CO131 Ira Mehlman on Debating Immigration

Ira Mehlman is the media director of Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). In our discussion we talked about the prominent stories on FAIR’s home page which suggest that undocumented immigrants in the US are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime, or are a disproportionate burden on the economy.

In fact, the weight of evidence indicates that undocumented immigrants commit proportionally fewer crimes than the rest of the population. There are a range of studies on the net cost/benefit of undocumented immigrants to the economy. Some studies indicate that the immigrants make a net contribution right across society, while others indicate that, while most US-born citizens benefit, very low skilled workers (highschool dropouts) suffer a wage drop, although this is offset by access to lower prices, and the effect diminishes with career progression.

FAIR’s contention that all levels of society suffer a significant net financial disadvantage caused by undocumented immigration is an outlier that is not replicated in other studies.

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About 40 men were taken to a barn and shot. Following that, at least 300 men, women, and children, including infants were rounded up and locked in the barn, which was doused with gasoline and set on fire. Anyone who tried to escape was shot. All of them died.

This is what happened in a small village called Jedwabne on July 10 1941, in nazi-occupied Poland. Before the massacre, Jedwabne had a population of about 1,500 Jews and 700 Catholics. Some of the details are lost to history because of the fog of war, but one thing is notable about this outrage. There were nazi forces present in the village earlier that day, and some may have taken part on the periphery, but the massacre was not carried out by Germans.

In Jedwabne, the Jews were murdered by their neighbors. They were killed by Catholic Poles who they had lived beside for generations. Clearly there were ethnic tensions before the nazi invasion, and these were exacerbated by the perceived, and sometimes real support for the Soviet Union in the Jewish community – the area had been under Soviet occupation until a few months previously.

In post-war communist Poland, there were trials of people accused of participating in the pogrom; several local catholic men were convicted. Their trials fell drastically short of anything that could be considered fair or impartial. Despite this, there is no serious historical source that disputes the central fact that local Catholic poles murdered hundreds of their Jewish neighbors.

No serious historical source. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t disputed.

Memorial to the murdered Jews of Jedwabne

In 2018, Poland’s conservative ruling party, called the Law and Justice party, passed a law making it a criminal offence to publicly state that the Polish nation was in any complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich. The truth is that many Poles gave their lives fighting bravely against the nazis. But some Poles were collaborators, sometimes under duress, and some, as happened in Jedwabne were enthusiastic in their treason.

The 2018 Polish law effectively extended a practice in Poland’s schools to the whole of society, making it impossible to tell that truth. There was an international outcry, and the law was changed to remove the prison sentence, but the law remains.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has compiled the most widely-accepted definition of anti-Semitism; it contains several examples, including one which reads “Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II”.

Poland’s legally-compelled anti-Semitic lies are an example of what happens when people can’t win an argument on the facts, so they make up their own facts. This is poison for public debate, but it’s not the only example of this.

A couple of weeks ago, the Republican-controlled House in Ohio passed a bill instructing teachers in public schools on how to grade pupils taking exams. Under the law, students can’t be penalized if their work is scientifically wrong as long as the reasoning is because of their religious beliefs.

So, if a geography teacher sets a pop quiz with a question which is closest to the age of the earth, five billion, five million, 5,000 or 500 years, and a student get it wrong, and ticks 5,000 instead of five billion, the teacher isn’t legally allowed to mark them wrong.

And, presumably if a student says that the sun orbits the earth, or the earth is supported by elephants on the back of a giant turtle, or any number of religious-inspired answers, the teacher is legally obliged to mark them right. And even if the student gets some basic math wrong, says that two plus two equals five, what’s to stop them from saying that’s based on their religious belief, so top marks please?

Once the answer is based on what’s in the student’s mind, not what’s true in reality, there is nothing to hold on to.

These two examples are on different scales, but they both show a disconnection from the real world. If the facts aren’t the way you want them to be, you just pass a law to change them, or at least to force people to agree with you. Any belief system that must be shielded from reality by the force of law doesn’t have much going for it.

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