Trump pushes back against border separation uproar
BY JONATHAN LEMIRE and DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Friday, June 22
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump cast doubt Friday on wrenching tales of migrant children separated from their families at the border, dismissing “phony stories of sadness and grief” while asserting the real victims of the nation’s immigration crisis are Americans killed by those who cross the border unlawfully.
Bombarded with criticism condemning the family-separation situation as a national moment of shame, Trump came back firing, sometimes twisting facts and changing his story but nonetheless highlighting the genuine grief of families on the other side of the equation.
“You hear the other side, you never hear this side,” said Trump, standing with a dozen of what he calls the “angel families” who lost loved ones at the hands of people in the country illegally. He focused on the fact that young migrants separated from parents are likely to be reunited, unlike the victims of murders.
“These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones. The word ‘permanently’ being the word that you have to think about. Permanently — they’re not separated for a day or two days, these are permanently separated because they were killed by criminal illegal aliens.”
Amid mushrooming bipartisan concern over depictions of terrified migrant children separated from their parents, Trump on Wednesday had abruptly reversed course and signed an executive order to overturn the policy, although up to 2,000 children are still believed to be separated from their parents. But that rare moment of public capitulation was brief from the president, who laced his remarks at a rally in Minnesota that night with hardline immigration rhetoric that continued Friday. In a tweet, the president raised questions about whether the migrants’ hardships really existed.
“We must maintain a Strong Southern Border,” the president tweeted. “We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections. Obama and others had the same pictures, and did nothing about it!”
Trump’s suggestion that the stories were erroneous was likely fueled by revelations Friday about one of the defining images to this point in the crisis, a 2-year-old Honduran girl crying as her mother was stopped by a Border Patrol agent. But the girl in the photograph, who ended up on the cover of Time Magazine this week, was not separated from her mother but detained with her, the child’s father told the Daily Mail. Time Magazine said it stood by the image because it captures “the stakes of this moment.”
Trump has long chafed at the media’s treatment, his fury only growing in the past week when he felt that he did not receive proper credit for his summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Some conservatives seized hold of the photo faux pas to attack the media, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted, “It’s shameful that dems and the media exploited this photo of a little girl to push their agenda.”
Other Trump allies have gone even further. Ann Coulter, a conservative pundit, said Sunday in an interview on Fox News that kids at the border were “actor children” who were “given scripts to read by liberals.”
Coulter then turned to the camera and said to Trump, “Don’t fall for it.”
A number of Democrats aggressively pushed back against Trump’s claims. Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont said Friday that Trump’s assertion was “bizarre” and that the border patrol processing center he visited in Texas in recent days was “nothing short of a prison.”
As part of his defense for his zero tolerance border crossing policy, Trump has frequently pointed to — and exaggerated — the threat posed by members of the violent gang MS-13 who have entered the United States. In what was likely not a coincidence, the Justice Department on Friday unsealed an indictment charging 11 suspected MS-13 gang members in connection with the killings of two teens in Virginia. All the suspects were from El Salvador.
But the central piece of Trump’s attempts to counter-program against the despairing images at the border was to stand with the “angel families,” as he did repeatedly during his presidential campaign, including at the 2016 Republican National Convention. At the somber event at the White House complex on Friday, Trump introduced the families, who delivered heartbreaking tales of their loved ones’ lives and, at times, gruesome descriptions of their deaths.
Many of them held large photos of their loved ones, some of which the president autographed. Trump said that one of the victims looked like the actor Tom Selleck.
“Your loss will not have been in vain,” Trump said. “We will secure our borders, and we will make sure that they’re properly taken care of.”
The president also rattled off a litany of statistics that indicated that illegal immigrants commit violent crimes at a far higher rate than U.S. citizens, saying “you hear it’s like they’re better people than what we have, than our citizens. It’s not true.”
But his assertion has been contradicted by a number of studies, including one by the Cato Institute and another in the journal Criminology that found that places with higher percentages of undocumented immigrants do not have higher rates of crime.
A Homeland Security report said there were 972 calls reporting crimes to its Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement hotline from April 26 through Sept. 30 last year. The hotline handled a total of 4,602 calls including general comments. The report said some of the calls were made for victim impact statements that lead to the deportation of someone who commits a crime. Victims also testified in immigration court proceedings, and their calls led to the arrest and detention of others.
At the event, Trump also bashed “the mayor of San Diego” for warning citizens about immigration agent raids. But the mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, is a Republican who did not provide a tip; a mayor who did was Libby Schaaf, a Democrat from Oakland,.
Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed.
Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JonLemire
Celebrate Your Plate tips for healthier eating now available
Celebrate Your Plate Initiative Kicks Off Healthy Eating
Initiative offers tips for families to affordably eat healthier
June 21, 2018 (Columbus) – The Ohio Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) is kicking off the statewide Celebrate Your Plate initiative in Southeastern Ohio. The goal of the Celebrate Your Plate initiative is to increase fruit and vegetable consumption for Ohio’s low-income families.
Nationwide, more than two-thirds of families do not consume the recommended daily requirement of fruits and vegetables and this is particularly true for low-income families. Closer to home, Ohio ranks sixth in the nation in food insecurity with 22 percent of children in Ohio living in food-insecure households
“Celebrate Your Plate is a simple, friendly, and easy initiative helping Ohioans access delicious recipes, healthy tips and helpful resources that facilitate the consumption of fruits and vegetables within a limited budget” said Ana Claudia Zubieta, Ohio SNAP-Ed Director. “Families who eat more fruits and vegetables boost their immune system and reduce their risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity.”
Activities in Southeastern Ohio will include:
• Nutrition education at local partner sites
• Healthy, affordable, easy-to-make recipes shared with local at-risk groups
• Shopping, gardening and cooking tips available online
The Celebrate Your Plate program allows clients to prepare fruits and vegetables in ways that make it easy to eat the rainbow and eat the recommended amounts per day. “I was able to use Celebrate Your Plate recipes for food demonstrations in some of my classes,” said Patrick Tegge, Athens county Program Assistant for SNAP-Ed. “The recipes were easy to follow, and the participants loved trying a new healthy dish! They were also really excited that I was able to give them a recipe card as well, so they can make it at home.”
For more information on the Celebrate Your Plate initiative, visit celebrateyourplate.org.
About Ohio SNAP-Ed
The Ohio Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education is a community nutrition education program whose purpose is to promote healthy eating for Ohioans living with limited incomes. Celebrate Your Plate is a statewide collaboration of the State Nutrition Action Committee (SNAC) including SNAP-Ed and six Ohio agencies: The Ohio Department of Health (including Ohio WIC and Creating Healthy Communities), Ohio Department of Aging, Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Mid-Ohio Food Bank, and EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program). The SNAC agencies work together to promote higher intake of fruits and vegetables for low-income Ohioans through this fun, positive, budget-conscious initiative. To our knowledge, this is the only formal effort where multiple agencies are working together to promote fruit and vegetable consumption statewide.
WOMP, WOMP: RACISM IN A CAGE
By Robert C. Koehler
“We offer your love to all of our children …” the Episcopal priest said, her eyes closed in prayer. Some 170 people were gathered around her, as she stood in a gazebo in a park in Huntsville, Ala. This was one of the 700-plus protests across the country last weekend, as Americans gathered in unity and outrage over Donald Trump’s cruel treatment of immigrants and their children at the southern border.
Even before the guy pulled the Glock from his waistband, wow, this was the American recipe: sarcasm and hate and racism stirred into our prayers and deepest values, into the best of who we are.
When we describe the United States in the abstract, the best of who we are prevails. Our ideals loom like mountain peaks on a picture postcard: “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …”
But the real America has always been parsimonious in its allotment of freedom and respect.
“Scratch the surface of the current immigration debate and beneath the posturing lies a dirty secret. Anti-immigrant sentiment is older than America itself. Born before the nation, this abiding fear of the ‘huddled masses’ emerged in the early republic and gathered steam into the 19th and 20th centuries, when nativist political parties, exclusionary laws and the Ku Klux Klan swept the land.”
So Kenneth C. Davis wrote in a New York Times op-ed more than a decade ago, pointing out, among much else, Benjamin Franklin’s contempt for the newly arrived Germans in colonial Pennsylvania in the 1750s. Their children don’t even bother to learn English!
Name an ethnic or (non-Protestant) religious group and an obscene name for it probably lurks in the shadows nearby. And this doesn’t even count the horrors committed in the creation of America: theft of land, genocide, cultural devastation of Native Americans; the importation of “human property.”
“Disdain for what is foreign,” Davis wrote, “is, sad to say, as American as apple pie, slavery and lynching.”
At the Huntsville rally, compellingly described by Avi Selk in the Washington Post, Kerry Holder-Joffrion, the priest, stood with her eyes closed, praying for the immigrants and their missing children as a lone counter-protester circled the gazebo holding a sign with the words “ICE ICE Baby” on it and quoting Corey Lewandowski at regular intervals: You know, “womp, womp.” Lewandowski had hit that note of snarky sarcasm about 10 days earlier on Fox News, in response to a Democrat’s story about a 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome who had been taken from her mother at the border. Wow. These nonsense words toss acid on all the idealism and fill the air with outrage, bringing out everyone’s worst. They have the efficiency of bullets.
The womp guy was confronted and challenged. He shoved, someone shoved back, he fell down — and then he pulled the concealed Glock from his waistband and, oh Lord, pointed it at the crowd. Was another NRA-blessed act of mass insanity about to occur? People took cover. The priest continued to pray.
And no, he didn’t fire. He walked away and was arrested at the edge of the park.
The quiet message in these words is that dehumanization can be fun. It’s necessary, of course. The border hawks are full of stories about the horrendous behavior of the illegals, and America has no choice but to minimize the flow of Irish … I mean Italians … uh, wait, I mean Jews … Muslims … into the country, just to maintain a state of English-speaking normalcy. And keeping them out requires toughness. But when liberals cringe at the enforcement of the law — for everyone’s good, including theirs — you can have a little fun putting them in their place. No harm in that.
This, I believe, is the gift that Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, has given to the president’s supporters: a fun way to denounce idealism without getting all tangled up in issues and such.
All of which demands emotional as well as political clarity from those on the other side of the womp divide. Those who put children in cages, or who support the practice of doing so, are themselves in a cage. For instance, when the Huntsville counter-protester was asked, “Where are your ancestors from?” he answered: “Alabama!”
He probably knew his ancestry transcends the state’s borders, but entering that paradoxical wilderness is too scary. Better to limit your awareness to the colors red, white and blue and know only that you come from good stock, period. End of awareness.
As we demand border sanity and compassion for asylum seekers and their children — as we reach beyond the borders of our own thinking and envision a different sort of country, with no need for ICE or a private prison industry — somehow we have to maintain the painful awareness that hatred is easy and blaming the enemy solves all our problems.
When they cry “womp, womp,” we need to keep praying.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.
Coarse culture resurgent racism
by Tom H. Hastings
From calling Mexicans rapists and animals to calling the one African American at one of his rallies “my African American,” to endorsing and appointing proven racists, to defending confederate statues, to encouraging violence by his base at his never-ending rallies, Donald Trump is taking page after page from the rise of Hitler in Germany in the 1930s to the populist Roman empire nostalgia of Benito Mussolini.
Name-calling tweets. Body-shaming insults. Mocking disabilities. Knee-jerk juvenile retorts. Grade school pejorative nicknames. Trump returns again and again to target people by their identities—e.g. religion, country of origin. He scorns democratic dissent even as his alt-right brown shirt followers claim “free speech” as their right to scream hate at gays, Muslims, and those who don’t toe the Trumpline. Trump endorses torture and calls for killing noncombatants in a warlord tear at the very fabric of all international humanitarian and rules of engagement as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Facts are his enemy; another accurate label for his utterances and tweets is pathological lying.
Don’t dare compare? We must. The Nazi rise in Germany only happened because ‘good’ Germans kept their heads down and enjoyed the relief from the starvation and extreme poverty of the 1920s that Hitler brought them. He targeted, in turn and ultimately lethally, gays, Jews, communists, people with disabilities, and more.
Is Trump adding jobs and therefore helping otherwise good Americans from resisting his coarsening influence on virtually all aspects of American polity and society? We’ll see how that works out as his trade wars dump the US economy into insolvency. What will it take for Americans to put a stop to unraveling civil society, the long-time pride of America so touted by analysts ever since Alexis de Tocqueville wrote so passionately and admiringly about it in his 1835 volume, Democracy in America?
We have shown ourselves the key to combating this neo-fascism by our collective mass action against the cruel racism of separating “illegal” parents from their children. This is the very first time Trump has backed down and it was not because politicians suddenly decided to draw a line; this was civil society finally taking nonviolent collective mass action across the US.
This is how we roll back this descent into dictatorship, if indeed we want to, if we decide to in enough numbers. Because Trump controls all branches of the federal government, thanks in part to the remarkable theft of a Supreme Court seat by Mitch McConnell and his Senate henchpeople, we can only slow, stop, and reverse these lurches toward barbarism from the bottom-up.
Yes, we will have a huge chance to stem this disastrous denigration of democracy in November, but even that will be tough, given the dirty tricks done by Republican operatives in redistricting using the low tactics of gerrymandering and the purges from voter rolls made possible by overturning portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, another Republican attack on democracy.
The stakes are far beyond mere name-calling and rudeness. As the nonpartisan Freedom House report shows, the US is sliding downward in basic components of a healthy democracy, and no one except the American people themselves will fix this, if indeed democracy is still the ideal and assumed preference.
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.