Hunter Must Speak Out Against Trump’s Anti-Investigation Crusade

Hunter Must Speak Out Against Trump’s Anti-Investigation Crusade

Whether or not Republicans, including our Representative, are willing to speak up against Mr. Trump’s pushing on the limits of democracy, we need to speak up. As many political pundits have noted, Mr. Trump’s statements and behaviors this past week seem to indicate that he is toying with ideas on how to squash or discredit Mr. Mueller’s Russia investigation. If there is no or not enough of a push-back, the odds greatly increase that Mr. Trump will pursue one of his tactics, which unequivocally will weaken our democracy. Having an outcry after he has done the action, while important, cannot rewind time and retroactively protect the separation of powers, which are integral to our democracy.

Representative Hunter has made no public statements on this matter. In fact, his last official statement on Mr. Trump and Russia was on May 17th of this year entitled, “Hunter: Let President Trump try to work with Russia” (https://hunter.house.gov/hunter-let-president-trump-try-work-russia). Thus it is important that we are a voice of wisdom for Rep. Hunter and urge him to take a stand against the unethical acts Mr. Trump is toying with. Let us urge Rep. Hunter to warn Mr. Trump that there is such a thing as going too far. (If you need a dose of encouragement about contacting our oh so not receptive Representative: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/07/21/the_resistance_is_already_planning_for_when_trump_fires_robert_mueller.html).The acts we want Rep. Hunter to speak up against are Mr. Trump trying to have Attorney General (AG) Sessions resign or firing him, striving to discredit the Mueller investigation and potentially pardoning all those involved in the Russia debacle.

The reason for getting AG Sessions out of the way is that contrary to Mr. Trump’s opinion, the Special Counsel position i.e. Mr. Mueller reports to the AG and only the AG (or in this case the Deputy AG, since Mr. Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation) can terminate the Special Counsel; hence if Mr. Trump wants Mr. Mueller fired Trump needs to replace Mr. Sessions (https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/07/23/sessions-may-be-trumps-achilles-heel/?utm_term=.25512873b8b3). The President’s initial attempt at pushing Mr. Sessions to resign came in Mr. Trump’s now famous New York Times articles from July 19th, where Mr. Trump gave a vote of no confidence on Mr. Sessions by stating that Mr. Trump would not have hired Mr. Sessions had Trump known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/us/politics/trump-interview-sessions-russia.html). Another, potential, effort to push Mr. Sessions out of office is the recently leaked information that Mr. Sessions spoke with the Russian Ambassador about policy issues during the campaign – and hence lied under oath to the Senate (http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/07/21/sessions-discussed-trump-campaign-related-matters-with-russian-ambassador-intelligence-intercepts-show/TXVDiLIOQFbJ09pSf4MGwI/story.html?p1=BGMenu_Article).

The second avenue of inappropriate behaviors is the Administration’s attempts at discrediting Mr. Mueller and the investigation. There are two arms of this approach, the first is stating that Mr. Mueller’s appointment is illegitimate and the second is claiming that there are egregious conflicts of interest within the Special Counsel’s team. The supposed illegitimacy of Mr. Mueller being the Special Counsel has to do with Mr. Mueller having been interviewed for the position of FBI Director and the fact that Mr. Mueller worked with and knows Mr. Comey. When this, faulty, logic is expressed by Trump allies it is never explained why these facts make Mr. Mueller’s position illegitimate. The argument that campaign contributions are conflicts of interest is erroneous in that making a campaign contribution is specifically not on the Justice Department’s list of identified conflicts of interests. In addition to pushing these spurious claims, the Administration is actively digging through the backgrounds and lives of the Special Counsel’s team in order to find damaging information. Sources: http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/343164-trump-launches-all-out-assault-on-mueller-probe; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/20/us/politics/donald-trump-robert-mueller-russia-investigation.html; https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trumps-lawyers-seek-to-undercut-muellers-russia-investigation/2017/07/20/232ebf2c-6d71-11e7-b9e2-2056e768a7e5_story.html?utm_term=.040ab9ae3a0f; http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-pardon-power-amid-white-houses-escalating-war-on-russia-probe-2017-7.

