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When it comes to immigration policy, Melania Trump is a walking set of paradoxes: She’s married to a man whose presidential campaign was built on calls to ban immigration of all sorts, but as an immigrant herself, she could become the country’s first immigrant first lady. And yet, she bears little resemblance to most first-generation Americans.

After staying mostly out of the public eye, as presidential campaign standards go, the notoriously apolitical fashion model-turned-trophy wife will be making her most public appearance yet on Monday night to open the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

A Slovenian who moved to New York in 1996, Melania is expected to address immigration and describe her own personal narrative to support her husband’s inflammatory rhetoric on the issue — and perhaps, resolve some of the tension it holds with her own immigrant status.

It’s ironic to say the least that a Republican nominee known for his toxic ranting urging bans on even legal immigration, and for his portrayal of Mexican immigrants as “rapists and killers,” would also bring the first immigrant spouse into the White House.

(Technically speaking, Louisa Adams already holds that distinction. But she doesn’t really count: Adams’ American father took the family back and forth between her birthplace in London and the U.S., according to The New Yorker.)

And yet, Melania Trump also occupies an atypically assimilated position as a first-generation U.S. citizen. Slovenians who knew her lament that she is distant from the country of her childhood and has “forgotten her roots.” She’s brought her parents to come live with her permanently in New York, but she has only taken her jet-setting husband to Slovenia for a few hours, according to a GQ profile.

The same article also noted that Melania refuses to acknowledge that she has a half-brother from her father’s side, despite a court case ruling to the contrary.

“I came here for my career, and I did so well, I moved here,” she told Harper’s Bazaar in January. “It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers. That is just the person you are. You follow the rules. You follow the law. Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa.”

Beyond financial assets that made her immigration process easier than most, Melania Trump has also taken advantage of policies unavailable to many of the unskilled workers that her husband has railed against.

According to the New Yorker, the U.S. immigration system admits models like her to the country through the H-1B visa program, which is known mostly for bringing less glamorous (and more educated) professionals like scientists and computer coders.

Trump, ironically, has railed against what he’s called “rampant, widespread, H-1B abuse,” arguing in March that the visa “is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay,” the New Yorker reports.

And demographically, she’s an exception to the rule too: Over half of immigrants aren’t naturalized (she is), and the average income for an immigrant is $14,000 less than the national average, the Pew Research Center says, meaning it’s likely a lot less than Melania’s. Most prominently, though, the percentage of immigrants coming from Europe has sharply decreased since she arrived twenty years ago, reaching a record low in 2014 at 11.2 percent, according to a study from the Migration Policy Institute.

Together, this means that she’s not quite an appropriate spokesperson for the millions of immigrants in the country, as a Vox survey found that just under 20 percent of Americans perceive a negative impact of European immigrants like her, compared to about double that for those from areas like Latin America (at 38 percent) or the Middle East (at 53 percent).

Melania Trump can claim to speak for the immigrant experience, but her own path to the American dream is about as unlikely as her husband’s political rise.

 

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump waits to come into the spin room with his wife Melania after the Republican U.S. presidential candidates debate sponsored by ABC News at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire February 6, 2016.     REUTERS/Rick Wilking

 

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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