Democratic officials in Hudson County, New Jersey planned back in 2018 to phase out a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to jail immigrants. At a recent virtual meeting, more than 150 people made emotional pleas on behalf of the detainees, asking the county freeholders not to renew the contract. No one who called in advocated in favor of re-upping on the deal with ICE.
In spite of this, as reported on by Matt Katz for the Gothamist, whose beat is ICE detention and refugees, and others, the freeholders voted 6-3 to extend the contract. Ultimately, it seems, cash is king.
According to Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and the other executives who voted in favor of the renewal, the county needs this money. Hudson Co. receives $120 in revenue per day per immigrant for jailing immigrants and, at present, houses about 100 people in its county jail. Without this revenue, taxes will increase—and you don’t want that, do you?
Of course, no one likes to pay more in taxes, least of all New Jerseyans, who already pay the highest property taxes of any state in America. Still, keeping undocumented immigrants locked up has its own obvious cost: a human one. At what point do financial considerations exceed moral concerns? What are the lives of these detainees truly worth to those in power?
What is especially galling to activists is the apparent bipartisan willingness to place profit over people as part of the immigration debate. DeGise, the county executive who proposed the reversal of the earlier phase-out, is a Democrat. The entire board of freeholders is populated by Democrats, which is not unexpected in Hudson County, a Democratic Party stronghold. Caridad Rodriguez, Anthony Vainieri, and Albert Cifelli, all of whom cited a belief in “Democratic values” as part of their re-election campaigns, voted in favor of renewing the contract.
How, then, does a partnership with ICE, an agency cited for a litany of abuses and which some in the progressive wing in the party have called for to abolish outright, align with Democratic values? What, pray tell, are those values?
Making matters worse is the notion that these detainees, already kept in suspect conditions (in Katz’s article, one of the attorneys representing the immigrants at the county jail cites their being kept in their cells for all but a half-hour of the day with absent or lacking medical care and sanitary supplies), only represent a fraction of the jail’s true capacity. Potentially, Hudson County can hold hundreds more immigrants, the capabilities of which are not lost on ICE, to be sure.
These substandard living conditions are not news either. Over the past half a decade, several detainees have died, over 100 medical grievances have been filed, basic quality of life provisions have been denied, and the use of physical force has been all too frequent. Throw COVID-19 into the mix and the picture is a bleak one—and not just for the detainees. Five employees have died since the start of the pandemic and dozens more have fallen ill, with accusations of insufficient PPE coming from the families of those workers. These people aren’t confined to the facility. They’re returning home, putting other members of their communities at risk of infection. In other words, it’s not as if the risk of spread is closed off herein.
These are legitimate human rights concerns. As several of the freeholders would characterize the reservations of Hudson County residents and immigrant advocates alike, however, they represent the beliefs of a small subset of the population or otherwise capture the views of individuals who are “just crazy.” This delegitimization of activist energy as some “radical” or illogical force is well familiar to leftists, some of whom see this as another turn in the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.
Proponents of the ICE contract renewal also have used false or misleading justifications for maintaining the current arrangement. Tom DeGise’s office cited statistics of crimes once perpetrated by detainees in defense of the move, but they are now only being held for immigration violations, not crimes. Caridad Rodriguez, herself once an immigrant, likewise framed the issue in terms of keeping her community safe. For the non-violent offenders who haven’t committed major crimes, what is preventing the release you yourself have promised, Ms. Rodriguez?
All of this adds up to a grim situation that casts Hudson County and New Jersey as a whole in a harsh light when considering the other ICE detention contracts in place at other jails/detention centers in the state. With COVID rates spiking in and out of county jails, the outlook almost certainly will get worse. Meanwhile, NJ’s top politicians, notably Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez and Governor Phil Murphy, have been largely silent on the matter.
Once more, this begs the question: is it worth it? For all the human rights abuses recorded in the Hudson County jail and the elevated risk of infection the conditions within mean for detainees, employees, and the surrounding communities, perhaps most significantly for some members of the public, the revenue earned will not be so substantial. If current occupancy holds for 2021, Hudson County will only net $4 million from the ICE deal, a sum opponents of the extension argue can be made up elsewhere. Almost certainly, the replacement option would be a morally cleaner one.
On every front, the reversal of Hudson County’s earlier pledge to phase out its contract with ICE is a losing proposition. The Democrats vocally supporting this flip-flop or otherwise complicit in their silence would do well to consider how this “blood money,” as some advocates have labeled it, fits in with their definition of “values.”
President Donald Trump finally got to deliver his State of the Union address with the recent partial government shutdown in the rear-view mirror (although we could totally have another one in the near future if we don’t figure out how to decouple the subject of a border wall from funding federal agencies, so yay?). The good news is the president stopped short of calling for a state of emergency to advance construction of a border wall. The bad news is Trump had a national platform by which to spew his rhetoric at the American people.
Before we get to the veracity of what Trump said or lack thereof, let’s first address what the man spoke about. Trump’s agenda, at least in principle, was devoted to the areas where members of both parties can find consensus. These major topics included promoting fair trade and other policies which help American jobs/workers, rebuilding our infrastructure, reducing the price of health care (including prescription drugs), creating a more modern and secure immigration system, and advancing foreign policy goals that align with American interests.
On the economy, it was jobs, jobs, jobs! Wages are rising! Unemployment is declining! Regulations are going away! Companies are coming back! And it’s all because of me! So let’s stop all these needless investigations into my affairs. You don’t want THE AMERICAN PEOPLE to suffer on account of me, do you? Trump also addressed tariffs and the USMCA, but rather than calling out countries like China for abuse of workers’ rights or currency manipulation or anything like that, he expressed respect for Xi Jinping and instead laid blame at the feet of past leaders and lawmakers. As always, thanks, Obama.
On immigration, well, you probably know the story by now. Immigrants enrich our society in many ways—except when they don’t, taking away jobs, lowering wages, bringing drugs and violent crime, encouraging the trafficking of human beings, and taxing our public services. ICE is a bunch of heroes, gosh darn it! And we need that wall!
On infrastructure, Trump indicated we need both parties to work together and that he is “eager” to work with Congress on new, cutting-edge investments that the country requires to keep pace in a rapidly developing world. That’s it. Not a lot of what these infrastructural improvements would look like or how we’d go about funding them. But, huzzah, infrastructure!
On lowering drug prices/health care, Congress, wouldja put something together already? Sheesh? Also, HIV and AIDS—why are they still a thing? Let’s cut that out. Cancer? You’re next. Really, we need to recognize that all life is precious. Looking at you, Democrats, and your whole insistence on women’s right to choose. #NotMyAbortions
Lastly, on foreign policy, Trump extolled the virtues of our Armed Forces and thus explained why we need to shower them with money on an annual basis. Also, NATO was being very mean to us but now its members are going to spend more on defense. Also also, Russia is being a doo-doo head and that’s why we pulled out of the INF Treaty. Also also also, Kim Jong-un and I are BFFs and we’re going to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula. Also also also also, Guaidó > Maduro and socialism never works. Also 5x, Israel is super cool, the Holocaust was bad, ISIS is defeated, and did I mention we love our troops?
In conclusion, America is awesome and greatness awaits us. So ladies and gents, let’s not screw the pooch on this one and work together. Because if we fail, it will because you all couldn’t figure out how to rise above our differences. #NotMyFault
Our economy isn’t growing twice as fast today as when Trump took office, and in fact, American economic growth in 2018 fell short of that of even Greece. Greece!
Trump claimed his administration has cut more regulations than any other administration in U.S. history, but according to experts, these rollbacks aren’t at the level of the Carter and Reagan administrations.
Job creation during Trump’s tenure isn’t some miraculous, near-impossible feat. It’s roughly on par with the state of affairs during the Obama administration and down from job creation in the 1990s. Also, more people are working in the United States than ever before because more people live here. Unless he wants to take credit for helping populate America too.
On immigration, phew, where do we start? El Paso was never one of America’s most dangerous cities. San Diego’s border fencing “did not have a discernible impact” on lower border apprehension rates, according to the Congressional Research Service. In addition, the idea that “large, organized caravans” of migrants are on their way to the U.S. is exaggerated.
Not only has the USMCA not been approved by Congress yet, but it might not bring as many manufacturing jobs back to America—or for that matter, the North American continent—as anticipated.
