Friday, March 31, 2006

Senate Debate

A quick follow-up to my previous post on the results of the Pew Hispanic Center study, which showed very clearly that Americans do not see building a wall as an effective way of stemming illegal immigration, and tend to view immigration as less pressing than many other issues. These quotes are from yesterday’s senate debate (or, rather, the senate "statements" since there was no real debate).

From Senator Kyl (R-AZ): "So everybody pretends the law can be enforced when they know it can't. The Government doesn't do anything about it, the employers don't do anything about it. America sees that and Americans say: What happens to a country that isn't enforcing its laws and apparently doesn't have the will to do so?

The American people want serious action. I believe that illustrates how concerned they are that we have not been able to control the borders so far.

They favor a proposal to build a 2,000-mile security fence by a 51-to-37 percent margin. That is a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. "

From Senator Cornyn (R-TX), who actually has been pilloried by the right for his support of a guest worker program: “But I believe with all my heart that what has brought us to this day and this debate on the Senate floor is because Americans are terribly concerned that in a post-9/11 world, we simply do not have control of our borders.”

Perhaps it all comes back to the basics of precisely how surveys are worded. Yesterday, Senators spewed out all kinds of poll results to make their cases--whether they believe them with all their hearts is hard to tell.


Pew Hispanic Center Poll

Some interesting poll numbers from the Pew Hispanic Center:

Only 9% of Americans believe a wall is the best way to reduce illegal immigration
80% believe Latin American immigrants work very hard
80% believe Latin American immigrants have strong family values
37% believe they often go on welfare
65% believe they do not take jobs Americans want (24% say they do)

The public is very much split on what to do about illegal immigrants already here:

32% say they should be allowed to stay permanently
32% believe they should be granted temporary work status
27% say they should be required to return home
9% didn’t know
There was no option for “return home, then become eligible for temporary work,” which is currently part of the Senate debate.

61% of Americans come across people who do not speak English, but it does not bother them (it bothers 38%).

42% believe President Bush will do the right thing regarding immigration (Republican Party gets 45%, while Democratic Party gets 53%). Local leaders (56%) get even more confidence, even though they have no influence at all on immigration policy (which is federal).

It’s a fascinating report, and these only represent a small fraction of the polling data. I’ll finish with one more, that only 3% of Americans see immigration issues as “the most important problem facing your community.” It ranks tied for last out of 10 potential issues (crime/violence and unemployment rank first). In other words, we’re getting all whipped up over something that the public is not especially concerned about.

I hope to get some of the Senate debate from yesterday—it’s not up on the Senate website yet.


Thursday, March 30, 2006


Thanks to Matthew Shugart, a political scientist at UCSD, for introducing my blog on his own, Fruits and Votes. And he is forgiven for living in San Diego while not becoming a Padres fan.

It occurred to me that I have yet to master the etiquette of the blogosphere, so as I have added things to my own blog, such as the blogroll (just recently, in fact) I have just done so without comment or explaining why. I'll try to start making introductions now as I add more.


Olive Branch on Immigration?

Speaker of the House Hastert has extended what seems to be an olive branch, saying that the country does need a guest worker program:

“We're not going to discount anything right now. Our first priority is to protect the border. And we also know there is a need in some sections of the economy for a guest-worker program."

That is new, and is the precise opposite of what many House Republicans believe (I’ve seen numbers ranging from 50 to 70 of hard core opponents of the senate bill). So will Hastert be willing to twist the arms of moderate Republicans, join with many (if not most) Democrats, and thereby force the issue? I’ve been pessimistic, but this appears to be a real change. Meanwhile, even George Will is arguing in favor of a guest worker program.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

FARC Indictments

In my U.S.-Latin American Relations class, we had spent some time trying to figure out the reasons why the U.S. government indicted 50 members of the FARC, and the significance of the timing (in other words, why now?). Adam Isacson has a great analysis in Plan Colombia and Beyond, including surprise at how the U.S. alleges that the FARC's control of and profit from the cocaine trade has greatly increased.


