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6 months ago

The 5 platitudes and mindless slogans that should be banned from the immigration debate

(U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Flickr)


(Opinion) The world’s most deliberative body, as the U.S. Senate likes to call itself, held a weeklong debate on the contentious issue of immigration — and the public is no better informed for it.

That’s because pro-amnesty senators routinely did the same thing that other supporters of mass immigration do — spout empty platitudes and meaningless slogans as a substitute for actually engaging on the issue.

America desperately needs a real debate on this issue, one that illuminates and acknowledges the various tradeoffs that come with any policy. Immigration is not all good or all bad. There are pros and cons, winners and losers. The sooner we admit that, the sooner we can try to reach a consensus, instead of simply dismissing opponents as racist and xenophobic.

With that in mind, here are the five platitudes that should be banned from future immigration debates:

— “We are a nation of immigrants.”

This is, of course, factually accurate yet irrelevant. It suggests that because most Americans can trace their family trees to foreign lands, it means we have no right to limit new immigration or give preference to some newcomers over others.

That notion is absurd. All countries have the sovereign right to determine the most basic component of nationhood — its citizens.

The United States always has limited immigration in some way and has gone through periods of high immigration and low immigration. Currently, there are 24-year waiting lists for certain immigration categories. Still, America awards more than 1 million green cards every single year. What is the proper number? Whether you think it’s greater or fewer, there is a good bet you favor some restriction.

Each year, the United States admits about 50,000 foreigners chosen randomly from a lottery intended to diversify the immigrant pool. In 2015, 14.4 million applied. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to overall potential demand. A Gallup poll last year found that 147 million foreigners would move to America if they could. Unless you think the U.S. should take all of them, then you also believe in limits. Now, we’re just haggling over the numbers.

Nearly 44 million U.S residents, legal and illegal, were born abroad. That is the highest number ever. The foreign-born share of the population is 13.5 percent. The last time it was that high was in 1910 when it was 14.7 percent. In a few years, the foreign-born share of the population will be at an all-time high.

In other words, we are in unchartered territory.

After the great immigration wave in the late 19th and early 20th century, we put the brakes on immigration. Congress passed a law in 1924 dramatically reducing immigration. It is not a model we likely would want to follow. It was explicitly racist, barring immigration from certain countries. But as Harvard University economist George Borjas notes in his 2016 book, “We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative,” it did give the “melting pot” breathing space to absorb all those newcomers.

Even then, Borjas notes, it took about a century for the assimilation machine to work. The gap in the economic performance of different ethnicities among immigrants who came in the early 20th century narrowed but did not disappear in the second generation and persisted into the third.

And that was during a time when we more or less had a national consensus as to what we wanted assimilation to look like. We no longer have that – or even an agreement as to whether assimilation even is desirable.

— “Diversity is our strength.”

Another favorite aphorism of mass immigration advocates. They repeat it so frequently that many people start to nod their heads in agreement.

The reality is much much more complicated. There are obvious benefits. Drawing people from different backgrounds, if done right, adds new vitality and different skills. People from other cultures bring exotic food and culture that make life more interesting.

Diversity is far from an unmitigated good, however. Adding hundreds of thousands of people who speak different languages makes life harder in many ways. This is particularly true when it is not just one foreign language, but many.

According to the Census Bureau, more than 63 million people 5 and older speak a language other than English at home. Seven different languages are spoken at home by more than 1 million people. It makes it much harder for schools to educate children when students are speaking so many different languages.

But it is more than just linguistics. Having so many people from different cultures living together frays social cohesion. Research by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam — who wrote the landmark book “Bowling Alone” in 2000 — found that when diversity increases in a neighborhood, charitable giving, volunteerism and time spent on community projects declines. People trust their neighbors less — and not just from different ethnic groups but within ethnic groups. Whites trust other whites less, blacks trust other blacks less, etc.

In fact, the study — based on almost 30,000 interviews — found nearly all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse communities.

It could be that the benefits of diversity outweigh the drawbacks. But that ought to be a determination made after open debate, not a truism that is accepted without even acknowledging the downsides.

— “Immigrants do jobs Americans won’t do.”

