Sometimes I just love the Democrats. After fomenting a near meltdown over the Arizona immigration law, with charges of nazism and cries of “show me you papers!” flying hither and yon, the Democrats introduce an immigration framework with what?
Improved papers, of course.
Yes, the Dems screwed the pooch and included a national ID card in their proposed legislation. And a biometric one at that. As someone characterized it, it’s a “super Social Security card”. Remember when you were assured that your SS card/number was not for identification purposes and never would be. Well Bunky, that was as true as most of the promises politicians make.
Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.
Heh … how do Democrats kill the momentum working in their favor in an issue which might actually help them in November?
Totally misunderstand the point.
For once, I’m in complete agreement with the ACLU who wasted no time in savaging the plan:
“Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives. Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy — one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU legislative counsel.
Oh, and the Gestapo.
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Byron York reports that the Arizona Legislature and the Governor have made a few “tweaks” to address some of the fears of critics and more specifically define the law.
The first concerns the phrase “lawful contact,” which is contained in this controversial portion of the bill: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency…where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person…” Although drafters of the law said the intent of “lawful contact” was to specify situations in which police have stopped someone because he or she was suspected of violating some other law — like a traffic stop — critics said it would allow cops to pick anyone out of a crowd and “demand their papers.”
So now, in response to those critics, lawmakers have removed “lawful contact” from the bill and replaced it with “lawful stop, detention or arrest.” In an explanatory note, lawmakers added that the change “stipulates that a lawful stop, detention or arrest must be in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state.”
The law now stipulates specifically that unless the officer is first involved in a “lawful stop, detention or arrest” that officer cannot just demand papers based on a suspicion the person is there illegally.
The second change concerns the word “solely.” In a safeguard against racial profiling, the law contained the phrase, “The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin.” Critics objected to that, too, arguing again that it would not prevent but instead lead to racial profiling. So lawmakers have taken out the word “solely.”
Whether it will satisfy the critics is, frankly, doubtful. It has been “politicized” now and that means that those who oppose it will most likely ignore, minimize or mischaracterize the changes in an effort to keep the issue alive. There’s a whole movement at stake here and the race warlords are most likely unwilling to give it up this easily. Additionally, those who want to see some sort of immigration reform law pushed through see this as giving the issue renewed visibility. They’re unlikely to let that go, even if the law is indeed more satisfactory in terms of protecting civil rights than in its previous iteration.
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A massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has prompted a large coordinated response from the owner of the rig, BP, and the U.S. government. President Obama addressed the issue in a short speech yesterday where he said:
Earlier today, DHS Secretary Napolitano announced that this incident is of national significance and the Department of Interior has announced that they will be sending SWAT teams to the Gulf to inspect all platforms and rigs. And I have ordered the Secretaries of Interior and Homeland Security as well as Administrator Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency to visit the site on Friday to ensure that BP and the entire U.S. government is doing everything possible, not just to respond to this incident, but also to determine its cause.
I was immediately puzzled when I first heard this yesterday. Why on Earth would the DOI have SWAT (“S”pecial “W”eapons “A”nd “T”actics) Teams? What exactly would they need them for, and why would they be dispatched to “inspect” oil rigs in the middle of the Gulf? I was not alone in my puzzlement:
In an odd turn, Obama announced he’d be sending SWAT teams out to all oil rigs and platforms in the Gulf to inspect them, as pointed out by RealClearPolitics. We’re not sure what a Special Weapons And Tactics team is going to do on an oil rig but we’re pretty sure it’ll make good fodder for Tom Clancy’s next book.
I have to believe that Obama was being colorful in his language instead of literal. I checked the DOI website and could find no announcement about “SWAT teams” or any mention of such teams whatsoever. So, it must be the case that the man whose speeches cause tingles to run down the legs of newscasters, oceans to recede, and Nobel Prizes to fall from the sky simply misspoke.
