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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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,” Newsweek reported. 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

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."

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 Tribune reports 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 Tribune reports 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 leaders describe 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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