On Nicolás Maduro and Venezuela, it’s not so much that Maduro is a socialist as much as he’s a dictator whose rule has been marked by corruption, deficiency in the rule of law, and the circumvention of democracy. But keep parroting conservative talking points.
Trump claimed we’d be at war with North Korea if he hadn’t been elected. Bullshit. Especially in the incipient stages of his presidency, Trump notably egged on Kim Jong-un, referring to him as “Little Rocket Man.” Back the trolley up there, Mr. President.
On abortion, more misleading remarks. Trump suggested New York’s Reproductive Health Act allows abortions until shortly before birth, but rather, the law permits abortions after 24 weeks in cases where the fetus is not viable or the mother’s health would be imperiled.
Trump also invoked Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s comments about discussing abortion with physicians up until birth and end-of-life care in instances where a child wouldn’t live, though Trump treated them as tantamount to advocating for babies’ execution after birth. Sadly, Northam’s ongoing controversy involving whether or not he appeared dressed in blackface or a Ku Klux Klan costume in a college yearbook photo was not part of Trump’s deceptive commentary. That’s on you, Ralph, and I wish you would resign already.
The State of the Union address, especially under Pres. Donald Trump, is a bizarre bit of theater. Here is a function outlined in the Constitution and adapted by means of tradition that makes for much pomp and circumstance amid the formal procedures and recognitions which occur within, presided over by a president who consistently flouts convention and other semblances of decorum. The Trump presidency has been one marked by chaos and one which encourages division within the electorate. The very date of the address was postponed by a shutdown characterized by partisan gridlock—which went curiously unmentioned during Trump’s speech—and was a bone of contention between the president and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. To have members of Congress from both parties smiling and clapping for him seems rather jarring.
It’s particularly jarring to witness this spectacle and the parade of “Lenny Skutniks” that presidents trot out in the name of bolstering their credibility (Trump called upon World War II veterans, a minister who had her non-violent drug offense commuted by Trump, another former inmate who sold drugs and has since reformed, the family of victims of a undocumented immigrant’s violence, an immigrant-turned-ICE special agent, a cancer survivor, the father of someone lost in the attack on the USS Cole, a SWAT officer on the scene at last year’s synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, and a Holocaust survivor) when the Democrats offered an official rebuttal, as is custom.
Stacey Abrams, who came within two percentage points of winning the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election and might’ve won if not for then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s shenanigans, delivered the Dems’ response. She assailed the Republican Party for crafting an immigration plan that tears families apart and puts children in cages, for working to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, for failing to take action on climate change, for rigging elections and judiciaries, and for repeatedly attacking the rights of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community, among other things. Abrams closed her speech with these thoughts:
Even as I am very disappointed by the president’s approach to our problems—I still don’t want him to fail. But we need him to tell the truth, and to respect his duties and the extraordinary diversity that defines America.
Our progress has always found refuge in the basic instinct of the American experiment—to do right by our people. And with a renewed commitment to social and economic justice, we will create a stronger America, together. Because America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies: foreign and domestic. That is who we are—and when we do so, never wavering—the state of our union will always be strong.
Abrams’s sentiments may seem a bit schmaltzy at points, but alongside Trump’s rhetoric since he began his presidential campaign, she is much better equipped to talk about the state of the union and bipartisan solutions than our Commander-in-Chief. And while this message serves an obvious partisan purpose, criticism of Trump’s divisiveness is deserved, notably in light of his numerous falsehoods and distortions.
That’s what makes this all so disorienting. Donald Trump speaks to solving problems which may or may not exist, leaving existing problems unaddressed and creating phantoms where bogeymen are needed. As senator Richard Blumenthal wrote on Twitter, Trump’s State of the Union speech was a “tale of two countries.”
To entertain the absurdities of his presidency with any degree of normalcy, applauding him and dignifying his comments with formality and a primetime audience, is therefore to acknowledge two different speeches: the one that the president gave and the one that Americans actually deserved. It creates a sort of cognitive dissonance that requires some degree of mental gymnastics to try to sort out. Is Trump the uniter and Democrats the dividers? Was it all a farce, his plea for unity and his presidential tone an exercise in cynicism? Or was it just an unofficial rally for his base and potential voters heading into 2020? Does anything he say truly matter? Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? The questions abound, as do the anxiety, probable headaches, and possible additional Queen references.
I’m not sure what the answer is here, if there is only one. I chose not to watch the live broadcast and to read a transcript, view photos, and watch video clips after the fact. I would’ve liked to see more lawmakers do the same, though I suppose Nancy Pelosi did get in some epic eye-rolls. Maybe we should do away with the whole spectacle altogether.
At least as far as Trump is concerned, he’s already made his true feelings known via social media countless times over. Why bother with the charade when we can just read a written report or his tweets instead? If nothing else, it would save time.
When you are Donald Trump or one of his surrogates and regularly divorce cause and effect—or are simply divorced from reality—you are free to distort details and expel falsehoods to support your narrative. Though it has been repeatedly observed, it’s worth stressing that Trump started his presidential campaign spewing inaccuracies about Mexican people as criminals and rapists, without revealing any master plan to fix this “broken” immigration system. It was outrageous. It was reprehensible. What’s more, it worked.
Since then, Trump and Co. haven’t exactly gotten more accurate or presidential over time. While concern for the separation of immigrant families, how and where they’re being detained, and how and when—if at all—those already separated will be re-united have dominated headlines, the Trump administration hasn’t softened its rhetoric any. Outside of relenting on the issue of separating children from their mothers, President Trump has authorized the creation of a “denaturalization” task force, one that seeks to remove naturalized citizens on clerical or other “technicalities” and which has evoked comparisons to the Red Scare.
Critics of the White House’s immigration policy have taken to referring to it in rather dark terms, labeling it “ethnic cleansing.” They’re not wrong, either. Amid the elaboration of a white nationalist agenda which has seen senior advisor Stephen Miller and Department of Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen emerge as figureheads of the ongoing crisis and, at that, perpetrators, Trump has engaged in more than his fair share of scaremongering in public speeches, at rallies, and on Twitter.
A particular source of animus—and deservedly so in light of their actions, let’s be clear—is Mara Salvatrucha, better known as MS-13. The international gang, associated with various acts of criminality and violence, has served as a go-to bogeyman for Trump in his attacks on Democrats. As Trump would have it, a vote for the Dems in November is a vote to “let MS-13 run wild in our communities.” ICE, meanwhile, is “liberating” communities every day from the organization whose motto reportedly is “kill, rape, control.”
Indeed, MS-13 and other gangs that recruit from Central America and Mexico are a real concern, but Trump is using the specter of past incidents involving its members and existing fears and urban legends about gang violence to try to drum up support for his “zero tolerance” immigration policy and enhanced border security measures. Even belaboring the use of the word “animals” to describe MS-13 has a dog-whistle underlying meaning, as Trump’s indiscriminate employ of this pejorative has been interpreted as a general dehumanization of immigrants and people of color. If Trump hadn’t kicked off his presidential bid denigrating an entire country and its people, we might have a chance of giving him the benefit of the doubt. By now, though, many of us know better, and that Trump knew exactly what he was saying when he used the word “animals” with all its vagaries.
It’s bad enough that Donald Trump and his flunkies embrace an “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to undocumented immigrants as a subset of the larger conversation about who is or isn’t considered a “true” American. You know, largely because of that whole “being a decent human being” thing that Trump seems not to be able to understand. What makes this stance yet more problematic is the notion it fails to recognize—unconsciously or willingly—the United States’ complicity in the conditions which have led to a refugee/asylee crisis in Central America, notably in its “Northern Triangle” (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras).
Cole Kazdin, writing for VICE Media, outlines how the U.S. has had a hand in destabilizing Central American nations long before the era of Trump. Citing Elizabeth Oglesby, an associate professor of Latin American studies at the University of Arizona, heavily throughout the piece, Kazdin depicts a pattern of American intervention on behalf of its own interests—and usually at the expense of competing interests within those countries.
In Guatemala, back in the 1950s, under the guise of fighting communism, the United States helped organize a coup to overthrow the democratically-elected government and continued to train the Guatemalan army into the 1970s, a civil war that Oglesby characterizes in no uncertain terms as “genocide.” In 1970s Nicaragua, the U.S. government directly inserted itself in the clash between the democratic nationalist Sandinistas and the dictatorship helmed by the Somoza family, later supporting the Contras, a material relationship that infamously saw the Reagan administration fund these contrarrevolucionarios through the covert sale of arms to Iran. In El Salvador and Honduras, meanwhile, the U.S. intervened on behalf of the Salvadoran government in an effort to squelch the socialist group FMLN and held military exercises in Honduras.
