Congress heads toward post-election fight over border wall
By LISA MASCARO and MATTHEW DALY
Sunday, October 14
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is heading toward a post-election showdown over President Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as GOP leaders signal they’re willing to engage in hardball tactics that could spark a partial government shutdown and the president revs up midterm crowds for the wall, a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign and a top White House priority.
Trump is promising voters at rallies across the country that Republicans will bring tougher border security in campaign speeches that echo those that propelled him to office two years ago. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., promised a “big fight” over the border wall money and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not ruled out a mini-shutdown as GOP leaders look to help Trump “get what he’s looking for” on the wall.
“Democrats want to abolish America’s borders and allow drugs and gangs to pour into our country,” Trump said without evidence Wednesday during a swing through Erie, Pa.
“Right after the election we’re doing something very strong on the wall,” Trump added Thursday in an interview on “Fox & Friends.”
Republicans steered clear of shutdown politics ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm election. They know voters have soured on government dysfunction, hold low views of Congress and are unlikely to reward Republicans — as the party in control of Congress and the White House — if post offices, national parks and other services are shuttered.
GOP leaders struck a deal with Democrats earlier this year to fund most of the government into next year. They presented their case to Trump in a White House meeting in September — complete with photos of the border wall under construction. Trump, who previously warned he would not sign another big budget bill into law without his border funds, quietly signed the legislation before the start of the new budget year Oct. 1.
Left undone, however, is the portion of the government that funds the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the border, and a few other agencies. They’re now running on stopgap funds set to expire Dec. 7.
The deadline sets the stage for a new round of budget brawls.
“We intend on having a full-fledged discussion about how to complete this mission of securing our border and we will have a big fight about it,” Ryan said in a speech at the National Press Club.
Asked if he made a commitment to Trump for a shutdown over wall funds, Ryan said blame would fall to Democrats, who are in the minority in Congress and largely oppose increased funding for the wall. Trump promised during the campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall — a claim Mexico rejects and Republicans routinely ignore.
“We have a commitment to go fight for securing the border and getting these policy objectives achieved,” Ryan said.
House Republicans approved $5 billion for Trump’s wall, including physical barriers and technology along the U.S. southern border, in a key committee, although it comes without Democratic support. A bipartisan bill being considered in the Senate allocates $1.6 billion for the wall, far short of the $5 billion the White House is seeking as part of a $25 billion, five-year plan to complete the project.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., upped the stakes Friday by introducing legislation for the full $25 billion in border funds as he bids for Ryan’s job as the speaker retires. McCarthy’s toured the southern border this week to make the case for the wall as he seeks to shore up support from conservatives skeptical of his possible leadership promotion.
McConnell predicted a “lively” lame-duck session and didn’t close the door on the possibility of a mini-shutdown.
“We’ve got a lot of work left to do,” he said in an AP Newsmakers interview. “That episode, if it occurs, would be in that portion of the government that we haven’t funded.”
Asked how much money Congress would try to secure for the border wall, McConnell said, “We’re going to try to help (Trump) get what he’s looking for.”
The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Senate Republicans are willing to fight for more than the $1.6 billion currently being considered, but stopped short of predicting how much money Congress would approve.
“I think it’s going to be a big fight always because of the different views,” Shelby said.
The midterm results will play a key role in how the fight over wall funding is resolved. If Republicans lose the House majority, as some analysts predict, they will lose leverage, although the GOP would still be able to force House passage of a wall-funding package in the lame-duck session. Prospects are murkier in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to break a filibuster.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said “Democrats believe in strong border security,” but would not commit to a specific spending figure. “We’re going to keep fighting for the strongest, toughest border security,” he said.
Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lisamascaro and https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC
Migrant money could be keeping Nicaragua’s uprising alive
October 15, 2018
Associate Professor of Sociology, Fort Lewis College
Benjamin Waddell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Protesting is now illegal in Nicaragua, according to President Daniel Ortega.
The Central American country has been embroiled in deadly political turmoil for months. Demonstrations that began in April against an unpopular social security reform quickly transformed into a broader movement aimed at ousting Ortega, Nicaragua’s authoritarian president.
