Posted on September 22, 2017 in Countdown

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Less Welcoming By the Day

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is throwing a change-up with its temporary protected status (TPS), which allows citizens of certain war-torn or disaster-ridden countries to live and work in the US as long as their home country remains designated under TPS. Both Sudan and South Sudan were scheduled for review in November 2017, so DHS announced this week that Sudan, which has been on the list since 1997 and is on Trump’s arbitrary travel ban list, will be removed in 2018, while South Sudan would be extended through mid-2019 for future review. The 1,000+ Sudanese nationals in the US under TPS don’t have to go home, but they also can’t stay here without some form of visa. Over the next 6 months, Trump’s DHS will face TPS decisions which could impact more than 400,000 foreign nationals currently in the US. If the ill-fated border wall, the Muslim ban, the refugee ban, the ending of DACA, and now the removal of Sudan from TPS are any indications, Trump doesn’t seem to like foreigners he can’t marry or under-pay. As such, many of those 400,000 individuals living in the US under TPS may soon be forced to look for greener pastures.

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Every Breath You Take

Last week, a bipartisan group of representatives on the House Judiciary Committee arrived at an agreement to reauthorize Section 702 (which allows warrantless surveillance within loose guidelines) of FISA through 2023. The House-proposed extension would include some reforms, including the requirement of warrants to knowingly search US targets. However, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III wants a permanent and clean reauthorization, so much so that he staged a super-secret timeshare-style sales pitch to sell it to lawmakers. I wonder if anyone got the free gift? If 702 remains on the books, it will be no vacation for Americans, as the law has been used to collect wholly domestic communications through “about” searches. And how many of these searches include Americans, you wonder? Yeah, we don’t know and the government claims it doesn’t know either. Despite this broad discretion, the government has repeatedly not really told the truth to its own court about its violations of law in pursuing large-scale data collection. Of course, there is no publicly available evidence that possession of data collected under Sec. 702 has prevented any terrorist attack, but who knows what happens behind the scenes. One thing we do know: the concept of “privacy” seems more and more fictional these days.

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Do They Hate that We Hate Hate?

You might recall John Gore, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Last month, we wrote a piece expressing our concerns over his assignment and the pending confirmation of his replacement, Eric Dreiband. We expressed these concerns again, with a side helping of pedantry, in last week’s Countdown. Still nothing? Well, here we go again: on Friday, September 15, AAI joined more than 80 organizations on a letter to Gore outlining specific recommendations for the Justice Department in the wake of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville and a nationwide surge in hate crime. The recommendations include improvements to federal hate crimes data collection and the Department’s training and prosecution procedures, in addition that Gore and his colleagues address actions the Administration has taken to undercut the mission of the Civil Rights Division. The bottom line is that our government must do more to protect its citizens from hate violence, and as head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, John Gore must lead this effort. To see what AAI is doing to combat hate, check out the #ReportHate Project.

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Audacity at the UN

Things were interesting at the UN General Assembly this week, weren’t they? You were probably too busy collecting your jaw off the floor over Trump’s threats to annihilate ‘Rocket Man’ and his entire nation to notice another audacious speech: That of Bibi Netanyahu. Bibi complained about the anti-Semitism of those “denying Israel’s right to exist,” which is rich coming from someone who isn’t just denying Palestine’s right to exist, or even obstructing it, but is actively destroying it. And while the world certifies Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal preventing it from developing nukes, Bibi insists the deal must be changed or abandoned altogether and wants to see Iran further punished, which is quite something coming from the leader of a country in possession of hundreds of undeclared nukes. He then bragged about an Arab child whose life was saved in an Israeli hospital, and condemned Iran for the killing of a protester in 2009, which of course are respectively a praiseworthy and condemnable events, but coming from a guy who launches and defends assaults on Palestinian civilians that kill hundreds of children? “Audacity” doesn’t quite do justice to Bibi’s demagoguery. This is what you’d call “chutzpah” in Hebrew, and ‘waqaaha’ in Arabic.

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A Race to Erase Blame

The Giro d’Italia is the Italian counterpart to the Tour de France, and is one of the biggest races in cycling. Consisting of 21 individual stages held over a three-week period, the Giro attracts viewers in the hundreds of millions worldwide (not a typo, it’s really that big!). In May 2018, it’s coming to Israel. Well, actually, it comes to Palestine too, against the “backdrop of Jerusalem’s Old City”, but don’t get excited: Since Israel illegally annexed the Palestinian side of Jerusalem, this is still being sold exclusively as an Israeli thing. Now you might ask why a race literally called the “Tour of Italy” is taking place across the Mediterranean. Well, you can thank the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, which has reportedly fronted €12million for the event, a third of which will go directly to race organizer RCS Sport for the hosting rights. To be sure, it is not unprecedented for these types of tours to kick off with a ceremonial start outside their respective host nations. The logistical challenge of putting athletes, staff, officials, and the media, along with some 2,500 accredited vehicles, on a flight from Eilat back to Italy might be unique, but participating in erasing the occupation is the real first for a Grand Tour.

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Bullying is Fun!

Surely you’ve heard the crazy reports of Trump indirectly demanding an apology from Joe Scarborough for criticizing him in exchange for the President preventing the National Enquirer from publishing a hit piece on Joe, right? Can you imagine this mode of operation moving to international politics? Imagine no more! There is now a report that “senior US officials have raised the possibility of announcing the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem as a penalty if Abbas uses his UN speech to attack the Trump administration.” Yes, the sort of policy decisions that could trigger large-scale violence are no longer considered with the seriousness they deserve, but are apparently now used to shield president orange snowflake from criticism. But the Palestinian leadership did refrain from any public criticism of the Trump administration, and Trump just transferred them $20 million. Carrots and sticks are great policy tools! But now, about that occupation...