Category Archives: Trump

The Ungrateful Refugee

 

 

 

I listened to an interesting interview with Dina Nayeri the author of the book The Ungrateful Refugee. I have not read her book.  I hope to. She is a refugee from Iran who came to the United States at the age of 10 with her mother and a sister. Her father stayed behind and her mother supported the two girls on her own as  he rarely sent money to help.

She asked an important question: Just because she is a refugee who became a naturalized American citizen does that mean she has to give up the right to criticize her country? Other Americans are allowed to do that? Why not her?

Recently Donald Trump criticized 4 American Congress women of colour all of whom are  American citizens. In fact 3 of them were born in the US.  After he made comments suggesting that they go back to where they came from, he said what he really meant was that if they did not like it here they should go back. “If you re not happy here you can leave,” he said.  I suspect that many people agree with that. But are they right?

As Nayeri said, by such actions, Trump, and those who agree with him, are trying to separate immigrants from US born citizens. Lets call them native citizens. He is really saying these citizens who criticize their adopted country are second-class citizens. No one denies that native citizens have the right to criticize their country. Free speech is fundamental to being an American (or Canadian) citizen. Why not citizens who were born elsewhere?

We have to remember as well that the old refrain, “Go back to where you came,” is a common racist trope used since time immemorial as a way to tamp  down the immigrants, or refugees, or anyone who is “other,” or anyone who is unlike us. Particularly this has been used against people of a different color. It is a racist trope. Do we really want to endorse such?

When Nayeri escaped Iran with her mother and sister they fled first of all to Dubai, then to Italy, from where they became asylum seekers in the United States. Eventually they were allowed to get asylum in the United States and in time became American citizens. She was grateful for the help she got.

However, Nayeri was signaled as a very young child that she was different. She was an outsider. She did not belong there. Other kids called her mean names.

She reacted by trying to be the perfect immigrant. She had to be “the best refugee possible.”  She felt she had to over achieve in order to belong. As Nayeri said in an article in the Guardian, “We were never comfortable. We kept squirming inside our own skin, trying to find a way to be ourselves while satisfying all the people who wanted us to transform instantly into them.”

She responded to these pressures  by getting tough. She became a “kick ass” martial arts athlete.  It was hard. She had to put up with a lot. As she said, “I loved winning at a male sport. I was still angry about so many things – hijab, the Islamic Republic, the fat old church men who made high-school football players feel like gods while they shamed women who dared to want too much. I survived on egg whites and water-packed tuna doused in vinegar and mustard, salted baked potatoes and watery fruit.” In time she got straight A’s in school and became a national Tae Kwon Do competitor all in an effort to get accepted into Harvard University. She did not quite make it. But she got into another Ivy League school—Princeton. Not a bad second choice.

In my opinion any citizen should be free to criticize her country. After all that is the only way countries get better. They are never perfect. Even if we love them and love the way things are now, we should be able to criticize them and hope to improve them. No country is perfect. Every country should welcome criticism. Every country should welcome refugees and that means giving them the right to speak up.

The US coughs and Canada catches cold

 

Some ask why I talk so much about the United States. “What about Canada?” The fact is that the United States is a very important country. It is not just in economics that the claim “The United States coughs and Canada catches a cold,” is true. It is also, sadly, often true in social matters too. So I will continue to comment on what happens there, but never forgetting that usually Canada is in the same position, though as a junior partner.

Recently, on the August long weekend, 2 mass killings occurred in the United States. One in Dayton Ohio and the other in El Paso Texas. After the killings, Donald Trump uttered some fine words, clearly saying that racism and hatred were unacceptable. His words could not be faulted as in other cases, but were his words adequate for the moment? Democratic rival Cory Booker called them “bullshit soup.”

As Alexander Burns pointed out in the New York Times, “President Trump faced intense new criticism and scrutiny for the plain echoes of his rhetoric in the El Paso gunman’s anti-immigrant manifesto.” According to Burns, “Democratic challengers blamed him explicitly for giving succor to extremists.” The leading Democratic contender at the time, Joe Biden, said Trump was guilty of trying “to encourage and embolden white supremacy.” Another contender, Elizabeth Warren, captured the situation well when she said that Trump had repeatedly been “amplifying these deadly ideologies.

What is clear is that Trump is no innocent bystander here. In recent weeks he has been loudly speaking out at rallies about 4 American Congresswomen of colour that they should go back to the rat infested countries from which they came. This was so even though 3 of them were born in the United States. I am not sure what a trope is or a dog whistle, but it is clear that such statement have made over and over again by blatant racists in the past.  Then at rallies he basked in the glow of hearing his audience loudly chant “Send them back; send them back.” In such circumstances “amplifying these deadly ideologies” is hardly an exaggeration. That is exactly what he has been doing.

