Mexican Immigration Threat

Samuel Huntington has written an article about the threat of Mexican immigration to the US. His article is full of assumptions, half-truths and ignoring data that doesn’t fit his thesis. In some ways, it is worse than his Clash of Civilizations idea some years ago.

I can’t be bothered by this so-called “threat.” As someone who was not born in the US, I have no problems with immigrants arriving in the US. As a global nomad who has not yet decided where to settle, I don’t have much sympathy for nationalists and patriots. Nativist feeling only gets my contempt. As for language, I am not a good learner of language and have been found bitching a few times about Spanish-only signs in some areas, but then English is not my first langauge and the world will not fall apart if most people spoke Spanish in the US. Like I learned English as a kid, my children could learn Spanish.

The best critique of Huntington I have seen is by a multipart one by Scott Martens on his blog Pedantry. Daniel Drezner has some good points as well.

Buscaraons relates bilinguilism, colonialism, Mexican immigration and insecurity.

Russell Arben Fox and Haroon Mughal are somewhat sympathetic to Huntington probably because of their conception of language and culture.

Finger Printing Visitors

I don’t have time for a real post, but wanted to note that the US-VISIT program has started.

Foreigners arriving at U.S. airports were photographed and had their fingerprints scanned Monday in the start of a government effort to use some of the latest surveillance technology to keep terrorists out of the country.

The program allows Customs officials to check passengers instantly against terrorist watch lists and a national criminal database.

The goal is to “make sure our borders are open to visitors but closed to terrorists,” Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said.

[…] Under the new rules, travelers press their index fingers onto an inkless scanner and then have their photograph taken as they make their way through customs.

The security checks target foreigners entering the 115 U.S. airports that handle international flights, as well as 14 major seaports. The only exceptions will be visitors from 27 countries —- mostly European nations —- whose citizens are allowed to come to the United States for up to 90 days without visas.

Also exempted will be most Canadians, because they usually are not required to get visas, and Mexicans who are coming into the country for a short time and not venturing far from the border.

The program, called US-VISIT, or U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology, is expected to check up to 24 million foreigners each year, though some will be repeat visitors.

[…] In a pilot program at Hartsfield-Jackson that preceded Monday’s nationwide implementation, authorities turned up 21 people on the FBI (news – web sites)’s criminal watch list for such crimes as drug offenses, rape and visa fraud, Ridge said.

Homeland Security spokesman Bill Strassberger said that once screeners become proficient, the extra security will take 10 to 15 seconds per person.

[…] Under the program, photographs go into a law-enforcement database that eventually will allow users to pull up photos of visa holders and make sure they match the person who is seeking to enter the country. The travel data is supposed to be securely stored and made available only to authorized officials on a need-to-know basis.

Foreigners also will be checked as they leave the country as an extra security measure and to ensure they have not overstayed their visa or violated other restrictions.

A similar program is to be installed at 50 land border crossings by the end of next year.

[…] In Brazil, meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry started fingerprinting and photographing arriving Americans last week in retaliation. U.S. citizens waited for hours Monday to be photographed and fingerprinted at Rio’s international airport.

I’ll copy and paste my comment on this news at the Talking Dog.

While there is no civil liberties issue in denying entry to non-citizens or even finger-printing or photographing them, I think we haven’t given this whole thing as much thought as it requires.

This is part of the revolution in information systems and computing. We can now store a digital photo and fingerprints of most visitors to the US in a database along with info about their travels to the US. Similar or other data can be collected about all kinds of people whether visitors, permanent residents or citizens. As an aside, every applicant for permanent residency submits photos and digital fingerprints during the approval process nowadays.

The question is when we should collect such data; what data should be linked together; and what should be the limitations on such data. For example, the purpose of US-VISIT is national security but what should happen when a felon is found through this program?

Also, around 25 million people every year will be going through this process. A lot of these will be repeat visitors, but still we are collecting lots of info about a large number of foreigners. Where are we going with this?

Consider this: Will you be willing to submit your digital fingerprints and photo when visiting another country? For example, France? Israel? UK? Pakistan? India? China? Russia?

I think you get my point.

I am not a libertarian. So I don’t have any philosophical objection to such things. I think it might be a good idea for every country to fingerprint and photograph all visitors to check with terrorist etc. databases. But I would prefer that if there is no match, most of this info should be destroyed rather than kept in a database because I have pragmatic concerns about its use.

Also, take a look at the privacy policy for this program at the Department of Homeland Security website.

Regularizing Immigration

Via Mark Kleiman and Perverse Access Memory comes this statement from Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has called for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States to be given some sort of legal status short of citizenship, a proposal suggesting that the Bush administration might revive an ambitious legalization plan that was sidetracked after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In comments on Tuesday at a town hall meeting in Miami, Mr. Ridge said, “The bottom line is, as a country, we have to come to grips with the presence of 8 to 12 million illegals, afford them some kind of legal status some way.”

[… He] said the government might consider legalizing the status of illegal immigrants already in the country on a one-time basis.

[…] Mr. Ridge’s spokesman, said, “The secretary acknowledges that we have several million people here illegally, and he understands that for homeland security reasons, at some point in time, there needs to be a better way to identify those who may be a threat to our country.”

