Tag Archives: immigration

Zoning and Immigration Restrictions

The impact of California’s high housing costs on refugees has rightly gotten some play in the media lately. CALmatters ran an article detailing the challenges faced by people trying to earn a living in a new country with high rents looming over their heads.

The inability of California to welcome more refugees due to high housing costs highlights that the crisis arises not just from inadequate tenant protections, but from a lack of supply. Tenant protections and rent stabilization will help people who already live here, but don’t do anything for people who are trying to escape desperate situations elsewhere.

Many Californians like to think of our state as welcoming to refugees, but we can’t fulfill that ideal unless we build more housing and make the state more affordable. And the local policies that prevent California from being affordable spring from the same poisoned mindset as the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, devised by Steven Miller, a SoCal son we’d all like to disown.

Research by Jessica Trounstine, associate professor of political science at UC Merced, finds that whiter neighborhoods are more supportive of restricting development, and that cities that were whiter in 1970 are more likely to have restrictive land use in 2006. As racial resentment drives whites fearful of demographic change to support Trump’s cruel practices and proposed cuts to immigration at the national level, so it drives the push to restrict development at the local level.

The research concludes that policies restricting development are effective at maintaining segregation. They are, in effect, border walls put up at the edge of neighborhoods. So if we want California to be welcoming to refugees, we need to change the exclusionary land use policies that were enacted to keep people out.


Points Based Immigration: Un-American

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

Republican Senators Tom Cotton (AR) and David Perdue (GA) have introduced a bill called the “RAISE Act” which would severely curtail legal immigration, reducing green cards from over 1,000,000 to about 500,000, the yearly number of family-sponsored immigrants to 88,000, and the yearly number of refugees to 50,000. It would create a points-based immigration system allowing 140,000 immigrants per year, where immigrants would be chosen on a points system, with younger, wealthier, more educated people scoring a higher number of points. The proposal was immediately backed by Donald Trump and ghoulish policy adviser Stephen Miller. Unlike health care or infrastructure, racism seems to be one policy area that the president actually cares about, having appointed regretfully competent people to run the Department of Justice and ICE, and willing to spend political capital to achieve specific outcomes.

As such, it is important to push back against this proposal as firmly and relentlessly as possible. The policy proposal for a points-based system has received far more respect than it deserves, with people debating the effectiveness and suitability of the specific standards, e.g. should a foreign professional degree count for less than a US professional degree, or should an 18 year old with $1.5 million dollars receive the same number of points as a 50 year old with $1.8 million? This is like phrenologists debating the relative importance of an enlarged constructiveness organ compared to an underdeveloped benevolence organ.

Set aside the absurdity of a points-based system to enter America being proposed by a set of people would almost surely fail to qualify under the proposed system. Set aside the hypocrisy of such restrictive immigration policy being proposed by people whose ancestors came to America when the federal government’s requirements were having about $600 and not being insane or carrying disease – or, as incredible as it may sound today, when the federal government was not involved in immigration at all. Never mind that it lays waste to the obvious lie that Trump’s base was concerned about illegal immigration. Forget that the points-based immigration quota is so low that it would have been exceeded by peak Ellis Island immigration alone in about 28 days.

Points-based immigration is un-American. End of question.

The promise offered by America when all those boats steamed into New York Harbor was the opposite of a points-based system. Any system that requires hard measurement of people’s value as human beings is wrong. Any such system is going to inherently privilege people who are already privileged: the people who already had the opportunity to learn English, obtain education, amass wealth, & gain social stature in their home country. Any such system is going to punish people who were unfairly discriminated against, who were already scored as unwanted rejects with nothing to offer.

To all of that, America said screw you, and gave millions of people a chance at a better life. America didn’t just theorize that immigration was good and that those people would help build a stronger, more innovative country, we proved it.

The darker side of America has always been there too, from the Know Nothings in the 1850s to the Immigration Act of 1924, from the Chinese Exclusion Act to Stephen Miller’s dull gaze and empty head. If we believe in America at its best, we need to push back against the RAISE Act on principle. The RAISE Act would deny America to the people who need it the most. Engaging in discussion on the specifics only legitimizes a concept that should have no place in American policy to being with.