Immigration and Demography

Andres Oppenheimer has a column arguing that to understand immigration, we should forget economists and political scientists, and listen to demographers instead. He’s half right—we should listen to political scientists and demographers together. Coincidentally, the paper I presented at LASA, and which will soon be sent out to a journal, was co-written with my dad, a demographer in the Dept of Geography at San Diego State University (though unfortunately my parents couldn't make it to Puerto Rico with me) . We argue, in a similar vein to Oppenheimer, that understanding the immigration issue requires an analysis combining political science and demography. We’ve been in the middle of what we call a “demographic fit” between the U.S. and Latin America, where we had a need for labor (i.e. we had an aging population), and Latin America had more young people than their economies could sustain. The thing is, this fit is soon ending, because fertility rates are dropping in Latin America, while in the U.S. we’ve been seeing an increase in the number of young people (i.e. 15-24) so our labor needs will more likely be filled from within in the future. We argue that the political debate (and even the timing of the debate) cannot be understood without the demographic angle.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Senate Immigration Bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved its version of immigration reform, which stands in stark contrast to the House version, especially in terms of whether the U.S. should have a guest worker program. I think another one of the many aspects that will spark debate is that the House bill includes construction of a wall, whereas the Senate has a “virtual wall” consisting of technology, like unmanned drones.

It only received 4 of 10 Republican votes in the Judiciary committee, and was immediately attacked by several Republican Senators (see the NYT). In addition, Majority Leader Frist hasn’t yet said whether he would allow the bill to come up for a vote, or whether he would introduce his own bill, which has no guest worker program (e.g. see the Washington Post).

Frist wants to be president, and I assume he figures such a move would resonate with the conservative Republican base, but it’s a risky move.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Immigration Rally in Charlotte

Here’s a small bit from the local section of today’s Charlotte Observer, regarding the immigration rally held here on Saturday:

Charlotte and Mecklenburg County officials today should receive a letter and a video link showing a lack of visible police presence at the start of Saturday's immigration rally, said William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC in Raleigh.

Gheen said several officers showed up only after he complained in person at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

CMPD spokesman Keith Bridges didn't return Observer calls for comment. Officers working Sunday said they didn't have information about the number of officers present Saturday. Observers said they saw several officers at the rally.

Between 5,000 and 7,000 people showed up at the rally, and police have said it was peaceful.

So what the group did was to film the rally, then complain that CMPD didn’t send enough cops. The guy actually went in person to the police department to demand more of a police presence. There are several things I’m trying to figure out here. First, since this rally (like all the others around the country) was peaceful, it seems that no more police were needed. Second, if they wanted illegal immigrants in the crowd arrested, then they would need federal authorities, not the CMPD, and it would mean intentionally creating a riot. Third, exactly what point are they trying to make?


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Immigration Rally

Here’s an informative article in the LA Times about the very impressive rally in Los Angeles, which drew at least 500,000 in protest of the House version of immigration reform. There have been other similar protests around the country, some with decent numbers (though nothing like a half million). I knew the rally was coming up, but I must admit I was surprised at big it was (and pleased at how peaceful it was).

I’m not sure how much it will affect politicians with very few Latinos in their districts, but it will add yet another layer of complexity to the issue for many who do not want to alienate Latino voters (or who just think enforcement alone won’t work). The NYT had previously done a profile of Sen. John Cornyn, a conservative Republican from Texas, who has a 100% rating from the American Conservative Union but is being called a “sellout” and “not a true conservative” because he supports a guest worker program.

I’ll continue following and commenting on the debate, which begins this week.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

El Salvador

The Washington Post discusses the Salvadoran contribution to the Iraq war—the last Latin American country to remain. Presidents from ARENA—El Salvador’s conservative party—have enjoyed close ties with the Bush administration. Even more relevant is the fact that El Salvador depends heavily upon remittances, and therefore needed the Bush administration to extend temporary legal status for 220,000 undocumented Salvadorans, and in general assure that Salvadoran immigration is not curtailed. The administration agreed to the extension just two weeks after President Saca announced that he would be sending another contingent of soldiers.

