International House of Dan: April 2006

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ammo For Guns, Revisited

I added two sentences to the section on gun bans and crime rates, and made a correction to the section on the little old lady.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Protest HR4437 On Monday

A preliminary matter:

Tomorrow, I will again be helping immigrants achieve citizenship by reviewing their applications at a workshop from 8am to 2pm. Other law-minded people (lawyers, law students, etc.) are welcome (and encouraged) to attend.

Having said that, on International Workers Day, Monday, May 1 there will be major immigrant rights actions in cities across America (scroll down). Chicago is no exception, and I will be there with some friends, helping total attendance to dwarf that at the March 10 demonstration. Organizers differ on whether or not to skip work or school, I suppose it is a personal choice, I will not be working (unless somebody gives me a job before then), check with area organizers for more information.

The real reason for this post is to explain why these protests are happening. Many believe that for some reason, illegal aliens are suddenly demanding citizenship. As most of you know, the sudden uproar among the immigrant community was caused by Congressman Sensenbrenner's (R-WI) infamous H.R. 4437, a draconian measure that, among other things, would make it a felony for the U.S. born child of undocumented immigrants not to turn in her parents for deportation. Interestingly, the bill is not mentioned on the Congressman's website, immigration is not even listed among the "issues".

H.R. 4437 passed the House last December, and as more has been learned of it during Senate debate, people across America have become irate over the legislation. The Protest in Chicago last March sparked a fire that quickly consumed the nation, May 1st will be less a climax than an encouraging push, a sign of things to come.

What follows is my breakdown of the controversial legislation, I don't recall which version I used, but I believe it was the one referred to the Senate by the House (because it makes sense that I would have picked that one). I wrote this hastily and in a less formal context a few months ago, but I've learned my interpretation is not unique. (takes me back to my days as a Legislative Analyst):

SEC. 274. (a) Criminal Offenses and Penalties-


...`(C) assists, encourages, directs, or induces a person to reside in or remain in the United States, or to attempt to reside in or remain in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien who lacks lawful authority to reside in or remain in the United States;

so you can't rent a place, sell or loan a car, give a job, teach english, or do a bunch of other things, possibly even give directions, sell a winter coat, deliver mail, sell food to, or a bunch of other things that assist someone to reside here to someone with an accent without asking first for proof of legal status;

`(D) transports or moves a person in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien who lacks lawful authority to enter or be in the United States, where the transportation or movement will aid or further in any manner the person's illegal entry into or illegal presence in the United States;

so a restaurant employee needs to check a co-worker's papers before giving them a ride to work, or give anybody a ride to or from a Greyhound or Amtrak station, or possibly anywhere else without checking their status;

...`(F) transports, moves, harbors, conceals, or shields from detection a person outside of the United States knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien in unlawful transit from one country to another or on the high seas, under circumstances in which the person is in fact seeking to enter the United States without official permission or lawful authority; or

so a foreign friend or relative of someone trying to come here unlawfully is somehow a criminal under our law for things they did abroad (not sure how they plan to enforce that...)

`(G) conspires or attempts to commit any of the preceding acts,

in, fact... don't even THINK about it!

shall be punished as provided in paragraph (2), regardless of any official action which may later be taken with respect to such alien.

`(2) CRIMINAL PENALTIES- A person who violates the provisions of paragraph (1) shall--

`(A) except as provided in subparagraphs (D) through (H), in the case where the offense was not committed for commercial advantage, profit, or private financial gain, be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both;

this is what happens if you are doing any of these things as a favor

`(B) except as provided in subparagraphs (C) through (H), where the offense was committed for commercial advantage, profit, or private financial gain--

`(i) in the case of a first violation of this subparagraph, be imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both; and

`(ii) for any subsequent violation, be imprisoned for not less than 3 years nor more than 20 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both;

this is what happens to someone who rents or sells something to an alien under the above without checking status first, god help you if you're a landlord

`(C) in the case where the offense was committed for commercial advantage, profit, or private financial gain and involved 2 or more aliens other than the offender, be imprisoned for not less than 3 nor more than 20 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both;

god help a landlord renting to a family!

