Daily Dispatch 2/25/2019

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Daily Dispatch

February 25, 2019

Prince and Orquidia are free, Local Organizing Matters!!

Here is an update from Sanctuary DMV, an accompaniment program with which some Quixote Center staff have volunteered. Prince’s case made national news back in April and May. QC staff have accompanied Orquidia’s daughter in-law, Yeslin, on several check-ins. All around great news.  From Sanctuary DMV:

The DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network is celebrating the release of two members of our community.

Prince Gbohoutou was released on Thursday from the Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama. He was transferred there last summer after originally being in detention in Frederick County, MD. Our Network, in partnership with Prince’s spouse, Shaniece, and Sanctuary DMV, has been advocating for Prince’s release since he was apprehended by ICE last April.

He and Shaniece were reunited on Thursday.

Orquidia Tamara Hernandez was released from detention in San Diego on January 29 for humanitarian reasons. She was reunited with her daughter-in-law, Yeslin Lopez, and her two young grandchildren. Yeslin is in community with and supported by our Network’s DC cluster. DC congregations worked hard to secure Orquidia’s release. Orquidia’s son, Kenneth, husband to Yeslin, and father to their children, remains in immigration detention in Charleston, SC.

Our hearts go out to Prince, Shaniece, Orquidia, Yeslin, the children, and our entire network, who all are celebrating the reunification of these families.

Related: A sanctuary DMV organizer hosted a radio show on WPFW 89.3 FM, interviewing Nam Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee whom Sanctuary DMV accompanied to his recent check-in. Also interviewed for this program is Quyen Dinh, the director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, about the broader trend of attacks on Southeast Asian immigrants, as well as Mary Small of Detention Watch Network about Trump’s fake national emergency. You can listen at the link above – and also check MasalaJustice’s Soundcloud profile for more interviews – including an earlier one with Prince’s wife Shaniece from last year.

Trump lies about immigration. All. Of. The. Time.

Trump tweeted last week: “We have just built this powerful Wall in New Mexico. Completed on January 30, 2019 – 47 days ahead of schedule! Many miles more now under construction! #FinishTheWall.”

Where to start. Okay, first, not one foot of new fencing, wall or peaches has been built under President Trump. The project completed in New Mexico was replacement fencing. The border already has 650 miles worth of wall, built mostly under Bush and Obama, plus all kinds of monitoring technology, the natural barrier of a desert, and thousands of border patrol agents. Trump’s administration has overseen the replacement of some sections of this existing wall, including $73 million of replacement fencing along 20 miles of the border in New Mexico. No new wall yet.

Trump’s administration will, however, start on 14 miles of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas this month; it will be the first new barrier under his watch. Trump’s mantra of “finish the wall” is therefore complete theater to make folks think he has built up a wall on the border and is almost done – even though the wall that is there has actually been in place for years and thus far he’s built nothing. He is able to do that because most of the folks who believe him don’t live anywhere near the border, nor do they have the slightest concept of how militarized and inhumane the border already is. Interesting fact check on this point and others from AP.

Another caravan arrives at the border…and you didn’t hear about it.

Another caravan from Central America arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this month. With a new president in place in Mexico, and new policies in place to deter asylum seekers from coming into the United States – the scene in Piedras Negras this month was very different than in Tijuana this past November. This is not necessarily good news in the long run. Detailed report from the Texas Tribune here.

The arrival and subsequent disbanding of the caravan in Piedras Negras comes as the Trump administration is testing a program called the Migrant Protection Protocols — also called “Remain in Mexico” — which forces immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico until they get a hearing before a U.S. immigration judge.

The program began at the San Ysidro, Calif. port of entry across from Tijuana last month and is set to expand to other ports of entry, including some in Texas.

Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it’s another example of how the Mexican government is responding to the Trump administration’s pressure.

“Mexico is tacitly cooperating with the unilateral ‘Remain in Mexico,’ providing visas and slowing or stopping migrants from approaching the U.S. border from the Mexican side,” O’Neil said.


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Daily Dispatch 2/22/2018

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Daily Dispatch

February 22, 2019


Our New Attorney General Created a Concentration Camp for Haitians Who Were HIV+ last time he had the job.

Drowned out by the noise surrounding the budget deal and Trump’s executive order declaring a national emergency, the Senate confirmed William Barr last week as the next attorney general. Many concerns have been raised about Barr’s nomination, especially regarding his views of executive power and his prior comments on the Mueller investigation. Less discussed, but very relevant given the attorney general’s extraordinary powers over immigration law, is Barr’s history as the architect of a brutal immigrant detention program targeting Haitians.

From the Daily Beast:

Decades before President Donald Trump nominated William Barr to retake the reins at the Department of Justice, Barr used the post to indefinitely detain hundreds of HIV-positive asylum-seekers at a Guantanamo Bay detention center, deemed an “HIV prison camp” by a federal judge who ruled the quarantine to be in gross violation of the U.S. Constitution.

That policy, part of a program that at its peak held more than 12,000 Haitian refugees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, helped lay the legal groundwork for the indefinite incarceration of “enemy combatants” in the War on Terror—and institutionalized the detention system that President Trump has made a cornerstone of his immigration policy. Barr has since defended the detention of hundreds of HIV-positive asylum-seekers, some of them children, even though the government’s own lawyers admitted at the time that detainees had inadequate medical care.

This story came out before the hearings, but was little discussed during them. It is hard to imagine someone with less compassion than Jeff Sessions as Attorney General – but we may have just let that happen.

Vatican Sends Representative to El Paso

Trump went to El Paso two weeks ago and lied a lot about immigration and its impacts on the community. In the coming week Reverend Stark will join local organizations to discuss increased border security and the new crisis for families and asylum seekers that Trump’s policies have created.

From Texas Monthly:

“The meeting is about the emergency situation here on the border that’s been precipitated by the Trump administration,” said Dylan Corbett, director of the Hope Border Institute, which is helping to organize the event. It will include a gathering on Tuesday at the border fence in Sunland Park, New Mexico, just across the state line from El Paso. Reverend Robert Stark from the Vatican Migrants and Refugees Section will attend the meetings.

Although illegal border crossings are well below levels seen ten or twenty years ago, the numbers of families and unaccompanied children are now at record levels. Just over 120,000 family unit members and unaccompanied children were apprehended at the Southwest border in the first four months of fiscal year 2019, triple the numbers of a year ago, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. About two-thirds of those apprehensions have occurred in two Texas-based Border Patrol sectors: the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso. Families and children now account for about three of every five people apprehended at the border.

ICE Sued Over Raid in Tennessee

Last April, ICE engaged in one of the largest raids in recent history at a meat-packing plant in Tennessee. The operation involved dozens of heavily armed agents, who surrounded the facility completely before storming it, all with helicopters flying over head. This week a suit was brought against ICE for the treatment of some of the workers. All workers who appeared Latinx were detained, while white workers smoked cigarettes and waited out the raid in the parking lot. The raid had a devastating impact on the community. More on the case from Al Jazeera.


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Daily Dispatch 2/21/2019: Report on Arrests in Haiti

Over the weekend eight heavily armed men were arrested in Port-au-Prince near a police checkpoint. The men were driving in two vehicles without license plates. Inside the vehicle were multiple automatic rifles, one with a scope, handguns, several drones, satellite phones and other weapons. NPR Reports:

“They said that they were here on a ‘government mission,’ ” Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR from Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. “They did not specify which government, but then they did tell the police that … their boss was going to call their boss.”

The implication, Charles says, is that someone high in Haiti’s government would be able to free the heavily armed group — and she adds, “members of the administration of President Jovenel Moise did try to get these gentlemen released from police custody — but that did not work.”

On Tuesday this week it was revealed that one of the vehicles was registered to an advisor of President Moïse. From the Miami Herald:

A letter from a local car dealership to the prime minister revealed that one of the vehicles, the Ford, was purchased by a former government official and sent to the care of Fritz Jean-Louis, an adviser of President Jovenel Moïse. Jean-Louis has since fled the country, police said. Police found license plates inside the vehicles, and at least one was registered to Jean-Louis.

So who are the men? Five of them are U.S. citizens, four of who are known to have military backgrounds. Two are Serbian nationals and one is Haitian:

  1. Talon Ray Burton, the director of security for Hawkstorm Global Ltd, an international security firm run by Talon Ray Burton’s brother, Lance Burton.
  2. Kent Leland Kroeker, A 20-year Marine Corp vet who is a member of Kroeker Partners, a security advisory company (The company’s website states that it has no active mission in Haiti.).
  3. Christopher Mark McKinley, who is a former Navy SEAL, and founder and CEO of  INVICTVS Group, which is simply described as a “consortium of U.S. special operations veterans” that delivers “corporate team building services.”
  4. Christopher Michael Osman, another former Navy SEAL, who has claimed on social media to have been engaged in “classified operations” in the Arabian Gulf and Afghanistan.
  5. Dustin Porte, who operates Patriot Groups Services, listed as an electrical company based in Louisiana. Jacqueline Charles with the Miami Herald notes the company received a recent $16,000 contract with the Department of Homeland Security. There is no other known link to military or intelligence services at this point.
  6. Danilo Bajagic, a Serbian national currently working with K17 Security based in Rockville, MD. The company also claims to have no current operations in Haiti.
  7. Vlade Jankvic, another Serbian national about whom little is known.
  8. Michael Estera, a Haitian about whom little is known.

The men were held by police in Haiti until Wednesday, at which point they were flown to the United States, escorted to their plane by U.S. Embassy staff.

Airport employees say the men seemed quite at ease and were taken inside the VIP diplomatic lounge to wait on the flight after their tickets were purchased at the counter. One of the two Serbians initially was not allowed to board the flight by Haitian immigration because he had no stamps showing where he resides. After a few calls were made, he was put on the flight. The Haitian national, Michael Estera, who goes by the pseudonym “Cliford,” was not among those sent back to the U.S. He faces illegal weapons charges.

Below is a brief video clip of some of the arrested men deboarding their flight in Miami:

At this point, no one seems to know what they were doing in Haiti. If they were on an advisory mission with the government, or to there to provide security, it seems that would be an easy question to answer. The silence about their activities, is thus encouraging a great deal of speculation, especially in light of reports of people shot during recent demonstration. Now that they have been flown out of Haiti by the U.S. government we may never know.

UPDATE: It now appears that the none of the men returned to the U.S. will face criminal charges. From the Miami Herald:

The five heavily armed Americans arrested in Haiti earlier this week are back on their home soil and won’t be facing any criminal charges in the United States — a decision already causing outrage among some Haitian leaders.

Federal sources told the Miami Herald that the men will not be charged criminally, but are being debriefed. They told U.S. authorities they were on the island providing private security for a “businessman” doing work with the Haitian government.


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Daily Dispatch 2/20/2019

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Daily Dispatch

February 20, 2019

“Walls are not very effective at stopping movement. People can go around, over, under…The way that walls do work is as a symbol. The material object of the wall stands in for all of the other complex issues about borders, migration, and trade.”  – Reece Jones, author of Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move

“You know, a wall is the best way to do nothing while looking like you’re doing something” – Anonymous comment on India fencing project along Bangladesh border

On Friday, Congress managed to pass a compromise budget bill that included some money for wall construction. Trump, not happy with the amount, used the signing ceremony to issue an executive order declaring a national emergency in a gambit to give himself authority to use up to $8 billion from other accounts to finance his promised border wall.

While pundits debate “who won” the budget showdown and/or fact check Trump’s many lies about immigration, we thought it might be worth stepping back for a minute and look at the wall debate from a more global perspective. It is worth noting that between the end of World War Two and the end of the Cold War (1945-1989) the number of international border walls (fences or other barriers) grew from five to fifteen. Since the collapse of the Berlin wall in 1989, the number of border walls has actually grown to seventy, with at least another seven in various stages of planning.

Which is to say, the post-Cold War age of the globalization of finance, transnational production networks and open trade regimes has not been met with open borders for people. On the contrary, the impact of global economic forces has led to a dislocation of millions of people around the globe. The related force of climate change is estimated to displace 22.5 million people a year. Add to that the refugee crises that have emerged from U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S.-supported wars in Yemen and Syria and other conflicts, and there are now more people displaced in the world that any time in history. Their migration, when they attempt to cross international borders, has been met with increasing nationalistic backlash.

Stretches of secondary fencing are topped with spirals of concertina wire along the U.S.-Mexico border between the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry, in San Diego. Photo: BRANDON QUESTER / INEWSOURCE

So, we build walls. The United States already has a border wall – a bipartisan effort launched in 2006 with the Secure Fencing Act. Nearly a third of the border is thus walled in – with the rest of it monitored and patrolled. In the course of this latest budget debate, Democrats  were themselves committed to spending billions more on border security. They just didn’t want to give Trump a wall – or at least a concrete/brick wall. But billions of dollars for more fencing, border patrols and expanding a virtual surveillance wall was fine (though not enough for Trump).

It seems the political class are all nationalists now, left to debate simply the optics of implementing anti-immigrant policies. Why? Well, to hear politicians talk, it has something to do with scary people crossing our borders in search of free lunches, who thus threaten hard working Americans (or Brits, French, Greeks – whatever appropriate demonym for the given country). However, beneath this pandering to an audience made insecure by the same economic forces displacing their neighbors, there is another explanation for the turn to nationalist policies: A global market in border security.

We’re currently in the middle of a golden era for border wall contractors. Companies are building everything from fences lined with concertina wire to military-grade drones to high-tech lidar sensors to monitor borderlands, and budgets for holistic frontier defenses are ballooning in tandem. The global market for border security technology is expected to grow to nearly $53 billion in the next few years, with major security companies like Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin leading the way.

If one views the larger homeland security industry, at a global level, the numbers are staggering. Todd Miller, says in an interview with The Nation:

[W]hen you look at the market forecast, all of them show a homeland-security market that’s growing. There are reports that say it’s an unprecedented boom period. The last one that I saw for the homeland-security market had it going to $742 billion by 2023. In Storming the Wall, I had figure of $546 billion for 2022 for the broader global security market.

So, while Trump may be unique in his bombastic approach, and dangerous in his autocratic tendencies, the phenomenon he represents is a global one of displacement, insecurity and nationalistic responses. With the money at stake, we can rest assured that pressure will remain on Congress to maintain a securitized response to the movement of people, whatever happens to Trump.

More reading:

T.M. Brown “Border Walls are a big Business – and not just in Trump’s America,” FastCompany

Will Mayer, “The Climate Wall: Q & A with Todd Miller,” The Nation

Jeff Gammage, “Construction of border walls exploding around the world, as Trump demands billions for barrier at Mexico line,” The Inquirer


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Haiti Update: Protests Enter 9th Day

Haiti has experienced 9 days of protest and violent state response. Opposition leaders have vowed to shut the country down until President Jovenel Moïse steps down. After seven days of silence, President Moïse finally addressed the country last night in a pre-recorded message. He had little of substance to offer, but did say he had no plans to step-down. Meanwhile, Moïse’s administration is in turmoil. He recalled the long-time Haitian ambassador to the United States this week, and reportedly some members of the PHTK (Moïse’s party) have already begun preparing to leave the country – if temporarily. It is hard to imagine how Moïse will hold on. If he tries to, the violence is likely to escalate, though what happens if he resigns is far from clear. The current prime minister and governing cabinet have only been in office since October, after the previous prime minister was forced to resign following mass protests in July.

Video report from Al Jazeera Wednesday, February 13

The “international community” has spoken (they always do). A statement issued earlier in the week from the so-called “Core Group” (composed of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, the Ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the European Union, the United States of America, and the Special Representative of the Organization of American States) called for compromise to move forward legislation needed for elections in this coming October:

Reiterating the fact that in a democracy change must come through the ballot box, and not through violence, the Core Group urges the executive and legislative branches of power to collaborate for the electoral law and the 2018-2019 budget law to be adopted and promulgated as soon as possible. It is only through these actions that the elections scheduled by the Constitution for October 2019, can be held in a free, fair and transparent manner, and that an institutional vacuum will be avoided. (Full statement here)

This is all reasonable advice, but no government or institution in this group has done much to promote democracy in Haiti. Indeed, these are the folks largely responsible for the electoral farces of 2011 and 2016, not to mention a coup d’etat and 14 year-long UN occupation. 

Meanwhile the U.S. State Department’s spokesperson for Western Hemisphere Affairs said,

“We support the right of all people to demand a democratic and transparent government and to hold their government leaders accountable, but there is no excuse for violence. Violence leads to instability, less investment, and fewer jobs.”

Officially, the U.S. deplores violence….we’ll just leave that there. The State Department has issued a level four travel warning on Haiti, and is directing all non-essential embassy staff and family members to leave the country.

Meanwhile, with the ambassador to the U.S. recalled, Haiti Foreign Minister Edmond Bocchit is supposed to meet with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton. As reported by Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald:

Bocchit has been seeking support for the Moïse administration in Washington ever since Haiti agreed to break with a longtime ally, Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, and recognize acting opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president. The discussion topics have included getting U.S. support for the purchase of subsidized rice for Haiti and help with getting Qatar to assist it in buying its $2 billion debt from Venezuela linked to its Petrocaribe discounted oil program, say sources familiar with the discussions.

Bocchit, who last week visited the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the State Department with influential Haitian businessman Andy Apaid, would not comment on the planned Bolton meeting. Apaid, a Moïse supporter, led the civil society movement that forced the ouster of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power in 2004 amid a bloody revolt.

The protests this week are the latest in a series of demonstrations that have expressed deep frustration with government corruption, a stagnant economy, fuel shortages, inflation and the collapse of the exchange rate. The political opposition leading the protests, including Youri Latortue, are not exactly clean themselves. Opportunism abounds as the elite jockey for position amid the turmoil. How bad might things get? Jake Johnston writes that we may be witnessing the collapse of a political and economic system, stitched together by the “international community” to put a thin democratic facade on a system of pillage. His widely shared twitter thread ends:

The strategy of the Haitian government appears to be hunker down and hope this all just goes away. In the meantime, the situation for millions of Haitians will continue to deteriorate, caught between political violence, government ineptitude, and the ever-increasing cost of living. I believe what we are witnessing is the collapse of a system. A system that has failed the Haitian people. There are no more quick fixes; there are no more internationally devised compromises to paper over the reality. I fear that things will get worse before they get better.

The hope? A new generation of leaders who have yet to fully emerge, but undoubtedly will be the only ones able to lead their country forward. Who among the discredited political class will have the courage to step aside and empower them?

In Gros Morne, where Quixote Center’s partners live and carry out their work, the roads have been blocked for days, but otherwise things are relatively calm. There have been fighting and gunshots fired in nearby Gonaïves and St.Marc. Fuel shortages are complicating life here and everywhere in Haiti. Water treatment facilities are running out of fuel (and money) to run reverse osmosis processing. Gas in Gros Morne is up to $7.50 a gallon, when it is available at all. Hospitals are running out of medicine and other supplies because of the blockades. The team at the Jean Marie Vincent Center is thus far safe. We will keep in touch and report what we can. They did ask that we offer prayers for peace for Haiti. 

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Daily Dispatch 2/13/19

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Daily Dispatch

February 13, 2019

Countdown to Shutdown v.2.0 National EmergencyShutdown v.2.0:



Compromise reached?!

Well, we didn’t think they would do it. Then we were pretty sure they would do it. Then we decided they definitely wouldn’t do it. But lo and behold, they did it!

The diligent and indefatigable conference committee reached a deal that is expected to pass both houses of Congress thus averting a government shutdown, assuming the president is willing to sign it. (Details here.)

After saying he probably wouldn’t earlier today, Donald Trump is now hinting that he will sign the negotiated spending bill and just go get his border wall money from elsewhere (national emergency), but hasn’t promised yet, because he sees Friday less as an appropriations deadline and more as a mid-season finale.

He’s still trying to spin this as a win, even though the funds set aside for his border wall in the final bill ($1.375 billion) is LESS than what was in the original bipartisan spending agreement reached BEFORE the December shutdown ($1.6 billion).

Ask for $5.7 billion → turn down $1.6 → settle for $1.3  =  the Art of the Deal?

The president is also bragging that he had 35,000 people at his El Paso rally [he had 6,500 according to the city’s fire department] because the fire marshal agreed to ignore the max capacity [the fire marshal most decidedly did not do this] and that’s way more people than the 300 who showed up for Beto O’Rourke’s rally down the street [which actually had 7,000].

We’ll take a wild guess that if you had to choose to listen to either Trump’s rally speech (during which a BBC journalist was assaulted by a crowd member) or Beto’s, you probably pick the latter, so here it is (this one is probably SFW, though he has been known to drop an F-bomb now and then):

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz is getting cute with acronyms, proposing the “Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order” Act -- aka the EL CHAPO Act. The purpose is to take the $14 billion in assets to be seized by authorities after the drug kingpin’s conviction and use them to fund the border wall.

Other Stories:

The House Majority Leader says a bi-partisan bill to protect DACA and TPS recipients is in the works.

The Senate Homeland Security committee delayed a vote on the nomination of current acting ICE director Ron Vitiello, after a union that represents 7,000 ICE agents asked the committee to vote Vitiello down, saying he “lacks the judgement and professionalism to effectively lead a federal agency.”

From NYT: “Videoconferencing in Immigration Court: High-Tech Solution or Rights Violation?”

From The Nation: “Rethinking Ralph Northam: Progressives shouldn’t expect infallibility from our leaders”

From NBC News: “Rapper 21 Savage relased on bond from ICE detention in immigration case”

From WaPo: “On El Paso’s Shelter Place, an American divide over immigrants and immigration”

Bonus Videos: Late night coverage of the spending deal and the border wall.




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Daily Dispatch 2/11/19

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Daily Dispatch

February 11, 2019

Countdown to Shutdown v.2.0 National EmergencyShutdown v.2.0:


Well... it was nice while it lasted

A spending agreement to avert a government shutdown looked like a sure thing late last week until Democrats threw in an eleventh-hour demand requiring a cap on ICE detention beds. One wonders whether it might have been better to include this ask from the start rather than appearing to change course and derail negotiations at the last minute. It may be a laudable position but it’s terrible politics. If the government shuts down on Friday, the blame this time will be placed squarely on the Dems.

And though the President is rage-tweeting, does he really have any skin in the game at this point? The White House already has an emergency declaration written up and ready to go. The only reason for delay is to build expectations to hype a dramatic reveal.

Tonight, Trump will hold a rally in El Paso (one newspaper’s headline describes the city as “bracing” for a Trump rally) to reiterate his, at best, misleading claims about border walls lowering crime.

Meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke, who represented the area in the Texas Senate for several years, will be leading a protest march against Trump’s visit. The march will culminate in a “Celebration of El Paso” at the Chalio Acosta Sports Center only a block from Trump’s venue (both about a 5 minute walk from the border), where O’Rourke is expected to deliver remarks.

Will he have anything to… announce?

Beto is not the only well-known figure that will feature at tonight’s protest – Trump will also be welcomed by the Trump Baby Blimp.

Speaking of Texas here are two updates on the Texas voter-citizenship story from the Texas Tribune.

For Your Calendar:

Tuesday 9 am: Oral arguments on Trump’s travel ban will begin tomorrow morning at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, MD.

Wednesday 10 am: Senate committee will vote on the nomination of acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello in Dirksen 342.

More Stories:

From Reuters: “California to pull troops from border in apparent riposte to Trump”

From Politico: “The Border Patrol’s recruiting crisis”

From NYT: “’Pit of Infection’: A Border Town’s Crisis Has Nothing to Do With Migrants”

From WaPo: “’My Whole town practically lived there’: From Costa Rica to New Jersey, a pipeline of illegal workers for Trump goes back years”

From Politico: “Bloomberg scorches Trump’s ‘un-American’ immigration policies”

From WaPo: “ICE agents in North Carolina arrest hundreds of immigrants”


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Daily Dispatch 2/7/19

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Daily Dispatch

February 7, 2019

Countdown to Shutdown v.2.0 National Emergency:


Could it really be?

After meeting with CBP on Wednesday, conference committee members seemed far more optimistic that a deal will be reached and voted on by the end of next week. CBP emphasized the need for technology at the border, more so than physical barriers. Both House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader McConnell have indicated that they will back any bipartisan bill that the committee successfully negotiates. Both sides agree that $5.7 billion for a big, beautiful border wall from sea to shining sea is out of the question. Still, debates over detention bed funding and relief for Puerto Rico are still looming.

But overall, things are looking good on the congressional side.

On the executive side, things aren’t so clear. Trump wants to be seen as having “won.” But he’s also a loose cannon who frequently redefines what “winning” looks like. At the outset of the shutdown, “winning” meant $5.7 billion for a physical wall. During the shutdown, it was $5.7 billion for “slats,” “barriers,” or “peaches.” At the end of the shutdown, merely reopening the government for 3 weeks was touted as a “win” even though we all knew it was a “cave.”

So, will “border security” be spun as a “win” for Trump?

Will he veto the spending bill?

If so, will Congress have the votes to override the veto? (It’s possible. NO ONE in Congress wants another shutdown. NO ONE.)

Or is Trump just waiting for the above clock to run out so he can declare his “national emergency”?

Your Week In Racism:

It’s been a weird few days for Virginia.

First, Governor Northam apologized for being photographed either in black face or in a KKK hood (he wasn't sure which) in his med school yearbook.

Then he adamantly denied appearing in that photo.

Then, for some reason, he admitted to appearing in black face on a separate occasion (ironically while dressing up as Michael Jackson, who was accused of bleaching his face … weird huh?).

Then seemingly out of nowhere, the state’s Attorney General decided, for some reason, to “come out” as having appeared in black face years ago.

As these developments appeared on computer and television screens around the country, this was everyone:

Then there was the whole Liam Neeson(s) thing.

And the Elizabeth Warren thing.

And… oh, come on, Gucci

(Bet you never thought you’d see these words, in this order: “the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper.”)

Theodore Johnson (Brennan Center / Georgetown) offers a reflection in Politico, “How Society Uses Politics to Decide What’s Racist,” which weighs questions of politics and questions of morality.

Other News:

From Newsweek: “City Council in Arizona Town Unanimously Agree to Have Razor Wire Removed From Border Wall, Will Request Federal Government Take It Down”

From The Texas Tribune: “Trump falsely said El Paso was a hub of violent crime before the border fence. Now he’s holding a rally there.”


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Daily Dispatch 2/6/19

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Daily Dispatch

February 6, 2019

Countdown to Shutdown v.2.0 National Emergency:



Well… that happened.

As expected Trump’s SOTU was filled with fear-mongering, lies, arrogant credit-taking, and, of course, memorable facial expressions from its victims audience.

One of the more controversial claims from the address was this:

San Diego used to have the most illegal border crossings in the country.  In response, and at the request of San Diego residents and political leaders, a strong security wall was put in place.  This powerful barrier almost completely ended illegal crossings.

The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our Nation’s most dangerous cities.  Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.

Simply put, walls work and walls save lives.  So let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe.

Here are two fact-checking articles from the El Paso Times and the Texas Tribune. (And here is the breaking news on Trump’s Feb. 11 rally to be held in El Paso.)

And this from NBC News’s Jacob Soboroff:


+ Full text of the speech from the White House.

+ A general fact-check from the New York Times.

+ Pelosi’s post SOTU official statement.

+ The best post-SOTU response came from Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono: “WTF”

+ The State of the Union in pictures (from Vox).


To everyone’s relief Trump did not use the venue to declare a national emergency. Yet.

Many Republicans are nervous about the emergency declaration for many reasons, including its potential to diminish Congress’s standing as a co-equal branch and setting a bad precedent. Are they willing to vote against the president? Maybe this bit of legislation, gaining bipartisan support, offers a hint – the bill would require Congressional approval to leave NATO (another common threat of Trump’s that Republicans largely disavow).

Just hours before the SOTU, New Mexico’s Governor announced that she was withdrawing National Guard troops from the border and asked the governors of other border states to do the same. Then… she released this video showing what she thinks of all this wall talk (hint: she doesn’t like it):


Other News:

The border security conference committee charged with negotiating an agreement that would avoid a shutdown and a fake emergency declaration are meeting today at 10am to receive a classified briefing by Border Patrol.

From The New Yorker: “Trump’s Dangerous Scapegoating of Immigrants at the State of the Union”

From BuzzFeed News: “Customs And Border Protection Apologized After An Agent Questioned A BuzzFeed News Reporter About Trump Coverage”

From The Hill: “Migrant caravan arrives at town on Texas border”

From Politico: “MAGA all-stars visit border to plot private wall project”

From AP: “Trump immigrant crime hotline still faces hurdles, pushback”


Bonus Videos:

Stephen Colbert covers the SOTU address

Seth Myers covers the SOTU address

Trevor Noah covers the SOTU address

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Daily Dispatch 2/5/19

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Daily Dispatch

February 4, 2019

Countdown to Shutdown v.2.0 National Emergency:


Happy SOTU Day!

The president will deliver his third State of the Union address before the standard joint session of Congress on the House floor. The difference between this one and the others? The face appearing right behind him. No longer a deferential Paul Ryan smiling and nodding and looking sincere – instead, sitting to the left of what we think might be a mannequin but is probably VP Pence, we will see Nancy Pelosi, the woman who just OWNED him in the shutdown showdown.

Here is an artistic rendering of what we think it will look like:

Dems are making a statement with their guest invitations. Here's a partial list of +ones:

  • Rep. Pelosi (D-NY) will bring Jose Andres, who provided millions of meals in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and thousands for furloughed workers during the government shutdown. She has also invited Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.
  • Sen. Merkley (D-OR) will bring a Guatemalan mother and daughter who were separated by CBP under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy last year.
  • Rep. Coleman (D-NJ) and Gomez (D-CA) will bring former employees of Trump’s golf clubs who were recently fired due to their immigration status.
  • Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) will bring the activist who confronted then-Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator during the Kavanaugh hearings.
  • Sen. Harris (D-CA), Sen. Warren (D-MA), Rep. Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Kaine (D-VA), and 9 others will bring government employees (including a lot of air traffic controllers) who were impacted by the government shutdown.
  • Sen. Murphy (D-CA) will bring the director of a shelter for kids separated at the border.

Much of the SOTU address will focus on immigration and border security. Given that he has been spending hours working on the speech with Mr. “I’d-be-happy-if-no-refugees-ever-set-foot-on-American-soil-again” Stephen Miller, including three hours this afternoon, it’s likely to be much of more of the same extremist anti-immigrant rhetoric. No surprise there.

The big question is: will he use this high-profile event to declare a national emergency?

Most invested in the answer are Senate Republicans, for four reasons. First, it flouts the authority of Congress as co-equal branch of government. Second, such a move would force them into a potential vote against the president. Third, it sets a precedent that future presidents (i.e. Democratic presidents) could use. Fourth, who knows where he’ll take the money from? Of course Senate Dems oppose the declaration as well.

But even if he doesn’t do so tonight, it’s looking more and more likely that he will at some point between now and next Friday, the deadline for spending bill negotiations. He and Jared Kushner have been meeting with contractors about beginning the construction.

But who knows? Trump’s definition of “wall” vacillates and today he even suggested using the military to build a “Human Wall if necessary.”

All we can do now is watch and wait.

Other News:

From Politico: “Nielsen to testify before House panel after subpoena threat”

From Bloomberg Law: “Businesses Challenging Visa Denials Seeing Early Successes”

From Reuters: “Founder of Proud Boys sues over being labeled hate group”

From WaPo: “D.C. will offer up to $725 per person to help residents seeking U.S. citizenship”

From Politico: “’They basically have nothing to do’: Trio of Republicans face life in exile”

Excerpt: “Now, while the rest of their colleagues work on crafting bills, the trio of committee exiles are searching for ways to spend their time on Capitol Hill so they’re not just waiting around to vote or aimlessly roaming the hallways.”

Rep. Raskin (D-MD): “I suppose they can form a pariah caucus.’”


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