Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Operative Word Being “Blitz”

From the Washington Post:

In the weeks before they were ousted last month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and top immigration enforcement official Ronald Vitiello challenged a secret White House plan to arrest thousands of parents and children in a blitz operation against migrants in 10 major U.S. cities.

According to seven current and former Department of Homeland Security officials, the administration wanted to target the crush of families that had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border after the president’s failed “zero tolerance” prosecution push in early 2018. The ultimate purpose, the officials said, was a show of force to send the message that the United States was going to get tough by swiftly moving to detain and deport recent immigrants — including families with children.

The sprawling operation included an effort to fast-track immigration court cases, allowing the government to obtain deportation orders against those who did not show for their hearings — officials said 90 percent of those targeted were found deportable in their absence. The subsequent arrests would have required coordinated raids against parents with children in their homes and neighborhoods.

But Vitiello and Nielsen halted it, concerned about a lack of preparation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, the risk of public outrage and worries that it would divert resources from the border.

Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence were especially supportive of the plan, officials said, eager to execute dramatic, highly visible mass arrests that they argued would help deter the soaring influx of families.

The arrests were planned for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and the other largest U.S. destinations for Central American migrants. Though some of the cities are considered “sanctuary” jurisdictions with police departments that do not cooperate with ICE, the plan did not single out those locations, officials said.

ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations branch had an initial target list of 2,500 adults and children, but the plan, which remains under consideration, was viewed as a first step toward arresting as many as 10,000 migrants. The vast majority of families who have crossed the border in the past 18 months seeking asylum remain in the country, awaiting a court date or in defiance of deportation orders.

You don’t have to be a history buff or a fan of movies like “Schindler’s List” or even “X-Men” to understand the parallels to certain other events like this in history to know that it does not end well.

Lest you think that then-Secretary of Homeland Security Nielsen had a twinge of morality or saw the glaring reference to Europe in the 1940’s, rest assured that her qualms were about logistics, not human rights.

DHS officials said the objections Vitiello and Nielsen raised regarding the targeted “at large” arrests were mostly operational and logistical and not as a result of ethical concerns about arresting families an immigration judge had ordered to be deported.

Nielsen and others also worried that a massive effort to deport parents and children would detract from the Trump administration’s stated goal of going after “criminal aliens.”

“The proposal was nowhere near ready for prime time,” the official said, which is why DHS senior leaders blocked the White House. “They wanted 10 cities, thousands of targets.”

Officials at ICE and DHS declined to comment, and Vitiello and Nielsen did not respond to requests for comment. Miller declined to comment through a White House spokesman.

But administration officials who described the plan said Vitiello and Nielsen’s pushback was a factor in President Trump’s decision to oust both officials — particularly Vitiello.

The president has been livid about the number of unauthorized border-crossers being released into the U.S. interior, and he has repeatedly urged his aides to take the “toughest” approach possible.

Of course.  What are we going to do with all these… people?  Hey, maybe put them all in one place, and while were at it, get them to do some work, y’know, to keep them occupied. Pay them? Are you kidding?  We’re feeding them and housing them and even giving them clothes; don’t those striped outfits look nice?  Oh, and just to make sure that if they somehow get away, make them all wear a badge or something so everyone else can easily identify them in a crowd….

But raising these kinds of questions only gets in the way.

Miller has told the president that some members of his administration don’t have his best interests at heart, and that they are too worried about their own reputations to carry out his agenda effectively, according to current and former administration officials.

The president’s supporters also have been urging him to wield a firm hand.

Speaking on “Fox and Friends” on Thursday, Vitiello’s predecessor at ICE, Tom Homan, said the agency should “do operationally what Congress has failed to do legislatively.”

“ICE needs to do a nationwide operation,” Homan said. “Look for family units and single adults who had their day in court or didn’t show up in court and [were] ordered removed by a federal judge,” he said. “If those orders don’t mean anything, if those orders aren’t executed, there is no integrity to our system.”

Reading that, why do I get the feeling he was this close to saying something about finding a “final solution”?

Lest you think I’m skating too close to Godwin’s Law wherein everything devolves to comparison to a certain regime in central Europe of the 1930’s, remember that fearmongering, then rounding up and detaining “undesirables” and “aliens” is one of the first things authoritarians do to instill fear, loathing, and maintain control.  If it can happen to them, it could happen to you, so watch your step, shut your mouth, and here, wear this red cap just to fit in.

We’re this close.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Real Threat

Hillary Clinton in the Washington Post:

Our election was corrupted, our democracy assaulted, our sovereignty and security violated. This is the definitive conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. It documents a serious crime against the American people.

The debate about how to respond to Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” attack — and how to hold President Trump accountable for obstructing the investigation and possibly breaking the law — has been reduced to a false choice: immediate impeachment or nothing. History suggests there’s a better way to think about the choices ahead.

Obviously, this is personal for me, and some may say I’m not the right messenger. But my perspective is not just that of a former candidate and target of the Russian plot. I am also a former senator and secretary of state who served during much of Vladi­mir Putin’s ascent, sat across the table from him and knows firsthand that he seeks to weaken our country.

I am also someone who, by a strange twist of fate, was a young staff attorney on the House Judiciary Committee’s Watergate impeachment inquiry in 1974, as well as first lady during the impeachment process that began in 1998. And I was a senator for New York after 9/11, when Congress had to respond to an attack on our country. Each of these experiences offers important lessons for how we should proceed today.

First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.

The Republicans, of course, will not listen to this.  All they will say is that she’s a sore loser and E-MAILS!  But what is so striking is that they and a lot of other people were willing — and still are — to take Trump’s word that the Russians did nothing to interfere with the election of 2016 and are just as likely to do the same next year.  Oh, but our real national security is threatened by refugees from Central America who are begging, with their last dime, for asylum.  But the systematic corruption of our electoral system?  Nah.

We have to get this right. The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future. And, unless he’s held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.

Of all the lessons from our history, the one that’s most important may be that each of us has a vital role to play as citizens. A crime was committed against all Americans, and all Americans should demand action and accountability. Our founders envisioned the danger we face today and designed a system to meet it. Now it’s up to us to prove the wisdom of our Constitution, the resilience of our democracy and the strength of our nation.