In contrast to that, President Obama has been the voice of empathy and dignity. This is what he said, as quoted in the New York Times,  former President Obama wrote, “We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments, leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as subhuman, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.” That is exactly what we should do–reject them.

The fact is that Donald Trump is not really the issue. The real issue, I submit, is that the United States, with Canada following right behind, is a country deeply infused with violence. It takes very little to light that fuse. Almost any crackpot can do it. I believe this is the legacy of a racial bias that runs so deep and came so early to that country and to Canada that it  led to genocide against the original inhabitants of this hemisphere and the subsequent enslavement of African people numbering in the millions in the US and less in Canada. Then we added male supremacy and visions of human superiority over all of nature to that already toxic stew is. It is hardly surprising that we are in a lethal mess. It is probably inevitable.

Not an Immigration Crisis

 

Because it is well known that border stations are so filthy and unsanitary, children are not supposed to stay in them for more than 72 hours.  That is official American government policy. Yet, despite that, many children are staying there for a month or more.

Many of those crossing the border without permission do so with accompanying relatives  and then report to the border officials. They are then turned over to family detention centres. After that they are often separate from their kin, merely to put pressure on them to leave.  Many of these facilities are now run by private companies who do so, of course, to make a profit. Many of them are making huge profits. In some cases even non-profits companies are making huge profits. That is what happens wherever privatization happens.

It must also be remembered that 86% of these family claimants seeking asylum have families in the US that could take care of them. Yet many young children are nonetheless detained in these detention centres that some lawyers have called “worse than prisons.”        Many of the families cross the border with relatives and then promptly report to border officials as they are supposed to do.  Many of those border officials respond by separating the children from their relatives. Then they are effectively abandoned in border facilities that are not designed for children in the first place. Border patrol people know they are not set up to take these children.

All of this is the direct result of Trump administration policies designed to separate children from their families in order to put pressure on them to go back “home.’–a home that is often overrun by dangerous gangs encouraged by American policies of the past and present.

Customs and Border Patrol (‘CBP’) recently made a statement: “We completely agree with some of the reporting that has gone out in that unaccompanied young children should not be held in our custody. Our facilities are not designed for that.”

Things are so bad that local people have become embarrassed. Some of the locals have dropped off diapers, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, toys, and other things to help out the asylum seekers and restore a little of the reputation of America. These people are acting in the best spirit of America. They are the generous Americans that Marilynne Robinson believed were out there. Sadly, that generous spirit is not displayed by the President. For some reason some of the local people who wanted to help were turned away by CBP.

All of this is really mad. Many of the children of asylum seekers have homes to go to, but CBP does not let them go there. Instead they are poorly housed at the expense of American taxpayers many of whom seem to think this makes sense because they mistakenly believe they are keeping out illegal immigrants. People are wrongly conflating children in care with immigration. These people are seeking refuge/asylum. Many want to go home when it is safe to do so. Many will never seek to immigrate. They are not eligible to immigrate when they come. One would have thought Democrats and Republicans would get over the bickering and just help these desperate people out. These children should not be the responsibility of the government and the American taxpayers at all! Warren Binford an American civil rights lawyer and Professor of Law put it succinctly: “All we need to do is for the people to stop politicizing the children.” This is a child welfare issue and should not be part of the immigration debate at all. This is folly on steroids.

Really it is worse than that.  I think this points to the moral bankruptcy of the United States and the sterile polarization of American politics. And I don’t just mean the President. Everyone knows he is morally empty. But what about the American people? Millions of people continue to support him. Often these policies are fuelled by unacknowledged  racism.

Most of the very young children in family detention centres were with child mothers. Such mothers need support to care for their children. They don’t need harassment.  Yet sometimes those child mothers get sick and were quarantined and then given to other children as young as 7 or 8 years old. The BCP is unable to take care of all the infants in their custody so they asked 7 and 8 year old children to do it! Of course very few 7 or 8 year old children know much about taking care of infants. These children should be with their parents, not arbitrarily and irrationally separated from them in order to pressure their parents.

People around the world are seeing that moral emptiness in American and they are amazed and disgusted. This is not the America they admired.

Here are some comments from journalists who have been held as political prisoners around the world:

David Rhode of the New York Timeswho was held prisoner by the Taliban: “The Taliban gave me toothpaste and soap!”

