not much of one since the Triangle policy limited China to an annual quota of 105 persons a year. Meanwhile immigration from Western Hemisphere countries was unrestricted.

The underlying thinking guiding most of pre-1965 U.S. immigration policy was racism and national origins discrimination, essentially the notion that immigrants were desirable or less so based on their nation of origin rather than their actual individual attributes and characteristics.

The Immigration Act of 1965 was a watershed moment in that it cast aside racist national origins considerations. No doubt influenced by the milieu of racial tolerance and a heightened awareness of civil rights, the law was passed a year after The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the same year as The Voting Rights Act of 1965, two of LBJ's other great legacies. The Immigration Act of 1965 scrapped the previous immigration selection system and replaced it with a country-neutral process in which each nation was awarded a quota of 20,000 persons per year, regardless of the size or location of the country. In so doing the 1965 Act removed considerations of national origin from the U.S. immigration system in favor of a country-neutral process that selected immigrants based on their close ties to family members who are U.S. citizens or greencard holders and based on a match with their work abilities and the needs of U.S. employers.

LBJ deserves all credit for this great immigration law. It has changed the complexion of the nation and led to a diversification of immigrants coming to this country, namely an increase in Asian and Latin based immigration. Except for the ill advised Diversity Visa Lottery which I have argued reintroduced national origins considerations, our official immigration policy no longer speaks about the desirability of immigrants based on where they come from.

Just say "no" to a permanent underclass of noncitizens

Is the price to high for immigration reform this year?  The Republicans still trying to grapple with the reality of the immigration issue are taking baby steps toward a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  They unveiled a set of principles purportedly setting out heir willingness to engage in meaningful reform.  On the one hand, the GOP has signaled that they are open to some form of regularization of status for the undocumented population, although they are way more sympathetic to undocumented youth/DREAMER age immigrants than older immigrants.  But on the other hand is a really bad idea.  Trying to balance the demands of the right wing of their party, the GOP has said they have come around to being in favor of granting legal status to the undocumented, but they wish to draw the line there.  It is unclear given their recently issued "principles" whether previously undocumented immigrants given legal status will ever be able to naturalize.  Many in the GOP claim what immigrants really want is to be legal and not look over one's shoulder all the time.  But that claim belies the reality of the plethora of legal rights and privileges granted only to citizens.

If we as a nation were to sign on to this idea, to create a permanent class of persons who can never be full citizens, it would not be the first time our nation succumb to nativism (refer to the history of naturalization which contained racial prerequisites for much of our nation's history and other ignoble attempts at codifying second class citizenship described by Dan Tichenor).  It does not become a democratic society to have a permanent caste of persons who are legal but unable to gain full citizenship. 

Cynics will wonder whether this is a divide an conquer strategy on the part of the GOP.  Indeed Julia Preston of The New York Times has reported that some DREAMER youth are considering supporting immigration reform efforts that might benefit them and leave older undocumented immigrants out.  She wrote:

But behind the demands were signs of a willingness to consider something less than a direct path to citizenship for all the estimated 11.7 million immigrants in the country illegally, given that many Republican lawmakers remain reluctant even to take up the thorny issue this year, and that deportations by the Obama administration continue to be felt in immigrant neighborhoods.

The DREAMER youths and other activists need to resist trading a short term gain for a long term travesty of justice. Some activists are saying perhaps they will acquiesce to this arrangement to get the legilsation passed and then roll it back later. No,no, no! To permanently lock a group of persons into non-citzenship and then rely on the whims of the legislative process to undue that wrong is foolhardy--especially because immigrants, by law, cannot vote. The move would also set a precedent that the United States may have a permanent underclass who can never gain the full rights and privileges of citizenship. In this case, that half a loaf doesn't seem like such a great deal.

The Latino Vote and the GOP-Sleeping giant or not?

Much has been written about the need of the GOP to get on board with immigration reform or risk losing the Latino vote in yet another national election.  The Monkey Cage for example asked provocatively whether the GOP stood to lose a whole "generation" of Latino voters with their foot dragging on immigration reform.  It is true that Latinos are the fastest growing minority population in the U.S. and that this group now constitutes a larger percentage of the U.S. population than African Americans.  Latinos are now 16% of the U.S. population.  But how many in this group are legally eligible based on their citizenship status, and how many who are legally eligible to vote actually turn out?

The Pew Hispanic Trust reported in 2012 that although a record 11.2 million Latinos turned out and overwhelmingly supported Obama, that group still lags behind other groups in terms of voter turnout. The Pew report stated the following:

Overall, 48% of Hispanic eligible voters turned out to vote in 2012, down from 49.9% in 2008. By comparison, the 2012 voter turnout rate among blacks was 66.6% and among whites was 64.1%, both significantly higher than the turnout rate among Hispanics.

