Friday, March 31, 2006

Foreign Labor

I hope nobody starts complaining about foreign workers in Major League Baseball:

Between 1998 and 2005, the percentage of foreign-born players on opening-day rosters increased by nearly 9 percent, to 29.2 from 20.3, with the Dominican Republic producing 91 of the 242 players born outside the United States. Venezuela vaulted ahead of Puerto Rico for second place in 2004 and should remain there again this season.

Since Omar Minaya was named general manager of the Mets in September 2004, he has been unabashed in his enthusiasm to make the Mets a brand name in Hispanic communities within and outside of New York. It is a shrewd decision, from a marketing standpoint and a practical one. Attracting big-name Hispanic players like Pedro Martínez and Carlos Beltran to New York has not only improved the on-field product, but also enlarged the fan base.

Democrats Split on Immigration

It's not just the Republicans:

New economic research that pits native-born workers against low-skilled immigrants in a struggle for jobs and wages has fueled a rift between some of Washington's most liberal lawmakers and their allies in economics and labor, who fear that the Democratic Party is pushing an immigration policy that forsakes the party's working-class mainstay.

The quarrel comes as the Senate debates a proposal to bring millions of immigrants into the legal workforce. A growing body of economic research contends that the recent surge of foreign workers has depressed wages for low-skilled workers, especially for high school dropouts, and has even begun displacing native-born workers. That benefits employers, higher-income consumers and the economy at large, but it may exacerbate the problems of the working class.

Bloomberg on Immigration

From the Gotham City Rag:

Wading into the national immigration debate, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said this week that two major proposals under discussion in Washington — criminalization of illegal immigration and a temporary worker program championed by President Bush — were unrealistic, shortsighted and a distraction from more pressing issues, like better border control and verification of job applicants' documents.

The mayor, a Republican, all but endorsed amnesty for illegal immigrants, a position that is anathema to most Republican leaders in Washington.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

My Pundits on Immigration

Three of my all-time favorite political commentators have excellent opinion pieces out today on the issue of immigration. Please read Linda Chavez, David Brooks and Peggy Noonan today. They all have interesting and insightful things to say about the current debate. If I were to quote selectively, as I usually do, I would not do their essays justice. And, if I quoted everything I like about what they have to say, this post would be very, very long, and I probably would run afoul of copyright restrictions. Please follow the links and read. Even if you don't agree, you'll find that they all will make you think.

Evangelicals and Immigration

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Major evangelical groups have been more muted on immigration than other Christian organizations. In fact, the dispute is exposing rifts in the evangelical community. Evangelicals who favor a tough stance toward illegal immigrants also want their leaders to speak out on the issue. "Our side is so afraid of sounding unmerciful," says Cathie Adams, a member of a nondenominational Dallas Bible church. "It's like it's a nonissue in the church. . . It's very frustrating."

The majority of influential Christian conservatives have either delayed taking a stand, such as the National Association of Evangelicals, or have no position, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Black Evangelical Association, James Dobson's Focus on the Family and Concerned Women for America.

When united, the evangelical movement has had considerable success influencing U.S. politics in recent years, helping to elect President Bush, working to scuttle Harriet Miers as a Supreme Court nominee, and influencing stricter laws on abortion. But as evangelicals attract more adherents, it will be increasingly difficult for the groups to reach consensus on many issues.

Rights of Foreign Criminals

From AP via Yahoo! News:

Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical as lawyers for two foreigners convicted of violent crimes in the United States argued that police had violated the men's rights.

Lawyers for the two men — one from Honduras, the other from Mexico — told the court Wednesday that police should have told them they could seek legal help from their countries' governments, as required by a 1969 treaty...

The 1969 Vienna Convention requires "competent authorities" to tell a consulate when a foreign national is arrested and to allow the consulate to communicate with the detained person and advise the suspect "without delay" of his or her rights.

U.S. citizens have the same rights if they are arrested in one of the 168 countries that signed the treaty.

The court was asked whether failure to advise a foreign suspect of the Vienna Convention rights can be used to overturn a conviction. The court's decision, expected before July, could affect the appeals of thousands of foreign citizens in U.S. prisons and jails.

This seems like a slum dunk: a foreign criminal's conviction should not be overturned because a police officer did not mention to the defendant that he has the right to contact his country's consulate.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Immigration & Assimilation

Michael Barone:

Capitalism "laughs at frontiers," wrote the French historian Fernand Braudel. The dynamic American economy has attracted illegal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries to work in construction, hotels and restaurants, meatpacking, gardening and landscaping. We talk as if our immigration laws can structure our labor markets, but in practice, Congress' task now is to get our immigration laws working in tandem with labor markets. We are not going to expel a population the size of the state of Ohio. But we shouldn't simply acquiesce to violation of the law. We need to legalize and regularize the flow of immigrants the labor market demands.

And we need to encourage their assimilation into America. Opponents of immigration often express distaste with the growing Latino neighborhoods increasingly visible across the country. One hundred years ago, Henry James expressed similar distaste when he visited the Lower East Side of New York. But in time, those immigrants or their children were assimilated, and today their descendants seem as American as anyone else.

Republicans and Immigration

From the New York Times:

It is almost as if they are looking at two different Americas.

The Senate Republicans who voted on Monday to legalize the nation's illegal immigrants look at the waves of immigration reshaping this country and see a powerful work force, millions of potential voters and future Americans.

The House Republicans who backed tough border security legislation in December look at the same group of people and see a flood of invaders and lawbreakers who threaten national security and American jobs and culture.

But both wings of the deeply divided Republican Party are responding to the same phenomenon: the demographic shift driven by immigration in recent decades, a wave that is quietly transforming small towns and cities across the country and underscoring pressures on many parts of the economy.

