Corruption as Convention

In the midst of the debate over state-run health care comes news that blames the steady influx of immigrants for a rise in Medicare fraud.

A top investigator at the Department of Justice tells the Houston Chronicle, “There’s a real problem of health care fraud in recent immigrant communities—we see it every day,” the official said. “One of the reasons is you’re looking at people who don’t come up through the educational system, they’re impoverished, they think this country is very rich, and they don’t view taking advantage of a government program as a crime.”

The statistics on immigrant criminality are incomplete and unreliable, providing a muddled picture at best. But qualitative observation may lend credence to the DOJ official’s claim.

It has long been held, perhaps a bit hyperbolically, that America is exceptional. Our system of constitutional federalism predicated on the rule of law developed out of distinct social conditions and emerged as a unique alternative to the corrupt systems that have beset much of the world. We are heirs to a legacy of justice that guides our transactions and is backed by unparalleled legal protections. This legacy provides an expectation that governments will be restrained in their actions and private parties will honor their contractual agreements. While there are many instances in which our system falls short, this remains its core intent. Most peoples are not so fortunate.

Although the press has not reported the Houston Medicare fraud suspects’ nationality there is speculation that they are from Nigeria, a country rich in oil but “long hobbled by political instability” and “corruption.” It is not a stretch to suggest that state-sanctioned vice has always been a part of life for Nigerian immigrants. This brings to mind another oil-rich kleptocracy that accounts for 31 percent of our immigration: Mexico.

Fredo Arias-King, former advisor to Mexican President Vicente Fox, describes long-standing conditions in Mexico:

Mexicans are kind and hardworking, with a legendary hospitality, and unlike some European nations, harbor little popular ambitions to impose models or ideologies on others. However, Mexicans are seemingly unable to produce anything but corrupt and tyrannical rulers, oftentimes even accepting them as the norm, unaffected by allegations of graft or abuse. Mexico, and Latin American societies in general, seem to suffer from what an observer called “moral relativism,” accepting the “natural progress” of the political class rather than challenging it, and also appearing more susceptible to “miracle solutions” and demagogic political appeals. Mexican intellectuals speak of the corrosive effects of Mexican culture on the institutions needed to make democracy work, and surveys reveal that most of the population accepts and expects corruption from the political class. A sociological study conducted throughout the region found that Latin Americans are indeed highly susceptible to clientelismo, or partaking in patron-client relations, and that Mexico was high even by regional standards.

The expectation of corruption back home is why many Mexicans desire to come here. But ingrained prejudices are difficult to overcome. Even victims often imitate their oppressors. And thus it seems reasonable to surmise that the patron-client relationship, instilled for generations, is the lens in which some Mexicans view the state. Through such a lens, exploiting a federal subsidy is at worst a morally neutral activity necessary for survival.

Mr. Arias-King predicts that this phenomenon will slowly alter our institutions: “In the end, the result of mass Latin American immigration will not likely present the stark choice of democracy versus non-democracy for the United States, but the quality of democracy may indeed be affected.”
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New Film Explores Collision of Cultures in California

Mexican director Amat Escalante says “Los Bastardos,” his stunningly violent new movie about two Mexican illegal immigrants in the uncaring world of California, grew out of his own experiences living there as a child.

“The story comes from this uneasiness I have because of living there for a long time, and from wanting to show how these two cultures could come to collide and to break down in some way,” Escalante says in today’s edition of the Mexico City newspaper Reforma.

The movie’s two central characters become embittered and violent after encountering abuse from Americans, including a contractor who stiffs them after the work is done. They invade a home and hold hostage an American woman who is too benumbed by the meaningless of her suburban life to care.

LA Weekly offers this summation of what happens next: “In long, static wide-screen compositions, they take a gander at how the other half lives: eating the woman’s microwave dinners, swimming in her azure pool, and smoking her crack cocaine, before a predictable (albeit startling) blast of violence brings down the curtain on their doomed masquerade.”
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He’s Just Not That Into You

Schadenfreude alert: “Obama loses immigration allies; Activists picket, feel betrayed by administration policies.”
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The Cosmic Race

The National Council of La Raza has just wrapped up its annual conference in Chicago. While I think Tom Tancredo was engaging in hyperbole when he described La Raza as “a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses” (that describes instead MEChA and the Brown Berets), there’s more to the comparison than people might realize.

