Lawlessness of Trump’s Immigration Actions

Clearly immigration actions under Donald Trump were going to make most of us cringe. We began with the wall that Mexico was going to pay for, for which (surprise, surprise) they refused to pay. Then some prototypes appeared along a section of the border which we were supposed to be inspired by, but they all looked alike and none of them looked like the “beautiful wall” that Trump extolled while campaigning. Since then we the people have pretty much been threatened with government shutdowns to extort payment for Trump’s wall on and off since the inauguration.

Early on, we had that overnight immigration ban cancelling the arrival of refugees who had completed our complex vetting process and sending the Resistance to airports with signs. Bans were signed into law and declared unacceptable almost in the same week. I.C.E. began arresting undocumented immigrants or refugees as they left work, or even while they were working. They began profiling passengers on trains and buses and asking to see ID’s. Asking we the people to show our papers is so “gestapo”, not at all what we have usually done in our democracy, besides being a violation of our civil rights.

Then we had immigrant children separated from their parents while seeking asylum at the border with Mexico. We had the image burned onto our brains of children in cages on mats with thin metallic space blankets for cold comfort. Some were as young as two years old. We were shocked (although I can’t think why) to learn that no one saved the names and contact information that could reconnect children and parents, probably because such reunions were not expected to ever take place. It is even more startling to conclude that 45 was not expecting we the people to express any negative reactions to child separation. He seemed to believe that all Americans either hate immigrants, or that we all fall for his fear-mongering.

Now we have a couple thousand young people who came to America unaccompanied by a parent living in air-conditioned tent barracks in Texas, living regimented lives and looking forward to what (being deported after talking to a judge) (lifetime imprisonment)? What must daily life be like for those children? Who could possibly think that things could get worse?

However things can always get worse and as soon as we saw the newest group of migrants walking from Honduras and Guatemala and saw the reactions of our President, we knew that there would be some kind of conflict at the border. He was never going to let those desperate travelers into America. He began the fear-mongering in earnest claiming ISIS fighters were hiding in the center of this chain of people, that people walking hundreds of miles with their children were actually gang members come to kill Americans in the streets, that they were “grabbers” who were not related to the children who seemed to be with them.

We heard his order to deploy American troops to the Mexican border, but we were told that because of posse comitatuslaws the troops could not use military tactics, because the states had the power in these matters. When some of the immigrants got angry and stormed the border, which was being barricaded by troops and border agents with riot gear, troops (because policing in any form cannot stand for insurrection or disobedience) had to escalate. So then we had the newest abomination of mothers and children running from tear gas lobbed into their midst by American soldiers. It is very fortunate that Tijuana has been forthcoming with housing and food for these people who came seeking a better life. But it doesn’t soften the fact that we tear-gassed babies.

There are pockets of people throughout the US who are opposed to immigration. Some are convinced that immigrants are taking jobs that should be filled by Americans. Others object to making our benefits available to people who are granted asylum or refugee status; benefits that are supposed to only be temporary until immigrants are self-sufficient. Some refugees have been so victimized in their country of origin that they may require disability supports for life. We are not feeling very flush ourselves these days, and with government threatening to cut our benefits, we are in no mood to share, even sometimes with our fellow Americans.

But don’t you sometimes feel a bit helpless to effect any change in Trump’s immigration ban and sometimes feel some pity for these parents and children seeking a better life? Doesn’t it strike you as un-American to lob tear gas at unarmed families even if they are being a bit demanding about being allowed into the country. They did walk an awfully long way and I doubt they had daily news flashes about what was waiting at the end of their journey. Doesn’t it make you start to thinks that there have to be better ways than this to make sure people only enter America legally. If we had a bit more flexibility we might not have to charge them with a crime for entering at an unprotected spot on the border when they can’t get in at a legal entry point. The use of force often escalates into the use of more force until mayhem occurs and guilt and regrets follow.

Many experts on immigration claim that immigrants do not take American jobs; rather they fill positions that Americans do not wish to fill. It is perhaps true that some immigrants do take desirable jobs and some do not, but since we are supposedly at full employment and, since there are many jobs that are unfilled, I think we can spare a few jobs for people who find the quality of life in the nation they are willing to leave unbearable.

I heard people interviewed at the border saying that they came to America seeking work. The optics would certainly improve if we stopped treating immigrants at the Mexican border as enemy combatants who must be tracked until they can come before a judge to decide their status. Instead immigrants could be issued a work visa and paired with an employer who will agree to sponsor them. It is demoralizing to we the people to experience this constant cruelty and conflict at a border we have shared with Mexico for several centuries. It is equally difficult to believe that the only method for keeping radicalized immigrants out of America is to keep all immigrants out of America. This is so clearly connected to white supremacy and nationalism that it brings us right back to the goose bumps that signal the “gestapo” tactics we hoped to never see again.

Photo credits: From Google Image Searches – MSNBC.com, New York Post, Washington Post

The Supreme Court Horror Flick

The day’s events have made many of us disconsolate and distraught all the way back to when Trump won the 2016 election, but for some reason the retirement of Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court tipped the scales towards grief, and a resignation to the reality of these destructive events. Until that point it seemed as if the damage could be easily undone if political attitudes shifted to the center, left, or even further left. Having a court that leans hard right for decades means that right wing extremists will continue to have a decisive edge far into the future. It means that we the people have a lot to lose.

