Rank hypocrisy

A year ago, on June 30, 2018, I attended a Families Belong Together rally in New Bedford, one of hundreds of similar events taking place nationwide. Between 400-500 people attended, overflowing into the balcony at the Bethel AME Church on County Street, to hear New Bedford’s expressions of solidarity and concern for families separated at the border.

Despite his actual history of voting for anti-immigrant legislation, one or more of the organizers invited U.S. Congressman Bill Keating to speak at the event. Keating shed his tie, rolled up his sleeves, and gave an energetic speech — all clenched fists and faux outrage at the Trump administration’s caging of six year-olds.

The only problem with this performance was not the dramatic oratory; it was the rank hypocrisy. Keating has voted repeatedly for GOP anti-immigrant bills. H.R.3009 punished Sanctuary Cities. H.R.4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, restricted absorption of Syrian refugees. H.R.3004, “Kate’s Law,” took a hard line against desperate people who re-enter the United States. And Keating’s “On the Issues” statement on immigration reads like it was written by Tom Hodgson:

“Bill Keating opposes amnesty. As a District Attorney, Bill Keating enforces our laws and believes that everyone must obey them. His office has prosecuted thousands of criminal cases that resulted in defendants being detained for immigration and deportation action. Bill believes that we must secure our borders, and wants to punish and stop corporations that hire workers here illegally. Bill does not support giving people who are here illegally access to state and federal benefits.”

On July 12th Keating was at it again. At a New Bedford rally called Lights for Liberty, some of the same organizers had again invited the Congressman, and there he was — delivering the same shtick in precisely the same way. This time he huffed and puffed at the concentration camps the Trump administration is running on the southern border.

But Keating himself just voted to expand them. The Washington Post reported “House passes $4.6 billion border bill as leaders cave to moderate Democrats and GOP.” Ninety-five Democrats opposed the legislation, which placed no constraints on how Trump could use the funding. House leader Nancy Pelosi even abandoned language to earmark funds specifically for humanitarian aid. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted the capitulation: “Well, too bad. This is our job. Cancel vacation, fly the Senate in. Pass a clean humanitarian bill and stop trying to squeeze crises for more pain.”

These appearances remind us how easily machine Democrats and their friends can so easily exploit and co-opt humanitarian issues they repeatedly refuse to fix. And Keating reminds me how little will change until these good buddies of the GOP are retired and replaced.

By coincidence, a day before Keating’s theatrical performance in New Bedford, Stephen Kinzer, a well-known historian of American Empire, wrote a blistering piece in the Globe excoriating the Congressman:

“My own representative, Bourne Democrat Bill Keating, takes campaign donations from arms makers and repays them by endorsing mind-boggling Pentagon budgets. He has cosponsored a bill promoting increased US arms sales to Ukraine, voted to allow the deployment of US troops to Libya without Congressional approval, and called President Trump’s 2017 missile attack on Syria ‘necessary and proportional’. […] Most recently he was one of 129 Democrats who voted with Republicans to fund the network of immigration prisons along our southern border without any requirement that inmates be given water, soap, blankets, or toothbrushes.”

We clearly need a new Congressional Representative in the 9th District. And, as luck would have it, Kinzer even wrote the want ad:

“Urgently Needed: Dynamic activist from Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, the South Shore, New Bedford, or Fall River. Job entails a year of 16-hour days, knocking on doors, and organizing to defeat Representative Bill Keating in the Democratic primary in the fall of 2020. Benefits include the satisfaction of speaking every day about the need to defend human rights, build strong communities, combat climate change, and end foreign wars. No pay, but seat in Congress if campaign succeeds.”

NOTICE: The Democratic Party does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or any other status protected by law or regulation. All qualified applicants will be given equal opportunity and selection decisions are based on job-related factors only.

Just kidding. It will be an uphill battle all the way. But Massachusetts needs another Ayanna Pressley and one less Blue Dog.

Unicorns

This week there were a couple of studies in the news which shine a little light into the darkness that is settling over America. One should be read by all Democrats. The other will almost certainly be ignored by reality- and reading-averse Republicans. But both call into question the existence of near-mythological creatures believed to be true.

The first study, released last week by the Pew Research Center, calls into question the importance of the mythological swing voter. It turns out that the 40% of voters who identify as “independents” are not really all that independent. 13%, in fact, are pretty much reliable Republicans, while 17% are fairly reliable Democrats. This leaves 7% — mostly young and male — who are politically unmoored. This is no great revelation in a polarized political landscape in which the “middle” has largely eroded.

What’s important, however, is that, of these 7% only a third actually vote, which reduces the actual number of “independents” to about 2.3% of the American electorate. Democrats might actually appeal to some of these disaffected young voters if they chose a progressive candidate under 70, yet many in the 2020 race think they can appeal to the unicorn by bashing the social safety net, going weak on abortion, or alienating minority voters by slamming “identity politics.” Rather than trying to lower themselves to GOP standards, Democrats ought to be doubling-down on what makes them stand out from Republicans. And redoubling their opposition to Trump’s Imperial Presidency.