`(3) EXTRATERRITORIAL JURISDICTION- There is extraterritorial Federal jurisdiction over the offenses described in this subsection.

this means we're serious about that regulating what foreigners do abroad thing

`(b) Employment of Unauthorized Aliens-

`(1) IN GENERAL- Any person who, during any 12-month period, knowingly hires for employment at least 10 individuals with actual knowledge that the individuals are aliens described in paragraph (2), shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.

grapes could get very expensive...

...`(c) Seizure and Forfeiture-

`(1) IN GENERAL- Any property, real or personal, that has been used to commit or facilitate the commission of a violation of this section, the gross proceeds of such violation, and any property traceable to such property or proceeds, shall be subject to forfeiture.

hope you weren't too fond of that building, mr. landlord...

...`(f) Definitions- For purposes of this section:

`(1) The term `lawful authority' means permission, authorization, or license that is expressly provided for in the immigration laws of the United States or the regulations prescribed thereunder. Such term does not include any such authority secured by fraud or otherwise obtained in violation of law, nor does it include authority that has been sought but not approved. No alien shall be deemed to have lawful authority to come to, enter, reside, remain, or be in the United States if such coming to, entry, residence, remaining, or presence was, is, or would be in violation of law.

this might mean that you're supposed to assume papers are fake or possibly run afoul of the "reckless disregard" language

the "reckless disregard" language means relatives of aliens are less free to do any of these things, if my cousin flew up from Argentina and asked me for a ride from point a to point b, I would have to check the expiration on her visa before agreeing to anything, and if the visa were expired I would have to turn her in. If I bumped into an Argentine relative somewhere I couldn't buy them lunch, or in an extreme case even bum them a smoke before asking them about their legal status.

I'm not saying these things will all happen, nobody knows how the law would be enforced in reality, but what's troubling to many (including me) is having a law that would allow for even the possibility. A lot of people in America, citizens or not, have friends and family overseas that they have not seen in many, many years. I am among these Americans, and if I run into a long-lost friend or relative, or hear from one of them that he or she is in town, my first instinct is to meet up, to grab a meal, to catch up, to help out in any way, I think this is the normal way for anyone to react.

I have a problem with a law that requires me to ask for proof of status before I can help a childhood friend that I haven't seen in 20 years, or a cousin I haven't seen in 5. If one of them should do something illegal, I don't think I should be required to find out and turn them in. I have a problem with a law that requires us to be suspicious of friends and family, and to turn them in if our suspicions aren't satisfied.

I have a problem with a law that says parents must refuse aid to their children. I have a problem with a law that says children can be illegal. That is why I'll be marching downtown on Monday."

If you've made it this far, you're probably my Dad (hola Papit!), and as a reward, photos of downtown Chicago circa March 10 (courtesy of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights)


Friday, April 21, 2006

HRD Event Poster

The CAICC posters for the Holocaust Remembrance Day event are now available here (in PDF).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mark Your Calendars: Next Tuesday

As most, if not all of you know, last year I was asked by John Washburn of the New York-based American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC) to start a local group in Chicago to voice support for the ICC and press lawmakers to sign and ratify the Rome Statute. The resulting Chicago Alliance for the International Criminal Court (CAICC) has seen become a solid entity. While still small in member groups, we are growing steadily in size and notoriety.

It has been right about one year, and I am pleased to announce that in one week, Tuesday April 25th, we will be hosting our first annual event NUREMBERG NOW, in honor of Yom Hashoah, the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust. Congress (Public Law 96-388, October 7, 1980) the United States Holocaust Memorial Council designates the Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust. In 2006, those days are Sunday, April 23 through Sunday, April 30, with Yom Hashoah on Tuesday the 25th. This year's theme is "Legacies of Justice", and our event will focus on the role of the U.S. at Nuremberg and now. 60 years ago we led the world and established the very precedents used today to punish genocide, but today, the Bush Administration's opposition to the ICC threatened to prevent the prosecution of the genocide in Darfur. Our panelists will explore the legacy of Nuremberg, much fun will be had by all.

Our Outreach Director and I have been working hard to make this event a success, and we will be launching an aggressive outreach campaign immediately after. I am in the process of securing statements or proclamations in honor of Yom Hashoah, and incorporating this year's theme and the role of the ICC in preventing future genocides, as well as prosecuting present ones. I have had positive responses from the offices of Governor Rod Blagojevich, Senator Barack Obama, and Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Jesse Jackson Jr. I am awaiting responses from Senator Dick Durbin, Representative Luis Gutierrez, and a few others.

I encourage everyone do support the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and if you happen to be in Chicago next Tuesday at 5:30, drop by our event!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Mom, Dad, I Think It's Time You Come To Chicago

This is what happens when I'm gone for a few months? On January 26th, David Sater and these religious nutjobs introduced House Concurrent Resolution No. 13 in the Missouri House. It (not essentially, not basically, overtly) tries to legalize (even mandate?) school prayer and public religious displays.

Sure, the Missouri Constitution allows this (on paper) because they were careful to make it "voluntary", never mind the fact that a concurrent resolution has the same weight in law as anything I write on here does. Fortunately, under the "ten-day rule" (Mo. House Rule 43), the proposed bill was dropped from the calendar, and (Charles, correct me if I'm wrong) is as dead as the brain of Mr. Sater.

Fortunately, this was just an annoying exercise in pandering by a rural state legislator, but unfortunately it was likely a test balloon for something far more sinister. I wouldn't put it past Governor Blunt to have started this fiasco in order to test the waters for an actual bill on the matter. His role in Missouri's gay marriage ban is notorious, and likely an indication of his twisted Bush-like intentions to use the Bible as a step stool to a higher office.

I'll be happy to elaborate on the Federal case law regarding the Separation of Church and State at a later date.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wretched Refuse

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
-Emma Lazarus, from "The New Colossus", as read on the platform of the 150 foot tall lawn jockey the French gave us on July 4, 1884.

"America is simply no longer able to admit over a million immigrants a year. In addition, the best way to ensure that the immigrants we admit are able to live the American dream is to admit only as many as our economy, infrastructure and school systems can handle."-Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) on his campaign website.

The debate over immigration reform has swept the nation (at least until the next round of voting on American Idol) and I feel I simply must try to educate the ignorant masses about the issues in question. Of course I know that those of you who read this are not ignorant, but when you encounter ignorant people I hope that the following will help you:

We have always known that "America is a nation of immigrants" and that "immigrants built America", but there is a tendency out there to somehow distinguish those immigrants from the people who now mow our grass, cook our food, and care for our children. The main distinction drawn is that "my grampa came here legally", which in turn leads to the inevitable "I have nothing against people who come here legally, it's illegals that need to go". Clearly, legality is an issue for many, so let us begin by examining the law.

"Grampa came here legally." For the first 160 years, immigrants to America were subject to residency and ethnicity controls in order to become citizens, there were few restrictions on reaching America. We began requiring visas for access in the 20's and implemented our modern national quotas during the Cold War (that wonderful era in which we changed the Pledge of Allegiance and supported right-wing terrorists and dictators all over the world).

The first Federal immigration law was enacted in 1790, it set residency at two years. In 1798 the President was allowed to arrest and deport aliens he deemed dangerous. In 1864 we appointed a Commissioner of Immigration and allowed immigrants to use their wages in America to pay for their trip over. The ten other immigration laws between 1790 and 1864 dealt with technicalities. In 1870 we extended immigration laws to people of African descent, and in 1877 we prohibited the entry of criminals, prostitutes, and the Chinese. In 1882 we added some people to the prohibited list and started charging 50 cents. In 1887 we restricted real estate ownership to citizens and persons who declared their intention to become citizens.

In 1891 we started getting more restrictive, allowing deportation of people who came unlawfully, and started inspecting land borders. In 1893 we set up boards to determine admissibility. 1903: we start banning anarchists and the like, still no Chinese allowed. In 1907 the law starts getting lengthier, we distinguish between immigrant and nonimmigrant aliens, and let the President restrict entry detrimental to labor conditions in order to keep the Japanese out. The national origin quotas were tweaked until 1924, when for the first time, we required a consular visa for entry. That same year, we started the Border Patrol.

In 1928 we figure out just how complicated our quotas are and decide we can't use them until 1929. In 1932 we start setting expiration dates on nonimmigrant visas. In 1940 INS is moved from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice. Consular officers were directed not to give a visa to "any alien seeking to enter the United States for the purpose of engaging in activities which would endanger the safety of the United States" in 1941. Finally, in 1952, Congress enacts the McCarran-Walter Act, President Truman vetoes, calling the bill un-patriotic and discriminatory, but the veto is overridden. The first Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 abolished racial exclusions but maintained them through a national quota scheme that gave 70% of available slots to the UK, Germany and Ireland. Though it was gutted in 1965, the McCarren-Walter INA is considered the first instance of modern American immigration law.

"I don't mind legal immigrants, but..." Whenever a pro athlete, doctor, scientist, or businessman is needed here, the immigration process goes fairly swiftly because companies with a lot of money hire lawyers who do this for a living (si papit, lo incluyo a usted!). Poor people who enter legally or who were here eligible for Reagan's amnesty (no, the world did not stop spinning in 1986) have to go to clinics where sleepy volunteers with no training in immigration law try to walk them through the paperwork (lawyers, law students, etc. join me April 22!).

There is an unexplainable position held by many Americans that it is easy to immigrate to the U.S. if you want to become a U.S. citizen. Suppose you are from a Diversity Visa country (less than 50,000 people came from there in the last 5 years), then you are eligible for a lottery for one of 50,000 visas made available each year. To participate in the 2007 lottery, your application has to be in between October 5 and December 4... of 2005. Drat, missed it. Ok, let's assume you did that, you have to have a high school education or two years at a job that requires two years of training or education. The application must be submitted electronically and there is just over a page of instructions about the size and format of the digital photo you have to include. (I guess if you have a job that requires two years of education you might have access to the Internet and a digital camera, but then you're probably not too poor or huddled). Not surprisingly, last year nearly 7,000 of these things went unissued (and they do not roll over).

So assuming you don't meet these criteria, how do you become a legal U.S. citizen? As far as I can tell, there is no provision under the law by which a regular person without ties to the U.S. can ever possibly qualify for an immigrant visa. Of course, this is not legal advise, I am not an immigration attorney, but I am an attorney. If I were trying to move to America, I'd have to hire a lawyer. I don't know how many foreign lawyers understand American immigration law, but I assume it's not many, and they charge a lot. I also assume that assistance from embassy staff available to help with this sort of thing is a lot like at the DMV. I also can find no path to permanent legal residency, let alone citizenship, for any person entering the country with a nonimmigrant visa. If you do not have somebody here waiting for you, be it business or family, I cannot find a way to immigrate the U.S.

Beyond legality. The rest of the arguments against illegal immigrants tend to focus on socio economic factors. Numbers are tossed around on both sides of this debate, but a few things are clear from government figures, such as the fact that they contribute to Social Security. The SSA's "Earnings Suspense File" holds funds that employers pay for employees whose SSN is invalid (doesn't match the person, is false, etc.). From 1937 to 2000, the ESF contained $374 billion. It is notable from that report that (page 5) suspended income began climbing around 1965 (McCarran-Waters Act), dipped after Reagan's amnesty in 1986 (chart starts at 1937, so the years are to the right of the numbers), and that 98% of it (page 6) comes from service, agriculture, restaurant, and unknown industries (which I don't need to spell out for you).

