Category Archives: Immigration-Migration-Refugees

VP Joe Biden on World Refugee Day: ‘Recommit to Building a More Inclusive and Welcoming America’

Families Belong Together Immigration Protest, NYC, June 30, 2018. On World Refugee Day, Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, issued this statement attacking the “fear-mongering, xenophobia and racism” as the “unabashed tenets of Trump’s refugee and immigration policy, and promised to “recommit to building a more inclusive and welcoming America. That’s how we will restore the soul of our nation.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On World Refugee Day, Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, issued this statement attacking the “fear-mongering, xenophobia and racism” as the “unabashed tenets of Trump’s refugee and immigration policy, and promised to “recommit to building a more inclusive and welcoming America. That’s how we will restore the soul of our nation.”

Here is his statement:

World Refugee Day is the time when all nations recognize the humanity and resilience of the millions of people forced from their homes by persecution, war, and violence and renew our commitment to protect the most vulnerable. The United States has always strived to serve as a beacon of hope — a role model in resettling refugees and leading the humanitarian response abroad. But today is also a bitter reminder of how Donald Trump has tried to change America from a nation of refuge and liberty to one of division and intolerance.
 
Fear-mongering, xenophobia, and racism are the unabashed tenets of Trump’s refugee and immigration policy, and his divisive, dangerous, and undemocratic response to Black Lives Matter is a reminder of this administration’s devaluation of Black, Brown, and other minority communities not only in the United States, but around the world. But we will not, and we cannot, allow hate and rage to divide us further. Decades ago, giants of the civil rights movement like Bayard Rustin recognized the universal fight for freedom and safety and urged the United States to accept more refugees. Their call is even more urgent today as the number of those forcibly displaced worldwide reaches nearly 80 million people worldwide — roughly 1 percent of humanity. 
 
Donald Trump has made clear that he does not believe our country should be a place of refuge. He has slashed refugee admissions by more than 80 percent and, just this past week, released an immoral and likely unlawful rule that makes it nearly impossible for most asylum-seekers to qualify for protection in the United States . He has cruelly separated thousands of children from their parents, sought to prevent victims of gang and domestic violence from receiving asylum, and severely limited the ability of members of the LGBTQ+ community, an especially vulnerable group in many parts of the world, from qualifying for asylum.

And he has turned his back on the men and women who served honorably alongside our soldiers, diplomats, and aid workers in Iraq and Afghanistan as interpreters and guides, and now find that their lives, and the lives of their families, are threatened for this service. This cannot stand. As one of the co-sponsors of the 1980 Refugee Act, I believe that resettling refugees helps reunite families, enriches the fabric of America, and enhances our standing, influence, and security in the world. Right now, many refugees are also working on the frontlines of the pandemic response, as nursing aides, doctors, meatpackers, and grocery clerks, among other essential workers.
 
Restoring America’s historic role as leader in resettlement and defending the rights of refugees everywhere will take concrete action.

As President, I will increase the number of refugees we welcome into this country, setting an annual global refugee target of 125,000 — up from a ceiling of 18,000 under Trump — and will seek to further raise it over time commensurate with our responsibility, our values, and the unprecedented global need.

I will support efforts to work with Congress in a bipartisan fashion to protect our refugee policy from drastic and arbitrary reductions we have seen during the Trump Administration and establish a minimum admissions number of at least 95,000 refugees annually.

I will pursue policies that increase opportunities for faith and local communities to sponsor refugee resettlement.

I will make more channels, such as higher education visas, available to those seeking safety. I will repeal the Muslim ban — and other discriminatory bans based on ethnicity and nationality — and restore asylum laws, including ending the horrific practice of separating families at our border.

I will work with our allies and partners to stand against China’s assault on Hong Kong’s freedoms and mass detention and repression of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities and support a pathway for those persecuted to find safe haven in the United States and other nations. 
 
I also recognize that it is not enough to simply reverse or dismantle the heartless policies of the Trump Administration. We need to look for ways to do better. On this World Refugee Day, we all must stand together and recommit to building a more inclusive and welcoming America. That’s how we will restore the soul of our nation.

Democratic Race for 2020: Warren Offers Plan for Justice for Border Communities

Senator Elizabeth Warren, at a rally in Brooklyn with Julian Castro, released her plan for Justice for Border Communities © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats running for president has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan for Justice for Border Communities – a stark contrast to what Trump has done to punish asylum seekers, separating children from their parents, and most recently, using the coronavirus pandemic to raise the prospect of shutting the border to Mexico entirely.

“Our border region is made up of multinational, multicultural, economically vibrant communities that reflect the best of what our country can be. From affordable housing to investing in small businesses to stopping Trump’s monument to hate, we can make big, structural change to promote accountability, opportunity, and prosperity at the border,” Senator Warren stated.

This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren, running for president, released her plan to ensure accountability in our border communities by rolling back the Trump administration’s incessant militarization, immediately stopping the construction of Trump’s wall on the border between Mexico and the United States, creating a fair and welcoming immigration system, and respecting the rights of people and our fragile border ecosystem.
 
She will also work to build a 21st century border economy by boosting small businesses, growing access to financial services, closing the digital divide, uplifting labor and environmental protections through trade, and developing the green workforce of the future.
 
Some new proposals in her plan include:

In her first 100 days, she will convene a borderlands summit, bringing together federal, state, and local representatives, Tribal Nations, members of the business community, community organizations and stakeholders to undo the harm of the Trump administration and create more prosperity in the region.

She will create a new position in the White House that serves as an advisor to the president on border communities. This person will direct an Interagency Task Force on Border Community Prosperity and coordinate the entire federal government’s investment in our border communities.

She will end Trump’s deployment of military forces to the border.

She will immediately stop the construction of Trump’s wall on the border between Mexico and the United States. She will also work to repeal the sections of law that allow the federal government to waive federal procurement rules or environmental impact reviews.

Despite the immediate public health threat, the Trump administration is demanding that we cut spending elsewhere to pay for emergency funding we need to prepare for and respond to coronavirus — so she is introducing a bill in the Senate to redirect funding diverted to the wall toward coronavirus instead.

She will end Constitution-Free Zones: She will  hold immigration enforcement to the same due process and standards as other law enforcement agencies — no more warrantless property searches, no more arbitrary stops, no more violations of basic Constitutional rights. 

She will reverse the Trump administration’s policy giving Border Patrol agents the power to make “credible fear” determinations for asylum-seekers rather than asylum officers.

She will invest resources in more culturally competent asylum officers and immigration judges and better coordinate a full federal government response to the humanitarian crisis at the border, just like we would with FEMA under a natural disaster.

She will pardon those convicted of providing food and water to migrants — because no one should go to jail simply for providing humanitarian aid to another person in need.

She supports requiring Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) agents to wear body cameras, a best practice in local law enforcement that reduces use-of-force incidents and increases transparency.

She will crack down on dangerous anti-immigrant vigilante militias at the border, which often include members of hate groups or individuals with a history of violence, including against U.S. citizens.

She will create a Border Health Initiative within the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to focus on strengthening these health institutions in ways that serve the unique needs of this region and its people.

She will build a 21st century border economy by investing in our ports of entry.
 

The campaign recently did a Texas Latino Engagement tour — and listened and learned from hundreds of Latino, Latina, and Latinx people in San Antonio, Laredo, McAllen, Corpus Christi, and Houston.
 
Elizabeth will be in San Antonio with former Secretary of HUD Julián Castro today.
 
Read her plan here and below
 
Justice for Border Communities
 
Communities along the U.S.-Mexico border represent a confluence of cultures, a place where people of different walks of life all pursue the American Dream. The true heart and soul of the border is found in the teenagers using their quinceñeras to register their neighbors to vote, in the Good Samaritans leaving water for desperate migrants in the desert, in the citizens of El Paso-Juarez healing in the wake of a white nationalist terrorist attack against Latinos, in community members and leaders protesting wall construction in Tucson, and in Native Americans fighting to protect their homeland and sacred sites.
 
Today the construction of Trump’s border wall is harming local communities along our borders. The Trump administration has begun blasting at Organ Pipe Cactus Monument without the permission of and meaningful consultation with the Tohono O’odham Nation. Long-time residents are seeing their property carved up. Wall construction puts border communities at risk of severe flooding. The Trump administration has ignored critical federal environmental protections, damaging wildlife refuges. And there have been far too many stories like that of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 2 year old daughter Valeria, who drowned in the Rio Grande, or of Gurupreet Kaur, who died in the Arizona desert just one month shy of turning 7-years-old.
 
But the challenges at the border did not start with Donald Trump’s ignorance and bigotry. For decades, decisions made in Washington have divided and disrupted communities, cities, Tribal Nations, and families — many of whom have lived along what is now the border for longer than the United States has even existed.
 
The 15 million residents living in our Southern borderlands — from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California — deserve a champion and a partner in the White House. Building an America that reflects our values means elevating the voices of those who have traditionally been overlooked and underserved. We’ve got to make sure everyone has a seat at the table, and that includes border communities and immigrant advocacy groups. In my first 100 days, I will convene a borderlands summit, bringing together federal, state, and local representatives, Tribal Nations, members of the business community, community organizations, and stakeholders to undo the harm of the Trump administration and create more prosperity in the region. I will also create a new position in the White House that serves as an advisor to the president on border communities. This person will direct an Interagency Task Force on Border Community Prosperity and coordinate the entire federal government’s investment in our border communities.
 
A Warren administration will ensure accountability in our border communities by rolling back the Trump administration’s incessant militarization of the border, creating a fair and welcoming immigration system, and respecting the rights of people and our fragile border ecosystem. I’ll fight for healthy and safe border communities with affordable housing, high-quality education, health care, and economic opportunities. And together, we’ll build a 21st century border economy by boosting small businesses, growing access to financial services, closing the digital divide, uplifting labor and environmental protections through trade, and developing the green workforce of the future.
 
