Press Con (Part 2)

 

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Trump’s Response

Donald Trump inexplicably glossed over and basically ignored all of these criminal acts in a press conference held on Monday. Here are some of the worst of Trump’s statements with my analysis:

1. “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. … And I think we’re all to blame.”
2. “There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. And people are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re going to have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign.”
3. “But just to say it one time again — and I say it all the time — there was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign.” Statements 2 and 3 are premature at best. We await the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation. This statement is sloppy and irresponsible.
4. “My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

We demonstrated from the most recent indictment that Russia is responsible. Perhaps the reader may respond by saying that the president didn’t know about this information at the time of the press briefing. This response will not work. First, Donald Trump is the president. He has access to all of the relevant classified material. Second, the aforementioned indictment is not the only indictment issued by Mueller that include details about Russian hacking. Another indictment was issued on February 16th and it accused 13 other Russians of crimes related to hacking. Third, there is the joint intelligence report issued on January 16th of this year. Let’s remind ourselves of the key findings of that report:

We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.

• We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.
• Moscow’s approach evolved over the course of the campaign based on Russia’s understanding of the electoral prospects of the two main candidates. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency.
• Further information has come to light since Election Day that, when combined with Russian behavior since early November 2016, increases our confidence in our assessments of Russian motivations and goals.

Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.” Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin.

• Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties.
• We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.
• Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.
• Russia’s state-run propaganda machine contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.

We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes. (pgs. 7-8)

Remember, this report is the conclusion reached by The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA). (pg. i) The consensus of the intelligence community is clear.

5. “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Why would Trump dismiss the evidence in favor of Putin’s word?

Monday, Trump chose to side with Putin’s statements over against all of this detailed evidence. This is beyond the pale. Here are my questions:

1. Is Trump irreparably incompetent?
2. Does Trump have an irrational and crippling fear of Vladimir Putin?
3. Does Trump’s admiration of Russian harmfully exceed his duty to America?
4. Does Trump have business interests that significantly cloud his ability to make cogent strategic assessments?
5. Does Putin have so much leverage over Trump that he can no longer act in America’s best interests?
6. Did Trump say or commit to things that are harmful or even fatal to the US during his private meeting with Putin? This is no exaggeration. Apparently, Trump and Putin worked out a plan on Syria during their closed one-on-one meeting. Al Jazeera:

At their joint press conference following the summit, Syria was barely mentioned, but this does not mean that it wasn’t discussed during the one-on-one meeting. The brief statements made on Syria gave some indication on where Trump stands and what goals Putin is pursuing.

Impeachment proceeding should be a real consideration if the answer to any these question can be truthfully answered affirmatively. Donald Trump is probably no longer fit to be president.

We are at a pivotal moment.

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Press Con (Part 1)

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Everyone should mark Monday, July 6th, 2018 on their calendars. I waited to write a blog about Monday’s press conference because I want to say something different and thoughtful.

The apprehension of a Russian Spy

Mariia Butina is a Russian agent who sought to create a secret line of communication between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Butina worked at the direction of a top Russian official.

Butina graduated from American University in Washington D.C. with a Masters in International Relations. This fact shows that Butina has deep knowledge of America. She has enough facility with the English language and culture to get into a good university and successfully complete a degree.

Butina’s American political point of connection may have been the National Rifle Association (NRA). Butina tried to infiltrate the NRA on behalf of the Russian government. More specifically, the Russian government tried to infiltrate the NRA since at least 2013 and Butina was a player in this effort.

Butina was arrested Sunday. Yes, a Russian spy was arrested in connection to Russian hacking.

Butina has ties to Republican strategist Paul Erickson and some think he is the person identified as “US Person 1” in an affidavit attached to the complaint submitted in connection to Butina’s arrest. According to Business Insider:

The affidavit said Butina and this individual worked together to arrange introductions to other Americans who are influential in US politics, “including an organization promoting gun rights … for the purpose of advancing the agenda of the Russian Federation.”

The affidavit outlines several emails Butina sent to US Person 1 that highlight the depth of her connections to the NRA and to GOP politics. It also elaborates on the extensive contacts between Butina and the Russian official during the election. The document said Butina and the Russian official worked to establish “back channel” lines of communication with US political operatives to penetrate the US national decision-making apparatus” and advance Russian interests.

Does this sound like collusion?