On this last point, Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University who has correctly predicted the last nine presidential elections, warns that — unless Democrats “grow a spine” and risk alienating white swing voting unicorns by launching impeachment proceedings — we will see Donald Trump re-elected in 2020.

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The second study, which was actually published a couple of years ago, reinforces a large body of research on immigration and criminality, showing (once again) that immigrants are actually less likely to engage in criminal behavior. The so-called “violent illegal” or Trump’s “Mexican rapist” are both unicorns, figments of the white supremacist imagination.

With the dry title, “Urban crime rates and the changing face of immigration: Evidence across four decades,” a study in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice concludes:

Research has shown little support for the enduring proposition that increases in immigration are associated with increases in crime. Although classical criminological and neoclassical economic theories would predict immigration to increase crime, most empirical research shows quite the opposite. We investigate the immigration-crime relationship among metropolitan areas over a 40 year period from 1970 to 2010. Our goal is to describe the ongoing and changing association between immigration and a broad range of violent and property crimes. Our results indicate that immigration is consistently linked to decreases in violent (e.g., murder) and property (e.g., burglary) crime throughout the time period. […]

Despite continuing nativist arguments alleging a causal relationship between immigration and crime, individual-level research based on arrest and offense data of the foreign-born shows that they are overall less likely to offend than native-born Americans. Some argue, however, that regardless of immigrants’ relatively low involvement in crime at the individual level, immigration might nevertheless be tied to increases in crime through structural and macro-level mechanisms. […]

Our results indicate that, for property crimes, immigration has a consistently negative effect. For violent crimes, immigration has no effect on assault and a negative effect on robbery and murder. This is strong and stable evidence that, at the macro-level, immigration does not cause crime to increase in U.S. metropolitan areas, and may even help reduce it. The interpretation of our results gives us pause when considering the current cultural ethos in the United States. The variety of legislation at the state level aimed at immigrants, legal or not, is underscored by popular sentiments about how current immigration is detrimental to the U.S. economically and socially. But at least when it comes to crime — and in fact, on many other counts addressed in the literature — there is no evidence at a metropolitan level of these severe impacts. Our results are clear and overarching that immigration does not lead to increases in crime in American metropolitan areas.

White Lies

“We are a nation of laws.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, and it may even ring true if you were born white — in which case you may also get a presidential pardon or concierge service in the courts. But this is a lie we tell ourselves. And by “we” I mean many white people.

But if you were born poor, brown, black, or without American citizenship, the “nation of laws” claim often rings as hollow as a November pumpkin.

Just ask Cyntoia Brown, who was enslaved into sex work and had to shoot her rapist to escape. Brown was sentenced to 51 years in prison for the killing and, despite wide support for clemency, was not on Tennessee governor Bill Haslam’s list of 11 people granted clemency on Thursday.

On the flip slide, Jeffrey Epstein — a friend of Donald Trump’s — received a relatively light sentence of 13 months in jail for raping dozens of under-aged girls. One of his victims was even recruited at Trump’s Mar Lago resort. Epstein’s prosecutor, Alexander Acosta — also a friend of Trump’s — worked out the gentlemanly plea deal entre blancs and went on to become Trump’s Secretary of Labor.

If you think Epstein, Trump, and Brett Kavanaugh are exceptions to how society winks at white sexual predators, consider this case from last week. In Louisiana a white Baylor University frat boy convicted of rape got a $400 fine and probation — and that was it. Jacob Walter Anderson walked away after paying a fine, his life and freedom intact. No jump suit, no 51 year sentence.

“These people need to get in line for citizenship.”

When it comes to refugee status, asylum, work visas, and citizenship, we white people cloak ourselves in the same sorts of lies.

From the beginnings of the nation until 1924, only white people were allowed to legally immigrate. The Chinese Exclusion Act was based on claims that Chinese were immoral, criminal, brought smallpox, opium, and could not be culturally absorbed — virtually every lie that today’s FOX News commentators repeat about Central American refugees.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1922 that a Japanese businessman named Takao Ozawa was not a Caucasian and therefore did not qualify for citizenship. A case three months later involving an Indian, Bhagat Singh Thind, ruled that Indians were not Caucasians and Thind actually had his citizenship stripped. If you’ve been paying attention to Trump’s immigration policies, the renewed threats of denaturalization and the movement to abolish the 14th Amendment are revived assaults on people of color in a long, continuous, racist history.

So let’s be clear. For almost all of our history there was no immigration line for anyone except white people. And a story from this week’s news illustrates a related fact — that, besides demonizing people of color, the “system” has continuously provided legal advantages for white immigrants — even to this day.

Outgoing “moderate” House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has persistently blocked help for DACA recipients and reforms which would benefit Latinos and other brown people, submitted bill H.R. 7164, written to let Irish nationals use some of the 10,500 annual Australian visas — thus ensuring that white people are directed to the head of the immigration line.