Accountability in Border Communities
 
We need a federal government that’s accountable to our border communities. That means an immigration system that keeps families together, preserves our security, grows our economy, honors our Constitution, and reflects our values. That also means an approach to national security that respects the rights of people and our fragile border ecosystems. As president, my administration will:
 
Welcome those in need and protect rights and due process. My immigration plan commits to decriminalizing migration, significantly reducing detention and ending private detention facilities, providing rights and due process for all immigrants, reaffirming asylum protections for those fleeing violence, and ending policies like metering and the “Remain in Mexico” policy. As president, I’ll also reverse the Trump administration’s policy giving Border Patrol agents the power to make “credible fear” determinations for asylum-seekers rather than asylum officers. A Warren administration will invest resources in more culturally competent asylum officers and immigration judges and better coordinate a full federal government response to the humanitarian crisis at the border, just like we would with FEMA during a natural disaster. And I’ll pardon those convicted of providing food and water to migrants — because no one should go to jail simply for providing humanitarian aid to another person in need.
 
Remake CBP and ICE in a way that reflects our values. We spend billions of dollars each year on a massive and cruel immigration detention and enforcement system that breaks up families and keeps thousands locked up — with little evidence that it makes our nation safer. A Warren administration will reshape CBP and ICE from top to bottom, reducing funding for detention and instead focusing their efforts on ports of entry and homeland security efforts like screening cargo, identifying counterfeit goods, and preventing smuggling and trafficking. And to change the culture, I’ll insist on transparency and strengthen the authorities of independent internal watchdogs to prevent future abuses. I’ll designate a Justice Department task force to investigate accusations of serious violations, and give it independent authority to pursue any substantiated criminal allegations.
 
The Supreme Court ruling that a family can’t seek damages after their son was killed by a border patrol agent because he was on the Mexican side of the border when the agent shot him shows us that our system of accountability is broken. In spite of the Supreme Court’s decision, a few steps to one side of the border or another should not serve to forfeit basic rights. As president, I’ll work to reverse the decision legislatively in order to ensure accountability for victims of border patrol violence — regardless of the side of the border. Furthermore, I support requiring Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents to wear body cameras, a best practice in local law enforcement that reduces use-of-force incidents and increases transparency. And as new technology is deployed, a Warren administration will monitor violations of privacy and limit the use of facial-recognition software. Let there be no ambiguity on this: if you are violating the basic rights of immigrants, now or in the future, a Warren administration will hold you accountable.
 
Stop Trump’s Militarization of the Border. Despite Trump’s rhetoric, the people seeking asylum at the southern border are not a threat to our national security. And Trump’s wall is a monument to hate — and only the latest attempt to treat the southern border as a war zone rather than as a vibrant community. Many of the apprehensions at the border are families and children who commonly turn themselves in to Border Patrol to apply for asylumThis is a humanitarian crisis in need of medical doctors, immigration lawyers, and social workers — not military troops. As president, I will end Trump’s deployment of military forces to the border. I’ve listened to communities at the border when they say we do not need Trump’s failed wall, and I will immediately stop the construction of Trump’s wall on the border between Mexico and the United States. I will also work to repeal the sections of law that allow the federal government to waive federal procurement rules or environmental impact reviews. Despite the immediate public health threat, the Trump administration is demanding that we cut spending elsewhere to pay for emergency funding we need to prepare for and respond to coronavirus — so I am introducing a bill in the Senate to redirect funding diverted to the wall toward coronavirus instead. We need to get our priorities straight and focus on keeping the American people safe, rather than funding some useless vanity project. Let’s be clear: our border communities are not a war zone.
 
End Constitution-Free Zones. CBP has the authority to operate within 100 miles of any “external boundary” — an area deep into the interior of the country that covers about 200 million people, including 9 of the 10 largest U.S. cities. The Border Patrol operates numerous immigration checkpoints and regularly stops people to check their immigration status, raising concerns about racial profiling and violations of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections. During natural disasters and daily life, immigrant families are afraid to travel freely in their own communities. Citizens of Tribal Nations such as the Tohono O’odham Nation who have tribal ID cards face unnecessary hurdles with border patrol checkpoints. Agents also have the authority to enter private property (except dwellings) 25 miles from the border, which includes almost all of El Paso. There is no reason Border Patrol agents should have special access to private property without receiving a warrant from a judge just like the rest of law enforcement. As president, I will hold immigration enforcement to the same due process and standards as other law enforcement agencies — no more warrantless property searches, no more arbitrary stops, no more violations of basic Constitutional rights. It’s time to rein in CBP, and ensure everyone’s rights are respected.
 
Root Out White NationalismWe need to call out white nationalism for what it is—domestic terrorism. It is a threat to American safety and security. In a Warren administration, we will use every tool we have to defeat it, and that includes from within our military, our law enforcement, and our immigration enforcement agencies. To start, I will instruct these federal agencies to tighten their background check processes and to better track incidents of bias crimes and reports of affiliation with white nationalist or neo-Nazi groups in their ranks. Extremist ideology is a threat to our values, and it has no place inside our government. As part of my plan to reshape ICE and CBP, I’ve said that I will strengthen the authorities of independent internal watchdogs to prevent future abuses. This includes tasking the Inspectors General at both agencies to focus explicitly on reports of bias crimes or racism on the job. A Warren administration will have zero tolerance for these types of infractions.
 
From the 1918 Porvenir massacre through today, we must also recognize the long history of racist violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Tragically, we have seen how this horrific history repeated itself just last August, when a white nationalist, directly echoing the rhetoric of President Trump, drove hundreds of miles to commit an act of terror against the people of El Paso. As I laid out in my plan to combat white nationalism, combatting white nationalist crime will be a top priority for the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security in a Warren administration. My administration will also work with federal and local law enforcement to crack down on dangerous anti-immigrant vigilante militias at the border, which often include members of hate groups or individuals with a history of violence, including against U.S. citizens.

Respect Tribal Sovereignty. My plan for public lands includes aggressive steps to stop private interests from pillaging sacred lands. I will use all legal authorities, including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, to protect sacred sites like Organ Pipe. And absent extraordinary circumstances, respect for tribal sovereignty means that no project, development or federal decision that will have a significant impact on a tribal community, their lands, resources, members or religious practices, should proceed without the free, prior, and informed consent of the Tribal Nation concerned. I have also called for a new Sacred Lands Religious Freedom Restoration Act to dramatically improve the ability of Tribal Nations to block the imposition of development, extraction, and land use decisions with respect to tribal lands.
 
Fighting for Safe, Healthy, High-Quality Living on the Border
 
A generation of barely budging wages and rising costs for basics like housing, health care, child care, and education have squeezed family budgets. Many families living in communities at our borders are hanging on by their fingernails.
 
A lack of affordable housing and decades of systemic discrimination has driven hundreds of thousands of people, predominantly U.S. citizens of Mexican-descent, in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California to live in neighborhoods, called colonias, without basic necessities like potable water, electricity, and safe housing. Border communities have uninsured rates that are much higher than the national average and have some of the highest rates of chronic diseases like diabetes in the country. In the colonias in Texas, over 50% of adults do not have a high school diploma.
 
A Warren administration will:
 
Invest in safe and affordable housing for all. My Housing Plan for America invests $500 billion over the next ten years to build, preserve, and rehab more than three million units that will be affordable to lower-income families — including $523 million to create 380,000 affordable rental homes in rural communities and $2.5 billion to build or rehabilitate 200,000 homes on tribal lands, where overcrowding, homelessness, and substandard housing have reached crisis levels. My plan will lower rents by 10%, reform land-use rules that restrict affordable housing construction and further racial segregation, and take a critical first step towards closing the racial wealth gap. My plan to protect and empower renters tackles the growing cost of rent, strengthens fair housing law and enforcement, fights for a nationwide right to counsel for low-income tenants in eviction proceedings, and creates a national small dollar grant program to help make sure families aren’t evicted because of financial emergencies.
 

My administration will also take on “land contracts” agreements, predatory loans that are frequently targeted at communities of color and are prevalent in border communitiesIn these contracts, tenant-buyers can be subject to unjust eviction proceedings, homes can be in such bad condition they’re basically uninhabitable, interest rates exorbitantly high, and in the case of some colonias, developers have failed to provide basic infrastructure like a sewer system or paved roads. And because of the “forfeiture clause” embedded in these kinds of agreements, if tenants fall behind on these high-interest payments, lenders can seize the property — and keep the payments that have been made as “liquidated damages.” Texas is one state that has moved toward increasing protections after a certain amount has been paid, but there’s more we can do. I’ll choose a CFPB Director committed to reining in land contracts, work with states to require that these contracts be recorded to collect better data and formalize land titling, and strengthen protections and rights of these residents to ensure their property isn’t lost to exploitative practices and can be passed onto future generations.
 

Protect Clean Water. Clean water is vital to our health and welfare and to our economy. But decades of environmental racism have allowed corporate polluters to pump dangerous amounts of pollution into our border communities and unaccountable developers to leave these communities without the resources and infrastructure to take it on. 30% of people living in colonias don’t have safe drinking water. Meanwhile, border communities have been battling toxic waste dumping in their neighborhoods. And yet, Trump’s 2021 budget proposal eliminates much of the federal money allocated for water and wastewater projects that could have been used to work towards clean drinking water in border regions.
 
A Warren administration will invest in our nation’s water systems. I have committed to fully capitalize the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to refurbish old water infrastructure and support ongoing water treatment operations and maintenance, prioritizing the communities most heavily impacted by inadequate water infrastructure. I will also fully enforce Safe Drinking Water Act standards for all public water systems and aggressively regulate chemicals that make their way into our water supply, including from agricultural runoff. I’ll restore all funding to water and wastewater projects the Trump administration has proposed to eliminate. And, for the thousands of people who rely on private sources for drinking water, a Warren administration will fight for adequate funding so that everyone can have access to safe water. I’ll also make giant agribusinesses pay the full costs of the environmental damage they wreak on the border communities that surround them by closing the loopholes that they use to get away with polluting and by beefing up enforcement of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts against them.
 
Guarantee High-Quality Health Care. Border communities face unique health care challenges. Poor coverage means that people cross from Imperial County, California or Southwest Arizona to Los Algodones, Mexico for affordable dental care. The majority of counties along the Southern border have limited access to maternity care. People in need of reproductive care in the Rio Grande Valley are facing barriers to care due to clinic closures, traveling hundreds of miles, and facing long waiting periods.
 

Health care is a human right and that’s why we need Medicare for All. Under Medicare for All, every single person in this country will be able to see the doctor they need and get their recommended treatments. As president, I will immediately act to lower the cost of prescription drugs, using every available tool to bring pressure on the big drug companies and bring down the high costs of many common prescription drugs, including Insulin. And within 100 days, I’ll work with Congress to expand coverage to every American by expanding Medicare and creating a Medicare for All option that is free for all kids and families at or below 200 percent of poverty.
 

While we work to deliver Medicare for All, a Warren administration will roll back the Trump administration’s efforts to rip health coverage away from people. The Trump administration’s reinterpretation of Section 1557 would undermine critical nondiscrimination protections, weakening requirements to make health information language-accessible. As president, I will direct HHS to reinstate the Obama administration’s 2016 guidance that fully upholds civil rights and nondiscrimination protections. I’ll roll back the Trump administration’s Public Charge rule change, which is harming immigrants with disabilities and forcing immigrant families to choose between staying together and ensuring their children can get critical services. And I’ll reverse the Trump administration’s harmful Medicaid policies, like work requirements and block grants, that take coverage away from low-income individuals and families.
 
Strengthen the Health System. While coverage is critical, it’s only part of ensuring access to high-quality care. We also have a responsibility to make sure that places that have experienced a loss in services or are otherwise medically underserved get support to improve their health systems and meet the needs of their communities.
 
That’s why I’ve committed to protecting health care in rural communities by creating a new designation under Medicare for rural hospitals, ending the harmful effects of consolidation, and dramatically increasing funding for Community Health Centers. I will also establish a $25 billion dollar capital fund to support a menu of options for improving care in health professional shortage areasincluding: constructing a new facility like a Community Health Center, Rural Health Clinic, School-Based Health Center, or birthing center; expanding capacity or services at an existing clinic; establishing pharmacy services or a telemedicine program; supporting a diabetes self-management education program; improving transportation to the nearest hospital; or piloting models like mobile clinics and community paramedicine programs. A Warren administration will also expand our health care workforce by investing more resources in building the pipeline of culturally-competent and language-inclusive medical professionals in rural areas and other areas with shortages, from physicians to promotoras.
 
But we also need to support robust public health efforts to keep these communities healthy and prepared to handle potential outbreaks — and to work in partnership with the international community, including Mexico, in our global health response. That’s why I’ve committed to fully fund the critical agencies that support our public health infrastructure. To double down on this commitment in the border region, I will also create a Border Health Initiative within the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to focus on strengthening these institutions in ways that serve the unique needs of this region and its people.
 
Fight for high-quality education from the earliest years through college. 33 of the 44 counties along the Southern border are non-metropolitan counties. Today, a majority of rural communities lack sufficient access to child care. My plan for Universal Child Care will provide high-quality child care free for millions and affordable for everyone. My administration will also work closely with local providers and tribal governments to make sure there are high-quality child care options available in every community — including home-based child care services. And as part of a comprehensive early childhood education system, I will ensure all children can attend free high-quality universal pre-K.
 
As president, I will make a historic $800 billion investment in our nation’s public schools, supporting students in the classroom and preparing them for college and career readiness. I’ll invest at least an additional $50 billion in school infrastructure across the country – targeted at the schools that need it most. My Environmental Justice plan establishes a lead abatement grant program focused on schools. And I will fully fund the Bureau of Indian Education schools to support major construction and repair backlogs.
 
I’m also committed to protecting English Language Learners by enforcing their rights to meaningful access to rigorous coursework, teachers, special education services, and integration with the rest of the student body, while fostering their home language. And I will protect the rights of immigrant students, ensuring that all immigrant children have access to a quality education, no matter their native language, national origin, or immigration status.
 
Border states are facing an acute teacher shortage. My administration will treat teachers and staff like the professionals they are by strengthening the ability of educators to organize and bargain for just compensation and ensure that educators aren’t drowning in debt. I’ll also build a more diverse teacher and school leadership pipeline by investing in Grow Your Own and teacher residency programs. And I will push to fully fund the Teacher Quality Partnership program to support teacher residency programs in high-need areas, like rural communities, and in areas of expertise like Special Education and Bilingual Education.
 
My student debt cancellation and universal public college plan will cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for more than 95% of Americans who carry it and make two-year or four-year public college or technical school free. My plan also makes a minimum $50 billion investment in HBCUs, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other Minority-Serving Institutions.
 
Prevent Gun Violence in Border Communities and in Mexico. After Trump, we’ll have work to do to restore our relationship with our Mexican neighbors. One area where we can begin to make improvements immediately is in stopping the flow of American guns to Mexico. As Mexico struggles with record violence, Americans must face the fact that our weak gun laws have not only fed an epidemic of gun violence at home, but are also a leading driver of instability among our neighbors. This instability in turn is displacing people across Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, feeding the humanitarian crisis that border communities in both the U.S. and Mexico are facing today. I will fight to end gun violence, recognizing that this is part of addressing the root causes of migration and improving our relationship with Mexico. And as president, I will pass a new federal anti-trafficking law making clear “straw purchases” are a federal crime and prosecute gun traffickers by instructing my Attorney General to go after the transnational gun trade with all the resources of the federal government.

Building a 21st Century Border Economy
 
A thriving border economy is crucial to the economic wellbeing of the rest of our country. And when Trump has threatened to shut it down, the ramifications have been felt quickly and acutely. In 2018, a 5 hour border crossing closure at San Ysidro in California — the busiest land border crossing in the world — cost local businesses $5.3 millionWe need a strong border economy that works for everyone. That means investments in local small businesses, growing access to financial services, closing the digital divide, trade that uplifts labor and environmental protections, and developing the green workforce of the future.
 
Boosting Small Businesses. Small businesses are essential to the prosperity of border communities, but these businesses have been harmed by increased border militarization and Trump’s reckless tariff by tweet approach to trade. People along the U.S.-Mexico border also confront barriers to accessing the capital and financial services necessary to start and grow their businesses — barriers that disproportionately affect Latino, Native American, and Black entrepreneurs. My comprehensive agenda to boost America’s small businesses will level the playing field for small business owners on the border by providing access to credit, helping small businesses deal with regulatory requirements, and unleashing the full purchasing power of the federal government to support small businesses.
 
Protecting and Expanding Financial Services. The number of rural counties without a locally owned community bank has doubled since 1994, and border communities are increasingly becoming banking deserts. I’ve proposed allowing the U.S. Postal Service to partner with local community banks and credit unions to provide access to low-cost, basic banking services online and at post offices. A Warren Administration will also strengthen lending to small businesses in underserved areas by expanding support for Community Development Financial Institutions, which provide an important source of funding for women, people of color, and rural communities. As president, my administration will also protect immigrant families sending remittances by enacting stronger rules at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau around remittances to ensure fees are transparent, and I will oppose President Trump’s proposed tax on remittances that targets wire transfers to Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean to pay for his wall.
 
Extend Broadband to Border Communities. The communities along the U.S.-Mexico border have some of the lowest levels of internet connectivity in the nation. This digital divide is a major barrier for people to find jobs, students to complete homework, small business to connect to new markets, and it holds back the entire community. That’s why as president, I will make it clear in federal statute that municipalities have the right to build their own broadband networks and establish a new $85 billion federal grant program to massively expand broadband access across the country. I will also require all telecommunications services to contribute fairly into the Universal Service Fund to shore up essential universal service programs that provide subsidies to low-income individuals, schools, and libraries to increase broadband adoption – because every home in America deserves a fiber broadband connection at a price families can afford.
 
Decreasing Wait Times. Under the Trump Administration, wait times at ports of entry are dramatically increasing, reducing trade and commerce and even impacting air quality for surrounding communities. Every day almost $2 billion worth of products crosses the U.S.-Mexico border, but delays in Texas can exceed 10 hours — this is unacceptable. In places like Deming, New Mexico, students pushed across the border because of unaffordable housing or to be with deported family members get up at dawn to wait hours through highly-militarized security checks to make it to school on the U.S.-side on time. An estimated 40,000 children cross the U.S.-Mexico border for school every day.  First, we will invest in dedicated pedestrian lanes for both U.S. citizens and students, and the “All Lanes Open Initiative” so that there is better traffic flow during the morning rush and expand the program to include evenings. We also need to completely repeal the “hardening measures,” such as concrete barriers topped with razor wire, and limit “tactical exercises” that create choke points and slow down traffic. With the passage of the USMCA, we will increase the number of custom officials and invest in modern technology to more efficiently and effectively inspect and verify goods.
 
Leveling the Playing Field with Trade. As a Senator, I voted for the USMCA — the revised NAFTA agreement. I supported the agreement because it made some improvements for American workers, farmers, and consumers, and Mexican workers too. It guarantees the right to organize for Mexican workers, provides for new investments in combating pollution such as $300 million to stop cross-border sewage flows, and strengthens diplomatic ties with our neighbors at a time that President Trump seeks to divide us.

