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Tone Deaf and Colorblind : The State of America

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Children restrained and detained by ICE Ross D Franklin/AP

This is America. This has always been America.

The infamous quote from James Baldwin that states “To be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage,” is not an exaggeration. I feel that it’s true for all persons of color in this country now. We are a nation built on a foundation of broken bodies held together with our ancestors’ shed blood as the mortar. The atrocities perpetrated against the people of the First Nations, stolen Africans, and Indigenous peoples of Mexico have led us where we are today. Yet, not once has an apology been issued or compensation been rendered for the horrors that saw families ripped apart, men broken, and women abused.

How could America even begin to repair the rift between the oppressor and the oppressed when even now families are destroyed by aggressive anti-immigration laws enacted by territorial usurpers?

 

At this moment, immigrant children are sleeping in detainment centers in cages on bare floors separated from their mothers. They are separated by age and gender, robbing many of the slight comfort having their siblings close by could bring. These children are facing neglect and abuse.

Thanks to the FOIA request by the ACLU, we now know the span of trauma immigrant detainees are up against. The Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revealed approximately 4,600 pages of records documenting the complaints submitted by legal service providers and immigrants’ rights advocates on behalf of the children.

How could America even begin to repair the rift between the oppressor and the oppressed when even now families are destroyed by aggressive anti-immigration laws enacted by territorial usurpers? Click To Tweet

Vile Treatment

Many of the victims were seeking asylum and suffered physical, verbal, or sexual abuse from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials. While the report is truly expansive, it is imperative that we understand this may be just the tip of the iceberg. We have no idea how much has gone unreported for fear of retaliation.

In addition to the threat of physical or mental harm, the fear of never being reunited with their families looms heavy in their hearts. During the last three months of 2017, Steven Wagner, a top official within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), admitted to something heinous. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the DHHS, LOST 1,475 children it had placed into the homes of sponsors. How this happened is beyond the comprehension of many because of the stringent requirements and documentation necessary for sponsorship to be effective.

Sponsorship for immigrants is a legally enforceable contract, meaning the government or the sponsored immigrant can take the sponsor to court if the sponsor fails to provide acceptable support to the immigrant. An applicant must first complete an I-864, an affidavit of financial support. Defaulting on such an agreement can result in fines. With all of this at stake, the government office of DHHS insists it is not legally responsible, but if it were it would require a significant increase in funds/resources. If this were happening to anyone else in another country, the American government would be outraged.

#WhereAreTheChildren

The reality of this lapse is that it is very possible nearly 1500 children have been lost to human trafficking under the nose of the American government. An excerpt of the reports shows just what these minors could be facing.

As we wait in anger and disgust at the delay of response by Trump, many questions what actions we can take as citizens to get justice for the lost. The numbers below provide a way for us to reach beyond our borders in an effort to report or glean more information about the crisis affecting these youth.

International Human Rights Watch 212-290-4700 United Nations Human Rights 212-415-4026

 

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Ilhan Omar Calls Out AIPAC to Mixed Criticism

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Ilhan Omar

Representatives who were silent as Charlottesville Nazi’s were called “fine people” are having no difficulty raising their voices to condemn Ilhan Omar as an anti-Semite. I wonder why.

Speaking out about the influence of money from Israel on congressional support, Minnesota’s Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar criticized human rights violations toward Palestinians. She has been a vocal opponent of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, territories which were originally allotted to the Arab state in 1947. However, comments made at a bookstore are what sparked the current wave of outrage that conservative pundits are using to push Islamophobia under the guise of defending Israeli-American relations.

Dangerous Ideologies

February 27th, Omar said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” This drew comparisons to an anti-Semitic trope that implies that Jewish citizens of any country will forever be more loyal to Israel than where they reside. These recent remarks, conservatives and centrist democrats have resorted to taking her tweets, which point out the problematic role of lobbyists, out of context to present a narrative that Ilhan is an anti-Semite. While Ilhan Omar has acknowledged that her language was offensive to some, she affirms that “whether it be AIPAC, the NRA, or the fossil fuel industry,” her views regarding their controversial contributions remain unchanged.

Those who openly refused to take on the President for his problematic language have jumped at the opportunity to condemn Ilhan Omar for her comments. However, they weren’t all on the same page when it came to a resolution that would effect their speech as well. Thursday, the House passed a resolution condemning both anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination, but 23 Republicans voted against the change.

Progress

Democrats and Independents voted in favor of condemning anti-Muslim bigotry for the first time in our nation’s history. While many were reluctant to defend the young Representative, four Presidential hopefuls stood by Omar amid the harsh criticism for her opinions on the Israeli government. Senator Bernie Sanders stated that backlash from Omar’s comments were “aimed at stopping a discussion about American’s foreign policy toward Israel.” He added that what he feared was happening was “an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate.” Senator Kamala Harris chimed in with her own concerns and shared a brief statement:

We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry, especially as we see a spike in hate crimes in America.”

Blood on the House Floor

As one of the first Muslims elected to Congress, she has been marked as a target by conservatives looking to eject her from politics altogether. One racist act, of particular note, resulted in a resignation and left one person injured.

