America’s cultural divide runs deep

The Washington Post reports: The political divide between rural and urban America is more cultural than it is economic, rooted in rural residents’ deep misgivings about the nation’s rapidly changing demographics, their sense that Christianity is under siege and their perception that the federal government caters most to the needs of people in big cities, according to a wide-ranging poll that examines cultural attitudes across the United States.

The Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey of nearly 1,700 Americans — including more than 1,000 adults living in rural areas and small towns — finds deep-seated kinship in rural America, coupled with a stark sense of estrangement from people who live in urban areas. Nearly 7 in 10 rural residents say their values differ from those of people who live in big cities, including about 4 in 10 who say their values are “very different.”

That divide is felt more extensively in rural America than in cities: About half of urban residents say their values differ from rural people, with less than 20 percent of urbanites saying rural values are “very different.”

Alongside a strong rural social identity, the survey shows that disagreements between rural and urban America ultimately center on fairness: Who wins and loses in the new American economy, who deserves the most help in society and whether the federal government shows preferential treatment to certain types of people. President Trump’s contentious, anti-immigrant rhetoric, for example, touched on many of the frustrations felt most acutely by rural Americans.

The Post-Kaiser survey focused on rural and small-town areas that are home to nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s tweets cited by court in ruling against travel ban

U.S. News reports: When they rejected President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking travel from several Muslim-majority countries as unconstitutional, two sets of federal appellate judges pointed to Trump’s history of public statements calling it a “Muslim ban,” including messages Trump posted on Twitter.

On the heels of press secretary Sean Spicer’s declaration that Trump’s tweets are “official statements by the President of the United States,” immigration advocates on Monday responded to a Justice Department Supreme Court appeal of the federal court ruling by asking the high court to consider Trump’s tweets, and his Twitter account, as “authority” – content like law review articles, legal cases and news reports that lawyers use to bolster their arguments.

It’s perhaps the first time the high court has been asked to consider Twitter in that way, setting up what could be legal parameters for considering Trump’s statements on that medium as official White House policy. It comes the same day that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals specifically cited the president’s communications on Twitter as part of the rationale for rejecting Trump’s travel ban. [Continue reading…]

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Trump targets illegal immigrants who were given reprieves from deportation by Obama

Reuters reports: In September 2014, Gilberto Velasquez, a 38-year-old house painter from El Salvador, received life-changing news: The U.S. government had decided to shelve its deportation action against him.

The move was part of a policy change initiated by then-President Barack Obama in 2011 to pull back from deporting immigrants who had formed deep ties in the United States and whom the government considered no threat to public safety. Instead, the administration would prioritize illegal immigrants who had committed serious crimes.

Last month, things changed again for the painter, who has lived in the United States illegally since 2005 and has a U.S.-born child. He received news that the government wanted to put his deportation case back on the court calendar, citing another shift in priorities, this time by President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration has moved to reopen the cases of hundreds of illegal immigrants who, like Velasquez, had been given a reprieve from deportation, according to government data and court documents reviewed by Reuters and interviews with immigration lawyers.

Trump signaled in January that he planned to dramatically widen the net of illegal immigrants targeted for deportation, but his administration has not publicized its efforts to reopen immigration cases.

It represents one of the first concrete examples of the crackdown promised by Trump and is likely to stir fears among tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who thought they were safe from deportation. [Continue reading…]

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Trump tanks his own case at the Supreme Court

Noah Feldman writes: Is Donald Trump trying to throw his own Supreme Court case? The president’s bid to be the Shoeless Joe Jackson of high-court litigation took a big step forward with an astonishing series of early-Monday-morning tweets. He insisted on calling his executive order restricting travel from six majority-Muslim countries a “travel ban,” denounced his own Department of Justice for watering down the original order, and — incredibly — called for strengthening the ban, presumably after the court has upheld the revised order.

All four tweets will be quoted by opponents of the travel ban. All four substantially strengthen the case for blocking the order as unconstitutional. Taken together, they amount to a nightmare scenario for the office of the solicitor general that must represent the president in court. Short of actually saying that the point of the order was to express anti-Muslim animus, there’s not much Trump could have done to weaken his case more. [Continue reading…]

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Trump doubles down on original ‘TRAVEL BAN!’

The New York Times reports: President Trump rebelled on Monday against his own advisers who “watered down” his original executive order barring visitors from select Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and who insisted on calling it something other than a travel ban.

Returning to one of the issues that animated the early days of his presidency and generated a court battle that has now gone to the Supreme Court, Mr. Trump argued that it was a mistake to revise the first order he signed and suggested that his administration should return to a “much tougher version.”

In a series of Twitter posts just two days after a terrorist attack killed at least seven people in London, Mr. Trump seemed to reject everything his own administration has done to win court approval for restrictions on entry from countries that he designated, both in terms of vocabulary and in terms of its provisions.