[… Mr. Ridge] insisted, however, that the protections would not included citizenship.

I am glad someone has finally noticed our big illegal immigration problem. We have to realize that our immigration system needs a lot of fixing. It is clear that having 8-12 million illegal immigrants is a problem. They form about 3-4% of the US population. We have to do something about it for humanitarian, economic and national security reasons.

I don’t think there is the political will to actually find and deport all those illegal immigrants. Therefore, we have to think of alternate arrangements. Giving them some sort of legal status qualifies as a good idea. I am however conflicted on this since it does sort of reward illegal behavior and it would be bad if we got into this cycle where there was some sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants every few years. But a one time measure along with other measures to discourage illegal immigration (border control, punishing businesses who hire illegals, etc.) would work. As Mark Kleiman points out, employer sanctions might be the best route for enforcement.

Mark Kleiman also points to a news item which says that the Bush administration is thinking of an agricultural workers legalization programme, a la Reagan in 1986.

What I am Reading

I am busy, so no regular posts today. However, here is some stuff I am reading:

  • A New York Times article about the Lackawanna Six, the Yemeni-Americans in Buffalo who trained at an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.
  • An interesting article about the history of the oath of allegiance that naturalized citizens have to take.
  • Patrick Belton has written before on his blog about the Arab/Muslim-American community in Dearborn, Michigan (see my post about it). He now has published an article about it and plans to turn it into a book.
  • Juan Cole, a Professor of History, is an expert on the Middle East. He has an article in the Boston Review about the recent history of Iraqi Shiites. It’s a must-read for everyone. Juan’s blog is also full of great content and I would read it regularly if the formatting was somewhat better.

Immigration Arbitrariness

This news story is about a Turkish physician whose visa extension hit some snags at BCIS until his congressman intervened. I think it shows how arbitrary of the immigration process in the US is and how much depends on the specific immigration officer examining your case.

An impressive career, a 1,000-page visa application and 10 letters of support from some of the top names in medicine apparently weren’t enough evidence for U.S. authorities considering whether to allow a Houston doctor to stay in the country.

It took a Thursday phone call between a congressman and a high-ranking federal immigration official to cut through red tape that immigration lawyers say is increasingly common since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

[…]Dr. Remzi Bag, a Turkish physician who heads Houston’s two lung transplant programs, was granted an extension of the special visa that allows him to work in the United States after a delay that prompted worries about a possible shutdown of the transplant centers.

[…]Bag has been working as a Baylor College of Medicine physician on a three-year, O-1 visa. O-1 status is granted to foreign nationals — 25,000 in 2002 — who demonstrate extraordinary achievement or ability in science, education, business, the arts or athletics.

According to BCIS, an O-1 visa is granted to

  • An individual alien who has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim and who is coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability; or
  • An alien who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in motion picture and/or television productions and who is coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary achievement.

Continuing with Dr. Bag’s travails:

Bag, who graduated as valedictorian from medical school in Turkey, is medical director of the lung transplant programs at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and The Methodist Hospital. The 39-year-old doctor is board-certified in pulmonary medicine, critical care medicine, nuclear medicine and internal medicine.

He is a lung transplant physician — a rare expert in pre- and post-operative care for lung transplant patients — a specialty that is federally required of all lung transplant centers. Because Bag is one of only two such qualified doctors in the city and one of only 100 in the country, Baylor officials said the possibility that he might be deported threatened local lung transplant programs.

Bag’s request for a visa extension was kicked back earlier this year with a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stating the application did not establish that Bag had won a major award, “such as the Nobel Prize,” and that, in short, Bag “has a career he can be proud of, but the evidence does not establish he meets the very high standard of O-1A in his medical speciality.” Federal officials invited Bag to submit more evidence.

A Nobel Prize? Are there thousands of Nobel Prize winners trying to get the O-1A visa?

Bag said he was puzzled by the snag because, in being named medical director of the two transplant programs, he has achieved even greater distinction in his career than when he was first granted O-1 status.

This is the most surprising part. The regulations and requirements for the visa have not changed recently. Therefore, if he was eligible 3 years ago, shouldn’t he still be eligible?

Via Perverse Access Memory who also has a good post about the alarmist stories in the press nowadays about the reduction in the H-1B cap next year.

Busy Busy Busy

Sorry for the lack of posts. Amber was here for the weekend and I have been really busy with work and stuff.

I have a couple of Kashmir posts in the pipeline. Hopefully, I should post them in a day or two.

In the meantime, here are a couple of interesting things to read.

  • Via Ikram Saeed, a Village Voice article about Pakistanis in New York leaving. I have been to the Pakistani community neighborhood on Coney Island Ave a number of times, though not recently.
  • Via Eternal Illusions, a series on a Pakistani guy in Canada going to Pakistan for an arranged marriage.

Immigration Reading

Here’s some stuff I have been reading (via Perverse Access Memory).

