Category Archives: Immigration

Monday’s Mtg (3/19/18): Will Americans really allow mass deportations?

We last considered the politics of our immigration debate in 2015. At that time, comprehensive immigration reform still seemed possible, even though the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party had blown up such legislation twice in the last 10 years.

Obama was still president, too. So, the meeting focused on the main bipartisan bargain that had long been in play. Both sides wanted to reform America’s cumbersome legal immigration system and partially reorient it towards admitting higher-skilled labor. For undocumented/illegal immigrants, long story short, Democrats and Republican elites wanted to trade regulation in the UI labor market (green cards for almost UIs currently here coupled with a path to citizenship for some of them) for increased border security and better employer sanctions.

Ahem. Fourteen months into the most anti-immigrant presidency in a hundred years everything has changed. President Trump has attempted to ban immigration from certain Muslim countries and build a border wall. He has unleashed ICE on all undocumented immigrants indiscriminately. He threatens and denounces sanctuary cities and vows to hold DREAMERS hostage to a reduction in legal immigration. He demonizes immigrants as criminals and animals. (Excuse me, some immigrants). Some of these actions have been stopped or stalled by the courts, but others are being implemented and more is surely to come.

It seems like a good time to revisit what the public has a stomach for.

On Monday I will open our meeting with a quick overview of (1) Trump’s actions and proposed actions, (2) how the GOP’s immigration stance is changing under Trump’s control, and (3) whose public opinion could end up mattering the most here (e.g., GOP base vs. its big business wing vs. Democratic voters and independents, etc..) We can then discuss where the country might be heading and why, using the following discussion questions and/or your own.

The background articles go into more detail on all of these matters. Focus on the recommended ones.


  1. What are the main pillars of the Trump Administration’s immigration policy: Laws, executive actions, threats, rhetoric? Where does any litigation stand?
  2. Where is all of this coming from? Trump and his inner circle? The GOP base? Is the entire GOP and its media machine on-board?
  3. Democrat: Are they united against all of this?   All of it equally?
  4. Public opinion on legal and illegal immigration. Conserv/GOP vs. liberal/Dem differences? Preference vs. intensity of preference. à Whose opinion matters the most: In between elections vs. during campaigns.
  5. Will the Democrats be able to either stop some of this agenda or win in 2018 and reverse it?


Trump policies –

Public opinion –

The GOP’s big shift –

Another POV –

  • Too much immigration might be a bad thing.
  • Democrats have moved too far left on immigration.

NEXT WEEK: Do we need another Eisenhower?


Monday’s Mtg: Can California Stop Trump?

Has the worm really turned on federalism? Can blue states successfully resist the ultra-conservative agenda emanating for Republican-controlled Washington?   A lot depends on California. In the words of one observer (see link below):

“California is the Trump administration’s most formidable adversary, not only on matters of immigration, but on damn near everything. No other entity—not the Democratic Party, not the tech industry, surely not the civil liberties lobby—has the will, the resources, and the power California brings to the fight. Others have the will, certainly, but not California’s clout.”

Yes, the GOP and Trump have been slow and incompetent at enacting their program. But it is still coming, and some of it will hit California hard (and is aimed specifically at us), including on climate and energy policy, immigration, health care, and even housing and transportation. A lot has already happened. Governor Jerry Brown, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and others have been talking tough – and passing laws and filing lawsuits – on almost every conceivable front. This week’s links give some of the details.

How successful CA’s “resistance” to Trump/GOP will be in the long run will depend on all of the usual factors in federalism disputes: Law, legal strategies, and judges; public opinion; congressional priorities; media coverage and sympathies, and so forth. It also will depend on wild card factors of a kind that has become an exhausting staple of the Trump era: Things like the President’s volatile personality, congressional GOP foibles and schisms, and God knows what else.

On Monday, I will go over a few of the main policy battleground areas and talk a little bit about the shape of the legal and political terrain ahead. I’m not up to date on all the details in the news, but maybe some of you who focus more on state politics are.


