In Biden's America, the action is outside the Beltway
It took a few days away from the nation’s capital for me to appreciate how boring the place has become. Recently I returned from a trip to California and discovered that I hadn’t missed anything—no presidential scandal, no legislative logrolling, no surprise vacancies on the Supreme Court. Yes, the pace of events slows down in Washington every summer. Congress goes on recess and metro residents travel for vacation. But 2021 is different. This year, D.C.’s irrelevance is neither seasonal nor exceptional. It’s the norm.
Since Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the city has been the site of momentous events and world-defining debates. The fallout from the 2000 election, 9/11, the war on terrorism, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the surge, the financial crisis, the election of Barack Obama, Obamacare, the Tea Party, the debt ceiling, the response to the Arab Spring, the 2013 government shutdown—they all testified to the centrality of Washington.
Donald Trump’s descent on the escalator in 2015 intensified press coverage. His victory in 2016 upped the political stakes. The Trump presidency unfolded in spectacular, captivating fashion. It was a live-broadcast, four-year, nonfictional telenovela, complete with a climactic twist and a tragic ending. On occasion, the cast traveled to Singapore, Hanoi, Helsinki, and Mar-a-Lago. But the main set was the Oval Office.
Well, the show is over and the thrill is gone. It used to be that the federal city—and its chief executive—drove the national conversation. But President Biden purposely limits his exposure to remain as uncontroversial as possible. “Boring news cycle deals blow to partisan media,” read the headline of an article in Axios on June 29. The piece tracked a fall in web traffic, app user sessions, and social media engagement since President Trump left office. Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, tweeted out the story. “Sorry not sorry,” he wrote.
After 12 years of highly visible celebrity presidents, the current occupant of the White House is a 78-year-old who eschews social media, rarely gives one-on-one interviews, limits himself to about one public event a day, calls on pre-selected reporters at press conferences, often refers to notes, and returns home to Delaware most weekends. Joe Biden’s spending plans may be gargantuan and foolish, his decisions on the border and on Afghanistan may be impetuous and disastrous, and his offhand remarks may be puzzling and odd, but no one gets worked up about him personally. Last month Doug Rivers of the Hoover Institution observed that voters don’t consider Biden an ideologue. It doesn’t matter that Biden’s goals are more ambitious than Obama’s: Far greater numbers of voters said that Obama was “very liberal” than say the same of Biden today.
This low-key presidency combines with tight margins in Congress to diminish Washington’s importance. Unlike his two most recent predecessors, Biden is not an omnipresent figure. The 50-50 Senate blocks the progressive wish list from becoming law. The result is a devolution of controversy to the state, municipal, and local levels of government. Not in two decades covering politics, for example, have I seen state legislatures receive as much attention as they have in recent months.
Meanwhile, the big political news is Democrat Eric Adams’s victory in the New York City mayoral primary. What’s unique about Adams is that he ran the first New York campaign in decades with national implications. His triumph underscored the electorate’s concern with rising crime rates. It demonstrated that even Democratic primary voters in a majority-minority city oppose defunding law enforcement.
“According to recent data from the Democratic-oriented Navigator Research,” writes Ruy Teixeira in a recent issue of the Liberal Patriot newsletter, “more Americans overall, including among independents and Hispanics, now believe violent crime is a ‘major crisis’ than believe that about the coronavirus pandemic or any other area of concern.” This alarm over rising crime manifested itself locally before becoming apparent to officials in Washington, including Biden, who scrambled to announce a crime reduction plan in late June.
The most glaring sign of the Beltway’s detachment from national life has been the movement against critical race theory (CRT) in public schools. Like the Tea Party, this movement is spontaneous, self-organizing, and uncontrolled. Unlike the Tea Party, however, it is focused on a hyperlocal (yet super-important) issue: K-12 instruction. As of this writing, the anti-CRT movement fields candidates for school boards. Congress is an afterthought.
The national politicians who amplify the movement’s rhetoric are piggybacking on a grassroots phenomenon. And while the fight against CRT has implications for federal policy, it is not as though the right’s answer to far-left school boards is national curricular standards. On the contrary: The parental revolt over “woke” education bypasses Washington, transcends party lines, and has clearly defined and limited goals.
What’s fascinating about the anti-CRT campaign is that its most prominent antagonists are not elected officials. The Tea Party pitted rebels such as Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz against the Republican establishment and Barack Obama. But the participants in this most recent iteration of the culture war are different. The anti-CRT spokesman Christopher Rufo of the Manhattan Institute is a documentarian and activist, and Bari Weiss and Andrew Sullivan are journalists. The most famous advocates of so-called antiracist education are Nikole Hannah-Jones, lead writer of the New York Times‘s 1619 Project, and Ibram X. Kendi of Boston University. Fights over CRT don’t take place in the halls of Congress, but on Morning Joe.