James Regalan “I was given toothpaste and allowed to shower every couple of days.”

On the Christian Amanpour show,  Warren Binford reminded that “currently 1,000 children are in the these facilities in the US” This is a crisis she said and “its not an immigration crisis!”

The Wall Hoax

My son Stef made a very interesting comment about immigration. He pointed out that the UK had a big illegal immigration problem, at least according to the people who voted for Brexit. They believe it is THE problem. Yet, England is an island surrounded by ocean.  No immigrants swim across those cold waters.   A moat is much more effective than a wall. How is a wall on the southern US border going to be more effective than a moat? The answer of course is it won’t. It will be ineffective. The border wall, not climate change, is an expensive hoax.

When it comes to immigrants and refugees we really can do better

 

I have been spending a lot of time on immigration and refugee issues. I am doing that because I believe it is one of the defining issues of our time. All over the world there seems to be a sharp turn towards anti-immigrant and anti-refugees sentiments. I wonder why that is the case. I think it might be because there is a lot of misunderstanding about the issues. As comedian Jim Jefferies keeps saying, “I think we can do better.” Maybe we have something to learn from the comics.

The American Department of Homeland Security which is responsible for border security, claims it is not turning away asylum seekers and the only purpose of the metering process it has started recently is to ensure that the ports of entry facilities are not swamped. It is also true that the Border authorities are also facing an unprecedented rise in asylum requests. The total number of credible-fear referrals for interviews — or migrants seeking asylum — skyrocketed from about 5,000 a year in fiscal year 2008 to about 97,000 in 2018. At the same time, the number of total apprehensions along the Southwest border dropped in the same period, from 705,005 in 2008 to 396,579 last fiscal year, according to Homeland Security and Border Patrol statistics.” That is a lot of people. But Americans have handled more in the past. the numbers are not unprecedented.

However Trump’s policies are making things seriously worse and dangerous for asylum claimants. As Katie Waldman a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security (‘DHS’) said, “The bottom line is that we have a deeply flawed immigration system, smugglers and traffickers know the flaws well, and they seek to exploit these vulnerabilities in the law, as well as physical vulnerabilities to enter and remain in the country illegally.”

It is interesting that DHS border officials know there is problem and they know that their own policies are making things worse. This is what DHS’s own Inspector General found,  ““while the government encouraged all asylum seekers to come to ports of entry to make their asylum claims, CBP managed the flow of people who could enter at those ports of entry through metering, which may have led to additionalillegal border crossings.”Metering was intended to slow down asylum seekers and it has had the opposite effect. The thing everyone has to remember is that asylum seekers are desperate. Many believe they have not other choice to protect their families,

I am not obsessed with Trump either. He is part of a general movement to oppose immigrants and refugees and the one we hear most about here in Canada. His policies just like policies in many other countries, are designed to slow down asylum claims. He, like so many people around the world, think “their country is full.”

Reporters Jervis and Carranza reported as follows about the border procedures:

“Investigators interviewed one woman who said she was turned away three times by a border agent before deciding to take her chances with illegal entry, according to the report. Two other migrants told them they crossed over illegally after being turned away at the bridge.

A Border Patrol supervisor told the investigation team the sector sees an increase in illegal entries when migrants are metered at ports of entry. “While the stated intentions behind metering may be reasonable, the practice may have unintended consequences,” the report said.”

          Hector Silva, the pastor who runs the shelter, near the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge, described the plight of asylum seekers this way,

 “Very few migrants are being allowed to cross over the nearby McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge…Those turned away from the bridge — either by border patrol agents or Mexican immigration officials — are susceptible to criminal gangs that roam the area….

The gangs have kidnapped migrants and held them for thousands of dollars in ransom, beat them up or swindled them out of money, Silva said. Instead of exposing themselves to those gangs, some migrants are looking into illegal crossings.

The entrance they had hoped for doesn’t present itself, so they risk other ways in: over the river, over mountains, with smugglers…it becomes very difficult for them. ”

Two of the asylum seekers inside the center checked their cell phones every day for news from their relatives Street gangs in their home towns made them pay a weekly “war tax” on their businesses left behind and threatened to kill family members back home if payments were not made. They left behind 2 daughters aged 9 and 17 because of the dangers of the journey. They had hoped to get them as soon as their claim for asylum was made. They had to make some very difficult decisions. What is very clear is that they have not been coming to the US just because they think it is a better place to live, as some critics have claimed. These are desperate people.

