July 29, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 136

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Nicki Minaj, Sandra Bland, Misogynoir; No Child Left Behind, Illegal Immigration, Prison Reform. People: Bill, Kelley, De Ana, and Guest Maria. Produced: July 26th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Why it’s ok to talk about both Nicki Minaj and Sandra Bland in the same week (and how the two stories relate to each other).
– What Pres. Obama is doing on prison reform. Can Congress find a compromise on No Child Left Behind? Texas isn’t handling illegal immigration very well.

Episode 136 (52 min):
AFD 136

Related Links

AFD: De Ana: Policing Black Women’s Emotions and Opinions
AFD: Maria: What Happened to Sandra Bland?
AFD: Bill: Utah’s Homicide by Police Epidemic
AFD: Kelley: President Obama stands up for second chances
AFD: Kelley: 8 years late, Congress ready to revisit No Child Left Behind
AFD: Kelley: 3 Dem Senators say NCLB reforms don’t go far enough
AFD: Kelley: Texas abandons the 14th Amendment
AFD: Kelley: Mass graves of immigrants in Texas elicit little response

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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Mass graves of immigrants in Texas elicit little response

Since 2009, remains of over 400 immigrants have been found in Brooks County, Texas — a fact that came to light in an investigative documentary, The Real Death Valley, by the Weather Channel, Telemundo, and the Investigative Fund.  You can read the report here.

Many of the bodies were buried with haste and carelessness, in conditions that can only be described as mass graves. With hundreds more to go, 118 bodies have been exhumed by researchers at Baylor University, who hope to identify the remains and return them to their families. Reporter John Carlos Frey, author of The Real Death Valley writes:

The analysis shows that 51 of the 118 sets of human remains were not buried in coffins. Fourteen of the remains were placed in red biohazard bags; four in what appeared to be grocery store trash bags. Five were covered only in plastic wrap and packing tape. One set of remains was buried in a milk crate, while another was simply wrapped in clothing.

 
The story has now moved from one of a horrifying discovery to one of a horrifying and negligent response.

Last year, on June 25, 2014 the Texas Rangers Division of the Department of Public Safety launched a preliminary investigation on the grave sites, promising that charges would be filed if any wrongdoing was found. Just two days later, on June 27, 2014, Lt. Corey Lain, the primary investigator, announced in a four-and-a-half-page report that there was no evidence that any laws were violated. Lain concluded:

“It is my opinion that sufficient information and evidence does not exist to support the initiation of a formal criminal investigation.”

 
Frey, who recently published a follow-up report titled Graves of Shame, concludes that, in fact, there were many law violations. The most egregious violations may not be those regarding the burial of human remains – although regulations regarding the depth of burial and type of burial container do appear to have been violated – but the violations which prevent the identification of the remains and their reunification with their family.  You can read the complete report here.

For example, despite a county law that a DNA sample must be taken from all unidentified remains and sent to the lab at the University of North Texas (UNT), it appears that DNA samples were rarely even collected and never sent to UNT.

Additionally, in Texas, the clerk’s office are required by law to retain all death records for a minimum of 10 years. However, despite the fact that the sheriff’s office was able to turn over 361 crime scene reports regarding the discovery of human remains, they were able to produce records for only 121 remains regarding the retrieval and burial of the remains; two-thirds of the bodies were unaccounted for, making it nearly impossible for their loved ones to ever know the fate of these immigrants.

In the 13 months since the Texas Rangers reached their conclusion, only one law has been passed by Texan legislators regarding the remains of immigrants. The law states that after one year the death certificate of unidentified remains becomes public. That is hardly comforting to the hundreds of unknowing families of those buried unceremoniously in Brooks County, Texas.

Dr. Lori Baker, a forensic anthropologist from Baylor University working to identify the remains of those in mass graves sums up the story in a hauntingly true statement:

“Nobody cares about dead immigrants. They’re invisible when they’re alive, and they’re even more invisible when they’re dead.”

 

Texas abandons the 14th Amendment

United States Constitution, Amendment 14, Section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

 
Since 1868, the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution has guaranteed citizenship to all children born within its borders. The recent influx of illegal immigration, largely from Central American countries, has led to a large increase in children born to undocumented immigrants.

