HR 4041 – Fighting for the Rights of Americans who Fight for our Country and happen to be Transgendered

HR 4041 – Fighting for the Rights of Americans who Fight for our Country and happen to be Transgendered

Mr. Trump has made it abundantly clear that he intends to revoke the right to serve in the military from Americans who are transgendered. A quick review of his statements and policy pronouncements from this past summer make this abundantly clear.

In July Mr. Trump tweeted: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military”. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” “Thank you,” (http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/25/politics/trump-transgender-military/index.html).

And in late August (8/25/17) Mr. Trump wrote a memorandum for the Secretary of Defense noting that in his judgment President Obama did not have sufficient evidence to overturn the prohibition of openly transgendered individuals serving in the military: “In my judgment, the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments’ longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year’s policy change would not have those negative effects,” (http://www.the-president.us/date/2017/08/25). This memorandum directed the military to halt movement towards the recruitment of transgendered individuals and notified the Department of Defense that it cannot provide any medical treatment for transgender individuals currently serving in the military. (http://www.the-president.us/date/2017/08/25, http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/25/politics/trump-transgender-military/index.html)

These pronouncements show that Mr. Trump is peeling back the rights of transgendered Americans and wants to return to an era when transgendered individuals could not serve openly in the military – in accordance with the new sentiments of our federal government, the military, as of June 2017, has imposed a six month wait time before it begins to allow openly transgendered individuals from serving, that is unless the President outright bans this (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna776131).

Needless to say, this assault on the rights of Americans is and should be opposed. 45 Senators and 15 Attorney Generals have written (separate) letters urging the Defense Secretary not to implement the ban/stating their opposition to the proposed ban of transgendered Americans serving in the military (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna787661, http://abcnews.go.com/amp/US/wireStory/15-attorneys-general-oppose-trump-transgender-military-ban-50515994). Lamda Legal and OutServe SLDN filed an injunction against the transgender ban and have filed a lawsuit on behalf of six transgendered service members and three organizations. For information on these lawsuits: https://www.lambdalegal.org/news/wa_20170914_lambda-legal-asks-court-to-halt-trans-ban, https://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20170914_lambda-legal-asks-court-to-halt-trans-ban, https://www.outserve-sldn.org/. And now it is our turn….

H.R. 4041 has been introduced into the House and is currently being reviewed by the House Committee on Armed Services, on which Rep. Duncan Hunter sits. H.R. 4041 is neither long, complex nor complicated and bursts with common sense. It reads, minus paragraph and subsection titles, as follows, “It is the sense of Congress that individuals who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be eligible to serve…. A currently serving member of the Armed Forces may not be involuntarily separated from the Armed Forces, or denied reenlistment or continuation in service in the Armed Forces, solely on the basis of the member’s gender identity. Nothing in this subsection relieves a member from meeting applicable military and medical standards, including deployability, or requires retention of the member in service if the member fails to meet such standards…. The Secretary of Defense shall complete the review of policy on the accession of transgender individuals into the Armed Forces announced by the Secretary on June 30, 2017, by not later than December 31, 2017….Not later than February 21, 2018, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a comprehensive report on the results of the review of policy described in paragraph (1)” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4041/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+4041%22%5D%7D&r=1).

Finally, there have been multiple studies done on the impact of transgendered individuals in the military and all of the studies have found that there is no/would be no predicted negative impact:

“A 2016 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and health care costs, largely because there are so few in the military’s 1.3 million-member force…. The study put the number of transgender people in the military… between 1,320 and 6,630,” (http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/25/politics/trump-transgender-military/index.html); while a study done in 2014 by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that there are 150,000 transgendered Americans who either were or who had served in the US military (https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Transgender-Military-Service-May-2014.pdf).

The Rand Corp. study goes on to estimate that the military would fund, 30 – 140 new hormone treatments a year and 25 – 130 gender transition-related surgeries among active service members annually. Estimates of the costs for these procedures range from $2.4 million – $8.4 million a year. In dollars and cents this is an “exceedingly small proportion” of the military’s budget as well as the military’s total health care costs and would represent an increase to military spending of about.04 – .13% (https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html).

