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Fear Led Us To Intern Japanese Americans. Who’s Next?

Imagine this.

You are a boy, living in a child’s blissful unaware. You are not terribly different from other kids. Maybe you play stickball in the street and pretend to be Joe DiMaggio. Maybe you listen to “The Lone Ranger” on the Philco. Maybe you’re crazy for Superman.

Maybe it’s a good life.

Then comes that sudden Sunday in December. All at once, everyone is angry about something bad that happened at a place called Pearl Harbor, and people you know — people who know you — are staring at you as if you are no longer who you always were.

Two months later — 75 years ago this week — there is news about a new executive order signed by President Roosevelt. Soon, the poster starts appearing on lamp posts. The headline reads: “Instructions to All Persons of Japanese Ancestry.” It is an evacuation order.

As a child, you know nothing about the column in the San Francisco Examiner where Henry McLemore wrote: “Let ’em be pinched, hurt, hungry and dead up against it … Personally, I hate the Japanese. And that goes for all of them.”

And you didn’t hear how Assistant War Secretary John McCloy said, “If it is a question of the safety of the country [and] the Constitution … why, the Constitution is just a scrap of paper to me.”

All you know is that suddenly, with maybe a week’s notice, you are on a train, being taken away from your Philco and from stickball games, from Superman comic books, from, well … everything.

Maybe your name is Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, and you will someday be Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid” movies. Maybe your name is Hosato Takei, and as George Takei, you will become the original Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek.” Maybe your name is Norman Mineta and you will be a congressman.

But in the desolate camps to which you are exiled, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you might someday be. In the camps, as they say, “A Jap is a Jap.”

So in the camps, you live behind barbed wire, under armed guard in tar paper barracks with toilets where you must do your business in public view.

You live with inferno heat, aching cold, and gritty dust. Yet, you struggle to hold on to who you used to be.

You play baseball. You draw and sing. And you go to school, where every morning you stand, hand over your heart, and recite, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America …”

Seventy-five years later, communal memory recoils from what the United States of America did to you. And as we tend do when memory indicts conscience, we choose to forget.

So many of us no longer know what happened, how you lost your businesses, your homes, how your lives were never again the same.

As many of us forget the story, we also forget its moral: how fear can interdict reason, make you lash out with hatred at harmless people.

Thus, some of us cheered recently when a new executive order was signed and our airports turned to chaos. Some of us echoed McCloy: “The Constitution is just a scrap of paper to me.”

But the rest of us were saddened by what America has done to itself — and to countless innocents — in the spasms of its fear.

The rest of us were stunned by what Winston Churchill called “the confirmed unteachability” of humankind.

We never learn, do we?

Imagine you are a boy, living in a child’s blissful unaware, not terribly different from other kids. Maybe you play hoops at the park and pretend to be Michael Jordan. Maybe you watch Power Rangers. Maybe you’re crazy for Spider-Man.

Maybe it’s a good life.

But then comes a sudden Tuesday in September.

IMAGE: War Relocation Authority – 210-G-2A-572, Records of War Relocation Authority, Record Group 210; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Wikicommons / United States Department of Interior.

The Trump Administration Is Giving Cops Unprecedented Power

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

The Donald Trump administration is off to a rocky start, with multiple damaging reports emerging from the White House alleging disorganization, incompetence, and infighting—but that hasn’t stopped the new president from making good on his pledges to the country’s police officers. By branding himself the law-and-order candidate who would use his bully pulpit to take down criminals and fight crime, Trump earned himself the support of several police groups, most notably the Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest police union, which boasts more than 330,000 members.

Trump has already met with several law enforcement groups to make it clear where his priorities lie. Recently, while speaking to the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association (and after whining about a federal judge ruling that blocked his Muslim ban), Trump launched into a speech about what he believes cops in this country care about: crime in cities populated with black people, Mexican drug cartels, undocumented immigrants, and his desire to build a wall along the Mexican border. During the speech he claimed that undocumented immigrants in gangs cause the problems in Chicago and that building a wall along our southern border would stop drugs from “pouring” into our country.

Two weeks after signing two orders on immigration, President Trump signed three orders on crime and law enforcement, including one that targeted transnational drug cartels. Although immigration and drug enforcement have their own federal agencies, many cops seemed eager to jump into the fray, setting the stage to begin rolling back modest gains made in holding police accountable.

