Musings on Events in U.S. Immigration Court, Immigration Law, Sports, and Other Random Topics by Retired United States Immigration Judge (Arlington, Virginia) and former Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Wickham Schmidt. To see my complete professional bio, just click on the link below.
A newly naturalized citizen holds an American flag during at the Atlanta office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2016. (Kevin D. Liles/For the Washington Post)
I applaud the strong statement in The Post’s Dec. 4 editorial “An attack on America.” I agree that the “president’s immigration policies are neither an embrace of legality nor in the national interest.”
This past year, I suffered a mild stroke, and through the swift actions of staff at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, I have thankfully recovered. The staff helped me cope and persist. The cultural diversity of the staff reflected the America I cherish. We are already great because of the gifts such people bring to our shores. Everyone in our country deserves the care I received, not just those of us who are privileged.
I am deeply appreciative to all who administered compassionate care with skill and consistency at that hospital and who represent the many sons and daughters of immigrants to whom we should be thankful — not only those who work in our fields, construction sites, kitchens and bathrooms but also those in the corridors and labs in our hospitals and by the bedside of a frightened patient.
I write this letter also on behalf of the hundreds of immigrants who fill the pews each week in the National Capital Presbytery, where I am a moderator, and who remind us of their gifts and deeply religious and faithful commitment to the well-being of all.
William Plitt, Arlington
Yup, I had the same thoughts about the nice folks who took care of my Dad during his years in a retirement home and the great surgeon who repaired my broken ankle in Maine this summer.
The ‘dreamers’ emergency
A woman holds up a sign outside the U.S. Capitol in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Tuesday in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)
Regarding Paul Kane’s Dec. 3 @PKCapitol column, “Republicans savor a win that could be swept aside by shutdown negotiations”:Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said there is no need for action on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program because it is not a crisis or an emergency. Really, is that his management style?Maybe that’s why Congress can come up with money for hurricane recovery but not to help people to move out of houses that flood repeatedly. Still, it seems that about 690,000 people not knowing what is going to happen to them in three months is at least as much of an emergency as the need for a deficit-financed tax cut for a nation with a booming economy and a $20 trillion debt.
Mike Zasadil, Silver Spring
It’s all about priorities, Mike. For the GOP, greed, selfishness, and rewarding the rich are where it’s at. Human needs and the rest of the populace, not so much. It’s not going to change until those of us who believe differently throw the GOP out of power at the ballot box.
“The number of people caught trying to sneak over the border from Mexico has fallen to the lowest level in 46 years, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics released Tuesday that offer the first comprehensive look at how immigration enforcement is changing under the Trump administration.
During the government’s 2017 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, U.S. border agents made 310,531 arrests, a decline of 24 percent from the previous year and the fewest overall since 1971.
The figures show a sharp drop in apprehensions immediately after President Trump’s election win, possibly reflecting the deterrent effect of his rhetoric on would-be border crossers; starting in May, the number of people taken into custody began increasing again.
Arrests of foreigners living illegally in the United States have surged under Trump. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers made 110,568 such arrests between inauguration and the end of September, according to the figures published Tuesday, a 42 percent increase over the same period during the previous year.
Tom Homan, ICE’s temporary director and Trump’s nominee to lead the agency, praised the president and gave a vigorous defense of ICE’s more aggressive approach.
“This president, like him or love him, is doing the right thing,” Homan told reporters at a news conference in Washington, accompanied by the heads of the U.S. Border Patrol and Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“A 45-year low in border crossings? That’s not a coincidence,” Homan said. “That’s based on this president and his belief and letting the men and women of ICE and the Border Patrol do their job.”
[How Trump is building a border wall no one can see]
Trump’s sweeping promises to crack down on illegal immigration fueled his presidential campaign and are at the center of his most ambitious domestic policy proposals, including construction of a wall along the border with Mexico.
Asked whether such a barrier was justifiable given its high cost and the decline in illegal immigration, DHS officials endorsed the president’s plan.
“In this society, we use walls and fences to protect things. It shouldn’t be different on the border,” said Ronald Vitiello, chief of the Border Patrol.
