Tag Archives: Donald Trump and refugees

Trump/Sessions Anti-Immigrant Policy Requires Novel Theory of Constitution: Citizens Only

US Supreme Court Building, DC. The Trump/Sessions anti-immigration policy relies on a novel theory of the Constitution: that it does not apply to noncitizens © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The question that came to my mind as I listened to Natanya Briendel, director of the Westchester Division at the Pace Women’s Justice Center, speak at the monthly meeting of Reach Out America, a Long Island-based activist group, was how Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ roundups of undocumented immigrants rests on a concept that the Constitution – specifically due process – does not apply to non-citizens. Technically, then, any foreigner in the United States could be picked up and denied habeas corpus – the right to appear speedily in front of a judge, hear the charges and put up a defense.

She described situations where people are being rounded up based on an accusation, and if they are undocumented, immediately incarcerated and deported.  No warrant. No reasonable cause to justify a search. No right to legal counsel or even a hearing before a judge.

Even people who are claiming asylum based on escaping violence in their home country, are treated as if they were criminals.

The result has been sheer terror for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Why so many? Because Republicans going back to Reagan have refused to establish a workable immigration program; during Obama’s Administration, the House Republicans literally shoved a Comprehensive Immigration bill in the desk and never voted on it. Employers have benefited from having a pool of people who are abused, cheated, and treated like indentured servants.

Here in Long Island, we have an instance where just being Hispanic renders a high school student vulnerable to accusations of membership in the dreaded M-13 gang based on what colors you wear to school.

Donald Trump in his national security speech (really a rehash of his dystopian inaugural address), equates all immigrants as terrorists, regardless if they have lived, worked and paid taxes in the United States for decades, describing the need to shut off refugees, cancel DACA, end the possibility of family members obtaining legal status. Even individuals currently serving in the military, who were promised citizenship at the end of their tour, will be subject to deportation.

Our strategy advances four vital national interests.  First, we must protect the American people, the homeland, and our great American way of life.  This strategy recognizes that we cannot secure our nation if we do not secure our borders.  So for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland.  It calls for the construction of a wall on our southern border; ending chain migration and the horrible visa and lottery programs; closing loopholes that undermine enforcement; and strongly supporting our Border Patrol agents, ICE officers, and Homeland Security personnel.”

The callousness, the stupidity, the sheer contradiction of American values, principles, and law.

Meanwhile, 12,762 DACA recipients – 122 a day – have lost their protected status since September 5, when President Trump rescinded the executive order that protected immigrants who arrived here as children from deportation, who were raised in the United States which is the only country they know. Trump gave a deadline of March, but the Republican Congress has shown it doesn’t actually care. Trump has reneged on the “deal” he appeared to make with Schumer and Pelosi; Democrats have threatened to use the only leverage they have – shutting down government by refusing to reauthorize a budget resolution – but that is unlikely.

Immigrants are no longer welcome. That is, unless the immigrant can buy a visa by investing $500,000 in a Trump family real estate venture,  or a migrant imported to work at Mar-a-Lago (when there are tens of thousands of Puerto Rican hotel workers who lost their jobs after Maria and have sought refuge in Florida – why is he not hiring them? Answer: because they can register to vote in Florida. After all, Puerto Ricans are American citizens.)

“Critics say that if passed, the reform [of the H-2A agricultural visa program] could lead to millions of virtually indentured workers,” writes Simon Davis-Cohen in Truthout. (“Republicans Push Bill to Strip Migrant Workers of Their Few Rights, Undercut US Workers”)

On the other hand, the way Trump and Sessions are inflicting their might, it means that undocumented individuals are no longer protected by law – they can be physically abused by a spouse, cheated by an employer of their wages, have their children taken from them without recourse to seek custody. They have no way of protecting their civil rights, their human rights, because the courthouse has become a locus for them to be snatched up by immigration officers. They are fearful to report crimes; certainly to warn officials of any terror threats.

Here on Long Island – the very place where Trump gave a speech suggesting that police officers don’t have to be “so nice” when they stuff someone into their patrol car, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Monday, arguing that it lacks authority under state law to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Detainers ask local officers to hold immigrants after they would otherwise be released from custody. This suit seeks the release of Susai Francis, a resident of Long Island for 21 years, where he has raised two sons, who should have been released after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct but instead was being held for ICE in a Suffolk County jail.

“Not only should local law enforcement reject the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda, but state law is also clear that local law enforcement can’t violate people’s rights in order to do ICE’s bidding,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The role of local law enforcement is to protect and serve all New Yorkers, and that is incompatible with the unlawful detention of our neighbors and family members at the behest of the Trump deportation machine.”

