Yesterday we asked: Will he declare a “state of emergency” at the border in an effort to get the Pentagon to pay for the wall? Or will he simply use the airtime to recite false statistics and relate the most gruesome details of the ugliest crimes committed by a handful immigrants in order to sway public opinion to his side?
It was the latter.
Will networks, who were almost certainly expecting actual news, think twice before granting him airtime again? This is a trick he pulled a few times during the campaign, but the networks are slow to get wise to it.
Turns out, Trump didn’t even want to give the speech. Nor does he want to visit the border, which he is scheduled to do later this week, calling it a photo-op that is “not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it” because Bill and Sarah and Kellyanne say so.
But the speech went great anyway!
Thank you for soooo many nice comments regarding my Oval Office speech. A very interesting experience!
Related: Speaking of lies, remember when Trump said “catch and release” is over? WaPo calls ICE’s current approach as “catch and can’t-release-fast-enough,”
But the specter of an emergency declaration isn’t completely over, as Trump will meet with Senate Republicans, who are considering whether such a move could be “a way out of a shutdown fight they’re losing.”
Related: The Marshall Project shows us “What the Government Shutdown Looks Like Inside Federal Prisons.”
Related: Politico offers an ontological meditation on the wall, which sometimes exists and sometimes doesn’t.
Finally, more reactions to the speech:
This entire Trump speech has the cadence of a Wheel Of Fortune contestant solving the puzzle.
Trump is set to deliver remarks from the Oval Office tonight at 9pm EST. Will he declare a “state of emergency” at the border in an effort to get the Pentagon to pay for the wall? Or will he simply use the airtime to recite false statistics and relate the most gruesome details of the ugliest crimes committed by a handful immigrants in order to sway public opinion to his side?
The broadcast networks and cable news networks have all agreed to give Trump “at least 8 minutes” of airtime tonight. Democrats are demanding equal time – as networks have previously refused to give their hottest primetime real estate to presidential statements they deem to be partisan politics. Decisions and details remain to be seen.
We’ll find out later tonight. In the meantime, let’s do some quick fact-checking and then look at the wider implications of a national emergency.
Trump will surely cite the “4,000 known or suspected terrorists” apprehended at the southern border. In fact, CBP reported 6 “encounters” with people whose name matched a name in a database or watchlist.
As for his claim that past presidents have told him that they wish they had built a border wall themselves, Jimmy Carter has come forward to complete the list of former presidents who confirm they most certainly did NOT.
Trump’s claim that most people support the shutdown and want a wall, not so much.
Also [and again], Mexico is not paying for the wall. That’s what the entire shutdown is about – the fact that Democrats won’t pass a bill allowing the US government to pay for the wall.
Who is going to pay for the wall? Mexico. Mexico. Mexico.
Who is going to pay for the wall? American taxpayers.
And if I don’t get $5 billion from them, I’m going to shut down the government.
Whatever Trump decides to do tonight, I hope his remarks include this:
…Remember this. Throughout the ages some things NEVER get better and NEVER change. You have Walls and you have Wheels. It was ALWAYS that way and it will ALWAYS be that way! Please explain to the Democrats that there can NEVER be a replacement for a good old fashioned WALL!
Declaring a “national emergency” has potentially far reaching implications, as “more than 100 special provisions become available to him” once he does so. These include the power to “seize control of U.S. internet traffic, impeding access to certain websites and ensuring that internet searches return pro-Trump content as the top results” (recall the bee he had in his bonnet about Google search results, which led the president of Google to testify before Congress). He could also freeze assets of US citizens and declare martial law.
Though we included a link to this in yesterday’s Dispatch, here is a fuller excerpt of Elizabeth Goitein’s article in the most recent edition of The Atlantic:
Imagine that it’s late 2019. Trump’s approval ratings are at an all-time low. A disgruntled former employee has leaked documents showing that the Trump Organization was involved in illegal business dealings with Russian oligarchs. The trade war with China and other countries has taken a significant toll on the economy. Trump has been caught once again disclosing classified information to Russian officials, and his international gaffes are becoming impossible for lawmakers concerned about national security to ignore. A few of his Republican supporters in Congress begin to distance themselves from his administration. Support for impeachment spreads on Capitol Hill. In straw polls pitting Trump against various potential Democratic presidential candidates, the Democrat consistently wins.