But we will do much better for border communities in a Warren administration. We need a new approach to trade that works for Americans who have been left behind, including the communities on the U.S.-Mexico border. Instead of pursuing a race to the bottom when it comes to worker’s rights and environmental protection, it is time to use our leverage of the American market to encourage other countries, including Mexico, to elevate their policies. When we raise labor and environmental standards worldwide, we help millions of people living abroad and let American workers compete on a more level playing field.
 
Building the Green Workforce of the Future. Border states are emerging as leaders of the new green economy. Texas is the leading producer of wind energy in the country, California is the leading producer of solar energy, and clean energy investments in New Mexico and Arizona are on the rise. To really bend the curve on climate, we’ll need sustained big, structural change across a range of industries and sectors. My administration will commit to investments in retraining, joint labor management apprenticeships, and creating strong career pipelines to ensure a continuous supply of skilled, available workers. And, we will look for every opportunity to partner with high schools and vocational schools to build pathways to the middle class for kids who opt not to go to college. Outside experts that have looked at my ideas for a Green New Deal to analyze how they will drive job creation have estimated that they will create 10.6 million new green jobs. That means millions of new clean energy jobs in border states and honoring our commitments and a just transition for fossil fuel workers, so that no one is left behind.
 
Honoring our Border Servicemembers and Veterans. Military bases and military families are key drivers of local border economies, from the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma to Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio. Rather than defunding military projects — like military base child care facilities — to build Trump’s “wall”, we should be investing in military readiness, infrastructure, and veterans and their families. From military housing and child care to a 21st century VA system, I will keep our promise to care for our nation’s veterans, service members, and military families.

Read the plan here

Women’s Marches Are Opening Salvo to 2020 Election

Raring to Rise & Roar, Women’s March on New York City, Jan. 18, 2020 (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

The Women’s Marches that took place across the country – some 250 of them including Washington DC and New York City – are the opening salvo to the 2020 Election. Make no mistake, this was about voting, realizing that all the issues that they care about hinge on the coming election and not on changing the minds of lawmakers who currently control the levers of power: reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to self-determination; access to the ballot and access to health care; climate action and environmental justice; gun safety and domestic violence; gender equity, sexism and misogyny; discrimination and sexual harassment; immigration reform and human rights. They are all on the ballot this November.

And the Supreme Court and all the courts now dominated by radical right-wing judges that seek to roll back women’s rights, civil rights, voting rights, health-care-is-a-human-right. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hold on,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer declared as the march set off down Columbus Avenue, passed the Trump International Hotel, where the most animated expressions of outrage against Trump and his administration were manifest.

A singular, unifying message emerged: Dump Trump and his henchmen and his enablers.

And a theme for the New York City march organized by Women’s March Alliance (womensmarchalliance.org): Rise & Roar.

(See also: Women’s March 2020: Turnout is Crucial to Rev Up Momentum for 2020 Election)

Here are highlights from the 2020 Women’s March on New York City:

“A Woman’s Place is in the White House.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“ERA Now!” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Together We Fight For All”. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Stop the War on Womens Rights; Vote Them Out Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“These Boobs Are Made for Marching.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Vote Vote Vote Vote” “When women’s Bodies Are More Regulated Than Guns”. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Made in ‘Gina” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“So Many Lies So Little Sign Space” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Not My Dictator.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Gays Against Guns. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Dump Trump. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women Build march for Pay Equity. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“It’s Time to Ovary Act”. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Blue Wave. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“God Save America.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Don’t Do The Crime If You Can’t Do The Time.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Pregnant and ProChoice”. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Shame.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WasherWomen Vote. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Vote. I’m Tired of Still Marching” during centennial year of Women’s Suffrage. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“2020 Vision.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Bernie Sanders Releases Immigration Plan, ‘A Welcoming and Safe America for All’

Senator Bernie Sanders, campaigning for president, released his immigration plan, “A Welcoming and Safe America for All.”  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders released his immigration plan, “A Welcoming and Safe America for All.”  This is a summary from the Sanders campaign:

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled his immigration plan, “A Welcoming and Safe America for All,” which would fundamentally overhaul immigration into a humane, lawful process that protects families and respects human rights. Sanders would reverse Trump’s executive actions, create a swift and fair pathway to citizenship, decriminalize immigration and demilitarize our border, protect and strengthen immigrant labor rights, support immigrants in America, and enact fair trade deals and a humane foreign policy. 

“My father came to America as a refugee without a nickel in his pocket, to escape widespread anti-Semitism and find a better life,” Sanders said. “As the proud son of an immigrant, I know that my father’s story is the story of so many Americans today. When I am in the White House we will stop the hatred towards our immigrant brothers and sisters, end family separation, and locking children up in cages. We will end the ICE raids that are terrorizing our communities, and on my first day as president, I will use my executive power to protect our immigrant communities and reverse every single horrific action implemented by Trump.”

The plan, which is the most progressive immigration proposal put forth in presidential history, was written in conjunction with several DACA recipients and other immigrants on Bernie 2020 staff. 
 

As President, Sanders will use his executive authority to overturn all of President Trump’s actions to demonize and harm immigrants on day one of his administration. Sanders will extend legal status to the 1.8 million young people currently eligible for the DACA program, and provide administrative relief to their parents, those with Temporary Protected Status, and parents of legal permanent residents. He will also use advance parole, parole-in-place, and hardship waivers to remove barriers to legal status and citizenship for as many undocumented immigrants as possible.

Sanders will:

Use executive authority to reverse Trump’s harmful actions on immigration, including ensuring asylum seekers can make their claims in the United States, ending family detention and separation, reuniting families, reversing the Muslim ban and halting construction on Trump’s racist border wall. 

Place a moratorium on deportations and end ICE raids.

Restore and expand DACA and use advance parole, parole in place, and hardship waivers to remove barriers to legal status and citizenship for as many undocumented immigrants as possible. 

Push Congress to enact a fair, swift, and inclusive path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented living in the United States.

Restructure the bloated, dysfunctional Department of Homeland Security, break up ICE and CBP and return their core functions to their previous departments, and begin treating immigration outside the context of national security. 

Decriminalize and demilitarize the border, ensure migrants due process, and fully fund and staff independent immigration courts.

Strengthen and protect immigrant labor rights, including for historically excluded and underregulated occupations such as farmworkers and domestic workers, ensure employers are held accountable for mistreating immigrant workers, and reform work visas.

Renegotiate disastrous trade deals, develop a humane foreign policy, and lead the world in addressing climate change, including taking in those forced from their homes due to climate change. 

Ensure immigrants in the United States get the support and benefits they need, including healthcare and education, and streamline immigration and naturalization. 

The full plan can be read here

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Mayor Pete Buttigieg Announces ‘An Immigration Policy for A New Era’

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, campaigning for President, released his plan for immigration reform. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Mayor Pete Buttigieg released his proposal to create a modern immigration system. This is a summary from the Pete for America campaign:

SOUTH BEND, IN  — Mayor Pete Buttigieg released “I was a stranger and you welcomed me: An Immigration Policy for A New Era,” a comprehensive immigration policy that lays out Pete’s bold plan to create a modern immigration system that fosters belonging, promotes our shared values, engages with the global community, and ensure our nation remains competitive while protecting all workers. 

“On Day One of my administration, we will reverse this president’s cruel and counterproductive immigration actions that separate families, put children in cages and prevent them from having basic necessities like toothpaste or soap, deport veterans, and sweep up workers in raids while leaving exploitative employers unpunished,” said Buttigieg. “But we will do more than simply end these outrages. We will reform a system that has been in dire need of reform for decades and create an immigration system for a new era that reflects America’s values of welcoming and belonging.”

A Buttigieg administration will work to ensure that our nation is a beacon of hope for immigrants and refugees and will build a better system that serves all of us. Pete’s plan will:  

Pass legislation in his first 100 days that provides a path to citizenship, including for people with temporary protections—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), and withholding of removal. While working on a necessary legislative fix, Pete will immediately restore and extend temporary protections rescinded or threatened by the current administration on day one.

Accelerate reunification of families. Pete will reduce the backlog of family-based visas and increase the number of visas issued for family reunification each year. He also will fight for reforms to re-classify spouses and children of permanent residents as immediate relatives, eliminate discriminatory annual per-country caps, end down-grading of family preferences (through aging out or getting married), and recognize same-sex partners from countries lacking marriage equality.

End the Muslim Ban on Day One. Pete will immediately end this ban, which should be anathema to our values as Americans.

Reduce barriers to health care and education by eliminating the five-year waiting period for green card holders gaining access to public health insurance and food assistance programs; expanding on Obamacare to allow all immigrants to access health coverage on the marketplaces, and expanding access to Pell grants for students with DACA. 

Protect undocumented workers from retaliation when reporting labor violations. Pete will support the Agricultural Worker Program Act, which protects farmworker rights such as labor, pesticide protection, and food safety laws. Pete also supports the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. 

Provide opportunities for people who want to build our economy where they are needed most. Pete will create a local Community Renewal (CR) visa targeted toward counties that have lost prime-working-age population over the last 10 years, and smaller cities that are struggling to keep pace economically with larger cities. 

Create a National Office of New Americans to promote and support immigrant and refugee integration and inclusion. This office will be in the Executive Office of the President and will coordinate integration efforts across federal, state, and local governments.

Keep naturalization affordable. The Trump administration is proposing to hike the naturalization application fee by 83% to $1,170 —that’s more than an average family pays for rent each month in 43 states. Pete’s administration will keep naturalization affordable and ensure that fee waivers are available to those unable to pay. As we do for those who serve in the military. Pete will not require a fee from national service participants.

Put border facilities under the purview of HHS rather than CBP. Byshifting responsibility for processing centers to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), we ensure proper care of asylum seekers. 

Fully restore and increase aid to Central America. The Trump administration suspended nearly $450 million in aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala in retaliation for failing to stop migrants from leaving for the United States, a short-sighted response that has only exacerbated the dire conditions that cause people fleeing in the first place. A Buttigieg administration will restore funding to additional programs proven effective in improving the rule of law, functioning judicial systems, education, regional safety, economic stability, and combating corruption.

Modernize our employment-based visa system. We have not meaningfully updated our visa caps in over 30 years. Rather than reset our visa allotments one time based on current data, which will quickly become outdated as our economy continues to change, Pete will create a flexible review system where the allotment for employment-based visas will be set every other year based on our economy’s needs. This process will make our immigration system more adaptable, evidence-based, and competitive. 

Our democracy is stronger when people living here have a voice in our society.

Read Mayor Pete’s comprehensive plan for An Immigration Policy for A New Era HERE

Trump at United Nations Goes it Alone with His Scheme of America First on Global Scale

Rest of World Embraces Multilateralism to Achieve Equitable, Sustainable Future

Secretary-General António Guterres and US President Donald Trump, give remarks at the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom briefing, on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Summit © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

There couldn’t be more divergently contrasting speeches between that of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US President Donald Trump, even more stark by coming virtually on heels of each other – or then again, between Trump and every other head of state and minister who came to the podium.

 “I have the privilege of addressing you today as the elected leader of a nation that prizes liberty, independence and self-government above all,” Trump declared. “The United States, after having spent over two and a half trillion dollars since my election to completely rebuild our great military, is also by far the world’s most powerful nation.”

Coming immediately after the Youth Climate March on Friday which brought out some 4 million people around the world to demand the world’s leaders act to save the habitability of the planet, and the United Nation’s Climate Summit in which over 100 nations (not the United States, but states and regions were represented) gave specifics on programs and achievements in order to prevent the earth from heating more than 1.5 degrees more, Trump boasted that the United States has become the world’s “Number One Producer of Oil and Gas.”

In a body created out of the ashes of two devastating world wars to prevent such global conflicts, Trump declared, “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots. The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors and honor the differences that make each country special and unique.”

Reprising and expanding upon his America First speech he delivered to the United Nations last year, he attacked anything that might smack of multilateralism, and urged the rest of the world to follow suit.

“If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty. And if you want peace, love your nation,” he declared – a statement that defies any reading of history.

Donald Trump tells the United Nations General Assembly, “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Yet, Trump insisted the nations of the world adopt the Trumpian view of “Freedom of Religion”.

“This fundamental right is under growing threat around the world. Hard to believe, but 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where religious liberty is in significant danger or even completely outlawed. Americans will never fire or tire in our effort to defend and promote freedom of worship and religion. We want and support religious liberty for all.

“Americans will also never tire of defending innocent life,” he said. “We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer funded abortion on demand right up until the moment of delivery. Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life. Like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child born and unborn is a sacred gift from God.”

Defend innocent life – except when it comes to guns.

“There is no circumstance under which the United States will allow international interests to trample on the rights of our citizens, including the right to self-defense. That is why this year I announced that we will never ratify the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which would threaten the liberties of law-abiding American citizens. The United States will always uphold our constitutional right to keep and bear arms. We will always uphold our Second Amendment. The core rights and values America defends today were inscribed in America’s founding documents.

“Our nation’s founders understood that there will always be those who believe they are entitled to wield power and control over others. Tyranny advances under many names and many theories, but it always comes down to the desire for domination. It protects not the interests of many, but the privilege of few. Our founders gave us a system designed to restrain this dangerous impulse. They choose to entrust American power to those most invested in the fate of our nation: a proud and fiercely independent people.”

Donald Trump tells the United Nations General Assembly, “Our nation’s founders understood that there will always be those who believe they are entitled to wield power and control over others. Tyranny advances under many names and many theories, but it always comes down to the desire for domination.” Later that day, House Democrats determined to start a formal impeachment inquiry. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Each year, Trump has to find a boogey-man to attack. In  his first address, he lambasted North Korea’s “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-Un; last year he went after Venezuela. This year, he declared “One of the greatest security threats facing peace-loving nations today is the repressive regime in Iran. The regime’s record of death and destruction is well known to us all. Not only is Iran the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism, but Iran’s leaders are fueling the tragic wars in both Syria and Yemen.”

As the United Nations raises alarms about the greatest numbers of displaced people around the globe since World War II, Trump tripled down on his hostility and hatred for refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.

“To anyone conducting crossings of our border illegally, please hear these words: Do not pay the smugglers. Do not pay the coyotes. Do not put yourself in danger. Do not put your children in danger. Because if you make it here, you will not be allowed in. You will be promptly returned home. You will not be released into our country as long as I am president of the United States. We will enforce our laws and protect our borders. For all of the countries of the western hemisphere, our goal is to help people invest in the bright futures of their own nation. Our region is full of such incredible promise, dreams, waiting to be built, and national destinies for all, and they are waiting also to be pursued.” The United States rejected the United Nations Global Migration Compact.

Trump’s speech to the General Assembly, just as his remarks to the “Freedom of Religion” forum the day before, was tailored for his base (and helps explain his eagerness to pal around with India’s Prime Minister Modi, attending the 50,000-strong rally in Houston, despite Modi’s harsh assault on Muslim-majority Kashmir – it is his ticket to the Indian-American vote). In this context, his attack on Venezuela served as his foil for attacking Democrats and their radical ideas about income inequality and universal health care.

“One of the most serious challenges our country has faced is the specter of socialism. It’s the wrecker of nations and destroyer of societies. The events in Venezuela reminds us all that socialism and communism are not about justice. They are not about equality, they are not about lifting up the poor, and they are certainly not about good of the nation. Socialism and communism are about one thing only: power for the ruling class. Today I repeat a message for the world that I have delivered at home: America will never be a socialist country. The last century socialism and communism killed 100 million people.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tells the 74th General Assembly, “In the 21st century, we must see human rights with a vision that speaks to each and every human being and encompasses all rights.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Guterres began his speech noting that the United Nations Charter’s first words are “We the Peoples” “It puts people at the center of our work, everyday, everywhere…. people with rights. Those rights are an endowment.”

“Machines take their jobs.  Traffickers take their dignity.  Demagogues take their rights.  Warlords take their lives.  Fossil fuels take their future”, he declared. “And because people still believe in the United Nations, we, the leaders, must deliver. They believe as leaders we will put people first, because we the leaders must deliver for We the Peoples…People have a right to live in peace.”

He cited promising developments, such as peaceful elections in Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the Greece-North Macedonia name dispute resolution; political dialogue in Sudan; and an agreement in Syria. But he spoke of persisting conflicts, terrorism and “the risk of a new arms race growing” across the world, and lamented unresolved situations in Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan; an evasive solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict; Venezuelan displacements; and “the alarming possibility of armed conflict in the Gulf”. 

Members of Trump’s cabinet on hand to listen to his United Nations General Assembly address: Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, in the post since September 12, 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And without actually naming the United States and China, he raised alarm over “a new risk looming on the horizon: the possibility of a great fracture, the world splitting in two, with the two largest economies on earth creating two separate and competing worlds, each with their own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, their own internet and artificial intelligence capacities, and their own zero sum geopolitical and military strategies”. 

“We must do everything possible to avert the Great Fracture and maintain a universal system…with strong multilateral institutions”, he stressed.

Guterres encouraged the world leaders to take advantage of the Sustainable Development Goals Summit to “ramp up ambition”.

And he, like every other leader, pointed to the need to aggressively confront Climate Action. Referencing Monday’s Climate Action Summit, the UN chief underscored the importance of adaptation.

“Even our language has to adapt: what was once called ‘climate change’ is now truly a “climate crisis” … and what was once called ‘global warming’ has more accurately become ‘global heating’,” he said.

Guterres referred to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas as he spoke of “unprecedented temperatures, unrelenting storms and undeniable science”.

Though “not fast enough”, the world is starting to move “in the right direction” – away from fossil fuels and towards a green economy, he said.

Turning to fundamental freedoms, the UN chief said, “we are at a critical juncture where advances made across the decades are being restricted and reversed, misinterpreted and mistrusted”.

The Secretary-General pointed to new forms of authoritarianism; narrowing civic spaces; the targeting of activists, human rights defenders and journalists; and expanding surveillance systems that are “shredding the fabric of our common humanity”. 

And in direct contradiction to the Trumpian vision of the world order, Guterres said that anything that is done to uphold security and human rights “helps deliver sustainable development and peace”.

“In the 21st century, we must see human rights with a vision that speaks to each and every human being and encompasses all rights”, lauding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a tool for social protection, a sustainable environment, education and decent jobs.

These themes were echoed by just about every other leader and representative – except for Donald Trump. Indeed, the rest of the world seems more resolved than ever to work together – basically ignoring the United States.

That is fine with Trump, who thinks of the rest of the world as children trying to tap their Dad for money.

See also:

Youth Climate Activist Greta Thunberg to UN Climate Summit: ‘If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you’

Trump Uses United Nations as Paid Political Promotion to Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Bernie Sanders Releases Workplace Democracy Plan to Boost Unions, Raise Wages

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, unveiled proposals to increase union membership and raise wages for working people © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders,in Des Moines ahead of the Iowa AFL-CIO convention, announced a comprehensive plan to at least double union membership during his first term as president, rebuilt the middle class and substantially raise wages. This is from the Sanders campaign:

“Corporate America and the billionaire class have been waging a 40-year war against the trade union movement in America that has caused devastating harm to the middle class in terms of lower wages, fewer benefits and frozen pensions,” Sanders said. “That war will come to an end when I am president. If we are serious about rebuilding the middle class in America, we have got to rebuild, strengthen and expand the trade union movement in America.”

