Posted on March 08, 2018 in Countdown

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DREAMers Countdown: It’s been 184 days since President Trump moved to end DACA. The courts did step in to block the move, but Congress has yet to provide a permanent fix. TWEET THIS

Let the Primaries Begin

With Texas being the first state to hold its primary on Tuesday, we’re officially off to the mid-term primary races! Due in large part to a bunch of representatives retiring in Texas, the congressional ballots were particularly crowded. But Texans were eager to get their votes in early. The state saw a 50 percent increase in early voting submissions compared to the 2014 primaries, with more than 885,000 people voting through early voting or by mail in the most populous counties. Of the almost 50 women running for Congress in Texas, more than half won their primaries outright or moved on to runoff elections. The only reason we aren’t listing their names here instead of lumping them together as “women” is because there isn’t enough room to name them all (but you really must read all about it!). For the first time in history, Texas could be close to electing its first Latina Congress members, as Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia won their bids for the Democratic nominations. The Texas primary fun isn’t over yet, though, as more than 30 races are headed to the primary runoffs on May 22.

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PanderTown Conference

The AIPAC conference was in Washington this week, and while the shameless pandering was predictable, the contradictions in the Trump era were kind of fun to watch. AIPAC this year aimed to “appeal to progressives,” so they invited a senior editor from Breitbart to the conference. You know, that’s the progressive publication that runs headlines calling Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew” and debating whether it’s better for a child to have feminism or cancer. And when AIPAC’s Executive Director Howard Kohr took the stage, he got in a line calling for a Palestinian state, while the very Israeli coalition government he’s welcomed at AIPAC was outside bragging that “The Palestinian state is off the table… it’s done.” Then there was Nikki Haley, complaining about UN “bullying” of Israel, without any sense of irony, ignoring her own bullying of countries who didn’t tow the U.S. line with threats of aid cuts, to say nothing of Israel’s own bullying of Palestinians by constantly violating their most basic rights. And no AIPAC conference is complete without a Bibi visual aid, saying “Darkness is descending on our region” as he pulls up a black map of Iranian influence in the Middle East. Yes, it’s totally understandable how peace-loving, law-abiding, non-neighbor-occupying, non-nuclear-armed Israel is concerned about the bad behavior of other countries in the region.

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Want to Deny the Occupation? Just Blame Religion

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a story of one people displacing another, and today refusing to accept the UN/internationally-mandated two-state solution by which the indigenous Palestinians can have just 22% of their historic homeland. But the actually relevant issues of displacement and international law were not big topics at AIPAC. What got a lot more play was kooky religious talk. Take Ambassador David Friedman, who said "It's no less than blasphemous to suggest that any Jew or Christian is against peace." Those Muslims on the other hand… (not very subtle subtext). So, "If there is no peace as we speak,” he added, “I strongly suggest that we blame someone other than Israel for this." Thanks Mr. Ambassador, we’ll try not to blaspheme. And then there was the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, who claimed Palestinian rejection of Israel was the reason why peace was elusive, explaining: “Of course, we say it's our land, the Torah says it, but they don't believe in the Torah. So that's the reason there is not peace.” Um, senator, religious texts isn’t how we divide lands these days. Also, the Palestinians recognized Israel in 1988, you really should update your talking points, it’s been 30 years since this particular deflection attempt were even remotely plausible.

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No Bigotry Here, Just Don’t Look Too Closely

Each Trump attempt at a Muslim/refugee Ban included waivers to allow the administration to claim that individuals from the banned countries who pose no security threat could enter the U.S. But a Senate inquiry showed that to be #FakeNews: less than 2% of visa applicants from banned countries under the most recent iteration were granted waivers. It looks like national security doesn’t count, and the goal is to ban as many Muslims as possible, doesn’t it?  On a TOTALLY separate note, turns out that Trump appointed a lobbying director for an SPLC-designated hate group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), to become a senior policy adviser to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). What did this guy, Robert Law, do at FAIR? He “denigrated Dreamers, argued that the United States should end birthright citizenship, and recommended that the government reduce the number of refugees and immigrants coming into the country.” What a perfect match: put the white nativist in charge of dealing with immigrants! In case you were wondering, yes, this guy was at USCIS when they removed the phrase "nation of immigrants" from the organization’s mission statement. You be the judge. We would have more to say about all this, but the mayor of Oakland already stepped in with this perfect response to Jeff Sessions on Wednesday regarding to DOJ’s suing of California over DACA compliance.

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Free Speech for All

We told you in a previous Countdown about the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a bill that seeks to punish Americans who participate in non-violent protests, including international boycotts of Israel (or settlements) with draconian fines, and even prison. The bill is such a blatant violation of our First Amendment right to free political expression that the ACLU didn’t hesitate to blast it and discourage U.S. legislators from supporting it. But Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) REALLY want the bill to pass, so they removed the prison punishment and threw in a line saying: “Nothing in this Act or an amendment made by this Act shall be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment.” Um, Senators, there is a small problem: Prohibiting free expression protected by the First Amendment then adding a line saying this doesn’t infringe upon free expression protected by the First Amendment just doesn’t make any sense. That’s why the ACLU continues to oppose the Act, explaining: “The critical failure in the bill lies in its overarching framework, which unconstitutionally seeks to suppress one side of the public debate over Israel and Palestine.”  The ACLU’s Brian Hauss added: “From the campaign to divest from apartheid South Africa to the recent boycott against the National Rifle Association, boycotts have always been a key feature of American politics. If state and federal governments could outlaw boycotts they don’t like, all sorts of social movements would suffer. Whatever their views are on Israel and Palestine, members of Congress should recognize that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act threatens fundamental First Amendment values.” So, what does Congress view as more important, the First Amendment, or pandering on Israel? We’ll find out.