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Tag: asylum seekers

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Biden Signals Reversal Of Commitment On Refugee Admissions

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

UPDATE: Following sharp reaction from advocates and members of Congress, the White House announced late Friday that the previous caps on refugee admissions will be lifted next month. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the president will seek further advice on how many refugees can be admitted during this fiscal year, which ends in October. Although Psaki said that number was unlikely to reach 62,500 as promised two months ago, due to the "decimated" state of the processing system left by Trump, the administration will "take immediate action to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions, to enable flights from those regions to begin within days; today's order did that.".

After a steady increase in pressure from outside groups and questions from the media, the Biden administration officially decided on Friday to break its pledge to lift President Donald Trump's strict limits on refugee admissions for the fiscal year ending in September.

Despite previously pledging to raise the cap on refugees from the extremely low level of 15,000 to 62,500, Biden has reversed himself. During the presidential campaign, Biden pledged to raise the cap to 125,000 in the next fiscal year, and as recently as February, Secretary of State Tony Blinken had told Congress the level set under Trump for this fiscal year would be increased more than fourfold.

Many observers had become increasingly worried about Biden's commitment to following through on this objective as the weeks dragged on without official action. Some reports indicated Biden was worried about the "optics" of raising the refugee cap. CNN's Kaitlan Collins on April 8 pressed White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on the issue given the delay, and Psaki insisted Biden was committed to the increase:

Collins: My last question, sorry, is on the refugee cap that the President has proposed raising to 62,500, but he's not actually formally signed the paperwork yet. Is the White House still committed to raising that cap to 62,500 by this fiscal year?
Psaki: Yes.
Collins: And so we should expect that before October? And it's not going to change from 62,500? -- is my other question.
Psaki: I don't anticipate that. It is -- that it would change, I should say. It is -- remains -- the President remains committed to raising the cap.

But on Friday, the fears of refugee advocates were realized.

The New York Times reported:

A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the decision-making, said the administration grew concerned that the surge of border crossings by unaccompanied minors was too much and had already overwhelmed the refugee branch of the Department of Health and Human Services. But migrants at the border seeking asylum are processed in an entirely separate system than refugees fleeing persecution overseas.

It also noted:

The administration will change subcategories for refugee slots created by the Trump administration that gave priority to Iraqis who had worked for the U.S. military and people, primarily Christians, who are facing religious persecution. But the classification also disqualified most other Muslim and African refugees. As a region, Africa has the most displaced people needing resettlement. An administration official said the change would allow the Biden administration to fill the cap of 15,000, although it would also leave thousands of additional refugees cleared to fly to the United States stranded in camps.

This broken promise from Biden is a cowardly betrayal of his many supporters who were horrified by Trump's aggression toward and disregard for asylum seekers and refugees. Prior to the revelation of Biden's reversal, The Atlantic writer Adam Serwer said on Twitter: "Biden's delay in reversing Trump's discriminatory refugee restrictions is a violation of his campaign promises and the reasons he gave for running in the first place." In a new piece, he wrote:

Restoring "the soul of the nation" cannot mean simply unseating Trump. It also has to mean reversing the policies his administration put in place in an attempt to codify into law his racial and sectarian conception of American citizenship. If Biden cannot do that, then he has restored little more than Democratic control of the presidency. And should he fail to rescind these policies simply because he fears criticism of those who enabled Trump's cruelty to begin with, it will be nothing short of cowardice.
"My faith teaches me that we should be a nation that once again welcomes the stranger and shows a preferential option for the poor, remembering how so many of us and our ancestors came here in a similar way," Biden wrote in 2019. "It's not enough to just wish the world were better. It's our duty to make it so."

So far, Biden has done a lot that is popular — accelerating vaccine distribution, passing the American Rescue Plan, proposing a big infrastructure and spending package. And he may fear that increasing the refugee cap is unpopular and will derail the momentum that he has. Indeed, one Morning Consult poll found that increasing refugee admissions was the only major Biden priority that was unpopular.

But one reason for passing popular policies that meet people's needs is to have more cover and trust with the public when taking values-based policy steps that might trigger some discontent. And it's not as if raising the cap is a bait-and-switch for Biden — he campaigned on letting in more refugees, so he shouldn't feel the need to shy away from it now. It is one of the easiest ways for a president to drastically improve a large number of human lives, saving families from dire conditions in refugee camps, with little or no downside.