As Kazdin notes, this is before we even get to the “war on drugs,” an ongoing situation set in motion as part of Richard Nixon’s political agenda that pushed cartels out of Colombia and into the impoverished, unstable Northern Triangle. Going back to MS-13, while its activities are relevant to the war on drugs and their criminality is certainly not to be lauded, Kazdin, via Oglesby, stresses that while the group has strong Salvadoran roots, its origins are traced back to Los Angeles, not Central America.
Furthermore, dwelling on MS-13 overlooks the larger issue of government-linked crime networks that come directly out of the counterinsurgency experience of the 1980s,” according to Oglesby. The American government may not be directly encouraging the rise of gang numbers, but by indirectly paving the way for their growth, its influence looms large. As it is in the Middle East and elsewhere, regime change can produce some unfortunate unintended consequences.
With all this in mind, and getting to the issue of migration and asylum-seeking, despite its hand in catalyzing unsafe, untenable situations in Central America, the United States has made it a habit of refusing asylum to applicants from south of its border, particularly those coming from El Salvador. Now with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s announcement that domestic violence and gang violence are no longer grounds for asylum, there is every concern that people will continue to try crossing the desert and relying on criminal networks to help smuggle them north, which presents a new set of dangers. Trump and Co. are keeping with the historical trend, but in a way that is seemingly even more overt in terms of racism and xenophobia, and holding to the idea that these additional perilous hoops through which to jump will prove an effective deterrent to illegal immigration, and a disincentive to would-be gangbangers near and south of the border.
Here’s the thing, though: these methods may not be having their intended effect, or may be even serving to exacerbate the situations they profess to fix. On the migration front, Elizabeth Oglesby indicates that militarizing the border serves only to increase migration. Not only has the price of smuggling people north soared commensurate with the uptick in danger, but since it is that much more difficult to return, more families are migrating together to try to keep the unit together.
Another point worth considering: what people are trying to escape in Central America might be as bad or worse than what they face trying to immigrate illegally into the United States. Andres Oppenheimer, writing for The Miami Herald, agrees, and believes the problem will keep getting worse as long as parents have to fear for their lives and those of their children.
Oppenheimer cites Roger Noriega, who served in the State Department under George W. Bush, and who points to gang violence and organized crime—fed to a large extent by a demand for illegal drugs in the States—as destructive forces to economies and state institutions, not to mention individuals who run afoul of bad actors. For too many families in Central America and Mexico, there is a real risk of their children being forced into the employ of gangs and/or having to pay these gangs off for “protection.” Moreover, governments and officials are too often corrupt, powerless to diminish the influence of gangs, or both. Such is not a recipe for substantive positive change.
Trying to put a bandage on the illegal immigration situation in the form of fences/walls and more Border Patrol agents, as Oppenheimer and others would argue, therefore does a poor job of stopping the bleeding when the underlying health of these source countries for asylum-seekers is suspect. In terms of possible solutions, therefore, it would seem prudent, if not necessary, to invest in these countries in a humanitarian capacity and to help fund and mobilize efforts to help combat corruption and crime. Instead, Congress has reduced assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras by almost $85 million since 2017, which almost certainly won’t help willing governments combat the influence of criminal organizations. In other words, isolationism isn’t the answer.
As for MS-13, treating its influence with a “firm hand” may limit its effectiveness and bring up a new set of ethical and moral issues about the procedures used to combat gang violence. In El Salvador, the U.S. government has thrown millions of dollars at curbing the influence of Mara Salvatrucha and other gangs, and the brutality and corruption associated with the Salvadoran government’s approach may be proving counterproductive. A detailed special report for CNN by Nick Paton Walsh, Barbara Arvanitidis, and Bryan Avelar on the link between U.S.-funded police and illegal executions in El Salvador provides a sense of perspective on this note:
While the US program is aimed at improving the effectiveness and legality of El Salvador’s fight against gangs, narcotraffickers and human smugglers, the “Firm Hand” strategy being deployed now by the country’s government — against a gang culture so widespread it amounts to an insurgency of sorts — runs counter to lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to some analysts. In those US-led conflicts, corrupt security forces and brutality exacerbated the ferocity of the insurgency.
Analysts have noted that brutal police tactics have previously backfired, as the gang members killed are sometimes looked upon more favorably in their neighborhoods, or less guilty than intelligence suggests, causing anger in the community and prompting some residents to turn away from the police and towards the gangs.
Not for nothing, but Afghanistan and Iraq are not the kind of examples you want to lead with as analogs of success in dealing with hostile groups. Even when dealing with a potential criminal element in an environment as conducive to drug-related violence as El Salvador, abuses by authorities are liable to produce a backlash, despite the public’s desire for their leaders to be tough on crime. Simply put, a balance has to be struck, and extrajudicial killings tip the scales the wrong way.
At the end of the day, and at a fundamental level, the questions that should be asked by the Trump administration are as follows: 1) “What are we trying to accomplish regarding immigration and violence as it impacts the United States, Mexico, and Central America?” 2) “Are we accomplishing what we have set out to accomplish?” and 3) “If so, are the solutions worth the costs?” Thus far, however, there is little to suggest the relevant problems have even been adequately defined, let alone sufficiently addressed, and with all the finger-pointing that President Trump has done, you can be sure he hasn’t considered America’s role in perpetuating worrisome trends.
Returning to Cole Kazdin’s column for a moment, while Elizabeth Oglesby’s damning analysis of U.S. relations with Central America features prominently in her analysis, the words of civil rights advocates and other experts carry as much weight—if not more—and succinctly state the case for America’s direct engagement with Mexico and the countries of the Northern Triangle in a more diplomatic and even-handed way.
Per Xochitl Sanchez, TPS (Temporary Protected Status) coordinator for CARECEN, the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles, the United States has “a moral and social responsibility to this population of immigrants as they are complicit in the creation of the conditions of forced migration” of these countries, notably El Salvador. Charles Kamasaki, senior cabinet advisor for UNIDOS US, also cited within Kazdin’s piece, likewise believes in acting in accord with a moral imperative steeped in equanimity and reciprocity. As Kamasaki puts forth, “For those who felt strongly that we should intervene in Central America, whether it was to fight communism, or to maintain good conditions for business so American consumers could enjoy cheap bananas or Nicaraguan coffee, I would argue that responsibility’s a two-way street. If we enjoy benefits, then that brings with it some obligations.”
Alas, “diplomacy” in the era of President Donald Trump evidently involves starting trade wars and other confrontations with our presumed allies, railing against the likes of Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel while praising dictatorial leaders like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong-un. If we can’t get along with Canada, a row with whom comedian Seth Meyers likened to “holding a grudge against a golden retriever puppy,” there’s obviously little room for a spirit of cooperation with countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, nations replete with brown-skinned individuals who speak Spanish and, therefore, must be demonized as part of Trump’s demagoguery.
For Christ’s sake, the man picked a fight with Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, after the island was hit by a devastating hurricane. These storm victims are American citizens. Just because they are people of color and can’t vote in congressional and presidential elections doesn’t mean they should be an after-thought, especially not when noting the mainland’s role in loading the territory with crippling debt. Instead, Trump being Trump, he lashes out on Twitter and calls people names—especially when they are women and/or people of color and dare to challenge him. I mean, if one were to visit the Oval Office and find a dartboard with a picture of Maxine Waters’s face on it, would he or she be really surprised? Dude’s got an ax to grind.
While harboring guilt about the treatment of Central America’s Northern Triangle to the extent it stunts our ability to act and move forward would be its own issue, that the United States’ historical culpability continues to go largely unspoken makes the prospects of fixing problems which affect North America too (such as gang violence and mass migration) rather grim. America should take more responsibility for promoting violence in Central America. But it probably won’t, and until it does, it would seem the wounds that mark many Central American institutions will continue to stay open.
