Affirmative Asylum

I’ve suddenly realized that when I wrote that I was favorably predisposed towards accepting refugees as long as the asylum-seekers were detained while their applications were reviewed, some of those who support our accepting more refugees must have thought I was daft. I was referring, of course, to affirmative asylum. Here’s how the U. S. Civilization and Naturalization Services characterizes “affirmative asylum”:

To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process you must be physically present in the United States. You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.

You must apply for asylum within one year of the date of their last arrival in the United States, unless you can show:

Changed circumstances that materially affect your eligibility for asylum or extraordinary circumstances relating to the delay in filing
You filed within a reasonable amount of time given those circumstances.
You may apply for affirmative asylum by submitting Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, to USCIS. See Form I 589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal for instructions on how to file for asylum,.

If your case is not approved and you do not have a legal immigration status, we will issue a Form I-862, Notice to Appear, and forward (or refer) your case to an Immigration Judge at the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). The Immigration Judge conducts a ‘de novo’ hearing of the case. This means that the judge conducts a new hearing and issues a decision that is independent of the decision made by USCIS. If we do not have jurisdiction over your case, the Asylum Office will issue an I-863, Notice of Referral to Immigration Judge, for an asylum-only hearing. See ‘Defensive Asylum Processing With EOIR’ below if this situation applies to you.

Affirmative asylum applicants are rarely detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). You may live in the United States while your application is pending before USCIS. If you are found ineligible, you can remain in the United States while your application is pending with the Immigration Judge. Most asylum applicants are not authorized to work.

The emphasis is mine. In other words, the process for seeking affirmative asylum goes like this:

  • You arrive in the United States, by any means, legal or illegal.
  • You apply for asylum.
  • You’re released on your own recognizance.
  • A year and a half later, you receive a determination.

Doesn’t sound quite as daft when you know that’s what I’m talking about, does it?

How common is affirmative asylum? About 3/5s of those who’ve been granted asylum applied that way. Many immigration attorneys advise people to seek asylum that way.


Things to Come

I’ve been ruminating about this lately so I thought I’d put the subject on the floor. What will the United States be like in 2050? Here’s what I think.

In 2050 the United States will be a country of 400 million people. Demographically 45% of Americans will be of primarily European descent, 30% of primarily Hispanic descent (mostly Meso-American), 15% of African descent, with the balance West Asian, South Asian, or other.

The United States will still have a larger GDP than any other country on the planet. I won’t even venture a guess as to what that might be. China’s population will have already peaked and be declining. India will be the largest country in the world with a population of something in the vicinity of 2.5 billion, many of them poor.

The United States will also remain the world’s foremost military power. We’ll spend $400-500 billion (in 2015 dollars—I won’t even guess what that will be in 2050 dollars) on our military. Nobody else wants the job.

In some ways American urban areas will resemble those of France today—substantial gentrified inner cities surrounded by large banlieus of poor people, mostly in multi-family dwellings. Miles and miles of them. Outside these banlieus will be prosperous suburbs. Most Americans will live and work in the suburbs.

Probably three-quarters of today’s Baby Boomers will be deceased but there will still be more people over the age of 80 than at any time during America’s history. They will be disproportionately well-to-do and disproportionately white. Some Baby Boomers will still be working.

The Americans of 2050 will still work for their livings and most will still have jobs. There will be lots of robots but they won’t be doing as much as today’s sciencefictioneers think they will. I have no idea how people will earn their livings in 2050.

Much more will be the same as it is now than will be different. The America of 2050 will be just about as much like today as today is like 1980 and considerably more like today than the America of 1965 was like the America of 1930.

We’ll still be driving automobiles. There may be lanes set aside for autonomous vehicles but humans won’t have been excluded from the roads.

We’ll probably still be arguing about the same things.


Net Decrease in Mexican Immigrants

A recent study from Pew Research has produced an interesting finding. The total number of Mexican immigrants in the United States has decreased:

Mexico is the largest birth country among the U.S. foreign-born population – 28% of all U.S. immigrants came from there in 2013. Mexico also is the largest source of U.S. unauthorized immigrants (Passel and Cohn, 2014).

The decline in the flow of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. is due to several reasons (Passel et al, 2012). The slow recovery of the U.S. economy after the Great Recession may have made the U.S. less attractive to potential Mexican migrants and may have pushed out some Mexican immigrants as the U.S. job market deteriorated.

In addition, stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border (Rosenblum and Meissner, 2014), may have contributed to the reduction of Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S. in recent years. According to one indicator, U.S. border apprehensions of Mexicans have fallen sharply, to just 230,000 in fiscal year 2014 – a level not seen since 1971 (Krogstad and Passel, 2014). At the same time, increased enforcement in the U.S. has led to an increase in the number of Mexican immigrants who have been deported from the U.S. since 2005 (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2014).

A majority of the 1 million who left the U.S. for Mexico between 2009 and 2014 left of their own accord, according to the Mexican government’s ENADID survey data. The Mexican survey also showed that six in ten (61%) return migrants – those who reported they had been living in the U.S. five years earlier but as of 2014 were back in Mexico – cited family reunification as the main reason for their return. By comparison, 14% of Mexico’s return migrants said the reason for their return was deportation from the U.S.

That’s a substantial drop—about 10% of the total. There are some other interesting things in the article. For example, the degree to which the Mexican population and the Mexican-American population are diverging is substantial. There’s been a dip in the number of Mexicans who have friends or family in the U. S. and vice versa.


Yearning for Moderation

Judging by his most recent Washington Post column, George Will still hasn’t come to the realization that today’s Republican Party isn’t the Republican Party that he remembers and that the primary voters of today’s Republican Party are in a mood to burn the house down. He’s still pushing Chris Christie:

Paris was for all Americans, but especially for Republicans, a summons to seriousness that should have two immediate impacts on the Republican presidential contest. It should awaken the party’s nominating electorate from its reveries about treating the presidency as an entry-level job. And it should cause Republicans to take another look at Chris Christie, beginning with his speech in Florida the day after the Paris attacks.


To the large extent that Trump’s appeal is his forceful persona, no candidate in the Republican field can match Christie’s combination of a prosecutor’s bearing and a governor’s executive temperament. In Florida, Christie sounded a new theme: “There are all too many people in academia and in global business that aren’t really interested in America as a nation-state anymore.”


Heightened security concerns might be Christie’s opportunity. The more disorderly the world becomes, the less luminous is the one credential that supposedly qualifies Hillary Clinton for the presidency. The credential is not her adequate but unremarkable eight-year Senate career. Rather, it is her four years as secretary of state. Recall the question Ronald Reagan posed to voters at the conclusion of his single debate with President Jimmy Carter a week before the 1980 election: Are you better off today than you were four years ago? The electorate’s answer was emphatic.

In a debate 10 months from now, the Republican nominee will ask a variant of Reagan’s question: Is America safer or more respected today, anywhere in the world, than it was when Clinton became secretary of state? Today, Republican voters need to ask themselves a question: Whom do they want onstage asking that question?

I don’t think that Republican primary voters are just posturing. Chris Christie can get no traction because he’s an experienced politician and is willing to work with the other party to accomplish his objectives. Judging by the polls, that’s just not where the collective head of today’s Republican primary voter is.

They’re not merely giving the cold shoulder to Chris Christie. They’re turning their noses up at all of the candidates with executive branch of government experience (e.g. Jindal, Kasich, Bush).


Why Is There More Growth Under Democrats?

I haven’t watched any of the debates among presidential contenders, Republican or Democrat. I won’t do it and you can’t make me. But I did hear about Hillary Clinton’s claim that GDP growth was better under Democratic presidents than among Republicans and I thought that was worth commenting on. Take a look at the chart above, sampled from this post from the blog of the Manhattan Institute. Here’s what its author, Caroline Baum, has to say:

“If you look at the Republicans versus the Democrats when it comes to economic policy, there is no comparison. The economy does better when you have a Democrat in the White House.” – Hillary Clinton, Oct. 13, 2015

Clinton could have said, “a lot better,” or “based on various metrics,” and still been correct in her statement. What she left out was a key finding of the economic research she is fond of citing on the superior economic performance under Democratic presidents: the lack of causality.

Citing a paper by Alan Blinder and Mark Watson she goes on to note that the difference can’t be explained by differences in fiscal policy or monetary policy and can’t be waved away by differences in Congressional majorities or split government. Nobody can really explain the difference. The post ends up attributing it to some felicitous combination of policy and dumb luck.

I think there’s more to it and I want to explain what I think that might be. Lord Keynes’s old friend, “animal spirits”. Democratic presidents are just better at talking up the economy. Look at the top growth presidential terms: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Clinton. It isn’t until #4 that you have the first Republican and it’s, who else, the Gipper. What’s different about Reagan when compared with Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, or either Bush? He wasn’t a downbeat or even pessimistic old scold. What’s different about Carter or Obama from the other Democratic presidents? They are scolds.

