Smoke and Mirrors
In yesterday’s BLAST, I noted, in discussing Trump’s first 40 days or so in office, “There are three topics I want to address as areas of ‘concern’ --- items that need not only our attention but ones that also require our loud and clear protest voices” and I discussed the first of those areas—Executive Orders and Memoranda (and what was “action” and what was simply “motion”). The other two areas of concern are the Immigration/Deportation actions taken by the administration as well as the assault on the free press and the constant use, by the President, of the term “fake news.”
2. Immigration and Deportation
We have all listened to the President explain to us that illegal immigration has led to huge numbers of “bad dudes” and “bad hombres” roaming the streets, where they are selling drugs and raping women. By empowering the Immigration Control and Enforcement (I.C.E.) agents to step up their efforts to root out “illegals,” we are seeing how far off the tracks this policy can go. Two stories in the Monday NY Times and one from last week’s Louisville-Courier (thanks, Judge Moyer for the source), all point to the blatant overzealous overreach this policy is now inflicting on our public.
The Louisville story is one you have probably heard, and that is the detention of Muhammad Ali, Jr. (and his mother) at the Fort Lauderdale airport because his name was suspicious! Because the name sounded “Arabic” he was asked if he was Muslim (of course he is) and, while his mother was released because she produced a photo of herself with the former World Heavyweight champion, Ali, Jr. was detained for two hours because he did not have a similar photo. Muhammad Ali, Jr. --- really? At best this is Jim Crow level harassment but, at worst, it is rampant xenophobia and vilification of a religious group. Similarly, as noted in Monday’s NY Times, (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/26/us/french-historian-detained-immigration-henry-rousso.html) Professor Henry Rousso, a well-respected French historian, was detained at Houston’s George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport by Customs and Border Protection officers “who told him he was violating immigration law by using a tourist visa to enter the country to attend an academic conference.” He was told he would be put on the next available flight to Paris. When Mr. Rousso did not show up for the car sent to take him to his lecture, Texas A. & M. University sent out a team of immigration lawyers to “free” him. Even so, it was not until after 1 a.m. that Rousso was allowed to leave (the sticking point was a stipend he was receiving for his lecture --- not allowed with Mr. Rousso’s tourist visa --- except for scholars). Jason Mills, the attorney who extricated the professor, said “the treatment Mr. Rousso experienced was unusual but representative of a shift in how some border agents are approaching their jobs.” The same could be said of many I.C.E. agents, as also reported in the NY Times last week.
Our final immigration/deportation story made the front page of the Times (below the fold) with this headline: “He’s a Local Pillar. Now He Could Be Deported.”
(https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/27/us/immigration-trump-illinois-juan-pacheco.html?_r=0 ) The tale of Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, the manager of a local Mexican restaurant in West Frankfort, Illinois, flies in the face of all the “bad dude” and “bad hombre” remarks made by Trump. Mr. Pacheco has been an outstanding member of the community (8,000 people) for over a decade. He started to file legalization papers years ago, but never completed the task. In 2007 he was arrested twice for DUI and that has led to his being detained --- and possibly deported. It is interesting to read about a town, where one of the citizens describes the people as “rednecks,” are rallying in support of Mr. Pacheco. And, while letters in support are piling up, he may well be deported under the Trump “zero tolerance” policy. Despite this administration’s claim that they were only going to go after the “worst criminals” and “gang members”, we are seeing stories, on a daily basis, about mothers being separated from their children, and people like Mr. Pacheco, are caught in the net of sweeps by I.C.E., where misdemeanor offenses are now grounds for deportation.
In a seriously divided nation, this kind of policy is not unlike the Fugitive Slave Act of the 1850’s, which led many law-abiding citizens to defy the Federal law of the land and aid runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Sanctuary cities and citizens in towns like Frankfort, Illinois, are seeing that they are going to have to chose between a draconian policy that snatches neighbors out of their community and resisting (quietly or otherwise) to undo what is an unfair system that is indiscriminately hurting individuals, families, and communities.
3. “Fake News”
I’ll be brief --- the greatest purveyor of “fake news” is the President of the United States. The irony of Donald Trump demanding that reporters reveal their sources --- and that if they don’t, their news is obviously (to him and his ilk) “fake,” --- would be funny if it weren’t dangerous. The master of the “big lie” never has sources (“people are saying” or “I heard” are his stock in trade) --- except for when he relies on people like Bill O’Reilly (not a journalist) to supply him with information like the horrible situation in Sweden, which wasn’t! The “defense and security” expert analyst that was on O’Reilly’s program, and on whose testimony Trump based his outlandish statement about terrorism in Sweden, was revealed to be a total phony! According to the NYTimes, “according to court records and Swedish officials, the man, identified as Nils Bildt, has a criminal record in the United States and no ties to Sweden’s security establishment.” (Monday, Feb. 27th, p. A12) This is what the President is relying on as his source. Yet he keeps pounding away at the free press, claiming they are “fake.” It is incumbent upon citizens to not only fight back against these claims but to actively support the press (and this means individual citizens working through their own social media networks) and to begin to develop strategies to combat the “Big Lie” that we know we will continue to hear from Mar-a-Lago North.