La Raza’s attempt to explain away their name as meaning “the people” or “the community” instead of “the race” notes correctly, and approvingly, that the phrase was coined by former Mexican secretary of education Jose Vasconcelos in the 1920s as “La Raza Cosmica.” But maybe they didn’t look closely enough at the theoretical underpinnings of the concept. Here’s what Guillermo Lux and Maurilio Vigil wrote about it in Aztlan: Essays on the Chicano Homeland:

The concept of La Raza can be traced to the ideas and writings of Jose Vasconcelos, the Mexican theorist who developed the theory of la raza cosmica (the cosmic or super race) at least partially as a minority reaction to the Nordic notions of racial superiority. Vasconelos developed a systematic theory which argued that climatic and geographic conditions and mixture of Spanish and Indian races created a superior race. The concept of La Raza connotes that the mestizo is a distinct race and not Caucasian, as is technically the case.

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He’s Just Not That Into You

Schadenfreude alert: “Obama loses immigration allies; Activists picket, feel betrayed by administration policies.” Actually, though, I’m sure Rahm Emanuel chuckles appreciatively anytime the lefties accuse the White House of being too tough on immigration
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Illegal-Immigrant Population Declines: Numbers Down Significantly Since 2007

Contact: Steven Camarota
(202) 466-8185, sac@cis.org

WASHINGTON (July 30, 2009) – An analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies of monthly data collected by the Census Bureau shows that fewer illegal immigrants are coming and more are returning home. The findings also show that the legal immigrant population has not declined. As a result, the overall foreign-born population has held relatively steady. The report examines the extent to which stepped-up enforcement and the downturn in the economy account for this trend.

The report, “A Shifting Tide: Recent Trends in the Illegal Immigrant Population,” is written by Steven Camarota, the Center’s Director of Research, and Karen Jensenius, the Center’s Demographer.

Among the findings:

  • Our best estimate is that the illegal population declined 13.7 percent (1.7 million) from a peak of 12.5 million in the summer of 2007 to 10.8 million in the first quarter of 2009.

  • If we compare the first quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2009, the implied decline is 1.3 million (10.9 percent). In just the last year the decline was 5.7 percent.

  • By design, these estimates produce results similar to those from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS estimates of the illegal population show a 1.5 percent decline between January 1, 2007, and January 1, 2008. Our estimates show a 1.6 percent decline over the same time period. DHS has not yet estimated the illegal population for January 2009.

  • There is evidence that the number of new illegal immigrants arriving has fallen by about one-third in the last two years compared to earlier in this decade.

  • There is also evidence that the number of illegal immigrants returning home has more than doubled in the last two years compared to earlier in this decade.

  • While migration patterns have fundamentally changed, it must be remembered that the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants have not left the country, and tens of thousands of new illegal immigrants continue to settle in the country each year.

  • Our analysis shows that only the illegal immigrant population has declined. The legal immigrant population does not show the same decline. This is true overall and for Mexico specifically, the top illegal-immigrant-sending country.

  • The fact that the legal immigrant population does not show the same decline is an indication that stepped-up enforcement has played a role.

  • Another indication that enforcement has contributed to the decline is that the illegal immigrant population began falling before there was a significant rise in the unemployment rate for illegal immigrants.

  • While the decline began before unemployment among illegal immigrants rose, since then unemployment among illegal immigrants has increased dramatically and must now be playing a significant role in reducing their numbers.

  • There is evidence that the illegal population rose in the summer of 2007, while Congress was considering legalizing illegal immigrants. When that legislation failed to pass, the illegal population quickly began a dramatic fall.

  • There is no way to know if the current trend will continue. Given President Obama’s stated desire to legalize illegal immigrants and his backing away from enforcement efforts, it seems likely that when the economy recovers, the illegal population will resume its growth.

Discussion: These findings are consistent with anecdotal evidence. They are also consistent with data showing a decline in remittances sent home by immigrants. Additionally, they are in line with a drop in border apprehensions. The decline in the illegal population, whatever the cause, challenges the argument that illegal aliens are so firmly attached to their lives in this country that it is not possible to induce many of them to return home. The evidence indicates that this is not the case. If the current trend were to continue for another five years, it could cut the illegal population in half from its peak in the summary of 2007.

Methodology: This study uses monthly data from the Current Population Survey collected by the Census Bureau. The Department of Homeland Security, the former INS, and other outside research organizations have used Census Bureau data to estimate the illegal immigrant population. We examine trends in the number of foreign-born, less-educated, young, Hispanic immigrants. Prior research indicates that 80 percent of these individuals are in the country illegally. Please see the report itself for more detail.

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‘The Basic Goal Is to Promote the Free Flow of Labor into the USA’

Jim Robb of Numbers USA has some fun with the notes (taken by a participant who grew a conscience) of a closed-door meeting of open-borders lobbyists. It was organized by amnesty czarina Tamar Jacoby, who’s the source of the title of this post.
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