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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: immigrants

GOP Fundraising Pitch: 'Where Do You Want To Send Illegal Immigrants Next?'

Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) and his NRSC are once again under fire, this time for sending fundraising emails to GOP voters asking, “where do you want Republicans to send illegal immigrants next?” The multiple-choice answers include “Barack Obama’s House,” “The White House,” and “San Francisco.”

Sen. Scott is the embattled head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the official fundraising arm of the Senate GOP caucus. Recently he has been highly criticized by Republicans wondering why the NRSC’s funding of critical Republican senate campaigns has been so poor. Earlier this month a New York Times headline read: “How a Record Cash Haul Vanished for Senate Republicans.”

The NRSC email, posted to social media by The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger, falsely claim the 50 Venezuelan immigrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis, possibly unlawfully according to at least one lawsuit, are “illegal.” They had applied for asylum and were in the country legally.

“Democrats and their corrupt partners in the mainstream media just don’t get it,” the defensive email, titled, “OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE,” begins. “Republican Governors like Greg Abbott from Texas and Ron DeSantis from Florida showed coastal elite millionaires in Martha’s Vineyard what life is like on our country’s southern border – and they WERE NOT HAPPY.”

That too is false — there are few “coastal elite millionaires in Martha’s Vineyard” in late September, and most of the area’s residents were angered by what some legal experts are accusing DeSantis of: possible kidnapping.

“Biden’s BORDER CRISIS is only getting worse – and he REFUSES to do anything about it,” Scott’s email continues. DEADLY drugs, like fentanyl, are flowing into our country UNCHECKED – and Americans are dying at UNPRECEDENTED rates from overdoses. It’s sad – and PREVENTABLE.”

The email does not mention that Customs and Border Protection has seized 10,071 pounds of fentanyl this year already, according to The Arizona Republic. Nor does it explain how flying 50 asylum-seeking immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard would stop fentanyl from entering the U.S.

The Cato Institute, a right wing think tank, just last week reported “fentanyl is overwhelmingly smuggled by U.S. citizens almost entirely for U.S. citizen consumers.” But it also revealed that “60 percent of Republicans believe, ‘Most of the fentanyl entering the U.S. is smuggled in by unauthorized migrants crossing the border illegally.'”

Gov. DeSantis is being investigated by a Texas sheriff and sued by a Boston-based legal firm representing some of the Venezuelan immigrants. There are calls for the DOJ to open an investigation as well.

NBC News on Thursday reported the “air charter company Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration hired for his migrant-moving program has contributed big money to some top allies of the governor and was once legally represented by Rep. Matt Gaetz and his former partner, who is now Florida’s ‘public safety czar’ in charge of immigration policy.”

Reports say DeSantis has already paid more than $1.5 million in taxpayer funds on the possibly unlawful “stunt” to that “air charter company.”

Anger over Senator Scott’s NRSC fundraising email was strong on social media.

“Fascists,” tweeted Justin Hendrix, cofounder and CEO of the nonprofit Tech Policy Press.

“The Senate Republicans, whom respectable donors and conservative elites still consider it just fine to support, are raising money by embracing the exploitation of ‘illegal immigrants’ (who in fact aren’t illegal). Team Normal is now simply the wingman for Team Demagogue,” wrote veteran journalist and former Republican turned Never-Trumper and Democrat Bill Kristol.

“How is this legal? This can not possibly be legal,” said former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega.

“They are inciting hatred, xenophobia and violence. They are morally bankrupt, and are not fit to hold power,” warned Rep Sean Casten (D-IL).

“Andrew Jackson wants his bullshit back,” tweeted law professor and political scientist Anthony Michael Kreis, referring to the late American president responsible for the forced, brutal, violent, and deadly “removal” of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands.

“They’ve made human trafficking a central policy plank,” noted Media Matters for America senior researcher Jason Campbell.

“Liberal anger at the Martha’s Vineyard stunt wasn’t because the people were MIGRANTS, it was because they were PEOPLE—and jerking people around for a political stunt is despicable,” explained attorney Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy director at the American Immigration Council. “That the right can’t understand this is a sign of how dehumanization has become a norm for some.”

“Online fundraising off human trafficking of people seeking asylum. Quite a party they’ve got there,” noted Democratic strategist and former Clinton campaign official Jesse Ferguson.