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In advance of this year’s New York Democratic primaries, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had already generated a lot of attention, thanks in large part to a viral campaign advertisement called “The Courage to Change.” The spot highlights how Ocasio-Cortez is, to put it simply, not your average congressional candidate. As the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaigner says in a voiceover for the two-minute ad:
Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office. I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family. Mother from Puerto Rico, dad from the South Bronx. I was born in a place where your zip code determines your destiny. My name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I’m an educator, an organizer, a working-class New Yorker. I’ve worked with expectant mothers, I’ve waited tables, and led classrooms, and going into politics wasn’t in the plan.
So, what compelled the 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez to run? Not to suggest her campaign is a derivative one, but her platform sounds a lot like one belonging to a certain Vermont senator who ran for president:
After 20 years of the same representation, we have to ask: who has New York been changing for? Every day gets harder for working families like mine to get by. The rent gets higher, health care covers less, and our income stays the same. It’s clear that these changes haven’t been for us, and we deserve a champion. It’s time to fight for a New York that working families can afford.
That’s why I’m running for Congress. This race is about people vs. money. We’ve got people, they’ve got money. It’s time we acknowledge that not all Democrats are the same. That a Democrat who takes corporate money, profits off foreclosure, doesn’t live here, doesn’t send his kids to our schools, doesn’t drink our water or breathe our air cannot possibly represent us. What the Bronx and Queens need is Medicare-for-all, tuition-free public college, a federal jobs guarantee, and criminal justice reform.
We can do it now. It doesn’t take a hundred years to do this. It takes political courage. A New York for the many is possible. It’s time for one of us.
Ocasio-Cortez has stated her campaign is not about progressives vs. establishment Democrats, and rather, that it’s about people over politics and money, but it’s clear from her mission statement that she’s there in opposition to politics as usual, and if that means going through long-tenured party members to do it, so be it.
In particular, her campaign spot name-checks Joe Crowley, Democratic representative from her district and member of the House since 1999 (hence, the “20 years” reference). Crowley, for what it’s worth, doesn’t seem like a bad guy per se, but he also represents the centrist, “old white guy” political mold that voters increasingly are eschewing in their embrace of substantive policy ideas (and it probably doesn’t help he’s been chummy with lobbyists and pro-business types). Sure, he’s moved farther left than when he started in Congress, but going against someone who looks and sounds like a real-deal progressive, he and others like him are suddenly more vulnerable.
As the title of this post would indicate, they may be very vulnerable, indeed. In a fairly surprising result, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took down the 10-term incumbent Crowley in last week’s primary, capturing 57% of the vote. Ocasio-Cortez’s “upset” win is surprising for any number of reasons, not the least of which are her status as a relative unknown and political neophyte, Crowley’s entrenchment in Washington, and her being outdone roughly 10-to-one in campaign spending. Ocasio-Cortez’s political bid began seemingly as a feel-good story, and progressives likely would have been happy with her showing regardless of the outcome. Now, however, she appears poised to be a force to be reckoned with.
In the immediate aftermath of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upending of Joe Crowley’s re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-election bid, it would seem few are really well equipped to reckon with her success. Certainly, that we are even treating her victory as a surprise is owed somewhat to the media’s previous lack of focus on her, a trend that others outside the establishment vanguard have encountered (see also Cynthia Nixon, of whom we would stand to know little if we weren’t already familiar with her acting).
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has been consistently critical of the blind eye turned toward progressives in everyday political discourse, in particular chastised Joy-Ann Reid and MSNBC in a couple of tweets the day after Ocasio-Cortez’s upset win:
Compare @JoyAnnReid’s revealingly insular and self-justifying tweet above about how “political journalism” (i.e. MSNBC) ignored the @Ocasio2018 race to @brianstelter’s honest and accurate @CNN story on how several media outlets actually covered the race.
A cable network that is monomaniacally devoted to faithfully serving the agenda of Party leaders and uncritically disseminating their talking points is obviously going to miss – or deliberately suppress – any challenges to those Party dictates. That’s what happened there.
While MSNBC talking heads are overlooking progressive candidates for public office and even the sources that more closely follow them, moderate Democrats are painting Ocasio-Cortez’s victory as an anomaly or one-off rather than a sign of the times during this post-mortem period. Nancy Pelosi, notably, dismissed these returns from NY-14 as being indicative of a movement or anything “larger” than one district. It’s perplexing considering the energy and press following Ocasio-Cortez seem like things Democrats of all make and model should be embracing. Then again, this is Nancy Pelosi we’re talking about here, a woman that Republicans seeking office are only too happy to have around because she evidently possesses a Hillary Clinton-like ability to make public declarations GOP political advertisers can use to their strategic advantage to make her and the Dems seem out of touch.
Speaking of Republicans, they’ve got their own reasons to be scared of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Jay Willis, writing for GQ Magazine, explains that they’re “terrified” of the 28-year-old political hopeful, precisely because they can’t beat her on a policy debate. Instead, conservatives like John Cardillo have resorted to questioning her credentials right down to her upbringing, suggesting, among other things, that she grew up in a more wealthy household/neighborhood than she is otherwise letting on. This, to me, is akin to the types of conspiracy theories that would have you believe survivors of mass shootings and children separated from their families at the Mexican border are paid actors. It’s as reprehensible as it is dishonest.
In short, centrist Democrats, conservative Republicans, and corporatist media outlets all see Ocasio-Cortez as somewhat of a threat, and this seems to be as much about her identity as her policy goals. In talking about her “identity,” I’m referring not to Ocasio-Cortez’s Bronx upbringing or Puerto Rican heritage, but her self-identification as a “democratic socialist.”
Much in the way Bernie Sanders was assailed on all sides from people who failed to draw distinctions between “democratic socialism” and “socialism” and ostensibly socialist regimes which belie a dictatorial bent—or intentionally confused them—Ocasio-Cortez’s win is forcing to those on the left and right alike to come to grips with the dreaded S-word. Within the press community, numerous outlets have taken to publishing articles trying to explain for the uninitiated what the heck, exactly, democratic socialism is. Nancy Pelosi, while diminishing Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory, also has publicly rejected the notion that socialism is “ascendant” within Democratic ranks.
On the right, meanwhile, SOCIALISM! SOCIALISM! BURN THE WITCH! This salvo from Cheryl Chumley for The Washington Times entitled “Ocasio-Cortez, New York’s socialist congressional contender, an enemy of America,” I share because I find it especially repugnant. It characterizes her primary win as a “face slap to America” and an “affront to all the Founding Fathers forged.” Chumley is the same woman who recently authored an essay on how “Democrats hate America,” apparently with the numbers to prove this assertion. For the record, her “numbers” are one statistic from a Gallup poll that shows Democrats are less likely to be “extremely proud” to be an American than their Republican counterparts—which surely doesn’t have anything to do with the Trump White House, a GOP-led Congress, and a conservative-majority Supreme Court, right?—and vague sentiments that reference Antifa, democratic socialists, and Obama apologists into one nebulous mix to be feared and loathed. Sorry Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t look and sound and think like you, Ms. Chumley. I forgot that makes her automatically less American or patriotic.
But about those policy goals. In the vein of a Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supports progressive ideals such as Medicare-for-all, a $15 minimum wage, free tuition for public colleges, campaign finance reform, and housing as a human right. These are not new, and are not controversial to the extent that fellow Democrats may not explicitly argue against them, though they may be reluctant to embrace them in favor of more centrist policies.
Other views, meanwhile, are outside the mainstream, either by virtue of their direct opposition to commonly-held stances within the party or their relative novelty among leadership. For one, Ocasio-Cortez has been a vocal critic of Israel, and joins an evidently growing number of people on an international stage who question the free pass Netanyahu’s government receives for its actions related to Israeli settlements and its handling of Palestinian resistance to the latter group’s apparent subjugation.
While she hasn’t yet clarified her position on the BDS movement, that the Democratic Socialists of America are pro-boycott worries the Democratic elites who have come to count on wealthy Jewish patrons and staunchly pro-Israel groups among their lists of donors. It’s another point of potential division between factions within the Democratic Party, which tend to get played up for effect in the media anyway, but nonetheless may be indicative of a fracture between the old guard and the new vying to push the party in a certain diplomatic direction.
The other major policy quirk which has drawn additional attention to Ocasio-Cortez’s platform is her embrace of an “abolish ICE” mantra. On this note, her views seem to lack nuance, although it would likely be difficult to rally behind a cause with a more cumbersome message. As it would seem, Ocasio-Cortez only wants to “abolish” Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the extent that it would be replaced with a more accountable agency or otherwise reformed.