The Dirty Twelve

On July 13th the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian officers: Viktor Borisovich Netyksho, Boris Alekseyevich Antonov, Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, Aleksey Viktorovich Lukashev, Sergey Aleksandrovich Morgachev, Nikolay Yuryevich Kozachek, Pavel Vyacheslavovich Yershov, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, Aleksandr Vladimirovich Osadchuk, Aleksey Aleksandrovich Potemkin, and Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev.

The level of specificity of the indictment is staggering:

1. “In or around 2016, the Russia Federation (“Russia”) operated a military intelligence agency called the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (“GRU”). The GRU had multiple units, including Units 26165 and 74455…” (pg. 1)
2. “Defendant Viktor Borisovich Netyksho…was the Russian military officer in command of Unit 26165, located at 20 Komsomolskiy Prospekt, Moscow, Russia. Unit 26165 had primary responsibility for hacking the DCCC and DNC, as well as the email accounts of individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign.” (pg. 3)
3. “Defendant Sergey Aleksandrovih Morgachev…was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Russian military assigned to Unit 26165. Morgachev oversaw a department within Unit 26165 dedicated to developing and managing malware, including a hacking tool used by the GRU known as “X-Agent.” (pg. 4)
4. “Defendant Aleksander Vladimirovich Osadchuck…was a Colonel in the Russian military and the commanding officer of Unit 74455. Unit 74455 was located at 22 Kirova Street, Khimki, Moscow, a building referred to within the GRU as the “Tower.” Unit 74455 assisted in the release of stolen documents through the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas, the promotion of those releases, and the publication of anti-Clinton content on social media accounts operated by the GRU.” (pg. 5)
5. “Antonov, Badin, Yermakov, Lukashev, and their co-conspirators targeted victims using a technique known as spearphishing to steal victims’ passwords or otherwise gain access to their computers. Beginning by at least March 2016, the Conspirators targeted over 300 individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign, DCCC, and DNC.” (pg. 6)
6. “On or about April 18, 2016, the Conspirators activated X-Agent’s keylog and screenshot functions to steal credentials of a DCCC employee who was authorized to access the DNC network. The Conspirators hacked into the DNC network from the DCCC network using stolen credentials. By in or around June 2016, they gained access to approximately thirty-three DNC computers.” (pg. 10)
7. “During the hacking of the DCCC and DNC networks, the Conspirators covered their tracks by intentionally deleting logs and computer files. For example, on or about May 13, 2016, the Conspirators cleared the event logs from a DNC computer. On or about June 20, 2016, the Conspirators deleted logs from the AMS panel that documented their activities on the panel, including the login history.” (pgs. 11-12)

This is truly impressive investigative work. As the reader can see, the indictment includes specific names, ranks, dates, addresses, tools, and methods.

Charges against these Russians include:

1. Aggravated Identity Theft (pg. 20)
2. Conspiracy to Launder Money through the use of cryptocurrency (pg. 21)
3. Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States (pg. 25)

This is what working in America’s interest looks like. Every person who worked on bringing these efforts to light should be applauded.

What thanks did all of these federal workers get from their president?

Republicans Taxing Churches?

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The general public is not fully knowledgeable about the particulars of the Republican tax plan. One such particular is taxing churches. The Hill:

Republicans have quietly imposed a new tax on churches, synagogues and other nonprofits, a little-noticed and surprising change that could cost some groups tens of thousands of dollars.

Their recent tax-code rewrite requires churches, hospitals, colleges, orchestras and other historically tax-exempt organizations to begin paying a 21 percent tax on some types of fringe benefits they provide their employees.

Read the entire story here.

Was Trump Duped by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un?

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Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with much fanfare. Trump described the meeting as “tremendously successful” and he characterized the document signed by both leaders as “comprehensive.” It is difficult to imagine what Trump means by “success” or “comprehensiveness.”

Kim Jong Un seems to be speaking a different language than Trump because Kim Jong Un appears to be fortifying, not destroying nuclear facilities. CNN:

New satellite images show North Korea has made rapid improvements to the infrastructure at its Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center — a facility used to produce weapons-grade fissile material, according to an analysis published by 38 North, a prominent North Korea monitoring group.

Captured on June 21, the photos reveal modifications to the site’s plutonium production reactor and the construction of several support facilities — long-planned upgrades that were already underway before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump met in Singapore earlier this month.

