Category Archives: immigration

Some Words On “The Bowling Green Massacre”

Kellyanne Conway’s “Bowling Green Massacre” oopsie is ironic on so many levels. Let us count the ways that using this incident to justify a Muslim ban is completely wrong.

First, a recap of the incident in question: two Iraqis were arrested, indicted and convicted for a plot to send high-powered rifles (the kind available at any gun shop in the South) and money to Al Qaeda overseas. The weapons and money would have been used on Western targets overseas. The plot was uncovered by the FBI within months of the men’s arrival in the U.S. No weapons were ever sent overseas, and no terror attack occurred thanks to these two, either in the U.S. or anywhere else. The part that involves refugees is here:

Although both Alwan and Hammadi had been arrested by Iraq security forces, in 2006 they were allowed to enter the United States as refugees in April and July 2009, respectively. Asked why officials and Homeland Security had not properly vetted or reviewed the men’s records, a Homeland Security official said, “This case demonstrates specific gaps that were present in the screening process that was in place in the beginning of the administration. Once the administration became aware of these gaps, it took immediate steps to fill them. Today our vetting process considers a far broader range of information than it did in past years.”

The specific “gap” revealed by this case is that in 2009, fingerprints found on IEDs in Iraq weren’t being matched with those of refugees seeking entry into the U.S. Under George W. Bush, the IED fingerprint data base wasn’t included as part of the refugee screening process. That flaw in the vetting process was corrected by President Obama as soon as it was revealed by this case. So using this specific case to say “we need to fix the vetting process” is wrong because Obama already did that.

Even funnier is Trump’s claim that his bigoted Executive Order is “similar” to Obama’s “2011 Iraqi refugee ban.” Actually, no: Obama never banned Iraqi refugees, temporarily or otherwise. He did order refugee’s fingerprints be checked against those in the IED database. That caused some seriously big delays in the processing of applications as thousands of applications had to be reprocessed. It was not a ban, it was addressing a security issue that Trump now claims he’s addressing.

So just to review our “Bowling Green Massacre” incident:

1- The plot exploited the country’s lax gun laws;
2- The men were under FBI surveillance almost as soon as they entered the U.S.;
3- There was no plot to launch an attack inside the U.S.;
4- No weapons or money made it to Iraq because of the FBI’s undercover investigation;
5- Flaws in the refugee vetting process revealed by this case were corrected by President Obama years ago;
6- Claims that Trump isn’t doing anything that Obama didn’t already do are wrong.

Why do I know this and the president’s top advisor does not? I’m no expert, I don’t work for the government. I’m not involved in the security services. I don’t have top-level security clearance. I’m just a dang housewife in Tennessee who reads the New York Times instead of listening to Sean Hannity and watching Fox News. Is that all it takes to make someone knowledgeable about the world?

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Filed under immigration, terror alerts, terrorism

Horrible Ideas, Vol. Eleventybillion

The Trump regime actually thinks this is a good idea?

Miller also noted on Saturday that Trump administration officials are discussing the possibility of asking foreign visitors to disclose all websites and social media sites they visit, and to share the contacts in their cell phones. If the foreign visitor declines to share such information, he or she could be denied entry. Sources told CNN that the idea is just in the preliminary discussion level. The social media posts calling for jihad by San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik — made under a pseudonym and with strict privacy settings — are part of this discussion. How such a policy would be implemented remains under discussion.

Jesus ever-loving Christmas Tree, you’d think 9/11 had just happened again. What fresh stupidity is this? And can I point out that Tashfeen Malik was born in Pakistan and spent most of her life in Saudi Arabia — two countries not on Trump’s “target list”? This kinda makes Rand Pau’s hissy fit over getting a TSA pat-down look even more childish.

Who would submit to having their social media posts and cell phone contact lists perused by the U.S. government before being admitted into the country? Not me. How would this even work? Will tourists all have to take pre-emptive screen shots of them “liking” Despot Trump’s latest Tweet in order to get entry into Disney World?

Trump’s Muslim ban has been a disaster. But this is what you get when you put the Celebrity Apprentice in the White House. Someone with no knowledge or respect for how government works is not going to be able to craft or implement logical policies. The result is chaos, confusion, anger, you name it. You thought the TSA lines were awful before, just wait until a TSA agent has to check some hapless visitor’s Twitter feed before allowing him through. God, this is incredible.