Estimated sales and other tax revenues vary wildly, but if the argument is that health care, school and welfare costs are driven up by disbursements for illegal aliens, then we need to realize that in the face of the sheer size of the problem the solution is inclusion, not exclusion. The increased cost of surveillance, detention and prosecution to get people out would be better spent on registration efforts and education programs. If we revert to a citizenship-focused immigration policy instead of an entry-control policy, we could register and increase tax revenue from people who (like it or not) are an essential part of our economy. We should have learned from Prohibition that some things are beyond our control, and better regulated in the open than criminalized at great expense.

Over time, as labor standards improve, demand for illegal workers should decline. It seems likely to me that removing the financial incentive to remain here would eventually stem the tide of incoming aliens. If I learned anything helping with citizenship applications last weekend, it is that Reagan's amnesty put a lot of decent and hard working people on the path to citizenship. People cannot be illegal, and children should not be separated from their parents. Denying schooling and health care to undocumented individuals is not only cruel, it is counter-productive.

Our options are two: we can continue excluding at the cost of income and a growing uneducated population, exposing our communities to infectious diseases, or we can accept what we (obviously) cannot stop, protect and educate our residents, and focus on improving the conditions that lead people to abandon their lives in search of hope.

The largest waves of European immigrants to America were fleeing abject poverty and religious persecution. We romanticize our ancestors' journey, scraping their life savings to brave a dangerous journey with the clothes on their back to a land of opportunity. They were met with resentment, they had to work many jobs for little pay, but in time their children could have a better life. Their sacrifice was great, but their drive was far greater. It is difficult for me to believe that if the Irish Potato famine happened today, your grampa would hesitate to sell everything and buy a plane ticket, and he would not think twice about overstaying his visa in order to do whatever he needs to do to survive. The human spirit cannot be contained by laws, and this is why people can never be illegal.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ammo For Guns

When I've debated gun control in the past I've been a little off my game, so to speak, because I've never really looked too closely at the numbers. Gun fanatics care very much about the issue, so they spend a lot of time online learning the statistics that the NRA so eagerly provides them, so I took some time to dig up some numbers and have decided to share them with you, since many of you live in Missouri, dangerously close to the owners of trucks with NRA stickers.

I've decided to focus on some general arguments that are made. Often what opponents of gun laws will argue is more narrow, but falls within one of these categories: crime vs. gun laws, "the little old lady", deterrence, militias, and constitutionality.

Crime vs. Gun Laws: cities with tighter gun control like New York, Chicago, and D.C. have higher crime rates than places like Wyoming and Iowa, where people can have guns.

The obvious flaw with this sort of statement is that it overlooks factors such as drugs, education, poverty, racial and socioeconomic inequality, imprisonment, unemployment, and gang activity as possible factors leading to higher crime rates in places like Harlem than in places like Dubuque, IA. Proponents of this argument should be easily dispatched with an explanation of the difference between correlation and causation. Perhaps suggest that tall buildings, and not gun control laws, are the cause of higher crime.

Another factor to consider is that guns are brought into gun-free jurisdictions from other states. In light of this, the gun ban is not the cause of crime, the irresponsible neighboring states are.

"The Little Old Lady": last year, a little old lady in (insert city) was able to protect her home and grandchildren because she had a gun.

The NRA encourages members to share their vigilante exploits on the web in a section it calls "the Armed Citizen". This is where you get the "gun-as-equalizer" tales of plain law abiding, god fearing men, women, and children who feel their lives are safer because of guns. The little old lady is a favorite of this pseudo-mythical example because she is perceived to be weak and sympathetic. The numbers relating to defensive gun used are discussed next, but first I would point out that an armed old lady is not in any position of advantage against an armed criminal, or an unarmed one who is freed from rational risk assessment due to intoxication.

Deterrence: criminals are not as likely to target citizens who may be armed.

