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A Few New Ideas for the Immigration Policy Debate

[A Two-part Series]

Part 1

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

These lines above are from the poem, “The New Colossus,” written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. They appear on the Statute of Liberty.

 

Introduction

It is an historical fact that since immigrants have tried to assimilate in America, it has always been the case that the “new kid on the block” has the most trouble or difficulty trying to fit in with their old country cultural norms, names and languages. And every group had their small number of bad “apples.” Sometimes the barrel of apples was quite large.

For example, the Five Points Gang in New York at the end of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century was a large criminal organization, primarily of Irish-Americans from the sixth ward (the five points of Manhattan, New York). There were many other immigrants that came to America, formed gangs, and proceeded to organize along race/ethnicity lines among the various neighborhoods in New York.

Considering the current state of politics under the Trump administration, the notion of a hypocritical nation jumps right out at you. The irony is so thick one could slice it with a butcher knife. Given the plurality of ethic and many Caucasian gangs at the turn of the twentieth century, the government nonetheless wasn’t proposing a policy to ban the Irish, Catholics, Polish people, Germans, Scottish, Italians, or later blacks.

Today’s target appears to fall on Hispanics and those of the Muslim faith. Every generation of Americans who were originally immigrants from other nations always fears the next generation coming to America. However, by the time all of these ethnic and religious groups become second and third generation citizens, low and behold, they tend to become fully assimilated true Americans. Why? It may sound like an overly used cliché, but America is still the land of opportunity, and the world knows it.

Values versus Facts Regarding Immigration

Ultimately, the pushes and pulls of political and social forces will determine what the Country’s immigration policy will be. This in turn will be determined by the “value judgments, preferences, biases, and conceptual framework” dictated by those in positions of power.

But please, make no mistake about it—there is no such thing as absolute truth or absolute right or wrong values. All values are relative, and our notions of what is truth are based on only one thing i.e., truth is only what we agree it is—nothing more, and nothing less.

But whether “agreed upon truth” has any relevance in the real world, there is but one arbiter who stands above the fray of conflicting value judgments and notions of truth. And that arbiter is not ultimate truth, but Facts.

Facts are a piece of information used as evidence, or as part of a report or news article. It is a thing that is indisputably the case. Consequently, Part I of this Blog will present facts on immigrants. I will do this by answering two questions a lot of citizens have about immigrants, and therefore, albeit, immigration policy.

In Part II, I will answer the question of how much crime is connected to immigration. I will also present a few ideas that are different from the original amnesty proposals, as well as the current White House administration that uses race and religion for purposes of supporting an extremist ideology that is the antithesis of American values as reflected in democratic institutions and the United States Constitution.

Of course, neither liberals nor conservatives can ever escape making value judgments. Values do underlie a lot of human choices. But values from any political identity that is devoid of knowledge, or are impervious to facts, does everyone a great disservice. We all need in our decision-making ability to be guided by facts, not ideology or religious extremism whether from the Left or the Right.

Questions about Immigrants

There are three questions I’d like to address in Part I and II: (1) should there be limits to immigration? (2) Why do we need more immigrants? And (3) Do immigrants (legal or illegal) commit a lot of crime? Part I will answer the first two questions; Part II will address the question of crime and immigration.

These are the types of questions that most citizens want answered. Facts may be able to dispel a lot of false assumptions made by a sizeable number of these citizens. The facts may dispel or contradict our notions of reality. This is why research rather than rhetoric should inform public policy on immigration.  

     Finally, in Part II I will present a new proposal for a humanitarian approach to Immigration policy, including the specifics on how to achieve such a policy. There will be a final comments section at the end of each blog.

Should there be Limits to Immigration?

The answer to this question is primarily a value judgment.  However, one way to create a logical and reasonable, data-driven way to address the issue of how many immigrants to allow in the United States each year is to consider how many taxpayer citizens die each year.

First, there is one birth every seven seconds in the United States, and one death every ten seconds. This amounts to approximately less than one percent (.77) increase in the population each year. However, newborns this year won’t be ready to pay taxes (generally speaking) for another 18 years.