Apprehensions by Border Patrol agents peaked at more than 1.6 million in 2000 and began falling substantially after 2008. The previous low point was 331,333 arrests, during fiscal 2015. Experts have attributed the decline to tougher U.S. enforcement, improving job prospects in Mexico and long-term demographic changes that have driven down the country’s birthrate.
On the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump supporters wait for th
Still, the drop in border arrests is among the sharpest year-to-year changes on record, one that only casts more doubt on the wisdom of building a border wall, said Doris Meissner, senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.
“It’s a throwback response to yesterday’s problems,” she said, arguing that the money would be better spent addressing what accounts for a growing share of illegal migration: families with children fleeing rampant violence and dismal poverty in Central America.
Border agents took more than 75,000 “family units,” classified as at least one child and a related adult, into custody during fiscal 2017. But the number of unaccompanied minors fell 31 percent, to 41,435.”
Read the complete article at the link.
This has to be what true greatness looks like! Imagine a world without those pesky undocumented workers to support our economy, our society, and our “American” way of life! That’s making America Great Again!
I’m sure future generations will be inspired by Homan’s humanity and wisdom as they pick produce or pound shingles in 100 degree heat, clean toilets, empty urine bags for the elderly and handicapped, clean tables, wash dishes, limb trees, shuck oysters, schlep concrete blocks, dig ditches, and, horror of horrors, take care of their own children while working full-time. Man, that’s going to be “America the Great” just as Trump, Sessions, Bannon, Miller, Homan, and others envision it!
And, the best part: we won’t have to worry about any of that burdensome, nasty “globalism” and the unfair burden of global leadership! That’s because the Chinese, Indians, Canadians, Mexicans, and Europeans will be in charge of the world economy and the Ruskies will control world politics. So we can enjoy our little White Nationalist enclave modeled on post-revolutionary Cuba — life in the 1950’s preserved forever! Save those “Classic ’57 Chevies!”
Kinda sorry I won’t be here to enjoy it! But, then again, I already lived through the real 1950’s once — Cold War, Jim Crow, segregation, anti-semitism, racial covenants, no women doctors, lawyers, or execs, African Americans only welcome on the football fields and basketball courts of a few Northern colleges! Boy, it was great! But, not sure I want to do it again, even to experience the pure, unadulterated joy of having “my Milwaukee Braves” win the 1957 World Series (before fleeing to Atlanta)!
On the flip side, at Homan’s “record pace” of “law enforcement,” he and his minions will have every single undocumented American resident removed from the U.S by 2080 — that’s if no more arrive in the interim. And, the really great thing — they and those around them (including U.S. citizen kids and family members) will be living in fear every moment for the next six decades! Now, that’s something of which we can be truly proud! Of course, this all assumes that the North Koreans don’t nuke us and the rest of the world out of existence first!
“Economists and tax experts are overwhelmingly skeptical that the bills in the House and Senate can generate meaningful job growth and economic expansion. Many view the legislation not as a product of genuine deliberation, but as a transfer of wealth to corporations and affluent individuals — both generous purveyors of campaign contributions. By 2027, people making $40,000 to $50,000 would pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes, while the group earning $1 million or more would get a $5.8 billion cut, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office.
“When you put all these pieces together, what you’re left with is we are squandering a giant sum of money,” said Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff at the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation who teaches law at the University of Southern California. “It’s not aimed at growth. It is not aimed at the middle class. It is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class.”
In a recent University of Chicago survey of 38 prominent economistsacross the ideological spectrum, only one said the proposed tax cuts would yield substantial economic growth. Unanimously, the economists said the tax cuts would add to the long-term federal debt burden, now estimated at more than $20 trillion.
If the package does have a guiding philosophy, it is a return to trickle-down economics, an enduring story line in which the wealthy are supposed to spend and invest their tax breaks, creating jobs and commercial opportunities for everyone else.
As President Ronald Reagan slashed taxes in the 1980s, he argued that citizens, not bureaucrats, should decide how to spend their money. President George W. Bush bestowed enormous tax cuts on the affluent.
