Musings on Events in U.S. Immigration Court, Immigration Law, Sports, and Other Random Topics by Retired United States Immigration Judge (Arlington, Virginia) and former Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Wickham Schmidt. To see my complete professional bio, just click on the link below.
“McALLEN, Texas — Illegal crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border, after declining in early 2017, began an unexpected upturn last spring that only recently receded, according to new government figures.
The figures reflect the up-and-down nature of illegal immigration and are reminders that multiple factors — from politics to weather to conditions in home countries — influence who tries to come to the United States and when.
Apprehensions on the southern border in October 2016, a month before Donald Trump’s election, topped 66,000. After Trump’s victory, the number of migrants trying to enter the U.S. illegally reached a 17-year low.
Monthly apprehensions continued to drop into 2017, hitting 15,766 in April, when the downward trend reversed. Apprehensions rose each month to 40,513 in December. Migrant advocates said the “Trump effect” discouraging illegal immigration might be wearing off.
But last month, apprehensions decreased again. It’s not clear whether the post-holiday decrease is seasonal, or whether it will continue.
There were 35,822 migrants apprehended on the southern border in January, according to figures released Wednesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That’s not as many as in December, but it’s more than were apprehended each month last February to October.
The number of families and unaccompanied children caught crossing the border, which rose nearly every month since last spring, also dropped slightly last month to 25,980, but remained more than twice April’s total, 11,127.
In releasing the numbers Wednesday, Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton noted the apprehension figures for children and families were still high.
“Front-line personnel are required to release tens of thousands of unaccompanied alien children and illegal family units into the United States each year due to current loopholes in our immigration laws. This month we saw an unacceptable number of UACs [unaccompanied children] and family units flood our border because of these catch and release loopholes,” he said. “To secure our borders and make America safer, Congress must act to close these legal loopholes that have created incentives for illegal immigrants.”
In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, so many migrant families with small children arrive daily — more than 15,500 family members so far this fiscal year — that volunteers at a local shelter set up a play area in the corner.
When the number of unaccompanied migrant children caught crossing began to increase in April, fewer than 1,000 were apprehended a month. By last month, that had grown to 3,227. The number of family members caught crossing grew even faster during that time, from 1,118 in April to 5,656 last month.
When Elvis Antonio Muniya Mendez arrived at the shelter last month from Honduras with his 15-year-old son, the playpen was packed with the children of 100 fellow Central American migrants caught crossing the border illegally and released that day. Muniya, 36, had fled a gang that killed his 26-year-old brother the month before. He was hoping to join another brother in Indiana. He and his son were released with a notice to appear in immigration court, which he planned to attend.
“I want to live here legally, without fear,” he said.
Trump administration officials have proposed detaining more families, but that’s not happening in the Rio Grande Valley, where many are released like Muniya with notices to appear in court. The shelter where Muniya stopped, Sacred Heart, saw the number of migrants arriving drop at the end of last year only to increase recently, said the director, Sister Norma Pimentel.
“I’ve never seen so many children be part of this migration,” Pimentel said.
Children who cross the border unaccompanied by an adult are sheltered by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and placed with relatives or other sponsors in the U.S. The agency has about 9,900 shelter beds at various facilities. As of this week, the agency was sheltering 7,800 youths.
Children who cross the border with a parent may be released with notices to appear in court or held at special family detention centers.
Trump administration officials have proposed detaining more of the families. But space is limited. As of Monday, the detention centers held 1,896 people. Only one of them can hold fathers, and attorneys said it’s always full, so men who cross with children are often released with a notice to appear in court.
Advocates for greater restrictions on immigration say more needs to be done to hold parents who cross with their children accountable. They say such parents put their children at risk by making the dangerous journey. Andrew Arthur, a former immigration judge now serving as a resident fellow in law and policy at the conservative Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, said the way migrants are treated on the border encourages family migration.
“The reason the children are there to begin with is this belief that a parent with a child will not be detained,” Arthur said. That assumption, he said, is wrong.
He said Congress and the Trump administration’s unwillingness to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has also encouraged migrant families to make the trip now in hopes of benefiting from a “DACA amnesty,” even though the program is limited to those who grew up in the U.S.
But migrants and advocates said they were driven to cross the border more by conditions in Central America — gang violence and economic downturns — than by U.S. policies.
“Many of these countries, you just cannot live in them,” said Ruben Garcia of El Paso’s Annunciation House shelter. “People will tell you ‘It’s just dangerous to walk around in our neighborhood.’ ”
Quite contrary to Tyler Houlton, the Trump Administration, and the restrictionists, this isn’t about “loopholes” in the law!Individuals arriving at our borders have a right to apply for asylum and they have a right to receive Due Process and fair treatment in connection with those “life or death” applications.
But for the purposely convoluted decisions of the BIA, individuals resisting gang violence would be “slam dunk” asylum, withholding of removal, or Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) cases. If we just screened them for crimes or gang connections and granted their applications, they could easily be absorbed by our country.
But, even if we don’t want to interpret “protection laws” to actually grant much protection, we could devise humanitarian relief short of asylum or full legal status that would allow individuals whose lives were in danger to find safety in the U.S. Or, we could work with the sending countries, the UNHCR, and other countries in the Americas to solve the problem of “safe havens.”
While the Trump Administration largely ignores the lessons of history and what happens abroad, one has only to look at the “European example” to see the inevitable failure of the restrictionist agenda. The European Union has done everything within it power to” slam the door” on refugees, make them feel unwelcome, unwanted, threatened, and targets for repatriation regardless of the harm that might befall them. But, still determined refugees continue to risk their lives to flee to Europe.
What the restrictive policies have accomplished is to force more refugees to use the services of professional smugglers, and to attempt more dangerous routes. Killing more refugees en route does somewhat reduce the flow — at the cost of the humanity of the nations involved.
I suspect that the increase in deaths has to do with more individuals having to use the services of professional smugglers, who are more unscrupulous than “Mom & Pop” and “Do It Yourself” operations, and smugglers having to use more dangerous routes to avoid increased border security.
I suppose that restrictionists can be cheered by the fact that more individuals will be killed coming to and into the United States, thus decreasing the overall flow of unwanted human beings. But 1) it won’t stop people from coming, and 2) I doubt that finding way to kill more refugees will look that good in historical perspective.
As one of my colleagues told me early on in my career as an Immigration Judge: “Desperate people do desperate things!” That’s not going to change, no matter how much the restrictionists want to believe that institutional cruelty, inhumanity, “sending messages,” denying legal rights, and “get tough tactics” can completely squelch the flow of human migration. However, it certainly can squelch the flame of our own humanity.
“She is perhaps the most successful Federal Reserve chair in modern history and the first woman to hold the job, yet her contributions are ignored
The strength of the economy was the keystone of President Trump’s State of the Union speech. There was no need to exaggerate how good things are – low inflation, lower unemployment, soaring stock market. Nonetheless, as usual, he had to inflate his boastful claims with hot air.
There were so many encomiums for various Americans in the president’s speech that the personal, anecdotal stories blurred into each other. But there was no word of thanks for the person most responsible for the strong economic winds keeping the Trump administration afloat.
Janet Yellen, perhaps the most successful Federal Reserve chair in modern history and the first woman to hold the job, was completely unrecognized. President Trump gave her the boot, making her the first Fed leader not to be renominated for a second term. All of her predecessors were renominated by presidents of the opposite party. But not Yellen, whom President Barack Obama appointed in 2014 and whose last day on the job is 3 February.
Yellen was denounced by some of the Republican lawmakers who clapped thunderously as the president bragged about the 2.4m jobs created during the first year of his presidency. Conservatives in the Congress lambasted Yellen in her early days for her singular focus on job creation and her tenacious loyalty to the bond-buying program known as quantitative easing.
As a member of the Fed board of governors, Powell had supported virtually all of Yellen’s key decisions. It’s telling that the president had to embroider the already impressive economic gains the country had enjoyed during his first year in office.
“Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone,” he boasted. But according to Pro Publica, only 206,000 real jobs have actually been created so far and only 63,000 of those can be attributed to President Trump.
As for manufacturing jobs, the president began his tenure by anointing himself as the savior of a Carrier plant in Indianapolis, Indiana. But only two weeks ago, 200 workers at the plant lost their jobs. And it took $7m in tax breaks and other goodies just to get Carrier to back off from its plan to move to Mexico.
The New Yorker published the anguished stories of some of those being laid off earlier this month, just as President Trump began drafting his speech. The magazine gathered with a group of about-to-be former Carrier employees at Sully’s, a local bar. They expressed their sense of having been had by Trump.
Among those who spoke at the gathering was Chuck Jones, the former president of United Steel Workers Local 1999, in Indianapolis, who disputed Trump’s initial claims about the Carrier deal and was attacked by Trump on Twitter as a result. “Trump is a liar and an idiot,” Jones told the crowd, adding, “He’s a con man, pure and simple, who sold us a bag of shit.”
The 2.4m new jobs figure Trump trumpeted for 2017 is accurate. But it’s also less than the 2.7m jobs created during President Obama’s last year in office. The president’s “Happy Days Are Here Again” economic picture hinges on what he described in his address as “the biggest tax cuts and reform in history”.
Actually, the Trump tax cuts are only the 12th largest in history. Ronald Reagan’s 1981 rate cuts were the largest. Everyone knows that the tax bill that was the president’s signature achievement in 2017 is a wet kiss to the billionaire class and robs the poor and many members of the middle class. Nonetheless, Trump and the Republican party believe the tax cuts may be the only thing standing between them and Armageddon in the 2018 elections.
The Koch Brothers, among the chief beneficiaries of the bill, just announced their intention of asking their donor network to spend $400m to beat back an expected Democratic wave in congressional races. They more or less sat out those races in 2016 and were lukewarm to Trump. With the tax bill gift, they are lukewarm no more.
Trump also repeated the most cynical boast of all – that he’s responsible for improving the economic standing of black Americans. He was stung by criticisms from Jay-Z and tweeted: “Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!”
Black unemployment has been declining steadily for the past seven years. It is now at its lowest rate – below 7%, but it is still more about double the 3.7% rate for white Americans, hardly something to brag about.
Before the speech, pundits debated whether the president would be “Twitter Trump” or “Teleprompter Trump” for his State of the Union. The angry, dark president on view a year ago on Inauguration Day was replaced by the calm reader. Also on display, to good reviews, in Davos.
