Friday, June 22, 2018

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Getting The Story Straight

So Trump caved on the separation of immigrant families, signing an executive order that he says will end the horror.  Well, actually it won’t and it’s too late to reverse the damage to the children, but he’ll take credit for being so magnanimous.

At least for now.  I haven’t checked the news streams in the last twenty minutes; who knows which version of the story he’ll come up with.

First it was a deterrent. Then it wasn’t.

It was a new Justice Department policy. Then it wasn’t.

The Trump administration was simply following the law. Then it said separations weren’t required by law.

It could not be reversed by executive order. Then it was.

He left his enablers and mouthpieces twisting slowly in the wind, the Justice Department and HHS and the White House contradicting themselves and Trump on an hourly basis, sometimes even in the same statement.

Meanwhile, the camps grew, children were sent off to far-flung places, and now the best-case scenario is that immigrant families will be detained in tact in camps set up on military bases.

That’s not unprecedented, by the way.  Just ask the Americans of Japanese ancestry where they spent World War II.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Scarred For Life At A Tender Age

This is hard to read, hard to watch, hard to stomach.

Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas, The Associated Press has learned.

Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described playrooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday.

Doctors and lawyers who have visited the shelters said they were fine, clean and safe, but the kids — who have no idea where their parents are — were hysterical, crying and acting out.

“The shelters aren’t the problem, it’s taking kids from their parents that’s the problem,” said South Texas pediatrician Marsha Griffin, who has visited many.

Since the White House announced its “zero tolerance” policy in early May, more than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, resulting in a new influx of young children requiring government care. The government has faced withering critiques over images of children in cages inside U.S. Border Patrol processing stations.

Decades after the nation’s child welfare system ended the use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to children, the administration is standing up new institutions to hold Central American toddlers whom the government separated from their parents.

“The thought that they are going to be putting such little kids in an institutional setting? I mean it is hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” said Kay Bellor, vice president for programs at the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which provides foster care and other child welfare services to migrant children. “Toddlers are being detained.”

These shelters are not open to media coverage.  Perhaps that’s because ICE and the administration know that if they were, the reaction from anyone with a heart would be visceral and overwhelming.  What the hell kind of country are we that imprisons babies?

Mercifully the children may not retain actual memories of these events, but the scarring is already taking place.  No matter what happens to them, whether they end up here or sent back, they are going to carry the trauma of this event with them for the rest of their lives, and it will leave a mark.  Not just on them, but on us, and not just a mark of moral outrage and political reprisal.  Forget about whether their parents are asylum seekers, drug smugglers, or gang members; we’re creating our own crop of traumatized people right now. The impact will be felt for years, perhaps generations.

And one way or another we will end up paying for it, years after the people who came up with this cruelty have left the stage or served out their term, prison or otherwise.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Listen To The Children

Via TPM and ProPublica:

The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream “Mami” and “Papá” over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.

Send this to the Nobel committee.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Outrage Overload

Scrolling through news stories and clips about the immigration disaster can be overwhelming.  How many times can you read stories about children being taken away from their parents, many of whom committed no crime except to show up at the border to ask for asylum, and even that is not a crime?

It’s obvious that the people promulgating and executing the policy had no idea that it would create any kind of backlash; after all, when Trump announced he would do this at his campaign rallies, he got thunderous applause.

And then we have those who are defending the policy by 1) blaming it on the Democrats, 2) using the bible, including quotes from parts of it that were used to defend both slavery and loyalty to the British crown, to justify their cruelty, and 3) saying they are merely following the law and falsely claiming there is nothing they can do but enforce it.  To top it off, defenders of the horror are telling us the kids have it easy; they are in nice places with game rooms, which reminds us of how certain facilities were touted when they were being prepped for a visit from the Danish Red Cross.

Of course that’s all bullshit, and blasphemy if you care about the religious invocation, and if these refugees were coming from countries where the skin tones are a whiter shade of pale, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because they’d be welcomed with open arms.

So at what point do you just shake your head and say it’s all too much and let’s see what’s being rerun on TV Land?  At what point do you say there’s nothing you can do about it and no one on the other side you can convince because it’s like trying to explain gravity to a chicken?

It’s a trick question.  You don’t.  You do something.

First, though, there are some things you don’t do.  Don’t yell at the TV; it can’t hear you (unless you have one of those smart TV’s that can hear you and who knows who’s listening on the other end).  Don’t get in endless Facebook arguments with Trump supporters; you can never get in the last word, and they usually devolve to schoolyard-level name-calling, so there, nyah.

What you do is get in touch with the people that can actually do something about it.  There’s a mid-term election coming up in November and your local congressperson is up for re-election, and in about 24 states, so is at least one senator.  Contact them via e-mail, snail mail, or phone.  Be polite but firm, the same way you would be if you’re calling customer service at a retail establishment.  Make sure you tell them you’re a constituent (and be sure you are) by giving them your ZIP code.  State your position concisely and clearly and stay on topic.  Leave out ad hominem attacks; that’s the quickest way to get a dial tone.  Be nice to the person who answers the phone; they’re probably an intern or a low-wage staffer.  Do your homework and know where the representative stands on the bill(s) you support or oppose.  Find out if they’re going to have a town hall or be in the district at an event and go.  You don’t have to carry a sign; just show up and make your position known, again being polite but firm.

If you join a rally or a march — and there are some being organized — follow these simple rules outlined by Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice.  Or if you can’t go or feel more comfortable making a financial donation, Slate has compiled a list of organizations that are working to fight this horror.

Finally, keep calm and carry on.  Outrage channeled in constructive ways can end wars, abolish bad laws, and change Congress.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Camping Out

From McClatchy:

The Trump administration is looking to build tent cities at military posts around Texas to shelter the increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children being held in detention.

The Department of Health and Human Services will visit Fort Bliss, a sprawling Army base near El Paso in the coming weeks to look at a parcel of land where the administration is considering building a tent city to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children, according to U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the plans.

HHS officials confirmed that they’re looking at the Fort Bliss site along with Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo for potential use as temporary shelters.

“HHS will make the determination if any of the three sites assessed are suitable,” said an HHS official.

It gets hot in Texas in the summer.  Very hot.  The average high in San Angelo in July is 95 F.  People left out in the sun die from heat exhaustion.  Air conditioning a tent is like trying to cool your house by leaving the freezer open.

But that’s just the practical side of the matter.  What kind of country separates children from their parents, regardless of the legal status, and forces them in to a refugee camp?

That photo is not from Texas… yet.  It’s a Syrian refugee in Jordan in 2017.

Every day when Ali Jibraail wakes up he worries about his falafel shop. Will this be the day the electricity generator fails? Can he continue to ward off an increasing number of competitors? Might his suppliers begin to resent crossing the desert to make deliveries and raise their prices?

This is Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, home to 80,000 Syrians who have fled the devastating war, and – established four years ago – Jibraail’s is its longest serving restaurant.

Each day the Damascus-born chef and his nine staff serve up 7,500 falafel balls, at five Jordanian dinars (€6.66) for three. “The whole camp eat here,” Jibraail says, proudly.

The restaurant is located on Zaatari’s main shopping street – where residents can procure everything from bicycles to wedding dresses to canaries. UN workers cheerfully title it the “Champs Élysées”. “But only the foreigners call it that,” says Ala (25) from Daraa in southwest Syria. “We call it Hamidiyah market – [after] the largest market in [the Syrian capital] Damascus.”

This month the Syrian war enters its seventh year. With no end in sight, life for the displaced trundles on through births, deaths and marriages – milestones muted by the feeling of transience. A sizeable portion of Zaatari’s residents have more significant memories inside the camp than out.

Cradling her newborn son in a ward of the on-site field hospital, 16-year-old Amal Hamoud hasn’t been to school since she left Syria and was forced to abandon 5th grade. “My son looks like his father,” she says.

At least in this camp, in the heart of one of the worst humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II, they’re not separating children from parents.

Of course there’s a difference between the civil war in Syria and immigration across the U.S. southern border.  But how we’re handling it tells us a lot about our country and who’s running it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Updating Lady Liberty

From the Washington Post:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled Monday that victims of domestic abuse and gang violence generally will not qualify for asylum under federal law, a decision that advocates say will endanger tens of thousands of foreign nationals seeking safety in the United States.

Sessions’s ruling vacated a 2016 decision by the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals that said an abused woman from El Salvador was eligible for asylum. The appeals board is typically the highest government authority on immigration law, but the attorney general has the power to assign cases to himself and set precedents.

Such cases can ultimately end up with the federal appeals courts.

