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“Why The Border Crisis Is A Myth”: Another Justification To Play To Anti-Immigrant Voters In The Fall Elections

To hear the national news media tell the story, you would think my city, El Paso, and others along the Texas-Mexico border were being overrun by children — tens of thousands of them, some with their mothers, arriving from Central America in recent months, exploiting an immigration loophole to avoid deportation and putting a fatal strain on border state resources.

There’s no denying the impact of this latest immigration wave or the need for more resources. But there’s no crisis. Local communities like mine have done an amazing job of assisting these migrants.

Rather, the myth of a “crisis” is being used by politicians to justify ever-tighter restrictions on immigration, play to anti-immigrant voters in the fall elections and ignore the reasons so many children are coming here in the first place.

In the last month, about 2,500 refugees have been brought to El Paso after crossing the border elsewhere. The community quickly came together to support the women and children and Annunciation House, the organization coordinating the effort.

Contrary to the heated pronouncements, this is nothing we haven’t seen before. Groups of refugees arrive by plane and are processed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. When they are released, Annunciation House takes them to a shelter where they get a shower, a place to sleep, meals and even health care — all provided by volunteers and private donations.

The families of the refugees also help, often paying for travel costs and taking them into their homes. The refugees then move on, to Florida, Georgia, New York or elsewhere.

While the numbers of refugees arriving in El Paso are a fraction of the number arriving in McAllen, in southern Texas, the chain of events is generally the same. Like El Paso, South Texas is not the permanent destination for these refugees. And the response from McAllen’s citizens has been generous, too.

The same can’t be said of our politicians. What we are hearing from Austin and Washington is an almost Pavlovian response to immigration concerns. My governor, Rick Perry, a Republican, announced this week that he was sending 1,000 National Guard soldiers, at a cost of $12 million a month, to bolster the border.

And despite President Obama’s efforts to work with Central American leaders to address the root causes of the migration, his recently announced request for $3.7 billion, supposedly to deal with these new migrants, contains yet more border security measures: Almost $40 million would go to drone surveillance, and nearly 30 percent of it is for transportation and detention.

In Texas, state legislators and the Department of Public Safety are planning to spend an additional $30 million over six months to create a “surge” of state law enforcement resources, an expenditure that some in our state’s Capitol would like to see made permanent.

The costs are significant. Every day we detain an undocumented child immigrant, it costs Immigration and Customs Enforcement — i.e., the taxpayer — $259 per person, significantly more than we spend to educate a child in a middle-class school district.

The irony is that this cash-intensive strategy comes from leaders who consistently underfund health care, transportation and education. And they ignore the crucial fact that children crossing our borders aren’t trying to sneak around law enforcement: They are running to law enforcement.

What is most alarming, however, is the attempt to erode rights and protections created by intelligent, humane legislation.

The debate is centered on the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, a law signed by President George W. Bush to provide legal and humanitarian protections to unaccompanied migrant children from countries other than Mexico or Canada. The act passed with bipartisan support, yet the “crisis” is now being cited by some of the same legislators who supported the law as a reason to repeal or change it.

This effort to take away rights that were granted when there was significantly less anti-immigrant fervor isn’t just shortsighted and expensive, it’s un-American. We can debate the wisdom of providing greater protection to Central American children than to Mexican children, but there can be no doubt that giving safe haven to a child facing violence in a country that cannot protect its most vulnerable citizens is what a civilized country, with the resources we possess, should do.

Our border communities understand this. I hope the rest of the country, including our leaders in Austin and Washington, can follow our lead.

 

By: Veronica Escobar, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, July 25, 2014

July 28, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Humanitarian Crisis, Immigration, Refugees | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rick Perry’s Operation Strong Safety”: Creating A Talking Point For The Campaign Trail, Not Searching For A Practical Solution

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) recently appeared on Fox News, stressing his support for deploying National Guard troops to address the humanitarian crisis at the Southern border. Brit Hume asked the governor to explain what the Guard would actually do. Perry struggled to explain.

Hume reminded Perry, “[I]f these children who’ve undergone these harrowing journeys, to escape the most desperate conditions in their home countries, have gotten this far, are they really going to be deterred by the presence of troops along the border who won’t shoot them and can’t arrest them?”

At this point, Perry changed the subject.