The day before Trump gave his national security speech calling again for a border wall and shutting down immigration, and offering not a crumb of possibility of the comprehensive immigration reform that should have been in place for 30 years so that people can get some legal status and not live in the shadows where they can be exploited, was United Nations International Migrants Day. Not a peep from the White House. Instead, the United States announced it would end participation in the UN process to develop a Global Compact on Migration (GCM) based on the claim that it would undermine “sovereignty”.

With civil war, ethnic conflict, gang violence, drought, famine, floods, wildfires and climate disasters, there are the largest number of refugees and displaced people in numbers not seen since World War II: 40 8 million displaced people worldwide as a result of conflict and violence at the end of 2015; an estimated 64 million are impacted by climate.

(Trump, in his national security speech, dismissed climate change as a national security threat, suggesting instead that increasing American energy production would be the counter balance.)

Immigrants are lumped together.  “You think the countries are giving us their best people? No. What kind of a system is that?”Trump said at a press conference. “They give us their worst people, they put them in a bin, but in his hand when he’s picking them is really the worst of the worst.”

Trump’s view – big on a wall stretching along the southern border, a travel ban which shuts down access from six Muslim majority nations (none of which have been responsible for terrorism in the US), reducing the number of refugees who will be accepted to a trickle (45,000) while threatening to throw out others (Haitians, Nicaraguans) – is to pull up the drawbridge, much like the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain or China’s Bamboo Curtain, and keep us equally isolated and ignorant, reciting the Trump mantra of America’s Greatness.

Combined with banning words and phrases at agencies, scrubbing reports and websites, spying on federal workers, Trump’s declaration is more ominous: “With this strategy, we are calling for a great reawakening of America, a resurgence of confidence, and a rebirth of patriotism, prosperity, and pride.

It is more: the disdain for civil rights for noncitizens within our borders means that the Trump Doctrine, which we now know is purely transactional, means that there is zero interest in upholding human rights.

“We want strong alliances and partnerships based on cooperation and reciprocity.  We will make new partnerships with those who share our goals, and make common interests into a common cause.  We will not allow inflexible ideology to become an obsolete and obstacle to peace.”

Trump’s view, enabled by the Republican Congress, is so warped. But there is another way: reauthorize DACA with a path to citizenship; provide legal status (not citizenship) for people who came illegally but who have worked and made homes here and have no significant criminal record, particularly the parents of DACA recipients and American children; have vetting for travelers, but accept travelers; exercise moral responsibility in accepting refugees, helping resettle refugees, and contributing funds toward refugee communities. And participate in the world to reduce the causes for refugees, migrants and immigrants: help end the conflicts and violence that sets people on their precarious journey; address climate change that is resulting in communities being uninhabitable; and advance the quality of life in these countries.

None of these generators of the desperation that motivates people to uproot their lives and take a treacherous journey to a strange place are satisfied by Trump’s “national security strategy” which puts American First and to hell with the rest of the world.


© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin



Albania Could Prove Novel Solution in Syrian Refugee Crisis

Albania's countryside is ripe for new villages that could accommodate some Syrian refugees © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Albania’s countryside is ripe for new villages that could accommodate some Syrian refugees © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

With even access to places that only last year were welcoming to desperate Syrian and Iraqi refugees now cut off, new solutions are essential.

Here’s a novel idea that emerged after my recent travels: Albania could be a player in solving the Syrian Refugee crisis, and help itself in the bargain. Here’s why:

Albania has a tradition of helping refugees. I was surprised to learn during my recent visit that during the Holocaust, Albania, a majority Muslim country, protected 200 of its own Jewish citizens and took in 2000 Jewish refugees, harboring them from the Nazis, sheltering them “in plain sight” by blending them into the local population, at grave danger to their own lives. At the end of WWII, Albania was the only European country with more Jews than it had at the start of the war.

Here’s another thing: Albania suffers from under-population. After 50 years of Communist dictatorship when people were imprisoned inside their own country, tens of thousands left the country left as soon as the shackles were released, causing a massive brain drain.

Albania’s economy is stagnant – there is virtually no manufacturing, no export of any kind, no technological development. The biggest industries are construction (roads) and agriculture. There are still unresolved issues of property ownership stemming from the shift from feudal society to Communist dictatorship (when private property was nationalized), back to a vaguely capitalist economy. My idea is that all those who have a solid claim should become “shareholders” or “partners” in property ownership. With the value of things at roughly one-fifth (the median income in Albania is $5,000), a foreign investor can pay off all the claimants, or the partners can share in new ventures. Meanwhile, Albania has plentiful water resources and vast tracts of land – granted much of it is mountainous, but I have seen many villages carved in to the hillsides. USAID has been looking for ways to bolster Albania’s economy.