Another asylum seeker, Maria Alfaro, aged 51, from Honduras, said she was afraid to cross the international border because she had been warned about the lengthy backlog and because she did not want to be turned away and then snatched by the cartels at the border. As Jervis and Carranza reported,

“She was kidnapped in Chiapas, Mexico, during her journey to the U.S.-Mexico border last year, a harrowing ordeal she said she doesn’t want to go through again. She escaped after a shootout broke out between her captors and Mexican authorities. Afterwards, she headed toward Reynosa for U.S. protection.

“I came here to seek asylum,” Alfaro said. “But there’s no where to go.”

Migrants waiting for asylum across the U.S.-Mexican border expressed similar fears and complaints about their state of limbo. For many, waiting in line to request in asylum didn’t seem like the wisest long-term strategy. ”

As a result Trump’s policies cause the asylum seekers to cross the border without permission to avoid the predators at the border.

It is certainly true that Trump’s policies are forcing many asylum seekers to wait it out in Mexico notwithstanding the dangers. That is usually because of the cost. Smugglers can charge as much as $7,500 per person to help cross the border and many of them just can’t afford to pay. So they take their chances with the local criminal gangs instead. They are truly caught between the devil and deep blue sea.

Marlin Martinez has showed up to the camp every day for the past three weeks with her three children, ages 9 to 12, hoping to apply for asylum in the U.S. Each day, Mexican immigration officials have told her to come back the next day, she said.

Martinez, who was fleeing a violent ex-partner and street gangs in Honduras, said she will hire a smuggler to get them across, as soon as she raises enough money to pay them.

“We didn’t come here to violate any laws,” she said. “We came to seek asylum. It’s in God’s hands now.”

It is true that some claimants are paying smugglers to cross while others just can’t afford it so they stick it out in Mexico as long as they can. But the longer they wait the more dangerous it is. And we always have to remember that people fleeing a country on account of violence are lawfully allowed to enter the country and make their claims for asylum in the United States just as they are in Canada. That is not illegal. That is legally permitted.

As if all of that is not bad enough, some asylum seekers pay the money to smugglers who cheerfully take their money and then bolt without giving any help at all. The life of asylum seeker is not an easy one.

A lot of people in “host” countries like the US wonder why so many asylum seekers and immigrants come to the USA when it is obvious to them that they are just not welcome in the US.  It is not quite as clear and obvious to asylum seekers. First they are often fleeing severe violence, along the way they are constantly harassed and victimized by criminal gangs, and many people along the way give them false information. How rational would ourdecision making be under such circumstances?  As reporter Ed Lavandera said, “the people who recently arrived at the border were often directly threatened by gangs and as result believe that the onlything they can do is to drop everything and run north.” The people are desperate, not just for themselves but their families as well. Many of them are travelling with young children. Many of them have left relatives behind that might be attacked by the criminals in order to extort money from the asylum seekers.

As Lavandera reminded, “these are the people that Trump has painted as criminals, rapists, murderers, and “very bad hombres.”  Trump says that of course not because it is true. He really does not care about the truth. Trump says that to scare American voters so that they will turn to him as their savior. That is what populists and demagogues do. They try to scare people so they will turn to a strong man.  When you look at the millions of people in America who support him you have to conclude he pretty good at fear mongering.

Mary Bauer a lawyer who advocates for asylum seekers holds no punches in her criticism of the President and his followers. She has met many of them. Her organization has helped many of them. As she said,

“They are not the people that Trump describes. They are not murderers and rapists. The people we are seeing on the border are desperate people who are terrified. They want to present to the US authorities at border entry points. They would like to apply for asylum but cannot because of administration policies. The majority of undocumented people now in the US are coming through airports, people who are overstaying their Visas. All of the rhetoric from Trump about who those immigrants are and why they are coming and what they are seeking is just wrong. It’s just damned wrong! Immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes in the US”

When Donald Trump says he just wants people to come into the country legally he is not telling the truth (again). He is not allowing people to come and make asylum claims. His policies bar the way for people. He is actively trying to keep out asylum seekers. As Bauer said, “He (Trump) has tried to attack the system of legal administration at its root to make it unavailable for people to come here legally.” Added to that, when he says the country is full he is clearly saying he is opposed to all immigration.