... Latinos were also a larger share of the nation’s electorate in 2012, making up a record 8.4% of all voters, up from 7.4% in 2008. However, while 11.2 million Latinos voted in 2012, an even greater number—12.1 million—chose not to vote even though they were eligible to do so.

It may well be true as John Sides at the Monkey Cage states that sometimes voters go with the politic party that "stands with" them, but it is one thing to affiliate oneself or self-identify with a party and entirely another to register and actually turn out and vote. But can the GOP though afford to make that distinction as this group grows ever larger and especially in swing states?

"Lucky you live Hawaii" and the progressive politics of the Aloha State

"Lucky we live Hawaii" is what the kama'aina (long-term residents) say to each other, especially this time of year when the U.S. mainland is suffering extreme inclement weather. But there are other reasons for progressives to be grateful they live in the Aloha State. Yesterday the Washington Post published an article on how Hawaii's politics is very much in line with Obama's policy vision.  (Honolulu is also my hometown although I now live in NYC.) As reporters Rucker and Goldfarb write, many of Obama's long cherished policy priorities that he could not successful implement at the national level have already been or are on their way to being implemented in Hawaii.  They write:

Four decades before Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Hawaii enacted its own sweeping health-care mandate. To lift the economy, the state has poured billions of dollars into rebuilding highways and infrastructure, bringing the unemployment rate down to an enviable 4.4 percent. Gay marriage is legal, immigrants are welcomed, labor unions are strong and — if the governor gets his way this year — universal pre-kindergarten will be the law of the land.

There are of course many reasons for this situation. The main one is due to the political composition of the state at the local and national level institutions. Not only is there no Tea Party, there is also no real GOP opposition because the state is effectively a one-party state with liberal Democrats holding the State Legislature and national offices as well. The Post article, though, also points out the heavy reliance of the 50th state on federal spending, namely federal military spending that comprises 13.5% of the state's economy.  Until his death, the state also benefitted greatly from Daniel Inouye's seniority in the U.S. Senate and his abilty to bring home the bacon.

Still, federal spending cannot account for the high level of racial and ethnic tolerance of the state, which is rooted in the ethnic/racial diversity of the state and the geopolitical location of the state that serves as a gateway for Asia to the U.S. mainland. The state always has been majority-minority long before that term even came into being.

The state has no immigration problem. As the Post article reports, Governor Abercrombie said recently, “We don’t have this border problem...We don’t worry about that in Hawaii. We welcome people coming because the hospitality industry in particular— we’re ready for immigrants to come in because everybody works, everybody wants to succeed.” The main industry of the state is tourism. Being an island state, there is no long land border with Mexico or Canada. That fact combined with its ethnic and racial demographics of the state mitigate any anti-immigrant sentiment.

Indeed, "lucky you live Hawaii."

Record deportations, who benefits?

Who is benefiting from the record deportations carried out under the Obama Administration? Julia Preston wrote in The New York Times today that despite a 10% drop in deportations compared to last year, Obama still holds the overall record for the most deportations for any American president.  We learn from the article that the Administration is saying that they are simply fulfilling a congressional legislative mandate that X number of beds in detention centers be filled each day with immigrants.  As Preston wrote:

Administration officials said removal numbers were determined by a requirement, included by Congress in the immigration agency’s appropriations, to fill a daily average of about 34,000 beds in detention facilities. The mandate, which is closely monitored by oversight committees, amounts to about 400,000 removals a year.

That's the Administration's story and they're sticking to it. Surrogates are quick to trot out Obama's vaunted prosecutorial discretion at every opportunity, noting that Obama has instructed DHS not to deport noncriminal immigrants with ties to families in the US. In the Times article, acting director of ICE John Sandweg stated, "We want to fill the beds with the right people, that is, public safety and national security threats and individuals we are required by law to detain.” But as Preston and others' reporting note, it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw the line between high and low priority deportees.

More disturbing are the ties between the private prison industry and Congress. Three main private prison firms have contracts with the Department Homeland Security to house immigration detainees since federal and state prisons are overwhelmed. The private prison industry has enjoyed a boom thanks to undocumented immigration and the limbo that immigration reform is in. CBS reports that in 2011, 50% of immigration detention facilities were run by private firms "with little federal oversight" and that "The industry's giants - Corrections Corporation of America, The GEO Group, and Management and Training Corp. - have spent at least $45 million combined on campaign donations and lobbyists at the state and federal level in the last decade, the AP found."

So who is actually benefiting from Obama's aggressive deportation policies and Congress' mandate that taxpayers must pay to keep 34,000 people in jail, at a cost of about $120 each per day? Bloomberg News has also confirmed that this is in fact a "detention quota" and that the privatization of the prison industry is a growing trend. As usual, follow the money trail.