US and Mexico face stark choices as new president takes over
By MATTHEW LEE and MARK STEVENSON
Thursday, November 29
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Migrants, trade, crime, the border wall: The challenges to the modern U.S.-Mexico relationship have perhaps never been as stark and divisive as they are now, at a critical juncture for both countries.
With a new president preparing to take power in Mexico City this weekend and the Trump administration set to enter its third year, the two neighbors find themselves lurching between crisis and opportunity on each front. While a trade dispute that President Donald Trump had fanned with great enthusiasm seems set to ease, the other issues remain unresolved and potential flashpoints for both countries.
“This is really a key moment,” said Earl Anthony Wayne, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico. “There are very serious short-term problems that have to be managed and managed in a way that can solidify relations over the course of the next six years.”
President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office Saturday, just a day after the two nations and Canada are to sign a replacement accord for the North America Free Trade Agreement, which Trump lambasted during the 2016 campaign and vowed to cancel.
Sealing that deal was an achievement for the outgoing Mexican government as well as for Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. He will attend the signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and will be awarded the highest honor Mexico gives to foreigners, the Order of the Aztec Eagle.
Neither Trump, who has reached out multiple times to Lopez Obrador since his election in July, nor Kushner will be at the inauguration. But Vice President Mike Pence will be there as will Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump. In addition, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has already met Mexico’s incoming foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard at least twice, plans to see him again in Washington on Sunday. Kushner will see the foreign minister and his team on Monday. These are indications the White House is keen to keep in close contact with the new Mexican leadership.
Nevertheless, the administration has yet to nominate a new ambassador to Mexico, a post that has been vacant since May. And the apparent personal goodwill and positive developments on trade can’t mask deeper tensions over migration and drug trafficking, Trump’s demands that Mexico pay for a border wall and the deployment of U.S. troops to the southern frontier with a threat to seal all crossings. There’s also the matter of the president’s frequent denigration of Mexicans, repeatedly saying Mexico was sending “criminals” and “rapists” to the U.S.
Left unresolved, these could lead to crisis, especially as Trump heads into campaign season for the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
“Is it possible for things to go horribly wrong? Absolutely,” said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center think-tank in Washington. “Campaign mode is going to be ramping up, and what’s clear is that immigration is not going away as an issue. As long as Trump sees there is a political opportunity to hammer the Mexicans and push Congress to get money for his wall, this is all going to cause problems.”
One possibility is that the populist Lopez Obrador could be driven by Mexican domestic politics to walk away from cordial relations with the U.S. The outgoing government has already demanded the U.S. investigate an incident this weekend in which American border agents fired tear gas into Mexico at a rowdy group of migrants. Lopez Obrador may have to confront similar events.
“He has a big coalition that has a whole range of people in it, including people who would tend to be critical of the United States,” Wayne said. “The risks are that we not get in a situation where we push him further into a corner when he clearly wants to cooperate.”
In the run-up to his inauguration, Lopez Obrador sought to continue his predecessor’s aim of trying to demonstrate that Mexico is a reliable partner for the U.S.
He is aiming to save face after accepting that Mexico would house migrants seeking asylum in the United States by seeking in return a big U.S. contribution to create jobs in Central America and southern Mexico so people would be less inclined to emigrate. Ebrard has suggested that $20 billion is reasonable figure. “It is like the Marshall Plan, in terms of the size of the effort that is needed,” he said, referring to the post-World War II reconstruction effort in Europe.
The deft bit of maneuvering appears to signal that Lopez Obrador’s team has tacitly accepted the U.S. desire for asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico while their claims are evaluated, in exchange for U.S. aid in an unstated quid pro quo.
For some, it is a balancing act in which Lopez Obrador preserves Mexican dignity while avoiding angering Trump.
Ideally, the United States had wanted a formal agreement in which Mexico would agree to become a “safe first country” — meaning migrants would have to apply for asylum in Mexico before reaching the U.S. border — or a “safe third country,” meaning migrants could be returned to Mexico if they weren’t granted asylum in the U.S.
Lopez Obrador’s team avoided any formal agreement by merely recognizing facts on the ground.
Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said that, so far, Lopez Obrador has proved surprisingly adept at handling foreign relations despite having almost no experience in the field.