  1. What are the main Trump/GOP policies that will be aimed at CA and its interests? Which ones require new law v. merely regulatory changes?
  2. Which ones are top priorities for the GOP and/or Trump? What’s coming next?
  3. Pols: What has California done so far to oppose specific GOP/Trump actions? Other states? How is GOP trying to crush it?
  4. Points: Who’s winning so far? Who decides and (how) will the fight end?
  5. People: Do Californians support all of these actions? The broader U.S. public? Does public opinion really matter?
  6. Principles: Is federalism just a tool for hypocrites? What actual and enduring principles are at stake here and is anybody being consistent?


NEXT WEEK: Is there a “New American Nationalism?”

Monday’s Mtg: Sanctuary Cities – Legal, Moral, Sensible?

President Trump seems to have backed down on many of his most controversial promises on immigration. There will be no big “beautiful” border wall. No brand new paramilitary deportation force prowling the country. No flat out ban on Muslim immigration (h/t The Judiciary). The same is proving to be the case on his pledge to defund and thus eliminate “sanctuary cities.”

What are those? As the links below explain, there is no formal legal definition of what a sanctuary city is. But basically, a large number (400+!) of cities and towns across the USA have pledged not to turn over certain undocumented immigrants (UIs) that the local governments come into contact with, or even to notify the Feds that they are in custody. These places are not literally sanctuaries in the medieval-Quasimodo sense. Local authorities cannot physically interfere to stop federal agents from seizing a UI in local custody if they learn about it and want to do so.  But, sanctuary cities do refuse to (1) spend resources arresting and holding ever person they encounter they suspect might be here illegally, and (2) inform ICE/DHS and hold the person until they Feds come to take them away.  Sanctuary cities say they need to spend scarce law enforcement resources on serious crimes, not enforcing federal immigration law.

But, I don’t think this is over. The idea of sanctuary cities really, really infuriates many conservatives. They think it’s unconstitutional. Plus, the idea of big blue cities defying law and order to protect people who are here without permission (and are disproportionally  violent criminals, our President said) hits all the conservative outrage sweet spots. Since I’m seeing progressives going all-in to support the undocumented and defy the GOP’s push to reduce illegal immigration, I think this now almost totally partisan issue will be with us for a long time.


  1. What are sanctuary cities? Different meanings of, history of.
  2. Moral and policy pros and cons.
  3. Constitutional and legal pros and cons
  4. Trump’s actions and their legality.
  5. Bigger picture on immigration.


NEXT WEEK: July 3 fireworks – What does the United States stand for?

Monday’s Mtg: Is This the “Asian Century?”

People all over the world have long anticipated that the 21st century will be “Asia’s century.” According to this point of view, long-term demographic and economic trends already have begun to shift the dynamic center of the global economy from the West to the East. China will keep rising and become Asia’s main hegemon, perhaps challenged by India and other emerging Asian powers. The West will slowly (or maybe rapidly) decline, at least in relative terms, and a new global order will emerge that is anchored in the East, not in Europe or in North America.

CivCon member Aaron (The Younger) asks an important question: Is it all true, or is it just the latest wave of Western declinism? China’s government and people sure believe it, spurred along by the global but U.S.-based 2008-09 financial crisis, from which China was basically immune. President Obama believes it, or at least he has attempted to “re-pivot” American foreign policy towards East Asia and away from our endless preoccupation with the Middle East and a declining Russia.

I have a few questions of my own, as shown below. Here are some of them, and some links on the basic idea of an Asian-centered 21st Century, obstacles to it, and different ways the United States might respond.

With Donald Trump still forming his administration – and his recent bizarre, disturbing phone calls to world leaders, some in direct contravention of longstanding U.S. policy – it’s hard to guess what U.S. policy might be the next four years. Still, global politics tends to follow its own internal logic, plus (the main point of this topic, IMO) is that many things lie beyond U.S. control. So, all of these questions will stay relevant pretty much no matter how badly our foreign relations are screwed up in the near future.


  1. Which major trends presage an emerging Asian century?
  2. What evidence of a shift to the East have we seen so far: Economic/financial activity? Political and diplomatic? “Hard power” military and alliance shifts?
  3. What could Asian powers do to screw it up for themselves?
  4. Specific Countries:
    1. New/old leaders: China? India/South Asia? Japan? SE Asia?
    2. Bad actors: Russia? North Korea?  Iran?
  5. How would a huge shift to Asia harm the USA? Could it benefit us?
  6. How should we and the West react: Bilaterally? Alliances? Militarily? Reforming global institutions?


