We really need an anti-immigration left

Donald Trump’s botched travel ban rollout is exactly the sort of right-authoritarian assault on due process and human rights that Americans should have expected as the constituents of a polity that has proven itself too hamfisted and disingenuous to reform its unwieldy, lawless immigration regime in a lawful and humane manner. The US government could have published specific restrictions on specific types of immigration in advance, giving those affected proper notice of their inadmissibility. A well-disciplined CBP could have enforced these restrictions by humanely turning away aliens ruled inadmissible under them at ports of entry. Instead, a criminally ill-disciplined and lawless CBP detained a bunch of travelers who had been blindsided by the implementation of a blanket travel ban without notice while they were in transit, denying many of them food, water, communication with emergency contacts, and access to legal counsel. CBP officers obstructed onsite inquiries by members of Congress into the status of detained travelers at at least two airports, Dulles and Hartsfield-Jackson, and inquiries from pro bono lawyers who had rallied in front of arrivals halls at multiple airports. CBP has apparently defied several parallel orders from US District Courts, including one from “rocket docket” Judge Leonie Brinkema in the Eastern District of Virginia. Worse, there are reports that customs officers at Dulles abducted travelers in their custody to offsite detention facilities in the midst of active habeas corpus petitions that had been filed on these detainees’ behalf.

The question of whether the worst elements of CBP are allowed to reenact the Stanford prison experiment under color of authority is separate from questions of whether CBP’s better officers are allowed to fairly and consistently enforce immigration laws at US ports of entry. The latter, in turn, are separate from questions of what levels and types of immigration should be permitted. Grave official misconduct, including frank human rights violations, was a huge problem at CBP before the travel ban clusterfuck over the weekend. The rogue behavior reported under the auspices of this ban or contemporaneous to its implementation has not been limited to citizens of the named countries, either. The culture of lawlessness at CBP is so entrenched, and its worst officers so deranged, that the only way to force compliance with court orders may well be SWAT raids on secured areas at ports of entry: that is, US Marshals, or possibly local or state law enforcement officers deputized by outraged local officials to enforce the Fourth Amendment (you know, federal law), storming into buildings guarded by gunslinging nutjobs with federal law enforcement commissions of their own. The prospect of the US Marshals being the sane elements in this scenario should be alarming, but it’s looking like a moot point: some recent reports claim that Marshals are systematically refusing to enforce federal court orders in these matters.

So, yes, civil war involving urban combat in government buildings used by the traveling public is now a very real possibility. This situation is chaotic and dynamic, so there’s no telling from hour to hour how it may play out. I’m quickly being won over to the position that Trump really is Nixon on steroids. I always suspected that he was mostly trash-talking everyone, but now, less than two weeks into his presidency, he’s surrounded by nutty advisors, publicly wallowing in Nixonian paranoia that increasingly looks heartfelt, not staged, directing unusually aggressive criminality on US soil by federal law enforcement agencies, and trying to subvert the judiciary. Motherfucker needs an impeachment. Nixon wasn’t given a chance to reform himself in office after he was caught ordering burglaries and the like, nor should he have been given one. What the president deserves in these cases is immaterial; the presidency is a solemn, dangerous office whose misuse can ruin countless citizens’ lives. What matters is what the American public deserves, and we deserve a hell of a lot better than we’re getting in Trump’s and his advisors’ bad moments. The republic is in peril when it’s in the hands of people so unhinged and disturbed. And for better and worse, Trump has burned so many bridges with so many politicians that he’s the likeliest candidate for impeachment since Nixon.

The protests and the lawyer mobilizations over the weekend are essentialto the survival of our constitutional order. The presence of partisan wackos and fools in the protests doesn’t make them any less critical to the rule of law. It’s unfortunate that they were so much more muted and limited in scope during Obama’s robotic-death-from-the-sky presidency, but at least they’re happening now. Given a choice between public dissent that includes dipshits who are embarrassments to the broad left and a customs agency that absolutely would give Charles Graner a commission, a pitch-black uniform, and a sidearm, I’d take the useful idiot liberals in a heartbeat.