All the hoopla about the supposed leftward tilt in Latin America ignores Central America, where with some exceptions we often see governments that are closer ideologically to the U.S.


Top 100 Padres

Friar Faithful is starting a very nicely done list of the top 100 San Diego Padres, with a discussion of each player and access to stats. Anyone with even a bare knowledge of the Padres knows this is a countdown to Tony Gwynn, because there is no way #1 could be anyone else. The top 10 would be tough to sort out, though I would probably go for Trevor Hoffman as #2. I’ll be curious about where my second favorite Padre shows up, namely John Kruk. I was really disappointed when he went to the Phillies in 1989.


Friday, March 24, 2006

George Washington

I just finished listening to the unabridged version of Joseph Ellis’ His Excellency: George Washington. I like Ellis’ work on the revolutionary era, because it is well-written and accessible. His goal with Washington was to get past the popular image of the distant icon and figure out his motivations. Therefore there are times when he is making educated guesses, but it makes for interesting reading. Or in this case, listening—I often listen to books on CD when driving.



I had thought Cuba was allowed to participate in the WBC after agreeing that any proceeds would be donated to Katrina victims, and apparently so did Fidel and the entire Cuban team. But now Major League Baseball is denying that claim, saying the agreement was that Cuba would get no proceeds of any kind, and that no donations could be made in its name.

Interestingly, the Bush administration doesn’t want anyone from baseball making a donation: “U.S. officials say privately that the Bush administration would react angrily if MLB ends up making a donation from the tournament's proceeds to a Katrina charity.” So it’s not just Cuba. I suppose any such high profile donation would only serve to highlight further the poor response to the disaster.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Cuba and Hamas

Thanks to my brother for pointing out this Op-Ed piece in the NYT, comparing Hamas to Cuba in terms of international response. For well over 40 years, the U.S. has insisted that the best way to effect change in Cuba is to isolate it, a policy that has proved to be a failure. The question is whether isolation of Hamas would be any more effective. It is a difficult issue, given Hamas’ origins and past, because establishing some sort of relationship could seem like validation of its tactics.

But U.S. efforts at isolating Fidel Castro have tended to strengthen his position domestically, and to grant him martyr status. It also gives him something to blame when the economy turns sour. The same dynamic may end up being true for Hamas as well.

One thing the article does not note is the contradictory nature of U.S. policy, which asserts that isolation will change Cuba, but that engagement will change China, Vietnam, and other former enemies.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Latin American Armies

It’s curious that in the past few days I’ve read reports of different Latin American armies suffering from low morale. First it was in Colombia, where Uribe tends to wield a big stick, using presidential prerogative to fire generals when scandals pop up. Army leaders are particularly annoyed that he uses the press to blame them as he does so.

Now NTKLA references a story about the Brazilian army, as low pay and lack of equipment are leading people to leave in droves, and have led (directly or indirectly) to the suicide of two generals.

I wouldn’t ascribe too much importance to this yet, but it is never good for militaries to feel ignored and abused. At LASA, David Pion-Berlin and Harold Trinkunas presented an interesting paper on why civilians in Latin America show so little interest in defense issues. The phenomenon means that the armed forces may be building resentment against what they perceive as unqualified civilian authorities.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Another Chávez Speech

Hugo Chávez repeated once again his concern about a U.S. invasion, but has added a new twist. He asserted that Venezuelans, in conjunction with other unspecified revolutionaries, would come to the aid of any other Latin American country that was invaded, which refers largely to Cuba.

Meanwhile, he also continues his policy of selling oil to specific parts of countries that might be more sympathetic to him, such as FMLN-governed cities in El Salvador, but also Democratic districts in Massachusetts.


