The Refugee Executive Order (Part 4)

Why should we object to blanket bans on refugees?

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Self-Cancellation

Paragraph 1930 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says,

Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects.

A government undermines its authority and moral legitimacy insofar as it deprives human beings of their rights. Authority and moral legitimacy are necessary properties of all governments that obligate its citizens to obedience. A government destroys itself when it enacts policies and act in ways that diminish its authority and moral legitimacy. A government is irrational insofar as it destroys itself. This irrational state of affairs is what is meant by self-cancellation; the government is effectively canceling itself out of existence.

Reflexive and Equitable Moral Reasoning

Paragraph 1931 of the CCC says , “Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that “everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self,’ above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity.””

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What would you do if your country was engaged in a brutal war? You would leave your land and search for the necessities of life where you can find them. Suppose a potential host country gave you the opportunity to plead your case for admittance, which position would you take? Would you advocate EV or CEV? Which of the aforementioned views would you advocate if you, your wife and children were destitute?

We must treat others the way we want to be treated based on our equality of being. The CCC once again:

1934 Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity.
1935 The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it…

This passage from the CCC need not be couched in theological terms. The passage can be recast on secular terms: Sameness of being requires equality in treatment.

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The Refugee Executive Order (Part 3)

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Human Dignity

We act in ways that are consistent with human flourishing because we think there is something special about humans that ground their worth. Some ground human worth or dignity in our capacity for rational thought or in our volition. Some Christians ground dignity in the imprint of the image of God. The Catholic Encyclical Centesimus Annus says, “God has imprinted his own image and likeness on man (cf. Gen 1:26), conferring upon him an incomparable dignity.”

Professor Peter Van Arsdale and Regina A. Nockerts provide a helpful definition of dignity,

…we refer to dignity as the intrinsic quality of worth which commands respect, both by the self and by others. It suggests ennoblement in the face of adversity. It suggests the preservation of autonomy. While culturally nuanced, it nonetheless transcends cultural boundaries. In specifying “human dignity,” this quality is claimed as inherent to the human condition; it is to be conferred on the sole basis of one’s existence as a human and one’s opportunity to live autonomously.

Most people believe that humans possess dignity and they think human beings have rights. We have rights in virtue of our dignity and our dignity is inviolable.

The German Constitution puts it succinctly in Article 1:

(1) Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.
(2) The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world.

The preamble to the Charter of the United Nations appeals to human dignity by calling it’s signers to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of the nations large and small.” The US ratified the Charter of the United Nations on July 28, 1945. There are 192 countries that are members of the UN.

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Our short survey shows an international moral consensus on the dignity of human beings.

As an ethical matter, the proper response to human dignity is to act in ways that are consistent with the fact that human beings possess intrinsic worth and deserve unconditional respect regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, health status, social or ethnic origin, political or philosophical ideas, religion, or criminal history.

Formal Arguments

It seems obvious we should not allow people to die if we have the means to preserve their life. Perhaps you are not convinced by the universal moral consensus. Another way to argue this is to make parallel arguments to arguments against abortion. Don Marquis, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kansas, advanced a now popular argument against abortion called the “future like ours” (FLO) argument. The argument is:

1. Any action which deprives an individual of a valuable future (or, a “future like ours”) is seriously prima facie morally wrong.
2. Abortion deprives the fetus of a valuable future (or, a “future like ours”).
3. Therefore, abortion is seriously prima facie morally wrong.

We can reconstruct this argument for our purposes:

1. Any action which deprives an individual of a valuable future (or, a “future like ours”) is seriously prima facie morally wrong.
2. Blanket refugee and immigration bans deprive an individual of a valuable future (or, a “future like ours”).
3. Therefore, blanket refugee and immigration bans are seriously prima facie morally wrong.

Francis J. Beckwith, a professor at Baylor University, outlines another argument against abortion:

1. The unborn entity, from the moment of conception is a full-fledged member of the human community
2. It is prima facie morally wrong to kill any member of that community
3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community
4. Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong

This argument can be modified to yield the following argument:

1. The refugee and asylum-seeker is a full-fledged member of the human community
2. It is prima facie morally wrong to allow any member of that community to die or remain destitute if you have the means to preserve their life or provide them with the necessities of life
3. Blanket bans on refugees and asylum-seekers allows a member of the human community to die or remain destitute even though we have the means to preserve their life or provide them with the necessities of life
4. Therefore, blanket bans on refugees and asylum-seekers are prima facie morally wrong

Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon senior research fellow in American principles and public policy at The Heritage Foundation. Anderson writes on a number of issues including Euthanasia. He had this to say in one of his articles on Euthanasia:

… dignity does not depend on subjective evaluations of worth, even of self-worth, or on the ability to “contribute” to society. Rather, the dignity is intrinsic. Human dignity is not based on an instrumental account of what a person can do, but on recognition of what a human being is: a person made for reason, freedom, and love. [Patrick] Lee and [Robert P.] George explain that “a human being is valuable as a subject of rights in virtue of what he or she is…. And so a human being remains a subject of rights, someone who has a right not to be intentionally killed, for as long as he or she exists.”

We must accept and aid refugees and asylum-seekers because of what they are, human beings. Refugees and asylum-seekers are made for “reason, freedom and love.” America must grant them access to the US in order to flourish as  dignified human beings.

We can continue to modify arguments like these, but I think the point is clear by now. All of these arguments are for sustaining human life and moral treatment of all human beings.

Those who make these arguments believe it is immoral to make laws that allow for abortion or euthanasia because such laws fail to recognize the dignity of human beings. They are not moved by the distinction between killing and letting die made by their opponents, both acts are wrong on their view.

Human dignity is not superseded by monetary concerns. You cannot allow a person to die because they might be a burden on your pocket. I see no reason why we shouldn’t apply these arguments to refugees and asylum-seekers. They should not be allowed to die because it would cost too much. We will have occasion to explore this objection in a future post.

People like Anderson and Beckwith don’t allow for euthanasia even in the case of those who are in a vegetative state. We shouldn’t make laws or issue executive orders barring refugees and asylum-seekers from entering the US and receiving life saving aid.

You have a moral obligation to help someone who arrived at your doorstep destitute or at the point of death. Refugees and asylum-seekers are at our doorstep. We have a moral duty to help them.

We have established the fact that we have an obligation to preserve the life, and provide for, refugees and asylum-seekers. This post rebuts EV and CEV. We will ask in future posts if there are overriding reasons that justify a universal ban on refugees and asylum-seekers.

The Refugee Executive Order (Part 2)

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Some people believe that a country only has obligations to its citizens and not to needy immigrants,  asylum-seekers, or refugees. Any action done on behalf of refugees and migrants will be supererogatory on this view. We will call this view the exclusionary view:

Exclusionary View (EV): A country only has moral obligations to its citizens. Indigent  asylum-seekers and refugees have no moral claim on the resources and privileges of any country but their own.

This view is best captured by John Bolton. “We have no obligation to bring them into this country,” John Bolton, former ambassador to the UN told Fox News’ Justice host Jeanine Pirro on November 16, 2015. He added that the U.S. can refuse to allow Syrian refugees entry “without in any way violating our humanitarian obligations.”

Other views include:

Chastened Exclusionary View (CEV): A country has limited obligations to indigent asylum-seekers and refugees only to the extent that we sacrifice anything of value or degrade our culture.

Acceptance View (AV): A country has a moral obligation to accept indigent refugees and asylum-seekers insofar as it doesn’t cause great harm to citizens of the host country.

Open Borders (OB): People have the moral right of free movement between jurisdictions and countries with limited or no restrictions on their movement.

I take the term indigent to mean a person who lacks the necessities of life. Necessities include food, water, clothing, shelter, hygiene and health, safety and security. Those who fall in this category may not have the means to acquire these necessities at a subsistence level.

Here is how the UN defines a refugee:

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

And here is how the UN defines an asylum-seeker:

When people flee their own country and seek sanctuary in another country, they apply for asylum – the right to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance. An asylum seeker must demonstrate that his or her fear of persecution in his or her home country is well-founded.

We have an obligation to make necessities available to indigent refugees and asylum-seekers. In paragraph 1911 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) it says:

Human interdependence is increasing and gradually spreading throughout the world. The unity of the human family, embracing people who enjoy equal natural dignity, implies a universal common good. This good calls for an organization of the community of nations able to “provide for the different needs of men; this will involve the sphere of social life to which belong questions of food, hygiene, education, . . . and certain situations arising here and there, as for example . . . alleviating the miseries of refugees dispersed throughout the world, and assisting migrants and their families.”

This paragraph is obviously incompatible with EV.

OB will require us to reevaluate our policy toward immigrate and refugees from top to bottom. OB will take us far beyond the scope of this series. This leaves us with CEV and AV.

The Refugee Executive Order (Part 1)

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Donald Trump ignited a firestorm for his recent executive order on refugees. This blog series will be devoted to evaluating the ethical merits of this executive action.

We will focus mostly on Syrian refugees since they received the harshest ban in Trump’s executive order.

Disclaimer: While I am not a Catholic, I find Catholic teaching on this matter quite helpful. I am not interested in being faithful to Catholic teaching, per se, when I quote from Catholic sources. I will use them and perhaps even co-opt the words for my ends.

We will begin this series by reading the text of the executive order.

PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Purpose. The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans. And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.

Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program. Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.

In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes.

Sec. 3. Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.

(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the President a report on the results of the review described in subsection (a) of this section, including the Secretary of Homeland Security’s determination of the information needed for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information, within 30 days of the date of this order. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a copy of the report to the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence.

(c) To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

(d) Immediately upon receipt of the report described in subsection (b) of this section regarding the information needed for adjudications, the Secretary of State shall request all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification.

(e) After the 60-day period described in subsection (d) of this section expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this section until compliance occurs.

(f) At any point after submitting the list described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.

(g) Notwithstanding a suspension pursuant to subsection (c) of this section or pursuant to a Presidential proclamation described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.

(h) The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall submit to the President a joint report on the progress in implementing this order within 30 days of the date of this order, a second report within 60 days of the date of this order, a third report within 90 days of the date of this order, and a fourth report within 120 days of the date of this order.
Sec. 4. Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs. (a) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall implement a program, as part of the adjudication process for immigration benefits, to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission. This program will include the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as in-person interviews; a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.

(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of this directive within 60 days of the date of this order, a second report within 100 days of the date of this order, and a third report within 200 days of the date of this order.

Sec. 5. Realignment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Fiscal Year 2017. (a) The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During the 120-day period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States, and shall implement such additional procedures. Refugee applicants who are already in the USRAP process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of these revised procedures. Upon the date that is 120 days after the date of this order, the Secretary of State shall resume USRAP admissions only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.

(b) Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality. Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.

(c) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.
(d) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I determine that additional admissions would be in the national interest.

(e) Notwithstanding the temporary suspension imposed pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may jointly determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis, in their discretion, but only so long as they determine that the admission of such individuals as refugees is in the national interest — including when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution, when admitting the person would enable the United States to conform its conduct to a preexisting international agreement, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship — and it would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United States.

(f) The Secretary of State shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of the directive in subsection (b) of this section regarding prioritization of claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution within 100 days of the date of this order and shall submit a second report within 200 days of the date of this order.

(g) It is the policy of the executive branch that, to the extent permitted by law and as practicable, State and local jurisdictions be granted a role in the process of determining the placement or settlement in their jurisdictions of aliens eligible to be admitted to the United States as refugees. To that end, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall examine existing law to determine the extent to which, consistent with applicable law, State and local jurisdictions may have greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions, and shall devise a proposal to lawfully promote such involvement.

Sec. 6. Rescission of Exercise of Authority Relating to the Terrorism Grounds of Inadmissibility. The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Attorney General, consider rescinding the exercises of authority in section 212 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182, relating to the terrorism grounds of inadmissibility, as well as any related implementing memoranda.

Sec. 7. Expedited Completion of the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the President periodic reports on the progress of the directive contained in subsection (a) of this section. The initial report shall be submitted within 100 days of the date of this order, a second report shall be submitted within 200 days of the date of this order, and a third report shall be submitted within 365 days of the date of this order. Further, the Secretary shall submit a report every 180 days thereafter until the system is fully deployed and operational.
Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security. (a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.

(b) To the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, the Secretary of State shall immediately expand the Consular Fellows Program, including by substantially increasing the number of Fellows, lengthening or making permanent the period of service, and making language training at the Foreign Service Institute available to Fellows for assignment to posts outside of their area of core linguistic ability, to ensure that non-immigrant visa-interview wait times are not unduly affected.

Sec. 9. Visa Validity Reciprocity. The Secretary of State shall review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements to ensure that they are, with respect to each visa classification, truly reciprocal insofar as practicable with respect to validity period and fees, as required by sections 221(c) and 281 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1201(c) and 1351, and other treatment. If a country does not treat United States nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State shall adjust the visa validity period, fee schedule, or other treatment to match the treatment of United States nationals by the foreign country, to the extent practicable.

Sec. 10. Transparency and Data Collection. (a) To be more transparent with the American people, and to more effectively implement policies and practices that serve the national interest, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall, consistent with applicable law and national security, collect and make publicly available within 180 days, and every 180 days thereafter:

(i) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later;

(ii) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been radicalized after entry into the United States and engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and

(iii) information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and

(iv) any other information relevant to public safety and security as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, including information on the immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.
(b) The Secretary of State shall, within one year of the date of this order, provide a report on the estimated long-term costs of the USRAP at the Federal, State, and local levels.

Sec. 11. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE, January 27, 2017

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) Update III

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Republicans are in a panic. They are trying to figure out how to repeal and replace the ACA.

GOP members held a closed door meeting to figure out what to do about the ACA. They realize their prospects are bleak. They worry because they will own their actions and pay a political price. A recording of the meeting was made and released to the Washington Post. Here is a sample of the comments made by lawmakers during the meeting:

“We’d better be sure that we’re prepared to live with the market we’ve created” with repeal, said Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). “That’s going to be called Trumpcare. Republicans will own that lock, stock and barrel, and we’ll be judged in the election less than two years away.”

Rep. John Faso (R-N.Y.), a freshman congressman from the Hudson Valley, warned strongly against using the repeal of the ACA to also defund Planned Parenthood. “We are just walking into a gigantic political trap if we go down this path of sticking Planned Parenthood in the health insurance bill,” he said. “If you want to do it somewhere else, I have no problem, but I think we are creating a political minefield for ourselves — House and Senate.”

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) worried that the plans under GOP consideration could eviscerate coverage for the roughly 20 million Americans now covered through state and federal marketplaces and the law’s Medicaid expansion: “We’re telling those people that we’re not going to pull the rug out from under them, and if we do this too fast, we are in fact going to pull the rug out from under them.”

Things are not looking good for Republicans.

Donald Trump and Voter Fraud

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Donald Trump continues to believe that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton. Trump also made this claim right after the election:

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The Facts

State officials found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. The Washington Post found only four instances of in-person voter fraud in 2016. Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, said there are 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation out of one billion ballots cast in 2000-2014.

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Trump’s claim of voter fraud is curious because most elections were run by Republicans. What would motivate Republicans to skew the popular vote results in favor of Clinton?

Possible sources of Trump’s claim

Brian Schaffner is a academic at the University of Massachusetts. Schaffner designed a study that may be the source of Trump’s allegation of voter fraud. In fact, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, pointed to this study as evidence for Trump’s claim.

The study was published in 2014 and it found “more than 14% of non-citizens in 2008 and 2010 “indicated that they were registered to vote.””

This would be a troubling find if true. The reality is the study was plagued by a measurement error. The participates who self-identified as “non-citizens” mistakenly clicked the “non-citizen” button during the survey. They were actually citizens.

Jesse Richman is one of the authors of the study and he offers a more chastened conclusion of his study:

We found low but non-zero levels of non-citizen participation in elections. These levels are sufficient to change the outcomes in extremely close elections, as we illustrated in the paper. But one should keep in mind that such elections can be swayed by any number of factors that arguably bias election results toward, or against, particular parties and candidates. Put another way, our results suggest that almost all elections in the US are not determined by non-citizen participation, with occasional and very rare potential exceptions.

On this vein, we would also like to remind readers that we were merely raising the MN Senate race and the NC electoral college outcome as examples of the types of races that could be swayed by non-citizen participation. The survey data we used provides no way at all to determine whether in fact the outcomes of these races were or were not in fact swayed by non-citizen participation. We used terms like plausible rather than anything more definitive.

To be clear, there is evidence of non-citizen voting. The study does not provide evidence of widespread voter fraud. This means that concerns about non-citizen voter fraud are not completely unfounded. There is a margin of error here. There is not enough evidence to undermine our confidence in election results.

Perhaps Spicer was thinking about the Pew Charitable Trusts study released in 2012. The study did find widespread irregularities in voter registration. In fact, the study found 24 million registrations that were invalid or significantly in error.

The problem for Spicer is this study focused on voter registrations, not voting per se. Even more telling, the study’s author, David Becker, said there is no evidence of voter fraud.

How did we get here?

Here is how the BBC summarizes the origin of the fraud controversy:

  • Unsubstantiated claim was started without evidence by self-styled conservative voter fraud specialist Greg Phillips, who tweeted “Number of non-citizen votes exceeds 3 million”
  • His tweets were picked up by right-wing websites like Infowars.com, which has made false claims in the past
  • Fact-checking website Snopes.com says there is “zero evidence” that “illegal aliens” voted in election
  • ‘Don’t buy it’, says Politifact, which points to research suggesting there have been 56 cases of non-citizens voting numbers between 2000-2011
  • A Pew study in 2012 found millions of invalid voter registrations because people moved or died, but “zero evidence” of fraud

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) Update II

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We’ve had an intermittent commentary on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on this blog. I plan to continue this commentary as new information becomes available.

The CBO analyzed the effects of repealing the ACA and their conclusions are troubling.

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Here are their findings in brief:

1. 18 million people will lose their Health Insurance
2. The ACA includes an expansion of Medicaid. Once this expansion is repealed 9 million more people will lose their health insurance. The total number of uninsured will total 27 million.
3. The number of uninsured will rise to 32 million if Republicans fail to offer a better plan by 2026.
4. Premiums for those who purchase insurance through the marketplaces or directly from insurers will increase by 20 to 25 percent.
5. The elimination of the Medicaid expansion will result in a 50 percent increase in premiums in the year that follows the ACA repeal. Premiums will double in 2026.

The Women’s March

What are we to make of the Women’s March?

 

First, I reject some of Madonna’s comments. Here is one of the things she said:

And to our detractors that insist this march will never add up to anything, fuck you. Fuck you. It is the beginning of much needed change. Change that will require sacrifice, people. Change that will require many of us to make different choices in our lives. But this is the hallmark of revolution. My question to you today is, “Are you ready?” I said, “Are you ready?” Say, “Yes, we’re ready!” Say, “Yes, we’re ready!” One more time, you’re ready! Yes, I’m angry.

This statement is completely out of line. We don’t need any more derogatory language in this charged political environment.

She also tried to make a point about choosing the way of love by this comment:

“Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair. As the poet W.H. Auden once wrote on the eve of World War II, we must love one another or die. I choose love.”

I  think this statement is a disaster. She could have made her point in a better way.

There was more to the march than these unsavory moments. In fact, the march is probably the largest protest in US history. And I agree with Trump who tweeted that “peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy.”

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(Denver, CO)

The real question is what will materialize from these marches. A march without concrete, results-producing activism is just a march.

Here are some images from the various march locations. All of the following images can be found here.