Have we jumped the gun?

China and India –

Trump and Asia –

Asian-Americans and our future –

Next Week (Nov 28):  What future does the news media have?

Monday’s Mtg: Whatever Happened to the Boat People?

Today’s “boat people” fleeing the Middle East for Europe are just the latest in a long line of water-borne refugees fleeing wars and chaos. Carl, who has some personal experience in this, wanted us to talk about what most people old enough to remember it think of as the Boat People: The 1.2 million Southeast Asians that fled the aftermath of the wars in Indochina in the 1970s-80s. Most of them that resettled in the United States were Vietnamese, many of Chinese or Hmong descent. But, there were also tens of thousands of Cambodians, Laotians, and others.

I won’t be at Monday’s meeting. Too bad because I remember these events pretty vividly. I remember we faced the same hard questions and anguished choices the Europeans are facing today over their refugee problem. What is our moral responsibility to these people? Which countries should let in how many? Who should screen them and using what criteria? How can we help the host countries near the war zone that are overwhelmed with asylum seekers? Should some refugees be sent back to their home countries against their will (some Vietnamese boat people were)?

And, I recall the fierce political opposition the Boat People inspired, not just here but in other countries – including, BTW, Germany and Great Britain. In 1975 when Saigon fell, everybody was generous. As migrants kept on coming in large numbers year after year, not so much. Yes, a lot of that opposition was racist. But 1975-85 were tough economic times, too. A lot of Americans did not want to compete for jobs and government resources with an unexpected new wave of immigrants from countries that we had already sacrificed 57,000+ of our young men to defend.

As Carl will explain in my absence, many of the Boat People of the 1970s-80s had a kind of happy ending. The international community eventually resettled over 2 million of them, mostly in developed countries, with the United States taking the most. They joined a long historical list of boat people (see links), from Cubans (1980s) to Haitians (1980s) to European Jews (1940s).

You would think we’d have this down by now.

Anyway, on Monday evening Carl will give his take on whatever happened to the Indochinese Boat People and what lessons we perhaps should have learned.


Next Week:  What does today’s science fiction say about our culture?
Borg on the fourth of July!  

Monday’s Mtg: Why Have U.S. Race Relations Deterioriated Lately?

The mind just reels. Donald Trump will be the 2016 GOP presidential nominee. . One analyst I read said this is the saddest moment in American politics since Nixon’s resignation. I think it’s surely the most shocking political development since JFK was killed. May you live in interesting times, I guess.

But it’s great timing for us! Certainly, it is too simplistic to chalk Trumpism up to GOP voter racism and nothing else, even though progressives will do it anyway. Yet, as calls proliferate to hold accountable the people, institutions, and processes that led us here, the role played by escalating White conservative racial identity and anxiety must feature prominently, IMO. And they must have been caused by something, too. Are deteriorating race relations the answer we’re looking for? If so, how did it happen and why?

I used the old term “race relations” because it conveys more than just the political expression of racial tensions. Race relations refers to the whole spectrum of ways that people of different races in a society resolve (or not) the tensions and conflicting interests that arise between them. Yes, the term often was used euphemistically, to avoid talking about plain old racism and to shovel responsibility for bad relations onto both “sides.” Still, I think it’s a useful bucket term for us in trying to figure out what fissures and fault lines brought us to this extraordinary moment.

Anyway, on Monday I imagine people will be anxious to talk about Trump. Love to oblige (see all the links). But, I also hope we can focus a bit on the broader topic of why racial tensions seem to be so high right now. Is it just a confluence of events, like police shootings and the Trump rhetoric, or is it a confluence of trends, too, like demographic changes and hard economic times?

To take it easy on everybody, I’ll limit my introduction on Monday to a brief description of the (1) possible reasons why U.S. race relations seem to have worsened lately, and (2) some major theories (some subtle, some not) of the role that racial anxiety has played in putting Donald Trump one-person away from the nuclear launch codes.


  1. What do we mean by “race relations?” What fields are race relations played out on: Political, cultural, economic, etc.?  Are any of them level; i.e., can we separate “race relations” from differences in “objective lived racial realities?”
  2. Perceptions:  Regardless of reality, how do Americans view race relations?  Agreements/Differences?
  3. Events: What big events may be straining race relations, like police killings and the Great Recession?
  4. Trends: Same for demographic/immigration and economic and cultural developments.
  5. Culprits: Who has been particularly unhelpful, besides Donald Trump?
  6. Now what?


Next Week: Are there any universal religious principles?


Monday’s Mtg, Part IV: Conservative Views on the Trump/Carson Phenomena

Finally, here are some more conservative commentators on the Trump phenomenon. (Our first and last ever Breitbart link!)

The first link is NOT conservative POV.  But think it’s key to our understanding of Trump and Carson and Cruz, et. al..


  1. Which GOP voters say they support Trump? Why do they say they like him? What are the core reason for supporting other novice and/or radical candidates, like Carson and Cruz?
  2. What does this tell us about factionalism within the GOP? About economic conditions and cultural conflicts in America as a whole?
  3. What does it say about the role of GOP elites in shaping voter opinion and controlling the Party – versus other, more extreme actors like Fox, talk radio, etc.?
  4. When Trump/Carson fade where will their supporters go? What would that tell us?
  5. Impact on GOP long-term? On US politics and the doable political agenda?

LINKS – Some Conservative Views of Trumpism

OTHER POSTS for this week’s mtg on Trumpism –

Part I: Is Trump’s popularity real?

Part II: theories of Trumpism.

Post III: Trump, Carson, et. al., and the future of the GOP.

Monday’s (8/10/15) Mtg: The Politics of Immigration

Two years go one of my favorite political analysts predicted that immigration policy was going to be the big sleeper issue of the 2016 election. I thought this was overstated. But, I also believed the elite news media was missing the importance of immigration in our politics. In the last 20 years a substantial chunk of the electorate has developed a thick crust of anti-immigrant hostility, especially but not exclusively on the Right. It is a minority within the GOP, but a much-feared and influential one.   At the same time, the Media also was failing to understand that public opinion towards immigration was complex and divided by class and other  socioeconomic characteristics, too.

Well, thanks to Donald Trump, immigration is back on the front burner. Since I haven’t the slightest doubt that the Media will fail to do its job again, I’m glad this topic came up for Civilized Conversation now, before elite Media memes have hardened into stone. We can do better. We could hardly do worse.

I’m very short of time this week. But, I will try to do enough research to open our discussion by describing the basic topography of public opinion on (legal and illegal) immigration. Then, we can debate the incentives politicians in both parties face on this issue.  My hope is the understanding we gain will help us understand what happens the next year and a half.

Discussion Questions (detailed) –

  1. WHAT does the U.S. public really think about immigration issues and how important is this issue to them? How do opinions vary by
    1. Partisanship and ideology?
    2. Socioeconomic status, religiosity, geography, and other factors?
  2. WHY do people hold these opinions? Rational interest? Support for rule of law?  Economic scapegoating? Racism/xenophobia? How can we tell which motive rules?
  3. HOW has public opinion influenced political leaders’ strategic calculations?
    1. In general.
    2. On specific issues, like on comprehensive reform, border security, path to citizenship? How about on Obamacare and criminal justice reform?
  4. GOP/Conservatives:
    1. Do the most anti-immigrant base votes rule the roost? How much room for maneuver do GOP leaders have?
    2. What role has conservative talk radio/news media played?
    3. Will immigration politics determine the GOP presidential nominee? How anti-immigrant will the GOP congress be
    4. Trump: How many GOP voters really support his wall + deport all POV? Is he saying anything not said every day in conservative news media?  Will he harden the party’s stance on immigration or is this xenophobia’s last hurrah?
  5. DEMS/progressives:
    1. Obama: How supportive are they of Obama’s immigration policies? Who dissents?
    2. Clinton: What’s in Hillary’s new immigration plan?
    3. Motives: Is this all about winning Latino votes, or is it principled?
    4. Will Dem policies drive away White working class voters? Is it worth it?
  6. FUTURE: How might politics of immigration change in the next 2 yrs? In 10?


Next Week: Anti-Science Views of the Political Right and Left.

Monday’s Mtg: Political Refugees – Do We Let In Too Many, Or Not Enough?

In the last two years, a huge surge of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children (UAC or unaccompanied children – mainly teenagers) into the United States has occurred.  In most years, about 6,000-8,000 such minors are apprehended trying to cross our southern border.  Some come to reunite with a parent who’s already here, others are sent by desperate parents trying to get their kids away from poverty and/or violence, and still others are victims of human trafficking.  But, starting in 2012, something changed (opinions vary on what -see links) and the number of  UACs began to soar.  A lot.  In the eight months prior to July 2014, over 57,000 UACs and undocumented children with a parent turned themselves in to immigration authorities at the border.

This surge had two big effects.  First, it overwhelmed the government’s system for dealing with UACs.  As I’ll explain, the situation was exacerbated by a 2008 anti-human trafficking law that gave all such children a right to make an asylum claim before a judge before being deported.  Second, conservatives reacted with fury to the sudden influx and to the government’s ham-handed efforts to find room to house the kids by moving them to locations around the country.  Protestors blocked buses carrying the children (in Murrieta, for example), and conservative media went ballistic.  They blamed President Obama’s executive orders and “pro-amnesty” rhetoric for luring the kids here.  All this likely put the final nail in the coffin of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress; no major GOP candidate is running for election or reelection in 2014 on an immigration reform platform – except on a deport-them-all platform.  The UAC issue also has been used to pressure Obama not to issue any sweeping new executive order on immigration. The wave of unaccompanied minors crested in July and has fallen back to normal levels in recent months, but the sour taste among conservatives – and liberals – remains.

I thought we could discuss some of these issues have raised..  There’s a lot to talk about, from asylum laws to border enforcement.  On Monday, I’ll open us up by explaining the recent border crisis and trying to summarize U.S. refugee and asylum law.  Then, we’ll see where it goes.


  1. What caused the recent surge in unaccompanied undocumented minors?  Why was the government caught flat-footed?   How does a 2008 anti-human trafficking law affect the situation?
  2. What is political asylum and a political refugee?  What are U.S. obligations under international law regarding them?  How many do we let in, what is the process for doing so, and what burden of proof of persecution must asylum seekers meet?
  3. Should we change our laws to admit more – or fewer – refugees?
  4. Has the UAC crisis revealed problems in U.S. immigration law and/or policies?
  5. Could anything revive the prospects for immigration  reform?


Next Week:  Sex education – What works and what’s right?

Monday’s Mtg: Are Race-/Ethnic Politics Making a Comeback?

I try to make sure we discuss race in our politics at least once a year.  I mean, a group devoted to American politics that ignores race might as well just give up show business altogether.

Luckily, we have a special treat on Monday.  Neil Visalvanich, a friend of mine who is writing his dissertation at UCSD on the role race plays in voter behavior, will be here to help us.  Neil, an experienced teacher and lecturer, will run the meeting by giving a brief opening presentation and then moderating.  I told him on the phone that Civilized Conversation was interested in hearing how experts try to separate out the role that race plays from the zillion other factors that influence our politics.  And, we also wanted to get a better sense of whether race-based politics is making a comeback in America, as it sometimes seems to be doing (not just via the rise of the Tea Party, but also the hardening of partisan attitudes towards the Democrats among other ethnic groups).

Discussion Questions –

Be thinking about questions for Neil.  Mine will include:

  1. How do experts measure people’s racial attitudes?  Do they all agree on how it should be done?  How does “racism” differ from “racial resentment” from “racial identity,” etc.?
  2. How do racial attitudes influence political beliefs?  How do they know?  Is it different for different people?
  3. So, are racially- and ethnically-based politics making a comeback in America?  How do we know this?  Is it just among conservatives?  Really?
  4. If so, why?  Are the reasons temporary (e.g., first Black president, giant recession) or structural (demographic/economy changes)?
  5. [Ay others Neil tells me to add or subtract]

Links –

Neil may provide me more before the meeting, but here are a few to get you started.


NEXT WEEK:    NSA Surveillance State: Who’s Watching the Watchers?