Somehow “we told you so” just fails to convey sufficient despair this moment requires.

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Filed under Donald Trump, immigration, War On Terror

Refugees Are Not The Problem, You Jackass

From the conservative Cato Institute:

terrorists-chart

I’ve already written about this enough. This is beyond shameful. Right now, refugees who have been through years of vetting, sold all of their possessions, and boarded airplanes to arrive in the U.S. are being turned away. They now have literally nothing.

Meanwhile, countries conveniently left out of this ban all seem to have one thing in common:

President Trump’s most recent executive order effectively bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days — but some Muslim countries were spared from the order’s blacklist, even though they have deep-seated ties to terrorism.

Conspicuously, Trump doesn’t hold any business interests in any of the countries on the list, but holds major stakes in several of those excluded from it, records show.

Friday’s executive order, signed at the Pentagon, suspends the issuing of U.S. visas or travel permits to people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Not a single American was killed on U.S. soil by citizens from any of those countries between 1975 and 2015, according to statistics tallied by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute.

Coincidence? Maybe if we knew more about his business interests we’d have a better handle on why Saudi Arabia, which contributed 15 of the 9/11 hijackers and gave us Osama bin Laden, was not banned, but Sudan was.

Donald Trump is a monster. There is no logic to this action except his desire to make an easy scapegoat of the world’s most vulnerable. He is not a Christian. He is not making America great. We were in every single way a greater country 10 days ago than we are now. We were a safer country 10 days ago.

Make no mistake, Republicans: Donald Trump is going to be the villain of your children’s and grandchildren’s history books, and a big majority of you will be there right alongside him.

And all of those people who told us we had to stop taking Trump literally? Fuck you. He has literally done every horrible, inhumane, immoral thing we said he would do. So please shut up.

How to help: find a local organization near you. Reach out. Donate. Here are some ideas:

Legacy Mission Village
• Tennessee Immigrant And Refugee Rights Coalition
World Relief
International Rescue Committee
Nashville International Center For Empowerment

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Filed under immigration, terrorism

Why You Gotta Be So Mean, Tennessee?

Shameful doings in the Tennessee State Senate yesterday:

In a move met with immediate criticism from advocates of the state’s refugee community, the Tennessee state Senate on Monday approved a resolution directing the state attorney general to sue the federal government for noncompliance of the Refugee Act of 1980.

With a 27-5 vote, the resolution, according to its proponents, seeks to settle a quandary created after Tennessee opted out of the refugee resettlement program in 2008 under then-Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Tennessee is still partaking in the program due to the fact that Catholic Charities is administering the resettlement effort.

[…]

Norris admitted that although the legislature does not have the authority to direct Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government, the resolution contains a provision that would allow state lawmakers the ability to hire outside counsel to take action.

I eagerly look forward to our “fiscally responsible” legislators paying millions of dollars to some right-wing law firm to file this lawsuit, then explain how the money spent is a demonstration of their fiscal responsibility. Ouch. Makes my head hurt.

You know it’s an election year when Tennessee legislators start pushing that fear button. Republicans just don’t know how to sell their brand without going full-on nativist, blaming the most vulnerable populations for whatever ails the nation or state.

What’s weird here is that things are actually looking pretty good for the state of Tennessee right now. As the national economy has improved, so has Tennessee’s, with tax collections exceeding projections. So if the Republicans can’t point the finger at starving children for impoverishing the state, I guess they’ll point the finger at refugees and paint them all as terrorists. Shame on you guys, really. Why you gotta be so mean?

So, I was at the state Senate chambers yesterday as all of this was going down. I was among the protestors and got to see the Republicans duck inside the chambers trying to ignore the 100 or so people holding “welcome refugees” signs. I saw Democrats like Jeff Yarbro say hello to us and thank us for being there. I saw Democrats like Thelma Harper, who “cluelessly” abstained when the issue came up at committee last week, try to appear less clueless this time around, smiling at us and saying hello almost apologetically.

I did not see Democrat Reginald Tate of Memphis. He did not vote this time; last time, when it was in committee, he voted yes. He voted to sue President Obama. I can’t imagine what he was thinking.

