Friday, June 28, 2013

Marco Rubio and the Great American Experiment

Today, I’ve been mocked, I’ve had my credibility attacked, and I’ve been told that I “need to move to Mexico if you want to live with foreigners...”

Why, you ask?

Because Senator Marco Rubio has really impressed me by his willingness to do what he thinks is right even when it’s unpopular, and because I agree with him. Senator Rubio sees that the immigration system is broken and that it needs to be fixed. He is willing to stand toe-to-toe in debate with anyone Republican or Democrat who is willing to talk seriously on the issue.

So, people attack me because I agree with Rubio. I don’t know if they are really racist or if they are just speaking without thinking. But the fact is, I have personally seen the positive results of immigration: my adopted sister was an immigrant from Guatemala and is now an engaged citizen who loves this country.

The crazy thing about immigration is that “foreigners” come here to the USA and become citizens—just like us!

That’s why I love immigration. I am not just a fan of it in the abstract, because someone before I was born came here to make a better life. I love our country because it allowed my beautiful sister to become a citizen and a part of my family.

There are problems with our immigration system, however. It is broken. It was designed during the Cold War, and, as it stands, it neither protects our borders from those who want to harm us, nor does it assist those who long to enjoy freedom they’ve never before experienced.

The current system has long waiting times (sometimes up to 30 years!) and the bureaucrats have a field day deciding who they think is worthy of coming here to the USA.

The problem is not going away and Rubio seems to be the only person who is willing to try to do something about it.

So what should be done?

We have to have solid border security. That is not negotiable. But we cannot turn a blind eye to the results of bureaucrats in Washington handling the borders for so long. The bureaucratic control has led to many would-be immigrants outstaying their visas because the system cannot process them quickly enough. Both problems must be addressed:  the unsecure border and the generations of bad Washington policies that have made it next to impossible for people to come here. In short we cannot just deal with the border. The problem has lasted too long and, as a result, there are many who are here in the USA without proper paperwork. We have to come up with some process to get them the right paperwork so they can properly join our society, pay taxes, and follow the laws of the land.

In the end the whole thing is broken and we need to fix it. Rubio is trying to do that. Hopefully, his bill is the first step in the process of fixing the problem by encouraging other Republicans to step up and work on real solutions that go beyond talking points. And I pray that this process will bring us back to the land that took in the poor and vulnerable and helped them to join what the founding fathers called the Great American Experiment.

If you disagree with me about Senator Rubio’s bill, that’s fine, but do it with an eye for solutions. Don’t just attack Rubio (or me)—present what you think we should do. How can we make the system better? And as you consider that question, don’t forget to incorporate Matthew 7:12 ("So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you") into your policies.

I am a solution-based person; I want to find answers. And right now, the only person who even seems to be trying to get to an answer to the immigration question is Senator Rubio. So until I can find something else, I think I’ll continue to stand with Rubio.

By Jeremiah Lorrig

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on Generation Joshua's online publication: Liberty's Call and republished with permission. 

Friday miscellaneous (6/28)

Yesterday the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill. Many conservatives are trying to block it, but a conservative friend of mine explains why reform is necessary.

Also on the political front, some analysts think that the Democratic party could win back the deep south.

For the mystery minded out there, any ideas on the Voynich Manuscript?

And did you know that computer game designer Sid Meier is a Christian? This is an excellent article on his work and life.

Here is an issue gay marriage advocates will have to work through: according to Slate's Hanna Rosin most gay couples aren't monogamous.

It's always fascinating to see what famous writers suggest reading (and I'm a sucker for reading lists). So here are Hemingway's recommendations. (I've read one--now I feel deficient.)

For those thinking gold is a sure investment, think again.

Twinkies have long been rumored to be the food to survive the zombie apocalypse. Now we know why--like zombies, they just can't die. And anyone still worried about zombies despite the Twinkie return can go  hide under a rock. Or live in rocks.

Or, finally, you could move to Canada, which will never become a safe haven for zombies.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Considering the "Biblical" opposition to immigration reform

Recently I came across an article on immigration reform entitled "Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration — But Not for the Gang of 8 Bill (S. 744)" by Kelly Monroe Kullberg writing for "Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration." Since I am more or less evangelical (or at least that's what my blog name says), take the Bible as authoritative, and have more than a passing interest in immigration issues, I was intrigued. I even hoped to learn something.

