National News Roundup: Year 2, Week 22 (June 17–23)
This was a parabolic, weird, polarizing week, as the administration continues to be super horrible and people start raising their voices in protest more and more. In light of that, this roundup still has two extra sections: The Bad is broken up into The Bad (Original Flavor) and The Very Bad (Extra Crispy-Making), and I’m also including a What We Can Do section because I think we all need it. But this time, The Good at the top has many items, and several involve ordinary citizens saying “This is not okay.” Because it isn’t, and the louder and more often we say it, the more of an effect that will have.
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a jacket! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
- Immigration Resilience. Governors of several states have announced they either will not send national guard troops to the border, or are withdrawing the troops they have sent, in direct protest of the “zero tolerance” policy resulting in family separation. Former congressional staffer Celeste Pewter is keeping track of the full list, which is now up to eleven states. And relatedly, El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles has refused to lend staff to assist with the Tornillo tent city, saying that he thinks the current border separation policies are morally wrong and he doesn’t want to support them.
- Canada Legalizes Weed. The headline pretty much says it all on this one; Canada’s Senate legalized recreational marijuana this week. They’re the second nation in the world to do so (after Uruguay), and the first of the G7 nations. Medicinal use has been legal since 2001, so I’m choosing to conclude that the new policy is to help the rest of Canada come to terms with what’s happening at their downstairs neighbors’ house.
- Recent Court Resilience. A federal judge in Kansas struck down a restrictive law that required voters to prove citizenship because the state hadn’t shown an actual history of fraud. In her holding, the judge found that the law “disproportionately impacts duly qualified registration applicants,” which is both likely true and an awesome thing for the judge to state directly. Hilariously, the judge also is requiring Kobach to sit through six hours of continuing legal education on civil procedure in light of his many, many refusals to follow proper rules of procedure in the case. In ordering this sanction, the judge noted: “It is not clear to the Court whether [Kobach] repeatedly failed to meet his disclosure obligations intentionally or due to his unfamiliarity with the federal rules.” In other words: “I can’t tell if you’re the fool, or you think I am, but either way, enjoy an extra six hours of class time.”
- Red Hen Restaurant Saga. Sarah Huckabee Sanders took to Twitter on Friday night to complain that a restaurant owner in Lexington, VA asked Huckabee Sanders to leave without service due to her work for President Trump. Because Huckabee Sanders gave the restaurant and town name, people began rating the restaurant online, giving it one or five stars depending on their opinion. But that was likely a tactical mistake. For one thing, it caused the Washington Post to interview the owner (who mentioned several key details, most notably that she was trying to protect gay staff members). For another, the use of her official twitter account to say that was probably illegal. Meanwhile, since the Red Hen has experienced significant targeting and had to close their business this weekend, someone set up a GoFundMe to help them recover lost wages.
Constitutional Crisis Corners:
Most of this week’s Casual Disregard of Governing Norms ended up under the “very bad” section, but a few of the less soul-searingly bad things still go here:
- Federal Government Shuffle. The Trump administration floated a complex, 120-page plan to completely restructure the federal government this week, which seems more like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic than anything else. The proposed change getting the most air time is combining the Departments of Labor and Education, but apparently our previous Secretary of Labor thinks that’s a non-starter, so we might not see further movement on this. And technically the GOP has been proposing this since the Clinton administration, so it’s not really that much of a deviation from governing norms, but it sure feels different when the guy doing the asking has put Betsy DeVos at the helm on purpose. (Maybe this is his way of calling backsies?)
- Trump Meeting with Putin Again. Trump is apparently setting up another meeting with Vladimir Putin next month when he travels to Europe, either before a NATO summit or after traveling to London. It’s not clear why Trump wants so badly to meet with Putin, other than to piss off our allies some more, but he’s apparently been jonesing for a meeting since March. Needless to say, given our strained relationship with Germany this is not a great time for this, which may be part of the point. Ugh.
- Melania Doesn’t Care. Melania angered a lot of people this week when she traveled to visit detainment centers wearing a jacket announcing she didn’t care about them. Needless to say, this message kind of undercut her attempts to appear supportive, especially when Trump yelled about it on Twitter — but then, some people are theorizing that he made her wear the jacket in the first place, so who only knows with this dysfunctional White House.
There were also a few noteworthy developments on the Russia Investigation front. Here’s a summary of the main things to know:
- Your Weekly Cohen Updates. Michael Cohen resigned from his role as deputy finance chair of the RNC this week, noting that “children should never be used as bargaining chips” as part of his rationale. In related news, thing I learned this week: Michael Cohen apparently was still on the RNC finance committee.