In addition the 2016 Rand Corp. looked at past integration efforts and experiences in other countries and determined that, “Minimal Likely Impact on Force Readiness [would arise]” and specifically that “The limited research on the effects of foreign military policies indicates little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness. Commanders noted that the policies had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force.” And that “Policy changes to open more roles to women and to allow gay and lesbian personnel to serve openly in the U.S. military have similarly had no significant effect on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.” (https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html)

The recommendations made by the Rand Corp. are as follows “DoD [Department of Defense] should ensure strong leadership and identify and communicate the benefits of an inclusive and diverse workforce to successfully implement a policy change and successfully integrate openly serving transgender service members into the force. DoD should develop an explicit written policy on all aspects of the gender transition process to minimize any impact on service member or unit readiness. DoD should provide education and training to the rest of the force on transgender personnel policy, and it should integrate this training with other diversity-related training and education. DoD should develop and enforce a clear anti-harassment policy that addresses harassment aimed at transgender personnel alongside other targets of harassment. DoD should make subject-matter experts and gender advisers serving within military units available to commanders seeking guidance or advice on gender transition–related issues,” (https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html).

The Palm Center in a 2014 report found, “Our central conclusion is that formulating and implementing inclusive policy is administratively feasible and neither excessively complex nor burdensome,” and stated “Inclusion of transgender personnel, however, is not primarily about administrative matters, but about core military values and principles: all military personnel should serve with honor and integrity, which means that they should not have to lie about who they are; all members of the military should be treated with respect; all persons capable of serving their country should be allowed to do so; and the military should not needlessly separate personnel who are willing and able to serve” (http://www.palmcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Report-of-Planning-Commission-on-Transgender-Military-Service_0-2-1.pdf).

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San Diego Union Tribune says, “worst thing he’s ever said as a politician”

San Diego Union Tribune says, “worst thing he’s ever said as a politician”

Duncan Hunter made news this week for stating that it would be a good idea to use preemptive military action with North Korea. Now it would be forgivable to roll one’s eyes, groan, mutter sarcastic words about the wisdom of our Representative and move on to the next issue; however, Rep. Hunter sits on the House Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee; meaning his opinions about war and peace, actually do impact our nation’s military decisions.

The House Armed Services Committee, “retains exclusive jurisdiction for: defense policy generally, ongoing military operations, the organization and reform of the Department of Defense and Department of Energy, counter-drug programs, acquisition and industrial base policy, technology transfer and export controls, joint interoperability, the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, Department of Energy nonproliferation programs, and detainee affairs and policy” (https://armedservices.house.gov/about/jurisdiction-and-rules). While “The Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee is responsible for overseeing counter-terrorism programs and initiatives and counter proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Additionally, this subcommittee oversees U.S. Special Operations Forces, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) [DARPA’s mission is: “to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security” – think precision weapons, stealth technology, GPS and the internet (https://www.darpa.mil/about-us/about-darpa)], information technology and programs, force protection policy and oversight, and related intelligence support. It makes sure that our nation is protected against terrorist attacks and unconventional threats” (https://armedservices.house.gov/subcommittees/emerging-threats-capabilities). To put it more succinctly, Rep. Hunter sits on the Committee and Subcommittee that are in charge of the House’s input into our nation’s military decisions, such as war.

So now that the seriousness of Rep. Hunter’s musings on this matter has been underscored, let us return to what exactly his comments were. In an interview (on 9/21/17) with KUSI-TV’s, Good Morning San Diego, Hunter stated that: “You could assume, right now, that we have a nuclear missile aimed at the United States, and here in San Diego. Why would they not aim here, at Hawaii, Guam, our major naval bases?”; “The question is, do you wait for one of those? Or, two? Do you preemptively strike them? And that’s what the president has to wrestle with. I would preemptively strike them. You could call it declaring war, call it whatever you want,”; “They can reach the US mainland. They might [not] be able to hit it within a block radius. They may be aiming for Coronado but hit El Cajon,”; “I don’t know how much more reckless (North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) needs to be and what the United States needs to see, This is a clear and present danger,” ((http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-me-hunter-attack-20170921-story.html). Rep. Hunter has also been cited as saying, “From my perspective, why would I not hit you first? Why not do a preemptive strike when you have ICMBs leveled at the U.S. and you’re not a logical player in the world scene,” “… preemptively striking them and taking them out, I personally think that’s the only thing to get them not to have nuclear missiles at the United States,” (http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Rep-Hunter-Demands-Preemptive-Strike-on-North-Korea-Sparking-Controversy-446947653.html). Despite the logical incompatibilities with the previous statements, Rep. Hunter also stated that, “the United States and the world wants North Korea to be a “stable, friendly country that’s not shooting nukes at people” (https://timesofsandiego.com/politics/2017/09/21/rep-hunter-hit-north-korea-now-because-its-likely-aiming-at-san-diego/).