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This seems to have inspired some in Texas to take matters into their own hands, even if it meant abridging the 14th Amendment rights of some natural-born citizens. Officials of the counties of Cameron and Hidalgo have been refusing to issue birth certificates to children born to men and women who lack documentation proving that they are in the United States legally.

Previously, to prove their own identity, parents could use a foreign passport when applying for their child’s birth certificates. However, county officials are now insisting that parents applying for birth certificates using foreign passports must also have a current U.S. visa, leaving many children without a birth certificate.

What difference does it make? Jennifer Harbury, a lawyer representing women whose children have been denied birth certificates in a civil rights lawsuit, points out “It causes all kinds of problems.” Without a birth certificate, parents are unable to prove that a child is their own, leaving them unable to enroll their child in school or even make medical decisions for their child.

Texas “going rogue” is clearly not a new phenomenon. The Lone Star State takes pride in their Wild West roots and their independent thinking. However, Texas has taken to flying in the face of federal mandates and even the United States Constitution. Most recently, two of Texas’ county clerks have refused to abide by the US Supreme Court’s decision and are still refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The failure of Texas to issue birth certificates to natural-born United States citizens because of their parentage paints an ugly picture of both the State’s contentious relationship with the federal government and their open hostility to immigrants. It is also simply unconstitutional and illegal.

AP: “Hungary puts inmates to work on border fence”

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

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Last month from AFD: “Border fence politics comes to the EU”

Yesterday, Associated Press: “Hungary puts inmates to work on border fence to bar migrants”

Using materials prepared by inmates in Hungarian prisons, 900 soldiers will build a fence along Hungary’s border with Serbia by December to stem the torrent of migrants, officials said Thursday
[…]
Prime Minister Viktor Orban says Hungary does not want any migrants from outside Europe. But over the past months, 80 percent of the refugees requesting asylum in Hungary have come from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Most leave within days to richer EU countries like Germany before their asylum claims are settled.

The government’s anti-immigrant billboard campaign and a questionnaire sent to voters linking migration with terrorism have been criticized by the U.N.’s refugee agency, among others.

 
Orbanism Rising.

Op-Ed | Donald Trump: The Democrats’ Best 2016 Asset

The essay below was co-authored with Stephan Richter, Editor-in-Chief of The Globalist, where it originally appeared.

Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_3

Hillary Clinton’s campaign may not develop the sizzle the would-be first Madam President and her team has long planned for. But the race has already created its first, truly searing image in the skin of the American nation.

To the Democratic Party establishment’s great relief, this is not the result of any of Hillary Clinton’s missteps, of which there have been some.

Rather, the problem emerged from the inside of the tent of the Republican Party. It is commonly called the “Donald Trump problem.”

The worst part for the Republicans is that Trump has the same effect as a Trojan horse. (Beware of the “Greeks” bearing gifts, Republicans of the United States!)

Trump’s emergence in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire gives the Democrats a secret weapon to frame the race – and the entire Republican field — well before a Republican nominee emerges.

Trump’s troublesome personality characteristics and policies are essentially also true of nearly all the other Republican candidates, but nobody knows who they are and there are twenty of them. He jumped from 3% to 12% in CNN’s polling of Republican voters nationwide from May 31 to June 28. That puts him within striking distance of Jeb Bush, whose campaign is floundering.

Donald Trump’s net worth

It would be one thing if Trump’s downer effect were only that he embodies ostentatious – even offensive – wealth, far more so than Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 candidate, ever did. The comparatively reserved Romney came to symbolize the 1% class with “just” $250 million. Forbes values the flamboyant Trump at a minimum of $4.1 billion.

That also means that Trump outperforms the previous wealthiest candidate ever to seek the U.S. presidency — Ross Perot – by a factor of two. (Perot ran in 1992 as an independent against President George H.W. Bush and then-Governor Bill Clinton.)

So, he paints Republicans firmly into the corner of the money worshippers (which inoculates Hillary Clinton against similar charges).

But an ocean of money is not Trump’s only similarity to Mr. Perot. Trump represents a similar brand of nativist economic populism that is popular with a sizable chunk of American voters.

In an era where Democrats are publicly debating the economic values of their party, Trump helps divert the (rightly or wrongly) feared label of “economic populist.”

That alone would not cause Republicans a problem, were it not for the unfortunate fact that nearly all their major candidates this cycle are promoting similarly ridiculous and nativist platforms on economics, immigration and beyond.

