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Category: Immigration

The Hunger Games on Our Southern Border

The Hunger Games on Our Southern Border

If you haven’t read the novel The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, or the other books in the trilogy – Catching Fire and Mockingjay – you should. Alternatively, you can watch the films by the same names (there are four, Mockingjay being broken up into two separate films), or do both. I say this not to promote sales of the books or the films (not that I would object to that since they’re all worth reading and viewing) but rather because you’re likely to gain greater understanding of what has been going on for months on our Southern Border, furthered by the anti-Trump-at-all-costs agenda of Democrats in Congress.

To encapsulate the story line for readers of this piece not familiar with it, the books are set in a notional post-Apocolytic country of the future, Panem, that occupies North America. It is ruled by a wealthy political class in the Capitol (sic), the capital city located somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The technologically advanced Capitol rules over twelve impoverished districts (formerly thirteen until one was obliterated) with an iron fist. As punishment for a past failed uprising against the Capitol, every year each district must pick, by lottery, two of its residents, a boy and a girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, and send them to a pageant at the Capitol. The key element of this pageant, the Hunger Games, features a fight to the death between the youthful participants, called tributes, televised to all the residents of Panem. In the end, there can be only one tribute who emerges victorious, the other 23 left dead in the treacherous arena in which the games are played. The protagonist and narrator in the series is the girl tribute of District 12, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (played in the films by actress Jennifer Lawrence).

Without giving away more plot points, the analogy I am painting is this: In this country, as in Panem, we have a privileged political class with the power to rule benevolently or malevolently, to pass laws, to fund programs, to create and change processes, and to create, or not, an environment of civility of benefit, or not, to its residents. And this political class, like the residents of the Capitol, is content to watch the suffering and death going on at our Southern Border, to use this suffering and death for its own political purposes, to point fingers and engage in grandstanding of the most shameless variety, to dither and lie and shirk its duties, all magnified by the megaphone provided by the sycophantic mainstream media, rather than do anything concrete to resolve the drama playing out daily along the border with Mexico.

To be clear, and as I’ve said before: Both major political parties are complicit in this travesty. While I believe the Democratic Party is far more responsible for the current Hunger Games than their Republican counterparts – and I’ll explain why I believe that in a moment — both parties have had chances over recent decades to solve the problems of our decrepit and ineffectual immigration system, and neither has seen fit to do so. At various times one party or the other, when it controlled both houses of Congress as well as the White House, could have done the necessary to keep from happening what now is happening. Instead of a relic of the distant past, we could have a modern and effective immigration system, comparable to other countries, like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even the UK. But as I’ve said repeatedly over the years, the Democrats don’t want to fix things because they want cheap votes, and the Republicans (though, to their credit, some have changed their positions in more recent years) don’t want to fix things because they want cheap labor. And both have the suffering and deaths, whether of the immigrants at the border or of American citizens and legal residents bearing the brunt of the effects of our broken immigration system, on their heads and the blood on their hands.

Now to lay out why the Democrats are mainly responsible for the current border Hunger Games and how they have used them for their political purposes, at the high human cost of those participating in them. What we have seen is not just a significant increase in illegal crossings of the Southern Border, but a major increase in unaccompanied minors and family units, including minors, crossing the border illegally or seeking asylum at border crossings. While overall numbers are beginning to rival the peaks of apprehensions seen in 2000 and 1986, the change in the makeup of border crossers is putting a major strain on the resources and capabilities of the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to care for the children and teenagers increasingly in its custody. And instead of rising to the occasion of discouraging this flow on unaccompanied minors and families, or at minimum providing the resources needed to cope with it, the Democrats have preferred to disingenuously declare there was no crisis at the border and to accuse the President and the federal agencies charged with dealing with the flood of humanity coming at them of fabricating a crisis.

To quote but a few, in January House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis.” This was added to by Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, who said, “President Trump just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis.” Piling on, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren respectively called the border situation a “manufactured crisis” and “fake.” And House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, more focued on relitigating the two-year old Mueller investigation than doing anything to actually protect the country, said, “There is no crisis on the border . . . We certainly oppose any attempt by the president to make himself a king and a tyrant to appropriate money without Congress.”

And then, despite the best effort of the Dems to play down and deny that there was a crisis on the Southern Border, along came former Obama Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson who, in May, unequivocally stated that there was, indeed, a crisis on the Southern Border.

“We had 100,000 apprehensions in the month of March and another 100,000 in the month of April. That’s the highest it’s been in 12 years,” Johnson told Fox News host Neil Cavuto.

Oops. Wasn’t Johnson given the Democratic play book? Or was he just willing to be honest and say what was going on? After all, border control was under his purview when he was HS Secretary, so one could assume he knew of what he spoke.

And then, in a mind-boggling turn-around, reminiscent of the Doublespeak referenced in George Orwell’s dystopic novel 1984, Pelosi followed Johnson’s assertion by saying, “Well, let me just say this. We have never not said that there was a crisis. There is a humanitarian crisis at the border, and some of it provoked by the actions taken by the administration.”

During all this time, the Dems refused to back any additional funding either for border control or to support the increasingly humanitarian duties being foisted onto CBP. As wave after wave of immigrant caravans and random migrants came up through Mexico from its southern border with Guatemala, the Dems steadfastly refused to deal with the issue. It was clear that these caravans, originating in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, were organized by whomever stood to gain from this onslaught of immigrants, and in the process they provided enormous profit and cover to human smugglers and drug cartels. None of this was sufficient to move Pelosi or the Democratic-controlled House to take any action to deal with this mess along our Southern Border. As the President tried one tactic after another to carry out his duties to protect the country from rising illegal entries, all the Dems could do was say, “no.”

According to news sources along the border, there also has been a notable increase in citizens of Cuba and Venezuela seeking to declare political asylum along the Southern Border. Their presence has not been widely reported in the national media, but is indicative of the multi-country nature of the onslaught.

As the accompanying CBP charts dramatically demonstrate, apprehensions of inadmissible migrants – an indication of overall flows, even if far from all illegal border crossers are apprehended – have skyrocketed on the Southern Border (what CBP calls the Southwest Border), even as Pelosi and Schumer and the rest have denied any crisis. In the month of May alone, 144,278 people were either apprehended (132,887) illegally crossing the border, or were found to be inadmissible (11,391) at formal border crossings. In just over the first six months of fiscal year 2019, there had been more apprehensions along the border than in the entire previous fiscal year, with the numbers continuing to mount significantly. As noted, at the current rate, they will equal or surpass the peak illegal border-crossing years of 2000 and 1986.

The biggest growth in numbers, as the charts reveal, are in the categories of unaccompanied minors and family units. These are categories that, historically, have not formed a major component of illegal border crossings, and which have added significantly to the burden put upon CBP. This is further complicated by the so-called Flores decision of 1997, in which a settlement reached in the matter of Reno v. Flores determined that federal authorities could only detain unaccompanied minor migrants 20 days before they had to be released to their parents, adult relatives, or sanctioned programs. In 2015, Obama-appointed judge Dolly Gee extended this limit to minors apprehended with their parents, making it virtually impossible to deport families with children seeking asylum.

There is no question that the images coming from the border are disturbing to most people. Regardless how one feels about the immigration issue, the sight of people in turmoil, crowded into often makeshift facilities, the small children, bewildered and at the will of their elders and officials, and the images of those who have died in the process, should be troubling. Which makes the Hunger Games nature of what is happening all the more poignant. While the political class, led by Pelosi and Schumer and their ilk, dither, the suffering and death go on, all depicted graphically by the media who are all too quick to criticize but offer no more solutions than the politicians. If you go back and look, you’ll see that this has become an annual event, with the same kind of political cover being given the Dems last year at this time. The only difference is that this time, the crisis has become even bigger and the lack of Congressional action to address is even more apparent and harder to cover up.

Perhaps it is the latter reason, which I believe strikes at the conscience of most Americans, that finally prompted the Senate to pass its bipartisan $4.6 billion appropriations bill providing humanitarian aid to the border, by an overwhelming vote of 84-8, and for the House to accept the same bill, without changes, by a vote of 305-102. Even given the current crisis, the House had passed a bill that would have put constraints on the President’s actions, and which he said he would not sign. While Pelosi accepted the Senate version, still only 129 Democrats in the House voted for it, and 95 voted against it, including many members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Meanwhile, 176 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, only seven voting against it. The President has said he’ll sign the Senate version of the bill.

In urging her caucus to vote for the Senate version of the bill, Pelosi wrote, “The children come first. At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available . . . In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill.”

Too bad Pelosi didn’t think much about the children six months ago, or a year ago.

Meanwhile, there are those who apparently still prefer the Hunger Games version of events, like freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who idiotically and insultingly compared the CBP holding facilities along the border to Nazi concentration camps, using the phrase “never again” to draw a reference to the Holocaust. And earlier today, touring a Homestead, Fla., facility holding migrant children, Democratic Presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – who has done a good job of turning around the progress that city had made in recent decades before his administration – criticized Ocasio-Cortez’s “concentration camp” reference, but instead said the facility was “like a prison.” He criticized it because the children were being “marched around,” which made him conclude, “That’s a prison camp.” We don’t know how many elementary schools de Blasio has visited, but in my experience being “marched around” is a pretty common phenomenon in them, and no one says they’re prisons. Reportedly de Blasio went on to make the inane statement that the children were being held there against their will. Isn’t that the definition of detention or holding, but is it even necessary to respond to such stupidity?

The moronic levels to which this entire matter has risen were highlighted on Wednesday when employees of Wayfair walked off the job to protest their employer’s sale of beds to go to detention centers holding migrant children. Using Ocasio-Cortez’s “concentration camp” comparison, the employees, we suppose, would rather the children sleep on concrete floors than on beds, the lack of which in some cases has been one of the criticisms leveled against CBP. Instead of “let them eat cake,” perhaps the employees’ slogan might be, “let them eat cement dust.”

And while the debate and the dithering and the finger-pointing and the politicking go on, so do the Hunger Games on the Southern Border. Whose child will be next to fall?

Photo credits: Featured Hunger Games image: Pixabay; Girl in line: Edgard Garrido / Reuters; Migrant children: Edgard Garrido Reuters; Children on ground: Click2Houston.Com; Held boy: Spencer Platt / Getty Images; all images used with permission or under Fair Use doctrine

The Orchestrated Smoke Screen on the Southern Border

The Orchestrated Smoke Screen on the Southern Border

I had resolved not to fall for the smoke screen that as been raised in the media about children being separated from their parents on the southern border, and here I am about to deal with it.

I call it a smokescreen since it’s pretty obvious that it has been raised at this time and in this way to distract attention away from the hearings going on in Congress this week over the Inspector General’s report detailing unprecedented corruption and malfeasance within the FBI, beginning with the Hillary Clinton email so-called investigation.

I’m not going to ignore that report or those hearings, but the din over the children on the border has gotten to the point where it’s virtually impossible not to deal with it, and there is so much utter nonsense and dishonesty embedded in the blather that it offends the senses of anyone even vaguely familiar with what is going on. So, despite my best intents, here I am discussing the border issue. The other, no less important, issue will have to wait for a subsequent posting. Okay, let’s get going with this.

No matter where you come down on the question of whether children should or shouldn’t be separated from their parents when the parents are apprehended for crossing the border illegally, if for even a moment you think this isn’t an orchestrated crisis, I have several hundred miles of border fence I’d like to sell you at a very good price. Neither the timing nor the volume nor the shrillness of the cries nor ferocity of chest beating and rending of garments over this latest border crisis isn’t without behind-the-scenes orchestration.

To establish where I’m coming from on this, I will cite my background as a U.S. consular officer posted to what is called a high-fraud post. That’s a post that gets a high percentage of fraudulent visa applications. It was awhile back and in a different part of the world, but I saw lots of fraud and lots of tactics used by people who would enter and stay illegally in the U.S. And much of what I saw can be applied to interpreting the current situation, including how people would use and abuse their children when their goal was entry to the U.S.

Let’s start with the issue of political asylum, since a big part of the media angst has been over children separated from parents seeking political asylum in the U.S. And let’s start with the facts and not the emotions. For a moment, let’s assume (and it’s a big assumption) that someone has bona fide grounds for seeking political asylum. According to the international standard, they should seek asylum in the first country they come to where they might find protection. In this case, for those coming from Central America, that would be Mexico. But these people are not seeking asylum in Mexico. They want to declare it in the U.S., which is a long way from the countries in which they originate.

Next thing: If you wish to declare yourself as a political asylee, you do it at a port of entry. A regular border crossing. You are showing yourself openly as having a legitimate reason why you should be admitted to the country. But most of these alleged asylum seekers are crossing the southern border illegally, like any other border jumper. Then when they’re caught by the Border Patrol they say they are seeking political asylum. Well, they can say anything they want, can’t they? If they got away with entering the country illegally and managed to make it to the hinterlands, for one moment do you think many, if any, would then apply for political asylum? I highly doubt it.

When I was at that aforementioned high-fraud post, we received a communication from someone at the State Department in Washington. They explained they weren’t supposed to do this, but thought we needed to have something brought to our attention, which was that many of the people we were issuing visitor visas to were declaring political asylum once they got to the U.S. This person in the Department also sent copies of the letters that were filed on behalf of these “asylees,” and every single one of them had been typed on the same typewriter (this was back when typewriters, which had distinctive characteristics, still roamed the earth), were all worded the same, and were all put out by the same bottom-feeder immigration attorney in San Francisco. That was bad enough, but the country we were in and from which these “asylees” hailed had then none of the conditions that would justify a claim of political asylum. Let me just say we tightened up considerably on our already tight visa-issuance consideration standard.

I think it would be naive to assume that all these people showing up across the southern border and declaring political asylum just spontaneously came there. Let’s not forget that a few years ago the Obama Administration put out word on the radio and in the newspapers in Central America telling people what they needed to do to get to the U.S. so they, too, could declare political asylum. More on that period a bit later. But clearly there is something more than just chance behind this latest wave of arrivals.

As for the question about whether children should be separated from their parents, that is one especially prone to emotional responses. Assuming the adults are the children’s parents – which not all are – personally I think it’s not a great policy and generally think it can lead to more problems than it avoids. That said, let’s not be Pollyannish about this whole thing.

One has to wonder what leads a parent to put their children through the danger of a long journey through a country like Mexico, to put them at the mercy of coyotes who exploit and abuse and rape and even kill immigrants, and in some cases to put the children up on the roof of a train for a journey of several days and nights. And then those same parents take their children across the Rio Grande or into the Arizona and New Mexico desert, and all the dangers entailed in that. These are all things that might be considered, in calmer moments, child abuse, and would have the parents charged by CPS and the children taken away from them. I mean, parents have been charged with abuse for letting their kids walk home unaccompanied from school in the suburbs, and yet there are those who would defend these egregious practices that can lead to death and serious injury for the children. What is wrong with these people?

Let me tell you another tale from my consular posting, if you have any delusions about how some parents will exploit and abuse their children to get themselves into the U.S. We handled immigrant visa applications for citizens of a neighboring country which had, at the time, the highest overstay rate in the U.S. That’s the rate at which people arrive with valid visas and then don’t leave when their stay is up.

Adults from this particular country – and I’m sure it’s not the only country in which this occurs – would get a visitor visa, go to the U.S., and stay for years until their numbers for immigrant visas came up, based on some family relation or another. At that point they would have to leave the U.S., go back to their home country, and go through a visa interview, which is where I would come in. Meanwhile, these folks would leave their children behind while they were overstaying in the U.S. to be raised by the children’s grandparents in the home country. We’re not talking a few weeks or months here. We’re talking several, even many, years, so the children who might have been infants when the parents abandoned them were pretty well grown into preteens and teens by the time their parents returned to claim them. I had no compunction against asking those children, in the visa interviews I conducted, how they felt about being abandoned like that by their parents. I can tell you, most of them weren’t too happy about it. And for their part, all the parents could do was squirm in their seats and grin stupidly. Frankly, I thought it was disgraceful, and I had no problem telling the parents that. Unfortunately, this kind of child abandonment wasn’t grounds for denying them the visas they sought.

That was bad enough. But what do you say about a parent who would subject their children to the kinds of risks that they face on the trip north to the U.S., or once they cross the border? Those opposing the Administration’s policies seem to be silent on the topic.

The numbers in the current “crisis” don’t come anywhere near the numbers of unaccompanied minors and family units that overran the southern border back in 2013, 2014, and 2015, under the Obama Administration. Currently, we’re talking about a few thousand children and families. Compare that with fiscal year 2013 when, according to U.S. Border Patrol statistics, 38,759 unaccompanied minors showed up on the southern border. Or the next fiscal year, when the number of unaccompanied minors swelled to 68,541. Meanwhile, “family unit apprehensions” numbered 14,855 in FY 2013 and 68,445 in FY 2014. Do you recall the kind of outcry then that we’re seeing now? I don’t. I do remember the images of what the detention centers looked like at that time, and I have to agree with what President Trump had to say about them.

“You look at the images from 2014,” the President said, “I was watching this morning and they were showing images from 2014 and they blow away what we’re doing today. I saw images that were horrible.”

If you watched Fox News at the time, as I did, you would have been shocked at what you saw nightly. You might not even have seen those images if you watched some of the other media. Those same media that are screaming about what is happening now.

Which leads us to the conclusion that this current outcry, along with being a smoke screen, is politically motivated. It’s one more – pardon the expression – trumped-up offense the Dems think they can pin on the President. The angst and tenor of some of the rhetoric is over the top. And then, when the President relents and signs an executive order stopping the separation of children from their parents, the Dems aren’t happy with that, either. Anything short of releasing all those who cross the border illegally into the general population, never to be seen again (and ostensibly to eventually become Democratic voters, the real goal), won’t appease them. Just keep moving the goal posts and criticizing the Administration and claiming there is nothing you can do about it by getting serious about passing meaningful immigration legislation, and you can fool at least some of the people.

Many of the anecdotes coming out of all the hysteria would be amusing, were they not so serious. A bit of levity did, however, come on the news Tuesday evening when Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Senator Bill Nelson, the valedictorian and salutatorian of Democratic hubris and grandstanding in the Sunshine State, whined about not being granted access to a youth detention center in Hialeah, Fla.

Balderdash” – I’m not making this up – is the word Nelson actually used to describe what he had been told in being turned away. Obviously they thought they could just barge their way into the facility and then use it to make political hay. Or, more likely, they knew all along they wouldn’t be granted entry without going through the usual channels. Whatever. Are people naive enough not to see through this sort of thing? I fear they are. However else can these people get elected to office?

Then we have actor Peter Fonda (remember him? Easy Rider? What, 1969?) urging the kidnapping of the President’s young son, Barron, and placing him in a cage with pedophiles. Now if you, kind reader, or I were to make that sort of goad I can just about guarantee that we’d be paid a visit by the Secret Service or the FBI. I wonder what will happen in Fonda’s case, even with First Lady Melania Trump referring him to the Secret Service for investigation. Oh, he’s issued an apology. So sincere, I am sure. Like his calls for raping DHS Kirstjen Nielsen and other tasteless tweets that, were he not of the leftist persuasion, would bring down outrage. Instead we get the sound of crickets from that side of the political divide.

And then there was the near riot that broke out when DHS Secretary Nielsen was cornered inside a DC restaurant – it’s hard to ignore the irony of it being a Mexican restaurant, an irony not lost on those organizing the demonstration, either – by a shouting, jeering mob of Washington Democratic Socialists. So much for democratic discourse and tolerance amid the orchestrated hysteria (a call to the demonstration was put out in a series of tweets).

Finally, one can only wish that someone on the Democratic side of the aisle would call for an end to the offensive references comparing the Administration’s border policy to Nazi Germany and the round-up of U.S. citizens of Japanese decent during the Second World War. Really? Concentration camps? But that’s not going to happen, since some of those offensive references are coming literally from – surprise! – that side of the aisle.

Okay, I’ve said my piece, for now, on this subject. I can almost predict that all the frenzy will blow over as soon as the hearings on the FBI and the abuse of power that went on within it are over. We’ll get to that matter in due course. Meanwhile, don’t believe much of what you see and hear in the media maelstrom centered on the southern border which, I assure you, is more about putting up a smoke screen than anything really to do with the children.

Haters Are Gonna Hate

Haters Are Gonna Hate

If you watched the State of the Union address this past Tuesday, you saw encapsulated the two faces of America at the outset of 2018. On one side of the aisle the Republicans for the most part cheered and gave standing ovations to just about everything President Donald Trump had to say. On the other side, the Democrats sat there stone-faced and belligerent, at times not even sure whether to applaud or not when the President said things almost anyone could get behind and support.

Having watched the address, I’d have to say it was – in the commonly applicable term – “presidential,” and touched on many of the issues that Trump voters, specifically, and a broad part of the population otherwise, are concerned about. And for once Trump didn’t step on his own small victory by tweeting contrary thoughts the next morning. That’s not just my assessment, either. A poll by CBS News – certainly no advocate for the President – showed that 75 percent of viewers approved of the President’s speech, including 43 percent of Democratic viewers. Eight in 10 viewers said they thought the President was trying to unite the country while two-thirds said the speech made them feel proud.

An unscientific viewer poll conducted by CNN – again, no friend of the President – showed that 62 percent of respondents said they thought the President was moving the country in the right direction. The percentage of viewers – 48 percent – who said they had a “very positive” view of the President’s speech was the same percentage who had a “very positive” view of President Obama’s first State of the Union address in 2009. Not bad for a president that, if you listen to most of what is reported in the media, is equivalent to the devil incarnate and the harbinger of Armageddon.

In fact, rising overall poll numbers for the President underscore that he’s tapping into many of the issues a wide range of Americans care about. But you’d never know that looking at the Democratic side of the aisle during Tuesday’s address.

While it would be too much to expect that everyone would agree with everything Trump laid out, there was enough juicy goodness there that just about any American could get behind. This was especially the case with the several moving examples of heroism, citizen action, and hardship that he called out, recognizing a number of guests in the audience for their accomplishments or experiences. Still, some House and Senate Democrats in attendance had a hard time digesting how it was the citizens themselves, and not Trump, who deserved the recognition.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi later criticized the President for the many guests he honored, saying he had nothing to do with their accomplishments. Of course, the President never claimed he did and, since President Ronald Reagan started the tradition in 1982, it has become a part of every State of the Union address to recognize the achievements of individual citizens, especially when they underscore the message and policy positions of the given president. Pelosi’s criticism came across as small, but it wasn’t the only statement she made that showed how out-of-touch she is with most Americans. We’ll get to that a bit later.

Now I understand that State of the Union addresses are partisan affairs, and one side of the aisle or the other is going to get more things to jump up and clap for than is the other. That was certainly the case when President Obama gave his addresses, when it was the Dems’ turn to applaud. And it clearly was the case Tuesday with President Trump’s address. Still, there are enough moments in any State of the Union address when, as Americans, both sides have reason for support and celebration. But to watch the Democratic side of the aisle in this State of the Union address, one was forced to wonder what exactly the Dems do stand for, other than abject hatred of the President.

Clearly the most telling moment came when the President said that the black unemployment rate had reached a 45-year low. That seemed like something everyone could get behind, along with his statement that the Hispanic unemployment rate had reached an historic low. But when the cameras panned to the Congressional Black Caucus – some members of which didn’t even attend the address – nary a hand clapped. Some sets of eyes cast about, reflecting doubt about what their owners should do. Many watching this display can be forgiven for asking what it would take for the black members of Congress to at least recognize something that has benefited black people, regardless how they feel about Trump or whether they credit him or his predecessor for most of that accomplishment. On PR value alone, this was a lost opportunity and showed caucus members as petty and petulant.

Another telling moment came when the President discussed immigration, and highlighted his proposal to offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million “dreamers” – non-citizens brought here illegally by their parents as children – more than double the 700,000 that the Democrats would protect under their proposals. Perhaps the most memorable quote of the entire address came when the President said, “Americans are dreamers, too.” As the President made clear, his primary duty, as well as the primary duty of all members of Congress, is to look after the interests of Americans. Seemed reasonable enough.

But when Trump outlined his overall immigration proposals, aimed at benefiting American workers and citizens, things one would expect to be Democratic goals, too, the reaction was anything but supportive or even willingness to listen. Key parts of Trump’s proposals include eliminating the visa-lottery program and reducing chain migration based on family relations – something many concerned with immigration issues have supported for a very long time – not only didn’t they applaud, but there actually were boos from the Democrats. Of course, not much has been made in the media of this overt show of disrespect for the President, certainly nowhere near the brouhaha that erupted when South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson shouted out “You lie!” to President Obama during a 2009 address to Congress on healthcare issues. But we’ve come to expect this kind of double standard where Trump is concerned.

Another show of disrespect came when Illinois Rep. Luis Gutiérrez booked for the exit while the Republican side spontaneously chanted “USA, USA.” Gutiérrez later denied that his early departure had anything to do with the chant but rather that he was late for an interview appointment with Univision. Whatever the reason, it didn’t help the Dems’ optics.

If the Democrats have more to offer than intransigence and hatred of the President, it wasn’t clear what that was, either in the Democratic rebuttal to the President’s address or in those comments Pelosi made after the speech. The withered Pelosi, herself worth $101 million as of 2014*, called the bonuses and tax cuts worth thousands of dollars each that many Americans are getting as a result of the Republican-sponsored tax bill, “crumbs.” Now $2,000 or $3,000 may be “crumbs” to a multi-millionaire like Pelosi, but I wonder how many less monied Americans see those amounts that way. Even Costco CEO Craig Jelinek called Pelosi’s comments “unthoughtful.” Costco is one of 300 companies that so far have announced bonuses to be paid their employees as the result of the new tax bill, and that doesn’t even account for the benefits most working Americans will get as the result of greatly increased standard deductions on their tax bills.

The Democrat’s choice of Congressman Joe Kennedy III to deliver the party’s rebuttal to the President’s speech also reflected the Dem’s bankruptcy when it comes either to ideas or personalities. It would probably be too blatant a non-forced error to select a Clinton, so the party went back to the Kennedy name. Even many Dems asked what it says about the party when its leadership picks a Massachusetts politician, part of the Kennedy dynasty, himself worth $43.2 million*, to deliver an address focused on assisting working Americans.

Kennedy, grandson of the late Robert F. Kennedy, seemed an incongruous choice, even as he spoke in terms of Democratic identity politics, reverting at one point to the cliché of delivering part of his address in Spanish. So while the Dems argue that Dreamers are Americans, Kennedy spoke to them as immigrants, and not even immigrants who speak English. The further irony is that, as his party moves further and further to the left, Kennedy’s grandfather and granduncle, JFK, would today most likely be viewed as conservatives in comparison.

I came to the State of the Union address expecting Trump to do a credible job, and hoping he wouldn’t tweet it away the next morning, and I was gratified on both counts. I also expected a somewhat truculent and unenthusiastic Democratic side of the chamber, but I didn’t expect it to be as gloomy and seemingly hate-filled as it was. That came as a shock even to skeptical me, and it tends to underscore the existence of this phenomenon that has come to be dubbed Trump Derangement Syndrome. That may be a non-clinical term or condition, but like any disorder, it distorts judgment and leads to non-productive actions.

That’s what I think is going on with the Dems. They seem intent on being haters and not much else, and haters are gonna hate. Whether anything more productive comes from them, that remains to be seen, all the more so after Tuesday’s performance.

* Source: members-of-congress.insidegov.com

The New Normal

The New Normal

The New Normal.” That phrase, already becoming hackneyed through use, pretty much tells it like it is.

Whether in New York or Nice or London or Barcelona, terrorists’ use of vehicles to mow down innocent people has become part of that “new normal.” Why bother with hijacking or blowing up an airliner when one can rent a truck, penetrate low-security areas, and make one’s twisted point with the blood and broken bones and murder of innocent people? With this approach, every low-level fanatic or miscreant worldwide becomes a tool for ISIS or other such groups to spread their message of terror.

Sad, but I believe accurate, to say, what happened in New York on Hallowe’en afternoon when Uzbeki émigré Sayfullo Saipov used a rented truck to career down a bike and pedestrian lane to take the lives of eight innocent people and injure at least another 15 embodies this “new normal.” And while it isn’t the first, by no means will it be the last time we see such an attack. What’s more, the ease and economy of mounting attacks of this nature makes everyone who ventures outside or who takes part in enjoying group activities or just taking a walk on a nice day a potential target.

It has been reported that ISIS put out the word through its social-media channels encouraging its adherents worldwide to mark Hallowe’en by doing exactly what Saipov did. Probably the only remarkable thing is that there weren’t other such attacks to mark the day and provide ISIS with more of the impact it seeks. But that should not offer any solace or encouragement. There is every reason to believe that there will be more vehicular and other low-level attacks and they will, in fact, figure into this “new normal.”

Other than personal vigilance and being acutely aware of one’s surroundings, there isn’t a huge amount anyone really can do to protect against attacks of this nature. It’s hard to tread a path somewhere between being blithely unaware and persistent paranoia. Somewhat akin to awareness of the potential for criminal activity in any public place or on any public conveyance, staying on what I would term “Condition Yellow” – being attuned to what’s going on around oneself and being prepared to react quickly to a perceived threat – should probably become the base condition for any of us when out and about.

In terms of public safety, a better response demands keen and focused policing. It’s now known that the authorities were aware of Saipov, who figured into various security investigations that were under way. Why Saipov’s plans were not uncovered and why he was not picked-up before he could carry out his heinous attack remains to be seen. Whether we’ll ever know the answer to this question also remains to be seen. We see shades of the Boston Marathon bombers, Tamarlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who also were in the FBI’s radar. The FBI even had been warned about the Chechen brothers by the dreaded Russians, but the FBI failed to take the pair into custody in advance of their murderous 2013 attack that killed three people and injured hundreds of others.

Failures in intelligence gathering and failures to act on intelligence leads are serious and have real-world consequences. Boston and New York and many of the other terrorist attacks that have taken place here and abroad where it later came out that the terrorists were on officials’ radar demonstrate the truth of this.

One thing that has come under scrutiny as a result of the Hallowe’en bombing is what is known as the Diversity Visa Program (DVP), better known as the Visa Lottery Program. Saipov had been admitted to the U.S. in 2010 under this program. While it might be a stretch to say that were it not for the DVP the New York attack – or at least others like it – would not have happened, it is a program that demands scrutiny.

As a consular officer in 1990 when DVP was first introduced, the “brain child” – to speak euphemistically – of the U.S. Congress, I and other consular officers with whom I worked were appalled by the program. Not only did it offer one more way for foreign nationals to skirt the normal strictures of our immigration law, it took the value of immigration to the U.S. and debased it, making it a matter of simple luck. Neither skills nor specific qualifications nor even family relations played any role in being selected for a DVP visa. All it took was being a citizen of what was deemed to be an “under-represented” country and having a post card with one’s name on it picked at random. Winning a visa under the DVP was the same as winning any other lottery.

Now, 27 years later, the only substantive change to the DVP is that the numbers of visas allowed have increased from 20,000 to close to 50,000. While the initial rationalization for DVP was to benefit Irish would-be immigrants, 48,000 of whom were legalized in the first three years of the program, the mix of DVP immigrants today is strongly tilted toward Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. I can’t help but ask why the most diverse country on earth needs to resort to a lottery to further that diversity?

While admission of would-be terrorists can’t be any more directly attributed to DVP than to any other U.S. immigration category, it’s pretty clear it was the source for Saipov being in the country in the first place. It’s also pretty clear that Saipov, described by people who knew and worked with him as a disgruntled truck driver with a poor driving record, lacks any of the higher-level skills that the country needs and which DPV fails to address. If, as a matter of policy, the country wants to open up immigration to other than simply family members of those already here and to encourage merit-based immigration, the answer is not a visa lottery but rather a points-based immigration system, much like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries have. To see why, be sure to read my posting on Pointing Immigration in the Right Direction.

Regardless what happens with the DVP, it’s clear that we’ve moved into the era of a “new normal” where terrorism is concerned. So be alert, stay on Condition Yellow when in public, and let’s hope those whose responsibility it is to track and apprehend those who would do us harm do a better job than they have in cases like Saipov and the Tsarnaev brothers.