The very fact that Trump and his toadies are saying “Move along, folks, nothing to see here,” is reason enough to hold hearings and get to the truth.  It may lead to impeachment; it may not.  But to sit back and do nothing is exactly what the Russians are expecting us to do.  They know we’re too easily distracted by trivial bullshit and shiny objects; while the country is obsessed with the latest Kardashian sighing, they’re robbing us and getting away with it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

ICEcapades

The widower of a soldier killed in combat in Afghanistan was deported to Mexico, then returned when the media coverage hit the fan.

Immigration officials last week deported the spouse of a U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2010, leaving the couple’s 12-year-daughter in Phoenix, then abruptly reversed its decision on Monday when the deported man was allowed to return to the U.S.

Jose Gonzalez Carranza, 30, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers last Monday on his way to his welding job and then deported to Nogales, Sonora, early Thursday morning, according to Gonzalez Carranza and his attorney, Ezequiel Hernandez.

Gonzalez Carranza was married to Army Pfc. Barbara Vieyra, who was killed on Sept. 18, 2010, while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. She was 22.

During an interview, Gonzalez Carranza told The Arizona Republic he was allowed to re-enter the U.S. through the DeConcini port of entry in Nogales, Arizona Monday afternoon.

He said he was then driven back to Phoenix where ICE officials dropped him off at the agency’s headquarters near downtown.

ICE officials offered no explanation for the decision to allow Gonzalez Carranza to return to the U.S. But Hernandez believes the reversal was triggered by media attention the deportation received.

That’s good for Mr. Gonzalez Carranza, but the deportations and family separations are still going on and not every one of them makes it on the nightly news.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Anything You Can Do…

It strikes me as a bit ironic that the Trump administration would brand the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a force that is endowed with the power to enforce strict rule on citizens and defend the nation from “infidels,” as a terrorist organization on the same day that Trump sacks DHS Secretary Nielsen for not enforcing his policy of separating refugee children from their parents at the southern border.  Apparently she and Trump disagreed about the policy, so he fired her and will bring in someone who will have no qualms about putting children in cages.

Not that Ms. Nielsen had a problem with that; she had already made it clear in testimony before Congress that the policy was fine with her.  She just didn’t want to get entangled in lawsuits because they’re messy and expensive — for her.  She was fired because she let legal considerations interfere with her thinking, and that doesn’t go down well with Trump.

Trump has for months urged his administration to reinstate large-scale separation of migrant families crossing the border, according to three U.S. officials with knowledge of meetings at the White House.

Trump’s outgoing Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, resisted — setting her at odds with the president.

According to two of the sources, Nielsen told Trump that federal court orders prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from reinstating the policy, and that he would be reversing his own executive order from June that ended family separations.

Three U.S. officials said that Kevin McAleenan, the head of Customs and Border Patrol who is expected to take over as acting DHS secretary, has not ruled out family separation as an option.

The policy McAleenan would consider, according to the officials, is known as “binary choice” and would give migrant parents the option between being separated from their children or bringing their children with them into long-term detention.

This renewed jihadism against immigrants is coming not just from Trump himself.  The purge of DHS and the reinstatement of the policy — despite Trump’s own executive order ending it last summer — comes from Stephen Miller, the presidential adviser who one person on Twitter claimed was the result of crossing Pee Wee Herman and Josef Goebbels.

Trump is cleaning house in the Department of Homeland Security.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles have been ousted, and at least two officials have been named as possibly heading out the door: US Citizenship and Immigration Services director Francis Cissna and Office of the General Counsel’s John Mitnick.

There is a near-systematic purge happening at the nation’s second-largest national security agency,” an official told CNN.

At least some of the sudden personnel changes come at the urging of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, who played a key role in Nielsen’s ouster. The President in recent weeks empowered Miller to lead the administration’s border policies “and he’s executing his plan” with what amounts to a wholesale decapitation of the department’s leadership, an official said.

The President has also pushed in recent weeks to reinstate the family separation policy, which Nielsen resisted, a source familiar with the discussions says. Trump rescinded that policy amid public outrage and scrutiny from the courts last summer.

Miller’s heightened influence within the West Wing has been aided by the President, who recently told aides in an Oval Office meeting that Miller was in charge of all immigration and border-related issues in the White House, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

So while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard gets labeled as a terrorist organization, Trump is trying to remake DHS and ICE into something modeled after it.

Last Friday, the President visited Calexico, California, where he said, “We’re full, our system’s full, our country’s full — can’t come in! Our country is full, what can you do? We can’t handle any more, our country is full. Can’t come in, I’m sorry. It’s very simple.”

Behind the scenes, two sources told CNN, the President told border agents to not let migrants in. Tell them we don’t have the capacity, he said. If judges give you trouble, say, “Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.”

After the President left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.

And the march toward authoritarianism continues.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Historically Challenged

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) compared the immigration situation along the southern border to D-Day.

“Let me just put this in context for the American people. Perhaps the most famous invasion in the history of the world, D-Day; 73,000 American troops landed in the D-Day invasion. We have 76,103, according to my numbers, apprehensions along our southern border last month. We have D-Day every month on our southern border.”

Generally, when a person compares two things for “context,” it illuminates the understanding of those things. In this case, the reaction seemed to be “Huh?”

Sheesh.  As Gillian Brockell at the Washington Post goes on to explain, Allied troops were liberating France and Europe from the Nazis, they were heavily armed, the planning for the invasion took almost a year, thousands more people were involved in the logistics, and the casualties and deaths numbered over 40,000 on the first day.

So, no, the border crossing at Antelope Wells, New Mexico, is not Omaha Beach.  For context, go watch the first half hour of “Saving Private Ryan” or the first two episodes of “Band of Brothers.”

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Wrong Border

The Trump minions have been telling us that thousands of terror suspects have been pouring over the southern border which is why we need a state of emergency to end the horror.

Yeah, no.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered only six immigrants at ports of entry on the U.S-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists, according to CBP data provided to Congress in May 2018 and obtained by NBC News.

The low number contradicts statements by Trump administration officials, including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who said Friday that CBP stopped nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from crossing the southern border in fiscal year 2018.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters on Monday the exact number, which NBC News is first to report, was classified but that she was working on making it public. The data was the latest set on this topic provided to Congress. It is possible that the data was updated since that time, but not provided to Congress.

