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“So Impressed With Trump”: Patrol Agents Union Endorsement Raises Troubling Questions

Far be it from me to suggest that any American ought to be penalized for his or her choice of presidential candidate. One of the many things that make this democracy worth fighting to preserve is its premise of one person, one vote — a radical notion that gives the poorest citizen the same franchise as the wealthiest.

Furthermore, the secret ballot is designed to protect that fundamental right from bribery or coercion, intimidation or blackmail. You get to go into the voting booth and choose whoever you believe will best represent the national interest — and your own. You don’t have to worry about losing your job or your home or your livelihood because of the choice you’ve made.

Nevertheless, I have to wonder about the 16,500 members of the National Border Patrol Council, a union that has endorsed the candidacy of Donald Trump. Its members are federal law enforcement agents, charged with securing the country’s borders in a manner that respects the rights of those it may need to apprehend. Border Patrol agents should be evenhanded, prudent and circumspect, unflagging in upholding basic human rights.

But Trump hasn’t shown even a simple decency toward those who have entered the country illegally, especially Mexicans. Last June, he announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination in a speech laced with stunning bigotry.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” he said.

Since then, the real estate mogul has only ramped up the racism. He insists that he would build a wall on our southern border — forcing Mexico to pay for it — and he’d ban entry to all Muslims. Further, he has said, he’d round up the estimated 11 million undocumented workers already here and deport them. That’s not only imprudent, but it’s also irrational.

Yet, the Border Patrol union is so impressed with Trump that it has chosen to, well, trumpet its endorsement, breaking with union history in its first-ever official support for a presidential candidate during the primaries.

“We need a person in the White House who doesn’t fear the media, who doesn’t embrace political correctness … who won’t bow to foreign dictators, who is pro-military and values law enforcement, and who is angry for America and NOT subservient to the interests of other nations. Donald Trump is such a man,” the union said in a statement.

It’s not unusual for law enforcement officers to lean to the right; they often support Republican political candidates. But the union’s statement endorsing Trump is a hodgepodge of anti-Obama, ultra-right-wing memes shot through with a healthy dose of paranoia.

Claiming its members protect the country in “an environment where our own political leaders try to keep us from doing our jobs,” they paint President Obama’s tenure as a mistake. “America has already tried a young, articulate freshman senator who never created a job as an attorney and under whose watch criminal cartels have been given the freest border reign ever known,” the statement says. Really? These people represent federal law enforcement?

That Trump has tapped into a deep reserve of xenophobia among the Republican base is no great surprise; a GOP establishment that is now panicked by his rise spent years pandering to that xenophobia. But it is surprising that a union representing more than 75 percent of the nation’s Border Patrol agents has gone into league with that base, unveiling, in the process, a dangerous hostility toward Mexicans that hardly befits the agents’ status as law enforcement representatives. Their endorsement will only undermine confidence in their ability to carry out their duties fairly.

In 2011, an Arizona-based human rights organization, No More Deaths, published a report, “A Culture of Cruelty,” alleging systematic abuse of migrants and detainees by Border Patrol agents. Further, activists with No More Deaths contend that the Homeland Security hierarchy ignores or whitewashes those abuses.

With its endorsement of Donald Trump, the National Border Patrol Council has simply given those claims even more credibility.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, April 1, 2016

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Mexico, National Border Patrol Council | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Conservative Electorate’s Massive Meltdown”: ‘Browning Of America’ Is Tearing The GOP Apart

Before Pope Francis spoke a single word at the Mexican border, Donald Trump had — quite predictably — denounced the pontiff’s message. The real estate mogul and former reality-TV star has built his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination on an ugly nativism, so the moment was tailor-made for him.

The counter-messaging only escalated after the pontiff told reporters that anyone who wants to build a border wall, as Trump has infamously proposed, “is not Christian.” That prompted a retort from Trump, of course: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful,” he said.
(If the pontiff’s remarks were recorded correctly, he didn’t say Trump isn’t “a” Christian. In other words, he didn’t question the faith to which Trump ascribes; rather, the pope described Trump’s behavior as failing to follow Christian principles.)

Trump-isms notwithstanding, Pope Francis couldn’t have picked a better moment for his message of compassion toward migrants. This presidential campaign season has revealed some unseemly passions roiling in the American electorate — especially on the right; those resentments needed the criticism of an authority figure outside elective politics. Who better than the pope?
Concluding his swing through Mexico with a pointed stop at the border city of Juarez, Pope Francis bemoaned the global “human tragedy” that forces people to risk death to try to gain sanctuary in safer places. He called migrants “the brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organizations.”

Not that the pope’s call for charity is likely to have an immediate calming affect. In this country, the conservative electorate is in the midst of a massive meltdown over the nation’s changing demographics. Make no mistake about it: Stagnant wages and economic uncertainty have fueled the fires of outrage, but the flames were lit by a deep-seated resentment over a slow-moving but obvious cultural shift as white Americans slide toward losing their majority status.

The election of President Barack Obama is among the more striking signs of that shift, but there are others: Among the wealthiest and most influential pop culture figures are two black women known only by their first names, Oprah and Beyonce. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, has been hit by protests over its lack of diversity. Interracial couples, and their kids, are routinely featured in television commercials for common household products.

But the “browning of America,” as some social scientists have called it, has not been propelled by growing numbers of native-born blacks, but rather by increasing numbers of immigrants from Asia, Africa and the rest of the Americas. Of those, Latinos constitute the largest and most visible group. That helps to explain why immigration has occupied a central place in this presidential campaign — and why it threatens to tear apart the Republican Party.

Its leaders have spent decades pandering to the fears of those white Americans who are least comfortable with changes in the social and cultural hierarchy. Instead of displaying a leadership that might have eased the anxiety of white conservatives, GOP candidates broadened the old “Southern strategy” to disparage not only native-born black Americans but also immigrants of color.

Now, those GOP voters are displaying a xenophobia that has pushed the party even further to the right — and which threatens to alienate voters of color for decades to come. Even as Republican strategists tear their hair out over the hateful tone emanating from the campaign trail, the candidates, with a couple of exceptions, keep up their harsh rhetoric. While The Donald has displayed the most outrageous bigotry, including a call to bar all Muslims from entry, his rivals have tried not to be out-Trumped. Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, has disavowed a plan, one he once endorsed, to grant legal status to undocumented workers.

President Obama and the Democratic contenders, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have pushed back against the biases oozing from the GOP hustings, but they have no credibility with ultraconservative voters. Perhaps there are still a few of them who will be swayed by the loving and generous message of Pope Francis.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, February 20, 2016

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Pope Francis | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Vatican To Trump”: It’s Not ‘Personal,’ It’s Religion

The Vatican on Friday tried to tamp down a firestorm ignited by Pope Francis’ comments assailing Donald Trump’s views on U.S. immigration as “not Christian”, assuring the Republican presidential front-runner that it was not a personal attack or attempt to influence the U.S. campaign.

Francis told reporters during a conversation on his flight home from Mexico on Thursday, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump has said if elected president, he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep immigrants from illegally entering the United States.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio the pope’s comments, in response to a reporter’s question on Trump, were an affirmation of his longstanding belief that migrants should be helped and not shut out. He said the pope believed people “should build bridges, not walls”.

“In no way was this a personal attack, nor an indication of how to vote,” Lombardi said.

Trump, who leads Republican candidates in opinion polls, lashed out on Thursday, dismissing the pope’s remarks as “disgraceful” for questioning his faith.

“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS (Islamic State), which as everyone knows is ISIS’ ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president,” Trump said.

Later, during a television appearance, he rowed back, calling Francis “a wonderful guy.”

EXCHANGE MAKES HEADLINES

The extraordinary exchange between the billionaire real estate developer and leader of the world’s 1.25 billion Roman Catholics, which occurred days before Saturday’s Republican nominating contest in South Carolina, was headline news around the world.

On Friday, New York’s Daily News gave it the front page. Against a backdrop of an image of Trump, a headline blared: Anti Christ! The New York Post ran a front page photo of Trump and the pope wearing boxing gloves with the headline: Trump & pope: Bible belters.

It was unclear what, if any, effect the tussle might have on the vote in South Carolina, a conservative state that is home to many evangelical Protestant Christians.

Patrick Hornbeck, chairman of the department of theology at Fordham University in New York, said on Thursday that Francis’ words were not surprising given the poverty he had just seen in Mexico.

“There is very little common ground between Pope Francis and Donald Trump,” Hornbeck said. He predicted the pope’s words on electoral politics would have little effect on any U.S. Catholics who liked Trump as a candidate.

At a CNN town hall in Columbia, South Carolina, on Thursday night, Trump said he had “a lot of respect” for Francis but that the pope had been influenced by hearing only Mexico’s side of the border issue. The pope’s statement also had been exaggerated by the media, he said.

“I think he said something much softer than it was originally reported by the media,” Trump said.

Earlier on Thursday, Thomas Groome, director of the Boston College Center on the Church in the 21st Century, said Francis’ comments were entirely in keeping with his focus on mercy.

“The pope is commissioned to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s his job,” Groome said. “So when he was asked a direct question, he gave Trump the benefit of the doubt, he said we have to be sure he said this, but if he said this, it is not Christian.”

 

By: Emily Flitter, The National Memo, February 18, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Pope Francis, Religion | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Cuban Migrants Get Unfair Advantage Over Other Latinos”: The Benevolence Of The Law Made Sense In Decades Past

The Cold War is over, but it still deeply distorts U.S. immigration policy.

Consider the bizarre situation at our southern border. A wave of migrants is expected to appear there, hoping for safe passage into the U.S. and an expedited path to legal status and eventually full citizenship. They will get it.

These lucky migrants won’t be Mexicans fleeing drug cartels. They won’t be Hondurans, who must endure the world’s highest murder rate. And they won’t be citizens of El Salvador, where the Peace Corps just suspended operations due to the increasing violence.

No, we deport those people.

They will be Cubans. In recent months, increasing numbers of Cubans have been leaving their island country, flying to Ecuador first and then traveling northward through Central America. They wish to migrate to the U.S., fearful that thawing diplomatic relations will end the special treatment that Cubans who leave the island have long received.

That special treatment needs to end.

The hypocrisy that is embedded in U.S. immigration law will be on full display as the Cubans begin arriving, which could happen within the next few weeks.

Since 1966, the Cuban Adjustment Act has given Cuban people an extraordinary advantage over other migrants wishing to enter the U.S. The law was originally intended as a political and humanitarian reply to communism and the oppression of Fidel Castro. No proof that a person has suffered persecution. Where he or she arrives from is enough.

When people attempt to arrive through the Florida Straits, the policy that developed was dubbed “wet foot, dry foot.” If a Cuban can get one foot on dry U.S. soil, they can stay and are offered permanent legal status in a year and many other benefits of welfare and help to restart their lives.

The benevolence of the law made sense in decades past. But a good argument can be made that many of the migrating Cubans are fleeing not persecution but economic turmoil. And in doing so, they are not any more desperate, perhaps even less so, than those fleeing the violence and poverty of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Thousands of Central Americans arrived and asked for asylum in the summer of 2014. But those people are the wrong type of Latino for our policies. Many of them are indigenous, poor and have little formal schooling. So they were held for months in detention camps at the border. Many were eventually released, free to stay in the U.S. at least until their pleas for asylum status or legal residency can be assessed by an immigration judge. Raids and deportations of undocumented immigrants continue.

Meanwhile, as many as 8,000 Cubans who have been stranded in Costa Rica will soon be making their way northward through Mexico, after agreements were worked out by several Latin American governments. The Obama administration plans to open refugee screening centers in Central America, an attempt to stem the flow of non-Cuban migrants.

In this election year, especially in light of the GOP’s appeals to anti-immigrant sentiment, the migrant Cubans will present a political test.

GOP presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio, whose parents left Cuba before Castro took over, has introduced legislation to curb abuses of the American generosity toward Cubans. The Sun Sentinel of South Florida in 2015 documented cases in which Cubans claiming to be exiles were taking U.S. government benefits or committing other types of fraud, even after returning to Cuba.

How far Rubio’s legislation and the companion bill in the House will advance remains to be seen. And there is virtually no appetite in an election year to overhaul immigration for the benefit of more than just Cubans.

Amnesty is still a curse word in most GOP circles. In decades past, that didn’t matter in the case of Cubans, who could be counted on to become Republicans.

If the GOP is to have any hope of salvaging the Latino vote this presidential cycle it will have to traverse this sticky thicket, also acknowledging the needs of other Latino migrants. They have to beat back the anti-immigrant bleating of Donald Trump, as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley did in her response to the State of the Union speech.

They must vow to be just. They must promise to rewrite immigration law to weigh all humans’ needs equally and fairly, with no favor based on country of origin or likely partisan affinity. And they must not bow to nativist screeds.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; Featured Post, The National Memo, January 15, 2016

January 17, 2016 Posted by | Central America, Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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