DACA Policy Is a Mirror Image of Republican Gun Culture

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If you were to ask unreconstructed old racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, racist Republican Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), or any of the other Republican members of Congress who are proud of their state’s gun “culture” their opinions on a proposal for a national gun registry, you would find unanimous condemnation.

And while the arguments for a gun registry are solid — it can help track weapons used in crimes, prosecute people who provide guns to criminals and terrorists, and recover weapons stolen from legal gun owners — their argument would be that the danger to 2nd Amendment rights far outweighs any good that can come from having a list of guns or gun owners.

You see, a corrupt government will make the decision to take away your rights and use that list as a means of rounding up guns and removing them by force. Such a thing cannot be countenanced under our Constitutional Democracy and so it is best we do not go down that road. We simply cannot trust the government with that information.

Why is it, do you suppose, that these people are so certain that the government will act in bad faith? Why do they suspect that the government is fundamentally corrupt and it will misuse the registry for anything other than its intended purpose?

I believe it’s because they themselves are willing to act in bad faith. The Republicans are in power and they are demonstrating that they are willing to use that power in odious ways that are not just unAmerican, but corrupt in nature.

Yesterday, President Trump shoved Jeff Sessions in front of the cameras to announce that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) would be rescinded. DACA was a program began in 2012 by President Obama to allow people who are American in every aspect but immigration status to be educated, get a job, join the military, and live their lives without the constant fear of deportation.

To be eligible to participate in DACA:

Illegal immigrants must have entered the United States before their 16th birthday and prior to June 2007, be currently in school, a high school graduate or be honorably discharged from the military, be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three other misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security. The program does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship, nor does it provide eligibility for federal welfare or student aid.

The program is for people who were brought to the United States as children. Under DACA, they were allowed to register with the government, pay a $500 fee, and they were given semi-legal status (legal “presence” rather than legal “status”). DACA participants have to renew their status every two years and must have no criminal record. Today there are about 800,000 DACA recipients (which means the fees alone bring $200 million a year into the treasury). The average age is 26 and most were brought to this country before their 6th birthday. This is the only country they know. Many of them speak no language other than English. So in many ways, these are model immigrants. They have assimilated into our culture because it’s their culture.

But requiring these people to register with the government in good faith created a list of people whose immigration status is on hold, essentially. Now, racists like Jeff Sessions and Steve King want to use that registry to kick these people out of the country. Sound familiar? The same people who are absolutely certain that the government is so corrupt that we can’t have a national gun registry without abusing it to take away the rights of gun owners are now announcing they want to use a different government registry to take away the rights of brown people. They are champing at the bit to deport this low-hanging fruit of self-identified “illegal” immigrants. These are people who pose no threat. They’re not committing crimes. Kicking them out won’t raise anyone’s wages or lower anyone’s taxes. They’re not on welfare. They’re not getting Pell Grants. They’re living and working in the only country they know. But many of them are brown. So bigots like Sessions and King are gleeful at the opportunity to deport them.

“Hold up,” you’re saying. “The right to bear arms is in the Constitution. These people don’t have the right to stay here illegally.” Which is a fair point to bring up in a debate about these issues. But it isn’t the end of the argument. For one thing, DACA participants are innocent of any crime. They were brought here as children. In this country, we don’t hold children accountable for the crimes of their parents. We just don’t. These people are your neighbors, your friends, and your colleagues. They have by definition kept a clean criminal record. They pay taxes. They contribute to our society. To argue that they are illegal is to argue that their existence is illegal. How can it be illegal just to exist? If you throw out the deal we made with them in good faith, then they have a legitimate grievance.

“Hold up,” you’re saying now. “DACA is unconstitutional. President Obama enacted the DACA program illegally.” Again, that’s a point you can bring up (and man does it get brought up a lot in the right-wing media) but that’s an opinion, not fact. The fact is the courts have yet to rule on the Constitutionality of the DACA program. The fact is that the president has prosecutorial discretion with respect to immigration. He can (and did) choose to focus his immigration enforcement efforts elsewhere. In fact, when Arizona passed a law banning DACA participants from receiving state benefits, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction, saying the ban itself was a violation of the law. Both Michigan and North Carolina briefly tried to stop DACA participants from getting drivers licenses but were stopped by the courts.

DACA will work its way through the court system and we’ll eventually get an answer as to the Constitutionality of it. But anyone who makes a claim one way or the other is issuing an opinion, not fact. This includes unreconstructed old racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

We do know some facts about DACA participants thanks to studies by various groups using the information in the registry.

So why act now? I mean President Trump campaigned on being tough on illegal immigration, but he campaigned on a lot of things that he hasn’t acted on yet. Why DACA and why now? After all, just last week Trump said he loves these people.

A handful of states attorneys general led by Texas threatened to sue Trump if he didn’t end DACA and start deporting this low-hanging fruit. They gave him an arbitrary deadline of Sept. 5. So Trump trotted out Jeff Sessions who was positively giddy about it.

But the president has been sending enough mixed signals to keep Alan Turing busy for the next decade. For starters, he didn’t actually rescind DACA. He announced he was going to rescind it in six months. Then this:

So Trump wants to end DACA, but he wants Congress to enact DACA?

So if Congress doesn’t manage to get a DACA bill done in six months, the president won’t end DACA? What else can “I will revisit the issue!” mean? He’s already announced an end to the program in six months. Now he’s saying in six months he’ll look at it again. So does he want the program to end or not? How does this mealy mouthed half-measure actually fulfill his campaign pledge to end DACA?

The simple answer is that it doesn’t. This announcement is a cynical attempt by the president to ensure that the backlash for any bad outcome is on Congress and the praise for any good outcome goes to Trump. While in the business world, that might make you canny, in government, it makes you a coward. That’s not leadership.

There is no reason other than racism to end DACA. The act of rescinding this program is itself a corrupt act because the participants acted in good faith with the government of the only country they know. Using their own willingness to play ball against them is a cowardly act. Perhaps that’s why White House staff were secretly afraid that Trump might find out what DACA really was because he might have changed his mind.

 

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Oh . . . you mean *that* Russian

ap-jeff-sessionsWay back in 1972, then-president Richard Nixon had a problem. His attorney general John Mitchell had resigned due to his involvement in Watergate. The investigation was ongoing and Nixon had to appoint someone to finish it.

Nixon chose Richard G. Kleindienst, the acting attorney general.

During this time, the Department of Justice was pursuing an antitrust case against ITT corporation. This was complicated by a couple of factors 1) their involvement in the 1964 coup in Brazil and 2) Their funding of the 1972 Republican National Convention.

When Kleindienst appeared before the senate for his confirmation hearing, he was asked several times if he’d spoken to anyone in the White House about the ITT case. Why? Because the attorney general and the DoJ are supposed to be independent of the White House. The president doesn’t give orders to the AG and the AG doesn’t consult the president on open investigations.

Kleindienst answered that he’d had no contact with the White House about ITT. He was confirmed as attorney general. Eventually, when a special prosecutor was appointed to look into Watergate, his team discovered a recording of an Oval Office phone call between President Nixon and Kleindienst in which the president told him to “drop the ITT case.”

So, Kleindienst had lied to the senate. When questioned about it, he claimed he thought the senator’s question was narrowly focused on a particular period of time, not the length of the entire ITT case. The special prosecutor filed criminal charges against Kleindienst, who resigned and plead guilty to lying to congress.

Skip to 2017 and President Trump’s pick to lead the Justice Department, Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. At his confirmation hearing, Sen. Al Franken asked:

“If it’s true, it’s obviously pretty serious. And if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian Government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

To which Sessions responded:

“I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

You’ll notice that Franken didn’t ask Sessions if he’d had contact with the Russians. He asked what Sessions would do as AG if it turns out Trump campaign officials (of which Sessions was one) had had contact with the Russians. Sessions volunteered that he had no contact.

So when it came out that Sessions had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during the campaign, it appeared that Sessions lied under oath. He responded to this accusation by claiming he met with Kislyak in his role as a senator on the Armed Services Committee. But none of the other members of the committee met with Kislyak. And Sessions didn’t correct the record even after seeing his colleague Mike Flynn resign over failing to disclose his conversations with the very same Russian. As a side note, what is it about Kislyak that makes conversations with him so forgettable? No one can seem to remember meeting with him and when they’re reminded, they can’t recall if the subject of the thing that was consuming their lives at the moment came up.

Are we seeing the pattern here? An attorney general lies during his confirmation hearing. He’s caught. He claims he misinterpreted the question. The next step is resignation. Or it would be if he had any honor.

So where does that leave us? It seems a lot of Trump officials met with Russians during the campaign. Kislyak was at the RNC convention where at least some of these meetings took place.

Paul Manafort was fired by Team Trump when his name was discovered in a hand-written ledger in locked safe in the office of a Russian oligarch for whom Manafort used to lobby. The ledger denoted a $12 million payout to Manafort. Actually, that wasn’t the triggering event. Manafort didn’t disclose his lobbying on behalf of a foreign entity, which is a felony.

Carter Page was a Trump aide with experience in global energy production and ties to several Russian state-run energy companies. He denied he met with Kislyak even as he was fired from the campaign. He kept on denying it until about yesterday. But back in July, when asked if he met Kislyak at the Republican Convention, he issued one of the most bizarre non-denial denials I’ve ever read:

“I can neither confirm or deny any meeting with him at that event in the interest of respecting the confidentiality rules that people agreed to as it was an off-the-record session.”

Uh, dude. Saying “it was an off-the-record session” is a confirmation that the meeting took place.

Now, Team Trump says these meetings at the convention took place, but they were just “get-to-know” meet and greets. Nothing nefarious about them. We can all relate to that, right? Secretive off-the-record meet-and-greets between campaign officials and Russian diplomats? The kind that no one can seem to recall having or what was said? The kind Team Trump denied happened like 20 times?

Now, remember what happened at that convention. Team Trump’s only input into the RNC platform was to soften the Republican stance from arming Ukrainians against Russian invaders to providing “appropriate assistance” to Ukrainians.  Trump denied he had anything to do with that.

Michael Flynn was Trump’s pick for National Security Advisor. He resigned when it was discovered that he lied to both the FBI and Vice President Pence about his conversations with Kislyak on the day President Obama announced sanctions against Russia for interfering in our elections. Again, he claimed he couldn’t remember what they talked about.

Trump’s son-in-law and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner along with Mike Flynn met with Kislyak at Trump Tower back in December. Funny thing about that meeting: the security tapes don’t show Kisylak entering or leaving Trump Tower, which suggests they brought him in some back way. That’s not normally what you’d do if the meeting was legit. It’s not like Kisylak would have been mobbed on the streets if he’d walked in the front door.

Donald Trump, Jr. was paid $50,000 for a speech about Syria at a French think tank called the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs. If you’re wondering what junior has to say about Syria that could possibly be worth 50 large, you’re not alone. Turns out the directors of the think tank once nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin for a Nobel Prize.

Trump’s new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is the single largest shareholder of the Bank of Cyprus, which was fined $630 million by the DoJ for laundering money from Russian oligarchs. One of those oligarchs bought a house from Trump in Florida in which the future president made a tidy profit. Not one senator questioned Ross’s ties to Russia.

Yesterday, Sessions held a press conference to say he was recusing himself from any investigations dealing with the Trump campaign. This is too narrow. This is also unsustainable as the investigation would fall to the deputy AG who would be forced to investigate his boss. We need an independent prosecutor at a minimum and a non-partisan 9/11-style commission to investigate what really went on between Russia and the Trump campaign. We need to see Trump’s taxes to see if he has any financial ties to Putin.

Until that happens, expect to see more of the daily drip, drip, drip that keeps the story out front, and hijack’s Trump’s agenda. You know how you can tell when Trump is in trouble? He does stuff like this: