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Bloggings: January 31, 2008

by Greg Siskind

Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Greg Siskind's blog.

January 29, 2008

IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: GARY SHTEYNGART - AUTHOR

Shteyngart

I just finished reading the very funny, somewhat raunchy satirical novel Absurdistan by young Russian-born writer Gary Shteyngart. The novel is about a son of the 1238th richest man in Russia who finds himself in the middle of a manufactured civil war in the former Soviet Republic of Absurdistan. One review of the book called it "Jonathan Swift does South Park" and that's probably a pretty apt description of the book.

Shteyngart emigrated to the US in 1979 at the age of seven and went on to become a writing professor at Hunter College in New York, just like Russian immigrant Jerry Shteynfarb, the lead character Misha Vainberg's nemesis in Absurdistan. Shteyngart previous had a writing hit with The Russian Debutante's Handbook and is soon to release 2040.

DEATH BLOW FOR ANTI-IMMIGRATION MOVEMENT?

When the history of the current anti-immigration movement in the country is written, January 29th may be seen as a turning point in their fortunes. John McCain, one of the most pro-immigrant politicians in America today (in either party), has moved out ahead of the competition with a clear win in the Florida primary, a state that only allows registered Republicans to participate in their GOP primary. Rudy Guiliani will drop out of the race tomorrow and endorse McCain.

And for those who think somehow voters were duped and didn't really consider immigration, the polls suggest quite the opposite. McCain scored far better on immigration than any other Republican candidate among Republican voters.

For those who thought immigration would be a wedge issue that would be the dominant theme in their campaigns, the McCain win is no doubt troublesome. This is particularly true for GOP candidates already facing a tough year (28 Republican House members have already announced they are not seeking re-election). Will these candidates embrace the pro-immigration  McCain (who has been regularly hissed at campaign stops by anti-immigrant activists)?

This is not to say that the antis are completely finished. They still are scoring victories at the state level and as of now Congress is still too afraid to move on the issue. But the potency of the anti-immigration message is seemingly on the wane, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out yesterday.

I think we'll see some interesting movement on Capitol Hill if McCain gets the nomination. Republicans will not want to embarrass their presidential candidate in the midst of a tough campaign and if Democrats seek to move significant immigration legislation, GOP leaders may feel compelled to hammer out deals quietly and quickly in order to avoid situations where McCain would have to walk the tightrope of pleasing hardliners and not alienating Hispanics who he must convince to support him if he has any chance in November.

IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: FRED KAVLI - INVENTOR

Kavli Norwegian-born Fred Kavli is called by some the next Alfred Nobel. He should inspire those who have tried to get a US visa to pursue their dreams and have not yet succeeded. In 1955, Kavli was denied a US visa for lack of having a job lined up for him after he graduated from university in his native Norway. Instead, he moved to Montreal. He got a visa to come to the US the next year and then landed a job with the company that build the Atlas missile. He eventually became Chief Scientist at that company.

Some years later, Kavli got the entrepreneurial bug and decided to start his own company. He ran a simple ad in the Los Angeles Times that read "Engineer seeking financial backing to start own business". And it worked well enough to allow him to start Kavlico. The company went on to become the largest producer of sensors for aeronautics, automotive and industrial firms and the sensors have even been used on the Space Shuttle.

In 2000, Kavli sold his company for $345 million to C-Mac Industries Inc. and the company was later transferred again to French-owned Schneider Electric. Kavli's fortune was built not just by the sale of his company, but by a number of shrewd real estate investments in California.

He's putting his money to good use. He has established the Kavli Prizes which will award $100,000 to individuals for innovations in astrophysics, nanotechnology, and neuroscience. The first prizes will be awarded this year.

Mr. Kavli's foundation also funds a number of institutes. 15 Kavli Institutes operate on major university campuses around the world and promote research in the three fields for which the Kavli Prize will be awarded.

Aside from his contributions to the advancement of science, Mr. Kavli is a philanthropist in his home community of Southern California. One of his causes is supporting the arts and his home town has honored him by naming The Fred Kavli Theatre for the Performing Arts at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in his honor.

January 28, 2008
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: JOHN OLIVER - FAKE JOURNALIST

For_john_oliver_2 And rounding out my salute to The Daily Show is, of course, John Oliver. Aside from being one of TDS' regular correspondents, Oliver brought us closed captioning at BBC America. As Oliver notes, "Not even British people can follow the British accent 100 percent of the time."

