Archive for the 'Politics' Category

`We are only following the law’

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`We are only following the law’ doesn’t explain immigration policy during Nazi era or now

Holocaust historians’ first impulse is to reject comparisons between those dark decades and our present. We don’t want to be perceived as abusing history for political purposes, or engaging in overly emotional analyses.

But then comes a moment when it’s not possible to avoid parallels.

For me, that moment came two weeks ago.

I study the American response to the Holocaust. I was researching the U.S. officials’ false claim that the nation’s inflexible immigration laws gave them no choice but to deny visas to hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees in the 1930s and early 1940s – and historians’ repetition of this false claim. From every media outlet came Trump administration officials spewing similar hollow arguments.

The law made me do it

During the Nazi era, the claim was based on the 1924 immigration law that set annual worldwide quotas, as well as country-by-country limits, on the number of immigrants to be admitted to the United States.

The problem with the claim and the idea that U.S. officials had no choice but to follow the law and limit immigration is that the quotas were never even close to being filled from 1933 to 1945, the 12 years of the Nazi regime.

About 200,000 refugees from Nazi Europe were admitted during that period to the U.S., while at least another 200,000 could have been under existing quotas. The quota for Germans of about 26,000 was filled in just one year, in 1939. In every other year, the quota ranged from 7 percent to 70 percent filled.

The law didn’t prevent U.S. officials from admitting more refugees. Officials chose to interpret and implement the nation’s immigration laws so as to exclude as many refugees from Nazi Europe as possible.

Yet at the time, and in many historical accounts, officials consistently blamed the law. That includes Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long, who explained why his administration could not help European Jews in 1943.

“American immigration policy was expressed [solely] in the laws enacted by Congress, which the executive branch had no power to alter,” said Long.

I intended at the conference to try to explain why so many historians cling to “the law-made-me-do-it” narrative, assuming that that narrative was all history.

It wasn’t.

History repeats

As criticism of the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border ramped up in mid-June, U.S. officials trotted out their version of Long’s argument – though in less elevated language.

Asked why the administration adopted the “zero tolerance” policy, which led to criminal prosecutions of all those crossing the border seemingly illegally, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a Thursday press conference, “because it’s the law, that’s what the law states.”

Front page of The New York Times, July 19, 1941. US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Pressed again, Sanders said, “Again, the laws are the one, the laws that have been on the books for over a decade and the president is enforcing them.”

Sanders wasn’t the first Trump administration official to blame “the law” for immigration policy.

“We don’t deport anyone,” John Kelly declared, when he was still Homeland Security secretary. “American law deports people.”

Nor has Sanders been the last.

Kelly’s successor, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the president have all said at various times – and then taken it back – that they had no choice.

Jobs and security

The Trump administration has justified its anti-immigrant policy as a way to help unemployed Americans. So did the Hoover administration and then the Roosevelt administration.

Faced with the Great Depression, Hoover decided in 1930 to limit the number of immigrants allowed into the country, because – supposedly – they would take Americans’ jobs.

Hoover did it by changing the interpretation of a decades-old provisionthat enabled officials to deny visas to those who were “likely to become a public charge.” Under the new interpretation, almost every applicant was found likely to become a public charge with no guidance or consistency in what that meant.

Immigration dropped 90 percent in the first five months.

From 1933 to 1945, the Roosevelt administration continued to use this interpretation of the likely-to-become-a-public-charge clause and other provisions to keep immigration under what the law allowed, even after the economy picked up.

The Trump administration has claimed immigrants are more likely to commit crimes and to be national security risks, using unrepresentative anecdotes and amorphous fears to justify its policy.

So did the Roosevelt administration. One State Department lawyer maintained that officials should deny visas to those who had criminal tendencies, even if they have no criminal record.

Government officials during the Roosevelt administration also assumed a large proportion of immigrants, particularly Jewish ones, were communists determined to subvert democracy. They denied visas on that basis.

