Posted on February 16, 2018 in Countdown

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DREAMers Countdown: It’s been 164 days since President Trump moved to end DACA, and Congress has yet to save it. TWEET THIS

First is worst, second is best, third might be elected to office

Picture this: you're an Independent (humor us, for a moment). You're in the voting booth for the 2018 mid-term elections, reviewing the candidates for governor. You want to vote for the Independent candidate who speaks to your heart but are worried your vote will be lost on the Democrat and Republican who dominate our two-party system. If only you could vote for her as your first choice, then rank the other candidates by preference. But, WAIT, in Maine you might be able to do just that! Last week, supporters of ranked-choice voting (RCV) submitted over 80,000 signatures for a statewide referendum to get the RCV measure on the ballot in June. In November 2016, voters approved a ballot initiative to make Maine the first state to institute ranked-choice voting. After lawmakers delayed and then repealed the decision, local RCV supporters launched a "People's Veto" campaign to gather the signatures – often in sub-zero degree weather – to get the measure on the ballot. Talk about grassroots organizing! But, wait, what’s RCV again? Here’s a breakdown: under RCV, voters could rank multiple candidates in order of preference. Voters’ first choices are tallied in the first round. If nobody has a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and votes cast for that candidate automatically go to those voters’ second choice. This multi-round, instant-runoff process continues until a candidate has the majority of votes and is declared the winner. RCV supporters say this system would help improve candidate civility, increase voter turnout, and enhance representation as more Americans identify as Independents over the years (but would it stop candidates like Dan Helmer from producing the cheesiest campaign ad of all time? Sorry, Dan). Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of your “you must vote for the lesser of two evils” fight with your uncle at thanksgiving dinner. Only time will tell, so keep your eyes on this Maine referendum in June.


Free Ahed Tamimi

The military trial of 17-year-old Palestinian hero Ahed Tamimi started on Tuesday, but the judge defied Ahed’s wishes for a public trial, and ordered journalists to leave the courtroom. Ahed faces serious charges of “assault” and “incitement” over slapping an Israeli occupation soldier who had invaded her yard, shortly after her cousin was shot by soldiers as well. Her father emotionally yelled to her in court to stay strong. Joining the United Nations and human rights organizations calling on Israel to free the Palestinian teen were dozens of celebrities who signed the Dream Defenders’ letter, from Danny Glover to Rosario Dawson. And just yesterday, popular comedian Sarah Silverman (12 million followers on Twitter, no big deal!) tweeted in support of the campaign to free Ahed, and we hope this campaign continues to pick up steam. To help those who don’t know the issue of life under occupation get a better sense of how the Israeli military regularly uses unlawful violence against civilians, including Palestinian children, we created this new video. Please share it on Facebook and Twitter.


Indentured servitude and general turpitude

A piece in Politico made a splash this week advocating for a system of quasi-indentured servitude as a solution to the current immigration debate. Published on Tuesday and originally titled “What if you could get your own immigrant?”, the article was soundly panned, to say the least. But while the proposal just might be too nutty to be entertained as a legitimate policy option, we know some members of the legislative and the executive branch (including Stephen Miller and John Kelly, and whoever at the Department of Homeland Security wrote this absurd report, just to name a few) have a penchant for antiquated, draconian, nonsensical immigration measures. We should also consider the current state of affairs in the Senate, squirming as the administration continues to stonewall and stymie any clean solution to DACA and immigrant youth, an issue that Trump himself created! And by clean solution we mean a path to citizenship for DREAMers without threatening family reunification or the diversity visa program and without funding for a border wall. Human beings aren’t a bargaining chip.


SucSESSIONS of civil rights setbacks

The White House released its Fiscal Year 2019 Budget this week, and while many consider the proposal dead-on-arrival, the ins and outs show us what the administration is prioritizing this coming year. So what’s in? Debt, plenty of debt, along with fossil fuels, defense, and border enforcement. What’s out? A lot, with most of the cuts reducing federal assistance to low income families. While there is no shortage of things to talk about in this budget, we are going to focus on a cut to the Justice Department with significant implications for civil rights. Under the FY ’19 budget proposal, the Community Relations Service (CRS) would be eliminated and transferred to the Civil Rights Division, which centers on criminal matters. Created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to assist communities facing issues of discrimination and other bias-related tensions, the CRS is effective because it is neither an investigative nor prosecutorial component of the Justice Department, which facilitates constructive relationships between CRS officers and community members. As the “peacemaker” agency of the DOJ, the elimination of the CRS would present yet another setback to civil rights enforcement, and that is something we simply cannot accept. Let’s add it to the growing pile of unacceptables.


Nothing Worth Hearing

The administration’s dumpster fire of a policy is apparently a “peace plan,” at least according to the House subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa recent hearing on “Israel, the Palestinians, and the Administration’s Peace Plan.” There was a sharp partisan split between Republicans on the Committee who thought Trump was doing awesome and bringing us closer to peace, and Democrats who mocked the administration’s incoherent policy that’s making things worse. But that was the only difference as Republicans and Democrats on the subcommittee quickly came together in their adoration for peace-loving Israel, and disgust for the terror-loving Palestinians (watch them unite here). Oh, wait, sorry, that last link is actually an SNL skit mocking congressional pandering on Israel. It really is hard to tell parody from reality on this, here is the real hearing (sorry for the error). As for the witnesses at the hearing, they were SO diverse! They ranged from the pro-Israel think tank WINEP all the way to the pro-Israel think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). At the center of this great witness spectrum was Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who said this: “While I’ve had many, many profound disagreements with the Trump Administration on a wide range of issues, the issue that concerns me the least is their effort to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.” Yes, Trump’s extreme decisions on this issue, from Jerusalem to settlements, and cutting UNRWA funding, are just not that concerning in the big scheme of things. They’re all at the expense of Palestinians after all, and those people’s rights simply don’t count when it comes to peace. Like we said, not worth hearing.