Archives for June 2018

A new revolution in Mexico

Jon Lee Anderson writes:

The first time that Andrés Manuel López Obrador ran for President of Mexico, in 2006, he inspired such devotion among his partisans that they sometimes stuck notes in his pockets, inscribed with their hopes for their families. In an age defined by globalism, he was an advocate of the working class—and also a critic of the PRI, the party that has ruthlessly dominated national politics for much of the past century. In the election, his voters’ fervor was evidently not enough; he lost, by a tiny margin. The second time he ran, in 2012, the enthusiasm was the same, and so was the outcome. Now, though, Mexico is in crisis—beset from inside by corruption and drug violence, and from outside by the antagonism of the Trump Administration. There are new Presidential elections on July 1st, and López Obrador is running on a promise to remake Mexico in the spirit of its founding revolutionaries. If the polls can be believed, he is almost certain to win.

In March, he held a meeting with hundreds of loyalists, at a conference hall in Culiacán. López Obrador, known across Mexico as AMLO, is a rangy man of sixty-four, with a youthful, clean-shaven face, a mop of silver hair, and an easy gait. When he entered, his supporters got to their feet and chanted, “It’s an honor to vote for López Obrador!” Many of them were farmworkers, wearing straw hats and scuffed boots. He urged them to install Party observers at polling stations to prevent fraud, but cautioned against buying votes, a long-established habit of the PRI. “That’s what we’re getting rid of,” he said. He promised a “sober, austere government—a government without privilege.” López Obrador frequently uses “privilege” as a term of disparagement, along with “élite,” and, especially, “power mafia,” as he describes his enemies in the political and business communities. “We are going to lower the salaries of those who are on top to increase the salaries of those on the bottom,” he said, and added a Biblical assurance: “Everything I am saying will be done.” López Obrador spoke in a warm voice, leaving long pauses and using simple phrases that ordinary people would understand. He has a penchant for rhymes and repeated slogans, and at times the crowd joined in, like fans at a pop concert. When he said, “We don’t want to help the power mafia to . . . ,” a man in the audience finished his sentence: “keep stealing.” Working together, López Obrador said, “we are going to make history.” [Continue reading…]

In America, naturalized citizens no longer have an assumption of permanence

Masha Gessen writes:

Last week, it emerged that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (U.S.C.I.S.) had formed a task force in order to identify people who lied on their citizenship applications and to denaturalize them. Amid the overwhelming flow of reports of families being separated at the border and children being warehoused, this bit of bureaucratic news went largely unnoticed. But it adds an important piece to our understanding of how American politics and culture are changing.

Like many of the Trump Administration’s sadistic immigration innovations, the new task force doesn’t reflect a change in the law. In fact, like a number of practices, including mass deportations, it builds on the legacy of the Obama Administration, which set in motion the process of reëxamining old naturalization files. L. Francis Cissna, the director of U.S.C.I.S., told the Associated Press that his agency is looking for people who “should not have been naturalized in the first place”—for example, those who had been ordered to be deported earlier and obtained citizenship under a different name—and this sounds reasonable enough. It’s the apparent underlying premise that makes this new effort so troublesome: the idea that America is under attack by malevolent immigrants who cause dangerous harm by finding ways to live here. [Continue reading…]

Record-high 75% of Americans say immigration is good thing

Gallup:

A record-high 75% of Americans, including majorities of all party groups, think immigration is a good thing for the U.S. — up slightly from 71% last year. Just 19% of the public considers immigration a bad thing.

The latest findings are based on a Gallup poll conducted June 1-13, a key time for immigration reform in the U.S. as the House of Representatives debates the issue. The House will vote this week on two pieces of legislation that address several key immigration policy reforms. Among them are the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections for immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally at a young age with their parents and the border wall that has been the cornerstone of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy. [Continue reading…]

Trump aide Stephen Miller, meet your great-grandfather, who flunked his naturalization test

Lisa Belkin reports:

A photo of Nison (aka Max) Miller stares out from the screen, sullen and stern, in faded black and white. “Order of Court Denying Petition” is the title of the government form dated “14th November 1932,” to which it is attached, the one in which Miller is applying for naturalization as an American citizen.

And beneath the photo, the reason given for his denial: Ignorance.

Nison Miller is the great-grandfather of White House adviser Stephen Miller, who has taken credit for being one of the chief architects of the administration’s family separation policy. And this 85-year-old document is just one bit of ammunition in a campaign being waged by the unofficial band that goes by the hashtag #Resistance Genealogy.

