Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect. He also writes for the Plum Line blog at The Washington Post and The Week and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Homophobia in Sports and Changing Hearts

49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, celebrating his newfound respect for gay people. (AP photo by Paul Spinelli)
Almost all of us, at some time in our youth, had the experience of saying something that turned out to be way more inappropriate than we thought it was, whereupon people turned to us and said, "Dude. Not cool." In most cases, it concerned something we just hadn't thought that much about, and it often occurs when you move from one milieu to another with different mores and ideas, like going from high school to college. Or existing in a world of football players and suddenly finding yourself quoted in the media on a sociopolitical topic because your team is in the Super Bowl, which is what happened to San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver. When it happens in your dorm room, someone will explain to you why the joke you made or the term you used was out of line, and you'll probably say, "Huh—I hadn't thought about it that way, but OK." And armed with that knowledge, you'll adapt to your new surroundings and the changing times. But Culliver found himself in hot water when he was on...

The Wrong Kind of Immigration Spending

AP Photo/Tuscaloosa News, Robert Sutton
After a half-century of decline, the foreign-born population—both in numbers and in proportion of the larger American population—began increasing in the 1970s, and has now reached a point where over 40 million U.S. residents, or around 13 percent of the population, was born abroad. foreign-born_population.jpg Not only are today's immigrants coming from different places than immigrants did a century ago, they're also going to different places. While earlier generations of immigrants settled in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, today the state with the highest proportion of immigrants is California, where over one-quarter of the population is foreign-born (New York and New Jersey follow closely behind). foreign-born_by_state.jpg Some of the recent pressure to address illegal immigration has come because undocumented immigrants are moving into states where they were once rare. California, Texas, and Florida have the largest number of undocumented immigrants, but in the last...

Immigration Catch-22

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled a comprehensive immigration-reform plan. Today, Barack Obama gave a speech outlining a very similar plan, causing the four Republicans in that group to disavow their own plan as a socialist plot whose only plausible purpose is to bring a tsunami of radical Kenyan immigrants to our shores so they can marry our women and produce future presidents who will further weaken this great nation. OK, so that's not really what happened. But given recent experience, it wouldn't have been all that surprising if it had. Now that Barack Obama has joined the immigration debate with his own plan (like the bipartisan one, at this point it's not particularly detailed), it will take all the fortitude Republicans can muster to keep from doing a 180, just as they did on the individual health-insurance mandate and cap and trade, once those ideas were infected by contact with Obama. They know that their political future may depend on not screwing up...

Why "Make Them Learn English" Is the Key to Immigration Reform

New Americans taking the oath of citizenship. (Flickr/Grand Canyon NPS)
Among the provisions in the immigration-reform proposal released by a bipartisan group of senators yesterday was a requirement that in order to get on that path to citizenship, undocumented immigrants would have to "learn English and civics." They don't detail exactly how it would happen, but presumably there'd be a test of English proficiency immigrants would have to pass, and perhaps some money appropriated for English classes. There are two things to know about this idea. First, in practical terms it's completely unnecessary. And second, in political terms it's an excellent idea. In fact, it could be the key to passing immigration reform. The reason it's unnecessary is that every wave of immigrants follows basically the same pattern when it comes to English. People who immigrate as adults tend not to learn much beyond the most basic words and phrases, and continue to speak their native language at home. Their children grow up bilingual, speaking one language at home and another at...

The Only Thing to Fear is Never Getting Elected Again

Ah, bipartisanship. Can you smell it? Well it's in the air again, as a group of eight senators (for the love of god, can we not call them a "gang"?), four Democrats and four Republicans, unveiled a proposal for immigration reform. It includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (an even faster one for seasonal agricultural workers, because what, do you expect native-born Americans to spend 10 hours a day bending over in the hot sun?), measures to improve the legal immigration system, and efforts to attract skilled immigrants. The proposal also stipulates that the path to citizenship would only happen after the implementation of stricter border enforcement, but one of the great unacknowledged developments of recent years is that border enforcement is far more vigorous than it used to be. We've got more Border Patrol agents making more arrests, and Barack Obama has deported people much faster than George W. Bush did (there were more than 400,000 deportations in 2012, a new...

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