Officials also assumed German Jewish refugees would be spies for the Third Reich. That was based upon the flimsiest of evidence: a Cuban ambassador’s claim some Jewish refugees celebrated the fall of Paris to the Nazis and a former U.S. ambassador to France’s allegation that German Jewish refugees made up half the 200 spies the French Army arrested.

“I believe you should instruct our counter-espionage services of all sorts to keep an especially vigilant eye on the Jewish refugees from Germany,” William Bullitt, the ex-ambassador, wrote Roosevelt. “Sad, isn’t it?’”

Breckenridge Long, who worked to stop refugees from the Nazis from coming to the U.S.National Archives

Jewish refugees didn’t turn out to be spies. Of the 23,000 “enemy aliens” who arrived in 1940, for example, fewer than one-half of 1 percent were taken into custody for questioning. Only a fraction of those were indicted – for violating immigration regulations, not for espionage.

Denials of visas based on national security concerns and other reasons, however, meant that just 21,000 refugees entered the United States between Pearl Harbor and the war’s end, with quotas from Axis-controlled countries only 10 percent filled. Historian David Wyman estimates that the U.S. could have saved nearly 200,000 victims of the Nazis by allowing them to enter the country.

Who gets to be American

Based on my research, I have concluded that U.S. government officials’ fears about refugees from Nazism being public charges, criminals or security risks were primarily pretexts for their real concern. That concern was that allowing in too many refugees would fundamentally alter the nature of American society.

Many decision-makers, particularly in the State Department, hailed from the WASP elite and perceived ambitious Jews as threatening their exclusive domains. The fewer Jews in the United States, the greater the chance of preserving the country as it had been and as they wanted it to continue to be. These officials justified any position and tolerated any cruelty, including refusing to change immigration policies once it was known the Germans were exterminating all of Europe’s Jews.

Roosevelt administration officials turned out to be both right and wrong in their fears.

They were right that the European refugees who came before, during and after the war, though small in number, reshaped the world of higher education, the arts and the sciences and contributed to the rise of the postwar meritocracy. That postwar meritocracy broke down the class-based system that kept Jews and Italians and eventually blacks and Latinos out of elite institutions.

But they were wrong that these changes undermined American democracy or changed the country’s spirit.

The nation was better off letting in 200,000 refugees between 1933 and 1945. It would have been even better off filling the quotas and allowing in the additional 200,000 refugees. And it would have been better off still had the country admitted anyone in need and tried to save all those who were imperiled as the Holocaust unfolded.

Some might object, probably under their breath, that these refugees were different. They were “good” refugees.

But that is not how they were perceived at the time. And that is exactly the point and precisely the parallel.

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Surveillance by the United States Government

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Throughout 2017, the US continued to carry out large-scale warrantless intelligence surveillance programs without transparency or oversight. Authorities used Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to target non-citizens (except lawful permanent residents) outside the country for warrantless communications monitoring and to “incidentally” gather large numbers of communications to or from people in the US.

Section 702 was scheduled to end at the end of 2017 unless Congress renewed it; at time of writing federal appeals courts had differing conclusions about the constitutionality of certain aspects of the law.

US surveillance of global communications under Executive Order 12333 remained shrouded in secrecy, with neither Congress nor the courts providing meaningful oversight. In January, the government disclosed procedures for the National Security Agency (NSA) to share data with domestic law enforcement agencies obtained by surveillance under the order. Documents disclosed to Human Rights Watch during the year revealed a Defense Department policy under the order sanctioning otherwise prohibited forms of monitoring of people inside the United States designated as “homegrown violent extremists.” The Defense Department has not revealed how it designates “extremists” or what types of monitoring may result.

In May 2017, the Trump administration approved a proposal that asks US visa applicants for social media handles and accounts from the past five years as part of its enhanced vetting process. The US also continues to assert broad authority to search electronic devices and copy data at the border without any suspicion of wrongdoing.

