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Monday, December 09, 2019

Oz Bashes Migrants, But Family Firm Paid Huge Fine For Hiring Undocumented

Publicly, longtime New Jersey resident and Pennsylvania U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz is running an anti-immigrant campaign, tweeting that should he win his seat, he “will fight to end illegal immigration and soft-on-crime policies that release dangerous, undocumented criminals into sanctuary cities.” Lies: “many studies have found that crime actually decreases in cities with large immigrant populations,” National Immigrant Justice Center said in 2020.

But behind the scenes, the huckster is yet another anti-immigrant Republican millionaire who actually profits off the labor of undocumented workers. Insider reports that Oz is a shareholder in his family-owned tree-pruning business that has exploited undocumented labor. In fact, the fine levied against Asplundh Tree Experts Co. was touted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as the largest ever.

“The company, the former CEO of which has donated $12,000 to Oz's Senate campaign, was sentenced to pay forfeiture in the amount of $80 million and an additional $15 million ‘to satisfy civil claims arising out of their failure to comply with immigration law,’ an amount that represented the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case, according to the press release,” Insider reported.

ICE said in 2017 that “Asplundh management remained willfully blind while lower level managers hired and rehired employees they knew to be ineligible to work in the United States,” noting hiring “was by word of mouth referrals rather than through any systematic application process.” The statement does not say how many undocumented workers were exploited by the company. “Oz's campaign didn't respond to a request for comment from Insider,” the report said.


“We’ve seen this movie before,” commented Frank Sharry, executive director of immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice. “A rich blowhard from New Jersey who profits off the work of undocumented immigrants finds it politically profitable to bash them at the same time.”

Sharry is referring to the insurrectionist former president, who has exploited undocumented labor going back all the way to the construction of Trump Tower in 1980, when hundreds of Polish workers cleared the site for building. Nicknamed the “Polish Brigade,” these workers toiled in dangerous conditions, “without gloves, hard hats or masks,” for as little as $4 an hour throughout 12-hour days, The New York Timesreported in 2017. Documents reveal the racist “quietly” settled with the workers for more than $1 million.

This exploitation continued on into his presidential run, when Victorina Morales bravely stepped forward to share her story, as an undocumented worker at his New Jersey golf course. “We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” she told The New York Times in 2018. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.” The Washington Postat one point described a “pipeline” of undocumented workers to Bedminster. His Virginia winery has also exploited undocumented workers.

But we know that Republicans are hypocrites. We know their voters look the other way at this exploitation while pointing the finger at Democrats for what they perceive to be immigration “problems.” But the problem isn’t immigration, because immigration is vital to our nation. The problem it that most undocumented immigrants don’t have a way to live their lives here permanently and securely, which works only to the benefit of con men like Mehmet Oz and his insurrectionist president.

“The American economy is reliant on immigrant labor—both undocumented and documented,” Sharry continued. “Yet the relentless Republican effort to shrink channels for legal immigration and block needed immigration reforms needlessly dampens our country’s economic potential. It tells immigrants who are Americans in all but paperwork that they don’t belong in the nation they keep fed and safe.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

World Central Kitchen Rebounds In Ukraine After Russian Missile Strike

A relief kitchen in eastern Ukraine that has been partnering with Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen (WCK) organization was leveled by Russian invaders, wounding several workers, the organization’s CEO said on Saturday. Nate Mook said in a video posted to Twitter that he’s told one person in the surrounding area was killed from the missile strike.

The organization has fed an untold number of people since its founding more than a decade ago. “It’s the first time, in the 12 years since WCK was founded, that one of its relief kitchens has come under attack. It’s also the first time WCK has operated in a war zone,” The Washington Postreported.

“Not too long ago, a missile hit here, and as you can see, tremendous amounts of damage,” Mook said in the video. Behind him is the shell of building. “This was a big hit as you can see,” he continues. “There’s over a dozen cars burned out all around me,” he says, scanning the camera over to show pieces of vehicles visible in what remains of a tree. “Just a tremendous amount of carnage left behind for no reason,” noting that the area is home to many. “I don’t know what else to say. Just absolutely horrific brutality.”

Mook on Sunday shared a picture featuring three of the hospitalized workers, saying they were recovering well following the missile attack. ”Yulia—next to me—said she’s excited to come back to help feed 1000s once her burns heal.” He also wrote that the partnering restaurant, Yaposhka, was working to move equipment that had not been destroyed to a new kitchen.