Up to 450 people have since been killed, including a 16-year-old boy caught in the crossfire between government forces and demonstrators on Sept. 23.
The growing number of protesters arrested and charged with terrorism led the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to call on Ortega to stop what they called his government’s illegal detentions.
Instead, the president in late September banned protests entirely. Thirty-eight Nicaraguans were arrested on Oct. 14 for planning to march against their government.
Ortega’s rise to power
Ortega, a former revolutionary leftist who ruled Nicaragua in the 1980s, returned to office in 2007. Over the past 11 years, he has grown ever more autocratic, abolishing presidential term limits, enriching his family and restricting civil liberties.
The common wisdom is that Ortega enjoyed such a long and, until now, uncontested reign because Nicaragua’s economy boomed under his stewardship, in part due to cheap and plentiful oil supplied by Hugo Chávez.
According to this theory, the growth allowed his government to pay for extensive anti-poverty programs, earning him widespread popularity in the Western Hemisphere’s second-poorest country – until the economy began to stagnate last year.
But that’s not the whole story behind Ortega’s long rise and sudden unpopularity.
While Nicaragua has prospered financially under his leadership, my research finds that migrants living in Costa Rica, the U.S. and Spain also greatly boosted the domestic economy by sending home millions of dollars each year.
Roughly 16 percent of the country’s population lives abroad. Their remittances, which last year totaled US$1.4 billion, have fueled consumption and tempered political pressure on Ortega’s government to reduce poverty.
Now, Nicaragua’s influential diaspora has turned its attention to the resistance against Ortega.
In a time when conflict and disaster are forcing even more people around the world to flee their homelands, these findings from Nicaragua underscore the central role that migrants can play in today’s globalized political economy.
Migration as an escape valve
Nicaraguans began migrating in significant numbers during Ortega’s first term, in the late 1980s.
The country was ravaged by civil war and burdened by debt. In 1989, Ortega’s socialist government was forced to undertake a series of austerity measures that left 14 percent of Nicaraguans unemployed.
Subsequent governments enacted even harsher budget cuts, further driving up unemployment and pushing hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans to seek work in neighboring Costa Rica.
Today an estimated 500,000 Nicaraguans live in Costa Rica, and more are fleeing the country’s political chaos ever day.
Another 222,000 Nicaraguans live in the United States, 80,000 in Panama and an estimated 30,000 in Spain.
Between 2007 and 2017 – the first decade of Ortega’s current administration – total migrant remittances to Nicaragua totaled $12.5 billion.
That’s more than 10 percent of Nicaragua’s annual gross domestic product, on average, and in many years substantially more than total foreign direct investment in the country.
Remittances also dwarf the roughly $3.7 billion in oil aid that Venezuela sent to Nicaragua during the same period.
Remittances took the pressure off Ortega
Ortega’s government indirectly benefited from this flood of foreign cash.
Migrant money helped poor Nicaraguans make ends meet and allowed consumers to keep pace with the expanding national economy – greatly reducing demand on Ortega’s government to reduce poverty and unemployment.
Still, Nicaragua remains very poor. About 40 percent of citizens survive on less than $2.50 a day.
As the director of Nicaragua’s Jesuit Migration Network, Lea Montes, explains, remittances keep many families housed and fed.
As she points out, “It costs a family of four about $400 a month to get by, but the minimum wage is only $177 a month here.”
Juana the florist
Take the case of 70-year-old Juana Jiménez, a single mother who in the mid-1990s received a U.S. work visa – her “gift from God” – and worked as a florist in Miami for nearly 20 years.
The $200 to $300 a month that Jiménez sent home covered medical expenses for her son Erik, who was born with severe disabilities, and saw her family through Nicaragua’s leanest post-revolutionary years.
Remittances, in both Nicaragua and other developing countries, have social benefits beyond keeping individual households out of poverty. Research shows that in such countries they have contributed to reductions in poverty, helped increase access to health care and improved school attendance by freeing children from the need to work.
Rather than complement government programs in those places, however, research shows that all to often, migrant remittances actually replace them.
For example, scholars Gary Goodman and Jonathan T. Hiskey have found that, in Mexico, local governments often reduce their expenditures in areas that consistently receive remittances from abroad.
