Thursday, January 18, 2024

For Republicans, the issue isn't immigration - it's all about racism

According to a recent CBS News poll, 82% of registered Republicans agree with Donald Trump that "illegal" immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country." Among Iowa Republican caucus-goers, immigration beat out the economy as their number one issue and three quarters of them said that immigrants are a negative for the country.

While the rest of us are focusing on the economy, democracy, and abortion, Republicans and their media propaganda machines are obsessed with fear-mongering about the so-called "border crisis." And from the results up above, it seems to be effectively stirring up the MAGA crowd.

So let's take the least onerous articulation of this fear and examine it. Are immigrants a negative for the country? By now we know that they're not taking our jobs, they don't commit more crimes, and they're not the ones bringing fentanyl into the country. The most ridiculous lie about immigrants is the one put forward by James Varney without a shred of evidence. He suggested that they are responsible for bringing back diseases like polio and the measles - completely ignoring the fact that the whole anti-vax movement might be responsible.

Of course, there's also the more nebulous arguments like the one from Elon Musk, who recently said: "it’s very easy for the United States to get swamped by illegal immigration, just absolutely swamped." I have no idea what he meant by that, but let's take a look at the numbers. During FY2023, roughly 2.1 million migrants crossed the southern border. In a country of 332 million, that is 0.6% of the population. I don't think that qualifies as "swamped."

In the end, all of these lies are simply code for tapping into the underlying racism of those who fear being "replaced" by black/brown immigrants. I am reminded of the fact that even Trump said he wanted more immigrants from [white] countries like Norway after he suggested that we should get rid of those from "shithole countries" like Haiti. In other words, this isn't about immigration - it's all about racism.

The bottom line is that we have nothing to fear when it comes to these migrants. The real problem is that the system we have in place is not capable of handling this refugee crisis - which is why Congress needs to pass legislation to fix it. That is not a call to open our borders, but a pathway towards staffing up to have an orderly and humane process.

The truth is that we are currently in the midst of a labor shortage due to the fact that baby boomers are aging out of the workforce. A well-ordered immigration process could play a part in solving that one. But for Republicans, the solutions are to eliminate child labor laws and/or outlaw abortion  (perhaps even birth control) so that women are forced to have more babies. In other words, they're willing to sacrifice women and children in order to maintain their white privilege. How sick is that?! 

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Next target for white supremacists: the Civil Rights Act of 1964

In the interest of accountability, I need to acknowledge that something I wrote recently wasn't entirely accurate. I suggested that, as we head into Martin Luther King Day, we'd be hearing lots of hypocritical praise of the civil rights leader from voices on the right. While that might still be partially accurate, I wrote that before I saw this

[Charlie Kirk] recently said that he plans to release content to discredit MLK on January 15, King’s birthday, which is a US federal holiday honoring King.

“We're gonna be hitting him next week,” Kirk said on his podcast this week. “Yeah, on the day of the Iowa caucus, it's MLK Day. We're gonna do the thing you're not supposed to do. We're gonna tell the truth about MLK Jr. You better tune in next week. Blake has already been preparing. It's gonna be great.”

"Blake" is a reference to Blake Neff, Kirk's producer who was apparently even too racist for Fox News

But these attacks aren't merely an attempt to discredit Dr. King. 

Kirk argues that the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, ushered in a “permanent DEI-type bureaucracy,” referring to diversity, equity, and inclusion...

“The courts have been really weak on this,” Kirk told the America Fest crowd. “Federal courts just yield to the Civil Rights Act as if it's the actual American Constitution.” The law is ultimately a way to “re-found the county” and “a way to get rid of the First Amendment,” according to Kirk.

In other words, an attack on King is the entry point to an attack on one of the singular achievements of the Civil Rights Movement.

That tells us where this whole anti-DEI propaganda is headed. They've successfully launched attacks on affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act, so now they want to do the same thing to the Civil Rights Act - taking us back to the days when the Jim Crow laws of the south were legal. The claim is that the Civil Rights Act nullified the First Amendment rights [of white people].