But substance, not presentation, is what’s important. And it was really the same Donald Trump standing in the well of the House of Representatives, the man who regularly does set a record: for untruths uttered by an American president.
Jill Abramson is a Guardian columnist”
You can be pretty sure that when the inevitable financial crisis comes, both Trump and “The Munchkin” will be clueless about what to do. After all, this is a dude whose formula for dealing with his own business incompetence was “stiff the suppliers, screw the workers, and declare bankruptcy!” We all have to hope that new Fed Chief Jerome Powell turns out to be smarter and more “Yellen-like” than the clowns who ousted her.
And, of course, when the tough times come, Trumpie will blame the Democrats, “sanctuary cities,” Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mexico, Canada, California, New York, The New York Times, CNN, NBC News, or just about anybody, rather than accepting any personal responsibility. That’s just not in the Con-Man’s makeup. But, when things look good again, you can bet that The Donald will take all the credit and stiff the “real heroes” no matter who they are.
“In 1968, a British Conservative politician, Enoch Powell, made what became known as his “Rivers of Blood” speech. In it, he sounded an alarm about what he imagined to be an unchecked immigrant invasion of the United Kingdom, at a time when the country’s immigrant population had only grown from 5 to 6% in the previous decade.
Crime was low, less than one homicide per 100,000 residents, a tenth the rate of the US. Quoting a constituent, he foresaw the day when “the black man will have the whip hand over the white man”. In subsequent decades, immigration slowly inched upwards, but the scenario Powell envisioned failed to materialize.
Half a century later, we Americans live in a Powellesque moment in which politicians’ hysterical rhetoric surrounding immigration is completely at odds with the facts. President Trump, giving his own Rivers of Blood speech on Tuesday, painted a grim picture of a wave of hardened criminal immigrants, exploiting diversity visas and “chain migration”, running around the country murdering people left and right.
In reality, illegal immigration to the US is down, not up. Trump would like to take credit for this with his tough talk about walls, rapists, and “bad hombres” from Mexico, but the number of unauthorized immigrants in the country has been falling for the past decade, due not to xenophobic bluster but the Great Recession.
Net migration from Mexico is currently negative: more Mexicans are leaving the US than coming in, and have been doing so since the end of the Bush administration. In coming decades, most new immigrants to the US will not be from Latin America at all, but from China and India.
Violent crime, too, is down, way down: FBI statistics show violent crimes are just half of what they were in the early 90s. Trump would have you believe that immigrants are responsible for “tremendous amounts of crime”, but research shows immigrants commit less crime than native-born Americans.
Yet to convince us the opposite is true, Trump and the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, have zeroed in on one group in particular, Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13, a gang I’ve researched in El Salvador. MS-13 makes for a picture-perfect boogeyman given its reputation for violence and scary face tattoos, and misreported origins in Central America.
In fact, it started in Los Angeles in the 1980s, was originally made up of adolescent stoners who listened to heavy metal, and only grew into a much larger and more vicious, officially designated “transnational gang” thanks to mass criminal deportations by the Clinton administration to poor countries that were ill-equipped to deal with the influx.
It can’t really be described accurately as a single gang but is rather a network of gangs with little centralized authority and a franchised name, whose street value only increases with each press conference by Trump and Sessions. And for all the hype, MS-13 is a relatively small player here. Its estimated US membership has remained constant for the past decade at around 10,000, or less than 1% of the 1.4 million gang members in the US: far smaller than the Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, or Aryan Brotherhood.
Even the face tattoo image is out of date; MS cliques have been discouraging members from getting them after belatedly realizing it makes them easy to identify by police.
As for the origins of this nonexistent immigrant crime wave, Trump blames “chain migration”, the more menacing nativist buzzword for family reunification, the principle on which our immigration laws are founded.
“Chain migration” is actually a conservative idea: the Immigration and Nationality Act, which was passed in 1965, was sold to immigration restrictionists as a law which would preserve mostly white immigration while doing away with the overtly racist, eugenics-inspired quota laws it replaced. Because by 1965, most immigrants to the US were from Europe, it was assumed that giving preference to family members of current immigrants would restrict immigration from other parts of the world.
The opposite happened, with immigration surging from Asia and Latin America, not coincidentally many countries with histories of US military intervention: Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Iraq. Yet family reunification has remained the cornerstone of immigration policy, with broad conservative support, for decades.
After all, it is a policy which upholds the family as a unit. Families, conservatives argued, were preferable to single men. They encourage stable employment, homeownership, participation in the community, and provide a source of private, non-state welfare for needy relatives. Families are what keeps people out of trouble, the kind Trump imagines immigrants are getting into, and which may actually happen if he succeeds in taking away this base of support.
It wouldn’t be the first time US immigration policy had the opposite of its intended effect, from Johnson’s 1965 immigration law to Clinton’s criminal deportations. Similarly, Trump’s recent decision to revoke TPS protection for over 200,000 legal immigrants from Haiti and El Salvador will only increase the number of unauthorized immigrants and lead to more unauthorized immigration in the future: mass deportations mean a loss of cash remittances from those immigrants to countries whose economies are heavily dependent on them, which will only worsen unemployment and send more migrants north.
Breaking up families also creates the conditions of insecurity under which predatory gangs thrive. In Central America, deportations from the US give gangs a new vulnerable population to recruit from. In the US, the loss of family networks and raids which push migrants into the shadows give them a new vulnerable population to extort. There aren’t many beneficiaries of Trump’s immigration policy, but there’s at least one: MS-13 couldn’t have asked for a better president than Trump.”
Pretty much what I’ve been saying all along! With their toxic mixture of ignorance, arrogance, incompetence, bias, White Nationalism, and racism, Trump, Sessions, Miller, and their sycophantic followers have been destroying American communities, weakening and dissolving American society, and empowering our enemies, foreign and domestic! Other than that, they’re a great bunch of guys.
The only folks happier than MS-13 about the Trump/Sessions regime and their “sell-out” of America and American values are Vladi Putin and his Oligarchs.
“In 2006, Arizona passed a ballot initiative that barred students without legal immigration status from receiving in-state tuition rates at public universities and colleges.
Dulce Matuz, an electrical-engineering major at Arizona State, ran to find her professor.
Bursting into tears, she told him something she had only ever shared with her closest friends. She was undocumented.
“It felt good to tell my story,” she told the Guardian this week. “It was like a weight had been lifted.”
The law meant Matuz would have to pay the out-of-state tuition rate, which she could not afford. But the next day, her professor gave her a flier advertising scholarships for “people in your situation”.
Matuz had thought she was the only undocumented student on one of the largest campuses in the country. She was wrong.
At an informational meeting, she met dozens of young people with stories similar to hers. Their discussion grew into a statewide coalition, the students rallying with organizations across the US to declare themselves “undocumented and unafraid”.
One by one they shed their anonymity, in effect daring law enforcement to target them.
It was a risky move, especially in a state which was then a cauldron of anti-immigrant sentiment. But the students weren’t alone. Thousands of young immigrants came forward to demand a future in the country where they were raised. Each had a name and a story.
Collectively, they are known as Dreamers, young people without immigration status who were brought to the US as children. Over the last decade, they’ve gone from the “shadows” to the center stage of US politics, and their fate now dangles before an irascible president and a gridlocked Congress.
In September, Donald Trump ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), an Obama-era program that lifted the threat of deportation for Dreamers.
The administration argued that Obama had overstepped his authority. But Trump did give Dreamers a six-month grace period and called on Congress to pass legislation.
“If the Dreamers are able to lead a fight that results in a radical, nativist administration signing into law their freedom, it would be a testament only to how much moral and political power the Dreamers have built,” said Frank Sharry, a long-time advocate of immigration reform and executive director of America’s Voice.
Conservatives suggest Trump is uniquely qualified to succeed where predecessors have failed, to achieve immigration reform, precisely because of his credibility among fierce opponents of illegal immigration.
At a meeting earlier this month, for example, Trump promised to “take the heat” if Republicans passed legislation.
“President Obama tried and couldn’t fix immigration, President Bush tried and couldn’t do it,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who is pushing bipartisan immigration reform.
“I believe President Trump can. Today’s Daca recipients can be tomorrow’s Trump Dreamers.”
Polling has consistently shown that a large majority of Americans – 87% in one recent survey – support protections for Dreamers. But general anti-immigrant fervor has stalled efforts to pass legislation and conservatives remain divided over whether Dreamers should ever be allowed to be citizens.
Rounds of negotiations have yielded no solution, only a brief shutdown of the federal government during which Democrats tried to force lawmakers to extend legal status to the Dreamers.
Depending on the day, lawmakers and the president are either on the verge of striking a deal or as far apart as ever. Trump was elected after championing hard-line immigration policies but he has demanded both a “bill of love” and a border wall.
This week, the White House released a proposal that offered a pathway to citizenship for up to 1.8 million undocumented young people – in exchange for a $25bn “trust fund” for a border wall, a crackdown on undocumented migrants and changes to the migration system.
The offer did not go down well, either with Trump’s base or with progressives ranged against him. Immigration hardliners crowned Trump “Amnesty Don”. Advocates for reform rejected the offer as an attempt to seal America’s borders.
In a statement issued on Friday, Chris Murphy, a Connecticut senator, called the offer “a total non-starter” that “preyed on the worst kind of prejudice”, using Dreamers “as a bargaining chip to build a wall and rip thousands of families apart”.
Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that Daca reform had “been made increasingly difficult by the fact that [Senate minority leader] Cryin’ Chuck Schumer took such a beating over the shutdown that he is unable to act on immigration!”
Dreamers say the fight is only beginning.
Matuz became a US citizen in 2016, a decade after she “came out of the shadows”. But she still identifies strongly with her fellow Dreamers.
“We still haven’t achieved what we set out to achieve,” she said.
’They’re speaking up’
The Dreamer movement came of age during the Obama administration. But legislation to build a path to citizenship was introduced to Congress in 2001.
Two senators – Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, and Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican – introduced the first Dream Act in August that year, a month before 9/11.
But after the attacks, as concerns over national security and terrorism dominated public life, the immigration debate shifted sharply. The bill stalled. It was reintroduced several times, without success.
Nonetheless, the Dreamers continued to galvanize public support. They escalated their tactics, staging sit ins and actions that risked arrest.
“There was a time when they used to be very quiet,” Durbin said recently at a rally. “Not any more. They’re speaking up and we’re proud that they are.”
The Dreamers’ fight for citizenship, Durbin has said, is the “civil rights issue of our time”.
In December 2010, the Dream Act was brought to the floor. It failed again. In 2012, months before the presidential election, Barack Obama established Daca.
Recipients had to have entered the US before their 16th birthday, which means the oldest beneficiaries are now 35.
The most common age of entry to the US was three while the median age was six, according to a report by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank in Washington.
Eight hundred thousand people qualified, the vast majority of them Latino, according to data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Nearly 80% were born in Mexico.
The largest numbers of recipients now live in California and other border states such as Texas and Arizona. They are more likely than their ineligible counterparts to hold a college degree and a higher-skilled job, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute.
“What you’re seeing in the Dreamers is a reflection of the American ideals,” said Daniel Garza, president of the conservative Libre Institute, a free-market Latino advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers.
“When one breathes freedom it manifests itself. And now that these kids have a shot at directing their own future or setting a path toward their own future, let’s remove those barriers and allow them that opportunity.”
‘I’m not alone’
Over the last several months, Dreamers have been in Washington, walking the halls of Congress.
They wear light orange shirts with a comic book POW! bubble with the words: “Clean Dream Act Now.”
They sleep on church floors and friends’ couches; a few missed final exams to join protests in December, when there was a flicker of hope that legislation might receive a vote.
Greisa Martínez Rosas, 29, has been among them, leading members in song at rallies on the lawn in front of the capitol building, in between meetings with members of Congress.
She was eight when she and her father staked out a spot on the Rio Grande river and crossed from Mexico into Texas. She laid seashells to mark the place. The next day, her family swam into the United States.
Martínez Rosas grew up in a Hispanic neighborhood of Dallas and attended Texas A&M University. But the life she was building begin to unravel when her father was deported. Her mother died in 2016.
Fighting for a Dream Act has given her purpose, she said, and she is now advocacy and policy director at United We Dream, a national organization that campaigns for migrant rights. She has three younger sisters, one of them also undocumented.
“I am really lucky to be doing this,” she said. “It gives meaning to a lot of the pain and helps me deal with a lot of the trauma growing up undocumented.
“The reality is that I’m not alone. My story isn’t special. That’s why it’s so important that we wage this fight.”
The Dreamers rejected Trump’s latest proposal, even though it would allow a pathway to citizenship for more than twice the number of Daca recipients.
“We are not willing to accept an immigration deal that takes our country 10 steps back no matter how badly we want reprieve,” Martínez Rosas said. “That’s how much we love this country.”
The problem isn’t the Dreamers. It’s the 13% of so of White Nationalist citizens who have forgotten their own immigrant heritage and have abandoned human decency, compassion, and common sense in the process. Unfortunately, this minority has, and continues to wield, a disproportionate share of political power.
Folks, as we take a few minutes today to remember Dr. King, his vision for a better America, and his inspiring “I Have A Dream Speech,” we have to face the fact that everything Dr. King stood for is under a vicious and concerted attack, the likes of which we haven’t seen in America for approximately 50 years, by individuals elected to govern by a minority of voters in our country.
So, today, I’m offering you a “potpourri” of how and why Dr.King’s Dream has “gone south,” so to speak, and how those of us who care about social justice and due process in America can nevertheless resurrect it and move forward together for a greater and more tolerant American that celebrates the talents, contributions, and humanity of all who live here!.
On Martin Luther King’s birthday, a look back at some disquieting events in race relations in 2017.
Nearly 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. went to the mountaintop and looked out over the promised land. In a powerful and prophetic speech on April 3, 1968, he told a crowd at the Mason Temple in Memphis that while there would certainly be difficult days ahead, he had no doubt that the struggle for racial justice would be successful.
“I may not get there with you,” he said. “But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And so I am happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything.”
The following day, he was assassinated.
The intervening years have been full of steps forward and steps backward, of extraordinary changes as well as awful reminders of what has not changed. What would King have made of our first black president? What would he have thought had he seen neo-Nazis marching through the streets of Charlottesville, Va., so many years after his death? How would he have viewed the shooting by police of unarmed black men in cities around the country — or the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement? He would surely have heard the assertions that we have become a “post-racial” society because we elected (and reelected) Barack Obama. But would he have believed it?
This past year was not terribly heartening on the civil rights front. It was appalling enough that racist white nationalists marched in Charlottesville in August. But it was even more shocking that President Trump seemed incapable of making the most basic moral judgment about that march; instead, he said that there were some “very fine people” at the rally of neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Racial injustices that bedeviled the country in King’s day — voter suppression, segregated schools, hate crimes — have not gone away. A report released last week by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on inequities in the funding of public schools concludes — and this should surprise no one — that students of color living in poor, segregated neighborhoods are often relegated to low-quality schools simply due to where they live. States continued in 2017 to pass laws that make it harder, rather than easier, for people of color to vote.
The Trump administration also seems determined to undo two decades of Justice Department civil rights work, cutting back on investigations into the excessive use of force and racial bias by police departments. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions in March ordered a review of all existing federal consent decrees with local police departments with the possibility of dismantling them — a move that could set back police reform by many years.
Here in Los Angeles County, this statistic is telling: 40% of the estimated 57,000 homeless people — the most desperate and destitute residents of the county — are black. Yet black residents make up only 9% of the L.A. County population.
But despite bad news on several fronts, what have been heartening over the last year are the objections raised by so many people across the country.
Consider the statues of Confederate generals and slave owners that were brought down across the country. Schools and other institutions rebranded buildings that were formerly named after racists.
The Black Lives Matter movement has grown from a small street and cyber-protest group into a more potent civil rights organization focusing on changing institutions that have traditionally marginalized black people.
When football quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest, as he said, a country that oppresses black people, he was denounced by many (including Trump) but emulated by others. Kaepernick has been effectively banished from professional football but he started a movement.
Roy Moore was defeated for a Senate seat in Alabama by a surge of black voters, particularly black women. (But no sooner did he lose than Joe Arpaio — the disgraced, vehemently anti-immigrant former Arizona sheriff — announced that he is running for Senate there.)
So on what would have been King’s 89th birthday, it is clear that the United States is not yet the promised land he envisioned in the last great speech of his life. But we agree with him that it’s still possible to get there.”
See this short HuffPost video on “Why MLK’s Message Still Matters Today!”
Read about how the Arizona GOP has resurrected, and in some instances actually welcomed, “Racist Joe” Arpaio, an unapologetic anti-Hispanic bigot and convicted scofflaw. “Racist Joe” was pardoned by Trump and is now running for the GOP nomination to replace retiring Arizona GOP Senator Jeff Flake, who often has been a critic of Trump. One thing “Racist Joe’s” candidacy is doing is energizing the Latino community that successfully fought to remove him from the office of Sheriff and to have him brought to justice for his racist policies.
Spared from the threat of deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, she campaigned to oust Joe Arpaio when he unsuccessfully ran for reelection as Maricopa County sheriff in 2016. She knocked on hundreds of doors in south Phoenix’s predominantly Latino neighborhoods to register voters. She made phone calls, walked on college campuses. Her message was direct, like the name of the group she worked with, Bazta Arpaio, a take on the Spanish word basta — enough Arpaio.
But now, the 85-year-old former sheriff is back and running for Senate. Sanchez, who had planned to step away from politics to focus on her studies at Grand Canyon University, is back as well, organizing once more.
“If he thinks he can come back and terrorize the entire state like he did Maricopa County, it’s not going to happen,” Sanchez, 20, said. “I’m not going to let it happen.”
Arpaio enters a crowded Republican primary and may not emerge as the party’s nominee, but his bid has already galvanized Arizona’s Latino electorate — one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing voter blocs.
Organizers like Sanchez, who thought they might sit out the midterm elections, rushed back into offices and started making calls. Social media groups that had gone dormant have resurrected with posts reminding voters that Arpaio was criminally convicted of violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.
“We’ve been hearing, ‘Is it true Arpaio is back? OK, what can we do to help?’” said Montserrat Arredondo, director of One Arizona, a Phoenix nonprofit group focused on increasing Latino voter turnout. “People were living in terror when Arpaio was in office. They haven’t forgotten.”
In 2008, 796,000 Latinos were eligible to vote in the state, according to One Arizona. By 2016, that potential voting pool jumped to 1.1 million. (California tops the nation with the most Latinos eligible to vote, almost 6.9 million.)
In 2016, Latinos accounted for almost 20% of all registered voters in Arizona. Latinos make up about 30% of Arizona’s population.
. . . .
Last year, President Trump pardoned Arpaio of a criminal conviction for violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos. When announcing his candidacy Tuesday, Arpaio pledged his full support to the president and his policies.
On Saturday, Arpaio made his first public appearance since announcing his candidacy, attending a gathering of Maricopa County Republicans. He was unmoved when asked about the enthusiasm his candidacy has created among Latinos.
“Many of them hate me for enforcing the law,” he said. “I can’t change that. … All I know is that I have my supporters, they’re going to support who they want. I’m in this to win it though.”
Arpaio, gripping about a dozen red cardboard signs that read “We need Sheriff Joe Arpaio in DC,” walked through the crowd where he mingled with, among others, former state Sen. Kelli Ward and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who also are seeking the GOP Senate nomination. Overall, Arpaio was widely met with enthusiasm from attendees.
“So glad you’re back,” said a man wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” hat.
“It’s great to be back,” Arpaio replied.
Arpaio, who handed out business cards touting his once self-proclaimed status as “America’s toughest sheriff,” said he had no regrets from his more than two decades in office.
“Not a single one,” he said. “I spoke my mind and did what needed to be done and would do it the same in a minute.”
In an interview, Arpaio, who still insists he has “evidence” that former President Obama’s birth certificate is forged, a rumor repeatedly shown to be false, did not lay out specific policy platforms, only insisting he’ll get things done in Washington.
During his tenure as sheriff, repeated court rulings against his office for civil rights violations cost local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.”
Read the complete story at the link.
Professor George Yancy of Emory University writing in the NY Times asks “Will America Choose King’s Dream Or Trump’s Nightmare?”
“Let’s come clean: President Trump is a white racist! Over the past few days, many have written, spoken and shouted this fact, but it needs repeating: President Trump is a white racist! Why repeat it? Because many have been under the grand illusion that America is a “post-racial” nation, a beautiful melting pot where racism is only sporadic, infrequent and expressed by those on the margins of an otherwise mainstream and “decent” America. That’s a lie; a blatant one at that. We must face a very horrible truth. And America is so cowardly when it comes to facing awful truths about itself.
So, as we celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we must face the fact that we are at a moral crossroad. Will America courageously live out Dr. King’s dream or will it go down the road of bigotry and racist vitriol, preferring to live out Mr. Trump’s nightmare instead? In his autobiography, reflecting on the nonviolent uprising of the people of India, Dr. King wrote, “The way of acquiesce leads to moral and spiritual suicide.” Those of us who defiantly desire to live, and to live out Dr. King’s dream, to make it a reality, must not acquiesce now, precisely when his direst prophetic warning faces us head on.
On the night before he was murdered by a white man on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., Dr. King wrote: “America is going to hell if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.” Our current president, full of hatred and contempt for those children, is the terrifying embodiment of this prophecy.
We desperately need each other at this moment of moral crisis and malicious racist divisiveness. Will we raise our collective voices against Mr. Trump’s white racism and those who make excuses for it or submit and thereby self-destructively kill any chance of fully becoming our better selves? Dr. King also warned us that “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” To honor Dr. King, we must not remain silent, we must not betray his legacy.
So many Americans suffer from the obsessive need to claim “innocence,” that is, to lie to ourselves. Yet such a lie is part of our moral undoing. While many will deny, continue to lie and claim our national “innocence,” I come bearing deeply troubling, but not surprising, news: White racism is now comfortably located within the Oval Office, right there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, embodied in our 45th president, one who is, and I think many would agree, must agree, without any hesitation, a white racist. There are many who will resist this characterization, but Mr. Trump has desecrated the symbolic aspirations of America, exhumed forms of white supremacist discourse that so many would assume is spewed only by Ku Klux Klan.”
Read the rest of Professor Yancy’s op-ed at the link.
From lead columnist David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick at the NY Times we get “Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List.”
Donald Trump has been obsessed with race for the entire time he has been a public figure. He had a history of making racist comments as a New York real-estate developer in the 1970s and ‘80s. More recently, his political rise was built on promulgating the lie that the nation’s first black president was born in Kenya. He then launched his campaign with a speech describing Mexicans as rapists.
The media often falls back on euphemisms when describing Trump’s comments about race: racially loaded, racially charged, racially tinged, racially sensitive. And Trump himself has claimed that he is “the least racist person.” But here’s the truth: Donald Trump is a racist. He talks about and treats people differently based on their race. He has done so for years, and he is still doing so.
Here, we have attempted to compile a definitive list of his racist comments – or at least the publicly known ones.
The New York Years
Trump’s real-estate company tried to avoid renting apartments to African-Americans in the 1970s and gave preferential treatment to whites, according to the federal government.
Trump treated black employees at his casinos differently from whites, according to multiple sources. A former hotel executive said Trump criticized a black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks.”
In 1989, Trump took out ads in New York newspapers urging the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park; he argued they were guilty as late as October 2016, more than 10 years after DNA evidence had exonerated them.
In 1989, on NBC, Trump said: “I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that. I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I really believe they do have an actual advantage.”
He uses the gang MS-13 to disparage all immigrants. Among many other statements, he has suggested that Obama’s protection of the Dreamers — otherwise law-abiding immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children — contributed to the spread of MS-13.
In December 2015, Trump called for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” including refusing to readmit Muslim-American citizens who were outside of the country at the time.
“I find nothing more useless than debating the existence of racism, particularly when you are surrounded by evidence of its existence. It feels to me like a way to keep you fighting against the water until you drown.
The debates themselves, I believe, render a simple concept impossibly complex, making the very meaning of “racism” frustratingly murky.
So, let’s strip that away here. Let’s be honest and forthright.
Racism is simply the belief that race is an inherent and determining factor in a person’s or a people’s character and capabilities, rendering some inferior and others superior. These beliefs are racial prejudices.
The history of America is one in which white people used racism and white supremacy to develop a racial caste system that advantaged them and disadvantaged others.
Understanding this, it is not a stretch to understand that Donald Trump’s words and deeds over the course of his life have demonstrated a pattern of expressing racial prejudices that demean people who are black and brown and that play to the racial hostilities of other white people.
It is not a stretch to say that Trump is racist. It’s not a stretch to say that he is a white supremacist. It’s not a stretch to say that Trump is a bigot.
I know of no point during his entire life where he has apologized for, repented of, or sought absolution for any of his racist actions or comments.
Instead, he either denies, deflects or amps up the attack.
Trump is a racist. We can put that baby to bed.
“Racism” and “racist” are simply words that have definitions, and Trump comfortably and unambiguously meets those definitions.
We have unfortunately moved away from the simple definition of racism, to the point where the only people to whom the appellation can be safely applied are the vocal, violent racial archetypes.
Racism doesn’t require hatred, constant expression, or even conscious awareness. We want racism to be fringe rather than foundational. But, wishing isn’t an effective method of eradication.
We have to face this thing, stare it down and fight it back.
The simple acknowledgment that Trump is a racist is the easy part. The harder, more substantive part is this: What are we going to do about it?
First and foremost, although Trump is not the first president to be a racist, we must make him the last. If by some miracle he should serve out his first term, he mustn’t be allowed a second. Voters of good conscience must swarm the polls in 2020.
But before that, those voters must do so later this year, to rid the House and the Senate of as many of Trump’s defenders, apologists and accomplices as possible. Should the time come where impeachment is inevitable, there must be enough votes in the House and Senate to ensure it.
We have to stop thinking that we can somehow separate what racists believe from how they will behave. We must stop believing that any of Trump’s actions are clear of the venom coursing through his convictions. Everything he does is an articulation of who he is and what he believes. Therefore, all policies he supports, positions he takes and appointments he makes are suspect.
And finally, we have to stop giving a pass to the people — whether elected official or average voter — who support and defend his racism. If you defend racism you are part of the racism. It doesn’t matter how much you say that you’re an egalitarian, how much you say that you are race blind, how much you say that you are only interested in people’s policies and not their racist polemics.
As the brilliant James Baldwin once put it: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.” When I see that in poll after poll a portion of Trump’s base continues to support his behavior, including on race, I can only conclude that there is no real daylight between Trump and his base. They are part of his racism.
When I see the extraordinary hypocrisy of elected officials who either remain silent in the wake of Trump’s continued racist outbursts or who obliquely condemn him, only to in short order return to defending and praising him and supporting his agenda, I see that there is no real daylight between Trump and them either. They too are part of his racism.
When you see it this way, you understand the enormity and the profundity of what we are facing. There were enough Americans who were willing to accept Trump’s racism to elect him. There are enough people in Washington willing to accept Trump’s racism to defend him. Not only is Trump racist, the entire architecture of his support is suffused with that racism. Racism is a fundamental component of the Trump presidency.
Back over at the Washington Post, op-ed writer E.J. Dionne, Jr., tells us the depressing news that “We could be a much better country. Trump makes it impossible.”
Dionne concludes his piece with the following observations about our current “Dreamer” debate:
“Our current debate is frustrating, and not only because Trump doesn’t understand what “mutual toleration” and “forbearance” even mean. By persistently making himself, his personality, his needs, his prejudices and his stability the central topics of our political conversation, Trump is blocking the public conversation we ought to be having about how to move forward.
And while Trump’s enablers in the Republican Party will do all they can to avoid the issue, there should now be no doubt (even if this was clear long ago) that we have a blatant racist as our president. His reference to immigrants from “sh–hole countries” and his expressed preference for Norwegians over Haitians, Salvadorans and new arrivals from Africa make this abundantly clear. Racist leaders do not help us reach mutual toleration. His semi-denial 15 hours after his comment was first reported lacked credibility, especially because he called around first to see how his original words would play with his base.
But notice also what Trump’s outburst did to our capacity to govern ourselves and make progress. Democrats and Republicans sympathetic to the plight of the “dreamers” worked out an immigration compromise designed carefully to give Trump what he had said he needed.
There were many concessions by Democrats on border security, “chain migration” based on family reunification, and the diversity visa lottery that Trump had criticized. GOP senators such as Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) bargained in good faith and were given ample reason by Trump to think they had hit his sweet spot.
Trump blew them away with a torrent of bigotry. In the process, he shifted the onus for avoiding a government shutdown squarely on his own shoulders and those of Republican leaders who were shamefully slow in condemning the president’s racism.
There are so many issues both more important and more interesting than the psyche of a deeply damaged man. We are capable of being a far better nation. But we need leaders who call us to our obligations to each other as free citizens. Instead, we have a president who knows only how to foster division and hatred.”
Read the rest of the op-ed at the link.
Our “Liar-in-Chief:” This short video from CNN, featuring the Washington Post’s “Chief Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler deals with the amazing 2000+ false or misleading claims that Trump has made even before the first anniversary of his Presidency: “Trump averages 5-6 false claims a day.”
Also on video, even immigration restrictionists sometimes wax eloquent about the exceptional generosity of U.S. immigration and refugee laws (even as they engage in an unending battle to undermine that claimed generosity). But, the reality, as set forth in this short HuffPost video is that on a regular basis our Government knowingly and intentionally returns individuals, mostly Hispanics, to countries where they are likely to be harmed or killed because we are unable to fit them within often hyper-technical and overly restrictive readings of various protection laws or because we are unwilling to exercise humanitarian discretion to save them..
I know first-hand because in my former position as a U.S. Immigration Judge, I sometimes had to tell individuals (and their families) in person that I had to order them returned to a country where I had concluded that they would likely be severely harmed or killed because I could not fit them into any of the categories of protection available under U.S. law. I daresay that very few of the restrictionists who glory in the idea of even harsher and more restrictive immigration laws have had this experience.
And clearly, Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Steven Miller, Bob Goodlatte and others in the GOP would like to increase the number of humans we return to harm or death by stripping defenseless juveniles and other vulnerable asylum seekers of some of the limited rights they now possess in the false name of “border security.” Indeed, Sessions even invented a false narrative of a fraud-ridden, “attorney-gamed” (how do folks who often don’t even have a chance to get an attorney use attorneys to “game” the system?) asylum system in an attempt to justify his totally indefensible and morally bankrupt position.
Check out this video from HuffPost, entitled “This Is The Violent And Tragic Reality Of Deportation” to see the shocking truth about how our removal system really works (or not)!
