David Seminara's blog

The Humane Approach to Europe's Refugee Crisis Is to Get Tough

By David Seminara, January 10, 2016

The conventional wisdom about the refugee crisis in Europe is that the humanitarian approach is to open the borders — let anyone who comes stay indefinitely and provide them with generous subsidies to start a new life in Europe. But this approach has been a complete failure. According to the International Organization for Migration, 3,279 migrants died crossing the Mediterranean in 2014, and 3,771 died in 2015.

Why are these people willing to risk their lives to get to Europe? The stock answer we read in the media is that they are fleeing violence in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. But the truth is more complex. Read more...

Stop All Muslims from Coming to the USA? No—Trump Should Visit Albania Instead
But there are things we can do to make us safer.

By David Seminara, December 9, 2015
But there are things we can do to make us safer.

In my career as a Foreign Service officer, I asked visa applicants, including many Muslims, a lot of personal questions. What is your salary? Do you have a partner or a spouse? How healthy is your bank account? In attempting to evaluate whether visa applicants would return home after their visit to the United States, there was very little that was off limits. But the one thing that I never asked — not even in the wake of 9/11 — was "Are you a Muslim?"

It's tempting to simply dismiss Donald Trump's proposal to block all Muslims from entering the United States until we "figure out what's going on" as madness and move on. But given the fact that he's the leading GOP candidate and could face Hillary Clinton, a seemingly beatable opponent with a long history of scandals, and the reality that many of his supporters are cheering the deny-Muslims plan, let's imagine what this Trump proposal might look like in practice. Read more...

Lessons from Liechtenstein: More Referendums Please

By David Seminara, October 28, 2015

Europe is in the midst of a historic immigration crisis. But the richest country in Europe — one that doesn't have an army or border guards — has barely been affected by the crisis.

Liechtenstein is the world's sixth smallest country, with a population of just 37,129. The country, whose name means "bright stone" in German, has the highest gross domestic product per person in the world, when adjusted by purchasing power parity, and an unemployment rate of about 2 percent. While Liechtenstein was once one of the poorer nations in Europe, now some 20,000 Swiss and Austrians commute into Liechtenstein for work each weekday. Many live outside the country because land is scarce in Liechtenstein and prices are high. Others simply cannot get residency permits, let alone citizenship. Read more...

Farmers Fear Losing Docile Workforce after Amnesty

By David Seminara, February 26, 2015

My first quarter nomination for a "Don't Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Immigration Story" award is this revealing, but also very misleading, piece about farm labor that aired on NPR's "Morning Edition" on February 26. The story focused on farmers in California's Central Valley who fear that they may lose their source of cheap labor once their workers become legal and can get jobs that actually pay them something closer to a living wage. Read more...

What Do Falling Gas Prices Tell Us About the Impact of Illegal Immigration on Consumer Prices?

By David Seminara, December 10, 2014

Amid mounting evidence that President Obama's executive amnesty will cost American taxpayers a bundle, one persistent myth perpetuated by talking heads and members of the media looking to bolster the case for amnesty is the contention that illegal immigration benefits Americans by keeping consumer prices low. Plunging gas prices give us a textbook example of why illegal labor has little or no positive impact on the price of food or just about anything else made with the help of illegal labor. Read more...

'Just Because They Didn't Have the Right Papers' and Other Reasons Why Executive Amnesty Is Foolhardy

By David Seminara, November 21, 2014

OK, I admit it. I didn't make it through President Obama's entire immigration address last night. If you blog about immigration, you probably should sit through these things, no matter how painful they are. But after the president said, "I've seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn't have the right papers," I turned off the TV, fearing that if I swallowed any more of what he was peddling, I might vomit all over my favorite couch.

I voted for the guy (twice!), despite the fact that I dislike his approach to the immigration issue, and I generally like him as a person. (As a president, not nearly as much.) But there's only so much hogwash any one person can swallow. There are so many things to dislike about the president's speech and his executive action, but here are a few points to consider: Read more...