Andrés had announced just hours into Russia’s unprovoked invasion that he would be traveling to Poland to aid displaced refugees. Responding to Mook’s tweets, he vowed to continue the mission. “To everyone caring and sending good wishes to the team in Kharkiv, thank you, the injured are fine, and everyone is ready and willing to start cooking in another location,” he tweeted.

On Tuesday, Mook said that not only had the Yaposhka team opened at a new site, the injured workers had also been released from the hospital.

Since traveling to this war zone to aid in humanitarian efforts, WCK’s #ChefsForUkraine effort had distributed nearly 300,000 daily meals as of early April, the organization said. The effort has distributed meals “in more than 30 cities and towns across Ukraine, as well as delivering thousands of tons of food and supplies by truck and train.”

{Profits from sales of our "I Stand With Ukraine' T-shirt will go to World Central Kitchen.]

That has included delivering supplies to towns liberated by Ukrainian soldiers. WCK said that humanitarian workers were the first faces that civilians trapped outside Kyiv had seen for a month. “We brought hundreds of hot meals and 6,000 kilos of food for families to cook.”

Andrés’ efforts in Poland has also continued, and expanded to neighboring countries that have received displaced Ukrainians, WCK continued. Ten thousand daily meals are being distributed in Poland while nearly two dozen suppliers are at work across Moldova. In Hungary, “we have daily meal service at a train station … that serves as a major transportation hub,” the organization continued. Efforts are also underway in Romania, Slovakia, and Spain.

In a statement reported by CNN, Andrés made a plea for an end to Russia’s invasion. "Please stop killing civilians non-stop day and night,” he said. “That's why people are afraid, that's why a lot of people are still in bunkers, it's why many people, they don't want to be in the comfort homes and many nights, they go to the safety of the subway. That's why, again, this war needs to end."

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Republicans Prepare Racially Inflammatory Anti-Immigrant Midterm Campaign

Two organizations tracking anti-immigrant advertising say they’ve documented more than 700 such ads leading into the 2022 midterms, including attacks against the Biden administration over a so-called “border crisis” and content designed to undermine a vastly popular pathway to citizenship for the nation’s undocumented communities.

The former is particularly shameless considering two of the previous administration’s worst policies largely shutting down the U.S. asylum system, Remain in Mexico and the debunked Title 42 public health order, are still in effect today. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from lying. And as we get closer to Election Day, we already know it’ll only get worse.

“Increasingly, these ‘border crisis’ attacks are also using Vice President Kamala Harris as their main foil: the border czar,” America’s Voice and Immigration Hub said in the report. “Thirty-seven paid ads invoke the Vice President with xenophobic dogwhistles, echoed by members of Congress, such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA). The gender and racial connotations are also quite evident.”

The report notes hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has spent tens of thousands of dollars over the past two months targeting nearly two dozen House Democrats for their support of popular, pro-immigrant legislation. The racist Tanton network organization has launched ads against House Democrats despite the fact that House Republicans also voted in favor of bills protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and undocumented farmworkers.

But anti-immigrant advertising isn’t solely a product of the fringe right-wing. Racism is the Republican mainstream. (FAIR led Congressional Republicans in “border crisis” messaging from the very start of Biden’s administration.)

America’s Voice late last year noted racist ads from House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik and Sen. Rick Scott, who heads the National Republican Senate Committee. While both voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election in favor of the twice-impeached former president, Stefanik’s ad stoops to calling undocumented immigrants the real insurrectionists. Stefanik also echoed the white supremacist “replacement theory” in her ad.

The report notes that Lindsey Graham, once a Republican champion of comprehensive immigration reform, also echoed racist “invasion” rhetoric. Once again: It’s not the fringe, it’s the GOP. But America’s Voice and Immigration Hub note that GOP-led attacks “fail to dampen support for citizenship.”

“The report includes new results of a study by Immigration Hub, conducted by BlueLabs Analytics, testing political ads among Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania voters,” the two organizations said. “A GOP ad that attacked President Biden on his management of the border failed to move voters against a path to citizenship, only managing to drive down Biden’s approval numbers.”

“However, voters who viewed the Hub’s ad that exposed the GOP’s obstruction and politicization of the border and pushed for citizenship, moved voters in favor of Democrats. By going on offense, Democrats have an opportunity to counter the Republican electoral playbook.” America’s Voice has separately noted that in a futile attempt to stop GOP attacks, “the Biden administration has maintained numerous Trump policies along the border, only to continue to be attacked by the rabid right wing media.” The groups encourage Democrats to combat Republicans by delivering on promises for a more humane immigration system.

“Republican and right-wing messages haven’t changed since Trump’s departure,” Immigration Hub chief political and communications officer Beatriz Lopez said. “The warning signals to Democrats are clear: It’s immigration today and it’ll be immigration in 2022.”

“While the right-wing playbook is to exacerbate fears over the economy and public health with hyperbole over immigrants and the border, their strategy fails to shake voters’ strong support for a path to citizenship,” she continued. “Our tracking and testing among battleground voters makes clear that Democrats must go on offense by driving their efforts to deliver on a path to citizenship and sensible immigration solutions while exposing the GOP political gamesmanship on the issue.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

'I'm Not White': Latino Lawmaker Talks Fear Of Death On January 6th Attack

California Rep. Jimmy Gomez said the halls of Congress had already been hostile before the previous president incited his white insurrectionist supporters to violently storm the U.S. Capitol to try to overturn the 2020 election one year ago today.

The Oversight and Reform vice-chair told Newsweek that the House was amid a vote on the Build Back Better bill last November when he was verbally accosted in an elevator by an unmasked Republican legislator. "You people are ruining the fucking country,” he said Texas Rep. Roger Williams told him. “Gomez, who is Mexican-American, was taken aback,” Newsweekreported. Williams, meanwhile, voted to overturn democracy and against the impeachment of the disgraced former president.

“Every member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) inside the building during the attack who spoke with Newsweek thought it would be the last day of their life,” the report said leading into the one-year anniversary of the insurrection. Gomez said that even as he considered ways to look like less of a target to the insurrectionists—such as removing his Congressional pin and jacket—he could not allow himself to just run away. “So he began helping lawmakers who were older and couldn't move as quickly as he could,” the report continued.

California’s Nanette Baragán told Newsweek that she had similar intuition to hide her pin. But other things could not be so easily hidden.

"The part that is not often spoken of is the fear members of Congress of color had," she said in the report. "When you're a person of color and a member of Congress, the thought on that day was ‘hide your pin, I'm not white, I'm going to be a target.’ That was something that was really real."

It wasn’t just members of the Hispanic Caucus, either. “One year after Jan. 6, Sarah Groh, Representative Ayanna Pressley’s chief of staff, still does not know what happened to the panic buttons torn from their office,” Boston Globe’s Jazmine Ulloa tweeted earlier this week. “It’s one of many details still under investigation, and a memory that continues to haunt her.”

Ulloa writes in her piece that the U.S. Capitol is also a workplace for janitors and food service workers. Some of these workers, notably Black janitors, had to clean up the mess created by white insurrectionists.

For Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, the insurrection brought back terrible memories of the white supremacist mass shooting that shook El Paso in 2019. In tweets immediately after the insurrection, she wrote that the terrorists “not only breached the Capitol and got into Statuary Hall, but they were banging on the locked doors of the House Chamber as we were told by Capitol Police to get down on our knees.”

In his House testimony last July, U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell recalled how he also had his life threatened by racist insurrectionists.

“I was at the front line and apparently, even through my mask, they saw my skin color and said, ‘You’re not even an American,’” the Latino U.S. military veteran told legislators. Naturalized as an American citizen more than two decades ago, Gonell said insurrectionists “called me traitor, a disgrace and that I, an Army veteran and a police officer, should be executed.”

"This wasn't a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection,” President Biden said during stirring remarks on Thursday. “They weren't looking to uphold an election. They were here to overturn one."

In a statement Thursday, Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego said that “if we want to keep our democracy intact, then we must bring to justice those responsible for Jan. 6th, including everyone from those who laid siege to the building to those who sat idle in the White House or in Congress as their plans came to fruition. He urged the passage of pro-democracy legislation including the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. “To do so is not a partisan or political issue—it is the bare minimum we must do if we want to keep our democracy.”

Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Chef Andrés Mobilizing Relief For Ida And Afghan Evacuees

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

World-famous chef and humanitarian José Andrés says that his World Central Kitchen organization has three kitchens set up in Louisiana and is prepared to distribute 100,000 meals in Ida's aftermath. The hurricane—one of the strongest to ever hit the mainland U.S.—has left more than one million residents without power.

"Tomorrow morning as soon as it is safe our teams will go out, will start making meals, will start delivering to the different places that will be in need to do that," the chef told CNN on Sunday evening. "But more important: we need to be planning ahead, not only for days, but for weeks." The chef said a focus of World Central Kitchen would be to ensure both residents in New Orleans and across the state are fed.

A tweet from World Central Kitchen early Sunday morning showed relief workers and volunteers preparing hundreds of sandwiches at the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute. "Entering the storm with more supplies," replied Kyle Pounders, chef and owner of Excaliburger in Arkansas. That same morning, José Andrés said that "after the storm passes, we can do what we always do: go to other cities and very quickly fire up the kitchens that we have in position there."

The chef traveled to New Orleans following humanitarian efforts in Haiti, where an Aug. 14 earthquake killed 2,000 people and left thousands more homeless. "WCK's roots began in Haiti in 2010," the group's website said. "In January of that year, the country was hit with an absolutely devastating earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people—and a decade later communities in Haiti are still recovering."

Much of that sentence could have easily have been written today, as the nation struggles to recover from both political instability following President Jovenel Moïse's assassination in July, and the 7.2 earthquake last month. "With a team already in Haiti, additional WCK relief workers began arriving in the country the day after the quake," the Miami Herald reports. A kitchen set up in Les Cayes has been feeding more than 10,000 people daily. The report said the organization hopes to soon double that number.

"This is really tough; it's tough in a different way than from the 2010 earthquake, which caused such massive devastation in Port-au-Prince," World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook told the Miami Herald. "Here, the impact is spread so far out in these rural communities that are very hard to reach with small pockets of people in need … But we are going to be here as long as we're needed."

World Central Kitchen has also been providing meals to newly arrived Afghan refugees at Dulles Airport in Virginia. Mook told WJLA on Friday that some refugees evacuated from Afghanistan haven't eaten for as long as two days. "It's a very long journey as they've gone from a number of bases, getting processed and then finally arriving at Dulles Airport," he said in the report. In a tweet, José Andrés said that "[w]hat's happening in Afghanistan breaks my heart … but the outpouring of support from people across America helps glue it back."

‘They Just Open The Door’: U.S. Communities Welcoming Afghan Refugees

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Recent polling has shown overwhelming public support —81 percent — for welcoming Afghan refugees who aided the U.S. military. The Washington Postreports that support is being seen across the U.S., with resettlement organizations and other volunteer services being "inundated with calls from ordinary Americans seeking to assist the waves of Afghan citizens who have begun arriving in the United States."

"We have never seen this kind of increase in people wanting to volunteer," Refugee Services of Texas program supervisor Jacqueline Buzas told the Post. The report noted that one volunteer training session was shifted to virtual mode due to capacity. "We have people calling to say, 'I have an extra bedroom.' Or, 'I'm retired and have this extra house.' People understand the human aspects of this, having to flee this life-or-death situation," Buzas continued. "And they just open the door."

The Postreported that during one recent drive at Northern Virginia Community College, volunteers were overwhelmed with so many donations that some items were turned away. Some Americans who rushed to donate items have loved ones in Afghanistan. Hundreds of families are currently being temporarily housed at the school, with volunteers "bringing pizzas and snacks and water," the report continued. Back in Texas, the Post reports that as many as 10,000 Afghan refugees are expected to be temporarily housed at Fort Bliss before being resettled elsewhere in the state and country. KVUE reports that Refugee Services of Texas expects to help resettle about 300 people.

"These are individuals who I believe we have a moral obligation to help," CEO Russell Smith said in the report. "And we've actually made that promise to them, that they helped us in our efforts in Afghanistan, which has put them and their families' lives at risk. And so both fulfilling our promise and also kind of the moral obligation to get them out of harm's way." Despite some mainstream media framing, that appears to be the public opinion of some of the state's Republican leadership as well.

"Fort Bliss is a big place," the Post reports John Cornyn said. "The [post commander] briefed me this morning and said they have more than enough space to accommodate the Afghan refugees." Even Cornyn's colleague, Ted Cruz, said "[w]e have an obligation not to leave people to die at the hands of the Taliban for the crime of helping America." But in a nod to his xenophobic impulses, the Post reports that Cruz expressed concerns about vetting, claiming "[w]e also have an obligation to keep our citizens safe." They're vetted, Ted. Maybe you should spend more time worrying about our homegrown terrorists. The Post further notes that Gov. Greg Abbott, who previously tried to block refugees, "has been silent on the issue of Afghan refugees." He should feel free to stay that way.

A growing number of bipartisan governors, however, have done the right and moral thing by expressing public support for welcoming Afghan refugees to their states. On Monday, Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills' office informed the Biden administration that the state was "prepared to provide safety and opportunity to Afghan refugees who protected American service members and American interests in Afghanistan," the Press Heraldreported.

In addition to donations of physical items, money, and time, there've also been rallies in support of Afghan allies and their families in numerous states across the nation. In Philadelphia, 150 rallied. In Chicago, another 100 rallied, including a former interpreter who pleaded for safety for his family back in Afghanistan. "You have seen my loyalty, now it's your turn to return the favor," he said according to ABC 7 Chicago. In Columbus and Fremont, Afghan community members rallied to highlight the urgency facing tens of thousands of vulnerable people. The latter has one of the largest Afghan communities in the nation.

"The United States promised people that you could come to the U.S. if you work with us, if you serve as our intelligence, if you serve as our translators, if you help us in this world," KPIX reports Hayward City Council Member Aisha Wahab said. "That was the deal." That was the deal—and we must keep our word.

CBS News reports that Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), among the organizations that had for months been calling for the urgent evacuation of allies and families, plans to launch a donation drive to accept items ranging from cleaning supplies to cell phones to diapers. Remember, these families are starting over in America, with few possessions beyond some suitcases. "This is an all-hands-on-deck moment in our nation's history. We simply can't do this work without the compassion and generosity of the local community," LIRS President Krish O'Mara Vignarajah said in the report. "If you have room in your heart to help these families start over from scratch, now is the time to make a difference." Families Belong Together tweeted that "[w]e are ready to welcome Afghan families—along with millions of Americans across the country."

New Poll: 81 Percent Will Welcome Afghan Allies Who Aided US

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

New CBS News/YouGov polling released over the weekend shows overwhelming support for evacuating Afghan translators and other allies to the United States. Overall, 81 percent responded affirmatively when asked if the nation should "help Afghan allies enter the U.S." Only 19 percent were opposed.

There was significant support for protecting our Afghan allies across individual party lines, CBS News said. Support was highest among Democrats, at 90 percent. But support was also high among independents and Republicans, at 79 percent and 76 percent, respectively.

"The broad bipartisan support for resettling Afghan allies is part of a broader public opinion trend in favor of immigrants and immigration, which grew stronger during the past four years," immigrant rights advocacy group America's Voice said on Monday in response to the polling.

The organization noted Gallup polling from last July that showed near-record high support among Americans who believe more immigration is good. Recent Data for Progress polling also shows overwhelming support for a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, temporary status holders, and essential workers. "A deep and broad majority of Americans support resettling our Afghan allies, see immigration as a good thing, and want Congress to formally recognize undocumented immigrants as the Americans they already are," said America's Voice executive director Frank Sharry.

"Meanwhile, the ultranationalist right in America is working overtime to scare the American people into opposition on all three fronts," Sharry continued. "It isn't working." As I noted last week, an NBC News report sought to portray political divisions over welcoming Afghans by quoting former White House aide and noted white supremacist Stephen Miller, as well as citing anti-immigrant propagandist Laura Ingraham.

"Trumpian wing of the GOP is loud but not large," Sharry continued. "Their political efficacy is wildly overrated. They supported Trump's nationalization of the 2018 midterms on hyped fears of 'caravans and criminals' and suffered the largest midterm defeat in American history. They thought Trump was brilliant to run on xenophobia in 2020, only to see him lose to the pro-immigrant candidate by 7 million votes. During Trump's war on immigrants and refugees, Republicans lost the House, the Senate, and the White House."

Other recent polling also showed that "most voters, 55 percetn, also want Biden to speed up the visa-granting process for Afghan allies who helped the U.S. forces during two decades of operations there," Daily Kos' Kerry Eleveld wrote last week. "Those who support a streamlined visa process include majorities of Democrats (62 percent) and independents (56 percent), along with a 45 percent plurality of Republicans." The new polling comes as leading refugee advocates say that the Biden administration has made great strides in the number of evacuations from Afghanistan.

"This is what progress looks like," Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service president Krish O'Mara Vignarajah tweeted in response to updated numbers reported by CBS News. "There are still challenges at the airport, but the increasing pace of evacuation is very encouraging. It's a testament to what we can achieve with the full might of the US military working hand-in-glove with dedicated career diplomats."

Bipartisan Legislators Urge Biden To Evacuate Imperiled Afghan Allies

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

A bipartisan coalition of House members that includes U.S. military veterans is continuing to call on the Biden administration to quickly evacuate Afghan allies ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan in September, writing in a follow-up letter to President Joe Biden that "[o]ur Afghan friends and allies are at greater risk than ever before."

"In the past month, we have been closely following your developing withdrawal plans," members of the Honoring Our Promises Working Group write. "We appreciate the complexity of ending the War in Afghanistan, but we are increasingly concerned that you have not yet directed the Department of Defense be mobilized as part of a concrete and workable whole of government plan to protect our Afghan partners."

While the working group was created earlier this year with a goal of expanding the special visa program benefiting Afghans who assisted U.S. military, they say the approaching withdrawal deadline necessitates immediate action from the Biden administration. "The current SIV process will not work. It takes an average of 800+ days, and we plan to withdraw in less than 100 days." That timeline threatens to leave behind thousands of applicants who put their lives at risk to aid our military, lawmakers say.

"After examining this situation through multiple hearings, briefings, and our own offices' research and outreach, our bipartisan working group has concluded that we must evacuate our Afghan friends and allies immediately," they write. "No U.S. entity—to include the Department of Defense, Department of State, USAID, et al.—has the ability or authority to protect them in Afghanistan after our withdrawal. It would be a moral failure to transfer the responsibility to protect our Afghan partners onto the shoulders of the Afghan Government. The time is now to honor our promise and evacuate Afghan SIV applicants."

Like veterans groups and refugee resettlement groups, the working group noted the U.S. has evacuated a large number of vulnerable people in the past, and has the capability to do so again. "The United States has conducted evacuations at a far greater scale before," legislators write, including the evacuation of roughly 130,000 Vietnamese refugees during the Ford administration. Smaller evacuations also occurred during the Clinton administration, including 20,000 Kosovar Albanians in 1999. "We have experience with this type of evacuation in times of crisis, and the current environment in Afghanistan clearly merits such action," legislators said.

"If we fail to protect our allies in Afghanistan, it will have a lasting impact on our future partnerships and global reputation, which will then be a great detriment to our troops and the future of our national security," legislators tell the Biden administration. "Veterans in Congress understand this firsthand: when we recruited our Afghan friends, we promised to have their backs. The Honoring Our Promises Working Group stands ready to provide support and oversight for this critical mission." A full list of working group members is available here.

In its letter to the Biden administration last month, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) said "the U.S. must fulfill its commitments to our Afghan allies and work urgently to ensure their and their families' safety. Veterans' groups, national security experts, and legislators agree that we must honor this commitment. Our allies put their lives on the line to support our troops because they believed in the U.S. mission. We must show Afghans and the rest of the world that the U.S. will follow through on our word."

"Through their allegiance and faithful service, these wartime allies and their families have long been the targets of anti-American violence and persecution," LIRS President Krish O'Mara Vignarajah warned in her recent op-ed in The Washington Post. "The omnipresent threat of retribution, tragically, has only grown in the face of imminent U.S. withdrawal."

DHS Nominee Will Lead Task Force To Reunite Migrant Children With Families

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The Biden administration is expected to announce on Tuesday its federal task force dedicated to reuniting families that were separated at the southern border by the previous administration, including hundreds of children who continue to remain apart nearly four years after the initial "piloting" of the barbaric "zero tolerance" policy.

NBC News initially reported that Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden's nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), would be heading the interdepartmental task force. This was later confirmed by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. "When the task force is announced," the report continued, "it is expected to be an inter-agency effort across the Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and the State Department."

Biden as a candidate pledged that he would authorize a federal task force to help reunite families on Day One, but as NBC News reported, this has been delayed for nearly two weeks. No official reason has been given by the Biden administration, but one likely reason is Senate Republicans blocking Mayorkas' quick confirmation. A second likely reason is the "extraordinarily complicated" nature of the separations, NBC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

"It's complicated not just because of the cruelty and the intentionality that went into this policy to separate 5,000 kids, over 5,000 kids from their parents, including Ms. L, who was separated and then detained, the namesake of the lawsuit that won the reunification of all the families right here in Otay Mesa," he said in the clip, reporting from the California city where many separated families were jailed. "But also because after the separations, there are so many different distinct groups of separated families, and how ultimately President Biden and his administration will deal with them. What is the relief that they will offer?"

Per early reporting on the task force from NBC News, "The task force announcement is not expected to include details on whether the families will be given special permission to come to the United States to reunite with their children." Advocate organizations that have already been tasked by the court with reuniting families, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have urged Biden to allow families to return to the U.S. and be given legal status. Lawmakers including Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro have also urged for U.S. reunification.

Castro had also called for the formation of a special commission to investigate this human rights disaster, telling Vox that it's "the right thing to do and also, in many ways, necessary for our country."

Two of the agencies that will work to reunite families were at the center of separations, with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) inspector general saying in a report last year that senior HHS officials paid no heed to concerns from Office of Refugee Resettlement staffers about forcibly separating children from their parents. That report described officials' intentional negligence regarding what ultimately became the family separation crisis, including superiors scolding staffers for putting concerns in writing.

Years after the "piloting" of family separation in 2017, hundreds of children separated from their parents by the previous administration have continued to remain separated, and new reporting from The Washington Post reveals that some families that have been reunited have faced separation all over again due to parents and children having separate immigration cases. "Even after families were reunited by the court, the Trump administration tried to re-separate them by deporting the parent," ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told the Post. "Incredibly, one separation was not enough for the Trump administration."

In order to reverse the horrific, intentional damage inflicted by the previous administration, the Biden administration must start by returning these families, and giving them protections. It's the right, and just, thing to do.

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."

Trump Pardons Border Agents Who Shot Man Illegally

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Donald Trump's slew of Christmas pardons this month weren't reserved just for his fellow crooks and mob presidency loyalists deserving of only a lump of coal this year. The impeached president issued full pardons to not one, not two, but three former Border Patrol agents who were charged and found guilty of crimes against people at the southern border while on duty.

The Texas Tribunereports one of the three pardoned criminals was Gary Brugman, who served almost two years for violating a man's civil rights. The other two former agents were Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and civil rights violations after they shot a man in 2005 and then tried to cover it up, Think Immigration reported. But the pardons were also in no way a Trump aberration: Both outlets reported that top Republican elected officials and figures pushed for the pardons.

The Texas Tribunereports that Brugman had in his corner both of Texas' U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Also supporting him was the state's notoriously anti-immigrant lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick. Think Immigration reports that supporting Ramos and Compean was former Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, himself "recently convicted of stealing campaign funds." Oh, but in the spirit of the holidays, Trump made sure there were enough pardons to go to every criminal in his orbit, and Hunter got a pardon too. Merry Christmas.

Think Immigration writes that crimes committed by Ramos and Compean in particular were "but one of countless immigration-related abuses over the years, and one of the most notorious that continues to haunt the communities all along our southern border." A 2006 report from the Department of Homeland Security inspector general details how Ramos and Compean chased a man, first trying to hit him in the head with the butt of a shotgun and then shooting him in the buttocks.

"Compeon and Ramos did not report the shooting as required by [Border Patrol] regulations," the inspector general report said, "and instead covered up the crime scene by removing the spent shell casings that were ejected from their pistols during the shooting." Both men were sentenced to over a decade in prison, but then had their sentences commuted by George W. Bush. Republicans have always been about that law and order, right? Trump's pardon now "wipes their records clean," Think Immigration said, "making it as though they were never guilty."

"Of particular note in the requests for the agents' pardons and in the final announcement itself is how they are devoid of any reference to remorse, request for forgiveness, or acceptance of responsibility," Think Immigration continued. "These pardons are beyond putting salt in the wound; it is salting the earth as the administration does what it can to leave the most lasting and damaging impact on its way out."

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had already been operating with impunity but during the Trump administration dropped any illusion or appearance of trying to operate within the law, and within its own rules. That includes illegally detaining migrant children, spending emergency humanitarian funds meant for food and medical care for detained migrants on dirt bikes, and helping implement state-sanctioned kidnappings at the border. Then for the first time in a decade, children died while in custody of the agency.

Yet there has been too little accountability when it comes to CBP (as well as sibling agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement). May 2021 will mark three years since Claudia Patricia Gómez González, an unarmed Indigenous woman from Guatemala, was shot and killed by a border agent. Just like in the cases of other people attacked by CBP, officials lied about the circumstances around her killing. But according to Spanish-language media, the investigation around her case remains ongoing three years later.

There's already so little justice when it comes to the abuses perpetrated by U.S. officials against people at the border. Now with the stroke of a pen, Trump has erased some of that justice, as he also intentionally decimates faith in American democracy because he lost the election fair and square, and continues to kill more Americans by not giving one shit about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

NBC News Report Finds Hate Groups Got $4.3M In PPP Loans

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

A Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group that has promulgated anti-immigrant propaganda titled "The fiscal burden of illegal immigration on United States taxpayers" (I'm not going to link to it) received more than $680,000 in funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, an NBC News analysis has found (Disclosure: Kos Media received a Paycheck Protection Program loan.)

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and more than a dozen other designated hate groups in fact received a total of $4.3 million in funds—even as families have continued to remain without direct relief, aside from one lousy check. In FAIR's case, it received $683,680 in relief as its also advocated punishing immigrant families through policies like the "public charge" rule. Help for me, none for thee.

As my colleague Joan McCarter noted earlier this summer, there was clear "evidence that the aid didn't go where it was most needed and hasn't done the job for tens of thousand of businesses." From mom-and-pop shops to local restaurants, it's clear which businesses have been in desperate need of help. It's also clear which entities saw a financial opportunity, despite providing no public good.

"The groups that received funds also include American Family Association (AFA), a group that opposes what its leadersdescribe as the 'homosexual agenda,'" NBC News said. SPLC, which has designated the organization a hate group, said in a report that "[f]or years, until 2010, the AFA had a section on its website that supposedly exposed 'The Homosexual Agenda.'"

Various AFA propagandists have further claimed that "[h]omosexuality is not only harmful to homosexuals themselves, but also to children and to society," and that "[a]s with smoking, homosexual behavior's 'second hand' effects threaten public health." Per NBC News' report, AFA got $1,390,800 in PPP funds.

Another group that got funds was Church Militant, "an organization that runs a media operation that advocates for so-called gay conversion therapies and links homosexuality to pedophilia," NBC News continued. Per SPLC, "Church Militant focuses on homosexuality with an intensity and frequency bordering on obsessive." That group received just over $300,000 in funds.

"Extremist movements thrive in climates of political uncertainty," SPLC senior research analyst Cassie Miller explained to NBC News. "In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, far-right actors have exploited people's fears and grievances to promote their ideologies. But now the government is doing even more to help hate groups by handing them millions of dollars in forgivable loans."

New Polling Confirms Americans Welcome Immigrants More Than Ever

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Here's more of that other "Trump Effect" we've talked about before: new polling from Pew Research this week continues to confirm that Americans have only become more welcoming of immigrants and refugees since 2016 and Donald Trump's ensuing xenophobic presidency.

"In 2016 voters were about evenly divided in the share saying that the growing number of newcomers strengthens American society," Pew said, finding that 46 percent of all voters agreed with the statement. Four years later, that number has now surged to 60 percent. Americans "across the political spectrum have shifted in a more liberal direction in this domain," researchers said.

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SPLC Watchdogs Name Stephen Miller To ‘Extremist’ List

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has added Trump administration official and noted white supremacist Stephen Miller to its "Extremists Files" for his role in implementing some of the most inhumane and racist immigration policies in modern U.S. history, putting this taxpayer-paid official alongside notorious racists and bigots like former KKK grand wizard David Duke and dead homophobe Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church.

"Stephen Miller is the architect behind some of the most draconian anti-immigrant policies that we've seen from the Trump administration," SPLC senior investigative reporter Michael Edison Hayden said in a statement received by Daily Kos, stating that leaked communications with fellow racists from before he joined the White House "essentially provided a roadmap for the dehumanizing and hateful policies that we've seen enacted under this administration."

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Federal Judge Orders ICE To Release Florida Detainees

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A federal judge has ordered federal immigration officials to free hundreds of people detained at three Florida facilities, ruling "there is record evidence demonstrating that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has failed in its duty to protect the safety and general well-being of the petitioners," and that social distancing while in detention "is not only practically impossible, the conditions are becoming worse every day," Miami Herald reports.

"In a strongly worded 12-page order filed late Thursday, U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has acted with 'deliberate indifference' to the condition of its detainees," Miami Herald continued, saying officials failed to provide them soap and other supplies to protect themselves. Officials are now ordered to immediately distribute masks to detainees, and to inform her of their plan to reduce population size—something they should have already done long ago.

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