Overall, 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database were encountered at the southern border from Oct. 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, but 35 of them were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Six were classified as non-U.S. persons.

On the northern border, CBP stopped 91 people listed in the database, including 41 who were not American citizens or residents.

So it’s the Canadians who are the real terrorists, with their hockey pucks and Tim Horton donuts sneaking in to overtake our nation.  And the way they do it is especially crafty: y’see, most of ’em are white with names like Gordie and Justin.  Very clever.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Time for my annual recap and predictions for this year and next.  Let’s look back at how I did a year ago.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.

I’ll give myself a B on that since it was pretty much that way a year ago and the gears of justice grind slowly but irresistibly.  No high-level members of the administration were indicted, but shame and scandal did bring down an impressive number of folks who had hard passes to the West Wing.

  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)

I’ll go with a C on that since I hit the nail on the head in the first sentence; I should have just left it there.  But no; I had it backwards: the House flipped but the GOP still has the Senate, and who knew that Paul Ryan would decide to quit?

  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.

I’ll take an A- on that since I got the timing wrong, but I think Brett Kavanaugh did a great job of flailing (“I like beer!”) before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The predator still got on the court, though, and we all hold RBG in the Light for at least another two years.

  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.

A+ Duh.

  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.

Another A+, but what did anyone expect?  Trump’s half-assed attempts to restrain trade with Cuba, along with Marco Rubio doing his yapping perrito act, only make it more ironic when it’s the administration’s policy to cozy up to dictators like Putin and the Saudis.  If Trump owned a hotel in Havana he’d be down there in a second sucking up to the regime with video to prove it.

  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.

I’ll take a B on this since I didn’t factor in tariffs and the trade war(s) he’s launched that led to wild uncertainty in the markets, not to mention Trump’s bashing of the Fed chair that he appointed and told him to do what he’s doing.

  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.

I get an A on this because it has and they are.

  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.

Sadly, a very predictable A on that.

  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)

I get a B on this because it was rather easy to spot and I’m already getting begging e-mails from Ms. Harris.

  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.

This was a great year for my playwriting with a lot of new friends and opportunities out there and more to come in 2019 (see below).

  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.

Yep.  I’ve already blocked them out.

Okay, on to the predictions.

  • Barring natural causes or intervention from an outside force, Trump will still be in office on December 31, 2019.  There is no way he will leave voluntarily and even with the House of Representatives in Democratic control and articles of impeachment being drafted they will not get to the Senate floor because the Republicans are either too afraid to rile up the base or they’re too enamored of their own grip on power to care about the government being headed by a poor imitation of a tin-pot banana republic authoritarian douche-canoe.
  • The Mueller Report will be released to Congress and even though it’s supposed to be classified it will be leaked with great fanfare and pundit predictions of the end of the Trump administration with calls for frog-marching him and his minions out of the West Wing.  Despite that, see above.
  • There will be no wall.  There never will be.  Immigration will still be a triggering issue as even more refugees die in U.S. custody.
  • There will be no meaningful changes to gun laws even if the NRA goes broke.  There will be more mass shootings, thoughts and prayers will be offered, and we’ll be told yet again that now is not the time to talk about it.
  • Obamacare will survive its latest challenge because the ruling by the judge in Texas declaring the entire law unconstitutional will be tossed and turned into a case study in law schools everywhere on the topic of exasperatingly stupid reasoning.
  • Roe vs. Wade will still stand.
  • With the Democrats in control of the House, the government will be in permanent gridlock even after they work out some sort of deal to end the current shutdown over the mythological wall.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become the Willie Horton for the GOP base and blamed for everything from budget deficits to the toast falling butter-side down.
  • We will have a pretty good idea who the Democratic front-runner will be in 2020.  I think Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances are still good (she announced her exploratory committee as I was writing this), as are Sen. Kamala Harris’s, and don’t count out Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, but who knew that Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic loser in the Texas senate race, would raise a lot of hopes?  That said, fifteen years ago when I started this blog, Howard Dean looked like the guy who was going to beat George W. Bush.
  • The economy will continue with its wild gyrations, pretty much following the gyrations of the mood of Trump and his thumb-driven Twitter-fed economic exhortations.  The tax cuts and the tariffs will land on the backs of the people who provide the income to the government and the deficit will soon be out there beyond the Tesla in outer space.  But unlike that Martian-bound convertible, the economy will come crashing back to Earth (probably about the time I retire in August) and Trump will blame everyone else.
  • There will be a natural event that will convince even skeptics that climate change and sea level rise is real and happening.  Unfortunately, nothing will be done about it even if lots of lives are lost because [spoiler alert] nothing ever is done.
  • I’m going out on a limb here with foreign affairs predictions, but I have a feeling that Brexit will end up in the dustbin of history.
  • Personally, this will be a transition year.  My retirement from Miami-Dade County Public Schools occurs officially on August 31, 2019, and I’m already actively looking for something both meaningful and income-producing to do after that.  (E-mail me for a copy of my resume; nothing ventured, nothing sprained.)  My play “Can’t Live Without You” opens at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida, for a two-week run on March 30, and I’m planning on returning to the William Inge Theatre Festival for the 28th time, either with a play or most assuredly with a scholarly paper.  I have my bid in for a variety of other theatre events and productions; I think I’m getting the hang of this playwriting thing.
  • I will do this again next year.  I hope.  As Bobby says, “Hope is my greatest weakness.”

Okay, your turn.  Meanwhile, I wish continued good health and a long life to all of you and hope you make it through 2019 none the worse for wear.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Desperation

From the Washington Post:

A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday.

The child’s death is likely to intensify scrutiny of detention conditions at Border Patrol stations and CBP facilities that are increasingly overwhelmed by large numbers of families seeking asylum in the United States.

According to CBP records, the girl and her father were taken into custody about 10 p.m. Dec. 6 south of Lordsburg, N.M., as part of a group of 163 people who approached U.S. agents to turn themselves in.

More than eight hours later, the child began having seizures at 6:25 a.m., CBP records show. Emergency responders, who arrived soon after, measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees, and according to a statement from CBP, she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”

It took them eight hours to find out that she hadn’t eaten or had water.  All they had to do was ask.

Note that these 163 people were not trying to enter the country illegally.  They presented themselves at the border crossing as refugees, turning themselves into Border Patrol, the way you’re supposed to.

This is a result of a border policy that is more concerned about politics than it is about people; about a mindset that says that people who try to violate the sanctity of our borders deserve what they get — trust me, that will be the GOP base response via Fox News — and a president and an administration that doesn’t give a damn about anyone that can’t do something for them.

This is devastating.  It was also utterly predictable.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Good Housekeeping

Via the New York Times:

During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Victorina Morales has made Donald J. Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo.

Because of the “outstanding” support she has provided during Mr. Trump’s visits, Ms. Morales in July was given a certificate from the White House Communications Agency inscribed with her name.

Quite an achievement for an undocumented immigrant housekeeper.

Ms. Morales’s journey from cultivating corn in rural Guatemala to fluffing pillows at an exclusive golf resort took her from the southwest border, where she said she crossed illegally in 1999, to the horse country of New Jersey, where she was hired at the Trump property in 2013 with documents she said were phony.

She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally.

This is the real thing about undocumented workers: they are an essential part of our economy.  Not only that, they’ve risked life and limb to get here to do jobs that many so-called “real Americans” wouldn’t do such as make Donald Trump’s bed (that gives me the creeps just writing about it).

But they’re a convenient and easy target for political exploitation — they have no super PAC to buy their way to power — and so Trump can go to some rally in Alabama, rail about the hordes of illegals, and come home to nice clean sheets and a clean house thanks to Ms. Morales.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Welcome To America

And get gassed.

U.S. authorities closed off the busiest port of entry along the U.S. border with Mexico on Sunday and fired tear gas at members of a Central American migrant caravan who had rushed the fencing that separates the countries.

Although the number of people at the border was relatively small, the unrest — with migrants attempting to climb fences and run through car lanes to reach the United States, and scenes of mothers and children choking on tear gas — represented a serious escalation of the crisis.

What had begun Sunday morning as a migrant protest of the slow pace of the U.S. asylum claims process devolved into a chaotic scramble in which hundreds made their way to the border hoping to cross onto U.S. soil. To block that from happening, and as some threw rocks and bottles, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers took the rare step of firing tear gas into Mexico as well as closing all legal vehicle and foot traffic to the San Ysidro border crossing, which U.S. officials say normally has about 100,000 visitors per day.

These migrants wanted to get to the border, turn themselves in, and claim asylum.  But the U.S. is greeting them — and their children — with tear gas.

It’s way too early to know how this escalated to using riot gear — but you can expect Fox News and the Trump folks to elevate it to level of a massive onslaught of terrorists and Muslims — but at some point someone’s going to end up dead.  Maybe more than one.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday Reading

To Whom It May Concern — Mary Norris, the Comma Queen, in The New Yorker on how to know when “who” and “whom” is the word to use.

I stepped down from the copy department of The New Yorker almost two years ago, hanging up my parentheses and turning over the comma shaker to my successor, who I know will use it judiciously, but I still love the magazine and lose sleep when an oversight (as we prefer to call it) sneaks into its pages. Copy editors never get credit for the sentences we get right, but confuse “who” and “whom” and you are sure to be the center of attention, at least briefly. If you thought the “who” in the previous sentence should have been a “whom,” you are not alone. Let’s review.

My test for the correct use of “who” or “whom” in a relative clause—“who I know will use it judiciously”—is to recast the clause as a complete sentence, assigning a temporary personal pronoun to the relative pronoun “who/whom.” “I know she will use it”? Or “I know her will use it”? No native speaker of English who has outgrown baby talk would say “her will use it.” The correct choice is clearly “she”: “I know she will use it judiciously.” If the pronoun that fits is in the nominative case, acting as the subject (“I,” “you,” “he,” “she,” “it,” “we,” “you,” “they”), then the relative pronoun should also be in the nominative case: “who I know will use it judiciously.” Yay! I got it right

Suppose I had written that I turned over the comma shaker to a colleague who I have known for years. Recast the relative clause as a complete sentence with a personal pronoun: “I have known she for years”? Or “I have known her for years”? This time the correct choice is “her,” which is in the objective case (“me,” “you,” “him,” “her,” “us,” “you,” “them”); therefore the relative pronoun should be in the objective case (“whom”). I should have written, “I turned over the comma shaker to a colleague whom I have known for years.” Boo! I got it wrong.

But here’s the rub: if I wrote “who” instead of “whom” here, nobody would care. A “who” for a “whom” is much more grammatically acceptable than a “whom” for a “who,” which sticks to your shoe like something you stepped in that was not just mud under slippery leaves in the dog run. I could finesse the whole issue by writing that I turned over the comma shaker to a colleague I have known for years, doing without the relative pronoun, and nobody would miss it.

So why do we need this aggravation? Does civilization depend on the proper use of “who” and “whom”? Let’s steel ourselves for a closer look.

From the issue of October 15, 2018: “Mark Judge, whom Ford says watched Kavanaugh pin her down . . .” One sees the problem immediately: the context is so sordid that it is impossible to look past it to the syntax! The same is true of an example from the issue of June 4 & 11, 2018: “A woman in California called the police on three black women whom she thought were behaving suspiciously.” The content of the sentences—misogyny, racism, racism and misogyny—is so disheartening that one loses the will to examine the form. And yet it must be done: “Ford says he watched”; “who Ford says watched.” “She thought they were behaving suspiciously”; “who she thought were behaving suspiciously.” Happy Thanksgiving.

A few copy editors have proposed a radical solution to the “who/whom” problem: kill off the “whom.” Emmy J. Favilla, who formerly headed up the copy department for BuzzFeed, titled her 2017 style guide “A World Without ‘Whom,’ ” and David Marsh, the former production editor of the Guardian, called his 2013 book on language “For Who the Bell Tolls.” Both are clever titles, making jokes at the expense of “whom” while exploiting its negative capability. But the writers have a point: if we just used “who,” we would never misuse “whom.” In this way we would hasten the departure of “whom,” which linguists predict will go the way of “thou” and “thine” any century now.