What’s the hitch, then? Outrage unto civil disobedience about the predatory criminality of CBP and the Border Patrol does not necessitate outrage at the proposition that the United States should no longer welcome the whole wide world into its living room, no questions asked. The gist of Trump’s travel ban–not the crude, vicious mechanisms of its enforcement–is at least a tentative step towards a more thoughtful immigration policy sincerely devoted to the advancement of the national interest and the interests of many of the more vulnerable classes of US citizens. Trump arbitrarily singled out a medley of disfavored nations that are minor to middling sources of immigrants to the United States, and rogue elements in the CBP ad-libbed from there. The possibility of corruption pertaining to Trump’s business interests influencing his decision should certainly be investigated. None of this means that it’s in the US national interest to continue to serve as a come-one-come-all dumping ground for the world’s wretched refuse when we’re having trouble getting our own house into order. None of it means that there’s a compelling national interest, or even a compelling international humanitarian imperative, for the United States to keep allowing any society from any country to immigrate here at will and set up parallel kinship networks that its own atomized citizens lack the wherewithal and the social capital to replicate. None of it means that Mark Zuckerberg deserves more H-1B visas for his scab labor. None of it means that it’s a social good to encourage unassimilated ethnic enclaves to fester for generation upon generation on US soil, operating under their own arbitrary communal laws, beyond the reach of the sovereign authorities that govern native-stock communities. None of it means that the US government has any obligation to the Mexican government to absorb the demographic overflow caused by the feckless, self-serving policies of its suspiciously white elites.

America First is a rallying cry dear to certain racists, but it is not inherently racist. Yes, it’s inherently nativist and parochial, but pointing this out doesn’t explain why Mexican officials have dispensation to be nativist and parochial without offending America while the parochial nativism of US officials is such a grave offense to Mexico and all Mexicans. Why should it be our duty to worry endlessly about the welfare of Mexican swarthies, who overlap significantly with our elites’ gardeners and whom the hidalgos despise anyway, when so many of our own communities are dying? True, “we” destabilized the countries on Trump’s shit list, but really, our elites conspired with their elites, or alternately with the elites of third countries, to orchestrate their pillage and looting. Or, in Somalia’s case, “we” watched the locals wreck their own government in a civil war and encouraged “our” trawlers to stripmine their fishery in the absence of a functioning coast guard.

We get to stop fluffing our neighbors’ beds and start cleaning the piles of shit out of own own bed whenever we say so as an electorate. Trump’s particular way of saying so causes an unacceptable amount of collateral damage, both to individual foreigners of goodwill and to our own rule of law as a nation, but the grievances that he’s trying to remedy are genuine. This is why we need political leaders of goodwill who have the backbone to insist that the human damage of imperial wars stop being dumped wholesale into unsuspecting mill towns and that the Mexican peasantry stop being imported en masse to break meatpackers’ unions.


3 thoughts on “We really need an anti-immigration left

  1. I really enjoy your writing and you provide an amazingly funny perspective on things.


    This essay has really bugged me since I read it yesterday, though. Economic decline is not the result of immigrants but decisions by our owners.

    More seriously, though, how the heck can there be a kinder, gentler leftist anti-immigration movement? Even if controlled by a Jimmy Carter or a Bernie, ICE would still be The Man, an oppressive force. Expelling millions of people will be a human rights disaster, even if such a program somehow improved the American economy for the native working class (a proposition I find very questionable in itself).

    You may effectively dismiss “illegals” as somehow unworthy of human rights (and your admission that the United States has helped create the conditions that pushes immigration is window dressing), but the people expelled by Obama still had families, were still pushed out to countries they did not even know.

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence.

      This week’s ICE raids and dragnets are an object lesson in what I’d hope an anti-immigration left would prevent. That combination of official treachery and unconstitutional aggression was egregiously far over the line, and ICE should be brought to heel for it. ICE has been a criminally rogue agency for decades, and it appears to have gotten quite a bit worse (or at least more blatant) under Trump. Leadership matters in these situations, although I can’t tell who is actually commanding ICE from day to day, and many people who observe it professionally can’t tell for sure, either.