Roe v Wade

Everyone talks as if losing Roe v Wade, losing the right for women to control their own bodies is the only thing we stand to lose. And it is a big loss. Many have no memory of pre-Roe truths in women’s lives. Younger people have always had contraception. Abortion has always been an option. Without control of their own reproductive rights women’s lives will either cycle backwards into more archaic patterns or women may choose to rebel and practice sexual abstinence, at least in situations where pregnancy might result. This would all be life-changing for women and for men too.

Health Care

However Roe v Wade is not the only staple of modern American life that could be curtailed or overturned. Health care is being pared away by this administration. They are joyful at the prospect of ending coverage for people with preexisting conditions and replacing lifetime caps for coverage. They can make these changes without the court, but there will be no Supreme Court to rein them in. As state after state offers health care plans that are just grabs for consumer dollars, plans that offer no protection in the event that the insured actually gets sick, cases that go to the Supremes will uphold the insurance companies right to giant profits over the needs of ailing people every time.

Immigration

There will still be Federal district courts and there are still liberals on those courts. They have been very helpful in stopping the most inhumane practices of an administration intent on racial cleansing through closing America off to asylum seekers. We are told that every one of these people seeking refugee status is telling a “fake” story and that they do not deserve our compassion. These people may actually be gang members coming to kill you in your beds, coming to rape your daughters. Fearmongering.

But, taking children away from parents is just a bridge too far. None of us signed on for this. The entire world, except for a few interested dictators, is aghast. Not saving data that would allow these children to be reunited with their parents is unimaginable. We knew mass deportation would feel Nazi-esque, but we were Trumped. He owns the levers of governance. This feels like we may be worse than that Hitler crew because we swore we would never, ever repeat those atrocities and yet we are well on our way. With a Supreme Court that is partisan and loyal to the President rather than the Constitution we could well uphold even worse behavior.

Economics

Some people, Trump’s people don’t seem concerned about these things. They seem to be happy with the idea of “white” America. However, mostly they seem to think that Trump is some kind of economic genius. They love the tax cuts. Why? They believe in the tariffs. Most economists are very worried about a trade war and think the tariffs will work against American business and trade. Trump and the GOP believe that there should be few to no regulations on businesses and corporations so they are throwing out decades of rules that helped end the worst practices of Capitalism. Unfettered Capitalism can be as brutal as it wishes. Trumpers love to see Trump dishing out restraints against China. But studies prove that endeavors that include only “yes” men (and this includes a one-sided Supreme Court) usually fail. Dissent is essential to the health of a business and, even more so, of a government.

Pollution and Climate Change

Donald Trump just made asbestos legal again. Since when did American laws respond to the whims of one, possibly nutty, man. He says that if we had used asbestos in building the World Trade Center those buildings would still be standing. And what he doesn’t say, because he doesn’t care, is that the workers would all be dead or dying of mesothelioma. He loves coal but people’s lungs don’t. He has a picture in his head of times when smoke was pouring into American skies and industry was booming along. All that matters to Trump and his people is money. There is a lot more to a society that functions well for all than just money. If people lose all their safety, their health, and their rights what will be left to make life worthwhile? The whole world of trade will just be one big company store. If the Supreme Court cannot rule against the administration when concerns are placed before it, or when the Court refuses to take cases so it will not have to buck the system, then there is no democracy, there is only the illusion of democracy.

Mueller Investigation

Perhaps we place too much hope in the possibility that Mr. Mueller will eventually reveal how corrupt our President truly is, perhaps even proving that he has dabbled in treason in order to “win”. But our concerns that the Supreme Court could take the sting out of this investigation in any number of ways adds to the difficulty of getting to the bottom of Russian meddling in American politics, of whether that meddling affected the outcome of the election, and whether or not Donald Trump played a role in the Russian behaviors in 2016. We are not really convinced by assurances that this will not happen from the current nominee

Foreign Affairs

For the most part I don’t think the Supreme Court rules on our role on the foreign stage. I don’t think they can insist that we stay in NATO or on the committees in the UN that we have recently resigned from (having to do with human rights) because that is a duty of Congress. But once again the dissent that exists in Congress is powerless right now to place restraints on a leader intent on running roughshod over our friends and allies and cozying up to authoritarians. It was demoralizing and embarrassing to watch our President’s behavior in Europe and in the UK this week. (He liked it better when they called it England – smack your head.)

As I prepare to watch America’s future unfold with this party and this President in control and swollen with the power of it all, I believe I will have to do it the way I watch a horror flick. I will have to place my hands over my eyes and peak out through my fingers every so often.

Keep an Eye on the News, Summer, 2018

The news is coming fast and furious right now, probably because of the coming midterms and there are so many interesting stories that I will not be able to write in depth about each one of them while they are still relevant. So here are a few things you might want to keep an eye on.