The moral of the story is don’t ignore the role of mood in evaluating economic growth.

BTW, the Manhattan Institute isn’t exactly a bastion of left wing thought. Remember the old rabbinic saying: when a woman comes from a far country and tells you she’s divorced, believe her.


Who Gets in and Why?

There’s an unnecessarily heated discussion about accepting Syrian refugees going on. At the Wall Street Journal Jason Riley presents one side:

What most concerns the law-enforcement community is not a fake refugee but a long-term resident who later becomes radicalized. The Tsarnaev brothers, who perpetrated the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, arrived in the U.S. on tourist visas in 2002 at the ages of 15 and 8. Radicalization is an increasing problem, evidenced by the fact that stories about young Americans trying to sneak off to join jihad are no longer uncommon.

One reason the U.S. has largely avoided the type of turmoil that places like France have experienced with disaffected Muslim youth is our enduring model of assimilation. America’s focus on shared values and ideals over shared cultures tends to produce religious moderates. The war on terror, however, is clearly testing that paradigm.

To the public, the merits of Mr. Obama’s pro-refugee arguments matter less than the growing perception that ISIS is ascendant and has the ability to strike where and when it pleases.

while Dana Milbank presents the other at the Washington Post:

The attacks in Paris have inspired a xenophobic bidding war among Republican presidential candidates.

Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday signed an order trying to get his state of Louisiana to block the settlement of any Syrian refugee, while Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, proposed we “wake up and smell the falafel” and said House Speaker Paul Ryan should resign if he can’t block the refugees’ arrival. Candidates Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and John Kasich also joined the jingoistic bid to block Syrian refugees.

In addition 24 Republican governors and one Democratic governor have gone on record as opposing the acceptance of Syrian refugees. Kevin Drum warns progressives that they be grabbing the wrong end of the stick, at least from a political standpoint:

Here’s the thing: to the average person, it seems perfectly reasonable to be suspicious of admitting Syrian refugees to the country. We know that ISIS would like to attack the US. We know that ISIS probably has the wherewithal to infiltrate a few of its people into the flood of refugees. And most voters have no idea how easy it is to get past US screening. They probably figure it’s pretty easy.

So to them it doesn’t seem xenophobic or crazy to call for an end to accepting Syrian refugees. It seems like simple common sense. After all, things changed after Paris.

and, based on poll numbers, the Republicans are on the right side of the issue (from a political standpoint).

What to do? It seems to me that the question comes down to one of mitigating risk. You can accept no additional risk by accepting no Syrian refugees. Or you can accept a heightened risk by accepting Syrian refugees on an unlimited basis. The right policy is probably somewhere in between.

Risk is a tricky issue. I strongly suspect that if you asked any security expert he or she would tell you the probability of a terrorist attack in the United States that takes human life is 100%. I also think they would tell you that taking more Syrian refugees increases that risk (by some unknown amount).

The way I think the battlespace is emerging is that progressives want to contend that being unwilling to accept additional risk is outweighed by the value of inclusiveness or, said another way, you’re a racist if you don’t think we should accept an unlimited number of refugee applicants. By and large conservatives think we shouldn’t accept any Syrian refugees no way no how which is probably more in line with the views of a majority of Americans.

This question needs to be settled through the political system, i.e. by Congress and the president in concert as approved or rejected by the courts. If the president issues a mandate to bring in more Syrian refugees, presumably based on accords to which the U. S. is already party, it will be a risky move on his part.

There’s another strategy that I think is worthy of consideration. We could start paying the Turks to keep the refugees in Turkey. Which bring up another issue.

When Syrians arrive in Turkey, they’re refugees. Refugees aren’t tourists. They don’t get to decide their destinations or their itineraries. When they leave Turkey, they’re either economic migrants, welfare tourists, or terrorists. Just a thought.


Iaijutsu in Man and Machine

The video above is a beautiful demonstration of iaijutsu—both by man and machine.

Iaijutsu is the art of drawing the Japanese sword. Kendo, which I practiced, is a sport. The analogous combative technique is kenjutsu. Kenjutsu differs from iaijutsu in that iaijutsu focuses on drawing the sword, striking, then sheathing the sword.

One of my teachers practiced iaijutsu (it’s possible that both did but the other never spoke of it). However, he was self-taught, claiming that he had been unable to find a teacher.