We know that there are approximately 122,000,000 taxpayers who pay federal income taxes each year. Depending on how many die each year would give one an approximate estimate of how many taxpayers are needed for replacement. New immigrants might be able to pick up the slack as contributing taxpayers.

The increase in population due to the annual birth rate (which does exceed the number who die) won’t help the nation’s coffers. As said above, this is because, generally speaking, the newly born won’t be prepared to pay taxes until they are at least 18 years of age.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) do not obtain this type of data, i.e.,  (taxpayer deaths).

For the sake of argument, let’s assume this: There were 2,626,418 deaths in the United States in 2014. The United States had a total population of 317,000,000 in 2014. The percent of taxpayers represent about 317,000,000 / 122,000,000 or 39.2 percent of the total U.S. population.

Thirty-nine point two percent of the number of deaths would equal approximately 1,024,303 deaths of taxpayers. However, since 23.3 percent of the population is 18 or under, a fair guess would be that the actual number of taxpayer deaths in 2014 would be closer to 1,024,303 minus 238,662 or 785,641 taxpayers. All of this is based on assumptions. And, as we all know too well, “assumptions are the mother of all screw-ups.” However, for the sake of argument, let’s proceed further into this analysis.

One article I reviewed on this topic was titled, “Refugees and Asylees in the United States” dated October 28, 2015, by Jie Jong and Jeanne Batalova. They reported that:

“The United States is the world’s top resettlement country for refugees. For people living in repressive, autocratic, or conflict-embroiled nations, or those who are members of vulnerable social groups in countries around the world, migration is often a means of survival and—for those most at risk—resettlement is key to safety. In fiscal year (FY) 2015, the United States resettled 69,933 refugees and in FY 2013 (the most recent data available) granted asylum status to 25,199 people.

By the end of 2014, as wars, conflict, and persecution worldwide continued to unfold, the number of people displaced within their country or having fled internationally reached 59.5 million, according to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)—the highest level ever recorded.

And by mid-2014 there were more than 1.2 million asylum seekers worldwide. Ongoing war in Syria alone has led more than 4.1 million people to seek refuge in neighboring countries and beyond and to the internal displacement of more than 7.6 million Syrians.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, the Obama administration proposed to significantly increase the number of refugees the United States accepts each year—from 70,000 in FY 2015 to 85,000 in FY 2016 and 110,000 in FY 2017—and scale up the number of Syrian refugees admitted to at least 10,000 for the current fiscal year, which began October 1.

The United States offers humanitarian protection to refugees through two channels: refugee resettlement and asylum status. Using the most recent data available, including 2015 refugee arrival figures from the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security’s 2013 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, and administrative data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, this spotlight examines characteristics of the U.S. refugee and asylees population including the admissions ceiling, top countries of origin, and U.S. states with the highest resettlement.

It also explores the number of refugees and asylees who have become lawful permanent residents (LPRs), followed by an explanation of the admissions process.”

Summary Viewpoint:

     Immigration involves more than refugees from war-torn countries and asylees. It involves people escaping poverty, poor governmental response to poverty, crime in the neighborhoods, social injustice involving organized crime such as terrorist acts committed by drug cartels in Mexico and several South American countries.

  Simply put, based on my earlier analysis, the multi-faceted problem of immigration is not keeping up the pace with the country’s annual death rate, thus putting the nation at risk for fewer and fewer tax dollars for future federal budgets.

     We should be admitting somewhere around 785, 641 immigrants each year into the United States at the same time we are creating Amnesty for those illegals who settled in the U.S. in prior years. If one accepts the notion of amnesty and replacement of taxpayers who die each year, I think a perfectly reasonable upper limit of immigration could be set at 1million per year.

Why do we need more Immigrants?

     The answer to this question is best represented in an Obama Administration White House blog posted on July, 12, 2012 by Jason Furman and Danielle Gray. The title of the Blog was, “Ten Ways Immigrants Help Build and Strengthen Our Economy.

“Summary: Our American journey and our success would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe.

America is a nation of immigrants. Our American journey and our success would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe. It is helpful to take a moment to reflect on the important contributions by the generations of immigrants who have helped us build our economy and made America the economic engine of the world.

How do immigrants strengthen the U.S. economy? Below is our top 10 list for ways immigrants help to grow the American economy.

Immigrants start businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business in the United States than non-immigrants, and 18 percent of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants.

Immigrant-owned businesses create jobs for American workers. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, small businesses owned by immigrants employed an estimated 4.7 million people in 2007, and according to the latest estimates, these small businesses generated more than $776 billion annually.

Immigrants are also more likely to create their own jobs. According the U.S. Department of Labor, 7.5 percent of the foreign born are self-employed compared to 6.6 percent among the native-born.

Immigrants develop cutting-edge technologies and companies.  According to the National Venture Capital Association, immigrants have started 25 percent of public U.S. companies that were backed by venture capital investors. This list includes Google, eBay, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, and Intel.

Immigrants are our engineers, scientists, and innovators. According to the Census Bureau, despite making up only 16 percent of the resident population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, immigrants represent 33 percent of engineers, 27 percent of mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientist, and 24 percent of physical scientists.

Additionally, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, in 2011 foreign-born inventors were credited with contributing to more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities.

Immigration boosts earnings for American workers. Increased immigration to the United States has increased the earnings of Americans with more than a high school degree.

Between 1990 and 2004, increased immigration was correlated with increasing earnings of Americans by 0.7 percent and is expected to contribute to an increase of 1.8 percent over the long-term, according to a study by the University of California at Davis.

Immigrants boost demand for local consumer goods. The Immigration Policy Center estimates that the purchasing power of Latinos and Asians, many of whom are immigrants, alone will reach $1.5 trillion and $775 billion, respectively, by 2015.

Immigration reform legislation like the DREAM Act reduces the deficit.  According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, under the 2010 House-passed version of the DREAM Act, the federal deficit would be reduced by $2.2 billion over ten years because of increased tax revenues.

Comprehensive immigration reform would create jobs. Comprehensive immigration reform could support and create up to 900,000 new jobs within three years of reform from the increase in consumer spending, according to the Center for American Progress.

Comprehensive immigration reform would increase America’s GDP. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that even under low investment assumptions, comprehensive immigration reform would increase GDP by between 0.8 percent and 1.3 percent from 2012 to 2016.

As a nation of immigrants, we must remember that generations of immigrants have helped lay the railroads and build our cities, pioneer new industries and fuel our Information Age, from Google to the iPhone.  As President Obama said at naturalization ceremony held at the White House last week:

The lesson of these 236 years is clear – immigration makes America stronger.  Immigration makes us more prosperous. And immigration positions America to lead in the 21st century.  And these young men and women are testaments to that. No other nation in the world welcomes so many new arrivals.

No other nation constantly renews itself, refreshes itself with the hopes, and the drive, and the optimism, and the dynamism of each new generation of immigrants. You are all one of the reasons that America is exceptional. You’re one of the reasons why, even after two centuries, America is always young, always looking to the future, always confident that our greatest days are still to come.

We celebrate the contributions of all Americans to building our nation and its economy, including the generations of immigrants.”

Comments

Ha! So there you have it. How do we make America great again assuming this slogan has any real meaning in a country that is already great? It’s to bring in more (not fewer) immigrants each year.

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Psychology and Sociology of Religious Fanaticism

A Five Part Series

Part II

Michael A. Sheehan stated in 2000, “A number of terrorist groups have portrayed their causes in religious and cultural terms. This is often a transparent tactic designed to conceal political goals, generate popular support and silence opposition.”

Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)

Conflict in Iraq and Syria has seen ISIS seize vast territory. Charting the group’s rise, Peter Welby says that future dangers lie in the appeal to Islamists worldwide of their claims to a caliphate.

The resounding successes of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the summer of 2014 were shocking. Cities fell to ISIS forces a fraction of the size of their defenders; soldiers were ordered to abandon their posts; and those soldiers who were captured were massacred. Buoyed by its advance, the group declared a caliphate, a move that has split the jihadi world despite long being the aspiration of such organizations.

Reeling from its string of defeats, it took until March 2015 for Iraqi forces to start their counter-attack in earnest. But unprecedented as these advances were in scale, they fit into a pattern that the group has set since its foundation.

ISIS can trace its roots back to 2002, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – a Jordanian who was to gain notoriety in the Iraqi insurgency from 2003-6 – founded a jihadi organization called Tawhid wal-Jihad in the north of Iraq. Zarqawi had been linked with al-Qaeda while in Afghanistan in the late ’90s, but was not a member of the group and disagreed with the tactic of focusing on the ‘far enemy’ (the West) as opposed to the ‘near enemy’ (rulers in the Islamic world).

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi’s organization grew more active and affiliated itself to al-Qaeda in 2004, becoming al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Despite the tactical differences, this made a useful alliance of convenience: Zarqawi’s organisation gained the recruiting and resourcing benefits of being part of a global and credible jihadi organisation, while al-Qaeda gained an affiliate in Iraq, already by that stage the global center of jihad.

Zarqawi’s AQI was an influential actor in Iraq’s descent into chaos between 2003 and 2007. It had an explicit policy of stoking sectarian violence with the aim of rallying the Sunni community around Sunni jihadi groups, a tactic that ISIS is replicating now. This gained criticism from al-Qaeda’s leaders, who felt that the indiscriminate and brutal violence risked alienating their supporters. However, it continued to support Zarqawi in public until he was killed in an airstrike in 2006.

In late 2006 AQI joined with eight other Islamist insurgent groups to form the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), without permission from the al-Qaeda leadership. The name chosen for this new group indicated its ambitions: it was more than a mere jihadi group, but an embryonic caliphate, governed by Islamic law, to which all Muslims within its territory owed allegiance.

As the US surge took hold in 2007 and the so-called ‘Anbar Awakening’ or sahwa – the cooptation of Sunni tribes in Anbar province in the fight against the insurgency – diminished the group’s support base, the notion of the Islamic State’s ‘territory’ was a tenuous one. Successive ISI leaders were killed in airstrikes, and the group’s capacity to launch attacks was severely diminished. But the accession in 2010 of its current leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, coincided with a change in the external pressures the group faced. The USA withdrew its forces in 2011 and the promised integration of the Anbar militias into the armed forces was abandoned, removing a significant counter to insurgent activity. Absent American restraint, Prime Minister Maliki gave vent to his more sectarian impulses, creating grievances that the Islamic State was quick to exploit. Moreover, the start of the Syrian civil war created a fertile new cause and battlefield for the group’s recruitment, and molded it into the military force it has become.

The Syrian war also facilitated the Islamic State’s final break with al-Qaeda. Since 2006, the group’s relationship with al-Qaeda had been ambiguous, possibly deliberately so: the mutual benefits that had first prompted Zarqawi to affiliate to the organization remained.

In 2011 Baghdadi created a Syrian subsidiary, Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), under Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, in order to gain a toehold in the war. In 2013, with JN showing unwelcome signs of independence, he announced their reabsorption into the expanded Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham – ‘al-Sham’ being the Arabic name for Greater Syria, with connotations of earlier caliphates. However, Jolani appealed to al-Qaeda’s central command, which ruled in his favor, ordering Baghdadi to confine his group to Iraq.

The alliance between al-Qaeda and ISIS was no longer convenient. ISIS could now claim a history and a support base that established its credibility, and al-Qaeda’s central leadership was weak. An ISIS spokesman declared that al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was sinful, and Jolani nothing less than a traitor. Shortly afterwards, Zawahiri announced that ISIS had nothing to do with al-Qaeda.

In subsequent fighting in Syria, much of it with other rebels including JN and other jihadi groups, ISIS has gained and held significant amounts of territory. It captured the city of Raqqa from other rebels in early 2014, using it since as a base to launch attacks in Syria and Iraq. In Iraq, the group exploited botched Iraqi military operations in Fallujah in January 2014 to gain control of the city. Control of sparsely populated transport corridors allowed them to advance rapidly in the kind of surprise attacks that delivered them Mosul, among other cities, in June of the same year.

However, 2015 has brought setbacks for the group, with Kurdish forces comprising mainly the Popular Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and the Peshmerga in Iraq, emerging as key opponents. A hard-fought four month battle for the city of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border, culminated in victory for the YPG in January 2015 – though ISIS has maintained a presence nearby. In Iraq, the Peshmerga were able to dislodge ISIS from key areas around Mount Sinjar in December 2014. Furthermore, Iraqi security forces, aided by Shia militias supported by Iran, in March 2015 launched the first major government offensive against ISIS since June 2014, in Tikrit.

Regardless of these defeats, ISIS’ development since 2013 changed the nature of the group. It is no longer a mere terrorist group, but an army that can hold and administer territory. It governs according to harshly interpreted principles of Islamic law, including the imposition of dhimmi pacts on minorities – guaranteeing protection in exchange for the payment of a tax and the acceptance of second-class citizenship. Minorities, including Shia Muslims, have been subject to severe human rights abuses, including massacres and forced conversion, and the persecution of minorities in northern Iraq has been particularly brutal.

ISIS has also provoked shock and condemnation worldwide for its brutal execution of foreign journalists and humanitarian aid workers, as well as captured combatants from opposing forces. While the quality of its governance is questionable – a 2006 paper produced by the group stated that improving the quality of the people’s religion was more important than improving the quality of their lives – it can broadly coerce the consent of the people it governs.

Meanwhile, a further danger lies in the group’s appeal beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria. While other jihadi groups, both in these countries and elsewhere, seek to establish an Islamic caliphate, ISIS claims to be one. Baghdadi has declared himself “Caliph Ibrahim,” and goes by the title “Commander of the Faithful.” In the language of his speeches and in his titles, he lays claim to a form of authority from the earliest days of Islam. This combined with the supposedly just cause of the fight against Assad in Syria has proved to be a powerful draw to young Islamists across the world, spread by means of an adept use of social media, and slickly presented propaganda such as the monthly magazine Dabiq. Some of these recruits will eventually return to their homes, taking with them their experiences as members of the most brutal jihadi group in the conflict.

The danger is not limited to individuals attracted to ISIS’ flag. In November, Baghdadi demanded that all Islamist and jihadi movements across the world be dissolved or absorbed into his ‘caliphate’. Many groups have taken up the call. While some were previously unknown, others, including Boko Haram in Nigeria and Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in Egypt have long been prominent actors in their own countries’ conflicts.

In September 2014, an international coalition led by the US began a military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, supported by more than a dozen European and Arab states. Extensive airstrikes have supported the operations of Kurdish and Iraqi ground forces in making strategic gains.

A focus on ISIS should not underestimate the unpredictable nature of this conflict: sudden changes in fortune have been a hallmark of the Syrian civil war, and in Iraq the concerted action of Shia militias and the military – not to mention Iranian interests – may yet turn the tide. Moreover, as the development of ISIS shows, jihadi groups can fracture suddenly and dramatically.

However, ISIS is bolstered by state-of-the-art equipment seized from Iraqi bases and resources from oil fields in its territory; it’s also reported that ISIS has extensive assets. The Iraqi army also melted before them in June 2014. Because of these factors ISIS will not be defeated without a hard fight.

The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050

Why Muslims Are Rising Fastest and the Unaffiliated Are Shrinking as a Share of the World’s Population

The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths. Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050:

  • The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.
  • Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.
  • The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.
  • In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.
  • India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.
  • In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.
  • Four out of every ten Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.

These are among the global religious trends highlighted in new demographic projections by the Pew Research Center. The projections take into account the current size and geographic distribution of the world’s major religions, age differences, fertility and mortality rates, international migration and patterns in conversion.

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