Thinking of MLK’S “I have a dream,” next, I’ll take you over to The Guardian, where Washington Correspondent Sabrina Siddiqui tells us how “Immigration policy progress and setbacks have become pattern for Dreamers.”
“Greisa Martínez Rosas has seen it before: a rare bipartisan breakthrough on immigration policy, offering a glimmer of hope to advocates like herself. Then a swift unraveling.
Martínez is a Dreamer, one of about 700,000 young undocumented migrants, brought to the US as children, who secured temporary protections through Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or Daca.
She considers herself “one of the lucky ones”. Last year, she was able to renew her legal status until 2020, even as Donald Trump threw the Dreamers into limbo by rescinding Daca and declaring a deadline of 5 March for Congress to act to replace it.
Martínez is an activist with United We Dream, the largest youth-led immigration advocacy group in the US. She has fought on the front lines.
In 2010 and 2013, she saw efforts for immigration reform, and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, culminate in disappointment. She rode a familiar rollercoaster this week, as a bipartisan Daca fix was undermined by Trump’s reported – if contested – reference to African and Central American nations as “shithole countries”.
“It feels like a sequel,” Martínez told the Guardian, adding that Trump’s adversarial views underscored the need to hash out a deal. “This same man is responsible for running a Department of Homeland Security that seeks to hunt and deport people of color.”
Negotiations over immigration have always been precarious. Trump has complicated the picture. After launching his candidacy for president with a speech that called Mexican migrants “rapists” and “killers”, Trump campaigned on deporting nearly 11 million undocumented migrants and building a wall on the Mexico border.
He has, however, shown a more flexible attitude towards Dreamers – despite his move to end their protective status. Last Tuesday, the president sat in the White House, flanked by members of both parties. In a 45-minute negotiating session, televised for full effect, Trump ignited fury among his hardcore supporters by signaling he was open to protection for Dreamers in exchange for modest border security measures.
Then, less than 48 hours later, Trump’s reported comments about countries like Haiti and El Salvador prompted a fierce backlash.
“People are picking their jaws up from the table and they’re trying to recover from feelings of deep hurt and anger,” said Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America’s Voice, a group which advocates for immigration reform.
“We always knew we were climbing a mountain … but it’s improbable to imagine a positive breakthrough for immigrants with the most nativist president in modern America in charge.”
As the uproar continued, it was nearly forgotten that on Thursday, hours before Trump’s remarks became public, a group of senators announced a bipartisan deal.
Under it, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers would be able to gain provisional legal status and eventually apply for green cards. They would not be able to sponsor their parents for citizenship – an effort to appease Trump’s stance against so-called “chain migration” – but parents would be able to obtain a form of renewable legal status.
There would be other concessions to earn Trump’s signature, such as $2bn for border security including physical barriers, if not by definition a wall.
The compromise would also do away with the diversity visa lottery and reallocate those visas to migrants from underrepresented countries and those who stand to lose Temporary Protected Status. That would help those affected by the Trump administration’s recent decision to terminate such status for some nationals of El Salvador, effectively forcing nearly 200,000 out of the country.
The bill would be far less comprehensive than the one put forward in 2013, when a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” proposed a bill that would have given nearly 11 million undocumented migrants a path to citizenship.
The bill passed the Senate with rare bipartisan support. In the Republican-led House it never received a vote.
Proponents of reform now believe momentum has shifted in their favor, despite Trump’s ascent. The Arizona senator Jeff Flake, part of the 2013 effort and also in the reform group today, said there was a clear deadline of 5 March to help Dreamers.
“I do think there is a broader consensus to do this than we had before,” Flake told the Guardian. “We’re going have 700,000 kids subject to deportation. That’s the biggest difference.”
Read the rest of the story at the link.
Finally, John Blake at CNN tells us “Three ways [you might not know] MLK speaks to our time.”
That’s a famous line from the 19th century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, but it could also apply to a modern American hero: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
As the nation celebrates King’s national holiday Monday, it’s easy to freeze-frame him as the benevolent dreamer carved in stone on the Washington Mall. Yet the platitudes that frame many King holiday events often fail to mention the most radical aspects of his legacy, says Jeanne Theoharis, a political science professor at Brooklyn College and author of several books on the civil rights movement.
“We turn him into a Thanksgiving parade float, he’s jolly, larger than life and he makes us feel good,” Theoharis says. “We’ve turned him into a mascot.”
Many people vaguely know that King opposed the Vietnam War and talked more about poverty in his later years. But King also had a lot to say about issues not normally associated with civil rights that still resonate today, historians and activists say.
If you’re concerned about inequality, health care, climate change or even the nastiness of our political disagreements, then King has plenty to say to you. To see that version of King, though, we have to dust off the cliches and look at him anew.
If you’re more familiar with your smartphone than your history, try this: Think of King not just as a civil rights hero, but also as an app — his legacy has to be updated to remain relevant.
Here are three ways we can update our MLK app to see how he spoke not only to his time, but to our time as well:
. . . .
But here’s one more uncomfortable thought that also explains why King remains so relevant:
The country is still divided by many of the same issues that consumed him.
On the last night of his life, King told a shouting congregation of black churchgoers that “we as a people” would get to “the Promised Land.” That kind of optimism, though, sounds like it belongs to another era.
What we have now is a leader in the White House who denies widespread reports that he complained about Latino and African immigrants coming to America from “shithole” countries; a white supremacist who murders worshippers in church; a social media landscape that pulsates with anger and accusations.
King’s Promised Land doesn’t sound boring when compared to today’s headlines. And maybe that’s what’s so sad about reliving his life every January for some people.
Fifty years after he died, King’s vision for America still sounds so far away.”
Read the complete article at the link.
There you have it. A brief but representative sample of some of the many ways in which Dr. King’s dream of a “post racist America” is still relevant and why there’s still much more work still to be done than many of us might have thought several years ago.
So, the next time you hear bandied about terms like “merit-based” (means: exclude Brown and Black immigrants); “extreme vetting” (means: using bureaucracy to keep Muslims and other perceived “undesirables” out); “tax cuts” (means: handouts to the rich at the expense of the poor); “entitlement reform” (means: cutting benefits for the most vulnerable); “health care reform” (means: kicking the most needy out of the health care system); “voter fraud” (means: suppressing the Black, Hispanic, and Democratic vote); “rule of law” (means: perverting the role of Government agencies and the courts to harm Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, women, the poor, and other minorities); “job creation” (means: destroying our precious natural resources and the environment for the benefit of big corporations), “border security” (means: slashing rights for children and asylum seekers, and more money for building a wall and expanding prisons for non-criminal migrants, a/k/a/ “The New American Gulag”), “ending chain migration” (means keeping non-White and/or non-Christian immigrants from bringing family members) and other deceptively harmless sounding euphemisms, know what the politicos are really up to and consider them in the terms that Dr. King might have.
What’s really behind the rhetoric and how will it help create the type of more fair, just, equal, and value-driven society that majority of us in American seek to be part of and leave to succeeding generations. If it isn’t moving us as a nation toward those goals, “Just Say NO” as Dr. King would have done!
“You got a choice to make, man. You could go straight on to heaven. Or you could turn right, into that.”
We are in Los Angeles, in the heart of one of America’s wealthiest cities, and General Dogon, dressed in black, is our tour guide. Alongside him strolls another tall man, grey-haired and sprucely decked out in jeans and suit jacket. Professor Philip Alston is an Australian academic with a formal title: UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
General Dogon, himself a veteran of these Skid Row streets, strides along, stepping over a dead rat without comment and skirting round a body wrapped in a worn orange blanket lying on the sidewalk.
The two men carry on for block after block after block of tatty tents and improvised tarpaulin shelters. Men and women are gathered outside the structures, squatting or sleeping, some in groups, most alone like extras in a low-budget dystopian movie.
We come to an intersection, which is when General Dogon stops and presents his guest with the choice. He points straight ahead to the end of the street, where the glistening skyscrapers of downtown LA rise up in a promise of divine riches.
Then he turns to the right, revealing the “black power” tattoo on his neck, and leads our gaze back into Skid Row bang in the center of LA’s downtown. That way lies 50 blocks of concentrated human humiliation. A nightmare in plain view, in the city of dreams.
Alston turns right.
So begins a two-week journey into the dark side of the American Dream. The spotlight of the UN monitor, an independent arbiter of human rights standards across the globe, has fallen on this occasion on the US, culminating on Friday with the release of his initial report in Washington.
His fact-finding mission into the richest nation the world has ever known has led him to investigate the tragedy at its core: the 41 million people who officially live in poverty.
Of those, nine million have zero cash income – they do not receive a cent in sustenance.
Alston’s epic journey has taken him from coast to coast, deprivation to deprivation. Starting in LA and San Francisco, sweeping through the Deep South, traveling on to the colonial stain of Puerto Rico then back to the stricken coal country of West Virginia, he has explored the collateral damage of America’s reliance on private enterprise to the exclusion of public help.
The Guardian had unprecedented access to the UN envoy, following him as he crossed the country, attending all his main stops and witnessing the extreme poverty he is investigating firsthand.
Think of it as payback time. As the UN special rapporteur himself put it: “Washington is very keen for me to point out the poverty and human rights failings in other countries. This time I’m in the US.”
The tour comes at a critical moment for America and the world. It began on the day that Republicans in the US Senate voted for sweeping tax cuts that will deliver a bonanza for the super wealthy while in time raising taxes on many lower-income families. The changes will exacerbate wealth inequality that is already the most extreme in any industrialized nation, with three men – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet – owning as much as half of the entire American people.
A few days into the UN visit, Republican leaders took a giant leap further. They announced plans to slash key social programs in what amounts to an assault on the already threadbare welfare state.
“Look up! Look at those banks, the cranes, the luxury condos going up,” exclaimed General Dogon, who used to be homeless on Skid Row and now works as a local activist with Lacan. “Down here, there’s nothing. You see the tents back to back, there’s no place for folks to go.”
California made a suitable starting point for the UN visit. It epitomizes both the vast wealth generated in the tech boom for the 0.001%, and the resulting surge in housing costs that has sent homelessness soaring. Los Angeles, the city with by far the largest population of street dwellers in the country, is grappling with crisis numbers that increased 25% this past year to 55,000.