“People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” he wrote. [Continue reading…]

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The small Texas city fighting to remain a ‘safe haven’ for immigrants

The Guardian reports: When Texas passed a law this month banning so-called sanctuary cities and empowering police officers to ask the immigration status of anyone they detain, protests rippled through the state’s major cities. Politicians and activists vowed legal action.

The first place to sue was not liberal Austin, the hub of the fightback, but tiny El Cenizo, a city of 3,800 that nestles along a bend in the Rio Grande and faces Mexico to the north, west and south.

Here, where 99% of residents are Hispanic and 15% to 20% are undocumented, a “safe haven” ordinance has been in place since 1999, forbidding local authorities from making immigration inquiries. When the new state law goes into effect in September, the failure of Texas officials to cooperate with immigration authorities will become a criminal offence also punishable by fines.

The lawsuit argues that the Texas bill, known as SB4, unconstitutionally inserts the state into the federal government’s job of immigration enforcement. SB4 is the most hard-line immigration law passed by a state since Arizona introduced SB 1070, a rule dubbed “show me your papers” by detractors that has largely been neutered by litigation from civil rights groups.

While the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, claims SB4 promotes law and order and keeping dangerous criminals off the streets, it was opposed by sheriffs and police chiefs in the state’s major cities, who worry that it will erode community trust and discourage the reporting of crimes. Critics of the law also worry that giving individual officers the option to pose immigration questions invites racial profiling and will turn routine traffic stops into preludes to deportation.

El Cenizo is now back in the national news, 18 years after a flurry of attention when it decided to make life easier for most of its residents by holding city meetings in Spanish, generating criticism from conservative groups who felt that not using English was unAmerican.

The timing is unfortunate for the 33-year-old mayor, Raul Reyes. In the week of 8 May, when the suit was filed, he was studying for his finals for a master’s degree in public administration. He also runs two businesses; being mayor pays only $100 a month. [Continue reading…]

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Federal appeals court rules Trump’s Muslim ban ‘drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination’

The New York Times reports: Describing President Trump’s revised travel ban as intolerant and discriminatory, a federal appeals court on Thursday rejected government efforts to limit travel to the United States from six predominantly Muslim nations. Attorney General Jeff Sessions quickly vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The decision was the first from a federal appeals court on the revised travel ban, which was an effort to make good on a campaign centerpiece of the president’s national security agenda. It echoed earlier skepticism by lower federal courts about the legal underpinnings for Mr. Trump’s executive order, which sought to halt travelers for up to 90 days while the government imposed stricter vetting processes.

The revised order, issued on March 6, “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination,” the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., concluded in its 205-page ruling.

The White House derided the court decision as a danger to the nation’s security. And Mr. Sessions, in pledging to appeal to the nation’s highest court, said the government “will continue to vigorously defend the power and duty of the executive branch to protect the people of this country from danger.” [Continue reading…]

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Case Farms hires vulnerable immigrants who endure harsh conditions that few Americans would tolerate

Michael Grabell reports: By late afternoon, the smell from the Case Farms chicken plant in Canton, Ohio, is like a pungent fog, drifting over a highway lined with dollar stores and auto-parts shops. When the stink is at its ripest, it means that the day’s hundred and eighty thousand chickens have been slaughtered, drained of blood, stripped of feathers, and carved into pieces—and it’s time for workers like Osiel López Pérez to clean up. On April 7, 2015, Osiel put on bulky rubber boots and a white hard hat, and trained a pressurized hose on the plant’s stainless-steel machines, blasting off the leftover grease, meat, and blood.

A Guatemalan immigrant, Osiel was just weeks past his seventeenth birthday, too young by law to work in a factory. A year earlier, after gang members shot his mother and tried to kidnap his sisters, he left his home, in the mountainous village of Tectitán, and sought asylum in the United States. He got the job at Case Farms with a driver’s license that said his name was Francisco Sepulveda, age twenty-eight. The photograph on the I.D. was of his older brother, who looked nothing like him, but nobody asked any questions.

Osiel sanitized the liver-giblet chiller, a tublike contraption that cools chicken innards by cycling them through a near-freezing bath, then looked for a ladder, so that he could turn off the water valve above the machine. As usual, he said, there weren’t enough ladders to go around, so he did as a supervisor had shown him: he climbed up the machine, onto the edge of the tank, and reached for the valve. His foot slipped; the machine automatically kicked on. Its paddles grabbed his left leg, pulling and twisting until it snapped at the knee and rotating it a hundred and eighty degrees, so that his toes rested on his pelvis. The machine “literally ripped off his left leg,” medical reports said, leaving it hanging by a frayed ligament and a five-inch flap of skin. Osiel was rushed to Mercy Medical Center, where surgeons amputated his lower leg.