Immigration:

We still have to watch what will happen to those children we have stolen, the ones we now don’t have enough information to give back to their parents. Will we find a way to reunite these families. These children have disappeared into the foster care system or into centers run by charitable organizations who have been taking care of immigrant children for some time now. There is also a private business called MVM which is being paid $750/day for each child in their program.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/intelligence-contractor-makes-millions-flying-immigrant-kids-to-shelters

https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2016/09/15/nearly-500-immigrant-children-call-fort-bliss-home-temporarily/

We also have to keep an eye on Congress in the matter of immigration. Trump is very angry at Democrats and is saying some pretty terrible things about them, such as calling them child traffickers because they will not vote for the hardline Goodlatte immigration bill favored by Trump and the extremists on the right-wing in the House – The Freedom Caucus. Goodlatte version 1 failed to pass the US House vote – today, 6/19/2018. Is there a bill that can pass and what will it mandate at our southern border?

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/393460-hardline-immigration-bill-fails-in-the-house/

Leaving Our Allies

Human Rights Council of UN – We left the Council.

“After more than a year of complaints and warnings — some subtle and others a little less so — the Trump administration has announced that the United States is withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced the decision in a joint statement Tuesday.”

“’I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments,” Haley told the media. “On the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.’”

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621435225/u-s-announces-its-withdrawal-from-u-n-s-human-rights-council

Are you feeling the isolation yet?

China and Plastics

China will no longer collect the world’s plastics.

“An estimated 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will be displaced by 2030 as a result of China’s recent ban on the import of most plastic waste, according to new research.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/06/21/china-ban-plastic-waste-recycling/721879002/

Climate Change and Immigration:

Apparently climate change is making matters worse in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, which may be a partial explanation for the tensions and gang activities in those nations and in the number of immigrants we are seeing. The Northern Triangle, the dry corridor, consisting of these three nations, has been experiencing long draughts and then long periods of torrential rains which has caused crops to fail and raised prices on food and made choices scarcer.

“One factor causing migrants to risk everything—even potentially losing their children—to travel through the heat of summer in the dangerous desert and towards the barbed wire fences and tent cities springing up just south of the United States border: climate change.

Many of the migrants being detained here now hail from what’s referred variously as the Dry Corridor or the Northern Triangle, which consists of the three countries immediately south of Mexico: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/climate-change-sparked-the-border-migration-crisis

Reorganizing Government

 

There is plan afoot to combine some government departments to help make government smaller, supposedly. Mick Mulvaney would like to combine the Departments of Education and Labor. (Do we see how this might lead to an emphasis on vocational training, over a more college bound approach to education, in order to remake the goals students will tend to pursue after leaving high school.) This reorganization includes changes in our social safety net. Read all about it.

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/393479-white-house-releases-sweeping-proposal-to-reorganize-government/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/white-house-to-propose-merging-education-labor/2018/06/21/8f5e8e54-7561-11e8-bda1-18e53a448a14_story.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/20/us/politics/trump-welfare-department-reorganization.html

Will An Authoritarian Leader Be Unseated

Erdogan is the leader of Turkey and, if you have been paying attention, he has grown more and more authoritarian in his approach to governing Turkey. There was a coup, which many think Erdogan may have engineered. When Erdogan ended the coup he got to do some pretty brutal purging.

On June 24ththere is an election in Turkey. Mr. Ince is running against Erdogan and he is attracting crowds, surprisingly. The world is kind of waiting with some hope that Ince can unseat Erdogan on June 24th. That’s pretty close to now. Keep an ear bent.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/19/opinion/ince-erdogan-turkey-election.html

 

Know Your Dictators 2

Viktor Orban big the atlantic.jpg

Hungary

Viktor Orbán

These are notes taken from Paul Lendval writing in The Atlantic.

Timeline

1989

Orbán was a young man, unshaven with long hair (26 years old)

Fidesz – He was a member of this youth group. He gave a 6 ½ minute speech calling for free elections and withdrawal of soviet troops.

Instant fame.

1992

By the age of 30 he was in control of Fidesz

1994

Moved his party (Fidesz) to the right

1998

Fidesz won the election and Orbán became the youngest PM in the history of Hungary.

1998-2002

Prime Minister of Hungary

2010 – present

Prime Minister again and expected to win on April 8th(Lendval’s article was written on April 7th, the day before the election. Orbán won the election.

Ideology

Orbán began as a liberal, a “fiery left-wing atheist”. He was very poor as a child. He worked with the Soros Foundation and even took his family to Oxford under Soros Foundation sponsorship but he returned to Hungary after only 4 months in England.

Now Orbán is a right-wing populist leader.

Ethnic Nationalism and Deep-rooted Corruption mark his rule in Hungary, a return to past practice.

Orbán is busy now “concentrating power, eliminating constitutional safeguards, reshaping the state in his image (?), and posing a potential threat to even the future of the EU.”

Orbán is now a multimillionaire.

He wants Hungary to be a Christian nation (true, but also a message to the people of Hungary about how he will treat the issue of migrants and refugees from Syria who are usually not Christians)

He calls his own brand of government “illiberal democracy”.

Fidesz explores the “national question” – there is still much “bitterness” about the unnatural divisions of the people of Hungary caused by a post WW I treaty. Many nurse feelings of “national humiliation”.