I remember an odd argument I had with an elderly woman in the hot tub in Arizona.  I made some intemperate sarcastic remark about Trump’s proposed wall and she slid over to get right in front of me, pointed her finger up against my face, wagon it vigorously as she spoke. She said, she was not opposed to immigrants. She just did not want then to come in through the back door. She wanted them to come through the front door or not at all. That seems reasonable. At least it seems reasonable until you learn how difficult Americans have made it for people to come in through the front door. When the front door is barred, and people are desperate for survival, when wolves are circling the house keeping a close eye out for vulnerable people, and when their desperation is often partly caused by the owner of the house, it is hardly surprising that some people want to come in through the back door. Desperate circumstances create desperate people.

Christiane Amanpour recently interviewed Michael Chertoff, former US Secretary of Homeland Security. He admitted that a barrier on the southern border was of little importance. It was a part of what is needed, but only a small part. Technology is what American border authorities can use more of, not walls. As Chertoff said, “It is certainly not worth shutting down the government for.” Chertoff added that the only intelligent way to deal with this problem is to let the experts say what tis needed to boost security. Bigger and better walls, let alone beautiful walls, are not what are needed. He pointed out as so many have pointed out, that drug dealers want volume and to do that they must use the entry points and transportation systems. The rational way to deal with too many refugees is to ease the pressure on them back home. We in the west, not just Americans either, should be investing in a return to the rule of law and should be helping to create economic opportunities back in their home countries where most of them want to stay so that they won’t want to come our countries to stay.

Walls? We really can do better.

Trump’s border policies are not working well

 

Immigration and asylum seeking is a hot issue where we just came from, namely   Arizona, but it is a hot issue everywhere.  It seems to bring out the best and the worst in people. In Europe it helped fuel the rise of populism in England, Germany, Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, France,  Romania and many other countries. Everyone knows how flammable an issue it is in the United States. It is even volatile here in meek and mild (we thought)  Canada. Everyone has an opinion and often it is a hot one.

Ed Lavandera, a reporter with CNN, was disgusted by the family separations he saw on the southern US border. Dee Margo, the Republican Mayor of El Paso, the largest city on the border said, “This is not who we are as a nation.” Mary Bauer, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center said, “The number of family separations are much worse than we thought. 10,000 people are now detained across the U.S. as a result of deliberate U.S. policies of the Trump administration.” She called it a “deliberate and nefarious policy.” Thousands of children have been locked up in detention facilities and many of them will bear the scars of that trauma for the rest of their lives. As Bauer said, “This does not have to be. This is the result of calculated, deliberate, intentional acts to separate children from their parents and to use children essentially as bait, to lure their parents into the deportation system.” What would you do if your child was locked up somewhere and you could not visit the child and you knew the child was likely suffering trauma as a result of being locked up in a strange country without any family around to help?

We have to remember that most of these immigrant families have recently come from Central America, not Mexico at all. Many of them have made long journeys at considerable risk and expense. According to Lavandera, many of these desperate people have been exploited by smugglers who had fed them misinformation and charged them significant  sums of money for their “help.”

This confirms what Rick Jervis and Rafael Carranza reported in USA Today.They reported on an asylum seeker Lillian Menendez from Honduras. Trump Administration policies, initiated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, at the time, were to make it very difficult for asylum seekers to enter into the United States to make their claims for refugee status as they are allowed to do by international law. Jervis and Carranza reported as follows:

“Over the past year, Lilian Menendez has evaded street gangs in her native Honduras, paid $5,000 to free her kidnapped brother and made the perilous 2,000-mile journey from her home country to this border city. Now, Menendez and husband, Osman Guillen, face perhaps their most daunting task: Turning themselves in to U.S. authorities to seek asylum.

Rebuffed at the international bridge that leads to McAllen, Texas – and to U.S. sanctuary – Menendez said she was calling relatives to scrape together the $10,000 smugglers are demanding to float them across the Rio Grande, where they can turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents and begin applying for asylum. “I’m at the point of desperation,” said Menendez, who has been staying at a migrant shelter near the border since Jan. 1. “The idea was to cross the bridge and ask for asylum. But they tell us we can’t.”

Under international law, migrants have for years flocked to the U.S.-Mexico border to legally seek asylum and be allowed entry. But in recent months, Trump administration policies have slowed the flow of asylum-seekers into the U.S., leaving many migrants stranded far from home, vulnerable to violence in dangerous border cities and unable to request asylum.”

That is now the America way. Because of Trump’s policies the asylum seekers are stuck in Mexican cities near the border entry points while they wait for their chance to make their asylum claims (many of which are entirely legitimate). Unfortunately, at the those cities criminal gangs are ready to prey on them like crocodiles lying in wait for hapless wildebeest . It is a heartless policy that puts asylum seekers directly into harms way.