I was greatly mistaken.

You see, the problem with these arguments is that I happen to know something about immigration. I studied immigration law in law school (think of it like tax law, only more poorly written) and was a member of my school's Immigration Law Clinic, where I represented immigrant clients. I also wrote a honors paper on some of the shortcomings with asylum law. So I'm not speaking in a vacuum here when I say that Kullberg's argument reflects more poorly on herself then it does on the immigration reforms she attempts to oppose.

Kullberg starts off strong, affirming that "God loves us all, the sojourner and the citizen" and "God invites us into his Church as a new kind of family. At the same time, He has purposefully placed us in this century, and into families, tribes and nations. Many people are displaced by war, famine and in need of kindness.  We can help. The Church, and America, almost always has helped. We are a generous nation." Amen. There are lots of great examples of the Church helping immigrants, the 1980 Sanctuary movement, where a network of churches defied the Federal Government by sheltering Central American refugees, being one of my favorites.

However, Kullberg quickly demonstrates that the Sanctuary movement--or any help to illegal immigrants--isn't what she has in mind. Instead, along with terrorists, she labels them as the "other." She writes, "There are other foreigners, however, such as the Boston-based Tsarnaev brothers, and others who do not mean to come as blessing, who do not belong in America."

I keep seeing the Tsarnaev brothers used as examples of how our asylum structure is too lax (try telling that to the Romeike family). In reality, the Tsarnaev brothers were granted asylum as derivatives of their father when they were still minors. Absent some form of PreCrime unit, I’ve seen no evidence that these were any warning signs at the time of immigration. And concerns were delaying the citizenship application of the elder brother, just (unfortunately) not quickly enough. Insofar as this was a failure on the part of the government, it wasn't an immigration failure. Should we really start interrogating 9-year-olds if, in 10 years, they plan to preform terrorist acts? Do we really think we'll get reliable answers?

Kullberg then transitions into an argument for making what she calls "Biblical" distinctions:
While the Bible teaches us to be kind to the sojourner or “resident alien,” it also teaches that kindness to the sojourner ought not to be injustice to local citizens and their unique culture. To steward and cultivate, whether a garden or a nation, involves wisdom and discernment. We, like our Founders, want to conserve what is true, good and beautiful. We want to nurture a nation that would welcome our children as well as the well-intended sojourner.
I've noted before the legitimate concern over tensions caused by immigration, but lately that has begun to feel like a pretext to oppose immigration reform in general. And while her appeal to the founders is nice, I wonder if Kullberg has heard the nasty things the founders said about, say, German immigrants, who seem to have assimilated just fine (with the possible exception of certain parts of Michigan). As a side note, it was people standing up to just this sort of derogatory treatment directed at the Germans that laid the foundation for the homeschooling rights that we have today. Actually, fear of a lack of assimilation seems to be popular with each generation. First it was the Germans and Irish and Jews, then the Chinese, now the Hispanics and Muslims. But each time the fear has proven overstated. The children and grandchildren of immigrants do assimilate. After all, I am writing in English, not German or Danish.

Anyway, back to Kullberg and her "Biblical" distinctions.
Old Testament scholar James Hoffmeier states that the Hebrew word “ger”, translated “alien” or “sojourner” refers to “a person who entered Israel and followed legal procedures to obtain recognized standing as a resident alien.” This lawful sojourner (“ger”) was not necessarily given all the rights and privileges as the Hebrew citizen, but was treated kindly, indeed much more kindly than was customary among tribes and nations of the ancient world. God commanded Israel to be kind to the sojourner.  In other words, Hoffmeier continues, biblical “… verses about sojourners refer to legal immigrants into the country. But other people who did not have this recognized standing were simply termed ‘foreigners’ … and did not have the same benefits or privileges that sojourners did.”
I’m not going to get into an ancient Hebrew discussion here, so for the sake of argument I’ll assume that Hoffmeier is correct in his interpretation of the words. However, a cursory review of Hoffmeier's book shows that his argument fails to prove its own conclusion. He writes:
The distinction between the two is not only that the aliens (gerim) have resided with a host nation for a period of time, but that ‘they have abandoned their homeland for political or economic reasons and sought refuge in another community.’ In other words, the ger regards the land of his sojourning as the new home for a protected time period, while the foreigner does not …. the alien was a permanent resident. The foreigner, on the other hand, was not... foreigners were those who were passing through the land with no intention of taking residence, or perhaps they would be temporarily or seasonally employed.
The distinction Hoffmeier makes is between temporary visitors and permanent residents, not permanent legal residents and permanent non-legal residents. I’ve seen no evidence that the Bible even makes a distinction between “legal” and “illegal” immigrants--and it certainly doesn’t look anything like this.

If anything, Hoffmeier’s analysis proves the opposite point he’s trying to make--there is a Biblical mandate to show kindness to those foreigners living among us on a permanent basis. Those would be the undocumented immigrants that S. 744 is extending status to, since surveys indicate that 98% of undocumented immigrants would prefer to be here legally if they could. The issue is that many cannot comply with the law regardless of how much they want to. Once you understand that, your entire perspective changes.
Kullberg then argues that the proposed immigration reform bill (S. 744, summarized here) is bad because it is too expensive in economic and social costs: "The bill would dramatically affect the future of 300 million current citizens by reshaping America’s sovereignty, economy, spiritual and moral compass, political dependencies, public safety and national security."

The national security and "spiritual and moral compass" arguments are completely undeveloped, so I won't even attempt to determine what she means. The cost question, however, is a little more defined. The primary study on the cost of amnesty is by the Heritage Foundation, which as the Cato Institute points out, is based on many questionable assumptions. Even a former Heritage scholar now at the Hudson Institute has criticized the report, writing "The report’s authors may sincerely believe that unlawful immigrants are costly, but their study clearly makes assumptions to prove that point, while ignoring research to the contrary." Such research to the contrary estimates significant economic benefits from legalization. And the Congressional Budget Office just released an analysis concluding that passage of the bill would actually reduce the federal deficit by close to $900 billion over the next 20 years.

Then comes this gem. Kullberg  writes: "We’re primarily concerned that S. 744 is ideologically and politically driven, and not motivated by compassion for, and justice to, actual human beings." Apparently, however, "ideologically and politically driven" opposition to S. 744 is just fine, as the rest of the letter demonstrates.

I've heard this argument repeated numerous times: the Democrats only support the bill because they want to ensure a permanent democratic voting majority. Yet here is what I fail to grasp. If the Democratic support for a bill that may help their political majority is anathema, isn't opposition to a bill that undermines Republican political power equally condemnable? How come supporting "our" majority for the sake of power is noble, while the other party doing the same thing is somehow evil? At its base, the argument is circular. The Democrats are evil because they want to vote themselves a permanent majority, and a Democratic majority is bad because Democrats are evil. Or, to use Kullberg's own words, "at least a few people in high places are there to manage the decline of the America we love." Given arguments like this, the Republicans deserve to lose the immigrant vote, which, of course, merely turns the argument into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Alright, next issue: "Few immigrants are being deported. America leads all nations in allowing hundreds of thousands of foreigner’s unlawful entrance each year (the exact number is uncertain)."
I think we also lead all nations in the number of people trying to get in, so that's a bit of a false comparison. But let's look to the evidence. Illegal border crossings are at a 40 year low and deportations are currently at a record highs and getting higher. (Oh wait, I just used part of the “Media Propaganda State.” But Fox News agrees, so it’s all good.) Net Mexican border crossings are falling to near zero, while immigration enforcement spending is greater than all other federal law enforcement spending combined. And in some parts of the country, border enforcement is so aggressive that legal residents and citizens are being detained. But of course, all those are just "ideologically and politically driven" facts, while Kullberg's thin-air assertions are gospel truth. Is anyone else beginning to see why the Republicans don't have much credibility on immigration?

Kullberg ends with a plea:
I am asking my Senators, and all of Congress, to pause and read all 1,000 pages (and growing) of the S. 744 bill itself, and to kindly consider the citizens of the United States whom they are elected to represent. Our poor. Our widows. Our unemployed, many of whom are African- and Hispanic-American young people. Our veterans and college graduates having trouble finding meaningful career paths.  Passing another comprehensive bill full of good intentions and empty promises is unjust, immoral and unwise.  This bill is not “better than nothing.”  It is flawed to the point of being unworkable.  Please, scrap it and start over.  Give us something short enough to read.  Something clear enough to understand.  State what the bill will do, when it will be done, and how much it will cost. Use our common dictionary as well as our vocabulary (enough with the Alinsky/Screwtape rhetoric). No more obfuscation — let your words mean something real.
She is long on critique, but short on solutions. Please, Ms. Kullberg, offer a constructive alternative. I'm all ears, but so far haven't heard of anything that actually makes sense. Do the opponents even have a viable counter-plan? Or is this just another pretext for opposition?

Kullberg likes to compare immigration reform to health care reform. Let me do the same for a moment. The Republicans lost the health care debate, in large part, because they had no plan. They had no alternative. The only argument was "it's unconstitutional," and when that lost there wasn't anything else. It doesn't help that the individual mandate was the brain-child of the Heritage Foundation offered as a counter to the single-payer system, so in a way, they did have a plan before the Democrats stole it, and as soon as the Democrats proposed it the Republicans denounced it. The consequence is that even if Obamacare fails, Obama still gets credit for trying. The Republicans don't even have that. As a recent article on the youth vote noted,"Republicans lost so badly among young votes because Republicans were rarely heard and had nothing to say." The lesson has not been learned.

In her conclusion, Kullberg attempts again to incorporate Biblical examples into the debate.
Let’s leave behind the sloganeering and confront the hard task of discernment. Just as Paul taught the Church (1 Timothy 5) to delineate among widows for whom the Church should provide, we are called to discern among  “sojourners” (like Ruth and Rahab who intend to assimilate and bless) and “foreigners” (who do not intend to assimilate and bless) and to welcome the former with hospitality. Observance to the whole counsel of Scripture yields growth and goodness to those in need.  America is a nation rooted in the truth of God’s love for the individual and for the whole world.
Oh the irony. Ruth had no blood relatives in Israel and no job--she would be ineligible for admission under our law today. Additionally, she had no income and ended up gleaning from the fields, which makes her a "welfare user" of the time, a deportable offense today. And as for Rahab, prostitutes are inadmissible (not to mention the national security, cultural, and spiritual threat she posed).

Yes, discernment is a hard task. So is identifying, asking, and addressing the hard policy questions. Unfortunately, none of that is happening here. Instead, we get "sloganeering," shoddy theology, poor reasoning, and a de facto defense of a system with faults that the defenders can't even comprehend.

But after all that, I must admit that Kullberg convinced me. After reading the article I have much greater support for S.744. It's one of the consequences bad arguments have on me.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (6/21)

Any Burn Notice fans out there should appreciate this review (which creator Matt Nix considered good enough to break his own policy of not commenting on reviews of his show).

This looks interesting: a book on the items museums don't display.

On superheroes: the appeal seems largely limited to Western culture; the new Superman movie covered over half of its production costs in product placement alone (reminds me of this); and Robert Downey Jr. will be back as Iron Man in Avengers 2 & 3.

The Atlantic examines the security industrial complex: "An odd thing is happening in the world's self-declared pinnacle of democracy. No one -- except a handful of elected officials and an army of contractors -- is allowed to know how America's surveillance leviathan works."

Cake Wrecks brings us an updated version of a classic fairy tale.

I must admit I'm not always the biggest fan of Rand Paul. But why is it that basic constitutional or political theory is labeled crazy or dangerous as soon as he says it?

So the European Union put fictional bridges on its currency. Now there's an effort to actually build them.

Another interesting question on the modern workplace: why do we evaluate employees as if they are machines?

Salon points out some of the complications with demanding primary proof of citizenship. For example, Senator Ted Cruz might have difficulty.

NPR wonders why kids reading levels aren't going up as they get older. And the Art of Manliness instructs on how to read a book.

Some people in the fundamentalist/conservative circles have taken the courtship vetting process a little too far. Can't we cap the interrogation at, say, 250 questions? (On second thought, maybe this is a giant plot to overload the NSA.)

I really enjoyed this article on the need to fix things, rather than just throw them away.