“Dehumanization and elimination as a fundraising tactic. Another reminder that this horror is what the MAGA base wants from their leaders,” warned Melissa Ryan, a consultant on combatting disinformation and extremism.

Jim Swift, senior editor at The Bulwark tweeted, “the cruelty is the point.”

Public affairs strategist Murshed Zaheed warns, “Republicans in the Trump era are going to operate like monstrous, inhumane ghouls. They are not going to stop until the national Democrats effectively counterattack them over it (ie go after DeSantis for potential criminal liabilities) instead of cowering in silence.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Don't Blame Immigrants -- It's Our Laws That Are Criminal

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.

Ignoring Evidence, Senate Republicans Blame Immigrants For Increasing Violent Crime

Studies show that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than those born in the United States.

Senate Republicans who continue to oppose measures that would make it harder for criminals to obtain and keep firearms are blaming immigrants for a rise in violent crime in the United States, despite having no evidence to support their accusations.

On Monday, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced a resolution "urging the development of a strategy to counter the rise in violent crime across the United States."

"If there was ever a time that the American people want to know that the president and Congress are working together to defeat the scourge of crime, the time is now. This resolution is to send the message that combating crime is what we are focused on," Cassidy told Fox News in a statement.

The text of the resolution, which specifically calls out what it terms "gun violence in major, Democrat-run cities and States," accuses the Biden administration of pursuing an "alleged violent crime reduction strategy is actually a gun control strategy and wrongly puts lawful gun owners and dealers at the center of enforcement efforts instead of focusing on the criminals perpetuating violence, insecurity, and fear across the United States." It claims that "drug cartels have overburdened Border Patrol resources by surging illegal immigrants into strategic locations so that the cartels can traffic narcotics and other contraband into the United States undetected" and notes that "violent crimes related to illegal immigration and the illegal drug trade must stop for the sake of the sovereignty of the United States and the safety of the people of the United States."

The resolution expressly notes a correlation between violent crime and higher levels of undocumented immigrants, with no evidence whatsoever that one caused the other. It asserts that "rising violent crime in the United States can be directly correlated to a surge in illegal immigration at the southern border of the United States and a surge in the sale, distribution, and consumption of illegal drugs."

The text calls for a resolution "that it is the sense of the Senate that the President should work with Congress to develop and execute a strategy, drawing on the multiple instruments of power and resources of the United States to counter the rise in violent crime across the country by reinforcing strong criminal justice policies, by laying blame on the perpetrators of violent acts, and by securing the southern border."

Data shows that immigrants, documented or undocumented, are less likely to commit violent crimes than native-born citizens.

A study published by the journal Criminology in 2018 found "that undocumented immigration does not increase violence. Rather, the relationship between undocumented immigration and violent crime is generally negative, although not significant in all specifications."

Even the Cato Institute, which calls itself a promoter of libertarian ideas, reported statistics on crime in Texas that pushed back against Republican talking points: In an October 2020 blog post that repeatedly used the offensive term "illegal immigrants," the think tank referred to a study by its researchers that found:

In 2018, the illegal immigrant criminal conviction rate was 782 per 100,000 illegal immigrants, 535 per 100,000 legal immigrants, and 1,422 per 100,000 native‐born Americans. The illegal immigrant criminal conviction rate was 45 percent below that of native‐born Americans in Texas. The general pattern of native‐born Americans having the highest criminal conviction rates followed by illegal immigrants and then with legal immigrants having the lowest holds for all of other specific types of crimes such as violent crimes, property crimes, homicide, and sex crimes.

The author concluded: "There is more and more evidence that immigrants, regardless of legal status, are less likely to commit crimes than native‐born Americans. However, a substantial number of Americans still think that immigration increases crime. As more evidence builds over time, we can only hope than Americans respond by updating their opinions so that they fit the facts."

The GOP resolution also dismisses — without evidence — the notion that keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals does anything to reduce gun crimes.

Though Republicans have frequently claimed that Democratic-controlled jurisdictions are the only ones seeing an increase in violent crime, a March report by Third Way, a think tank that says it "champions modern center-left ideas," documented that the 2020 per capita murder rate was 40% higher in red states than in blue ones: "Murder rates in many of these red states dwarf those in blue states like New York, California, and Massachusetts. And finally, many of the states with the worst murder rates—like Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, and Arkansas—are ones that few would describe as urban." It also noted that Republican-run Jacksonville, Florida, and Bakersfield, California, had worse homicide rates than Democratic-led San Francisco.