“He has a good relationship with the United States,” Benitez said. “Foreign relations have been the best area I have seen” in the incoming administration. “He got involved in negotiations on the free trade agreement, and that didn’t go badly.”
For others, it smacked of a sellout.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, wrote that “If Mexico agrees to do the US government’s dirty work at the expense of the caravan members’ dignity and human rights, it is effectively paying for Trump’s shameful border wall.”
Lee reported from Washington.
Opinion: Why Americans Can Be Thankful for the Tijuana I Know
By Francisco Reyes
Thousands of migrants are arriving in Tijuana to seek asylum in the United States. Some media are framing Tijuana as an unwelcoming and unsafe city. But as a lifelong resident of this special place, I want Americans to know three reasons they can be thankful for the power of collaboration and community that are the true calling cards of my hometown.
Fueling Economic Growth on Both Sides of the Border
The United States and Mexico have been economic partners for decades through the strength of cross-border collaboration between Tijuana and San Diego. I remember Tijuana’s 1994 “Sister City” pact with San Diego that helped set the stage for where we are today.
It’s no accident that Tijuana is now home to the world’s largest land border crossing. In partnership with southern California, we’ve developed an interdependent market that encourages an innovative industrial economy that is thriving. The Tijuana region is now home to more than 570 world-class corporations. Companies like Panasonic, Foxconn, Plantronics, Bose and Samsung, among others, that provide good employment for Mexicans and Americans alike.
Tijuana is not merely a border town one crosses — it is a hub that attracts companies and people to create and transform. It has grown a local economy into a global, binational market that influences key North American markets in California, the Pacific Rim and Latin America. This growth is not by accident. It’s part of the Tijuana’s value to constantly pursue new ideas with passion and desire.
Advancing Talent Development in the Region
While Americans are rightfully proud of their own system of higher education, few likely know much about the thriving university in Tijuana that Americans cross the border every day to attend. My institution, CETYS University, has campuses in border areas including Tijuana and Mexicali, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to educate students from both sides of the border and from around the world.
Like our peers in the United States, we’re charged with transforming lives through education and developing the type of talent that can fuel economic growth. That endeavor increasingly happens in partnership with U.S.-based institutions and corporations. And it definitely breaks down the borders of collaboration between our countries.
I have personally witnessed the power of our Tijuana campus for more than 15 years now and I have seen how Mexican and American students can develop into the type of talent that drives the innovation that our economy demands. There is no doubt that when it comes to talent creation and development, our futures in Mexico and the United States are inextricably linked.
Tijuana is a Melting Pot Similar to the U.S.
Living in the northern part of Mexico has given us a unique, independent identity. Yet, the United States constantly perceived us as the most Mexican community closest to the border. These dueling identities breed a tenacity and sense of community among Tijuanenses that is — dare I say it — similar to the spirit of perseverance found among many Americans.
Tijuana has become a melting pot that checks no box but its own. We are made up of people all around Mexico, Asian communities from China, Korea and Japan, Latin communities from across Central America and a growing population of Americans from the Southwest.
Yes, we battle crime and drugs just like major American cities, but there’s so much more to our story. Tijuana is moving forward in many positive ways and we are proud of our melting-pot culture.
I’m optimistic about what we can continue building together on both sides of the border.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Francisco Reyes is a lifelong resident of Tijuana and the director of communications for CETYS University, a leading private university system in Mexico. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Historical Society Apologizes for Using ‘White Christmas’ Lyric in Invite
By Michael Graham
This holiday season, the folks at the Dorchester Historical Society in Boston thought they had all the “problematic” bases covered.
Instead of a Christmas party, they decided to host a December “Holiday” party. Their invitation avoided any references to the “holiday’s” Christian roots: No creche, no star, no trees (they have a troubled history in Boston), not even a hint of red and green. Just an image of the society’s iconic building in a snow globe, with the line:
“We’re Dreaming of a White … Dorchester.”
They dropped the “C” word in the cause of peace — and political correctness — on Earth. Instead it blew up in their faces.
Dorchester is an ethnically diverse community with a large African-American population (about 40 percent), and some people reacted in anger at what they claim is a racially tinged message of exclusion in the phrase “white Dorchester.”
Bill Forry, editor and publisher of the Dorchester Reporter, said the invite was “poorly conceived, easily misinterpreted, and never should have been created or sent out.”