Political Blogging

From Ad Age Magazine:

In a move that will almost certainly boost political ad spending on the Internet, the Federal Election Commission gave political blogging more freedom while tightening controls for paid advertising.

In a unanimous decision, the six-member FEC said paid political ads have to be disclosed -- but not much else -- on the Internet, unless the activity is specifically done by a campaign or a political committee. Under the new rule, e-mails, blogs, newsletters and Web sites that are not created by political committees would be exempt from most FEC regulation, a prospect that could increase their use.

Long live free speech!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Immigrants and Security

Professor JAGDISH BHAGWATI, writing for the WSJ (subscription):

Illegal immigrants, especially the ones who cross the Rio Grande, are overwhelmingly poor: Surely, the likelihood of finding 9/11-type terrorists among them is farfetched. Everyone knows that the 9/11 terrorists were middle class and educated; and recent analyses of terrorist groups such as the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Irish Republican Army, the Red Brigades and the Palestinian suicide bombers confirm that an unschooled, indigent terrorist is rare indeed. In short, as economists say, which policy is "assigned" to which objective is important: Tight enforcement against illegal immigration, as distinct from stricter examination of containers at our ports, for instance, is mis-assigned to the antiterrorism object.

In fact, the proper objectives of American immigration reform -- as was the case with IRCA, and as is the case today -- are twofold: to "gain control of the border" (i.e., to have the inflow of migrants determined exclusively by legal admissions) and to treat immigrants humanely. If we manage to eliminate illegals from our midst, both objectives would be satisfied. Immigration flows would reflect legal immigration policy. Moreover, with no illegals around, immigrants would be treated with humanity, thanks to the principle of equal protection under the law, which is substantially extended to legal aliens.

The Immigration Bill

From Yahoo! News:

As immigration rights activists rallied outside the Capitol, senators broke Monday from the House's get-tough approach by refusing to make criminals of people who help illegal immigrants.

The Senate Judiciary Committee adopted an amendment by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that would protect church and charitable groups, as well as individuals, from criminal prosecution for providing food, shelter, medical care and counseling to undocumented immigrants.

"Charitable organizations, like individuals, should be able to provide humanitarian assistance to immigrants without fearing prosecution," Durbin said.

The committee also approved more than doubling the current force of 11,300 Border Patrol agents in an effort to stem the tide of new undocumented workers arriving daily. It voted to add 2,000 agents next year and 2,400 more annually through 2011.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Chavez's Day Are Numbered

Jose Enrique Idler for Tech Central Station:

Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, makes it seem like populist dictatorship is back in fashion in Latin America. He has given the country a makeover, changing everything from its official ideology and name to, most recently, the flag and the coat-of-arms. Assisted by oil revenues, he envisions extending his makeover philosophy to the whole region, reinforcing the worry that Latin America's lurch to the left represents a new era with setbacks for free-markets and democracy. Chavez, however, is a lonely voice, though not in a desert; rather in a region that wants to boom and that has changed far too much to make the Chavez-style of governance sustainable...

Although Chavez could well win the presidential elections this year and remain in power -- he has an impressive electoral track-record -- his political inclinations run counter to the region's democratic instincts. Consider that left-leaning governments in Chile and Brazil tend to show concern for economic and political freedoms. Beyond left or right, the consensus is now openness and democracy; and here Chavez finds himself on the wrong side of the fence. Unless he changes his ways, an unlikely prospect, his days are numbered. As oil prices decline, so will the dictator's clout.

I'm not holding my breath for declining oil prices.

Latinos and Vouchers

From Hispanic CREO:

Opposition to School Choice Causes Governor Napolitano's Approval Rating Amongst Latinos to Nosedive.

It's widely known that poll after poll, national or local, Latinos are overwhelmingly supportive of school choice, even when asked about the dreaded 'v' word: vouchers. In the current Arizona legislative session, the Governor has vetoed school choice bills three times and Latinos made their opinion loud and clear in a recent poll conducted by SurveyUSA. Governor Napolitano's approval rating amongst Latinos has dropped by 21% since February.

Guillermo Fariñas Hernandez

The Babalu Blog has the story of Guillermo Fariñas Hernandez, a Cuban journalist in his 57th day of a hunger strike for freedom.

Immigration Is a Nuisance

From Arnold Kling at TechCentralStation:

I believe that illegal immigrants bring relatively little economic benefit and cause relatively little economic harm. I believe that there are substitutes readily available for the work done by illegal immigrants. Legal residents could do some of the work. Other labor could be replaced by capital or by alternative production techniques. By the same token, because there are many substitutes available for unskilled labor, the salvation of American workers does not lie in immigration restrictions.

My prediction is that effective restrictions on illegal immigration would cause a shift in the location of unskilled labor, but not a meaningful long-term change in real wages. In the short run, wages for unskilled labor would rise in the United States. This would cause more manufacturing plants to relocate outside the United States, driving wages back down. Compared with the situation today, the net effect of immigration restrictions would be to shift some Mexican workers out of service work in America and into manufacturing work in Mexico. Within the United States, the reverse would happen: legal residents would lose manufacturing jobs more rapidly, and hang onto low-wage service jobs longer. I do not think that these economic effects are important.

The Answer Is More Worker Visas

Tamar Jacoby:

The Manhattan Institute and the National Immigration Forum recently conducted a series of focus groups testing two contrasting options: a guest worker program or a more traditional immigration plan based on the idea of citizenship. The results ran sharply counter to the expectations of policymakers in Washington. Democrats and Republicans alike overwhelmingly preferred the citizenship model for reasons of both principle and practicality. It might make sense initially, these voters said, to admit workers on a provisional basis. It might also make sense to create incentives for the more transient to go home at the end of their work stints. But if they worked hard, put down roots and invested in their communities, wouldn't we want to encourage them to stay? Don't we want immigrants to assimilate? Don't we want to attract the kind of hard-working, committed folks who plan for the future and invest?