Whenever I hear that, I always add — to myself — the words, “for that wage.”

Our immigration system disproportionately adds low-skill, low-income workers who compete with the most vulnerable Americans for low-end jobs on the bottom rungs of the economy. If we acknowledge that basic laws of supply and demand explain lower prices when the supply of commodities spikes, it stands to reason those laws would apply to labor, as well.

If we had fewer immigrants, maybe employers would have to pay more to fill those positions. That would not necessarily be a bad thing, and it undoubtedly would be a good thing for poorly educated Americans trying to make ends meet and gain a foothold in the economy.

Borjas offers a real-world example in his book. Immigration authorities raided a chicken processing plant in Georgia a decade ago and found three-quarters of the employees were illegal immigrants. The company suddenly had a need for new workers, and to attract them, it ran ads trumpeting higher salaries. Hundreds of African-Americans filled the vacancies.

Beyond those considerations, though, the “jobs Americans won’t do” phrase simply isn’t true. Americans make up a clear majority of the workforce in every occupation except agriculture and maids/housekeepers, where the split is roughly 50-50. That means there are an awful lot of Americans working as janitors, construction laborers, lawn groundskeepers and many other jobs Americans supposedly won’t do.

It is true that in places with high numbers of immigrants, the foreign-born dominate certain occupations. But somehow places with few immigrants manage to fill their positions. This is why the majority of dishwashers in New York City are immigrants but not in Birmingham.

— Immigrants grow the economy

This undoubtedly is true. No reputable economist disputes it. More people and more workers equal a bigger economy.

So what?

The overall size of the economy is a very poor measure of the desirability of a country. Most of the benefits from low-skill immigration flow to business owners and wealthy people who can get nannies and lawn care services cheaper.

That does not necessarily benefit the country as a whole.

If gross domestic product were all that mattered, then Mexico would be more desirable than Switzerland. Mexico’s economy is bigger. But where is the standard of living higher? The per capita income is more than three times higher in Switzerland, according to the CIA World Factbook.

— “The Statue of Liberty says ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’”

Supporters of mass immigration cite this like it were the Constitution. In fact, it is a poem by Emma Lazarus added to the statue’s pedestal 17 years later.

The statue itself, a gift from France, was intended as a beacon of liberty throughout the world. According to the National Park Service, French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was inspired by French law professor and politician Édouard René de Laboulaye. Laboulaye wished to honor the United States for abolishing slavery and hoped that calling attention to that would inspire the French people to call for their own democracy in the face of a French monarchy.

It wasn’t intended as an immigration symbol.

In any case, citing a poem written at a time when the United States needed large numbers of workers to fuel the industrial revolution is not actually an argument for maintaining the immigration status quo for the 21st century.

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.

37 mins ago

Alabama native and former Marshall quarterback Reggie Oliver dead at 66

The Marshall University quarterback who was part of the team’s return after the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 players has died.

Reggie Oliver was 66.


Marshall President Jerome A. Gilbert said in a release Tuesday that his “heart is broken” at the loss of Oliver.

He added that Oliver was “an integral piece of the fabric that makes up Marshall’s story.”

Marshall Athletics said in a release that Oliver “was one of Marshall’s true legends.”

The Herald-Dispatch reported Oliver was hospitalized in Huntsville, Alabama, last week after suffering a head injury in a fall.

Oliver grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and became a quarterback for the Young Thundering Herd, as the team was known.

In the school’s first home game after the crash, Oliver connected with freshman fullback Terry Gardner for a 13-yard touchdown on the game’s final play to upset Xavier 15-13.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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15 hours ago

Gov. Ivey appoints interim finance chief — ‘Thorough search’ underway for permanent appointee

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday named longtime state employee Kelly Butler as acting Director of the Alabama Department of Finance to replace outgoing Director Clinton Carter, who resigned this summer to become the Chief Financial Officer for the University of North Carolina System.

According to a press release by the governor’s office, Butler began his career with the Alabama Department of Revenue more than thirty years ago and has since worked for the Legislative Fiscal Office and the Alabama Department of Finance as Assistant State Budget Officer, State Budget Officer and, most recently, Assistant Finance Director for Fiscal Operations.