The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board put out an opinion piece titled, “Rep. Hunter call for ‘pre-emptive strike’ worst thing he’s ever said as a politician”, the closing line of which states, “Hunter, who should have more savvy, instead said this, “I would pre-emptively strike them. You could call it declaring war, call it whatever you want.” How about calling it absolutely crazy?” (http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/opinion/editorials/sd-north-korea-duncan-hunter-preemptive-attack-20170922-story.html?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Contentutm_content=59c637b004d30133bc95502dutm_medium=trueAnthemutm_source=twitter). In addition to the fantastic headline and closing line, the op-ed eloquently states exactly why Rep. Hunter’s idea is not just terrible one but an utterly dangerous one too: “Just across the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, Pyongyang has assembled some 8,000 artillery cannons and rocket launchers that can quickly drop destruction on the 25 million South Koreans who live within 70 miles of the border in Seoul and its sprawling suburbs. This is not the nuclear arsenal being assembled by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, which may be vulnerable to a sophisticated cyberattack. This is low-tech weaponry capable of raining 300,000 rounds in an hour if Pyongyang realized U.S. missiles were en route.

The death toll could easily reach the millions.

The prospect of such vast carnage is why the Pentagon dropped its threats of unilateral action against Pyongyang in 1994 during a previous tense chapter. It’s why then-senior White House official Steve Bannon declared last month that “there’s no military solution” to North Korea’s saber-rattling. It’s why containment of Kim, not confrontation, is the smartest, least risky approach,” (Source: see above).

With regards to Steve Bannon, while adviser in the White House, he stated, “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us,” (http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-me-hunter-attack-20170921-story.html).

Additional criticism came from Shawn Vandiver, the San Diego director of the Truman National Security project. “The fact is, a preemptive strike from us results in tens of thousands of deaths, many of whom may be Duncan Hunter’s constituents, all of whom are American citizens or wearing our uniforms and that is absolutely unacceptable,”(http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Rep-Hunter-Demands-Preemptive-Strike-on-North-Korea-Sparking-Controversy-446947653.html).

And now it is time for us, Hunter’s constituents to voice our criticism ….

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.

H.R. 2231, Creating an International Commission on North Korea

H.R. 2231, Creating an International Commission on North Korea

Amidst all the news from the James Comey testimony, it was easy to miss the news that North Korea completed its 10th missile test of this year – on the very same day as Comey’s testimony, which happened to be one day after South Korea de-armed the THAAD missile defense system (http://www.newsweek.com/north-korea-kim-jong-un-missile-tests-intercontinental-ballistic-missile-us-623801). In addition to the increasing number of missile tests, experts state that there is an escalation in the kind of tests being completed (source: see above) and this escalation is of significant concern, “The advancements in the last six months have caused great concern to me and others, in the advancement of and demonstration of technology of ballistic missiles from North Korea,” U.S. Missile Defense Agency, Vice Adm. James Syring told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee just two days before North Korea’s latest missile launch (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/north-korea-fires-another-salvo-of-missiles-defying-international-condemnation/2017/06/07/7d8b8ff2-4bdb-11e7-b69d-c158df3149e9_story.html?utm_term=.fb6d1dc0b921). Since Rep. Hunter sits on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee it is safe to assume that Rep. Hunter heard Syring’s concerns, which ought to make Rep. Hunter more inclined to support H.R. 2231.