Trump reacts. Unfazed by his own brazen hypocrisy, he tweets that Iran is planning a cyber operation to interfere with the 2020 election. His national-security adviser, John Bolton, claims to have seen ironclad (but highly classified) evidence of this planned assault on U.S. democracy. Trump’s inflammatory tweets provoke predictable saber rattling by Iranian leaders; he responds by threatening preemptive military strikes. Some Defense Department officials have misgivings, but others have been waiting for such an opportunity. As Iran’s statements grow more warlike, “Iranophobia” takes hold among the American public.
Proclaiming a threat of war, Trump invokes Section 706 of the Communications Act to assume government control over internet traffic inside the United States, in order to prevent the spread of Iranian disinformation and propaganda. He also declares a national emergency under ieepa, authorizing the Treasury Department to freeze the assets of any person or organization suspected of supporting Iran’s activities against the United States. Wielding the authority conferred by these laws, the government shuts down several left-leaning websites and domestic civil-society organizations, based on government determinations (classified, of course) that they are subject to Iranian influence. These include websites and organizations that are focused on getting out the vote.
Lawsuits follow. Several judges issue orders declaring Trump’s actions unconstitutional, but a handful of judges appointed by the president side with the administration. On the eve of the election, the cases reach the Supreme Court. In a 5–4 opinion written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Court observes that the president’s powers are at their zenith when he is using authority granted by Congress to protect national security. Setting new precedent, the Court holds that the First Amendment does not protect Iranian propaganda and that the government needs no warrant to freeze Americans’ assets if its goal is to mitigate a foreign threat.
Protests erupt. On Twitter, Trump calls the protesters traitors and suggests (in capital letters) that they could use a good beating. When counterprotesters oblige, Trump blames the original protesters for sparking the violent confrontations and deploys the Insurrection Act to federalize the National Guard in several states. Using the Presidential Alert system first tested in October 2018, the president sends a text message to every American’s cellphone, warning that there is “a risk of violence at polling stations” and that “troops will be deployed as necessary” to keep order. Some members of opposition groups are frightened into staying home on Election Day; other people simply can’t find accurate information online about voting. With turnout at a historical low, a president who was facing impeachment just months earlier handily wins reelection—and marks his victory by renewing the state of emergency.
Well… that’s it for today’s Daily Dispatch! If you made it all the way through to the end, you’re probably overwhelmed with existential dread, so here’s a kitten to look at (look how cute he is when he falls over, lolz!!):
Sarah Sanders: “I wonder if she’s [Pelosi’s] going to go on a crusade and take down all the fences and walls across this country. I certainly hope not. I’m sure that the people that have them around their homes, the institutions that have them, whether it’s the Vatican or anywhere else, are not going to be real happy with the fact that Nancy Pelosi is calling their wall and their security immoral.”
[Fact check: this argument will earn you a zero from your freshman rhetoric teacher]
Sarah Sanders claims that 4,000 known or suspected terrorists were apprehended last year after entering the US through the southern border.
Actual number of known or suspected terrorists apprehended at the southern border in 2018: zero
Trump has threatened to keep the shutdown going for “months or even years” if he doesn’t get his wall.
And if he still doesn’t get his wall, he will declare a national emergency in order to use Department of Defense money to build it anyway, so there.
Related: “What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency” from The Atlantic (this lengthy article is terrifying).
On January 1st, Haiti celebrated the 215th anniversary of the conclusion of its revolution and struggle for independence from France. In 1804, Haiti became the second independent republic in the Western Hemisphere. The struggle in Haiti also marked the first successful revolution led by people formerly enslaved – anywhere in the world.
Haiti was not welcomed into the world of independent states. Where we see an inspirational story of a people’s successful struggle for liberty, the United States and European powers at the time saw a threat. For the US the example of a successful rebellion led by enslaved people was intolerable. The US would not recognize Haiti’s independence until 1865, and conspired with European powers to isolate Haiti and block its international trade. France threatened a re-conquest of Haiti in 1825 – forcing the government to pay an indemnification for lost property (human beings, mind you) or face invasion. The debt accrued then, not paid off until 1947, continues to hang over Haiti’s development as the economy was restructured to meet the demands of international creditors.
