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Posts tagged as “trump immigration policies”

What’s The Matter With Harvard?


Dorothy Reik

Special To Topanga Journal

When people think of Harvard they think of John F. Kennedy, not Henry Kissinger – but war criminal Kissinger, the architect of US regime change and genocide worldwide, is still on the faculty of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  And the Koch Brothers are major funders of the School of Government named after JFK.   Is it any wonder that Sean Spicer, Corey Lewandowski and Betsy DeVos were offered visiting fellowships while the fellowship offer to Chelsea Manning – who might actually teach the students something – was withdrawn! 

Dorothy Reik, President of the Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains

By Dorothy Reik

There is, of course, a cabal of conservative professors encouraging these people along their paths to this radical right wing mindset – especially the sexist 85 year old Harvey Mansfield and economist Marty Feldman who is currently predicting a recession – about that he is probably right!  The others cited are Greg Makiw, Ruth Wisse and Peter Berkowitz.  How can five professors create so much chaos?  

“With these professors it’s no wonder Harvard graduates plenty of radically conservative wingnuts who “serve” in the Senate, the House and on the Supreme Court where they wreak havoc on the lives of women, children, the poor, the sick and anyone who is in need of help the government might provide.” Dorothy Reik

With these professors it’s no wonder Harvard graduates plenty of radically conservative wingnuts who “serve” in the Senate, the House and on the Supreme Court where they wreak havoc on the lives of women, children, the poor, the sick and anyone who is in need of help the government might provide. They think abortion is murder, ketchup is a vegetable and if you are sick and can’t afford care that is your personal problem. 

The most visible of the Senators is Ted Cruz who filibustered the Senate by reading Green Eggs and Ham in an effort to shut down the government to stop the Affordable Care Act. Everybody hates him except the voters of Texas!  Running a close second is Tom Cotton who is single handedly is trying to stop the criminal justice reform act that could finally come up for a vote in the Senate. They are joined by Senator Ben Sasse,  who said he would not support Trump – but then he did,  Pat Toomey who won the seat once held by Arlen Specter after failing to defeat him previously when he charged that Specter was not conservative enough and Mike Crapo whose name tells the whole story.

And then there is the Congress where we find David Vitter – the evangelical who consorted with prostitutes but was re-elected anyway in a precursor to the election of adulterer Donald Trump with evangelical support. He is joined by fellow Harvard alums and back benchers Dan Sullivan and Elise Stefanik.  

Finally we have to look at the Supreme Court where Harvard radicals follow the lead of the late Antonin Scalia, another proud Harvard alum. Right now we have Neil Gorsuch who ruled that a truck driver should die rather than abandon his rig to seek help, and John Roberts who oversaw the dismantling of Voting Rights Act. Nice going guys! 

But I would be remiss if I ended this article without mentioning Harvard’s latest investment – California water! Harvard is busy buying up low lying vineyards with lots of underground water – a good investment for their 39 billion dollar endowment!  Maybe that’s what’s wrong with Harvard – too much money! Stay tuned and pray for rain! 

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Martin Sheen Gives Impassioned Speech At Malibu Topanga Families Belong Together Immigration Rally


Special To Topanga Journal

Saturday about 100 people were in Malibu joining forces with the nationwide Families Belong Together immigration rallies, organized by MoveOn.org, and locally by Reverend Paul Elder of the St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Malibu. There were handmade signs voicing support for the children locked in cages in the immigration child detention centers: “Monsters belong in cages not kids” and “I do care and you should too,” plus “America has zero tolerance for Trump” were a couple of the phrases on the signs.

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

Actor and activist Martin Sheen gave an impassioned plea for justice from the microphone. His words strongly resonated with the crowd.

 

“I am the son of immigrants, so I have a voice in this issue,” said Sheen. “A deeply personal voice. If this issue is not personal, it’s impersonal. If it’s impersonal, nobody cares. But your presence and your voice here this afternoon is going to make all the difference, because you have taken a personal interest in what’s being done in our name. We’re being called to lift up this nation and all it’s people to that place where the heart is without fear, and the head is held high. Where knowledge is free. Where the world has not been broken up into fragments. The narrow domestic walls where words come out from the depths of truth, and powerless striving stretches its arm towards perfection. Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit. Where the mind is led forward by ever widening thought and action into that heaven of freedom. Dear father, let our country awake! Amen.”

Protestors across the nation came together fo this rally in more than 750 cities. On a map, this is what the national protest looked like.
Protestors across the nation came together for this rally in more than 750 cities. On a map, this is what the national protest looked like. Hundreds of thousands gathered together June 30, 2018 to protest Trump's Immigration Policies. | Map Credit: MoveOn.org

“If this issue is not personal, it’s impersonal. If it’s impersonal, nobody cares.” Martin Sheen

The crowd came to an arousing applause from his fiery words. Martin Sheen was born Ramón Gerard Antonio Estevez in Dayton Ohio to immigrant parents.

The crowd protested along the street at Webb Way and PCH. The protest started out alongside of the Malibu clinic at that corner. It grew to encompass all four corners at that intersection with people from Malibu, Topanga, Santa Monica and beyond.

Asking the protestors what they felt was the central problem with Trump and immigration the answers were varied, but each had a heated response.

“The biggest problem is we’re subject to the invasion of the baby snatchers,” said Eric Wald from the unincorporated area of Malibu. “Our tax dollars are being used to separate little kids from their mothers and their fathers. That’s terrible. This here is a very modest turnout. I’m thinking very seriously about leaving the country. I’m trying to figure out some way so that none of my tax dollars go to the federal government. In other words we’re in more trouble than we realize. Things are really bad. If you can take little babies away from their mothers, things are really bad. I’m seriously considering leaving. I’m pretty old, and I want to live the rest of my life in a democracy. The United States of America is no longer a Democracy. We’re ruled by a group of right wing extremists.”

“I understand Trump wants limits on immigration,” said Tamara Davis from Malibu. “I think that’s something we can all have a conversation about. But having a policy of zero tolerance where you take children away from their parents is not the solution to controlling immigration in our country.”

“It distresses me that everybody is making this out of fear, terror and prejudice, when it really is overpopulation. We’re just trying to find out way through it,” said Carolyn Sargent, a 48 year resident of Malibu.

Kim from Santa Monica had a simple but powerful answer as to what is the central problem to Trump and immigration in the US right now, “Lack of empathy.” For her the solution was, “more empathy.”

And empathy may be the keyword for the left on child detention centers, but for the right it is not. The keyword on the other side of the aisle is money. The Trump Administration is paying Southwest Key $458 million to run immigration child detention centers.

Juan Sanchez, the chief executive of the non-profit Southwest Key, was making a salary of $1.5 million while his organization raked in a $458 million federal grant to shelter detained children taken from their parents. Southwest Key has been awarded almost half of the $948 million budgeted for the care of unaccompanied immigrant children by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at detention centers.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has previously reported alternatives to detention center programs have resulted in a 99.6 percent appearance rate for asylum seekers in court. These alternatives save tax payer money to the tune of $1.44 billion. Alternatives typically cost .70 cents to $17 a day compared to $298 a day for just one family detention bed.

The children are taken often in the darkness of the night while news media and the world are asleep. Leaks of these children being transported by US commercial airlines were anonymously posted on Facebook. The airline attendants posted they had seen thirty two “scared little souls” on a cross-country flight to a detention facility in the middle of the night. The children ranged in age from 11 to perhaps 6 years old, the flight attendant stated in the anonymous post. She said the sweet innocent children were dressed as criminals in black and gray cheap sweats suits. One little girl with streaming tears hugged the flight attendant, who hugged back. The adult escort scorned the flight attendant for hugging the frightened little child.

The child detention centers where Sanchez is detaining these children are in Texas, in old abandoned warehouses and an old Walmart store. Sanchez is not the only private organization running these child detonation centers. There are others, as well as companies and government agencies running the child dentation centers, all on behalf of HHS. Southwest Key has approximately a dozen detention centers in Texas, including the old Walmart store in Brownsville. That particular location has drawn the attention of members of Congress and news media. In all, Southwest Key runs 27 immigrant children detention centers in Texas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New York, Wisconsin and California.

Trump and his attorney general Jeff Sessions enacted a policy of “zero tolerance” for those who crossed the border between ports of entry. Asylum seekers who went between ports of entry did so as a result of being turned away at the port of entry by Trump’s policy to disallow asylum seekers period. Asylum seekers are those fleeing extreme violence. When they crossed the border, Trump orders that they be accused of a federal offense and their children be taken away. These children were then placed in a Southwest Key immigrant child detention center, including Casa Padre, the converted WalMart store in Brownsville, Texas that currently holds at a minimum 1,500 children.

At a recent meeting of the Progressive Democrats of Santa Monica, a proposed resolution by Superdelegate Susie Shannon was endorsed. The resolution described the horror the ACLU saw and heard and made a written record of from activity at detention centers on our Southern border. Susie Shannon also heard the cries of the children at a San Diego immigrant child detention center.