The final concerning action of Mr. Trump’s with regard to the Russia investigation is Mr. Trump’s alleged research into his pardon power alongside his statements that he has total pardon power. It came to light earlier in the week that Mr. Trump was having his legal team look into aspects of his pardoning power, including whether a President can pardon himself. Since this breaking news the Administration has been putting out statements and commentaries intended to change course – the current party line is that of course the President is not looking into this and why would he need to pardon anyone since the whole Russia issue is all made-up anyways, to quote Mr. Trump, “While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS” (http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/23/politics/donald-trump-pardon/index.html). Additional articles on this issue: http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-trump-tweets-that-president-has-1500725784-htmlstory.html, http://thehill.com/homenews/sunday-talk-shows/343369-talk-of-trump-pardons-reverberates-on-sunday-shows, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/22/us/politics/donald-trump-jeff-sessions.html, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-latest-trump-asserts-pardon-power-in-morning-tweets/2017/07/22/c6a5f28a-6f40-11e7-abbc-a53480672286_story.html?utm_term=.f9a7b09d2961, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-lawyer-open-question-president-pardon/story?id=48791366. Regardless of any legal issues regarding the President’s pardon powers, the statements he made about having and using them are a clear message to the Special Counsel’s investigative team that even if they find wrongdoing by Trump and associates, no one will pay any consequences.

 

 

 

An Outcry to Have Jared Kushner’s Security Clearance Reviewed and Revoked

An Outcry to Have Jared Kushner’s Security Clearance Reviewed and Revoked

Today we add our voices to those of countless other Americans as well as numerous Democrats in Congress who are calling for Jared Kushner’s security clearance to be at minimum reviewed and possibly revoked.

Mr. Kushner’s behaviors, not partisan politics, underlie this outcry. These behaviors are as follows: 1) Mr. Kushner has had numerous meetings with Russians, politicians and citizens, none of which he revealed. The latest revelation occurred this past week. In short this meeting was with a Russian government linked lawyer and the meeting was stated to be part of Russia’s efforts to help Mr. Trump win the election. For more information on this meeting: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/12/536782047/donald-trump-jr-admits-to-meeting-with-russian-lawyer; http://www.npr.org/2017/07/14/537219554/donald-trump-jr-meeting-included-second-russian, 2) Mr. Kushner has had to revise the form he completed in order to gain his security clearance, essentially Mr. Kushner lied on his application. For more information on this issue: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/jared-kushner-security-clearance-forms/, 3) Mr. Kushner asked the Russian Ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, to establish a secret back channel, in the Russian embassy, for communication between the Trump administration and the Russian government. For more information on this issue: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/report-russian-amb-kushner-wanted-secret-communications-backchannel/story?id=47672306

A security clearance allows one to receive, have access to, essentially know information that if disclosed would damage the U.S. Thus the process someone goes through before gaining a security clearance is a process designed to determine if the person would be appropriate with the information, if the secrets of the nation would be safe with this person. There are three levels of security clearance: confidential, secret and top secret and even with a security clearance one, should, only receive information on a need to know basis; however with Kushner’s position in the Trump Administration it is fair to assume he receives all the information, (https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/7/14/15964338/jared-kushner-security-clearance-explained).

Ultimately it is the President who is the final arbiter on who does or does not get security clearance in that the President can change the criteria, can revoke someone’s clearance and can give someone clearance: “The security clearance process is ultimately rooted in executive authority, not law, meaning the president himself is the ultimate arbiter. It is extremely rare for a president to wade into such an issue, experts said, but Trump does have the power, if he wanted to, to demand that Kushner keep his clearance. ‘If the president wants someone to have a clearance and access to classified information, there’s no one to tell him no,’ said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists. And this is a president who is fiercely loyal to his family. As Trump biographer Tim O’Brien put it, ‘Trump has always put family first, even if family members lack the skill or experience for the type of job they’re being asked to do.’ ‘Trump wouldn’t take away his security clearance himself,’ O’Brien said. ‘He would have to be convinced by his own attorneys and his staff that the issues had moved beyond familial loyalty. That’s going to take a lot of arm-twisting and convincing.’ Not having a security clearance would hobble him from doing large swaths of his job. On many days, he receives classified briefings, according to a senior administration official — and he is often in the room with his father-in-law for sensitive decisions about classified issues. He has traveled overseas with top military commanders and calls foreign leaders on his own. One source said Kushner sometimes comes to National Security Council meetings ‘at least for part of the meeting’ and that he often talks to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson,” (http://www.politico.com/story/2017/07/16/jared-kushner-security-clearance-240575).

And now to the outcry, here are some of the words & thoughts from those who are calling for a review and possible revocation of Mr. Kushner’s security clearance:

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tweeted, “Jared Kushner’s security clearance must be immediately revoked. #ProtectOurDemocracy” (http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/07/13/democratic-leader-pelosi-kushner-security-clearance/)

“A review of Kushner’s clearance, [Richard] Blumenthal [D-CT] said on Wednesday, was ‘now no longer a matter of choice’. A security clearance entitles Jared Kushner to full access to the most secret and potentially significant information about our national defense and security, the identity of our agents who may be operating in countries like Russia. It’s the keys to the kingdom in terms of our nation’s crown jewels.’”, (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/12/jared-kushner-security-clearance-russia-meeting-donald-trump-jr).

“Laurence Tribe, a professor at Harvard law school, wrote in an email: ‘Jared Kushner’s failure to disclose that memorable (and probably unlawful) June 2016 meeting with a Russian attorney is itself a serious and independent crime under 18 USC section 1001 punishable by five years in prison, and it would no doubt justify revocation of his security clearance…. ‘If it is not revoked, the reason can only be that his father-in-law is President Trump. But that is no reason at all in a republic rather than a hereditary monarchy and under a constitution that bars titles of nobility. So I’d say his security clearance certainly ought to be revoked.’”, (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/12/jared-kushner-security-clearance-russia-meeting-donald-trump-jr).

“Norm Eisen, the former ethics tsar in Barack Obama’s administration…. said: “I think, certainly, the security clearance should be re-evaluated. One must balance the principle of innocent until proven guilty with the less prudential standards that go into giving a security clearance. The pattern of omission by Kushner and others in Donald Trump’s circle increasingly points to a consciousness of guilt. Once a security clearance is granted it’s much harder to take away, and if this pattern of omission had been known when the security clearance was being considered, I doubt it would have been conferred.’”, (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/12/jared-kushner-security-clearance-russia-meeting-donald-trump-jr).

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee also called for Kushner’s security clearance to be reviewed and possibly revoked, in light of the “deeply disturbing” reports that Kushner met with an alleged former Soviet counterintelligence officer in a June 2016 arranged by Donald Trump Jr. [He stated on Twitter:] “Reports Kushner amended security form “should cause his clearance to be reviewed”, and if he was not candid ‘immediately revoked’”., (https://thinkprogress.org/in-congress-growing-calls-to-revoke-jared-kushners-security-clearance-41280e597d67).

Rep. Red Liu (D-Calif) tweeted: “Jared Kushner must lose his security clearance immediately! This is not a partisan issue, it is our national security. #RevokeKushner,” (https://thinkprogress.org/in-congress-growing-calls-to-revoke-jared-kushners-security-clearance-41280e597d67).

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight [stated that] “They [other government officials with security clearance] would lose their job immediately … Their clearance would be gone,” (http://www.politico.com/story/2017/07/16/jared-kushner-security-clearance-240575).

Eric Swalwell (D-CA) tweeted, “With Trump Jr. admissions on #RussiaHacking, here’s what must happen:
— Ind. Commission — Revoke Kushner clearance — No sanctions relief” (http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/07/13/democratic-leader-pelosi-kushner-security-clearance/).

So… add your voice to this outcry and share your opinion regarding reviewing Mr. Kushner’s security clearance or revoking his clearance with our representatives.

 

HR 3102 Helping Non-US-Citizen Military Personnel Navigate the Immigration Process

HR 3102 Helping Non-US-Citizen Military Personnel Navigate the Immigration Process

It is easy to forget that since the inception of America, individuals who were not US citizens have fought alongside US citizens in every war – from the Revolution and Civil War right on down to our current wars. In bygone ages it was one way for an immigrant community to prove how loyal and American they actually were, for example there were three Irish only units during the Civil War (http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/the-irish-brigade).

“Since the American Revolution, immigrants have been woven into the fabric of our military. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the foreign-born composed half of all military recruits by the 1840s, and were 20 percent of the 1.5 million service members in the Union Army during the Civil War. Reportedly, half a million foreign-born troops from 46 countries served in World War I, amounting to 10 percent of the U.S. armed forces. During World War II, Congress expedited naturalization applications of noncitizens serving honorably in the U.S. armed forces, exempted them from existing age, race, and residence requirements, and ‘eliminated the requirement for proof of lawful entry to the U.S.’ Noncitizens served in the Vietnam, Korea, and Desert Storm conflicts, and immigrant service continues to be of vital importance in the post-September 11 period of conflict. Roughly 70,000 noncitizens enlisted into active duty service between 1999 and 2008, representing about 4 percent of all new enlistments. As recently as 2012, there were 24,000 noncitizens in the military, with 5,000 [lawful permanent residents (LPRs)] LPRs enlisting every year…. Overall, there are about 608,000 living foreign-born veterans of the U.S. armed forces from all over the globe,” (http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf). Throughout our history it has been and still is Congress that grants permission and sets the requirements for non-US-citizens to participate in the military. To learn more about the current requirements, go to page 14 of the above pdf.

Despite service to their adopted home, many service members and Veterans do not gain assistance navigating the complex immigration process, which many people need legal help to complete, and which can prove to be life changing if the service member or Veteran gets into legal troubles or other situations that can result in deportation. It should be noted that having a clear criminal history is a requirement for getting into the military and many experts argue that legal problems often arise in part due to the experiences war exposes people to. The well documented struggles transitioning out of the military to civilian life as well as the mental health struggles of Veterans apply regardless of the individual’s citizenship status (http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf).

HR 3102 aims to rectify this injustice by creating an “Office of Service Member Naturalization” within the Department of Defense (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3102/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+3102%22%5D%7D&r=1). The purpose of this office would be: “(1) to identify members of the uniformed services, including new recruits, who are not citizens of the United States; (2) to inform such members of the availability of naturalization assistance to facilitate such members in becoming citizens; (3) to help such members complete the naturalization process before their separation from the uniformed services; and (4) to coordinate points-of-contact at military installations to ensure that personnel who are responsible for assisting members through the naturalization process successfully complete their assignments,” (source: see above). These points of contact would make the necessary forms (Form N–400, Application for Naturalization, and Form N–426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service) available and would, “assist members of the uniformed services, including new recruits, who are not citizens of the United States in completing the process to become a citizen of the United States. If, through no fault of the member, a member whose service has been honorable is unable to complete the naturalization process before separation from the uniformed services, the naturalization office shall continue to work with the member until completion of the naturalization process, “(source: see above).

It should be noted that this bill does not impact the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program, which the Trump administration referenced ending last week (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world-0/us-politics/trump-immigrant-soldiers-military-army-scheme-deportations-president-considers-scrapping-a7821636.html). Per the Department of Defense, “The Secretary of Defense authorized the military services to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered to be vital to the national interest. Those holding critical skills – physicians, nurses, and certain experts in language with associated cultural backgrounds – would be eligible,” (https://www.defense.gov/news/MAVNI-Fact-Sheet.pdf). In essence this program offers citizenship as an incentive for foreign-born individuals, who have professional skills the military needs, to work with the US military and is a program that primarily has been used to recruit individuals specific to a country the US has a military presence in (https://www.law360.com/articles/941737/sen-urges-mattis-to-honor-citizenship-for-service-contracts; http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/pentagon-considers-ending-program-to-speed-up-citizenship-for-foreign-born-service-members/article/2627677). HR 3102 applies to individuals (the majority of whom came to the US as children) who have voluntarily enlisted into the US military independent of any incentives, regardless of skill levels and generally out of a sense of loyalty, duty and patriotism.

A very interesting and possibly unexpected fact is that, “By the Pentagon’s own analysis, noncitizens have demonstrated commitment to the military beyond their citizen peers. Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress that “[they] are extremely dependable … some eight, nine, or ten percent fewer immigrants wash out of our initial training programs than do those who are currently citizens. Some ten percent or more than those who are currently citizens complete their first initial period of obligated service to the country.” General Pace’s testimony has been echoed in various reports prepared by and for the military, with one report stating “relative to citizen recruits, noncitizen recruits generally have a stronger attachment to serving the United States, which they now consider to be ‘their country,’ and have a better work ethic.” As service time increases, noncitizens’ retention rates surpass those of U.S. citizens by even wider margins, with the dropout rate for noncitizens reportedly nearly half that of U.S. citizens when service reaches four years. Noncitizen soldiers have also served with great distinction, with immigrant service members accounting for 20 percent of all individuals who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Just like their citizen brothers and sisters, noncitizens have given their lives to protect and serve the United States.” (http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf).

These facts speak for the issue and it is hard to close on a powerful note, but the words of former CA Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher eloquently speak to the issue, “”If you are willing to give your life for your country, your country should be willing to give you citizenship” (http://www.deportedvets.org/).

California is actually doing quite a bit to help Californians who have served and are not US citizens become naturalized and an interesting article on this is: https://www.courthousenews.com/san-diego-leaders-lobby-bring-back-deported-veterans/. A non-profit working to help deported Veterans is: http://www.deportedvets.org/ and the ACLU report referenced earlier is a resource rich in history, information and data: http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf. If you don’t have an opinion on this issue and thus this bill, I encourage you to gain more knowledge.

HR 2826 A New, Less Compassionate Stance on Refugees

HR 2826 A New, Less Compassionate Stance on Refugees

At present there are roughly 20 million refugees in this world, which is a number so large it is hard to wrap one’s mind around… but one can always try (http://www.unhcr.org/refugees.html). Let’s try to make this number more understandable by looking at our home state. CA has an estimated population of 39,523,613 million making 20 million individuals just over half of our state’s residents. San Diego County has an estimated population of 3,316,192 meaning that six San Diego Countys would be roughly the number of refugees in this world and it would take 133 Escondidos to equal the number of peoples on our planet that have had to flee their homes (All population data taken from: http://www.dof.ca.gov/Forecasting/Demographics/Estimates/E-5/ – download the spreadsheet to look at the population estimates).

It should be noted that this number of refugees does not count those individuals who are displaced within their own countries or who fled but do not meet the definition of a refugee, by some estimates the number of people who have fled their homes is closer to 40 million (source: Washington Post article, link is below). Needless to say, we are living through a time period which will be remembered for the extreme number of refugees and displaced peoples; some experts regard our current situation as the worst in recorded history while others regard the world’s situation as the worst since WWII (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/06/18/graphic-the-worlds-refugee-crisis-is-the-worst-in-recorded-history/?utm_term=.b20a3a0e2fd2, http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/20/world/world-refugee-day-worst-crisis-in-history/index.html, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jan-egeland/refugee-crisis-wwii-aid-_b_5791776.html).

As noted there is a definition for what it means to be a refugee. This definition was crafted at a United Nations Conference in 1951 and updated in 1961, the definition reads as follows:A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it,” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/who-is-a-refugee-1.1191503). Phrased a bit more simply, “A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries,” (http://www.unrefugees.org/what-is-a-refugee/). If you are curious what the definitions and differences between someone with refugee versus asylum status versus internally displaced person are, then go to: http://www.unrefugees.org/what-is-a-refugee/.

With so many people in dire need, it made sense when President Obama, in 2015, decided to increase the number of refugees America accepts each year, from a maximum of 70,000 to 100,000 (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/world/europe/us-to-increase-admission-of-refugees-to-100000-in-2017-kerry-says.html). As then Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “This step that I am announcing today, I believe, is in keeping with the best tradition of America as a land of second chances and a beacon of hope,” (source: see above).

Oh how long ago those days seem… HR 2826 would change our nation’s stance on refugees and this bill has been voted to come out of committee and be voted on by the full House, by our Rep. Hunter. Five key changes this bill puts forward are as follows: 1) the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. is changed, 2) preferential status is given to certain groups, 3) the role of the states and localities is altered 4) the definition of refugee is changed and 5) the assumption that refugees are fraudulent and dangerous is present within the bill. For the full text of the bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2826/text?r=1

Change # 1) the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. is changed. As noted, as of now the maximum number of refugees allowed into the US each year is 100,000. This bill changes that to 50,000 and gives the President the prerogative, after consulting with Congress, to increase or reduce this number as deemed appropriate, “SEC. 2. Annual adjustment of the number of admissible refugees. (a) In general.—Section 207(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1157(a)(2)) is amended by striking all that follows after ‘shall be’ and inserting the following: ‘50,000. The President may, after appropriate consultation, submit a recommendation to Congress for the revision of such number not later than 6 months prior to the beginning of such fiscal year, setting forth the justification for such revision due to humanitarian concerns or that such revision is otherwise in the national interest,’” (source: see above).

Change # 2) preferential status is given to certain groups. At present Christians from the Middle East do not receive preference or priority when it comes to receiving refugee status, something that the conservative right finds abhorrent (http://www.newsmax.com/BillDonohue/christian-christians-refugee-u-n-/2017/02/01/id/771455/). So it should come as no surprise that HR 2826 would boldly give preferential status to those with a minority religion, “SEC. 4. Priority consideration for certain applicants for refugee status. ‘(6) When processing refugee applications from individuals seeking refuge from a country listed as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ in the annual report of the Commission on International Religious Freedom under section 203 of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for the year prior to the current year, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall grant priority consideration to such applicants whose claims are based on persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on religion by reason of those applicants being practitioners of a minority religion in the country from which they sought refuge,’” (source: see above).

Change # 3) the role of the states and localities is altered… it is not too dramatic to say that this bill gets the US one step closer to sanctioned xenophobia, “SEC. 9. Limitation on resettlement. “(g) Limitation on resettlement.— Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, for a fiscal year, the resettlement of any refugee may not be provided for— ‘(1) in any State in which the Governor of that State or the State legislature have taken any action formally disapproving of resettlement in that State; or ‘(2) in any locality where the chief executive of that locality’s government, or the local legislature, has taken any action formally disapproving of resettlement in that locality,’” (source: see above).

Change # 4) the definition of refugee is changed. If you review the United Nations definition of a refugee you will notice that a “well-founded fear of being persecuted” is central to the definition, however if HR 2826 became law then a person would actually have to be a victim of persecution before being eligible for refugee status… no longer would the US follow the internationally recognized definition and people fleeing to protect themselves, to prevent themselves from becoming victims of violence would no longer be eligible for refugee status in the USA. “SEC. 13. Limitation on qualification as a refugee. Section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)) is amended by inserting ‘For purposes of this paragraph, a person may not be considered a refugee solely or in part because the person is displaced due to, or is fleeing from, violence in the country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, the country in which such person last habitually resided, if that violence is not specifically directed at the person, or, if it is directed specifically at the person, it is not directed at the person on account of that person’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,’” (source: see above). It should be noted that if the person seeking refugee status is a religious minority (presumably Christian), then having “well-founded fear of persecution” is sufficient to quality for refugee status, see change #2 and read the text of the bill.

Change # 5) the assumption that refugees are fraudulent and dangerous is present within the bill, as the sections shown below demonstrate. While there is nothing wrong with determining how and where fraud occurs, the final point, SEC 16(C) sheds light on the presumptions behind this bill. “SEC. 10. Benefit Fraud Assessment. Not later than 540 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services shall— (1) complete a study on the processing of refugees by officers and employees of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services including an identification of the most common ways in which fraud occurs in such processing and recommendations for the prevention of fraud in such processing; and (2) submit a report on such study to the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate.

SEC. 11. Document fraud detection program. Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall establish a program for detecting the use of fraudulent documents in applications for admission as a refugee, including— (1) placement of Fraud Detection and National Security officials who are under the direction of the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at initial refugee screening in conjunction with the resettlement agency and with the authority to hold a refugee application in abeyance until any fraud or national security concerns are resolved; and (2) creation of a searchable database of scanned and categorized documents proffered by applicants at initial refugee screening to allow for discovery of fraud trends and random translation verification within such documents.

SEC. 12. Recording of Interviews to Protect Refugees and Prevent Fraud[.]….

SEC. 16. GAO report on U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall conduct a review and report to Congress on the following: (1) The security of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, including an examination of— (A) how the U.S. Government conducts security screening and background checks, including the agencies or U.S. Government partners involved and the systems and databases used; (B) how the U.S. Government determines whether applicants are eligible for refugee resettlement and admissible to the United States; and (C) the number of individuals who were admitted into the United States as refugees and subsequently convicted as a result of a terrorism-related investigation by the U.S. Government since fiscal year 2006,” (source: see above).

As these proposed changes show, this bill is not in keeping with, “the best tradition of America as a land of second chances and a beacon of hope,” (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/world/europe/us-to-increase-admission-of-refugees-to-100000-in-2017-kerry-says.html). Let us contact Rep. Hunter and let him know that we do not stand behind this bill and neither should he.

Rep. Barbara Lee’s fight to end the Authorization for Use of Military Force

Rep. Barbara Lee’s fight to end the Authorization for Use of Military Force

On September 18th, 2001, in the shadows of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress gave the President – and all future Presidents– unlimited power to declare war and stay at war with anyone, any nation, group or person that was affiliated with the 9/11 attack or with future threats of terrorism. This law is the Authorization for Use of Military Force and is called AUMF for short, it is Public Law 107-40 and reads as follows – note that it is Section 2 that speaks to the new powers given to the President:

“Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This joint resolution may be cited as the ‘‘Authorization for Use of Military Force’’.

SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES. (a) IN GENERAL.—That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

(b) WAR POWERS RESOLUTION REQUIREMENTS .— (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION.—Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS.— Nothing in this resolution supercedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution. Approved September 18, 2001” (https://www.congress.gov/107/plaws/publ40/PLAW-107publ40.pdf).

Since 2001 the AUMF has been used for 37 different military actions; 18 under President Bush and 19 under President Obama. Both Bush and Obama notified Congress of the military actions including their rational for how/why the military action fell under the AUMF.  These military actions were against Al Qaida, the Taliban and ISIS. Even though ISIS did not exist at the time the AUMF was legislated, legal experts under the Obama administration deemed military actions against ISIS covered by the AUMF. For a detailed catalogue of each of these military actions and the legal rationales for them read the Congressional Research Service Memorandum “Presidential References to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Publicly Available Executive Actions and Reports to Congress” from May 11, 2016 and written by Matthew Weed, available at: https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=792875, this Memorandum is also the source for this paragraph.

In every Congress since 2001 Barbara Lee (CA – D, from Oakland) has put forth a motion to revoke the AUMF. It should also be noted that Representative Lee was the lone ‘no’ vote on the AUMF law back in 2001. Rep. Lee’s argument is that Congress has the Constitutional authority to declare war and the AUMF has taken that power away from Congress and given the President unbridled power to declare war as he sees fit. In every Congress Lee’s efforts have gained little or no momentum except for this Congress – in an unforeseen move, the House Appropriations Committee, which is in Republican control, approved her amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act (aka funding bill) which would prohibit funding for the AUMF; this prohibition in funding would go into effect 240 days (8 months) after the Act became law giving Congress enough time to tackle the responsibilities that would be coming back home to it. While this first step is monumental, there is some thought that the amendment will not stay in the bill once the bill is dealt with in the Senate and then there are some questions as to whether Mr. Trump would sign a bill with this amendment in it. However, it is still a first step and the first time in 16 years that Congress has taken on debate over the AUMF. (Sources: https://rules.house.gov/bill/115/hr-1301, http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/29/barbara-lee-aumf-house-debate/, https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/06/29/us/politics/ap-us-defense-spending-war-authorization.html, http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/29/politics/house-panel-repeal-war-authorization-isis-al-qaeda/index.html).

In the words of Rep. Lee: “At long last, I am pleased that my Democratic and Republican colleagues supported my effort to put an end to the overly broad blank check for war that is the 2001 AUMF. If passed into law as part of the DOD bill, it would repeal the 2001 AUMF eight months after enactment of this legislation. That would allow plenty of time for Congress to finally live up to its constitutional obligation to debate and vote on any new AUMF. It is far past time for Congress to do its job and for the Speaker to allow a debate and vote on this vital national security issue. I am glad that this amendment passed in a bipartisan manner and I look forward to continuing to work to finally have the debate and vote that our service members and our nation deserves.”

Speak Up Against the FCC’s Plan to End Net Neutrality

Speak Up Against the FCC’s Plan to End Net Neutrality

The way things stand at this present moment in time is that everything occurring on the internet occurs at the same speed, so regardless of wealth, opinion, location, regardless of anything everyone has the same speed of receiving the desired data: “As written, the [net neutrality] rules prevent Internet providers… from deliberately speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps. In short, they’re intended to prevent providers from playing favorites (http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/24/technology/fcc-net-neutrality/?iid=EL).” Phrased another way, net neutrality is our norm, it is the only way we have known the internet: “Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use. Net Neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked…. When you use the internet you expect Net Neutrality…. When you go online you have certain expectations. You expect to be connected to whatever website you want. You expect that your cable or phone company isn’t messing with the data and is connecting you to all websites, applications and content you choose. You expect to be in control of your internet experience” (https://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-what-you-need-know-now).

While the internet has always functioned with net neutrality, this did not become law until 2015 – when due in part to millions of activists who protested, wrote comments and put pressure on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) – the FCC established net neutrality as law. The FCC did this by classifying internet providers as public utility companies, meaning that the FCC had the right to legislate them. Trump’s appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has stated that in regards to the net neutrality law, “It has become evident that the FCC made a mistake,” (http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/28/technology/fcc-net-neutrality/index.html) and thus he intends to un-due the classification of internet providers as public utility companies, meaning that the FCC will no longer have legal say over internet providers – the Federal Trade Commission, the FTC, would become the governmental agency overseeing internet providers (see blog post form April 12, 2017 for more info on the FTC and how it is regarded as being a low enforcement agency). It is unclear if the FCC under Chairman Pai’s leadership will allow for some skeletal form of net neutrality or not (Sources for the paragraph: https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/23/15681434/net-neutrality-how-to-comment-fcc-proposal-released, http://thehill.com/policy/technology/334743-fcc-opens-public-comment-period-for-net-neutrality).

The FCC has put forth their stance against net neutrality in a proposal entitled “Restoring Internet Freedom”, which can be found at: https://www.fcc.gov/restoring-internet-freedom. The FCC states that through “market-based policies” and “…  [reducing] needless red tape, the Commission hopes that these proposals [ending net neutrality] will spur broadband deployment throughout the country, bringing better, faster Internet service to more Americans and boosting competition and choice in the broadband marketplace” (https://www.fcc.gov/restoring-internet-freedom). The concept that certain aspects of society are present for the common good seems alien to the current FCC as does the fact that ‘the market’ cannot solve all problems or protect foundational rights.

If net neutrality is removed, many believe the openness and fairness of the internet will be chipped away at and that ‘fast lanes’ as well as ‘slow lanes’ will be created. It is though that internet providers will keep the ‘fast lanes’ for delivering their own content or will give access to the ‘fast lanes’ to the highest bidder, which would not be small businesses, entrepreneurs, the up-coming or individual citizens (http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/24/technology/fcc-net-neutrality/?iid=EL). It seems so tragically un-American to destroy the equal playing field that is net neutrality… and it is so very American to speak up about it.

The FCC has to and is accepting public comments on its intention to remove the net neutrality law. If you would like to comment here is how:

Go to www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express and enter filing number 17-108 or type in Restoring Internet Freedom, in the Proceedings box, then fill in the form – you are the filer. Know that what you write will become part of the official government tome on this issue and can be viewed by the public; your address will be shown on the form the public can view.

If you would like a step by step on how to file a comment that shows pictures of the FCC page: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/27/how-to-comment-on-the-fccs-proposal-to-revoke-net-neutrality/ – this site also gives you some thoughts on how to compose your comment

http://www.businessinsider.com/fcc-net-neutrality-rules-how-to-comment-instructions-photos-2017-5/#the-first-thing-you-need-to-do-is-find-the-filings-page-for-the-proposal-in-the-first-place-1 – this is another site on how to file

If leaving a comment with the FCC seems too daunting then you can sign a public letter at: http://act.freepress.net/sign/internet_nn_trump/?source=sti-menu

 

HR 3004… A Fiercely Anti-Immigrant Policy Couched as a Source of Protection

HR 3004… A Fiercely Anti-Immigrant Policy Couched as a Source of Protection

HR 3004, known as Kate’s law, would institute fines and mandatory jail sentences for undocumented immigrants who return to the U.S. after having been denied admission, deported or ordered to be deported. If the individual has committed no prior crimes then the jail sentence would be for 2 years. If the individual had previously been convicted of an offense(s) the sentences begin to escalate: 3 or more misdemeanors or a felony would result in 10 years, a past sentence of 30 months or less would lead to 15 years in jail, 60 months or less would result in 20 years, 3 or more felonies would result in 25 years and prior offenses such as murder, rape or kidnapping would also result in 25 years in jail (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-115hr3004ih/xml/BILLS-115hr3004ih.xml). The bill provides for no exceptions and no appeals process: “Greg Chen, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said ‘It’s a one-size-fits-all justice that is going to produce sentences that don’t fit the person’s circumstances or facts of life…. People who have lived here a long time may go to visit family in Mexico and then get picked up on the way back in’” (http://thehill.com/policy/335717-republicans-look-to-fulfill-trumps-vow-on-kates-law).

This bill is named after Kate Steinle who died a tragic death and whose life was wastefully cut short. Her shortened life is a deep tragedy, which nothing, including this bill, can make better. The conservative right has taken her name, the circumstances of her death and used them to cloak a prejudicial policy, used them to pretend that this bill is about protecting and safeguarding Americans.

Ms. Steinle’s tragic death occurred as follows: “Kate Steinle, a thirty-two-year-old woman… was inadvertently killed by an undocumented Mexican immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, on a San Francisco pier in July of 2015. According to the ballistics expert who testified in the preliminary court hearing, in August 2015 in San-Francisco courts, Lopez-Sanchez’ gun was pointed towards the ground. He shot the gun-foolishly enough, trying to shoot seals-and the bullet ricocheted off the pavement, fatally wounding nearby Kate Steinle. Lopez-Sanchez, admittedly is a terrible representative of any group of people; he had been deported on five separate occasions previously, and immigration authorities had wanted him for a sixth deportation” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samanta-honigman/kates-law-and-the-license_b_9789508.html).

Shortly after Ms. Steinle’s death Bill O’Reilly began crafting a proposal, championing and pushing for “Kate’s Law”, ignoring all facts, reality and the impact this law would have: http://insider.foxnews.com/2015/07/09/kates-law-petition-oreilly-calls-new-federal-law-after-kate-steinles-murder, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/kates-law-mandatory-sentencing/403990/. Since O’Reilly’s rally cry this bill has been introduced in various fashions and up until now it has always been defeated by Democrats. This bill has also become near and dear to the hearts of the conservative right, including Mr. Trump’s.

Regarding those pesky facts… in 2015 it was estimated that the law (the current bill is not an exact replica of the 2015 bill but quite close) would increase the federal prison population by 57,000 people and that the bill would cost roughly $2 billion per year (the U.S. Bureau of Prisons annual budget request in 2015 was $7 billion) (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/kates-law-mandatory-sentencing/403990/). In addition to being quite expensive, this bill operates entirely independent of reality. Reality is that immigrants are less dangerous than native born individuals, as the following excerpt from the American Immigration Council’s Special Report shows:

Higher Immigration is Associated with Lower Crime Rates

Between 1990 and 2013, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent and the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.

During the same period, FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48 percent—which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder. Likewise, the property crime rate fell 41 percent, including declining rates of motor vehicle theft, larceny/robbery, and burglary. 

Immigrants are Less Likely than the Native-Born to Be Behind Bars 

According to an original analysis of data from the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) conducted by the authors of this report, roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born. This disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades, as evidenced by data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial censuses. In each of those years, the incarceration rates of the native-born were anywhere from two to five times higher than that of immigrants.

The 2010 Census data reveals that incarceration rates among the young, less-educated Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men who make up the bulk of the unauthorized population are significantly lower than the incarceration rate among native-born young men without a high-school diploma. In 2010, less-educated native-born men age 18-39 had an incarceration rate of 10.7 percent—more than triple the 2.8 percent rate among foreign-born Mexican men, and five times greater than the 1.7 percent rate among foreign-born Salvadoran and Guatemalan men.

Immigrants are Less Likely Than the Native-Born to Engage in Criminal Behavior 

A variety of different studies using different methodologies have found that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to engage in either violent or nonviolent “antisocial” behaviors; that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to be repeat offenders among “high risk” adolescents; and that immigrant youth who were students in U.S. middle and high schools in the mid-1990s and are now young adults have among the lowest delinquency rates of all young people.” (excerpt taken from:https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/criminalization-immigration-united-states).

Thus it is imperative that we speak up and let Rep. Hunter know that we do not support this unfounded bill, which will do nothing to improve the safety of all who live in our beautiful border region.