Simultaneously, it was announced that Charlie Kirk's Turning Point USA will partner with New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) leader Lance Wallnau to help re-elect Trump. Wallnau and NAR are dominionists - “the theocratic idea that … Christians are called by God to exercise dominion over every aspect of society by taking control of political and cultural institutions.” So once again we see Christian Nationalists joining forces with white supremacists to sow division via racism and undermine our democracy.

Friday, January 12, 2024

For Christian Nationalists, it's always been about racism

On Monday we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Even as Christian Nationalists attempt to dismantle everything he accomplished, we're likely to once again be subject to hypocritical praise of the leader of the Civil Rights Movement. So let's review some history.

We'll start with one of the founders of the current religious right - Jerry Falwell. Following the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, he gave a sermon titled "Segregation or Integration: Which?" and declared:

If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line...

The true Negro does not want integration…. He realizes his potential is far better among his own race.

So according to Falwell, both God and "the true Negro" endorse segregation. 

Then in 1965, Falwell gave another sermon titled "Ministers and Marches" in which he attacked MLK as a communist subversive and claimed that "preachers are not called to be politicians, but soul winners." He went on to blame the "marchers" for instigating hate and violence, saying:

I am fearful that all the rioting and demonstrating has produced a great amount of hate as evidenced through recent murders and other forms of violence.

The date of that sermon is significant. It came on March 21, 1965, a mere two weeks after this happened in Selma, Alabama:

Two days after Bloody Sunday, white supremacists murdered civil rights activist James Reeb, who had come to Selma to participate in subsequent marches. Falwell seemed to suggest that it was non-violent protesters who were responsible for his death.

Finally, Falwell's sermon was delivered on the SAME DAY that Dr.  King joined John Lewis and others in a second march from Selma to Montgomery in the fight for voting rights.

Years later, Falwell had to recant that sermon when he helped found the so-called "Moral Majority," the pre-cursor to Christian Nationalism. By then he was promoting the idea that preachers must involve themselves in politics. But contrary to what we've often been taught, he was NOT motivated by the fight against the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade, but due to the 1971 ruling in Green v. Connally which, based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, striped "segregation academies" of their tax exempt status for discrimination. 

Of course, Christian nationalists are free to hypocritically cherry-pick quotes from Dr. King because, as long as we are still a democracy, they have the right to free speech. But the rest of us are also free to remind everyone of their past and current behavior - which is designed to undermine everything the Civil Rights leader stood for. 

Friday, January 5, 2024

Speaker Johnson - who claims to base his political positions on the Bible - just told 7 lies in 4 minutes.

During his photo-op trip to the southern border, Speaker Mike Johnson was interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper.  


In just the first four minutes, Johnson told seven lies.

1. Speaking about President Biden's supplemental $14 billion for border security, Johnson said (emphasis mine) "the White House is proposing more money to process and allow more illegals into the country." As the conversation progressed, it became clear that the Speaker was referring to funding for 1,600 asylum officers that would address the growing backlog of cases. But according to U.S. law, asylum seekers are NOT "illegal."
The right to seek asylum was incorporated into international law following the atrocities of World War II. Congress adopted key provisions of the Geneva Refugee Convention (including the international definition of a refugee) into U.S. immigration law when it passed the Refugee Act of 1980.

2.  In trying to ramp up fear about the number of migrants crossing the border, Johnson said, "We have nearly two million got-aways that we know about, not to mention those who evaded capture." Here's what he's referring to:

Border Patrol refers to detected illegal entrants who it fails to arrest as “gotaways.” Thanks to nearly universal surveillance along the southwest border, successfully entering illegally without detection is very difficult, but Border Patrol often cannot reach the spot where a crossing occurs in time to arrest the person.

As you may know, Trump instituted Title 42 during the pandemic to return border crossers to Mexico. Biden finally ended that policy last May. Here's what happened:

The pattern is unmistakable: Gotaways increased almost continuously in parallel with the use of Title 42 before falling sharply after it ended.

3. "We have...over 300 known terrorists apprehended at the border trying to come in. We don't know how many evaded capture and detection. They're in the country potentially setting up terrorist cells everywhere."

In other words, the Biden administration has apprehended 300 people at the border who are on the terror watch list. The Speaker should be congratulating them for that. Instead, with absolutely zero evidence, he claims that there are others who evaded capture and are "setting up terrorist cells everywhere."