One of President Trump’s first executive orders on immigration revived a program dubbed Secure Communities and promised to defund jurisdictions known as sanctuary cities that choose not to enforce federal immigration laws. (Notably, law enforcement officials would be exempt from losing funds.) Under Secure Communities, local authorities—like jail officials—would share fingerprints of the individuals arrested in their cities and towns with the FBI, who would then send the information along to the Department of Homeland Security to check if that person is eligible for deportation using Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s database. If ICE determines that the individual is eligible, the local authorities are instructed to hold that person in jail until ICE can transfer him or her to a detention center.

The federal government stated that the intent of the program was to target the most serious offenders, but the program was disbanded in 2014 after it led to widespread racial profiling of Latinos, arrests of people who committed low-level offenses and people without criminal records. During the course of Secure Communities, multiple cities chose to opt out.

But despite widespread criticism of the program, some police officers are applauding its revival and the crackdown on sanctuary cities. The Fraternal Order of Police praised the administration’s actions, including the revocation of federal funds, alleging that communities are safer when local authorities comply with federal immigration officials.

While police unions appear eager to partner up with federal immigration officials, their relationship with the federal agency that handles investigations into police departments is much rockier. Ramping up Department of Justice investigations into police departments that violate the civil rights of the citizens they have sworn to protect is perhaps Obama’s greatest police reform achievement. Investigations usually end with court-ordered agreements dedicated to reform, sometimes called consent decrees. While these investigations are not a cure-all, it was a welcome change for many activists. But just days after the election, police departments started making noise about DOJ-mandated reforms.

The Cleveland Police Department entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice in 2015 after the DOJ issued a damning report on the police department the previous year; the head of the city’s police union, Steve Loomis, was not part of the agreement, but that hasn’t stopped him from inferring that Trump will help make changes to the consent decree. Loomis said that the Trump administration is “cognizant of the false narrative that’s out there and [will] be hesitant to make major decisions based on false narratives.” Days before the report was released, a white officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with a toy gun in a park. No one was charged for his death.

But now the DOJ will be led by Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama attorney general and U.S. senator, who was deemed too racist to be a federal judge in 1986. The new attorney general voiced concerns about consent decrees at his Senate hearing for the position. Sessions seemed to play into the “few bad apples” rhetoric despite reports from Ferguson, Chicago, and Baltimore pointing to the opposite. “These lawsuits undermine the respect for police officers,” he said, “and create an impression that the entire department is not doing their work consistent with fidelity to law and fairness.”

Since the inauguration, Americans across the country have taken to the streets to protest Donald Trump’s actions. While some law enforcement leaders want to see the Trump administration tackle mass incarceration and enhance community policing, many more cops are embracing the Trump era. The National Sheriffs’ Association and Major County Sheriffs’ Association released a joint statement after President Trump signed the three executive orders related to law enforcement. “We thank the President and welcome the nation’s re-awakening of support for law enforcement, the rule of law, and the need to protect our borders and enhance the nation’s criminal justice system.”

Cheering moves that enable cops to crack down on undocumented immigrants and alleged gang members, but balking at the federal agency designed to rein in unaccountability, signals deeper trouble up ahead.

Nathalie Baptiste is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @nhbaptiste.

IMAGE: A reporter talks to police dressed in tactical gear as they block a downtown street during a march by various groups, including “Black Lives Matter” and “Shut Down Trump and the RNC”. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

EPA Staff Told To Prepare For Trump Executive Orders

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Staff at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been told that President Donald Trump is preparing a handful of executive orders to reshape the agency, to be signed once a new administrator is confirmed, two sources who attended the meeting told Reuters on Wednesday.

A senior EPA official who had been briefed by members of the Trump administration mentioned the executive orders at a meeting of staffers in the EPA’s Office of General Counsel on Tuesday, but did not provide details about what the orders would say, said the sources, who asked not to be named.

“It was just a heads-up to expect some executive orders, that’s it,” one of the sources said.

The second source said attendees at the meeting were told Trump would sign between two and five executive orders.

Trump administration officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump has promised to cut U.S. environmental rules — including those ushered in by former President Barack Obama targeting carbon dioxide emissions — as a way to bolster the drilling and coal mining industries, but has vowed to do so without compromising air and water quality.

Trump has also expressed doubts about the science behind climate change and promised during his campaign to pull the United States out of a global pact to combat it. Since his election in November, he has softened that stance, saying he would keep an “open mind” to the climate accord.

Trump’s pick to run the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is scheduled to face a Senate confirmation vote on Friday, according to a Senate aide, after a contentious hearing last month in which lawmakers pressed Pruitt on his ties to the oil industry. Pruitt sued the EPA more than a dozen times to block its regulations while he was the top prosecutor for the oil and gas producing state.

Trump and Pruitt’s positions have worried EPA staff, who are concerned the new administration will cut the EPA’s budget, critical programs and scientific research.

Some Republican lawmakers, emboldened by Trump’s election, have raised pressure on the EPA in recent days.

On Tuesday, Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, asked the EPA’s inspector general to investigate whether EPA staff were using encrypted messages to coordinate efforts to derail the new administration’s agenda, in possible violation of federal records laws.

Earlier this month, Rep. Matt Gaetz introduced a 45-word bill to “terminate” the EPA – a piece of legislation that is not expected to pass.

IMAGE: Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Flickr/Gage Skidmore

White House Will Appeal Seattle Judge’s Order Blocking Immigration Ban

SEATTLE/BOSTON (Reuters) – A federal judge on Friday put a nationwide block on President Donald Trump’s week-old executive order temporarily barring refugees and nationals from seven countries from entering the United States.

The Seattle judge’s temporary restraining order represents a major setback for Trump’s ban, although his administration could still have the policy put back into effect with an appeal.

The White House said late on Friday it believed the ban to be “lawful and appropriate” and said the U.S. Department of Justice would file an emergency motion to stop the judge’s order taking effect.

Judge James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee, made his ruling effective immediately on Friday, suggesting that travel restrictions could be lifted straight away.

Shortly after the ruling, U.S. Customs and Border Protection told airlines to board travelers affected by the ban. The U.S. State Department is working with the Department of Homeland Security to work out how Friday’s ruling affects its operations, a spokesman told Reuters, and will announce any changes affecting travelers as soon as information is available.

Robart’s ruling followed an earlier decision by a federal judge in Boston declining to extend a temporary restraining order allowing some immigrants into the United States from countries affected by Trump’s three-month ban.

The Seattle judge’s ruling takes effect because it considered the broad constitutionality of Trump’s order. Robart also explicitly made his ruling apply across the country, while other judges facing similar cases have so far issued orders concerning only specific individuals.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee celebrated the decision as a victory for the state, adding: “no person – not even the president – is above the law.”

The state’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, said: “This decision shuts down the executive order right now.” He said he expected the federal government to honor the ruling.

The challenge in Seattle court was brought by the state of Washington and later joined by the state of Minnesota. The judge ruled that the states have legal standing to sue, which could help Democratic attorneys general take on Trump in court on issues beyond immigration.

Washington’s case was based on claims that the state had suffered harm from the travel ban, for example students and faculty at state-funded universities being stranded overseas.

Trump’s Jan. 27 order caused chaos at airports across the United States last week as some citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen were denied entry.

Judge Robart probed a Justice Department lawyer on the “litany of harms” suffered by Washington state’s universities, and also questioned the administration’s use of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States as a justification for the ban.

Robart said no attacks had been carried out on U.S. soil by individuals from the seven countries affected by the travel ban since that assault. For Trump’s order to be constitutional, Robart said, it had to be “based in fact, as opposed to fiction.”

The judge’s decision was welcomed by groups protesting the ban.

“This order demonstrates that federal judges throughout the country are seeing the serious constitutional problems with this order,” said Nicholas Espiritu, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center.

Eric Ferrero, Amnesty International USA spokesman, lauded the short-term relief provided by the order but added: “Congress must step in and block this unlawful ban for good.”

FOUR STATES IN COURT

The decision came on a day that attorneys from four states were in courts challenging Trump’s executive order. The Trump administration justified the action on national security grounds, but opponents labeled it an unconstitutional order targeting people based on religious beliefs.

In Boston, U.S. District Judge Nathan Gorton expressed skepticism during oral arguments about a civil rights group’s claim that Trump’s order represented religious discrimination, before declining to extend the restraining order.

The State Department said on Friday that fewer than 60,000 visas previously issued to citizens of the seven affected countries had been invalidated as a result of the order. That disclosure followed media reports that government lawyers were citing a figure of 100,000.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia ordered the federal government to give the state a list by Thursday of “all persons who have been denied entry to or removed from the United States.”

The state of Hawaii on Friday also filed a lawsuit alleging that the order is unconstitutional and asking the court to block the order across the country.

Trump’s directive also temporarily stopped the entry of all refugees into the country and indefinitely halted the settlement of Syrian refugees.

(Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York, Brian Snyder in Boston and Lawrence Hurley, Lesley Wroughton and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Jonathan Weber and Kristina Cooke; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Rigby)

IMAGE: People participate in prayers during an interfaith demonstration outside Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York,, February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton