The Long View 2006-05-16: President Bush, Immigration, and Puppy Killing

Gallup's Results

Gallup's Results

Pew Hispanic's Results

Pew Hispanic's Results

It shouldn't be any surprise that how you ask a question has a big influence on polling results. When it comes to polls asking about Americans political support for immigration, one of the biggest factors is what the respondent thinks the number of immigrants is per year.

And since most people aren't good with numbers, usually that number is wayyyy off. Let's look at the details of the Pew Hispanic report for evidence. I really like Pew Hispanic's work, so I think this is a reasonable source.

Most people are actually pretty good on how big the foreign-born population is. The average impression is slightly higher than reality.


Most people are also pretty good on the number of immigrants who neglected to follow the law in coming the United States. The plurality is again correct, with the average being a bit high. I didn't actually know that 1-in-4 immigrants were living here illegally. Admittedly, the number is somewhat contested.


For the Gallup data, it looks like they ask different questions each month throughout the year, so they don't prime respondents with numbers first. This looks consistent with the idea that American's views on immigration are conditional on what they think the number of people involved is.

President Bush, Immigration, and Puppy Killing

President Bush may have lost his party the upcoming congressional election last night with his speech on immigration reform. Perhaps this is my fault: I should not have implied last week that he should attempt some FDR-like addresses. Nonetheless, it seems to me that he has not only done himself irreparable political damage, but that he may have begun the breakup of the two existing parties. This is all the more remarkable for an address to which initial reaction was mild and mixed. But consider:

There were five points to the president's program, which I need not recite again here. The only one that interests him is the "guest worker" program, which is intended to keep the supply of cheap manual labor flowing. The point that will count, though, is the one that is supposed to be a placebo. The president's proposed temporary deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops to the southern border is nothing to the purpose; the number would be derisory even if they were doing actual patrolling, which they won't. Similarly ineffectual will be the increase in the civilian Border Patrol by that amount over the next two years. The increase may be fantasy in any case; proposed augmentations of the border patrol have a history of not happening..

The important thing is that the president's program is going to fail to control illegal immigration. The failure will be visible in a very brief period of time. It is one thing for a government to neglect to control its borders. It is another to try and fail.

The Republican Party will experience the effects of this failure first, because many party activists follow the matter closely: they know when they are being trifled with. However, the bipartisan consensus of the Congressional leadership concerning immigration is so repulsive that the Congressional delegations survive only because this consensus is not widely known. Look at this analysis of the current plan for legal immigration:

The Senate immigration reform bill would allow for up to 193 million new legal immigrants -- a number greater than 60 percent of the current U.S. population -- in the next 20 years, according to a study released yesterday..."The magnitude of changes that are entailed in this bill -- and are largely unknown -- rival the impact of the creation of Social Security or the creation of the Medicare program," said Robert Rector, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation who conducted the study...Mr. Rector estimated that it is more likely that about 103 million new immigrants actually would arrive in the next 20 years.

This policy is repulsive in the literal sense that it will drive away almost any block of voters. A bill with a title like the Puppy-Killing Enforcement Act would not be much more unpopular. By and by, people will point this out. The coalitions that formed around the high-immigration consensus will dissolve. Nothing short of the overturn of Roe v. Wade would have such potential for taking the components of the parties apart and putting them back together in novel configurations.

And if a new coalition had to repudiate puppy-killing, what should they put in its place?

(1) The recent era of high immigration has ended.

(2) The status of current illegals will be regularized when the borders are secure.

It really is that simple.

* * *

Fans of Doctor Who should not miss the free content on the BBC's official Doctor Who website. It has long seemed to me that the series would lend itself to animation, since that would relieve living actors of the distress of keeping a straight face. But look: feature-length animated adventures of Doctor who are now being webcast.

* * *

What is the synthesis of security and Doctor Who? It's the new service available on Shoreditch TV:

Reality television may have just become that much more real. A neighborhood program in East London allows residents to look through surveillance cameras from the comfort of their own sofas. Civil rights activists aren't impressed...The program, launched last Monday, provides viewers with live streaming video from a dozen cameras in the neighborhood for a rate of £3.50 (€5.10) per week.

I don't quite understand the institutional context here. Shoreditch TV is not a cable company, but a service of something called the Shoreditch Trust. Directors of the Trust are elected "from the community," but it's not a governmental body.

Why isn't this sort of thing organized systematically with webcams and for free? Schools and businesses might be glad to participate. Follow your friends as they go about their daily business and plan your movements to avoid your enemies. They will certainly be watching you.

So dress nice.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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