The answer is, of course, that we do. This isn't just the American way, it's also the antidote to many of our worst fears about immigration: Sojourners with no stake in the future are going to be much less likely to learn English or buy their own homes or make an effort to move up on the job.

Sure, a citizenship plan looks like a bigger gamble; like the workers, the changes that come with it will be permanent. But surely it would be better to face up to that change and shape it in a way consistent with our values. Rather than a one-size-fits-all guest worker program, we need a system that leaves room for workers to choose, welcoming those who feel they belong and who work their way up and make our country stronger as they do.

Fences and Neighbors

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Some envision a wall. Others, a fence - or even a "virtual" fence of cameras, lighting, and sensors along the US-Mexican border. Whatever form it will take, the US is discussing, planning, and, in some places, already building it - much to the fury and frustration of neighbors south of the border...

It's not just the barrier, but other issues as well in proposed US immigration reform legislation that irk regional leaders and caused hundreds of thousands of people to protest in multiple US cities over the past few days.

Protests Continue

From the New York Times:

Rallies in support of immigrants around the country have attracted crowds that have astonished even their organizers. More than a half-million demonstrators marched in Los Angeles on Saturday, as many as 300,000 in Chicago on March 10, and — in between — tens of thousands in Denver, Phoenix, Milwaukee and elsewhere.

Hard, Backbreaking Work

From an excellent piece analyzing the immigration issue in the Washington Post:

Year after year, Professional Grounds Inc. runs a help-wanted ad to find landscapers and groundskeepers. Starting wage: $7.74 per hour.

In a good year, three people call. Most years, no one does.

So the Springfield company relies on imported labor -- seasonal guest workers allowed to immigrate under the federal guest-worker program -- to keep itself running. For 10 months this year, 23 men from Mexico and Central America will spend their days mulching and mowing, seeding and sodding for Professional Grounds.

Occasionally, company President Bill Trimmer asks himself: If I doubled wages, would native-born Americans apply? He thinks he knows the answer.

"I don't think it's a wage situation. It's the type of work and the nature of the work. It's hard, backbreaking work," said Trimmer, who started the company 31 years ago. "I think we're a more affluent society now. They expect more. Everybody expects more. . . . I have contracts, and they want an affordable price, too."

Friday, March 24, 2006

W's Immigration Woes

From the NYT:

In the days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, immigration policy was going to be President Bush's signature issue. It was central to his thinking as the former governor of a border state, key to his relationship with President Vicente Fox of Mexico and essential in attracting new Hispanic voters to the Republican Party.

Five years later, Mr. Bush has at last realized some momentum on immigration policy, but it is probably not the activity he once anticipated.

He has lost control of his own party on the issue, as many Republicans object to his call for a temporary guest-worker program, insisting instead that the focus be on shutting down the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico. It is not clear how much help he will get from Democrats in an election year.

The issue will come to the floor of the Senate next week, and the debate is shaping up as a free-for-all that will touch on economics, race and national identity.

And then, there's this from the Washington Post:

President Bush's effort to secure lawful employment opportunities for illegal immigrants is evolving into an early battle of the 2008 presidential campaign, as his would-be White House successors jockey for position ahead of next week's immigration showdown in the Senate.

Bush called on Congress yesterday to tone down the increasingly sharp and divisive rhetoric over immigration, as he renewed his push for a guest-worker plan that would allow millions of illegal immigrants to continue working in the United States. But Bush's political sway is already weakened by public unease about the war in Iraq and by Republican divisions.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The GOP Is Losing its Mojo

David Brooks:

In the field of immigration, Republican sentiment seems to be shifting away from the idea that the United States is a universal nation, where immigrants come from across the world to work, rise and join in the pursuit of happiness. Now Republican rhetoric emphasizes how alien immigrant culture is; how slowly the Mexicans assimilate, if at all; how much disorder and strain their presence creates.

There is a chance that in the next few weeks, the G.O.P. will walk off a cliff on the subject of immigration. In the desperate effort to win back their base, Republican senators may follow Bill Frist and embrace a draconian enforcement-only immigration bill (which will lose them Florida and the Southwest for a generation).

Meanwhile, Hillary is taking advantage of the situation:

"It is hard to believe that a Republican leadership that is constantly talking about values and about faith would put forth such a mean-spirited piece of legislation," she said of the measure, which was passed by the House of Representatives in December and mirrored a companion Senate bill introduced last week by Senator Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and the majority leader.

"It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scripture because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself," she said. "We need to sound the alarm about what is being done in the Congress."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Protests in Ecuador

The anti-Americanism of the Latin American left is costing poor people dearly:

Ecuadorean security forces have started removing roadblocks placed by indigenous groups protesting against free trade talks with the US.

The government sent in army units to restore order after declaring a state of emergency in five central provinces.

Demonstrators have been blocking roads since last week. They fear the deal being negotiated in Washington this week will damage their way of life.

The protests have cost the country millions of dollars in lost trade.

Samuelson on Immigration

Robert J. Samuelson:

Guest workers would mainly legalize today's vast inflows of illegal immigrants, with the same consequence: We'd be importing poverty. This isn't because these immigrants aren't hardworking; many are. Nor is it because they don't assimilate; many do. But they generally don't go home, assimilation is slow and the ranks of the poor are constantly replenished...