Monday, March 20, 2006

You know you're having a bad Monday when... get off the phone with US Air, only to be told that your suitcase has still not been found after almost two days. Then you get into the car, and less than 10 minutes later you’re parked in front of a cop for going 45 in a 35, with your son saying, "Wow, look at the police car lights."


Immigration Debate Heating Up

Charlotte’s own Sue Myrick and Patrick McHenry are at the forefront of a group of House Republicans who want to make clear that they reject the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill, which is now sitting in the Judiciary Committee.

The politics of the matter do not augur well for a real solution. Senate Majority Leader Frist has said he wants a quick vote, and threatened to bypass the Committee entirely if it didn’t speed up its debate. Frist is looking to 2008, and since he believes a guest worker program is unpopular with conservatives, he is opposing it (whether it is really unpopular with all conservative voters is, I think, debatable). On the House side, with more than 70 Republicans signing the letter, there will be a major showdown if the Senate manages to pass a bill that includes guest workers.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Puerto Rico

I am now back from the LASA conference in Puerto Rico, and have come home to a mountain of work. San Juan was beautiful, especially the old part of the city, but it was incredibly expensive. I had just been in Paris, and San Juan even seemed pricey by comparison.

LASA now says it won't have another conference in the U.S. until the policy toward Cuban scholars changes. Rumors abounded about where it would go next--maybe Canada, which would be great, because I've never been to either Montreal or Toronto.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Professors and the FBI

Here’s a disturbing story of a Latin American History professor at Ponoma College being questioned by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force about his connections to the Venezuelan community, since he has been a critic of U.S. policy. They said they wanted to “develop a profile of the Venezuelan community in the U.S.” The agents even talked to some of his students.

It seems there is no end to the ham handed tactics we’re using with regard to Venezuela. I hit on this topic all the time, but it bears repeating—nearly all our strategies for dealing with Hugo Chávez ultimately make him stronger, not weaker. He is able to portray himself as a victim of U.S. policy, which enhances his self-proclaimed role as the new Bolívar, standing firm against the U.S.

It also makes me wonder about all the post 9/11 intelligence reform, when what we have are FBI agents bumbling around college campuses.


Sunday, March 12, 2006


Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't remember all three of my alma maters being in the tournament at the same time - Cal, SDSU, and Carolina. Very cool.

Roll on you bears.


Poll Numbers

I got back from France last night, and am very behind in reading both news and blogs. But here are some poll numbers from BBB. Of particular note is that approval ratings of President Chávez has experienced a drop, though his support remains strong. I think an interesting question would be how closely his ratings are tied to oil prices.

In presidential campaigns, Lopez Obrador continues to lead the race among presidential candidates in Mexico, while in Peru former president Alan García has stayed pretty strong, despite how widely his presidency (1985-1990) was viewed as a failure. At various times I've read that Alberto Fujimori, now sitting in a Chilean prison, would still receive a solid percentage of votes, despite having fled to Japan in disgrace.


Friday, March 10, 2006

The ICC and Latin America

There's a good Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post about U.S. policy regarding the International Criminal Court and how it affects Latin America. We deny certain types of aid to countries that ratify the ICC but refuse to grant waivers for U.S. citizens (i.e. to ensure they cannot be tried by the ICC for some alleged crime). The article highlights the fact that we're punishing allies, thus further damaging our already poor relations with much of Latin America. But even more interesting is that the Defense Department is openly saying the policy is bad and should be changed.

Since the policy is intended largely to help the Pentagon--because U.S. soldiers are deemed most likely to be potentially arrested--then it is all the more absurd that anyone would support it after the Pentagon said quite clearly that the policy is counterproductive.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

France Trivia

Although in the U.S. we see the high profile protests in France against U.S. businesses, it was in France where the "hypermarket" (a la Wal-Mart) was created in 1963. The opposition to big business in the U.S. is actually the same type of conflict that's been going on in France for over 40 years.


Monday, March 06, 2006

LASA and Cuba Part II

I mentioned a few days ago that the U.S. government has denied Cubans visas to come to the LASA meetings, and only belatedly realized that a Cuban was supposed to be on my panel, so it even affects me directly. It's still not clear to me how a professor studying Cuban demography has become a national security threat.

I must admit the meetings in Puerto Rico seem very distant, since it is a crisp, clear, beautiful, and cold morning here in Bourron Marlotte, a French village about an hour outside Paris.


Saturday, March 04, 2006


Tonight we're off to France for spring break to visit my brother and his family. Having a 4 year old and an 18 month old on an overnight flight should be quite an adventure.


Student Life

I just finished reading My Freshman Year, by Rebekah Nathan (a pseudonym) an anthropology professor who registered as a freshman to see what current student life is like. I’m not putting it on my list on the side of the blog, because I don’t think it revealed much that isn’t mostly obvious. Her main conclusion is that students have many competing issues they have to deal with (classes, jobs, relationships, clubs, family, etc.) and so they constantly have to juggle and prioritize. Wait, does this mean that my class is not the most important thing in my students’ lives? What a letdown.

One conclusion I did find interesting, however, is that universities strive to create a sense of community, but then encourage student participation in a massively wide variety of activities that spread students thin and therefore end up decreasing that sense of community.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Women and Latin American Politics

I’ve noted before that the much-vaunted “tilt to the left” in Latin America is vastly oversimplified, and an article in the Miami Herald details what I see as a more interesting story, namely the political rise of women. The article also mentions the quotas in some legislatures, which reserve seats for women (there was a good article about this in Journal of Politics not too long ago as well). This does not mean that women will suddenly be elected all over the region, but I wonder whether an updated version of the “domino theory” might apply, as people see that women are effective presidents and therefore become more willing to vote for a female candidate in their own country.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

LASA and Cuba

In two weeks I am off to Puerto Rico for the Latin American Studies Association conference (I am presenting a paper on immigration). Continuing the theme of politics based on spite, the NYT reports that, like the last meeting, the U.S. government is refusing to allow any Cubans to attend. There is just no legitimate reason for doing so. It's just another policy equivalent of the U.S. government sticking its collective tongue out at Fidel.


New Report on Coca Cultivation

The State Department released this year’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. It reveals an increase in the amount of coca cultivation, demonstrating yet again that U.S. drug policy is a failure. The foundation of this policy is that if cultivation decreases, then the price of cocaine will increase, which will in turn lead fewer people to buy it because it’s so expensive. Despite billions of dollars, massive aerial herbicide spraying, crop substitution efforts, manual crop destruction, and beefed up military patrols, the cultivation of coca continues. In the context of supply and demand, the U.S. focuses mostly on supply, while demand (i.e. Americans taking large amounts of cocaine) is barely addressed.

See here for a very good discussion of the report and its implications. My U.S.-Latin America students should recognize the author of the blog—Adam Isacson of the Center for International Policy is also the author of an assigned chapter in the book Drugs and Democracy in Latin America: The Impact of U.S. Policy. Or at least I hope you’ve read it, since the midterm is today…


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Governator

I couldn’t resist this. My mom is a local elected official in San Diego, and recently met the man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Illegal Immigration in the South

The State of Mississippi just released a report about the economic impact of illegal immigrants. Such reports are proliferating—last month the Kenan-Flagler Business School issued one on North Carolina. The problem with these studies, however, is that they are based almost entirely on guesswork, then claim to pinpoint the economic impact exactly.

The Mississippi report is so bad it’s embarrassing. These are the words of the State Auditor on the cover letter:

“The most significant finding of this report is Mississippi’s inability to accurately quantify the costs of illegal immigrants because most state agencies, schools and other government entities do not currently document the actual number of illegal immigrants or their use of services.

The report does fairly estimate the net financial impact of illegal immigrants in Mississippi to be more than $25 million a year.”

Huh? There is no way to quantify the impact, so we’re going to pull a number out of a hat and pretend it means something. I guarantee that the students in my senior seminar will all turn in a paper of higher quality than this.


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