Activists on both extremes willing to hold others hostage to get “justice” for their bases; DACA and the shutdown

The last four days or so have first reminded us of the evil of political hostage taking.  If there was ever a reason to think about the Biblical “Do unto others”, it’s apparent from the government shutdown that appears as I write this to be ending for three weeks.

Imagine how you would feel if you were the adult child of an undocumented parent.  The 2014 film “Documented” about Jose Antonio Vargas(a former Washington Post reporter) makes a case in point. But the fact is, our lives are bargained with by politicians all the time, on all sorts of issues.  Consider my own narrative about my own experience with the military draft and student deferments in the 1960s.  A lot of low-income men (often of color) and sometimes less cognitively aware men were bargained away to protect the “elite” from the domino theory.

We all know that the Democrats refused to budge this weekend, even though the deadline on the Dreamers is supposedly March 5, because they have no leverage over the anti-immigration forces if they give in (so they feel). So, the paychecks of active duty military, TSA screeners, and many other people working temporarily “for free” are put at hostage.  There are even some situations where private interests (even executors of trusts like mine ) could be expected to become involved in tiding them over.

And the media is overlooking the fact that the Treasury could run out of its “extreme measures” soon on debt-ceiling issues.  Although the issue of payment prioritization is complicated, it could eventually put the incomes of better-off seniors receiving social security on the bargaining table, if more aggressive means testing became policy.

The immigration debate seems to bifurcate into two parts: one is what is the GOP willing to do to help the Dreamers, but the other part is what other anti-immigration measures will be demanded, such as stopping chain migration, reducing legal immigration and green card access, undermining asylum seeking and refugee issues, and “building that Wall”.    And in some circles there is a certain “us v. them” hostility to Dreamers, as if they were somehow “on parole”.

The Cato Institute has just published two articles of particular interest.

One is a piece by David Bier and Stuart Anderson, “House Proposes Largest Restriction on Legal Immigrants Since 1920”.  The article links to LOC copies of HR 4760 and S 1720.   Particularly noteworthy is that the House bill seems to stiffen “credible fear” concept for asylum seekers to where they would have to show a greater than 50% chance of harm if they return to their home countries.  That would sound relevant to LGBTQ asylum seekers. It’s not clear that it would affect asylum cases already in the mill (or paroling out of asylum)    Employers and businesses generally prefer more legal immigration, and despite Trump’s claims, studies show that lawful immigrants help the economy and rarely displace Americans from jobs they want.  That is not to say, however, that there aren’t some problems with some immigrants families where the kids don’t assimilate (like the Tsarnaev’s),  There is no way to provide better livings standards for most people without some random and unpredictable personal risk.

The second piece, by Alex Nowrasteh, says “Reforming the Diversity Visa Could Pay for the Wall: Here’s How”.  That proposal would involve auctioning certain green cards (10,000 out of 50,000 in the diversity visa or “green card lottery” program) to employers) to raise funds for The Wall outside to the normal federal budget.

There are interesting articles, as in Think Progress, about the more “understanding” Republicans in Congress on DACA, as well as deadline pressures and DACA on Vox.  But Elise Foley of Huffington Post (which, remember, just stopped accepting unpaid articles) writes that Dreamers already say they feel let down by Monday’s “deal”, link.

At the end of his 9 PM interview program Jan. 22, Chris Cuomo said that Trump had called Dreamers “terrorists”.  I don’t remember hearing Trump say that.

(Posted: Monday, January 22, 2018 at 8:45 PM EST)

Update:  Tuesday, January 23, at 4 PM EST

David Bier of Cato Institute made some alarming comments to Newsweek, as quoted in an article by Carlos Ballesetros, “Government shutdown vote passes, but can Democrats and Republicans ever reach an immigration deal?”  Bier characterizes the problem as one of “principles” held by extremes.  Hardline conservatives, stressing nativism and “taking care of one’s own first”,  see Dreamers as seeking “amnesty”;  Liberals apparently are adamant on keeping sanctuary cities and chain immigration.  CNN’s Fareed Zakaria has been critical of Democrats for shifting to the Left in the past ten years (link).  As an independent blogger (“retired” and not needing to keep a “real job” in the short run), I get asked why I see joining up with a picket-waving demonstration on one side or the other in solidarity as “beneath me”, and this is getting dangerous.  I am not tribal.

Vox has a stinging piece by Matthew Yglesias, showing the Republicans have opposed legislation legitimizing Dreamers since the Bush years, with no clear reason other than partisanship and nativism.

On All Saints Day, I ponder, who has the right to claim group rights from systematic oppression?

Today, “All Saints Day”, for men whose bodies survive Halloween parties and drag makeup, I have a potpourri of items, and some of it is serious.

The Cato institute sent me an email reminding us of the statistical improbability that immigrants become terrorists like Sayfullo Saipov in NYC yesterday.  But the email names three Uzbek nationals as of March 2017 who had been convicted of terror offenses (Kodirov, Kurbanov, and Juraboev).  At least one was radicalized on the Internet (like Saipov), one had been a refugee, and one had won a green card lottery (similar to Saipov).

Two are awaiting charges, including one who had overstayed a visa and applied for asylum.

Off hand, President Trump’s reinforcing the idea of “merit-based” immigration sounds more reasonable, even if the numbers are low.  But again, to take care of our own, we seem to follow into the grade school tactic of giving detention to everyone for the sins of a few.

Uzbekistan is not one of the countries Trump has singled out; but it’s interesting that some parts of Russia (Chechnya) and former Soviet republics are capable of vehemence against the US, reinforcing the idea of a red scare that carried on underground in the 1980s even if not talked about a lot.  Back then, newspapers (at least in Dallas) carried stories of “academies” in rural areas to train “civilian defense reservists” against what at the time was thought to be a threat of individualized red subversion, still. . In pre-web days, not talked about a lot.

Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Karoun Dimarjin have a detailed story on the far reach of Russia’s social media disinformation “fake news” campaign, that reached over 100 million Americans.  NBC News offers a piece by Sarah Kindzior showing how Russia’s “divide by tribe” propaganda had been going on, hiding camouflaged in plain sight  at least since 2014.

I certainly saw some of these (crooked Hillary, etc)i in my Facebook feed and generally ignored them.  There’s something about the tone of my own writing, that may seem elitist and “preaching to the choir”, as of the average-Joe masses didn’t matter to me personally. The Russians probably know that people like me won’t pay attention to how easily led people vulnerable to “mass movements” become because “we” tend to think less of them personally.  I notice a sudden drop of about 15 Facebook friends and wonder if these were fake Russian accounts now closed.

I think we’re also in a bizarre funk where we’re deciding who has a right to form a movement or belong to one.  The neo-Nazi and KKK issues are settled and viewed as direct threats to vulnerable group. But the far Left (even Antifa) is not.   Communism is somehow more acceptable than fascism because of history.  It’s as if some people think you can pick Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot (or Kim Jong Un) over Hitler.

I’ll also cite an article in Vox by Ella Nilsen on John Kelly’s remarks on the cause of the Civil War, here.

I want to add an Oct. 30 article by David Bier at the Cato Institute on how green card waits really work (they are very unpredictable) and the role of sponsors (employment, family or personal).  This article may explain some interaction I had this spring with a Facebook “friend” who seemed to be trying to get me to sponsor him.

(Posted: November 1, 2017 at 3 PM EDT)

Trump’s travel ban 3.0 falls flat in court; why “lawless government” argument doesn’t work

Trump’s latest travel bans were struck down again last week.  In Hawaii, the decision was reported Oct. 17 with this copy of the opinion from the ACLU.  Ditto recently in Maryland.

The Hawaii judge actually cited a post by Cato’s Alex Nowrasteh noting that there have been no fatalities in the US from immigrants or travelers from those countries.  Cato had also provided an Amicus brief to Hawaii.

David Bier has contributed a major op-ed to the Washington Post, “Why bother?” to the Washington Post, here.   I think his most important argument is that visitors from countries with weak governments or weak security still bear the burden of proof when trying to enter that their purposes for a visit are legitimate.  In individual cases, some people may be able to prove legitimacy.  The overall statistical chances are that many will not.  In many cases, legitimacy would have to do with known family connections in the U.S.

There are good examples of this reasoning.  For example, in the Minneapolis area, there is a well established Somali community, which was never controversial, even after 9/11 (although there have been a few cases of attempted youth recruitment in more recent years in that area).

I’ll note that in my own information technology career, which started in 1971, I often encountered people from India and Pakistan, who dressed and behaved like ordinary Americans and simply never got into issues of religion at work (this was particularly true in the 1980s in Dallas). A major software bridge for an insurance company in Minneapolis that I worked for through Y2K and into the 9/11 period was coded entirely by a C++ (object oriented) and server technology guru from Pakistan who ran his own contracting company of advanced internals coding projects for corporate infrastructure.  He often hosted social events for other techies and no one ever thought anything of his religion.

(Posted: Monday, October 23, 2017 at 1 PM EDT)

Lawsuit threatened by Texas and other red states could mean DACA ends with a whimper; also, marriage and undocumented people

There has been concern and speculation of what might happen in Donald Trump gradually ends DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as implemented by the Obama Administration in June 2012.

David Bier of the Cato Institute has a detailed prospective analysis here, what he calls a “Timeline for Expiration”. The three components are (1) deferred priorities for removal, (2) deferred actual removal and (3) some protections of employment authorizations.

Bier quickly mentions Trump’s decision in January to continue DACA, but then presents the serious challenge implied by a letter to Jeff Sessions from the attorneys general of several red states (Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, and West Virginia) to sue if Trump does not terminate DACA by Labor Day.

Bier’s analysis is detailed, with many charts. I want to focus a moment on the employment authorization issue. Bier tends to suggest that (in various combinations of possibilities) for most DACA “children”, there won’t be changes, and that employers will have to accept employment authorization documents pretty much as they do today, well, probably. But the very idea of such a “threat” could matter to some communities. In the LGBTQ community, for example, that could lead to more calls for hosting and financial support, either through organizations or more focused kinds of sponsorships. This would compare to the current situation for asylum seekers, already discussed on this blog extensively.

I wanted to mention another possible controversy. Can undocumented immigrants get green cards by marrying American citizens or permanent legal residents? The answer seems to be, sometimes (Alllaw link1, link2). There was a change in 2017 involving a 601A Waiver that may help sometimes (link). There are problems with some legal sites on these matters because their articles don’t always carry dates.

A question like this has the potential to become important if people were pressured in their peer groups to consider marrying immigrants to help them. Yes, it is possible to imagine abuse of same-sex marriage in this regard, but I have not heard that this has really happened much.

(Posted: Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 9 PM EDT)

Assessments on what Trump and GOP will do about immigration, other issues seem to calm down a bit

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I’ve done some analysis of the likely results of Trump’s “upset” win in the 2016 Presidential Election on legacy blogs, especially for LGBTQ concerns and for free speech (see previous post).  There is so much to process that in a post tonight I’ll touch mainly just on immigration for right now; health care, anti-lobbying reforms, and foreign policy later.

The Cato Institute’s Dave Bier has published an article explaining the in general Republican House members and Senators don’t share president-elect Donald Trump’s previous draconian positions on immigration.  For example, here is his latest paper .  Most Republicans see little to gain in terms of national security from deporting children brought here “illegally” by parents (Obama’s Deferred Action program ).

DC Center Global offered a link on Facebook with some analysis of how Trump’s presidency will affect asylum seekers and refugees on “The Asylumist” , by Jason Dzubow.

Trump probably can stop the approval of refugees from some countries (like Syria) which could disrupt programs already underway with large non-profits and many faith-based groups (Christian churches are very willing to help settle Muslim refugees).  I hope that Trump will realize that the large charities supervising the process with DHS approval are providing very thorough supervision indeed.

Processing of asylum seekers, and getting approval in time (during which asylum seekers cannot work and may dependent on others), could slow down, and the range of situations that are viewed as legitimate could narrow.  This might affect how LGBTQ asylum seekers are perceived, especially from some countries (like Russia) where Trump wants better relations.

On the other hand, if Trump really tries to deport “dreamers” by revoking Obama’s XO, some of them could file for asylum.  An asylum seeker can remain here legally with temporary paperwork while the slow asylum process works.  Generally the asylee cannot work or draw public benefits and needs to find other persons (or charities) to support and house him or her privately.

David Lauter offers a valuable primer on what Trump “can and can’t do” in the Los Angeles Times.  He can’t undo same-sex marriage (conceivably he could re-impose the military gay ban but no one now seems to think he will) and he can’t declare some speech libel on his own, although, as I said in my previous post, he might have emergency powers to deal with national security threats on the Internet.

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My own impression about the election results is that several factors increased the vote for Trump in battleground states. In fact, the whole concept of the Electoral College makes voters in smaller swing states more powerful than those in larger states (same as for Senatorial representation), as ABC’s Dan Abrams explains.   But as for the factors that affected voters in Rust-Belt and southeastern states: One was hidden resentment of “elitism” and a desire of many white working people to be “left alone”;  one was the effect of Comey’s bringing up the email issue again (twice), as some female voters noted as seeming more serious than Trump’s lockerroom talk; another was that African-American voters didn’t show up as much as expected (vote times are too long in some black neighborhoods). I’m a little unnerved by hearing Trump complain already about “professional protestors” in the streets.  Am I a “professional” journalist disguised as an amateur blogger?

(Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 11 PM EST)

Update: Nov. 15

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There is a lot of talk about “sanctuary cities” (Washington DC will remain one), and whether Trump’s INS really will round up some million adult kids brought here by undocumented workers (“illegals” is a bad word).  I don’t think it will happen because it’s a total waste of enforcement resources in fighting real threats.  It’s not very feasible in practice.  However, it could prompt some LGBT children of undocumented parents from hostile countries to seek asylum, creating additional challenges for those who might host of assist them, even in assessing the credibility of the claims. Although, many applications probably could not be accepted if more than a year had passed since original arrival — so this could be an unpredictable risk.

Muslim assimilation in the US seems almost complete, was never questioned before 9/11 (but Bergen points out troubling cases); more on hosting asylum seekers

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Cato’s David Bier has published a blog post “Muslims rapidly adopt US social values”.

The posting is based largely on a Pew Research Center survey from 2014. A significant portion of the posting shows that Muslims living in the US are much more willing to accept mainstream (tolerant to accepting) positions on homosexuality than in their countries of origin.  This sounds likely in Canada, to, and much less likely in European countries where Muslim populations are much more “ghetto-ized”.

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I can certainly reflect from my own experience in the information technology workplace, from 1970 through the end of 2001 (after 9/11).  From the late 1970s on, I regularly encountered programmers who had grown up in India or especially Pakistan.  At ING in Minneapolis around the 2001 period, the chief architect of the internal system integration bridge (mainframe to server) owned his own company and had come from Pakistan.  In at least two occasions I reported to people from these countries.

I never heard any mention of religion or homophobia.  I actually never saw any religious observance at work.   (This compares to various incidents in Dallas in the 1980s where evangelical Christians would single me out for “ministry”.) These employees tended to be well off, own large homes and sometimes had larger than usual families, which socially somewhat kept to themselves.  But they were always well integrated into the workplace.  Sometimes they were quite interested in following US financial markets and were quite committed to personal belief in western style capitalism.

It was also common to encounter some workers (even managers) from Vietnam or China.

The general reaction to 9/11 was total surprise.  No one from these countries had any idea something like this would happen.  I’m quite sure of that.

I’ve worked with people who had worked as contractors in Saudi Arabia, who reported having to deal with religious police despite living on separate compounds.

Socially, I know of one gay Jewish man who had biked in Saudi Arabia in winter without incident.

Later, after “retiring”, I knew someone at a symphony orchestra where I worked who had (I believe Christian) relatives in Mosul.  They are likely to have been severely affected by ISIS, The degrees of separation in one’s personal life can be small indeed.

Current DHS vetting for immigrants from the Middle East is very strict, does not admit as many immigrants from Islamic countries proportionally as Canada (which allows private sponsorship). At some point, one gets to a philosophical consideration of the expectation that members of a community be willing to share a very small but non-zero risk.

Nevertheless, Peter Bergen’s book “United States of Jihad” (2016) does document unusual cases of radicalization, often by offspring of immigrants (as with the Tsarnaev’s).  My discussions with someone who had lived in Germany in mid September (Sept. 19) indicate serious problems in Europe indeed, as most recently indicated by this Washington Post story by Stephanie Kirchner today.

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Update: Oct. 15

While at a breakfast this morning for ALGA, I learned about this appeal by Eric Stults dated Oct. 7 in the Washington Blade for individuals to consider offering housing (or “hosting“, which logically is a more open term as to methods) for LGBT asylum seekers.  The need for housing was mentioned only once at an Oct. 6 reception (by one of the award winners), story.

Housing asylum seekers poses questions similar in nature to those of Canadian-style private sponsorship, and more will be said about this soon.  There’s talk, and sometimes there is action.  One idea could be to fund purchase of a building as a shelter. This would still be a way “to host”.  But “sponsorship” or “mentorship” goes beyond even hosting, and may need to have more precise meaning in the law.

(Published: Friday, Oct. 14, 2016 at 10 PM EDT)