One interesting thing to note is that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s declaration of the oil spill as an incident of “national significance” brings the whole mess within her Department’s purview. That of course allows all sorts of resources not otherwise available (i.e. money) to be employed in the cleanup, but it also raises the question as to what exactly the limits of the DHS are. Apparently they are quite willing to spend gobs of money and effort (and possible deploy SWAT teams!) to tackle an invasion of viscous minerals upon our southern shores, but are completely uninterested in doing anything about an invasion of vicious criminals upon our southern border, other than to challenge the right of individual States to defend themselves. Perhaps Arizona should spill a bunch of oil along the border and see what happens.
Harry Reid must be thrilled.
Instead of addressing the problem that Arizona’s legislature and governor felt compelled to address, Obama decides he’d rather fling poo and put it off again.
Of course I’m talking about addressing the immigration problem. Given the fact that the administration has no desire at this time to address the issue, look for other states, such as Texas, to give what Arizona has done a hard look.
So let’s see, jobs aren’t a priority – something the American people have said they’d like to be the priority of government. The deficit, another people’s priority, is obviously not a priority – and now immigration reform is off the table.
It appears Obama sees a political opportunity in postponing it yet again:
The president noted that lawmakers may lack the “appetite” to take on immigration while many of them are up for re-election and while another big legislative issue — climate change — is already on their plate.
“I don’t want us to do something just for the sake of politics that doesn’t solve the problem,” Obama told reporters Wednesday night aboard Air Force One.
Immigration reform was an issue Obama promised Latino groups that he would take up in his first year in office. But several hard realities — a tanked economy, a crowded agenda, election-year politics and lack of political will — led to so much foot-dragging in Congress that, ultimately, Obama decided to set the issue aside.
With that move, the president calculated that an immigration bill would not prove as costly to his party two years from now, when he seeks re-election, than it would today, even though some immigration reformers warned that a delay could so discourage Democratic-leaning Latino voters that they would stay home from the polls in November.
Consider that last sentence carefully – it tells you a lot about what Obama expects to happen in November, and it’s not good news for Democrats. However he sees the opportunity, should the Congress go Republican, to use the issue as a wedge to energize the Latino base while blaming inaction on the GOP and enhancing his reelection possibilities. The only thing transparent about this guy is his politics and that’s only because they’re so obvious.
Meanwhile, Daniel Griswold at CATO makes an excellent point about how immigration reform is best handled. In fact, his point is good enough to make me reconsider my “secure the border first and then do reform” stance. First his analogy:
Requiring successful enforcement of the current immigration laws before they can be changed is a non sequitur. It’s like saying, in 1932, that we can’t repeal the nationwide prohibition on alcohol consumption until we’ve drastically reduced the number of moonshine stills and bootleggers. But Prohibition itself created the conditions for the rise of those underground enterprises, and the repeal of Prohibition was necessary before the government could “get control” of its unintended consequences.
His point, of course, is we have to address the reason illegals are here first before we can reasonably expect to secure the border. In other words, remove the incentive by making it easier to legally enter to do work here:
By essentially barring the legal entry of low-skilled immigrant workers, our own government has created the conditions for an underground labor market, complete with smuggling and day-labor operations. As long as the government maintains this prohibition, illegal immigration will be widespread, and the cost of reducing it, in tax dollars and compromised civil liberties, will be enormous.
We know from experience that expanding opportunities for legal immigration can dramatically reduce incentives for illegal immigration. In the 1950s, the federal government faced widespread illegal immigration across the Mexican border. In response, the government simultaneously beefed up enforcement while greatly expanding the number of workers allowed in the country through the Bracero guest-worker program. The result: Apprehensions at the border dropped by 95 percent. (For documentation, see this excellent 2003 paper by Stuart Anderson, a Cato adjunct scholar and executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy.)
I think he has a point – not that the federal government has any immediate plans to address it or the broader issue. Instead it will continue to condemn states for acting in the absence of its action and abrogation of its responsibility.
It is a disturbing, but typical example of how out-of-touch the federal government is with the priorities and needs of the citizenry and how captivated it has become of special interest groups.
