Posted on November 23, 2019 in Countdown

Click here to subscribe to Countdown, AAI's weekly take on news from Washington, around the country, and abroad.


That's Debatable

Did you watch last night’s Democratic presidential debate? If you did, then could you shoot us an email filling us in on what happened? We tried to watch but we couldn’t keep our eyes open. We’re joking, of course, we did watch it, but what was a bit boring was how the candidates seemed fairly content repeating the same arguments and talking points that have characterized the previous debates. No one seemed too interested in striking out on a new issue, until Senator Bernie Sanders brought up (to huge applause by the way) an idea totally novel to presidential debates; namely that Palestinians are human beings who should be treated “with the respect and dignity that they deserve.” Of course, that such basic decency and common sense is novel in presidential discourse tells you a little bit of what’s wrong with our politics, but we’ll take this affirmation as well-needed progress. We told you last week about the killing of innocent Palestinians in Gaza under Israeli bombardment, and if that weren’t enough, the Trump Administration announced that it no longer considers Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank a violation of international law (everybody else still thinks so). This context makes Bernie’s comments about Palestinians in a live, televised presidential debate all the more poignant. Palestine is and should be a platform issue in the 2020 election. Let’s hope it’s brought up in the next debate, and not just by one candidate.


By All Means, Mr. Trump, Keep Listening

Given a chance to reform the law which has allowed the government to collect over 19 million phone numbers and 430 million call detail records—that the government admitted has been done illegally—the easy choice for the #Resistance Democrats seemed to be clear: Trump should not have the ability to listen to the phone calls of Americans without a warrant. Instead, earlier this week the Democratic leadership proposed a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) which included an 90-day extension of Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act—no debate, no reform. And it actually passed, with 219 Democrats and 12 Republicans voting for it. A day after voting to extend government surveillance without reform, progressives decided to release a letter calling for—you guessed it—reforming government surveillance. Shout-out to Arab American Reps Justin Amash, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib for leading the vote against the surveillance provision; Ralph Abraham, Garret Graves, and Darin LaHood voted against the CR, as well. Anyway, if Trump REALLY wants to listen to our phone calls, we have a volunteer on the Countdown team who will let Trump listen in on their calls, if they can listen in on his calls to Ukraine. Deal? Call us.


Cruelty in China

Earlier this week, 403 pages of documents were leaked by a “member of the Chinese political establishment” to the New York Times that allegedly show President Xi calling from an “all-out struggle against terrorism, infiltration, and separatism, using the organs of dictatorship and showing absolutely no mercy.” The United Nations estimated that at least one million Uighurs – one of China’s Muslim minority groups – have been detained in camps in Xinjiang as part of what the Chinese government calls a “vocational training” to eradicate “extremism and separatism” and teach “new work-related skills.” Additional alarming news surfaced with reports of China harvesting organs from detained Uighurs. In the face of such breathtaking cruelty, the relative silence of the international community on the Uighurs’ persecution is deeply disturbing.


Come on now, Mississippi

In a monumental federal lawsuit filed this week, Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is being sued in a challenge of a discriminatory law dating back to the early 1920s. The law requires naturalized citizens to provide proof of citizenship when voting, and does not require US-born voters to do the same. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance by four litigants, including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, says the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because it distinguishes between naturalized and US-born citizens. The Lawyers’ Committee cites Census Bureau data that shows Mississippi’s population of naturalized citizens, most of which is non-white, has grown rapidly in the last decade. This law places an undue burden on a growing segment of the voting population in a state with a history of disenfranchisement of non-white communities. Combined with another challenge a Jim Crow-era law this year, Mississippi has a great opportunity for the state to begin remedying its history of voting rights suppression by repealing these laws. Come on, Mississippi, please don’t wait 148 years again to do the right thing.


Yalla, Count ILLINOIS In!

Who’s ready for the 2020 Census?! WE ARE! Preparations for the 2020 Census are underway and everyone is gearing up to Get Out the Count come March 2020! Recently our friends at the Arab American Family Services of Illinois shared the work they are doing as #YallaCountMeIn partners regarding the 2020 Census. (Wanna be a partner? Wanna do cool stuff related to the Census? Click here.) Even the private sector has jumped in (this time in a helpful way): just this week AAI staff has spent days at Facebook, Google and Twitter to make sure everyone is playing their part. Accurate census data in 2020? It’s gonna take a village but together WE. CAN. DO. IT. Join the campaign and say Yalla, Count ME In!