And there's likely no upside at all to breaking this promise. The anti-immigrant right wing will not give Biden any credit at all for backing down; instead, it will likely just encourage them to increase their demands even further. They'll cite Biden's capitulation on this promise as evidence that refugees really are a problem, and perhaps say that letting in any refugees is a problem.

This is a particularly terrible time for Biden to be retreating on the immigration issue, too, because anti-immigrant bigotry is resurgent. Fox News's Tucker Carlson, an influential leader in conservatism, is openly endorsing the white supremacist "replacement theory," which Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson recently echoed. And on Friday, a group of far-right Republicans announced the launch of a new, openly nativist caucus based on "Anglo Saxon political traditions."

Maybe this increasing sentiment on the right, combined with manufactured right-wing outrage about the border, has spooked Biden into capitulating on this issue. But appeasing this bigotry won't work. It will only embolden it.

How Trump Created The ‘Border Crisis’ — And How Biden Can Fix It

In 2014, the Obama administration was faced with a surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America showing up at our border and seeking asylum. In an effort to reduce the number of kids trekking across Mexico, it created a program to let them apply for asylum in their home countries. Some 13,000 did, helping to ease the rush.

You can guess what happened next. Donald Trump became president and acted on his twin beliefs: anything that Barack Obama did was bad, and anything that helped foreigners was worse. He killed the program, and soon the number of Central American kids crossing over began to grow. By the spring of 2019, his administration was faced with its very own crisis at the border.

His Department of Homeland Security responded with harsh measures — separating children from parents in large numbers, expelling children from Central America into Mexico and forcing asylum seekers to remain for months in Mexico in squalid camps.

Today, we see another tide of Central Americans coming north, and Republicans blame President Joe Biden for enticing them. They refer to it as "Biden's border crisis," as though it suddenly exploded on January 20.

In fact, it emerged when the White House was just a gleam in Biden's eye. The increase began last spring and built steadily over the remainder of Trump's presidency. From May to October, the number of "southwest land border encounters" recorded by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol nearly tripled. In truth, it was dire conditions in their home countries that drove the migrants.

Republicans claim they were emboldened by Biden's plan to stop work on Trump's border wall — the one Mexico was supposed to pay for. That theory is implausible, because Trump added only 47 miles of barriers in places that didn't have them before.

"Only a few miles were built in South Texas, the area most prone to illegal crossings," The New York Times recently reported. "Instead, much of the construction, especially in the Trump administration's closing days, has taken place in remote parts of Arizona where crossings in recent years have been relatively uncommon."

If Biden deserves any responsibility for the recent surge, it's not because of what he did wrong but because of what he did right. Trump's fondness for systematic cruelty may have discouraged some Central Americans. But the cruelty was impossible to justify, even for an ostensibly good purpose.

Under Trump's zero tolerance policy, thousands of children were taken from their parents when the families crossed the border to exercise their right to seek political asylum. Most of the parents were sent back to their home countries. Some of the kids spent weeks sleeping on the floor in chain-link cages. Last fall, we learned the horrifying truth that the Trump administration had lost track of the parents of 545 children, making it impossible to reunite the families.

The brutality was a design feature. Trump's White House Chief of Staff John Kelly boasted that "a big name of the game is deterrence." But sometimes deterrence asks too much.

There are alternative remedies, such as letting more foreigners in through authorized channels. But Trump was against immigration of any sort. His administration virtually eliminated admissions for refugees, and last year, it slashed the number of green cards for legal permanent residents.

Today, the worldwide backlog of applications for green cards is at five million. Many recipients have to wait ten years or more to be admitted. Cato Institute analysts David Bier and Alex Nowrasteh reach this startling conclusion: "At no time in American history has immigration been as legally restricted as it is currently."

For the moment, the Biden administration has the task of coping with the border crisis while dismantling the inhumane practices of its predecessor. In the longer term, it could relieve pressure on the border by increasing refugee admissions and allotting more slots to the Central American countries that have produced so many migrants.

It could create a program for guest workers from Mexico and Central America, as proposed by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Biden has already moved to restore the Central American Minors Program to provide "a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the risks incurred in the attempt to migrate to the United States irregularly."