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Rights of Non-Citizens in the United States

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One week after his January 20, 2017 inauguration, President Trump issued an executive order to suspend the US refugee program, cut the number of refugees who could be resettled into the US in 2017, and temporarily ban entry of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries. This and later versions of the order banning entry from various countries have been the subject of ongoing federal litigation.

In October, Trump signed an executive order resuming the refugee program but with new screening measures. The annual cap for refugee admissions for 2018 was set at 45,000, the lowest annual limit since Congress passed the Refugee Act in 1980.

On the back of rhetoric falsely conflating illegal immigration with increased crime, Trump also moved to make all deportable immigrants “priority” targets for deportation, penalize so-called sanctuary cities and states that have limited local police involvement in federal immigration enforcement; expand abusive fast-track deportation procedures and criminal prosecutions for immigration offenses; and increase the prolonged detention of immigrants, despite evidence, documented by Human Rights Watch and others, of abusive conditions in immigration detention.

In August, President Trump repealed a program protecting from deportation immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, putting hundreds of thousands of people who grew up in the US at risk of deportation. President Trump signalled he would support legislation that provided legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. However, in October the White House released a hard-line set of immigration principles and policies—including weakening protections for child migrants and refugees—it considers necessary components of any such legislative deal.

Some cities and states sought to increase protections for immigrants by creating funds for legal services, limiting local law enforcement involvement in federal immigration enforcement, and resisting efforts to defund “sanctuary” cities. Others sought to pass laws punishing such localities.

In December, Human Rights Watch reported on the impact of the Trump administration on immigration policies, profiling dozens of long-term residents with strong family and other ties within the US who were summarily deported. US law rarely allows for individualized hearings that weigh such ties, and most immigrants do not have attorneys to help them fight deportation.

At time of writing, seizures for deportation of undocumented people from the interior without criminal convictions had nearly tripled to 31,888 between the inauguration and the end of September 2017, compared with 11,500 during approximately the same period in 2016.

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Racial Disparities, Drug Policy, and Policing in the United States

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Racial disparities permeate every part of the US criminal justice system, including in the enforcement of drug laws. Black people make up 13 percent of the population and 13 percent of all adults who use drugs, but 27 percent of all drug arrests. Black men are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of white men.

Police continue to kill black people in numbers disproportionate to their overall share of the population. Black people are 2.5 times as likely as white to be killed by police. An unarmed black person is five times as likely to be killed by police as an unarmed white person.

The Trump administration has expressed almost unconditional support for the prerogatives of law enforcement officers, scaling back or altogether removing police oversight mechanisms. The US Department of Justice began to discontinue investigations into, and monitoring of, local police departments reported to have patterns and practices of excessive force and constitutional violations.

The administration reversed an order from the Obama administration limiting acquisition of offensive military weaponry by local police departments. In a speech in July, President Trump encouraged officers to use unnecessary force on suspects. Congress introduced the “Back the Blue Act,” which would severely restrict civilians’ rights to sue police officers who unlawfully injure them.

Despite voicing concern over the opioid crisis, the Trump administration signaled an intent to re-escalate the “war on drugs” and de-emphasize bipartisan public health approaches to drug policy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded his predecessor’s Smart on Crime initiative, which had prioritized federal prosecutions of individuals accused of high-level drug offenses, reduced racial disparities in federal drug sentencing, and improved re-entry opportunities.

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Trump’s Anti-Immigration Struggles

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Maybe it’s not so easy after all. President Donald Trump’s struggles to push immigration legislation through Congress and his about-face on breaking up immigrant families are putting a spotlight on his competence in carrying out his policies.

The fallout from Trump’s handling of the separation of immigrant children from their families, which led to a sharp reversal from the president, has been reminiscent of the chaos sparked when Trump opened his administration by imposing a travel ban on immigrants entering from majority Muslim countries.

Taken together, the events demonstrate how little Trump appears to have learned or adjusted his approach after that first rocky encounter with governing. From issue to issue, from immigration to health care to trade and more, Trump’s pattern has been to outline a plan with scant concern or preparation for its immediate impact or consequences, and to make changes on the fly with the same lack of planning.

The result has often gone far beyond bureaucratic confusion, and has, at times, inflicted painful and unexpected consequences on people’s lives.

“It’s not something that appreciates these young children and was certainly done in a ‘ready, fire, aim’ way, obviously,” said Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, describing the administration’s immigration policy. “There was no preparation for it.”

Trump implemented a major new policy this spring with no apparent plan or new resources to handle the influx of people who would be detained and prosecuted as a result. When a public outcry ensued, the administration could not answer basic questions about it. Trump then changed the way the policy worked — leaving officials within the administration and at the border confused on how to enact the changes. Plus, it took several days for the government to say how it planned to reunite families and where the separated children were located.

Trump’s struggles on immigration follow his failure last year to repeal the so-called Obamacare law, a central tenet of GOP orthodoxy since President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2010, and the president’s uneven implementation of his travel ban, which will be the subject of a Supreme Court ruling this week. New tariffs have strained relationships with European and North American allies and his Middle East peace plan is still under development amid a standoff with the Palestinians after he said the decades-old problem wouldn’t be hard to solve.

Trump has often mused since the 2016 presidential campaign that it would be “so easy” to pass a sweeping immigration law and construct a “big, beautiful” border wall, paid for by Mexico. Earlier this week, he tweeted that his Democratic leadership adversaries in Congress, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, would be “forced to do a real deal, so easy, that solves this long time problem.”

But the upcoming week could offer fresh evidence that the reality of governing is much more challenging.

Republicans are seeking to steer an immigration bill through the House despite skepticism among conservatives and uncertainty about Trump’s commitment to the plan. The president told House Republicans he was “1,000 percent” behind their effort last week but then suggested just three days later on Twitter that Republicans wait until after the fall midterm elections.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he received assurances from the White House during the weekend that Trump was “still 100 percent behind us.” But the fate of the bill remains in doubt and it remains unclear if House Republicans could pass a narrower version that would only address the separation of children and their families.

Confusion has lingered over Trump’s border policy, meanwhile. After a public uproar over the “zero tolerance” policy that led to more than 2,300 immigrant children being separated from their families near the Mexican border, the president signed an executive order last week for the children to be brought back together with their families. The order seeks to keep families together in detention instead of separating them while their legal cases are heard by the courts.

A 1997 landmark case known as the Flores settlement governs how children are handled in immigration custody and generally prevents the government from keeping them in detention, even with their parents, for more than 20 days. Trump is seeking to amend the agreement to allow for families to be detained indefinitely together. But Justice Department has said the 20-day policy remains in effect until Congress or the courts take action to change that.

That means if Congress fails to pass legislation or the courts decline to change the terms of the settlement, the administration could be forced to again separate the immigrant children from their parents in three weeks.

In the meantime, officials have issued conflicting signals over the state of the administration’s policy and some parents have said they don’t yet know where there children are.

Trump tweeted Sunday that the U.S. “cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country.” He said when someone attempts to enter illegally, “we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said that is both illegal and unconstitutional.

Trump also continued to blame Democrats in the Republican-controlled Congress, saying House Republicans could “easily pass” a strong border security bill, but it would still have to pass the Senate “and for that we need 10 Democrat votes, and all they do is RESIST.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a frequent Trump critic, said the problem was larger than a partisan fight.

“When the president says that and calls them clowns and losers, how does he expect the Democrats to sit down and work with Republicans on these issues? And so words matter. What the president says matters. And he ought to knock that off,” Flake said.

Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University, said the federal government is not the “agile instrument” for policy that Trump seems to think it is.

“It’s very difficult to make a U-turn, then make another U-turn,” Light said, adding that’s exactly what Trump did last week in signing the executive order after he and other administration had insisted for days that their hands were tied and that only Congress had the power to step in and do something.

“He sees decisions like ordering at McDonald’s. You order, it comes, good-bye,” Light said. “That’s not the way government works.”

Corker spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” McCaul spoke on “Fox News Sunday” and Flake appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”

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Virginia’s Republican Primary – A “ruthless” and “vicious” Campaign

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A conservative provocateur and supporter of President Donald Trump won Virginia’s Republican primary Tuesday in the U.S. Senate race, and he has promised to run a “vicious” campaign against incumbent Tim Kaine.

Republican Corey Stewart beat state lawmaker Nick Freitas and Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson. Stewart – who favors keeping Confederate monuments – had long been on the fringe of the state’s GOP; now the win makes him the standard-bearer of a deeply divided party that hasn’t won a statewide race in nearly a decade.

Stewart said he plans to campaign in a Trump-like way that appeals to blue-collar voters across the political spectrum. He’s also pledged to run a “ruthless” and “vicious” campaign against Kaine.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun between now and November, folks,” Stewart told a raucous crowd at his victory party Tuesday evening.

The crowd chanted “Lock her up” and “Build the wall,” a throwback to popular chants at Trump’s campaign rallies.

A one-time state chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Stewart nearly won the 2017 Republican nomination for governor, despite being heavily outspent.

Stewart campaigned heavily on preserving Virginia’s Confederate monuments and is an immigrant hard-liner who boasts of the number of immigrants in the country illegally who have been deported from his county.

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman and an attorney has courted controversy throughout his political career.

He was fired from the Trump campaign after staging an unsanctioned protest at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, which Stewart said wasn’t sufficiently loyal to Trump during the presidential campaign.

No Democrats challenged Kaine, a former governor, and 2016 vice-presidential candidate, for his party’s nomination.

Kaine spokesman Ian Sams called Stewart a “cruder imitation of Donald Trump who stokes white supremacy” and would be an “embarrassment for Virginia” if elected.

Once a key swing state whose Senate elections drew intense national interest, this year’s race has gotten scant attention. Kaine is the early favorite to win, and the Republican primary was noteworthy for how sleepy it was.

Several higher-profile Republicans floated the possibility of running against Kaine, but they did not follow through after Democrats scored huge victories in November in state-level elections. That left establishment Republicans to rally behind Freitas, a libertarian-leaning former Green Beret and two-term state House delegate.

Stewart’s victory upset many traditional Republicans. Former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said on Twitter he was “extremely disappointed” in Tuesday’s results.

“Every time I think things can’t get worse they do, and there is no end in sight,” Bolling said.

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‘Dollar a Day’ Forced Labor Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against CoreCivic

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Project South, Apr. 17, 2018 – “A private prison company under contract with Stewart County to house individual’s detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is forcing detained immigrants at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia to work for as little as $1 a day to clean, cook, and maintain the detention center in a scheme to maximize profits, according to a class-action lawsuit filed today against CoreCivic, Inc.

Detained immigrants who refuse to work are threatened with solitary confinement and the loss of access to basic necessities, like food, clothing, personal hygiene products and phone calls to loved ones in violation of federal anti-trafficking laws, according to the lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Law Office of R. Andrew Free, Project South, and Burns Charest LLP. Similar lawsuits have been filed in California, Washington, Colorado and Texas challenging private prison companies’ work practices.

Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal and Advocacy Director for Project South, said, “The prison corporation Core Civic is exploiting the labor of detained immigrants to enrich itself– last year its revenues were nearly $1.8 billion. It must be stopped.”

“CoreCivic is placing profits above people by forcing detained immigrants to perform manual labor for next to nothing, saving millions of dollars that would otherwise provide jobs and stimulate the local economy,” said Meredith Stewart, senior attorney at the SPLC. “CoreCivic is padding its pockets by violating anti-trafficking laws.”