And yet there are those who believe in “whom” and wish to see it used correctly. June Casagrande, a prolific writer on grammar and usage, devotes a special section of her new book, “The Joy of Syntax,” to “Common Mistakes with Whom and Whomever,” and Bryan Garner, the closest thing we have in our time to a reincarnation of H. W. Fowler, devotes a column in the third edition of his Modern American Usage to instances of what he calls “the nominative whom.” (I know there is a fourth edition, but I find the third more manageable to read in bed.) Most of the specimen sentences are from newspapers—the Rocky Mountain News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune—though one is from a novel by the famously erudite William F. Buckley, Jr. The “who/whom” error is especially common in journalism because reporting, getting behind the news, often involves paraphrasing speech and attributing thoughts and feelings: “she thought,” “he said,” “they suspected” are locutions that occur frequently in news stories and to which readers and writers must be alert, because they introduce an object—whatever it is that a source thought, said, or suspected—in the form of a clause with its own syntax.

Here is a sentence (edited for length) from the Op-Ed page of the Times: “The true test of our compassion and grit will be in the coming months and years when the fate of the most vulnerable—who we’ve always known would be most affected by climate change—will be largely in our hands.” Here, too, the context of the sentence is alarming—the wildfire that destroyed Paradise, California—but “who” is correct. Some might be tempted to use “whom” because the antecedent (“the most vulnerable”) is the object of a preposition (“of”), but the relative clause has its own syntax. “We’ve always known they would be most affected”; “who we’ve always known would be most affected.”

I have been avoiding this subject for months, because of an overwhelming feeling that in the current climate, actual and political, no one cares. But we have come to a sorry state when the news itself discourages us from caring about the way it’s conveyed. A while back, I read a piece in the Oregonian about the state librarian, a woman who was getting fired—or, if you prefer, a woman whom the governor of Oregon was letting go—apparently for taking too long to finish some project. She had the support of her fellow-librarians, but government officials had grown impatient with her. After a debate in the state legislature, one state senator voted against the library’s budget, but not because he had anything against the librarian. The article concluded, chillingly, “He voted on ideological grounds that he doesn’t see a need for the State Library to exist, he said.” This is exactly the attitude we’re up against. Why do we need to keep “whom” on the job if it is not performing effectively? Rather than inquire into its virtues or lack of them, let’s get rid of grammar completely! A fable for our times.

So does civilization depend on the vulnerable “whom”? Yes. No matter how bad the news, we must not stop caring. To paraphrase Carson, the butler on “Downton Abbey,” “Keeping up standards is the only way to show the bastards that they will not beat us in the end.”

Leonard Pitts, Jr. — What part of “love thy neighbor” do we not get?”

“All life is interrelated.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.”

– John Lennon

A few words about “us” and “them.”

It is, of course, the baseline division of human existence, probably dating from when the first person sparked the first fire. It’s a division that has been painful, bloody — and useful. Particularly in American politics.

“Vote for me,” goes the ageless, implicit appeal, “and I will protect us from them” — whoever “them” may be at any given time. Right now, “them” is, among others, anyone from south of the border who shows up on America’s doorstep seeking sanctuary.

And it might be good to spare a thought for “them” as the nation — or at least, the three quarters of it that identifies as Christian — makes the turn into that faith’s season of light, compassion and hope. As the halls are decked and the joy bells chime, as songs of fellowship ring in the air, it seems an apt time to ponder a tweet from a few days back by one Larry L. Sandigo.

He’s an immigration lawyer in Arizona who works pro bono for a nonprofit legal services organization, the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. And his tweet, retweeted over 47,000 times as of this writing, went as follows: “In court this morning, I asked the judge if my client could wait outside. She was being fussy. He said yes, and she was carried out. Even then, I could hear her whimpers and cries. She’s 2 years old. She had on a pink coat. Today was her deportation hearing.”

There’s a lot we don’t know from that tweet. We don’t know his client’s name. We don’t know where she’s from. We don’t know how she came to be here. We don’t know where — or who — her parents are.

But some things we do know. We know that she is in court alone because she is not one of “us.” We know she might be irretrievably scarred because she is one of “them.” And we know that this has become a common thing. We know that this is America now.

And here, someone is piping up in protest with harsh platitudes about limited resources and all the evil that immigrants bring. By these rhetorical means, that someone will try — and fail — to shout down those things we know.

It’s an old dance. We’ve done it many times before. But it feels especially poignant to do it now, as Thanksgiving recedes and people begin to string their houses with light. We prepare ourselves for Christmas, a season celebrated as the birth of a divine baby who grew up to warn that, “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you have done it also unto me.”

Meantime, babies go to court. And is that irony one smells? Or just the faint reek of hypocrisy?

Here’s what we’ve never quite understood about “us” and “them:” Race does not define it. Neither does religion, sexuality, geography, gender, education or money.

No, the only “us” worth talking about is the “us” of people striving for the courage to see community in difference, their own humanity staring out from the eyes of the Other. And the only “them” worth striving against is the “them” of people who lack that courage, who find it easier and safer to live within division.

This is the sermon Martin preached. It is the song John sang. And it is the life that divine baby lived. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” He said. Yet, it remains a lesson learned imperfectly at best, as evidenced by the very fact of a court hearing to turn a baby away from America’s gates.

As the halls are decked.

And the joy bells chime.

And fellowship songs ring in the air.

Doonesbury — Career moves.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Doubling Down

Washington Post:

Trump said Wednesday that he would deploy as many as 15,000 military personnel to the border with Mexico in response to caravans of Central American migrants making their way northward, doubling the figure Pentagon officials have announced would be operating there.

“We’ll go up to anywhere between 10 and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Control, ICE and everybody else at the border,” Trump said in remarks to reporters before departing Washington for a campaign rally in Florida. “Nobody’s coming in. We’re not allowing people to come in.”

As noted the other day, this number will change again once the election is over and the troops get bored decorating their tents for Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Years, then maybe Valentines Day by the time the “caravan” gets to the border.

This is going far beyond just appealing to the base of the GOP.  Now he’s enlisting the military in his political ploy, which, to be fair, is something every president looking down the barrel of ignominy has done to some degree.  But this is just ridiculous.

HT spocko.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

All For Show

Via the Washington Post:

Homeland Security and Pentagon officials said Monday that they will send 5,200 troops, military helicopters and giant spools of razor wire to the Mexican border in the coming days to brace for the arrival of Central American migrants President Trump is calling “an invasion.”

