Immigration and The Post-Constitutional President

On Thursday (May 17), the liar-in-thief outlined an immigration overhaul that promised to “protect American wages, promote American values, and attract the best and brightest from all around the world.” I am going to ignore the deceit underlying the President’s proposal: the false assertion that low-wage foreign victims of violence and abuse are the cause for crime in the US. Those who have made it their lifelong pursuit to understand and document crime disagree: undocumented immigrants are overwhelmingly less likely to commit violent crimes than full-blown, domestically grown and raised citizens (LIGHT, M. T. and MILLER, T. (2018), DOES UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRATION INCREASE VIOLENT CRIME?*. Criminology, 56: 370-401. doi:10.1111/1745-9125.12175); also https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/13/upshot/illegal-immigration-crime-rates-research.html). Anyone who expects this President to tell the truth about anything is fooling themselves.

Instead I want to focus on the real heart of this proposal; the aim to overturn the citizenship clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

For the most part, the US Constitution is an exceptional document. But in one respect it is deeply and fundamentally flawed. In order to bring delegates from southern states to support the new Constitution, northern delegates were forced to concede that each souther slave would count as 3/5ths a non-slave for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives. The notorious 3/5ths clause established (1) that African slaves were private property (no path to citizenship); and (2) that private property would enjoy a seat and a say in the United States House of Representatives.

That is the legacy of Dread Scott v Sanford (60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857)), which denied personhood to Mr Scott, a slave.

When the Fourteenth Amendment affirmed that “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” its intention was not simply to overturn Dread Scott, but also to eliminate the seat that private property had enjoyed in the US Congress since 1787.

Uniquely in 1868, but still rare among the nations, the United States elected not to base citizenship on the unique qualities, qualifications, or wealth an individual brought to the table. If a person is born here, they belong here. That person enjoys all of the rights, privileges, and obligations of every other citizen, without distinction. Period.

The liar-in-thief’s immigration proposal, which aims to link immigration not to what unites us — our humanity — but to what distinguishes individuals from one another, is a bald attempt to reinstate Dread Scott. Persons fleeing violence, oppression, war and poverty need not apply. Only persons who enjoy wealth, education, and privilege are welcomed.

But the liar-in thief is also dead wrong on the fundamental economics of his proposal. If the President genuinely wished to “protect American wages” he would vigorously promote a strategy similar to his German counterpart who has made high quality, affordable education available to all German citizens, but without the debilitating debt that loan-sharks pile on every new generation of wage earners. Instead, the President is willing to concede defeat and allow highly skilled, well-educated foreigners take the high-wage positions that Americans are no longer qualified to fill. More poorly educated and trained Americans will then be forced into the low-wage, low-skill positions for which they are now uniquely qualified.

In the past, each new wave of immigrants stepped into the labor market at or near the bottom. The liar-in-thief wants to change that. He wants each new wave to step in at the top. An alternative strategy would be to make sure that the Americans who are already here are already “the best and the brightest from around the world.”

Finally, brandishing his post-Constitutional credentials, the liar-in-thief substitutes one lone “American value,” wealth, for the love of liberty, democratic process, and republican institutions and values. Because that is precisely how southern delegates saw things back in 1787 when they insisted that their private wealth — the private market value of their slaves as property — gain a seat in the House of Representatives.

In one matter alone is the President telling the truth: by playing H1Bs against asylum-seekers, he is openly admitting that its not about crime and not about freedom, but about money.

One thought on “Immigration and The Post-Constitutional President”

  1. Compare with Germany: The first article of the German Grundgesetz or Constitution reads: “Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.” It went on to promise that Germany would guarantee human rights and would freely grant asylum to refugees. Germany’s post-World War II history of migration, based on a keen and conscious recognition of universal human rights and the inviolability of human dignity is, for the most part, a successful one. It is difficult to find an “illegal” immigrant in Germany. Most migrants cross through legal checkpoints, request asylum, and, even without documentation or fingerprints, they receive arrival certificates as identification, cash, and tickets for transportation. Even those who cross through “green zones,” rural areas where the border is unclear, generally surrender themselves to police, ask for asylum, and begin the asylum process. Initially, they are required to stay in emergency “reception centers,”–converted sports halls, concert venues, and schools, or in group homes. They are able to come and go from these centers as they please, but they are not yet permitted to move to another residence. Arrival certificates are replaced by a more robust but conditional “permission to stay” or residence permits. After initial processing, immigrants are then transferred to local accommodation centers in cities throughout Germany where they apply for both both cash and non-cash benefits, which they will receive during the entire asylum process and beyond. The law requires that this first local accommodation be assigned to asylum seekers to avoid their concentration in a few areas. All children of parents with asylum status are required to attend school.
    Asylum seekers are required to complete integration and German language courses both before and after their asylum decision; those who refuse face a reduction in benefits. After three months, they are permitted to seek employment, and the law requires that they be offered employment opportunities. Furthermore the Federal Government has sponsored thousands of those with refugee status to enroll in vocational schools, many of which offer language classes in addition to vocational training.
    The Immigrant Integration Law stipulates that those immigrants who find employment may not be deported during the three-year vocational training period even if her asylum claim is rejected. If the trainee is offered a permanent position after the training period, he or she will be granted a two-year residence permit. The government provides university preparatory courses and funds assessment programs, in order to increase refugee university enrollment..59 The DAAD offers special refugee fellowships
    If their application for asylum is rejected they are ordered to be deported ; if they appeal, the process is moved to the courts and can take months and even years to settle. During the appeal process they continue to receive benefits. Local authorities have tremendous discretion in permitting rejected asylum seekers to stay in their jurisdictions during the appeal process. “Even if refugee status is revoked or withdrawn, this does not necessarily mean that a foreigner loses his or her right to stay in Germany.” Local authorities can “take into account personal reasons which might argue for a stay in Germany (such as length of stay, degree of integration, employment situation, family ties). Therefore, it is possible that even after loss of protected status, another residence permit is issued.” After immigrants receive asylum, states can require them to stay in their assigned location for three years, and then they are free to move to any city in Germany that they choose. They are entitled to unemployment benefits until they find a job. I’ve calculated that this process costs 259.75 euros annually per capita.

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