Do Immigrants Harm Our Nation?

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Boyce JPEGAccording to the Pew Research Center, 51% of Americans think immigrants are good for our nation because of their hard work and talents. 41% of Americans think immigrants are bad for our country because they take our jobs and health care.

The Pew Research Center also reports that twice as many Blacks as Whites say that illegal immigrants should be eligible for social services by 43% vs. 20%. and 79% of African Americans think children of undocumented immigrants should be permitted to attend public schools. But, 34% of Blacks feel that immigrants take jobs away from American citizens, rather than take jobs that Americans don’t want. They also fear that immigrants are making it harder for African Americans to get health insurance.

So which opinions are true? Actually both answers are at least partially true.

A report from the George Mason University Institute For Immigration Research had this to say on the subject. “As part of our research on the accomplishments of highly-skilled, foreign-born academics in the United States, we found that foreign-born scientists and engineers are over-represented among U.S. Nobel Laureates.

From 1901-2013, out of all the countries in the world, the United States, at 42.4%, received the highest proportion of Nobel Prizes. Moreover, 30.7% of these U.S. awarded Nobel Prizes are garnered by persons who immigrated to the United States.

From 1901-2013 more than one-third of U.S. Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, medicine and physics were immigrants. Also, a report from the National Foundation for American Policy, a conservative research group, shows that, since 2000, two dozen immigrants won Nobel Prizes in those fields, out of 68 U.S. prizewinners overall in these sciences.

This year, Dr. Aziz Sancar, an immigrant from Turkey, was one of three scientists who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. He and the other two, discovered how cells in people repair their DNA. Another scientist who was not a prize winner said the discovery may help doctors to treat cancer, and the effects of aging, more effectively.

Also this year, the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology was given to Dr William Campbell and two other scientists. They were awarded the prize for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites. Dr. Campbell was born in Ireland but now lives and works in the U.S.

Parasitic roundworms can live on or in humans where they can cause a variety of health problems. Most parasitic roundworm eggs or larvae (immature form) are found in the soil and enter the human body when a person picks them up on the hands and then transfers them to the mouth. The eggs or larvae also can enter the human body directly through the skin.

A third of Silicon Valley’s scientists and engineers are immigrants. Forty percent of Ph.D. scientists working in the U.S. are foreign-born. This nation is getting significant benefits from them. Allowing immigrants to come here is in our best interest.

But do immigrants take jobs from US born citizens?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of November 2014, there were 1.5 million fewer native-born Americans working than in November 2007, while 2 million more immigrants (legal and illegal) were working. Thus, all net employment gains since November 2007 have gone to immigrants. Presumably, if fewer immigrants had gotten those jobs, native born Americans would have gotten them.

Are immigrants taking health care away from US born Americans? It is hard to be sure, but a study done by the Center For Immigration Studies found that the percentage of immigrants with no health insurance (28.9%) was roughly twice that of native born Americans (14.0%).

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 12% of Whites, 17% of Blacks, and 26% of Hispanics lack health insurance. Those who oppose immigration to this country seem mostly to be thinking of Hispanics from Mexico and other Latin American countries. The above percentages suggest that, if these immigrants are a force to deprive native born Americans of health insurance, they are a pretty weak force,

So are immigrants bad for this country. It is a mixed bag, but on balance, I think welcoming immigrants is good for this nation.

And The Killings Continue

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Boyce JPEGAccording to the Los Angeles Times, there have been 142 shootings in schools in the U.S. since 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, 2012.

Guns killed 32,251 people in the United States in 2011, the most recent year for which the US Centers for Disease Control has data. By some estimates, more than 30 people are shot and killed each day.

The opponents of gun control frequently say, “Guns don’t kill people, people do”. Strictly speaking, that is, of course, true. A gun lying on a table won’t kill anyone unless someone picks it up and shoots another person with it. But as the statistics above demonstrate people have been picking it up at an alarming pace.

It might be constructive to compare gun deaths to automobile deaths. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes killed 33,561 people in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.

So the death rates from guns and cars are about the same. But the use of cars is much more regulated than the use of guns. I bet, if the use of guns was as heavily regulated as the use of cars is, the death rate from shootings would go way down.

For example, before getting a license to drive a car, people must pass a written test to assure they know the rules that are designed to protect accidents. Couldn’t we require people to pass a written test demonstrating that they know how to safely use and store guns.

People must also take a road test to demonstrate that they can drive a car safely. Couldn’t we require a similar “driving test” in the use of guns.

It might be helpful to require that prospective gun owners take and pass courses in the safe use of fire arms. Even the National Rifle Association (NRA) recognizes the value of such training. If you visit their web site at http://www.nrainstructors.org/search.aspx you will find they offer almost 40 such classes.

In California, doctors are required by the Department of Motor Vehicles to report patients who have lapses of consciousness, Alzheimer’s Disease or related disorders. They must also report any other medical condition that they believe may affect a driver’s ability to drive safely. Couldn’t they be required to submit the same information to California’s Department of Justice (DOJ) The DOJ already must give permission before a gun dealer can sell a gun to a customer.

Most of the youth, and many of the adults, involved in mass shootings probably suffer from psychiatric disorders that make it unsafe for them to have access to guns. In California, all licensed California gun dealers must submit, to the (DOJ), a document detailing information about the person seeking to buy a gun. There is a mandatory 10-day waiting period before the firearms dealer can deliver the firearm to the purchaser. The DOJ conducts a firearms eligibility background check to ensure the purchaser is not prohibited from lawfully possessing firearms. The dealer can’t sell the gun to the purchaser without the DOJ’s approval. Having data on a gun purchaser’s mental health history could do much to keep guns away from dangerous people.

California law now requires drivers to carry liability insurance with minimum amounts of coverage which vary based on the number of people killed or injured by an unsafe driver. If we had similar requirements for gun owners, and if gun use by children had to be covered by the insurance, I bet the number of shootings would go down. And adults would be more likely to lock their guns safely away from children. Providing evidence of having insurance, that covers gun use, could be a necessary part of obtaining a gun license

California courts can already send reminders of the need for a driver to go to a court hearing when drivers are ticketed. Surely the DOJ could send notices to gun owners cancelling their gun licenses when pertinent mental health information is received by the department.

A large number of people die each year in traffic accidents. But I bet the toll would be much higher if we did not have these detailed driving regulations. I also believe we could greatly lower the death rate from shootings if we established a comparable set of regulations regarding gun ownership.

And finally, there is the issue of mental health care. Insurance for mental health problems must be made much more affordable and available. And government should mount campaigns to eradicate the stigma of having mental health problems. There should be no more stigma to being treated for mental health issues, than being treated for high blood pressure. That would encourage people to get mental health care that could reduce the risk that they might start shooting other people.

I’d love to hear your views on this subject. Do you agree or disagree with any of the things I have said? Do you have any other suggestions to reduce gun violence? If so, click on the comments button at the top of this post and type in your ideas.

A Debate On Syrian Refugees

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Boyce JPEGWe are beginning to hear reports that our country is considering taking in as many as 100,000 of the Syrian refugees who have been fleeing their country because  they fear being killed as collateral damage in the mounting death toll from Syria’s 4 years long civil war.

How reasonable is their fear of death? According to CNN News, the death toll there has doubled in a year’s time. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), since civil war broke out, 310,000 people have been killed. A year earlier, SOHR’s tally stood at 162,402. And the year before, the United Nations put the death toll at 70,000.

Would you stay in a country like that?

So, let’s discuss the objections to the US accepting large numbers of Syrian refugees. I will start with the most potent objection first.

1. If we allow large numbers of Syrian refugees in, some of them will be terrorists because the system to weed them out will be overwhelmed. As a result, Americans will die.

First, it’s not as if terrorists are not getting in now. But the honest to God truth is that this objection is probably correct. So then, the question boils down to does that justify sending many thousands of Syrians back home to be killed as collateral damage of the war?

Here is how I answer that question. With the exception of 9/11, most of the terrorist attacks in this country killed fewer than a dozen people per attack. If we and the European countries send hundreds of thousands of refugees back to Syria, probably at least thousands of them will die as innocent victims of the war.

The US dealt badly with a similar situation in the late 1930s and 1940s. At that time, many Jews were fleeing Nazi persecution. Several ship loads of Jewish refugees came to our shores in cruise ships and pleaded to be allowed to enter the country. Most of them were refused. People here worried that German spies might be among them. So the refugees had to go back to Europe.

What happened to them? The Nazis murdered many of them in the killing centers and the concentration camps. Others went into hiding or survived years of forced labor. Some managed to escape.

I think the moral algebra of the situation requires us to let the Syrian refugees in.

2. Some people say we shouldn’t take refugees in until Syria’s neighbors take in a lot of refugees do.

In fact, they have done so already. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly 4 million Syrian refugees have fled to Syria’s immediate neighbors. The following shows how many refugees have been taken in by each of those neighbors:
• Lebanon: 1 ,172, 753
• Turkey: 1, 805, 255
• Jordan: 630, 224
• Iraq: 250,408

3. Some say this is a Judeo-Christian nation and accepting large numbers of Muslims would change that in unacceptable ways. Here is my answer.

Our nation has long been justifiably proud of the fact that we have no state religion.

Many of the immigrants who came to this country in the 1600ds and 1700ds were fleeing religious persecution where the state required them to support the government religion. For example, the Pilgrims in England were forced to pay a tax in support of the Anglican Church there.

The very first amendment to the US Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

Historians note that George Washington never spoke of a particular god or religion. Instead he merely spoke of a “higher power”. He avoided saying anything that might cause Americans to weaken our new nation by dividing into competing religious factions.

Refusing to allow some immigrants to come here, just because they are of a certain religion violates the fundamental principle of this nation which is that discrimination based on religion is unacceptable.

4. But, will admitting thousands of Muslims to enter the U.S. fundamentally change this country in unacceptable ways? History demonstrates that it will not.

Up until the mid 1880s the people in this nation were overwhelmingly Protestant. Then, in the 1800ds, large numbers of mainly Catholic Irish and Italian immigrants came here. A whole political movement was then founded with the sole purpose of preventing Catholic immigrants from coming here. They said letting them in would change the culture of our nation in an un-acceptable way. Clearly that has not happened.

We should let the refugees in.

Our Justice Isn’t Just

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Boyce JPEGThis is the second post of a series of blog posts discussing what skills and experience we should look for in the presidential candidates. To read the previous post on this subject, scroll down to the post entitled “What Should He Or She Care About?”

In choosing which Presidential candidate we vote for we should try to determine which of them cares most about reforming our criminal justice system, and which of them seems best qualified to do it. The following explains why this is so important.

Our criminal justice system isn’t working. If it is meant to persuade criminals to end their life of crime it is failing. Worse yet, our criminal justice system comes down harder on People of Color than on White people.

For example, let’s compare the U.S. to China. China’s population is much greater than ours. And it is a dictatorship. Chinese citizens can be arrested for saying or writing things that reflect badly on the government or the nation. For example, recently, newspaper writers who described the recent problems in China’s stock market were pressured to stop doing so. Attorneys who represent defendants in court are often pressured, or even arrested, for representing their clients.

Given the above, it is a no-brainer. There must be more people in Chinese prisons than in American prisons. In fact the opposite is true.

The population of China is 1.4 billion. The population of the US is 320 million. So the population of China is a little over 4 times that of the US. However we have more people in prison than they do. According to the Institute For Criminal Policy Research, the number of people in US prisons is a little under 2.2 million. For China, that number is a little under 1.7 million.

People in the criminal justice system of the United States track what is called the recidivism rate of federal and state prison inmates. They track how many released prison inmates commit new crimes and get sent back to prison. According to a recent report of the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, a study of state prisoners from 30 states found that 67.8 percent of inmates were re-arrested within three years of their release and 76.6 percent were re-arrested within five years.

A report From The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, says 61% of the prisoners released from our state prisons are back in prison within 3 years. That percentage makes the word “rehabilitation” a cruel joke.

According to the Ella Baker Center For Human Rights, the federal government and state governments combined spend $80 billion a year to run their prisons. To paraphrase the late flamboyant gay pianist Liberace, “Do you like our prisons? You better. You paid for them.”

The most important goal of our criminal justice system must be the rehabilitation of criminals. This will help criminals make a better more honest life for themselves. That, in turn, will make life safer for people like you and me.

Then there is the issue of disparate treatment of Whites and People of Color. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2014, Black men had the highest imprisonment rate in every age group and were in state or federal prisons 3.8 to 10.5 times more often than White men

and 1.4 to 3.1 times more often than Hispanic men. That same source said that in 2013, 37% of inmates in federal prisons were African American. And yet African Americans are only 12.4% of this nation’ population.

The situation in California is not much better. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 29% of male inmates in California’s prisons are African American.

We should try to determine which candidate is likely to care about these issues and to do something about the problem.

It Has To Be Said

Boyce JPEG

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I expect that some will be angry at what I say in this post, but I do believe it must be said.

The United States has said it will back up the nation of Israel and will do anything necessary to ensure it’s continued existence. I think that is good policy, but I believe we should exact a price for that guarantee. We should demand that Israel withdraw its army of occupation from the Palestinian territories and we should demand that it close the illegal Israeli settlements in those territories.

Here is some relevant history on the issue. The modern state of Israel was created in 1948 against the furious opposition of Arab states and the Palestinians. The opposition was expressed in various ways over the years. In 1967 those nations and the Palestinians launched a full scale attack on Israel, with the clear goal of destroying Israel and returning its territory to Muslims. Israel defeated its opponents in 7 days.

When it was over Israel left an Israeli occupation army in Palestine. Those troops are still there.

Since then, Israel has allowed its citizens to move to Palestine and establish permanent Jewish only settlements there. Currently there are 163 such settlements. And about 500,000 Israelis live in them. Often land for the settlements was taken from Palestinian owners with little or no compensation. Often too, Palestinian homes were destroyed to make room for the settlements.

The army of occupation is illegal and so are the settlements. International humanitarian law prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Fourth Geneva Convention, article 49). The Hague Regulations prohibit the occupying power from undertaking permanent changes in the occupied area, unless these are due to military needs in the narrow sense of the term, or unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population. But Israel has refused to back down. These armed forces, and the settlements have been a constant irritation, inflaming hatred of Israel among its neighbors.

It could have been different. Consider American actions after World War Two. After the war with Germany we launched the Marshall Plan.

The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was an American initiative to aid Europe, in which the United States gave $13 billion (approximately $130 billion in current dollar value as of August 2015) in economic support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II. The money went to our allies in Europe, of course, but it also went to Germany to help it rebuild.

The plan was created by George Marshall Secretary of State in the administration of President Truman. Marshall was convinced the key to restoration of political stability lay in the revitalization of national economies.

You know the rest of the story. From 1948 through 1952 European economies grew at an unprecedented rate. Trade relations led to the formation of the North Atlantic alliance. Economic prosperity led by coal and steel industries helped to shape what we know now as the European Union.

Germany had been led by a mad man. It engaged in unspeakable crimes during World War Two. Yet our enlightened treatment of it after the war helped it become an outstanding citizen in the world of nations. And this occurred without our leaving a permanent army of occupation in Germany.

After the 1967 war, Israel could have done something similar for its defeated enemies. Some of its attackers were rich. But the Palestinians and some of Israel’s other opponents were poor and had very limited economies. Israel could have provided agricultural technical assistance and financial support to help them modernize their farming industry.

In the late 1800ds Jews began immigrating in large numbers to Palestine. First most came from Russia. Later they came from Europe, Africa and other places.

When they got there they found a land that was mostly desert. But they developed a number of ways to make the desert bloom. Now almost half the country is still desert. But agriculture is a thriving, major part of their national economy.

Their success resulted from close cooperation and interaction between scientists, extension

services, farmers, and agriculture industries. These four elements have joined together to transform agriculture in Israel into an industry that is globally renowned for its efficiency and productivity. In 2010, agricultural exports (fresh and processed) amounted to $2.130 billion, or 4.2% of the country’s total exports.

If Israel had helped the Palestinians and other neighboring nations to re-create this agricultural miracle in their own lands, and provided financial support to help them do it, Israel might now be surrounded by grateful friends rather than dedicated enemies.

Supporting Israel while they continue their present actions in Palestine does Israel little good. It also gives Muslims a reason to hate us. It helps groups like Al-Queda and Hezbollah to persuade ordinary Muslims to attack the United States.

I do believe we should firmly defend the state of Israel. But, if only to protect ourselves, the US should demand that Israel withdraw its army of occupation from the Palestinian territories and we should demand that it close the illegal Israeli settlements from those territories.

The US Should Do More

Boyce JPEG

This is what it says. This is what the Statue of Liberty says.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

That is what it says. That is what the Statue of Liberty says.

According to the Los Angeles Times, since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, more than 4 million refugees have fled that country.

Jordan has taken in 630,224 Syrian refugees.

So far the United States has accepted, 1,500 Syrian refugees.

The Times reports that Lebanon has taken in 1.5 million Syrian refugees.

So far the United States has accepted, 1,500 Syrian refugees.

Turkey has taken in 1.9 million Syrian refugees.

So far the United States has accepted, 1,500 Syrian refugees.

Germany says it will take in at least 30,000 refugees.

The United Nations estimates that at least 850,000 people are expected to cross the Mediterranean seeking refuge in Europe this year and next year.

Recently Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley took a stand and said the United States should admit at least 65,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016.

I agree and is why.

Neighbors of Syria, and European nations, are dealing with the refugee crisis, not because they somehow are responsible for it, but because, by chance, they are close to the source of the refugees. Nothing in the 10 commandments says people close to a problem have a greater duty to deal with it.

We are better able to manage the challenges that would result from admitting 65,000 refugees.

Is it practical for us to take in such a large number of refugees? According to the Census Bureau, the current population of the US is over 318 million. Sixty five thousand refugees would be only .002 percent of our total population. For Jordan the impact of accepting 630,224 is much greater. The current population of Jordan is roughly 6,836,000. Thus, the number of refugees is a little over 9 percent of Jordan’s native population.

The population of Turkey is roughly 75,837. Turkey has taken in 1.9 million Syrian refugees.

The number of refugees that Turkey has taken in is almost 4 percent of its total population.

But these countries are poor. What would the economic burden be on a rich country like Germany and how does that compare to the US? The gross domestic product of Germany is 3.73 trillion in US dollars. A country’s gross domestic product is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period.

The gross domestic product of the US is $16.77 trillion Our gross domestic product is about four and a half times larger than Germany’s. And yet the number of refugees that Martin O’Malley suggests we bring in is only a little over twice the number of refugees that Germany promises to take in.

Some fear bringing 65,000 Syrian immigrants to the US will be too destructive of the American culture, and of the way we do things here. The facts suggest otherwise.

Between 1846-1851, more than one million Irish immigrants came to America, and another 873,000 arrived between 1860-1880.

In the mid 1840s a new political party formed in the United States. It was known as the Know Nothing Party (officially kn own as the American Party). They opposed immigration to this country, especially immigrants from Ireland who were mostly Catholic.

They feared that Catholics would take control of the United States and turn it over to the Pope.

Between 1900 and 1915, 3 million Italians immigrated to America. Many in this, our mostly Protestant nation, vigorously opposed this in-migration.

During these years many people born in this country feared that large immigration by Catholics would fundamentally change the culture of our nation and in ways they would not like.

They turned out to be wrong. Now many Americans have the same fears about new waves of immigration from Mexico and from mainly Muslim countries in the middle east. The fears about the Irish and Italians were wrong. As it turned out, they enriched our culture in many wonderful ways. I believe the same thing will happen if we welcome Muslim immigrants.

So this is what the Statue of Liberty says.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

We should live up to that promise.

What Should He or She Care About? – Part One

I voted for Barrack Obama twice. I did so, in part, because I hoped our first Black president would make addressing the multiple problems of African Americans one of his highest priorities. Sadly he has not done that.

Actually a White president from Texas, Lyndon Johnson, was much more vigorous, and public, in his efforts to address these problems.

I think addressing these issues should be a high priority of any presidential candidate we vote for. Here’s why.

According to an August 7 report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for adult Blacks is 9.6%. For Whites it is 4.6%.

For White males, aged 16-19 years of age, the unemployment rate is 20.6%, but for Black youth the rate is 31.1%.

According to a recent report from the Henry K Kaiser Foundation, 10% of White Americans live in poverty. For African Americans the number is 27%.

The American dream has always been that, with hard work and diligence, poor Americans can move up to the middle class. However recent facts refute that expectation, particularly as it relates to African Americans and Hispanic Americans.

The Urban Institute did a study of trends in the gap in family wealth among White, Black, and Hispanic households. Their report says that, in 1989, White households had 5 times more in retirement savings than Black or Hispanic households. In 2013 Whites had 7 to 11 times more in retirement savings.

The amount of income you have depends greatly on the amount of education you have. Generally, those with college degrees, get higher wages than those without degrees. According to data from the US Census Bureau, among those 25 years or older, 29.3% of Whites (non-Hispanic) had a four year college degree while just 17.7% of Blacks do.

This college graduation rate gap may be influenced by the differences in the way White and Black students are treated in grade and high school. Recently the Graduate School of Education, of the University of Pennsylvania issued a report on the expulsion or suspending rates at school districts in 13 southern states. They reported that, on average, just under 25% of the students are Black, but Black students were nearly half of those who were expelled or suspended. Large numbers of suspended or expelled students drop out and do not even get a high school diploma.

And then there is the criminal justice system. According to a study by the ACLU, one in three Black men can expect to go to jail in their life time. For White men that number is one in seventeen.

The ACLU report notes that “The War on Drugs has been a war on communities of color. The racial disparities are staggering: Despite the fact that White and Black people use drugs at similar rates, Black people are jailed on drug charges 10 times more often than White people are. Black people are also three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people are.”

The Jury selection process may be part of the problem. Lawyers for defendants, and prosecutors are permitted to dismiss prospective jurors with”peremptory challenges”. This means the person challenged in this way will not serve on the jury, and with few exceptions, the attorney or prosecutor need not give any reason for dismissing the potential juror. Studies done in several southern states found that prosecutors in those states were 3 times more likely to dismiss Black jurors than White Jurors.

A recent report published in the Journal of the American Economic Association notes that, if juries in death penalty trials were unbiased, the rate of appeals court reversals of death sentence convictions of Blacks and Whites should be the same. However, the report notes that the death sentence conviction reversals for Blacks is 3% to 9% higher than for White defendants. This suggests bias in the trial courts.

We need to seek and support residential candidates who make correcting these problems a high priority if he or she is elected.

More Later