These Asylum Seekers Are Losing Jobs Because Bureaucrats Won’t Do Theirs

“While the specific cases in [this] lawsuit are unfortunate, they point to broader systemic issues in the American immigration apparatus. As Reason’s Eric Boehm reported in September, “one of the major drivers of the immigration system’s mounting caseloads,” which involves “a backlog of nearly 7 million applications and petitions,” comes down to “the government’s own, recently beefed-up immigration bureaucracy.”

The Application for Employment Authorization—the document at the heart of these plaintiffs’ woes and USCIS’s processing issues—”was expanded from one page and 18 questions to seven pages and 61 questions,” writes Boehm. Immigration restrictionists often say that hopeful migrants should come here “the legal way,” but the legal way is becoming more and more difficult to navigate. Immigrants who are already here and employed legally are finding themselves unable to continue working.

Unfortunately, the plaintiffs’ struggle is a reminder that the byzantine legal immigration system doesn’t just harm the migrants tangled in red tape—it also harms the native-born Americans who could benefit from their skills and services in tough times.”

San Francisco Considers Not One but Two Bills Legalizing ‘Missing Middle’ Housing Citywide. Both Have Flaws.

“In what might seem like a Christmas miracle come early, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering not one, but two, bills that would legalize lower density “missing middle” housing across the city.

Competing proposals introduced by Supervisors Gordon Mar and Rafael Mandelson would both allow the construction of four-unit homes (or fourplexes) on all residentially zoned land citywide. Combined with state-level reforms from earlier this year that make it easier to divide residential plots in half, both bills could theoretically allow up to eight primary residences where only one was permitted before.”

“Unfortunately, the two proposals also include micromanaging regulations that would lead to less missing middle housing being built than a more hands-off free-market approach would produce.

Mar’s bill would permit up to four units of housing on all current Residential House zones, which currently allow between one and three homes. That sounds like a pretty sweeping reform. But there’s a catch.

Mar’s bill would require the new units to be rented out or sold at rates that are affordable to someone making 100 percent of “area median income.” The San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported on the bill, notes that the current area median income in the city is $106,550 for a couple or $133,200 for a family of four.

Affordable monthly rent for a family making that amount of money would shake out to be $2,664, according to a press release from Mar’s office—$2,000 less than pre-pandemic market-rate rents for a typical two-bedroom apartment.”

“Consider what happened in Austin, Texas. In 2019, the city technically abolished single-family-only zoning when it created the Affordability Unlocked program, which allows developers to build larger projects with more units and fewer parking spaces in exchange for making the new homes affordable to lower-income people. Specifically, it allows the construction of up to eight units of housing in single-family-zoned areas. But to build those extra units, a developer would have to make as much as 75 percent of the new units affordable to people earning below area median income, include a certain number of two-bedroom units, and adopt a host of tenant protections.

As a result, few Affordability Unlocked projects have been built in single-family zones. Those that have required substantial subsidies from the city government.”

“Mandelman’s fourplex legalization bill looks like laissez faire in comparison. It allows the construction of fourplexes citywide, without any of the affordability requirements in Mar’s bill.

Nevertheless, it would require newly legal fourplexes to be built at densities no larger than what the city’s current zoning allows for three-unit homes. (Mar’s proposal has the same density restrictions.) According to Hamilton, that means Mandelman’s bill is more suited for permitting triplexes than the fourplexes it technically allows.”

The $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Spends a Lot More Money on the Same Old Highway Programs

“The $1 trillion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law..dumps a lot of new money into existing highway programs to be spent by state departments of transportation (DOTs).
The price tag of the bill—which includes $550 billion in new spending, $110 billion of which is earmarked for highways and bridges”

“by mostly topping off existing programs, it will largely maintain a status quo where some states deploy their highway dollars effectively, while others continue to set them on fire in the hopes that that will produce better roads.”

“That would include places like New Jersey, which ranked last in a report on state highway performance released by the Reason Foundation today.