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Thinking about the upcoming “immigration rallies” planned for tomorrow, supposedly in 70 cities, I wondered if perhaps we’d see a repeat of how the Tea Parties were covered. For example:
I wonder if the rallies will be characterized as “all brown” as the Tea Parties were tagged “all white” (and thereby “racist”)?
I wonder if the press will go African-American hunting like they did with the TPs (minus Al Sharpton and his posse, of course)?
I wonder, if they find any, whether they’ll ask them if they feel “uncomfortable” attending the rallies?
I wonder if the left will come up with a clever sexual slang name for those protesting – “brownbaggers” for instance?
And, finally, I wonder if our politicians will characterize those attending as thugs, racists, brownshirts, fascists and astro-turf?
I’m sure you have a few questions of your own. Feel free to leave them in the comments.
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Reuters dutifully reports that the Arizona immigration law has “energized Democrats and Hispanics”. Reuters adds that both are “furious” about the bill and there are plans afoot to have massive May Day rallies in 70 cities. Calls for boycotts against the state are rising. Says one Democratic Representative:
“What Arizona has done is that it has galvanized, united, fortified, focused our immigration movement,” Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez declared at the news conference.
Well, it may have done precisely that – but it may also end up with those who supported the bill just as “galvanized, united, fortified and focused”. Because also noted in the article is a poll which says 64% of those in the state support the bill. We’ve heard from a few of them here. And they’re pretty stirred up about all of this. My guess is – and it is only that at this point – that the poll isn’t too far off from what might be found nationally.
If that’s the case, the possibility exists that the upcoming and promised “massive” demonstrations may have the same effect on supporters of stronger immigration laws such as Arizona’s to become just as energized as Gutierrez believes the law has done for the opposition.
Recall, if you will, the last time large rallies were held to protest the enforcement of immigration laws. While they were quite a spectacle, they didn’t quite have the effect for which supporters hoped. They certainly increased the visibility of the problem, but they also saw the majority of the people say “secure the border first” before you talk about reforming immigration. My guess is nothing has changed in those priorities with the public.
Secondly, politicians need to tread lightly here if they don’t wish to be seen championing the cause of law breakers and illegal immigrants against the wishes of American citizens. This is one time the “fairness” argument isn’t going to win them anything. Americans do not see it as “fair” that illegals are protected from the consequences of their illegal entry and they’re stuck with the bill supporting their health care and schooling.
So this will all be interesting to watch in the coming few weeks and months. I still don’t think they get anything done legislatively, but – as we’re already seeing – the rhetoric is going to be increasingly heated and nasty – and, this rally against Arizona may end up coming back and biting those who foment it and support it in the posterior.
UPDATE: According to Gallup, among those Americans who have heard of the Arizona law, a majority support it.
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And that message: is if your political opponents are in a hole of their own making, don’t throw them a rope.
That’s precisely what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was in the middle of doing prior to this past week. He was the lone Republican Senator working on the “climate” bill with Senators John Kerry (D-VN) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Additionally, he was also the only Republican Senator working on immigration.
This past weekend, Graham pulled out of the cap-and-trade “climate” bill, leaving it in doubt – although word now has it that it was Harry Reid (D-Desperate) who decided it must wait for immigration. That would actually make sense since it is Harry Reid who is in re-election trouble in a state with a large Hispanic population who’ve complained Democrats haven’t done anything with immigration.
Graham seems to have finally awakened to the fact that he has an opportunity to slow both cap-and-trade and immigration down and hobble the administration’s agenda in this Congress. Today he made it clear that immigration was off the table, as far as he was concerned, for this year – if not next:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the sole Republican working on a bill to legalize illegal immigrants, in effect put the bill on the shelf on Tuesday, saying that a debate now would destroy any prospects for passage and that the issue needs to wait until 2012.
The remarks likely signal the end of any serious chance for broad immigration legislation to pass this year, since Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican, was the best hope for a partnership with President Obama and Democrats who want to write a bill.