H.R. 2231, aims “To establish a joint commission on North Korea…” and la raison d’etre, the reason for being, of the Commission would be to, “prevent North Korea from becoming armed with nuclear weapons and strengthen the shared goal of achieving a denuclearized Korean Peninsula”. The joint Commission would be chaired by the U.S. Secretary of State and comprised of the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury; Secretary of Energy; Secretary of Defense; and Director of National Intelligence as well as the governmental counterparts from participating countries. Countries in the Indo-Asia Pacific region would be invited to participate, particularly Japan, South Korea and China [quick aside, based on last week’s post on women as mediators & negotiators, I would like to point out that this bill’s sponsor is a woman – Suzan K. DelBene of WA– and thus one should probably not be surprised at her goal of having historical adversaries come together to bend the course of history away from aggression with North Korea]. (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2231/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+2231%22%5D%7D&r=1).

The joint commission would be tasked with coordinating, conversing, coming together in order to 1) detect North Korean violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions and develop possible responses 2) enhance monitoring of nuclear weapons proliferation capabilities 3) have technical discussions about North Korea’s nuclear program and accompanying United States sanctions 3) share appropriate information among the intelligence services of participating countries so to identify immediate threats and 4) create guidelines for the coordination of multilateral direct action against shared threats (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2231/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+2231%22%5D%7D&r=1).

With a threat as significant as North Korea and recent history showing the difficulties that occur when one nation goes it alone – let us urge Rep. Hunter to support this bill. H.R. 2231 will not be able to stop North Korea from launching more missiles but it will create a Commission that can increase the odds of a wise response.

This is one of those bills that is truly worth reading, it is not long and makes a lovely case for itself: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2231/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+2231%22%5D%7D&r=1

For an interesting look at why Kim Jong Un may be launching all these tests: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/what-does-kim-jong-un-want-with-all-these-missile-tests-talks-perhaps/2017/06/08/85125afe-49cd-11e7-b69d-c158df3149e9_story.html?utm_term=.c9fb201f81c7

HR 2625 Connecting More Veterans with Man’s Best Friend – Dogs…

HR 2625 Connecting More Veterans with Man’s Best Friend – Dogs…

Dogs (like cats) have been part of our human history for thousands of years, the oldest evidence of the bond between human and canine was found in Israel, “a 12,000-year-old human skeleton buried with its hand resting on the skeleton of a 6-month-old wolf pup” (https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2009/February/feature1.htm). This does make one wonder, how many of us throughout the centuries have gained succor from the very same hand gesture? And that is the point – the interaction between human and dog is complex, ancient and highly beneficial to humans (to dogs too but that is not the focus of this post).

Known health benefits range from increased walking & mobility, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, increased survival rates post heart attack, lower stress responses & quicker rebounding from stress. Additional benefits are found in terms of reduced anxiety, depression, a better outlook and overall mood. These health benefits also lead to fewer doctor’s visits and less spending on health costs –one study found a savings of $11.7 billion due to people having a pooch. When one looks to specific groups of people, such as children with autism, people with chronic pain, the elderly and veterans, to name but a few groups, one finds additional health benefits unique to that population. (Sources for this paragraph: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2009/February/feature1.htm, https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html, https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html, https://habri.org/pressroom/20141027, https://habri.org/pressroom/20151214, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/03/09/146583986/pet-therapy-how-animals-and-humans-heal-each-other).

With regards to the health benefits veterans receive from animals, there are studies that look at specific animal interventions (generally using horses or dogs) and there are also studies that look at the benefits a veteran gains from having a service dog as a companion animal – both categories of studies show reductions in anxiety, depression and in the symptoms of PTSD. It is important to state the official VA position is that not enough specific research has been done to warrant deeming a service dog evidence based therapy and thus an official intervention of the VA  – the main reason for this is that the research has not been done, not that the research has found results which do not support the benefits of dogs for PTSD, but have hope – research is in the works (https://habri.org/pressroom/20150921, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/01/04/461529833/veterans-say-trained-dogs-help-with-ptsd-but-the-va-wont-pay, https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/cope/dogs_and_ptsd.asp, https://habri.org/pressroom/20150416).

The fact that service dogs for PTSD are not an official VA therapy means that the VA does not provide service dogs to veterans for PTSD, rather outside agencies due. In order for a dog to be a service dog it must be trained to do a specific task that goes above and beyond what a pet normally does and the specific task(s) must benefit its owner and materially improve the life of its owner. Meaning that licks, jumping for joy and loving do not count; rolling over, shaking and catching a Frisbee mid-air do not count, but opening doors, finding an exit, looking around corners or checking perimeters to ensure that no one is there, that no one could be waiting in ambush does count. Currently the VA is experimenting with pushing its definition to allow the mental health issues from PTSD to qualify someone for the benefit of a service animal (https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/cope/dogs_and_ptsd.asp) and in the words of VA Secretary David Shulkin, “I’ve seen the impact that these dogs can have on veterans and so I’m a believer. I don’t want to wait until the research is there. If there’s something that can help our veterans, we want to be pursuing it,” (http://www.military.com/benefits/2017/05/19/va-service-dogs-mental-health.html).

So let us pursue H.R. 2625 the “Wounded Warrior Service Dog Act of 2017” which would, “Subject to the availability of appropriations provided for such purpose, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall jointly establish a program, to be known as the ‘K–9 Service Corps Program’, to award competitive grants to nonprofit organizations to assist such organizations in the planning, designing, establishing, or operating (or any combination thereof) of programs to provide assistance dogs to covered members and veterans” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2625/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+2625%22%5D%7D&r=1). For the sake of clarity, these grant monies would be open to any nonprofit – the use of “wounded warrior” in the title of this bill is not in relation to the Wounded Warrior Project non-profit agency. The bill is a quick read and has clear requirements for the non-profit to show that it is capable of working with service dogs as well as veterans, that the non-profit is certified by or meets the standards of the Assistance Dogs International, the International Guide Dog Federation and that the animals are humanely treated (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2625/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+2625%22%5D%7D&r=1).

This bill has 29 co-sponsors, 2 of whom are Republicans and one of whom is San Diego’s Scott Peters. Rep. Duncan Hunter is not a co-sponsor, so let us request that Mr. Hunter become one. All the support Rep. Hunter gives to the Coast Guard, his support for Veterans (to date Hunter has introduced 12 bills into this Congress, 3 have to do with the Coast Guard and 2 have to do with Veteran issues/respect for Veterans), the importance of him having served (Hunter used to end his outgoing message with the Marine’s ‘oorah’ chant), the fact that he represents a district with a high number of Veterans and the fact that he does believe government funding is appropriate in certain situations (Hunter introduced HR 1407 this Congressional term, which would give interest free loans to US mining companies for the mining of rare minerals) makes Rep. Hunter a perfect candidate for co-sponsoring this bill, which is under review in the Armed Services Committee, on which he sits.

H.R. 2407 – Changing the Heart of America’s Citizenship and Immigration agency

H.R. 2407 – Changing the Heart of America’s Citizenship and Immigration agency

No one needs me to cite statistics or opine on the fact that we are a nation based on immigration and that we as a nation have often struggled with lovingly embracing immigrants. Yet over the years, our laws and institutions have striven to embody and exemplify our best values, our welcoming spirit and our belief that we are open to those who desire to move from their homelands to ours.

H.R. 2407 the “United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Authorization Act”, which is currently being reviewed by Committees within the House – one of them being the House Education and the Workforce Committee – is a bill that does away with the presumption that immigrants come to America for positive reasons and chips away at the American belief that immigrants are a rich as well as strong element of our national fabric.

H.R. 2407 desires to establish a “United States Citizenship and Immigration Services” agency within the Department of Homeland Security – this bill does not create a new agency or change the Department it is under, there currently is a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency in the Department of Homeland Security, rather this bill changes the mission, the focus of the agency. The USCIS agency this bill creates would continue to perform all citizenship and immigration duties and would develop new policies, craft strategy, provide advisement and thus influence/dictate the official U.S. policies on citizenship and immigration. As noted it is the essence of the agency that would change, as evidenced by the mission statements of the current and the intended USCIS.

The current mission statement of the USCIS is, “Mission Statement… [the]USCIS will secure America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system” (https://www.uscis.gov/aboutus). This is a statement that upholds America as a nation of immigrations – that we are a beacon of hope and opportunity. This statement makes it clear that USCIS is primarily there for its customers, those aspiring to gain immigration and citizenship status. This statement is also crystal clear that it is the government’s duty to educate and teach the duties of American citizenship.

The strategic goals denoted on their website underscores this mission statement, “USCIS’ strategic goals include: Strengthening the security and integrity of the immigration system. Providing effective customer-oriented immigration benefit and information services. Supporting immigrants’ integration and participation in American civic culture. Promoting flexible and sound immigration policies and programs. Strengthening the infrastructure supporting the USCIS mission. Operating as a high-performance organization that promotes a highly talented workforce and a dynamic work culture” (https://www.uscis.gov/aboutus).

Contrast the values upheld in the current USCIS with those the new USCIS would espouse. The mission statement of the new USCIS is: “The mission of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is to efficiently adjudicate petitions and applications for immigration benefits for foreign nationals seeking lawful immigration status in the United States and for individuals seeking to become citizens of the United States in a manner that detects and prevents fraud, protects the jobs and working conditions of American workers, and ensures the national security and welfare of the American people” (italics added for emphasis) (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2407/text).

 

So to be clear, the presumption that America is a nation of immigrants is supplanted with presumptions that immigration fraud is widespread, that immigrants threaten US jobs and that the fact of being an immigrant means a person is a potential risk for the wellbeing of our nation and its residents. In the new USCIS the purpose of the agency is not help its customers navigate the system, the purpose is to protect America from the criminal, economic and terror threat inherent from immigrants. None of the presumptions within the new USCIS mission statement are supported by reality and it is mind boggling to truly take in what this mission statement implies (see end of the blog for links to information on the truthfulness of the presumptions).

Another core belief within the new USCIS is that those immigrating to the U.S. should lose their culture in exchange for American culture (which is of course not monolithic, but that does not seem to matter to the author of this bill). No longer would it be the focus of the USCIS to teach American civics and citizenship, but rather there would be an injunction for the agency to push the adoption of American culture “There is established within United States Citizenship and Immigration Services an Office of Citizenship. There shall be at the head of the Office of Citizenship a Chief who shall— promote instruction and training on citizenship responsibilities, as well as assimilation, for eligible aliens who are interested in becoming naturalized citizens of the United States” (italics added for emphasis)  (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2407/text).

Assimilation is a term that may not be known by everyone but every student of multiculturalism knows the term all too well and every child of an immigrant has tasted it too. Assimilation is the process by which a minority culture is swallowed up by the dominant culture and thus the minority culture fractures or even disappears. It is what was done when Americans in power decided to round up the children of Native American tribes and send them to distant boarding schools, it is what caused waves of immigrants to not teach their children the heritage, traditions, language or customs of their distant homes and it has been shown to be of great psychological cost as well as damage to people. And while assimilation may not be a term known by those outside of the circles of psychology, social work, anthropology, social justice, etc… it is absolutely a term that anyone writing a bill for an immigration agency ought to know and steer clear of, unless of course they know exactly what the term means.

(In case you are curious, acculturation is the term that describes someone moving from one culture and learning a new culture thus becoming bi-cultural, having roots and ties to both heritages. Research shows that acculturation leads to the healthiest, most integrated immigrants. For a brief discussion on assimilation versus acculturation: http://pediaa.com/difference-between-assimilation-and-acculturation/. For lengthier discussions look at the writings of Derald Wing Sue: http://www.tc.columbia.edu/faculty/dw2020/ and Stanley Sue: https://www.paloaltou.edu/faculty/stanley-sue two brothers who are preeminent American psychologists on the issues of multiculturalism.)

To close, it is only the tiniest fraction of Americans who can claim to have no immigrants in their family tree and so why are we writing bills that stand in sharp contrast to what our foremothers and forefathers needed most when they arrived on these distant shores? Why are we attempting to craft a new United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that shrinks the open arms, the welcoming heart that our nation has aspired to be?

Information on immigration fraud is a bit difficult to find due in part to the complexity of defining the issue. There are two kinds of immigration fraud: document fraud also known as identity fraud and benefit fraud. Document fraud is falsely saying you are someone you are not in order to get around immigration laws while benefit fraud is lying and/or falsifying information in order to gain an immigration benefit one is not entitled to (https://www.ice.gov/identity-benefit-fraud). There is a fraud detection unit within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency: https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/directorates-and-program-offices/fraud-detection-and-national-security/fraud-detection-and-national-security-directorate and an official page warning individuals on how to avoid being defrauded https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams. Official government Immigration Data & Statistics can be found at: https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics

For information on the fact that immigrants do not threaten the jobs of native born or naturalized Americans:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/artcarden/2015/08/28/how-do-illegal-immigrants-affect-american-workers-the-answer-might-surprise-you/#7aac6328771a, https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/01/06/do-immigrants-take-jobs-from-american-born-workers/an-aging-us-is-revitalized-by-immigrants, https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/01/06/do-immigrants-take-jobs-from-american-born-workers/immigrants-are-replacing-not-displacing-workers, http://www.factcheck.org/2015/01/all-u-s-jobs-did-not-go-to-immigrants/

For information on the fact that immigrants are not a threat to the well-being of native born or naturalized Americans: https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/06/immigrants-and-crime/486884/, https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/terrorism-immigration-risk-analysis, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/us/politics/a-sweeping-order-unlikely-to-reduce-terrorist-threat.html?_r=0, https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2017-04-21/trumps-immigration-restrictions-will-hurt-americans

One Small Bill that Could Help one Small Child Escape Modern Day Slavery…

One Small Bill that Could Help one Small Child Escape Modern Day Slavery…

Most of us think of slavery as something modernity has eradicated, an unfathomable evil that thankfully is no more – yet the truth is that currently there are more enslaved people than at any other time in history; it is just that slavery looks different from how it did in the past and how we might think of it. Estimates are that there are 27 million people in the world who are enslaved, 13 million of whom are children. Many of these individuals are lured into enslavement through false promises, lies and deception – tales of a better future far away from the individual’s often poorer community or war torn land although some individuals are simply kidnapped and taken away (http://www.alternet.org/story/142171/there_are_more_slaves_today_than_at_any_time_in_human_history; http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/stolen-innocence-human-trafficking-san-diego-county).

Human trafficking (the modern day term for slavery) is the fastest growing sector of organized crime and is the third most profitable, with profits in the billions of dollars, form of organized crime – drugs being first and illegal arms sales being second. While unpaid labor is a common form of enslavement, prostitution is also a large sector of human trafficking – with women and children comprising the majority of those trafficked for prostitution. Estimates show that in the U.S. per year: 17,500 individuals are trafficked into our nation and per the FBI, roughly 100,000 children are sold for sex. The average age for a child first being trafficked is 12 years and children/teens who have run away from home are intensely vulnerable to being trafficked (since LGBT youth make up a significant portion of runaway teens, LGBT youth are at an even higher risk for involvement in forced prostitution) (http://www.sdyouthservices.org/site/DocServer/Trafficking_in_Children_by_Manolo_Guillen.pdf?docID=141; http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131757019/youth-radio-trafficked-teen-girls-describe-life-in-the-game; http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/stolen-innocence-human-trafficking-san-diego-county; http://sdgln.com/news/2010/02/09/sex-trafficking-hits-san-diegos-lgbt-youths; https://oig.justice.gov/reports/FBI/a0908/chapter4.htm).

A natural response to hearing this tragedy is to think that this horror occurs in countries or parts of the U.S. that are far removed from us, yet once again the truth tells a very different story. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) listed San Diego as a “High Intensity Child Prostitution Area” and as a gateway to international sex trafficking (http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/stolen-innocence-human-trafficking-san-diego-county; http://sdgln.com/news/2010/02/09/sex-trafficking-hits-san-diegos-lgbt-youths; http://www.sdyouthservices.org/site/DocServer/Trafficking_in_Children_by_Manolo_Guillen.pdf?docID=141).

Another natural response is to wonder what if anything one can do to help and while the need is colossal, one small thing we can do is to express our support for Representative Susan Davis’ bill H.R. 2268, the “Empowering Educators to Prevent Trafficking Act”. Rep. Davis is from San Diego and has introduced this bill, which would allocate grant monies to the Justice Department to give to school districts that, “establish, expand, and support programs— (1) to train school staff to recognize and respond to signs of labor trafficking and sex trafficking; and (2) to provide classroom curricula to students on how to avoid becoming victims of labor trafficking and sex trafficking” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2268/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.+2268%22%5D%7D&r=1). While these educational programs cannot stop the torrent of trafficking, they could and I believe would help save some children – and that is worth every penny and every dollar.

Rep. Davis’ bill actually has bi-partisan support (5 Republicans are original co-sponsors) and is currently in committee, namely the House Education and the Workforce on which Hunter sits….