Now, a “thorough search” is underway for a permanent Finance Director.

Outgoing State Treasurer Young Boozer has emerged as the clear favorite for the appointment, as he leaves office in January due to being term-limited. Former Congressman Jo Bonner, who recently left his role as Vice Chancellor for Economic Development at the University of Alabama System, is also on the shortlist. Another possibility that has been floating around is state Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville).

Until then, the state is in experienced hands with Butler.


His duties as Assistant Finance Director included overseeing the State Comptroller’s Office, the State Purchasing Division, the State Debt Management Division, and the State Business Systems Division.

“Kelly Butler has more than two decades of experience working with the state’s budgets and more than three decades experience as a fiscal analyst,” Ivey said in a statement. “I know he will do an excellent job leading the Alabama Department of Finance during this interim period.

The governor added, “I appreciate him stepping up as acting director and his commitment to my administration.”

In addition to handling his new job responsibilities, Butler will continue to work on crafting the Ivey administration’s budget proposals leading up to the 2019 Legislative Session. He accepted the new role with graciousness and thanked the employees that work with him for making the department run smoothly.

“I am honored that governor Ivey has asked me to lead the Department of Finance,” Butler announced in a statement. “The department has many talented employees who work hard to provide excellent services to other state agencies and to the people of Alabama. I look forward to working with them to continue those excellent services.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Alabama’s state climatologist John Christy rebuts claims of recent fires, heat waves being caused by human activity in in-depth interview

There is one particular word that Dr. John Christy turns to frequently for describing climate science: murky.

It’s a point of view foundational to his own research, and a message underpinning each of his twenty appearances before various congressional committees.

“It’s encouraging because they wouldn’t invite you back unless your message was compelling and not only compelling, but accurate,” Christy, Alabama’s state climatologist, told Yellowhammer News in an interview.

Christy, whose day job involves doing research and teaching as the Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), has gained notoriety over the years for dissenting from mainstream climate scientists and policymakers who argue that climate change is anthropogenic, or man-made, and that something must be done to stop it.


A “working-stiff” scientist

Dissent has gained for Christy the characterization as a “climate change skeptic” or “denier,” as critics refer to him, but he himself rejects those terms.

“I’m a working-stiff atmospheric scientist,” he said, “as opposed to those who support modeling efforts, those who use data sets that other people create and analyze them, but they don’t build them themselves.”

According to Christy, the result of fewer “working-stiff” scientists contributing to the prevailing climate debate is more frequent misuses of data.

“They’re not aware of what goes into it,” Christy said, referring to the data.

“Here we have a science that’s so dominated by personalities that claim the science is settled, yet when you walk up to them and say prove it, they can’t,” he said.

Christy spoke at length about what can be proven and what cannot in his self-described “murky” field, referring often to principles of the scientific method.

“You cannot prove extra greenhouse gases have done anything to the weather,” he said, responding to claims made by many scientists that more greenhouse gases have caused extreme weather patterns to intensify.

“We do not have an experiment that we can repeat and do,” he said.

Christy outlined another problem with attempts to implicate greenhouse gases: a failure to account for things countering trapping effects.

“We know that the extra greenhouse gases should warm the planet,” he said. “The weak part of that theory though is that when you add more greenhouse gases that trap heat, things happen that let it escape as well, and so not as much is trapped as climate models show.”

Economics of climate policy

Though his scientific arguments are primary, Christy also frequently discusses in interviews and testimonies the economic consequences of proposed climate change mitigation policy via carbon reduction.

“Every single person uses energy, carbon energy, and relies on carbon-based energy,” Christy said. “None of our medical advances, none of our technological advances, none of our progress would have happened in the last hundred years without energy derived from carbon.”

Christy contrasts that reality within the modern, developed world with the world he saw working as a missionary teacher in impoverished Africa during the 1970s.

“The energy source was wood chopped from the forest, the energy transmission system was the backs of women and girls hauling wood an average of three miles each day, the energy use system was burning the wood in an open fire indoors for heat and light,” Christy told members of the House Committee on Energy in 2006.

Broad availability to affordable energy enriches countries, Christy said, praising carbon.

