On the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration and the first Women’s March that was the largest single day of protest in history, women came out in force again in New York City and more than 250 locations around the country.
They marched for womens rights, reproductive freedom, for health care; for #MeToo and #TimesUp to take a stand against sexual assault, harassment, rape and extortion. They marched for gun control and against domestic violence. They marched for families, for immigrants, for Dreamers, for the LGBTQ+ community. They marched for Mother Earth and the environment, for science and facts. They marched for voting rights, for a free press and for truth. They marched to assert basic American values- its better angels – of tolerance, diversity, and for economic, environmental, political and social justice.
200,000 was the official count in New York City – marchers were lined up from 63rd Street to 86th Street, but all along the side streets as well, where it took as much as 2 hours just to get onto the Central Park West march route.
And unlike last year’s march which brought out millions, reflecting the despair of the aftermath of the 2016 election and was supposed to send a message to Trump and the Republicans who controlled Congress and the Courts (they didn’t get it), this day of marches – some 250 around the country bringing out some 2 million – was about action: it kicked off a voter registration drive to add 1 million to the rolls, the candidacies of a record number of women running for office (16,000 women have reached out to Emily’s List for support in 2017), and a Get out the Vote drive for the 2018 midterms.
“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed another.
The vulgarity, misogyny, bigotry and racism that Donald Trump brought to the Oval Office came down to the streets, with bursts of profanity in words (“shithole” was a popular one that Trump just introduced to the vernacular only a week ago) and gestures, with marchers giving the finger as they passed Trump International Hotel, the closest incarnation they would ever have. The tone was decidedly more angry, more outraged than a year ago.
“Over the past year, basic rights for women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color and even Mother Earth have struggled to survive under the weight of the current administration. America’s First Amendment has been challenged and healthcare for millions has been threatened. We must stand together to demand and defend our rights. We will not be silent. We must remind everyone that red, white, and blue are the colors of tolerance,” stated Womens March Alliance.
And they marched with a purpose: to get people to register to vote, to run for office, and to cast their ballot.
“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed others.
Hillary Clinton tweeted, “In 2017, the Women’s March was a beacon of hope and defiance. In 2018, it is a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere. Let’s show that same power in the voting booth this year. #PowerToThePolls”
[Note: In an unprecedented action, the White House originally sent out a transcript in which Donald Trump’s statement, in which he seemed to agree with Senator Feinstein on passing a “clean DACA” was modified. When the change was discovered, the White House sent out a corrected transcript.]
Donald Trump may think that his bipartisan meeting on resolving the DACA issue went swimmingly, but it is not at all clear that the Republicans and Democrats can come together on a clean DACA fix, with or without the “security” elements (which Trump understands to mean a wall but Congress seems to acknowledge means a range of solutions) by March 5th, the date that Trump himself set as the expiration of protections for Dreamers, much less by January 19th, the date when government could shut down if the budget resolution is not adopted.
[Adding to the drama, a federal judge in California issued a nationwide injunction late Tuesday ordering the Trump administration to restart the DACA program because the way it was ended “arbitrarily: and “capriciously” and questioned the contention that Obama did not have the authority to implement it to begin with.]
Still, the to-and-fro was eerily civil – probably because the worst hard-liners were left off the guest-list and the Congressmembers in the room were for the most part were veterans of years of negotiating immigration reform.
There was no discussion of making legal immigration actually work – having enough immigration judges to hear applications, giving parents of legal American children a means toward a legal status.
But in the end, Trump said he would sign whatever Congress came up with – a clear display that he does not actually care or have a grasp of policy. He contradicted himself numerous times, and went back-and-forth seeming to agree with whoever was speaking. He even seemed to moderate his concept of what a “wall” – “a great, beautiful wall” – would be, appearing to agree with Democrats that “wall” was a metaphor for border security, not one contiguous structure like the Great Wall of China, but fencing, mountains, rivers. But he insisted he could build it for less money and ahead of schedule than what is being proposed ($18 Billion is requested; estimates go as high as $45 billion), like Wolman ice rink in Central Park. No different than that. Indeed, throughout, Trump kept suggesting that it was a “simple” matter to solve immigration.
It should be – 86 percent of Americans favor a fix for DACA, and the vast majority support immigration reform. Yet just a few days after Trump appeared to come to agreement with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on DACA, for which Trump received rare praise, he hardened his line because of the reaction of the hardliners who are his base. There was universal wonder whether that would happen again.
And it is really interesting that the very day this civilized discussion of a “bill of love”, as Trump termed a DACA fix, was taking place, the Trump Administration announced it was kicking out some 200,000 Salvadorans, along with hundreds of thousands of Haitians and Nicaraguans, who had come here after some disaster as much as 20 years ago, who have children who are American citizens.
In Tuesday’s meeting, Trump’s tone was calm, even conciliatory – politely calling on the Senators and Representatives, not insulting Democrats and especially Democratic women – even urging the sides to come together, go out to dinner, bury the hatchets – a clear effort to counter the image that emerges from Michael Wolff’s inflammatory “Fire and Fury”. Trump only veered off topic a few times – notably, in extolling the virtues of bringing back earmarks as the best tool for forging (buying) compromise (whereas now, there is no incentive), and the need to build up the military.
The exchanges are rather extraordinary – most notably because the press was not thrown out after the photo op, but were allowed to listen in for 55 minutes.
Most astonishing was the comment by Senator Charles Grassley that he would support a pathway to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform. (A bill that had all the elements currently being discussed was passed 68-32 in the Senate in 2013, only to be tabled and effectively killed in the Republican-controlled House, leading President Obama to adopt DACA provision rather than have no action at all. That sparked the controversy that Obama trespassed into territory that belonged to Congress, even though Congress had abdicated its role. But there is no such criticism of Trump who through executive orders and administrative policy is defying the Affordable Care Act in an effort to sabotage Obamacare into oblivion.)
The climax to the bipartisan meeting – considered extraordinary for being bipartisan after an entire year of Republicans acting on their own, deliberately excluding Democrats on significant issues including health care and tax reform – was Trump’s reply to what sounded like a plea from Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been working on immigration for a decade, “If you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat,” POTUS said. “You are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform.”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, everyone, for being here. I’m thrilled to be with a distinguished group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers from both the House and the Senate. We have something in common, we’d like to see this get done, and you know what this means.
We are here today to advance bipartisan immigration reform that serves the needs of the American families, workers, and taxpayers. It’s DACA. We’ve been talking about DACA for a long time. I’ve been hearing about it for years, long before I decided to go into this particular line of work. And maybe we can do something.
We have a lot of good people in this room. A lot of people that have a great spirit for taking care of the people we represent — we all represent. For that reason, any legislation on DACA, we feel — at least a strong part of this group feels — has to accomplish three vital goals.
And Chairman Goodlatte will be submitting a bill over the next two to three days that will cover many of the things. And, obviously, that will — if it gets passed, it will go to the Senate and we can negotiate and we’ll see how it turns out. But I feel having the Democrats in with us is absolutely vital because it should be a bipartisan bill. It should be a bill of love. Truly, it should bea bill of love, and we can do that.
But it also has to be a bill where we’re able to secure our border. Drugs are pouring into our country at a record pace and a lot of people are coming in that we can’t have. We’ve greatly stiffened, as you know, and fewer people are trying to come in.
But we have tremendous numbers of people and drugs pouring into our country.
So, in order to secure it, we need a wall. We need closing enforcement — we have to close enforcement loopholes. Give immigration officers — and these are tremendous people, the border security agents, the ICE agents — we have to give them the equipment they need, we have to close loopholes, and this really does include a very strong amount of different things for border security.
I think everybody in the room would agree to that. I think that we — it’s a question of the amounts. But I think everyone agrees we have to have border security. I don’t think there would be anybody that says “no.”
Second, it has to be a bill to end chain migration. Chain migration is bringing in many, many people with one, and often it doesn’t work out very well. Those many people are not doing us right. And I think a lot of people in the room — and I’m not sure I can speak for everybody, but a lot of the people in this room want to see chain migration ended.
And we have a recent case along the West Side Highway, having to do with chain migration, where a man ran over — killed eight people and many people injured badly. Loss of arms, loss of legs. Horrible thing happened, and then you look at the chain and all of the people that came in because of him. Terrible situation.
[False: Had nothing to do with chain migration]
And the other is — cancel the lottery program. They call it “visa lottery,” I just call it “lottery.” But countries come in and they put names in a hopper. They’re not giving you their best names; common sense means they’re not giving you their best names. They’re giving you people that they don’t want. And then we take them out of the lottery. And when they do it by hand — where they put the hand in a bowl — they’re probably — what’s in their hand are the worst of the worst.
[False. Not how visa lottery works. People in visa lottery are vetted.]
But they put people that they don’t want into a lottery and the United States takes those people. And again, they’re going back to that same person who came in through the lottery program. They went — they visited his neighborhood and the people in the neighborhood said, “oh my God, we suffered with this man — the rudeness, the horrible way he treated us right from the beginning.” So we don’t want the lottery system or the visa lottery system. We want it ended.
So those three things are paramount. These are measures that will make our community safer and more prosperous. These reforms are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans. They’re from every standpoint, from every poll, and they’re being requested by law enforcement officers.
I had the big meeting with ICE last week; I had a big meeting with the Border Patrol agents last week. Nobody knows it better than them. As an example, on the wall, they say, “sir, we desperately need the wall.”
And we don’t need a 2,000-mile wall. We don’t need a wall where you have rivers and mountains and everything else protecting it. But we do need a wall for a fairly good portion. We also — as you know, it was passed in 2006 — a essentially similar thing, which — a fence, a very substantial fence was passed. But, unfortunately, I don’t know, they never got it done. But they need it.
So I’m appealing to everyone in the room to put the country before party, and to sit down and negotiate and to compromise, and let’s see if we can get something done. I really think that we have a chance to do it. I think it’s very important. You’re talking about 800,000 people — and we’re talking about lots of other people are also affected, including people that live in our country. That’s from the security standpoint.
So maybe the press can stay for a little while and a couple of folks can make statements and I don’t mind the statements. We want to have this as a very open forum. I will say, though, that I really do believe Democratic and Republican — the people sitting around this table — want to get something done in good faith. And I think we’re on our way to do it.
This was an idea I had last week. I was sitting with some of our great Republican senators and we all agreed on everything. It was a great meeting. Right? David, right? We had a great meeting — Tom. It was perfect.
Then I said, “yeah, but we’d like to get some Democrats. Well, what do they say?” And I say, “let’s have the same meeting, but let’s add the Democrats.” And that’s what we’ve done. And I think we’re going to come up with an answer. I hope we’re going to come up with an answer for DACA, and then we go further than that later on down the road.
Dick, perhaps you’d like to say a few words?
SENATOR DURBIN: Thanks, Mr. President, for inviting us. We’re all honored to be a part of this conversation.
September the 5th, you challenged us. You challenged Congress. You said we’re going to end DACA, not replace it. As of today, we have not done that. We face a deadline of March 5th, which you created with your elimination of DACA, and we know that, in the meantime, there have been efforts underway by Senator Graham and I.
We sat down with a bipartisan group of senators. We have worked long and hard, many hours have been put into it. And we feel that we can put together a combination for the future of DACA as well as border security, and that there are elements you’re going to find Democrats support when it comes to border security. We want a safe border in America, period, both when it comes to the issues of illegal migration, but also when it comes to drugs and all these other areas.
Now, I will say that there is a sense of urgency that’s felt by many of us when it comes to this issue. There are many of these young people who are losing the protection of DACA on a daily basis. As of March 5th, a thousand a day will lose DACA protection. Nine hundred of them are members of the U.S. military. Twenty thousand of them are schoolteachers. In my state of Illinois and the city of Chicago, there are 25 of them in medical school who can’t apply for a residency if they lose their DACA status.