Pundits Spin Election Results to Bolster Amnesty Case

By David Seminara, November 7, 2014

The fun thing about elections is that whether your side wins or loses, you can find ways to spin the results to bolster your worldview. The immigration issue and the mid-term elections are a perfect example of this dynamic. I'm a left-leaning independent, but even I have to laugh while watching the pundits break down what went wrong for the Democrats on Tuesday. Read more...

Oregon Voters Oppose Driver's Licenses for Illegals

By David Seminara, October 22, 2014

According to a recent survey, voters in Oregon appear poised to roll back legislation that would have given the state's illegal immigrants the opportunity to obtain "driver cards" (a form driver's license permitted by federal law but not acceptable for federal purposes, such as boarding an airplane). Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber (D), signed the bill into law in May 2013, but a group called Oregonians for Immigration Reform of McMinnville (a town in the heart of the Willamette Valley wine country) gathered more than 70,000 signatures in just a few months to freeze the law pending a referendum to be held on Election Day this year. Read more...

Oregon's First Lady Admits to Green-Card Marriage Fraud

By David Seminara, October 10, 2014

Cylvia Hayes, Oregon's first lady, made a tearful admission Thursday that she engaged in a green-card marriage from 1997-2002 with an Ethiopian national, then 18, who paid her $5,000 in exchange for her wedding vows. Her disclosure came after Willamette Week, an alternative weekly newspaper in Portland, revealed the sketchy relationship and the fact that she's been married and divorced three times. Hayes is engaged to Governor John Kitzhaber, a Democrat who is seeking a fourth term in November, but the pair have been together for 10 years and he refers to her as the state's first lady. The couple insists that Kitzhaber didn't know about the cash for vows relationship until Thursday. Read more...

Are There Any Consequences for Violating Immigration Law?

By David Seminara, September 23, 2014

Francisco Aguirre isn't the first illegal immigrant to be given sanctuary by a church, but he might be the most egregious scofflaw to secure such protection. His two-decade-long migration saga tells us just about everything we need to know about our Keystone Cops system of immigration enforcement and how scofflaws gain a sense of entitlement thanks to misguided persons and institutions who don't care about the rule of law or the message that a no-consequences and no-penalties immigration system sends to aspiring migrants around the world. Read more...

Central American Migration Surge and Dovish Republicans

By David Seminara, June 18, 2014

Why are women and children from Central America flocking to South Texas to the tune of nearly 50,000 apprehensions on the Southwest frontier so far this year? The Obama administration contends they are fleeing poverty and escalating drug violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Plenty of others, myself included, think the primary driver is, as Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian recently put it, the administration's "various de facto amnesties for illegal aliens and its permissive enforcement practices." I'm an independent who leans more to the left on most issues, but my experience as a consular officer at the State Department leads me to believe that the Obama administration's contention is mostly bogus. Read more...

President Obama Pushes for More Foreign Tourists at Cooperstown, but What Are the Risks?

By David Seminara, May 22, 2014

President Obama visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., Thursday to promote the United States as an attractive destination for foreign tourists. He signed a presidential memorandum calling for a reduction in wait times for international travelers arriving at the 15 largest U.S. airports and wants to expedite the visa application process for foreign tourists. (Those who are from countries on the visa waiver program can enter for up to 90 days with no visa.) Read more...

Monica Lewinsky's Date with a Green Card Marriage Fraudster

By David Seminara, May 15, 2014

OK, I admit it. I picked up Monica Lewinsky's first-person piece, "Shame and Survival", in the June issue of Vanity Fair because I was curious to know what became of her and her infamous stained blue dress. But aside from her disingenuous claim that she's breaking her long silence because she feels like she might become some sort of role model or mentor for youths who have been humiliated, the most interesting thing about the piece, for me, wasn't anything about her relationship with Bill Clinton, but rather a little anecdote about green card marriage fraud that I'm sure most readers might have breezed past. Read more...

Russian Diplomats Charged with Benefit Fraud

By David Seminara, December 6, 2013

According to the New York Times, and a host of other publications, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, announced on Thursday that he had charged 49 Russian diplomats, including 11 currently in the country and 38 now serving elsewhere, in a $1.5 million Medicaid fraud case. The Times article notes that insurance fraud schemes have been "dominated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union for years", but the fact that this incident involves dozens of diplomats posted in New York and the apparent complicity of the Russian government is a huge scandal. Read more...

Elk Horn, Iowa's Danish-American Community: Assimilation Done Right?

By David Seminara, December 5, 2013

No matter how you feel about immigration, the comprehensive immigration reform debate can be exhausting and stressful. Supporters of legalization are outraged that there's been no legislative progress on the amnesty front and opponents are fearful that politicians will cave in to the demands of the business lobby. No one is happy. Because we're in the midst of the holiday season, I thought it might be a good time to recommend a documentary about an immigrant community that just about anyone can feel good about, no matter where they stand on the issues. Read more...

Rigged Polls That Bolster the Case for Amnesty

By David Seminara, November 26, 2013

On Monday, NPR reported on yet another poll asserting that Americans are clamoring to offer a "pathway to citizenship" for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. The poll, conducted for the Public Religion Research Institute, is an update on an earlier poll that was conducted in conjunction with the Brookings Institution in March. According to both polls, support for what would amount to amnesty for immigrants who broke the law remains strong despite the sluggish economy. Read more...

Does the Case of an Illegal-Alien Murderer Raise Policy Questions?

By David Seminara, October 31, 2013

On Saturday, a 25-year-old Chinese immigrant named Chen Mingdong reportedly went on a murderous rampage in Brooklyn, stabbing to death his cousin and her four children — ages 1, 5, 7, and 9 — in what NYPD officers have described as one of the most gruesome killing sprees in recent memory. He's been charged with five counts of murder. According to press reports, Mingdong is unemployed and lived with the cousin he killed. Read more...

New OIG Report Highlights Rampant Diversity Visa Fraud in Ukraine

By David Seminara, October 28, 2013

A new Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report on the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv (Kiev), released on Friday, reveals "indications of widespread fraud" in the Diversity Visa (visa lottery) program in Ukraine. "Organized fraud rings masquerading as travel agencies have taken control of the Diversity Visa program in Ukraine," the report bluntly states. "They buy, steal, or obtain from public sources personal information about Ukrainian citizens, especially those living in western Ukraine. They use this information to enter these citizens' names in the online Diversity Visa program Web site, often without their permission or awareness." Read more...

Implications of the Baby Hope Case for Immigration

By David Seminara, October 16, 2013

Twenty-two years ago, construction workers found the emaciated, naked body of a four-year old girl in a filthy cooler near the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City. Neither the child, dubbed Baby Hope by police, nor her murderer were identified until this past weekend, when police arrested Conrado Juarez, a 52-year-old dishwasher from Mexico who confessed to the sexual assault and murder of his cousin, Baby Hope, identified as Anjelica Castillo.

The New York Times reported Monday that relatives of Juarez, who police suspect may also be implicated in other violent crimes, knew he had killed the little girl but didn't speak up because "many were living in the United States illegally." The New York Post went a step further, reporting that Juarez himself is in the country illegally, working as a dishwasher at Trattoria Pesce Pasta in Greenwich Village. Read more...

New Pew Report Confirms Visa Overstays Are Driving Increased Illegal Immigration

By David Seminara, September 24, 2013

A new report from Pew Research's Hispanic Trends Project confirms what many of us have long suspected: Illegal immigration appears to be on the rise again, after a brief decline during the recession. The report estimates that the population of unauthorized immigrants was approximately 11.7 million in 2012, up from 11.5 million in 2011, but down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007. Read more...

Stagnant Wages and the Connection to Immigration

By David Seminara, September 19, 2013

New data from the Census Bureau released this week confirm that while the economy is improving, incomes remain stagnant for all but the wealthiest Americans. Read more...

ICE Apologetic for "Rounding Up" Immigrants

By David Seminara, August 22, 2013

ICE agents conducted raids on a 16-location car wash franchise called Danny's Family Car Wash in Phoenix last weekend, arresting 14 people and ultimately releasing 179 of the 223 people who were detained for questioning. The New York Times reported that most of the 223 employees who were detained are in the country illegally. An ICE spokesperson, Barbara Gonzalez, told reporters that the arrests were part of a criminal probe targeting the owners of the business for possible identity fraud and other crimes, not an enforcement action directed at the employees. I was struck by the almost apologetic tone of her comments. Read more...