But that was last week. This week, the Republican governor and likely presidential candidate is moving forward with his idea, whether he can explain its merits or not.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry on Monday requested the immediate deployment of as many as 1,000 service members to assist with security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The soldiers, from both the Texas National Guard and State Guard, will mobilize throughout the next 30 days to carry out “Operation Strong Safety” along the border region.

“I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault,” Perry said Monday during a press conference.

First, there’s very little to suggest Texans are “under assault.” Second, “Operation Strong Safety” is an unintentionally amusing phrase. As Paul Waldman joked, “ ‘Operation Strong Safety’? Why not just go ahead and call it Operation America Macho TestosteReagan?”

But even putting that aside, at its core, the most meaningful concern here is that Perry’s solution doesn’t match the problem.

The obvious question in response to the announcement from the governor’s office is simple: what, exactly, does Perry expect the Guard to do?

Part of the rationale, he said yesterday, was to deter others from entering the United States illegally. Again, this is predicated on a mistaken assumption about the nature of the crisis itself. These unaccompanied children are not sneaking into the country – on the contrary, they’re walking up to law-enforcement officials and gladly turning themselves in.

There is no deterrent effect in having more law-enforcement personnel because the kids aren’t afraid of getting caught. They fully expect to be taken into custody; they want to be taken into custody. Does Perry not understand these details? If not, why not?

What’s more, Greg Sargent recently talked to the head of the National Guard under the Bush/Cheney administration, who offered a valuable perspective.

[I]n an interview today, the head of the National Guard under George W. Bush said he had not yet heard a clear rationale for sending in the Guard and suggested it might not be the appropriate response to the problems at the core of the current crisis, though he did say he could envision the Guard playing some sort of part in a broader solution.

“Until mission requirements are clearly defined, it can’t be determined whether this is an appropriate use of the Guard in this particular case,” H. Steven Blum, who was the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from 2003 to 2009 and has been a career military man for decades, told me. “There may be many other organizations that might more appropriately be called upon. If you’re talking about search and rescue, maintaining the rule of law or restoring conditions back to normal after a natural disaster or a catastrophe, the Guard is superbly suited to that. I’m not so sure that what we’re dealing with in scope and causation right now would make it the ideal choice.”

That still seems to be an exceedingly polite way of saying, “Republican demands don’t seem to make any sense.”

Of course, it’s possible Perry’s decision is less about making sense and more about presidential posturing in advance of a national campaign. Immigration was an albatross for the Texas governor in 2012 – remember the “have a heart” problem? – and the Republican is no doubt eager to chart a different course in advance of 2016. Dispatching the National Guard, in this sense, is about looking “tough” and creating a talking point for the campaign trail, not searching for a practical solution.

It led Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) to say in a statement, “Once again, Texas taxpayers are being forced to pay for Governor Perry’s grandiose political ambitions. It is a costly misuse of our highly skilled National Guard to demand its service as a mere referral agent for children seeking refuge from abuse. Doing its job effectively, our Border Patrol does not need interference from either Governor Perry or vigilantes. We deserve Texas tough, but today we get only Texas Governor weak – weak on any bipartisan solutions, weak on any meaningful action.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 22, 2014

July 23, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Humanitarian Crisis, Rick Perry | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Voter ID’s Last Stand”: Let’s Finally Declare Laws What They Are – Racist On Purpose

This week, the US Department of Justice and the state of Texas started arguments in the first of what will be a summer-long dance between the two authorities over voting rights. There are three suits being tried in two districts over gerrymandering and Texas’s voter identification law – both of which are said to be racially motivated. In its filing, the DoJ describes the law as “exceed[ing] the requirements imposed by any other state” at the time that it passed. If the DoJ can prove the arguments in its filing, it won’t just defeat an unjust law: it could put the fiction of “voter fraud” to rest once and for all.

These battles, plus parallel cases proceeding in North Carolina, hinge on proving that the states acted with explicitly exclusionary intent toward minority voters – a higher standard was necessary prior to the Supreme Court’s gutting of Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) back in January. Under Section 3, the DoJ had wide latitude to look at possible consequences of voting regulation before they were even passed – the “preclearance” provision. Ironically, because the states held to preclearance had histories of racial discrimination, some of the messier aspects of the laws’ current intentions escaped comment.