Back at the plant, Osiel’s supervisors hurriedly demanded workers’ identification papers. Technically, Osiel worked for Case Farms’ closely affiliated sanitation contractor, and suddenly the bosses seemed to care about immigration status. Within days, Osiel and several others—all underage and undocumented—were fired.

Though Case Farms isn’t a household name, you’ve probably eaten its chicken. Each year, it produces nearly a billion pounds for customers such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeyes, and Taco Bell. Boar’s Head sells its chicken as deli meat in supermarkets. Since 2011, the U.S. government has purchased nearly seventeen million dollars’ worth of Case Farms chicken, mostly for the federal school-lunch program.

Case Farms plants are among the most dangerous workplaces in America. In 2015 alone, federal workplace-safety inspectors fined the company nearly two million dollars, and in the past seven years it has been cited for two hundred and forty violations. That’s more than any other company in the poultry industry except Tyson Foods, which has more than thirty times as many employees. David Michaels, the former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), called Case Farms “an outrageously dangerous place to work.” [Continue reading…]

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Former director of anti-immigration group set to be named ombudsman at U.S. immigration agency

ProPublica reports: A former director of an anti-immigration group, Julie Kirchner, is expected to be named as ombudsman to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Monday, according to a person with knowledge of the pending appointment.

Kirchner was from 2005 to 2015 director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that has advocated for extreme restrictions on immigration.

The ombudsman’s office at USCIS provides assistance to immigrants who run into trouble with the agency, such as immigration applications that take too long to process or applications that may have been improperly rejected. The ombudsman also prepares an annual report for Congress in which they can issue audits and policy recommendations without consulting with USCIS in advance. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s sanctuary cities order blocked by federal judge

Bloomberg reports: A judge in San Francisco blocked President Donald Trump from withholding funds from so-called sanctuary cities that give safe harbor to undocumented immigrants, marking the administration’s second major policy initiative declared likely unconstitutional.

San Francisco and its Silicon Valley neighbor, Santa Clara County, on Tuesday both won preliminary orders shelving the Jan. 25 edict by Trump, who threatened the budgets of cities nationwide that fail to comply with federal immigration demands.

Trump has declared that sanctuary jurisdictions cause “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our republic.” But U.S. District Judge William Orrick agreed with the city and county that the the president’s order violated the Constitution in threatening to deprive them of funding for local programs. The federal government may ask the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco to overturn the ruling.

A victory for the city and county could reinforce similar policies in some of the nation’s largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. It’s another blow to Trump’s call to tighten U.S. borders and deport undocumented residents. He’s already lost multiple bids to impose a travel ban against citizens of six mostly Muslim countries, with courts finding that both his original directive and a revised version run afoul of the Constitution’s ban on religious bias. [Continue reading…]

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ICE immigration arrests of noncriminals double under Trump

The Washington Post reports: Immigration arrests rose 32.6 percent in the first weeks of the Trump administration, with newly empowered federal agents intensifying their pursuit of not just undocumented immigrants with criminal records, but also thousands of illegal immigrants who have been otherwise law-abiding.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 21,362 immigrants, mostly convicted criminals, from January through mid-March, compared to 16,104 during the same period last year, according to statistics requested by The Washington Post.

Arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to 5,441, the clearest sign yet that President Trump has ditched his predecessor’s protective stance toward most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Advocates for immigrants say the unbridled enforcement has led to a sharp drop in reports from Latinos of sexual assaults and other crimes in Houston and Los Angeles, and terrified immigrant communities across the United States. A prosecutor said the presence of immigration agents in state and local courthouses, which advocates say has increased under the Trump administration, makes it harder to prosecute crime.

“My sense is that ICE is emboldened in a way that I have never seen,” Dan Satterberg, the top prosecutor in Washington state’s King County, which includes Seattle, said Thursday. “The federal government, in really just a couple of months, has undone decades of work that we have done to build this trust.” [Continue reading…]

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Jeff Sessions, unleashed at the border

A New York Times editorial says: Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to the border in Arizona on Tuesday and declared it a hellscape, a “ground zero” of death and violence where Americans must “take our stand” against a tide of evil flooding up from Mexico.

It was familiar Sessions-speak, about drug cartels and “transnational gangs” poisoning and raping and chopping off heads, things he said for years on the Senate floor as the gentleman from Alabama. But with a big difference: Now he controls the machinery of federal law enforcement, and his gonzo-apocalypto vision of immigration suddenly has force and weight behind it, from the officers and prosecutors and judges who answer to him.

When Mr. Sessions got to the part about the “criminal aliens and the coyotes and the document forgers” overthrowing our immigration system, the American flag behind him had clearly heard enough — it leaned back and fell over as if in a stupor. An agent rushed to rescue it, and stood there for the rest of the speech: a human flag stand and metaphor. A guy with a uniform and gun, wrapped in Old Glory, helping to give the Trump administration’s nativist policies a patriotic sheen.

