Posted on June 22, 2018 in Countdown

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Caged Humanity

The basic moral compass of the country is again being challenged by the Trump Administration. On our Southern border, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson admitted that the Department has separated nearly 2,000 minors from their families in just over a month. Media reports suggest these children are held in cages with little protection from high desert summer temperatures. The list of horror stories from this policy choice is too long for this post. Depending on which administration official you hear, the policy is either a regrettable legal requirement, a purposeful policy to deter illegal immigration, or a holdover policy from Obama. All three, however, are false. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Session, and the president have all simply lied about this policy at some point over the past week, culminating in the president issuing an executive order to halt his own policy. But before you applaud the arsonist for putting out his own fire, consider that this new order will do nothing to address the children already separated from their parents, the unlawful detention of asylum seekers, or the horrid conditions and treatment of detainees. In fact, the order allows for the indefinite detention of families.


Unholy Partnership

Before she was chased by protesters from a Mexican restaurant in DC over family separation at the border,  DHS Secretary Nielsen made a trip to Israel, which received scant attention in the national media despite posing significant domestic and foreign policy implications. The DHS Office of Public Affairs (OPA) issued multiple press releases during the fun-filled ‘let’s adopt discriminatory policies’ tour. The first press release (Jun. 8) discusses Secretary Nielsen’s itinerary, beginning with the inaugural International Homeland Security Forum in “Jerusalem, Israel. Unlike prior U.S. government content that remained neutral on the status of Jerusalem, the Trump Administration wanted to make a point here on its wrong-headed recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. With respect to human rights, the second (Jun. 12) and third (Jun. 13) press releases are just plain insulting. You should read Secretary Nielsen’s entire speech from the forum, but we’ll provide one salient quote: “Border security is national security.  Our Israeli partners know that better than anyone, and I was fortunate today to see the incredible work they are doing to keep their territory safe.” Even if you set aside the killing of unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza (not that anyone should), that a U.S. official is endorsing the border policies of a country that openly discriminates against Americans is yet another incomprehensible insult to the American people by this administration. They’ve gone from defending the IDF, to invoking their policies without qualification—and that is an abdication of both leadership and morality.


We Can’t Believe We Still Have to Fight for the Right to Vote

In an ideal world, every eligible voter would be registered and voting in every district election (#YallaVote). America's struggle to reach this vision of full enfranchisement and engagement continues in part due to a new Supreme Court ruling in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute. The ruling allows Ohio to continue the practice of purging eligible voters from its voting rolls in a process triggered by simply not voting. The majority opinion considered whether this practice, which includes sending inactive voters postcards to verify their address, violates the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act, and determined it technically does not. Voting rights advocates have tried to contextualize the voter purges as part of an obvious trend to suppress voter turnout, particularly among poor and minority voters. In her dissent opinion, Justice Sotomayor aptly pointed out the majority's failure to consider the context of the widespread and intentional voter suppression efforts occurring when the NVRA & HAVA were passed. In doing so, the majority neglected to honor the intent of the acts. While we brace for impact as the consequences of this bad-for-democracy ruling unfold (unless Congress chooses to do something about this and pass legislation to expand voting rights...nudge nudge), we can take solace in knowing some states are working to help people vote, and we can use their models to advocate for expanded rights within our own local and state communities.  


The Israel Exception Gets More Exceptional

When the State Department asked U.S. ambassadors in the Middle East to examine the human rights records of their host countries to see if any were engaged in violations that warranted suspensions in military assistance, Ambassador David Friedman had a message to the State Department: “Don’t second-guess the Israeli military.” David “there is no occupation, Obama is an anti-Semite, Jews who want a two-state solution are traitors” Friedman said he did “not believe we should extend the new [guidelines] to Israel” because “Israel is a democracy whose army does not engage in gross violations of human rights.” Hold on a second. We shouldn’t hold Israel accountable for its human rights record because its record is great? That doesn’t make any sense. If Israel’s record is great, there would be no problem holding it accountable to it. But Friedman must know the Israeli military’s human rights record is absolutely horrendous, as we have demonstrated in great detail, which would explain his desire to exempt Israel from scrutiny. As if Israel didn’t get enough special treatment from the U.S., now the Trump Administration is openly saying Israel is above U.S. laws.



Oblivious to the Irony

Trump aide and anti-immigrant champion Stephen Miller is a special guy. Not only is he a driving force behind Trump’s Muslim ban, but also behind the inhumane separation of families at the border. One White House adviser went as far as to describe Miller as a “twisted guy” who “actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border.” It was not missed on us that Miller is himself the descendant of asylum seekers, who escaped anti-Jewish persecution in Belarus, only to turn around to himself become anti-refugees. One resourceful freelance writer working under the banner of #resistancegenealogy has discovered that Miller is not unique in the close-the-door-behind-my-family approach to immigration.  But the same America that was good enough to take in Miller’s family, among others, will once again be good enough to overcome the damage of this unfortunate time in our country.