Sanders’ Workplace Democracy Plan would essentially repeal Iowa’s Chapter 20 law that stripped the rights of public sector workers to collectively bargain for better benefits and safer working conditions by giving all public sector workers the freedom to negotiate.

The sweeping proposal to strengthen unions would end right to work laws, give every union worker in America the right to strike and ban the replacement of striking workers.

As president, Sanders also pledged to sign an executive order preventing large, profitable corporations that engage in union busting, outsource jobs overseas or pay workers less than $15 an hour from receiving federal contracts.

The plan would also make it substantially easier to form a union and stop employers from ruthlessly exploiting workers by misclassifying them as independent contractors or denying them overtime by falsely categorizing them as a “supervisor.”

Other key elements of this proposal include: 

  • Requiring companies that merge to honor existing union contracts.
  • Bringing workers, employers and the government together across industries to negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions through sectoral bargaining.
  • Stop corporations from forcing workers to attend mandatory anti-union meetings as a condition of continued employment. 
  • Protect the pensions of workers. 
  • Establish federal protections against the firing of workers for any reason other than “just cause.”

In addition, the plan makes sure that all union workers would be better off under Medicare for All. If Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union-negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company savings that result from reduced health care contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits.

Read the Workplace Democracy Plan here.

Elizabeth Warren Announces Her Plan for Immigration Reform

One of  hundreds of candlelight Lights for Liberty vigils that took place across the country on the eve of Trump’s raids took place at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Garden City, Long Island. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has put forth her plan for immigration reform. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Donald Trump prepares to unleash raids on undocumented migrants in cities across the country, while thousands of men, women and children seeking asylum are crammed into unliveable detention camps for weeks and months without end – a humanitarian crisis created through a combination of cruelty and ineptitude – US Senator Elizabeth Warren, running for Democratic nomination for president, announced a plan to create an immigration system that is fair, humane, and reflects American values. 

“Donald Trump wants to divide us — to pit worker against worker, neighbor against neighbor. He wants Americans to blame their troubles on those who are new to our country, or who don’t look the same, even as his administration robs us dry. He has tried his best to make it appear that immigrants are not welcome on our shores. 

“We can be better than this. Americans know that immigrants helped weave the very fabric of our country in the past — and they know that immigrants belong here today. 

“I’ll work with Congress to pass broad-reaching reform, but I’m also prepared to move forward with executive action if Congress refuses to act. We cannot continue to ignore our immigration challenges, nor can we close our borders and isolate the United States from the outside world. Instead we need big, structural change: a fair immigration system that preserves our security, grows our economy, and reflects our values. That’s good for immigrants, good for workers, and ultimately good for the United States.”

Here is a summary: – Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, introduces her plan for immigration reform © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com


A Fair and Welcoming Immigration System

Immigrants have always been a vital source of American strength. They grow our economy and make our communities richer and more diverse. They are our neighbors, our colleagues, and our friends — and every bit as much a part of America as those who were born in the United States. 

President Trump sees things differently. He’s advanced a policy of cruelty and division that demonizes immigrants. He’s axed programs that protect young Dreamers and asylum seekers fleeing violence and upheaval. He’s championed dramatic cuts to legal immigration, and imposed a bigoted ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries. He’s threatened to close our ports of entry to lawful transit and commerce, and exploited a crisis of his own making at the border to score cheap political points. But while Trump may have taken the system to its most punitive extreme, his racist policies build on a broken immigration system and an enforcement infrastructure already primed for abuse. 

I saw that in McAllen, Texas, in the eyes of mothers who fled violence only to be ripped apart from their babies at the U.S. border. I saw it in the tears of families as they waited for their loved ones at Logan Airport in Boston on the night Trump announced his Muslim Ban. I saw it in the tired faces of little children made to march in formation between makeshift tents in the hot summer sun at the Homestead detention facility in Florida. 

I also see it when I talk with our Dreamers about their aspirations and their fears. When I meet with business owners who watch their competition exploit undocumented workers for a competitive advantage, and with farmers who cannot access the labor they need. When I sit with families who have been waiting decades for a visa to reunite with their loved ones, and with mixed-status families who worry that a parent, brother or sister could be ripped away at any time. 

We must address the humanitarian mess at the border and reverse this president’s discriminatory policies. But that won’t be nearly enough to fix our immigration system. We need expanded legal immigration that will grow our economy, reunite families, and meet our labor market demands. We need real reform that provides cost-effective security at our borders, addresses the root causes of migration, and provides a path to status and citizenship so that our neighbors don’t have to live in fear. That’s why today I’m announcing my plan for immigration reform — to create a rules-based system that is fair, humane, and that reflects our values. 

Eliminating Abusive Enforcement 

President Trump has weaponized deportation in ways that are costly, ineffective, and designed to maximize pain. It’s time to end this cruelty — and refocus on true threats to public safety and national security instead. As president, I will: 

Decriminalize migration and refocus enforcement on serious criminal activity. Entering the country without authorization has always been a violation of civil immigration law, but thanks to a former segregationist Senator, it’s also a criminal violation. This additional criminal provision is totally unnecessary for border security, and for a century, it was rarely enforced. But since the early 2000s, it has been used to build and sustain a massive immigration detention complex. In 2016, over half of all federal criminal prosecutions were for immigration violations — more than prosecutions for terrorism, organized crime, hate crimes, or financial fraud. This obsessive focus ties up federal prosecutors and overwhelms federal courts. It’s costly and unnecessary. And under Trump, it has become increasingly abusive. We should repeal this criminal prohibition to prevent future abuse. As president, I will immediately issue guidance to end criminal prosecutions for simple administrative immigration violations; end Operation Streamline, which subjects migrants to mass prosecutions; and refocus our limited resources on actual criminals and real threats to the United States. I will also issue prosecutorial guidance to prioritize immigration cases with security concerns, and make sure government attorneys are properly exercising their discretion for individuals who pose no public safety risk. 

Separate law enforcement from immigration enforcement to strengthen our communities. There are good reasons to keep immigration enforcement and law enforcement separate. When law enforcement is forced to also handle immigration violations, people are less willing to report crimes for fear of revealing their immigration status. Combining these functions sows distrust and harms public safety. As President, I’ll put in place strict guidelines to protect sensitive locations like schools, medical facilities, and courthouses from enforcement actions. I’ll expand programs that grant protections to immigrant victims of serious crimes who come forward and assist law enforcement. And I’ll end programs like 287(g) and “Secure Communities” that force local cops to enforce federal immigration laws so they can focus on effectively serving their communities. 

Remake CPB and ICE in a way that reflects our values. Our immigration agencies should protect Americans and uphold the rule of law, not pursue punitive anti-immigrant policies that target communities of color. I’ll hold immigration enforcement to the same due process standards as other law enforcement agencies — no more warrantless arrests or stops deep in the interior of our country. I’ll reshape CBP and ICE from top to bottom, focusing their efforts on homeland security efforts like screening cargo, identifying counterfeit goods, and preventing smuggling and trafficking. And to change the culture, I’ll insist on transparency and strengthen the authorities of independent internal watchdogs to prevent future abuses. 

Create accountability for the abuse perpetrated during the Trump Era. President Trump and his Administration are comfortable looking the other way while criminal abuses of immigrants pile up. When I am President, I will not. I’ll designate a Justice Department task force to investigate accusations of serious violations — including medical neglect and physical and sexual assaults of detained immigrants — and give it independent authority pursue any substantiated criminal allegations. Let there be no ambiguity on this: if you are violating the basic rights of immigrants, now or in the future, a Warren Administration will hold you accountable. 

Significantly Reduce Immigration Detention 

Americans are rightfully horrified by scenes of chaos and abuse at our border. Separating parents and children and detaining families and other vulnerable populations is not only staggeringly expensive and inhumane, it has no proven deterrent effect. To end unnecessary detention and rebuild a more humane system, a Warren administration will: 

End unnecessary detention. We already have the tools to effectively track and monitor individuals without shoving them into cages and camps along the border. As President, I’ll issue guidance ensuring that detention is only used where it is actually necessary because an individual poses a flight or safety risk. I will put additional layers of protection in place for certain groups, including asylum seekers, families and pregnant women, and LGBTQ+ people who are more vulnerable in a general detention facility. And I’ll enforce strict standards for remaining detention facilities, including for medical care and to end the use of solitary confinement. 

Eliminate private detention facilities. There is no place in this country for profiting off cruelty. I’ll end the contracts ICE has with private detention providers, and push for legislation to permanently ban for-profit detention. 

Expand the executive use of parole and invest in alternatives-to-detention. DHS has broad authority to parole individuals who are detained prior to their cases being heard in immigration court. Community-based alternatives to detention are safer, save money, and can be more effective at ensuring compliance. I’ll significantly expand successful programs, which include case management, referrals to legal and social services, and periodic check-ins and surveillance. These programs provide a measure of dignity for those in the system, and their expanded use would save over a billion dollars each year in unnecessary detention costs. 

Provide Rights and Due Process in our Immigration Courts 

It’s not enough to merely correct the excesses of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. To prevent future abuses, we need to treat migrants moving through the system in a manner that reflects our Constitution and our values. A Warren administration will: 

Establish professional, independent Article I immigration courts. DOJ both oversees the immigration court system and enjoys massive authority to manipulate those courts to implement the president’s immigration policy agenda. Immigration court rulings can even be overturned by the Attorney General — a fundamental conflict of interest exploited by Jeff Sessions. I’ll work to create a credible, independent system by passing legislation establishing Article I judicial review for immigration cases modeled on our federal courts. I’ll deploy smart efficiency measures, beginning by restoring judges’ ability to prioritize and manage their own dockets. And my administration will recruit highly qualified immigration judges with a diverse set of legal experiences so that everyone receives appropriate justice. 

Eliminate expedited removal and provide due process. Due process ensures basic fairness for individuals attempting to navigate complex laws and prevents law enforcement and Presidents from abusing authority. But mostimmigrants facing deportation do not have attorneys — and in the Trump administration, that even includes toddlers. In fact, one-third of deported immigrants never even see a judge: instead, the immigration officer serves as both prosecutor and jury. I’ll eliminate the use of expedited removal proceedings and guarantee hearings. I’ll call for creating a national-scale immigration public defender corps, and a Warren administration will provide access to counsel in immigration court. 

Welcome Those In Need 

Our laws and our values compel us to help those fleeing violence and oppression, but Trump’s racism has contributed to a climate of fear for those seeking refuge in our country. As president, I will: 

Reject exclusionary policies based on race, religion and nationality. I’ll reverse Trump’s bigoted Muslim Ban on my first day in office. I’ll withdraw the Trump policy that forces immigrant families to choose between staying together and ensuring their children — many of whom are American citizens — have access to critical services. And I’ll reinstate Temporary Protected Status designations and Deferred Enforced Departure to protect individuals at risk in their home countries, including migrants from the Caribbean and Africa that have built lives and businesses in our country. 

Raise the refugee cap. At a time when 70 million are displaced around the world, President Trump has abused his authority to lower the refugee cap for the United States, admitting just over 22,000 refugees in total last year. I’ll welcome 125,000 refugees in my first year, and ramping up to at least 175,000 refugees per year by the end of my first term. 

Affirm asylum protections. We should welcome those fleeing violence, not imprison them in cages. As president, I will reverse Trump’s efforts to stack the deck against asylum applicants. I’ll ensure that asylum seekers can safely present themselves at ports of entry for humane, efficient processing, including by ending the metering and “Remain in Mexico” policies. I’ll restore President Obama’s promise to extend asylum for those fleeing domestic or gang violence and affirm asylum protections for gender identity and sexual orientation-based asylum claims. I’ll streamline processes to eliminate the backlog of individuals waiting for an asylum adjudication. And I’ll pardon those convicted of providing food and water to migrants — because no one should go to jail simply providing humanitarian aid to another person in need. 

Grow Legal Immigration and Establish a Fair and Achievable Path to Status 

As president, I’ll work to expand legal immigration. I’ll also take executive action to provide a measure of protection for those who are undocumented, while pursuing a legislative solution that provides a path to citizenship. 

Expand legal immigration. America should welcome more legal immigration — done in the right way and consistent with our principles. We should use targeted immigration as a tool to create jobs and businesses and grow our economy. We should reflect our values, which means expanding family reunification and making it easier for relatives of citizens and green card holders to come to the United States. We should put American workers first by ensuring that workers already here get the first opportunity to fill any available positions. We should empower workers, not employers, by coupling any expansion of legal immigration with real accountability on employers who break the rules, exploit workers, or don’t adhere to basic labor standards. And we should be transparent and data-driven in our immigration policies, using the best available information to identify true needs in the labor force and to address those needs in a way that incorporates the input of both workers and companies. 

Make it easier for those eligible for citizenship to naturalize. Today over 9 million green card holders are eligible to apply for citizenship but many have not chosen to naturalize due to unnecessary barriers, including the cost of applications, the complexity of the process, and administrative issues and backlogs. I’ll work to make it possible for everyone who is eligible to naturalize to do so. 

Reduce the family reunification backlog. As many as 4 million immigrants who are otherwise eligible to come to the United States legally are prohibited because of by-country visa caps. My administration will redistribute unused visas to reduce this backlog and reunite more families with their loved ones. I’ll also urge Congress to repeal laws that make family reunification more difficult to achieve. 

Repeal the 3- and 10-year bars. The law currently requires a person unlawfully in the United States to depart the country for three or ten years before they can apply for legal status. I’ll petition Congress to repeal that requirement. In the meantime, I’ll reinterpret “extreme hardship” to include family separation, making it easier to obtain a waiver allowing people to apply for legal status without having to leave the country for an extended period of time. 

Provide a fair and achievable pathway to citizenship. For the good of our economy and our communities, it’s long past time to provide a path forward for the approximately 11 million undocumented individuals currently living and working in the Unites States. We should immediately reinstate the DACA program and protections for our Dreamers and their families. I’ll expand the program to cover more young people by extending the cut-off date, eliminating the arbitrary application age requirement, and extending the “minor” designation to anyone who was brought to the U.S. under the age of 18. But Dreamers have families and communities that are productive, longtime members of our American family and need protection too. The same is true of the Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure holders. I’ll extend the individual exercise of discretion to offer deferred action protections to hardworking immigrants who have contributed to our country for years and have built careers and families here. And I’ll push for a far-reaching legislative fix that provides a fair but achievable path to citizenship for them. 

Limit the penalties considered for status determinations. Part of focusing on real threats means distinguishing between actual criminals and law-abiding immigrants. We shouldn’t penalize people for prior convictions under statutes that criminalize border crossing for the purpose of status determinations. And we should establish a statute of limitations for how long a misdemeanor will be considered as part of an individual’s immigration adjudication. Citizens with minor, non-violent criminal records should not be permanently excluded from being a part of American society — and immigrants shouldn’t be, either. 

Create an Office of New Americans. I’ll establish an Office of New Americans dedicated to supporting new immigrants as they transition into our society and economy, and task that office to draft a national strategy for integration. We should provide English, civics, and employment- focused classes and training for immigrants who want to enroll, and work with faith groups and other community organizations to provide support services for refugees and asylees, providing the tools to make it easier for newcomers to integrate into their communities. 

Address the Forces Displacing Migrants from Their Home Countries

Migration has spiked around the world, the result of poverty, climate change, violence and injustice. Migrants have come to our country fleeing naturaldisasters or conflicts that forced them from their homes. 

In recent years, many have fled north from the Northern Triangle. But the solution to Central American migration isn’t placing children in cages, it’s stabilizing the countries that families are risking their lives to escape. Rather than addressing rampant corruption, criminal gangs, and some of the world’s highest rates of gender-based violence, President Trump has cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for programs that provide vital support. 

We cannot fully address migration until we address its root causes. Now more than ever, the United States must reclaim its role as the world’s beacon of hope — and that means proposing bold and nuanced solutions to these complex challenges. As president, I will: 

Restore and increase aid. I’ll commit at least $1.5 billion annually in aid to fully fund programs that target crime, disrupt trafficking, address poverty, reduce sexual violence, and enhance programs for at-risk youth in Central America and throughout our hemisphere — and I’ll rally the international community to match those funds. 

Step up efforts to address transnational crime. A Warren administration will expand efforts to reduce corruption and improve the rule of law, investigate and prosecute human trafficking, employ targeted financial sanctions against drug kingpins and money launderers, and provide robust funding for efforts to counter gangs. 

Inform and protect those seeking refuge. My administration will provide information about the right to seek asylum, reinstate the Central American Minors program, and coordinate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help resettle children and families who need protection. We’ll also do more to spread awareness about the dangers of attempting migration across borders to help prevent vulnerable people from being exploited along the way. 

What I Learned From Traveling Around the World in 23 Days

Inle Lake, Myanmar. A trip around the world affords an opportunity to meet people on their own turf. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Bill Chalmers, the “ringmaster” and Chief Experience Officer of the Global Scavenger Hunt, launches us on this around-the-world-in-23-days mystery tour with what he calls a “chimpanzee test” – a test where a chimpanzee is likely to get more answers right than a human being who has news and information available to them. The test basically demonstrates that unlike the gloom-and-doom of headlines, the trendlines are positive and these are actually the best of times for human society.

Throughout this Global Scavenger Hunt, “A Blind Date With the World” – where we don’t know where we are going next until we are told when to go to the airport or get ourselves there, and along the way, complete scavenges and challenges –  we are encouraged, even forced, to “trust in the kindness of strangers.” To interact with local people even when we can’t understand each other’s language. To learn and understand for ourselves.

For me, it is an incomparable opportunity to see in close proximity and context what is happening in countries literally around the globe – to examine this notion of American Exceptionalism, America First; to see the scope of such hot-button issues as trade, technology, migration and how they have played out over the longer course of human civilization. (I have a theory that 98% of Trump’s so-called hard-core base have never traveled beyond their own provincial border.)

As Chalmers notes, it is conceit to think we can parachute into places and understand the nuances of complex issues, but still, travel is about seeing for yourself, but also gaining an understanding of one another, disabusing stereotypes or caricatures, and most significantly, not seeing others as “other”, which works both ways. In very real ways (and especially now), travelers are ambassadors, no less than diplomats. Isolating people is not how change happens – that only hardens points of view, and makes people susceptible to fear-mongering and all the bad things that have happened throughout human history as a result. “See for yourself,” Chalmers tells us.

This is particularly poignant when we arrive in Myanmar:  One of the first things I see upon arriving in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly known as Rangoon in its colonial days) is the National Human Rights Commission which at this juncture, strikes as ironic. But despite the awful headlines, we all find the people of Myanmar to be kind, gentle, considerate. And a complete lack of politics or angst.

And just after returning home, the two prizewinning Reuters journalists imprisoned for their reporting of the deadly crackdown on the Rohingya, were released.

War Remnants Museum, Ho C hi Minh City, Vietnam. Press photos from international journalists from the time of the Vietnam War document the atrocities committed and go unpunished © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vietnam is a testament to the resiliency of human society to rebound after wars and other crises (as we see everywhere, in fact – in Spain, in Portugal, in Greece, places that suffered during World War II, and you reflect on the success of the alliances that set the stage for 70 years of progress, now being weakened). In Vietnam, visiting the Chu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum, you cannot help but feel ashamed at the war crimes that remain unpunished because of the wealth and power of the United States.