So lives are hanging in the balance of our getting the job done. We’ve got the time to do it. In a matter of days — literally of days — we can come together and reach an agreement. And when that happens, I think good things will happen in other places. And we’ll see some progress in Washington.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that, Dick. I very much agree with that. Tom, would you like to say something? Tom Cotton.
SENATOR COTTON: Thank you for inviting us all here and I’m glad to be here with Democrats and with House members as well. You know, I think, on this issue, there’s a lack of trust and has been, for many years, a lack of trust between Republicans and Democrats; a lack of trust among Republicans; most fundamentally, a lack of trust between the American people and our elected leaders on not delivering a solution for many, many years about some of these problems.
And I hope that this meeting can be the beginning of building trust between our parties, between the chambers, because I know, for fact, all the Republicans around the table are committed to finding a solution, and I believe all the Democrats are as well.
So I think this is a good first step in building the trust we need for a good bill, Mr. President, that will achieve the objectives that you stated: providing legal protection for the DACA population, while also securing our border and ending chain migration and the diversity lottery.
Thank you for the invitation.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, thank you very much for having us down here. I agree with Tom Cotton that the American public are very frustrated with us. One of the reasons they’re frustrated with us is because we continue to couple things on which we have large agreement with things in which we do not agree. This is a perfect example of that.
Eighty-six percent of the American people in the most recent poll are for ensuring, as you have said, not providing for DACA-protected kids to go to a place that they don’t know, they didn’t grow up in, and it’s not their home. They’re Americans. They don’t have a piece of paper that says they’re Americans, but they’re Americans.
And it seems to me, Mr. President, if we’re going to move ahead in a constructive way, that we take that on which we agree — pass it. The American public will be pleased with all of us if we do that. Just as, in September, you recall, we did the extension of the CR. No drama. We were all for it. You and the four leaders met, we came to an agreement, and we passed that CR.
In my view, we can pass the protection in the — well, I understand your position is procedurally it was not done correctly. You then, as Dick has said, challenged us — pass it correctly.
If it’s put on the floor, Mr. President, I believe we will have the overwhelming majority in both the House — and Senator Graham thinks that we’ll have a substantial majority in the United States Senate as well. That, I think, is the first step, Tom, to creating some degree of confidence.
Democrats are for security at the borders; I want to state that emphatically. There is not a Democrat that is not for having secure borders.
There are obviously differences however, Mr. President, on how you effect that. You just indicated that yourself. And you indicated this would be a first step, and then we continue to talk as we’re talking today about how we best secure the border. There are differences of opinion within your party and within in our party.
So I would urge that we move forward on protecting the DACA-protected individuals — young people, young adults, as you pointed out in one of your statements — who are productive parts of our community — that we protect them and get that done. And then, because I think everybody around the table, as you pointed out, is for security — and then the issue is going to be how do we best effect that border security.
So I would urge us to move, as Senator Durbin has urged us to move, on the DACA students. As a matter of fact, the Speaker, I think today, but maybe yesterday, said, we need to solve the DACA issue, and we need to solve it in a way that is permanent, not temporary. And I agree with him on that issue.
THE PRESIDENT: And, interestingly, when you say that, President Obama, when he signed the executive order, actually said he doesn’t have the right to do this. And so you do have to go through Congress, and you do have to make it permanent, whether he does, whether he doesn’t — let’s assume he doesn’t, he said it — and that was a temporary stopgap, I don’t think we want that. I think we want to have a permanent solution to this. And I think everybody in this room feels that way very strongly.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: What happened, Mr. President, I think, is that the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill, as you know. We did not consider it in the House, so we didn’t reach those issues.
Very frankly, on border security, Mr. McCaul, the Chairman of the committee, reported out a unanimous security solution, which we then included in the bill that we filed on comprehensive immigration reform. So I think we can reach agreement.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I also think that, after we do DACA — and I really believe we should be able to be successful — I really think we should look in terms of your permanent solution and to the whole situation with immigration. I think a lot of people in this room would agree to that also, but we’ll do it in steps. And most people agree with that, I think, that we’ll do the steps. Even you say, ‘let’s do this, and then we go phase two.’
Kevin, what would you like to say?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Well, first, I want to thank you for bringing everybody together. You got the Senate, you got the House, you got both parties. And I like the exchange of ideas, and I think everybody has a point here.
The one thing I don’t want to have happen here is what I saw in the past. There were four bills that were passed on border security years ago that never got finished. There were immigration bills passed that — we’re right back at the table with the same problem. Let’s make a commitment to each one, and, most importantly, to the American people, that, when we get done and come to an agreement, that we’re not back at this problem three, four years from now.
That’s why — yes, we’ve got to do DACA, and I agree with you 100 percent — but if we do not do something with the security, if we do not do something with the chain migration, we are fooling each other that we solved the problem. You know how difficult this issue is. So let’s collectively — we’re here at the table together. I’ll be the first one to tell you, we’re all going to have to give a little, and I’ll be the first one willing to.
But let’s solve the problem — but let’s not tell the American public at the end that it’s solved when it’s not.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think a good starting point would be Bob Goodlatte, who has done a bill, and I understand you’re ready to submit it. And you’re going to take that and you’ll submit it and they’ll negotiate it in Congress or the House. And then it goes to the Senate, and they’ll negotiate — both Republican and Democrat. But it could be a good way of starting.
Now, if anyone has an idea different from that — but, I think, starting in the House. Starting in the House — Mike, you good? You’re ready. I think you’re ready to go.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCAUL: We are, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: I would like to add the words “merit” into any bill that’s submitted because I think we should have merit-based immigration like they have in Canada, like they have in Australia.So we have people coming in that have a great track record, as opposed to what we’re doing now, to be honest with you.
But I think merit-based should be absolutely added to any bill, even if it has to do with DACA.That would be added to the things I said. I think it would be popular. I can tell you, the American public very much wants that.
But, Bob, where are you with the bill?
REPRESENTATIVE GOODLATTE: So, tomorrow, Chairman McCaul and Congresswoman McSally and Congressman Labrador — we’re the chairmen of the two committees and the chairmen of the two subcommittees — are going to introduce a bill that addresses the DACA concerns.
And let me thank you, Mr. President, both — I was an immigration lawyer before I was elected to Congress. I want to thank you both for campaigning on securing our borders and the interior of our country, but also on addressing DACA in a way that makes sense. Don’t do it ad hoc; do it through the congressional process. So you’ve challenged us, and we should step up to that challenge. And we’re going to do it in a bipartisan fashion, but we have to put our best foot forward.
And we’re going to do that with this legislation. It’s going to address DACA in a permanent way, not a temporary short-term thing. We’re going to address the border enforcement and security and the wall. We’re going to address — in Mr. McCaul’s bill, we’re going to address interior enforcement, but not everything that the administration had on its list.
We’re going to address chain migration. We’re going to end the visa lottery program. We’re going to address sanctuary cities and Kate’s Law.
We think it is a good bill that will both address the two things our Speaker told us right after you made your decision, which is, we have to address the problem we have with the DACA kids being in limbo, as Dick Dubin described it, and I agree with that. But we also have to make sure this does not happen again.
THE PRESIDENT: And, Dick, you and the Democrats are going to have a lot of things that they’re not going to agree — you’re going to talk to us about it. I just felt that this is something that was long overdue. You’d have a meeting and you’d say, this is what we want. We’d have a meeting — and this has been going on for years. And I just — you know, at a certain point, maybe I’ll just lock the doors and I won’t let anybody out — (laughter) — until they come and agree.
Michael, do you have something to say about the bill?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCAUL: Yes, I’ve been in Congress for seven terms. I’ve been trying to get this border secure for seven terms in Congress. I think this is a bipartisan issue. I think DACA is a bipartisan issue.
We have an opportunity, I think, before us to get this done for the American people. When it comes to chain migration and the lottery system, we saw two recent terror attacks in New York that were the result of this, I think, failed immigration policy. We’d like to see that fixed for the American people and along with, as Bob talked about, sanctuary cities.
Now, you and I talked about this extensively. So we think our bill, our House bill would be a good starting ground for this negotiation. And I, too, want to commend you for bringing everybody together.
I think what we don’t want to see happen is for the conditions for DACA to occur again. We want to get security done so we don’t have to deal with this problem five more years down the road.
So thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there are so many points of agreement, and a lot of it is common sense. And I really think we’re going to come out very well.
David Perdue, do you have something to say?
REPRESENTATIVE PERDUE: Well, yeah, my observation is that three times in the last eleven years, well-intentioned people, some of whom are in this room, attempted to do what we’re starting to try to do today, and we failed. And I think the difference is, is their mission creep ended up in an effort that became too comprehensive.
And so, today, my encouragement for all of us is to do what Dick has been trying to do and talks about repeatedly, and that is to limit the scope of this. And I like the idea that both sides have pressure to solve the DACA issue. But I think the bigger issue here is not just the DACA issue, but what we can do to start the path to the steps that solve this immigration problem. For several reasons — there are social issues; there are political issues; there are economic issues about our workforce that have to be addressed.
But limiting this to the legal immigration side and combining the balance between various solutions on DACA; DREAMers, if it gets in the conversation; as well border security and chain migration, I think therein lies the balance of a good deal that can be done.
And I don’t think — I agree with Dick. I don’t think it’s going to take long to get it done if we just lock ourselves in a room and make it happen.
THE PRESIDENT: I think you’re right. I think it could be done very quickly.
Would anybody have anything to say prior to the press leaving?
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Mr. President, I just have one comment.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Senator Durbin mentioned that lives are hanging in the balance. As we come up on the January 19th deadline, the lives that are hanging in the balance are those of our military that are needing the equipment and the funding and everything they need in order to keep us safe, and we should not playing politics on this issue to stop our military from getting the funding that they need.
I think we have the right people in the room to solve this issue. The deadline is March 5th. Let’s roll up our sleeves and work together on this. But those who need us right now before the January 19 deadline is our military. And let’s not play politics with that. Let’s give them what they need to keep us safe.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. And I think a lot of people would agree with that. We need our military — I can’t say more than ever before. We had wars. Right, Lindsey? We had a lot of other areas and times. But we need our military desperately. Our military has been very depleted. We’re rebuilding, and we’re building it up quickly, and we’re negotiating much better deals with your purveyors and with your manufacturers and with your equipment-makers — much better than it was before.
I looked at boats that started off at $1.5 billion, and they’re up to $18 billion, and they’re still not finished. In this case, a particular aircraft carrier. I think it’s outrageous. So we’re very much agreeing with you on that one.
Would anybody like to say? Yes, Steny, go ahead.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: I want to follow up on that. There are no Democrats that don’t want to make sure that the military is funded properly. And over the last four years, we had an agreement between Mr. Ryan and Senator Murray — Speaker Ryan and — that we understand that our military is critically important. But we also understand that our domestic issues, whether it’s education, whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s environment, whether it’s transportation and infrastructure, they’re important, as well.
And both the defense and non-defense sides of the budget are hurt when you have a CR, because they cannot blink and they cannot get contracts if they don’t have any money to do so. So that, very frankly, I think Ms. McSally is correct. But what we ought to have done over the last six months — particularly when we did the September and we gave 90 days — is to reach some agreement on what the caps are going to be. The Murray-Ryan agreements were parity. We believe that’s very important.
So we can get to where we should get and want to get there, but we ought to have an agreement based upon what the last —
THE PRESIDENT: But, Steny, we do have to take politics out of the military. We need that military. All the other things we talk about, we’re not going to be here if we don’t have the right military. And we need our military, and we need it stronger than ever before, and we’re ready to do it. But we have to take politics out of the military.
One thing that I think we can really get along with on a bipartisan basis — and maybe I’m stronger on this than a lot of the people on the Republican side, but I will tell you, we have great support from the Republicans — is infrastructure. I think we can do a great infrastructure bill. I think we’re going to have a lot of support from both sides, and I’d like to get it done as quickly as possible.