Democratic lawmakers have pushed to address gun violence through extreme risk protection order ("red flag") legislation and through universal background checks. Both are designed to keep dangerous individuals from obtaining and keeping guns. Research has suggested that red flag laws and background checks may help reduce gun violence and gun deaths, but Republicans have opposed both.

While violent crime rates are way lower than they were in the 1990s, they have been rising in recent years. The trend began under then-President Donald Trump and has continued under President Joe Biden.

Thomas Abt, chair of the Council on Criminal Justice's Violent Crime Working Group, told the PBS NewsHour in January, "It is hard to tell what drives crime trends, but the experts broadly agree on three main reasons" for the spike. Those were the pandemic, an increase in gun sales, and "less proactive investigation from police" since the 2020 international protests against police violence, Abt noted.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have already been more than 16,200 gun deaths in the United States in 2022. That figure includes 203 mass shootings — more than one per day on average.

On Saturday, an alleged white supremacist terrorist with a gun killed 10 people and injured three more in Buffalo, New York. A 180-page manifesto he apparently wrote professed the debunked "great replacement theory," promoted by Republican lawmakers and right-wing media figures, that white Americans are being deliberately and systematically "replaced" by nonwhite immigrants.

Cassidy's resolution made no mention of the conspiracy theory.

As of Tuesday morning, 35 Senate Republicans — and none of their Democratic colleagues — had signed on as co-sponsors, including Senate Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Dodging Guilt, DeSantis Scapegoats Immigrants For Covid Surge

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is attempting to shift the blame for his state's alarming uptick in COVID cases but he's already facing pushback against that effort. Over the last week, the Republican governor has taken aim at the (CDC), President Joe Biden, his administration, and even immigrants.

"Joe Biden has the nerve to tell me to get out of the way on COVID while he lets COVID-infected migrants pour over our southern border by the hundreds of thousands," DeSantis previously said. "No elected official is doing more to enable the transmission of COVID in America than Joe Biden with his open borders policies."

On another occasion, DeSantis attempted to place the blame on unvaccinated and undocumented immigrants. According to the Florida governor, "it's immigrants crossing the border — and not the Floridians he has encouraged to behave irresponsibly, the unvaccinated or the unmasked — who are spreading variants."

DeSantis' remarks echo the words of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Fox News' Sean Hannity. Now, DeSantis' claims are being completely debunked. An analysis published by The Washington Post explains why immigrants are not to blame for the latest accelerated spread of the Delta variant of COVID.

"This idea depends on three key misunderstandings," the paper reports. "A misunderstanding of the surge in arrivals at the Mexico border, a misunderstanding of how migrants are released from federal custody, and a misunderstanding of where the pandemic is actually at its worst."

The analysis also highlights a distinct Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council. He explained how and why immigrants are typically tested far more than any other individuals in the country.

"Migrants are in many ways the most tested group in the country. No other group of people in the entire country is being tested at a near-100 percent rate," he said by phone. "So when we talk about infection rates of migrants, what we actually know is that a lot of people who are testing positive are asymptomatic; who, if they were in the United States, would have just never been tested."

Despite DeSantis' sentiments being debunked, his office released a lengthy statement in an attempt to offer clarity about his remarks. In reference to immigrants, his office did admit that migration is not solely responsible

"What we know from official data is that about 200,000 people cross the border illegally every month. They come from over 100 countries, and some of those countries where a significant portion of the migrants hail from, such as Haiti, have extremely low rates of COVID vaccination. Therefore — When the Biden administration discusses implementing vaccine passports for legal immigrants and tourists coming to our country, but allows the free movement of illegal immigrants through the border and around the country (especially to Florida, which 70% of migrants detained and interviewed by our state law enforcement assisting with border security in Texas reported as their final destination) without any mitigation measures, that is hypocritical.

If President Biden was serious about "shutting down the virus" as he promised, his open border policies do not make any sense. At the very least, it's unfair (not to mention unscientific) that legal immigrants, tourists, and even American citizens are subject to more stringent COVID restrictions than illegal immigrants are. If public health recommendations are about public health, these recommendations should apply to all people equally.

Hospitals report data on inpatient bed usage, ICU capacity, COVID hospitalizations, and other metrics directly to HHS, but they do not report citizenship status of patients, as far as I am aware. The concern is that some people could be feeling fine, but carrying variants from different countries and spreading them to higher risk individuals, who then get extremely ill.

Of course, migration isn't the only factor in COVID spread, and the governor has never implied that to be the case. The main issue that Governor DeSantis highlighted with his comments yesterday was the paradoxical nature of the Biden Administration's support for additional restrictions on Americans and lawful immigrants (namely, the WH support for vaccine passports) while allowing illegal migrants to cross the border and travel through the country freely.

The Beltway’s ‘Gotcha’ Media Comes For Kamala Harris

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Stepping into the role of theater critic, CNN this week panned Vice President Kamala Harris' first foreign trip, as she traveled to Guatemala and Mexico. The negative review wasn't based on the substance of Harris' diplomatic excursion, instead the network deducted points for style, following the direction set by Republicans who were dead set on giving the trip a negative slant.

Leaning heavily on Republican talking points, CNN declared the Central American visit had been marred "by her seemingly flippant answer" given during an interview with NBC News. "Republicans are using this moment to ramp up their attacks on Harris" the network announced, as if that somehow determines Harris' fate.

CNN's coverage was relentlessly negative, attacking her "defensive" behavior, questioning her "political agility," stressing her "political missteps," mocking her "clumsy" and "tone deaf" media performance; her "shaky handling of the politics" surrounding immigration.

Over and over, the CNN report stressed that because Republicans and conservatives didn't like Harris' trip, it must be considered a failure — it was a "bad week" for the VP. And all because of a single back-and-forth she had with NBC's Lester Holt, who pushed a favorite GOP talking point, repeatedly demanding to know why Harris hasn't visited the U.S. southern border — the one that the press and the GOP insist represents a "crisis."

Doubling as the Gaffe Police, CNN uniformly announced that her brief response to the border question had "overshadowed" her entire trip. But who decided it "overshadowed"? News outlets like CNN, which were busy singing off the GOP chorus, and noting how Republicans had "pounced" and "piled on" the kerfuffle. CNN insisted Harris' trip had produced "poor reviews," but CNN and Republicans were the ones producing them.

The lack of context was also telling, coming after four years of Trump and his team ransacking the norms. In light of his dangerous tenure, the Harris controversy this week about a single border question and whether she was too casual in her response, seems quaint and rather absurd. The last time Trump's vice president made news was because he was in danger of being killed in the halls of Congress by a roaming, insurrectionist mob unleashed by his boss. By contrast, Harris got hit with days of bad news coverage for possibly mishandling a policy question during a television interview. (By the way, CNN.com published a Mike Pence valentine this week.)

Would Harris likely answer Holt's question differently if given a second chance? It's possible. But the idea that her 30-second border response "overshadowed" her entire Central American trip is absurd.

Harris' foreign visit coverage was part of a larger media push recently to try to trip up the VP with Beltway gotcha coverage — her Memorial Weekend tweet was all wrong! She's hiding her Asian heritage!

This kind of eagerly negative coverage springs from a media yearning for conflict. Frustrated by the No Drama Biden era, which has been completely absent of backstage White House gossip, and the kind of daily and hourly tumult that marked the Trump years, journalists are constantly overreaching, trying to create news where none exists.

Consider this bewildering media narrative that's become commonplace in recent weeks: It's bad news for Harris that she's taking on substantive responsibilities as vice president, such as leading the administration's response to stemming the flow of migration from Central America, and organizing the Democratic fight against a slew of Republican suppression laws being passed nationwide. This bad-news VP meme has been relentless ("Is Kamala Harris Being Set Up to Fail?" Slate asked), and it defies logic. Instead of giving Harris credit for tackling the nation's tough problems, the press is preemptively dinging her for possible failures. "Harris can't win," New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently announced.

As for the role Harris has played in the administration's stunning Covid-19 vaccination success story, that mostly gets buried in the coverage of her tenure to date, as the press scrambles for missteps to highlight.

Note that a recent Atlantic profile of Harris was dripping with condescending commentary, calling her "uninteresting," "having a hard time making her mark on anything," and stressing that, "she continues to retreat behind talking points and platitudes in public, and declines many interview requests and opportunities to speak for herself." Of course, the piece was loaded with quotes from Republicans demeaning her, which appears to be the basis for most Harris coverage these days.

Last year, when Biden announced Harris as his running mate, the conservative media machine set off allegorical bomb blasts all around her, frantically trying to depict Harris as radical and dangerous, not a mainstream U.S. senator from the largest state in the union.

"In style and policy, Harris epitomizes an authoritarian," the National Review gasped. The far-right Federalist warned panicked readers that Harris, a former prosecutor, represents a "radical threat to America." And Fox News' Sean Hannity announced the Biden-Harris duo was "the most radical ticket of a political party in our lifetime by far."

The right wing loves to vilify Harris. The mainstream media fails when it treats those attacks as news.

How Spanish Can Help Us Survive These Viral Times

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

"Una nación bajo Diós, indivisible, con libertad y justicia para todos."

When Jennifer López shouted out that last line of the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish during Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony, like so many Spanish-speaking Latinos in the United States I felt a sense of pride, a sense of arrival. It was a joy to hear my native language given a prominent place at a moment when the need to pursue the promise of "liberty and justice for all" couldn't be more pressing.

A sense of arrival, I say, and yet Spanish arrived on these shores more than a century before English. In that language, the first Europeans explorers described what they called "el Nuevo Mundo," the New World — new for them, even if not for the indigenous peoples who had inhabited those lands for millennia, only to be despoiled by the invaders from abroad. The conquistadors lost no time in claiming their territories as possessions of the Spanish crown and, simultaneously, began naming them.

Much as we may now deplore those colonial depredations, we still regularly use the words they left behind without considering their origins. Florida, which derives from flor, flower in Spanish, because Ponce de León first alighted in Tampa Bay on an Easter Sunday (Pascua Florida) in 1513. And then there is Santa Fe (Holy Faith) and Los Angeles (the Angels), founded in 1610 and 1782 respectively, and so many other names that we now take for granted: Montana (from montañas), Nevada (from nieve, or snow), Agua Dulce, El Paso, and Colorado, to name just a few. And my favorite place name of all, California, which comes from a legendary island featured in one of the books of chivalry that drove Don Quixote, the character created by Miguel de Cervantes, mad and set him on the road to seek justice for all.

It was not justice, not justicia para todos, however, that the millions who kept Spanish alive over the centuries were to encounter in the United States. On the contrary, what started here as an imperial language ended up vilified and marginalized as vast swaths of the lands inhabited by Spanish speakers came under the sway of Washington. As Greg Grandin has documented in his seminal book, The End of a Myth, the expansion of the United States, mainly into a West and a Southwest once governed by Mexico, led to unremitting discrimination and atrocities.

It was in Spanish that the victims experienced those crimes: the girls and women who were raped, the men who were lynched by vigilantes, the families that were separated, the workers who were deported, the children who were forbidden to speak their native tongue, the millions discriminated against, mocked, and despised, all suffering such abuses in Spanish, while holding onto the language tenaciously, and passing it on to new generations, constantly renewed by migrants from Latin America.

Through it all, the language evolved with the people who used it to love and remember, fight and dream. In the process, they created a rich literature and a vibrant tradition of perseverance and struggle. As a result, from that suppressed dimension of American history and resistance, Spanish is today able to offer up words that can help us survive this time of pandemic.

That's what I've discovered as I navigated the many pestilences ravaging our lives in the last year: the Spanish I've carried with me since my birth has lessons of hope and inspiration, even for my fellow citizens who are not among the 53 million who speak it.

Words Of Aliento For Our Current Struggle

Aliento tops the list of Spanish words that have recently mattered most to me. It means breath, but also encouragement. Alentar is to give someone the chance to breathe, to hearten them. (Think, in English, of the word encourage, which comes from the same root as corazón, heart, in Spanish.)

It's worth remembering this connection today, when so many are dying because they lack breath and not even a ventilator can save them. Because they don't have aliento, their heart stops. Perhaps they can't breathe because others didn't have the courage, el coraje, to help them survive, didn't rage against the conditions that allowed them to die unnecessarily. Recall as well that so many of us in this country felt suffocated in another sense, breathless with the fear that we wouldn't survive as a republic, not as a democracy, however imperfect it might have been.

Maybe that's why, last year, so many Americans felt represented by the next to last words of George Floyd, repeated more than 20 times before he died: "I can't breathe." If he had cried out those words in Spanish, he would not have gasped, "No tengo aliento," though that would have been true. He would undoubtedly have said: "No puedo respirar."

Respirar. English speakers use the verb "to breathe," but can certainly appreciate the various echoes respirar has in English, since it's derived from the same word in Latin, "spirare," that has bequeathed us spirit, inspire, and aspire. When we inhale and exhale in Spanish, I like to think that we're simultaneously in communion with the sort of spirit that keeps us alive when the going is rough.

In normal times, the sharing of air is a reminder that we're all brothers and sisters, part of the same humanity, invariably inhaling and exhaling one another, letting so many others into our lungs and vice versa. But these times are far from normal and the air sent our way by strangers or even loved ones can be toxic, can lead to us expiring. So rather than respirar together in 2021, we need to inspirar each other, to aspirar together for something better. We need to band together in a conspiracy of hope so that every one of us on the planet will be granted the right to breathe, so that good things can transpire.

As so many of the initial measures of the Biden-Harris presidency suggest, to begin to undo the venomous divisiveness of the Trump era, we all need to tomar aliento or breathe in new ways to survive. We need to have more vida juntos or life with one another in order to go beyond the masked solitude of this moment, este momento de soledad.

Here Comes The Sun, For All

As soledad originates from that same word, solitude, it undoubtedly will sound familiar to English speakers. But the Spanish syllables of soledad radiate with the word sol, the sun, that antidote to loneliness and separation, which rises for all or will rise for none, which warms us all or fries us all or heals us all. And soledad also contains the suffix dad (from the verb dar, to give), telling us again that the way out of isolation is to be as generous as sunlight to one another, especially to those who have more edad; who, that is, are older and therefore at greater risk. To be that generoso is not easy. It may take a lot of work to care for those in need when one is also facing grief and hardship oneself — a labor that is frequently difficult and painful, as the Spanish word for work, trabajo, reminds us.

Trabajo is not just physical labor or exertion. It brings to mind something more distressing. The last novel that Cervantes wrote after finishing Don Quixote was called Los Trabajos de Persiles y Segismunda and there trabajos refers to the torments and trials that two lovers go through before they can be unidos, united.

Think of trabajos as akin to travails in English and, indeed, many who toil among us right now during this pandemic are going through special travails and trouble to keep us fed and sheltered and safe. Called "essential workers," trabajadores esenciales, many of them have journeyed here from foreign lands after terrible travails and travels of their own (two words that derive from the same tortuous linguistic roots). As in the era of Cervantes, so in our perilous times, to leave home, to wander in search of a secure haven in a merciless world is an ordeal beyond words in any language.

It gives me solace, though, that when so many of those migrants crossed the border into the United States where I now live, they brought their Spanish with them, their throats and lives full of aliento, inspiración, trabajo, sol, and solidaridad. Now may be the time to record them — or rather recordarlos — in the deepest meaning of that word, which is to restore them to our hearts, to open those hearts to them at a moment when we are all subject to such travails and plagues.

In concrete policy terms, this would mean creating a true path to citizenship, ciudadanía, for so many millions lacking documentos. It would mean reuniting (re-unir) the families that Donald Trump and his crew separated at our southern border and finding the missing children, los niños desaparecidos. It would mean building less disruptive walls and more roads, caminos, that connect us all.

No Unidad Without Struggle

Not all words in Spanish, of course, need to be translated for us to understand them. Pandemia, corrupción, crueldad, violencia, discriminación, muerte are sadly recognizable, wretchedly similar in languages across the globe as are the more hopeful, justicia, paz, rebelión, compasión. The same is true of President Biden's favorite word of the moment, unidad, to which we should add a verb whose indispensability he and the Democratic Party should never forget, at least if there is to be real progress: luchar or to struggle.

