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America needs more immigrants, but we seem determined to shoot ourselves in the foot. Before addressing that self-sabotage, permit a small digression.
In the 1980s, Venezuela was the wealthiest country in Latin America. Sitting on about 18 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, Venezuelans enjoyed higher living standards than their neighbors and seemed to have a stable democracy. Looks were deceiving. When the price of oil plummeted in the 1990s, the country was plunged into instability. In 1999, they elected a charismatic military officer, Hugo Chavez, who promised to redistribute the nation's wealth and proceeded to befriend Fidel Castro and destroy the nation's economy. He nationalized companies and farms, crushed labor unions, put opponents in prison and seized the assets of foreign oil contractors.
Chavez succumbed to cancer in 2013, but by then Venezuela was a basket case. Today, one in three Venezuelans doesn't get enough to eat, malnutrition among poor children is rife, and more than 75 percent of Venezuelans live in extreme poverty. It is the most abrupt collapse of a thriving nation not at war on record, and a cautionary tale about what can happen when people make bad political choices.
Most of the 50 immigrants Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped on Martha's Vineyard were Venezuelans who had made an arduous 2,000-mile journey. "No one leaves home," wrote poet Warsan Shire, "unless home is the mouth of a shark."
Many on the right portray illegal immigrants as criminals who are "breaking into our house" and deserve to be treated as such. Under U.S. statutes, if a migrant comes into this country, turns himself in to a border guard or other authority and asks for political asylum, he is entitled to a hearing. Asylum seekers are not "illegal" immigrants.
DeSantis didn't see suffering human beings. He saw props. He saw Fox News coverage. (Fox, unlike the governor of Massachusetts, was tipped off in advance.) And he saw the chance to show the GOP base what a jerk he could be.
The DeSantis justifiers object that border states are being flooded with illegals and that it's unjust that red states are bearing all of the burden. But the border states are not handling it alone. The federal government has spent roughly $333 billion on border security and immigration enforcement in the past 19 years, with much of it targeted on the southern border.
As for the burden of immigration, it's debatable that immigrants represent a burden at all. Many studies show that they pay more in taxes than they cost in social services and they are more likely to work, start business and seek patents than the native-born (and less likely to commit crimes).
Those who believe the propaganda that immigration is destroying America should ponder our neighbor to the north. Is Canada a hellscape? The proportion of foreign-born there is 21 percent compared to the American average of 13.7 percent.
In truth, the vast majority of would-be immigrants have done absolutely nothing wrong. It is our own laws that are the problem. We desperately need workers, yet the wait for legal immigration options is years long. People ask, "Why can't illegal immigrants wait in line?"
But there is no line. We resolutely decline to accept guest workers in large numbers, who could fill jobs and return home (without affecting voting patterns, by the way). And so the only way to gain entry is to put feet on American soil and ask for asylum.
Clearly, not all of those pleading for asylum meet the criteria (a well-founded fear of persecution), but the system is short of courts and judges and wait times for hearings are very long. Some never show up for their hearings. And so the word has gone out around the world that if you can manage to get to the United States and present yourself to a border guard, you have at least a shot of remaining in the country either because your asylum claim will be granted or you will melt into the country and avoid deportation.
We are fortunate that so many hardworking people want to come here. If we had our act together, we would reform our laws to take many more legal immigrants (who would begin the application process in their home countries) and hire more immigration judges to hear asylum claims while clarifying that only severe cases will be eligible for that status (not economic migrants). We are an aging population with a declining birth rate. Our national spirit needs the infusion of energy and dynamism that immigrants provide. And we will be thanked and strengthened by people whose lives we save.
Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
Reprinted with permission from Creators.
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The fight over how to deal with the classified documents that Donald Trump stole from the White House and hid away in Mar-a-Lago is continuing with rulings both from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and in the courtroom of “special master” Judge Raymond Dearie. In the past two days, both of those locations have handed Trump’s team of second-rate lawyers major defeats, with a stay that allows the Department of Justice to continue a criminal investigation, and a ruling that Trump’s vague claims about “declassification” are off the table.
But CNN reports that there’s another battle going on concerning executive privilege. A secret battle.
In this battle, another set of Trump attorneys is working to prevent a federal grand jury from ever hearing evidence of Trump’s actions in attempting to overturn the 2020 election results, including how Trump participated in events leading to the violence of Jan. 6. Trump has reportedly constructed a “firewall” around the conversations he had in the White House, and tearing down that wall may be the most important step in seeing Trump indicted for his attempts to overthrow the lawful government.
Before he even stepped into the Oval Office, Donald Trump was abusing the idea of executive privilege. In particular, former officials in the Trump White House have repeatedly refused to testify or produce documents under the theory that Trump might declare conversations or documents privileged, even though Trump hasn’t made any such claim. Information that had regularly been available in the past was hidden behind privilege. Officials refused to appear before committees or to make regular briefings to Congress. At one point, Trump even tried to claim executive privilege over the census.
And now Trump is continuing to insist on a kind of former executive privilege over documents and conversations he never moved to protect while in office. Trump tried to shield White House records around Jan. 6 using this retroactive executive privilege. Mark Meadows declared that post-White House orders from Trump were enough to keep him from testifying. At one point, Trump’s privilege claims were so extreme that a federal judge felt it necessary to remind Trump that “presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”
The scale of the secret battle being fought to keep this privilege in place isn’t clear, because most of it appears to be happening under seal. Attorneys are meeting in closed chambers, making their cases before judges in hearings that are no more than numbered entries on the docket,
A portion of this battle temporarily became visible when former Trump White House adviser Eric Herschmann was issued a grand jury subpoena in August. As Brandi Buchman reported on Monday, Herschmann is known to have warned Trump in 2021 against removing presidential records, and told him that failing to return any documents he had taken could result in “serious legal charges.” Reports centering on the subpoena suggest that the jury also wanted to talk to Herschmann about “events surrounding January 6.”
But the effort to get Herschmann to testify became entangled with the ongoing fight over privilege. Herschmann is willing to testify. However, Trump’s attorneys are in court trying to exert privilege over conversations with Herschmann—including those that took place after Trump was out of office and Herschmann was no longer employed by Trump.
Herschmann, who was known to oppose many of the efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is just one of the people that federal prosecutors would like to see testify. They’re also seeking testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin. Both Cipollone and Philbin have reportedly appeared in front of the grand jury, but only after negotiating carveouts that would prevent them from being asked about conversations with Trump.
Just as Trump’s claims to have declassified documents (while refusing to name any documents that have been declassified) resulted in pushback from Judge Dearie, Trump’s claims to have privilege without setting out topics or conversations that are specifically privileged is also resulting in frustration. As The New York Times reported last week, even Herschmann is frustrated by his inability to get clear answers.
For weeks this summer, Mr. Herschmann tried to get specific guidance from Mr. Trump’s current lawyers on how to handle questions from prosecutors that raise issues of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.
What Herschmann got was a mixture of “perplexing answers” and advice that he “assert sweeping claims of executive privilege” that would put everything off limits, no matter the subject.
But there’s one big flaw with all of Trump’s arguments in defense of his privilege wall.
“The Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon (1974) held that executive privilege cannot be invoked at all if the purpose is to shield wrongdoing. The courts held that Nixon's purported invocation of executive privilege was illegitimate, in part, for that reason.”
Who said that? The ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation said that in 2012, when they were insisting that President Barack Obama could not use privilege to hide details of the “Fast and Furious” operation. And that was a sitting president, who was dealing with a still-in-progress international incident.
What held with Nixon certainly holds with Trump. These are criminal investigations. Trump is attempting to use a “sweeping claim of privilege” to hide all of his attempts to overturn the election and his involvement with inciting violence on Jan. 6. His “firewall” should be given all the legal consideration of a stack of preschool blocks.
But that’s not how it’s being treated. And it could be this secret fight, held under seals of a different kind of privilege, that determines whether Trump climbs onto the podium at the next GOP convention—or watches it from jail.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.
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