The most lunatic notion is that admitting more poor Latino workers would ease the labor market strains of retiring baby boomers. The two aren't close substitutes for each other...

It's a myth that the U.S. economy "needs" more poor immigrants...

Hardly anyone thinks that most illegal immigrants will leave.

Regular visitors to this humble blog know that I tend to disagree with Samuelson's arguments on the issue of immigration reform, but these are the kinds of arguments that we need to address if our elected representatives are going to craft a comprehensive and fair solution to the immigration problem.

Cardinal Mahony

The Cardinal is speaking out in an opinion piece in the New York Times:

Providing humanitarian assistance to those in need should not be made a crime, as the House [Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control] bill decrees. As written, the proposed law is so broad that it would criminalize even minor acts of mercy like offering a meal or administering first aid.

Current law does not require social service agencies to obtain evidence of legal status before rendering aid, nor should it. Denying aid to a fellow human being violates a law with a higher authority than Congress — the law of God.

That does not mean that the Catholic Church encourages or supports illegal immigration. Every day in our parishes, social service programs, hospitals and schools, we witness the baleful consequences of illegal immigration. Families are separated, workers are exploited and migrants are left by smugglers to die in the desert. Illegal immigration serves neither the migrant nor the common good.

What the church supports is an overhaul of the immigration system so that legal status and legal channels for migration replace illegal status and illegal immigration. Creating legal structures for migration protects not only those who migrate but also our nation, by giving the government the ability to better identify who is in the country as well as to control who enters it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Chavez and the Indigenistas

Carlos Alberto Montaner:

While [Hugo Chávez] the colorful Venezuelan president claims to be the virtual son of Bolívar, the indigenistas led by [Bolivian President Evo] Morales believe -- and not without reason -- that the native-born nation builders were nothing but the descendants and cultural followers of the Spaniards who colonized the New World and subjugated the natives...

Morales and his supporters also dream of refounding Bolivia, as Chávez did in Venezuela when he took over the madhouse. But their refounding begins by eliminating the name of Bolívar, a white and wealthy foreigner backed by British imperialists, who wrote Bolivia's first constitution under the influence of the United States and in the manner of Spain's liberal Constitution of 1812.

Although Morales and most of his followers are ethnic Aymaras, a tribe subjugated by the Quechua-speaking Incas, the Bolivian indigenistas wish to create the Republic of Tahuantinsuyo, a new, supranational entity that will occupy almost all the land held by the Inca Empire 500 years ago.

Mexico's Migration Problem

From Knight Ridder via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

The Bush administration wants Mexico to crack down on transiting Central Americans before it supports legislation in Congress that would make it easier for Mexican migrants to work legally in the United States. The issue is expected to be among those discussed when President Bush meets with his Mexican counterpart, Vicente Fox, in Cancun, Mexico, next week.

U.S. officials note that U.S. immigration officers apprehend more Central Americans than Mexicans. So far this fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have caught 791,973 Central Americans and 595,084 Mexicans in the United States.

But there's little inclination among average Mexicans to do much to stop the flow. Many see themselves in the lives of the desperate Central Americans.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Natural Gas From Latin America

Alvaro Vargas Llosa:

The United States needs to import more natural gas. Andean countries have plenty to sell. A bunch of politicians are standing in the way. What is the result? A missed opportunity both to boost the economies of the Andean countries and further to diversify U.S. energy sources — not to mention a chance to enhance hemispheric relations that will make Latin America more economically relevant.

The GOP vs. the Bishops

From the New York Times:

THE fierce battle over the future of America's immigration system is spilling from Capitol Hill onto the airwaves, as conservatives accuse Democrats, human rights groups and even some labor unions of trying to stymie Republican efforts to stem the tide of illegal immigration.

But in recent weeks, some commentators and prominent Republicans have turned their swords against another formidable foe in their battle to tighten the borders: the Roman Catholic Church.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Left Loses Again

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has a very interesting analysis of a U.S House primary race in Texas between two Hispanic Democrats. Ciro Rodriguez is the liberal candidate, supported by many left-leaning bloggers, who challenged the more conservative Henry Cuellas for his House seat. The liberal Rodriguez lost badly and the centrist Cuellar is expected to retain his seat.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Centrist Latin America

Newly-elected President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias:

The election of Evo Morales as president of Bolivia in December prompted a rash of headlines declaring that Latin America has tilted to the left. Latin Americans are fed up, some say, with the "Washington Consensus" of free markets and fiscal discipline, which has failed to erase all their poverty and inequality, and as a result their governments are reverting to protectionism, state ownership of industries and unlimited social spending.

But judging from the victory of my social-democratic National Liberation Party in Costa Rica's Feb. 5 elections, our country didn't get the message that all of Latin America is veering to the old-line left. And the truth is, neither did most countries in the region.

The governments of most South American and all Central American nations are strikingly moderate, a radical change from the ideological polarization I encountered when I was first elected president 20 years ago. We may believe in the state's responsibility to alleviate the crushing poverty that afflicts 40 percent of Latin America's population, but most of us also affirm that there is no better cure for that poverty than a stronger, more globally integrated economy.

The Specter Compromise

Tamar Jacoby:

Virtually all policy makers who have thought seriously about immigration agree that we have to do something about these unauthorized workers--not so much for their sake as for ours. Not only is the underground economy an affront to the rule of law, it's also an unacceptable security risk. Here are 11 million people whose real names we don't know, most of whom have never undergone a background check--and the illicit world they inhabit is a perfect staging ground for terrorists. Proposals for dealing with illegal immigrants run the gamut from deportation to blanket amnesty. But the ideas taken most seriously in the Senate all start by requiring them to come forward and register with the government, then prove they are bona fide laborers, not criminals or security threats. At that point, Sens. John Cornyn and Jon Kyl would allow them to work here for five years and then send them home, albeit with the option of returning either as temporary workers or, in some cases, on permanent visas. Sens. Kennedy and John McCain would allow them to earn permanent visas without leaving the U.S.--paying a fine and all back taxes, then taking English classes while they wait their turn behind people applying in the usual way from their home countries.

Enter Sen. Specter in search of a compromise. What drove him was partly doubt that a policy requiring people to return to their home countries would work. Why would anyone sign up for that--as the common taunt goes, "report to deport"? His motives are also political: He wants as strong a majority as he can muster on the committee, including as many Republicans as possible. Otherwise his bill will have no momentum, either on the Senate floor or later, if it passes, when it has to be reconciled with the much tougher bill passed by the House in December.

The problem is that the answer Sen. Specter came up with isn't just impractical; it's un-American, and would prove disastrous for the Republican Party. He calls it the "gold card," and his bill would grant those who earned one, by coming forward and admitting they had done wrong, the right to remain in the U.S. indefinitely. The only catch: Their legal status would be conditional, and as a practical matter they would have no possibility of becoming citizens.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Chavez-Castro Axis

From Reuters:

Chavez, who is promoting leftist integration as an alternative to a U.S.-sponsored hemispheric free trade bloc, proclaimed in Havana last month that "the hour of the people" had come in Latin America.

And he is willing to use Venezuela's oil wealth to aid Cuba and win over new friends as he presses to bring socialist revolution to the world's No. 5 oil exporter.

Remittances to Mexico

From The Economist:

It seems that a growing share of Mexicans emigrating to America come from Mexico City. In February the Bank of Mexico announced that the number of remittances to the capital from America had increased by a factor of seven in the past ten years. With so many immigrants crossing the border illegally, tracking remittances is one of the best ways to determine where they lived before heading north.

Mexico City’s economic growth has lagged behind that of the country as a whole, which could explain why emigration to America has increased. In 2005 the city received the second-most remittances in the country after Michoacán, a central-western state. (The capital received a whopping $479m in only three months of 2005.) The Bank’s announcement of the rise in remittances is the clearest sign yet that emigration patterns have changed dramatically in the past decade—no longer do most America-bound Mexicans come from a few regions in the country’s north.

The Mood in Latin America

Ernesto Zedillo (remember him?):

Mortification, tinged with depression, seemed to color the mood of Latin American participants at January’s World Economic Forum in Davos. Their gloominess stemmed from the fact that this year countries in the region were receiving minuscule attention on the forum’s program, in contrast with that conferred on other emerging countries--India, in particular. Furthermore, the scant comments regarding Latin America on the sidelines of the meetings were mostly about the rhetoric of Bolivia’s new president, Evo Morales, and the striped sweater he’d worn when visiting dignitaries during his preinauguration world tour.

Uneasiness over Latin America at Davos and elsewhere is rooted in the region’s perennial economic underperformance and the strong populist tone most of its politicians have been striking in recent electoral campaigns. There is talk of an old-fashioned leftist wave sweeping the region. The fear is that by next fall, when this cycle of national elections has been completed, a large number of governments will have been elected on incredibly retrograde and demagogic platforms that currently hold sway over large numbers of voters.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Immigration and Crime

Interesting study:

...[E]vidence points to increased immigration as a major factor associated with the lower crime rate of the 1990's (and its recent leveling off)...

... [O]ur study found that immigrants appear in general to be less violent than people born in America, particularly when they live in neighborhoods with high numbers of other immigrants...

In today's world, then, it is no longer tenable to assume that immigration automatically leads to chaos and crime. New York is a magnet for immigration, yet it has for a decade ranked as one of America's safest cities. Border cities like El Paso and San Diego have made similar gains against crime. Perhaps the lesson is that if we want to continue to crack down on crime, closing the nation's doors is not the answer.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Divide Is Too Deep

Many are starting to believe that there is too wide a gap between proponents and opponents of immigration reform to have any legislation enacted this year.

Venezuela's New Flag

The hubris of Hugo Chavez knows no end.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Immigration Enforcement Is Not Enough

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Any sensible immigration reform would focus not just on keeping illegals out of the country, but also on why they're coming and how to get the estimated 11 million illegals already here out of the shadows. Yet last year the House whooped through a bill that expands enforcement and nothing else...

This is the same mistake the restrictionists made in 1986, when President Reagan signed a bill legalizing three million workers but didn't create a mechanism -- dispensing enough green cards -- for the economy to get the workers it needed in the future. Some 500,000 people continue to enter the U.S. illegally every year, and the strong economy and low jobless rate (4.8%) are evidence that these undocumented workers aren't "stealing" jobs but simply filling them.

The U.S. dispenses only about 10,000 green cards annually for unskilled workers. And by not providing enough paths to permanent residency for those who want to stay, we're setting ourselves up for another large illegal population down the road. Under current law, foreign workers in high-tech fields can extend their stay if an employer sponsors them for a green card. Why should the same rules that apply to Intel's engineers not also apply to Marriott's chambermaids and California's farm hands?

Like the House bill, Mr. Specter's proposal also includes over-the-top security measures like expanding the definition of "alien smuggling" to include church soup-kitchen operators and people who take in relatives who are here illegally. Mr. Specter would also create an army of federal agents and prosecutors to "investigate" immigration violations. But it makes little sense to start raiding businesses and driving foreigners further underground without first expanding the legal ways for the economy to get the workers it needs.