[Trump doesn’t seem to get it: social spending – health care, education – are equally important to military spending.]
SENATOR CORNYN: Mr. President, I, too, want to thank you for getting us together. You made the point last week when Republicans were meeting with you that, why are we continuing to have these meetings just among ourselves when what we need to do to get to a solution is to meet, as we are today, as you insisted, on bipartisan basis.
[The only reason there is any interest at all in “bipartisan” solution – to DACA, immigration, infrastructure, the budget – is because they need 60 votes, not 51, to get measures through the Senate, unless McConnell does what Trump wants and gets rid of the filibuster.]
But part of my job is to count votes in the Senate. And as you know when you hosted us, the leadership, at Camp David this weekend, I believe both the Speaker and Majority Leader McConnell made crystal clear that they would not proceed with a bill on the floor of the Senate or the House unless it had your support, unless you would sign it.
So that’s, I think, the picture we need to be looking through — the lens we need to be looking through is not only what could we agree to among ourselves on a bipartisan basis, but what will you sign into law. Because we all want to get to a solution here, and we realize the clock is ticking.
But I think that for me frames the issue about as well as I can.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Very well said. One of the reasons I’m here, Chuck, so importantly, is exactly that. I mean, normally you wouldn’t have a President coming to this meeting. Normally, frankly, you’d have Democrats, Republicans, and maybe nothing would get done.
Our system lends itself to not getting things done, and I hear so much about earmarks — the old earmark system — how there was a great friendliness when you had earmarks. But of course, they had other problems with earmarks. But maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks. Because this system — (laughter) —
PARTICIPANT: Yes, yes, yes. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: This system — (laughter) — but you should do it, and I’m there with you, because this system really lends itself to not getting along. It lends itself to hostility and anger, and they hate the Republicans. And they hate the Democrats. And in the old days of earmarks, you can say what you want about certain Presidents and others, where they all talk about they went out to dinner at night and they all got along, and they passed bills. That was an earmark system, and maybe we should think about it.
[This is true: earmarks allow for horse-trading, for a President like Johnson, but not Obama who did not have the benefit of earmarks, to make deals. Without it, politicians have no incentive to “compromise” and every incentive to revert to partisan fringes because all they have to fear is being primaried. Trump wants to return to using earmarks, so he can quite literally buy votes with taxpayer money. That is what is behind the infrastructure plan – it turn the US Treasury into a political slush fund to benefit Trump and the Republicans.]
And we have to put better controls because it got a little bit out of hand, but maybe that brings people together. Because our system right now, the way it’s set up, will never bring people together.
Now, I think we’re going to get this done — DACA. I think we’re going to get — I hope we’re going to get infrastructure done in the same way.
But I think you should look at a form of earmarks. I see Lindsey nodding very hard “yes.”
SENATOR GRAHAM:Starting with the Port of Charleston. Absolutely. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT:A lot of the pros are saying that if you want to get along and if you want to get this country really rolling again, you have to look at a different form, because this is obviously out of control.
The levels of hatred — and I’m not talking about Trump. I’m talking you go back throughout the eight years of Obama and you go before that, the animosity and the hatred between Republicans and Democrats.
I remember when I used to go out in Washington, and I’d see Democrats having dinner with Republicans. And they were best friends, and everybody got along. You don’t see that too much anymore. In all due respect, you really don’t see that. When was the last time you took a Republican out? Why don’t you guys go and have dinner together? (Laughter.)
But you don’t see it. So maybe, and very importantly, totally different from this meeting, because we’re going to get DACA done — I hope we’re going to get DACA done, and we’re going to all try very hard — but maybe you should start bringing back a concept of earmarks. It’s going to bring you together. You’re going to do it honestly. You’re going to get rid of the problems that the other system had — and it did have some problems. But one thing it did is it brought everyone together. And this country has to be brought together. Okay? Thank you.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Well, at 6:40 p.m., I’m going to go to Menendez’s office, and he’s taking me to dinner. (Laughter.)
And he’s buying.
THE PRESIDENT: Sounds like fun.
SENATOR GRAHAM: He didn’t know that, but he’s buying. We’re going to Morton’s. You’re all welcome to come. (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: We can usually get bipartisan agreement when the other guy buys. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s a very important thing, because our system is designed, right now, that everybody should hate each other. And we can’t have that. You know, we have a great country. We have a country that’s doing very well in many respects. We’re just hitting a new high on the stock market again, and that means jobs. I don’t look at the stocks, I look at the jobs. I look at the 401(k)s, I look at what’s happening, where police come up to me and they say, “Thank you. You’re making me look like a financial genius” — literally — meaning about them. And their wives never thought that was possible, right?
No, the country is doing well in so many ways, but there’s such divisiveness, such division. And I really believe we can solve that. I think this system is a very bad system in terms of getting together. And I’m going to leave it up to you, but I really believe you can do something to bring it together.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Other than going to dinner with Bob — I’ve been doing this for 10 years — I don’t think I’ve seen a better chance to get it done than I do right now, because of you. John’s right — I’m not going to support a deal if you don’t support it. I’ve had my head beat out a bunch; I’m still standing. I’m “Lindsey Grahamnesty,” “Lindsey Gomez” — you name every name you want to give to me, it’s been assigned to me. And I’m still standing.
The people of South Carolina want a result. How can I get a letter? I’ve been for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people because I have no animosity toward them. I don’t want crooks, I don’t want “bad hombres.” I want to get a merit-based immigration system to make sure we can succeed in the 21st century, and I’m willing to be more than fair to the 11 million. I just don’t want to do this every 20 years.
Now, we made a decision, Mr. President, not to do it comprehensively. I think that’s a smart decision but a hard decision. We’ve passed three comprehensive bills out of the Senate with over 55 votes. They go to the House and die, and I’m not being disparaging to my House colleagues, this is tough politics if you’re a Republican House member turning on the radio.
To my Democratic friends, thanks for coming. The Resist Movement hates this guy. They don’t want him to be successful at all. You turn on Fox News, and I can hear the drumbeat coming. Right-wing radio and TV talk show hosts are going to beat the crap out of us because it’s going to be amnesty all over again. I don’t know if the Republican and Democratic Party can define love, but I think what we can do is do what the American people want us to do.
Sixty-two percent of the Trump voters support a pathway to citizenship for the DACA kids if you have strong borders. You have created an opportunity in here, Mr. President, and you need to close the deal.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Lindsey. You know, it’s very interesting because I do have people that are — just to use a very common term — very far right and very far left. They’re very unhappy about what we’re doing, but I really don’t believe they have to be, because I really think this sells itself. And, you know, when you talk about comprehensive immigration reform, which is where I would like to get to eventually — if we do the right bill here, we are not very far way. You know, we’ve done most of it. You want to know the truth, Dick? If we do this properly, DACA, you’re not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform.
And if you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care. I don’t care — I’ll take all the heat you want to give me, and I’ll take the heat off both the Democrats and the Republicans. My whole life has been heat. (Laughter.) I like heat, in a certain way. But I will.
I mean, you are somewhat more traditional politicians. Two and a half years ago, I was never thinking in terms of politics. Now I’m a politician. You people have been doing it, many of you, all your lives. I’ll take all the heat you want. But you are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform. And if you wanted to go that final step, I think you should do it. And if you want to study earmarks to bring us all together, so we all get together and do something, I think you should study it.
Chuck, did you have something to say?
SENATOR GRASSLEY: I’d like to talk about the reality of the whole situation and take off from what Cornyn and Graham have said of the necessity of you working with us. And you are doing that by having this meeting and other meetings as well. But we’ve always talked in the United States Senate about the necessity of getting 60 votes. And that’s pretty darn tough.
But if we would write a bill that you don’t like and you veto it, we’re talking about a 67-vote threshold — two-thirds in the United States Senate. So that’s the reality of negotiating in good faith and getting something you can sign.
The second reality is the March 5th date that’s coming up. Because if we don’t do some good-faith negotiation and make progress, and get a bill on the floor of the United States Senate, our leader is going to have to bring up either the House bill or the bill that some of us have introduced in the United States Senate, and we’re going to have a vote on it. And those people that don’t want to vote to legalize DACA kids are going to have to explain why they haven’t wanted to protect the vulnerable people that we’re all here talking about. We’re talking about everything except doing something for the DACA kids.
You know, I would vote for a path to citizenship, which isn’t very easy for me, but I would do it just as an effort. But there are certain things that we got to guarantee that we’re going to do.
THE PRESIDENT: Chuck, that’s going to be brought up. I really believe that will be brought up as part of what we’re talking about, at some point. It’s an incentive for people to do a good job, if you want to know the truth. That whole path is an incentive for people — and they’re not all kids. I mean, we’re used to talking about kids. They’re not really kids. You have them 39, 40 years old, in some cases. But it would be an incentive for people to work hard and do a good job. So that could very well be brought up.
SENATOR GRASSLEY: We’re talking about legalizing people here that didn’t break the law because their parents, who broke the law, brought them here. And we ought to be talking about what we can do for the people that had no fault of their own, and get the job done, and not worry about a lot of other things that we’re involved in. And that means that we got to make sure that we tell the American people, when we’re taking this step, that we’re doing something that all the people agree to.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, let me just say, I think Dick and I agree with what Chuck Grassley just said.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s hard to believe. When was the last time that happened? (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: We need to take care of these DACA kids, and we all agree on that. Eighty-six percent of the American public agrees on that.
With all due respect, Bob, and Mike, and Lindsey, there are some things that you’re proposing that are going to be very controversial and will be an impediment to agreement.
THE PRESIDENT: But you’re going to negotiate those things. You’re going to sit down and you’re going to say, listen, we can’t agree here, we’ll give you half of that, we’re going to — you’re going to negotiate those things.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, comprehensive means comprehensive.
THE PRESIDENT: No, we’re not talking about comprehensive. Now we’re talking about —
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: No, we are. We are talking about comprehensive.
THE PRESIDENT: If you want to go there, it’s okay because you’re not that far away.
SENATOR HOYER: Mr. President, many of the things that are mentioned ought be a part of the negotiations regarding comprehensive immigration reform.
THE PRESIDENT: I think if you want to take it a step further, you may — I’m going to have to rely on you, Dick — but you may complicate it and you may delay DACA somewhat.
SENATOR DURBIN: I don’t want to do that.
SENATOR HOYER: You can’t do that.
SENATOR DURBIN: You said at the outset that we need to phase this. I think the first phase is what Chuck and Steny and I have mentioned, and others as well: We have a deadline looming and a lot of lives hanging. We can agree on some very fundamental and important things together on border security, on chain, on the future of diversity visas. Comprehensive, though, I worked on it for six months with Michael Bennet, and a number of — Bob Menendez, and Schumer, and McCain, and Jeff Flake — and it took us six months to put it together. We don’t have six months for the DACA bill.
PARTICIPANT: We’re not talking about comprehensive immigration.
PARTICIPANT: Take a look at our bill and let’s talk some.
PARTICIPANT: I hear you.
SENATOR DURBIN: You’ve mentioned a number of factors that are going to be controversial, as Steny has mentioned.
THE PRESIDENT: But you’re going to negotiate. Dick, you’re going to negotiate. Maybe we will agree and maybe we won’t. I mean, it’s possible we’re not going to agree with you and it’s possible we will, but there should be no reason for us not to get this done.
And, Chuck, I will say, when this group comes back — hopefully with an agreement — this group and others from the Senate, from the House, comes back with an agreement, I’m signing it. I mean, I will be signing it. I’m not going to say, “Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.” I’ll be signing it, because I have a lot of confidence in the people in this room that they’re going to come up with something really good.
Senator, would you like to say something?
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: I would. As you know, we tried for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. It was on the floor, there were a number of amendments, it got a lot of attention in the judiciary committee, and then the House didn’t take it up.
