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Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Moving the goalposts, Part I lost count

by Tom Sullivan

Marco Antonio Munoz committed suicide in police custody after becoming agitated and distraught over authorities forcibly separating him from his family.

All eyes may be on the premiere of Donald Trump's latest reality show in Singapore, but there are other matters to consider at home.

Fearing death from domestic abuse and gang violence is no reason not to deny asylum to women and children reaching our borders because the United States of America declared they are not refugees; because we declared waterboarding is not torture either; and because we wanted to do both.

Who thinks these actions reflect American values?

U.S. and international law require the country to consider the asylum claims of refugees defined by U.S. law:

(42) The term “refugee” means (A) any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, or (B) in such special circumstances as the President after appropriate consultation (as defined in section 1157(e) of this title) may specify, any person who is within the country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, within the country in which such person is habitually residing, and who is persecuted or who has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The term “refugee” does not include any person who ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. For purposes of determinations under this chapter, a person who has been forced to abort a pregnancy or to undergo involuntary sterilization, or who has been persecuted for failure or refusal to undergo such a procedure or for other resistance to a coercive population control program, shall be deemed to have been persecuted on account of political opinion, and a person who has a well founded fear that he or she will be forced to undergo such a procedure or subject to persecution for such failure, refusal, or resistance shall be deemed to have a well founded fear of persecution on account of political opinion.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told immigration judges Monday to stop granting asylum to most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence:
“Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” Mr Sessions wrote in his ruling, which is a binding precedent for US immigration judges and relied largely on the notion that these are "private" crimes and do not qualify a victim for asylum in the US. “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes—such as domestic violence or gang violence—or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”
Sessions didn't like the working definition of refugee so he moved the goalposts. The change will likely prevent tens of thousands of immigrants — mostly women reports the Independent — from finding safety in the United States.

This follows on the heels of the Trump administration's announced "zero tolerance" policy on asylum claims and border crossings creating an overflow of immigrants in detention centers, with children being taken from their parents and held separately for weeks or months. The crackdown has resulted in a young Guatemalan woman being shot and killed by the Border Patrol. Marco Antonio Munoz, 39, of Honduras committed suicide in a padded cell after authorities forcibly separated him from his wife and 3-year-old son.

New Yorker's Jessica Winter observes that the rationale given for punishing children for the actions of their parents echoes the language of domestic abusers:
In a scene from Sunday’s Globe piece, a defense attorney pleads with a U.S. magistrate judge in Texas, Peter Ormsby, to order a group of immigrants in custody to be reunited with their children; Ormsby turns to the defendants and says, “I hope you understand the reason there was a separation is you violated the laws here.” Look what you made me do.
As the sitting president met with North Korea's leader in Singapore, Now This compiled a series of video clips of how hotly the America right condemned the previous (Democrat) president for even considering speaking with hostile foreign leaders. Now that Donald Trump occupies the White House, the goalposts have moved:

On Monday conservative justices on the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Ohio could purge its voter rolls. The legal fight arose over the method Ohio uses for purging inactive voters from its rolls.

"You'll see more red states making it easier to drop people from the voter registration rolls," said Prof. Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine and editor of Election Law Blog. Lower courts had ruled voters could not be purged for failing to exercise the right. Writing at Slate, Hasen explained, "No doubt other Republican states will follow suit and adopt Ohio’s procedures, leading to the removal of a disproportionate number of minority, low-income, and veteran voters from the list of eligible voters."

Which is the point, of course. Many of those voters (when they do) tend to vote for Democrats:
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a separate dissent, pointed particularly to the effect of Monday's decision on minority and poor neighborhoods. She observed that, in Hamilton County – which includes Cincinnati – African-American neighborhoods in the city had 10 percent of their voters removed due to inactivity, as compared to only 4 percent in the suburban, white-majority neighborhoods.
Ari Berman wrote in January that Republicans have the National Voter Registration Act on their target list for repeal:
In 2013, the Supreme Court weakened a key part of the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with long histories of voting discrimination no longer needed to clear their election changes with the federal government. After winning that fight, Republicans are now going after the NVRA in what voting rights advocates say is a thinly veiled effort to make it more difficult for Democratic-leaning constituencies to register to vote—and far easier for state officials to remove them from the voter rolls. “We’re seeing a coming fight over how voter rolls are maintained,” says Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “It’s a new front in the voter suppression battles.”
Facing slumping GOP registration and a rapidly aging base, Republicans are moving the goalposts ... for the opposing team.

Critics describe photo ID bills and other Republican-led "voter fraud" election law changes as a solution in search of a problem. Their Senate leader once argued that making voting easier for all Americans (via the NVRA) was a solution in search of a problem. Sen. Mitch McConnell wrote in 1991 that "relatively low voter turnout is a sign of a content democracy." (These aren't the voters droids you're looking for.) He wasn't advocating low voter participation, McConnell wrote, but what makes American democracy great is "Americans have the right not to vote."

There is no set of core beliefs here. No faith and trust in American values or in democracy, only in expediency.

The truth when it gets us what we want; lies when it doesn't.

The rule of law for thee but not for me.

Democracy so long as our side wins.

Mercy for the rich and powerful. Hardened hearts for the poor and weak because they're poor and weak.

Who thinks these actions reflect American values? People who are Americans like Fox News is "fair and balanced," that's who.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.