Crooked FSOs Busted for Selling Visas

By David Seminara, August 1, 2013

Two foreign service officers (FSO) in opposite corners of the world recently have been implicated in cash-for-visa scandals that have raised new questions about the State Department's lack of oversight in the visa issuance process. In May, Michael Sestak, an FSO who was serving as the non-immigrant visa (NIV) chief at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, was arrested in California and has been charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and bribery. Read more...

Assimilation Too Scary for Some This Halloween

By David Seminara, October 31, 2012

I was listening to WBEZ, my local NPR affiliate on Monday morning and thought that perhaps my ears were deceiving me after hearing the tail end of a story about a local school district in Skokie, Ill., just a few miles from my home, which has cancelled Halloween celebrations this year. For years, we've become accustomed to hearing stories about Christmas-related controversies, but I had no idea that Halloween is also becoming a political football in some parts of the country. Read more...

My Vote for Weakest Immigration Sob Story of the Year

By David Seminara, October 19, 2012

I'm a devoted National Public Radio listener, but their coverage of the immigration issue generally leans toward textbook advocacy journalism. Their reporters might invite someone that believes in the rule of law to give the appearance of "balance", but those sound bites are usually buried deep in a narrative-driven story about a law-abiding, straight-A student who just happens to be "undocumented" and ran afoul of the cruel immigration system. Read more...

ICE Declines to Detain Known Illegal Alien Stopped for Driving on a Suspended License

By David Seminara, October 10, 2012

Immigration activist and former Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas, an illegal immigrant from the Philippines, was arrested on Friday in Minnesota during a traffic stop, but ICE refused to take custody of him. Vargas "came out" as an illegal immigrant in a piece he wrote for the New York Times Magazine last year in which he admitted to committing document fraud to try to conceal his illegal status in the United States. Read more...

Mexican President-Elect Criticizes Texas Justice System

By David Seminara, September 28, 2012

According to a front page story in Thursday's New York Times, Mexico's president-elect, Enrique Pena Nieto, "contends that there is a widespread perception that Mexican nationals cannot get a fair trial in Texas." The comment appeared in a story about Rosa Jimenez, an illegal Mexican immigrant who was convicted of murder and was sentenced to 99 years in prison for allegedly jamming five paper towels down the throat of a 21-month old child who died in Read more...

New Poll: Latino Voters Identify as Americans First and Don't Vote on the Immigration Issue

By David Seminara, September 27, 2012

The media often portray Latinos as a monolithic group of single-issue voters who care first and foremost about liberalizing our immigration laws. But a new poll from NBC Latino/Zogby reveals that immigration is a relatively minor concern for most Latinos, with only 5 percent citing it as their top issue. Read more...

Scholarships Just for Illegal Immigrants

By David Seminara, August 24, 2012

Here’s yet another, only-in-America news item: Hampshire College announced the creation of a scholarship fund this week specifically for illegal immigrants. The fund will reportedly provide $25,000 toward Hampshire’s $43,000 annual tuition. At least three states — Texas, California, and New Mexico — provide in-state tuition discounts for illegal immigrants, and UCLA and Cal-Berkeley also have scholarship funds for illegal immigrants.

I have no problem with illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents as children and have grown up here attending college in the United States, but the idea of creating scholarship funds solely for families that broke the law is absurd. People who have no legal right to live in the country should not be entitled to a special scholarship that others can’t even apply for. How would you even vet the applications? Read more...

Olympic Visa Overstayers

By David Seminara, August 10, 2012

While many Olympic athletes are apparently busy picking up on members of the opposite sex, others are busy finding ways to overstay their visas.

Foreign Policy and various other news outlets report that at least eight Olympic athletes, all from developing countries, have gone AWOL in London. Seven of the missing athletes are from Cameroon, five of them boxers, and the eighth was the 15-year-old torchbearer for Ethiopia who was there as part of the International Olympic Committee's International Inspiration program, which is supposed to enrich the lives of young people through sport or, in this case, provide them with a nicer country to live in. Read more...