All of this has come about on account of the America “metering” policy whereby the American authorities will only process a low number of asylum claims each day, keeping the claimants at the mercy of criminal gangs while they wait for their case to be heard by American Immigration Courts. This procedure has resulted in lengthy backlogs of claims, and clearly the American authorities are doing this just to make it more difficult for all asylum claimants to assert their claims. As Jervis and Carranza said,

“Determined to find a way in, migrants like Menendez are increasingly turning to criminal smuggling rings to get to the U.S., where they can then request asylum and, the hope is, seek safety. The backlog in processing asylum seekers is inadvertently bolstering the illicit and dangerous trade, according to migrant advocates and experts, creating an increased demand for human smuggling and illegal border crossings at a time when President Donald Trump has threatened to close the border.

A few months ago, President Trump ordered more troops to the border to help lay down concertina wire. There were as a result  4,350 active American troops, in addition to all the regular border patrols, on the southern border.  According to migrant advocates as well as analysts this military build-up has made more asylum seekers search out “help” from illegal smugglers to guide them across the border instead of waiting any longer.

According to Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a political scientist at George Mason University in Virginia and author of Los Zetas Inc., “In the Rio Grande Valley, independent smugglers are charging exorbitant prices to sneak desperate migrants across the river and into the U.S…From Central American smugglers, to independent smugglers along the border, all the way up to the cartels: Everyone’s making money.”The clear result of Trump’s policies is that criminal Mexican gangs are making lots of money at the expense of mainly poor and helpless asylum seekers fleeing violence in their own countries. And does any of this make America safer?

As a result many smugglers are shifting these migrants to the New Mexico and Arizona borders where advocacy groups are better equipped to help the asylum seekers while they are making their lawful claims. However the terrain at the border is more hostile with large deserts, mountains, and farther away from major cities. Because of the lengthy delays at border crossings, criminal gangs are increasingly preying on waiting migrants and more asylum seekers are taking serious chances to get across the border. As Correa-Cabrera, said, ““You’re starting to see more families trying to make it through more dangerous areas”.

Is this really the American way?

Trump should trade Americans for Mexicans

 

As in many countries around the world, Immigration is a big topic in the United States. People on all sides get very worked up about immigration policies. Many in the US  think that Trump won the last election and will win the next one as well because of his immigration policies. Those policies are very popular. Millions of Americans support him for that alone.

People from around the world want to come and live in the United States. They have been convinced that this is the best place in the world to live. So they want in.

To compound the problem, for decades people have been getting in to the country illegally and staying. That is a fact. People have been crossing the border between Mexico and the United States without permission. I don’t know how many. The truth is that no one knows how many, but the best estimate, accepted by most people is 11 million people. Of course most of these came in to the country legallyat border crossings.  Then once in the country many of them overstay their legal welcome.  Not all of these are from Central America.  In fact, many of them are—get ready for this–Canadians!

It is true that recently the numbers of people arriving at the southern American border have climbed steeply. Many of them are there as a result of Trump’s policies. I will talk about that later.

To make things even worse, Americans have left those illegals in the country often for decades. Many of them were children brought to the U.S.  by their parents without them having any say in the matter. Many of them now know other country as they have lived in the US their entire lives. These are the so-called “Dreamers” that so many Americans are prepared to leave in the country. Sometimes even Trump wants to welcome them, though at others times he is quite willing to dump them–after all he has a very short attention span.

Although Americans fear the damage that will be caused by illegal immigrants (and legal immigrants in some cases) the facts do not support those fears. The border is secure. It is not as porous as many fear mongers claim.

American taxpayers spend roughly $19 billion a year to secure their borders which is about the same that they spend on all other federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined. Obama started “getting tough on illegal immigration, long before Trump made it an issue. He increased Border Patrol Staffing to an all time high of nearly 21,500 in 2011 Even more drastically, during Obama’s administration nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported. That was 23% morethan during the administration of Republican George W. Bush. In fact, Obama deported about as many illegal immigrants as the previous 17 Presidents combined! That was why he was called by some ‘the deporter-in-chief.’ He was certainly not soft on immigration as some have suggested.[1]

Unauthorized immigration in the US is currently at its lowest level since 1972. The only increase in arrivals has been unaccompanied children fleeing gang violence and drug cartels in Central America whose activities are significantly fuelled by drugs demands in America.According to Ana Gonzales-Barrera, writing for the  Pew Research Center, November 19, 2015 In recent years more Mexicans have been leaving the US than arriving at the border.