The ACLU describes in its report, and Shanon reiterates in her resolution, “pervasive physical, sexual and emotional abuse of migrant children by Homeland Security and ICE agents, including, but not limited to, teenagers run over by border protection officials and subsequently beaten; a young girl who was forced to spread her legs and was molested by federal agents, a pregnant teen whose cry for medical attention was ignored which resulted in a stillborn birth; multiple children threatened with rape and death; children forced to sleep in holding pens on concrete floors; all of which has led to an overwhelming atmosphere of fear, isolation, medical emergencies and death at our Southern border.”

Marco Antonio Munoz, a Honduran father, committed suicide after being separated from his wife and child, said Amrit Cheng, Communications Strategist for the ACLU.

“Three siblings were told they couldn’t hug each other in an immigrant child detention center,” said Cheng. “Parents deported four months ago are still waiting for the return of their baby.”

All of this begs the question, is there a law that requires family separation? Trump has wrongly blamed Democrats for separately families at the border.

June 15, Trump told reporters, “I hate the children being taken away,” and added, “The Democrats have to change their law — that’s their law.”

Secretary Nielsen repeated this falsehood at a briefing on June 18 saying, “Surely it is the beginning of the unraveling of democracy when the body who makes the laws, instead of changing them, tells the enforcement body not to enforce the law.”

The answer is no, there is no law that requires separating families.

“This crisis stems from a series of policy choices the Trump Administration made,” said Cheng. “In fact, reports arose as early as December 2017 that the administration was considering a plan to separate border-crossing parents from their children. In March, then-DHS Secretary John Kelly confirmed this saying it would help deter Central Americans from coming to the United States.”

Neither do the courts require separating families, despite the claims from the GOP leadership.

“Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Chuck Grassley have blamed family separation on the courts, specifically a decades-old court agreement known as the Flores settlement which established protections for children to prevent their indefinite detention in unlicensed facilities,” said Cheng. “Getting rid of the protections in the 1997 Flores settlement would only further the administration’s goal of being able to indefinitely imprison families. But ending family separation doesn’t require family prisons. The Trump Administration knows full well that alternatives exist — because it went out of its way to sabotage them.”

According to the ACLU, in June 2017 the Trump Administration ended the Family Case Management Program, which was what allowed families to be placed into a program together.

The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement (Flores) was the result of over a decade of litigation. It addressed the US detention policy of children. Flores set the national standard on the detention, release and treatment of all immigrant children held in detention. It was about family unity and requires:

Juveniles be released from custody without unnecessary delay, and in order of preference to the following: a parent, legal guardian, adult relative, individual specifically designated by the parent, a child welfare licensed program, or, alternatively when family reunification is not possible, an adult seeking custody deemed appropriate by the responsible government agency.
Where they cannot be released because of significant public safety or flight risk concerns, juveniles must be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate to age and special needs, generally, in a nonsecure facility licensed by a child welfare entity and separated from unrelated adults and delinquent offenders.

According to Sarah Rodriguez, an ICE spokesperson, the Family Case Management Program caters to “special populations, such as pregnant women, nursing mothers and families with very young children.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) as of June 29 put forth draft regulations that would bar many refugees who are being persecuted and fleeing extreme violence, including those who entered the US between ports, from protection in this country. Such regulations violate both US law and international conventions, of which the US is a signatory. The sweeping regulations appear to be targeted at South Americans. Attorney General Jeff Sessions drafted the plan that would totally overhaul the asylum seeker policy.

Under his draft regulations people who enter the US between ports of entry would be prosecuted for illegal entry. Those who have gone through more than one country to get here would be barred from asylum seeking— this is very common for asylum seekers to travel through more than one country to arrive here. It specifically mentions Central Americans making it extremely difficult for them to qualify for asylum. Sessions codifies in his own words an opinion that restricts asylum victims of domestic and gang violence. Sessions draft regulations redefines a “particular social group” to exclude from protection refugees whose claims have not previously been challenged by this or any other administration in the last 25 years; require asylum seekers, many of whom lack any form of legal assistance, to provide an exact definition of any “particular social group” on which they are basing their claims or face denial with no possibility of appeal. The draft regulations also greatly expands the range of criminal convictions that would result in denial of asylum to include traffic offenses.

These draft regulations will go through a process of review then be open to a period of public notice and comment.

Sessions now has hundreds of fellow Methodist church members who signed a letter claiming his “zero tolerance” immigration policy has harmed “thousands of vulnerable children,” and this resulted in Church charges, including child abuse, being brought against Sessions. Under United Methodist Church (UMC) rules, any member can bring a complaint against any other member based on their conduct, or an alleged violation of the Church’s Book of Discipline. Typically efforts are made to de-escalate the situation. On occasion the charges are brought before the UMC’s Judicial Council. Usually these formal charges are lobbed against a pastor. It is unusual for a lay person to rise to the level of formal charges that go before the Council, in the history of the Church.

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First Lady Trump: I Really Don’t Care, Do You?


Special To Topanga Journal

Well, Melania, speaking from steerage class, yes I do care. And the thousands who are suffering under the ham-handed, chaotic, and vindictive policies that spring from your husband’s warped mind care. And the millions worldwide that have abandoned any hope whatsoever that America is capable under this regime of living up to the ideals and values that serve as the foundation of this grand representative democratic experiment care. And future generations who will be left to clean up the unholy mess that will forever serve as Trump’s legacy care.

By Lance Simmens

Okay, you are miserable, you have every right to be. However, you can always move on within the luxurious confines of wealth that may not bring happiness but certainly afford one abundant comfort. Okay, you wanted to make a statement, you did, now what in the hell does it mean? I shall not venture into armchair psychology here, although it is tempting, but we are all tired of the constant anxiety that is a direct result of your husband’s petulance. There are times when I want to just say enough, this is too draining, but my responsibility to those whom I have helped bring into the world prevent me from just walking away. Having a conscience means you bear the burden of caring. How empty, hollow, vacuous, and meaningless your existence must be to be free of such a burden!

“You have an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, and you pout behind your privileged existence by using a $39 jacket to voice your displeasure. What a coward…” Lance Simmens

Your visit to Texas clearly illustrated the emptiness that occupies your existence. You are trapped. You are desperate. You are anguished and abused. Yet rather than rise above your misery by carving out an issue where you might actually make a positive difference, your singular response to the current self-inflicted crisis of your husband’s egomaniacal adventure into hysterical dementia is to broadcast to the world how unhappy YOU are! Poor baby.

 

Sorry, you do not get a pass on this one. Boo hoo, poor little First Lady, she would much rather be sunning on the Riviera, lunching on the Amalfi coast, shopping in Paris, or hobnobbing in Manhattan, but here she is flying at taxpayer expense on a government airplane that is normally occupied by 130 passengers sitting shoulder to shoulder with little to no legroom, transported from runway to destination by limousine and a security detail to ensure nothing or no one obstructs your path.

 

Well, there is one thing that I can categorically admit and that is I simply do not care whether you care or not. You have an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, and you pout behind your privileged existence by using a $39 jacket to voice your displeasure. What a coward, particularly at a time when women are exercising a vigorous assault on a white male dominated power structure that has kept them in a stranglehold for so long. What a power couple you make: a whiner and a pouter. To channel Bill Maher, one a whiny little bitch, the other, well, just a bitch.

 

I have no idea what your angle was yesterday or is today, but it seems quite obvious that you deserve your unhappiness. There should be no pity, no excuses, no second chances, just abject disappointment and a simmering anger that is fueled by a First Family that has absolutely no regard for humanity, no conviction or integrity, nothing short of disdain for those who are less fortunate and no idea of the damage they are inflicting upon the world.

 

So do yourself a favor, just suffer behind the palace walls, quietly, in solitude, out of sight. It is enough of a burden for those who do care to confront the idiocy and incompetence that seeps out of this administration. We do not, no, cannot attend to your needs and his at the same time. It is bankrupting our collective forbearance. As you snuggle in your jacket, take solace in the fact that it will keep you warm on those cold nights when compassion, caring, and humanity conspire to deprive you of your responsibilities as a woman, a mother, a citizen of the planet, and yes a human being uniquely situated to actually make a difference. And in the end you can be buried in your jacket, no one will care.

 

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What Are We Doing? Child Immigrant Detention Centers

Special To Topanga Journal

Billie Holiday, the great jazz singer, wrote God Bless the Child in 1939 as Hitler was preparing to invade Poland in direct reaction to the appeasement he had secured with Neville Chamberlain the year before. The world was descending upon darkness, but for Holiday and the children who had experienced the dark days of the Great Depression those prophetic words seem apt today, especially today.

By Lance Simmens

Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
Sot the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

 

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don’t ever make the grade
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

 

Today, somewhere between 2,000-3,000 children are on their own. Exposed to strange surroundings, with no one to hold them, comfort them, love them. Ripped from the arms of their parents or at the very least the touch of family members who risked life and limb, sacrificed savings, endured unspeakable hardships, all in search of the opportunity for a better life only to face the cruel and harsh reality of political gamesmanship that is as meaningless as it is absurd.

“To inflict such pain on other human beings, especially for crass political purposes, should surely reserve a special place in hell for those charged with positions of great responsibility.” Lance Simmens

President Trump turned Lady Liberty on her head today. Valuing might over right, strength over perceived weakness, apathy over empathy, bluster over diplomacy, and blind fealty to a past that never existed over the promise of a bright future the President of the United States of America showed the world that he is not only ill-suited to the position he occupies but a danger to the perpetuation of a world order that has been built over the past 70 years.

 

In his quest to satisfy a burning narcissism that prevents him from either thinking rationally or correcting a self-inflicted policy fiasco that will affect innocents for quite possibly the rest of their lives, Trump continued to hold children and their parents hostage to a fantasy that building walls holds the key to perpetual blind ignorance of the complexities that shape our world.

 

Ironically his decision on the immigration crisis that today grips the Southern border between the US and Mexico comes on the heels of withdrawal from the UN Council on Human Rights. It also comes on the heels of an ever-widening trade war that pits the US against two of its strongest trading partners and allies: Canada and Mexico. Trump’s fondness for strong authoritarian leaders (Kim Jong Il, Duterte, Erdogan, Putin) and his public disdain for traditional allies in Europe and North America threaten to further diminish America’s moral leadership on the world stage. When coupled with his ambivalence towards white supremacists and ultra right nationalists, embrace of deregulatory actions that subject millions of American citizens to serious health risks due to pollution, and an aversion to anything resembling either historical perspective or a governing philosophy, the country is more divided than at anytime since the Civil War.

 

All of these events are cause for great alarm, however the blatant abuse of children stirs passions amongst people of all colors, liberals and conservatives, religious and non-religious, educational and income levels, rural and urban, Red State, Blue States and Purple States. It is simply an abhorrent display of callousness that defies rational explanation. He may have attempted to quell the firestorm with a vacuous signing ceremony today that will not only address the problem but will most likely create additional complications while the children we have incarcerated and their parents grow more and more desperate to cope with the betrayal of everything we as a nation are supposed to stand for: equality, justice, freedom, opportunity and an abiding sense of fairness that shine like a beacon for the world to emulate.

 

Today we fumble in the darkness of our own cowardice. Republican congressional leadership heaps lavish praise upon a leader who has rendered them spineless. Today’s actions exacerbate the steady decline of the nation, and I can honestly say that while I love my country and what it stands for I am deeply ashamed to call myself an American in light of such travesty.

 

As a single father of two millennials my heart aches, and I simply cannot imagine the pain and suffering of those who have no idea if they will ever again see their loved ones. To inflict such pain on other human beings, especially for crass political purposes, should surely reserve a special place in hell for those charged with positions of great responsibility. In a representative democracy such as ours we are dependent upon a regimen of checks and balances that must protect us from the worst impulses of a charismatic leader. Currently, our system is failing.

 

As I survey the dismal state of affairs afflicting the nation I am surprised and disgusted at the lack of a concerted response from those who wear the uniform of the Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies who are complicit in this atrocity. Is there no sense of perspective, integrity, pride in either the oath taken to the constitution or to one’s sense of values to protect the public health, safety and welfare?

 

I watched a high-ranking Border Patrol official defend his actions by invoking the pathetic excuse that he “was only following orders.” This was the same rationale prevalent at the Nuremberg trials following World War II. It was sickening when those who proudly wore Nazi uniforms and were involved in unspeakable atrocities invoked it then and it is similarly sickening today.

 

No position is worth sacrificing the virtues, values, and human compassion necessary to make decisions that affect others’ lives. Where are those who see what is going on and reject it. St. Augustine developed a legal maxim over 1,500 years ago, which is as relevant today as it was then. It has been used by St. Thomas Aquinas and as recently as last century by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in his famous treatise “A Letter From Birmingham Jail” and is as follows: lex iniusta non best lex, which translates to an unjust law is no law at all.

 

It is time for all of us to stand up and demand that the injustice we are perpetrating upon God’s children cease immediately and that a major emphasis on reunification of parents and children commence with all deliberate speed. There is no higher priority right now and anything less is a crime against humanity.

 

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