“Language matters, words matter and it was a poor choice of words,” Lauren Sampson of Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston told the Boston Herald. “Even if it wasn’t intentional, it can be disheartening to people that live in that community.”
“Today in Ignorant White People News,” tweeted law professor Jenna Wims Hashway. “Honest to God, was there no one at the Dorchester Historical Society with an inkling of how that would sound? What hope is there if we are so blind to another’s lived experience?”
Even Boston’s mayor, Marty Walsh, waded into the fray, calling the card a “mistake,” though he defended the Historical Society as “good people.”
“They certainly didn’t mean anything vicious or racist about it,” Walsh said.
The Dorchester Historical Society responded, not by pointing out that the card was clearly a wish for a snowy holiday and utterly unrelated to race, but rather with an abject apology:
“To say this is horrifying is an understatement,” the organization said. “We are very truly sorry about our graphic used for this event. This was an unfortunate oversight on our part. … We were simply changing the words to the classic Christmas carol and did not think it through properly,” it tweeted.
Interestingly, no public officials or supporters of the DHS — which is well regarded in the community — stepped forward to defend them from charges of racial insensitivity, or to point out that fact that the only meaning of the word “white” in this context is a reference to snow.
After all, if calling for a “white Dorchester” in winter is a racial dog whistle, why isn’t the dream of a “White Christmas” also a call for a racially segregated Christian holiday? And how do these sensitive souls spend the Friday after Thanksgiving?
People claiming to be offended by the Dorchester card insisted that questioning the legitimacy of their outrage was just as offensive. When a Boston TV reporter pointed out that the card didn’t contain any explicitly racist images “like Klansmen in white hoods,” local social-justice activist Norah Dooley responded:
“Could you have set the bar any lower? ‘… Not like there are Clansmen in white hoods …’ Just because there are no murderous ‘old-school racists’ in the picture, doesn’t make it insignificant. Things that hurt are hurtful regardless of intent.”
The Historical Society has since reposted the image with a new lyric from the “White Christmas” song: “May your Dorchester days be merry and bright.”
After their attempts at pre-emptive appeasement of the politically correct, perhaps they should have used a line attributed to 20th-century journalist Clare Boothe Luce:
“No good deed goes unpunished.”
ABOUT THE WRITER
Michael Graham is political editor of NH Journal. He’s also a CBS News contributor. You can reach him at email@example.com. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Betsy DeVos has little to show after 2 years in office
November 29, 2018
Ph.D. Candidate in Educational Leadership and Policy, Miami University
Dustin Hornbeck 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.
Despite widespread fear that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would dismantle the public system of education, she has failed to accomplish much of what she set out to do.
That is my assessment as an educational policy researcher who has followed Secretary DeVos since she took the helm of the U.S. Department of Education in February 2017.
DeVos’ objective has been similar to that of her boss, President Donald Trump – and that is to rescind policies of the Obama administration.
While in office, DeVos has endeavored to expand school choice initiatives at the federal level, propose major cuts to the department that she oversees, and restrict access to public service loan forgiveness. She has also sought to change the standard of evidence in sexual cases at institutions of higher education, and limit oversight of for-profit colleges and universities.
Let’s take a closer look at what DeVos has sought to accomplish during her nearly two years as education secretary.
Betsy DeVos has long been an advocate for school choice in K-12 education. As education secretary, she has proposed that the federal government support school choice with federal money. DeVos has advocated for legislation that redirects federal funds to school choice programs in which the funds would follow each individual child, rather than be directly distributed to school districts and states. She has also called for a new federal program that would give states money to give individual students grants to attend private schools of their choice. Neither of these proposals were included in the budget passed in 2018. Although DeVos did not secure the US $500 million she had sought for school choice, she did secure a fraction of that amount – an additional $58 million for charter schools.
DeVos has also sought to push for school choice through education savings accounts for military families. Education savings accounts have gained momentum in several states in the last five years. DeVos’ proposal would allow children of military families to take money that would have been given to a school where they were stationed, and choose a school where they prefer to send their children. Some military groups have opposed this idea, arguing that it would take away funding from other educational programs. Congress has not yet taken up this issue.
During her tenure, the tax code was changed so that rich families can use college savings plans known as 529s to pay for private schools at the K-12 level.
