‘Socialist’ SF votes


Staff & Wire Reports

File - In this Nov. 8, 2016, file photo, voters cast ballots at City Hall in San Francisco. San Francisco will become the first city in California and one of only a handful nationwide to allow noncitizens to vote in a local election in November. They’re only allowed to vote in the school board race. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

File - In this Nov. 8, 2016, file photo, voters cast ballots at City Hall in San Francisco. San Francisco will become the first city in California and one of only a handful nationwide to allow noncitizens to vote in a local election in November. They’re only allowed to vote in the school board race. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

File - In this June 7, 2016 file photo, voters cast ballots in voting booths at City Hall in San Francisco. San Francisco will become the first city in California and one of only a handful nationwide to allow noncitizens to vote in a local election in November. They’re only allowed to vote in the school board race. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

San Francisco is allowing noncitizens to vote, but few will


Associated Press

Wednesday, October 24

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco has become the largest U.S. city to give people in the country illegally and other noncitizens the right to vote in a local election, but the possibility of the Trump administration learning their identities appears to have kept people away: only 35 noncitizens have registered.

It is among a handful of cities nationwide to allow people who aren’t citizens to vote, which is illegal in state and federal elections. In San Francisco, they can only participate in the school board race.

Voters in 2016 approved a measure allowing parents or guardians of a child in San Francisco schools to have a say in their children’s education by helping elect school board representatives regardless of their immigration status. In the same election, Donald Trump won the presidency and has since cracked down on illegal immigration and ramped up rhetoric against those living in the U.S. illegally.

“We’re in an unprecedented arena of animosity toward our immigrant community, and that has really stopped people from voting,” said San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Fewer, a former member of the school board and a supporter of the noncitizen voting measure.

Noncitizens must provide their address and date of birth to register. The number who had was low as of Monday, but people can still sign up and vote on Election Day.

The Chinese American Voters Education Committee has been holding voter registration campaigns on college campuses, in low-income neighborhoods, at festivals and in Chinatown. Volunteers have not registered a single noncitizen, including a green-card holder, executive director David Lee said.

“People are really fearful because the Trump administration is perceived to be very anti-immigrant,” Lee said. “There is legitimate concern that their information may be turned over to the federal government and that they may end up being detained or deported.”

Lee and other community groups have been inviting prospective voters to register but also warning them of the risks. The city election department also has warnings on its registration form and on flyers saying voter information would be public and could be seen by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies.

San Francisco is a “sanctuary city” that otherwise limits cooperation with federal immigration officials. The city has not shied away from confronting the U.S. government on immigration, suing the Trump administration over sanctuary protections for people in the country illegally.

Those who championed the voting ordinance say it aims to give immigrants a greater voice at the school board, which approves curriculum, hires staff and manages a nearly $900,000 annual budget.

The San Francisco School District does not keep a tally of its noncitizen parents or children but reports that 29 percent of its 54,000 students are English learners, with the majority listing Chinese or Spanish as their first language. At least 40,000 people in the city of 885,000 are in the country illegally, according to government estimates.

Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney and committeewoman for the National Republican Committee, said allowing noncitizens to cast ballots devalues the rights of citizens.

“Voting is a sacred privilege and a sacred right of citizens. It should not be trivialized for political gain,” she said.

Dhillon, who handles election law cases, said she is not surprised that only a few noncitizens have registered because voting could jeopardize their chances of attaining citizenship in the future.

“By voting people are taking a big legal risk, and for what return?” Dhillon asked.

San Francisco is not the first place with such a measure. In Maryland, where an estimated 15 percent of residents are foreign-born, at least six cities allow noncitizens to vote in local elections.

The measures have been in effect since the 1980s but not without controversy. In College Park, home to the University of Maryland, an amendment that would have allowed noncitizen voting failed last year.

One reason so many cities in Maryland have enacted noncitizen voting laws is that municipalities are allowed to enact legislation and implement it right away, unlike other states, said Ron Hayduk, an associate professor of political science at San Francisco State University who studies noncitizen voting laws.

In Massachusetts, the cities of Amherst, Cambridge, Newton and Brookline have advanced laws to allow noncitizen voting, but they cannot implement them because they need the approval of state lawmakers, who have not acted, Hayduk said.

“Noncitizen voting is a very contentious issue, and that’s in part why it’s not more widespread,” Hayduk said.

In San Francisco, noncitizens who opt to vote will be listed on a separate roster from citizens and will get a ballot with just the school board contest, city elections chief John Arntz said.

Norma Garcia, director of policy and advocacy for the Mission Economic Development Agency, which advocates for immigrant rights, said she hopes more noncitizens will vote if the political climate changes in the future.

“The numbers are not what anyone would have wanted them to be, but we’re confident there will be increased participation once the political tide shifts,” Garcia said.

Associated Press writers Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland, and Bob Salsberg in Boston contributed to this report.

The Conversation

Migrant caravan members have right to claim asylum – here’s why getting it will be hard

October 24, 2018

Author: Abigail Stepnitz, PhD Candidate, University of California, Berkeley

Disclosure statement: Abigail Stepnitz receives funding from UC Berkeley’s Jurisprudence & Social Policy Program and the UC Humanities Research Institute.

Partners: University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Roughly 5,000 people, mostly from Central America’s violent and unstable “Northern Triangle” of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are reportedly making their way through Mexico with the intention of claiming asylum at the U.S. border. The so-called “migrant caravan” is attracting intense social and political attention, with U.S. President Donald Trump declaring it a “national emergency.” He has also claimed, erroneously, that the migrants “have to” claim asylum in Mexico first.

Migrants aren’t obligated to claim asylum in any country, but have a right to seek asylum in a country of their choosing, the right to a fair process in that country, and crucially, a right not to be sent back to a country where they will face persecution – or even death.

I’ve been working with asylum-seekers in Europe and the U.S. since 2008. Over the last decade I have witnessed firsthand the increasing pressure on the asylum system to manage complex situations at borders. The reality is that even if the migrants currently traveling through Mexico are able to claim asylum at the U.S. border – a big if, considering they are still more than 1,000 miles away – the legal path to safety is challenging.

What has always been a difficult process has been made more difficult by growing governmental and public concern that asylum-seekers are gaming the system or that asylum itself has become a backdoor route for economic migrants.

Pressures like these lead to ever-narrowing legal protections for asylum-seekers.

The asylum system is flawed, and ensuring fair access to genuine protection requires making significant improvements to the broader legal, administrative and social contexts.

The legal framework

The international legal framework for asylum is the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, which was developed at the end of WWII by the United Nations.

The convention established five categories on which asylum claims can be based: race, nationality, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

From the beginning, however, these protection categories were political. Much like recent efforts to limit protections for those fleeing domestic or gang violence, these categories have always protected some, but not all persecuted people. For example, the 1951 convention excluded Germans expelled from Eastern Europe and those forced to flee partition of India and Pakistan.

Many of the people displaced or persecuted today also struggle to fit their experiences into the boxes created by the law. For example, despite broad global support for the rights of women and LGBTQ persons, no specific categories exist for gender or sexuality.

The 1951 Convention is not useless – far from it. However, it contributes to a legal environment in which successful asylum-seekers must have rather narrowly defined experiences in order to be protected.

The administrative process

When a person seeks asylum – not just in the U.S., but in any country that is a party to the refugee convention – they have to prove they have been persecuted because of their race, nationality, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. What’s more, they have to prove that they cannot live safely in their country of origin. Their proof depends in large part on being able to demonstrate credibility. In other words, they have to share their experiences in such a way that their claim is believed to be true and their fear of persecution is found to be genuine.

This process is made more challenging by suspicions that asylum-seekers are abusing the system. For example, in January 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which manages the administrative process, changed their policy regarding interviews so that those who have claimed asylum more recently are interviewed first.

The assumption by USCIS is that newer applications are more likely to be fraudulent and quicker interviews will deter people from “using asylum backlogs solely to obtain employment authorization by filing frivolous, fraudulent or otherwise non-meritorious asylum applications.”

In the meantime, those who have been waiting years to be interviewed will wait even longer. In January 2018 more than 300,000 people were waiting. USCIS used to publish a bulletin of wait times, but discontinued it when the interviewing policy changed in January. The last published bulletin showed that, for example, people in Miami were waiting nearly four and a half years to be interviewed.

