Sunday, May 21, 2006

Spam, Egg, Sausage, and Spam

Here's my good deed for the day. You might not be aware of this, but if you're in the U.S., the government wants your spam. Phishing, stock pump-and-dump schemes, "Nigerian" scams, bogus pharmaceuticals, forward it all (with complete headers, if possible) to

For phishing attempts, many companies have specific addresses to which you should also forward the messages. Here's a list, sampled from phishing attempts that I've received, as well as a few other institutions that come to mind. A few of these (too few) provide a link for information regarding phishing, including the reporting address, right on their main page. Others required digging.

  • American Express:
  • Barclays Bank:
  • BB&T:
  • Chase Bank/JP Morgan:
  • Citibank, Citigroup:
  • EBay:
  • HSBC (USA-specific):
  • PayPal:
  • Visa:
  • Washington Mutual:
  • Wells Fargo:

Incidentally, AOL sucks. They might very well have an abuse address for phishing, but if they do they make it much too difficult to find. They don't even list an abuse address in the whois database.

Amazon sucks slightly less. They don't provide an email address, but they have a web form that's not too difficult to find. Go to, click on "Help", and look for questions on security and phishing. I don't want to provide a direct link, since it's likely to change.

MasterCard is just dumb. They tell you to forward phishing attempts to them, but they neglect to provide an email address. "Priceless," indeed. There is, of course, nothing in whois either.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rational Immigration Reform, Part III

This is the third and final part in a series on immigration reform. The first part provided background, and the second part dealt with current illegal aliens.

There is still the problem of avoiding a flood of additional illegal aliens. By providing a (slightly punitive) path towards permanent legal residency, we maintain an appeal to other would-be immigrants unable to enter the country legally. Thus, without addressing legal immigration we are setting ourselves up for another wave of illegal entry.

There are, naturally, a number of suggestions currently on the table. The Minutemen are a vigilante group trying to enforce our immigration laws themselves. As with all vigilante groups, they have little or no training in law enforcement procedures, standards of evidence, or other sometimes subtle aspects of police work. H.R.3622 would grant legitimacy to the Minutemen as part of a border-sealing initiative. Other civilian border enforcement bills are H.R.3704, which would establish a Border Patrol Auxiliary, and H.R.4099, which would establish a Border Corps within a Citizen Corps. This last is notable in that it appears to relegate civilians to roles as spotters and general assistants to formal border enforcement personnel, the latter being the ones who would potentially detain illegal crossers.

Farther down the rabbit hole are H.R.4083 and H.R.4313, both of which propose building a fence along the entire border with Mexico. H.R.4437, which has passed in the House, calls for a partially fenced border at key crossing points, which isn't necessarily unreasonable. I will not address other issues with this bill, as it is very long and has been discussed quite a bit in public and in the Congressional Record.

It seems clear that our economy has become at least somewhat reliant on foreign workers. A guest worker program has often been mentioned as a means to satisfy this reliance in a legal framework that would control the number of foreign workers and the terms of their residency in this country. H.R.2330/S.1033 would establish a new category of visa for nonimmigrant workers for a period of three years (renewable once for another three years). It would also provide labor protection for foreign workers, as well as encouraging economic development within Mexico. This last point is important, as improved economic conditions in Mexico will decrease Mexicans' incentive to come to America looking for work. Other Central and South Americans might also prefer to work in a more economically vibrant Mexico, where the local culture more closely resembles their own. H.R.3333 is similar in some ways, though it limits a foreign worker to a maximum of 365 days in the country for every two years. While apparently renewable indefinitely, this restriction effectively prevents foreign workers from changing their status from nonimmigrant to immigrant.

H.R.3333 has an additional provision worth noting. It requires that a potential guest worker obtain an offer of employment before being granted a visa. In order to match potential workers and employers, the bill mandates an Internet-based job listing site. This has the distinct advantage of ensuring that any foreign worker coming to this country has a job lined up in advance. For seasonal workers who come to America at planting or harvesting time and spend the remainder of the year at home, this could be very effective. There is always the danger of exploitation, however, and the listings and employers would have to be monitored carefully.

Guest worker visas are just one aspect of the immigration reform that we need, and address only one of the reasons that people want to come to America. America is not simply a source of employment, it represents the hope of a better life. Throughout our nation's history, immigrants have come here with the belief that if they work hard, they can be successful and provide a better future for their children than in their countries of origin. In turn, we have benefitted from their hard work and ingenuity.

Immigration benefits this country, and it is time that Congress lifted the isolationist barriers to and caps on immigration that were enacted in the 1920's.

I would like to close with yet another quote from 1870. This one is by Sen. Jacob M. Howard of Michigan, in relation to the bill advocated by Representatives Fitch and Johnson, and was made on December 22, 1869 (page 300 of the Congressional Globe for that session):

I desire to call to the attention of the committee to whom this bill may be referred that very singular provision of this bill. It is not unlawful for an American to make a contract with an Indian even in Canada or elsewhere out of the limits of the United States for the service of the person employed in the United States. There is no law, and never has been a law so far as I know, prohibiting such contracts. If they are fairly and honorably entered into they are as binding as any other contracts, and I should like to know how it has happened that the Chinese, with whom we have just entered into a treaty of friendship and commerce, are to be excluded from the right which is enjoyed by the people of all other nations of the earth, and even by our own aborigines. The right of individual immigration into the United States, I notice, is preserved by the bill. That is all well enough. I have no fault to find with that; but I do object to a discrimination against the whole population of China, such as is embraced in this bill. I think it incompatible with the spirit of our treaty with China, and unkind and unfair.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Rational Immigration Reform, Part II

This is the second part in a series on immigration reform. The first part appeared yesterday. The third part will appear tomorrow evening.

So, there is a problem. Is there a solution? Several have been proposed.

  1. Enforce the current laws, and deport illegal aliens.
    With most estimates putting the number of illegal aliens above ten million, it is difficult to see how this could be tenable. Nonetheless, this is the solution proposed by H.Con.Res.221, H.R.3693, H.R.3938, and H.R.4079. Perhaps the immigration laws should have been enforced more rigorously, but the time for that has passed. Similarly, we cannot deny illegal aliens treatment in emergency rooms, both because of the public health issues that would create and the mandate of emergency rooms to treat anyone who walks through the door. If emergency rooms cannot ask for proof of insurance, requiring them to ask for proof of citizenship would create a logistical nightmare. We also cannot exclude the children of illegal aliens from our public schools. For one, it is fundamentally unjust to punish these children for the actions of their parents—few if any of the children chose to come to this country illegally. For another, if they are here, and remain here, it is much better for them to have a basic education than to doom them to illiteracy, which increases the likelihood that they will eventually turn to a life of crime.
  2. Grant citizenship to all illegal aliens currently in the country.
    This solution does not have much traction outside of the Latino community, and even there its support is nowhere near unanimous. I list it here because I have heard it suggested, especially by members of the illegal alien community who feel that they are by rights citizens. This ignores the facts that:
    1. They entered this country illegally; and
    2. Many people who have entered legally have followed the rules, waited longer, and do not deserve to see those who have flouted the law jump ahead of them in the queue for citizenship.
  3. Grant illegal aliens legal status short of citizenship.
    This is a more reasonable approach, though proponents of this solution still differ on how best to implement it.

The problem of illegal aliens is not simply one of what to do with those people who are here illegally now. There is a larger problem of preventing future illegal entry into the country. Consequently, I would like to build on the third type of solution, while also addressing the broader problem.

I will begin with how to reconcile the ten million or so illegal aliens currently living in the United States. First, we must parameterize what is and is not acceptable. I believe it is fair to say that anyone here illegally who has committed a felony must be deported. It is also fair to say that a person in this country illegally cannot be granted immediate citizenship (barring acts of Congress, of course). I would go further and say that illegal aliens cannot be granted permanent residence status as their first legal status. This has the same fairness problem as granting them immediate citizenship, given that there are many people who have followed the rules and are waiting for permanent resident status.

This implies that whatever legal status we give illegal aliens, it must be temporary. Further, it should not have a shorter waiting period for permanent resident status than the status of those who enter the country legally. Consequently, upon attaining legal status a person should have to wait at least as long to become a permanent resident as someone who entered the country legally with similar status. It is not unreasonable to add an additional one year penalty to this wait time, as well as any typical wait time experienced by people applying for visas through normal channels.

As for the specific status, there are existing visa categories for foreign workers, both skilled and unskilled. The principal argument for allowing illegal aliens to stay is that they are gainfully employed and contributing to society. An illegal alien who can demonstrate that he or she has a job and is paying taxes should be able to get a temporary worker visa in some existing category. That person's dependents can then be given appropriate visas based on that. Because of the cost of leaving the country to obtain a visa, as well as the risk of losing a job, it should be possible for illegal aliens to apply for these visas from their current locations. This granting of legal status must also have a limited period of availability. This period should be long enough to process all illegal aliens currently in the country, and might be adjusted as the time to process each individual is better known. We might also require that illegal aliens seeking legal status demonstrate a basic proficiency in English or complete a course in English as a foreign language; this reduces the burden they will place on public services and is a fair additional price to pay.

I believe this to be a fair way to grant current illegal aliens legal status. If they are contributing to the economy, obeying the law, and learning the language, then they may remain. They do not, however, gain any advantage over those who entered the country legally. Unemployed illegal aliens or those who have committed serious crimes may not remain, though.

A potential wrinkle with this plan is that many illegal aliens are employed for less than the Federal or local minimum wage. Currently, they have no incentive to demand increased pay, even if they are aware of minimum wage laws, since to do so invites their employers to report them to Citizenship and Immigration Services. With legal status, there is greater incentive to demand the minimum wage. While not threatened with deportation, the threat of job loss is still present. If newly legal foreign workers lose jobs as they gain legal status, this could lead to workers declining to become legal or possibly a large number of legal foreign workers who have lost the eligibility for their visas. This is a serious potential consequence of legalizing current illegal aliens, and one I am not competent to assess.

In the third part of this series, I will discuss changes to the immigration system intended to deter illegal entry.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Rational Immigration Reform, Part I

For reasons of length, I will be posting the following piece as a series. This first part provides some background. The second part will appear tomorrow evening.

If you've been reading the news, or merely not living under a rock, then you know that there has been considerable debate about the millions of people in this country illegally. It seems the only thing that everyone agrees on is that Something Must Be Done. For some reason, this issue is more urgent than Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, the Sudan, warrantless wiretapping, failing schools, rebuilding New Orleans in such a way that it won't get destroyed during the next hurricane season, or an impending avian flu pandemic. The only thing that might be as important to the American people is who in Major League Baseball is injecting steroids into their butts.

National priorities aside, there is a real problem, and it has existed for many years. We can trace much of the current problem to the Immigration Act of 1924, which severely limited the number of aliens who could legally immigrate to the United States. For many countries, their nationals were completely excluded, since the Act limited immigration to a fraction of that country's nationals who had already immigrated. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 eased this restriction somewhat, providing for a minimum quota of 100 immigrants from any country. This did not, however, substantially change the fact that 1924 marked the year in which America effectively declared itself no longer a nation that welcomes immigrants seeking a better life.

America remained prosperous, however, making it an attractive place for would-be immigrants, who might not have heard about the change in its attitude. Indeed, we have retained the Statue of Liberty as a national symbol, with its words of welcome:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
[from "The New Colossus", Emma Lazarus, 1883]
In truth, it was this spirit of welcoming that made America prosperous, and has infused us continuously with creativity, ingenuity, and industry.

The fact that immigration issues have come to a head recently, when Latin American populations are becoming more predominant in many areas and a majority in some, raises suspicions of racism in immigration policy. If this is true, it is certainly nothing new in the politics of American immigration law. Consider, for example, this speech given to the House of Representatives by Rep. Thomas Fitch of Nevada on May 27, 1870, as recorded in the Appendix to the Congressional Globe (the predecessor of the Congressional Record):

With so much of the speech of the gentleman from California [Mr. Johnson] as expresses unfriendliness to the encouragement of Chinese immigration I earnestly concur. I do not believe in the cheap labor which supplants contented and well-paid toil, nor in that social theory which would force the Caucasian to rival the domestic economy of the Asiatic. I do not believe in the policy of introducing extensively into this country a race who have a distinct civilization, religion, habits, and language of their own; a race who are alike incapable and unworthy of assimilation with ours; a race with whom polygamy is a practice and female chastity is not a virtue; a race who are thrifty in habit yet slothful in thought, apt yet retrogressive, educated yet without newspapers, courageous yet without self-respect, honest in monetary affairs yet without moral principle, faithful to obligations yet utterly destitute of any regard for the truth; a race which rears no families and acquires no landed property among us, possesses no past and hopes for no future in common with our civilization, and whose members are of their own will perpetual strangers in this land, where they never design to remain, and from which they contract to have even their dead bodies exported.

A longer tirade appears in the January 25th Congressional Globe of the same year, given by the Hon. James A. Johnson of California.

We can, perhaps, see echoes of this in recent speeches, such as this one given by Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri on April 27, 2005, regarding the Emergency Immigration Workload Reduction and Homeland Security Enhancement Act of 2005:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today still afraid for our nation's security. Not because of terror alerts, but because our borders remain porous. The enforcement of our immigration policy is impotent, resulting in a continued flood of illegal immigrants across our borders.

It is time for the federal government to stop letting unchecked mass immigration undermine the wages, safety, and benefits in one occupation after another. It is time for the federal government to moderate immigration and to treat American workers, citizen and immigrant, with the respect they deserve.

Our constituents did not elect us to help cheapen the quality of their lives by importing foreign workers at six to eight times the historical average. There is no getting around the fact that when we cheapen labor with unchecked illegal immigration, we cheapen our neighbors, both citizens and immigrants alike.

I do not mean to imply that the Hon. Mr. Graves holds the sort of repugnant racial views of Mr. Fitch, nor that he opposes immigration. A critical point to observe is that Mr. Graves is discussing illegal aliens, not legal immigration against which Mr. Fitch spoke. The protectionist arguments regarding American workers are, however, similar.

In the second part of this series, I will discuss illegal aliens in this country, and how we might grant them legal status in an equitable manner.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dodged a Bullet

Today, I had my first brush with the legal system.

Technically, I suppose it actually began about a month ago with a short questionnaire, but today was the summons. To be more specific, and to begin yet another sentence with a parenthetical, I had jury duty today.

It wasn't too bad. There were two cases on the docket at the county circuit court. The first was a civil case, and only seven people (six jurors and an alternate) were empanelled. My call-in number was high enough that I didn't even come close to having to serve on that one. The other case was settled before voir dire. We then had to wait to see if the district court needed an "instant jury," which they didn't, and at 3PM we were dismissed.

At the beginning of the day (8:30AM), and later at 11AM, a number of returning jurors arrived. The woman running the juror's lounge and coordinating the orientation and selection process announced that they were dismissed, which was met with cheers. She chided them for cheering, joking that it was making a bad impression on us first-day jurors.

They had just been dismissed as potential jurors for the trial of John Allen Muhammad.