Equally indispensable is a more primeval word that we can all immediately identify and make ours: mamá. Who has not called out to his or her mother in an hour of need, as George Floyd did at the very end of his existence? But the Spanish version of that word contains, I believe, a special resonance, related as it is to mamar — to suckle, to drink milk from the maternal breast as all mammals do — and so to that first act of human beings after we take that initial breath and cry.

For those of us who are grown up, an additional kind of sustenance is required to face an ominous future: "esperanza," or hope, a word that fittingly stems from the same origin as respirar.

Many decades ago, Spanish welcomed me into the world and I am grateful that it continues to give me aliento in a land I've now made my own. It reminds me and my fellow citizens, my fellow humans, that to breathe and help others draw breath is the foundation of esperanza. The native language that I first heard from my mamá — even though she is long dead — still whispers the certainty that there is no other way for the spirit to prevail in these times of rage and solidarity and struggle, full of light and luz and lucha, so we may indeed someday fulfill the promise of "libertad y justicia para todos," of liberty and justice for all.

On Fox, Stephen Miller Falsely Claims Migrant Kids Were ‘Humanely Returned’ To Families

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Former Trump administration senior adviser Stephen Miller appeared Thursday morning on Fox & Friends, to attack President Joe Biden's immigration policies. During the interview, Miller falsely claimed that the Trump administration maintained a practice of "safely and humanely" returning unaccompanied minor immigrants to their families.

In fact, the practices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials during the Trump administration were notorious for their dysfunctional treatment of unaccompanied minors. A ProPublica report last year titled "The Trump Administration Is Rushing Deportations of Migrant Children During Coronavirus" included young children who had "a parent in the U.S. ready to receive them, and no one in their home country to care for them," and teenagers with dangerous family situations waiting for them back home.

The New York Times also documented that the administration had "deported hundreds of migrant children alone — in some cases, without notifying their families," which also included other relatives in the United States, and that "others have been pushed back into Mexico, where thousands of migrants are living in filthy tent camps and overrun shelters." The Times also reported the Trump administration had ordered the expulsion of minors who still had pending asylum appeals. Congressional Democrats had charged that the administration's practices violated the existing federal law for the treatment of unaccompanied children, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Miller played a key role in advocating for the worst abuses of Trump-era immigration policies, but on Fox & Friends, he claimed those policies actually "saved lives" and "kept children safe."

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Fox News has been continuously fearmongering against Biden's immigration policies, including a false claim that undocumented immigrants who committed violent crimes would not be investigated and deported, and alleging that immigration was the real insurrectionagainst America, rather than the attack against the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6. The network also recently attacked Biden's policies by repeatedly showing b-roll footage of a migrant caravan that had been broken up while crossing from Honduras into Guatemala, a 1,400-mile journey from U.S. territory.

Columbia Grad Becomes First Latino DACA Recipient To Win Rhodes Scholarship

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Columbia University graduate Santiago Tobar Potes told NPR's Morning Edition that he was initially cautious about applying for Rhodes Scholarship—not because he was unqualified, but because of his status as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient. He knew there was a chance the Supreme Court would allow the Trump administration to strike it down, putting his future here at risk. But then everything changed this past summer.

When the Supreme Court ruled this past June that Trump administration officials has unlawfully ended the program, Potes went for his chance, and applied in August. Last month, he found out he'd been selected, becoming the first Latino DACA recipient to become a Rhodes scholar. "I just couldn't believe it," he told NPR. "I just thought that they were going to call me, and say 'Oh, we made a mistake. Sorry about that, we actually didn't choose you.'"

Jin Park made history as the first DACA recipient to be awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, but revealed that the administration's attacks on the Obama-era policy threatened his future. While lower courts had forced officials to partially reopen the program, a provision that allowed DACA recipients to apply for permission to study abroad was not. "If I leave," Park said last year, "there's a very real possibility that I won't be able to come back."

The administration defied the Supreme Court's decision for months but this month finally fully reopened the program after yet another court's order. Not only was the program reopened for new applications for the first time since last 2017, the the provision that allows international travel for some DACA recipients was also back.

"As one of the 2021 Rhodes Scholars, Potes will head to the University of Oxford in the UK this fall," NPR reported, where he plans to study for a Master's degree in international relations. "I wanna be a national security expert working at the Department of State or working as a counselor to a senator," he told NPR. "I want to use my academic research to help the United States, ultimately."