But meeting that higher standard of explicit exclusionary intent comes with the opportunity to show some of the many skeptical Americans the ugly racism behind Republican appeals to “fairness” and warnings about fraud. Progressives have tried, and mostly failed, to show the institutional racism underpinning the sordid history behind voter ID laws; that may have been too subtle. In courts in Texas and North Carolina, the DoJ will make the jump from accusations that laws have a racial impact to straight-up calling voter ID laws racist.

This ought to be interesting.

The DoJ filing in Texas lays it all out pretty clearly, putting the voter ID law in context of a concerted legislative strategy to deny representation to the state’s growing Hispanic population, including Republicans advancing more and more aggressive voter ID bills over the years. The filing points to the anti-immigrant rhetoric that laced the floor debates over the law, and to the measures taken by the Republican-controlled state house to limit the participation of Democratic minority lawmakers in considering or amending the legislation (the bill was heard in front of a special committee selected by the governor, on an expedited schedule). And, the DoJ notes, lawmakers produced “virtually no evidence during or after enactment of SB 14 that in-person voter impersonation – the only form of election fraud addressed by the identification requirements of SB 14 – was a serious problem.”

Perhaps the most significant piece of context in the voter ID suit is how Texas’s voter ID law came on the heels of the redistricting that the DoJ claims was also racially motivated. In the redistricting cases, DoJ’s allegations of malicious intent have been helped along by the admission of the state that it had malicious political intent. The Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, chose as his defense in that case what only can be called the Lesser Evil Strategy – stating up front that the state’s GOP legislators had ulterior motives, but not the ones that the VRA outlaws:

[R]edistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats … [They] were motivated by partisan rather than racial considerations and the plaintiffs and DOJ have zero evidence to prove the contrary.

Abbott’s smugness – and his apparent faith in partisanship as a permissible and distinct form of discrimination – will take center stage as the DoJ presses on with both suits. In court, Abbott will be asked to prove his ignorance of demographics for the very state in which he is currently running for governor. Out of court, other GOP defenders of the law will have to do more or less the same. And they will need to defend the outrageous details of the law – such has how a concealed carry permit is a permissible form of voter ID but a federally-issued Medicare card carried by an elderly woman is not.

Some people of Texas may support the kind of bullying Abbott has prepared to defend, and most progressive activists are hardened to it, but I think average Americans hate it. Putting malice under a national spotlight might be the best way to turn people against voter ID laws in general.

Right now, Americans support the idea of voter ID laws by huge margins: polls show favorable attitudes toward a generic “ID requirement” to be between 70 and 80%. Approval exists across all demographic groups – even among black voters (51%), one of the groups that is, of course, disproportionately disenfranchised by these laws.

But the reasons that the public supports such laws aren’t the same as the GOP’s reasons for pursuing them: Republicans want to prevent specific types of people from voting; the American public wants voting to be fair. That’s why conservatives have had to hammer so hard on the false narrative of “voter fraud” – to convince everyone that it’s what the laws are really about.

Add context to the “ID requirement” poll question that Americans get behind, though, and public support changes dramatically. A survey in North Carolina (taken as the state was considering taking up an amendment on the issue) found initial support for voter ID to be 71%. Pollsters then drilled further down and came up with numbers that speak to a truly democratic impulse:

  • 72% say it’s wrong to pass laws that make it harder for certain people to vote.
  • 62% say they oppose a law that makes it harder for people of one party to vote.
  • 74% say there should be demonstrated problems before legislators apply a fix.

If nothing else, these results suggests that Abbott’s argument that supposedly party-based redistricting isn’t the free pass – at least, from the public’s standpoint, if not the court’s – that he thinks it is.

In North Carolina, pollsters found that support for the law decreased as the 2012 election neared and voters started to pay attention and become educated on the issue. Voting rights advocates filled yet another suit based on disenfranchising young voters, which could make a further difference. (Way to keep pissing off millennials, GOP!)

That context effect is true nationwide. A different survey found that informing respondents that “Opponents of voters ID laws argue they can actually prevent people who are eligible to vote from voting” brought support for voter ID down by 12 points.

Pollsters have not publicly investigated whether Texan voters would show a similar shift, though it could be significant that support in the state for voter ID has remained at around 66% for the past two years, less than its support nationwide. Of course, 77% of Texas believe “voter ID laws are mainly used to prevent fraud,” an alternate-reality bubble that attention to these cases may just yet pop.