Of course, Republicans have sought to weaponize this stated goal by insinuating that Democrats who want to abolish ICE are asking for no border control at all, hence other Dems have been reluctant to embrace the slogan. Then again, in light of the ongoing crisis facing the detention and separation of immigrant families, as well as numerous alleged abuses by ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, the discussion over what is permitted in the name of “border security” is a worthy one.
All this has made for a rather confusing dissection of a race that few outside of progressive circles and Ocasio-Cortez’s own support system were wont to predict in her favor, a dissection that tests us as consumers of the news to view our sources critically. After all, what these outlets say about the congressional hopeful may say as much about them as it does her. In the case of Cheryl Chumley, it reveals ugly attitudes predicated on jingoistic paranoia. As such, while the November election in New York’s 14th congressional district will now undoubtedly receive much more widespread attention, how much of it is good or fair remains to be seen.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has only just won the Democratic primary for her district, but given the heavy blue leanings of NY-14, she’s looking like a pretty sure bet to make it to Congress. Either way, there is real energy behind her and her campaign, and not just from New Yorkers.
In Ocasio-Cortez, many pundits see the future of the Democratic Party, one of female leadership and better representation for people of color and other minority groups. They also see, in progressives like Ocasio-Cortez daring to go “further left,” Democrats more authentically embracing the values that the party’s detractors would say mainline Dems have all but abandoned over the years, particularly in defending the working class and organized labor from attempts by the GOP to erode their influence.
While comments to downplay Ocasio-Cortez’s and other progressives’ influence reflect poorly on Pelosi, it also is worth mentioning that one upset victory does not a party takeover make. This is not meant to throw water on the fire of young candidates on the rise, but rather to underscore the magnitude of the opposition others like Ocasio-Cortez will face from Democrats (esp. firmly-entrenched incumbents) and Republicans (esp. in red-leaning areas) alike.
Following Ocasio-Cortez’s win, candidates like Ayanna Presley in Massachusetts and Kerri Harris of Delaware have seen an uptick in their donations. Primary results still matter, though, and much work has to be done by their campaigns to build on their compatriot from New York’s success. In short, while there is momentum building, this is not to say that democratic socialism in the United States has truly arrived.
Still, that we’re even having this discussion about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the future of the Democratic Party means that we can’t rule out Presley’s or Harris’s chances, and that the discussion about whether platforms like theirs can be adapted to succeed in jurisdictions like the Midwest where the GOP possesses an advantage is a meritorious one. Seeing various reactions to Ocasio-Cortez’s win characterized by sheer bafflement, this only reinforces the idea few were ready for the eventuality of a liberal progressive gaining traction. Thus, while it’s too early to say what exactly this upset means, it’s highly intriguing to see people so “shook” over it.
Here’s hoping for a little more shaking-up before the 2018 election season is done.
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When Donald Trump “misstates” something (read: “outright lies”) or “outlines a policy plan” (read: “has a really bad idea”), you’ve got to give it to the man—he tends to commit to it. Whereas Hillary Clinton can’t recall having conversations about classified E-mails, or can’t remember having specific conversations about classified E-mails, or blames a concussion on not being able to follow protocol, or claims she doesn’t know how thousands of messages got deleted, or expresses the belief that Colin Powell whispered sweet nothings about private servers in her ear, Trump has been largely resolute on his awful anti-immigrant agenda. By now, he and his campaign are largely synonymous with the notion of building a wall at the Mexican border. Dude’s got a real hard-on over the whole thing, in fact. Don’t like the wall? That shit just got ten feet higher! Still sassing back? We’ll add ten more! And we can keep going like this too! Why? Mexico’s paying for the whole damn thing! So put away that wallet, Joe America, our construction workers are only accepting pesos from here on out!
Heretofore, Donald Trump’s policy on curbing illegal immigration to the United States has been criticized as lacking specificity—and that’s a nice way of putting it. This past Wednesday, capping off a fun-filled month of August in this presidential campaign (obvious sarcasm intended), Trump spoke to supporters outlining his “detailed” policy on “one of the greatest challenges facing our country today” in illegal immigration, from—where else?—Phoenix, Arizona. I’m going to give you 24 choice quotes from his address—one for each hour of the day!—with my own annotations, and you can reach your own conclusions from there. Brace yourself.
1. “The truth is our immigration system is worse than anybody ever realized. But the facts aren’t known because the media won’t report on them. The politicians won’t talk about them and the special interests spend a lot of money trying to cover them up because they are making an absolute fortune. That’s the way it is. Today, on a very complicated and very difficult subject, you will get the truth. The fundamental problem with the immigration system in our country is that it serves the needs of wealthy donors, political activists and powerful, powerful politicians.”
Groan. We’ve only just begun, and already, I’m somewhat regretting my decision to examine what Donald Trump actually, you know, says. It seems almost disingenuous for a man who has gained so much free publicity from the media without being challenged more seriously on aspects of his finances (tax returns, cough, cough) to turn around and blame the media on anything, but that’s our Donald, after all. Apparently, there’s a lot of misinformation by omission concerning immigration trends in America happening on the part of some vague conspiracy involving a leftist media, lobbyists, politicians, and wealthy private citizens. It’s not that corporations and other businesses could actually be to blame—including your own, Mr. Trump. Not that at all.
2. “We…have to be honest about the fact that not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate. Sometimes it’s just not going to work out. It’s our right, as a sovereign nation, to chose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us.”
Trump doesn’t mention Muslims here. But you know he totally f**king means it.
3. “A 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office found that illegal immigrants and other non-citizens, in our prisons and jails together, had around 25,000 homicide arrests to their names, 25,000.”
Ooh, look! Donald Trump has learned to make citations! Besides the fact this statistic is misleading in that it makes it seem as if Mexican and other immigrants were responsible for this many murders in 2011 alone—the FBI reports fewer than 15,000 estimated homicides that year, but what do they know?—it cherry-picks the figure from one group without considering how much violent crime is perpetrated by American citizens. Of course, though, that doesn’t fit the narrative.
4. “Illegal immigration costs our country more than $113 billion a year. And this is what we get. For the money we are going to spend on illegal immigration over the next 10 years, we could provide one million at-risk students with a school voucher, which so many people are wanting. While there are many illegal immigrants in our country who are good people, many, many, this doesn’t change the fact that most illegal immigrants are lower skilled workers with less education, who compete directly against vulnerable American workers, and that these illegal workers draw much more out from the system than they can ever possibly pay back. And they’re hurting a lot of our people that cannot get jobs under any circumstances.”
Trump throws so much into one thought that it’s almost impossible to address it all in the time you would need to consider it fully before moving on to the next tangent. With the benefit of being able to rationally confront his remarks retrospectively, however, let’s give it a whirl. 1) Republicans often like to tout school vouchers as an alternative for our “failing” public schools, but not only are they to a large extent responsible for this failure based on their refusal to fund education and other public programs, but their assumption that school choice is a vastly superior option, especially when the private sector is involved, is a fallacy. In many cases, these additional options are no better than their public-school counterparts, if not worse, and what’s more, affording our presumed “best and brightest” to pick and choose their school when others cannot just encourages division along racial and socioeconomic lines. 2) If these illegal immigrants are such good people, what’s the problem? OK, even if the issue is that they supposedly “take our jobs,” this claim is overblown, because often times, they are doing dangerous or more physically intensive work in agriculture or, say, the meat packing industry, jobs that American citizens don’t want to do, or otherwise have been challenged more significantly by trends like automation and global trade.
But wait—there’s more! 3) According to Harvard economist George Borjas, as cited in this NPR Q&A, the net effect on the average American’s wealth as a result of illegal immigration is minimal (less than 1%), and if anything, slightly positive. While the report acknowledges the negative economic effects of illegal immigration, including depressing effects on wages of low-skilled workers and an income tax shortfall, on the other hand, undocumented immigrant labor does make products and services more affordable, not to mention these immigrants do pay property and sales taxes and are ineligible for certain classes of benefits as non-citizens. Let’s not let these considerations get in the way of a good argument, though.
5. Only the out of touch media elites think the biggest problems facing America — you know this, this is what they talk about, facing American society today is that there are 11 million illegal immigrants who don’t have legal status. And, they also think the biggest thing, and you know this, it’s not nuclear, and it’s not ISIS, it’s not Russia, it’s not China, it’s global warming.
For Christ’s sake! We don’t have time to argue the merits of global f**king warming! Moving along.