Ressy Finley, 41, was busy sterilizing the white bucket she uses to slop out in her tent in which she has lived on and off for more than a decade. She keeps her living area, a mass of worn mattresses and blankets and a few motley possessions, as clean as she can in a losing battle against rats and cockroaches. She also endures waves of bed bugs, and has large welts on her shoulder to prove it.
She receives no formal income, and what she makes on recycling bottles and cans is no way enough to afford the average rents of $1,400 a month for a tiny one-bedroom. A friend brings her food every couple of days, the rest of the time she relies on nearby missions.
She cried twice in the course of our short conversation, once when she recalled how her infant son was taken from her arms by social workers because of her drug habit (he is now 14; she has never seen him again). The second time was when she alluded to the sexual abuse that set her as a child on the path towards drugs and homelessness.
Given all that, it’s remarkable how positive Finley remains. What does she think of the American Dream, the idea that everyone can make it if they try hard enough? She replies instantly: “I know I’m going to make it.”
A 41-year-old woman living on the sidewalk in Skid Row going to make it?
“Sure I will, so long as I keep the faith.”
What does “making it” mean to her?
“I want to be a writer, a poet, an entrepreneur, a therapist.”
Robert Chambers occupies the next patch of sidewalk along from Finley’s. He’s created an area around his tent out of wooden pallets, what passes in Skid Row for a cottage garden.
He has a sign up saying “Homeless Writers Coalition”, the name of a group he runs to give homeless people dignity against what he calls the “animalistic” aspects of their lives. He’s referring not least to the lack of public bathrooms that forces people to relieve themselves on the streets.
LA authorities have promised to provide more access to toilets, a critical issue given the deadly outbreak of Hepatitis A that began in San Diego and is spreading on the west coast claiming 21 lives mainly through lack of sanitation in homeless encampments. At night local parks and amenities are closed specifically to keep homeless people out.
Skid Row has had the use of nine toilets at night for 1,800 street-faring people. That’s a ratio well below that mandated by the UN in its camps for Syrian refugees.
“It’s inhuman actually, and eventually in the end you will acquire animalistic psychology,” Chambers said.
He has been living on the streets for almost a year, having violated his parole terms for drug possession and in turn being turfed out of his low-cost apartment. There’s no help for him now, he said, no question of “making it”.
“The safety net? It has too many holes in it for me.”
Of all the people who crossed paths with the UN monitor, Chambers was the most dismissive of the American Dream. “People don’t realize – it’s never getting better, there’s no recovery for people like us. I’m 67, I have a heart condition, I shouldn’t be out here. I might not be too much longer.”
That was a lot of bad karma to absorb on day one, and it rattled even as seasoned a student of hardship as Alston. As UN special rapporteur, he’s reported on dire poverty and its impact on human rights in Saudi Arabia and China among other places. But Skid Row?
“I was feeling pretty depressed,” he told the Guardian later. “The endless drumbeat of horror stories. At a certain point you do wonder what can anyone do about this, let alone me.”
And then he took a flight up to San Francisco, to the Tenderloin district where homeless people congregate, and walked into St Boniface church.
What he saw there was an analgesic for his soul.”
Read the rest of the story, with many major “poverty stops” across America, at the link.
At some point, all Americans will pay a price for the Trump/GOP plan to loot America for the rich and increase income inequality.
“Sadly this sickness may have started inside the Trump family. Jeff Sessions is just a hapless victim of some brain-corroding virus
For so many people who are close to Donald Trump, Russia is the Bermuda Triangle of their memory.
Conversations and meetings seem to pass through this mysterious quadrant of their brains and simply disappear. Even when the wreckage is found on some server or other, they profess ignorance, confusion or innocence. And sometimes all three at once.
On Tuesday the synapses inside the skull of attorney general Jeff Sessions magically reconnected around a March 2016 campaign meeting in which he heard Trump’s point man on Russian policy discuss how the candidate could get together with one Vladimir Putin.
This is kind of awkward since Sessions had sworn, like the honorable southern gentleman that he is, that there were no absolutely no such contacts with the Russians, no siree.
Fortunately for the former senator, his amnesia has recovered enough to remember that he pooh-poohed the idea of a Trump-Putin meeting. Somehow he could remember none of the other sordid details of what normal people would call collusion.
Donald Trump Jr communicated with WikiLeaks during final stages of election
“I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports,” Sessions told the House judiciary committee, before he recalled only the details of the meeting that made him look good.
Sadly this sickness may have started inside the Trump family itself, in which case Sessions is just a hapless victim of some brain-corroding virus. After all, Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son, shows repeated symptoms of Moscow Memory.
It is only five long months since we learned about the slick-haired son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer. Luckily his father was on hand to draft a press statement saying the meeting was no big deal: just a casual chat about Russian adoptions.
But then there were all those leaked emails from Trump Jr himself in which he set up the “adoptions” meeting. “I love it,” he wrote, when offered a Russian government trove of “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary”.
Once the emails were public, Trump Jr denounced the leaks and claimed he was being wonderfully transparent after all.
This makes the latest leaks – involving WikiLeaks, no less – all the more conclusive in diagnosing this Putin-induced amnesia. It also makes them more exquisitely ironic.
As reported by the Atlantic, in the final stages of last year’s presidential election, our forgetful protagonist was coordinating campaign efforts and tweets with WikiLeaks.”
Read the rest of Wolffe’s op-ed at the link.
Good thing Mrs. Sessions accompanies him to these hearings. Otherwise, I doubt that Ol’ Gonzo could find the hearing room or his way back home. How does he even know what day it is or remember his name?
The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, on Friday issued a sweeping directive that undercuts federal protections for LGBT people, telling agencies to do as much as possible to accommodate those who claim their religious freedoms are violated.
Trump substantially weakens Obamacare contraception mandate
Read more In response, one LGBT rights advocate called the directive a “license to discriminate” and “an attack on the values of freedom and fairness that make this nation great”.
Also on Friday, the Trump administration issued a new rule that substantially undermines women’s access to birth control under the Affordable Care Act.
The Sessions directive, an attempt to deliver on Donald Trump’s pledge to evangelical supporters that he will protect religious liberties, effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held.
A claim of a violation of religious freedom will now be enough to override many anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, women and others.
The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty called them a legal powder keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.
“This is putting the world on notice: you better take these claims seriously,” Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told the Associated Press. “This is a signal to the rest of these agencies to rethink the protections they have put in place on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the Equality Federation, said in a statement: “This license to discriminate is an attack on the values of freedom and fairness that make this nation great. It opens the door for discrimination in the workplace and public services, flying in the face of the majority of Americans of whom over 70% believe laws should protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.
“The Trump administration’s ongoing attempts to undermine LGBTQ Americans’ ability to provide for themselves and their families without fear of discrimination highlights the urgent need for national nondiscrimination protections, which are supported by the vast majority of Americans.”
Trump announced plans for the directive last May in a Rose Garden ceremony, surrounded by religious leaders. Since then, religious conservatives have awaited the justice department guidance, hoping for greatly strengthened protections for their beliefs amidst a rapid national acceptance of LGBT rights.
Religious liberty experts said they would have to see how the guidance would be applied by individual agencies, both in crafting regulations and deciding how to enforce them. But experts said the directive clearly tilted the balance very far in favor of people of faith who do not want to recognize same-sex marriage.
“Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law,” Sessions wrote. “To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity.”
The document lays the groundwork for legal positions the Trump administration intends to take in religious freedom cases, envisioning sweeping protections for faith-based beliefs and practices in private workplaces and government jobs and even in prisons.
In issuing the memo, Sessions, a deeply devout Methodist from Alabama, is injecting the department into a thicket of highly charged legal questions that have repeatedly reached the US supreme court, most notably in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case that said corporations with religious objections could opt out of a health law requirement to cover contraceptives for women.
The memo makes clear the justice department’s support of that opinion in noting that the primary religious freedom law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, protects the rights not only of people to worship as they choose but also of corporations, companies and private firms.
The document also says the government improperly infringes on individuals’ religious liberty by banning an aspect of their practice or by forcing them to take an action that contradicts their faith. As an example, justice department lawyers say government efforts to require employers to provide contraceptives to their workers “substantially burdens their religious practice”.
The document also calls into question the Johnson amendment, which bars churches and tax-exempt groups from endorsing political candidates. Trump in May signed an executive order aimed at weakening the enforcement of that law, which he has said penalizes people for protected religious belief.
The justice department, in the document, says the Internal Revenue Service may not enforce the Johnson amendment “against a religious non-profit organization under circumstances in which it would not enforce the amendment against a secular non-profit organization”.
The department’s civil rights division will now be involved in reviewing all agency actions to make sure they don’t conflict with federal law regarding religious liberty.“
Gonzo is trying to ram his own homophobic brand of Christian theology down the throats of the vast majority of Americans who don’t want to live in a Theocracy. Can you believe this this Dude has the audacity to lecture folks on the First Amendment? He is a walking perversion of true religious freedom! Religious freedom is the freedom of Americans in the LGBTQ community not to be harmed or denigrated by Sessions’s perverted minority interpretation of Christianity.
While Gonzo might claim to be a “devout Methodist,” he certainly practices a brand of Methodism and Christianity that I don’t recognize and I doubt that Jesus would either. Our Methodist Church “welcomes all people as they are” — even Sessions would be accepted if not his rhetoric of hate, discrimination, and intolerence. Jesus Christ was about love, self-sacrifice, inclusion, and forgiveness concepts that Jeff Sessions sadly has never understood and apparently never will. I feel pity for him as a human being, but that doesn’t entitle him to use his position to preach hate and intolerence.
“The sad truth is that Trump will probably replace him with a health and human services secretary who is just as bad at the job
For the Trump skeptics, the full-blown resisters, and everyone who prefers to see government remotely good, the downfall of Tom Price was a moment of true catharsis.
Donald Trump’s loathsome health and human services secretary was driven from office on Friday after a series of stunning Politico reports detailed how he racked up at least $400,000 in travel bills for charter flights. The extravagance was too much even for Trump, who in his past life as a failed developer wasted plenty of taxpayer money, and Price was told he had to go.
Before sobering reality sets in – nothing has really changed about Trumplandia – let’s remember all the ways Price represented the worst of the worst about Trump’s storming of Washington.
Tom Price resigns as health secretary over private flights and Trump criticism
A former rightwing congressman from Georgia and an orthopedic surgeon, Price spent most of his House tenure trying to destroy Obamacare and replace it with something far more draconian.
As health and human services secretary, his dream fully realized, Price set about trying to undermine American healthcare as much as humanly possible without achieving a repeal of Obamacare. Price stopped trying to encourage people to sign up for insurance, ensuring costs would rise for everyone else. He obliterated Obamacare’s advertising budget.
Price backed a Trump budget that slashes funding for health and human services, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His vision of healthcare was rather simple: get any trace of the government out of there, any protections that might be offered for the poorest and sickest. Let the free market take care of the rest.
Now Trump will cast about for a worthy successor. Price, a multimillionaire, will feel shame for a few days and then go back to cashing out in the private sector, maybe as a healthcare lobbyist trying to wrangle goodies from his old colleagues. The waterline of the swamp will rise.
Health secretary Tom Price apologizes for taking private flights for work
The real question, once the celebration dies down from liberals and various journalists heartened by the power of the press to get their scalp, is how anything will change in Trump’s Washington.
Will a new HHS secretary bring some common sense to the role and realize stabilizing the healthcare markets is their chief job? Will he or she attempt to be anything resembling an administrator? Probably not.
Despite the conventional wisdom that Trump is a gun-slinging independent beholden to no party, he is fully indoctrinated in far-right, slash-and-burn thinking. He is a president for nihilist billionaires and Milton Friedman apostles. He will lurch to the left, but his grounding will stay true. We know that from his tax plan, which promises to give relief to the rich and no one else.
In another time now lost to history, both parties paid allegiance to the idea of governing. Democrats, in the post Franklin D Roosevelt-era, were the party of large, activist government, but Republicans understood that dismantling what they inherited made no sense.
Richard Nixon preserved the gains of Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights and Great Society legislation. Medicare and Medicaid remained.
Under a moderate Republican president – almost no moderates actually ran for president in 2016, and it’s increasingly unclear such a creature even exists – Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act would be understood for what it is: not socialism, but a mixture of government intervention and market-driven policies dreamed up by the rightwing Heritage Foundation and later pioneered by a Republican governor, Mitt Romney.
It is nothing approximating single-payer healthcare. It’s a start – but it’s also plenty flawed.
Many marketplaces are succeeding, but others are failing, in part because the Trump White House is encouraging their failure. The next best thing to repealing Obamacare, for the Republican party, is to let it rot without serious reform.
Federal subsidies must be increased and a public option should be introduced to compete with private insurers. The long-term goal, championed by Bernie Sanders, should be Medicare-for-all, universal healthcare, though we’re not there yet.
Price’s successor probably won’t think about any of these things. He or she will serve at the altar of the Trump, after all. The only requirement? Destroy what you can. Let everyone else suffer.”
Why wouldn’t Price, who ripped off taxpayers to the tune of approximately $1 million, face some consequences beyond being permitted to resign?
Also, Donald Trump is not “destroying the soul of the GOP” (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one). The modern GOP stands for the same corrupt agenda as Trump. That’s why they never really stand up to him. And, Tom Price, a Swamp Creature if there ever was one, was a perfect representative of everything that is wrong with today’s GOP.
And with a truly miserable specimen of a human being like “Ayatollah Roy” and a slate of Bannon-inspired scummy White Nationalist candidates in the wings, the GOP has by no means “bottomed out.” The worst is yet to come.
“It takes approximately 30 seconds to send a tweet. A half hour to draft and release a statement. And the shelf life of both is only marginally longer. We should not commend Republican party elected officials who claim outrage on social media at Trump’s remarks, often without daring to mention his name. The phony claimed outrage becomes dangerous if it convinces anyone that there is a distinction between Trump’s abhorrent comments and the Republican Party agenda.
The lesson from Charlottesville is not how dangerous the neo-Nazis are. It is the unmasking of the Republican party leadership. In the wake of last weekend’s horror and tragedy, let us finally, finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda of voter suppression, renewed mass incarceration and the expulsion of immigrants.
There is a direct link between Trump’s comments this week and those policies, so where is the outrage about the latter? Where are the Republican leaders denouncing voter suppression as racist, un-American and dangerous? Where are the Republican leaders who are willing to call out the wink (and the direct endorsement) from President Trump to the white supremacists and acknowledge their own party’s record and stance on issues important to people of color as the real problem for our country?
Republicans on the voter suppression commission are enabling Trump’s agenda and that of the white Nazi militia
Words mean nothing if the Republican agenda doesn’t change. Governors and state legislatures were so quick to embrace people of color in order to avoid the impression, they too share Trump’s supreme affinity for the white race. But if they don’t stand up for them they are not indirectly, but directly enabling the agenda of those same racists that Republican members were so quick to condemn via Twitter.
Gerrymandering, strict voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement are all aimed at one outcome: a voting class that is predominantly white, and in turn majority Republican.
The white supremacist chant of, “you will not replace us,” could easily and accurately be the slogan for these Republican politicians. Their policies will achieve the same racial outcome as Jim Crow – the disenfranchisement and marginalization of people of color.
It is a sad day when more CEOs take action by leaving and shutting down Trump’s Strategy and Policy Forum, and Manufacturing Council, than elected officials take action leaving Trump’s “election integrity” commission.
Businessman are acting more responsive to their customers than politicians are to their voters. At the end of the day, which presidential council is more dangerous? Which most embodies the exact ideology that Trump spewed on Monday? A group of businessmen coming together to talk jobs or a group of elected officials coming together to disenfranchise voters of color?
Anyone still sitting on the voter suppression commission is enabling Trump’s agenda and that of the white Nazi militia that stormed Charlottesville to celebrate a time when the law enforced white supremacy.
If Republican lawmakers want to distinguish themselves from Trump’s comments, they need to do more than type out 144 characters on their phone. They need to take a hard look at their party’s agenda.”
Read the full article at the link.
I’ve noticed the clear pattern going back to the beginning of the campaign: Trump says or does something totally outrageous; GOP leaders disassociate themselves and claim it doesn’t represent the “real” GOP (whatever that might be); shortly thereafter the same folks go back to supporting Trump and the GOP agenda directed at insuring White control. Nobody switches party, resigns in protest, or tells voters how incompetent and dangerous Trump is. Indeed, these guys are scared silly that they will actually turn off Trump’s White Nationalist base that insures them power even though it’s been many years since they racked up a majority of the popular vote in a national election. Trump then goes on to the next outrage, and the process repeats itself.
Someday, the majority of American voters might actually get a Government that represents their interests rather than those of a White Nationalist minority. But, not any time soon if the GOP can prevent it. So far, they are doing a bang up job of it.
As part of its campaign to crackdown on undocumented migration, the Trump administration wants to force so-called “sanctuary cities” to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, beef up frontier security and surveillance, and – eventually – build a wall along the border with Mexico.
But Alonzo Peña, a former deputy director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), said simplistic strategies would not deter people desperate to join family or seek a better life. Instead, closing off simpler routes would prompt migrants to attempt more dangerous crossings.
“I call it an unfortunate collateral consequence,” he said. “They will put themselves in the hands of unscrupulous criminals that see them as just a commodity.”
Asked if a wall would help, Peña, now a consultant in San Antonio, said: “Absolutely not – it probably will contribute to more tragedies.”
He said building better binational relationships, encouraging information-sharing and more use of informants were key to breaking up networks of smugglers and traffickers.
In recent years, stepped-up frontier security has meant that smuggling activities once orchestrated by small, loosely organised enterprises are being run by bigger, more ruthless and profit-oriented criminal gangs with indirect links to drug cartels.
Packing many people into a truck is a profitable strategy for such smugglers. A large vehicle is a better hiding place than smaller alternatives and reduces the number of trips, making evading detection more likely at busy interior US Border Patrol checkpoints placed along highways near the frontier.
“The policies to enforce the border have the unintended consequence of strengthening transnational smuggling networks and the connection of business with transnational criminal organisations. There’s money there,” said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley who studies migration and trafficking. “You are increasing the incentives for corruption on both sides of the border.”
. . . .
Texas this year passed a law banning so-called sanctuary cities – places that offer little or no cooperation with federal immigration agents. “Border security will help prevent this Texas tragedy,” John Cornyn, a US senator from Texas, wrote on Twitter.
But critics say that such enforcement does nothing to remove the “push factors” behind migration from Mexico and Central America, such as the lack of economic opportunity and violence by street gangs, security forces and crime groups.
A report published in March by the risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft termed Trump’s crackdown “a gift to human traffickers” by driving undocumented workers in the US deeper into the shadows, while a wall “would increase criminal trafficking fees, leaving migrants more deeply mired in debt and vulnerable to exploitation”.
But even this week’s deaths would not curtail demand, Correa-Cabrera said.
“They will still take trucks. They have been taking the journey and nothing has stopped them,” she said. “How many women are willing to take the journey even though they know there is a very high possibility of being raped?”
Folks are going to keep coming and keep dying until we make the needed, realistic changes to our legal immigration system. The smugglers will up their profits and expand their operations, making and taking more money than ever from already stressed individuals seeking to come. And the bodies will continue to pile up as a testament to the failed White Nationalist agenda of Trump and Sessions.
What “gonzo enforcement” has done, however, is to cut or eliminate the incentive for folks to use the legal system by coming to the border and presenting themselves for protection or by turning themselves in to the Border Patrol. Knowing that their rights under the law and as human beings will not be respected by the likes of Trump, Sessions, and Kelly’s replacement will merely put more individuals at the mercy of the smugglers. The smugglers are likely to get so good that we won’t have the faintest idea anymore how many forks are coming without documents until they wind up dead in a parking lot or a field. And, I suppose that CBP will come up with some formula like “for every dead body we figure there are 1,000 who made it into the interior.”
“A top Republican senator has challenged Donald Trump to make “a moral decision” on the fate of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, part of a revamped bipartisan push to grant permanent residency to so-called Dreamers.
“The moment of reckoning is coming,” South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham warned the president and his Republican colleagues at a press conference Thursday to unveil a new iteration of legislation known as the Dream Act.
Graham was joined by Illinois senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic cosponsor of the bill who first introduced legislation of the same name 16 years ago. Their proposal, which mirrors previous legislation that failed to pass Congress multiple times, would grant legal status and a path to citizenship to Dreamers if they were longtime residents of the US.
In a sign of tough odds facing the bill, the White House swiftly rejected the notion that the president would support such a measure.