The NRA points to a 1984 study in which inmates answered questions about their likelihood of targeting armed victims. Surprisingly, 81% agreed that "A smart criminal tries to find out if his potential victim is armed" and 74% agreed that "One reason burglars avoid houses when people are home is that they fear being shot." How shocking that criminals would consider self-preservation in conducting their trade. What these questions don't tell us is what criminals do when they can't determine whether a target is armed, or whether an empty home becomes a more likely target for burglary if it is known to contain a gun. I suspect the answers are "move on to a different target" and "yes", in which case, gun ownership doesn't deter crime, just delays it and better arms it.

This latter point is especially relevant, at least to my position on gun control. The question to ask oneself is, would I get rid of all legal firearms if it would keep them out of the hands of criminals? For me the answer is yes.

While numbers vary, an unacceptable amount of guns come into the hands of criminals through theft. A recent study by Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research estimated that 500,000 guns are stolen from private individuals each year (not including about 30,000 more stolen from dealers and common carriers). The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics has not released information on guns since 1995 (as far as I can tell). At that time, it reported the following from the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC): between 1968 and 1995, 2 million guns were reported stolen, at an average rate of 274,000 a year. If that rate held steady through 2006 (the graph shows a rising figure), then 3.014 million more guns have been stolen since then. The 226,000 gun difference between the FBI and Hopkins figures is probably due to the first being reported thefts and the second an estimate of total thefts, as well as the fact that Hopkins data is likely more recent, reflecting the rising trend. The report notes that the National Crime Victims Survey estimates 341,000 thefts from private citizens between 1987 and 1994, noting that the number is likely much higher since the survey does not ask how many guns were stolen in each theft.

I don't see the need to look at ratios of victimization to support, or legal to stolen weapons used in crimes, because they favor a near-sighted justification of a position that will become untenable once the next unrelated statistical shift takes place. I prefer a supply-side approach whereby a combination of laws aimed at the eradication of guns, will eliminate them from our streets for good. We do recover stolen guns, not as quickly as we'd like, but eventually, guns will run out. One problem today is that theft reporting is not required, this should be addressed as follows: failure to report the theft of a gun gives rise to civil and/or criminal liability for crimes committed with that gun. I see no problem with requiring that if you own a gun, you keep an eye on it. The next step is to deny a permit to anybody who's had a gun stolen for a period of certain years. If you can't keep the gun locked up, you don't get to have one (but thanks for letting us know you lost it). As the number of "legal" guns begins to decline, it becomes easier to institute tougher laws against armed criminals, as well as tougher restrictions on gun ownership. Eventually, the unavailability of guns legally will spill over into the criminal sector, making it financially impossible for most armed thugs to remain so. Next thing you know, the only people with guns are police, really, really, really bad guys who don't live anywhere near me, and lunatics in the hills of Kentucky.

Militias: armed citizens are the only protection against dictatorship.

People who truly believe this are too far gone. They've seen Red Dawn too many times and they will not respond to reason or appeals to peaceful change. Consider reporting them to the BATF. When societies find themselves under siege by their government, especially in this age of interconnectedness, the best way to restore democracy is not through armed insurgence (which only elicits more and harsher reprisals), it is through peaceful resistance. Yes, people die, and the process is slow, but one look at 1790's France or 20th century Africa will show you what kind of government you get from armed "grassroots" revolutionaries.

Constitutionality: a well regulated militia being necessary for the protection of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

I will leave this question to another day, it is far too thorny and I want to read a little more before presenting my final stance. Suffice it to say for now, that nothing proposed above should run afoul of any constitutional test. Since the USSC has not addressed the Second Amendment under 14th Amendment grounds, the states are still free to regulate guns at will.

A Final Note: it seems appropriate to point out as a parting note, that the prison population is economically very different from the population of "responsible gun owners". This is another reason I glossed over numbers on the role of guns in crime, the habits and tendencies of a street thug in Chicago's South Side do not justify, in my mind, any safety concern of a gun owner in North Suburban Cook County. The same is not true for theft data, because all too often the stolen gun goes through many hands on the way to the criminal. I have to imagine that the children of suburban gun owners (trying to get drug money) are often among the first of those hands.