6. Hillary Clinton, for instance, talks constantly about her fears that families will be separated, but she’s not talking about the American families who have been permanently separated from their loved ones because of a preventable homicide, because of a preventable death, because of murder. No, she’s only talking about families who come here in violation of the law. We will treat everyone living or residing in our country with great dignity. So important. We will be fair, just, and compassionate to all, but our greatest compassion must be for our American citizens.
Commence with the ritual Clinton-bashing! We’ve already discussed how Donald Trump’s figures on violent crime committed by immigrants are kind of wonky, but let’s tackle the notion of relative compassion. If we’re truly being compassionate to all, then at heart, it shouldn’t matter who is receiving more or less compassion, as if you can modulate such things just like that. I’ve heard it said that Jesus never went out of his way for anyone—because He never considered helping anyone to be going out of His way. Just something to think about.
7. “[Hillary Clinton’s] plan [is] to bring in 620,000 new refugees from Syria and that region over a short period of time. And even yesterday, when you were watching the news, you saw thousands and thousands of people coming in from Syria. What is wrong with our politicians, our leaders if we can call them that. What the hell are we doing?”
8. “We will build a great wall along the southern border. And Mexico will pay for the wall. One hundred percent. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for it. And they’re great people and great leaders but they’re going to pay for the wall. On day one, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall. We will use the best technology, including above and below ground sensors that’s for the tunnels. Remember that, above and below. Above and below ground sensors. Towers, aerial surveillance and manpower to supplement the wall, find and dislocate tunnels and keep out criminal cartels and Mexico you know that, will work with us. I really believe it. Mexico will work with us. I absolutely believe it. And especially after meeting with their wonderful, wonderful president today. I really believe they want to solve this problem along with us, and I’m sure they will.”
OK, now we start to get to Trump’s plan a.k.a. the 10-point path to Crazy Town. Point One, obviously, is the wall, which is his baby and the centerpiece of his plan. Which is unfortunate, because it’s a complete disaster in the making. Let’s disregard any talk of effectiveness in light of the cost of this theoretical monstrosity. Donald Trump has averred the cost of the wall would be only about $8 billion or so, but more realistic estimates suggest the actual price tag could reach upwards of $25 billion. Wait, you say, it’s OK. Mexico’s paying for the wall. I’m no expert in international relations, but Mexico is not going to pay for that wall. Trump acts as if, because Mexico has a trade deficit with the United States, they just have money lying around to throw at a grandiose construction project, but this just demonstrates the man’s lack of understanding of economics despite his professed business acumen.
This is aside from the reality that Mexico has never said they would pay for the wall. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox dropped F-bombs over the whole idea, and current Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto has categorically denied his country will foot the bill, despite Donald Trump’s insistence it will, and moreover, referred to the Republican Party nominee’s proposals as a “threat to the future of Mexico.” So, yeah, seriously, this whole wall thing-a-ma-jig is a waste of time and money, won’t lead to permanent jobs being created, will alienate Spanish-speaking people across the globe, and on top of that, probably won’t work all that well. And that people actually would vote for Trump based on the wall scares the shit out of me.
9. “We are going to end catch and release. We catch them, oh go ahead. We catch them, go ahead. Under my administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country and back to the country from which they came. And they’ll be brought great distances. We’re not dropping them right across. They learned that. President Eisenhower. They’d drop them across, right across, and they’d come back. And across. Then when they flew them to a long distance, all of a sudden that was the end. We will take them great distances. But we will take them to the country where they came from, O.K.?”
Um, yeah, Mr. Trump, you’re not referring to Eisenhower’s operation in name by design, I can guarantee it. What he’s invoking, by the way, is a little something called, ahem, Operation Wetback, and by many objective measures, it was a failure. For one, on a human rights dimension, the quick-minded nature of the program’s relocations often resulted in deportees being unable to claim their property in the United States, let alone notify their family they had been deported in the first place. In addition, there were reports of beatings by Border Patrol agents, and when the deportees actually got to Mexico, they faced hardship from being relocated to unfamiliar territories, if not dying from the sweltering Mexican heat. Perhaps more significantly, however, in terms of its effectiveness, Operation Wetback did not deter illegal immigration. By the end of the program, about one in five deportees were repeat offenders, and American employers in border areas were undermining border agents’ efforts anyway, hiring undocumented immigrants because of the cheap labor incentive. Needless to say, this is an awful chapter in history with a shitty legacy to match, so I’m not sure why you would even invoke Operation Wetback with a similar initiative.
10. “According to federal data, there are at least two million, two million, think of it, criminal aliens now inside of our country, two million people, criminal aliens. We will begin moving them out day one. As soon as I take office. Day one. In joint operation with local, state, and federal law enforcement. Now, just so you understand, the police, who we all respect—say hello to the police. Boy, they don’t get the credit they deserve. I can tell you. They’re great people. But the police and law enforcement, they know who these people are. They live with these people. They get mocked by these people. They can’t do anything about these people, and they want to. They know who these people are. Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone. And you can call it deported if you want. The press doesn’t like that term. You can call it whatever the hell you want. They’re gone. Beyond the two million, and there are vast numbers of additional criminal illegal immigrants who have fled, but their days have run out in this country. The crime will stop. They’re going to be gone. It will be over. They’re going out. They’re going out fast.”
Trump is worried about the use of the word “deported” here, but it’s not that term which is the offensive one here. That would be “criminal aliens.” Contrary to popular belief, Mexicans don’t like being referred to as criminals. Call them crazy, I guess. Also, for all his talk about Clinton’s pandering to groups, his appeals to America’s uniformed police are pretty damn blatant. Besides, in general, I feel like the police get their fair share of credit for the important service they provide, and at times, too much, or at least the benefit of the doubt, in instances of violence against minorities. Again, though, that doesn’t fit the narrative that Donald Trump and his supporters wish to hear. My apologies. It’s always the black person’s fault.
11. “We will issue detainers for illegal immigrants who are arrested for any crime whatsoever, and they will be placed into immediate removal proceedings if we even have to do that”.
Any crime? Like, even jaywalking? I know much of this is tough talk, but the itchy trigger finger that Trump is encouraging here would set a dangerous precedent, if for no other reason than it lends itself to profiling and possibly even vigilantism. The vagueness of the phrase “if we even have to do that,” too, is worrisome. Do we just literally throw people over the wall back into Mexico? Or somehow exact a physically worse punishment? What we don’t know might just hurt us, and cause Lady Liberty to hide her face in shame.
12. “My plan also includes cooperating closely with local jurisdictions to remove criminal aliens immediately. We will restore the highly successful Secure Communities Program. Good program. We will expand and revitalize the popular 287(g) partnerships, which will help to identify hundreds of thousands of deportable aliens in local jails that we don’t even know about. Both of these programs have been recklessly gutted by this administration. And those were programs that worked.”
“Highly successful?” If it were highly successful, why was the Secure Communities Program suspended? Maybe it was because it didn’t do an effective job of targeting and curbing violent criminals who immigrated illegally to the United States. Or because it was responsible for numerous cases of people being deported who are actually American citizens. Or because it didn’t allow states and local police forces to opt out, as was first promised. Or because it made people less likely to report serious crimes by undocumented immigrants for fear of being deported. The Secure Communities Program was, in no uncertain terms, an abysmal endeavor, so there’s no reason Donald Trump should be touting its merits. Ditto for 287(g). That provision, put into practice, lacked requisite oversight, diverted police resources away from the investigation of local crimes, and, again, led to profiling of Latino residents in border states. It’s already bad if public policy is marked by ethical lapses, but when it doesn’t even accomplish its stated purpose, it deserves to be deep-sixed. If Trump were hoping to name-drop effectively, he didn’t do it on this occasion.
13. “Within ICE I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice just like Hillary Clinton has evaded justice, OK? Maybe they’ll be able to deport her.”
Hmm, new task force—I’m sure this will be handled with the requisite oversight so as to prevent abuses of civil liberties and cost overruns. (If I could, I would put an eye-rolling emoji here for emphasis.) By the way, Mr. Trump, your joke about Hillary being deported isn’t all that funny considering she’s an American citizen and therefore could never be deported. Though the relevance factor would be lost in that he’s done serving as President after this term, Barack Obama being deported is more amusing because stupid, gullible people are convinced he was born outside the country and/or is a secret Muslim. Like, um, yourself. It all would still be reprehensible to suggest, even in jest, but at least your stab at humor would be more spot-on. It’s the principle of the thing, Donald.