Sessions told immigration judges, whose courts are part of the Justice Department, that his decision “restores sound principles of asylum and long-standing principles of immigration law.” He said it will help reduce the growing backlog of 700,000 court cases, more than triple the number in 2009.

“We have not acted hastily, but carefully,” Sessions said in the statement to the judges. “In my judgment, this is a correct interpretation of the law.”

So it’s no longer “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”  It’s “Clap them in irons, toss them back to the gang rapists, and put their children in cages.”

Got it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Bless The Beasts And The Children

It’s going to be interesting to see how Trump tweets that this is fake news and blame it on the leakers in the White House.

Trump referred to some undocumented immigrants as “animals” on Wednesday and suggested the Justice Department investigate the Democratic mayor of Oakland, Calif., for her role in tipping off the community about an impending federal enforcement raid in February.

[…]

“We have people coming into the country — or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country, you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” Trump said. “These aren’t people. These are animals.”

As if that’s not enough, they have plans for what to do with the children of immigrants after they’re separated from their parents.

The Trump administration is making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases, according to Defense Department communications, the latest sign the government is moving forward with plans to split up families who cross the border illegally.

According to an email notification sent to Pentagon staffers, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make site visits at four military installations in Texas and Arkansas during the next two weeks to evaluate their suitability to shelter children.

The bases would be used for minors under 18 who arrive at the border without an adult relative or after the government has separated them from their parents. HHS is the government agency responsible for providing minors with foster care until another adult relative can assume custody.

I’ve gotten beyond wondering when the tipping point will come.  As I noted yesterday, there are going to be people on TV — guess which channel — who are going to nod and smile and agree with him that yes, immigrants are animals and then wonder why the Democrats don’t support Trump for his efforts to find a final solution.

When we get to this point, friends, I’ll take immigrants, documented or otherwise, over these boorish and ignorant fascists any day.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Short Takes

87 million: That’s the number of Facebook users who got swept by Cambridge Analytics.

Trump backs off immediate Syrian withdrawal.

National Guard at the border will not touch immigrants.

No kidding: Rubio says federal funds needed to help the Keys recover from hurricane damage.

There are dozens of black holes at the center of the Milky Way.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Trumpier Than Trump

Frank Bruni interviewed Ann Coulter for the New York Times.  (Remember her?  She’s the other blonde snarky right-wing pundit often confused with Laura Ingraham.)

Currently she’s calling herself a Former Trumper because that wall hasn’t been built and she’s suddenly figured that it was all a con by Trump to get elected.  Oh, she’s pissed.

That should be terrifying to the president. Maybe he’ll actually keep his promises. Unlike Marco Rubio. Unlike the rest of them. Unlike Mitch McConnell. We have been betrayed over and over and over with presidents promising to do something about immigration. If he played us for suckers, oh, you will not see rage like you have seen.

So that’s her big make-or-break point; that if Trump doesn’t build the wall, the party’s over and she’ll go after him like the complete troll that she is that made her bones on Fox News.

Guess what.  That wall won’t be built, and even if it is, it won’t be what she has in mind; think Korean DMZ or the late Berlin Wall.  And she’ll back someone else in the GOP primary in two years.

Steve M notes that if there’s going to be a successful GOP challenger to Trump, he’s gotta be even more hard core than Trump.

The base might accept someone other than Trump, depending on the circumstances — but only if that alternative candidate seems meaner and nastier than Trump. It’s not going to be someone like Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, or John Kasich — the political equivalents of the persona non grata pundits listed above. If another candidate is going to take the nomination from Trump, it’s going to be a candidate who talks like Ann Coulter. That’s still the only variety of anti-Trumpism that’s acceptable to the base.

If Trump is successfully challenged, it’ll be by someone who says that Trump isn’t tough enough or angry enough or pitiless enough. We just need to watch Fox if we want to know what arguments the Republican base finds plausible. The only anti-Trump argument that qualifies is the one Ann Coulter makes.

So who would be better than Trump in appealing to the baser instincts of his base?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lost Dreams

The hopes for DACA are dashed.

After three consecutive plans to address the DACA program went down in flames Thursday afternoon, Republicans who signed onto the bipartisan compromise bill that came closest to passage tore into the Trump administration for lobbying against it.

“I don’t think the President helped very much,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a cosponsor of the bipartisan plan, told reporters following the vote. “There’s probably 75 votes here for border security plus a pathway to citizenship for the DACA recipients, but you need presidential leadership. Without it, we won’t get there.”

Ahead of the vote, President Trump threatened to veto the compromise bill if it ever reached his desk, and he tweeted just before the vote began calling it a “total catastrophe.” He also threatened to veto any short-term fallback plan to protect DACA recipients from deportation.

Of course Trump was going to be an asshole about it; we all knew that from the beginning.  And of course the GOP seeks cover by blaming him instead of doing what a vast majority of Americans, regardless of party, want done.

We’re begging you: for once try not to live up to our expectations.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Dream On

Via the Washington Post:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi commandeered the House floor Wednesday for a day-into-night marathon plea to Republicans for action on immigration, casting the fate of young undocumented immigrants in moral terms.

The 77-year-old Pelosi stood for more than eight hours, reading multiple personal stories from “dreamers” and citing Bible passages. Her speech ranked as the longest given by a member of the House of Representatives in at least a century, possibly ever, focusing on an issue that has vexed Democrats for months.

The speech underscored that Democrats lack the leverage they insisted they would have in spending showdowns with Republicans. Pelosi and others repeatedly promised immigration activists and the party base they would force a vote sparing undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation after President Trump rescinded the program in September.

Instead, Democrats’ ineffectiveness has angered those same activists and the voters critical in a midterm election year with control of the House at stake.

Pelosi, who began talking shortly after 10 a.m., sought the same assurances Democrats have gotten in the Senate — the promise of debate on an immigration bill, the one glimmer of hope on an issue that seems to defy resolution.

“Why should we in the House be treated in such a humiliating way when the Republican Senate leader has given that opportunity in a bipartisan way to his membership? What’s wrong? There’s something wrong with this picture,” Pelosi said.

Aides to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said that he intends to allow debate on immigration legislation that is supported by Trump. But when the debate might happen — and what kind of bill Trump can support — is still unclear.

I admire her stamina, her persistence, and her willingness to make the point that as of now, the Democrats are basically powerless in the House to leverage anything out of the Republicans.

The only way to get their way is to be in the majority, so that’s what needs to happen in November.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Not Fully Informed

Chief of Staff John Kelly tries to clear up a few things.

Trump’s chief of staff privately told a group of Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday that Mr. Trump had not been “fully informed” when promising voters a wall along the Mexican border last year, and said that he had persuaded the president it was not necessary. He also expressed optimism that a bipartisan immigration deal could eventually be reached.

John F. Kelly, the retired Marine general credited with bringing a measure of discipline to Mr. Trump’s chaotic White House during his six months as chief of staff, told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he had educated the president about the issue of immigration, adding that Mr. Trump had “evolved” on the wall.

Hold it right there, cowboy.  “Credited with bringing a measure of discipline to Mr. Trump’s chaotic White House”?  So calling Africa and Haiti “shitholes” and tripping over his own message five times before breakfast is supposed to be an improvement?  Okay, so he didn’t call them “fucking shitholes.”

Anyway…

But in telling lawmakers that Mr. Trump had essentially erred from the start in promoting a wall and by claiming credit for dissuading him, Mr. Kelly appeared to be voicing a sentiment some in the West Wing have heard him express privately — that it is his job to tutor a sometimes ill-informed president who has never served in public office before.

At the same time, it suggested that Mr. Kelly, who served as secretary of homeland security before coming to the White House and has hard-line views on immigration that mirror the president’s restrictionist approach, was positioning himself now as a moderating influence.

Mr. Kelly made the remarks at a meeting with members of the Hispanic Caucus, as a group known as the Twos — the No. 2 Democrat and Republican in both the House and Senate — worked toward negotiating a deal to protect from deportation the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers. The meeting with the Hispanic caucus was first reported by The Washington Post.

What it really means is that we have an attempt at a reverse Wizard of Oz throne room scene: pay no attention to the flaming talking head; listen to the man behind the curtain who’s really running the show.

The problem with that is that even if you take away all the bells and whistles and tweets and fumbles, you still have a policy on immigration that puts young undocumented immigrants in jeopardy, and worse, unsure of what’s next.  Who knows what the nitwits at Fox and Friends will come off the couch with — aliens in the bathtub! — and send Trump around the bend.

If this little chat was meant to moderate the administration’s approach and instill confidence in their leadership, it needs a lot of work.