And as remittances increase, electoral participation in democratic countries with high migration tends to decline. Rather than lobby public officials to upgrade their health clinic, say, or pave a road, citizens may look to the relatively well-off diaspora for solutions.
For a decade, the dual domestic impacts of international migration – economic growth and diminished citizen pressure – proved a winning combination for Ortega.
But then his government responded to April’s uprising with deadly repression.
Remittances and dictators
Nicaraguan migrants did not trigger the protests against Ortega, nor are they the reason the demonstrations grew and strengthened.
But, today, my research shows, they are now helping to keep this pro-democracy movement alive by informing the international community, creating international advocacy networks, housing refugees and channeling funds to anti-Ortega groups.
It is too soon to know precisely how critical, or how financially substantial, migrant support has been to Nicaragua’s insurgency.
But studies done in other countries show that migrants from authoritarian countries frequently fund protests against dictators.
According to political scientist Idean Salehyan, an expert in transnational rebellions, more than 50 percent of all national uprisings after World War II – including those in Cuba, Ireland, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – were spearheaded by insurgents abroad.
That’s because migrants do not just change their home countries financially. They also influence the way local residents think.
Nicaraguan expats protesting the Ortega government outside the Organization of American States headquarters in Washington on June 4, 2018. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
Having connections with migrants living in more developed countries can encourage local children to stay in school, improve access to health care and seed support for democracy.
Ultimately, the influx of ideas and mindsets acquired abroad, known as social remittances, can transform domestic politics.
At first, the mass exodus of Nicaraguans aided Ortega in his quest to amass power and wealth.
Now, those same migrants may contribute to his overthrow.
Hombre de la Gente
All the money in the world will not help the Nicaraguans until they find their ability for self-defense. Recent history: political dominance by psychopathic politicians, social dominance by religion, unchallenged unilateral decisions by government, social cleansing by government and para-government forces, murder, massacre and imprisonment of loved ones, decades of threats and intimidation. Nicaraguan will-to-live has been subjugated by learned obedience.
Georgia senator accused of briefly snatching student’s phone
Sunday, October 14
ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia Tech political group said Sen. David Perdue snatched a phone from a student who was video recording while asking the Republican lawmaker a question about Georgia’s governor’s race.
Young Democratic Socialists of America’s Georgia Tech chapter posted video from the phone on social media after Saturday’s incident during Perdue’s visit to campus. The student was trying to ask Perdue about allegations that Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp is working to suppress minority votes, a YDSA news release said.
Perdue snatched the phone and held it briefly behind his back, the release said. It was soon returned to the student.
“Perdue would have been within his legal rights to simply walk away or decline the question,” the YDSA said. “But instead, he forcibly, suddenly, and violently took their phone without justification or provocation.”
In a statement, a Perdue spokesperson said the senator had spent hours meeting with members of the public and thought he was being asked to take a picture, so he grabbed the phone to take a selfie. Perdue returned the phone upon realizing the student didn’t want a photo, the statement said.
YDSA of Georgia Tech said the unidentified student is considering filing a police report with Georgia Tech police.
One of the chapter’s leaders, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, acknowledged the student had asked for a picture with Perdue. However, he said the student clearly declined to hand over his phone and that Perdue grabbed it only after the student began questioning and recording.
On the posted 30-second video, the student is heard asking “So, how can you endorse a candidate….” Before he finishes, Perdue says, “No, I’m not doing that.” The screen goes black for a moment — YDSA says Perdue may have inadvertently stopped and restarted the recording when he grabbed the phone.
The action picks up again with the phone in wild motion, capturing upside down and sideways images of trees and sidewalks and people as the student says, “You stole my property” and “Give me my phone back, Senator,” while Perdue can be heard saying, “You wanted a picture? I’m going to give you a picture.”
A few seconds later, he gives the phone back.
The incident gained publicity as early voting for the Nov. 6 election was ramping up and Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams and her supporters assert that Kemp is effectively suppressing minority and women voters in his role as secretary of state.
Kemp says he’s been following the law and calls those allegations a “manufactured … crisis” and a “publicity stunt.”