Orbán runs on “faith in the homeland and Christian values” (know your peeps)

Policy

Orbán has filled state power positions with loyal supporters.

He uses Immigration as a “wedge issue”, with the migrant and refugee crisis at its highest point.

Orbán built a fence (wall) – a 110 mile fence on the border with Serbia and another fence on the border with Croatia. He exploits both the “victim myth” from that post WW I treaty and the “will to survive”.

“Even critics of the government’s harsh treatment of asylum seekers admitted that Orbán saw earlier than most of his EU colleagues that borders had to be controlled before a relocation plan for migrants could be agree upon.”

“[He] won back support by weaponizing the immigration issue.”

76% of the people of Hungary thought refugees would increase the likelihood of terrorism.

82% believed refugees too jobs and social benefits, creating a social burden.

Implications

Orbán has been influencing other post-communist states to join a nationalistic group which so far includes the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.

“…to quote the chairman of the European Stability Initiative think tank, Gerald Knaus, [he is] the most dangerous man in the European Union.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/04/viktor-Orbán-hungary/557246/

The following information is from an article in the New York Times by Patrick Kingsley on May 1, 2018.

“After Viktor Orbán’s Victory, Hungary’s Judges Start to Tumble”

Courts

A “flurry of judges began resigning in quick succession.”

“[O]ne of Mr. Orbán’s oldest friends and allies, Tunde Hando, has systematically packed the courts with loyalists in her role as chief of the judiciary for the past six years.”

Orbán is facing discipline “under a process known as the Article 7 procedure.

Censure could affect “the thinking of investors,” says Knaus.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/01/world/europe/hungary-viktor-Orbán-judges.html

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Sinclair Broadcasting on Immigration

Sinclair Broadcasting has once again left its biased fingerprints all over my local news. It looks as if this right wing media propaganda outlet has learned to be a bit more subtle about the stories they force on local news outlets. They have abandoned their easily recognizable mouthpiece, Brian Ephstyen for new sources that do not identify their leanings, unless you are a listener who pays attention to sources.

October 6, 2017 on the evening news there was offered up, in some detail, the report of a group called FAIR – (Federation for American Immigration Reform) giving us data (collected by the group) which tells exactly what illegal immigrants cost Americans (supposedly a lot).

There is enough divisiveness already in my county in the middle of New York State to call out a tar-and-feather incident against “cheating” immigrants and “favored” refugees at the slightest provocation. And here are our most popular local news stations reporting data designed to turn up the level of anger almost to the boiling point.

Apparently Sinclair does not realize how apolitical most of our residents are most of the time. But there may come a time when people begin to see that they don’t have to tune into Fox News or Rush Limbaugh to get their righteous indignation levels topped off. They can get a great dose of “stranger danger” right on their local news.

Here are some of the numbers offered up by FAIR and Sinclair. They are presented in the new graphic format favored by Donald Trump which we are beginning to see everywhere, especially in presentations of data summarized by Congressional committees. The Russia committee in the Senate had such a chart done in blue and white information chunks (pictographs and numbers, the new hieroglyphics) when they moaned on camera yesterday about being unable to talk with the author of the Russian dossier.

 

 

 

But who is this group FAIR and do they live up to their name or did they adopt it to throw us off the scent? They are definitely a right wing group and they have fought to get immigrants out of America for some time. There is no fact check data yet on their latest report because it is very new, but there are fact check reports dating back to 2002 which call into question the supposed facts of this extreme group.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that definitely leans left, but which has a solid reputation and is not usually considered a propagandist organization has a few things to say about FAIR.

“FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content. FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population: a goal to be achieved, presumably, by limiting the number of nonwhites who enter the country. One of the group’s main goals is upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans. FAIR President Dan Stein has called the Act a ‘mistake’.”

Follow the link above to the article which contains much more evidence in case you are unconvinced by this little tidbit.

Why would my local news station include such a bogus study unless it was ordered to do so by Sinclair? The national news we used to be offered came from more mainstream sources, mostly the Associated Press or similar outlets. In this case we were told that this was a study by a research group called FAIR. All a listener had to do was look up the group on the internet to see its bona fides but I doubt that many people did that. The story was not reported in print on the site at cnycentral .com used by the local news channels, and there was, once again, no place for comments or public feedback on the site.

Did the story make a splash? I am guessing that those who heard it and agreed with it may have gotten a smug smile on their face to congratulate themselves on how they were able to make such correct assumptions, and that this article proves that immigrants are taking money from hard-working Americans. But, considering the source, does it? I have yet to hear any backlash against the story. But I am writing this, and perhaps someone will send an editorial to the local paper, if they will print it, which I doubt.

Syracuse University lost Si Newhouse this week and they are grateful for all he has done to make Syracuse an important center for training journalists and for the communications industry, but as I understand it, the Newhouse family are possibly the very Conservatives who are forcing local journalism away from the middle road and into the fringes of the nuts on the right wing. I would not want our college to lose its academic clout, but I would hope that we might see a more moderate trend coming back into at least our local print news.

If Sinclair Broadcasting is controlling your local media market call them out whenever you get a chance. They will not tell your neighbors where their news is coming from or that it might possibly be designed to sway their feelings in order to nudge them to agree with the opinions endorsed by Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

Immigration Policy – Please Rethink Mass Deportations

I think in order to deal with the immigration issue fairly you have to engage that special ability that most of us possess; you must be empathetic. You have to imagine that you live in a nation suddenly made un-liveable, perhaps by war, or famine, or a power vacuum and resulting lawlessness, or just a society so stagnant that you can see that your children will always be doomed to the deprivations of poverty.

Try Empathy

You have to follow the mental experience a bit further, and hear the stories about America that people tell. These stories say that America is not paved with gold but is still a land of opportunity where enterprising people can get a job, or start a business, and slowly build a good life for themselves and for their children. You find people who share with you ways to enter American legally and offer instructions for how to stay longer than is legal. You find a land that is far from perfect but you are willing to start at the bottom, in the most onerous, poorly paid jobs and then build up patiently to a better life. Often you and your family are willing to do work American citizens will not do.

Maybe you came to meet someone and outstayed your visa. If you came alone perhaps you came as a student and overstayed your visa. Maybe you never actually attended college at all and just enrolled to get into the country. Maybe you walked across a border successfully avoiding customs and then stayed.

Immigrant Guilt

There are some things that are problematic about your decision to stay here without legal status. Perhaps you need to steal an identity to get the documents you need to be employed, so you hack someone’s computer or steal a purse or wallet or buy a fake ID. Some employers know you have no papers but will look the other way and pay you under the table. These actions make you a criminal in your new land so you must hide, live a life that is full of fear and less free than the lives of legal citizens, to avoid calling attention to yourself. Stealing ID’s hurts someone who is a legal citizen and you know that it is wrong. Working under the table leaves you with no protections against an abusive or exploitative boss. Either way you wish you were here legally, especially for your children’s sake.

America’s Guilt

In many ways Americans know your status but look the other way. Schools care about educating children so they don’t make a big deal of it if they happen to suspect that an immigrant family did not come into the country through proper channels.

Suddenly though, after the 2016 election, immigrant families find themselves in great danger of being plucked out of their new, always precarious existence and threatened with imminent deportation. It doesn’t matter, apparently, how many years you have been here. If you have a fake ID you are classified as a criminal and you are in even greater danger of being deported. Maybe you speak perfect English (or not), maybe you have paid taxes for years, maybe you have a business. You feel like an American, but suddenly you are about to be hunted down and arrested and turned out of your life.

What you did was wrong but you did it for the best of reasons (survival) to save the lives of you and your family. But America knew that this was happening and they let you stay. People did get deported; there always was the nagging fear that you might be discovered and sent back to the bad situation you came from. As time went by perhaps you felt safer and safer; more and more an American and you had children here who are citizens.

Now I’m back from my empathy experiment, but I am able to keep that viewpoint in mind.  I’m me again, a poor but still privileged white woman born in America. Up until now I have never lived in a land that was chaotic or dangerous, or in an area that was devastated by a natural disaster. Since the 2016 election I am more worried about our stability as a nation, right here in America. But I have put myself in the immigrants’ place, so I must be honest. If my family faced these circumstances and I was told of a possible way out, I think I (or you) might do the same and take that chance.

And I am watching our own President try to do something I never thought I would see in America. He is going to expel people who have been allowed to stay in America for years – to send them back into countries they don’t even call home anymore. It is not the Holocaust – when people were rounded up and murdered – but it feels so much like that; at least enough like it to tell us that it is wrong. Obviously some people will be sent back to lands that are so unstable that murder or rape or kidnapping could be real possibilities. Will neighbor turn in neighbor? Will sympathetic Americans have to hide immigrants? How will that work in such a populated world? Exactly how will immigrants without documents be identified? I cannot imagine that any of this will make life pleasant for anyone in America. How unpleasant will things get? Will some American citizens have to lose their freedom or even their lives to oppose this activity?

We Are to Blame

It is actually our fault these folks came and were allowed to stay. We don’t have a consistent way to check documents without also making citizens carry papers. We don’t have any hard borders except between Canada and Mexico and America and, as we know, many argue that these border are not all that secure. It feels un-American and is perhaps un-Constitutional to make people present documents on demand. So we have been very lax about immigration. I contend that we cannot hold people responsible if they break laws that are rarely enforced.

America needs a way to track temporary visas and find the visa holders when those documents expire. But all of the ways we could do this are distasteful or invasive or ineffective. Visas could be placed under the skin as we do with the chips to keep track of our pets. You don’t like that idea? It also has flaws. What if you travel a lot? You will have lots of implants. What if someone with no compunctions kills you in order to physically remove your implant? There will end up being a market in counterfeit implants. We are even more creative in our criminal endeavors than we seem to be in our technological innovations these days. If you don’t like that idea then perhaps you have other ways we could keep track of expired visas and pair that information with the locations of the people who let that visa expire. Right now people with expired visas can easily get lost among 350 million of us.

There must be a way to find people who got here in ways that are not approved without rousting them out after they have made a new life and sending them back to a land that is no longer theirs. However, until we have a fair way to send undocumented people back “home,” we should fight against this current administration’s plan which is inhumane and which will cause as much damage to our American democracy/republic as it will to the people who are deported.