In Gibraltar, still a colony of Great Britain, I come upon a May Day labor rally that could have been New York City: Privatization. Nonconsultation and lack of transparency. Unfair distribution. Wage increases that don’t keep up with the cost of living.

May Day Rally in Gibraltar © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Abu Dhabi is like a fantasy of a society built on oil wealth, conspicuous ostentation, a gallery of skyscrapers that defy physics; Amman, Jordan, on the other hand, is the real world. But my side trip to Petra – a fantastic city carved out of the rock faces, showed how greatness is made possible by innovations in engineering a water supply. Petra was able to dominate (and protect) the caravan routes, and the result was fabulous art and culture.

This theme picked up again in Athens, visiting the National Archaeological Museum, where I am struck by the artistry from 2500 years ago (themes and imagery that I will see again repeated throughout history on our final stop in New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and realize that the human species is not smarter or better than thousands of years ago, we just have better tools and technology.

But this panel about 6th Century Greece stood out that notes the nexus between trade, migration, innovation, democracy and culture and rise of empire:

“The nature of the economy underwent a radical change as a result of the growth of trade. A new class of citizens emerged who were conscious of liberty and its potential and now demanded the right to play an active role in the running of public affairs….The liberty that was characteristic of the Greek way of life and which governed their thinking finds eloquent expression in their artistic creations. …Works of art and artists moved freely along the trade routes. The wealth and power of the city-states were expressed in the erection of monumental, lavishly adorned temples and impressive public welfare works.

“Greeks turned their attention to the natural world and to phenomena that gave rise to philosophical speculation, formulative ideas such as those of matter, the atom, force, space and time, and laying the foundations of science…”

But then came the rise of the Persian Empire and the Persian Wars.

Banquet Relief of Malku with Two Attendants, ca early 3rd C, artifact from Palmyra. The ancient site has been destroyed by ISIS and the artifacts looted © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These themes are repeated in New York City  where our “Global Scavenger Hunt” ends. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the challenge I take is to find objects from five of the countries we visited, and this leads me to a fascinating exhibit, “The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East.” The museum rarely (if ever) becomes political, but in this exhibit, archaeologists comment on the destruction of Palmyra and other ancient sites by ISIS.

“It may seem frivolous to focus on monuments, museums when people are enslaved and killed. But to wipe out, destroy culture is a way of destroying people. We must protect heritage as well.”

Palmyra only exists now “on paper” and in photos after the destruction by ISIS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is a humbling experience, to be sure, to go to the origins of the great civilizations, fast forward to today. How did they become great? How did they fall? Greatness is not inevitable or forever.  Empires rise and fall. Rulers use religion, art and monuments to establish their credibility and credentials to rule; successors blot out the culture and re-write history. Traveling around the world, you appreciate just what a small world it is, how interdependent we are, how vulnerable our societies are, and that individuals do have impact. Also, that people everywhere are more similar than different.

I come back to a monstrously disturbing New York Times headline: “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace:”

“Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.”

The Barbary Macaques delight visitors to Gibraltar but the loss of 1 million species due to human activity and development is more threatening to society and civilization than the impact on tourism revenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In this case, headlines are trendlines. And it isn’t just about aesthetics or seeing animals like the Barbary Macaques that delight tourists in Gibraltar, but whole economies and sustenance. It is a matter of national security, peace and progress. It is about food and water supply, disease, habitable spaces. Sea level rise alone is expected to trigger 300 million climate refugees, competing for dwindling resources. There have been periods of mass extinction in the past – in fact, homo sapiens (us) were touch and go there for awhile.

Chalmers started off our “Blind Date With the World” with the Nicholas Kristof model, that these are actually the best of times for human society despite the gloom and doom headlines. But I disagree: the trendlines are not that hopeful. We may well be living in a golden age of human capacity, but we must recognize that we now have the power of the Gods to shape, to destroy or to create. And we seem too short-sighted to see that.

“Governments must start putting people and the planet ahead of corporate interests and greed and act with the urgency this report illustrates,” writes Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA. “Leaders must adopt strong targets and implementation plans to protect biodiversity with the active participation and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Instead of plundering the forests and seas for short-term profit we need to shift our system into one that respects planetary boundaries.”

The Greek Gods may well have the last laugh at the extraordinary ability humans have to destroy themselves.

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Presidents Day Protests Nationwide Rip into the Anti-President Trump Over Fake National Emergency

Some 55 Long Islanders assembled in front of the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola on Presidents Day to protest against Trump’s declaration of a fake national emergency in order to do end-run around Congress and build a wall on the southern border © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Some 55 Long Islanders assembled in front of the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola on Presidents Day to protest the anti-President, the illegitimate occupier of the White House who has yet again fouled the office and undermined the Constitution and the Rule of Law in his personal quest to see just how much authoritarian rule he can muster to overcome his incompetence. We were just one of more than 250 protests in 47 states that were held.

Just as Trump abused the claim of “national security” in order to usurp power to implement an otherwise unconstitutional Travel Ban and overturned ratified trade agreements (Canada, really!) and treaties (the Reagan-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia), Trump now perverts “national emergency” in order to preempt Congress’ Article 1 power of the purse in pursuit of building his political and personal monument, the southern border wall. And to do it, he would rob other projects, deemed worthy of appropriation by Congress: $2.5 billion in military narcotics funding and $3.6 billion in military construction necessary to cure the decrepit housing.

The very definition of “emergency” – and the clear intent when Congress passed it – was to enable a President to react to immediate crises – a foreign attack, a natural disaster – when Congress could not have time to.

But after two years of Republican control of all branches – executive, legislative and judicial – and not getting the appropriation to build the wall that even Republicans recognized as wasteful and ineffective (when Trump nixed the Democrats’ offer of $25 billion in exchange for DACA), and then a 35-day government shutdown followed by weeks of deliberation in which the Congress deemed $1.4 billion sufficient for “border fencing,” now he insists there is a “national emergency.”

What is more accurate is that there is a humanitarian crisis solely of Trump and his thugs’ making, for which in a just world, he and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II, and anyone else involved in conceiving and implementing the torturous “family separations” and “zero tolerance” policies would be tried, convicted and jailed for crimes against humanity.

Long Islanders protest against Trump’s declaration of a fake national emergency in order to do end-run around Congress and build a wall on the southern border © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But in pursuit of these human rights violations, Trump is also violating international and US law. Those Trumpers who insist “why don’t they come in legally as my grandfather did?” should recognize that Trump has shut down what legal immigration system there was – in fact, it hasn’t functioned since Reagan, which is why there are an estimated 11 million undocumented people.

Instead of actually dealing with the immigration crisis – starting with reuniting parents with their children, implementing a program to properly vet and legalize the status of Dreamers and parents of American citizen children, the tens of thousands who have been in the US legally for decades under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs, and those who have a legal claim to asylum – Trump has actually closed access through legal ports of entry, while declaring anyone who enters and then surrenders to border patrol, as having committed a crime, and therefore ineligible for asylum. That violates US and international law.

Long Islanders protest against Trump’s declaration of a fake national emergency in order to do end-run around Congress and build a wall on the southern border © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The absurdity of Trump’s unlawful assertion of “national emergency” to build a wall is the fact that he would only have one year before it expired – and the $8 billion he is expropriating would hardly be sufficient. Moreover, a wall takes tremendous amount of time to build, even if it would actually keep out drugs and gangs (which it won’t). Hardly a way to address an actual “emergency.”

Of course, Trump admitted as much when he betrayed his utter ineptitude when he declared the emergency when simultaneously declaring, “Of course I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.” The money, he said, could be reallocated from the many “unimportant” projects – like disaster aid to Puerto Rico and California, or cutting funding for 9/11 victims.

He then boasted about having so much money – even in the defense budget. “When you have that kind of money going into the military, this is a very, very small amount that we’re asking for,” Trump said.

Here’s the question: if the Defense budget is so bloated (at $719 billion), doesn’t that mean that Congress should allocate funding elsewhere, like health care, infrastructure, child care, R&D? (Yes.)

In addition to the Democratic-controlled House advancing a resolution rescinding the declaration, and organizations like the ACLU bring suit, 16 states (including New York), led by California, are now suing Trump. “We’re going to try to halt the President from violating the Constitution, the separation of powers, from stealing money from Americans and states that has been allocated by Congress, lawfully,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra stated.

Long Islanders protest against Trump’s declaration of a fake national emergency in order to do end-run around Congress and build a wall on the southern border © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Initially, there was a cheering thought that Trump’s precedent would enable a Democratic President (in just 2 years!) to finally address real emergencies, circumventing the obstruction of the likes of Mitch McConnell – health care, climate change, gun violence, humanitarian crisis posed by Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy – that destroy tens of thousands of lives needlessly, tragically each year.

But then I realized that just as Trump’s sing-song description of how he expects to lose in the 9th circuit but expects to win at the Supreme Court, which going back to Bush has been stacked with “justices” who believe in a Unitary Executive (when a Republican is in office), that this same Supreme Court right-wing, Federalist Society majority, that would empower Trump’s “presidential discretion” today would beat back a national emergency claim by a Democratic president for these purposes, just as they contradicted the Constitution and precedent in Citizens United, Hobby Lobby, Heller, Bush v Gore.

“The risk is that we limit the president’s power to act when it really is necessary, when it is not practical to bring the Congress into session on a moment’s notice,” said Congressman Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence committee. “But this president doesn’t care about future presidents. He only cares about himself. And in this case, he only cares about placating his conservative critics.”

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin