U.S. embassies ordered to identify population groups for tougher visa screening

Reuters reports: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has directed U.S. diplomatic missions to identify “populations warranting increased scrutiny” and toughen screening for visa applicants in those groups, according to diplomatic cables seen by Reuters.

He has also ordered a “mandatory social media check” for all applicants who have ever been present in territory controlled by the Islamic State, in what two former U.S. officials said would be a broad, labor-intensive expansion of such screening. Social media screening is now done fairly rarely by consular officials, one of the former officials said.

Four cables, or memos, issued by Tillerson over the last two weeks provide insight into how the U.S. government is implementing what President Donald Trump has called “extreme vetting” of foreigners entering the United States, a major campaign promise. The cables also demonstrate the administrative and logistical hurdles the White House faces in executing its vision.

The memos, which have not been previously reported, provided instructions for implementing Trump’s March 6 revised executive order temporarily barring visitors from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees, as well as a simultaneous memorandum mandating enhanced visa screening. [Continue reading…]

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Being Indian in Trump’s America

Amitava Kumar writes: On a September evening in 1987, Navroze Mody, a thirty-year-old Indian man living in Jersey City, went for drinks at the Gold Coast Café, in Hoboken. Later that night, after he left the bar, he was accosted on the street by a group of about a dozen youths and severely beaten. Mody died from his injuries four days later. There had been other attacks on Indians in the area at that time, several of them brutal, many of them carried out by a group that called itself the Dotbusters—the name a reference to the bindi worn by Hindu women on their foreheads. Earlier that year, a local newspaper had published a handwritten letter from the Dotbusters: “We will go to any extreme to get Indians to move out of Jersey City. If I’m walking down the street and I see a Hindu and the setting is right, I will hit him or her.”

When I first read about the attack on Mody, I had only recently arrived in the United States. I was a young graduate student at Syracuse University then, and although the news alarmed me I wasn’t fearful. In those days, distances felt real: an event unfolding in a city more than two hundred miles away seemed remote, even in the imagination. I might have worried for my mother and sisters, who wore bindis, but they were safe, in India. Whatever was happening in Jersey City, in other words, couldn’t affect the sense that I and my expat friends had of our role in this country. The desire for advancement often breeds an apolitical attitude among immigrants, a desire not to rock the boat, to be allowed to pass unnoticed. Since 1965, when Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act, abolishing the racist quotas of the nineteen-twenties, our compatriots had been bringing their professional skills to America. If we didn’t hope to be welcomed, we at least expected to be benignly ignored.

A lot has happened in the long interregnum. Indian-Americans have the highest median income of any ethnic group in the United States. There is a greater visibility now of Indians on American streets, and also of Indian food and culture. I’ve seen the elephant-headed deity Ganesha displayed all over America, in art museums, restaurants, yoga centers, and shops, on T-shirts and tote bags. The bindi isn’t the bull’s-eye it once was. But the bigotry, as we have witnessed in 2017, has not gone away. [Continue reading…]

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Internal Trump administration data undercuts travel ban

The Washington Post reports: At least two sets of internal data that have been available to the Trump administration — but that have never been publicized — appear to undercut the government’s argument for a travel ban that it had hoped would take effect Thursday, according to several officials familiar with the documents.

One internal report, titled “Most Foreign-Born US-Based Violent Extremists Radicalized After Entering Homeland,” analyzed roughly 90 cases involving suspected or confirmed foreign-born terrorists, finding that most of them probably embraced extremist ideology after they arrived in the United States, not before.

Another report, drawn on classified FBI data, has been used by the Trump administration to bolster its claims that refugees pose a risk of terrorism. But the figures that are the basis for that report undermine a key premise of the travel ban, with most of the suspects cited in the report coming from countries unaffected by President Trump’s executive order, according to officials familiar with the report.

Taken together, the two reports show there is a significant amount of internal government data that suggests the travel ban Trump wants to implement is not likely to be effective in curbing the threat of terrorism in the United States, these people said. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because some of the data is classified and none of it has been approved for public dissemination. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s plain words made clear his intention to ban Muslims

The New York Times reports: Rarely do a presidential candidate’s own words so dramatically haunt his presidency.

For the second time in two months, a federal judge on Wednesday refused to allow President Trump to impose a travel ban, citing his campaign rhetoric as evidence of an improper desire to prevent Muslims from entering the United States.

The judge’s stunning rebuke was a vivid example of how Mr. Trump’s angry, often xenophobic rallying cries during the 2016 campaign — which were so effective in helping to get him elected — have become legal and political liabilities now that he is in the Oval Office.

It is a lesson that presidents usually learn quickly: Difficult and controversial issues can easily be painted as black-and-white during a long campaign, but they are often more complicated for those who are in a position to govern.

That is especially true for Mr. Trump’s bellicose remarks about immigrants, which animated his upstart presidential campaign but now threaten to get in the way of his broader agenda for a health care overhaul, tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

It all seemed so simple before.

Five days after terrorists in California killed 14 people in December 2015, Mr. Trump whipped up his supporters at a rally by vowing to impose a complete ban on entry by Muslims “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

The crowd roared its approval.

Later in the campaign, Mr. Trump backed away from calling for a total Muslim ban. But the judge in Hawaii who ruled on Wednesday appears to have concluded that Mr. Trump’s true motivations could be found by looking at his earlier remarks.

“These plainly worded statements,” wrote Judge Derrick K. Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu, “betray the executive order’s stated secular purpose.” [Continue reading…]

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Populist Wilders may have come up short, but Dutch intolerance is still real

By Annemarie Toebosch, University of Michigan

The Dutch elections on March 15 have received a lot of attention in the international media. The Conversation

The reason for the attention is clear: A Trump lookalike populist, Geert Wilders, was rumored to win big as part of a western populist movement that some call the “Patriotic Spring.”

His rise has the liberal West confused and concerned, because if the land of gay marriage and coffee shops falls, then where is their hope for western liberalism?

But, as results are coming in, two things are becoming clear: Election turnout was high and Wilders’ support relatively low. Projections show Wilder’s party winning 19 seats compared to 31 seats for the Dutch-right liberal conservatives of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. What does all this tell us about the populist movement? Is our bedrock of tolerance safe again?

To understand what happened in these Dutch elections, we need to look beyond Wilders and his place in western populism to the myth of Dutch tolerance.

Students in my race and ethnicity courses at the University of Michigan have been engaged in this very task as they examine current and historic diversity in the Netherlands. When they read University of Amsterdam sociologist Jan Willem Duyvendak or Free University of Amsterdam Holocaust historian Dienke Hondius, a more complicated picture of Dutch tolerance emerges.

Wilders doesn’t represent a sudden movement of the Netherlands away from tolerance. Dutch tolerance does not really exist in the way the stereotype dictates. Seventy years ago, the country saw a larger percentage of its Jewish population deported and killed than any other Western European nation. This fact does not lend itself to simple explanations but has at least in part been attributed to the lack of protection of Jews by non-Jews and to Dutch collaboration with the Nazi occupation.

Looking at modern times, CUNY political scientist John Mollenkopf reports poorer immigrant integration outcomes, such as employment rates and job retention, in Amsterdam than in New York City and Duyvendak finds explanations for these outcomes in white majority-culture dominance.

[Read more…]

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Dutch prime minister claims victory over anti-Muslim candidate Geert Wilders

The Washington Post reports: The Dutch political establishment appeared Wednesday to fend off a challenge from anti-Muslim firebrand Geert Wilders in a national election, according to exit polls, a victory that heartened centrist leaders across Europe who are fearful of populist upsets in their own nations.

The result confirmed Wilders as a powerful voice on immigration in the Netherlands. But it would leave in place Prime Minister Mark Rutte and do little to alter the fundamental dynamic in a country unhappy with the status quo but deeply divided among many political parties.

The vote in the prosperous trading nation was seen as a bellwether for France and Germany, which head to the polls in the coming months and have also been shaken by fierce anti-immigrant sentiment. The British vote to exit the European Union and the election of Donald Trump, a skeptic about NATO and European integration, have cracked the door to a fundamental reordering of the post-World War II Western order. [Continue reading…]

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Federal judge in Hawaii freezes Trump’s new travel ban

The Washington Post reports: A federal judge in Hawaii has frozen President Trump’s new executive order temporarily barring the issuance of new visas to citizens of six-Muslim majority countries and suspending the admission of new refugees.

U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson froze the order nationwide.

Watson was the second of three judges to hear arguments Wednesday on whether to freeze the ban. A federal judge in Maryland said he also could rule before day’s end after a morning hearing, and the same federal judge in Washington state who suspended Trump’s first travel ban was set to hear arguments starting at 5 p.m. Eastern.

The hearing in Hawaii came in response to a lawsuit filed by the state itself. Lawyers for Hawaii alleged the new travel ban, much like the old, violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment because it is essentially a Muslim ban, hurts the ability of state businesses and universities to recruit top talent and damages the state’s robust tourism industry. [Continue reading…]

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How the Netherlands made Geert Wilders possible

The Atlantic reports: In the 17th century, Dutch settlers flocked to the southern half of what is now Manhattan to establish New Amsterdam, a fur-trading post that would welcome Lutherans and Catholics from Europe; Anglicans, Puritans, and Quakers from New England; and Sephardic Jews who were, at the time, discouraged from settling in America’s other nascent regions. Though its English conquerors would rename the city New York, the values of diversity and tolerance that the Dutch introduced would remain the region’s hallmarks for centuries to come.

In the modern-day Netherlands, however, the Dutch Republic’s founding pledge that “everyone shall remain free in religion” will soon collide with the ambitions of one of the country’s most popular politicians.

“Islam and freedom are not compatible,” claims Geert Wilders, the Party for Freedom (PVV) leader who campaigns on banning the Quran, closing Dutch mosques, and ending immigration from predominantly Muslim countries. “Stop Islam,” the phrase that sits atop Wilders’s Twitter page, aptly summarizes his party’s platform. In December, Dutch courts found Wilders guilty of carrying his rhetoric too far, convicting him of discriminatory speech for rallying supporters in an anti-Moroccan call-and-response. Nonetheless, Wilders is a leading contender to receive the plurality of votes in the country’s parliamentary elections on March 15.

The nation’s peculiar path from “live and let live” to “Make the Netherlands Ours Again” (as Wilders recently said) has as its guideposts a changing definition of tolerance, some instances of political opportunism—and a pair of grisly assassinations.

From the mix of faith groups that inhabited New Amsterdam to the peaceful coexistence of Protestants, Catholics, and socialists throughout the Netherlands in the 20th century, the Dutch brand of multiculturalism has often been more “salad bowl” than “melting pot.” Each sect of society had its own schools, media outlets, and social groups; tolerance was the act of respecting those boundaries.

“Historically, Dutch tolerance has been more of a pragmatic strategy,” said Jan Rath, a professor of urban sociology at the University of Amsterdam. “Tolerance has been a way to contain oppositions or complications.” [Continue reading…]

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Sweden, immigrants and Trump’s post-Enlightenment world

Anne Applebaum writes: The Enlightenment belief that we can know and understand reality — that we can measure it, weigh it, judge it, use reason to explain it — underlies all of the achievements of Western civilization, from the scientific revolution to the Industrial Revolution to democracy itself. Ever since René Descartes asked himself how it was possible to know that melting wax is the same thing as a candle, we have believed that reason, not mythology, sensibility, emotion or instinct, provides a superior way to understand the world. But is that still true?

If the strange case of Sweden and its immigrants is anything to go by, then the answer is probably no. This odd story began last month, when President Trump began ranting, memorably, about dangerous immigrants at a rally in Florida: “You look at what’s happening last night, in Sweden! Sweden! Who would believe this, Sweden!” The following morning, puzzled Swedes woke up to find the world’s media asking them what, actually, had happened last night. The answer — other than some road closures — was nothing.

In an Enlightenment world, that would have been the end of the story. In our post-Enlightenment world, things got more complicated. Trump explained that what he had seen “last night” was not a terrorist attack — though that was certainly implied in his speech — but a filmmaker named Ami Horowitz who was interviewed by Tucker Carlson on Fox News. The interview was indeed terrifying: For those unfamiliar with the techniques of emotional manipulation — and they are the same, whether used by Fox News or Russia Today — it should be mandatory viewing. As the two were speaking, a clip of an aggressive, brown-skinned man hitting a policeman, presumably in Sweden, alternated in the background, over and over, with a clip of a burning car. The repetitive, frightening images were bolstered by more clips from Horowitz’s film, in which Swedish police officers appeared to be confirming a massive rise in crime linked to immigration. Carlson, meanwhile, marveled at the stupidity and naivete of the Swedish nation helpless to confront this menace. No wonder the president was upset.

But the next day, the Swedish police officers protested: Horowitz had never asked them about immigration, and had cut their interviews to make it seem as if they were answering different questions. Moreover, while Sweden did — generously and admirably — accept 160,000 refugees in 2015, and while there are genuine problems absorbing and acculturating them, Swedish crime rates remain low, particularly if you compare them with crime rates in, say, Florida.

A faked film had inspired the president to cite an imaginary crisis — but the story didn’t end there. [Continue reading…]

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The spat between Turkey and the Netherlands is all about winning votes

Ishaan Tharoor writes: The escalating crisis between Turkey and the Netherlands is a startling example of how this year’s crucial election campaigns can flare into international incidents.