      That said, decades of selective nonenforcement of immigration and–this is the crucial part, consistently overlooked–labor laws did much to create an environment allowing ICE to justify its aggression. A foreign peasantry has been allowed to establish a parallel shadow society beyond the reach of American law, including those laws that protect citizens and lawful residents from mistreatment, and encouraged to use ethnic and kinship networks to underbid widening swathes of an atomized native working class. Much of this is being orchestrated at its higher levels by upper-middle and upper-class Americans who despise their own lower-class compatriots and feel no compunction about ruining them. In my own adulthood, I’ve fallen from the former into the upper margins of the latter. I’ve become convinced that there is systemic prejudice against US-born workers in many industries, clearly in willful violation of fair labor laws; I’ve experienced it myself from time to time and heard too many corroborating anecdotes to believe otherwise.

      One of the fundamental problems here is that it has become functionally an article of faith among the upper classes in the United States that adherence to labor laws, especially work authorization laws, is optional. This absolutely infuriates lower-class Americans who have difficulty finding work, and with good reason: they’re discriminating against us, making lawless excuses for themselves, and doing all they can to erase our voices–the voices of their fellow citizens–by way of nominally defending a foreign peasantry that, with rare exceptions, they do not want living in their midst as their equals. Robust jobs programs might neutralize the threat that immigrants pose to natives’ employment prospect, but these programs are almost always half-assed, woefully inadequate, and weighed down with spurious qualifications for hiring and retention, which are commonly waived for immigrants applying for work through ethnic backchannels.

      It’s painfully obvious to native applicants that the managerial class wants to make Americans jump through extra hoops and find pretexts to reject or fire them in favor of foreigners. The upper classes in this country are on course to reap the whirlwind for trying to silence their fellow Americans year after year and smear them as a bunch of bigots for objecting to this regime. They’re arrogant fools for blaming the victims and refusing to honestly look at the humiliation and rage that they’ve caused among those they’ve dispossessed. On its own, the election of Trump may have been just a warning shot; without the half-fixes of disability fraud and formal welfare payments, the United States would have fallen into civil war or insurrection years ago.

      We could have had systematic enforcement of work authorization laws, targeted most aggressively at large employers, with immediate legal consequences for business owners, hiring managers, and companies suspected of willful violations: e.g., immediate arrest of anyone suspected of suborning I-9 document fraud, falsely attesting to the credibility of I-9 documents on an employer’s behalf, or evading I-9 requirements, and immediate seizure of company property upon establishment of probable cause pending adjudication. I’m not advocating the presumption of guilt used in civil asset forfeiture cases under the war on drugs, but a much more stringent standards requiring the same probable cause as any other criminal prosecution. There has basically been no deterrence to the willful employment of unauthorized scab labor for 35 years. This has greatly emboldened management, along with millions of yuppies who need their gardeners and nannies and always appreciate an excuse not to give a shit about the legality or the ethics.

      We could have sent a message to the managerial class that they’ll get into a world of trouble for flouting labor laws. Instead we have an acute civil liberties crisis provoked by our own federal agents on our own soil.

      From what I can tell, Trump is mainly using the travel ban and these raids to wave the bloody shirt and keep his base riled up. The only serious proposal I’ve heard from the White House on labor law is a tentative one to restrict H-1B and L-1 visas. But no matter how reprehensible his behavior has been, the bourgeois liberal movement has given him cover by resisting all efforts to enforce work authorization laws for several decades.

      The USG has a grotesquely dysfunctional relationship with the Mexican government, and I’ve heard nothing suggesting that Trump wants to encourage the Mexican government to take greater responsibility for the welfare of its constituents. Part of this dysfunction is the assumption that the US will allow Mexico’s surplus poor to violate its immigration rules in perpetuity while granting Mexico normal sovereign control over immigration into its own territory. No US president that I’m aware of has made a real effort to get the Mexican authorities to stop kicking this can down the road. Trump’s objective seems to be nothing more nuanced than publicly and privately insulting Mexican presidents at every opportunity.

      US foreign policy towards Central America is even worse. We keep breaking shit to our south that we refuse to buy. It’s a scandal that keeps blowing back on our soil. California accidentally conceived and nurtured MS-13 in its prisons, exacerbating refugee crises when some of its most hardened ex-cons were deported to failing states. Oops. The reluctance of US authorities to help stabilize Central America and, worse, their eagerness to actively destabilize the region have caused messes in every country involved.

  2. Interesting response. Even to a Bougie Liberal. I live in California, which is somewhat culturally dominated by Mexican immigrants, and faces the direct impacts of strict enforcement of said labor laws-the California agricultural economy, built on Mexican serf labor, would collapse.

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