It was in the details of Mr. Sessions’s oratory that his game was exposed. He talked of cities and suburbs as immigrant-afflicted “war zones,” but the crackdown he seeks focuses overwhelmingly on nonviolent offenses, the document fraud and unauthorized entry and other misdeeds that implicate many people who fit no sane definition of brutal criminal or threat to the homeland.

The problem with Mr. Sessions’s turbocharging of the Justice Department’s efforts against what he paints as machete-wielding “depravity” is how grossly it distorts the bigger picture. It reflects his long fixation — shared by his boss, President Trump — on immigration not as an often unruly, essentially salutary force in American history, but as a dire threat. It denies the existence of millions of people who are a force for good, economic mainstays and community assets, less prone to crime than the native-born — workers, parents, children, neighbors and, above all, human beings deserving of dignity and fair treatment under the law. [Continue reading…]

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The new Great Wall of Trump looks a lot like the old Iron Curtain

Josephine Huetlin writes: The president of the United States is determined to build a massive barrier along the Mexican frontier. But it’s now clear his Great Wall will have a lot of not-so-great gaps in it. Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly announced last week that no, despite President Trump’s campaign promise of an impenetrable border wall, “it is unlikely that we will build a wall from sea to shining sea.” This week a prosecutor labeled the immigration plan laid out by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “fucking horrifying.”

Here in Germany we’ve been watching all this with a mixture of amusement and disgust. After all, we know a few things about walls from the days when Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain, which cut our country and our capital in half.

There used to be a section of particularly thick and grey concrete slabs next to the Brandenburg Gate in the heart of this city, and until one night in 1989 they jutted out of the ground like a giant middle finger, as if deliberately intending to freak the living daylights out of any East Berliner who just so happened to be passing by the city center.

We all know the pictures of overjoyed people dancing on top in this section of wall on the 9th of November, 1989.

Axel Klausmeier, who directs the Berlin Wall Foundation, still has a special sense of rage toward the “martial construct,” as he calls it. “It was a conscious show of force to signal the core task of the East German border troops: no one is coming through.”

So, why didn’t the East German government just put up a fence or barbed wire here, as it did in so much of the countryside outside Berlin and along the border between East and West Germany in order to prevent people from fleeing its socialist utopia? (Even back then, fences were frequently judged a more practical barrier, because they allowed guards to see who was coming at them.)

“Everyone understands a wall,” Klausmeier replies. [Continue reading…]

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Undocumented in Trump’s America

 

 

 

 

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Trump travel ban ‘simplistic and wrongheaded’, says former CIA chief

The Guardian reports: The former CIA director John Brennan has described Donald Trump’s travel ban on visitors from Muslim countries as “simplistic and misguided”, predicting it would be counterproductive if implemented.

Brennan, who was director of central intelligence from March 2013 until the last day of the Obama administration on 20 January this year, was highly critical of a range of Trump policies and actions in an interview with the BBC Newsnight programme aired on Monday night.

He said the administration’s use of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” served to legitimise terrorists in their own eyes, and warned that the president’s disparagement of US intelligence agencies would hurt morale and recruitment. [Continue reading…]

 

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NGOs under attack for saving too many lives in the Mediterranean

By Nando Sigona, University of Birmingham

European politicians and media have accused non-governmental organisations (NGOs) carrying out search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean of undermining their efforts to stem the flow of migration from Libya. Recent accusations by the EU’s border agency Frontex mark a new low in the trend of criminalising those helping migrants and refugees in Europe. The Conversation

Until recently, negative media coverage and police investigations for so-called “crimes of solidarity” were directed mostly at small NGOs and volunteers. Now a main target of Frontex’s ire is the Nobel Peace Prize winner Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which is accused with other NGOs of colluding with human smugglers and ultimately being responsible for more migrants dying at sea.

Speaking in late February, the Frontex director, Fabrice Leggeri, said the presence of NGO vessels in the proximity of Libyan waters “leads traffickers to force even more migrants on to unseaworthy boats with insufficient water and fuel than in previous years”. MSF labelled the charges “extremely serious and damaging” and said its humanitarian action was not “the cause but a response” to the crisis.

Leggeri’s comments are not an isolated case and a number of European politicians have put forward similar statements. But their main intent is to divert attention away from their own inactivity and escape responsibility for the growth in irregular crossings and deaths across the central Mediterranean route from Libya to Europe.

The current focus on search and rescue operations at sea carried out by NGOs signals a more general shift in the political and public mood in Europe. Despite superficial public displays of outrage and condemnation for Donald Trump’s anti-immigration and anti-refugee stances in the US, similar initiatives and a similar rhetoric have gradually become part of the political mainstream in several European member states.

[Read more…]

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