Giving people an avenue to come here legally in order to keep them from coming illegally? A crazy idea, but it just might work.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

To Reform Immigration, Biden Must Show Resolve At The Border

Undocumented immigrants have been surging to the U.S. border, some wearing T-shirts with the Biden campaign logo and the words "Please let us in!" What gave them the idea that they could just show up and come on in? President Joe Biden did.

Oh, Biden didn't exactly say that. He said to not come now, as we rebuild the immigration system. But that isn't the same as saying they can't come illegally later. And since it implies that later on, whoever wants to come can, the migrants can reasonably assume that an arrival now without papers will eventually be overlooked.

Adding to that impression, Biden made a show on his first day in office of ditching five of the Trump administration's immigration policies. Sure enough, human smugglers began telling desperate Central Americans that Biden opened the door and the smugglers will get them through it for $6,000.

What did Biden think would happen? Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection warned the incoming administration of building pressure at the southern border. Fed by worsening poverty and gang violence in Central America and an improving U.S. economy, the rush had already begun in Donald Trump's last months.

It took until this weekend for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to firmly say the border of the United States "is closed." Roberta Jacobson, White House coordinator for the southern border, got still more specific. "The message isn't 'Don't come now,'" she said. "It's 'Don't come in this way, ever.'"

The earlier sloppy rhetoric handed Republicans a political bomb they are throwing at Democrats. Not that they've entirely earned the right. Trump's card trick was to hurl insults at undocumented immigrants while looking the other way when American businesses employed them as low-cost labor.

When Trump was asked whether he supported a national requirement to use E-Verify — a database that would confirm a new hire's right to work in this country — he said no. Asked why not, he used the bull argument that farmers don't have computers. Turning off the job magnet is the only way to cut the flow of illegal workers.

That is also missing from Biden's proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. He would confer legal status to most of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. He would offer $4 billion in aid aimed at making life in some Central American countries less terrible. And he would reform the U.S. refugee and asylum systems. All good things.

But a plan that doesn't seriously stop Americans from employing people who entered illegally or overstayed their visas is not going to secure the border. Not any more than Trump's dramatics over a border wall.

Politicians of both parties should know where the public stands on these matters. A Gallup poll last summer found that for the first time, Americans want more, not less, immigration. Also, nearly 8 in 10 Americans think immigration is good for the country, with some Republicans in agreement.

In a 2019 poll, 65 percent thought the situation at the border to be a major or important problem. And 75 percent favored hiring significantly more Border Patrol agents.

What we see is that Americans support a large immigration program but want it kept legal. Canada and Australia do both. How sensible of them.

An experienced politician who wants to retain public support for a humane immigration program should know by now that an orderly border is essential — and that given the pressures, any show of laxness is a guarantee of disorder. On this issue, Biden can't be a nice guy without also being a tough guy.

He needs to show resolve and show it now.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Sen. Graham Rams Anti-Asylum Vote Before Democrats Even Speak

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Senate Democrats and progressive advocacy groups accused Sen. Lindsey Graham of breaking Judiciary Committee rules Thursday after the South Carolina Republican forced a vote to advance his “dangerous and immoral” anti-asylum legislation.

The bill, titled the Secure and Protect Act of 2019 (S.1494), is condemned by human rights organizations as a sweeping attack on asylum seekers and an effort to expand President Donald Trump’s xenophobic deportation force.

Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, waived the panel’s rules to force a vote on S.1494 before Democrats were permitted to speak on the legislation.

“The clerk will call the roll,” Graham said as Democrats protested.

The South Carolina Republican ignored Democrats’ objections and the legislation advanced out of the Judiciary Committee along party lines.

“Lindsey Graham is so desperate to attack asylum seekers that he just broke the rules of his own committee to advance his bill,” tweeted progressive advocacy group Credo Action.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called Graham’s move “outrageous.”

Watch:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) denounced Graham’s violation of the Senate rules and blasted the contents of his bill.

Leahy said the bill gives Trump everything he wants in his “political war on immigration.”

“It allows for the indefinite detention of immigrant children. It ratchets up the cruelty against refugees seeking asylum,” Leahy said. “It’s as partisan and shortsighted as it gets. This is supposed to be the Senate Judiciary committee—not the Donald Trump committee.”

In a statement on Thursday, progressive advocacy group Human Rights First echoed Leahy’s assessment.

“The bill is an extremist attack on U.S. laws protecting children and refugees,” said Eleanor Acer, director of Human Rights First’s refugee protection program. “The Trump administration has thus far decimated the U.S. resettlement and asylum systems through executive fiat, but this bill would essentially enact its cruel policies into law. Senator Graham has taken Stephen Miller’s anti-asylum wish list and drafted a bill around it.”

“If enacted,” said Acer, “the provisions in this bill would deport children to trafficking and abuse, return refugees to persecution, strand them in highly dangerous countries, rush those who do seek asylum through rigged hearings, and prevent their release from immigration jails.”

Are We All In This American Experiment Together?

Who doesn’t love Cary Grant, the debonair British-born, American acting legend, who wooed leading ladies, including the Hepburns, Katharine and Audrey, as well as generations of moviegoers?

But he was not so charming when his submarine commander character in 1943’s “Destination Tokyo” said: “The Japs don’t understand the love we have for our women. They don’t even have a word for it in their language.”

Demonizing “the enemy” in wartime as “the other,” incapable of emotion and not quite human is not unusual. But someone always pay a hefty price. Loyal Japanese American families, rounded up and shipped to internment camps, waited until 1988 for President Ronald Reagan to issue an apology; survivors received meager compensation. Though that was expected to be that, the trauma to those Americans and the nation lingered.

And despite that World War II-era lesson, and ones before and after, America continues to make the same mistake, a notion important to contemplate during the Fourth of July festivities, when we celebrate the ideal.

This year, a Washington, D.C., military parade and fireworks display with a speech by Donald Trump that places a national holiday squarely in partisan territory was both a distraction from and a reminder of our current plight.

The situation at the southern border offers a glaring example of that gap between promise and reality, as some members of the border patrol tasked with an admittedly difficult job — maintaining order and safe conditions as asylum seekers attempt to cross into the United States — were revealed by a ProPublica investigation of letting off steam with cruel and dehumanizing remarks that make light of the deaths of children and the concern of visiting elected officials.

It starts at the top, of course, with a president who shows little empathy for desperate families — try imagining the fear and despair that would fuel the decision to start such a dangerous trek — as he leeches money away from aiding the countries they are fleeing and still insists a wall is the solution.

Though Republican and Democratic lawmakers contentiously came together to approve $4.59 billion in supplemental funding to improve border conditions, that comity as a path to progress on bipartisan immigration reform is fading fast. With Trump’s re-election plan to stir up resentments, villains are needed — asylum seekers fit the bill.

The post-Democratic debate reactions also reveal who in America is allowed to feel and express pain and who is expected to grin and bear it.

It’s no surprise that Donald Trump Jr. shared (then deleted) a tweet questioning the identity of California senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris. It’s a sadly unsurprising sign of a return to the birther lie Trump and company tried to pin on President Barack Obama.

What has been interesting, though, is how many Democrats are taking issue with Harris’ dust-up with former Vice President Joe Biden on his nostalgic statement about working with vicious pro-segregationist senators and his record of joining them in legislative efforts to fight busing to integrate schools.

The backlash from those who find the fact that she brought up the subject impolite offers a master class on who gets to be vulnerable, to make the political personal and to show preparedness and power in a venue — a debate — where that is actually the point.

You don’t have to support Harris to have been impressed with her debate performance. She did not raise her voice as she asked Biden to explain his long record (though being soft-spoken won’t protect a black woman from being called “angry”); Biden had a chance to respond, and he should have seen it coming. With years of experience and the same opportunity and obligation to prep, he was hardly a politician in distress. If he is the last candidate standing against Trump, Biden will face a far tougher grilling.

Yet, though her poll numbers show a bump, there have also been accusations that Harris took a cheap shot, landed a low blow, dealt the race card — name the cliché — as though race has not been a thread that is woven through every part of American life since the nation’s founding.

So many have dismissed her contention that Biden’s actions and associations hurt, deeming her upbringing too comfortable, her parents too educated, her academic and professional achievements too impressive for her to have ever felt any emotion that genuine.

New Jersey senator and fellow presidential hopeful Cory Booker faced a similar reaction when he said Biden’s recollections of convivial banter with segregationists hit him in the gut. How dare he actually bring into the conversation how Biden’s reminiscing made him and so many others feel?

If black folks in America let every slight or insult stop them from going about their business, they would never leave the house. That doesn’t mean we are impervious to the pain. Ask Barack and Michelle Obama if being leader of the free world and first lady of the United States — rising that high — makes you invulnerable from criticism or provides an impenetrable shield.

Now, note who does get the benefit of the doubt and a pat on the back.

In a not-quite-as-publicized moment on last week’s debate stage, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was given high marks for merely owning up to his failure in two terms to diversify the city’s police department and to bridge a glaring wealth gap in his hurting city. This when he is asking the American people to elect him to lead a country, not a small Midwestern city.

When a black man was shot by a white South Bend police officer with a troubled racial history, Buttigieg faced questions from his community and  California Rep. Eric Swalwell  a 2020 rival, that he could not answer. (He has since unveiled a racial justice and minority investment program he said he would pursue as president.) But his less-than-adequate answer has been held up as a model for how Biden should have responded.

Harris had better be prepared to defend her own past as a California prosecutor and attorney general when it surely comes up; rather than seeing those attacks as a cheap shot, a lot of folks will surely say she had it coming.

The example of Buttigieg’s media celebrity and golden boy glow contrasts with how Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Obama Cabinet, was covered until his own standout debate performance.

When Castro, who has put forward a plan promoting police reform, listed just a few of the people of color killed in interactions with police — “What about Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Pamela Turner, Antonio Arce” — it was startling just hearing out loud the names of Americans who seldom get even that measure of consideration and respect.

It’s so easy to listen to propaganda from a long-ago movie, cringe and move on. Just give Cary a pass. But as America has seen again and again, it doesn’t take a war for that ugly tactic of dehumanization and disregard to surface.

It could be a struggle over who matters and who does not, who deserves a slice of the all-American pie and who gets the crumbs, or lately, who falls on which side of political difference.

Are we all in this American experiment together? As the country pauses to mark this year’s Fourth of July holiday, it is a question that is as relevant as ever.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

IMAGE: U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA).

 

Danziger: Crime And Punishment

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

Trump Threatens To Send Migrants Into ‘Sanctuary Cities’

Trump is growing increasingly unhinged over his hatred of immigrants, confirming on Friday that he wants to send people seeking asylum in the U.S. to so-called “sanctuary cities” as punishment to Democrats.

“Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities,” Trump tweeted, all random capitalizations his. “Only The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!”

There is so much wrong with this proposal it’s hard to know where to begin.

First, however, it needs to be said that White House officials explicitly told ABC News that this proposal was “floated and rejected” — a claim that was clearly a lie given that Trump just confirmed the proposal is still on the table.

Second, the premise that sending immigrants and asylum-seekers into Democratic-controlled cities is a punishment is so incredibly racist that it’s hard to believe anyone would think it, let alone broadcast it aloud as Trump is doing.

The people Trump is trying to weaponize against Democrats are families, many of them with young children, who are risking their lives to flee violence in their home countries. They are merely seeking the chance to live without fear and gain the ability to give their children a better life.

Yet Trump — as he’s said many times — views these immigrants as violent criminals and “animals.”And he thinks that by sending them into Democratic-controlled cities, they’ll bring so much crime and violence that Democrats will see the light and back some of Trump’s immigration proposals.

Of course, this is merely a racist Trump fever dream that will never come true.

Data show that immigrants commit far less crime than native-born citizens. And because Democrats are neither racist nor scared of immigrants coming to their cities — particularly cities that have specific policies of welcoming and protecting immigrants — they are condemning Trump’s proposal for what it is: a stupid, racist idea.

“It’s just another notion that is unworthy of the presidency of the United States and disrespectful of the challenges that we face as a county, as a people, to address who we are: a nation of immigrants,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Friday, according to the Hill newspaper.

Trump’s plan may also backfire. Sending immigrants to sanctuary cities, where they will be welcomed by residents and not demonized and otherized, is the exact opposite of what Trump intends. And threatening Democrats to cave to his draconian proposals — to give him what he wants or else — is not likely to work for him either.

Published with permission of The American Independent.