“It is not evil. It is the stuff of life. It is plant food,” he said.

What about the fires and heat waves?

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, fires were burning in fifteen states as of Tuesday, August 14.

Alaska reported seventeen fires, Arizona reported eleven, both Oregon and Colorado reported ten, and California reported nine.

Much of the news media’s discussion about these fires over the past few weeks has established a correlation between the many fires and anthropogenic climate change, a correlation that Dr. Christy rejects.

Christy argues that exacerbating fires out west, particularly in California, results from human mismanagement. Such states have enacted strict management practices that disallow low-level fires from burning, he said.

“If you don’t let the low-intensity fires burn, that fuel builds up year after year,” Christy said. “Now once a fire gets going and it gets going enough, it has so much fuel that we can’t put it out.”

“In that sense, you could say that fires today are more intense, but it’s because of human management practices, not because mother nature has done something,” Christy said.

Data from the Fire Center indicates that the number of wildfires have been decreasing since the 1970s overall, though acreage burned has increased significantly.

As for the heat, Christy said there’s nothing abnormal going on in the United States.

“Heat waves have always happened,” he said. “Our most serious heatwaves were in the 1930’s. We have not matched those at all.”

Christy continued, “It is only a perception that is being built by the media that these are dramatic worst-ever heat wave kind of things but when we look at the numbers, and all science is numbers, we find that there were periods that were hotter, hotter for longer periods in the past, so it’s very hard to say that this was influenced by human effects when you go back before there could have been human effects and there’s the same or worse kind of events.”

Though Christy didn’t deny that the last three years have been the hottest ever recorded globally, he doesn’t concede that the changes are attributable to anything other than climate’s usual and historical erraticism.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

16 hours ago

Alabama state Rep. Standridge on ‘In God We Trust’ legislation: ‘It’s a simple message, but I believe it’s a powerful message’

Alabama state Rep. David Standridge (R-Hayden) was interviewed Tuesday on “Fox and Friends First,” where he discussed the state’s new law that allows “In God We Trust” to be displayed in public buildings.

Standridge, who sponsored the legislation in the state legislature, explained that the idea came in part out of recent debate about school safety. He said he views displaying the national motto as a way to bring added comfort to students, teachers and staff while they are at school.

Along the way, Standridge was shocked by the number of people who were afraid to touch the subject, due to what he views as a modern-day culture of hypersensitivity and “political correctness.”

Media outlets like and the Associated Press reported that legal challenges are “expected,” but, like Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Standridge does not see an issue with simply displaying the national motto – which he points out was passed by Congress and is featured on American currency.

“It’s a simple message, but I believe it’s a powerful message,” Standridge said on “Fox and Friends First.”


Standridge’s wife, Danna, is a former teacher at Hayden High School in Blount County, which is being viewed as the guinea pig county for the new law.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

The media, including some in Alabama, continue endorsing aggressive action by liberals that will lead to violence

During the rise of the Tea Party, the American media pretended the group was violent and was going to get people hurt. There are multiple instances where the media disingenuously tied violent acts that were unrelated to the group or others on the American right; the facts didn’t matter.

Now, liberals are in the street punching reporters, cutting audio cables, yelling at people while they eat, showing up and screaming at town halls and throwing items at U.S. Senators like Doug Jones over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, while shouting, “You can kiss my ass if you vote yes. You can kiss my ass if you vote yes. You can kiss my ass.”

If the woman who committed this act were Republican, we would know every single thing about her and she would have been fired from her job.

But because she is fighting the liberal’s fight, the Alabama Political Reporter’s Josh Moon praised this ridiculousness:


This comes on the heels of CNN’s Chris Cuomo endorsing violence by Antifa in a “fight between good and evil”:

The violence is going to get worse. It is being fueled by bad people for bad reasons. The cowards in the media will make excuses for these people, and they will tell those who might be considering action that they are morally right. It implies doing nothing is complicit, and that it is more important than ever that Americans resist — even if that means violence.

It is easy to see that Josh Moon and Chris Cuomo aren’t going to get out in the street and start throwing hands, but rather, they will praise violent acts from behind their keyboards and from their televisions studios as they benefit from the carnage.