The troop deployment, one week before the U.S. midterm elections, appears to be the largest U.S. active-duty mobilization along the U.S.-Mexico boundary in decades and amounts to a significant militarization of American border security.

Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the chief of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Monday that the deployments, dubbed “Operation Faithful Patriot,” already are underway. He said the military, working alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), will focus first on “hardening” the border in Texas, followed by Arizona and California.

The operative phrase in there is “one week before the U.S. midterm elections.”  Next Wednesday, after the election is over and no matter who wins and the caravan, such as it is, is still weeks away from arriving, the Pentagon will quietly issue orders for the majority of the troops to return to their regular duty back home, leaving a few there to clean up after themselves.  Operation Faithful Patriot, which should really be called Operation Midterm Rescue, will be called off.

The article doesn’t say, but this has got to be costing the Pentagon a bundle; not that they’ve ever struggled for money.  But still, deploying 5,200 soldiers and support staff along with equipment, transport, tents, food, latrines, and all the other facilities that go along with them has got to be running up a tab somewhere.  But wouldn’t that money be better spent by providing for and provisioning the immigrants when they eventually get here so that when they’re arrested, they at least have a place to stay before we force them to go back?

But it really doesn’t matter; they’re not thinking that far ahead, because by Thanksgiving the caravan will still be hundreds of miles away, the numbers dwindling down to the desperate ones who could no more represent a threat to the border than the moths that batter themselves against the screens of the back porch on a summer night.  And Trump and his band of xenophobic nationalists will have found another target or another mass shooting to exploit.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Slow Motion Train Wreck

The White House and its guardians of whiteness are freaked out about the caravan of migrants coming up through Mexico to the point that they’re sending troops to guard the border.

Fixated on the migrant caravan moving north through Mexico, President Trump is weighing a plan to shut the U.S. border to Central Americans and deny them the opportunity to seek asylum, asserting similar emergency powers used during the early 2017 “travel ban,” according to administration officials and people familiar with the proposal.

The White House is also preparing to deploy as many as 1,000 additional U.S. troops to assist in security operations at the southern border in anticipation of the caravan’s arrival, officials said.

[…]

The migrant caravan remains more than 900 miles from U.S. territory and has dwindled to about 3,000 people, according to the latest estimates from Mexican authorities. But the scenes of young men breaking through gates along the Guatemala-Mexico border earlier this week have alarmed the White House, and Trump continues to depict the Central American migrant group as a criminal menace and a security threat.

Impoverished families, many of whom are traveling with children and surviving on handouts, comprise the bulk of those advancing slowly through southern Mexico.

The Trump administration has provided no evidence that Middle Easterners and dangerous criminals are mixed in.

Since hey’re traveling at a rate of about 20 miles a day, they will be at the U.S. border sometime around the middle of January, assuming they maintain their course and speed.  That makes the Okies in “The Grapes of Wrath” sound like they were flying to California on business class.

The message that’s apparently not getting through to anyone in authority is that these are desperately poor and tired people willing to sacrifice everything they have to get to the border to ask for asylum.  By the time they get here they’ll be so worn out and depleted that even if any of them had criminal intent, it will have been replaced by the basic instinct to survive, and it’s highly unlikely they’re going to mastermind some horrific plot to invade Brownsville.

But Trump and his racist and xenophobic allies are so twitterepated about a harmless group of poor people that they’re trying to send the Army to defend the border against… what?  There have been bigger crowds at Tiger Stadium waiting to take a piss during the seven-inning stretch.  Not only that, because of the Posse Comitatus law, the only thing the military can do is provide support to local law enforcement; they cannot themselves enforce the law.  So it would be a lot cheaper — and a lot more efficient — to get the Red Cross to come in and set up shelters and Porta-Potties to greet the caravan.  But nothing says Trump America more than welcoming asylum seekers with a machine gun nest.

By the time they get here, the election will be long past, the new – hopefully Democratic and therefore sane — House will have been sworn in, this crisis will have faded from the headlines, and Trump will have found another shiny object to obsess over.  Meanwhile, the situation that created the caravan in the first place — the horrific conditions in places like Honduras and the neglect by our quivering bully of an administration — will still be in place.  Everything is being done to send the migrants back, but nothing has been done to help them when they get here.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Under Cover Of Darkness

From the New York Times:

In shelters from Kansas to New York, hundreds of migrant children have been roused in the middle of the night in recent weeks and loaded onto buses with backpacks and snacks for a cross-country journey to their new home: a barren tent city on a sprawling patch of desert in West Texas.

Until now, most undocumented children being held by federal immigration authorities had been housed in private foster homes or shelters, sleeping two or three to a room. They received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives assigned to their immigration cases.

But in the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks. There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.

These midnight voyages are playing out across the country, as the federal government struggles to find room for more than 13,000 detained migrant children — the largest population ever — whose numbers have increased more than fivefold since last year.

The average length of time that migrant children spend in custody has nearly doubled over the same period, from 34 days to 59, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees their care.

To deal with the surging shelter populations, which have hovered near 90 percent of capacity since May, a mass reshuffling is underway and shows no signs of slowing. Hundreds of children are being shipped from shelters to West Texas each week, totaling more than 1,600 so far.

The camp in Tornillo operates like a small, pop-up city, about 35 miles southeast of El Paso on the Mexico border, complete with portable toilets. Air-conditioned tents that vary in size are used for housing, recreation and medical care. Originally opened in June for 30 days with a capacity of 400, it expanded in September to be able to house 3,800, and is now expected to remain open at least through the end of the year.

Call it what it is: a concentration camp, with all of the weight and history that the name brings with it.  Regardless of the condition of the facilities, they are meant for one purpose: to traumatize and mark these children so that if they should ever be reunited with their families, they will carry the message that if you try to seek asylum or protection from crime, terror, or abuse in your home country, the United States under Trump will do their level best to scare you into staying away.

The repercussions will be felt for a very long time in ways we cannot imagine, but child psychologists have already noted that such trauma results in depression, acting out, truancy, assault, increased levels of crime, and more costs to the country than what this cruelty — intentional or otherwise — is inflicting on both the refugees and the people charged with dealing with them.

I am sure there are those who think that this is the best way to handle the problem and that nothing evil or cruel should be implied; after all, we didn’t ask them to come here.  (Actually, we did.  That’s one of the reasons we started this country in the first place.)  But if it’s such a noble and humanitarian gesture, why are they doing it in the dark of night and away from the cameras?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

American Heritage

The op-ed in Politico by David S. Glosser has garnered attention not only because it calls out Stephen Miller, one of the architects of Trump’s cruel immigration policies as both a hypocrite and a betrayer to his family’s history, it points out that unlike the fears stoked by xenophobes and racists, immigrants came to America to make life better for themselves and their families.

Let me tell you a story about Stephen Miller and chain migration.

It begins at the turn of the 20th century, in a dirt-floor shack in the village of Antopol, a shtetl of subsistence farmers in what is now Belarus. Beset by violent anti-Jewish pogroms and forced childhood conscription in the Czar’s army, the patriarch of the shack, Wolf-Leib Glosser, fled a village where his forebears had lived for centuries and took his chances in America.

He set foot on Ellis Island on January 7, 1903, with $8 to his name. Though fluent in Polish, Russian and Yiddish, he understood no English. An elder son, Nathan, soon followed. By street corner peddling and sweatshop toil, Wolf-Leib and Nathan sent enough money home to pay off debts and buy the immediate family’s passage to America in 1906. That group included young Sam Glosser, who with his family settled in the western Pennsylvania city of Johnstown, a booming coal and steel town that was a magnet for other hardworking immigrants. The Glosser family quickly progressed from selling goods from a horse and wagon to owning a haberdashery in Johnstown run by Nathan and Wolf-Leib to a chain of supermarkets and discount department stores run by my grandfather, Sam, and the next generation of Glossers, including my dad, Izzy. It was big enough to be listed on the AMEX stock exchange and employed thousands of people over time. In the span of some 80 years and five decades, this family emerged from poverty in a hostile country to become a prosperous, educated clan of merchants, scholars, professionals, and, most important, American citizens.

What does this classically American tale have to do with Stephen Miller? Well, Izzy Glosser is his maternal grandfather, and Stephen’s mother, Miriam, is my sister.

I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.

I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses— the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants — been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom. The Glossers came to the U.S. just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the “America first” nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees. Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family likely would have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him.

As Dr. Glosser notes, this is a classically American story of immigration and assimilation.  Change the country of origin to England or Wales and you have my own ancestry.  Ask your neighbor named Cramer or Hollenbeck or Shapiro or Perez or Yang their family history and it will probably sound a lot like the Glossers in macro: their ancestors — or maybe even their parents — came from someplace else.

There are four types of American ancestry: Native Americans, immigrants, refugees, or slaves (or a combination thereof).  And even the Native Americans will tell you they came from somewhere else back in the mists of time, either via the land bridge from Siberia or up from South America.

That’s what makes America America, and I’m not just talking about the United States.  The same stories are told in Canada, Mexico, throughout the Caribbean, and South America: everybody there came  from some other place to find a better life, to escape persecution, to do what human nature programs us to do: survive and thrive.  (And we also have a powerful curiosity to know where we came from.  Why else would millions of people pay $100 to spit in a tube and mail it off to Ancestry.com?)

America has been through these fits of xenophobia and paranoia about immigration throughout its history; excluding entire races and ethnic groups for the most hateful of reasons until, of course, they can find a use for them, be it a labor force to build the railroad, pick the lettuce, or build an atomic bomb.  We have, in the past, risen beyond the self-inflicted ignorance and hypocrisy, and we can do it again.  It’s the American way.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Evil, Pure And Simple

When I see ideas like this one, I really begin to wonder what decade we’re in.  And if somehow we got caught in some kind of time-loop throwback, why we landed in Germany in the 1930’s.

Via NBC News:

The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare, four sources with knowledge of the plan told NBC News.

The move, which would not need congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller’s plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.

Details of the rulemaking proposal are still being finalized, but based on a recent draft seen last week and described to NBC News, immigrants living legally in the U.S. who have ever used or whose household members have ever used Obamacare, children’s health insurance, food stamps and other benefits could be hindered from obtaining legal status in the U.S.

Immigration lawyers and advocates and public health researchers say it would be the biggest change to the legal immigration system in decades and estimate that more than 20 million immigrants could be affected. They say it would fall particularly hard on immigrants working jobs that don’t pay enough to support their families.

So legal immigrants, who pay taxes just like everybody else, who contribute to their community by holding jobs that perhaps others wouldn’t, and who, by the way, represent the entire history of this nation because they’re immigrants, would be denied a chance to become citizens because they availed themselves of some of the benefits they paid for with their taxes because they’re immigrants?

I just spent five minutes staring at the monitor trying to figure out a way that anyone who has a soul could possibly justify this.  I can’t.  It’s just plain evil, pure and simple.  Which is pretty much how you can describe the people that came up with this.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sunday Reading

The Forgotten Border — Porter Fox in the New York Times took a trip along the Canadian border with the U.S.

At 5,525 miles, the United States-Canada border is the world’s longest land boundary, more than double the length of the United States-Mexico line. It passes through remote terrain arrayed with 8,000-foot peaks, millions of acres of wilderness and four of the five Great Lakes — a lot of it essentially unguarded.

With President Trump’s unrelenting focus on the Mexican border and all the dangers he says it poses for America, the nation’s northern boundary has remained mostly an afterthought — even though it is potentially more porous than the southern border. More unsettling, haphazard enforcement and surveillance efforts there have upended commerce with our No. 2 trading partner and have struggled to stop extremists, drug traffickers and illegal immigrants from entering the United States.

“The problem is that we don’t know what the threats and risk are because so much attention is given to the Southwest border,” Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, told The New York Times in 2016. She was the author of a bill that required the Department of Homeland Security to develop a threat assessment for the northern border.

Last month, the department announced its latest strategy to secure the border. Its report says that the principal challenge is ending the illegal flow of drugs between Canada and the United States. But there are other issues, like making it easier for people who live in cross-border communities to pass over the line, and speeding up the flow of trade and services — all while keeping up the country’s guard.

I spent the last three years traversing the northern border for a book about that so-called Hi-Line. The northland is a singular place, occupied by the sort of small towns that modern America has skipped over, obscure industries and old-world professions that rely on hands, not machines. It is also a wild place, with forests of old-growth hemlock, fir and birch; wild rivers; unnamed mountain ranges; and some of the largest roadless areas in America.

For much of my journey, it was difficult to discern where the border even was. I unintentionally crossed it dozens of times without seeing an agent or border monument. A French teenager jogging along a beach in British Columbia recently wasn’t so lucky. When she inadvertently crossed the unmarked border into the United States, she was detained for two weeks.

What I did see and hear were unhappy citizens on both sides of the line who said that the northern border’s “Mexicanization” — essentially, the American government’s mimicking of procedures it uses in the south — has resulted in congestion at ports of entry, invasive questioning at checkpoints, racial profiling and long delays, all of which that have changed life for the worse on both sides of the border.

Since the 18th century, when the northern border was first hastily sketched, the boundary has had the appearance of a scrawl. It divides more than a dozen American Indian tribes, and in Niagara Falls, N.Y., it cleaves North America’s most famous waterfall. Homes, businesses, golf courses and factories sit on the border. During Prohibition, taverns were built on the line so that Americans could be welcomed on one side and sold booze on the other.

Before the Sept. 11 attacks, half of the crossings between the United States and Canada were left unguarded at night. Since then, the Department of Homeland Security has increased the number of agents in the north by 500 percent and installed some of the same sensors, security cameras, military-grade radar and drones used on the United States-Mexico line.

The number of apprehensions along the northern border is relatively low compared with those along the southern line — about 3,000 in the 2017 fiscal year versus about 300,000 in the south.

Even so, every year, millions of dollars worth of smuggled drugs, including large quantities of opioids, like fentanyl, and an untold number of immigrants cross the border illegally into the United States. Motion sensors and cameras detect illicit crossers, some armed, in remote areas, but the agents can’t always get there in time to catch them.

Illicit drugs and illegal immigration are not the only concerns. A 2015 report by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs said, “Some experts also believe that terrorists could exploit vulnerabilities along the northern border to carry out an attack on the U.S.” and noted that in 2011, Alan Bersin, a former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that in terms of terrorism, “it’s commonly accepted that the more significant threat comes from the U.S.-Canada” border rather than the border with Mexico.

Today, according to the Department of Homeland Security report, the potential terror threats come “primarily from homegrown violent extremists in Canada” who are not on terrorist watch lists and thus can cross into the United States legally.

Beyond the terrorism threat, the government has the challenge of overseeing a border crossed every day by more than 400,000 people and $1.6 billion in goods through some 120 points of entry. According to a 2011 study by researchers at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, increased secondary searches and unpredictable waiting times at the border were costing Americans and Canadians as much as $30 billion annually. Homeland Security has been working to minimize those waiting times.

Intensified security at border crossings also has disrupted centuries-old international communities that straddle the line. Two centuries of intermarrying among French, Acadian, Indian, German, Scottish and Dutch people created families and communities that span the border. After decades of being able to cross the line at will, families, Native Americans, members of church congregations, and employees at hospitals and small businesses now find themselves confronted with a sometimes impassable and, occasionally hostile, barrier.

In the coming months, Homeland Security will begin to put in place its border management plan, which calls for enhanced border security while also doing a better job of facilitating cross-border trade and travel. Some of the actions proposed to achieved those ends have been suggested before, with little follow-through.

This time, perhaps, our border to the north will get the attention and resources it needs.

[Photo of border at Point Roberts, Washington, by Florian Fuchs.]

Doonesbury — More tweets from the twit.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Now THAT’S Collusion

Via the Washington Post:

Trump on Monday refused to support the collective conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, saying that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin had given him an “extremely strong and powerful” denial during their private talks here.

Trump would not challenge Putin’s claim at their Helsinki summit that the Russian government played no role in trying to sabotage the U.S. election, even as the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers last Friday for hacking Democratic emails as part of a broad subterfuge operation to help Trump win the election.

Trump went on to condemn the expansive federal investigation of Russian interference as “a disaster for our country” and “a total witch hunt,” arguing that the probe, along with “foolish” America policies, had severely impaired relations between the two countries.

Putin must have the pee tape on Blu-Ray and ready to stream on YouTube.

This Isn’t “Summer Camp”

From the front page of the New York Times yesterday:

Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case.

Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.

“You had to get in line for everything,” recalled Leticia, a girl from Guatemala.

Small, slight and with long black hair, Leticia was separated from her mother after they illegally crossed the border in late May. She was sent to a shelter in South Texas — one of more than 100 government-contracted detention facilities for migrant children around the country that are a rough blend of boarding school, day care center and medium security lockup. They are reserved for the likes of Leticia, 12, and her brother, Walter, 10.

The facility’s list of no-no’s also included this: Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita — your little brother or sister.

Leticia had hoped to give her little brother a reassuring hug. But “they told me I couldn’t touch him,” she recalled.

In response to an international outcry, President Trump recently issued an executive order to end his administration’s practice, first widely put into effect in May, of forcibly removing children from migrant parents who had entered the country illegally. Under that “zero-tolerance” policy for border enforcement, thousands of children were sent to holding facilities, sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles from where their parents were being held for criminal prosecution.

Last week, in trying to comply with a court order, the government returned slightly more than half of the 103 children under the age of 5 to their migrant parents.

But more than 2,800 children — some of them separated from their parents, some of them classified at the border as “unaccompanied minors” — remain in these facilities, where the environments range from impersonally austere to nearly bucolic, save for the fact that the children are formidably discouraged from leaving and their parents or guardians are nowhere in sight.

Depending on several variables, including happenstance, a child might be sent to a 33-acre youth shelter in Yonkers that features picnic tables, sports fields and even an outdoor pool. “Like summer camp,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, a Democrat of New York who recently visited the campus.

Or that child could wind up at a converted motel along a tired Tucson strip of discount stores, gas stations and budget motels. Recreation takes place in a grassless compound, and the old motel’s damaged swimming pool is covered up.

This is a national shame that will scar both the children and our country for generations, physically, mentally, and morally.

Photo by Victor J. Blue for the New York Times.