Daily Dispatch 9/23/2019: This week we need to get in Congress’ face

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Daily Dispatch

September 23, 2019


There are a couple of opportunities to get engaged in activities to pressure Congress on immigration issues. There will be oversight hearings on the Muslim Travel Ban tomorrow (Tuesday, September 24) and on Thursday, September 26, there will be oversight hearings on Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s system of immigrant detention.

Example images from Social Media Kit – review here

Muslim Travel Ban Oversight Hearing, Tuesday, September 24, 2019 

We provided some detailed background on the policy and some of the activities that are being planned in D.C. in the Dispatch last week. You can take a look at that here. 

Social media activities (sample tweets, posts, hashtags, images!) are here.

Details on the hearing itself:

Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban

September 24, 2019 10:00 AM
Location: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building,
Washington, DC 20515
Subcommittee: Oversight and Investigations 

Joint hearing with the Committee on Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship

Witnesses, Panel One

Edward Ramotowski
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State 

Elizabeth Neumann
Assistant Secretary for Threat Prevention and Security Policy, Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans , U.S. Department of Homeland Security 

Todd Hoffman
Executive Director, Admissibility and Passenger Programs, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection 

Panel Two 

Abdollah Dehzangi 
Baltimore, MD

Ismail Ahmed Hezam Alghazali 
Brooklyn, NY

Farhana Khera 
President and Executive Director, Muslim Advocates

Andrew R. Arthur
Resident Fellow in Law and Policy, Center for Immigration Studies

From social media kit – see more here.

ICE Oversight Hearings, Thursday, September 26, 2019

There are two hearings happening on the topic of ICE detention, one with government witnesses and one with witnesses themselves impacted by detention. This is a great opportunity for us to make a lot of noise about the abuses and impunity in ICE detention. On the day of the hearings, we are encouraging everyone to share stories about individuals and families who’ve suffered because of detention, and provide solutions and alternatives to mass incarceration. 

You can help by sharing on social media. Take a look here for sample tweets, suggested Facebook posts and images that can be shared across platforms. 

Information about both hearings:

“The Expansion and Troubling Use of ICE Detention” — House Judiciary, Immigration & Citizenship Subcommittee

* Thursday 9/26 at 10:30, 2141 Rayburn

* Notice here.

* Panel of witnesses will include three individuals who were recently released from ICE detention and three policy witnesses on detention, mechanisms for release, and alternatives

“Oversight of ICE Detention Facilities: Is DHS  Doing Enough?” — House Homeland Committee, Oversight, Management & Accountability Subcommittee

* Thursday 9/26 at 2 pm

* Notice here.

* Witnesses include ICE leadership and Jenni Nakamoto, see notice for full list.

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Daily Dispatch 9/20/2019: New Survey of DACA recipients demonstrates the benefits of the program

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Daily Dispatch

September 20, 2019


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program that allows young people who were brought into the country in unauthorized ways as children, to stay in the United States provided they remain employed and/or attend school and do not commit crimes. DACA exists as the result of an Executive Order issued by the Obama Administration. Trump has sought to revoke it – but has thus far been blocked the courts. DACA exists because Congress did not pass the Dream Act – which would have made these protections permanent – despite broad (at the time) bi-partisan support. The House of Representatives has passed a new Dream Act which, among other things offers a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, or “Dreamers.” The initiative made good election season headlines earlier this year, but is considered DOA in the Senate absent amendments to authorize digging a 2,000-mile spike-filled flaming moat beneath a 30-foot-high wall topped with lasers along the U.S./Mexico border, or something. 

If long-term or permanent relief for DACA recipients is not on the horizon, its renewal is before the courts, and there is much at stake. In that context, a new report from Tom K. Wong at the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at UC San Diego offers both good news (the program works!!) and a clear idea of what ending DACA would mean for hundreds of thousands of young people in this country. From a summary of findings at the Center for American Progress:

2019 marks the fifth consecutive year that the authors have surveyed DACA recipients. This research, as with previous surveys, continues to show that DACA recipients are making significant contributions to the economy. In all, 96 percent of respondents are currently employed or enrolled in school.

Moreover, for the first time, the survey provides data about the widespread harms that DACA recipients could endure if they lost their status and faced potential deportation. A full 93 percent of respondents reported concerns about either their or their family’s physical safety; ability to access health care or education; food security; or risk of homelessness if they were deported to their respective countries of birth. With the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments on the legality of DACA’s termination on November 12, this data makes clear that the stakes could not be higher.

The full breakdown of stats on employment is worth sharing (the full report can be read here):

Work authorization has been critical in helping DACA recipients participate more fully in the labor force. The data shows that 89 percent of respondents are currently employed. Among respondents ages 25 and older, the employment rate jumps to 91 percent.

After receiving DACA:

    • 58 percent of respondents moved to a job with better pay.
    • 48 percent of respondents moved to a job with better working conditions.
    • 53 percent of respondents moved to a job that “better fits [their] education and training.”
    • 52 percent of respondents moved to a job that “better fits [their] long-term career goals.”
    • 53 percent of respondents moved to a job with health insurance or other benefits.

The data also shows that 6 percent of respondents started their own businesses after receiving DACA. Among respondents 25 years and older, this figure increases to 9 percent. As the authors have noted in previous surveys, DACA recipients are outpacing the general population in terms of business creation. DACA business owners with full-time employees (48 percent of all DACA business owners), on average, employ 4 1/2 workers other than themselves.

Moreover, 17 percent have obtained professional licenses after receiving DACA. Among respondents 25 years and older, this figure increases to 20 percent.

What would ending DACA mean for many of these 800,000 people?

93 percent of respondents reported concerns about either their or their family’s physical safety, health care, education, food security, or risk of homelessness in their respective countries of birth.

Strikingly, the average age of arrival to the United States among respondents is just 6.1 years old, and more than two-thirds—69 percent—reported not having any immediate family members who still live in their respective countries of birth. These findings make clear that deporting DACA recipients would not only mean sending them to countries they barely know, but it would also put their physical safety, well-being, and livelihood at serious risk. (Emphasis added)

It is striking to me that offering permanent residency to young people who were brought into this country as children is even controversial. While I may be an outlier in also not wanting to punish their parents, I think most people agree with allowing the children, as adults, to stay.  Indeed, nearly 90 percent agree as of August 2019:

An overwhelming majority of Americans supports legal protections for certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, according to a new CBS News poll.

According to the survey, almost 9 in 10 respondents — 87 percent — said they believe that the so-called Dreamers should be allowed to remain in the U.S. if they meet certain requirements, such as working or going to school.

In a poll with such overwhelming results, you would this would make it a slam dunk. But sadly, no. The GOP won’t move on this until they get more border enforcement money, and, let’s be honest, it would be a “victory” for the Democrats. So, the courts will decide. 

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Daily Dispatch 9/19/2019: No Muslim Ban Campaign

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Daily Dispatch

September 19, 2019

One of the first executive orders President Trump issued banned entry to the United States to people from several majority Muslim countries. From CNN:

As President, Trump issued an executive order banning entry for 90 days by citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The order also indefinitely halted refugees from Syria. Trump also stopped the admission of all refugees to the United States for four months.

What became known as the “Muslim ban” was challenged in court, and Trump’s team re-wrote the order.

Six weeks after the original executive order was unveiled, Trump announced a new version of the travel ban, which he later deemed a “watered-down version” of the first order.  This time, the ban excluded Iraq from the list of Muslim-majority countries whose citizens were temporarily blocked. It also barred foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days.

This version was blocked by federal courts as well. However, on appeal, the Supreme Court allowed parts of the ban to stand:

In its decision to partially greenlight the ban, the Supreme Court said foreigners from six majority-Muslim countries must now have a “bona fide” relationship to a person or entity to enter the US. The new guidelines said applicants must prove their relationship to a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling in the US in order to enter the country.

The ACLU took the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling to talk about some of the impacts of the travel ban:

This day goes down in the history books, not only as an enormous failure to live up to our values of religious and racial equality, but for the real impact that the ban has on people’s lives. Take Anahita, who never got to say goodbye to her father in Iran before he passed away and did not even get to mourn with her family. Or Nisrin, who was detained during the chaotic implementation of the first Muslim ban simply because of her Sudanese citizenship, although she has lived in the United States for 25 years. Let’s also not forget the numerous students afraid to return home to visit their families because their visas may not be reissued. Or the families now traveling thousands of miles and spending thousands of dollars to simply be able to hug someone they love at a library on the border of Canada and the United States.

Though there is a waiver process, the numbers have been sparse. In the first three months, the government issued just two waivers. As of June, the number of waivers grew to around 570 — a mere two percent of visa applications. Most recently, State Department claimed to have “cleared” 1,836 applicants for waivers as of September, but it remains unknown whether those individuals have actually been granted waivers. Many advocacy groups and members of Congress have requested updated numbers about waiver issuances, but the government has yet to fulfill those requests.

The impact of the ban has not been evaluated by Congress to this point – but that will change next week when oversight hearings will be held to evaluate the impact of the travel ban. One goal of the hearing, and those of us seeking to amplify the hearing, is to raise support for the No Muslim Ban Act, which was introduced in the spring by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).  As explained by the National Immigration Law Center, the bill would, 

repeal all three iterations of Trump’s Muslim ban, his refugee/extreme-vetting-of-refugees ban, and his asylum ban. The inclusion of each type of ban is vital, since they are all based on the same discriminatory intent.

The refugee ban is just another iteration of the Muslim ban. It specifically targets the parts of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program that have accounted for 80 percent of all Muslim refugees resettled in the U.S. in the past two years. The asylum ban was issued based on the same INA authority as the Muslim ban, but targeting asylum-seekers at the southern U.S. border.

The bill would also strengthen anti-discrimination language in the Immigration and Naturalization Act to specifically protect religious affiliation.

You can read more on the bill from the National Immigration Law Center.  

Take action

If you are in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia are, or can get here next week, The No Muslim Ban Campaign is organizing the following events on September 24. If you are not in the area, see below for further action ideas on social media, and you can always take the simple step of signing this petition to members of Congress. 

We share this from No Muslim Ban organizer Subha Varadarajan: 

On September 24, 2019, for the first time since the Muslim Ban was implemented, there will be an oversight hearing about the Muslim Ban before the House Judiciary subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship and the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Oversight.

The hearing will be composed of two panels–a government and a non-governmental panel starting at 10 a.m.

To amplify the hearing, please help with the following:

  *   At 8:00 a.m. on 9/24, the No Muslim Ban Ever Campaign along with NIAC, Oxfam, CAIR National, ACLU, Justice for Muslims Collective, and CWS is hosting a community storytelling event in which affected communities will be sharing their stories. Since only two impacted individuals can testify at the hearing, it is critical to have this event. Please mobilize your members to come out for this event.

  *   At 10 a.m. on 9/24, the first panel of the oversight hearing will begin. Please help us pack the room with community members.

  *   While the hearing is taking place a contingent of folks will be delivering petitions to Congress members that have not signed onto the NO BAN Act. Please push for your members to come out and participate.

  *   At 6:30 p.m. Justice for Muslims Collective is leading a healing event so everyone can reflect on what they saw and heard at the hearing. Please encourage folks to attend this event.

  *   If you are interested in any of these events, please fill out this form and please circulate this facebook event page.

  *   By the end of this week, we will be sharing a social media toolkit which will include stories of impacted community members and messages to share. In addition to amplifying stories, it will consist of ways that you can be involved from home. Please help amplify these graphics and messages on 9/24.

  *   We will be live-streaming the community storytelling event at 8 am on 9/24, and we will share it once it is live. Please cross-post or share the live stream widely.

Thank you so much, and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Subha Varadarajan at varadarajan@nilc.org. Thank you.

Some additional ideas for engagement from the Justice for Muslims Collective. If you are not in the DMV area, see point three below to help amplify the message on social media.

  1. Join JMC’s contingent to the hearing. We will begin the day by listening to impacted community members and then sit through the hearing. Please plan on meeting us at 8am. Sign up here to let us know if you want to join us. This also includes a breakdown of the details, the location, and the schedule for the day.  
  2. If you can’t make the hearing, we will have a community reflection space after the hearing in the evening, which will be facilitated by our own Chaplain Yasmin Yonis. We will also have updates from the No Muslim Ban Campaign and next steps on getting the No Ban Act passed. Please note this is the first hearing that will be focused on the ban. Share the Facebook page and also RSVP if you are attending. We will have appetizers and drinks thanks to OxFam. Here is the general Facebook page from our coalition partners. 
  3. If you can’t make it out in person that day, follow our social media presence that day on Twitter, Facebook and also the hashtag, #RepealTheBan, #MuslimBanStories, #NoBanAct. We will be live-tweeting from the hearing.  
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Daily Dispatch 9/18/2019: Update on Haitians and the Bahamas

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Daily Dispatch

September 18, 2019


Image Source, New Humanitarian

“You have a group of Haitians who have nowhere to go,” said Duprat, now 48. “There’s hardly a government in Haiti. They can’t go to Miami now. And they can’t really go to Nassau because of all of the hate. It’s heartbreaking.”

The situation of Haitians in the Bahamas remains tenuous. We offered some background on the situation of Haitians in the Bahamas last week. As we move into a new week since the storm, there remains a lot of fear and few  options. From the New Humanitarian:

In an interview with The New York Times, Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson confirmed the government had suspended deportation raids in storm-affected areas, but also appeared to contradict the prime minister. “Eventually persons will come out of those shelters,” he said. “And if they’re not properly documented, then we apply the law.”

Late last week the Washington Post noted that many Haitians are fearful that once the media leaves and the humanitarian organizations go, that many will be deported. Johnson’s comment seems to justify that fear. 

Ira Kurzban, an immigration attorney, notes that there are few options:

“The Bahamas isn’t going to do anything [to change its policy], and this (U.S.) administration isn’t likely to take anyone in. I don’t see this as having a good outcome,” Kurzban said. “At least with the earthquake, or with cholera, [the Haitians] were in their own country.”

Hundreds fled Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that was followed by a deadly cholera outbreak linked to UN peacekeepers and poor sanitation networks. 

Nine days after the earthquake, Haitians were offered Temporary Protective Status – a measure that allowed Haitians already in the United States to remain there rather than return to a humanitarian disaster.

Kurzban considered it unlikely TPS would be extended in the wake of Dorian, but he said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security could offer a “parole” that would allow Haitians to remain in the US temporarily despite lacking documents. Parole has been granted on humanitarian grounds in the past, but Kurzban said few cases are going forward under the Trump administration. 

Indeed, the Trump administration seems unwilling to extend Temporary Protected Status to Bahamians already here – much less Haitians impacted by the storm, nor has it yet extended humanitarian parole that would provide an opportunity for people to come to the United States. From CNN

For people who aren’t already in the United States and are fleeing the storm’s devastation, but don’t have valid visas to enter the country, the Department of Homeland Security could encourage officers to grant what’s known as humanitarian parole, [Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute’s New York office] said. “There would have to be a guidance issued by the DHS that we are authorizing issuing of a parole for this group of people and in these circumstances,” he said.

TPS would, honestly, be of limited benefit because it only applies to people already present in the United States. It would provide some relief, but the numbers compared to El Salvador, or Haitians here following the earthquake in 2010 would be very small. There seems little reason not to extend TPS to the Bahamas, but providing temporary exit options for people who need to leave the islands is more important at this point. From McClatchy News Service:

Democratic state Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Broward County resident with Bahamian roots and extended family in the Bahamas, said TPS isn’t defining the post-Dorian immigration conversation for Bahamians. It’s much different, he said, from the continuing discussion in South Florida about extending TPS to Venezuelans and opposing the end of TPS for Haitians, Hondurans, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans.

About 195,000 Salvadorans, 57,000 Hondurans and 46,000 Haitians currently have TPS, according to the National Immigration Forum.

“I think it’s important that we not confuse the conversations that are happening right now,” Jones said. “TPS for Haitians and Venezuelans are not the same conversations we are having with the Bahamas because these people want to go back home. I think the best policy at the federal level that can be done is suspending some of the federal requirements for visas and some of the requirements needed for them to stay a little bit longer.”

That said, Robert Menendez from New Jersey has entered a bill that would extend Temporary Protected Status to Bahamians present in the United States, and Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed this. 

None of this, however, is likely to help many of the Haitians in the Bahamas, who may not have proper documentation to qualify for entrance into the United States. Meanwhile, with ongoing political instability, blockades and a failing economy, return to Haiti offers little opportunity, even if many would no doubt prefer to return to their families.

We will have a more detailed update later in the week on political protests in Haiti, but a recent Al Jazeera video report below gives a sense of what people are facing. 

There is a video embedded into this post. To view it, click the link to the blog post. 

In a sign of the decreasing options for people from Haiti, the Dominican Republic closed its border with Haiti yesterday.

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Daily Dispatch 9/17/2019: John Oliver breaks down legal immigration

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Daily Dispatch

September 17, 2019



There is a video included in this post. To view it, please click the article link.

As part of his show “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver did a section on immigration that is very funny and informative. Oliver lays out four paths to legal immigration into the United States: family, employment, “good luck,” and “bad luck.” He demonstrates how each path has serious limitations and also how the Trump administration has sought to make these paths even more restrictive. The primary point is that there is no “line” to get into for many people, and even if they can find a line, the process can take years. Though not explicit in Oliver’s report, these delays are one of the key sources of unauthorized immigration – it can take 22 years to receive a family visa if you are from Mexico, for example. That is a long line.

The video is here for those interested. The one caveat is that it is a comedy production for cable, and the language in a few places may be off-putting to some.

A few more details worth adding, or some of the ways Trump has gutted legal immigration…

“Merit-based” visa reform: Trump has proposed a rewriting visa requirements in order to flip the family and employment percentages discussed in this segment. The proposal was put forth as a “merit based” immigration reform, which would keep the number of green cards issued each year the same, but change the priorities. It is not likely to ever get approved by congress as it would eliminate some family proposals, such as eliminating green cards for the parents of a U.S. citizen. The chart below shows the changes proposed.

Diversity Lottery changes: As discussed in the program, the diversity lottery is set up for countries that have low levels of immigration to the United States. People can place their name forward with the hope of winning a chance to get a green card. 50,000 slots are available, millions of people try every year – indeed, 1.2 million people from Egypt applied last year. The chances of getting a green card this way are slim. But Trump made it harder to even try. The State Department now requires people to have a valid passport before they even enter the lottery. While this may seem reasonable, getting a passport is not easy in many places, and adds a level to expense to this process that could prove prohibitive for some people. Given the slim odds of getting a visa this way, many people would logically wait to expend that money until they find out the results. Not any more.

Public charge rule changes: In August, the administration extended new rules that will make it harder for people to get visas and green cards, but reinterpreting the “public charge” restrictions on admittance to the United States. We wrote a background piece on this last month. It will make it harder for lower income people to come to the United States, and/or become permanent residence.

Restricting grounds for seeking asylum: The Trump administration has done a great deal to restrict the ability of people to seek asylum in this country – which is, of course, perfectly legal!!! Some of the restrictions include:

Disallowing asylum for people fleeing domestic violence or gang related violence. The argument is that asylum was set up for people fleeing state or state-sponsored violence, and not violence committed by “private” persons. This new rule was later overturned by the Courts.

Disallowing asylum for people whose family members are threatened with violence.

Disallowing asylum for people who did not first seek asylum in a third country before arriving at the U.S./Mexico Border. This is currently being challenged in court – however the Supreme Court last week allowed the new rule to go into effect while the court case goes forward.

Forcing people to wait in Mexico for their asylum hearing. The “Migrant Protection Protocols” went into effect in December of 2018 in a limited way – expanded to cover the whole southern border this summer. Nearly 40,000 people have been forced to wait in Mexico for their hearing. Only two people have been granted asylum under this new rule in 8 months.

For those admitted into the United States, forcing people to wait out the processing of asylum claims in detention rather than paroled out pending court hearing has been the case for most asylum seekers prior (note: Haitians seeking asylum have often been the target of prolonged detention).

Refugee cap at lowest point, pretty much ever. The refugee cap was 120,000 persons in 2016. Last year Trump lowered it to 30,000 (from 45,000 the year before. For 2020, they are considering lowering it even further.

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Daily Dispatch 9/16/2019: ICE and Urban Warfare Training

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Daily Dispatch

September 16, 2019


Still from CBS Chicago report

For $355,240, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will buy a replica of a Chicago-style neighborhood and use it to train agents at Ft. Benning in Georgia. There will also be an “Arizona” style training module and three “Fishbowls.” The goal with these training modules is to create a “hyper-real” environment for agents to practice…what exactly? Invading a family home? 

Hyper-realism, the agency states, is “a critical component to this acquisition as the details provide essential information that must be acknowledged, processed and acted upon to minimize risk to our Special Agents, Deportation Officers and SRT operators during high-risk search and arrest warrants, fugitive operations, undercover operations, hostage rescue, gang operations, etc.”

“For example, details like the number of dishes left on the table, toys in the yard, lighting, furniture, etc. all provide clues that allow our agents and officers to infer vital information that directly affects their safety and the potential resolution or outcome in the scenario,” it continues. “Learning to process this information quickly to identify whether there are children present, or how many people are currently in the structure is a necessary skill developed in training.”

The agency goes on to detail how a Defense Science Board task force “found that the probability of being a causualty (sic) decreases significantly after the first few ‘decisive combats’,” it adds. “These hyper-realistic devices will allow the teams to have those experiences in real-world conditions without the real-world casualties.”

According to the document, ICE is working to continue expanding its Special Response Teams stationed throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

ICE is not the FBI – at least not yet – but it now has the largest police force in the country. Which is kind of weird when you think about it. They are not fighting crime. While some people put into custody may have committed a crime – that is not why ICE in particular is detaining them. Immigration violations are civil infractions and constitute grounds for administrative detention. Overstaying a visa or failing to show up for a court hearing on one’s asylum case do not seem to be infractions that necessitate this kind of training to enforce. If someone is on a list for criminal removal, they are typically already in custody, especially if the crime is a drug offense. This doesn’t even seem to be the kind of training one needs for larger scale enforcement actions, such as workplace enforcements that use hundreds of agents.

This is not to say that agents are not at risk. Since 2003 six Immigration and Custom Enforcement Officers have died in the line of duty. From CATO study

Enforcement Agent Lorenzo Roberto Gomez died while in training.  Special Agent Timothy Allan Ensley died of dengue fever while on special assignment in Indonesia. Two agents were shot, one while on assignment in Mexico. One ICE agent was murdered in a vehicular assault in Miami [editor: struck by a drunk driver while on duty].  Lastly, one died of a heart attack while pursuing a suspect. 

CATO estimates that annual death rate from 2003 through 2018 was 2.6 per 100,000. Among all full-time workers, the average annual death rate is 3.6 per 100,000. Jobs more dangerous (there are many): Logger, roofer, agricultural worker, yard maintenance and landscaping, air conditioner installer.

[Sort of apples and oranges in comparison, but worth considering that the homicide rate in the United States in 2017 was 5.3 per 100,000. Unless you live in Chicago – where the murder rate was 23.2 per 100,000 last year. Or, live in one of the 13 cities in the country that have a higher murder rate than Chicago – for example, St. Louis’ homicide rate is 59.3 per 100,000. Logging is still more dangerous than living in St. Louis though.] 