  • Matt Welch posts about some of the problems immigrants had in the US in the past and how people consider that era now to be whitewashed into nice assimilation of immigrants.
  • Henry Farrell writes about his recent experience with immigration requirements while returning to the US with a one-way ticket.
  • Here’s a New York Times article about the Mexican ID being accepted for identification in some cities in the Midwest.
  • Also a USA Today report about immigrants moving into the interior from expensive states like California and New York.
  • And finally a NY Times article about biometric identifiers for visas and passports.

It should be remembered that if we require visitors to have passports with biometric data for the visa waiver program, for example, then the other countries might start implementing it for Americans since most of these requirements are generally reciprocal.

The article does have its share of goofs:

Biometric systems tested by the United States at the Mexican border have been sensitive enough to distinguish between identical twins.

What does that mean? Any data on false positives as well as negatives?

Under the new standards, countries would also be allowed to add additional biometric technologies to the passports, like fingerprints or iris scans.

Now photographs and fingerprints are well-established, but iris scans? Do we really want to get our irises scanned?

But Mr. Shagnon said the passport system relies partly on facial measurements that do not change as people age or even get plastic surgery.

Now really? Every facial recognition system breaks down at some point. A good system must be able to differentiate among millions of people while at the same time being robust to lighting, facial expression and changes in facial appearance from day to day. I am not considering pose here since it can be assumed that for applications like this the subject will be facing the camera.

BCIS Sucks Big Time

Repeat after me, BCIS people are fucking assholes.

Now, it seems they have lost information from their system of the approval of my application from 1.5 years ago.

I think I need to contact my Congressman or Senator.

POSTSCRIPT: That missing data has to do with my status in the US. So I am mighty worried.

BCIS Sucks

That is the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS).

But you already knew that.

Immigration and National Security Report

As I promised, here are some of the highlights from the report by the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute.

Our new security measures must be effective rather than merely dramatic, and must not destroy what we are trying to defend. The government’s post-September 11 immigration measures have failed these tests.

These actions have not only done great harm to the nation; they have also been largely ineffective in their stated goal of improving our domestic security. Despite the government’s heavy-handed immigration tactics, many of the September 11 terrorists would probably be admitted to the United States today.

[…]Our 18-month-long review of post-September 11 immigration measures determined that:

  • The U.S.government overemphasized the use of the immigration system;
  • As an antiterrorism measure, immigration enforcement is of limited effectiveness; and
  • Arresting a large number of noncitizens on grounds not related to domestic security only gives the nation a false sense of security.

[…]Many of the government’s post-September 11 immigration actions have been poorly planned and have undermined their own objectives. For example, the goals of the special call-in registration program have been contradictory: gathering information about nonimmigrants present in the United States, and deporting those with immigration violations. Many nonimmigrants have rightly feared they will be detained or deported if they attempt to comply, so they have not registered.

Our research also found serious problems at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that are hampering our nation’s counterterrorism efforts and damaging other key national interests. The State Department has tried for 10 years to get access to FBI information to add to its terrorist watchlists; those discussions are still going on. Automating this process would help to overcome long delays in visa approvals that are damaging U.S. political and economic relations abroad. It would also allow agencies to focus on a more in-depth risk assessment of visa applicants who raise legitimate security concerns.

Here are some highlights about the people detained after September 11:

Unlike the hijackers, the majority of noncitizens detained since September 11 had significant ties to the United States and roots in their communities. Of the detainees for whom relevant information was available, over 46 percent had been in the United States at least six years. Almost half had spouses, children, or other family relationships in the United States.

The post-September 11 detainees suffered exceptionally harsh treatment. Many were detained for weeks or months without charge or after a judge ordered them released. Of the detainees for whom such information was available, nearly 52 percent were subject to an “FBI hold,” keeping them detained after a judge released them or ordered them removed from the United States. More than 42 percent of detainees were denied the opportunity to post bond. Many of the detainees were subjected to solitary confinement, 24-hour lighting of cells, and physical abuse.

Many of the detainees were incarcerated because of profiling by ordinary citizens, who called government agencies about neighbors, coworkers, and strangers based on their ethnicity, religion, name, or appearance.

Most important, immigration arrests based upon tips, sweeps, and profiling have not resulted in any terrorism-related convictions against these detainees. Of the four detainees in our sample who had terrorism-related charges brought against them, all four were arrested based on traditional investigative techniques, not as the result of immigration enforcement initiatives.

Finally,we found an important international echo effect from domestic immigration policy. By targeting Muslim and Arab immigrants the U.S. government has deepened the perception abroad that the United States is anti-Muslim and that its democratic values and principles are hypocritical. This echo effect is undermining U.S. relationships with exactly the moderate, pro-Western nations and social groups whom we need in our fight against terrorism.

They also have a number of recommendations covering congressional oversight and legislation, information sharing and analysis, due process and immigration procedure issues, law enforcement programs, national unity, and foreign policy.

Now, I do believe that the government should act against illegal immigration. But there are two major problems with how the administration has handled this issue.

  • Selective targeting of Muslims and Arabs: Any selective enforcement of the law is generally bad.
  • The administration has given the impression that this enforcement of immigration law is necessary for national security reasons. That is hogwash in my opinion as is made clear in this report. Enforcing immigration law is by itself a good thing but the way it has been done since September 11, 2001 has done nothing for our national security.