I think it’s impossible to fake these arts, at least to the trained eye. I almost always shudder when I see kenjutsu depicted in movies or on TV. But when it’s right it’s thrilling.


The American Values Survey 2015

Speaking of values, if the American Values Survey for 2015 represents the truth even remotely correctly, it tells me a couple of things. First, neither political party actually represents the values of most Americans. Each party has latched onto one big issue, healthcare in the case of the Democrats, terrorism in the case of Republicans but on the rest? Not so much.

Second, look at the graph above. Given that most blacks and many Hispanics live in communities in which they comprise a plurality if not an outright majority, would you rather live in a mostly white community, a mostly Hispanic community, or a mostly black community? Yeah, me too.

Also, note that almost 50% of Hispanics see illegal immigration as presenting a major problem in their community. Depending on what they meant, that may cut against the prevailing narrative.

Or how about this:

Few Americans say the government looks out for their interests. Only about four in ten (42%) Americans say the government looks out for the needs and interests of people like them either somewhat or very well. Notably, seniors (age 65 and older) are the only major demographic group in which a majority (55%) believe that the government looks out for their needs and interests at least somewhat well.

What’s a three syllable word that begins with “P” and means you think everybody is against you? That’s right: perceptive.


The Hard Questions

I agree with what Michael Gerson says in his most recent Washington Post column in theory but, as Yogi Berra cautioned us, there is a difference between theory and practice. While I agree that we shouldn’t alienate all billion Muslims and that we need to accept refugees, I don’t think that the lines are as bright as he implies they are. And I certainly don’t think that appealing to shared values will be particularly fruitful. Let’s deal with that one first.

According to the most recent Pew survey of worldwide Muslim opinion:

  • Between 35% and 50% of Muslims believe that Islamic religious courts should prevail in family law cases including among non-Muslims. Shared value or not shared?
  • Between 2/3s and 90% of Muslims believe that it is impossible for an atheist to be a moral person. Shared value or not shared?
  • At least three quarters of Muslims believe that prostitution, homosexuality, suicide, extra-marital sex, drinking alcohol, abortion and euthanasia are immoral. Shared value or not shared?
  • Between 40% and 90% of Muslims think that women should obey their husbands. Shared value or not shared?
  • Between 3% and 40% of Muslims believe that suicide bombing of civilians in defense of Islam is justified. Shared value or not shared?
  • Between 22% and 79% of Muslims believe that religious leaders should have political influence. Shared value or not shared?

Of course we share some things because of our common humanity. If you prick us, do we not bleed? I doubt that the things we hold in common are enough to rally the world’s Muslims against violent radical Islam.

And then there’s the issue of refugees. Should we treat refugees, economic migrants, and welfare tourists differently? How do you distinguish among them? Should you?

One final word. The Boston Marathon bombers were refugees. Did we do something wrong or did they bring the wrong with them? I’ve heard interviews with their mother frequently enough that I know what I believe. Admitting them to this country was an error.

You cannot address serious questions on the basis of airy generalizations. You’ve got to start asking the hard questions. Here’s one of the hardest. Is it better to prevent one terrorist from coming here or exclude ten legitimate refugees? A hundred? More? What sort of scrutiny is too severe and who decides?


David Brooks and the Good Rules of Thumb

There are a number of good rules of thumb in life. One of them is don’t let a colorblind friend pick out your tie if you care what it looks like. Another is don’t take advice on religion from someone who is not particularly well-schooled or even observant in his own. In his most recent New York Times column David Brooks advises us that political violence in Islam can be eliminated by appealing to the Qur’an.

While possible I think that’s dubious. Jargon follows. Any religion or denomination that is sola scriptura and lacking in a magisterium will inherently allow for a wide variety of interpretations of scripture and some of those interpretations may be quite heterodox.

Both of those are the case with Islam and, consequently, Islam has even more variations in what is considered authentic belief than Christianity. That has also resulted in many Muslims being reluctant in the extreme to declare what is or is not authentic belief in Islam. Indeed, that’s one of the things that distinguishes the radical Islamists from others. They’re not reluctant at all. It’s why Pat Lang (and many others) refer to DAESH and Al Qaeda as takfiri, i.e. Muslims who accuse other Muslims of apostasy.

IMO non-Muslims arguing against radical Islam by citing the Qur’an is a sure formula for getting lost in the weeds. Muslims arguing against radical Islam by citing the Qur’an is already one of the “therapies” being tried to combat it. More of that is needed but we should recognize just how reluctant many Muslims are to criticize another Muslim’s beliefs.