There has been a lot of recent talk about the Trump Administration’s stance with respect to immigration insomuch as children of illegals can be separated from parents. As a father of 8 kids (yes with one wife….liberal heads are spinning), I have respect for the family unit. As a conservative, I also have respect for the order of law. While I’ve been fairly quiet on this topic, I’ll attempt to slice and dice it. My desire is not to engage in spirited debate; rather, to lay out a sequence of thought for you to ponder, as my thought process is probably different from yours. My focus is on substance over style or form.
For starters, let’s look at illegal immigration for what it is: illegal. What crimes can you bring your kids along with you while you commit the malfeasance, and still retain custody of your kids afterwards: murder, prostitution or pimping, how about robbing a bank? If you bring your kids along with you while you commit any of these crimes, chances are pretty darn good that you’d be separated from your kids. The lesson here: leave your kids behind when you decide to commit a crime.
A retort when the examples provided above are laid out is, “Good point Mike, but, you’re forgetting that many of these families came here out of desperation because they were escaping rape, robbery, and murder.” To those folks of quick retort, I’d fire back this as a thought-provoker: there are people-existing citizens- in parts of Chicago, Flint, Compton, Newark, New Orleans, and many other cities who would also like to flee from hotbeds of violent crime. To assist with their escape from such areas of violent crime, what crimes are we willing to let them commit and what special concessions should we make for them and their families afterwards? That is the central point of the illegal immigrant argument that has monopolized the news media as of late: we need to have compassion for folks who commit certain crimes because the crimes are not crimes of hate; rather, they’re paradoxically crimes of love. Do we really have crimes of love?
When it comes to politics, I’m kind of a hack. I’m a simple guy and I see things more in black and white than in shades of gray; and always far less than 50 shades. I think that folks should follow the law; and, when they don’t follow the law, I think that justice should be applied with the focus on the laws on the books rather than on emotion. With a focus on the law, rather than on emotion, I can look at photos of separated kids from 2009 – 2014 and say, “Damn, we’ve had a problem for quite some time.” Some folks will counter and say “of course not, the Obama administration was all about dealing with humanitarian efforts when it came to handling unaccompanied minors. What’s happening now is just mean.” To those folks I’d say, the photos of kids in what looks like animal cages were from 2014. We’re concerned about tearing families apart in 2018; but, in 2014, if we had a flood of unaccompanied minors, folks were voluntarily tearing their own families apart to try to establish their children as anchors. Was it wrong when those folks chose to tear their own families apart? Anyhow, my checklist of things that parents shouldn’t do is starting to grow: (1) Don’t bring your kids with you when you choose to commit a crime. You’ll be separated from them. (2) Don’t send your kids, unaccompanied to a foreign country. They’ll be separated from you. As a side-note, I’d also say that I’m against children being surgically removed from the womb as a “choice.” I believe that also tears mothers and children asunder; not that it’s relevant…..but it is an example of families literally being ripped apart and it’s sacrosanct to the same folks who harp about the inhumanity of following the immigration law. I’d assert that there’s a certain incalculable inhumanity courtesy of Roe v. Wade. Laws of the land aren’t always ideal. We deal with them and we attempt to change that with which we don’t agree or we find unjust. I’m now off my soapbox and my tangent.
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Once again, when it comes to my views on these issues, I try to have an appreciation for the laws and, with Trump in the White House, prevailing business principles creep in as well. I’ve got an MBA albeit not from Wharton, it has served me okay. When I look back at the actions recently taken, it reminds me of sitting in business school when I first learned about oligopolies. I think that Trump’s stance on immigration and tariffs both factor in an appreciation of how actors operate within an oligopoly. I’ll explain.
An oligopoly is competition among the few. It’s what you have when a certain industry is controlled by just a few players (airlines, broadband, railroad, etc.). A classic oligopoly example is OPEC. What happens when a single OPEC nation undercuts the pricing of the collusive oligopoly? You have chaos and disorder and the demand curve adjusts short-term. I believe that Trump is looking at the U.S., Mexico, and Canada and applying an oligopoly mindset. They are all “sellers” that produce citizenship. If barriers between all three options are similar, the oligopoly maintains balance; but, the action of any one rogue entity can upset the model. For example, if I snuck my kids into Mexico in an attempt to gain illegal immigration status, chances are I’d be in a Mexican prison and my kids would not be my cellmates. The Canadians are pretty nice folks, but, they also would not take kindly to my illegal action and I would be punished and separated from my kids. In an oligopoly, you break the rules in an attempt to have a short-term win (note: you’re punished for so doing by the oligopoly), you never break the rules to set yourself up as the loser among the oligopoly…and I really think that’s what Trump sees the U.S. doing through historic immigration policy. We’re an oligopoly with a long-term break of the demand curve, courtesy of U.S. policy. If you coddle folks who break the laws to enter your country, you set yourself apart within the competition between the few and you set yourself up for adverse selection; or at least adverse outcomes.
Once again, I see Trump applying the same mindset to tariffs: certain allies tax our imports severely and we don’t apply counter-actions, we become the punching bag. I really think that the Trump approach is two-pronged: (1) apply trade pressure to our strong allies to choke them and get both sides to basically agree to back off of tariffs or excessive import taxes altogether on both sides (much like OPEC nations colluding to agree to pricing an output). (2) With the aforementioned complete, pair up with the tariffless trading partners to have one comprehensive oligopoly strategy to use against a monopoly (China) that’s a threat to your tariffless oligopoly. People always say that Trump is nuts to go after allies and China strongly on trade issues concurrently….not if the strategy is to create collective leverage against China. That’s also how I would play the strategy if I were in Trump’s shoes….and I think that’s his strategy. A lot of experts claim that he has NO strategy based on his recent actions; but, I don’t believe that to be the case. I think that the world thinks he’s playing checkers when he’s actually playing chess.
Okay, let’s now examine how the immigration law works versus news media reports: style over substance; or never let a crisis go wasted…or both? Contrary to popular demand, the Trump administration is not ripping children from parents in a sadistic, sub-human fashion; rather, this administration is simply upholding the law. Current actions stem from the 1997 Flores Consent Decree which basically established parameters for unaccompanied illegal children to not remain in the country for more than 20 days. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals eventually updated that to include accompanied minors who crossed illegally with their parents. This forced the government’s hand, giving two options: let the entire family go without consequence or separate the parents from the children. In short, the enforcement actions currently undertaken by the administration are consistent with what Flores, as augmented by the Ninth Circuit Court, has mandated. Yet, prominent Democrats and the ACLU have incorrectly held out photos from immigrant processing between 2009 and 2014 while incorrectly attributing those photos as evidence of the current administration’s debacle and inhumane treatment of those who broke no crime, other than (illegal) entry. Emotion over fact much?
What about those seeking asylum? Trump is punishing asylum seekers, right? Those seeking asylum are really supposed to go to the nearest country that permits asylum and apply there. It’s a little bit dramatic if the throngs from Guatemala skip right through Mexico (which should have been the nearest asylum country) to present to the United States for asylum instead. It makes a stellar news story. All that being said, folks who enter the U.S. through points of entry seeking asylum aren’t arrested; rather, they’re processed by ICE and their kids stay with them. All that changes if you seek illegal entry into the United States. Your choices then become deportation (which allows you to stay with your family) or processing under Flores which requires separation. In the end, I guess that’s lesson #3: Follow the law and your chances are pretty good of staying with your kids. You get arrested if you attempt to break into an embassy only to claim asylum. Gaining illegal entry, by other means, only to claim asylum is fairly analogous to breaking and entering.
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