The Garden State, per the report, spent $1,136,255 per mile of state-controlled road in 2019 while also having some of the worst urban congestion and pavement conditions in the country.

That’s well above more cost-effective states like Virginia. It managed to spend only $34,969 per mile of state-controlled roads while also having above average pavement quality and slightly worse-than-average congestion. (Virginia ranked second overall in the Reason highway report, right behind North Dakota.)”

“Feigenbaum says part of New Jersey’s high expenditures can be chalked up to the high design quality of its highways, which have generally wider lanes and straighter curves in order to improve safety. (It ranks fourth in the Reason report in terms of overall fatality rate). But he also says a lot can also be explained by a cronyist state DOT that’s dominated by political appointees.

A state like Virginia has been able to keep up road quality while keeping overall road spending in line by having a more professionally run DOT, he says. It also makes heavy use of public-private partnerships, whereby private companies put in their own capital to rebuild or expand highways in return for being able to charge tolls on the lanes that they build, says Feigenbaum.

In keeping with its “spend more on the same old programs” nature, Biden’s new infrastructure bill does remarkably little to advance public-private partnerships or expand the interstate tolling that supports them.

The infrastructure bill does increase the amount of private activity bonds (tax-exempt bonds issued by a private company to fund an infrastructure project) that can be issued from $15 billion to $30 billion. It also reauthorizes a handful of limited programs that allow states to use tolls to reduce congestion or rebuild bridges. But it leaves in place a general prohibition on tolling interstate highways.

The overall trend in highway spending over the past decade has been higher spending and marginally improved roadway quality, says Feigenbaum, with some states standing out for either their innovations or their wastefulness.

The new infrastructure bill will likely produce more of the same.”

After 20 Years of Failure, Kill the TSA

“The TSA blog carries constant reports of weapons confiscated from people who forgot to remove them from carry-on bags. But the Homeland Security Red Teams in the 2015 test actively concealed forbidden items just as real criminals and terrorist would. The result was that “TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.”

Two years later, a Red Team test at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport achieved the same 95 percent failure rate to detect explosives, weapons, and illegal drugs. Repeat national tests in 2017 also went badly, “in the ballpark” of an 80 percent failure rate.”

New York Creating Race-Based School ‘Affinity Groups’ To Combat Racism

“On November 23 and 24, seventh and eighth graders at the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School—a public middle school in the borough’s highly coveted District 2—are scheduled to begin their mornings by organizing themselves into racial identity “affinity groups.” This intentional act of segregation is being conducted in the name of undoing “the legacy of racism and oppression in this country.”

The New York Post reports that in an email to parents, Principal Shanna Douglas outlined five possible affinity groups the students could choose to join: Asians (who are 44 percent of the student population), whites (29 percent), a combined caucus of Hispanics and African Americans (15 percent and 8 percent, respectively), those identifying as multiracial, and people who wish to opt out of such classifications altogether.

“This optional program was developed in close coordination with both the School Leadership Team, PTA and families,” New York City Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson Nathaniel Styer told the Post. “[It is] abundantly clear to both students and parents that anyone can opt-out of this two day celebration if they desire.”

“Celebration” seems an odd word choice to describe a racial sorting exercise for pre-pubescents. “How disgusting to divide 11 year old friends & classmates by race in 2021 NYC,” tweeted former District 2 Community Education Council member Maud Maron, a noted critic both of pandemic school closures and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. “Segregating kids is wrong. (Even if some expensive DEI consultant, who has run out of real racism to battle, tells you to do it.)”

New York City’s education system is no stranger to race-based affinity groups. In June 2020, the DOE’s Early Childhood Division held an “Anti-racist Community Meeting” at which 700 employees were given the option to join breakout sessions in one of the following groups: “blacks or African-American, Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African, multiracial or mixed, Native and Indigenous, Asian Pacific Islander American, White Allies.”

That same month, the principal of a public elementary school in Queens instructed teachers that they needed to become “interrupters” of racism, then sorted staff into three groups: “Latino/a/x/Hispanic; White/Asian/Other; and Black.””