By the way, Oliver had an interesting immigration issue recently. Oliver was an active participate in the writers' guild strike, but he returned to work because he was worried that he would be violating the terms of his visa if he failed to work while the show was in production. I don't know what kind of visa he has, but it was probably a wise move.

BIG GOVERNMENT REPUBLICANS

Do you consider yourself a good conservative Republican? Do you think you're pro-business? Are you for smaller government, lower taxes and less federal spending? Then you have no business supporting the anti-immigration agenda being pushed by the big government xenophobes who think employers should be cops, DHS should get the opportunity to approve every employee you hire and government should be throwing up tariffs restricting trade in services. There is nothing conservative about being anti-immigration, as this Scott Henson blog post points out. For those who think they're conservative because they're just about law and order, are you lobbying to change the laws to allowing employers to legally bring in needed workers (and I'm not talking about legalizing workers in the country illegally - just future workers)? If not, you're not about law and order. You're just anti-immigrant.

KENTUCKY HOUSE CONSIDERING BUSINESS LICENSE LAW
The bill is actually pretty broad. It would - allow immigrants to be charged with identity - require employers to use E-Verify - allow the state to suspend business licenses of employers hiring unauthorized workers
OREGON BUSINESSES ORGANIZE AROUND IMMIGRATION ISSUE

Oregon becomes the latest state to establish an employers immigration reform coalition.

January 27, 2008
THE BLACK ECONOMY

It's getting ugly in Arizona as "Hispanic Panic" sets in. Arizona's draconian employer law went in to effect just a few weeks ago and the fall out is already apparent as immigrants flee the state and employers are having mass layoffs. And it looks like market forces are creating an alternative "black economy" where employees are paid in cash and all worker protections go out the window.

January 26, 2008
IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: AASIF MANDVI - FAKE JOURNALIST

Aasif OK, it's not as high brow as my CEO series, but I almost never miss a new episode of Comedy Central's The Daily Show and the show's trio of immigrant "correspondents" are sensational. I especially get a kick when they cover immigration issues. The show has propelled Indian-born Aasif Mandvi to one of the country's most recognized Indian Americans. Mandvi is officially the show's Middle East correspondent and one of the running gags is that no one really knows what ethnicity he is other than that he's brown (his frequent description of himself).

Mandvi is also a serious actor and playwright. He recently starred in the play Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom.

THE PRICE OF ATTRITION

Many anti-immigrants will freely admit that it will be impossible to deport 12 million unauthorized immigrants. Rather, they'll talk about making conditions so miserable for them that they'll simply go home on their own. Just a little tough love, that's all.

But there are consequences and for those that have a conscience, stories like this one should be a wake up call as to what these policies really do.

SWEET REVENGE: MARTINEZ ENDORSES MCCAIN

A few months back I posted on Florida Republican Senator Mel Martinez  being driven from his post as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee because of the Senator's support for comprehensive immigration reform. Now Martinez is endorsing McCain and is trying to help deliver the critical South Florida Cuban Republican vote. And McCain has received the endorsement of Miami's three Cuban Republican members of Congress -  Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. A win for McCain in Florida could provide a crucial boost going in to the February 5th Tsunami Tuesday where 24 states will vote. The antis animosity toward both Martinez and McCain is pretty high. Check out this example.

HEADS UP: NEW SOCIAL SECURITY NO MATCH RULE IMMINENT

Sources are telling me that this rule could be released in the next few days. Folks may remember that te previous version of this rule was temporarily stopped by a court order. DHS pulled the rule and promised to re-release a version that would be acceptable to the judge. We shall see...

January 25, 2008
OVERZEALOUS IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS DEPORTING US CITIZENS

I've posted on this subject before, but it bears reminding policymakers that this is not a made up problem.

IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: SAMANTHA BEE - FAKE JOURNALIST

Samantha_bee Canadian Samantha Bee is America's favorite fake female journalist, a title she likely won't dispute. She's risen up the ranks and is now the senior correspondent on top-rated fake news program The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Bee's hilarious interviews with politicians are pretty memorable including her most recent interview with my own Congressman, Memphis Democrat Steve Cohen. If you're smart like Congressman Cohen you go in to the interview with a good sense of humor. The really painfully funny segments are with the politicians who don't really know what The Daily Show is all about and try to take the interviews seriously.

January 24, 2008
SURPRISE: IMMIGRATION IS GETTING MCCAIN VOTES

Well this is really going to upset some of the strategists who've convinced a number of GOP candidates around the country that voters are quick to embrace knee-jerk Tancredo-esque anti-immigration positions. But guess what? The public is more sophisticated than the pundits give them credit and will actually reward candidates who actually try to solve problems rather than demagogue on them. Maybe that's why GOP voters are giving John McCain high scores on immigration. Now wasn't that supposed to be his Achilles Heel in this year's election? Here's the numbers from the latest Bloomberg/LA Times poll of GOP voters:

More surprisingly, 23 percent of respondents say McCain would do the best job handling immigration, an issue that has opened him up to criticism from Republicans who characterize his position as favoring amnesty for illegal aliens. McCain's closest rival on the question, Romney, got 14 percent.

IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: RINGO STARR - ROCK ROYAL

Ringo2001 No need to tell you anything about British-born Ringo Starr (who resides in Los Angeles and frequently records there). I was a kid in the 70s and the Beatles had broken up when I was just three years old. But my first album was Rubber Soul [thanks Sid for the catch] and I can remember sitting around after school with friends and listening to Beatles tunes for hours on end. I've had the good fortune to have had various professional connections to people from the Beatles' world over the years and I can't tell you what a kick I get out of it.  I thought of Rings when I saw this annoying little story today. I say to Regis and Kelly, when you're having a Beatle on your show, you're having rock royalty. Bump one of your B list guests or cut some of your inane chit chat and give Ringo the time he deserves.

MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: URGE YOUR LEGISLATOR TO CLEAN UP OUR MESS

This is great. The Michigan Secretary of State admits they have a huge problem and she's actually urging Michigan citizens to push for legislation to fix the drivers license disaster:

Michigan has many outstanding residents who contribute greatly to our economy and society even though they're here on a temporary basis," Land said. "Businesses rely on these talented individuals as well. Under the attorney general's opinion, those who are in the country legally but on temporary student or work visas are ineligible for a Michigan license, though most still can drive using the license of their home country. We need to reconsider that aspect of the law to avoid unintended consequences for individuals or job providers. I encourage citizens to voice their support for our proposal and contact their legislators.

By the way, there's a little irony here. The Michigan Attorney General and Secretary of State are, as my friend Dan Kowalski told me, trying to out-Tancredo Tom Tancredo as they aim for big political points. Michigan law CLEARLY requires people living in the state to get a Michigan drivers license. Only people briefly living in the state would be able to use a foreign drivers license. If you're in Michigan for more than just a few weeks of a few months, you're required to get a Michigan drivers license. Now they're telling people it's okay to break the law. The whole reason this issue has become a hot potato is because the AG saw a way to use a hyper-literal interpretation of the law as the method to bar unauthorized immigrants from getting drivers' licenses. Now they're telling people not to read the law that closely. I'm sure the judge will have something to say about this. Hopefully, Michigan voters will have something to say as well.

MICHIGAN AILA CHAPTER URGES SECRETARY OF STATE TO BACK DOWN

Of course, if this were really about good public policy and not scoring political points, this letter wouldn't be necessary. When Michigan taxpayers pay millions in legal fees to the plaintiffs' attorneys when the state loses the law suit that will no doubt be filed in the next several weeks, I wonder if the politics will seem so smart.

January 23, 2008
MICHIGAN DMV ISSUES INSTRUCTIONS IMPLEMENTING NEW ANTI-LEGAL IMMIGRANT PROPOSAL

There has been some debate in the comments from my recent post on whether Michigan really meant it when they decided to only allow US citizens and permanent residents to get a driver's license in the state. Here's the proof. There is nothing allowing those with a valid I-94 to work, proof of asylum or refugee status, an employment authorization card, an I-20, a receipt for a pending adjustment of status application, a DS-2019 or any other of the usual documents that prove legal status in the US to get a drivers license.

If you think possessing an out of state drivers license, international drivers license or the drivers license of a foreign country will be enough to drive, think again. Michigan law states the following:

New Michigan residents who wish to drive must obtain a Michigan driver license immediately upon establishing a permanent domicile (home) within the state and/or obtaining employment with the intent of remaining in this state.

What is going to be fun is watching Michigan back down on this. I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall and hear some of the conversations that are no doubt taking place between state leaders and leaders of industry, academia and the ethnic communities across the state on why LEGAL visa holders are being told to leave Michigan.  And this says nothing of the affect on legal refugees and asylees in the state. Michigan could very well be violating resettlement funding agreements with the State Department by implementing a proposal of this sort.

Plus there may be some really interesting constitutional questions raised by this whole debacle. I'll leave that the to the Con Law gurus.