“The administration has opposed the Dream Act and we are likely to be consistent in that,” said Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, in an off-camera briefing with reporters on Wednesday.
Graham acknowledged the president’s candidacy was rooted in a hardline approach to immigration but cast the debate as an existential question for the party that now controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.
“President Trump, you’re going to have to make a decision,” Graham said. “The campaign is over.”
“The question for the Republican party is, what do we tell people? How do we treat them?” he added. “Here’s my answer: we treat them fairly. We do not pull the rug out from under them.”
Graham said he spoke with McCain three times by phone on Thursday morning, in which his closest ally’s message amounted to: “No more ‘woe is me’.”
“He is yelling at me to buck up,” Graham said. “So I’m going to buck up.”
“I’ve stopped letting 30% of the people who are mad about immigration to determine how I behave … When they write the history of these times, I’m going to be with these kids.”
Read the complete article at the link.
Senator Graham makes an excellent point. When the history of these times is written, long after we’re all gone, folks like Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, Kris Kobach and many others, primarily from the GOP, are going to look every bit as bad as they actually are. And their supporters aren’t going to look good to future generations either. Being on the wrong side of history is always a bad idea.
“Behind two rows of high fencing and winding coils of razor wire, and surrounded by thick forest in central Louisiana, hundreds of miles from the nearest major city, stands a newly created court the Trump administration hopes will fast-track the removal of undocumented immigrants.
Hearings take place in five poky courtrooms behind reinforced grey doors where the public benches, scratched with graffiti, are completely empty. There is no natural light. The hallways are lined with detainees in yellow jumpsuits awaiting their turn before a judge. The five sitting judges were quietly flown in by the US justice department from cities across the United States and will be rotated again within two weeks.
This is the LaSalle detention facility that, since March this year, has been holding removal proceedings for hundreds of detained migrants in courtrooms adjoining a private detention center, which incarcerates more than 1,100 men and women and has the highest number of prisoner deaths of any in America over the past two years.
Inside courtroom No 2, during proceedings last Wednesday, Judge Arwen Swink, who usually sits in San Francisco, presided over a crowded morning docket. In an indication of the hastily arranged nature of the setup, the judge’s name was printed out on a piece of paper and stuck to a door behind her, the courtroom also functioning as a makeshift office, complete with a photocopier and in-trays attached to the wall.
Marcos Ramirez Jr, sat alone before the judge, listening through a headset as a translator interpreted proceedings in Spanish. The court heard how the Guatemalan national had lived in America for almost four decades after crossing the border into the US in 1980. He had been with his wife in Alabama for 15 years and had no criminal history.
In April, Ramirez was apprehended by law enforcement for allegedly driving recklessly and without a license. The charges were enough to see him transferred to immigration detention. At a hearing earlier in May, he had been offered a bond of $7,000 but told the court on Wednesday he had no ability to pay it.
“It has been two weeks since I heard from my wife,” he said, his head cradled in his hands. “She has stage three cancer.” Ramirez had no idea if she was now in hospital or, by extension, whether she was alive or dead.
As things stood, without the money to pay for his bond, he would remain in detention until his full hearing, known as a merits hearing, where his chance of being ordered to be deported was much higher than if he had been released on bond and gone to trial at another non-detained court, according to studies of official data.
This building is operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and had never functioned as a court. Before March, the five rooms were used for video conferencing, allowing detainees to appear via video-link in preliminary hearings at an established immigration court (that now technically administers the court at LaSalle) in the small city of Oakdale 90 miles away.
Lawyers and advocates say the new system increases the risk of due-process violations as cases move more rapidly through the system, at a remote venue that already has the lowest rate of legal representation for detainees in the US. The union representing immigration judges, meanwhile, argues that reassigning judges from around the US where courts are already chronically overburdened is simply a waste of resources.
The justice department’s executive office for immigration review (EOIR), which administers America’s immigration courts, declined to respond to a list of detailed questions about the new court.
The Guardian was also prevented from viewing the LaSalle court’s public docket, which had previously been printed out and displayed outside the courtrooms but removed on the day of the visit. The Guardian was instructed by a court officer, employed by private security firm GEO Group, that court clerks and administrative staff – public employees – would not take any questions for clarification. This meant that basic fact-checking, including the spelling of detainees’ names, could not always be completed.
Deportation without representation
In a number of ways, Ramirez’s story was typical of many of the 43 cases brought before judges that day.
Numerous hearings observed by the Guardian last Wednesday involved people who had been apprehended by law enforcement after allegedly committing minor traffic offenses. One individual, Osmani Radiya, appearing before Judge Patrick Savage, also on detail from San Francisco, had been arrested after accidentally reversing into a parked van allegedly under the influence. The father of three, two of his children US citizens, had no driver’s license or insurance documents and wound up in detention facing deportation.
Another, 21-year-old Diego Garcia, who appeared before Judge Margaret McManus (detailed from New York), had been picked up in Arkansas after driving without a license and providing a false name to police. “I’d like to apologise for what happened, it won’t happen again,” Garcia told the court. Both men were granted bond.
In the Trump administration’s first 100 days the number of immigration arrests have soared, with the sharpest increase among those with no criminal record. The LaSalle detention facility, which holds both men and women, serves as a major hub for arrestees from many of the southern states.
Paul Scott, an immigration attorney who has represented clients detained at LaSalle for nine years, characterised the new system as “taking a large mallet and trying to hit a small nail”.
“This fast-track system is now being backed up by less dangerous people who actually might have stronger cases [for relief from removal],” he said. “It’s not a very smart or precise plan.”
While the administration may have ramped up arrests, the number of people it has actually been able to deport has remained relatively consistent with the past two years of the Obama administration.
But Ramirez’s case was also typical in another manner: he had no lawyer representing him.”
This should be a wake-up call for all Americans who care about Constitutional due process, fundamental fairness, and national values. American’s largest Court System is held “captive” within the U.S. Department of Justice.
In reading the testimony of former FBI Director Comey today, I was struck by his double-talk about an “independent” Department of Justice and FBI. As pointed out by Allen Dershowitz and others, the U.S. Constitution does not provide for an independent DOJ. Perhaps it should have, but it doesn’t. As an Executive Branch Agency, the DOJ is, and always has been, subject to political shenanigans. No “court system” operating within the DOJ can possibly provide fairness and due process in all cases.
Moreover, the DOJ has clearly established over the past 16 years its total administrative incompetence to run a high volume court system. 600,000 pending cases and not a clue of how they might actually be completed consistent with due process! Indeed, the officials at the DOJ who are “pulling the strings” of the Immigration Court don’t have the faintest idea of what happens at the “retail level” or how to operate a fair and efficient court system.
The Trump Administration’s misuse of the U.S. Immigration Courts to deny, rather than protect, due process is just the disgraceful end product of a “built to fail system.” America needs an independent U.S. Immigration Court.
Thanks to Nolan Rappaport for sending this my way.
“I don’t know that America has ever seen a political party so divested of care. Since Trump took office, Republicans have proposed legislation to destroy unions, the healthcare system, the education system and the Environmental Protection Agency; to defund the reproductive health charity Planned Parenthood and restrict abortion; to stifle public protest and decimate arts funding; to increase the risk of violence against trans people and roll back anti-discrimination laws; and to funnel more and more wealth from the poorest to the richest. Every executive order and piece of GOP legislation is destructive, aimed at dismantling something else, never creating anything new, never in the service of improving the care of the nation.
Contemporary American conservatism is not a political philosophy so much as the roiling negative space around Barack Obama’s legacy. Can you imagine being that insecure? Can you imagine not wanting children to have healthcare because you’re embarrassed a black guy was your boss? It would be sad if it wasn’t so dangerous.
That void at the heart of the party, that loss of any tether to humanity, is breeding anxiety on both sides of the political divide. According to the Atlantic, Florida Republican Tom Rooney recently turned on his cohort with surprising lucidity: “I’ve been in this job eight years and I’m racking my brain to think of one thing our party has done that’s been something positive, that’s been something other than stopping something else from happening. We need to start having victories as a party. And if we can’t, then it’s hard to justify why we should be back here.”
Vindictive obstructionism, it seems, is not particularly nourishing for the soul.”
West has a pretty good point. Every day, the Administration repeals, cuts, removes, reduces, blocks, restricts, revokes, disses, insults, backs away from, abrogates, disputes, defunds, threatens, shrinks, deregulates, withdraws, withholds, threatens — only the rich and corporations “get” anything or are taken care of. Everyone else is on his or her own with neither help nor encouragement from the Government. Or in the worst case, the most vulnerable among us, migrants, Muslims, the poor, gays, children, the sick, the disabled, are actually picked on, bullied, shamed, and blamed by Trump and his minions.
“Now, Politico’s Eliana Johnson and Shane Goldmacher report that Trump has narrowed the choices to three, all of whom are on federal appeals courts:
Neil Gorsuch, 49, of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Oklahoma)
Thomas Hardiman, 51, of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania)
William “Bill” Pryor, 54, of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida)
Johnson and Goldmacher report that Gorsuch and Hardiman have an advantage and Pryor’s chances have waned.
All three finalists are white men appointed to their posts by George W. Bush, but they vary in background and in how contention [sic] their nominations would likely be.”
Read full bios of all three judges at the above link. Reportedly, after the Republicans “stonewalled” the Garland nomination, the Democrats are not going to be racing to complete the confirmation process for the late conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalias’s replacement. But, in the end, the Republicans have the votes to put President Trump’s nominee on the Court. And, given that all three of these judges have been previously vetted and confirmed for prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals judgeships, barring any surprises, President Trump will get his choice.
Interestingly, I heard on a news report today that the average time lapse between formal nomination and confirmation for a Supreme Court Justice is 70 days. Compare that the with the snail-paced hiring process for U.S. Immigration Judges who are Executive Branch employees and do not require Senate confirmation.
The U.S. Immigration Judge hiring process sometimes takes a year or more. While in the past judicial hiring was sometimes completed in 70 days or less, those days are long gone. What’s the deal here? Most of the recent Immigration Judge appointees have been from Government backgrounds and already had security clearances. And, background clearances, although important, are basically a ministerial/administrative process, not “rocket science.” With more than half a million pending cases and many judicial vacancies (which might or might not be frozen) there remarkably does not seem to be any sense of urgency in the DOJ/EOIR judicial hiring process. Go figure!