As the new year begins, the people of Haiti are in a renewed struggle for accountability and independence. A protest movement launched against corruption in the administration of PetroCaribe funds has morphed into a broader movement for far reaching change. International creditors still demand policy changes that accommodate the outflow of dollars to banks and their gatekeeper, the International Monetary Fund. The UN is in the process of stepping down its direct involvement in security – scheduled to end the current mission in October this year. But the legacy of the 15 year occupation remains deeply problematic. Capturing these dynamics, Jake Johnston authored this update about the movement in Haiti.
Throughout it all, Haiti remains the source of compelling visions of liberation and is animated by a deep cultural heritage rooted in resistance to the many forms of oppression the people have experienced. An interesting introduction to Haitian authors, each of whom has explored different historical periods of struggle can be found here. We encourage you to explore some of these works.
We celebrate the new year, and the anniversary of the revolution, committed in our journey with the people in Gros Morne as they implement their creative and resilient programs for sustainable agriculture and reforestation. And we continue to seek a more just foreign policy, so that the struggle for independence may be fully realized.
The following was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
In the Rio Grande Valley, plans for a border wall ignite fight between church and state
MISSION — In these parts, Father Roy Snipes is known as the “cowboy priest.”
It’s not a bad moniker for the 73-year-old clergyman, who wore a loose set of black clerical clothes as he wandered over with his two mutts on a recent afternoon to La Lomita, a historic adobe church on the banks of the Rio Grande.
Sitting on the pews inside the tiny white chapel, where he made his final vows to the church nearly four decades ago, Snipes took off his Stetson hat and let out a sigh.
“Everybody sees this as our mother church. It’s sacred in our memory,” he said. “But who knows—the spell could be broken. The atmosphere could be spoiled.”
That’s because the government is moving to expand border fencing here in Hidalgo County, casting a shadow over the future of the chapel and threatening to leave its fate in the hands of government bureaucrats in Washington.
Customs and Border Protection awarded contracts earlier this fall to construct several dozen miles of border barriers, including a six-mile stretch of concrete and steel fencing that will cut through a nearby state park and the National Butterfly Center.
A spokesperson for the federal agency said that this stretch of the wall will only go south to Conway Road in Mission, about half a mile short of La Lomita.
But with federal authorities already trying to survey the land around the chapel, Snipes fears that they may try to permanently take over La Lomita and extend the wall on a levee road just north of it.
That would leave the chapel cut off from the rest of town, instead stuck between the barricade and the Rio Grande.
And that means that Snipes, who still uses a flip phone and spends his free time steering a decades-old motorboat, has emerged as an unlikely player in a national fight that locally is pitting two of the region’s most influential forces – the Catholic church and the U.S. immigration apparatus – against each other.
Just before Thanksgiving, federal authorities moved to take control of about 67 acres around the chapel, arguing that they need “immediate possession” of the land in order to investigate it for future use — including, perhaps, permanently seizing it to build the wall.
“Time is of the essence,” government lawyers said in a Nov. 20 court filing.
But Snipes and his fellow clergy have so far resisted those efforts in court. It’s just one of several legal battles by religious groups in the area opposing the government’s attempts to beef up border security. An oratory and a local Catholic high school have both sought legal action to prevent the government from surveying plots of brush land on their properties.
The church argues the government doesn’t have the proper authority to take over the land, but its main opposition is deeply rooted in religion. A wall would keep people from accessing the chapel to practice their faith and violate freedom of religion under the First Amendment, religious leaders said. And using their land to build the wall would go against Catholic values.
“The Church is not angry with anybody, just interested in remaining who she is,” said Bishop Daniel Flores, who leads the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville. “A wall is not an intrinsic evil, but it is a prudential social disaster.”
Snipes, whose beat-up van is covered in stickers that say “no wall between amigos,” said that his opposition to the wall is not so much about politics as it is about the gospel.
“Our message is ‘come on in, we’re trying to make you feel at home,’” he said. “Walling out our neighbors on the south side is just as sacrilegious as keeping us from our sacred shrine.”
Federal authorities said in court filings that they want to use the land around La Lomita to “conduct surveying, testing, and other investigative work” over a 12-month period in order to plan for roads, fencing, vehicle barriers and cameras designed to help secure the border.
To justify the taking, they cited President Donald Trump’s February 2017 executive order to “build the wall” as well as a 2006 congressional mandate. They also argued that their activity would not keep parishioners from their regular activity inside the church.
A CBP spokesperson declined to comment because of ongoing litigation. And John A. Smith III, an assistant U.S. attorney representing the government, said that similar efforts to survey land along the border have met little opposition from ranchers and other private landowners.
But the church wants to keep authorities from even stepping onto the chapel grounds.
“This is the small fight before the big fight,” said Daniel Garza, a Brownsville lawyer representing the diocese. “Most people don’t fight the little fight, but we don’t believe in having anything related to a wall on our property, period.”
“Respite and worship, accessible to all”
La Lomita was first established as a halfway point for members of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a sect founded in the 1800s that focused on marginalized or remote communities, said Friar Bob Wright, a professor at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio who has researched the group’s presence in Texas.
Snipes calls the Oblates, who would ride around the area on horseback, the original “cowboy priests.”
After an original chapel on the land was destroyed in a flood, the current building was erected in 1899 and served as the headquarters for missionary activity in Hidalgo County. The town of Mission got its name and its emblem from the chapel.
“The mission became a place of worship and local devotion,” Wright said. “It’s historical for the whole Middle Valley community, one of the earliest sites there, and for the religious community, too.”
That importance has led the Oblate’s leadership in Illinois to issue a strong rebuke against federal control over the chapel.
“It has been and remains a true place of ‘sanctuary’ in every sense of that term — a place for safety, respite and worship, accessible to all, giving peace and security in human and spiritual form,” the Very Rev. Louis Studer, the group’s U.S. provincial, said in a statement.
Just one year of surveying and inspection could cause “significant damage” to the park around the chapel, where parishioners regularly come to pray and host an annual mariachi mass, Garza said. The chapel has also been home to weddings, private confessions and the occasional retreat for priests in the Guadalupe parish.
What might come after that could be more severe.
“You’d have the wall, and you’d have this 150-foot enforcement zone basically right against the church,” Garza said. “They’d have to knock down some of the beautiful trees that have been there forever. You’d go from a green area to a gravel road.”
The church’s main legal argument in court rests on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Garza says requires authorities to demonstrate a “compelling interest” to obstruct local Catholics from practicing their religion at La Lomita.
Snipes fears that even if authorities installed a gate to access the chapel if a wall is built nearby, parishioners would have to check in with Border Patrol every time they wanted to stop by.
“What happens to the altar boys who are all dark-eyed and dark-skinned?” he said. “Who goes down to the chapel to pray with papers?”
Devotion and cariño
Among La Lomita’s most devoted parishioners is 82-year-old Andrea Chavez Garza, who travels to the chapel nearly every day in spite of a crippling arthritis that has limited her mobility since birth.
Inside the peeling white walls of La Lomita, Chavez prays the rosary and recites sermons that she learned by heart as a toddler when her abuela would take her there to pray.
“If I don’t go to the chapel, the day’s not complete,” she said. “That’s how I was raised. So for them to get rid of this beautiful, historic space? Over my dead body.”
At times, those seeking out the chapel have been border-crossers themselves.
Snipes, the “cowboy priest,” said he found three Central American migrants hiding out in the chapel last fall. He snuck them bread and soup as they stayed inside.
He could have ignored their pleas for help. But it’s all part of his own mission, he said, to bring charity and humility back to the priesthood and carry on the Oblate tradition — the same force that compels him to stand against the wall, and in recent weeks, to lead mass at La Lomita every Friday before dawn to pray for the chapel’s protection.
“We’re obsessed with correctness instead of cariño,” he said, using the Spanish word for affection. “And cariño is what people are dying for.”
Joaquin Castro (D-TX) reveals that CBP chief McAleenan was already aware of child’s death in agency’s custody while testifying before Congress last week.
Castro joined 4 other House Dems in asking the Inspector General to “initiate an investigation into this incident, as well as CBP policies or practices that may have contributed to the child’s death” and McAleenan’s “failure to timely notify Congress.”
Related: “Congressional delegation to visit CBP station after Guatemalan girl’s death” (CNN)
So, that Tucker Carlson immigration screed we mentioned last week … some advertisers are not so pleased, pulling ads from the Fox News host’s prime time hour.
Stephen Miller says that he and Trump are “going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall,” which “absolutely” includes a government shutdown because “at stake is the question of whether or not the United States remains a sovereign country.”
(Rumor has it, however, that Republicans are preparing a stop-gap to fund the government into January.)
In an effort to reduce DACA benefits while the program’s fate makes its way through the courts, the Federal Housing Administration has begun denying mortgages to DACA recipients.
Paul Ryan finishes out his congressional career by pushing a bill that will make E-3 visas (currently exclusive to Australian citizens) available to Irish nationals, prompting this from Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz:
Paul Ryan is still the Speaker of the House and they are out of session until Wednesday, with shutdown looming Friday. But, in his defense he IS (checks notes) working on getting more (checks notes again to make sure) people from Ireland into America. Seriously he is doing that.
CBP is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a 7 year old girl from dehydration while in CBP custody. The girl arrived last week with her father, who remains in El Paso. More coverage from WaPohere.
The Office of the Inspector General released scathing report on CBP’s contract with Accenture, which was paid $13.6 million to provide the agency with thousands of new hires, but so far has only hired 2 people.
After ankle monitoring, bi-weekly ICE check-ins, and threats to be put on a plane to El Salvador without her U.S. citizen children (one of whom has Downs Syndrome), Rosa Gutierrez Lopez decides to seek sanctuary in Unitarian church in South Kensington, MD.
Lawmakers pack-up for the holidays with no indications of solving border wall showdown.
Trump tweets that USMCA = Mexico pays for border wall.
I often stated, “One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.” This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!
On Wednesday, December 12 the United Nations’ special representative for its operations in Haiti, Helen La Lime, gave a presentation to members of the Security Council on the current status of the mission (MINUJUSTH) which is set to expire on October 15, 2019. Lime suggested that the mission had achieved a lot, but that challenges remain, especially in light of the current protests and calls for President Jovenel Moïse to step down. Lime argued for more support for the police, a primary focus of the current UN mission:
“It would behoove not only the government of Haiti, but also the international community to fulfill their commitment to fully fund the five-year HNP [Haitian National Police] Strategic Development Plan, so as to ensure the continued buildup of human, logistical and material capacity of the institution.”
Is this emphasis on policing misplaced? There is little doubt that human security is threatened in Haiti – as it is many places. However, it seems that the emphasis on policing is a thin veil for the underlying class dynamics at play, whereby the wealthy desire protection from an impoverished majority.
The UN established a “peace-keeping” mission in 2004 following a coup that forced President Aristide from office that February. MINUSTAH, the original mission, would come to be a dominant presence in Haiti, in a tenure dominated by scandals: Armed incursions into Cite Soleil that killed dozens of civilians, sex trafficking and other abuse of women and girls, and the introduction of cholera into the country in 2010, an epidemic that has killed at least 10,000 people. Against the backdrop of the scandals have been daily operations characterized by the all too familiar bigotry of international aid, whereby international “advocates” have more access to policy makers than the majority of the people impacted by policies.
The principal purpose of MINUSTAH was, in theory at least, to provide security, broadly understood, in the wake of the coup (officially not a coup, but a resignation). Toward that end, MINUSTAH, among other things, oversaw an expansion of Haiti’s police force, from 2,500 in 2004 to 16,000 officers today. MINUSTAH’s mission came to a close in 2017, and was replaced with MINUJUSTH, which has focused primarily on police “professionalization.” In recounting MINUJUSTH’s achievements, however, Lime missed a few details.
In November of 2017, 200 police officers descended on the Gran Ravine area of Port-au-Prince in an “anti-gang” operation. The community was under siege for 6 hours – during which time HNP killed several civilians, beating someone nearly to death with a chair at Maranatha College in front of community members, then killing a teacher who tried to intervene. In total, nine people were killed, five with gunshots to the head – the bodies left in view of the community until the next day. UN “trainers” helped organize the operation, but blamed the deaths on rogue police officers, taking (as is the UN habit in Haiti) “no responsibility” for the killing.
“None of the [U.N. police] unit proceeded to the location at Maranatha College where the alleged killings took place,” the spokesperson wrote. “The planned portion of the operation went relatively well. The post-operation unilateral initiative of some HNP members to conduct a high risk search, proceeding outside of the operational cadre, without advising the hierarchy, without authorization and contravening the operation plan was not part of the planned operation.”
A different kind of security
It should come as no surprise (though many seem surprised) that Haiti’s internal security problems have not been solved by increasing the size of the police force. The underlying structural socio-economic tensions remain, and are worsening: Inequality, economic stagnation, and an indifferent elite (indifferent to the poor, that is), typically backed by the “international community” in their indifference. The class dynamics in Haiti remain consistent: the police sequester and contain the poor, while protecting the wealthy in the name of stability and property. This is, of course, the institutional role of the police within capitalism more generally – not simply in Haiti – a role that has intensified globally in the last decades of neo-liberal pilfering of state resources.
So, as the UN discusses its ongoing role in Haiti, the Haitian people might be better served if the talk was less about the police and more about the UN’s debt for the cholera crisis and how it will repay that debt with expansive investments in health infrastructure. Or, they could talk about how to contain (dare we say, “police”?) affiliated organizations like the International Monetary Fund that continue to press for deeper and deeper austerity. The current political upheaval is hard to separate from IMF pressures. For example, the IMF demand for cuts in fuel subsidies sparked huge protests in July – protests that led to the resignation of the previous government.
A security regime that focuses on just working conditions, a sustainable and revitalized economy – especially in rural areas – health and education access, and human rights protections might be more effective than funding more police officers. The so-called “international community” has the resources, and it might even be cheaper than the current strategy. The reason such measures are not taken is that security for the poor is not really the goal. Security for the wealthy, and the system from which they derive their wealth, remains the evident goal. This is not likely to change any time soon. But we can still call for accountability and join in solidarity with those who are trying to change the system.
General John Kelly will be freed from the White House through Trump’s early-release program (aka Twitter), having served only 18 months of his 3-and-a-half year sentence as White House Chief of Staff. With Kelly out, most expect DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to be next on the chopping block. While Kelly made his fair share of derogatory comments about America’s immigrant population, he and Nielsen represented the less extreme faction in the administration, butting heads with Stephen Miller on issues like deploying military to the US-Mexico border. Trump has never been a fan of Nielsen (e.g., this infamous encounter) and despite her recent efforts to placate the “president,” Kelly was likely solely responsible for her remaining in her post at DHS. Odds are good she’ll also be gone by the end of year.
Remember our buddy Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III – also recently fired by tweet? His likely replacement, William Barr, has been to this rodeo before, serving as AG in the early 1990s. Vox looks at his record on immigration during his first go ‘round in the DOJ.
Trump met with “Chuck and Nancy” yesterday, the latter hoping to avoid a government shutdown over border wall funding. Let’s just say, things got heated. Despite the cameras, Pelosi complained that open debate and transparency could not take place if both parties don’t accede to a set of facts. Afterwards, Pelosi told Trump to “pray about it” before shutting down the government, while Schumer talked of Trump’s “temper tantrum.”
Public comment period has ended for the “public charge” rule. 210,889 comments were received (17,073 are available to view), including these, signed by 28 sitting Senators.
From ABC7 (Denver, CO): “Judge: Sheriff can’t hold people for immigration authorities”
From the TimesUnion (Albany, NY): “Albany County receives millions for immigrant detainees”
From the News & Observer (Raleigh, NC): “New sheriffs in Wake and Durham will no longer cooperate with immigration agency”
From the Boston Herald (Boston, MA): “Maura Healey, Brigham and Women’s protest proposed immigration rule”
From NYT: “Life in Tijuana Means Negotiating ‘La Linea,’ an Always Present Wall”
From WaPo: “Is the UN’s new migration compact a major breakthrough?”