The Dutch go to the polls this Wednesday for a parliamentary election seen as a bellwether for Europe’s political future, and all eyes are focused on far-right, Euroskeptic, anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders. Meanwhile, Turkey will hold a referendum next month on constitutional revisions that would scrap the country’s parliamentary system in favor of an executive presidency under the powerful President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In their electoral bids, Erdogan and Wilders have found useful bogeymen in one another’s nations.

“The explanation for the Dutch-Turkish ‘crisis’ this weekend is pretty straightforward,” wrote Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde in a message to Today’s WorldView. “Both countries are currently engulfed in electoral campaigns that are dominated by authoritarian nativism.” [Continue reading…]

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Congressman Steve King endorses ‘Dutch Trump,’ Geert Wilders, in battle over ‘civilization’

The Daily Beast reports: The Republican Party has long been a comfortable home for anti-Europeanism, from the “America First” opponents of U.S. participation in World War II to the “let them eat Freedom Fries” movement responsible for renaming French fries in congressional cafeterias during the lead-up to the Iraq War in 2003.

But as far-right political parties gain power and prominence on the Continent, many members of the Grand Old Party are cozying up to European politicos with unprecedented enthusiasm — well, nearly unprecedented.

Among the most fawning of the newly Europositive wing of the Republican party: Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a nativist hawk from the heartland with a long and unapologetic history of making incendiary statements regarding immigrants, Islam, and racial “sub-groups.” On Sunday, however, King surprised even his sharpest critics by tweeting what amounts to an endorsement of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, founder and leader of the right-wing Party for Freedom who is days away from his potential election as prime minister of the Netherlands. [Continue reading…]

 

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Geert Wilders: The peroxide-blond crusader who could soon top Dutch elections

The Washington Post reports: He warns about the perils of Muslim immigrants. A single well-lobbed tweet can ignite his nation’s political scene for days. And in a time of relative prosperity, he has succeeded in focusing dark fears about what is happening in mosques across his land.

The peroxide-blond Dutch politician Geert Wilders was executing the Trump playbook long before the U.S. president started his insurgent campaign for the White House. And in Dutch elections Wednesday, Wilders has a strong chance to come out on top, cementing the influence of a politician who wants to ban the Koran, shut down mosques and upend his nation’s sleepy political scene.

Nervous leaders across Europe are looking to the Netherlands this week for clues about elections this year in France and Germany. There, anti-Islam, anti-European Union candidates also are capitalizing on fears about a wave of mostly Muslim refugees and migrants who have surged over their borders in recent years. [Continue reading…]

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Trump travel ban weakens national security, foreign policy experts argue

Newsweek reports: More than 130 former defense and foreign policy officials have criticized President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban as contrary to national security and a useful recruiting tool for the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

“We are deeply concerned that the March 6, 2017, executive order halting refugee resettlement and suspending visa issuance and travel from six Muslim-majority countries will, like the prior version, weaken U.S. national security and undermine U.S. global leadership,” reads the letter, dated Friday and delivered to Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Michael Dempsey, acting director of national intelligence.

Signatories include veterans of multiple presidential administrations, including Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright; Barack Obama’s secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano; Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry; George W. Bush and Clinton veteran Richard Clarke; Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice; and many others. [Continue reading…]

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Britain is an immigrant nation

Rachel Shabi writes: The central exhibit of the Museum of Immigration and Diversity is the building itself. Located in London’s East End, it straddles the Docklands to its east, where new arrivals to Britain once hit dry land, and to its west the city, whose shiny office towers stand as the symbols of wealth and opportunity that have attracted so many newcomers.

This unassuming Georgian building on 19 Princelet Street has migration written into its bricks and mortar. Built in 1719, the house was once home to Huguenots fleeing persecution from Catholic France, and then to families forced to leave Ireland during the potato famine of the 1840s. Later in the 19th century, Jewish refugees from pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe turned the garden into a small synagogue. In the 1930s, the Jewish East Enders used the basement to hold meetings for the movement that faced down the fascist Blackshirts in the famous Battle of Cable Street.

The period that followed bequeathed one of the nation’s most enduringly positive immigration stories. Just before World War II, Britain took in some 10,000 mostly Jewish children through the Kindertransport rescue program. Last year, one of those children, Alf Dubs, a Labour member of the House of Lords, won popular support for his campaign to bring 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees into the country.

In the postwar period, the Princelet Street house and surrounding streets were home to new migrant communities — from Bangladesh, the Caribbean and, most recently, Eastern Europe. Much like New York’s landmark Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Museum of Immigration and Diversity intertwines all these strands. Each room showcases a different aspect of the immigrant experience, narrating histories through objects, diaries and recordings.

In a larger way, of course, the very story of Britain has always been one of migrants. Poke around behind Britain’s currently rigid surface of chauvinism and a composite picture emerges — of Romans, Vikings, Celts, Normans, Jews, Indians, Chinese, Africans and more. The whole country is a living museum of immigration — if only its people would acknowledge it.

But Brexit Britain, you might suppose, is not a country much inclined to hear migration stories. Whatever else can be read into the referendum vote to leave the European Union, it was characterized by hostility about the flow of people to Britain and campaigning that played heavily on fears of immigration. [Continue reading…]

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The trouble with Trump’s latest plan to give voice to xenophobic bigotry

Katelyn Fossett writes: Last Tuesday, as Donald Trump unveiled the name of a new government office dedicated to tracking and publishing crimes committed by immigrants, one could hear the literal gasps of Democrats assembled in the House of Representatives to hear the president’s first joint address to Congress.

“I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims,” Trump said. “The office is called VOICE—Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.”

He then went on to highlight the suffering of “four very brave Americans whose government failed them”—people whose loved ones had been killed by immigrants. It’s a technique Trump used throughout the 2016 campaign and at his convention, one his advisers believe was crucial to his ultimate victory in November.

Now that Trump is president, singling out immigrants as a uniquely criminal group is central to his plans to roll back decades of what he sees as a bipartisan failure to protect the United States from an invasion of illegal aliens. And VOICE is at the heart of those efforts.

The executive order Trump issued on Jan. 25, two days before his now-replaced travel ban, mandated that the Department of Homeland Security, which houses VOICE, begin publishing weekly statistics on crimes by immigrants: “To better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions, the Secretary shall utilize the Declined Detainer Outcome Report or its equivalent and, on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.” One clear goal is to aid Trump’s pledged crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities, which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Critics pounced. Some likened it to Nazi Germany propaganda that singled out crimes by Jews. But lost in the debate was a discussion of how the list would get made—and if it would even tell us anything useful.

Set aside the fact that studies show that immigrants tend to commit crimes at a lower rate than citizens, or that urban police forces worry their tip lines will dry up if immigrants are scared to come forward. The less obvious problem with Trump’s list is that it will focus largely on nonviolent offenders, painting an entire group as public safety threats for offenses that are more likely to be traffic violations than rape and murder. [Continue reading…]

Supporters of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies seem to think they can deflect accusations of racism by insisting that the individuals facing deportation or who have already been sent to Mexico are merely suffering the consequences of failing to comply with the law.

But if driving while under the influence of alcohol is sufficient justification to expel someone from the United States, millions of Americans should be sent into exile.

By their own admission, on average each year drivers admit that they have driven when having had too much to drink about 120 million times. But only 1 percent of these incidents result in arrest.

The xenophobes want to paint immigration as a law and order issue when in truth it is racism pure and simple.

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Trump’s immigration executive orders: The demise of due process and discretion

By Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Pennsylvania State University

The U.S. immigration code, passed by Congress in 1952, rivals the tax code in its level of complexity. The Conversation

In January, President Donald Trump signed three executive orders on immigration that have made matters more complicated for immigrants and the lawyers and advocates who fight on their behalf.

As an immigration lawyer and teacher, I have spent countless hours helping those in need and educating my community, which includes residents, educators, professors, international students and scholars, along with local government about the contents of the orders, and the guidelines released by the Department of Homeland Security in February and how they will be implemented.

Specifically, the two orders on deportations and enforcement, both signed on Jan. 25, reveal that the government is making three major changes.

First, the orders are making virtually every undocumented person a priority for deportation.

Second, they seek to maximize existing programs that allow deportation of individuals without basic due process. This includes the right to be heard by a judge, present evidence or challenge a charge of deportation.

And third, pursuant to its Feb. 20 memorandum, DHS has rescinded most documents that offered guidance on prosecutorial discretion.

Prosecutorial discretion in immigration law refers to the choice made by a government official or agency to enforce or not enforce the immigration law against a person. It has been the central focus of my research, and is a critical component in our immigration system. Officials must choose whom to prioritize for removal because they have limited resources. The government has also recognized other compelling reasons why a person might deserve to not be deported. For example, a person without papers who has lived in the United States for several years and has family ties, steady employment or community leadership may temporarily be protected from removal.

Do Trump’s executive orders signal an end to this practice?

[Read more…]

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