When contacted by CNN about 38 North’s analysis, the Unification Ministry said they “cannot confirm the report” and are “watching it closely.”

If that is not enough, NBC is reporting that US intelligence believes North Korea is enriching uranium at an accelerated rate. Remember, uranium is the fuel for a nuclear bomb. According to NBC:

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months — and that Kim Jong Un may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration, U.S. officials told NBC News.

This is troubling news, but there’s more:

In recent months, even as the two sides engaged in diplomacy, North Korea was stepping up its production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, five U.S. officials say, citing the latest intelligence assessment. North Korea and the U.S. agreed at the summit to “work toward” denuclearization, but there is no specific deal. On Trump’s order, the U.S. military canceled training exercises on the Korean peninsula, a major concession to Kim.

While the North Koreans have stopped missile and nuclear tests, “there’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” said one U.S. official briefed on the latest intelligence. “There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the U.S.”

Four other officials familiar with the intelligence assessment said North Korea intended to deceive the U.S.

This is deeply disturbing news.

Was the summit “successful?” Was Trump duped?

Immigration and Asylum: Is Trump Simply Following the Law? (Part 4)

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The Difference Between the Trump and Obama Immigration Policy

There are significant differences between the Obama and Trump immigration and asylum policies according to Politifact.com:

In Trump’s case, family separations are a feature, not a bug, of the administration’s border policies, said David Fitzgerald, who co-directs the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies.

“The family separations are not the small-scale collateral consequences of a border policy, but rather, a deliberate initiative,” he added.

Former Obama officials in recent interviews drew sharp distinctions between Trump’s policy and that of his predecessors.

The Trump administration’s current approach is modeled after Operation Streamline, a 2005 program under the administration of George W. Bush, according to Obama spokesman Eric Schultz. The key difference, he said, is that while the 2005 program referred all illegal immigrants for prosecution, it made exceptions for adults traveling with children.

This conclusion is confirmed by NBC News:

The idea that this is simply a continuation of an Obama-era practice is “preposterous,” said Denise Gilman, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas Law School. “There were occasionally instances where you would find a separated family — maybe like one every six months to a year — and that was usually because there had been some actual individualized concern that there was a trafficking situation or that the parent wasn’t actually the parent.”

Is the Trump administration simply following the law?

Some people argue that Trump is simply following a law passed in 1996. The reader will not be surprised to learn that this claim is not true as discovered by Politifact:

“The 1996 reforms made it easier to remove previously legal immigrants (many of whom had married, settled down, and had kids in the United States) for criminal conviction that had previously not made them eligible for removal,” said Rick Su, an immigration law professor at University of Buffalo.

“Adult noncitizens who were removed sometimes chose to have U.S. citizen kids remain in the United States,” said Peter Marguiles, law professor at Roger Williams University. “But that was a choice made by parents, not a decision by the government.”

The same article also tells us that the 1997 Flores Settlement doesn’t require the separation of families either:

The Flores settlement was a January 1997 court agreement between advocates for unaccompanied minors detained by immigration authorities and the Justice Department. The agreement determined immigrant children must be held in the “least restrictive setting.”

The Flores agreement can be read as barring children from jail, but it doesn’t condone or require the separation of children from parents. In fact, it stresses keeping children close to parents and extended family.

The Obama administration had been placing children with their parents in family detention centers, but the California-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016 held that the Flores agreement applies to all minors, not just those traveling unaccompanied. Because the detention centers were considered restrictive, the children had to be released. The Obama administration chose to release parents alongside their children.

In fact, section 6 of the Flores settlement titled “General Policy Favoring Release” says:

14. Where the INS determines that the detention of the minor is not required either to secure his or her timely appearance before the INS or the immigration court, or to ensure the minor’s safety or that of others, the INS shall release a minor from its custody without unnecessary delay, in the following order of preference, to:

A. a parent;
B. a legal guardian;
C. an adult relative (brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or grandparent);
D. an adult individual or entity designated by the parent or legal guardian as capable and willing to care for the minor’s well-being in (i) a declaration signed under penalty of perjury before an immigration or consular officer or (ii) such other document(s) that establish(es) to the satisfaction of the INS, in its discretion, the affiant’s paternity or guardianship;
E. a licensed program willing to accept legal custody; or
F. an adult individual or entity seeking custody, in the discretion of the INS, when it appears that there is no other likely alternative to long term detention and family reunification does not appear to be a reasonable possibility. (pg. 6-7)

The Trump administration wasn’t practicing a general policy of release, rather it was a policy of detention. The Flores settlement goes on to say:

(d) Release. The INS will release minors from its custody without unnecessary delay, unless detention of a juvenile is required to secure her timely appearance or to ensure the minor’s safety or that of others. Minors shall be released in the following order of preference, to:

(i) a parent;
(ii) a legal guardian;
(iii) an adult relative (brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or grandparent);
(iv) an adult individual or entity designated by the parent or legal guardian as capable and willing to care for the minor’s well-being in (i) a declaration signed under penalty of perjury before an immigration or consular officer, or (ii) such other documentation that establishes to the satisfaction of the INS, in its discretion, that the individual designating the individual or entity as the minor’s custodian is in fact the minor’s parent or guardian;
(v) a state-licensed juvenile shelter, group home, or foster home willing to accept legal custody; or
(vi) an adult individual or entity seeking custody, in the discretion of the INS, when it appears that there is no other likely alternative to long term detention and family reunification does not appear to be a reasonable possibility. (pg. 19)

The Flores settlement requires minors to be released without unnecessary delay under reasonable conditions.

I hope this series has helped readers learn the truth behind the noise of this debate.

Liberals are F@$*#D!

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We interrupt our current blog series in order to address a significant issue.

Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring.

I wrote the title of this blog with much grief. I say this because I value rigorous political and legal debate and it will be lost at the Supreme Court. The era for debate is over. Conservatives will have victory on almost every case before the Supreme Court.

Liberals allowed the Democratic Party establishment to sack Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump ascended to the presidency. Pelosi, Schumer, and Feinstein are cancer to your movement. You need new blood. You need a blood transfusion. Conservatives didn’t compromise and they are reaping the benefits.

President Obama failed at critical points and the Democratic Party is a weak disorganized gaggle of witless slogan hucksters. Slogans don’t win elections. Slogans don’t get Supreme Court nominees installed.

Conservatives were building a legal and political edifice while liberals were playing pin the tail on the jackass at Pride parades. Conservatives are aggressive, strategic, well-funded, and focused. Liberals, you spent your time stroking each other’s egos in the ivory tower rather than creating winning political strategies. Abandon old ways of thinking and renounce your allegiance to corporate overlords. Mobilize your constituency from their gut.

Wake up liberals! The reality is, all of your pet projects will be destroyed:

1. Roe v. Wade will be overturned
2. There will be no measures to stem climate change
3. Gays are no longer married
4. Muslims will suffer
5. Voter Suppression will increase
6. Corporations will gain more power
7. Transgenderism will be treated like a myth
8. Gerrymandering will increase
9. Workplace discrimination will increase
10. Police Brutality will be denied
11. The Voting Rights Act will be gutted if not made null and void
12. Death Penalty for Children will return

Liberals fail to understand that the seal of political advancement is a favorable Supreme Court. Conservatives understood this and blocked President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination. Conservatives took an unprecedented gamble by allowing a Supreme Court seat to remain vacant and were handsomely rewarded. Democrats were lazily relying on the loss of political capital to fight their battles. Conservatives own the court.

Conservatives take every political and legal loss personally and they presciently regroup and learn from their mistakes. Liberals are aloof and disconnected from the realities on the ground. Even today, liberals are vociferously celebrating progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory. Ocasio-Cortez’s win should garner a golf clap. This victory should be overshadowed by their grief over Kennedy’s retirement.

The only way forward is to win decisive majorities in the House and Senate and pass laws that will advance and solidify your agenda. Eric Holder and Barack Obama should either divert their attention to getting liberals elected or abandon their gerrymandering legal project altogether. Holder and Obama will not be able to persuade the Supreme Court.

Liberals, you severely underestimated conservatives and you will pay in ways you never thought possible. Your movement is on life-support. Nothing you do will pass the Supreme Court. Stated differently, every move you make will be destroyed by the Supreme Court. Stop listening to the pundits who give you rosy predictions.

Liberals are F@$*#D!

America is F@$*#D!

I say America is f@$*#D because robust adversarial exchanges are good for democracy. The Supreme Court is ideologically conservative for now and liberals are defeated.

I realize this blog post is pessimistic. I will happily eat my words if I am proven wrong.

Immigration and Asylum: Obama did it too? (Part 3)

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A number of respondents to this blog series suggested that the Obama administration started or engaged in separating migrate parents from their children. Did the Obama administration engage this practice?

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said both Bush and Obama administrations separated families. FactCheck.Org followed up on this claim:

DHS told us that 2,342 children were separated from their parents between May 5 and June 9.

But DHS couldn’t provide any statistics on how many children may have been separated from their parents under the Obama administration.

Instead, when we asked, it pointed to numbers that show 21 percent of apprehended adults were referred for prosecution under President Barack Obama. From fiscal year 2010 to fiscal 2016, there were 2,362,966 adults apprehended illegally crossing the Southern border, and 492,970 were referred for prosecution, those figures show. But that doesn’t tell us anything about how many children may have been separated from their parents under Obama.

And we don’t have such statistics to compare the past to the present.

“We have not seen any data out of the current or prior administration on how many cases that were prosecuted were individuals who arrived with minors,” Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told us in an email. “So we cannot make any guesses or assumptions about how many separations based on prosecution there were or are.”

An online report said President Obama oversaw the separation of 90,000 migrant children from their parents. ABC 7 investigated the matter and found:

The false claim appears to stem from a January 2016 Senate subcommittee report that investigated how the Department of Health and Human Services, under the Obama administration, placed thousands of unaccompanied children illegally entering the country.

The subcommittee report found that from October 2013 through 2015 the federal agency placed nearly 90,000 children with a sponsor, after they were detained at the border without a legal guardian. The majority of those sponsors, the report found, were a parent or legal guardian living in the country. No specific numbers were provided in the report. HHS did not respond to the AP’s request for that information.

To be sure, the Obama administration did, in fact, separate some parents from their children, but this did not happen as a matter of deterrence. “Gil Kerlikowske, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner from early 2014 to the end of Obama’s term, said parents were split from their children if they were arrested on drug charges, for example, or had an outstanding warrant.”

Furthermore, the scale of this practice is minuscule in comparison to the Trump administration.

It is difficult to see how this argument is supposed to work. The constant refrain of the Trump administration is Obama’s immigration policies failed. Shouldn’t we expect the zero-tolerance policy to fail if it’s simply a continuation of Obama’s immigration policy? Why would the Trump administration adopt a policy they believed failed in the past? We should probably conclude that this is not a continuation of Obama’s policy.

Immigration and Asylum: The Facts on the Ground (Part 2)

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Clarification

One of my readers is perplexed by the opening sentences of my last post. They view my assessment as overly pessimistic.

Emphatically stated, migrants who are currently in custody are being placed in a chaotic and intolerable situation by the US government.

The Detroit Free Press reports that an 8-month-old baby, an 11-month-old baby, along with 48 other kids were taken from their parents and taken to a transitional foster care program at Bethany Christian Services in Michigan. The worst part is they aren’t being immediately reunited with their parents. It takes up to 30 days in some cases. The kids are screaming “hysterically” according to the report. Why is this happening? The reason kids are not immediately reunited with their parents is “because the parents are detained and the agency [Bethany Christian Services] can’t locate them.”

To be clear, children are being taken from their parents and placed in facilities far away from their parents. The agencies housing the children don’t know the location of their parents. Meanwhile, the children are crying frantically.

Mothers in New Mexico do not know how to find their children. Here is one situation as described by The New Yorker:

A Honduran woman named Esmeralda Pérez and her nine-year-old son, Jefferson, had just crossed the U.S. border when they were arrested, outside El Paso, on May 26th. “The agents came up to us, and my son said to me, ‘Mom, I’m scared,’ ” Pérez told me. “I said to him, ‘Don’t worry, these people aren’t going to hurt us.’ ” Pérez showed the agents her I.D. and her son’s birth certificate, and said that they were fleeing persecution. They were taken to a Border Patrol station, where they spent the night. The next day, around noon, an agent walked into their cell. “Come with me and bring me your kid,” he told Pérez. “The agent said he was going to take my son because I needed to pay a penalty and go to jail,” Perez said. “But he didn’t tell me where they were taking.” She hasn’t seen or spoken to her son since.

Keep in mind, this article was written yesterday, June 21, 2018, well after the executive order was signed.

Erik Hanshew is an Assistant Federal Public Defender in El Paso, Texas. He wrote about his encounter with a mother at the El Paso County Detention Facility in the The Washington Post. He wrote, “The president Wednesday signed an executive order ending the policy, but that changes nothing for my clients or the thousands of other parents who have already lost their kids at the border.”

The New Yorker succinctly describes the situation:

In the past month and a half, the Trump Administration has separated at least twenty-five hundred children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, under a new zero-tolerance policy—without instituting a plan or protocol for how to reunite them. On Wednesday, the President signed an executive order that he claimed would halt the separations, but it made no mention of the families who had already been split up. They have been left in limbo. Some parents have already been deported, while their children remain in the U.S. Others are stuck in immigration detention, and, although they know where their children are, they cannot reach them.

Once again, Trump’s executive order does nothing to remedy these problems.

Child Abuse Trump Style

We have been inundated with reports about the ill-treatment of children at the border. It is important that we get a full understanding of what’s happening on the ground.

An article written by Matt Smith and Aura Bogado at the Center for Investigative Journalism says that children are being injected with medications that make them “them dizzy, listless, obese and even incapacitated.” This report is based on a 49-page court filing alleging unconscionable treatment of migrant children. The filing contains evidence of the inappropriate use of psychotropic drugs on children.

Page 17 of the filing says:

As described in Plaintiffs’ letter of December 19, 2017, class members with special mental health needs, particularly those housed at the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center (“Shiloh RTC”), are regularly placed on multiple psychotropic medications, told little or nothing about these medications, and often suffer negative side effects from such medications without recourse. The evidence also shows that children are often medicated at Shiloh RTC without the consent of parents who are present in the United States and accessible to facility and ORR staff.

One child was prescribed “Prazosin, Quetiapine, Sertraline, and Olanzapine.” Administration of this much medication “conflicts with professional association guidelines.” Negative side-effects of concurrent administration of these drugs include Type II diabetes and other cardiovascular problems. Can you imagine seeing your child dizzy or incapacitated after being injected with an unknown drug without your consent!

I’ll leave you with the conclusions of an independent psychologist who evaluated children at the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center. The names of the children are concealed for obvious reasons:

An independent psychologist who evaluated ______ concluded that the multiple diagnoses ______ was assigned while at Shiloh RTC were not justified based on his behavior and clinical presentation. For example, ______ was diagnosed with Psychotic Disorder when he displayed none of the typical features of a psychotic disorder, but instead presented with autoimmune encephalitis and pneumonia. During his time at Shiloh RTC, the Shiloh psychologist identified multiple diagnoses, including Psychotic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder assigned to ______ that were inconsistent with his behavior. These diagnoses resulted in the prescription of inappropriate medications that had adverse side effects, including weight gain of almost 100 pounds.

What has our nation become? Why should we think this administration cares about migrant children? How can any moral person endorse Trump’s immigration and asylum policies if any of these allegations are true?

Immigration and Asylum: A True Theological Perspective (Part 1)

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Donald Trump wrote an executive order yesterday restricting the use of family separation in the handling of migrants at the border. Notice, I didn’t say Trump ended the practice. I say this in part because the order doesn’t give instructions for children already in custody. Second, the conditions under which section 3(b) of the executive order can be enforced is not enumerated. The Secretary of Homeland Security still retains authority to break up families according to section 3(b):

The Secretary shall not, however, detain an alien family together when there is a concern that detention of an alien child with the child’s alien parent would pose a risk to the child’s welfare.

I quote from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from time to time in order to interject a thoughtful theological perspective when I think it’s appropriate. Now is one of the most appropriate times to appeal to theology. Jeff Sessions quoted Romans 13 in order to justify the Trump administration’s immigration and asylum policy. Sessions quoted from Romans 13:1 in his remarks. He failed to quote verse 8 which says “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves [e]his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (NASB). If only he read the latter part of verse 9 and continued reading through verse 10 of the same chapter which says “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love [f]does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (NASB). How can he reconcile these verses with the administration’s snatch-and-separate policy?

Remember, the administration’s policy includes separating parents from children in a way that is earth-shattering to children. Simply listen to this audio recording of children crying and pleading for their parents and guardians captured by the news outlet ProPublica.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo wrote a statement against Trump’s asylum policy. I will quote it in its entirety here:

At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General’s recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection. These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence. Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors. We urge courts and policy makers to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life.

Additionally, I join Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of USCCB’s Committee on Migration, in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexico border as an implementation of the Administration’s zero tolerance policy. Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.

Evangelicals Matthew Soerens and Daniel Darling gave their theology of immigration at The Gospel Coalition:

Treatment of Immigrants

The issue of immigration is actually a very common theme in Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word gare—which most English translations render “foreigner,” “sojourner,” or “alien,” but which Tim Keller argues compellingly (in a footnote to Generous Justice) is best translated as “immigrant”—appears in one form or another 92 times in the Old Testament. Most often, we find the immigrant referenced in a positive sense: God sets the standard for the Israelites that the immigrants who come to dwell among them should be treated “as the native among you” (Lev. 19:34), and as he gives the Law to his people, he repeatedly states that its protections—including the right to fair treatment as laborers (Deut. 24:14), to a Sabbath rest (Ex. 20:10), and to prompt payment for labor (Deut. 24:15)—-and most of its requirements (but not all: note Deut. 14:21) are meant for the immigrant as well as the native-born (Ex. 12:49). Throughout the Old Testament, the immigrant is repeatedly referenced with other two other groups—-the fatherless and the widow—-as uniquely vulnerable and thus worthy of special care and provisions (Ps. 146:9, Zech. 7:10, Ezek. 22:7, Mal. 3:5, Jer. 7:6, Deut. 24:21). God commands his people to love immigrants both because he loves them (Deut. 10:18) and because, given their unique history in Egypt, they ought to know better than to mistreat foreigners living in their midst (Deut. 10:19, Ex. 23:9, Lev. 19:34).

While we’re not proposing that we directly apply God’s rules for the nation of Israel to the United States, God’s love for immigrants and others who are vulnerable is unchanging and should guide our contemporary response. The New Testament’s emphatic commands to neighbor love (Matt. 22:39, Lk. 10:27, Rom. 13:9) and to extend hospitality to strangers (1 Tim. 5:10, Heb. 13:2) guide us in the same direction as the many Old Testament texts: Christians are to love, welcome, and seek justice for immigrants.

The Eastern Orthodox Church registered its objection to this practice in an official statement by the Greek Archdiocese of America. You can read that statement here. I am particularly struck by the full statement given by Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago. I will quote the entire statement here:

Recent reports regarding the brutal treatment of families who have arrived at U.S. borders without prior authorization have prompted sharp criticisms by faith leaders and people of good will across our nation. As we learn more and more details about these practices and reflect on their impact upon both those who are directly involved and upon all of us as citizens, my heart aches and my conscience is restless.

The current “zero tolerance” policy on unlawful immigration being enforced by our federal government, which separates children from their parent(s), violates moral norms that we, as Orthodox Christians, hold sacred. It represents a practice that goes beyond differences between political ideologies, and transgresses basic human rights and foundational Christian convictions. Thus, remaining silent is, I believe, an unacceptable response for those of us entrusted with bearing witness to the Christian Gospel.

Affirming that every person is created “in the divine image” (cf. Gen 1:26), and that all of us are children of God (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-2), our tradition unequivocally teaches that every human being should be treated with respect, recognizing his or her inherent dignity regardless of age, race, ethnicity or gender, and regardless of any transgressions they or their family members may have committed.

The strict enforcement of the “zero tolerance” policy is inhumane and, therefore, sinful. To separate innocent children from their parents in an effort to deter asylum seekers and unauthorized immigrants is unnecessarily cruel and damaging to both children and their parents. Like other Christians, Orthodox Christians regard the family as a sacred community blessed by God; it is an institution that we must protect and promote, not undermine or divide. Even if such separation of parents and children is permitted by our current civil laws, the decision to remove children by force from the caring presence of their parents at our borders is spiritually unconscionable.

I offer this personal appeal to our elected officials, asking them to cease the current “zero tolerance” practice and, instead, to respond to some of our most vulnerable sisters and brothers in a manner that is both humane and pro-family. I also encourage the faithful of the Holy Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago and all who share our concerns to exercise their free speech and to call for the cessation of this barbaric practice.

Theology provides no shelter for the Trump administration.

Perhaps you think these statements are hyperbolic. Be on the lookout for part 2 of this series where I detail little-known and morally abhorrent details of mistreatment of children at detention centers.