“How do advocates handle the cognitive dissonance of segregating in the name of anti-segregation? Like this, care of an email from a friend of mine’s private school principal:

“Affinity groups allow people with a shared identity to meet with one another in an emotionally safe and brave space. Unlike legal racial segregation which was a tool to maintain white power and control, racial affinity groups are anti-racist spaces in which participants can build their skills and capacity to unlearn and dismantle racism.” (Emphases in original.)”

“The initial practical problem, whose obviousness should nevertheless give affinity-promoters pause, is of classification. Why should African American/Hispanic be a single category? Or white/Asian? What do we do with the ever-elusive “white Hispanic” category? Don’t naturalized immigrants have far more in common with one another than they do with fifth-generation natives who may happen to share their skin pigment?

These definitional sorting questions point to a truism routinely treated by progressives and educational bureaucrats as false: Racial/ethnic/national identity is inherently fluid, not fixed. Immigrant Greeks and Italians and Jews in the late 1800s and early 1900s would have been shocked to hear that they were “white,” yet that’s what we call them now. Cubans ain’t Mexicans, literal Caucasians (as in, from the Caucasus Mountains) are routinely categorized as Asian, and Hispanics are seceding from their own identity. In a country founded not on nationality but ideas, this fluidity should be considered a feature, not a bug.

And yet we are sending the exact opposite message, in some cases to 11-year-olds. By making them choose their own group (even if one such group is the opt-outs), we are doing two bad things: making them feel as if their narrowly and often inaccurately defined subcategory is stamped upon them like a scarlet letter, and also that it is an important or even defining aspect of their personality.”

“Eleven-year-olds should not be told in first period to join an ethnic tribe. Their teachers should not be directed to act along those essentialist lines, either.”

FDA’s At-Home Testing Screw-Up Is Undermining Promising New COVID Treatments

“On November 4, the United Kingdom’s regulatory authorities approved molnupiravir as a treatment for COVID-19 infections. Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to dawdle over approving medications that were so effective that independent Data Monitoring Committees ruled that it would be unethical to continue giving placebos to study participants.

Speaking of dawdling, the FDA has long stymied the development and roll out of another vital component for the effective use of these antiviral medications: namely, at-home COVID-19 testing. Both pills must be taken by people within 3 to 5 days of exposure or symptom onset to be most effective at preventing hospitalization and death. That means that people need to be able to test themselves quickly, easily, and cheaply.

Up until mid-October, the FDA had approved only two over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests, one of which has now had to be recalled. In the last month and a half, agency regulators have finally gotten around to authorizing nine more.”

The Sick Man of Central Asia

“Of all the countries to emerge from the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan has arguably fared the worst. It ranks 149th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, worse than every other former Soviet republic except Turkmenistan. It has the highest poverty rate of the former Soviet republics; a full 27 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) is the result of remittances sent home by Tajik migrants working mostly in Russia; and its GDP per capita for 2021 ($810) ranks 179th out of the 195 countries for which the International Monetary Fund has data.

Why is Tajikistan so poor? It is landlocked, which means importing and exporting are more expensive and the country is more vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. And the violent civil war that followed the USSR’s fall, which pitted the incumbent Soviet power holders and their militias against a coalition of liberal reformers, anti-Soviet Islamists, and ethnic minorities, killed tens of thousands of people and displaced over 1 million Tajiks.

But geography and past conflict only explain so much. Tajikistan is rich with largely untapped mineral resources, and its mountain ranges are ideal for the kind of ecotourism that has made Nepal one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

Tajikistan is the sick man of Central Asia because it is ruled by a despot who has enriched himself and his relatives at the expense of millions of his malnourished countrymen. Emomali Rahmon has been Tajikistan’s official president since 1994 and “Leader of the Nation”—a lifetime appointment that provides him with immunity from prosecution—since 2015. In all but name, he is a king.”