It’s the Department of Justice that’ll have to bring this to pass. The GOP has always easily waved away “systemic” racism charges, like those made under the non-gutted VRA, as either outright inventions or the result of looking for equal outcomes rather than equal opportunities. Making clear the racist intent of voter ID laws will bring the discussion back to where it belongs: on equal opportunities, in the voting booth.

 

By: Ana Marie Cox, The Guardian, July 16, 2014

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Racism, Voter ID, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Right’s Cynical Wordplay”: ‘Women’s Safety’ Means Absolutely Nothing Anymore!

The most direct consequence of Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling striking down Massachusetts’ buffer zone law is that the people working and accessing care at abortion clinics will be less safe. Lawmakers in Massachusetts and municipalities across the country with similar measures in place will now have to figure out — once again — how best to ensure that the people who need to enter and exit clinics can continue to do so without being harassed, threatened, harmed or worse by antiabortion protesters. There have been nearly 7,000 incidences of clinic violence since 1977; history teaches us that safety is never a given when walking through those doors.

The second thing that the opinion in McCullen v. Coakley reminds us is how empty — how absolutely devoid of meaning — the notion of “women’s safety” has become in politics. Hardly a week passes without some measure advancing through a state legislature that will have devastating consequences for women’s health, but these bills are nonetheless cloaked in the language of women’s safety. Put those words in front of almost any piece of legislation and it seems like most lawmakers just nod their heads.

Texas comes to mind. We’re one year out from Wendy Davis’ historic filibuster, and the status of access in the state has gone from bad to utterly catastrophic. Nearly half of Texas’ abortion clinics have closed since 2011; it is estimated that come September, there will only be six abortion providers left in the second most populous state in the nation. The Rio Grande Valley has lost its last remaining abortion clinic, and now women in the region must travel 300 miles round trip to access care, including routine services like mammograms, cancer screenings and birth control. A recent study found that 7 percent of women in Texas have attempted to self-induce abortion. The number jumps to 12 percent for women who live along the Mexican border, and it is expected to grow. Women who have the luxury of crossing border checkpoints without fearing deportation or worse have been traveling to flea markets in Mexico to buy drugs from unlicensed and unregulated vendors in order to terminate their pregnancies.

But state Rep. Jodi Laubenberg called the passage of HB 2 a victory for women’s safety. In reflecting on the year that was, she commented, “Authoring and passing House Bill 2 was one of the most rewarding and challenging accomplishments of my legislative service. [...] It was worth it. I will continue to fight for both the safety of Texas women and the pre-born.” Her Republican colleagues echoed the sentiment. Republican state Rep. Jane Nelson said, “I am proud to support House Bill 2, which not only protects innocent life but also ensures that abortion facilities are safe for Texas women.” And state Rep. Patricia Harless used the same language to justify her vote. ”I proudly voted for House Bill 2 because I believe Texas women deserve more than the bare minimum, lowest level safety standards,” she said.

These talking points have been parroted by lawmakers in Louisiana, Utah, Oklahoma, Arizona, Mississippi, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and virtually everywhere else that laws like these are being enacted. It’s never about abortion. It’s always about safety — women’s safety.

Now the Massachusetts law was also about women’s safety. The kind of safety that 35 feet of distance between yourself and someone willing to spend their Saturdays outside an abortion clinic calling women murderers will provide you. The kind of safety that state lawmakers recognized was urgently needed after an antiabortion activist opened fire on a clinic near Boston and killed two people and injured five others.

The violence isn’t unique to Massachusetts; the threat is national. As Robin Marty wrote this week, if you want to understand why buffer zones matter, spend some time at an abortion clinic without one:

In my time working with abortion providers and abortion rights advocates over the last few years, I’ve seen first hand what is considered “counseling” by abortion opponents at unprotected clinics. In Louisville, Kentucky, one of only two clinics left in the Bluegrass state, I witnessed over 100 abortion opponents lining the sidewalk leading up to the clinic, stopping just at the property line in front of the door, chanting rosaries, calling to patients, preaching sin and eternal damnation through a microphone just a few feet from the waiting room window. I watched a woman shout through the window that the patients inside would die on the exam room table, that they would bleed to death inside, and no one would help them because the money was already paid up front. I saw protesters with bloody, graphic signs swarm patients just trying to get out of the car door and cross the mere 10 feet from curb to clinic property.

That’s what it is like at a clinic with no buffer zone.