Believing that the past is prologue, they search online archives for nuggets about the ancestors of public figures and politicians who disparage today’s immigrants. They use tools they developed as a personal hobby to make the point that people like Miller are holding newcomers to a standard that their own forebears could not meet.

“Unless your ancestors came on a slave ship or you’re Native American,” you came here as an immigrant, says Jennifer Mendelsohn, who created the #resistancegenealogy hashtag last summer after Republican congressman Steve King or Iowa was quoted as saying “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” So she went on a genealogy website and quickly documented that King’s own grandmother was one such baby, arriving in 1894 from Germany as a 4-year-old, along with her infant siblings.

“The point isn’t to play ‘gotcha,’” says Renee Stern Steinig, a former president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island, who first found the Miller naturalization application last summer. “It’s to show that we are a nation of immigrants, and you are here because someone else picked up and came here for a better life.” In fact, she is careful to point out that Miller’s great-grandfather being labeled “Ignorant” on that application was probably because he slipped up on a few questions on his citizenship test, not because he was in fact stupid or unworthy of being a citizen — an example of the same harsh, presumptive judgment that she believes is being used against today’s immigrants. Eventually he retook the test and became a citizen. [Continue reading…]

Yes, Obama separated families at the border, too

McClatchy reports:

President Barack Obama separated parents from their children at the border.

Obama prosecuted mothers for coming to the United States illegally. He fast tracked deportations. And yes, he housed unaccompanied children in tent cities.

For much of the country — and President Donald Trump — the prevailing belief is that Obama was the president who went easier on immigrants.

Neither Obama nor Democrats created Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, which calls for every illegal border crosser to be prosecuted and leads to their children being detained in separate facilities before being shipped to a shelter and eventually a sponsor family.

But Obama’s policy helped create the road map of enforcement that Trump has been following — and building on. [Continue reading…]

Dear journalists: Stop being loudspeakers for liars

Dan Gillmor writes:

An open letter to my friends and colleagues in journalism:

Please, just stop.

Please stop giving live airtime to liars. Stop publishing their lies.

Please examine what you’re doing. You are letting liars use your traditional norms — which made sense in different times and situations — to turn you into amplifiers of deceit. You know you are doing this, and sometimes you even defend it.

Please stop.

But but but but, you say, he’s the president and we have to publish what he says, because by definition what the president says is news. We have to put Kellyanne Conway on our programs, and quote her in our tweets and stories, because she has the president’s ear and knows what’s going on inside the White House.

No, you don’t. And what’s more, you shouldn’t. [Continue reading…]

Images of distressed children please Trump adviser ‘Waffen-SS’ Stephen Miller

Gabriel Sherman writes:

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has all but become the face of the issue, a development that even supporters of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” position say is damaging the White House. “Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” an outside White House adviser said. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.”

Making matters worse, Trump doesn’t seem to have an end game for the inhumane policy that is opposed by two-thirds of Americans. The executive order that Trump signed on Wednesday is internally inconsistent and is almost certain to be challenged in court. (A 1997 consent decree prohibits the government from detaining undocumented children for more than 20 days, even if they are housed with their parents.) He’s continued to blame Democrats for allowing immigrants to “infest” the country; while in a closed-door meeting Tuesday night with congressional Republicans, he called on them to end family separation and “fix” the immigration system. He’s effectively boxed himself into a corner. “He doesn’t like this policy, and he knows it’s not helping him,” a Republican who’s spoken with him said. “But he can’t get within him that this is a problem, and he needs to take ownership of it.”

Trump has no plan to reunite the families he ripped apart

The Daily Beast reports:

Immigrant families won’t be separated anymore, thanks to a new order from President Trump, but that doesn’t mean families will be reunited.

Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday ending the practice of taking children away from parents who enter the U.S. illegally. Already, though, more than 2,000 children have been separated, according to the government, and advocates and attorneys for them fear they will never see their parents again.

Despite Trump’s order, there is no clear, publicly articulated plan to reunite families who are already detained. Parents are held in facilities near the border like McAllen, Texas while their children are sent to foster-care homes as far as New York, Illinois and Michigan. While the adults wait to be deported, their advocates must navigate multiple federal agencies to locate their children. [Continue reading…]

Trump’s racism is impossible to hide

David A Graham writes:

One of the paradoxes of modern-day American politics is that white identity politics can be a potent political platform, as long as you don’t call it that. Policies with racist effects are often popular; explicit racism is verboten.

Thus Donald Trump can win the presidency while running, as my colleague Adam Serwer documented, on a program of discrimination, but when Corey Stewart, a Republican politician in Virginia, makes his white-identity politics too explicit he gets shunned by the GOP.

Sometimes, however, the president’s mask slips, usually at moments of national crisis, and he says the quiet part loud, as The Simpsons memorably put it. This happened after race riots in Charlottesville, when Trump insisted there were good people among the white-supremacist marchers. And it’s happening again now in the context of separating families at the borders.

After days of insisting, falsely, that the separations were the result of some Democratic-passed law, the president has partially shifted gears, defending the policy in a series of tweets. The most shocking is this one, with its description of unauthorized immigrants as an “infestation”:

Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2018

In late May, a debate erupted after Trump said, during a roundtable in California, “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in—and we’re stopping a lot of them—but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.” The White House said that in context, it was clear that Trump had been referring to members of the gang MS-13. Others argued that given Trump’s previous language about immigrants, he didn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, or that even if he did, the result of the comments was to dehumanize immigrants.

Trump left himself no such plausible deniability in Tuesday’s tweet. [Continue reading…]

Last month, Katy Steinmetz wrote:

When President Donald Trump sat at a roundtable on Wednesday and referred to certain immigrants as “animals,” he was engaging in a practice that has been around for millennia. Go back to ancient Mesopotamia and there are examples of people using language to describe other humans as something less than human, whether insects or parasites or donkeys. “It really goes back to the beginning of history,” says David Livingstone Smith, a professor of philosophy at the University of New England. And, he says, it’s always been a dangerous way of thinking.

Trump has since insisted on a distinction, even as Mexico has protested: He wasn’t talking about all undocumented immigrants but only those who are members of the gang MS-13. Smith, who wrote a book called Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others, says that doesn’t justify the language Trump used (which he has deployed many times before). “Part of the psychology of this sort of thing is that people generalize,” he says. What happens when a powerful figure like the President makes that comparison, Smith explains, is essentially people think, immigrants = evil = monsters.

Many people who were offended by Trump’s language in turn made dehumanizing comments of their own on Twitter, saying that Trump — or anyone who continues to support him — are the real animals. But that is falling prey to the same bad instinct. “We often dehumanize the dehumanizers, as if to say, ‘This has nothing to do with us,’” Smith says, “and that really prevents us from understanding that we’re all vulnerable to forming these kinds of derogatory attitudes towards others.” Smith suggests that sets us back in eradicating this kind of behavior altogether.

One reason that experts raise flags about such language is that dehumanizing words are often precursors to sticks and stones, because they “disable inhibitions against acts of harm,” as Smith puts it. [Continue reading…]

The easiest way of reducing crime in America is to welcome more immigrants, both legal and undocumented

Christopher Ingraham writes:

The Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies are predicated, in part, upon the notion that immigrants who are in the country illegally represent a threat to public safety.

The White House, for instance, has sent out regular email blasts to reporters with alarmist accounts of crime committed by undocumented immigrants. President Trump has frequently exaggerated the threat posed by MS-13, a criminal gang originating in Los Angeles whose members tend to be from Central American countries. On Tuesday he wrote on Twitter, without evidence, that Democrats “don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.”

But the social-science research on immigration and crime is clear: Undocumented immigrants are considerably less likely to commit crime than native-born citizens, with immigrants legally in the United States even less likely to do so. A number of studies published in the past several months clearly illustrate the consensus.

The first study, published by the libertarian Cato Institute in February, examines criminal conviction data for 2015 provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety. It found that native-born residents were much more likely to be convicted of a crime than immigrants in the country legally or illegally.

“As a percentage of their respective populations, there were 56 percent fewer criminal convictions of illegal immigrants than of native-born Americans in Texas in 2015,” author Alex Nowrasteh writes. “The criminal conviction rate for legal immigrants was about 85 percent below the native-born rate.” [Continue reading…]

The CATO study states:

Natives were convicted of 409,063 crimes, illegal immigrants were convicted of 13,753 crimes, and legal immigrants were convicted of 7,643 crimes in Texas in 2015. Thus, there were 1,749 criminal convictions of natives for every 100,000 natives, 782 criminal convictions of illegal immigrants for every 100,000 illegal immigrants, and 262 criminal convictions of legal immigrants for every 100,000 legal immigrants.