Hillary’s man in the Republican camp

Where Trump does Hillary’s (and the Democrats’) bidding is that he is a very loud magnet for media attention. Without the Democrats trying (and leaving fingerprints), Trump highlights how not-ready-for-primetime the rest of the Republican field is.

His outrageous views on racial minorities are doubly politically problematic: First, he profits off employing “illegal” workers at construction sites.

And second, the silence of the Republican field to stand up to Trump’s race-baiting is as deafening as it is electorally deadly.
Read more

Real-world costs when the Left sells out immigrants

I’ve recently written here about two different topics, which are now becoming closely related.

First, I looked at how Denmark’s Social Democrats, who headed the government until last month, took a much harder line on immigration — in an unsuccessful attempt to hold off the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party on the far-right — ahead of the June 2015 election.

Second, I also looked at a UN report on how the government of Eritrea — a huge source-country of asylum-seeking immigrants to Europe — literally enslaves and murders its own people to try to prevent them from leaving the country’s brutal conditions. It is illegal to exit the country without permission (rarely granted), and the government reacts very harshly to its citizens all across the world if they manage to make it out anyway.

Now the new Danish government, headed by the center-right Venstre Party and supported by the Danish People’s Party, has adopted an appalling new policy to send Eritrean asylum-seekers back to Eritrea. This decision was made on the basis, according to the BBC, of a (widely criticized) report commissioned last fall … under the Social Democrat-led government … claiming it was now safe to send back Eritreans. Skimming over the report (English version), it’s clear how thinly sourced and dubious many of the claims are. By most sound accounts, anyone sent back will be executed or tortured and sentenced to decades of hard labor.

By the report’s own admission (p. 16), as of “a few years ago,”

[…] returning evaders and deserters were routinely subjected to severe punishment including torture and detention under severe conditions over a prolonged period of time. It was further added that those refusing or failing to participate in National Service would risk to lose a number of his or her citizen’s rights and, in exceptional cases risk indefinite incarceration or loss of life. Returning evaders or deserters that were known for political oppositional activities abroad upon return to Eritrea were taken to underground cells at a prison outside of Asmara while they were under investigation.

 
There has been no change in leadership in Eritrea since then. At the moment, 5,000 people are fleeing the country each month to seek asylum, in spite of shoot-to-kill border control orders.

The report’s suggestion that “the government’s attitude […] seems to be more relaxed” these days is essentially ludicrous. But Denmark’s new policy toward asylum-seekers from Eritrea is premised upon that claim.

This is a real-world consequence of center-left politicians triangulating to be “tough on immigration.” The Danish Social Democrats conveniently managed to lose the election just in time to not get the blame for the policy change, ostensibly undertaken by the anti-immigrant center-right coalition and its parliamentary bloc. But they laid all the groundwork for it: not only failing to defend desperate asylum-seekers and defenseless refugees to voters during the election campaign (instead adopting much of the anti-immigrant talking points and propaganda from the opposition), but literally also writing the fraudulent report that will now get people killed. Denmark’s Social Democrats will have blood on their hands from their pandering to anti-immigrant sentiments.

I don’t expect better from the Conservative governments in Britain and Norway, which issued similarly roundly attacked reports on how “safe” Eritrea now is, based on vague promises by the Eritrean dictatorship to do things differently in future. I do demand better from center-left parties.

U.S. Democrats, take note: Don’t make the same mistake here. Don’t triangulate on this issue. Don’t turn your back on people in need. Don’t sell out immigrants coming to this country for a better life and freedom from want and fear.

Do the right thing.

July 1, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 133

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Co-host Kelley returns from the Peace Corps in Guatemala; Nate explains the wider significance of Denmark’s recent elections. People: Bill, Kelley, and Nate. Produced: June 28th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– The Peace Corps experience in the globalized internet age, and the challenges facing Guatemala.
– Danish People’s Party: Why the far-right’s huge success in Denmark is a big problem beyond Denmark.

Episode 133 (46 min):
AFD 133

Related Links

AFD: January 31, 2013 – Arsenal For Democracy 35
AFD: When bad people are good at politics
AFD: Meanwhile in Denmark, more bad news
AFD: Denmark’s Thorning-Schmidt: Preview of a Hillary 1st term?

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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.