Unlike the cap-and-trade bill, there has been no immigration bill yet written. So, given the process, even given priority, legislation would take months and months before passage. Graham was the forlorn hope of Reid and the Democrats on immigration. He effectively slammed that door in Reid’s face yesterday. And he’s playing some smart politics in how he’s framing his decision. He’s tapping into that latent anger within much of the country about the refusal of the federal government to secure the borders.
“It is impossible for me and any other serious Democrat to get this body to move forward until we prove to the American people we can secure our borders,” Mr. Graham told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who was testifying at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
“I believe we can do it by 2012 if we’re smart,” he said.
Ms. Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, disagreed with Mr. Graham’s evaluation of border security. She said she knows the southwest border as well as anyone and, by every measure Congress has laid out, the border is more secure: Fewer illegal immigrants are being apprehended, and more fencing and infrastructure have been deployed.
But under close questioning by Mr. Graham, Ms. Napolitano could not say whether she would declare the border secure if she were still the governor of Arizona. She called it an “unfair question.”
“It is a fair question, and I’ll give you my answer: I don’t think it is,” Mr. Graham said. “I think since the last effort to solve immigration the border situation has deteriorated.”
Popular position that plays well to the Tea Partiers and again points to ineffective government. Essentially, in one week, Graham has made the completion of the Democratic/Obama agenda much, much more difficult – if not impossible – during this session of Congress.
Over the past few days, I’ve been watching with interest on Twitter as Doug Mataconis and Jason Pye have been moaning about the new immigration law in Arizona. Now, I grant it’s a bad law from a civil liberties perspective. I’ve seen to much of policing from the inside to trust police not to run a truck through any ambiguities that they find in the law.
But some of the links they’ve posted seem a bit overdone. For instance, one of them linked to an article that implied that there’s a white supremacist behind the movement to pass the law. But what really caught my eye was a link to an article that gave all the standard libertarian reasons for having open immigration.
There was only one thing wrong with the article. It made all sorts of arguments about natural rights and economics, but nowhere did it address national security.
So, I guess my question is this: If you are going to argue for opening the borders, how will you go about doing so in a world of hostile nation-states, whose citizens may wish to do us harm? Clearly, the framers gave some thought to the issue, as they gave Congress plenary power to regulate immigration.
So, even granting that the rights-based and economic arguments are correct, which, mainly, I do, I still would like to know how you would address the security implications of open borders in a hostile world.
Surely, our agreement on the general principles of liberty don’t require us to commit seppuku by allowing hostile foreign powers to take advantage of them, do they?
Let’s run through the main problems associated with illegal immigrants: state welfare costs, crime (or is it?), lack of assimilation (particularly if they’re allowed to vote), and suppressing wages for poor natives.
I think we can mitigate a lot of these problems with solutions far more realistic (in the short-to-medium term) than mass deportation, amnesty or ridding ourselves of the welfare state.
First, let’s recognize that the security threat becomes more complicated when you place wishful restrictions on immigration. When there’s a flood of mostly non-threatening people crossing the border outside of any official process, it’s a lot harder to pick out the few really malicious ones. And it’s really hard/expensive to stop that flood along such a long border.
We should be striving to funnel as many of them through official processes as possible, so we know who’s here, we know their backgrounds and we can separate the villains from those who just want to observe a basic civic peace and take advantage of opportunities in a freer country. That means offering carrots and sticks to both prospective immigrants as well as those who are already here, and I’ll get to those incentives below.
Second, minimize how much the welfare state serves and controls non-citizens.
- Uncompensated care makes up only 2.2% of medical costs in this country, and a good chunk of that doesn’t come from illegals, so the fact that many illegals wait until they need to use the emergency room, while irritating to some, isn’t a political hill to die on. As long as it’s mostly limited to taking care of communicable diseases and real emergencies, which can be enacted into law, it’s tolerable.
- Education is a much bigger problem. I recall reading that there are 1.6 million illegal immigrants under age 18 in the States, and being from Southern California, where the largest budget item by far is education, I know that they (and natural born citizens born to noncitizens) represent a big cost. Here we can do a bit of political jiu-jitsu: target guest worker families with a school voucher program.
- They’re already in public schools, so it’s a win if they instead form the basis for a larger private school market. The larger the market, the more the market can work its magic.
- It can come with strings attached, like a requirement that any school accepting vouchers be able to show an improvement in English language skills at least as good as nearby public schools.
- It’s not like Democrats have a good argument against it: it’s nearly the opposite of cream-skimming. And when guests get this, naturally other groups are going to want it too.
- Transfer payments (Social Security, unemployment, welfare, etc.), obviously, should be off the table for non-citizens. I have no problem with people who want to take risks in a freer market; a host country owes them nothing more than securing their rights.
The idea here is to weed out those who aren’t seeking opportunity so much as handouts. Those seeking opportunity are naturally more eager to assimilate.
Third, take the prospect of adding tons of dependent immigrants to the voter rolls off the table. Instead, we can get most of what we want by creating a liberal guest worker program that virtually all prospective immigrants and current illegal residents can join simply by identifying themselves to authorities, as long as it’s clear that they’re going to generally be paying their own way, so that people with a dependent mindset are weeded out by attrition.
So what are the carrots and sticks here? Without doing anything that would turn stomachs (and thus make reform politically impossible), we can get rid of the bad apples while not incurring the large costs associated with trying to throw 12 million people out of the country.
- A program allowing people to easily enter the country without being harassed should increase suspicion of anyone who’s still trying to immigrate the hard way — and that would increase public support for border security.
- Deport illegals who fail to register under the guest program and then commit serious crimes — violent crimes or big property crimes like auto theft. Those who commit petty crimes and can’t prove their status can either apply for guest status and take their punishment here or accept deportation.
- No sweeps or “asking for papers” for those who are just here peacefully. Only those charged with another crime can be asked to prove their status within a reasonable time frame.
- Come to an agreement to build cheaper-run prisons in Mexico to hold illegals during their sentences — no sense in keeping them in expensive American prisons if we’re planning on deporting them anyway.
- Illegals can’t access the school voucher program, but guest worker families can.
- Perhaps also allow vouchers for English-language and Civics education for adults.
I’m open to any other ideas, but that seems like a good foundation, accepting (in the neolibertarian fashion) that the welfare state won’t disappear tomorrow, but offering a positive agenda that tends to increase liberty.
So why would libertarians not be “open borders guys” as Dale admits in his post about Arizona’s new illegal immigration law? Well, for one, for the same reason Milton Friedman understood when he said “you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”
I’d love to have free immigration or “open borders”. I’d like to see free people who want to work and better their lives be able to freely wander to where such opportunities exist. In an ideal world, what I would call my moon pony and unicorn world, that’s the way it would work.
I’d also prefer not to have a welfare state. Welfare states are, in my opinion, destructive states that kill human productivity and builds the power of the state to a degree that “citizens” eventually become vassals. Additionally, I’m not keen on my hard earned dollars going to support such a state. But they do.
If you eliminate the welfare state, the “open borders” argument has more credibility. But borders aren’t going away anytime soon. Unilaterally eliminating ours or, for the sake of argument not monitoring who comes in the country, isn’t going to change anything as regards the welfare state. Unless those coming in are required to immediately contribute to the state welfare apparatus (an anathema any open border theory) before taking advantage of it, the desire to keep illegals out and away from state welfare that the citizenry has paid for will remain high. That’s a practical concern that drives much of the anger and desire of the citizenry to keep illegals out.
Since the welfare state doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon (if ever) either, again it seems rather silly to argue that “open borders” is a viable solution. Yes, it’s an ideologically pure libertarian solution, but it denies reality. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good goal, but it does mean that in the current situation, no one is going to listen to it seriously or give it any credence.
And then, to compound the argument against open borders, there’s a second problem. There are a whole bunch of people out there who are trying to kill us. Not random criminals, who are bad enough, but an entire movement dedicated to the demise of those who live in this country. “Open immigration” or open borders would only grant full and unimpeded access to those who want to do us harm. It is something they’d welcome. Imagine, if you will, not monitoring anyone who comes in or what they might bring. How long would it take for our enemies to establish themselves and strike?
Now the natural inclination of my libertarian kin at this point in a discussion like this is to say, “yeah, but if we hadn’t gotten entangled in those foreign alliances and remained isolationist, we could have …”. Could have what? Sold our products to ourselves? Avoided a religiously driven zealotry that targets nations like ours just because they’re” infidels?” Pretended Nazism and Japanese imperialism weren’t a threat to us and our way of life?
Even if that’s shrugged off, we still need to trade to live. And trade requires interaction. International trade requires international interaction. You can’t do that as an isolationist (and “open borders” seems contradictory – at least to me – to being an isolationist. How does one “isolate” themselves except behind their borders?). Those you interact and trade with have certain demands that come with trade you either negotiate or they refuse the trade. While it is wonderful to think that we could have survived quite nicely by being internally self-sufficient and trading only within our borders, it’s probably nothing more than a pipe-dream. We could no more keep the world out of here than the Japanese were able to keep us out of Tokyo bay. Simple demand of the citizenry for products from other nations would have forced that.
Open borders have only existed in times when there was no welfare state and no existential threat – and, in fact, no real government in place. Think the settling of the west and the borders of both Canada and Mexico. People passed through them pretty much at will seeking a better opportunity or a better life. That is an era which has passed. Even as we were warned by our founders to avoid foreign entanglements, we were becoming aware of their necessity – self-protection or mutual protection among them. And even as we wished for the ability to open our borders to all free people, we became aware of those who would use such an advantage to harm us. Or, as the welfare state developed, to take advantage of that to which they’re not entitled.
Like many laudable desires, that of “open borders” doesn’t survive reality of a changing (and smaller) world. All things being equal, I’d prefer open borders for free people. But that’s not how this world works and the disadvantages – partly our own doing, partly that of our enemies – argues pretty strongly against “open borders” – at least in the present.
All of that said, we have a problem to deal with. The welfare state isn’t going away nor are our enemies. The border situation is intolerable, we have an antiquated and essentially broken immigration system and we a very large number of illegals already here. What are we going to do about that?
Whether or not you agree with Arizona’s recent law, it points out the frustration that many of the border states are undergoing as the problem continues and grows. I’ve mentioned any number of times that while the solution won’t be simple, the general outline isn’t rocket science:
– Streamline the legal immigration system so people can more easily access it, apply, receive visas, green cards, etc. It shouldn’t take us half a lifetime or cost multi-thousands of dollars to immigrate here, prove their worth and become US citizens.
-Streamline the work visa program and the seasonal work visa program. If I can order a kindle book from Amazon with a single click and have it downloaded to the kindle within a minute , it tells me the technology is probably available to make such a program much easier than it is at present.
-Kill the “anchor baby” provision. It may take a Constitutional amendment, but whatever it takes, remove the incentive. Heck in some countries they have tour packages aimed specifically at pregnant women in other countries to come here and have their baby. Sorry – no short cuts, no breaking the line, no gaming the system.
-Deal with the illegals in the country. Require them to register by a certain date or face permanent deportation. Once registered provide them with a clear, but back of the line path to citizenship, if they so desire. Make the requirements tough but fair. My guess is we’ll find many, if not most, of them would instead prefer a work visa or a seasonal work visa rather than citizenship. Many are here illegally because they can’t get those sorts of visas now.
-Secure the border. We do have an existential treat. Throughout our history we’ve had many existential threats. As long as different ideologies exist, especially those based in religious zealotry or secular imperialism, we’ll continue to have existential threats. Until those go away, we’re always going to have borders and those borders are going to have to be guarded to protect our citizenry.
I believe in immigration. I believe, in some ways, it represents the heart and soul of this country. I believe in giving those what want to work hard and better themselves the opportunity to come to this country to do so. But they need to come here legally through an improved system to do that. Since we do indeed have a welfare state, I want those who try to game that system by illegal entry stopped. And since we have existential enemies, I want them stopped at the border too.
It may not be my moon pony and unicorn utopia, but it is reality and it is that with which we have to deal. Then we can work on utopia.
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