I think there needs to be a willingness on both sides. And I think — and I don’t know how you would feel about this, but I’d like to ask the question: What about a clean DACA bill now, with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure? Like we did back — oh, I remember when Kennedy was here and it was really a major, major effort, and it was a great disappointment that it went nowhere.
THE PRESIDENT: I remember that. I have no problem. I think that’s basically what Dick is saying. We’re going to come up with DACA. We’re going to do DACA, and then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Would you be agreeable to that?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I would like — I would like to do that.* Go ahead. I think a lot of people would like to see that, but I think we have to do DACA first.
[The original transcript, which was modified by the White House to change what Trump actually said, read: THE PRESIDENT: I think a lot of people would like to see that, but I think we have to do DACA first.]
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Mr. President, you need to be clear though. I think what Senator Feinstein is asking here: When we talk about just DACA, we don’t want to be back here two years later. We have to have security, as the Secretary would tell you.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: But I think that’s what she’s saying.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: What do you think I’m saying?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: I’m thinking you’re saying DACA is not secure. Are you talking about security as well?
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Well, I think if we have some meaningful comprehensive immigration reform, that’s really where the security goes. And if we can get the DACA bill, because March is coming and people are losing their status every day —
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: But, let’s be honest. Security was voted on just a few years ago, and, no disrespect, there’s people in the room on the other side of the aisle who voted for it. If I recall, Senator Clinton voted for it. So I don’t think that’s comprehensive; I think that’s dealing with DACA at the same time. I think that’s really what the President is making.
It’s kind of like three pillars: DACA, because we’re all in the room want to do it; border security, so we’re not back out here; and chain migration. It’s just three items, and then everything else that’s comprehensive is kind of moved to the side.
So I believe when the (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: And the lottery.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: And the lottery.
THE PRESIDENT: And I think you should add merit. I mean, if you can, add merit-based. (Laughter.) I don’t think — I don’t know who is going to argue with merit-based? Who can argue with merit-based?
Dianne, go ahead.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Can I ask a question? Do you really think that there can be agreement on all of that, quickly, to get DACA passed in time? I wanted to ask Mr. McCarthy a question. Do you really think there can be agreement on those three difficult subjects you raised in time to get DACA passed and effective?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Yes, because you have heard from Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan, who said they will put the bill onto the floor if the President agrees to it. And us getting to the room, I haven’t seen us be this close and having this discussion in quite a few years — or the whole last four years.
So I think, yes, we can make this happen. We all know it. We’ve done it before. You and I spent a long time — we did probably one of the most difficult things to do in California — water. And I believe we can get there and we can just keep working each day on this.
THE PRESIDENT: I think what we’re all saying is we’ll do DACA and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the following afternoon. Okay? We’ll take an hour off and then we’ll start.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Okay.
THE PRESIDENT: I do believe that. Because once we get DACA done — if it’s done properly — with, you know, security, and everything else —
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: That’s the point.
THE PRESIDENT: If it’s done properly, we have taken a big chunk of comprehensive out of the negotiation, and I don’t think it’s going to be that complicated.
SENATOR PERDUE: Mr. President, we have —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
SENATOR PERDUE: We have to be very clear though.
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
SENATOR PERDUE: In my opinion, we’ll be right back here either five years, thirty years, whatever. But this, the chain migration, is so insidious; it is the fundamental flaw in the immigration policy of the United States. If any conversation about DACA is being held without that consideration — I agree with border security as well — but any conversation about that is not going to go anywhere in the United States Senate. And if we think we’re going to divide one side versus the other, that’s just not going to happen on this issue.
THE PRESIDENT: David, I think chain migration has taken a very big hit over the last six months. People are seeing what’s happening.
People — for instance, the man on the Westside Highway that killed the people and so badly wounded. You know, it’s incredible when they talk about wounded, they don’t say that arms are off, and legs are off, one person lost two legs. You know, nobody talks about it. They said eight died, but they don’t talk about the twelve people that have no legs, no arms, and all of the things. So I’m talking about everybody.
I really believe that when you talk about the subject that we’re all mentioning right now, I think they had — how many people came in? Twenty-two to twenty-four people came in through him. He’s a killer. He’s a guy who ran over eight — many people — eight died; ten to twelve are really badly injured. So I really think that a lot of people are going to agree with us now on that subject. I really don’t see there’s a big —
SENATOR PERDUE: Seventy percent of Americans want the immigration policy to be, the family — the nuclear family and the workers. Seventy percent.
THE PRESIDENT: David, the chain immigration, though, has taken a very big hit in the last year with what’s happening. I mean, you’re looking at these killers — whether you like or not — we’re looking at these killers and then you see, 18 people came in, 22 people came in, 30 people came in, with this one person that just killed a lot of people. I really don’t believe there are a lot of Democrats saying, “We will be supporting chain migration,” anymore.
PARTICIPANT: Mr. President, should we get the Homeland Security Secretary —
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Yeah, if you don’t mind. Just on a couple of things on border security. I just want to try to make sure we’re all linking.
The reason that border security is so important to have as part of this discussion is that it doesn’t solve the problem if we can apprehend people but we can’t remove them. So we need the wall system, which is some physical infrastructure as the President described — personnel and technology — but we have to close those legal loopholes, because the effect is that is this incredible pull up from Central America that just continues to exacerbate the problem. So border security has to be part of this or we will be here again in three, four, five years again — maybe, unfortunately, sooner.
The other point I would just make is, the President asked DHS — he asked the men and women of DHS, what do you need to do your job? Congress and the American people have entrusted to you, the security of our country. What is it that you need? The list that we have provided is what we need to do our mission that you asked us to do. It’s not less than, it’s not more than; it is what we need to close those loopholes to be able to protect our country.
So I would just encourage — everyone, much more eloquently than I can, described all the reasons why we all, I think, are committed to helping the DACA population. But to truly solve the problem, it’s got to be in conjunction with border security.
THE PRESIDENT: Jeff.
SENATOR FLAKE: I would just echo what has been said by some here. Those of us who have been through comprehension reform, that was six, seven months of every night negotiating, staff on weekends. And a lot of things we’re talking about on border security and some of the interior things have trade-offs, and we made those during that process. I don’t see how we get there before March 5th.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay. So I think that’s why we make it a phase two. We do a phase one, which is DACA and security,and we do phase two, which is comprehensive immigration. And I think we should go right to it, I really do. We do one and we then do the other. But we go right to it.
REPRESENTATIVE DIAZ-BALART: Mr. President, I think it’s important to thank you for your flexibility and your leadership. And so I think what all of us have to do is have the same willingness to have a little bit of flexibility to get this issue done. And, obviously, I want to do a lot more than DACA. But the urgent thing now, for obvious reasons, are these young men and women who we have to deal with, first and foremost.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree.
REPRESENTATIVE DIAZ-BALART: And to Steny’s point, there are two issues which we keep hearing that everybody agrees to, and that is dealing with these individuals on a permanent and real solution, and border security.
So I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to do that, and I’m hoping that that will then lead us — to Senator Collins’ point, there’s a lot of lack of trust. If we can get real border security and deal with these individuals, if we can get that done, then I think, my gosh, it all opens up to do a lot more things in the future for the Americans.
REPRESENTATIVE GOODLATTE: I just want to reemphasize what Secretary Nielsen said. It is so important they understand when you talk about border security, if you apprehend somebody at the border, but then you cannot send them back outside the United States, even though they’re unlawfully present in the United States, you have not solved this problem, because they’re then released into the interior of the country and the problem persists. And that sends a message back to wherever they come from.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree, Bob. And you know what? We’re going to negotiate that. I agree, and I think a lot of people agree on both sides.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Thank you, Mr. President. And I agree with my good friend, Mario, in the sense that if we focus on DACA and border security, I think we can address this. Issues of chain migration or the other issues, I think that should be looked at in the second phase.
But again, I say this with all due respect to both Democrats, Republicans — but being from the border, I always get a kick out of people that go down, spend a few hours, and they think they know the border better than Cornyn — or some of us there, because we’ve lived there all our life.
Let me explain this. For example, if you look at the latest DEA — you’re worried about drugs, look at the latest DEA report — more drugs come through the ports of entry than in between ports. But we’re not even talking about ports of entry, number one.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Our bill does.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: No, I know — I’m just saying. I’m saying. (Laughter.) I’m just saying ports — let’s finish this. And some of us have been working this longer than some other folks.
Number one, if you look at the 11 or 12 million undocumented aliens, which is the second phase, 40 percent of them came through visa overstays. So you can put the most beautiful wall out there, it’s not going to stop them there because they’ll either come by plane, boat, or vehicle itself.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: That’s in our bill, too.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yeah, and I know. So the other thing is, the other thing that we had looked at — the wall itself, Mr. President — if you talk to your Border Patrol chief or the former Border Patrol chiefs, I’ve asked them, how much time does a wall buy you? They’ll say a couple minutes or a few seconds. And this is our own Border Patrol chiefs that have said that.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: It’s not mine. Mine has made clear the wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Not the ones I spoke to.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: They have not. The wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Not the ones I spoke to. They say, without the wall, we cannot have border security.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All right. Okay. Let me show you.
THE PRESIDENT: All you have to do is ask Israel. Look what happened with them.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: No, ask Yuma. Ask San Diego. The wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, without the wall, you can’t have it.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All right. Homeland Appropriations, your chief that was there, and the former chiefs have all said that.
Now, the other thing is —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they didn’t do a very good job.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Well, if you look at — this is where the wall — Mr. President, if you look at where the walls are at right now, this is where the activity is where the walls are at right now.
THE PRESIDENT: We have massive miles of area where people are pouring through. Now, one of the good things, because of our rhetoric or because of the perceived — you know, my perceived attitude — fewer people are trying to come through. That’s a great thing.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Right.
THE PRESIDENT: And therefore — I mean, our numbers have been fantastic, maybe for all the right reasons.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But let me just finish my thought. I want to ask you that — we’re playing — you saw the game last night. It was a good game last night.
THE PRESIDENT: I did. Very good game.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We’re playing defense on the one-yard line called the U.S. border. We spend over $18 billion a year on the border.
If we think about playing defense on the 20-yard line — if you look at what Mexico has done, they stop thousands of people on the southern border with Guatemala. We ought to be looking at working with them.
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, we stopped them. We stopped them. You know why? Mexico told me, the President told me, everybody tells me — not as many people are coming through their southern border because they don’t think they can get through our southern border and therefore they don’t come. That’s what happened with Mexico. We did Mexico a tremendous favor.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We actually put appropriations to help them with the southern border.
THE PRESIDENT: The point is — I know, we always give everybody — every other nation gets money except ours.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But finally —
THE PRESIDENT: We’re always looking for money. We give the money to other nations. That we have to stop.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But finally, the last point, Mr. President, is instead of playing defense on the one-yard line, if you look — this is your material — we know where the stash houses are at, we know where the hotels are at, we know where they cross the river —
THE PRESIDENT: Right. And we’re going after those.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Why stop — why play defense on the one-yard line called the U.S. —
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, we’re going after them like never before. We’re going after the stash houses —
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All I’m saying is, if we focus on DACA, we can work on the other things separately — on sensible border security, listen to the folks that are from the border, and we can work with the —
THE PRESIDENT: And you folks are going to have to — you’re one voice — you folks are going to have to come up with a solution.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: And if you do, I’m going to sign that solution.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: We have a lot of smart people in this room. Really smart people. We have a lot of people that are good people, big hearts. They want to get it done.
I think almost everybody — I can think of one or two I don’t particularly like, but that’s okay. (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Where is he looking?
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Who is he looking at? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I’m trying to figure that out. Everybody wants a solution. You want it, Henry.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir. I want to work with you on this.
THE PRESIDENT: I think we have a great group of people to sit down and get this done. In fact, when the media leaves, which I think should be probably pretty soon. (Laughter.) But I like — but I will tell you, I like opening it up to the media because I think they’re seeing, more than anything else, that we’re all very much on a similar page. We’re on the same page.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We are. We are.
THE PRESIDENT: And, Henry, I think we can really get something done.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: So why don’t we ask the media to leave. We appreciate you being here.
Q Is there any agreement without the wall?
THE PRESIDENT: No, there wouldn’t be. You need it. John, you need the wall. I mean, it’s wonderful — I’d love not to build the wall, but you need the wall.
And I will tell you this, the ICE officers and the Border Patrol agents — I had them just recently on — they say, if you don’t have the wall — you know, in certain areas, obviously, that aren’t protected by nature — if you don’t have the wall, you cannot have security. You just can’t have it. It doesn’t work.
And part of the problem we have is walls and fences that we currently have are in very bad shape. They’re broken. We have to get them fixed or rebuilt.
But, you know, you speak to the agents, and I spoke to all of them. I spoke — I lived with them. They endorsed me for President, which they’ve never done before — the Border Patrol agents and ICE. They both endorsed Trump.And they never did that before. And I have a great relationship with them. They say, sir, without the wall, security doesn’t work; we’re all wasting time.
Now, that doesn’t mean 2,000 miles of wall because you just don’t need that because of nature, because of mountains and rivers and lots of other things. But we need a certain portion of that border to have the wall. If we don’t have it, you can never have security. You could never stop that portion of drugs that comes through that area.
Yes, it comes through planes and lots of other ways and ships. But a lot of it comes through the southern border. You can never fix the situation without additional wall. And we have to fix existing wall that we already have.
Q So you would not be for what Senator Feinstein asked you, which would be a clean DACA bill that doesn’t —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think a clean DACA bill, to me, is a DACA bill where we take care of the 800,000 people. They are actually not necessarily young people; everyone talks about young — you know, they could be 40 years old, 41 years old, but they’re also 16 years old.
But I think, to me, a clean bill is a bill of DACA. We take care of them and we also take care of security. That’s very important.
And I think the Democrats want security too. I mean, we started off with Steny saying, we want security also. Everybody wants security. And then we can go to comprehensive later on, and maybe that is a longer subject and a bigger subject, and I think we can get that done too.
But we’ll get it done at a later date.
Yes, ma’am. Go ahead.
SENATOR HIRONO: Mr. President, I’m Senator Hirono from Hawaii.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I know.
SENATOR HIRONO: And as the only immigrant serving in the United States Senate right now, I would like nothing better than for us to get to comprehensive immigration reform. But what I’m hearing around the table right now is a commitment to resolving the DACA situation because there is a sense of urgency.
You have put it out there that you want $18 billion for a wall or else there will be no DACA. Is that still your position?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. I can build it for less, by the way.
SENATOR HIRONO: But you want that wall?
THE PRESIDENT: I must tell you, I’m looking at these prices. Somebody said $42 billion. This is like the aircraft carrier. It started off at a billion and a half, and it’s now at $18 billion.
No, we can do it for less. We can do a great job. We can do a great wall. But you need the wall. And I’m now getting involved. I like to build under budget, okay? I like to go under-budget, ahead of schedule.
There’s no reason for seven years, also. I heard the other day — please, don’t do that to me. (Laughter.) Seven years to build the wall. We can build the wall in one year, and we can build it for much less money than what they’re talking about. And any excess funds — and we’ll have a lot of — whether it’s a Wollman Rink or whether it’s any — I build under budget and I build ahead of schedule. There is no reason to ever mention seven years again, please. I heard that and I said — I wanted to come out with a major news conference, Tom, yesterday.
No. It can go up quickly, it can go up effectively, and we can fix a lot of the areas right now that are really satisfactory if we renovate those walls.
SENATOR HIRONO: And can you tell us how many miles of wall you’re contemplating? Whether it’s $17 million or $13 million or whatever is — can you tell us?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, we’re doing a study on that right now. But there are large areas where you don’t need a wall because you have a mountain and you have a river — you have a violent river — and you don’t need it. Okay?
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Senator, I’m happy to come visit you this week to walk you through the numbers.
Q I’m not the most politically astute person in the world, but it seems to me not much has actually changed here in terms of your position at this particular meeting.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think it’s changed. I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with. I am very much reliant on the people in this room. I know most of the people on both sides. I have a lot of respect for the people on both sides. And my — what I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with. I have great confidence in the people. If they come to me with things that I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it because I respect them.
Thank you all very much.
Q Think you could beat Oprah, by the way?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I’ll beat Oprah. Oprah would be a lot of fun. I know her very well. You know I did one of her last shows. She had Donald Trump — this is before politics — her last week. And she had Donald Trump and my family. It was very nice. No, I like Oprah. I don’t think she’s going to run. I don’t think she’s going to run. I know her very well.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, it’s phase two. I think comprehensive will be phase two. I think — I really agree with Dick. I think we get the one thing done and then we go into comprehensive the following day. I think it’ll happen.
Thank you all very much. I hope we’ve given you enough material. That should cover you for about two weeks. (Laughter.)
Federal Government Ends TPS Status for 16,200 Salvadorans and Thousands of Haitians and Nicaraguans Currently Living in NYS
Governor Directs NYS Department of State to Increase Resources Available to Communities Across New York
Residents Seeking Information and Legal Counsel Urged to Call New Americans Hotline: 1-800-566-7636
Office for New American Outreach Centers, Liberty Defense Project to Increase Outreach
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed the New York State Department of State to increase access to and offer additional resources for communities impacted by the Trump administration’s arbitrary decision to end Temporary Protected Status for individuals from El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua. Of the 114,127 Salvadorans currently living in New York State, 16,200 are TPS beneficiaries and will be impacted by the federal government’s decision to end TPS recognition for the country.
“After fleeing a horrific natural disaster, Salvadorans found safe haven on our shores and have called the U.S. home for more than a decade. They have worked hard, paid taxes, bought homes, and had families – all in an effort to achieve the American Dream,” Governor Cuomo said. “This federal administration’s decision to tear families apart, disrupt small businesses, and lead those who have become part of the American fabric to an uncertain future, is disgraceful and unjust. We will work day in and day out to connect with impacted New Yorkers and make sure they know their rights and legal options in order to help protect these hard-working men and women.”
Yesterday, the Trump Administration announced it was ending TPS recognition for Salvadorans living in the U.S., effective September 9, 2019. El Salvador residents had been granted TPS since 2001, when an earthquake devastated the Central American country. The decision to end TPS for Salvadorans follows the Trump administration’s recent termination of TPS recognition for Haiti, impacting 50,000 individuals nationwide, and Nicaragua, impacting 2,800 individuals nationwide.
Governor Cuomo has directed the New York State Office for New Americans and the Liberty Defense Project – both hosted by the New York State Department of State – to increase outreach and communication efforts to impacted residents and communities across the state to ensure they understand their rights and legal options.
Since 1990, the United States has offered TPS to immigrants from 10 countries that have experienced civil unrest, violence, a natural disaster or an epidemic. Those who are granted TPS – approximately 342,570 individuals across the nation – have the legal right to reside and work in the United States. El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras constitute the countries with the most TPS beneficiaries in the U.S.
U.S. Representative Yvette Clark of the 9th District, who recently sponsored legislation to let every person covered by TPS on Jan. 1, 2017 apply for permanent residency by proving before a judge that they would face extreme hardship if forced to return home, said, “Our nation has welcomed TPS beneficiaries who fled unexpected and, in some cases, deplorable circumstances in their home countries, and has given them opportunity to flourish here in the U.S. These hard-working men, women, and their children have embraced their new lives and have become a part of the fabric of our nation. Many are business owners, hairdressers, teachers, nurses, and doctors. They are our neighbors and friends. I applaud the Governor’s continued commitment to these individuals and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him in protecting our communities.”
Jose Calderon, President of Hispanic Federation, said, “By terminating the Temporary Protected Status program to Salvadorans, the Trump administration has turned its back on America’s promise to be a haven for those unable to safely return to their home country. Ending TPS will not make us richer or safer. Instead it will damage our economy irreparably, heartlessly break up families, and destabilize established communities (nearly one-third of TPS holders own homes in their communities). We stand with Governor Cuomo and call on Congress to rectify this grave injustice immediately by passing legislation that would provide permanent residency for long-time TPS holders.”
Additional Resources and the New Americans Hotline
Anyone impacted by the TPS decision may contact the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636. The toll-free, multilingual hotline provides live assistance in more than 200 languages. Anyone can call the hotline for information and referrals, regardless of citizenship or documented status. Calls to the hotline are confidential and anonymous. The hotline operates from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. (ET), Monday through Friday (excluding Federal holidays), and is managed by Catholic Charities Community Services.
The Office for New Americans’ 27 neighborhood-based Opportunity Centers, and lawyers specializing in immigration law and members of the Liberty Defense Project, will provide free up-to-date information and advice to TPS individuals from all affected countries and through individual consultations. The consultations can also provide guidance and screening for possible adjustment of immigration status.
To locate an Office for New Americans Opportunity Center, click here. To view the Office for New Americans Opportunity Centers Map, click here.
Upcoming Know Your Rights seminars and consultations will take place on the dates included below. Locations will be announced as soon as possible and made available through the hotline and online at: www.newamericans.ny.gov.
February 8 – Hispanic Federation and Make the Road New York
February 15 – Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights and Hispanic Federation
February 22 – Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow
The New York State Office for New Americans
Governor Cuomo established the Office for New Americans to assist newcomers to New York State who are eager to contribute to our economy and become part of the family of New York State. The New York State Office for New Americans helps New Americans fully participate in New York State civic and economic life.
The Office is committed to strengthening New York State’s welcoming environment for New Americans and facilitating their success by:
Creating a network of neighborhood-based “Opportunity” Centers;
Increasing access to English-for-Speakers-of-Other-Languages (ESOL) training;
Preparing New Americans for the naturalization process;
Connecting New Americans to business resources to harness their entrepreneurial spirit;
Developing and leveraging the professional skills of New Americans;
Strengthening the connections between New Americans and their communities through civic engagement and other opportunities;
Reduce exploitation of New Americans by scammers and con artists; and
Marshal State resources to better serve New Americans.
The New York State Liberty Defense Project
The Liberty Defense Project is the first-in-the-nation, state-led public-private project to assist immigrants, regardless of status, in obtaining access to legal services and process. In 2017, Governor Cuomo announced a historic $11.4 million investment in this project.
The Liberty Defense Project is administered by the state’s Office for New Americans and is run in partnership with law firms, legal associations, advocacy organizations, major colleges and universities, and bar associations.
The Liberty Defense Project provides:
Free legal consultations and screenings for immigrants throughout New York State;
Direct representation to immigrants in deportation proceedings as well as other cases;
Help with filing immigration applications for naturalization, employment authorization, permanent residency, etc.; and
Know Your Rights trainings for immigrants and community at large.
Angela Fernandez, Esq, Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said, “In light of the federal government’s termination of TPS for 277,000 El Salvadorians, we celebrate Governor Cuomo’s forethought in creating the Liberty Defense Program of the NYS Office of New Americans. The Liberty Defense Program allows organizations like ours, and other across the state, provide the highest quality immigration legal defense to those who are most disenfranchised. And in this case, it will mean the difference between being deported or being able to remain in the only country many TPS holders call home.”
Elise Damas, Lawyer for Central American Refugee Center, said, “The federal government’s decision to end TPS will be disastrous for our Salvadoran neighbors across New York State, but in the face of this injustice we must stand up and fight. New York State has always welcomed new Americans and we will not allow anti-immigrant sentiments in Washington to change that.”
“New York is a beacon for immigrant rights, and our legal partners are critical to protecting these populations,” New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said. “The Office for New Americans and the Liberty Defense Project stand ready to assist our diverse immigrant communities in navigating the drastic changes put forth by the federal government.”
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.)
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.