And that will be the scene at more clinics in the wake of the Supreme Court’s unanimous finding that while it sees no problem with the buffer zone around its own building, it believes that a 35-foot barrier — the length of a school bus, a walk that will last approximately 7 seconds — is an undue burden on the First Amendment rights of the “peaceful sidewalk counselors” stationed outside. Not being able to follow women to the doors of the clinic apparently limits their ability to “persuade.”

But the burden that removing that buffer will place on women’s safety? Well, what do those words even mean anymore?

 

By: Katie McDonough, Politics Writer, Salon, June 27, 2014

June 29, 2014 Posted by | Supreme Court, Violence Against Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Where Is The Republican Voter Expansion Project?”: Republicans Used To Support Voting Rights—What Happened?

During a speech on Friday at the National Action Network, President Obama made his strongest and most extensive comments yet on the topic of voting rights. “The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago,” Obama said. “Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote.”

The election of the first black president and the resurrection of voter suppression efforts was hardly a coincidence. New voting restrictions took effect in nineteen states from 2011–12. Nine states under GOP control have adopted measures to make it more difficult to vote since 2013. Since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in June 2013, half of the states (eight in total) previously covered under Section 5 have passed or implemented new voting restrictions.

These laws, from voter ID to cutting early voting to restricting voter registration, have been passed under the guise of stopping voter fraud, although there’s scant evidence that such fraud exists. Obama cited a comprehensive study by News21 that found only ten cases of in-person voter impersonation since 2000. “The real voter fraud,” the president said, “is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud.”

Obama’s speech highlighted how Democratic leaders are embracing the cause of voting rights. (Attorney General Eric Holder has made it a signature issue, with the DOJ filing lawsuits against new voting restrictions in Texas and North Carolina last year.)

A day before arriving in New York, Obama spoke about civil rights at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library’s commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act—where the subject of contemporary attacks on voting rights came up often. “Is this what Martin Luther King gave his life for?” asked Bill Clinton. “Is this what Lyndon Johnson employed his legendary skills for? Is this what America has become a great thriving democracy for? To restrict the franchise?”

Democratic presidential hopefuls like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden have recently championed voting rights. The Democratic National Committee has launched a new Voter Expansion Project and veterans of the Obama campaign started iVote to elect Democratic secretaries of state in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and Nevada. Democrats hope that an appeal to voting rights will help mobilize key constituencies, like in 2012, when a backlash against GOP voter suppression efforts increased African-American turnout. “The single most important thing we can do to protect our right to vote is to vote,” Obama said on Friday.

It’s great that Democratic leaders are finally recognizing the severity of the attack on voting rights. But it’s sad that Republicans are almost unanimously supporting the restriction of voting rights rather than the expansion of the franchise.

Things weren’t always this way. In his new book about the Civil Rights Act, An Idea Whose Time Has Come, Todd Purdum tells the story of Bill McCulloch, a conservative Republican from Ohio who championed civil rights as the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. The Politico excerpt from the book was titled “The Republican Who Saved Civil Rights.”

There would have been no Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Voting Rights Act of 1965 without the support of Republicans like McCulloch and Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois. For decades after the 1960s, voting rights legislation had strong bipartisan support in Congress. Every reauthorization of the VRA—in 1970, 1975, 1982 and 2006—was signed by a Republican president and supported by an overwhelming number of Republicans in Congress.

Republicans like Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, an heir to McCulloch who as the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee oversaw the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA and is co-sponsoring a new fix for the VRA, used to be the norm within the GOP. Now he’s the rare Republican who still believes the GOP should remain the party of Lincoln. Where is the Republican Voter Expansion Project?

It’s also unfortunate that many in the media continue to report on voting rights like it’s a left-versus-right issue, as if supporting a fundamental democratic right suddenly makes one a flaming liberal. Jamie Fuller of The Washington Post called voting rights “the Democrats’ most important project in 2014.” Michael Shear of The New York Times dubbed Obama’s speech an effort “to rally his political base.”

The right to vote used to be regarded as a moral issue, not a partisan one. As President Johnson said when he introduced the VRA before Congress: “It is wrong—deadly wrong—to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.”

As long as Democrats are the party of voting rights and Republicans are the party of voter suppression, the right to vote will continue to be under siege.

 

By: Ari Berman, The Nation, April 14, 2014

April 17, 2014 Posted by | Republicans, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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