- Avenetti for Hire. Michael Avenetti, the attorney representing Stormy Daniels, announced this week that he’ll represent people whistleblowing on ICE, claiming that with his representation whistleblowers and contractors will “blow this wide open.” He’s already representing five children caught in the zero tolerance policy crossfire, so it will be interesting to see if he gets any takers. And honestly, he’ll probably do a decent job, so I’m going to put this in the “strange but likely net-good” column.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Why Were They Even Eating There? News broke this week that Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled out of a Mexican restaurant, only a few days after staunchly defending the zero tolerance separation policy. Then, only a few days after that, we learned that Steven Miller was also heckled at a Mexican restaurant last week (although apparently not the same one). Setting aside various opinions on whether fascists should be allowed to eat meals in peace, I have a more pressing question: Why were they even ordering Mexican food in the same week they both defended a mass separation policy at the Mexican border? Do they think heckling is some new form of mariachi band?
- House DACA Debacle. In other weird immigration news, the House vote on DACA legislation went on pause this week after Mark Meadows and Paul Ryan had a public meltdown on the House floor, which is probably for the best but it was still pretty strange. The whole thing cost the Speaker Republican cooperation and gave Trump an opportunity to tweet about what a ‘waste of time’ it was to even vote, which suggests he’s worried about keeping immigration in the news. Meadows has told the press that he and Ryan have since made up (good for them, I guess?) and the vote is rescheduled for this upcoming week, so sucks to be Trump (and the rest of us; there are seriously no winners here).
- SCOTUS Punts Another Important Case. The Supreme Court opted not to touch a gerrymandering case, sending the matter back to the district courts instead of granting relief at the higher level. This isn’t as bad as it could be, but it’s still not great, because it means the issues are unlikely to be resolved before the November 2018 elections. Justice Kagan was pretty clearly worried about long-term implications of this issue, because she wrote a lengthy concurrence with instructions on how the plaintiffs could successfully revive the case at the lower level. So on the grand Continuum of Bad, this news is less The Bad and more The Meh, but it’s meh enough to get classified here.
- House Budget is Horrible. A House budget panel approved a proposed 2019 budget along party lines this week, and it was pretty impressively terrible. In addition to attempting to repeal the ACA yet again because we’re all stuck in The World’s Worst Groundhog Day, it also makes aggressive cuts to a huge number of safety net programs. On the plus side, the list of programs on the chopping block includes Medicare, which means this is very unlikely to make it through the Senate. But we should keep an eye on this anyway.
- The Farm Bill Isn’t Great Either. The House very narrowly passed a new version of the same Farm Bill that failed to pass last month, which is not great news for millions of people whose SNAP benefits are likely to be impacted. Just like the previous version, this version of the farm bill imposes a work requirement for receiving SNAP benefits, as well as many, many other ill-advised and draconian provisions (including a lifetime ban for some populations). The Senate will be voting on this bill soon — possibly as soon as next week — and we should definitely be calling our reps about it.
- “White Civil Rights” Are Not A Thing. The same organizer responsible for a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last year (which infamously resulted in a tragic homicide by vehicle) has received initial approval for a “White Civil Rights” rally on the anniversary of the Charlottesville rally date. This time, the rally is across the street from the White House, and Kessler states its purpose is “to talk about the civil rights abuse that happened in Charlottesvile.” You know what, dear reader, I think maybe they’re not actually going to talk about the civil rights abuses in Charlottesville last year. But with these ‘very fine people’ in Trump’s backyard, it will be interesting to see if they manage to piss him off enough to disavow them.
The Very Bad — Please Read It Anyway!:
- Shelter Horror Stories Start Trickling In. In the aftermath of children being put in shelters en masse, we’re starting to hear more stories about long-term shelters (as opposed to the temporary CBP checkpoints, which have already been covered in horrified depth). First news broke that children toddler age and younger are being sent to “tender age shelters,” which are four special dedicated shelters in Texas opening to house all the very young ‘unaccompanied’ children. No one is reporting abuse in those shelters (yet, at any rate), but people are nonetheless worried in the wake of a San Antonio deputy sheriff charged with sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl and threatening to deport her mother if she told the police. Meanwhile, reports of abuse are definitely trickling in from shelters housing older children — kids held at the Shiloh Treatment Center south of Houston are alleging that they were forcibly injected with antipsychotics to control them, which may or may not be happening at all 125 facilities run by the company. And separately, children held at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Virginia are alleging that they were beaten, stripped naked, and left in solitary confinement for long periods of time, illustrating some of the many reasons current law does not allow children to remain in federal custody indefinitely. I don’t have any jokes on this, folks, because it should be illegal to treat adults this way, let alone kids, and these stories are deeply disturbing.