The incoming president of the United Nations General Assembly opened the 72nd Session declaring that priorities for the body was to come up with a global framework to address immigration, a treaty banning nuclear weapons, and further implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Miroslav Lajčák, a career diplomat from Slovakia, in his first address as President of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, said his tenure would be a “year of firsts” – the negotiation of the first intergovernmental compact on migration and the signing of the first agreement on the elimination of nuclear weapons – and called upon Member States to come together to help people striving for peace and a decent life.
Apart from being a year of “firsts”, he said, it would also a year of follow-up on maintaining the momentum in implementing and financing the Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring continued work on the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“Commitments from yesterday must become actions now,” he told the assembly. He added that the United Nations must be allowed to work “in a way as never before. The UN today is very different from [when it was established] in 1945 – reforming, evolving.
The work of the United Nations could often be complex, he said, but emphasized that the organization was created, first and foremost, for the people.
“The UN was created for people,” Lajčák told the assembled diplomats. “The people who need the UN the most are not sitting in this hall today. They are not involved in the negotiation of resolutions. They do not take the floor at high-level events. It is one of the tasks of the General Assembly to make sure that their voices can still be heard.”
Priorities for UN action, he said, are different “region by region, person to person. If you live where there are rising sea levels, climate change is your priority; if you are in fear of terrorism, counterterrorism is your priority, if you are suffering because of your beliefs, then human rights are your priority. I want to work to represent all of these viewpoints,” he said, saying he would seek “balance.”
In his opening remarks in which he welcomed the President of the General Assembly, Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the serious threats facing the world, “from the nuclear peril to global terrorism, from inequality to cybercrime. Hurricanes and floods around the world remind us that extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent and severe, due to climate change,” as well as the challenges posed by “irregular migration.”
“No country can meet these tests alone. But, if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course. And that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important,” he stated.
“People around the world are rightly demanding change and looking for governments and institutions to deliver,” he said. “We all agree that the United Nations must do even more to adapt and deliver. That is the aim of the reform proposals that this Assembly will consider.”
He added that one key change within and beyond the UN must be the empowerment of women and girls around the world, and highlighted his own roadmap for achieving gender parity.
He called for more female candidates to fill vacancies within the Organization, because gender parity would improve outcomes at the United Nations.
At a press availability immediately following the official opening of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, Lajčák answered a skeptical reporter’s question about immigration assertively: “It is not true there is no global framework,” he said. “We are in reactive mode. We need to respond globally – global governance….because in reality, immigration is here to stay.”
And in an earlier interview with UN News, Lajčák said, “The most important thing for me is to understand that what we do here is meant to improve the lives of people on this plane. We are not here because of ourselves and we are not here because of fighting over the text of resolutions. But these resolutions serve concrete purposes. So, let us not forget for a minute that we have to focus on people, on their lives and on their concerns. Second, to be representative, as we are or wish to be, we have to be open, we have to communicate with our partners, with the young generations, with media, with civic activists, and NGOs, and with the business community, so that we are really reflecting the hopes, needs and expectations of the world’s public.”
Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons
Despite a campaign to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons such as were used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki going back to the very beginning of the United Nations the General Assembly, the UN this year for the first time is taking up an agreement to prohibit the possession, development, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.
On July 7, 2017, 122 nations agreed (one voted against) – notably, the nine nations including the United States that already have nuclear weapons boycotted the proceedings. On September 20, a formal treaty will be presented for signature by the nations. . Fifty countries must sign and ratify the treaty for it to enter into force.
“The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents the total repudiation of nuclear deterrence by most of the states that don’t possess or rely on nuclear weapons,” United for Peace and Justice, UFPJ, stated. “But the US and the eight other nuclear-armed states boycotted the negotiations, along with Japan, Australia, South Korea and all but one of the 28 NATO member states (The Netherlands) – all countries under the US nuclear umbrella. In a joint statement following the vote, the US, France and the United Kingdom declared: “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to [the Treaty].” Meanwhile, nuclear tensions have risen to levels not seen for decades.
“While the Ban Treaty negotiations were taking place in the United Nations, two floors up in the same building, in an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the United States was threatening military action against North Korea, in response to its July 4 missile test.
“We must keep both realities – the promise of the Ban Treaty and growing dangers of nuclear war – fully in mind as we develop strategies to accomplish the urgent goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”
International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has once against declared September 26 an International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
“Achieving global nuclear disarmament is one of the oldest goals of the United Nations. It was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946. After general and complete disarmament first came onto the General Assembly’s agenda in 1959, nuclear disarmament has remained the most important and urgent objective of the United Nations in this field. Since 1975, it has been a prominent theme of the review conferences of States parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 1978, the General Assembly’s first Special Session on disarmament reaffirmed that effective measures for nuclear disarmament have the highest priority. And it has been supported by every United Nations Secretary-General,” the UN stated.
“Yet today, some 15,000 nuclear weapons remain. Countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernize their nuclear arsenals. More than half of the world’s population still lives in countries that either have such weapons or are members of nuclear alliances. As of 2016, while there have been major reductions in deployed nuclear weapons since the height of the Cold War, not one nuclear warhead has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty, bilateral or multilateral, and no nuclear disarmament negotiations are underway. Meanwhile, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence persists as an element in the security policies of all possessor states and their nuclear allies. This is so—despite growing concerns worldwide over the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of even a single nuclear weapon, let alone a regional or global nuclear war.
“These facts provide the foundation for the General Assembly’s designation of 26 September as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This Day provides an occasion for the world community to reaffirm its commitment to global nuclear disarmament as a high priority. It also provides an opportunity to educate the public—and their leaders—about the real benefits of eliminating such weapons, and the social and economic costs of perpetuating them. Commemorating this Day at the United Nations is especially important, given its universal membership and its long experience in grappling with nuclear disarmament issues. It is the right place to address one of humanity’s greatest challenges, achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
Donald Trump used the excuse of Attorneys General of anti-immigrant states threatening to sue if he did not end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA) by Sept. 5. Now Trump may well be sued by the states that uphold the American Dream, like New York. Here is statement from New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Governor Andrew Cuomo:
“President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program would be cruel, gratuitous, and devastating to tens of thousands of New Yorkers—and I will sue to protect them,” stated Attorney General Schneiderman. “Dreamers are Americans in every way. They played by the rules. They pay their taxes. And they’ve earned the right to stay in the only home they have ever known. More than 40,000 New Yorkers are protected under DACA. They pay more than $140 million in state and local taxes. They are vital members of our community. The poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty—written by the descendant of early Jewish immigrants—promises this nation will “lift its lamp” for the huddled masses. New York will never break that promise. And neither will my office.”
“Recent reports indicate that President Trump will be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “If he moves forward with this cruel action, New York State will sue to protect the ‘dreamers’ and the state’s sovereign interest in the fair and equal application of the law. Ending this policy represents an assault on the values that built this state and this nation. The President’s action would upend the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who have only ever called America their home, including roughly 42,000 New Yorkers. It will rip families apart, sow havoc in our communities and force innocent people—our neighbors, our friends, and our relatives—to live in fear.
“We should not and cannot sit on the sidelines and watch the lives of these young people ruined. We have both a legal and moral obligation to make sure that the laws are faithfully executed without discrimination or animus. In New York, we are stepping up to protect immigrants. This year, we launched the first in the nation Liberty Defense Project to ensure all immigrants have access to quality legal representation, regardless of their status. New Yorkers know that we are a nation of immigrants. If there is a move to deport immigrants, then I say start with me. I come from a family of immigrants who came to this country without jobs, without money, without resources—seeking only the promise of America embodied by the Lady in our Harbor. New York has and will continue to raise the torch of hope and opportunity, not fear, and we open our arms to all who want to join our community.”
Meanwhile Trump, who as any bully delights in being able to make powerless people fearful and anxious, like any bully, did not have the courage to speak out himself, but send Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a rabid anti-immigration activist, to give a litany of lies to justify ending DACA, such as that the 800,000 who qualified take jobs from other Americans, or that the program, instituted by President Barack Obama by executive order because the House refused to take up the comprehensive immigration reform bill that had passed the Senate, was unconstitutional. In fact, Obama, as president, had the authority to prioritize which undocumented immigrants would be deported. Indeed, Trump asserts even wider power over immigration in insisting on his truly unconstitutional Travel Ban.
But Trump has actually handed the Republican Congress a gimmee: by giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix, he is handing them a gold-plated opportunity to achieve something that is wildly popular before year-end, which the Republicans can use to run on and save their majority in the 2018 mid-term elections.
This is a statement from the Office of Barack Obama:
Immigration can be a controversial topic. We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules.
But that’s not what the action that the White House took today is about. This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.
Over the years, politicians of both parties have worked together to write legislation that would have told these young people – our young people – that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here a certain number of years, and if you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, then you’ll get a chance to stay and earn your citizenship. And for years while I was President, I asked Congress to send me such a bill.
That bill never came. And because it made no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know solely because of the actions of their parents, my administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country. We did so based on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, because our immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, and it makes sense to focus those resources on those who come illegally to this country to do us harm. Deportations of criminals went up. Some 800,000 young people stepped forward, met rigorous requirements, and went through background checks. And America grew stronger as a result.
But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?
Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages.
It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today. And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it’s up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future. I’m heartened by those who’ve suggested that they should. And I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel.
Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.
What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals – that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union.
Tom Suozzi’s town hall, his first as the Congressman representing New York’s 3rd District, was Standing Room Only, but he handled it with grace and aplomb, managing to organize what could have been an unruly outpouring of frustration, consternation, anger and anxiety into a productive discussion.
He presented the four key issues he believed most people wanted to discuss – Obamacare (Affordable Care Act), Trump-Putin ties and conflicts of interest, the travel ban, immigration and the environment – then held it up to a vote to ask if that met with approval. Then he picked four or five people to ask questions before moving on to the next topic.
Who wants to stay until 8:30? 9:15? 9:30? All night? 9:30 was the decision.
That’s how it went throughout the night with a return to key points: this is what democracy looks like. Let’s be realistic: I’m a junior Congressman from a minority party. And finally: it is up to you. Your voice. Your activism.
Most ingenious of all: he divided up his 3rd Congressional district into 16 neighborhoods – “The Third Will be Heard” – and tried to recruit people to join committees to stay active – write letters to local newspapers (the media with the most trust, he said), go door to door if necessary, engage in conversations with friends, family and others, instead of that old-saw of politics being a taboo subject.
Whenever someone introduced themselves as an expert – such as the scientist with Feinstein Institute who is a member of a newly formed Science Advocacy of Long Island (who have much to be concerned with as the Trump Administration destroys data on climate change and looks to shut down NASA’s Climate monitoring activities) – he would recruit them onto the committee. The high school fellow too young to vote whose friends are completely apathetic? You’re recruited. Get your friends engaged.
“Take that energy, that excitement and use it in a constructive forum to win the battle,” he said.
With the debate swirling over whether Democrats should be as obstructionist as the Republicans were during Obama’s presidency, Suozzi clearly appreciates that “politics is the art of the possible” (as Hillary Clinton said, much to the consternation of the Bernie Sanders ultra-left progressives who likely were among the 92 million voters who did not come out and vote, handing the reins of power and policy to the exact opposite of Obama/Clinton).
Indeed, Suozzi as Congressman is functioning exactly as he said he would during the campaign: as someone who prefers to find common ground in order to accomplish something.
He told the packed audience that filled the room to capacity that he is a member of a newly formed (can you imagine?) Problem Solvers Caucus, consisting of 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats. They are trying to find some consensus on issues such as infrastructure and tax reform (good luck with that).
Interestingly, when Suozzi asked for a show of hands of people who had never been politically engaged before, an estimates 40% of the room raised hands.
Some of the questions and comments were extremely moving: the woman whose husband is being treated, thanks to Obamacare, for cancer “he’s on the verge of being cured, but if Obamacare is repealed, he would have a preexisting condition”; the son whose father has advanced Parkinsons, who lost his job and if Obamacare is repealed, faces the dilemma of providing quality of life for the father or the family.
A woman speaking haltingly because of her disability, fearful of proposals to cut Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security and instead to send money to states to use as a block grant, a fear echoed by parents and of siblings of disabled people, who declared “I’m tired of people characterizing us as lazy”.
An immigrant man whose college-age son can’t get an internship because of his status; the woman who migrated from India 28 years ago as a 15 year old, who described the “extreme vetting” then, which has only gotten more intense under Obama; and people who asked what can be done to alleviate the anxiety in their communities over sweeps.
Suozzi noted that as Glen Cove Mayor he fought against having local police become defacto ICE agents because of the importance of the community having trust in its government and law enforcement and the value of “community policing”.
He also acknowledged when someone brought up something that he was not aware of – like the problem with a local pre-school that serves special needs children which has to negotiate individually for grants from state and county government, and has seen only a 2% increase in funding over the last six years.
“The Third Will be Heard”
Suozzi did not disguise the surprise at the turnout, noting that in his years as an elected official (Mayor, Nassau County Supervisor) well accustomed to holding town halls, he has never seen anything like this.
He asked what groups were represented: a number were newly formed in response to Trump’s election including several Indivisible groups, who came with pre-printed signs “Agree”, “Disagree” (an effective mechanism to communicate with the Congressman. Others included Reach Out America, Moveon.Org, Science Advocacy of Long Island, Long Island Together, Every Child Matters, Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, 10100, NY Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, NOW of Nassau-Suffolk, Code Pink Long Island, Long Island OptOut, Huntington Democrats, among others.
One of reasons Democrats lost is because they didn’t mobilize locally, he said, which is why he hopes to try to keep the energy going, and why he kept going back to the need for the people to get the change they want.
He started off with some of his own comments:
Travel Ban? We are less safe, he said, and putting the ramifications of the Muslim ban and curtailment of immigrants and refugees, he said. “There are 80,000 people worldwide in organized terror groups. There are 65 million refugees, due to climate change, civil war, feminism. This is a nation of immigrants, a nation dedicated to two propositions: all men and women are created equal and entitled to respect and dignity.”
The enhanced sweeps of undocumented immigrants (unfurled in a way that shows the lie of only going after the “bad hombres”) “makes us less safe when communities distrust their local police force. People turn to gangs for protection when they are afraid of law enforcement.”
He was asked about the Stop Arming Terrorists Act that Tulsi Gabbard has proposed. “I have to research further,” he said honestly, adding, “It’s true the US funded Osama bin Ladin against the Russians, and Saddam Hussein, and funded the Syrian regime before, and we are still funding the Saudis who fund terror groups. We did it to have access to oil.
“But, for the first time 50 years we are not dependent on oil from the Mideast. This is an opportunity that is not likely to be seized on by the Trump Administration.”
Had Trump not reversed all the Obama policies that bolstered homegrown, clean renewable energy, the US could have said to these dictators, “We don’t want your land your oil. But we need to move more to clean energy to make this happen.” (Trump, in his speech to the CIA the day after the inauguration, as the Women’s March was going past the White House, said that he thought we would have a second chance at taking Iraq’s oil, because he had been taught that “to the victor belongs the spoils.”)
Obamacare: Mend It Don’t End It
On the first topic, Obamacare, a man said he was walking proof of the problems, because his wife suffers from cancer, and over the past two years, one insurance company after another pulled out, until the hospital where his wife was being treated said they would not treat her because there was no carrier in the exchange. Now, his wife has a pre-existing condition.
Suozzi said, “There are problems with ACA. But we need to mend it, not end it.” He said he supported single-payer (essentially Medicare for All), but that wasn’t possible under Obama, who instead bent over backwards, even picking up on the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s model that preserved for-profit health insurance companies as the intermediary for obtaining health care which had been put into place in Massachusetts under Governor Romney. Obama was unable to get a public option. But even after bending over backwards to accommodate Republicans, not a single one voted in favor of ACA, but instead, spent six years voting 60 times to repeal it, even forcing a government shut down.
People raised concern about the proposal to tax people differently for health care based on age, not income, a scheme to cut $216 billion in spending ; of capping how much employers give to employees for health insurance which then would be taxed as income.
“It’s time to get out the Uzzi and go after Price [the new Secretary of Health & Human Services, whose 2015 bill repealing Obamacare is the most likely model]. Go after Republicans for raising taxes.”
A young man described how his father had advanced Parkinsons and then was laid off and lost his health insurance. Now he has a pre-existing condition. Repealing Obamacare, he said, “would force our family to choose between my father’s well-being and our family’s.”
Suozzi responded, “This is real life, the devastating effect of repealing Obamacare.”
Turning next to the Trump-Putin and conflicts of interest topic, Suozzi said he would support a bill to require Trump to release his taxes, and would support an independent (not just bipartisan) commission to investigate his ties to Russia and possible collusion of his campaign with Russian agents to swing the election.
“This is why you are so important,” he said. “I don’t want you to understate what you are doing. It’s working. We need reasonable Americans to put country ahead of party. Since McCarthy, Republicans have tried to paint Democrats as unpatriotic. This is a generational opportunity to change that dynamic.”
Travel Ban: Guns Kill, Not Refugees
A man noted that none of the 7 countries under Trump’s ban has had anything to do with terrorism in the US since 1975 (on the other hand, terrorist acts were committed by people from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and none of these were included in the ban), using the premise of public safety. But 34,000 people are killed each year by gun violence.
“Guns kill, not refugees,” a woman said.
Suozzi said that even when he brought together gun rights advocates with gun control advocates, there was general consensus on the need for universal background checks (instead, the Republicans just overturned Obama’s requirement for mentally ill people receiving services from Social Security to be included in the database). The reason there is no commonsense gun regulation is the same that reasonable health care is blocked: moneyed interests. “It’s always about the money.”
But the focus on Trump’s use of fear and under the guise of “national security” push through anti-democratic policies (such as his threat to “send in the feds” to Chicago and use military precision to round up undocumented immigrants with expedited review so that their cases are not properly adjudicated, his attacks on free press and an independent judiciary and reestablish private prisons) prompted a woman to remark, “Be afraid. The America you know won’t exist in 15 years. Republics disappear. Commitment is important. We should be afraid that America will slip away from us, we must persevere.”
This raised the issue of campaign finance reform and gerrymandering and voter suppression. Suozzi confessed his inability to significantly change any of that, but that it is up to the people to get people out to vote, which is another compelling reason for his neighborhood-based activism. He said his office would be engaged in voter registration campaign.
Rachel Carcalelli of Great Neck Plaza, an environmentalist, noted that Superstorm Sandy cost $75 billion. “We need to rebuild infrastructure in sustainable ways – public transportation, water systems, renewable energy, sanitation.”
Instead, Nassau County will see $6.5 million cut in bus service.
In each case, Suozzi went back to his go-to – that people need to stay active and engaged, to join his neighborhood teams in order to spread the word.
Challenged by a Sanders supporter to reject everything the Republicans propose, Suozzi said, “I’ve been in politics 20 years. I won a lot, lost a few. JFK described himself as an idealist without illusions. I’m not a sucker. I still believe in this country, the power of people. Politics is a noble profession. I will remain an idealist as long as I can, but with eyes wide open.”
A woman noted that many in the audience “are new to politics, to this forum” and might be helped to have more realistic expectations of what Suozzi and the Democratic party, being essentially powerless in the House, can achieve.
Indeed, Suozzi offered a dose of reality to many of the speakers, such as when he was asked to solve the eons old problem of campaign finance reform and gerrymandering. “Nice idea but it’s not realistic for junior member in minority party,” he told one speaker. “All the stuff coming over transom – there’s no free time.” He listed what he is engaged in so far: foreign affairs committee, armed services committee,. “I want to focus on important things in the district- the Northport VA, the North Shore plume (the Navy and Grumman are the responsible parties to clean up a 40-year old site estimated at $500 million to clean up); airport noise in northeastern queens, two major research centers (Cold Spring and the Feinstein Institute), a Coast Guard facility. I decided to make the Problem Solvers Caucus one of my big focuses –if I could get Republicans interested in campaign finance reform and gerrymandering.”
The youngest speaker of the evening, Zachary, about seven years old, stood on a chair to say, “Impeach Trump. He’s messed up. How did we get into this mess?”
One of the older speakers of the evening, Harry Arlin, wearing an Army baseball cap, said, “I lived briefly under Hitler, had to run; lived under Mussolini and was incarcerated, then under Stalin and had to flee… Now I am living under Trump. Impeach Trump. I’m too old to run again.”
Though the issue of the alarming increase in anti-Semitic incidents across the country since Trump’s election was not specifically raised in this Long Island community with a significant Jewish population, Suozzi acknowledged at one point that the town hall was being held in a Jewish Community Center in Plainview, and JCCs have received over 50 bomb threats in recent weeks.
Suozzi periodically would stop and poll the audience again to get their sense of whether to move on to the next topic. It was remarkable to see how he could actually offer a wide opportunity for people to air grievances, questions, comments in such a large and energized group and have something constructive come out of it: namely, a better understanding of issues and concerns, and also to gauge where constituents are on these key issues.
It wasn’t even close: the 3rd Congressional district wants to retain and improve Obamacare, overturn the travel ban but okay to vet, end the terror and insecurity in immigrant communities and provide a path to some kind of legal status, protect the environment, protect the integrity of the election from foreign influence while protecting the ability of people to cast their ballot.
Gabby Giffords Mocks Republicans Dodging Town Halls
Suozzi’s town hall was very different from what many Republican Congressmen are experiencing around the country – Long Island’s Peter King didn’t even hold one during this President’s Week when traditionally Congress members return to their districts to hear from constituents. Trump and his sycophants have accused those coming out in force to protest the repeal of Obamacare as “paid liberal activists” or, as Trump told CPAC, “the losing side” (neglecting to mention there were 65 million voters, three million more than his side).
And ironically, many of the Republicans are citing fear of their constituents as the reason, prompting Gabby Giffords, who was a Congresswoman until she was shot in the head while holding a public availability at a shopping center in Tucson, to write:
“As a member of Congress, I believed that listening to my constituents was the most basic and core tenet of the job I was hired to do. So I was a little surprised yesterday to hear Congressman Louie Gohmert invoke my shooting as a reason not to face his constituents at a public town hall.
“I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning my offices were open to the public. Ron Barber – at my side that Saturday, who was shot multiple times, then elected to Congress in my stead – held town halls. It’s what the people deserve in a representative.
“So to Congressman Gohmert and others who are abandoning their civic obligations, I say this: Have a little courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls.
“Many of the members of Congress who are refusing to hold town halls and listen to their constituents’ concerns are the very same politicians that have opposed commonsense gun violence prevention policies and have allowed the Washington gun lobby to threaten the safety of law enforcement and everyday citizens in our schools, businesses, places of worship, airports, and movie theaters.
“In the past year, campaigning for gun safety, I have held over 50 public events. And if I am still willing to do it, they should be too.”
In one stroke of his pen, Trump overturned and violated foundational American principles and values enshrined in the Constitution that bars favor or disfavor for any religion, that guarantees due process of law and that every person deserves equal justice under law. His ban on travel, immigration and refugee asylum goes against American history and heritage as a nation built by immigrants, many who came as refugees fleeing war and persecution. It ignores the many instances in American history when government violated its own principles, such as its original sins, the genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of Africans, going on to the Chinese Expulsion, the Japanese internment, the ramifications of turning back boatloads of Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust. Trump would like to go back to those bad ol’ days.
And he did it on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Note: Trump’s statement released on Friday failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism, clearly the imprint of White Nationalist Steve Bannon, Trump’s key advisor.)
Trump, through his dismissive foreign policy tweets concerning NATO, nuclear weapons, climate change, indeed his entire America First policy – reinforced by the new UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in a defiant, “You have our back or we’re taking names” threat; his trade war launched with Mexico which likely will spread to China and others, his stance to pull the US out of global climate action – will turn the US into a pariah among nations, opening the way for China to step up influence in Mexico (a Pacific nation), and Africa, and Russia in the Middle East and Eastern Europe (after all, who will stop Putin’s push to establish a new Soviet Empire?).
The immoral, unconstitutional, anti-American, and ultimately self-destructive impacts of Trump’s Muslim Ban will not make the United States safer, but rather feeds into radical Jihadists’ war cry against the Crusader West, not to mention the misery, anxiety it has imposed on thousands of immigrants and refugees who have already suffered the terror of war and the trauma of leaving homelands, sending them back into dangerous and desperate circumstance.
The callous disregard for the toll on humans because of the horrendous way the order was rolled out – making the first two weeks of the Obamacare roll out look like the 1969 moon landing – gives proof to the lie of Trump as a “businessman” rather than King of Debt who drove his businesses into the ground, while screwing the workers and contractors, and raises real terror than he will in fact run the country as he ran his businesses.
There has been superb reporting on the individuals caught in Trump’s limbo. But I want to focus on the economic and social impacts of undermining travel and tourism, reviving anti-Americanism abroad and undermining the appeal of the United States as a destination.
Trump, with an America First philosophy, says he wants to expand economy and jobs, lower the trade deficit, but his policies already are guaranteed to damage one of the nation’s most vigorous, reliable engines of economic growth, jobs and social mobility, lifting minorities and women into the middle class, not to mention international goodwill: international travel.
Indeed, tourism is part of trade. Travelers coming into the United States are an “import,” and the dollars spent here go a long way to reducing the trade deficit. How much? According to the US Travel Association, travel and tourism generates $2.1 trillion in economic output (2.7% of GDP) from domestic and international visitors (includes $927.9 billion in direct travel expenditures that spurred an additional $1.2 trillion in other industries through a ripple effect). Travel expenditures support 15 million jobs (8 million directly); account for $221.7 billion in wages, and generate $141.5 billion in tax revenues to federal, state and local governments, levels that increased significantly over the past eight years, helping to lift the nation out of the Great Recession.
Just as Trump unleashed his ban – catching up people who were already in transit, many after years of vetting, and even green card holders and legal residents who happened to be traveling outside US – I was at the Javits Center for the New York Times Travel Show, a stunning gathering of travel suppliers and representatives from around the world and people who sell travel and value travel.
I stopped at a booth of an operator who organizes trips to Iran (earlier, Iran was cited as one of the “hot” new destinations for Americans, along with Cuba). In response to Trump’s ban on all arrivals from Iran, Iran retaliated with a ban on Americans coming in (Iraq is now talking about expelling Americans, where we have some 5,000 troops, already primed to hate Americans after Trump told the CIA he would like a “second chance at getting Iraq’s Oil” after all, “to the victor belong the spoils.”).
Cuba is another destination that Americans have been flocking to since Obama normalized relations and eased travel restrictions – a way to succeed where 50 years of isolation have failed, to introduce a taste for democracy to Cubans living under a Communist dictatorship. Now that is up in the air.
“If [Trump] makes it look like Mexico is the enemy, people will stop traveling to the enemy,” Alejandro Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group said on a “State of the Travel Industry” panel. “That would hurt us badly, but it would also hurt the United States. Most importantly, it would hurt the humanity and the morals and the principles of the United States.”
Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, a travel agency company, noted that on a trip to Mexico recently, he found Mexicans who normally take ski vacations in Aspen and Vail are going to Vancouver, Canada, instead.
The 20% tariff that Trump proposes against Mexico (which would be paid for by American consumers, not Mexico), the second largest trading partner with the US which supports 6 million US jobs, will likely be retaliated with a tariff on American goods, making them more expensive and unaffordable for Mexicans, whose economy will likely be devastated (already the currency is taking a hit), and further destabilizing the country.
Trump’s domestic and foreign policies have a singular theme: disruption and destabilization. And he doesn’t care who is killed or how many suffer. A bully takes pleasure out of terrorizing vulnerable people.
In just his first few days occupying the Oval Office, Trump has managed to overturn the goodwill, and foment anti-Americanism. A travel insurance company actually came out with an alert to travelers to be more aware. The headline: “What to Be Aware of When Traveling in the Apocalypse; APRIL Outlines Simple Precautions for Traveling in a Post-Trump World”
“It’s not our role to influence or pass judgment on the political process in America, but regardless of personal opinions on Trump’s presidency, travel counselors recall the anti-American sentiments prevalent during the George W. Bush administration. They are therefore cognizant of shifting perceptions of Americans internationally,” explained Jason Schreier, CEO of APRIL USA.
“Vacationing is a staple of American society and one of the primary ways Americans enrich themselves culturally. World events should not deter one from traveling, but vacationers need to be aware of their vulnerabilities and protect themselves accordingly.” Sad.
The value of international tourism goes beyond economic growth, jobs and tax receipts, though these are vitally important – but in essence literally brings peoples together. American travelers are unofficial ambassadors of American values and ideas, fostering good will. In the same vein, Americans who meet people face to face, where they are no longer “others” to be feared, but rather seen as human beings more similar than different. Travelers are the first line of diplomacy, the first line or promoting peace and cooperation.
President Obama understood this, which is why he encouraged young people to study, work and travel abroad and created mechanisms to help them find opportunities to do that; why he encouraged foreign students to attend our schools, to foster people-to-people exchanges, and why he eased restrictions on travel to Cuba.
Trump’s ill-conceived and executed travel & immigration ban is heinous (the chaoic, dysfunctional way it was rolled out – without even consulting his new Defense and Homeland Security Secretaries, without instruction to Customs and Border Patrol agents, making the roll out of Obamacare look like the 1969 Moon Landing), a violation of law (due process, religious freedom) and American values and morals. And though Trump justifies it as keeping Americans safe, it is not designed to do that – none of the 7 countries that are banned have ever been connected to terrorism on US soil, while the countries that have (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan) were not part of this ban. Not to mention that his wall along the Mexico border (where hysterical rightwing conspiracy theorists have said that ISIS has infiltrated) would do nothing to block the actual war-weary refugees that welcoming Canada has taken in.
Trump excuses his callous and grotesque policy as “extr-e-e-e-me vetting.” But these refugees already go through batteries of screening – at least 18 federal agencies – in an intensive process that takes years. And through all of this, Trump has not actually said what he would add to the process to make it more secure. The fact is, none of the refugees that have come through the process set out by the Obama Administration have had anything to do with terrorism in the US. What is happening in Europe, with the flood of hundreds of thousands of refugees that flowed through the continent, has nothing to do with what is happening in the US.
Trump’s America First foreign policies (trade, climate action, weakening NATO for example) are intended to isolate the United States, to put up our own Iron Curtain, our own Bamboo Curtain so that an autocrat can keep its people in darkness, ignorance, fear and insecurity and therefore malleable and controllable, which is what dictators and autocrats like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, and the Iranian Ayotollahs.
“President Trump’s travel ban on Iranians is a gift to the Islamic republic and its hard-line rulers,” writes Hadi Ghaemi, founder and executive director of the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in the Washington Post. “It will not deter terrorism on U.S. soil. Not a single terrorist involved in the 9/11 attacks or other fatal terrorist attacks in the United States since then has been of Iranian origin. Instead, Trump’s policy is a collective punishment of a diverse and changing nationality, and will ironically serve the purposes of Iran’s hard-line rulers.”
As for terror, let’s compare the number of Americans killed on American soil as overt acts of radical jihadist terrorism (as opposed to domestic terrorism, such as anti-abortion, anti-Muslims) including the Boston Marathon, San Bernadino and Orlando: there have been 15 deaths since 9/11, compared to 445,000 killed by gun violence on US soil. Toddlers are more lethal than terrorists, killing one person a week.
As for the number of foreign infiltrators, immigrants or refugees who participated in terror attacks in the US? The Washington Post reporting on a study by nonpartisan think tank New America Foundation, of 400 individuals charged with or credibly involved in jihad-inspired activity in the U.S. since 9/11 2001, 197 were U.S.-born citizens, 82 were naturalized citizens, and 44 were permanent residents; just 11 were on a non-immigrant visa, 8 were illegal immigrants, and 12 had refugee status.
Indeed, the United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany are among the countries that issued travel advisories against travel to the US over concerns about epidemic gun violence, mass shootings, police violence, as well as anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT attitudes and the Zika virus.
Tina Müller, 54, of Berlin, was quoted in USA Today (“Overseas Travel Warnings about USA Mount”) saying she had no plans to visit the US anytime soon, “They need to get rid of their guns. It would solve a lot of their problems. We have racism and prejudice in Europe, but we don’t have mass shootings and violence on that level.”
Yet Trump bases an unconstitutional ban on refugees, immigrants, green card and visa holders on a slogan of “protecting the safety of Americans”. But if he cared that much for Americans’ health, welfare, national security and safety, he would be signing executive orders for sensible gun restrictions starting with “No Fly, No Buy,” and smart-guns, instead of proposing a “Guns Everywhere” policy; he would be expanding the public option instead of repealing the Affordable Care Act to save tens of thousands of premature, needless death and suffering, and spending money to create vaccines against Zika and Ebola; and he would be expanding trade instead of putting up barriers and launching trade wars, to uplift people around the world from deprivation and poverty rather than exacerbating destabilizing income inequality.
Trump has demonstrated that he intends to rule as he campaigned, by stoking fear and terror and insecurity. That may well serve another goal: keeping Americans insulated from the world so they are kept in darkness and ignorance and malleable to his policies.
That is not a recipe to “Make America Great Again,” nor keeping Americans safe. That is a recipe for widening violence and terror as well as economic insecurity. There will be a domino effect, through the global economy, just as the US mortgage crisis triggered a global meltdown, starting with retaliatory policies such as trade tariffs and travel bans.
The anti-globalism, anti-trade isolationism implicit in Trump’s populism is quite frightening. The undermining of global institutions which effectively prevented World War III – the United Nations, European Union, NATO, even the international cooperation in outer space – edges us closer to the existential apocalypse given the technological capacity in the control of a single person.
New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of a confidential toll-free hotline for New Yorkers to report family members, relatives, friends or colleagues believed to be passengers on flights coming into the state, but are missing or believed to be detained. The toll-free hotline, 1-888-769-7243, bolsters the state’s efforts to protect the rights of New Yorkers, their families and loved ones and allows those left in extremely vulnerable situations to notify the Department of State. The Governor made the announcement at a press conference in New York City. “As New Yorkers who live in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, we welcome new immigrants as a source of energy and celebrate them as a source of revitalization for our state,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will ensure New York remains a beacon of hope and opportunity and will work to protect the rights of those seeking refuge in our state.” New Yorkers who have experienced issues relating to love ones who are detained, missing, or travel restricted as a result of recent federal actions are encouraged to call the Department’s toll-free hotline at 1-888-769-7243. The hotline will be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will offer translation services.
The launch of this hotline follows action the Governor took yesterday regarding refugees who were detained at airports across the state. The Governor directed the Port Authority, the Department of State, and his Counsel’s Office to jointly explore all legal options to assist anyone detained at New York airports, and ensure that the rights of refugees are protected under the law. The Governor also recently launched the formation of a New York State Hate Crime Task Force with members from the New York State Police and the New York State Division of Human Rights, to investigate hate crimes and conduct community outreach to educate New Yorkers of their rights. The Task Force will also coordinate with local District Attorneys to provide necessary support during the prosecution of hate crime cases. Some of the investigators have already been involved in the investigation of recent reported hate crimes including swastikas found in different parts of the state.
In addition, the Governor announced earlier this month the formation of a new Interfaith Advisory Council, led by Cardinal Dolan, to help achieve a greater understanding and tolerance of all religions and cultures, promote open-mindedness and inclusivity, and bolster the state’s efforts to protect all New Yorkers.