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Monday, December 09, 2019

Civil Rights

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Five million Ukrainians have fled their homeland since Russia invaded, seeking refuge not only in neighboring countries such as Poland and Germany but also in Britain, Canada and the United States. And who can blame them? The Biden administration has admitted more than 100,000 refugees from Ukraine without provoking a whisper of protest in this country.

It's hard for any of us to fault innocent people who are trying to escape the horrors and hardships of war or the brutal consequences of Russian occupation. They and their children have only one life to live, and they are not eager to put that life at undue risk or endure it in misery.

But Americans have a different attitude toward a group that is not so different: the migrants from Mexico, Central America and South America who have made arduous, dangerous journeys to our southern border in hopes of finding a place here.

A majority of Americans regard the stream of new arrivals as an "invasion" — a word normally reserved for military campaigns. Instead of equating these migrants with Ukrainian refugees, they somehow equate them with the Russian army.

But there is no evidence that those showing up at the border asking for asylum harbor hostile intent. Just the opposite: They come here because they think the U.S. offers a better life than what they had back home. They don't want to harm us. They want to join us.

Small wonder. The three countries of Central America's "Northern Triangle" have some of the highest murder rates in the world. They are among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. Plagued with corrupt governments, their citizens have no reason to expect their lives to improve.

So they look elsewhere, and they settle on the U.S. That is the highest of compliments, something we used to understand. During the Cold War, we offered sanctuary to those fleeing Communist oppression in Eastern Europe. We took in hundreds of thousands of Jews who suffered discrimination in the Soviet Union.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed "to the people of Cuba that those who seek refuge here in America will find it." After the Vietnam War, the U.S. welcomed more than a million people from Southeast Asia.

In his final address as president, Ronald Reagan paid tribute to this tradition. America, he declared, is "still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home."

Back home, these migrants face terrifying violence and intractable poverty. They want something better. Many have walked hundreds of miles or climbed atop freight trains, risking rape and robbery at the hands of criminal gangs, for the mere chance of gaining entry to the U.S.

They're not the only foreigners who, given the choice, choose America. Since the Chinese government liberalized its emigration policies in the 1980s, the number of Chinese living here has risen nearly sevenfold. The Indian immigrant population has grown even faster.

Our universities have more than a million foreign students. According to the Consumer Technology Association, which represents tech firms, 45% of Fortune 500 corporations, including Apple and Amazon, were founded by immigrants and children of immigrants.

The next Steve Jobs may not be waiting in Mexico right now for an asylum hearing. But Latin American immigrants bring their own talents, as well as the drive to make the most of them. They come here without valid visas only because our miserly immigration rules leave them no plausible alternative.

Xenophobes depict a marauding horde. But as Alex Nowrasteh of the libertarian Cato Institute reports, "Illegal immigrants are half as likely to be convicted or incarcerated as native-born Americans are." Overwhelmingly, they want to work for an honest living that exceeds anything they could dream of in their native countries.

It would be an alarming symptom if all these people were avoiding the U.S. in favor of Brazil or Venezuela. Their preference attests to the enduring appeal of the freedom, opportunity and prosperity that this country offers.

Wang Jisi, a professor of international studies at Peking University, scoffs at his government's insistence that America's best days are behind us. "When people stop queuing up for visas in front of the U.S. Consulates," he told The New York Times, "then the U.S. is in decline." For a lot of people around the world, America is still the promised land. And that's not a bad thing.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

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In reaction to clear signs that the Supreme Court may take aim at marriage equality after overturning Roe v. Wade, right-wing media outlets are employing the same tactics they previously deployed against Roe by denying that the precedent protecting gay marriage is at risk while simultaneously calling for it to be repealed.

On June 24, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, overturning Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and the long-held precedent guaranteeing federal protection for abortion rights nationwide. As part of the ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas released a concurring opinion calling for the court to “reconsider” several other cases, namely those protecting same-sex sexual activity, access to contraception, and gay marriage. Both Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito have also previously expressed an interest in overturning Obergefell v. Hodges (the case establishing protections for same-sex marriages). Conservatives have already seized on the ruling to attack LGBTQ rights, with Alabama citing Dobbs14 times in a recent court filing presented in support of the state’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Yet in the aftermath of the ruling, right-wing media have attempted to dismiss the genuine possibility that Obergefell could face the same fate as Roe, reflecting their earlier push to downplay the risks to Roe. Meanwhile, many right-wing outlets, including some of the same ones denying gay marriage is under threat, have called for Obergefell to be repealed.

Right-wing Media Claim Roe Ruling Doesn't Put Marriage Equality At Risk

The majority decision in Dobbs stated that the ruling did not set precedent for other cases unrelated to abortion. However, Thomas used the ruling to push for reconsideration of three other cases — Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down any remaining laws against same-sex sexual activity; Griswold v. Connecticut, which set the precedent protecting access to contraceptives; and Obergefell. Despite Thomas’ opinion and Alito’s previous statement suggesting support for overturning marriage equality, right-wing media argued that the precedent in the Dobbs ruling does not jeopardize Obergefell.

On June 24, Fox News guest Carrie Severino accused Democrats of “fearmongering” about the threat to marriage equality, adding, “Please don't pretend that it's going to have an impact on every other case in our society because it simply doesn't.” That night, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson similarly called the threat to marriage equality a “fearmongering talking point” and claimed President Joe Biden is “a liar” for noting the threat the ruling poses to the Obergefell.

Other Fox News personalities continued to push the claim that the Dobbs ruling exists in a vacuum and would not effect rights like gay marriage or contraception. They were joined by Newsmax’s show American Agenda, during which host Heather Childers called warnings by protesters and activists “fear-mongering” and guest Erin Elmore of Turning Point USA claimed that “the left is using fear in saying what’s going to happen to gay marriage or interracial marriage or the right to contraception.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board also said on June 24 that the “political left is making much of Justice Clarence Thomas’ argument.” The editorial asserted that Obergefell relied on stronger precedent than Roe because it made possible myriad marriage contracts across the United States, suggesting that Thomas had shown he would not approach the case in the same fashion. Also, during the June 24 episode of the Journal’s podcast Potomac Watch, members of the editorial board Kimberley Strassel and Kyle Peterson argued gay marriage was not put at risk by the ruling. Peterson said, “I am very skeptical that the Supreme Court would say those people can be married today and not married tomorrow in the United States” — which is in fact what the court had done that very same day for more than 33 million people’s ability to exercise their reproductive autonomy.

Adding a degree of cognitive dissonance, some of those adamantly asserting that Roe’s overturning did not endanger LGBTQ rights simultaneously called for Obergefell to be overturned. On the June 24 edition of his radio show, Fox News’ Sean Hannity called fear that Dobbs will be used against the gay community “left-wing lunacy” and cited the majority opinion to claim the ruling “applies to this case and this case alone.” However, on his show on June 27, Hannity discussed Thomas’ opinion, noting how it said “striking down Roe should open up the high court to review other precedents” before suggesting that striking down “Griswold, Lawrence, and some [other cases]” would be “the most democratic for this democratic republic that we live in.” The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro likewise tweeted on June 27 that the court “explicitly said they would NOT touch Obergefell or Griswold” but on June 24, a Daily Wire article had quoted him lamenting that, unlike Thomas, the other justices did not “have the actual stones” to attack cases like Obergefell.

Former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes also called for the court to evaluate “what constitutes a marriage,” BlazeTV’s Steven Crowder argued that “states should have the right to regulate same-sex marriage,” and far-right grifter Mike Cernovich falsely claimed Obergefell resulted from “SCOTUS discover[ing] it hidden in a 200 year old text” and suggested it was “anti-democratic.” Following the ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also stated his support for removing protections for gay marriage, same-sex relations, and contraceptives, calling them “legislative issues.”

Conservative Pundits Made Same False Claims About Roe

In the years leading up to the Dobbs decision, right-wing media were equally adamant about Roe not being in jeopardy. During confirmation hearings for Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, many of those now accusing people of fearmongering over the fate of Obergefellsaidthe sameabout Roe.

Leading up to the confirmation hearings for Barrett in 2020, Shapiro said the possibility of Roe being overturned was “basically zero” and said, “Roe v. Wade is not going to be overturned.” Hannity defended Barrett, saying, “In spite of the lies the left will tell you, Judge Barrett has been described as personally pro-life but has expressed doubts that Roe v. Wade will ever be overturned.”

Two years before that, during Kavanaugh’s confirmation, those on the right said the same. Severino said a “head-on challenge to Roe” was “unlikely.” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board argued that the strength of “stare decisis” meant the court was unlikely to overrule Roe — the exact same doctrine it cited in its June 24 editorial to dismiss concern for Obergefell.

As with the current round of rhetoric, Fox Newswasa majorplayer in denying Roe would be overturned, often while making flawed arguments for why it should be.

Like Abortion Access, LGBTQ Rights Are Known To Enjoy Broad Public Support

As with their tactic on Roe, right-wing media outlets are intent on gaslighting their audiences into believing that the right to gay marriage is safe. They'll push that claim just long enough for the same powerful conservative organizations responsible for overturning federal abortion protections to overturn marriage equality. Two of the organizations that filed briefs in support of Dobbs, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, are both vocalcritics of Obergefell and have leadership that is frequently featured on right-wing outlets likeFox News.

However, those in conservative media understand that fundamental rights like access to abortion and marriage have broad public support — 61% of Americans believe access to abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and support for gay marriage is at an all-time high, with 71 percent of Americans supporting it. The ability of right-wing actors to distract from and obfuscate the extreme policy they support is essential in their mission to make inroads with a broader audience.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.