Cuts to the Education Department
In her first year in office, Secretary DeVos proposed a $9 billion or 13 percent cut to the Education Department. She also proposed that $1 billion be redirected from other programs to promote private and charter schools. Some of the programs that she proposed cutting included: after-school programs for low-income students, funding for mental health services and college assistance for needy students.
Ultimately this plan was largely ignored by Congress with none of the proposed reforms enacted. In August, Congress actually increased the federal education budget by $581 million.
Public service loan forgiveness
DeVos’ administration has been reluctant to honor the public service loan forgiveness program. The public service loan forgiveness program was created to encourage graduates to take on public service jobs, such as a teacher, police officer or firefighter. After a public servant pays their loans for 10 years, the remaining portion is forgiven. Although the program was enacted by Congress and signed by the President George W. Bush, the U.S. Department of Education has denied over 99 percent of those who have applied in the last two years. Most of the denials were over technicalities as a result of poor management by third party loan managers. Loan forgiveness may become part of the agenda of the new Democratically controlled house, as was foreshadowed in a letter signed by 150 Democratic House member asking DeVos for an explanation in October 2018.
Borrower defense to repayment
In June 2018, DeVos tried to start a process to undo Obama-era rules meant to hold for-profit colleges accountable for making false promises to students about their chances for graduation and gainful employment. The Obama administration outlined a plan that students who were defrauded by these deceptive schemes would have their federal debt forgiven.
DeVos proclaimed the process as “muddled” and “unfair” and proposed changes that would make it more difficult to place blame on the for-profit colleges, which would have left many students with debt and little to show for their for-profit education. However, the proposed rule never materialized, and a federal judge ordered DeVos to comply with the Obama-era borrower protection rules.
Campus sexual assault
DeVos has made changing the way in which colleges and universities adjudicate sexual assault a top issue of her tenure. During the Obama administration, the Department of Education suggested that universities change the standard of proof when taking disciplinary action on students accused of sexual assault to a preponderance of evidence. The new rules proposed by DeVos would require that all accused students be granted presumed innocence, due process provisions, and the right to question the accuser in a hearing. The new rules would also restrict the circumstances under which the preponderance of evidence standard could be used.
Critics claim that this will create an atmosphere that is conducive to rape culture, keeping victims of sexual assault from seeking justice. DeVos argues that this will bring about a fair and uniform standard by which all colleges and universities will operate. A draft of this proposal was released on Nov. 16, 2018, but has not yet been acted upon. Public comment is expected to be sought on the proposed rules.
Resistance to agenda
Other than the power of persuasion, the cabinet office of Secretary of Education has little power outside of carrying out federal law. When Betsy DeVos was confirmed in the cabinet post, some questioned the degree to which she would be able to execute her agenda and persuade legislators.
Looking retrospectively at DeVos’ first two years in office, it appears that few of her major policy aims have been implemented. Considering the importance of Congress in approving federal provisions, it seems unlikely that DeVos will accomplish much more in the next two years, especially with control of the House of Representatives shifting to a Democratic majority during the midterm elections of 2018.
Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation awards $20,700 in ag, community grants
COLUMBUS, Ohio (OFBF) – Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation recently awarded $20,700 in grants to organizations that support and promote Ohio’s agricultural industry as well as local communities. The foundation’s Action & Awareness grants focus on four core areas: economic development, education, environment and the human-animal bond.
- AgriPOWER to support two scholarships for Ohio Farm Bureau’s intensive, year-long leadership program for farmers and agribusiness professionals.
- Crown Point Ecology Center to help convert an existing building into a honey extraction and beeswax processing facility that will be available to local northeastern Ohio beekeepers.
- Friends of the Juvenile Court in Clinton County to help expand an existing program that pairs at-risk youth with local farmers through the 4-H process.
- Ohio Energy Project in support of its Energy Sources Tour and Energy Sources Blitz programs that give teachers behind-the-scenes access to the energy industry.
- Ohio Hop Growers Guild to support its 2019 Ohio Hop Conference in January.
The next application cycle for an Action & Awareness Grant is Jan. 1 to April 30, 2019. Grants may be used for general support, startup funding for new organizations, program expansion, or capital for equipment necessary to implement eligible programs. Learn more at ofbf.org/foundation/aagrants/.