In addition to confronting suspicion that they are abusing the system, asylum-seekers face a lack of legal support for making claims, and the reality that decision-makers have a great deal of discretion in deciding their fate.

No legal representation is automatically provided for asylum-seekers. Many manage the entire process, including going before an immigration judge, entirely on their own. Unsurprisingly, those who do have an attorney are five times more likely to be granted asylum.

Research also regularly shows that the chances of being granted asylum vary considerably depending on the applicant’s nationality and the location within the U.S. where they seek asylum. In 2017, almost 90 percent of claims from Mexicans were denied, compared to only 20 percent of Chinese cases. All three Northern Triangle countries – El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – are in the top five most frequently denied, with more than 75 percent of claims being refused. Similarly, a case is more likely to be granted in New York or San Francisco than in those courts closer to the border in Texas or Arizona.

The social context

Lastly, asylum has in many ways become an outlet for broader social anxieties about borders, security, terrorism, economic inequality and multiculturalism. Research shows us that migrants and refugees are in fact not more likely to commit crime than citizens. Nor are they likely to be terrorists. In fact, they contribute to local economies in positive ways. But until these social attitudes and assumptions change, the prospect of there being sufficient political will to create workable legal solutions will likely remain low.

The legal and administrative frameworks can only really be addressed once adequate social and political will exists to make the kinds of changes that would support a just and humane asylum system.

Turkey keeps pressure on as Saudi prince to address forum


Associated Press

Wednesday, October 24

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Turkey’s president kept up pressure on Saudi Arabia on Wednesday as the kingdom’s powerful crown prince was to address an international investment summit in Riyadh, his first such remarks since global outcry over the killing earlier this month of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly called Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman just before he arrived with other Arab leaders at the Future Investment Initiative summit in the Saudi capital come as the event, which debuted last year with global business titans in attendance, has been overshadowed by Khashoggi’s slaying and the international outrage over it.

Erdogan focused in again Wednesday on Khashoggi’s death.

“We are determined not to allow the murder to be covered up and for those responsible — from the person who gave the order to those who executed it — not to escape justice,” he said in the capital, Ankara.

The announcement of the call came just before Prince Mohammed, Bahrain’s crown prince and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri walked into the Riyadh summit.

Erdogan has said that 15 Saudi officials arrived in Istanbul shortly before Khashoggi’s death and that a man, apparently dressed in the writer’s clothes, acted as a possible decoy by walking out of the consulate on the day of the disappearance.

Turkish officials say the 15 men comprised a Saudi hit squad that included a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage on overseas trips. Saudi Arabia has suggested, without offering evidence, that the team went rogue.

With the crown prince’s standing marred, his ability to draw needed investment to the kingdom could be affected.

Economists say Saudi Arabia will need trillions of dollars in investments to create millions of new jobs for young Saudis entering the workforce in coming years. The investment forum is aimed at attracting investors to help underwrite that effort.

The event’s first day saw several speakers acknowledge the killing of the Saudi writer whose columns criticized the crown prince’s crackdown on dissent. Dozens of Saudi activists, writers, clerics and even women who were behind calls for the right to drive have been detained.

At one summit session, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih described Khashoggi’s slaying as “abhorrent.”

In the wake of Khashoggi’s killing, many international business leaders and Western officials pulled out of the forum, including the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase, Uber, Siemens and Blackrock. Western media outlets withdrew as partners for the event.

The chief executive of U.S. private equity fund Blackstone, Stephen Schwarzman, and Japan’s technology giant Softbank, Masayoshi Son, joined the long list of big speakers who backed out of speaking at this year’s forum. Just last year they’d shared the stage with Prince Mohammed at the event. The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, which the crown prince oversees, has invested billions of dollars with both.

Rather than cancel their participation altogether, some companies sent mid-level executives to keep lines of communication and business open with Saudi Arabia. Outside the ornate hall of the forum, hushed conversations over coffee and dates, and a flurry of business cards were being exchanged among participants.

There was a strong showing from Russian, Asian and African nations at the forum.

Some $55 billion in agreements were pledged at the forum, much of that focused on Saudi Arabia’s lucrative energy industry. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil, has the Arab world’s largest economy and is a key emerging market.

Several participants in attendance from the U.S., including a California hedge fund manager and staff from a U.S. desalination company, declined to speak with The Associated Press at the forum, reflecting a general nervousness among the Americans in attendance.

“This experience has given everyone pause … to stop, get our breath, take stock and then figure out the most appropriate way forward,” David Hamod, president and CEO of the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview with The Associated Press at the forum.

“At the end of the day, many American companies have stakeholders and shareholders to which they need to be very sensitive. So they will listen to those stakeholders and shareholders,” Hamod said.

“But timing is everything. A fair number of U.S. companies didn’t make the trip, as you know, and that’s an issue of timing,” he said, adding that he believes over the long-term the relationship will be “very positive.”

The forum’s subdued atmosphere received a jolt Tuesday when Prince Mohammed made a brief appearance and received a standing ovation from the audience. He was followed around by a crowd of mostly young Saudi men trying to catch an up-close glimpse of their country’s most powerful prince. He even posed for selfies.

In the U.S., pressure continued to mount against Saudi Arabia’s account of Khashoggi’s killing.

“The cover-up was horrible. The execution was horrible,” President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday night. “But there should have never been an execution or a cover-up because it should have never happened.”

Trump later was asked about Prince Mohammed in an Oval Office interview with The Wall Street Journal.

“Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him,” Trump told the newspaper.

Shortly after Trump’s remarks, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the United States was revoking the visas of some Saudi officials implicated in Khashoggi’s death. The visa revocations are the Trump administration’s first punitive measures against the Saudis, who are seen as key allies in U.S. efforts to isolate Iran, since Khashoggi disappeared.

The foreign ministers of the G7 group of nations said Saudi Arabia should conduct a credible investigation, “in full collaboration with the Turkish authorities.”

Three days after Saudi Arabia acknowledged Khashoggi had been killed by Saudi agents at its consulate in Istanbul, King Salman and Prince Mohammed met with Khashoggi’s son, Salah, and his brother, Sahel, at the Yamama Palace, where the royals expressed their condolences, according to state-run Saudi news.

A friend of the Khashoggi family told The Associated Press that Salah has been under a travel ban since last year. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal.

Manal Al-Sharif, a Saudi women’s rights activist and a friend of Khashoggi, said he “was really assassinated for being outspoken.”

“This is a new level the Saudi government is reaching,” she said, adding that people inside the kingdom “are so afraid to speak up.”

Al-Sharif, who was jailed in Saudi Arabia after getting behind a wheel before the kingdom’s ban on women driving was lifted this year, spoke Wednesday in Denmark where she was promoting her book “Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening.”

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Zarar Khan in Islamabad and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark; contributed to this report.

The Conversation

Energy transitions are nothing new but the one underway is unprecedented and urgent

October 24, 2018

Author: Brian C. Black, Distinguished Professor of History and Environmental Studies, Pennsylvania State University

Disclosure statement: Brian C. Black 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.

Partners: Pennsylvania State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

The combustion of oil, gas and coal have made possible a much higher standard of living for humans through radical innovations in technology and science over the past 150 years. Yet for decades, scientists have provided clear evidence that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels are imperiling our species and many others.

And now the evidence indicates, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, the window may be closing on the opportunity to limit the damage.

As a historian who has studied the oil industry’s earliest years and petroleum’s role in world history, I believe that keeping the world habitable for future generations will depend on a swift transition to more sustainable energy sources. Unlike past transitions, the current one is at least partly driven by the recognition that stabilizing the climate requires a new mix of energy sources. It is an opportunity to make our energy in smarter ways and with less waste.

A fossil-fueled society

Energy transitions are no simple flip of a new switch following the discovery or adoption of technology. For instance, for about 25 years after 1890, America’s roadways were a wild laboratory of various conveyances. From the horse-drawn buggy to the bicycle, from the Stanley Steamer to the Model T, devices serving the same purpose – including the first electric cars – derived energy from different sources including coal, horsepower and gasoline.

Competition and influence determined that the internal-combustion engine would power autos of the future. However, public will and political decisions also played important roles, as did zoning ordinances and other laws. Americans determined that the 20th century would be powered by fossil fuels such as petroleum. The marketplace provided them with flexibility to create a landscape of drive-thrus and filling stations.

Similarly, consider the changes to how people illuminated their homes, businesses and public places.

Between 1850 and 1900, Americans mostly did that with oils and candles rendered from the fat of farm animals and whales, as well as from burning kerosene made first from coal and then petroleum. By the early 1900s, most American lighting was powered by electricity, initially generated from burning coal. Later in the century, that power came from a mixture of coal, natural gas, hydropower and nuclear energy. Starting around 2000, the use of wind and solar energy began to climb.

The same kinds of transformations occurred with heating and manufacturing. Cheap electricity, gasoline and diesel together produced the massive amounts of power and flexibility that completely changed the human condition in the 20th century.

Rethinking energy

Fossil fuels and nuclear reactors made it possible to do more work – and accomplish more – than ever before in human history. Now, another energy transition beckons.

Wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy, paired with increased efficiency and vast amounts of storage, do not necessarily promise more power. But relying on them does point toward a more sustainable future.

I believe that this revolution requires new ways of thinking about energy that date back to the global energy crisis of the 1970s – a time of temporary oil shortages caused by Middle Eastern nations’ political discontent with Western nations. Long lines at gas stations and other inconveniences fueled a national conversation about conservation.

In 1977, Jimmy Carter made a memorable call for “the moral equivalent of war” on energy waste, and said “we must start now to develop the new, unconventional sources of energy we will rely on in the next century.”

President Jimmy Carter predicted in April 1977 that decisions about energy would “test the character of the American people.”

It had become clear all around that fossil fuels were not infinite resources. A matter of national security since World War I, energy supplies became a geopolitical touchstone of preeminent consideration in the relations between nations.

After 1980, growing awareness of the hazards posed by climate change introduced new criteria by which to select new power sources and phase out old ones. Pollution had been an obvious side effect of burning fossil fuels from the start due to smog and spills. But despite some early postulation, most scientists did not initially realize that this pollution was interfering with Earth’s basic functions.

As a result, in addition to considering price, supply and output, energy sources now must be judged for the carbon that they put into the atmosphere. Under such scrutiny, and thanks to innovation and market forces, fossil fuels are no longer cheaper than solar, wind and geothermal alternatives in a growing number of locations.

Energy accounting is beginning to change, particularly in parts of the nation and the world where carbon is capped and traded, and countries with carbon taxes in effect.

No choice in the long run

Human energy use has transitioned more or less constantly since we developed the ability to control fire. Historians have long observed that when nations resist these transitions, they can fall behind for an entire generation or more.

For instance, Chinese sailors began the Age of Sail when big ships first harnessed the power of the wind to widen the scope of exploration, trade and warfare in the 1500s. But then China essentially sat idly by, watching while other nations wove this innovation into a new global economy.

Similarly, huge technological leaps are now galloping forward from the assumption that climate change – with its increased temperatures, erratic weather patterns, melting ice caps, rising seas, and the heightened intensity and frequency of storms – demands new ways of thinking about energy.

And any nation that fails to accept this new reality may find itself quickly outmoded.

File – In this Nov. 8, 2016, file photo, voters cast ballots at City Hall in San Francisco. San Francisco will become the first city in California and one of only a handful nationwide to allow noncitizens to vote in a local election in November. They’re only allowed to vote in the school board race. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/10/web1_121633670-9a58734613ea440a9a13833034cc1a9d.jpgFile – In this Nov. 8, 2016, file photo, voters cast ballots at City Hall in San Francisco. San Francisco will become the first city in California and one of only a handful nationwide to allow noncitizens to vote in a local election in November. They’re only allowed to vote in the school board race. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

File – In this June 7, 2016 file photo, voters cast ballots in voting booths at City Hall in San Francisco. San Francisco will become the first city in California and one of only a handful nationwide to allow noncitizens to vote in a local election in November. They’re only allowed to vote in the school board race. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/10/web1_121633670-e28cf98b8b1c4f1ca5238f8b7ad4dea4.jpgFile – In this June 7, 2016 file photo, voters cast ballots in voting booths at City Hall in San Francisco. San Francisco will become the first city in California and one of only a handful nationwide to allow noncitizens to vote in a local election in November. They’re only allowed to vote in the school board race. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Staff & Wire Reports