Albania is a young country, a small country. As one young man tells me, it gets no respect in the world community, but for centuries has always been pushed around by larger powers – the Ottoman Turks for 500 years, the French and Italians minutes after Albania won its Independence from the Ottomans in 1912, the “Council of Ambassadors” who sliced and diced the country to half its size, the Communists after WWII up until 1992. This is a country so craving international attention, that when George W. Bush became the first sitting American president to visit (in 2007), they named a street in the capital city of Tirana for him.

Now here’s an idea: instead of US spending billions of dollars to keep people in horrible refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey where people are frustrated without any ability to work or get educated or have a productive life, how about funding a program to enable families to apply for a resettlement in newly created villages in Albania. The families would be selected based on the skills they bring – doctors, teachers, nurses, engineers, etc. etc., and they would build self-sufficient communities. They would have work visas, and opportunity to apply for citizenship at some point. They would have to follow Albanian law, would not be allowed to impose Sharia law (Albania is majority Muslim but is secular and tolerant of other religions).

The refugees would create their own towns, have their schools and clinics and city-services. They would be offered housing and some initial grant aid to resettle, but would have mortgages and business loans that they would repay – the funding to go back to the coordinating agency.

This would also be a major boon to Albania: the money spent to resettle the refugees would spark the economy. Moreover Albania needs the expertise and the consumer demand the new settlers would bring. The Syrian refugees are a closer cultural match than coming to Western Europe or US.

This is much the same as what was done to settle the American West, with land grants and such, and the American experience has proved over and over that immigrants are a boon to the economy and society – that’s why Germany has been so keen on bringing in hundreds of thousands a year.

For Albania, a tiny country of just 3.5 million population, the money would trigger consumer spending, which ripples through the economy, and create new jobs with new investments and ventures, new innovations and entrepreneurial endeavors. And it would make Albania a player on the world stage.

When I broached this idea to a young fellow whose brother works for the Prime Minister, he agreed it would be a good idea for Albania, but argued that the refugees wouldn’t want to come to Albania, they want to go to Germany where they think the streets are paved with gold. I responded that after years stuck in refugee camps, they would be more receptive, and the program would only take people who wanted this for their families.

The United States, through its involvement with various refugee agencies, might help develop the mechanism to relieve the suffering for at least some of the millions of people stuck in refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey and Greece, some for years, and provide the seed funding.

It would be in the United States’ interest as well, because the refugee problem won’t go away just because the US closes its eyes or its borders, declares undocumented immigrants, migrants and refugees persona non grata or non-persons. The problem will only get worse, possibly destabilize America’s allies and just as global warming impacting faraway places with droughts, floods, and sea level rise, and in the case of public health epidemics like Ebola and Zika, it will come back to hurt the US, as well.

Despite Republicans’ best efforts, the United States is on track to resettle some 10,000 Syrian refugees by October, the end of fiscal 2016, the number targeted by Obama. This is still a small fraction of the 65,000 Obama and Democrats had sought to resettle at the height of the publicity of the refugee crisis, last summer. The international outrage seems to have subsided this year, though the number of deaths of desperate migrants fleeing war and terrorism in Syria and Iraq has actually increased. But Europe – particularly Germany- has tightened entrances, sobered by the mounting political pressure that resulted in the Brexit vote in Great Britain; even Angela Merkel’s leadership has come under attack as right-wingers ascend.

This is the case in the US, as well, with Donald Trump hitching his prospects to become president to anti-immigration and particularly anti-Muslim policies. Trump issued a press release calling Hillary Clinton “America’s Merkel” and noting that Clinton has said she would target 65,000 refugees, then stated, “Assuming her goal is to admit 155,000 refugees each year during a hypothetical first term in office, a Clinton Administration would admit at least 620,000 refugees in just four years – a population roughly the size of Baltimore.. at a lifetime cost of over $400 billion.”

Trump’s despicable rhetoric is already having results in an uptick of violence against Muslims in this country, and very likely factored into the shooting deaths of an Iman and his assistant in Ozone Park, Queens, last weekend.

Many Republican governors have declared their states off-limits to any Syrian refugee resettlement, despite the fact they are powerless to stop the federal government if it chooses to resettle refugees in their state. One of them is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, where, in defiance,  a group from churches and synagogues have come together to actively support the resettlement of several Syrian families.

With the ability to receive Syrian and Iraqi refugees hampered, the United States’ main involvement in relieving the suffering of the refugees is by spending billions of dollars in aid to support the camps. But there is no life in those camps, where children are unable to go to school, young people can’t get a college degree; professionals are unable to work in their profession if at all. People are desperate, which is why so many are putting themselves in the hands of shady smugglers, launching themselves into unsafe boats to try to make the journey to Western Europe, ideally, the new Promised Land: Germany.

With even access to places that only last year were welcoming now cut off, new solutions are essential.

And for Albania, the US and the refugees, resettlement of families in Albania could be a win-win-win.

See also: Come to Albania Now to See Emergence of a Young Country

© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin