A government of, by and for the deplorables

Gilbert Schramm is a resident of Newport.

The time has come, the ego has landed.  

Trump is president, and he clearly thinks he is now the sole law of the land. It is time for people to draw the line on this arrogant and false assumption. I sincerely thank the some 1,600 locals who joined millions nationwide to march in Newport the day after the inauguration.  

His apologists continue to insist that we should “give Trump a chance.” It has been several weeks: Trump has already blown his chance. We already know all we need to know.  

Trump’s first broken promise was that he would be “ready to govern on day one.” Instead, he wasted three months of transition time in tweeting and arousing the ire of foreign leaders from Germany, to China, to the Middle East, to Mexico. He has now antagonized Australia. The British just voted to prohibit him from addressing their parliament. When he took the oath of office he had managed to get just two cabinet appointees confirmed: his team failed to get their paperwork filed in time. The monumental ethics problems that have engulfed almost every one of his appointees made their vetting impossible in the narrow time frame set by GOP senate leader McConnell’s bizarre schedule — a schedule designed to push through Trump’s picks without proper examination.  

Trump’s new cabinet breaks his promises that he would “drain the swamp” and “give the government back to the people.” Unfortunately, most appointees are generals and corporate billionaires that personify the military-industrial complex, whose rising power President Eisenhower once warned us against. Most lack any real expertise in the departments they will head. Clearly, Trump has failed in his promise to choose “the best people.” The swamp denizens now control the cabinet.  

Trump disgraced himself at the CIA’s famous wall memorial by blatantly lying about the crowd sizes at his inauguration. He compounded that insult by ordering his press secretary to insist on his lies. His chief surrogate Kellyanne Conway then added to the disaster by claiming Trump was citing “alternate facts.” There are times when the president’s credibility is vital to rallying the nation. Trump has already reduced that credibility to nil.

The first week of government by imperial decree (something he had falsely accused Obama of using) ended in the catastrophe of the Muslim ban and the bizarre restructuring of the National Security Council. In the latter move, he demoted both the leading military figure in the country and the leading intelligence figure while moving his white supremacist advisor Steve Bannon (a man who made his name promoting fake news), into the heart of our nation’s most serious discussions about intelligence and foreign policy. Could anything be more dangerous?  

You can say that Trump is keeping campaign promises: the real problem is that so many of those promises were dangerous, unconstitutional, unworkable and misguided.  

The Muslim ban is an unconstitutional attack on religious tolerance that does nothing to keep us safer. Since 1975, not a single person from any of the seven targeted countries (which include Syria, Iraq, and Iran) has killed a single American on U.S. soil. The odds that an American will be killed by an immigrant are 3,600,000 to 1. But the Muslim ban is not merely ineffectual as a safety measure, it actually makes any existing threat worse. It will be a recruiting bonanza for extremists of all kinds, while diminishing the security cooperation of other countries. That is why over 1,000 state department employees have condemned it.  

Trump himself is already a greater danger to our security than any terrorist. He insists that a president’s main job is to keep Americans safe. Serious enforcement of existing environmental law and the expansion of Obamacare would both do far, far more to save American lives than banning Muslims or escalating tensions with Iran and China.  

All in all, it has been weeks of unmitigated, unparalleled, incompetence — and odds are there is much worse to come. For the next four years, our government will be as deplorable as the ideas of the people who elected it. See you in the streets.

Newport News Times, February 22, 2017, A6

 

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Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Speaks Out

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the executive order on immigration and refugees that the President signed on Friday. It bans Syrian refugees from entering our country, suspends the entire refugee program for 120 days, cuts in half the number of refugees we can admit, and halts all travel from certain Muslim-majority countries.

I felt I had no choice but to speak out against it in the strongest possible terms.

This is a cruel measure that represents a stark departure from America’s core values. We have a proud tradition of sheltering those fleeing violence and persecution, and have always been the world leader in refugee resettlement. As a refugee myself who fled the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, I personally benefited from this country’s generosity and its tradition of openness. This order would end that tradition, and discriminate against those fleeing a brutal civil war in Syria.

There is no data to support the idea that refugees pose a threat. This policy is based on fear, not facts. The refugee vetting process is robust and thorough. It already consists of over 20 steps, ensuring that refugees are vetted more intensively than any other category of traveler.

The process typically takes 18-24 months, and is conducted while they are still overseas. I am concerned that this order’s attempts at “extreme vetting” will effectively halt our ability to accept anyone at all. When the administration makes wild claims about Syrian refugees pouring over our borders, they are relying on alternative facts — or as I like to call it, fiction.

The truth is that America can simultaneously protect the security of our borders and our citizens and maintain our country’s long tradition of welcoming those who have nowhere else to turn. These goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are the obligation of a country built by immigrants.

Refugees should not be viewed as a burden or as potential terrorists. They have already made great contributions to our national life. Syrian refugees are learning English, getting good jobs, buying homes, and starting businesses. In other words, they are doing what other generations of refugees — including my own — did. And I have no doubt that, if given the opportunity, they will become an essential part of our American fabric.

By targeting Muslim-majority countries for immigration bans and by expressing a clear preference for refugees who are religious minorities, there’s no question this order is biased against Muslims. And when one faith is targeted, it puts us all at risk.

I will never forget sailing into New York Harbor for the first time and seeing the Statue of Liberty when I came here as a child. It proclaims “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty, and today she is weeping.

This executive order does not reflect American values. If you agree, make your voice heard now.

https://my.ofa.us/Stand-Up-For-American-Values

Thanks,

Madeleine Albright
Former Secretary of State

Refugees Detained at U.S. Airports, Prompting Legal Challenges to Trump’s Immigration Order

JAN. 28, 2017

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The wife of an Iraqi citizen who was detained at Kennedy Airport. She was at her sister’s home in Houston on Saturday. Credit Michael Stravato for The New York Times

President Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect Friday night. Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports.

The detentions prompted legal challenges as lawyers representing two Iraqis held at Kennedy Airport filed a writ of habeas corpus early Saturday in the Eastern District of New York seeking to have their clients released. At the same time, they filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry.

Mr. Trump’s order, which suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, created a legal limbo for individuals on the way to the United States and panic for families who were awaiting their arrival.

Mr. Trump’s order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and it bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

It was unclear how many refugees and immigrants were being held nationwide in the aftermath of the executive order. The complaints were filed by a prominent group including the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, the National Immigration Law Center, Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization and the firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

The attorneys said they were not allowed to meet with their clients, and there were tense moments as they tried to reach them.

“Who is the person we need to talk to?” asked one of the lawyers, Mark Doss, supervising attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project.

“Mr. President,” said a Customs and Border Protection agent, who declined to identify himself. “Call Mr. Trump.”

The executive order, which Mr. Trump said was part of an extreme vetting plan to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists,” also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims.

In the arrivals hall at Terminal 4 of Kennedy Airport, Mr. Doss and two other lawyers fought fatigue as they tried to learn the status of their clients on the other side of the security perimeter.

“We’ve never had an issue once one of our clients was at a port of entry in the United States,” Mr. Doss said. “To see people being detained indefinitely in the country that’s supposed to welcome them is a total shock.”

“These are people with valid visas and legitimate refugee claims who have already been determined by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to be admissible and to be allowed to enter the U.S. and now are being unlawfully detained,” Mr. Doss said.

According to the filing, Hameed Khalid Darweesh was granted a special immigrant visa on Jan. 20, the same day Mr. Trump was sworn in. He worked with the United States in Iraq in a variety of jobs — as an interpreter, engineer and contractor — over the course of roughly a decade.

Mr. Darweesh worked as an interpreter for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad and Mosul starting shortly after the invasion of Iraq on April 1, 2003. The filing said he had been directly targeted twice for working with the American military.

A husband and father of three, he arrived at Kennedy Airport Friday evening with his family. Mr. Darweesh’s wife and children made it through passport control and customs, but agents of Customs and Border Protection stopped and detained him.

Brandon Friedman, who worked with Mr. Darweesh as an infantry lieutenant with the 101st Airborne praised Mr. Darweesh’s work. “This is a guy that this country owes a debt of gratitude to,” Mr. Friedman said. “There are not many Americans who have done as much for this country as he has. He’s put himself on the line. He’s put his family on the line to help U.S. soldiers in combat and it is astonishing to me that this country would suddenly not allow people like that in.”

Mr. Friedman, who is chief executive of the McPherson Square Group, a communications firm in Washington, continued, “We have a moral obligation to protect and repay these people who risked their lives for U.S. troops.”

He said he feared for America’s military: “This not only endangers troops in the future, it endangers troops who are in combat now in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria wherever. If those interpreters and those fixers hear that the United States is not going to protect them then they don’t have any incentive to work with U.S. troops and there’s no way that we can operate without their support and assistance.”

“He is a brave individual and he cares about Iraq and he cares about the U.S.”

Mr. Alshawi was supposed to be reunited with his wife, who has been living in Texas. The wife, who asked to be identified by her first initial of D. out of concern for her family’s safety, wiped away tears as she sat on a couch in her sister’s house early Saturday morning, in a Houston suburb.

The woman, a 32-year-old who was born in Iraq, met her husband while both were students at a Baghdad college. The couple has one child — a 7-year-old son who is in first grade. The boy was asleep in the house at 3 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, oblivious to the fact that his father was in the United States, but under detention and the possible threat of return to Iraq.

Relatives crowded the living room in their pajamas and slippers, making and receiving phone calls to and from other relatives and the refugee’s lawyers. At times, D. was so emotional she had trouble speaking about her husband’s predicament.

She pulled out her cellphone and flipped through her pictures while seated on the couch. She wanted to show a reporter a picture she took of her son’s letter to Santa Claus. In November, at a Macy’s Santa-letter display at a nearby mall, the boy wrote out his wish: “Dear Santa: Can you bring my Dad from Sweden pls.” He has not seen his father in three years.

“I’m really breaking down, because I don’t know what to do,” she said. “It’s not fair.”

She and her relatives had not told her son that his father was finally coming to Houston and that his wish to Santa was about to come true. “It was a surprise for him,” she said.

Earlier in the day on Friday, she had watched news coverage about Mr. Trump’s executive order. “My husband was already on the airplane,” she said. “He got to the airplane at 11 o’clock in Houston time.” At that point, she grew worried about what impact the order would have on her husband, but she assumed it would not take effect immediately.

D., as well as her brother and her sister, asked that their full names not be used because they were concerned that publicity about the case would lead to harassment.

At about 2:30 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, Mr. Alshawi called his wife on her cellphone. They spoke for about five minutes. D. put the call on speaker so the rest of the family gathered at the house could hear. It was the first time D. and her husband spoke since he arrived at the airport in New York at about 8:30 p.m. Eastern timeFriday, she said. He flew from Stockholm to JFK Airport, and he was supposed to then fly from New York to Houston.

“He gave his package and his passport to an airport officer, and they didn’t talk to him, they just put him in a room,” she said. “He told me that they forced him to get back to Iraq. He asked for his lawyer and to apply for an asylum case. And they told him you can’t do that, you need to go back to your country.”

She said that the authorities at the airport told him that the president’s signing of the executive order was the reason he could not proceed to Houston.

D.’s brother added of the phone call with his brother-in-law, “He’s very calm but he’s, like, desperate. He said, ‘They are sending me there, they are sending me there,’ ” referring to Iraq.

The First Somali-American Woman Elected To Office Was Harassed In D.C.

She did not provide information about the driver. Her campaign staff did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Omar escaped Somalia’s brutal civil war as a child and spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp before coming to the United States. She has worked as a political activist in Minnesota, and with a nonprofit aimed at promoting civic engagement among East African women. Refinery29 featured Omar’s moving story as part of our Behind The Headlines series earlier this year. You can watch that piece below:

‘The Way People Look at Us Has Changed’: Muslim Women on Life in Europe

SEPT. 2, 2016  The NY Times

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Saima Ashraf, 39, at the Barking Town Hall in London, where she is a leader in the local government. She said such an achievement would not have been possible for her as a veiled woman in her home country, France. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The storm over bans on burkinis in more than 30 French beach towns has all but drowned out the voices of Muslim women, for whom the full-body swimsuits were designed. The New York Times solicited their perspective, and the responses — more than 1,000 comments from France, Belgium and beyond — went much deeper than the question of swimwear.

What emerged was a portrait of life as a Muslim woman, veiled or not, in parts of Europe where terrorism has put people on edge. One French term was used dozens of times: “un combat,” or “a struggle,” to live day to day. Many who were born and raised in France described confusion at being told to go home.

Courts have struck down some of the bans on burkinis — the one in Nice, the site of a horrific terror attack on Bastille Day, was overturned on Thursday — but the debate is far from over.

“For years, we have had to put up with dirty looks and threatening remarks,” wrote Taslima Amar, 30, a teacher in Pantin, a suburb of Paris. “I’ve been asked to go back home (even though I am home).” Now, Ms. Amar said, she and her husband were looking to leave France.

Laurie Abouzeir, 32, said she was considering starting a business caring for children in her home in Toulouse, southern France, because that would allow her to wear a head scarf, frowned upon and even banned in some workplaces.

Many women wrote that anti-Muslim bias had intensified after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015, and in Brussels, Paris and Nice more recently. Halima Djalab Bouguerra, a 21-year-old student in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, dated the change further back, to the killings by Mohammed Merah in the southwest of the country in 2012.

“The way people look at us has changed,” Ms. Bouguerra wrote. “Tongues have loosened. No one is afraid of telling a Muslim to ‘go back home’ anymore.”

Here are some excerpts from the comments we received. They have been condensed and edited for clarity, and translated for those who wrote in French.

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