And finally, here's the interview that may have led to CNN canceling Crossfire (which apparently is being revived this month).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (6/14)

The horrors of China's one child policy (and the corresponding forced abortions) are back in the news. As are the labor camps. And domestically, since abortion rights are now talked about in terms of punishing women with unwanted children, this author raises an excellent point: does the same argument apply to fathers with regard to child support?

While on life issues, where are all those cures that embryonic stem cells were supposed to produce?

This is a fascinating article for those wondering why young people leave the Church.

Tony Blair shares his thoughts on Islam:
There is not a problem with Islam. For those of us who have studied it, there is no doubt about its true and peaceful nature. There is not a problem with Muslims in general. Most in Britain are horrified at Rigby’s murder. 
But there is a problem within Islam, and we have to put it on the table and be honest about it. There are, of course, Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu ones. But I am afraid that the problematic strain within Islam is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view of religion – and of the relationship between religion and politics – that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies. At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the worldview goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit.
Score one for interns: Fox Searchlight is being forced to pay interns for their work on Black Swan.

A new study suggests that undocumented immigrants are the ones keeping Medicare afloat.

The NSA revelations over the past week have caused sales of Orwell's 1984 to skyrocket. But one author suggests that Kafka, not Orwell, is who we should really be reading. And of course, the Progressives are again upset at the Obama Administration.

TARP update: money is now being spent to tear down buildings in Detroit.

Did you now that skyjackings used to be not uncommon? Here's one story of a guy who just wanted to visit his pen-pal girlfriend in Italy.

Michael Lind believes he has come up with the question libertarians can't answer: "Why are there no libertarian countries?" Do any of our libertarian minded readers want to give an answer?

As someone who does a fair amount of writing, I'm always interested in articles that tell me how to improve. This one gave me several books to further explore.

And now for a change of pace. The Atlantic wonders why American men are no longer charming.

Here's a reminder to not fall asleep on the job, especially if you're a bank teller.

We like to joke about reinventing the wheel, but this guy actually did it. And it's square.

And here's a rather adorable hobbit themed birthday party.

Ok, a new study thinks Lego faces are getting angrier (and that it is somehow going to harm children's futures). "We cannot help but wonder how the move from only positive faces to an increasing number of negative faces impacts how children play." It also expressed concerns about the increasing number of Lego weapons:
In addition LEGO has a considerable array of weapon systems in their program, although the weapons mainly appear in the fictional themes. Their presence indicated that also LEGO is moving towards a more conflict based play themes. This development might be unavoidable to sustain a strong market position. Still, LEGO might not be able to hold onto its highly positive reputation. The children that grow up with LEGO today will remember not only smileys, but also anger and fear in the Minifigures’ faces.
 Yeah, try telling that to these guys. And these guys. Besides, the definition of "angry" seemed rather fluid.

Maybe the new angry Lego faces can also be connected to the fairy door trend.

And finally, here's a demonstration of how violent Lego gets (warning: involves Lego character violence and possibly some angry faces).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (6/7)

In a lesson useful for all conservatives, The Atlantic examines the missed potential of Michele Bachmann.

Finding Nemo, now considered one of Pixar's best films, originally left critics disappointed.

It doesn't look like Obamacare is going to be pretty in California.

In a late addition to last week's post, here's a lost Egyptian city.

An Australian examines Americans' problems with obesity. Case in point.

Mountain man Eustace Conway has survived everything the wilderness has thrown at him. It remains to be seen whether he can survive the county planning department.

For all aspiring lawyers, here's why not to fake your resume.

What happens when a library encourages teen loitering?

A British newspaper is reporting that the government is collecting large amounts of data on domestic telephone calls from Verizon. Something about the "share everything" plan. There's also been a suggestion that the contents of those calls is also being recorded and monitored. The New York Times isn't happy.

The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that the problem with English departments is that they've strayed too far from the classics.

And here's one "temporary" federal program that may (fingers crossed) actually be ending.

For anyone wondering what this group of bloggers would like for Christmas, look no further.

Here's an interesting constitutional question (and why I've been skeptical of TABOR since I fears heard of it): what happens when states impose so many rules on their taxing power that they can't adjust for unforeseen consequences?

And finally, computer animation isn't nearly as difficult as some people make it sound.

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