- ‘Ending’ Family Separation. In light of the shelter stories above, you’d think that it would be good news that Trump signed an Executive Order ‘ending’ family separation — but it’s Trump, so his idea is terrible instead. I wrote about this in depth earlier this week, but suffice to say, ‘ending separation’ by demanding that we change the law and allow kids to be held in prisons — not exaggeration; that’s literally what his executive order is actually ordering — leaves a lot to be desired. Just to add insult to injury, the administration isn’t planning to reunite any of the thousands of people separated from family members already in the past six weeks. And since he doesn’t currently have the legal authority to jail kids with their parents for more than twenty days, we don’t even know how he plans to implement this, and they’re going ahead and preparing more shelters on military bases at the same time that CBP is announcing they are no longer prosecuting people. So it’s super unclear what is even going on now, let alone what will happen next.
- Due Process Nightmares. The new frontier for immigration horror by the time I write this is Trump’s apparent beef with due process, because he’s now saying that he should get to deport people without any court or judges reviewing their case. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has picked up the thread now as well, very baldly misstating law to tell us that “just because you don’t see a judge doesn’t mean you don’t receive due process.” (Actually, Sarah, that is literally exactly what that means.) Meanwhile, more rumors are trickling down of mass immigration trials at the border, with as many as eighty-five different people being tried in one session — way more than should be permitted by due process of law. And we’re starting to hear of people being compelled to sign ‘voluntary’ deportation orders with the promise of seeing their children again if they sign — a rumor I have no trouble believing, because CBP did something very similar when the travel ban was implemented.
What We Can Do:
This week’s list has a lot in common with last weeks, because getting involved remains a great way to channel frustration and the fight is far from done. There are several new and updated articles and initiatives from the past week, which I’ve broken up by topic again this week:
- Immigration Initiatives: Calling Reps. The executive order threw us into disarray, but it’s still valuable to call your reps on Diane Feinstein’s Keep Families Together Act (which continues to be backed along party lines, with all the Senate Dems and none of the Senate GOP supporting it), and just before the executive order came out a companion bill was also introduced in the House. Just like last week, your Dem senators can still use some love, your district reps can use some persuading, and your GOP senators can use a piece of your mind. And we’re still waiting on a vote for the final DACA bill floating around the House, so it’s still appropriate to call your reps on that. And our extra bonus option in Massachusetts is still on the docket, both because the House is dragging its feet on reconciling the budget bill and because there have been a lot of negative changes here in MA recently with local ICE under new management. And that means us MA folks should definitely call our reps to encourage them to adapt the several provisions to protect immigrant rights being considered at the statehouse! In terms of how to call reps in general, several sites have great scripts you to follow, and if you live in Massachusetts you can still use MIRA’s list of talking points with Governor Baker and your other reps.
- Immigration Initiatives: Donation. There are still many, many organizations that can use your support as they fight the current practices on the front lines (if you’re able to give financial support). If legal support is your thing: The ACLU is currently suing over the practices, the American Immigration Lawyers Association is organizing volunteer law efforts, Al Otro Lado is coordinating legal support for asylum seekers, the Florence Project provides direct services to adults and minors in Arizona, and Kids in Need of Defense supports unaccompanied minors in deportation proceedings. If other on-the-ground services are more your thing, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services is fundraising to financially support families’ reunification, Pueblo Sin Fronteras assists caravans on the ground on the way in, Border Angels organizes water drops for people traveling on their way in, and No More Deaths documents CBP abuses. And if you want to give to multiple groups above, Act Blue has aggregated those and many others at one donation site.
- Immigration Initiatives: Action. There are still several initiatives being organized to take to the streets to protest and support people being detained, and the upcoming date to know for Families Belong Together rallies across the nation is Saturday, June 30. If you live in Massachusetts, you can also participate in MIRA’s Thunderclap between now and Wednesday to raise awareness of the immigration protections being considered in the budget. And, of course, all of us can take action between now and November by making sure we’re registered to vote in the upcoming election!
And that’s the news this week, and good job and my condolences for making it through the whole thing; your reward is this hamster birthday cake recipe and hopefully an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week, and I hope you will be too. In the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me restaurants who won’t serve Trump staff!