The “Dollar-a-Day” program creates a lucrative profit scenario for CoreCivic: Detained immigrants are forced to purchase basic necessities from CoreCivic’s commissary, and the primary way to fund their purchases is to participate in the work program that is necessary for the operation of the facility. These jobs include providing basic functions at the facility like cooking and cleaning, work for which CoreCivic would otherwise have to hire and pay outside employees.

Plaintiff Wilhen Hill Barrientos is an asylum seeker from Guatemala who has been detained for 33 months while his case is pending. When he arrived at Stewart Detention Center, he was faced with an impossible decision – either work for nearly nothing or lose access to basic necessities, safety, and privacy.

Refusing to work means that Barrientos would not have enough money to pay for costly phone calls to his family and that he would likely be moved from a two-person prison cell to an open dorm that has few bathrooms, round-the-clock lighting, frequent fights; or be placed into solitary confinement.

“When I arrived at Stewart I was faced with the impossible choice—either work for a few cents an hour or live without basic things like soap, shampoo, deodorant, and food,” said Barrientos. He chose to work to live with some privacy and maintain access to the commissary. “If I didn’t work, I would never be able to call my family,” said Barrientos, who works in the kitchen, cooking meals for up to 2,000 people each day.

For his work, Barrientos receives at most $4 to $5 per day for six to eight hours of work; approximately 50 cents per hour. Since Stewart has no paid kitchen staff, officers usually require Barrientos to work seven days a week, even when he is sick. Barrientos was sent to medical segregation for two months after he filed a grievance for being forced to work while he was sick.

“CoreCivic illegally enriches itself on the backs of a captive workforce to bolster their profits,” said Korey Nelson, a partner at Burns Charest, a law firm with offices in Dallas and New Orleans that specializes in complex class action suits.

“CoreCivic’s labor practices at Stewart are an affront to the human dignity of all confined there, and sad reminder of a not-so-distant past when the power to jail meant the opportunity to profit,” said Andrew Free, a Nashville-based immigration and civil rights attorney. “Neither our conscience as a nation nor our human trafficking laws permit this corporation’s conduct.”

In 2014, current and formerly detained immigrants who were forced to work at private detention centers began to file class-action lawsuits alleging violations of federal and state labor laws.”

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The “American Dream” is a Fallacy

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Americans continue to kid themselves that if you work hard you can climb the ladder. But the perception and reality are moving farther apart.

Economists at Harvard University recently published research on actual and perceived economic mobility in the United States and four European countries. They found an American public in denial. The data show that Americans believe the chance that a person who is born into the bottom 20% of households in income in the US can reach the top 20% in adulthood is more than 50% higher than in reality.

Not all other countries suffer from such misconceptions. The four European countries the researchers studied—Italy, the United Kingdom, France and Sweden—actually underestimated the likelihood of a person moving from the bottom to the top.

Based on surveys of at least 1,000 people in each country, the following chart shows how likely people think children born into the poorest 20% of families will grow up to be among the richest 20%, along with the most recent high-quality data on the actual probability.

While the average American thinks that about 12% of those in the poorest fifth households make it to the top, the true number is less than 8%. In contrast, people in the other four European countries surveyed are all overly pessimistic about the economic chances of those born poorest. The French, who underestimate mobility from the bottom to the top by two percentage points, is the most erroneously dour.

People on the political right tend to perceive greater economic mobility than those on the left in each country studied. For example, in the US, the average person that the researchers identified as left-wing guessed that 11% of people from the bottom 20% move to the top, and the average right-wing person guessed that it was 12.5%. Due to this bias, European perceptions about intergenerational mobility are more accurate on the right, while in the US, those on the left tend to guess numbers closer to the truth.

Beyond just looking at perceptions of mobility, the researchers also gathered data on people’s beliefs about economic fairness. They found that even though climbing the economic ladder is least likely in the US among the countries they surveyed, Americans have unusually strong beliefs in the fairness of the economic system, and the relationship of hard work to succeed.

The researchers also discovered that, within the US, an overly optimistic outlook about economic mobility is concentrated in the parts of the country where actual mobility is lowest. The Southeast is the area of the US with the lowest economic mobility and highest inequality. Yet the average Southeasterner believes that the chances of someone from the bottom 20% reaching the top are almost double what they actually are.

ratioeconomicopportunitymap

The idea that anybody can make it in the US if they work hard enough has been a bedrock of American life since the country’s birth. At one time, this might have been truer than today. Because historical data is difficult to obtain, researchers are unsure of whether economic mobility has decreased in the US, but it likely has. Inequality and economic mobility are highly correlated, and inequality has been on the rise in the US for the last half-century. If it’s true that mobility has decreased, awareness has not caught up to reality.

These misperceptions matter. Beliefs about economic mobility are strongly related to support for higher taxes on the rich (pdf) and government spending on education and public health. Even for those who don’t believe the government is effective at solving social problems, accurate perceptions of how likely it is for the poor to reach the top may change attitudes to philanthropy and volunteerism.

The US is no beacon of economic opportunity. It’s time Americans realized it.

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BIA to Downgrade New Staff Attorney Hires

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Eugene Kiely and D’Angelo Gore, May 30, 2018 – “The claim: “Think of it, a lottery. You pick people. Now, let me ask you. So these countries that are sending people in — do you think they are sending us their finest?”

The facts: Trump is again distorting the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which uses a computer lottery system to randomly issue up to 50,000 immigrant visas each year to qualified applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Countries aren’t “sending us” anybody. Individuals submit applications, and those eligible must meet certain requirements and pass a security background check. Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell Law School, told us: “Among other things, the consular officer must make sure the individual is not ‘inadmissible.’ This means that the person has not committed a crime, doesn’t have a serious health problem, isn’t a terrorist, hasn’t committed fraud, and hasn’t overstayed in the U.S. before.”

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BIA to Downgrade New Staff Attorney Hires

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Jeffrey S. Chase, May 27, 2018 – “In another employment-related development that has drawn little public notice, the Department of Justice on May 17 posted a hiring ad for 38 vacant staff attorney positions at the BIA. The twist is that for the first time, the positions were advertised as being entry level grade positions with no potential for promotion. EOIR Director James McHenry had hinted since his appointment that he believed BIA attorney positions should be downgraded. There is something disingenuous about such statement. I can think of at least three immigration judges who were appointed to the bench directly from their positions as non-supervisory BIA staff attorneys. Two of the four temporary BIA Board Members at present are long-term BIA staff attorneys. The present BIA chairperson, David Neal, previously served as a Board staff attorney for 5 years, a position that apparently qualified him to directly become chief counsel to the Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Nearly all of the BIA’s decisions, including those that are published as precedent binding on the agency and DHS, are drafted by its staff attorneys.

Some of those attorneys have accumulated significant expertise in complex areas of immigration law. A number of Board staff attorneys have participated as speakers at the immigration judge training conferences. The question thus becomes: how are experienced attorneys who are deemed qualified to move directly into immigration judge and BIA Board Member positions, to craft precedent decisions and to train immigration judges only deemed to be entry-level, non-career path employees? There has been much attention paid to the nearly 700,000 cases pending before the nation’s immigration courts. As the agency moves to hire more judges and limit continuances, and recently had its power to administrative close cases revoked by the AG, the number and pace of cases appealed to the BIA will speed up significantly. It would seem like a good time for the BIA to be staffed with knowledgeable and experienced staff attorneys. Instead, the agency’s move essentially turns new BIA attorney hires into short-term law clerks. New attorneys undergo a full year of legal training to bring them up to speed to handle the high volume and variety of complex legal issues arising on appeal. However, attorneys are unlikely to remain in such positions for much more than a year without the possibility of promotion.”

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