Grandfather in the people who are here and put in place a workable system for those who are currently arriving here and staying too long. Don’t do this deportation assault in the way that these executive actions mandate. Congress, do your jobs. Interview experts, devise a system, try it out, and start over if that doesn’t work. Stop undoing programs we need and really do your homework to set up an immigration system (not a wall) that is not too invasive to citizens and works to stop people from breaking rules that are not real rules because they are rarely, unevenly, and ideologically applied.

The new Executive Action we are hearing about is just as awful as the one the courts recently overturned. We will be judged harshly by nations around the globe and many countries will not allow deported individuals back in which will leave thousands in limbo. Steve Bannon may want to isolate us from other nations but it is not a good plan. It will cause atrophy and it will make us more of a target than we are for aggression from bad actors. But this time we won’t have any friends.

Our Flawed Immigration System, Our Bad

I hear Americans making many of the following points
about immigrants, most of them false. They say:
Immigrants take our jobs.
The government is using our tax dollars to provide
benefits for undocumented immigrants.
Illegal immigrants vote fraudulently and they
usually vote for Democrats.
Undocumented workers will work for very low wages
and they therefore drive down wages of American workers.
White people would not be outnumbered by minorities
if illegal immigrants were sent home.
We put illegal immigrants who break the law into
American jails at taxpayer’s expense.
 Undocumented
people have large families and all of their children are born at no cost in
American hospitals and automatically become citizens.
All illegal immigrants are from South of the Border.
Undocumented and legal immigrants exclude us by
refusing to learn our language.
When we see women in scarves or even long garments
like burqas or hijabs we think in our heart of hearts that this is not an
American form of dress. We want women to take off these garments which to us
seem like symbols of female submission and enjoy American fashion. We are
afraid that people with such strong beliefs will impose their beliefs on us.
They will bring Sharia law.
We will find ourselves becoming a Muslim nation.
 I could go on
and on. These are all things we think about immigrants, especially immigrants
without legal documents.
However, if we are perfectly honest it is America’s
shoddy systems that allow people to come into our country and live and work
with no documents, or stolen documents, or illegally obtained documents. Last
week officials admitted that we have no system for tracking people here on
visas if they decide to stay when their visa expires. I read an interesting book
called Americanah (it won prizes) a
few years ago by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian woman who came to America
and had to stay until she could earn enough money to return home. She describes
what she had to do to work in America without proper documents.
Another story, The
Book of Unknown Americans
by Cristina Henriquez is about a family that came
to America legally from Mexico and describes their less-than-hospitable
experience here and the great tragedy it lead to.
Some of the things we think are true of immigrants,
both legal and illegal, have been researched and have been found to be false or
mostly false. But statistics do suggest that America will not be a majority
white nation for much longer or white people may have already slipped into the
minority. Caucasians do not seem to be the wave of the future and it may be too
late to reproduce a way back into ascendancy.
Deep down we feel good old American guilt over all
these unfriendly or even hateful feelings. We are supposed to be the great
melting pot where everyone shares the American Dream, deposits a few new
wrinkles that make for a tasty cultural stew, and then puts nose to grindstone
to climb the ladder of success.
We have dealt with groups that don’t see owning
things and amassing wealth and fitting in as important goals. But these groups
have been small and scattered and have not had an enormous effect on the
American work ethic or our materialism. Recent groups do not seem as
interested in assimilating (although assimilation can take generations). To us
it seems as if they cling to the language and culture of their nation of
origin. This was true of previous groups also, such as the Irish and the
Italians. I think that this time people are worried that America is not strong
enough to shake off these new influences and maintain its European/Caucasian
flavor. Will our grandchildren speak Spanish? Will they bow to Mecca? Some of
these things we can’t know.
Welcoming people and treating them well is more
likely to keep America as is than treating people with isolation and hostility.
But it seems counter-intuitive to many to accept strangers and it seems just
plain wrong to accept people who came without going through the proper routes
and who do not possess the proper papers. Although we don’t rely much on fancy
identity papers in America.
I don’t know if these new immigrant groups will take
over America (given that the Dream has gotten a bit thin for all of us) or if
they will blend into and enhance American culture and the only way to find out
is to wait and see what happens.
How can we deport people who simply took advantage
of a very lackadaisical visa system or borders that are not secured (and, my
guess, cannot be secured)? We should leave these poor people alone, grandfather
them in, give them papers now or after ten years, or whatever punishing delay,
and then create a system that works. That probably will involve doing some very
un-American thing like using an electronic tracking system or eyeball-ID at
points of entry and exit.
We are a nation of people who love to look for
loopholes and then use them to our advantage. These are obviously people after
our own hearts. So make sure that in the future we close the loopholes (not
with walls; they make me claustrophobic) and recognize that whatever system we
create in this age of jets will most likely not be perfect. Perhaps we will all
have to put up with some kind of chemical or electrical ID markers in the
not-so-distant future. However this has one big problem – the greater the
control, the less our privacy.
Our leaky immigration system is our bad; it is on
us. How can we blame those who use our mistakes to seek material gains or to
find a better life for their children? We would do exactly the same thing if we
had to.
By Nancy Brisson

Divide and Conquer

What was so stunning about the 2014 midterm was not
so much the result in Congress. Pundits explained why the Democrats would lose
control of the Senate but people like me did not want to accept their analysis.
It seemed that we could buck tradition and pull out an upset. But the pundits
proved to be right; after all they have studied elections for decades. They
knew who would turn out to vote and who would not.

  

Last week I had the TV on MSNBC while I went about
my daily activities and I heard someone predict that the Democrats might not
regain control of Congress until 2022. (Yikes!) Before the bloodbath of 2014 I
might have thought “hogwash” but now I have to give this prediction credence.
Democrats are in a bind. They have credibility as
the party of diversity, a party that includes minorities, but, because the
fears of white Americans have been activated (fears of loss of power, loss of
privilege) the Democrats may end up as a party that only represents minorities
– minorities who often do not vote, who lack financial resources to provide
monetary support to Democratic candidates at the time when, more than ever,
money “talks” in elections.
If we stop focusing on the ethnic origins that are
dividing us Democrats lose their claim to that “diverse” constituency which has
been their strength in the past. However, unless we understand that the divisions we experience as racial are actually only cultural, unless we accept that we are all formed from the same genetic materials
(did you see Toni Morrison on The Daily Show last week when she stressed this
point); unless we understand that we are all Americans, then opposing power
groups and those white males holding sway in America right now will dig in
deeper and fight with all the desperation they have exhibited so far, and
perhaps more, against changes to the status quo which benefits them.
How can the disappointingly quiet and unexciting Democratic Party
rephrase its agenda in order to be more inclusive? How can the Democrats who
seem so unemotional and who express no clear agenda hope to win back the middle
class who have been wooed away by Republican fear-mongering? Stressing and
offering strategies to fix the current gap between average Americans and the
wealthy is the real winning strategy for Democrats, I believe.
I don’t mean to argue that there are no ethnically
specific issues that need to be addressed. Sadly there are. Americans with
African origins are imprisoned too often and are too often trapped in poverty.
Because schools in poor neighborhoods have more problems and financial
challenges, educational opportunities across American ethnic groups are not
equal. Americans with Spanish origins often have all the obstacles of the
former group with, frequently, the additional rather serious “hiccup” of being
in America without documents and, perhaps, not speaking English.
But in many ways the solutions Democrats could offer
would work equally well for all of the 99% and these solutions could stress our
similarities instead of our differences. The way out of poverty for all is
through training and education. The way out of racism where it exists is to end
poverty and insure opportunity.
It is possible that the GOP statements which
threaten to re-institute the divisions of the Civil War (those suggestions like
hanging the Confederate flag in government settings or seceding from the United States) are just
reactions to imagined minority threats to the current power elite, but it is
equally possible that these remarks are part of a strategy to divide America
and conquer, keeping it under control of those Americans who are white, male,
wealthy, conservative and fundamentalist Christian. This would also help
explain why women are one of the groups being cut from the herd and excoriated.
Why would any of us want to be manipulated in these ways? We are all the middle
class; we are all the poor; what improves life for one of us should improve
life for all of us.

Whether this is strategy or whether it stems from a genuine fear
of losing a grip on the reins of power is unimportant; either way we can only
undermine it by presenting a united front as the American middle class, that
old rainbow coalition which differs only in skin tone, and not in patriotism –
that beating heart of America. (The short form of United States reads US. – how
hokey is that – a great symbolic coincidence though).
By Nancy Brisson

NBD – Much Ado About Very Little

I can’t believe the fuss being made about President
Obama’s possible executive action on immigration. It is such a limited action
and really will change very little for undocumented immigrants in American. The
people whose concerns are being addressed are people who have lived in America
for years, have had children in American, children who have attended American
schools, have had jobs in America, but who constantly anticipate (and not in a
good way) being deported. They know that if someone turns them in or finds out
about their undocumented status they could easily be torn from their jobs and
their families. They may have done something “illegal” but they did it years
ago and they have lived productive lives since then, productive lives that
could unravel at any moment (as could any of our lives, although not in this
particular way).
What Obama is able to do through executive action is
so small that it will not even cause a ripple in the surface of American
culture or the American economy. It sounds like he plans to issue temporary
work permits to parents of “dreamer” children so that these parents can
continue to work and support their families while their children get an
education. These workers, who may not have been paying taxes, who may have been
paid “under the table” will now contribute tax money and they can more
confidently seek to climb the employment ladder thus offering more skills to
the American workforce. They are not taking American jobs away from citizens
because they are already working.
The real issue here is not immigration. Republicans
are determined to turn the Obama presidency into eight empty years in American
history. It is their intention to stop anything that might give President Obama
a legacy. They are not too keen on any Democratic policies and they are still
just stalling until the next election. They are aware that Presidents have used
executive actions in the past. Executive actions are not even the real issue.
The real issues is to prevent America from moving too far to the left so that
when they get a Republican President elected they will not have to move so far
to swing right.
They have a back-up plan in case they don’t win the
Presidency in 2016 and their back-up plan is to turn as many states red as they
possibly can, a strategy with which they are having a great deal of success. We
have already seen Republican politics in effect in Wisconsin and in Kansas and it
is clear that their policies will not work out for anyone but the very wealthy.
Things are not going well for the middle class in either of those two states.
We need to passionately oppose the GOP because the ways in which they want to
change America are wrong-headed and unacceptable. I know that I haven’t backed
this up with many facts, but read about those two states, read about Wisconsin
and Kansas, and you will see where the policies of the GOP lead.
What the President says he plans to do about
immigration reform is very small and should be “no big deal” except that the
GOP is just so angry whenever Obama tries to accomplish anything and their
threats are so disproportionate to the actions taken by Obama that we know
their threats are political and have nothing to do with the topic of
immigration. I don’t believe Obama should fear impeachment because, one, the
job of being President in these circumstances has been very stressful and our
President has been demeaned, and, two, if the GOP impeaches this President,
history will not be kind to them.