Many Americans keep saying the illegals should get in line. Why should they be allowed to jump the queue? The fact is that getting in line is not so easy for most undocumented don’t have the required family or employment relationships to get in line at all. Even if they do there are huge barriers. According to Americans for Immigrant Justice,“For example, married children of US citizens from Mexico must wait more than 20 years for a visa to become available.” An exception has been made for Cubans, who can come to the U.S. and get a work permit while waiting for their visas, and to a lesser extent for Haitians since the 2010 earthquake.

Others think that undocumented immigrants make no genuine contribution to the American economy. For example they think they are all paid cash and thus pay no income taxes on their income. The facts again are very different.  Most make a significant contribution to the American economy. For example, undocumented immigrants paid roughly $12 billion in state and local taxes in 2013. 2/3 of them pay into the Social Security System even though they are not eligible to collect benefits! It is estimated that they pay $15 billion a year into a system for the benefit of Americans!  In fact it has been estimated that if American lawmakers could fix their severely challenged immigration system, the federal deficit could be reduced by about $200 billion.

As I said, many Americans fear immigrants, both legal and illegal. Trump said the day he decided to run for the American Presidency in 2016 that most of them were “rapists and murderers.” Again the facts are different. Most of them are not drug dealers or rapists or any other kind of criminals.

In fact, “A July 2015 report by the American Immigrant Council concluded that undocumented immigrants commit violent crimes at a far lowerrate than native born Americans.  Despite high poverty rates, Latino immigrants in border towns and New York City were more law abiding, with lower crime rates, than non-Latino white and black Americans.”

Many Americans don’t want to admit it, but most criminals and rapists and drug dealers (like most terrorists in the country) are home grown. According to the New York Times,

“The Migration Policy Institute has estimated that 820,000 of the 11 million unauthorized have been convicted of a crime. About 300,000, or less than 3 percent of the 11 million undocumented, have committed felonies. (The proportion of felons in the overall population was an estimated 6 percent in 2010, according to a paper presented to the Population Association of America.)”

Maybe, Trump should be offering to trade Americans for Mexicans!

There is a lot to be learned from Basketball

 

 

In my opinion the NCAA basketball tournament is the most exciting sporting event in the world. Of course the sport has lots of flaws. It is the championship of American college basketball. It is a tournament of 64 or 68 teams (depending on how you count). Its complicated how to count the teams. It is like the Stanley Cup playoffs if each series was a sudden death game. It is all over in 2 weeks. Wonderful.

This year I watched a number of games on television. I watched the University of North Carolina (“my team”) suffering a crushing defeat at the ands of the surprising Auburn team. My heart was broken.

Yet today I learned something valuable in the defeat. Roy Williams of the UNC team said in his interview after that game that he was proud of how his players had played even though they made 3 critical mistakes in the last couple of minutes. He said his players showed a lack of communication that caused the errors and this was his fault. “I did a poor job of coaching for not preparing them for the game.”  Can you imagine that? He blamed himself for the poor performance of his team. He told his players he loved them and wished that he had been able to do more for them. What a class act!

I could not help but think that this was the opposite of the current President of the United States. When things go wrong he quickly throws someone else under the bus. Never himself. Trump has no class at all. Not a mite of class.

All of this was even more surprising because I had thought all year long that the UNC team was not as good as they seemed and that it was the best coaching year ever for Coach Roy Williams. I think he brought his team to play the best that they could play.

Modesty is becoming; bragging is not. This is a lesson that Trump would do well to learn.

I was also noticed during the game that a UNC player inadvertently bumped into one of his opponents so hard that he got injured and was out of the game. It was one of the best Auburn players and they had a narrow lead over UNC at the time. The UNC player tried to help the injured player and was clearly upset that he was injured. He had respectfor his fallen foe. The two were fierce competitors, but they competed against each other while respecting each other. Again this is something Donald Trump does not understand. He understands nothing like that. That is because, as I have said before, Trump has as much empathy as a Turnip.

We could all learn something from basketball. Winning is nice. In fact, winning is important.  But winning is not everything. Empathy is more important. As is honour. As is respect. Respect for others and respect for self.

In another game during the tournament, I watched the University of Virginia defeat Auburn University in a very close contest that went into overtime. It was an extremely exciting game. It was very stressful for the players and their coaches. The winner would go on to the Final Four next week. The losers would go home defeated.

Yet the coach of the Virginia team, Tony Bennet, seemed very cool and calm as everyone else was going crazy.  The coach has a motto: Calm is contagious. What an important lesson from basketball. This lesson could be important in many other areas too. We should all learn it.

There is a lot to be learned from basketball.

BlacKkKlansman

 

 

 

The film BlacKkKlansman written by Spike Lee and others and also directed by Lee, is based on a memoir written by Ron Stallworth in 2014. The film is set in the early 1970s and tells the story of Stallworth who was the first black African-American detective in Colorado Springs. Amazingly Stallworth infiltrated the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan (‘KKK’) by posing as a white supremacist on the telephone. When face-to-face meetings were necessary his colleague at the Police Department, also amazingly, was  a Jew, but nonetheless stepped in to help out posing as Stallworth.  He showed up at meetings in the basement of a KKK member whose wife served cheese and crackers to those planning racially based attacks.

The portrait of the Klan members is not flattering. Their racism seems impossible. How could people have the crazy ideas they had? I kept thinking that Lee ought to have made a film about covert racism instead of the easy target of the KKK. After all there can’t be any racists like that anymore, I thought.  Yet the more I thought about the film the more I realized that is not true.  Many of the Klan members expressed views that seem to have come directly from Trump. They said that they just wanted American First and wanted to make it great again. By which of course they meant they white and non-Jewish.

Stallworth said the US would never elect someone “like Duke”, the leader of the Klan.  We as the audience experienced a hush at this point, knowing how in 2016 they did exactly that. Such racism is alive and “well” in the U.S as it is in Canada. Canada just picks a different target–indigenous people.

I was particularly affected by the racism of the women in the film.  One of the KKK members was affectionately hugging his spouse while she coos about how grateful she is that after all these years they are finally going to “kill some niggers.” She loves her husband for giving her this glorious opportunity. And then there were women watching a racist film at a Klan meeting who responded viscerally to a scene where a black man was lynched by a “brave” mob of whites. Watching it, as we cringed, she yelled, “String em up,” reminding me of how Trump’s female supporters would shout out at Trump rallies at the mention of Hillary Clinton, “Lock her up.”

The film ends with a shock. Lee included actual video footage from the 2017 Unite The Right Rally in Charlottesville where various white supremacists, including David Duke the Klan leader, marched the streets of the city Virginia. The march included self-identified members of the far-right, alt-right, neo-Confederates, neo-fascists, white nationalists, Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and others. The white supremacist marchers chanted racist and antisemitic slogans, carried semi-automatic rifles (Virginia is an open carry state), Nazi symbols including the swastika, and of course, Confederate flags. Many wore Trump “Make America Great Again” hats.

The footage of the rampage was shocking. It showed men violently attacking counter protesters and a car mowing down pedestrians. About 40 of the counter protesters were injured and 1 was killed. One of them was paralyzed as a result of the attacks.

Not that all the counter protesters were without blemish. Some of them egged on the supremacists. These days it is sadly not uncommon for Leftists to forget that people who disagree with them also have freedom of speech.

After that the film switched to a few of Trump’s reactions to the events. Trump did not clearly criticize the white supremacists, but instead said, “There were good people on both sides.” The two sides were hardly equivalent.

It’s not surprising that after Trump’s comments Duke the KK leader  responded by calling the protests “a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” After Trump’s subsequent tweets Duke thanked Trump for telling the truth and the fact that he “condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Anitfa.” Later when Trump did finally criticize the white supremacists, Duke reminded Trump to  “take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.” Duke knows a racist when he sees one, even if millions of Trump supporters either don’t or don’t care.

I was wrong.  This is  an important movie. Clearly such blatant racism is not a thing of the past. It is the “history of the present” to use an expression by Pankaj Mishra.

The film closed quietly with a simple but dramatic image: the American flag lying upside down, gradually turning from full color to black and white. As seems to be happening so much in America (and Canada too), many people don’t seem to see in colour any more. Everything is black and white. The extremes are winning. I hope I am wrong about that.

Money doesn’t Talk; it Swears

Last week, in his State of the Union address,  President Donald Trump said the American economy is booming, unless politics, foolish wars, or ridiculous investigations interfere. He was referring of course to the many investigations of him and his campaign, including the Mueller inquiry and numerous investigations launched by the House of Representatives now that the Democrats are in the majority. Really the essence of Trump’s argument is that because the economy is doing well no one should interfere with him no matter what he has done. This is the same attitude he has to the Saudi Arabian assassination of American resident and Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi. After all they Saudis have invested billions in buying American arms. Is that not reason enough not to interfere in anything they have done, no matter how despicable?  Because millions of people continue to support Trump, and even think his State of the Union Address was “presidential”, it shows to all that America is morally bankrupt.  Dylan was right, “money doesn’t talk it swears.”