But the trickle-down story has yet to achieve its promised happy ending. Only the beginning reliably transpires, the part where wealthy people get relief. The spoils of resulting economic growth have largely been monopolized by those with the highest incomes. Pay for most American workers has been stagnant since the mid-1970s, after the rising costs of housing, health care and other basics are factored in.
Nonetheless, Republicans are staging a trickle-down revival.
“Either it’s a religious belief, a belief where no amount of evidence would change that, or they are using the argument cynically and they just want more money for themselves,” the economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, said.
Mr. Stiglitz has long warned of the perils of growing inequality while deriding tax-cutting inclinations. Yet even those who have favored lighter tax burdens are critical of the current proposals.
In the late 1970s, Bruce Bartlett developed what would become the locus of the Reagan tax cuts while working for Representative Jack Kemp, a conservative Republican from New York. Those cuts helped cushion the pain from sharp increases in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, Mr. Bartlett maintains. But Reagan was lowering the highest tax rate on individuals from 70 percent down to 28 percent by 1986.
“What they have here is a big tax cut for the rich paid for with random increases in taxes for various constituencies,” Mr. Bartlett said. “It’s ridiculous. And it’s telling that they are ramming this through without any debate. All of the empirical evidence goes against the tax cut.”
The meat of the package is a permanent lowering of the corporate tax rate, to 20 percent from 35 percent, which business leaders have long wanted. Proponents assert that this would prompt multinational companies to expand operations in the United States.
“We’ve been bleeding corporate headquarters and production for a long time,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and now president of the American Action Forum, a nonprofit that promotes smaller government.
But recent history suggests that when corporations get tax relief, they find abundant uses for money that do not involve paying higher wages. They give dividends to shareholders and stock options to executives. They stash earnings in tax havens.
In 2004, Congress invited American corporations to bring home overseas earnings at a sharply reduced rate, pitching it as a means of bolstering investment. But the corporations spent as much as 90 percent of their windfall buying back their shares, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis research.
If Congress bestows fresh relief on major businesses, signs suggest a similar result. Many companies are enjoying record profits. Those in the Fortune 500 had $2.6 trillion salted away overseas as of last year.
“In our boardroom, the number-one thing we’re talking about is not taxes,” said Jeremy Stoppelman, chief executive of Yelp, the online review platform. “Having a strong middle class out there spending money is what’s most important for our business.”
If the tax bill widens inequality, local communities will likely find themselves with fewer resources to aim at helping struggling people.
In high-tax states like California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — where electorates have historically shown a willingness to finance ample safety-net programs — the measure could change the political calculus. It would magnify the costs to taxpayers, pressuring states to stay lean or risk the wrath of voters.
Some see in this tilt a reworking of basic principles that have prevailed in American life for generations.
. . . .
Since the 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security, unemployment benefits and other pillars of the safety net to combat the Great Depression, crises have been tempered by some measure of government support. Recent decades have brought cuts to social services, but the impact of the current bill could be especially consequential.
“This is a repudiation of the social contract that Franklin Roosevelt announced at the New Deal,” Joseph J. Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian, said of trimming benefits for lower- and middle-income families to finance bigger rewards for the wealthy. Health coverage would shrink under the Republican plan while multimillion-dollar estates would not have to pay a penny in taxes.
The tax cut package, for instance, could trigger rules mandating cuts to Medicare, the government health care program for seniors, the Congressional Budget Office warned. Some 13 million people could lose health care via the elimination of a key plank of Obamacare. Insurance premiums are also expected to rise by 10 percent.
“This tax bill is a grand deception,” said Arnold Hiatt, the former chief executive of Stride Rite, which makes children’s shoes. “It hurts the most vulnerable, and hurts health care and education, which are essential for a healthy economy.”
The proposals break from seven decades’ worth of federal efforts to broaden access to higher education.
Since World War II, the guiding sense has been that “it is government’s responsibility to provide higher education for all those who can benefit from it,” said David Nasaw, a historian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. That idea was behind the G.I. Bill, which helped generations of veterans pay for college and training.
The House bill includes provisions that would end the deductibility of tuition waivers for graduate students and repeal the deduction for interest paid on student loans. Both chambers’ bills would tax investment earnings from university endowments.
The endowment tax, in particular, threatens the ability of low-income students to pursue college and graduate studies, said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Proceeds from endowments subsidize students from lower-income families, while allowing students across the board to graduate with less debt.
“When the time of reckoning comes to fix huge deficits, social safety-net programs will be first on the chopping block,” Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said.
“It’s very far-reaching,” he added, “but there hasn’t been much of a debate.”
Read the complete, revealing but disturbing, article at the link. We’re ultimately going to look more like a (at least temporarily) well-to-do “Banana Republic” with the rich on top and in power; everyone else scrambling; lots of excess guns and ammo; and a lower standard of living for average folks to support the privileged power class. And, the GOP has managed to pull all of this off at the ballot box and without any true debate or public accounting, relying on the overall inability of the electorate to figure out that they are being fleeced by their own representatives. Pretty impressive!
“(CNN)It’s important to politicize Hurricane Harvey. Not politics in the sense of political parties, or politics to win elections. Politics to protect America.
The priority in the next hours and days is to save lives and reduce suffering, without hesitation and without question of costs or politics. But then must come the reckoning.
Once the immediate crisis ends, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, should resign with an apology to his state and his country. Then the Texas delegation in Congress should make a public confession. They have lied to their constituents for too long, expecting the rest of America to keep bailing them out.
The reason is this. Texas politics aims to bring profits to the oil and gas industry, but it does this at high cost and dire threat to Texas residents and the American people.
Hurricane Harvey was a foreseeable disaster. Indeed, a massive hurricane strike on Houston, followed by massive flooding, was widely anticipated.
But Houston is an oil town, and the American oil industry has been enemy No. 1 of climate truth and climate preparedness. Most oil companies and Texas politicians see nothing, say nothing, do nothing. Even worse, they hide the truth, and then beg for help as needed. Gov. Abbott has played this game one disaster too many.
Abbott, for example, was the governor to sign a new law in 2015 that prevents cities and municipalities in Texas from setting their own regulations that might rein in oil and gas drilling activities. On his watch, Texas supported withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.
Over many years, he has raked in millions in campaign contributions from the oil industry, including in his former role as Texas attorney general, where he sued the Environmental Protection Agency repeatedly over rules designed to curb carbon emissions.
And the state, under Abbott’s direction, has taken no significant steps toward flood protection, despite the recognized risks of a mega-hurricane and flood.
The problem is not about his crisis management this week. I can’t judge that. It’s about his long-standing relentless opposition to environmental protection, including his blind eye to global warming and the grave dangers it poses.
The Texas Tribune and ProPublica published a 2016 award-winning report on “Hell or High Water,” explaining why Houston is a “sitting duck for the next big hurricane.” In 2015, Inside Climate News wrote that “as weather extremes like flooding batter Texas, its refusal to prepare for an even more volatile climate leaves residents at risk, experts say.”
On June 16 of this year, citing the city’s widening concrete sprawl and deaths from flooding in recent years, the UK Guardian wrote that “Houston fears climate change will cause catastrophic flooding: It’s not if, it’s when.”
. . . .
So, what has been the policy response in Houston and Texas more generally in terms of prevention, resilience, and preparedness? Almost nothing until disaster hits. Then the response is to ask for federal bailouts.
In other words, Texas is the moral hazard state.
Here is what has not happened: There has been little or no effort at zoning protection to keep development clear of floodplains; little or no offshore and onshore infrastructure for flood protection; no discernible heed paid to the scientific evidence and indeed the growing practical experience of catastrophic flood risks; and of course, relentless, pervasive climate change denial, the mother’s milk of Texas politics.
So, here’s the deal. Those of us elsewhere in the US also suffering from flooding and other disasters from warming temperatures, rising sea levels, and more intense storms (such as New Yorkers who are still rebuilding from 2012 Hurricane Sandy) want truth from Texas politicians and the oil industry.
We are bearing the costs of your lies. We are tired of it. More importantly, we are in pain and solidarity with the good people of Houston who are losing lives, homes, and livelihoods because of your lies.
Why Harvey's devastation is so severe
Why Harvey’s devastation is so severe
Gov. Abbott, we would like to bid you a political adieu. Perhaps you can devote your time to rebuilding Houston and taking night classes in climate science. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, you will soon be asking us for money to help Texas.
My answer will be yes, if you stop spewing lies about climate dangers, agree to put US and Texas policy under the guidance of climate science, back measures to lower carbon emissions and stay in the Paris Climate Agreement. Then, of course, let’s help your constituents to rebuild.
And to ExxonMobil, Chevron, Koch Industries, ConocoPhillips, Halliburton, and other oil giants doing your business in Texas: You put up the first $25 billion in Houston disaster relief. Call it compensation for your emissions. Tell the truth about growing climate threats. Then, as citizens seeking the common good, we will match your stake.”
The “common good” is something that never crosses the collective so-called “minds” of Texas’s corrupt GOP pols. They are all bought and paid for by “Big Oil” and other fat cats. And, they are busy picking on Blacks, Hispanics, refugees, migrants, children, the poor, gays, Muslims, Dreamers, etc.
So, not for the first time, it’s for the rest of us taxpayers to bail out Texas. (But, don’t think that will earn the support of hypocrites like Cruz & Co. the next time we might be in need — they are cruel, ignorant, and selfish because — well, because they can be and get away with it). Fortunately for Texas, some of us still do have the common good in mind.
Kim Soffen writes in the Wonkblog columns in the Washington Post:
“Senate Republican leaders unveiled their health-care bill Thursday morning, after weeks of crafting it behind closed doors. The bill keeps some popular parts of the Affordable Care Act, such as the provision preventing insurance companies from charging people more or denying them coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and eliminates some unpopular parts, such as the individual mandate which requires people to buy insurance or pay a penalty.
[What the Senate bill changes about Obamacare]
But those two provisions, taken together, are likely to send the individual marketplace into a “death spiral,” ending with only the sickest people insured, sky-high premiums, and insurers exiting the individual market, according to experts across the political spectrum. The bill has a $112 billion market stabilization fund to prevent this, but experts doubt it, or a similar measure in the House bill, would be enough.
Here’s how a death spiral would happen. People shopping for insurance in the individual market all sit on a spectrum from healthy to sick.”
Lots of “neat” graphics with the full article. Clink the link and see the GOP’s plan to “deconstruct” American healthcare in action.
Sobering thought: Millions of Americans voted to destroy their own healthcare and endanger their own lives and those of family members who can’t vote. Unfortunately, their lack of prudence and sound judgment is likely to take the rest of us into the abyss with them. The “silver lining:” Guys like the Koch Bros, Tom Price, Wilber Ross, et. al. will pay lower taxes. (I didn’t include Trump in this list because there is no hard evidence that he currently pays, or ever again will pay, income taxes.)
“President Donald Trump wants Congress to pass a law denying welfare benefits to immigrants for five years.
“I believe the time has come for new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years,” Trump said on Wednesday night at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The crowd cheered wildly at this latest example of Trump’s tough-on-immigrants rhetoric, and the president soaked in the applause.
One section of the law is even titled “Restricting Welfare and Public Benefits For Aliens,” and specifically sets a five-year threshold for “federal means-tested public benefit.” The section carves out some exceptions for refugees and those granted asylum as well as veterans and active-duty military, their spouses and dependents.
Although it’s not clear how Trump’s proposed law would be different, he still vowed to enact his legislation “very shortly.”
What can you say? I suppose you could say that you were going to “crack down on foreigners by counting to ten backwards” and Trump backers would go wild with glee. Life in the parallel universe.
But, behind all Trump’s ignorance and silliness, there is a dark motive. By making such irresponsible statements, Trump gives his backers the false impression that legal immigrants are “all on welfare” and aren’t “paying their way.” And many Trump backers will now take it as gospel that legal immigrants come into the United States and go on welfare right away, repeating it to anyone who will listen. A lie repeated often enough gains traction as having a basis in truth. So, it’s just another way of encouraging xenophobia and drumming up unjustified resentment of legal immigrants.