In West Virginia, a physical fight broke out within Charleston’s Capitol building that spilled into the chamber of the House of Delegates. The fight began with an image connecting Ilhan to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Speaking out to condemn the poster, Mike Pushkin, who is Jewish, commented that “In 1933 in Berlin, they might have had a similar poster about somebody like me.” Asking Republican Congressmen to stand with him in condemnation, Pushkin told the Washington Post “not a single Republican elected official in this building could join me in saying it’s wrong.” Pushkin said he was met with Republicans who spoke about the First Amendment instead.

Despite the criticism that Omar is facing, little has been said directly to Republicans who are abusing this controversy as an opportunity to air their prejudices. The division in our current government has made it apparent that there is immeasurable room for growth when it comes to addressing the right-wing administration of Netanyahu, liberty for Palestinians, and denouncing hate speech across Semitic and Islamic lines. As the first term of Trump’s administration comes to a close and with Congressional elections approaching, we must continue to work toward a future that sets us on a path of progression.

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Paul Manafort Sentenced to 47 months in Prison

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Paul Manafort

Former Trump presidential campaign chairman and political consultant Paul Manafort has recently been sentenced for financial fraud. This conviction is the first of two cases levied against him.

As a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Paul Manafort has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison. His sentence is a far cry from the 19- to – 24 year prison term that was expected. According to the New York Times, Judge T.S. Ellis III of Alexandria, VA., gave Manafort such a light punishment because the guidelines were deemed too harsh.

Manafort plead for mercy before receiving his judgment. Members of Mueller’s prosecution team did not seek a specific sentence in the case. Still, Manafort received the harshest judgment out of the six former Trump employees to be prosecuted by Mueller.

Judge Ellis’ sentence has received much criticism from legal experts. While lighter sentencing is common in white-collar cases, the drop from 19 years to less than four has disappointed many onlookers of this high-profile case.

Defense attorney’s presumably swayed Judge Ellis into a lighter sentencing due to Manafort’s age. He is nearly 70 years old and has significant health issues. On top of time in prison, Manafort is expected to pay $25 million in restitution along with a $50,000 fine. Judge Ellis is crediting Manafort for nine months of time served, which means the convict could be out in roughly 3 years.

Other Trump advisers who have been sentenced include:

  • Michael Cohen – Sentenced to 3 years in prison
  • George Papadopolous – Sentenced to 14 days in prison
  • Alex van der Zwaan – Sentenced to 30 days in prison
  • Richard Pinedo – Sentenced to 6 months in prison

Trump advisers who have pleaded guilty or have been charged include:

  • Michael T. Flynn – Pleaded Guilty
  • Rick Gates – Pleaded Guilty
  • Roger Stone – Charged
  • Konstantin V. Kilimnik – Charged
  • Twelve Russian Intelligence Officers – Charged
  • Thirteen Russian Nationals – Charged

As a result of Mueller’s investigation, five additional parties faced charges due to inquiries that branched off from the initial probe.

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Cohen Airs Out Trump in Congress Testimony

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Michael Cohen Trump Testimony

Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hiil and bared the truth of Trump’s misdeeds, singing songs of the atrocities of Trump’s Administration.

The former personal lawyer for President Donald Trump admitted much to Congress during his testimony, quickly earning him personal attacks from disappointed fellow Republicans. Among his admissions, Cohen called Trump “a racist, a conman, and a cheat,” which many of us had known long before he hit the Oval Office. Although bits of his testimony were considered “not fake news, but old news”, Cohen did share some startling information.

Multiple Investigations

Donald Trump and Michael Cohen are under investigation by the Southern District of New York. Cohen’s revelation prevented him from answering certain questions as the investigation in New York is ongoing. Cohen was asked multiple times about records he refused to provide to Congress, which he says were obtained during the raid of his home last fall. When asked if he had continued contact with Donald Trump, Cohen said yes, but withheld details. Two months after the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s home, he spoke with Donald Trump, who he admits communicates in code.

Convicted Russian Mobsters on Payroll

In addition to revealing he purposefully wrote NDA’s to prevent people from coming forward with claims of wrongdoing, Cohen revealed a business relationship between Trump and Felix Sater. Sater is a convicted Russian mobster who was a real estate developer and former manager of the Bayrock Group, LLC. Sater listed himself as a Senior Advisor to Trump on business cards and held contracts with the President where he was paid through Michael Cohen. Bank records, which Cohen alleges were in boxes that were in his raided home and office, indicate payments to Sater’s company, AROC.

This brought a represetative to ask Cohen if he believed the Trump presidency ever stopped being about money. Cohen said yes, but it only stopped when he became president. Now, Cohen says Trump’s goal is autocracy. During his testimony, Cohen said, “he’s sending the message that this is his county; he’s becoming an autocrat.” Autocracy is the system of government with one person with absolute power, where while not officially, Putin has been operating Russia as such.

The testimony yet in progress, Cohen is still being grilled about his complicity in a corrupt campaign and administration.

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