 

new-york1.jpg

(New York)

paris1.jpg

(Paris)

chicago.jpg

(Chicago)

los-angeles-TC.jpg

(Los Angeles)

nairobi.jpg

(Nairobi, Kenya)

sanfran.jpg

(San Francisco)

kolkata_india.jpg

(Kolkata, India)

belgrade.jpg

(Belgrade, Serbia)

durban.jpg

(Durban, South Africa)

melbourne.jpg

(Melbourne, Australia)

london2.jpg

(London)

vancouver.jpg

(Vancouver, Canada)

 

 

The Questionable Vladimir Putin (Part 4)

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Image result for Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

On July, 17, 2014 a surface-to-air missile shot down a passenger jet carrying 298 people. The plane was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Communication with the airliner was lost about 31 miles from the Ukraine Russia border. 193 of the passengers were Dutch nationals. Naturally, Dutch authorities want to know who is responsible for the missile launch.

The Dutch formed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to discover the identity of the culprits. On September 28, 2016 JIT said the surface-to-air missile came from Russia. The missile was launched from an area that was occupied by Russian-backed rebels. The missile came from Russia and was returned to Russia the day after the missile strike . JIT concluded “light MH17 was downed by a Buk missile of the series 9M83 that came from the territory of the Russian Federation.”

Image result for Dutch formed a Joint Investigation Team

JIT amassed a large amount of evidence including intercepted calls. JIT’s findings are confirmed by the US State Department.

Who’s to Blame?

Putin bears at least indirect blame for the missile struck because he started the conflict with Ukraine. Putin explicitly said he planned and orchestrated the annexation of Crimea. Here is Putin in his own words:

“I invited the leaders of our special services and the defense ministry to the Kremlin and set them the task of saving the life of the president of Ukraine, who would simply have been liquidated,” he said.
“We finished about seven in the morning. When we were parting, I told all my colleagues, ‘We are forced to begin the work to bring Crimea back into Russia’.”

This is a significant admission because, for a while, Russia said the war in Crimea was a civil war between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists.

Putin’s Russia was arming the rebels in Ukraine . Putin’s Russia was not only supporting the rebels, he ramped up his military operations after the jet went down. We learned from satellite images that Russia placed tanks and other combat vehicles along the border. Col. Steve Warren , a spokesman for the Pentagon, said Russia made plans to provide heavy rockets even after the plane went down.

So, Putin broke international law and civilians were killed as a result.

As the Telegraph concludes, “[t]he finding raises questions about the involvement of the Russian armed forces, the Kremlin, and Vladimir Putin himself in the disaster that say 298 civilians killed.”

The Questionable Vladimir Putin (Part 3)

Annexation of Crimea

In February of 2014 Putin convened an all-night meeting with the heads of security to figure out how to extract the deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. On February 23rd of that year masked Russian troops took over the Supreme Council of Crimea. Russia initiated a military intervention in Crimea and Russia annexed Crimea on March 14th.

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International Law

Edward Poser, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, says Russia’s military actions in Ukraine violate international law, full stop.

Ruma Mandal, Senior Research Fellow at the Chatham House, points out that the 1997 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Russia and Ukraine requires both states to respect each other’s borders and resort to peaceful discussions to resolve disputes.

Mandal also says Russia’s actions fail to uphold the terms set in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum “where Russia, the UK and the US reaffirmed their obligations to ‘refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations’.”

There is some dispute over whether Putin broke international law, but it seems pretty clear Russia broke international law. The United Nations charter (article 2(4)) requires that all members refrain from “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Russia is a permanent member of the UN so it should abide by its laws. Ashley Deeks, Professor of Law at the University of Virginia, says:

Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter prohibits states from engaging in any threats or uses of force against other states. Although this clause has engendered untold hours of debate about its meaning, the transfer of one state’s armed forces into another state in significant numbers without consent almost certainly falls within Article 2(4)’s prohibition.

For Deeks Russia’s actions constitute an “unjustifiable armed attack on Ukraine.”

 

Ben Saul, Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney, puts it plainly, “Russia has unilaterally invaded Ukraine’s territory, and not by invitation, in self-defence, or with UN blessing. That is contrary to international law and the UN Charter, and amounts to the international crime of aggression.”

Tom Grant, Professor of Law at the University of Cambridge, concurs and offers another crucial piece to our brief legal analysis. A centerpiece of international law is the rule of territorial stability. This rule requires that territories only change hands by consent and never by force. Russia’s actions in Crimea are clear violations of this rule.

Vladimir Putin violated international law.