Stanley Renshon's blog

Immigration Reform in the Public's Interest, Pt. 1: A Proposal

By Stanley Renshon, January 17, 2014

In spite of the seeming lull in the effort to enact a new immigration bill because the House has not yet publically acted, there is a great deal of movement behind the scenes. Both House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), have said "they want to overhaul the immigration system in 2014." And to further that effort, "The House Speaker, John A. Boehner, and his Republican leadership team are preparing to release their principles for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws later this month." (What those principles are and how, exactly, they correspond to any legislation the House produces is unclear, though there have been some leaks.) Read more...

Why Conservatives Should Consider Agreeing to a Real Immigration Reform Bill, Pt. 3

By Stanley Renshon, January 9, 2014

Should House Republicans accede to the demands of immigration activists, the Democratic Party, the president, and those members of their own party who firmly believe that almost any deal is better than none, they will have done the country a great disservice.

At the same time, those who care deeply about this country, must be willing to take difficult steps to right the country's immigration impasse without allowing it to be set up for another deeply divisive immigration debate that mirrors the present one. Read more...

Why Conservatives Should Consider Agreeing to a Real Immigration Reform Bill, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, January 6, 2014

"Who Are We?" was the title of an important, and in some quarters, controversial book by the late Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington. Part of the answer to the title question is that this country was settled and built by those who came here from elsewhere. That iconic self-description of America as a "nation of immigrants" was and remains true ("true but only partially true," as Huntington writes). Read more...

Why Conservatives Should Consider Agreeing to a Real Immigration Reform Bill, Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, January 3, 2014

Conservatives are not the only ones who oppose the Senate's massive and complex immigration bill. However, they are the most vocal and generally the best-informed because this issue really matters to them. In the House, and to a slightly lesser degree in the Senate, it is conservative Republicans who oppose the Senate bill. Read more...

The Real Stumbling Blocks to Immigration Reform, Pt. 3

By Stanley Renshon, December 31, 2013

There is still a large, majority constituency in the American public for enforcing our immigration laws. And that, surprisingly, includes a large majority of Hispanics and Asians.

You read that last sentence correctly.

As a Pew Hispanic Center study notes, "When it comes to increasing enforcement of immigration laws at U.S. borders, the surveys find that two-thirds (68%) of Hispanics and 73% of Asian Americans say they approve of this proposal." (p. 18) Read more...

The Real Stumbling Blocks to Immigration Reform, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, December 30, 2013

The current impasse in immigration reform can be directly tied to the refusal of "comprehensive" immigration legislation advocates to learn from past efforts like IRCA in 1986. The major lesson of that legislation was that the fact of legalization coupled with the promise of enforcement is a recipe for failure. The estimated 11.7 million illegal migrants now living and working in the United States are that failure's highly visible and divisive metric.

The United States has now been put through more than two decades of avoidable social, cultural and political strife because of that mistake. It would be disheartening and politically negligent to repeat that same mistake, this time with eyes wide open. Read more...

The Real Stumbling Blocks to Immigration Reform, Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, December 29, 2013

The convention wisdom of the Obama administration and its allies, which is echoed endlessly by the press, is that it is the House Republicans who are holding up a bipartisan deal on comprehensive immigration reform.

In his year-end press conference, the president said, "We can get immigration reform done. We've got a concept that has bipartisan support. Let's see if we can break through the politics on this." Read more...

The 11.7 Million-Person Question: What to Do about Illegal Aliens, Pt. 3

By Stanley Renshon, December 28, 2013

The moral underpinnings of enforcing our immigrations laws have been steadily eroding over the last decade. This has been a crucial element in bringing us to the nation's current immigration morass.

What we have now is a toxic mix of understandable public sympathy toward people who say they only want a better life and the ambivalence toward enforcement it helps to generate, crass political calculation on the part of large segments of both our major political parties, ethnic group self-interest geared to easing the way for more of their own group members – all allied against the basic and legitimate public interest of ordinary Americans and the country. Read more...

The 11.7 Million-Person Question: What to Do about Illegal Aliens? Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, December 23, 2013

The debate about what to do with those who have broken our immigration laws has been socially, politically, and culturally wrenching, and it has been going on for decades.

In 1997 Peter Salins wrote a well-regarded book, entitled Assimilation American Style. He worried about illegal migration's corrosive effect on American's support for large scale-legal immigration. And he noted (p.212), "almost all Americans favor stemming the tide of illegal immigration." However, he added, "Unfortunately, no one knows how to go about doing it." Read more...

The 11.7 Million-Person Question: What to Do about Illegal Aliens? Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, December 19, 2013

In a September 2013 report, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that as of March 2012 there were 11.7 million illegal migrants in the United States. That number represented a slight uptick from the 11.2 million figure they had used in a June 2013 report.

There are two important basic points to be taken from the juxtaposition of these two reports, using the same methods: Read more...

Distinguishing Deserving and Less Deserving Legalization Candidates, Part 3

By Stanley Renshon, December 16, 2013

The answer to the question of what to do while enforcement procedures are implemented and before formal awards of legalization for any group take place will differ for each of three major groups: Read more...

Distinguishing Deserving and Less Deserving Legalization Candidates, Part 2

By Stanley Renshon, December 13, 2013

The question of how to implement a small grand bargain that couples legalization for some groups of illegal aliens with the introduction of serious and effective enforcement mechanisms starts with the question of which comes first.

Putting enforcement measures into place first makes sense in order to avoid past mistakes. Yet it also has the effect of helping to increase the level of support for Americans who would like immigration reform, but do not have confidence that their government has the will or ability to keep the problem of illegal migration from becoming an issue again, soon. Read more...

Distinguishing Deserving and Less Deserving Legalization Candidates

By Stanley Renshon, December 11, 2013

Deciding to go ahead with a small grand bargain in which legalization for some illegal aliens is coupled with real and effective enforcement is one part of a large three-piece puzzle.

The second part of that puzzle requires answering the question: Which, if either, of the two should come first? The three options are legalization in practice if not in final, official status first; real and effective enforcement first, or both together. Read more...

Boehner's Dilemma: Which Comes First, Legalization or Enforcement?

By Stanley Renshon, December 9, 2013

The chicken and egg conundrum of this proposed small grand bargain proposal, or any other, is: Which comes first, legalization or enforcement? In the sequence I've described the enforcement bills come first, followed by the legalization bills. Read more...

What Speaker Boehner Could Achieve: A Focused, Public Interest Immigration Grand Bargain, Part 2

By Stanley Renshon, December 5, 2013

What Speaker Boehner could accomplish, and leave as a positive and lasting legacy to this country, would be a set of immigration reform measures that begin with serious and effective enforcement controls, but also recognize that there are some illegal aliens living and working here who deserve our compassion and help.

Not all do.

What Speaker Boehner Could Achieve: A Focused, Public Interest Immigration Grand Bargain

By Stanley Renshon, December 4, 2013

As is always the case with "if it bleeds, it leads" journalism, a great deal of attention has been paid to orchestrated nationwide efforts, including those by the president, to keep the heat on Republicans in the House to pass immigration bills that could be reconciled with the Senate's massive legislation. Sit-ins, hunger strikes, blocking traffic, and other efforts to pressure House Republicans have not had their desired effect and House Republicans continue plug along on a series of possible immigration bills. Read more...

The President's Legacy Trap and Speaker Boehner's Immigration Opening

By Stanley Renshon, November 29, 2013

Immigration legislation was passed in the Senate, but that bill was dead on arrival in the House. The House has been working slowly on a series of immigration bills whose number and exact form have not been finalized.

Enormous pressure has been placed on Republican House members and Speaker Boehner to pass immigration legislation, preferably the House Democratic version of the Senate bill, but if not, then something that can be sent to the Senate for conference and reconciliation.

To date, the House and Mr. Boehner have resisted the pressure and the entreaties, which have, ironically, placed them in a very strong position. Read more...

Mr. Boehner: Call the President's Immigration Bluff

By Stanley Renshon, November 27, 2013

The president says he now backs a "piecemeal immigration overhaul". Good. Those in the House trying to develop public interest immigration reform should take him at his stated word, even though he doesn't really mean it.

Unlike his heath care legislation promises, the president has been consistent and transparent about his immigration preferences. He wants, and has insisted, that any legislation contain a mechanism for the legalization and eventual citizenship of the country's 11.7 million illegal aliens.

The president is no doubt hoping the House is foolish enough to send its own immigration bills, should they pass, to the Senate, where they can be essentially smothered by a Senate-dominated conference and rolled into the larger Senate immigration bill. Read more...

Less Than Meets the Eye: President Obama Backs Piecemeal Immigration Reform

By Stanley Renshon, November 26, 2013

The president recently said, as the Wall Street Journal headline put it, "Obama Backs Piecemeal Immigration Overhaul". Or, as the article put it, "President Barack Obama said Tuesday he would accept a piecemeal approach to overhauling the immigration system, a move aimed at jump-starting a moribund process that reflects the realities of a divided Congress." Read more...

The Basic Fault: Why the Senate Bill Can't Be Redeemed, Part 4

By Stanley Renshon, October 28, 2013

One of the basic faults of the Senate's bill can be directly traced how the committee that drafted the legislation was put together. Anyone who didn't start with view that all our current illegal aliens should be given a chance for amnestied legalization and citizenship was excluded.

So were any potential members who did not subscribe to the view that the levels of legal immigration to the United States had to be increased substantially, well beyond their current level of about one million legal immigrants per year.

That was the Senate bill's Second Basic Fault.

The Basic Fault: Why the Senate Bill Can't Be Redeemed, Part 3

By Stanley Renshon, October 25, 2013

Senator Marco Rubio seems puzzled about whether and how the Senate immigration bill can be improved. In an interview with Chris Wallace this past Sunday he said, "Now, is there a way to improve upon what the Senate did? Probably. I'm sure there is."(emphasis mine)

So am I, and we are joined by many millions of other ordinary Americans who would like their concerns taken seriously.

What are these concerns?

The Basic Fault: Why the Senate Bill Can't Be Redeemed, Part 2

By Stanley Renshon, October 23, 2013

Senator Marco Rubio defended his support of the Senate's massive and complex immigration bill by acknowledging that, "...what I have suggested to those who have problems with some component of the bill is, you know, maybe you have a very valid point. In fact I've heard some valid objections." Read more...

The Basic Fault: Why the Senate Bill Can’t Be Redeemed, Part 1

By Stanley Renshon, October 22, 2013

In 1968, the Hungarian psychoanalyst Michael Balint published his seminal book, The Basic Fault: Therapeutic Aspects of Regression. His insight was that for all structural and dynamic psychological complexities that characterized most adult functioning, the real roots of peoples' troubles lay in an early mismatch between their needs and their experiences. In Balint's view this "basic fault" represented the starting point of an emotional fault line that often carried over into later life. Read more...

Amnesty as a Civil Right: Part 3

By Stanley Renshon, October 21, 2013

In 1991 Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon published an important book entitled Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse. In it, she noted Americans' modern tendency to view nearly every social controversy as a clash of rights.

Professor Glendon's observations are a useful framework within which to consider the new effort to make the legalization of illegal aliens a new civil right. Read more...

Amnesty as a Civil Right: Part 2

By Stanley Renshon, October 18, 2013

A Reuters news article on the decision of California Governor Jerry Brown to sign a bill enabling illegal aliens to obtain state driver's licenses contained this sentence: "The law is part of a broader effort to expand immigrant rights in strongly Democratic California, where 2.6 million people - most of them Latino - lack legal status, according to a recent study by the University of Southern California." (Emphasis mine.) Read more...

Amnesty as a Civil Right: Part 1

By Stanley Renshon, October 18, 2013

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's memorable phrase "Defining Deviancy Down" tartly and honestly captured the irony of the determined, but futile effort to avoid dealing with a breakdown in America's social and legal norms surrounding crime and family life. Faced with behavior that it was unwilling to confront, or perhaps lacking the means to do so, America, he wrote, had simply tried to define the problem away. Read more...

Defining Immigration Enforcement Down

By Stanley Renshon, October 17, 2013

In 1993, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Harvard Professor and then U.S. Senator (D-NY), published a seminal and prescient article in the winter issue of the American Scholar entitled "Defining Deviancy Down".

Moynihan's thesis was that, "over the past generation ... the amount of deviant behavior in American society has increased beyond the levels the community can 'afford to recognize' and that, accordingly, we have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the 'normal' level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard." Read more...

Why the President’s Dual Track Immigration Strategy Failed, Part 2

By Stanley Renshon, October 16, 2013

Read Part I

The president wanted "comprehensive immigration reform", including the legalization of 11.7 million illegal aliens. However, he was stuck because of the public's deep skepticism about government's ability and willingness to be serious about immigration enforcement. He therefore had to demonstrate that the public could trust him.

The president and his advisors hit on what they thought was a shrewd strategy to accomplish this goal. They would argue that because of budgetary constraints, the administration had been forced to set priorities and institute limits. That required them to concentrate their limited resources by focusing their enforcement efforts on America's most dangerous illegal aliens. Read more...

Why the President's Dual-Track Immigration Strategy Failed

By Stanley Renshon, October 7, 2013

On immigration, President Obama was running two races at the same time, a marathon and a sprint. He needed to convince the public that he was serious about immigration enforcement so that he would have the legitimacy to propose a large-scale amnesty. Read more...

The President's Dual Enforcement Strategy: Deportation for "Serious" Criminals, Amnesty for Everyone Else

By Stanley Renshon, September 23, 2013

The president was in a bind.

He wanted a "comprehensive" immigration bill to add to his list of accomplishments for many reasons. If he succeeded, he would do so where his predecessor had not. If he were successful, he would also establish himself, and the Democratic Party, as having delivered a legislative victory on a policy about which many Spanish-speaking immigrants care. Electoral gratitude would follow. Read more...