Most of the Republicans scooted inside the Senate chamber as quickly as possible. It was as if they were embarrassed — as well they should be. These are the same people who keep telling us what faithful Christians they are. Every time the issue of abortion or gay marriage comes up, they’re always telling us about how they vote their faith. Yet the Bible has far more to say about refugees and immigrants than it does abortion or homosexuality (Leviticus 19:33-34, Exodus 22:21, Exodus 23:9, Malachi 3:5, Ezekiel 47:22, Deuteronomy 27:19, Hebrews 13:2, Isaiah 16:3-4, Matthew 25:35, Acts 28:2, etc. etc. etc.)

So you vote as a Christian on abortion and gay marriage, but not on this? That’s what we call a hypocrite.

As I’ve stated before, (see here) there’s a reason refugees are resettled in states like Tennessee, and it’s one which we should be proud of:

[…] it’s because of all the churches located here, and the support services that faith communities have traditionally provided, to help families resettle and assimilate into American life. I’ve mentioned this before, but many if not most of the groups facilitating refugee resettlement are Christian, and they work with local congregations! You know, Christians used to be known for helping people, not shooting up abortion clinics. Weird, huh?

I guess Tennessee Republicans are Christians when they wanna be, fiscally responsible when they wanna be, and pants-wetting cowards when they wanna be.

And mean all the time.

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Filed under immigration, Tennessee

Inquiring Minds, Immigration Edition

Why is it whenever Republicans like Donald Trump fearmonger about illegal immigration, they show people pouring over a wall?

Aren’t they the ones who are always trying to build a wall to stop it? Doesn’t this prove that walls don’t work?

[UPDATE]:

Ted Cruz’s hilarious immigration ad also features people flooding across a wall (as well as through rivers, etc.)

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Filed under 2016 Election, immigration

Everyone Can Shut Up About Syrian Refugees Now

Tennessee’s Attorney General has ruled that the state has no say over refugees resettled in the state:

In the opinion released Monday, Slatery notes that through the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal law pre-empts any rules the state seems to put into place on refugees.

But Slatery said that nothing prevents the state from communicating its preferences and concerns about the refugee resettlement program to the federal government.

We all predicted this, and one would hope that recent acts of terror on the homeland perpetuated by our own right-wing extremists might put this “OMG THEY’RE MUSLIM” BS to rest once and for all. Right-wing extremism is the greater threat to Americans, but we can’t talk about that, can we? It’s not polite! Here in Tennessee, our politicians find it more expedient to deflect and demonize marginalized communities than take responsibility for the violence their own despicable rhetoric creates. I mean, I’m still waiting for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey to tell women who are “serious about their healthcare” to get concealed-carry permits, right? But I kid, I kid.

So all that our Tennessee Legislature can do is tell the State Department that they’re a-skeered of those Middle Easterners, or, to put it more politely, they have “concerns.” You know what’s really sad? There’s a reason that so many refugees have traditionally been resettled in places like Nashville, Tennessee and across the South: it’s because of all the churches located here, and the support services that faith communities have traditionally provided, to help families resettle and assimilate into American life. I’ve mentioned this before, but many if not most of the groups facilitating refugee resettlement are Christian, and they work with local congregations! You know, Christians used to be known for helping people, not shooting up abortion clinics. Weird, huh?

Not everyone has taken leave of their senses. State Senator Jeff Yarbro — a Democrat, of course — wrote this column in our local newspaper, where he chastised his colleagues for their lack of common sense:

Rather than going through the 24-month refugee screening process, it’s far more likely that terrorists will enter the country on tourist, student or work visas. By virtue of having a passport, French and Belgian nationals can pretty easily board a plane and come to the United States.

We should make it harder for people with the intent to harm us to get into the country. But the rational response is to devote resources to more effectively screen those who can get here pretty easily.

Instead, the entire nation is focused like a laser on Syrian refugees — primarily widows and orphans — who are already subject to some of the most stringent security procedures we have. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Nov. 19 requiring national security agencies to focus greater attention on refugees, thus redirecting resources that should be trained on more serious and imminent threats.

It’s like building a moat around your backyard while leaving the front door open.

What’s worse is that closing the borders to refugees makes it harder for the United States to lead the fight against ISIS.

I know Yarbro is a newbie in our State Senate, but can we send him to Washington, please? Rep. Jim Cooper sent me a letter in response to my angry call after he voted for the SAFE Act; it appears Cooper is still sticking with his “this just reinforces existing law” position. If that’s what he thinks, then he doesn’t need to be in Congress anymore.

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Filed under Current Events, Housekeeping, immigration, Tennessee

Jim Cooper FAIL #2

I’m done with you, buddy. Seriously. You either lied to the Nashville Scene or were utterly clueless about this SAFE Act vote; either way, you don’t belong in Congress anymore.

Okay, Mary Mancini, Chris Moth, Jeff Yarbro … either of you want to move to Washington D.C.? Anyone have any other ideas?

IMG_2350.JPG

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Filed under Congress, Current Events, Housekeeping, immigration, Nashville, Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee

Rep. Jim Cooper FAIL

[UPDATE]:

Rep. Jim Cooper, obviously getting angry phone calls from people other than me, explains his vote thusly:

“It’s largely redundant. Republicans don’t want you to know that,” Cooper told The Tennessean in a phone interview Thursday.

Um, actually, no. But before I get to that, let me remind everyone of the Rep. Jim Cooper who made a name for himself by his “mavericky” refusal to go along with politicized, grandstanding legislation. That Jim Cooper would never have voted for something “largely redundant” because, of course, if it’s largely redundant why the fuck are we wasting our time on it? I remember that Jim Cooper, don’t you?

But that’s not what this bill does. This bill requires the FBI director, secretary of Homeland Security and director of National Security to personally certify to 12 different Congressional Committees that each individual refugee does not pose a security threat. It basically gums up an already long and complicated process to the point where applications will be brought to a standstill.

——————————————

Jim Cooper voted “aye” on the “American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act,” AKA the Let’s-punch-Syrian-and-Iraqi-refugees-because-we’re-scared-and-crapping-our-pants-and-also-we’re-ignorant Act.

One of only 47 Democrats, and thanks for playing, Rep. Cooper. I’m so over you right now. TN-05 is a pretty safe district now, thanks to Republican gerrymandering, so I’d say we’re safe to make a protest vote now, maybe even find someone who’s a more reliable Democrat who isn’t  stuck in the past and thinking being a Blue Dog is still what the kewl kids are doing.

I called his office and asked the guy who answered the phone what the hell  Cooper was thinking. I was told that “the Congressman supports Syrian and Iraqi refugees as long as they’re vetted properly.” Jesus Christ on a Saltine, they’re already vetted, and far more rigorously than the average shmoe coming into our country on a tourist visa. But thanks for buying into the pants-wettng Fright-wing Fox News meme. Super helpful for the rest of us moving forward!

I can just see it now: “even Democrats agree that refugees are a risk!” Or, even better, “even Democrats don’t support Obama!” Why, lookie here, it’s already on the Wall Street Journal:

In a rebuke to President Barack Obama, a substantial contingent of House Democrats voted for a bill the White House had threatened to veto ….

You ignorant ass. Why on earth would a terrorist subject themselves to a two year UN/Dept. of Homeland Security background check (which was improved in 2011 following the 2009 entry of Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, the two individuals Rand Paul has been fearmongering about)? Why do that when getting a tourist visa is so much easier? Hell, what about those “porous borders” desperately in need of a wall the wingnuts are always blathering on about? Wouldn’t that be easier?

Why aren’t we doing something about the fact that anyone on the terror watch list can still buy guns? Legally? Isn’t that important? In fact, the best indication we have that this entire thing is ginned up fear-porn BS designed to help Republican electoral prospects is this:

 

NRA defends stance on law that allows terror suspects to get firearms

The NRA says it’s just trying to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to buy guns — even if their names appear on a terror watch list.

Hey, Rep. Cooper: why don’t you do something about that? No?

Anyone who tells you that all of this ginned up fearmongering is anything other than political posturing designed to make voters run to Republican Daddy is lying. But thanks, Rep. Cooper, for playing along.

Idiot.

You are completely dead to me.

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Filed under fear, Housekeeping, immigration, rants, Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee

“Republican” As A Synonym For Coward

[UPDATE]:

Just as I predicted:

Christian groups break with GOP over Syrian refugees

Faith-based groups, who play a key role in resettling refugees to the United States, say they are dismayed by the wave of anti-refugee fervor set off by the Paris terrorist attacks and are urging supporters to contact elected officials on behalf of victims of the Syrian civil war.

—————————————————
Many of you may not know this but Southern Beale works with refugees. It’s been my job for the past two years. So when I hear Tennessee Republicans like Glen Casada say such repulsive things as,

“We need to activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can. I’m not worried about what a bureaucrat in D.C. or an unelected judge thinks. … We need to gather (Syrian refugees) up and politely take them back to the ICE center and say, ‘They’re not coming to Tennessee, they’re yours.'”

… it really makes me want to punch that guy in the face. Really, the amount of ignorance and hate on display in such comments just boggles the mind. It’s like they’re in a race to see who can be the most despicable human being.

My students have told me stories here and there, so I’ve gained a little perspective  about what it’s like to be a refugee. One thing that’s clear is how hard it is to come to the United States; you don’t just get handed a ticket and land in Nashville. There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Some of my students have spent years in refugee camps. When they finally do make it through the arduous process, many of them don’t even know where they’re going. One of my students was first sent to Los Angeles, was immediately redirected to Idaho (Idaho!), was there for just two days (two days!), before then being sent on to Nashville. So  I think stories like this one are not unusual, current events notwithstanding.

Republicans are playing to their fearful, nativist, xenophobic base. I don’t for a second think that they believe the crap that they’re spewing. They’re just trying to gin up a response, and fear is their go-to emotion. Keeping people scared is what they do. Last year it was Ebola, this year it’s refugees. Republicans are the “OMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIIIIIIE!” party.

What they don’t seem to know is that a large majority of the groups helping refugees navigate these uncertain waters are Christian. Organizations like World Relief, Catholic Charities, and Church World Service are all involved in refugee resettlement. That’s because once upon a time, Christians were interested in more than just abortion and gay marriage. They knew that Leviticus didn’t just have something to say about gay sex, but also about not mistreating foreigners, “for you were foreigners in Egypt.” So as Republicans race to the bottom vilifying people fleeing war in Syria, they’re also pissing off another large contingent of their base.

We’ve seen this all before. It’s an election year, they want to appeal to the lowest common denominator of their base, so they tweak that amygdala,  instead of trying to appeal to the better elements in their party. And come the next post-mortem, Republicans will continue to wonder why they’re perceived as the party that doesn’t care about people. Same as it ever was.

“Republican” is a synonym for coward. Not just because they’re scared shitless of everything — Muslim refugees, Ebola nurses, married gay people, you name it. But because they’re too scared to be anything else.

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Filed under conservatives, Current Events, fear, Housekeeping, immigration, rants, Tennessee, Tennessee politics

History Repeats Itself

Never change, America. Stay afraid:

After Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 and particularly after the Kristallnacht pogroms of November 9–10, 1938, nations in western Europe and the Americas feared an influx of refugees. About 85,000 Jewish refugees (out of 120,000 Jewish emigrants) reached the United States between March 1938 and September 1939, but this level of immigration was far below the number seeking refuge. In late 1938, 125,000 applicants lined up outside US consulates hoping to obtain 27,000 visas under the existing immigration quota. By June 1939, the number of applicants had increased to over 300,000. Most visa applicants were unsuccessful. At the Evian Conference in July 1938, only the Dominican Republic stated that it was prepared to admit significant numbers of refugees, although Bolivia would admit around 30,000 Jewish immigrants between 1938 and 1941.

In a highly publicized event in May–June 1939, the United States refused to admit over 900 Jewish refugees who had sailed from Hamburg, Germany, on the St. Louis. The St. Louis appeared off the coast of Florida shortly after Cuban authorities cancelled the refugees’ transit visas and denied entry to most of the passengers, who were still waiting to receive visas to enter the United States. Denied permission to land in the United States, the ship was forced to return to Europe. The governments of Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium each agreed to accept some of the passengers as refugees. Of the 908 St. Louis passengers who returned to Europe, 254 (nearly 28 percent) are known to have died in the Holocaust. 288 passengers found refuge in Britain. Of the 620 who returned to the continent, 366 (just over 59 percent) are known to have survived the war.

Tennessee joins the other Republican states saying no to refugees, proving yet again what horrible people they are.

The story of the St. Louis is an especially dark stain on our past. I’ve noticed over the years, as anti-Semitism has waned as a cultural force, that America has whitewashed its past where the Holocaust is concerned. We all love to hear the stories about the Oscar Schindlers and Irena Sendlers, the heroes and heroines. We want to hear the good news. Please don’t tell us about the St. Louis and the Japanese internment camps. But that was America. We turned that boat away. We imprisoned over 100,000 American citizens of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor. We said, “never again,” but here we go again.

From Twitter:

Willis

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Filed under Current Events, Housekeeping, immigration