4. "Fentanyl is the number one cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 49 flowing over the border like an open sewer." Here are the facts:

[T]he vast majority of illicit fentanyl — close to 90% — is seized at official border crossings. Immigration authorities say nearly all of that is smuggled by people who are legally authorized to cross the border, and more than half by U.S. citizens...Virtually none is seized from migrants seeking asylum.

5. "[Biden] could issue executive orders and fix this overnight. You could reinstate the remain-in-Mexico policy." Not true. That's because it would require cooperation from Mexico.

Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday it rejects any effort to reimplement the controversial Trump-era policy known as "remain in Mexico" for asylum-seekers...

"Regarding the possible implementation of this policy for the third time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Government of Mexico, expresses its rejection of the U.S. government's intention to return individuals processed under the program to Mexico," the statement said.

Besides, if Johnson is so worried about the cartels that are profiting off of this crisis, here's a bit about how they terrorized migrants who were "remaining in Mexico" under the previous policy.

I was struck by the level of control that organized crime has over the lives of residents, and especially of migrants...Cold War-era East German officials would be impressed. Nobody is allowed near the Rio Grande: riverfront parks sit empty. Those who try to cross without having paid a fee are beaten, or worse. Those who lack a “password” or other proof that they have paid cartels’ exorbitant fees are kidnapped. Migrants, including parents and children, get held in fetid stash houses, while their captors text terrifying videos to relatives in the United States, instructing them to transfer ransom payments in the thousands of dollars. If nobody pays, they are disappeared, enslaved—forced to perform labor for the cartels—or even killed.

6. "You could stop the catch-and-release policy that the Biden administration insists upon." I suppose this isn't technically a lie because he's referring to migrants who pass the "credible threat assessment" and are released pending their asylum hearing. It is theoretically possible that the U.S. could detain all of them. But where? Perhaps the bigger point is, "why detain them" when 95% attend all of their court hearings.

7. "[W]e have hardened criminals who are coming from all these countries around the world...They're opening prisons and sending them here." This is the most outrageous lie of all. First of all, it's not clear what he's referring to. I doubt it is this from last February:

The Nicaraguan government released more than 200 political prisoners, many of whom arrived in the United States on Thursday, according to officials, following years of repression by the country’s President Daniel Ortega.

The authoritarian leader has jailed dozens of opposition figures and activists, particularly in the lead up to the last elections in November of 2021...

The individuals, who all flew to Dulles International airport, will be granted humanitarian parole for two years, allowing them to remain US and giving them the time to apply for asylum if they wish.

Those are precisely the kind of migrants our asylum laws are meant to protect. So it's more likely that Johnson was referring to this: 

According to fact-checkers, that one comes from an article in Breitbart based on "a source within" Customs and Border Protection who is "not authorized to speak to the media." It was subsequently repeated by Fox News and several other right-wing sites. But...

PolitiFact searched the websites of the DHS Office of the Inspector General, DHS and CBP and found no public reports or mentions of Venezuela’s government releasing prisoners and sending them to the U.S.

So there you have it. The guy who claims to base his political positions on the Bible is perfectly content to tell lies. I'm not sure what Bible he's reading, but it's certainly not the one that says this in Proverbs 12:22: "The Lord detests lying lips."  

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

When it comes to immigrants, Republicans have nothing but lies.

If you don't pay attention to what MAGA Republicans are doing or what is being reported at right wing news outlets, you might not be aware of the fact that their attempts to fear-monger are now focusing almost exclusively on the so-called "border crisis." As I noted previously, with the economy doing so well and crime rates dropping, they don't have anything else to ramp up the rage on the right. 

So today, NPR reports that immigration is shaping up to be a major campaign issue as  House Speaker Mike Johnson leads a delegation of 60 Republicans on a visit to the Eagle Pass port of entry in Texas. 

But even more noteworthy, Johnson has signed off on an effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas over his handling of the border. Proceedings will begin next week. The claim is that he refused "to enforce the laws passed by Congress, and that his failure to fulfill his oath of office demands accountability." Of course, that's all bullsh*t. Since Republicans won't be able to prove that Mayorkas committed any high crimes or misdemeanors, they simply want to use the opportunity to spread their fear-mongering lies. As an example, here's what they have planned for their first hearing:

[Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark] Green’s first hearing is expected to be titled: “Havoc in the Heartland: How Secretary Mayorkas’ Failed Leadership Has Impacted the States.”

The hearing will explore how Midwestern states have grappled with the flow of migrants that have increasingly come across the southern border in recent years.

I doubt Green will want to hear from people like Robert Leonard, who lives in Knoxsville, Iowa (emphasis mine). 

We should help and welcome refugees because we can, but also, if you need a cold-hearted economic reason, because we need them. Iowa Workforce Development reports that in December of 2019, Iowa had 60,000 job openings, and 49,000 unemployed people. The job openings have nearly doubled since then. In February of this year, our job openings had grown to 109,000 jobs open, with 59,500 people unemployed. Inviting immigrants, and having the support system in place to help them as they arrive, isn’t a cost, it’s an investment.

That's why it's important for the rest of us to understand what's going on and call out the lies. As I've documented, we are experiencing a refugee crisis, not a border crisis. Being clear about that shifts the focus away from fear-mongering and towards policies that will work. 

There is one thing we can all agree on: encounters with migrants on our southern border have been rising - especially since 2021.

However, that's where the agreement ends because Republicans decided to embrace fear-mongering about immigration as part of their agenda back in 2013. It all started when House Speaker Boehner refused to bring up the bi-partisan immigration reform bill that had passed the Senate. At the time, the focus was on the 11 million undocumented migrants who were already in the country and workers from Mexico crossing the border illegally. 

Arguments made by Republicans at the time focused on lies about immigrants taking away jobs from "real Americans" and being a drain on our economy. With the advent of Donald Trump's foray into national politics, immigrants became a central issue of his 2016 presidential campaign and the lies shifted to the idea that immigrants are criminals. That one has morphed into a lie tying fentanyl to the so-called "border crisis."

These days we're hearing a lot about this whole thing being a Democratic plot.

That leads directly to the white nationalist "great replacement theory." Putting an exclamation point on that one, Trump actually said that these immigrants are "poisoning the blood" of our country. 

Adding to the fascist nature of these lies, today I saw the first article from a right wing news outlet (RealClearPolitics) claiming that immigrants are bringing in diseases like leprosy, polio, TB, and measles. That's right out of Hitler's playbook.  

All of these lies have one thing in common: they are designed to spread fear about these migrants, which allows Republicans to blame Biden and Democrats for the crisis. But let's take a look at what they are actually proposing. 

Republicans in the House passed the Secure Borders Act (H.R. 2) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced similar legislation in the Senate. Here's some of what that legislation would do:

  1. Require the Department of Homeland Security to resume border wall construction. A total waste of tax dollars given that the southern border is more fortified than it's ever been and asylum-seekers turn themselves in to Border Patrol.
  2. Tighten asylum standards by requiring migrants to prove they are “more likely than not” to qualify for their asylum claim. This would make it more difficult for migrants to pass the initial "credible fear assessment."
  3. Narrow DHS’s power to unilaterally grant parole to migrants. This is the program that was used to allow refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan to enter the country. The Biden administration is now applying it to refugees from Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela - with extremely positive results.
  4. Stop NGOs from using tax dollars to transport or lodge migrants and provide them with lawyers. Yes, Republicans want to stop federal dollars going to NGO's that provide shelter, transportation, and legal counsel to refugees while they await their asylum hearing.
  5. Restrict DHS from using its CBP One app. This is the phone app that allows migrants to schedule an asylum assessment at a port of entry. 

In summary, Republicans want to end two Biden programs that are working (the parole program and CBP One), make it harder for migrants to claim asylum, make life more difficult for migrants awaiting asylum hearings, and build a useless border wall. Other than wanting to take a sledge hammer to anything Biden has done, that sure looks like some weak sauce to me - especially after all of the hair-on-fire fear-mongering they've been doing. 

In the end, those of us who live in the reality-based world need to reckon with two things (1) be clear that this is not a border crisis, but a refugee crisis, and (2) decide if there is any reason to fear asylum-seekers. If not, we need to beef up the processes for screening and welcome them into our melting pot. The truth is - we need them!

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