Biden Leadership On Border Issue

Leadership qualities of public officials become most clear when issues demand a response that is both effective and just. The migrant children at the southern border are the headline-grabbing example of which I write. President Biden is the one making the point about such leadership. He did so emphatically during last week’s White House Press Conference.

The only people we’re not going to let sitting there on the other side of the Rio Grande by themselves with no help are children.

And then minutes later he added this statement.

Well, look, the idea that I’m going to say — which I would never do — “if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we’re just going to let him starve to death and stay on the other side” — no previous administration did that either, except Trump. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it.

It does not take anyone more than 30 seconds to see the way those who oppose migrants, those who oppose Democrats, and even more so those who oppose an elected Democratic president will play this issue. Biden knows full well the level of opposition that will gain steam and get much louder over the border issue. But standing up to such predictable reactions also is a part of being a leader.

But here is the fact to not forget.

The border issue does not boil down neatly to political rhetoric or find a resolution in policies that were aimed at only increasing the level of misery to a point that fewer would wish to attempt entry to the nation. If that were a workable policy the past four years would be viewed as a smashing success. But we know that time produced a colossal mess.

This weekend The New Yorker has a tremendous column by Jonathan Blitzer that hits on some points that are central to grasping the ‘lay of the land’ and how leadership will be required from the White House moving forward. Three fast paragraphs of that column are below.

Biden faces another burden: by the time Trump left office, he had effectively ended the practice of asylum and left the most vulnerable people to their own devices. Some seventy thousand asylum seekers were forced to wait indefinitely in Mexico, under a policy called the Migrant Protection Protocols. Trump also, in the name of a dubious public-health order issued last March, turned away nearly everyone who sought asylum at the border, including some sixteen thousand children and thirty-four thousand families. That order had the perverse effect of leading people to try to cross multiple times; in the past year, there have been more than five hundred thousand expulsions. Biden planned to phase the asylum program back in gradually, partly for operational reasons and partly for political ones. If the Administration appeared to be floundering, it would give Republicans an opening to attack its broader agenda, which includes legislation to expand the legal immigration system and to provide a path to citizenship for eleven million undocumented immigrants already living in this country.

The number of unaccompanied children, however, has exceeded the government’s ability to move them into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for placing them with family sponsors. The priority is to keep them from languishing in the holding cells run by the Department of Homeland Security; by law, children are not supposed to be in such facilities for more than seventy-two hours. But the H.H.S. shelters are almost at capacity. Nine emergency shelters have been set up, two in convention centers in Dallas and San Diego, yet the average amount of time that many children are spending in D.H.S. facilities is almost twice the legal limit. “We’re providing for the space again to be able to get these kids out,” Biden said on Thursday, adding that he had “used all the resources available” to free up five thousand more beds, at a Texas military base.

The Administration has rightly said that the problem needs to be addressed at the source. To do that, it intends to provide more aid to Central America, and to target it in ways that circumvent corrupt officials. The White House also wants to restart a program begun under Obama, and ended by Trump, to process children as refugees in their home countries, and to set up regional facilities to expedite their legal claims before the children reach the border. The plans are ambitious and still largely untested, and, as Biden admitted, they will take time—years, not months—to implement.

Part of the leadership demands now upon Biden is to make sure the communications efforts from the White House are at their peak performance as it is a requirement for the facts of the border issue to be as robust as the partisan sniping from Republicans.

And I have one more thought on this matter, which is a moral one at the border.

It is imperative that Biden and his fellow Democrats remain resolved to defend the interests of these children. It would be unacceptable to allow the unprincipled Republicans (Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson to name but two) who regard politics, rather than responsible governing, to in any way succeed.

This fight is about our ideals as a nation. Such a fight demands leadership, of the type Biden brings to his office.

And so it goes.

Biden Press Conference Refreshing For Facts, Empathy, Calm

If I were to write a short summation of President Biden’s hour-long press conference it would be as follows.

Fact-filled, lengthy, multi-issued, empathetic press conference…and no rudeness or bombast. Refreshing.

I suspect the nation will view it that way, too. Getting back to having mature, reasoned, and experienced hands on the reins of government are a good look for the world’s superpower. During the first press briefing of his presidency, Biden handled a variety of topics from his administration’s US-Mexico border response, gun control, and COVID-19.

But it was when Biden talked about the need to protect children at the border, and the thinking process which any family would undertake when sending loved ones on a long journey just to reach the border was when he proved to be the antithesis of the previous one in the White House. The regard Biden has for the least among us has long been a reason I have championed his career over the decades. His calm, reflective, and human nature was clear for all to see from the East Room.

The nation’s migration policies were upended by Donald Trump with new and purely racist ones implemented starting in 2017. Those policies did not end the numbers of migrants who came to the border over the past four years, just made the human misery deeper. Having children huddled on the other side of the Rio Grande is not a moral policy.

“He (Trump) in fact shut down the number of beds available. He did not fund HHS to get the children out of those border patrol facilities where they should not be.”

“He dismantled all that.”

We now have a moral leader in the White House.

The other issue that reached out to me was when Biden answered a reporter’s question that dealt with voting rights in the nation.

It’s sick. It’s sick” he stated as he then cited examples of some states proposing restrictions on bringing water to people standing in line waiting to vote, or to prohibit absentee ballots even under the most rigid of circumstances. Or shutting down voting at 5 PM when workers get off their jobs.

This White House press conference was akin to what this nation has long known, with the exception of the distance between reporters due to the pandemic. But the substance of the questions and responses, the decorum, the respect for the process of reporters doing their job and the President his, was so refreshing. There was no bombast or crude remarks or needless chaos.

Joe Biden was just doing what we elected him to do.

Be President.

Care About The Children At The Border

A short simple post, and to the point.

As we talk in our nation about children who flee from Central America comes a film from another part of the world that is so powerful. James and I watched it tonight. If you have a heart have tissues, too. This is a global story. One we need to care about and not shout stupid crude remarks that the kids are not ‘ours’. They are ours! That is, if you come from any place with humanity.

Children At Southern Border Deserve Our Open Arms, And Long-Term Solutions

Javier Alejandro Vindel-Rodriguez holds on to the chain-link fence of the Brownsville Express International Bridge.

Compassion is a trait that I do not consider old-fashioned. It has guided me over the decades, and it will to the end of my days. Even with all the baseless and fact-free rhetoric that is being spread widely about the ‘throngs of COVID-infected children’ at the Southern Border I rely on solid information and my inner compass. Our nation must act likewise and use our ideals as a guide in how to proceed with these young people.

Before I get to the heart of my post a fact needs to be put front and center. President Biden is still implementing a pandemic emergency rule from the past administration that empowers border agents to turn away migrants at the border, with the exception of unaccompanied minors. Those young people should not be considered expendable or able to make it on their own. They may not be our nation’s children. But they are children and we must act like caring adults.

The issue of immigration has been one that decades of policymakers and elected officials have argued about and, as of this posting, failed to address with comprehensive and meaningful legislation. The corrosive nature of our politics has even denied the Dreamers access to the security that would allow for their lives to have stability.

We should not allow for the mean-spirited nature of some politicians to gain traction on this issue for it is they who have in large part caused this humanitarian situation. How many times has a measure been pushed in congress where more immigration judges have been requested, a far superior process outlined for asylum requests, and even a registration system for unaccompanied minors? And how many times have conservatives in the congress rejected the content of those bills?

The fact is there will be much stress and upheavals in Mexico and Central American countries in the years to come. Some of it will be created by climate change and while there are those who will pretend that is not a ‘real concern’, it is in fact, already contributing to immigration. Reports from places such as the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) underscores weather changes are happening as drought becomes prevalent. As such, challenges with farming means people are leaving.

Add in drugs and the misery they bring with additional crime, natural disasters, and failed governmental leadership and it is no wonder people flee in an attempt for something better. You and I would do the same thing if in that situation. Therefore it is proper to state we need to place ourselves into the shoes of a young person standing at our southern border.

I utterly and completely reject those inhumane voices who would simply turn vulnerable kids back to whatever propelled them into their northern journey. I suspect many of those conservatives who would reject these young people today were championing pro-life sentiments in the last election cycle. We must, as a nation, do far better than listen to the ones who lambast the ones who have come to our land in recent weeks.

First, there must be a faster and more seamless way to process the young migrants and transfer them to shelters managed by the Department of Health and Human Services. At that point, we know there are ample sponsors who will assist with these children.

Second, there must be a concerted bipartisan effort to pass and implement an idea that was talked about in the campaign. There is now an authorization request of $4 billion in funding (as part of the Engagement in Central America initiative) to get programming developed to combat the core issues that concern people so much they wish to immigrate to our nation. Fighting violence, corruption, drugs, gangs, and extreme poverty in the places they occur will be the best use of our funds and advance the type of long-term answers that are needed.

There are also ideas percolating within the Biden administration, in conjunction with the United Nations, to create shelters in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. By helping those seeking refuge from violence and extreme poverty in their home countries we can aid in a humanitarian way and not create immigration concerns.

We can be smart and creative in solving this problem. But we can not, MUST NOT, discard children because they come from another country and have brown skin. That runs counter to the very idea of America.

And so it goes.

Wisconsin Economy Impaired Due To Trump’s Over-Reach In Executive Office

Not for the first time to I raise concerns about Donald Trump taking actions that are both unconstitutional and that also impair the well-being of our economy.

Today there are many news reports about the impact on Wisconsin’s economy from the actions Trump has taken to further construct his needless and racist wall on our southern border.  If one were to talk to the average state voter it would not be hard to find a solid majority who would disagree with Trump pulling money, that was not allocated by Congress, to do nothing more than play to his partisan whims.

Oshkosh Corp.’s military vehicle production, work that has sustained thousands of Wisconsin jobs in recent years, is poised to take a hit from a Defense Department plan to divert $3.83 billion from elsewhere in its budget to build 177 miles of Trump’s Mexico border wall.

A first look at the proposal shows that $101 million will be moved from the production of Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTTs) that the Army has relied on to carry munitions and other critical supplies.

All who follow the news know there is not now, nor has there ever been, any rational reason to construct a wall.  Such a boondoggle is not worthy of one cent of taxpayer money.  By taking this action, which is aimed at the racist and xenophobic mouth-breathers in the Republican Party, underscores his total disregard for the law.

Once again we are witnessing his acting as if the Constitution isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.  He acts like this nation could be a dictatorship if only he stomps his feet and demands to have all power ceded in his direction.  It is imperative, for institutional reasons, that there be a massive and sustained pushback on this matter until it is reversed.

What has been most distressing to your blogger is that Trump thinks he can hold the country hostage for an expensive project because he cannot get congressional approval.  Recall he could not get the wall funding for this racist move while both houses of Congress were controlled by the Republican Party.  A party, it needs to be underscored, which has repeatedly proven its dismissive feelings about brown-skinned people.  If he could not get his funding when they had both chambers of Congress what, pray tell, does he think the chances are we will allow this to be done now?

Trump in the past did not add this funding measure to his budget bills.   Instead, he just dictated what he wanted with no debate and expects Congress and taxpayers to roll over.  The bottom line is that Trump must not be allowed to lie his way to a wall built with money not appropriated by Congress.  

It all comes down to not allowing Trump to further damage the nation.  We all have seen small children act out in department stores and we know what must be done.  The offending party has to be removed so as not to do further harm.  In regard to Trump, we must vote the little brat out of the White House and remove it from the national stage as we know he can not act in accordance with social norms.  Or legal ones!

Until then we need to raise hell about undermining the intent of Congress and the over-reach of the Executive Branch.

Letter From Home “Education And Hope” 1/1/20

A few days prior to Christmas I was in a grocery store line to check out items needed for a gathering of friends to be held at our home.  The store is a place I stop a couple times a week and over the years I have come to know many of the employees through chats and laughter.  I did not, however, recognize the woman who was working my checkout line.

I have a habit of striking up conversations with folks I encounter in retail as I do not want them to feel under-appreciated.  Everyone is always in a hurry in our world, and it seems that we too often forget to acknowledge the people who are directly in front of us.  So I make it a point to talk to people who I interact with in stores and try to thank them by using their name on their tag.   But the new face in the grocery store line had a name I knew I was not going to be able to pronounce on the first try.  Or third try.

She had her hair covered and so I assumed she might be of the Islamic faith.  She told me her name was based from her religion.  Raised in Ghana she was new to Madison and wondered how she might adapt to winter.  With spring temps that we experienced in December, I alerted her to the mercurial nature of our weather.

But it was when she spoke about taking classes at our local technical school, and then transferring to UW-Madison, that I am sure my smile broadened.  Over and over I either talk with or read about immigrants who come to this country and seek out ways to improve their lives.  In this country, immigrants need to deal with new language skills, currency, culture, and in the case of this young woman, cold weather and certainly snow.   Added to that is the desire to strive for education and learning and personal growth.

There is so much to admire and be proud of when hearing such stories.  They confirm what I heard in taxi cab rides around Washington, DC two years ago when I would strike up conversations with immigrant drivers.

I was heartened that each of the men driving cabs was chatty and open about their life and experiences in this nation.   From Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Morocco, Sudan, and Sierra Leone each had strong feelings and all but one had language skills that made it easy to convey them.  The vast majority were of the Islamic faith and needless to say, were as proud to talk about it as anyone would be about their religion.  One soft-spoken man from Ethiopia seemed so humble and sincere about his life and outlook that upon leaving the cab I turned and offered the Islamic greeting of “peace be upon you”.

All the men had come to this country to make a better way in life.  Most had been here for about 15 years, a couple arrived only about 7 years ago.  Some had traveled with family and others came alone.  A man who came from India to get an education started his own restaurant.  An Ethiopian driver was surprised we knew of some foods from his native land such as Injera and Doro Wat.   We told him that in Madison we live close to a restaurant that makes these foods.  He smiled and told us that in his land Dor Wat is reserved for special days as it takes lots of ingredients and time to make.

Each of the drivers had made a bold choice of leaving the place of their birth to seek a better life.  It meant at times, as with the driver from India, leaving every member of his family behind and seeking something different.  It is a phenomenal undertaking to make such a journey.

And they work hard.  They are not slackers.  Most lived in Maryland where rental properties were more affordable.   One driver spoke of the rent increases over the past decade where his two-bedroom apartment now costs over $2,000 per month.   Other drivers told of their small children.  In one case a driver wanted his son to learn his native language at home while also speaking English at school.   James, as a professor of languages,  heartily agreed and offered some tips on how to make that process work.

Painting every person of the Islamic faith with one brush, as Donald Trump continues to do, was met with resentment and hurt.  “That is not American,” is how one man expressed it from his front seat.  And he is correct.

The desire to come to America and the thirst for education is a real and most uplifting combination.  We should applaud that and welcome it.

And that is exactly what I did upon hearing the woman at the grocery store. She expressed how many in Madison have been so welcoming and encouraging.   I told her many folks in the Midwest are big-hearted, want to see more diversity, and are not in alignment with what too often makes for dreadful headlines.

These types of moments and conversations are what truly makes me happy.  They can almost make me forget what I am doing.  As I got to the car I realized that I had not taken all my bagged groceries.  Walking back to get them I took stock of how important such conversations are in the chaotic times we find ourselves.

I am hoping for many more such simple conversations and interactions in the year ahead.

And so it goes.

Catholic Herald: Hispanics Not ‘Invaders’ Or Taking ‘Our’ Jobs

While I do not read all the newspapers, as Sarah Palin once claimed, I do read a lot of varied publications.  I do that to come in contact with varying perspectives.  Such reading allows me to either slightly alter my views about an issue in the news, or further confirm the positions which I currently hold.

One of the publications I read is the Madison Catholic Herald.  Though not Catholic I am taken by the professional nature of the publication and the journalism behind it, even though it obviously skewers towards a certain direction.   I always respect a well written and argued publication, which is why I have read the Herald for over a year.

Over the weekend I was reading the Sept. 5th edition and came across a column by Moises Dandoval regarding the El Paso shooting and Hispanics in our nation.  It made points that too many Americans wish to ignore when it comes to Hispanics in our nation.  It was a powerful read.

Richard Parker, author of “Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America,” wrote in The New York Times: “My last name is Anglo, but I am the son of a Mexican immigrant.” He wrote that he spoke to a young soldier, Pfc. Richard Riley, whose eyes welled with tears as he viewed the white crosses of the victims and said: “I just can’t believe it. I’m Hispanic too. And I can’t believe that these people were killed because they were.”

The assailant allegedly complained about “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The word invasion connotes the intention to conquer, seize control, subjugate the current inhabitants. But we cannot call the immigrants who cross the border invaders.

They are more like the people described by Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” They come, first, to survive; to find work to support their families, and in the process contribute to the nation.

Moreover, Hispanics take jobs no one wants — and there are millions of them. At the end of June 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 7.3 million job openings, a figure largely unchanged from month to month. You find them in poultry processing plants in Mississippi where immigration authorities recently arrested over 600 Hispanics suspected of being undocumented immigrants. Where both parents worked, both were arrested, the children coming home traumatized to find no one there. In one place, a Catholic parish was left with the daunting job of caring for the children.

My belief is the nation is better off when we have not only diversity but also people in our land who really wish to be here.  Too many of my fellow citizens take for granted the freedom and security we enjoy.  But those who flee dangerous places and severe economic hardships are the very ones who best know what our ideals are about.  They may not be able to articulate it like a wheat farmer in Kansas but they are very able to feel it. The least the rest of us can do is to better understand immigrants who seek our shores and recall our own family beginnings were not much different.

And so it goes.

Did ICE Arrest Employers Of Undocumented Workers?

I know readers who stop by my little place on the internet highway have the news of the day.  I try to add a certain view, or pose a question that has not been addressed in the media, and in so doing add to the conversation.  Such as the news this week of an ICE raid of meat packing plant in Mississippi.

It was simply a most mean and disgusting action by the federal government.

The raids were by far the largest to occur since Mr. Trump took office, and the biggest since December 2006, when more than 1,200 people were swept up in a raid at several units of a meat processing company.

Three poultry plants that are owned and operated by Peco Foods in three towns, and a fourth run by Koch Foods, in Morton, Miss., were among the facilities raided on Wednesday.

Mayor William Truly of Canton told the local ABC affiliate that federal agents had identified workers who were in the country illegally and rounded them up, put them in buses and took them away.

As my readers know I have sharply criticized such raids.  But this week the shame of our nation grows as for families of those arrested it was the first day of the new school year.  Just awful.  Children learned that their mothers or fathers had been taken into custody through school officials and guardians. Can my readers imagine the hell these kids were going through upon receiving this news?  Some of these kids were left temporarily homeless.   This is just completely unconscionable.

Community leaders put some children up for the night while their parents were processed by ICE., noting that a number of children returned to empty homes after the arrests.

Put yourself back into your own shoes at the age of 5 years old, 6 years old, 7 years old, 11 years old, and consider how you would feel.  How terrified you would be.   This type of intimidation of these workers is soulless and again shows the deplorable nature of what was elected in 2016.

But what about the the employers who hire workers who are in the country without a process that makes them legal?  I recall when President Obama was first in office he had worked to make sure that ICE raids at workplaces would focus less on the employees, and more on their managers and bosses.  From this blogger’s desk it is far more sensible to have employers, who have for far too long successfully deflected punishment for their hiring practices, to be the ones facing the busted down doors and harsh measures from the federal government.

When considering what happened in Mississippi this week, and looking back over how ICE previously operated leaves me most concerned.  In the past most of those charged dealt with workers possessing phony paperwork.  It was not against employers for knowingly recruiting or hiring illegal workers.  It all comes down to who has the best lobbyists walking the halls of congress.

I have long advocated for an immigration system that allows for newcomers to our nation, and a process for citizenship in due course. With worker shortages in every state and in all employment sectors, and many seeking justified asylum from the places they flee, means we need to have a reasoned national conversation about how to proceed with a new immigration plan.

The rancid bigotry of Trump and his followers have demonstrated where we no longer can go as a nation.