Kevin Drum on “the left and illegal immigration”

by Chris Bertram on October 20, 2011

Kevin Drum writes:

bq. … I think the federal government should do its best to stop illegal immigration …. If you’re in favor of completely open borders, then fine. Make your case. But if you’re not, then no matter how liberal you think our immigration laws should be, you do think we should have immigration laws. And if you think we should have immigration laws, then you think they should be enforced.

Now I’m not part of the “we” in question, but similar issues arise in Europe, and similar considerations apply. But what Kevin says doesn’t seem right, because it depends on an equivocation. Supposing there are justly permissible immigration laws and that open borders are wrong, it might follow that those justly permissible immigration laws should be enforced. But it surely doesn’t follow that the _actual_ immigration laws, far more extensive than those just laws, should be enforced. But that’s what he’s claiming in the linked article. There’s certainly room for discussion about what just laws would look like, and maybe reasonable people, concerned about the rule of law should (out of respect for their fellow citizens) favour the enforcement of laws that deviate from the ideal somewhat. But that doesn’t get you to the conclusion that the existing, manifestly unjust, immigration laws imposed by rich northern states should be enforced. (Example: discriminatory laws dividing people form their same-sex partners – unjust and shouldn’t be enforced.)

Doing Well By Doing Good

by Henry Farrell on October 20, 2011

I’m eagerly awaiting Rob Reich‘s forthcoming book about the political implications of relying on private charity as a means of achieving public goals. In the meantime, this report by the “Center for Public Integrity”: on AT&T’s campaign to build support for a merger with T-Mobile is very much worth reading.

bq. At first sight, it’s hard to understand why the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter and clinic in Louisiana, would lobby the Federal Communications Commission. … “People often call on God to help the outcasts and downtrodden that walk among us,” Martin wrote to the FCC. “Sometimes, however, it is our responsibility to take matters into our own hands. Please support this merger.” Not included in Martin’s letter to the FCC was the fact that his organization had received a $50,000 donation from AT&T just five months earlier. Indeed the Shreveport-Bossier Mission is one of at least two-dozen charities that were recipients of AT&T’s largesse and have written in support of the T-Mobile buyout … The marriage of AT&T’s lobbying and charitable efforts is reflected in the company’s organization. James Cicconi , AT&T’s chief lobbyist and a senior executive vice president of the company, is also chairman of the company’s charitable arm: the AT&T Foundation. … Many of the charities, including the Shreveport-Bossier Mission, say that while they take AT&T’s money, it in no way affected their decision to lobby the FCC. “Their money that they gave was in no way connected with what we did,” said Martin, in a phone interview. “We endorsed the merger because we think it’s a good thing for rural people.”

Yep. It’s all for the benefit of the rural people. I imagine that AT&T money supports a number of good causes. Shelters for homeless people are good things to have. Even so, I don’t think that AT&T should be able to take any tax deductions for donations which on the very kindest interpretation seems to shade into their for-profit activities.