Chile's New President

Informative article about the new President of Chile from Marcela Sanchez:

Michelle Bachelet is many things: socialist, agnostic, single mother, torture victim, former political exile and now Chile's first woman president. But as dramatic as these might sound, it is her subtler, more elusive qualities that best explain what kind of leader she will be for Latin America's most prosperous nation.


The inauguration of Michelle Bachelet as president of Chile tomorrow is an important event for the Americas. While not the first woman in the region to be elected head of state, Bachelet's rise to prominence was not influenced by marriage to a powerful man but rather by her own success, first as minister of health and then minister of defense.

She accompanied the Chilean Socialist Party on its voyage from Marxism during the 1970s into the camp of social democracy, a transformation that played a large role in opening the door to Chile's successful transition from dictatorship to a stable and prosperous democracy. During her campaign, she promised social reform, but in an environment of respect for the value of consensus.

Hispanic Employment


February brought a slight drop in the Hispanic unemployment rate to 5.5 percent from 5.8 percent in January, according to data released today by the U.S. Department of Labor. Meanwhile, the overall U.S. unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points to 4.8 percent from 4.7 percent in January.

The labor market in February provided 12,000 new jobs for Hispanics. At the same time, 43,000 Hispanics that were previously seeking work left the labor market. This may be due to lack of success in finding work to the point of giving up the search.

Together, these two effects reduced the number of unemployed Hispanics by 55,000, causing the decrease in the unemployment rate.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Abajo Fidel

While Cuba played the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, a spectator in the stands raised a sign saying: "Down with Fidel," sparking an international incident that escalated Friday with the velocity of a major league fastball.

The image of the man holding the sign behind home plate was beamed live Thursday night to millions of TV viewers -- including those in Cuba.  Posted by Picasa has a first-person account of the incident with photos.

Univision in Transition

From the New York Times:

Catering to the country's growing Latino population — 40 million and counting — Univision now challenges ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, especially in big coastal cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami, occasionally beating them in the ratings with its sexy, soapy prime-time shows.

But as would-be buyers prepare bids for Univision Communications, a consortium including Grupo Televisa of Mexico, which supplies many of the network's shows, emerged Thursday as a potential bidder.

Any new owner would have to wrestle with the shifting dynamics of the company's audience. More Latinos are American-born and English-speaking, and their tastes in television are changing more quickly than Univision's shows.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Clinton on Immigration

The junior senator from New York and potential presidential candidate (not the ex-president) has made her most revealing public statement about her views on immigration in a letter to her constituents:

Mrs. Clinton said that although she opposed granting unconditional amnesty to illegal immigrants, the country needed a program that encouraged such people to come forward and identify themselves.

"For those who work hard, pay their taxes, continue to obey the law and demonstrate a commitment to this country, the opportunity to eventually earn citizenship should also be available," she said.

"A program such as this is not a free ride, and it certainly is not for everyone," she continued. "Legal status must be earned, as it was by previous generations of immigrants who became citizens through perseverance and hard work."

Cuba After Fidel


In his book, After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro’s Regime and Cuba’s Next Leader, Brian Latell poses potential outcomes for the “day after.” According to him, olive-dressed men will unquestionably play a central role in determining Cuba’s course of events, as the military establishment is the most powerful, cohesive, and influential institution. Latell presents two main scenarios. Number one: a succeeding praetorian regime dominated by Raul (and his tightly-controlled Raulista generals) takes over. Curiously, Latell leaves open the question of how enduring such a regime would be. Unlike Fidel, Raul Castro is not wed to ideological certainties, nor inclined to engage in utterly-dogmatic and fiery rhetoric. Cuban affairs specialists see him as more concerned with the long-standing widespread socio-economic hardships that continue to erode popular support. That is why he has been an advocate for economic reforms. Ultimately, these very reforms have benefited and strengthened the military, as his close collaborators have been entrusted with running some of the projects. Accordingly, Raul seems to be in favor of a Chinese type of regime (the “Beijing formula”), which implies no political freedoms for ordinary Cubans, unrelenting control over the society, and limited economic concessions. At the same time, Latell sees little chance for civilian-led dissenting groups to articulate any realistic challenge to the system for as long the all-powerful military remains united. In essence, Raul would head a rather colorful version of the same ossified and highly-repressive system.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Fence and Amnesty?

Robert J. Samuelson has written an interesting and provocative piece for the Washington Post entitled Build a Fence -- And Amnesty. Here are some highlights:

It's time to build a real fence or a wall along every foot of the 1,989 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border.

I do not like advocating a fence. It looks and feels bad. It's easily stigmatized as racist. It would antagonize Mexico. The imagery is appalling, but it beats the alternative: a growing underclass and social tensions.

We also need to stiffen employer fines for hiring illegal immigrants. Businesses should have to check prospective workers against computer databases with Social Security numbers, passports or immigration documents.

Today's unskilled arrivals make it harder for yesterday's to get ahead. The two compete.

If we control new inflows, we should legalize the illegal immigrants already here.

There's more, so please read the whole thing. Even though I don't agree with a lot of the positions being advocated by many people, I am encouraged by the fact that an honest debate is beginning to develop about the immigration issue. This article is a good contribution to the debate.

Multilingual Ballots

José Enrique Idler:

Linguistic minorities are presumed to prefer voting in the language that they speak. Puzzlingly enough though, when immigrants become citizens, almost all of them have to learn English. And for good reason: political and civic participation happens in English. Even those cases in which someone finds it necessary to vote in a language other than English — which is indeed sometimes necessary — shouldn't mislead us into thinking that widespread multilingual voting is beneficial. People may be able to vote without being fluent in English, but their democratic participation is limited. Only by learning the language can they, and future generations, become full participants in the system.