In any event, the story about the Urban Warfare Training modules broke because ICE administrators failed to redact details properly in documents that were put the “Federal Business Opportunities” website. Which is not the first time Department of Homeland Security agents failed to properly redact information. While the competency of DHS staff is certainly news worthy, I think it is not the real story. Why ICE agents are training for these kinds of exercises to begin with needs some explanation. From CBS Chicago:

A federal document details plans to build a new training facility for a special response team with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE.

The project described as “hyper-realistic training devices that emulate structures the teams will encounter across the United States.”

But when you look at the plans, there are only two U.S. locations chosen: Arizona and Chicago.

The estimated cost for each is over $350,000.

San Diego-based Strategic Operations has been tapped to build the training facility. Their main focus: helping the military train for third world combat conditions.

Now tasked to recreate a Chicago setting for ICE agents. As detailed as dishes left on the table to toys in the yard according to the document.

“They are laying out a plan to train for urban warfare in the city of Chicago,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) who opposes the idea.

“The fact that we’re spending taxpayer money to terrorize people in our communities is utterly ridiculous.”

Update on Hunger Strikes 

We received this update on hunger strikers in El Paso on Saturday from Detention Watch Network staff:

I wanted to share a quick update on the hunger strikers from El Paso. Although ICE has deported some of the men even though they were on hunger strike, the men who remain on hunger strike are now entering day 68 [now 70] of their fight for their freedom.

If you haven’t yet, please make sure to sign this petition calling for the immediate release of these men.

Additionally, I wanted to flag this new letter and petition for any members of the medical community that might be on this network. If you are a doctor or healer or know one, please sign/forward this to them.

More background on the hunger strikes from Public News Service:

EL PASO, Texas – Today marks Day 60 of a hunger strike by three political refugees from India, detained for more than a year in an El Paso Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility. 

The policy of indefinite detention began under the Obama administration, and has continued under President Donald Trump. Previously, most asylum seekers were released. 

Margaret Brown Vega, volunteer coordinator with the group “Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention,” says the strikers all passed a test showing they have credible fear of violence if they return home.

“All of these guys have sponsors,” says Vega. “They don’t have any kind of criminal history, so they pose no public threat. On that basis they should be released, to be able to pursue their asylum claim outside of detention.”

The hunger strike was called to draw attention to poor conditions at the El Paso Service Processing Center, Vega says, and because of a deep desire to be free, one way or another. 

A report in The Guardian revealed that three strikers were recently force-fed by ICE through plastic nasogastric tubes, a practice opposed by the American Medical Association and seen as torture by United Nations officials. 

ICE representatives maintain that force-feeding is necessary to keep the men alive, and is required by regulation.

The force-feedings have been challenged in federal court, and a judge is now considering whether ICE has institutional alternatives. Vega doesn’t believe the procedure is necessary to keep the men alive.

“These men will stop their hunger strike immediately if they’re released,” says Vega. “That option is available to ICE – but instead, every request for release for all of these men has been routinely denied by ICE.”

ICE also force-fed at least six men from India this past December and January, according to The Guardian report. Nearly 1,400 people who are long-term detainees have gone on hunger strikes since 2015, in 18 different facilities.

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The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation: Impactful or Nah?

When we’re done pontificating, what’s really going to be done?

*I use Black and African American interchangeably.

This week the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) held its annual legislative conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The 2019 theme is “400 years: Our Legacy, Our Possibilities…” If you’re not familiar with the CBCF, it’s a “nonprofit nonpartisan public policy, research and educational institute that seeks to improve the socioeconomic circumstances of African Americans and other underserved communities.” There are many panel discussions on a variety of issues affecting African Americans including affordable housing, the 2020 Census and economic equality. It’s also a huge networking opportunity to meet Black legislators and other professionals who care about and are in a position to affect public policy.

This wasn’t my first time attending the CBCF. I’m a Maryland native, and CBCF week is a highly-anticipated event in the college-educated, middle class Black community. I say “college educated” because the event does target a specific demographic. Many, including myself, call their target audience the “Black Bourgeoisie.” The Root senior writer, Michael Harriot penned a hilarious description of CBCF week; however, I have to warn you – if you’re not Black, many of his references will go over your head. I laughed all throughout his piece because Harriot is accurate in his description of the stark class differences between most CBCF attendees and us regular Black folk. There is an air of elitism and privilege at CBCF.

However, I respect that the CBCF seeks to find solutions to systemic issues. There were many informative panels seeking to educate and raise awareness about pressing concerns in African American communities. They talked about the spread of misinformation through social media that disproportionately targets African Americans; apparently, over 50 percent of people of color get their news from Facebook. They talked about the 2020 Census, affordable housing, education and the condition of Black men and boys. The panelists and experts shared a great deal of information to wrestle with and consider when trying to build a world more justly loving. There was also a huge exhibiting hall with vendors sharing resources. Several government agencies had tables in the exhibit hall.

But despite the major networking opportunities and the chances to speak face-to-face with Black legislators and lobbyists, the most moving part of the CBCF for me was when I left the convention center to add more money to my meter. A Black man I assume is homeless asked me for money. I gave him a couple of dollars I had in my purse, fed the meter and went back to the conference, but couldn’t help thinking about the dichotomy of the homeless Black man and the conference attendees carrying Prada bags, wearing silk suits and Christian Louboutin shoes while exchanging business cards hoping for their next “come up.” Some Black people have seats at the proverbial table, but many of us are still scraping for the crumbs that fall from it. Many Black people view the CBCF as an opportunity for the Black Bourgeoisie to pat each other on the back, flaunt their wealth and titles, and party to put it simply. Despite their success, there still is a huge wealth gap in the Black community. Gentrification has forced many Black people out of the former “Chocolate City.” Police still target and violate the rights of Black people in Washington, D.C. at disproportionately higher rates than other demographics. Trump pulled Rep. Elijah Cummings card, when he challenged Cummings on his effectiveness in Baltimore and then had his people interview residents in Cummings’ district about their living conditions. I’m no fan of Trump, but you can’t ignore the testimonies shared online of the people Rep. Cummings serves. I’m sure there are many poor Black people like the man I encountered who want to know exactly how the CBCF affects them and if the CBCF cares about their experiences.

CBCF can be a good time, but I hope that “we” haven’t gotten so far removed from the people we claim to be trying to help. I know the homeless man outside of the conference reminded me of why I do the work I do. I’m there to speak for him. I represent him and many others who don’t have conference passes to make their voices heard. I hope others remember this as well while they’re rubbing elbows with their political idols.

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Daily Dispatch 9/13/2019: There are no natural disasters

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Daily Dispatch

September 13, 2019


The Mudd after Dorian

In the area of Marsh Harbor on Abaco Island in the Bahamas was a small, impoverished community that was mostly home to Haitians. The Mudd, as it was known, was wiped out during Hurricane Dorian. We do not know how many people perished. Lack of communication and lack of options meant there was no coordinated evacuation of the area. There is little left now. Those who did survive have nothing but the clothes they are wearing. Some have been relocated to Nassau. Others are still in the ruins Marsh Harbor trying to decide what to do next. From AP:

Some dazed survivors of Hurricane Dorian made their way back to a shantytown where they used to live, hoping to gather up some of their soggy belongings.

The community was known as The Mudd — or “Da Mudd,” as it’s often pronounced — and it was built by thousands of Haitian migrants over decades. It was razed in a matter of hours by Dorian, which reduced it to piles of splintered plywood and two-by-fours 4 and 5 feet deep, spread over an area equal to several football fields.

A helicopter buzzed overhead as people picked through the debris, avoiding a body that lay tangled underneath a tree branch next to twisted sheets of corrugated metal, its hands stretched toward the sky. It was one of at least nine bodies that people said they had seen in the area.

“Ain’t nobody come to get them,” said Cardot Ked, a 43-year-old carpenter from Haiti who has lived 25 years in Abaco. “If we could get to the next island, that’s the best thing we can do.”

Migration from Haiti

Following the earthquake in 2010, and in the face of the slow, but continuous economic decline since, more and more people are leaving Haiti. They have gone to Brazil and Chile, and more recently walked thousands of miles to seek asylum at the U.S./Mexico border. Hundreds have relocated permanently in border towns like Tijuana, with little or no chance of ever getting into the United States. Many more people have boarded onto small boats and sought refuge in other countries of the Caribbean. In the Bahamas, and elsewhere, these more recent migrants from Haiti join with communities established during earlier periods of exodus – especially the period from the fall of Duvalier in the mid-1980s through the coup d’etat against Aristide’s first government in 1991 and the reinstatement of the elected government in 1995. 

The Mudd was one of these communities. People fleeing the violence of the late 1980s and early 1990s, settled in the Bahamas, where Haitians had been engaged with the local economy for decades. From the 1980s forward, though, resentment against Haitian migrants began to grow more pronounced. As a result, communities like the Mudd were isolated socially, even as the labor of the people who lived there was utilized in the hotels of Marsh Harbor and other tourist businesses. There have been very few formal studies of the Haitian community in the Bahamas. Indeed, several different news stories in the last week all cite the same study (without mentioning it is 11 years old) from the College of the Bahamas Research Journal in reference to the historic marginalization Haitians have experienced in the Bahamas. As the research shows, Haitians that resettled in the Bahamas from the 1980s into the 1990s were working in the lowest paying jobs, were separated by language, and, as happens to migrant communities everywhere, were blamed for crime and poor health conditions. By the time of the 2000 census in the Bahamas, Haitians made up 7.1 percent of the population, though most lived on New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco or Eleuthera. Overall, Haitians accounted for 56 percent of foreign-born persons in the Bahamas.

Since the earthquake in 2010, migration from Haiti has increased, and has diversified. Nearly 100,000 Haitians moved to Chile, for example, which has more recently begun its own crack down on immigrants. In the Bahamas, the push back against Haitians living there has been severe, set against this history of marginalization. In 2014, for example, a new law required everyone to carry a passport with them – a law everyone knew was targeting Haitian migrants. Even Haitians born in the Bahamas faced deportation – as citizenship is not conferred upon birth, but must be applied for as an adult. As a result, the government:

stepped-up immigration raids in predominantly Haitian shantytowns, where people who lacked passports or work permits were apprehended. When illegal immigrants ran from officers, the agents knocked down doors and took their children, and the photos of toddlers being carried away circulated widely on social media.

Since the policy took effect Nov. 1, children born in the Bahamas have been deported with their parents, and others with Haitian-sounding names have been pulled from school classrooms, human rights observers said. The government acknowledges that even Bahamian citizens with French surnames are frequently arrested by mistake. 

As we have come to see in the United States and elsewhere, enforcement measure even target children as a means to track down families.

The Bahamian government announced that the new policy would go a step further: By next fall, schools will be asked to ensure that every child has a student permit. The annual $125 permit and a passport with a residency stamp will be required even of children born in the Bahamas who do not hold Bahamian citizenship.

The tough new policy echoes similar stances around the region, where new citizenship policies and anti-immigration measures have overwhelmingly affected Haitians, who are fleeing the hemisphere’s poorest country and are the most likely group to migrate illegally in great numbers. The top court in the Dominican Republic ruled in 2013 that the children of illegal immigrants, even if they are born in the country, did not have the right to citizenship.

Dorian

Since the hurricane struck the Bahamas, there have been quite a few articles about the situation of Haitians on the islands. In part, because the communities where they lived, like the Mudd, were among the hardest hit. This is no accident, or course. “Natural” disasters have a way of manifesting the grave inequities that humans create. The poorest die in the largest numbers, are the least likely to access services and find shelter after a storm, and are, for lack of resources, the least likely to be able to move on – though many may be forced to anyway.  

There are thousands of people missing – many are from communities like the Mudd that were washed away. The final death toll will no doubt be much higher than we can imagine at the moment. In the wake of this storm, the struggle to rebuild lives is already generating conflict, as scarce resources highlight existing tensions. At least that is the story being told. The international media is well known for finding the most sensational stories of conflict and tension – ignoring the many, many acts of cooperation and mutual support. We can hope that such stories will emerge in the coming weeks as well.

In the United States, especially Florida, where many people are relocating from the Bahamas, there are also stories of support. Organizations have mobilized to provide shelter and offer other assistance to refugees from the storm. Emergency response and support are important and help build bonds of friendship and support. But we also have to get better at addressing the ongoing structural violence that makes these disasters so much worse.

Postscript

Our president is still Trump. From Salon:

At first it appeared that citizens of the Bahamas, an archipelago nation just 110 miles from Florida, would be free to enter the United States, as has been the case in the past. Then an apparent decision by a private maritime operator to avoid trouble with U.S. Customs and Border Protection over the weekend was compounded by President Trump’s pronouncement that hurricane survivors included “some very bad people” who should be left stranded. Trump’s comments on Monday made clear that a policy change, initially sold as a miscommunication by his administration, was actually another capricious act of cruelty, a needlessly inhumane move to block natural disaster refugees.

“We have to be very careful. Everyone needs totally proper documentation,” Trump said in front of the White House after he returned from a weekend of golf on Monday. “I don’t want to allow people who weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers.”

The president then suggested that these very bad people are likely to exploit humanitarian assistance. “The Bahamas has tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas who weren’t supposed to be there,” Trump said before adding that, “believe it or not,” some parts of the Bahamas were not hit hard by Hurricane Dorian.

According to Trump, the 70,000 people displaced by the hurricane should simply move to other parts of the Bahamas. If they want to come here, they must have proper documentation, because “bad people” may take advantage of the situation.

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Daily Dispatch 9/12/2019: The farce is strong with this one…

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Daily Dispatch

September 12, 2019

Migration Protection Protocol Hearing Tents in Laredo, TX (Image: Ricardo Santos / AP)

Supreme Court Allows Trump Asylum Rules to Stand

Yesterday the Supreme Court gave Trump a “huge,” “big” victory by allowing his new rule limiting the number of people who can seek asylum in the country to stand – at least for now. Trump’s proposed rule would deny migrants the ability to pursue asylum in the United States if they passed through a third country first and failed to pursue asylum there before coming to the United States. In effect, this would deny everyone seeking asylum at the U.S./Mexico border from applying, unless they are from Mexico. The rule shreds current asylum law and practices, and was immediately challenged in court. From the Associated Press:

The legal challenge to the new policy has a brief but somewhat convoluted history. U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco blocked the new policy from taking effect in late July. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals narrowed Tigar’s order so that it applied only in Arizona and California, states that are within the 9th Circuit.

That left the administration free to enforce the policy on asylum seekers arriving in New Mexico and Texas. Tigar issued a new order on Monday that reimposed a nationwide hold on asylum policy. The 9th Circuit again narrowed his order on Tuesday.

The high court action allows the Republican administration to impose the new policy everywhere while the court case against it continues.

It’s unclear how quickly the policy will be rolled out and how exactly it fits in with the other efforts by the administration to restrict border crossings and tighten asylum rules.

Importantly, the Supreme Court ruling only overturns a lower court injunction – it does NOT support of the merits of the policy directly. Legal challenges against the new rule will continue, and it is hard to see how it can survive as it is a clear violation of current law. Mexico is not legally identified as a “safe third country” under U.S. law, and the U.S. effort to get such an agreement with Mexico has not gone forward. The only country the U.S. has such an agreement with is Canada. A separate effort for an agreement with Guatemala has been slowed with legal challenges in Guatemala – and as the single largest group of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. right now are from Guatemala, it is clearly not a “safe” third country.

Noah Feldman, writing for Bloomberg, emphasizes that this was a ruling on process – not the legality of the rule:

But reversing the lower courts that blocked the regulation, pending litigation, isn’t the same thing as upholding it as lawful. The court of appeals still has to issue a final ruling on whether the rule violates federal immigration statutes and whether the government was authorized to issue it without first seeking notice and comment from the public.

Then, after final rulings from the appellate court, the Supreme Court will surely weigh in — and still might strike it down.

Asylum hearings, in tents, without judges

Meanwhile, immigration courts were set up in tents along the border to hear asylum claims from people ordered to “remain in Mexico” pending a court date.

At this point we have to pause and note the absurdity. Not only are people denied the right to seek asylum from within the United States – even those who present themselves at a port of entry have been told to stay in Mexico – but they can’t even get a real court hearing. Asylum seekers are patched through to a judge in San Antonio via teleconference while sitting in a tent in Laredo, TX, after sitting in a shelter or refugee camp for months to make their asylum claim.

There are currently 42,000 people awaiting hearing dates on asylum claims in Mexico. 42,000!!!

As the hearings began yesterday, no legal observers, media, or pro bono attorneys were allowed to view the proceedings. From Buzzfeed:

Ashley Huebner, associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center, was able to enter the tent facility briefly before being told to leave because she didn’t have a client appearing before the court. She said the lack of access to court observers and reporters was concerning.

“It’s particularly critical here because the entire process is taking place with such a lack of transparency,” Huebner told BuzzFeed News. “The entire setup confirmed how absurd it is to call this a courtroom and court proceedings.”

As of early September, more than 42,000 asylum-seekers have been forced to wait in Mexico while their immigration proceedings play out, according to acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan. Asylum-seekers in MPP [Migration Protection Protocols], also known as “Remain in Mexico,” have reported being assaulted, kidnapped, and extorted while being forced to wait in Mexico. With limited shelter space, some have to rent apartments or rooms, while others are homeless and relying on donations.

You may recall that the administration was under some heat for repurposing funds appropriated by Congress for other accounts in order to pay for enforcement measures. This court fiasco is paid for, in part, by funds appropriated originally for FEMA.

NPR Runs segment on Democratic candidates and immigration policy

NPR reached out to Democrats running for the presidential nomination to find out where they stand on immigration policy. Though a pretty select filter in terms of questions (nothing difficult on detention, “Remain in Mexico,” asylum law, or the movement to abolish ICE). But still worth a look. From lead in to story:

Donald Trump’s immigration stances — family separation, a ban on immigrants from several majority-Muslim nations, the cancellation of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program, to name a few — have given Democrats much to criticize as the 2020 presidential election approaches.

It means that the Democratic candidates are pretty uniform in coming out hard against the president on immigration. However, they differ on the particulars of what policies they would like to put into place instead and, in many cases, have not articulated what they would do specifically.

To get a sense of what exactly the candidates would like the immigration system to look like, we asked them some basic questions about legal immigration levels, border security and what kind of a crime crossing the border illegally ought to be.

Full article here.

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Daily Dispatch 9/11/2019: September 11 Never Ends

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Daily Dispatch

September 11, 2019


18 years ago today, I was in a bagel shop in College Park, Maryland with my friend Dave watching the world come apart on television. We didn’t say much to each other, we just stared at the T.V. as the twin towers fell and watched the fire rage at the Pentagon not too far away. There was not any sense of immediate danger to us personally, but the deep feeling of unease and overwhelming sadness at the loss of life was suffocating. We left, walked around campus and eventually met up with other grad students. Everyone was in shock. Later that day I had to teach a class. Lots of students at the University of Maryland are from New Jersey and New York. Several of the young folks in my class had not been in touch with family members and were worried. There was no lesson to speak of, just a conversation. What had people heard? What do you think happened? Why? There was already talk of revenge. “What of the risk of killing civilians?” asked a student. “None of them are innocent,” was the reply. One student was cautious. He was not talking about war, but a measured response that treated the act as a crime to be investigated and dealt with accordingly. Bombing another country in response to this would sink us to the level of the terrorists, he said, and probably backfire in the long run.

Classes were cancelled for the rest of the week, and we all settled in to see what came next. Over the last 18 years, as the wars and death tolls have mounted due to the U.S. government response to that day, I have wished many times that this one student had been sitting in the White House instead of my intro to political science class. 

In November of last year, the Cost of War project at Brown University reported:

The United States has appropriated and is obligated to spend an estimated $5.9 trillion (in current dollars) on the war on terror through Fiscal Year 2019, including direct war and war-related spending and obligations for future spending on post 9/11 war veterans. This number differs substantially from the Pentagon’s estimates of the costs of the post-9/11 wars because it includes not only war appropriations made to the Department of Defense – spending in the war zones of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and in other places the government designates as sites of “overseas contingency operations,” – but also includes spending across the federal government that is a consequence of these wars. Specifically, this is war-related spending by the Department of State, past and obligated spending for war veterans’ care, interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars, and the prevention of and response to terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security.

The current trajectory of costs would lead the total up to $6.7 trillion by 2023.

To put further perspective on this, the U.S. currently has counter-terrorism operations in 80 countries, including a network of bases and training programs. The creators of the map shared above note, “Because we have been conservative in our selections, U.S. efforts to combat terrorism abroad are likely more extensive than this map shows. Even so, the vast reach evident here may prompt Americans to ask whether the war on terror has met its goals, and whether they are worth the human and financial costs.”

What of the human costs? Of the places where U.S. ground troops have been present in significant numbers, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, the total number of direct deaths from combat operations is estimated at between 480,000 and 507,000, including U.S. personnel. Half of those killed are civilians. Indirect deaths, or those who die as a result of collapsing infrastructure, lack of access to health case and so on, are harder to measure. The Geneva Secretariat has argued that the number of indirect deaths in global conflicts can be estimated at 4:1 the number of direct deaths. In just these three countries then, the total number of people who have died as a result of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and parallel fighting in Pakistan, is likely between 2 to 2.5 million.

The conflict in Syria, the invasion of Libya, and the ongoing counter-insurgency campaign in Yemen each represents another tragic episode, with tens of thousands more direct deaths in conflict. Each of these wars has its own domestic roots to be sure, but the overflowing of these fights into regional, and even global alliances at war is directly related to the collapse of the tenuous balance of power that existed in the Middle East prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. That balance of power was itself predicated on support for autocratic and murderous regimes by the U.S. government, and hardly something to be celebrated. But the collapse of Iraq set in motion a process of regional realignment that we are still witnessing – that became a bloodbath.

There are 70 million people displaced in the world today. At least 18 percent of those are from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Syria. As we have written about elsewhere, many of the rest are fleeing conflicts or other circumstances set in motion by the global war on terror.

Was any of this worth it? This is often the question I hear asked – indeed there are polls that indicate 43 percent of U.S. Americans (41 percent of military service members) think we are less safe today than on September 12, 2001. Is that the appropriate measure? National Interest has a very good article from January that surveys impacts of the war on terror, and asks this question. Without giving a direct answer, the author writes

All of this begs the question: is Washington’s counterterrorism strategy having the desired effect of enhancing the security of Americans? Or is the strategy simply creating more terrorists than it is killing, throwing more taxpayer money down the toilet, and further straining the U.S. military’s limited resources?

We won’t know the answer until President Donald Trump orders his administration to conduct an honest, impartial, whole-of-government appraisal of the current policy. When he does, perhaps Trump will be more likely to overrule his conventional national security advisers who continue to argue for an unconditional and timeless American military commitment in Syria and Afghanistan.

While I have no faith that this administration in particular, or really any other, will conduct an honest, objective appraisal, I might offer a different framework for the question. Is there ANY outcome, or benefit to the United States that is worth the death of close to 3 million people outside our border? What security could ever result from such means? Ever?

On September 12, 2001, the country’s leadership had a choice. They chose badly. An 18 year old honor student in my political science class saw the alternatives, as did many other people who were in the streets within weeks protesting the wars we all saw coming. Sadly too few listened. Nationalism run rampant, fear and loathing of the “other” became the justification for war, and a dramatic shifting of power to an “imperial” presidency. 

And yet, the beat goes on. The Pentagon’s budget request is $738 billion for Fiscal Year 2020. How much will be appropriated in the end? Who knows? China’s defense budget is, by comparison, $167 billion. The Department of Homeland Security is requesting $51.7 billion – including provision for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain 54,000 people a day.  

For most of the world, September 11 never ends.

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