By Nancy Brisson

Psychoanalyzing America

It seems that 9/11 changed America forever. Not really
surprising. I will never forget watching the Today show and watching those
planes and that ash and smoke and the hopelessness of it all; how could people
survive it? Our national mourning was profound and it had anger mixed with it.
We looked for survivors; we looked for remains; we licked our wounds, thanked
our heroes, grieved with the families and friends. No planes flew in the skies.
The silence told us better than anything that America had been brought to a
temporary standstill. We were a nation in deep shock.
When we learned that America had been infiltrated by
foreign haters who probably came here on visas, perhaps pretending they would
attend college here we felt betrayed and thus began our fears and doubts about
strangers. This could be the very place where an idea like the “Red Wedding” in
George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones
comes from. Once you have broken bread with a guest and offered salt they are
supposed to be safe in your household. Once we offered our hospitality in the
form of a visa we felt a sort of bargain had been struck. We expected these
foreign guests to treat America with respect. Instead they acted like the hosts
at the Red Wedding and we, America, lost our innocence forever.
We loved welcoming foreign guests and temporary residents
from other lands. We liked sharing our comfort and our warmth and our
treasures. No more. We have learned suspicion and distrust. We are no longer
the conquering heroes we were or thought we were at the end of World War II. We
have spent some of the currency we earned in that war. There are people who
hate us now and some believe they have valid reasons. I don’t believe hate gets
anyone anything good, but no one is consulting me about this.
So America has learned fear. We refuse to be vulnerable. If
we stay alert and develop the best intelligence system in the world (which we
don’t quite have the hang of yet, apparently) to keep eyes on our enemies at
home and around the world that will be part of our safety strategy. If we guard
every entrance to America, all the planes and buses and planes that will be
part of our safety strategy. If we take the war to the countries where our
enemies live (even if we have to lie to do it), if we are preemptive that will
help keep us safe. If we get a grip on our visa system (which we have not done)
so that we know when someone overstays a visa that might help keep us safe.
Time and tide have seen us relaxing these protections. Time
heals all wounds and the tides are going out, those tides of high threat levels
and our fears are ebbing. In a way these safety precautions sort of turn us into prisoners. But not everyone agrees that we should lower those
threat levels. Now that we know the rules of hospitality no longer apply, some
people support a position which says that it is wrong to relax our safety rules
and take the police locks off the doors. They feel naked without troops on the
ground in those nations full of fanatics who see us as enemies, and whose
religion, like ours, requires conversions. These Americans fear that we will
relax our alertness and then – Armageddon.
These Americans fear those coming over our Southern border,
they say, because they believe our enemies hide among them. Or are they playing
on our fears again as they did to get us in Iraq, in order to get their way on
immigration. We do know that they want to halt all flow across our Southern
borders; build walls high and higher, station more troops until no one without
papers can cross. No one even knows if this is possible. No one even knows if
their fears are real or pretend, but we can see that America has left its
adolescence and no longer feels invincible.
Perhaps these fear-mongers are paranoid; their fears could
be exaggerated or just politically expedient. Perhaps their assessment is
accurate. We are people who put our Japanese neighbors into camps during World
War II because of fear. Did those camps protect us? We will never know. Once
you choose one path you can’t usually go down the other. It didn’t do much for our national pride. Does safety trump pride?
Is this situation with these children telling us that we
have let our fear of being attacked again on our own soil get the better of us,
is this just prudent caution, or is it politics? Can we close the doors to America
and keep everyone out. Will that keep us safe? With two-thirds of the world
trying to find itself can we really lock America up like a stronghold and keep
all the “others” out? Will our own internal problems tear us apart regardless
of what we do about allowing immigrants in? Is this why we have lost our caring
spirit – all this fear and loss of innocence? Is this why we say put them back
on the bus and send them home – because we have lost our nerve? Is it
overpopulation and not wanting America to be overrun by hungry hoards that is
motivating us to harden our hearts?

Has America lost its ability to assimilate immigrants and
turn them into proud Americans? Will we ever set aside the less savory effects
of 9/11 to regain the brash optimism that once defined us? Have we learned to
temper that brashness with a bit of maturity gained through strife and loss?
There are always more questions than answers, but some answers must indeed be selected,
answers we all hope will prove right in the end. If only we had wise people in Washington instead of this Congress we have now.
By Nancy Brisson