14. “We will end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths. Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars, and we will work with Congress to pass legislation to protect those jurisdictions that do assist federal authorities.”
The idea of sanctuary cities is a complicated one in the light of highly-publicized deaths such as that of Kate Steinle in 2015, who was shot and killed by an undocumented Mexican immigrant who had been deported multiple times, had seven felony convictions to his name, and was on probation at the time of the incident. The Steinle example, however, sticks out because a) San Francisco, the setting of the fateful event, is a sanctuary city, and in this instance, did not honor a detainer from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because no active warrant existed for the shooter’s arrest, and b) Steinle was white, and a beautiful young woman at that, who presumably loved life, was kind to all people and animals, and all that jazz.
In all seriousness, a loss is a loss, and I can only imagine what Kate Steinle’s family felt and still feels. Still, her death, while tragic, doesn’t mean we necessarily should abandon sanctuary cities wholesale. Errol Louis penned an op-ed piece last year on the subject of sanctuary cities, and he rightly pointed out that numerous cities and other municipalities do not want to have to shoulder the financial and logistical burden of trying to enforce immigration law when resources are at a premium in investigating and stopping all other crimes that happen within their jurisdiction. Not only this, but law enforcement in these same places doesn’t want to jeopardize the trust it stands to lose and has forged with members of Hispanic/Latino communities. Deportation, legally speaking, is a federal enterprise, and Donald Trump’s insistence that only those who comply with ICE’s demands for information and detention would receive federal subsidies is appalling, because it is prejudicial against those areas who oppose his viewpoints, and only encourages local governments to comply meekly to avoid sanctions or try to manipulate the situation such as to maintain the appearance of compliance. Sanctuary cities, despite their concerns, are a bit of a political red herring.
15. “We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties in which he defied federal law and the Constitution to give amnesty to approximately five million illegal immigrants, five million.”
Or we can just continue to have Obama’s executive orders batted around in court, which, owing to how slow the law moves, is pretty much a death sentence anyway, amirite?
16. “We are going to suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur. According to data provided by the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, and the national interest between 9/11 and the end of 2014, at least 380 foreign born individuals were convicted in terror cases inside the United States. And even right now the largest number of people are under investigation for exactly this that we’ve ever had in the history of our country.”
More vagueness from Donald J. Trump, whose “detailed” plan is seeming less and less accurate as we go along. How do we define “adequate” screening? Who decides such things? How long is the suspension of visa issuance? Indefinite? I ask these questions not only because they deserve to be asked, but because it’s wholly possible Trump has not even considered how to answer them. And in case anyone has forgotten to keep score, THE MAN MIGHT BE ELECTED PRESIDENT. HE SHOULD KNOW THESE THINGS.
17. “Countries in which immigration will be suspended would include places like Syria and Libya. And we are going to stop the tens of thousands of people coming in from Syria. We have no idea who they are, where they come from. There’s no documentation. There’s no paperwork. It’s going to end badly, folks. It’s going to end very, very badly. For the price of resettling one refugee in the United States, 12 could be resettled in a safe zone in their home region. Which I agree with 100 percent. We have to build safe zones and we’ll get the money from Gulf states. We don’t want to put up the money. We owe almost $20 trillion. Doubled since Obama took office, our national debt. But we will get the money from Gulf states and others. We’ll supervise it. We’ll build safe zones which is something that I think all of us want to see.”
Wow. There’s a lot to unpack here, and a lot of it just further cements the idea that Trump either doesn’t understand what he’s talking about, is intentionally misinforming the public, or both. Let’s start with the vetting of refugees from countries like Syria, which just happens to be some of the most intensive vetting done by the United States for refugees from any country, or by any country, for that matter. At any rate, the vetting process for these potential entrants into the U.S. is sadly better than the one, ahem, used for Republican Party presidential candidates. This leads into the discussion of theoretical safe zones in Syria. Ideally, and depending on the actual wishes of the refugees originally displaced, they would be able to return to their homeland. But right now? THERE ARE NO F**KING SAFE ZONES IN SYRIA! Certainly not with Assad in power, and not likely in the foreseeable future with all the factions currently there, not to mention the specter of jihadism in the region.
Finally, let’s talk about the idea of Persian Gulf states paying for these ill-conceived “safe” zones. These are the same countries that have refused to take in refugees, people who are fleeing violence and other unspeakable horrors in the nations of their birth. Much like Mexico ponying up for the cost of a $25+ billion wall, there is little to no chance these places are going to volunteer to throw money at the problem, and for all his talk of renegotiating bad deals, Donald Trump is unlikely to be able to convince foreign leaders or wealthy private individuals to fork over the cash. Most certainly, America would be adding to the national debt to authorize and enforce these safe zones, and by that token, would be as bad “as Barack Obama,” even though the conditions which brought about our deficit spending were in place long before he took office.
18. “Another reform involves new screening tests for all applicants that include, and this is so important, especially if you get the right people. And we will get the right people. An ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values and love our people. Thank you. We’re very proud of our country. Aren’t we? Really? With all it’s going through, we’re very proud of our country. For instance, in the last five years, we’ve admitted nearly 100,000 immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan. And these two countries, according to Pew Research, a majority of residents say that the barbaric practice of honor killings against women are often or sometimes justified. That’s what they say. That’s what they say. They’re justified. Right? And we’re admitting them to our country. Applicants will be asked their views about honor killings, about respect for women and gays and minorities. Attitudes on radical Islam, which our president refuses to say, and many other topics as part of this vetting procedure. And if we have the right people doing it, believe me, very, very few will slip through the cracks. Hopefully, none.”
Ugh. This is getting tiresome. I can almost see why the media doesn’t spend more time wading through Trump’s bullshit. Almost. So you’re saying we want immigrants who “share our values.” Again, who decides this? You, a man who has advocated bringing back waterboarding and torturing the families of suspected terrorists? You, a man who has made numerous sexist remarks during this campaign alone, likened an entire country to a haven for rapists and murderers, and may or may not have expressed the belief that “laziness is a trait in blacks”? If you’re our shining example of American values, we’re in some deep doo-doo, let me tell you. Also, right, “radical Islam.” Because the fundamental problem is with their entire religion, not with those kill in the name of. If you can call jihadists radical Islamists, I submit I should be able to call those who denounce homosexuality as a sin and harass Planned Parenthood workers as radical Christians. Because if that’s what “our God” wants, then I think I need a new one.
19. “There are at least 23 countries that refuse to take their people back after they’ve been ordered to leave the United States. Including large numbers of violent criminals, they won’t take them back. So we say, OK, we’ll keep them. Not going to happen with me, not going to happen with me.”
Yeah, you and what army? Oh, right, that army. Still, are you prepared, Mr. Trump, to use force to get your way on this issue, risking American lives and sanctions from other nations at what is considered an affront to diplomacy? Because that seems to be the only way you’re going to get these countries to play ball with you—unless you really are the great negotiator you think you are.
20. “We will finally complete the biometric entry-exit visa tracking system which we need desperately. For years Congress has required biometric entry-exit visa tracking systems, but it has never been completed. The politicians are all talk, no action, never happens. Never happens.”
You know, Donald Trump is full of big ideas that cost a nice chunk of change. Probably because his other big ideas, all his life, have been paid for by other people, namely his rich daddy, creditors he has been unable to recompense, and investors he has bilked. He’s convinced Mexico will cover the cost of the wall. (They won’t.) He assumes neighboring countries in the Middle East will make generous donations to ensure safe zones are created in Syria. (They won’t.) So, when it comes to potentially including biometric data (facial, fingerprint, or iris recognition) on passports stored on radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips, once more, it will be on someone else’s tab—yours and mine. Here’s the thing about biometric passports. Not only is the chip technology used to store identifying information costly to produce, but there are security concerns with storing this data all in one place, as there is the potential to hack and exploit this info, as well as obvious concerns about civil liberties in the seeming invasiveness of these requirements. Thus, yet again, Trump is oversimplifying a complicated issue and dining on people’s fear and paranoia. Great work, Donald.
21. “We will turn off the jobs and benefits magnet. We will ensure that E-Verify is used to the fullest extent possible under existing law, and we will work with Congress to strengthen and expand its use across the country. Immigration law doesn’t exist for the purpose of keeping criminals out. It exists to protect all aspects of American life. The work site, the welfare office, the education system, and everything else.”
I’ve touched upon the notion that Donald Trump’s pointing of the finger at undocumented immigrants on the problematic domestic employment situation is a red herring because often, these immigrants are doing work that American citizens are not flocking to. As for the benefits situation, there seems to be a lot of confusion concerning what benefits undocumented immigrants are and are not permitted. Those who don’t have legal status can get compulsory public education for their children and emergency medical care, as well as potentially worker’s compensation, but numerous benefits, including food stamps, Medicaid, Social Security, state and local benefits, and welfare, are not available to non-citizens, at least in theory. Sure, there are abuses of benefits programs, but potential for fraud exists in many facets of our lives, and irrespective of legal immigration status, so while this is not to undermine the seriousness of people taking advantage of gaps in reporting false claims, let’s not overstate the severity of the problem when the occasion arises. We also shouldn’t demean the contributions made by hard-working undocumented immigrants who do contribute in the form of paid taxes—even when they can’t make use of the benefits they fund.
22. “We’re going to bring our jobs back home. And if companies want to leave Arizona and if they want to leave other states, there’s going to be a lot of trouble for them. It’s not going to be so easy. There will be consequence. Remember that. There will be consequences. They’re not going to be leaving, go to another country, make the product, sell it into the United States, and all we end up with is no taxes and total unemployment. It’s not going to happen. There will be consequences.”
You know, many states and municipalities at least try some sort of carrot-and-stick incentive to encourage American corporations to stay at home, namely tax breaks. Apparently, Donald Trump is dispensing with the carrot portion of the metaphor and just shaking the stick at Fortune 500 companies and their ilk. Is this all his warning is? Could he join rival Hillary Clinton in the call for an exit tax? Does he have other consequences in mind? Or did he make all this up on the spot and would be forced to come up with something after the fact should he become President of these United States? It’s anyone’s guess, and sadly, I don’t think Trump has any more of a clue than we do.
23. “So let’s now talk about the big picture. These 10 steps, if rigorously followed and enforced, will accomplish more in a matter of months than our politicians have accomplished on this issue in the last 50 years. It’s going to happen, folks. Because I am proudly not a politician, because I am not behold to any special interest, I’ve spent a lot of money on my campaign, I’ll tell you. I write those checks. Nobody owns Trump. I will get this done for you and for your family. We’ll do it right. You’ll be proud of our country again. We’ll do it right. We will accomplish all of the steps outlined above. And, when we do, peace and law and justice and prosperity will prevail. Crime will go down. Border crossings will plummet. Gangs will disappear. And the gangs are all over the place. And welfare use will decrease. We will have a peace dividend to spend on rebuilding America, beginning with our American inner cities. We’re going to rebuild them, for once and for all.”
You’re not a politician—except you have been one for the last year and change, and are a major-party candidate for President—so the grace period is effectively over, Mr. Trump. You say you’ve spent a lot of your money on your campaign, but you’ve been borrowing the money, as you usually do, and from yourself, no less, and there’s evidence to suggest people within your own campaign are not being compensated as they should. Furthermore, you say you will accomplish all these things, so what is your timetable? One year? Two years? The kinds of things you’re promising certainly won’t be accomplished within a single presidential term, and sound more like the boasts of a snake oil salesman than the policy plan of a legitimate presidential candidate.
24. “The result will be millions more illegal immigrants; thousands of more violent, horrible crimes; and total chaos and lawlessness. That’s what’s going to happen, as sure as you’re standing there. This election, and I believe this, is our last chance to secure the border, stop illegal immigration and reform our laws to make your life better. I really believe this is it. This is our last time. November 8. November 8. You got to get out and vote on November 8. It’s our last chance. It’s our last chance. And that includes Supreme Court justices and the Second Amendment. Remember that. So I want to remind everyone what we’re fighting for and who we are fighting for.”
Wait—what are we fighting for again? I thought we were talking about illegal immigration. Now you’re bringing in Supreme Court justices, except for the idea that Barack Obama already nominated a fine candidate in Merrick Garland—whom your buddies in the GOP kindly refused to even acknowledge and do their job by hearing—and the Second Amendment—which Hillary Clinton has said she doesn’t want to repeal, and probably couldn’t if she wanted to—but which you’re convincing people she’s coming after.
So, now that I don’t know what we are fighting for, or even who we are, now I’m curious as to who we are fighting for. Future generations? The children of undocumented immigrants? Nah, you want to deport their parents as soon as possible and probably want to reverse birthright citizenship while you’re at it. The alt-right? Other white supremacists? At the end of the day, Mr. Trump, your campaign, when all is said and done, has been about one person and one person only: yourself. You don’t give a shit about the average American. How could you? You’ve never been one, and your pretense that you’re running on behalf of the “little guy” is as nauseating as your relationship with your daughter, Ivanka. You’re a fraud, a liar, a cheat, and an all-around terrible person. I proverbially spit on your candidacy, much like anyone who actually bought one of Trump Steaks surely spit what he or she chewed back onto his or her plate. That’s what I truly think about Trump-Pence 2016.
Donald Trump’s depiction of the future of the country, should he fail to win in his bid for the presidency, is an apocalyptic one, filled with visions of Mexicans overrunning America and general anarchy and lawlessness, like something you would see in a scene from The Purge movies. Ironically, this is what many envision will happen should Trump succeed in his bid, replete with rivers of blood and the Four Horsemen and whatnot. Regardless of who may or may not be correct in matters cataclysmic, this prediction of doom and gloom taps into the fear of a significant portion of the electorate, of which a chief subset is working-class whites. Perhaps no better symbol of a Trumpian foretelling of the United States’ downfall exists, however, than one uttered by one of his Latino supporters (yes, they do exist!). In a recent panel discussion led by Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC, Marco Gutierrez, founder of the organization Latinos for Trump, had this to say, apropos of nothing:
“My culture is a very dominant culture, and it’s imposing and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.”
The almost uniform response to this, on social media and in news story Comments sections, and deservedly so, was, “Um, why is this a bad thing? Tacos are delicious.” And maybe there’s a lesson in this reaction. For all the blustering about a Mexican invasion, and the fear and hate Donald Trump’s campaign has engendered, at heart, there is much more to appreciate concerning Hispanic/Latino contributions to our proud melting pot of a nation than the actions of a few bad manzanas could ever hope to spoil. This includes, yes, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, and any other delicious confluences of tortillas, meat, cheese and/or vegetables you can think of. And the Spanish language. Es muy bueno. And plus, there are other hallmarks of cultural significance, including works of art, film, literature, music and poetry, and other genres I can’t readily think of off the top of my head. And, you know, if we believe that people are inherently good and not out to screw the rest of us over, there’s a whole lot of hard-working, law-abiding individuals to call neighbors. In this respect, I feel the vast majority of immigrants, Mexican or Muslim, legal or not, understand the American spirit better than some self-identifying “true Americans” do.
For those who support Trump in his goal of being elected to the highest office in the land, there are numerous reasons why they might favor the man of the orange complexion. Maybe they’re Republican loyalists. Maybe they hate Hillary Clinton with a passion and will vote for anyone but her. Maybe they secretly want Democrats to succeed down the road in the legislature and in the White House, and are inviting a blowing-up of the system we know to rebuild it in a better, more progressive fashion. However they justify their choice, though, they should know that they can’t separate any more meritorious reasons for backing Donald Trump—such as his business acumen or his straight talk, both of which are highly overrated—from his hateful rhetoric on immigration and his uninspired 10-point plan to save America from the “Mexi-pocalypse.” It’s an agenda built on mistruths and outright lies about immigration trends, insufficiently detailed solutions to, ahem, trumped-up problem areas, and one that undoubtedly will cost the United States tens of billions of dollars and standing in the international community, with little to no tangible reward to show for it.
While this isn’t an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, as I feel her presidency would preserve a fundamentally flawed status quo in the name of incremental progress the likes of which fewer and fewer working-class Americans can afford, at least she wouldn’t send the country on a blatantly morally-regressive path. President Trump would, though. Taco trucks on every corner? Nope, the real danger would be Humpty Trumpty looking down from atop his Mexican wall like some sort of dictatorial ruler. If that comes to pass, all of our horses and all of our men might not be able to put the country back together again.