12 Million

From the New York Sun (the best newspapers you never heard of):

America's illegal immigrant population grew by more than 500,000 last year and is now approaching 12 million, according to a study released yesterday that politicians from both parties are already seizing on to add momentum to their drive to change the nation's immigration laws.

The study, released by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, a nonpartisan group that is a leading authority on measuring the undocumented, was released as the Senate begins considering legislation to overhaul America's immigration laws. The report paints a detailed picture of a thriving illegal population dominated by families - including 1.8 million with children who are U.S. citizens - and highly employed, with 94% of illegal immigrant men working compared to 83% of the corresponding native-born population.

The full report is available at

Central America Tourism

From USAToday:

Ten or 20 years ago, mentions of countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala conjured up visions of soldiers and civil war.

But today Central America has become a tourism hot spot. The isthmus between Mexico and Colombia is better known for its culture and wildlife than its war-torn past. And tourism revenue has surpassed that of most local industries.

Now regional officials are trying to encourage visitors to experience the region the way Americans have long traveled in Europe — by taking in several countries in one trip.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Socially Conservative Hispanics

Hispanics tend to be very conservative on social issues:

Of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, about 80 percent are from Latin America. And, according to a 2002 Pew Hispanic Center poll, 77 percent of foreign-born Latinos believe that abortion is unacceptable, and 73 percent reject homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.

But LatinoPundit doesn't agree.

The Miami Dade College Chess Team

From (subscription):

Four years ago, Miami Dade College didn't know chess from checkers. Since then, this community college has emerged as the nation's most unlikely chess powerhouse, with triumphs over Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The secret to its success: a team stocked with players who fled chess-mad Cuba.

Local Officials on Immigration

From the New York Times:

Gather 100 local officials from 30 states — Democrats and Republicans from big states and little ones — and there are probably few issues on which all will agree. But President Bush's record on illegal immigration apparently is one...

The gathering, organized and convened here under the banner of the Coalition of Mayors and County Executives for Immigration Reform, called for border security and, most urgently, reimbursement to localities for the cost of dealing with a problem its members say the federal government has ignored.

The Cuban Embargo

William M. LeoGrande:

Sports and cultural exchanges are a good way for ordinary people in the United States and Cuba to get to know one another. We should have more of them, and the president should be applauded for allowing Cubans to play in the World Baseball Classic. But surely scientific and intellectual exchanges are just as important for building goodwill. Among the young professors teaching in Cuba today are people who will be the professional and political leaders of tomorrow, regardless of how Cuba evolves. Allowing them to visit the United States to interact with their professional colleagues here improves the chances that U.S.-Cuban relations in the future will be based on a mutual understanding and respect.

A New Constitution for Bolivia

From BBC News:

Bolivian President Evo Morales has signed a law convening a special assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Mr Morales said Bolivia would be refounded, with indigenous peoples playing the role that they had been denied for hundreds of years.

Mr Morales also signed a law calling a referendum on greater regional autonomy, which will be held on 2 July.

He was elected in December 2005, pledging to reform the constitution and give more power to indigenous peoples.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Becker-Posner Blog

One of the best sites on the blogosphere, the Becker-Posner Blog, has an excellent discussion on the issue of illegal immigration. The posts by the bloggers and the comments are very good. Check it out and put your two cents in.

Immigration Advantage

Marcelo Suarez-Orozco compares the American and European immigration and assimilation patterns and concludes that the U.S. has a definite advantage.

The Cuban Embargo & Its Consequences

From BBC News:

Local authorities in Mexico City have fined a US-owned hotel, at the centre of a diplomatic row, $15,000 (£8,500).

They said the branch of the Sheraton chain had discriminated against 16 Cuban officials by expelling them from its premises last month.

The delegation was ordered out to comply with a US embargo against Cuba. A US law bans American companies from doing business with the island.

The hotel denied discrimination and said it would appeal the decision.

Immigrants in Georgia

From the New York Times:

Georgia is undergoing another demographic shift, as Mexican immigrants flock to its farms, mills, processing plants and cities. The Latino immigrant population has soared in the last 10 years and exploded in the last 5, to an estimated 650,000 in a state of nine million. Some experts say the real immigrant number is double that. At least half of the newcomers are illegal, unskilled laborers who, like their Irish predecessors, want "any job, but now."

Anti-immigrant groups have taken to calling the state "Georgiafornia," and have vowed to fight the Latino influx...

Then there is John Newton, editor of La Voz Latina, a free monthly newspaper that circulates in Georgia and South Carolina, part shopper, part immigrant manifesto. Mr. Newton, who is not Hispanic, describes his job as something close to a missionary vocation. "How insane it is," he writes, "for a nation of aging baby-boomers to vilify a work force composed, for the most part, of members of the Christian faith, with strong family values, a willingness to work and a desire to succeed."

Cuban Doctors

There is an interesting article in the Miami Herald about the thousands of Cuban doctors that are working in a number of Latin American countries, like Venezuela and Guatemala. It appears that while these doctors are bringing much-needed medical attention to rural areas in very poor countries, they are also engendering controversy in those countries and resentment from neglected Cuban patients. Lots of interesting dynamics going on here.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

U.S. Needs Immigrants

From the Durhan, North Carolina News & Observer:

Nearly 1 in 4 United States residents will be Hispanic by 2030 if current demographic trends hold. That makes the nation dependent on the group to fill jobs that retiring baby boomers will leave, according to a study released Wednesday by a National Academy of Sciences research group.

But as a group, Hispanics are younger, poorer, less educated, more likely to drop out of high school and not as fluent in English as other ethnic groups.

The United States must address their educational and economic needs, or risk a severe shortage of skilled labor in coming decades, the study says.

Latin America Conference

From the Wharton School:

Bolivians recently elected Evo Morales, formerly the leftist leader of the country's coca growers, as their new president. His campaign focused on promises to nationalize oil-and-gas production, control land speculation and pay more attention to previously ignored sectors of Bolivian society, among other initiatives. Leftist or populist parties are also in power in Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela, and have flexed their muscle in Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru. The upcoming election in Mexico could also bring the leftist PRD to power.

During a panel discussion at the recent Wharton Latin American conference, Wharton management professor Witold Henisz asked a provocative question to four of the conference's panelists: Is the democratic revival of the populist left a hallmark of consolidation of democracy or a potentially dangerous trend that will return Latin America to the lost decades? Should it be viewed as a threat or an opportunity by international investors?

Opportunity was the unanimous opinion of the panel, entitled "Structural Processes and Politicians: The End of the Latin American Pendulum?" The panel was part of the Wharton global Business Forum, whose theme for Latin America was "Capturing Untapped Potential."

Friday, March 03, 2006

Immigration Debate

Dana Milbank, one of my least favorite writers, has an interesting take on the debates going on in Congress with regard to immigration and the ports issue:

Back at the Dirksen Building, advocates of a plan to legalize some immigrant workers were having similar difficulty overcoming the fury of their opponents. Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who included a guest-worker provision in his legislation, said it is necessary to bring 11 million illegal aliens "out of the shadows."

But the very notion enraged his colleague Grassley, who called Specter's plan "a wink and a nod to amnesty" for illegals. "If it looks acts and smells like amnesty then it is amnesty," he protested, saying the program "denigrates the value of citizenship..."

It was difficult to argue against these emotional appeals. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an internationalist, didn't really try.

In a brief speech, he said he favors the guest-worker idea. "The idea of dealing with 11 million people as if they don't exist is unrealistic," Graham said. "America needs to mature on this issue. . . . Demagoguing it is no longer an option for me."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Cardinal Mahony

From the Washington Post:

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said Wednesday he would instruct his priests to defy a proposed federal requirement that churches check the legal status of parishioners before helping them.

The U.S. House of Representatives included the requirement in an immigration bill that the Senate Judiciary Committee is to begin debating this week. The legislation also would penalize social organizations that refuse to meet its requirements.

When asked if he would be willing to go to jail for the stance, Mahony said "yes" because "helping people in need were actions that are part of God's mercy."

Mahony, a longtime advocate of immigrant rights who oversees a racially diverse archdiocese of more than 4 million people, used Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season to urge Catholics to "make room" for immigrants.

The New York Times approves.

Report on Hispanics

From the Modesto Bee:

Low-skilled illegal immigrants are slowing the ascension of Latinos, as a group, into the U.S. middle class, the nation's most prestigious research group warned Wednesday.

The National Research Council pressed for more schooling and better health care to assist the Latino immigrants, suggesting that the future of the fabled melting pot may be at stake.


Uranium Seized in Colombia

This is kind of scary:

Two Colombians caught trying to sell uranium might have tried to offer it to Marxist rebels but the metal was depleted and unsuitable for making a nuclear or dirty bomb, according to a preliminary government report and the Attorney General's office on Thursday.

Soldiers and police arrested a man and a woman in an industrial neighborhood of the capital Bogota on Feb. 24 and seized 29.7 pounds (13.5 kg) of uranium sitting on a lead base beneath polystyrene foam containers full of water and ice, according to a news release by the Attorney General's office.

Mothers of the Disappeared

From the Economist:

One of Argentina’s best-known human rights groups, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Association, held its last 24-hour “march of resistance” in the main square in January. The group staged its first march in 1977, during the reign of Argentina’s military government, to demand the return of loved ones “disappeared” by the junta and the punishment of those responsible. Thankfully the impetus for the march has all but disappeared: not only did the military government end in 1983, but Néstor Kirchner, Argentina’s president, has made the commemoration and punishment of past human-rights abuses a priority. “We no longer have an enemy in the presidential palace,” Hebe Bonafini, one of the most prominent Mothers, declared. “We are old and the enemy is not there. Why continue?”

The decision to end the annual march does not mean that the city's main square will be empty. A rival group, La Línea Fundadora, has said it will continue to march once a year. And even Ms Bonafini's group will remain active: the Mothers will rally in the Plaza de Mayo each Thursday, to demand the redistribution of Argentina’s wealth.

CAFTA Delays

From the New York Times:

Two months after the Central American Free Trade Agreement was supposed to go into effect, only El Salvador is ready to join, frustrating a hard-won victory for Washington in its push toward free trade.

Of the five other countries that signed on to the pact known by its acronym, Cafta, four have yet to change a host of laws to bring them into line with the agreement. The pact requires them to open their economies to American trade and investment, dismantle protections for many local industries and enforce intellectual property rights in return for greater access to the United States market. Costa Rica, the fifth, has delayed ratification.

GOP Split on Immigration

From the Washington Post:

The Senate will begin work today on legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration laws and plug its porous borders, but a bipartisan push to create a new guest worker program has put Senate Republicans on a collision course with their counterparts in the House.

The immigration question -- one of the volatile issues in this election year -- has split Republicans as no other issue before Congress. Vociferous opponents of illegal immigration are at odds with business interests and their allies, including President Bush, who are keen on establishing new, legal avenues to bolster the labor force.

Border Tunnels

From USAToday:

These are busy days for the men and women who guard the nation's border — particularly for the team of federal agents charged with rooting out border tunnels...

While drug smuggling and illegal immigration have long been border concerns, the threat of international terrorists entering the USA by burrowing under the border has made the effort to detect tunnels a national security priority.