Maybe political entrepreneurs in the coming months will appropriate and elevate the issues of voter ID, crime, and anti-American pedagogy into national campaigns. Maybe the anti-CRT movement will follow the Tea Party and use the 2022 election to springboard into the Beltway. Maybe the next president will impress himself or herself into the national consciousness in the manner of an Obama or a Trump. Or maybe the next president will be Trump.
For now, though, Joe Biden is president. Congress is deadlocked. Both the left and right are more interested in values than in entitlements. The media track the states, the cities, the schools. Why? Because the real action is happening in places like Atlanta, Tallahassee, Austin, Phoenix, New York City, and Loudoun County. Not in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday a bill making June 19 a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery but not everyone sees it as progress closing the racial divide keeping Americans apart. Members of the Project 21 black leadership network – which has used the anniversary as an opportunity to encourage other black Americans to celebrate their liberty and self-sufficiency in a nation that offers unlimited opportunities for two decades – said the effort may distract attention from the real problems the black community faces daily.
“Far too many Americans, regardless of their ethnic background, are unfamiliar with Juneteenth. The blessing of liberty was irrevocably granted on June 19, 1865, to those who remained enslaved in Texas, not knowing they had been freed more than two years earlier. For them, this was their declaration of freedom,” said Project 21 member Derryck Green. “While I am agnostic on a national holiday, I don’t want the commemoration hijacked by racial activists who would use it as another tool to demonize white Americans under the pretense of racial justice. As we’ve seen since last summer, this has been destructive to the American experiment.”
The bill, which was passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday after a unanimous vote in the Senate, commemorates the June 19, 1865, arrival of Union troops in Galveston, Texas who brought with them news the Civil War had ended, and that President Lincoln had abolished slavery throughout the Confederacy two-and-a-half years earlier through the Emancipation Proclamation.
Galveston’s former slave population began celebrating its freedom annually on the anniversary of this day. “Juneteenth” grew to become a motivating and stabilizing commemoration for black Texans experiencing the uncertainties associated with their newfound freedom and full integration into American society.
“Juneteenth is already everything but a national holiday since 47 states, local governments, and even private companies recognize it,” said Project 21 member Martin Baker. “Juneteenth was an acknowledgment of the Emancipation Proclamation, which history tells us only applied to the states in rebellion. If we want to celebrate an all-encompassing ‘Freedom Day,’ perhaps we should choose December 6 – the anniversary of when the 13th Amendment was ratified.”
During the debate over establishing the new holiday, some lawmakers raised concerns about its cost. Members of Project 21 however, said they were more concerned whether its creation would be politicized. For example, Senator Ed Markey said when introducing the Juneteenth holiday legislation: “Today we commemorate. Tomorrow, we fight.”
“It is surprising the number of black Americans – let alone all Americans – who are not yet aware” of Juneteenth’s significance, Project 21’s Marie Fischer said. “But to make this a federal holiday is not something I feel is in the best interests of the country, especially now,” she continued before going on to question whether it would help bring the nation together.
“I constantly hear everyone talking about unity, but would a federal holiday end up being a unifier? Or would it give fuel to those who support critical race theory by pointing out a day that marks one group as an oppressor and another as the oppressed? Such a holiday could be easily hijacked by those who insist that blacks only advance when it benefits white elites. Nothing seems to get pushed these days unless it fits a specific narrative,” Fischer said.
“Juneteenth should prompt us not just to take inventory of how far we’ve come, but also realize that – despite the racialized claims of ‘white supremacy’ or ‘systemic racism’ – blacks have the agency and ability to control our own lives,” Green added. “This includes becoming full participants in society.”
The law establishing “Juneteenth” as an officially recognized federal holiday comes roughly a year after the nation was rocked by violent protests following the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a Minneapolis police officer. It will be the eleventh such day, joining a list that includes Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Independence Day, explorer Christopher Columbus and slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Keep the STOP Act to halt the Opioid Epidemic
The Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, more commonly known as the STOP Act is a bipartisan bill, that was signed into law in October 2018 in order to reduce the amount of illicit items traveling through the U.S. Postal Service in the United States. This law was specifically designed to help close an existing loophole that has allowed illicit drugs, which have contributed to the nation’s opioid crisis, to be transported into the United States via USPS.
Unfortunately, the forces in Washington, DC are considering measures that would effectively pause the progress in compliance, or adjust the compliance thresholds of this law, either of which would negatively affect the identification and prevention of the spread of illicit and illegal distributions.
The Postal Service Should Do What Other Shippers Do to Reduce Illegal Drug Shipments
The STOP Act requires the USPS to gather advance electronic data (AED) for inbound international packages. It requires foreign postal operators to include fields such as the item identifier, sender’s full name and address, recipient’s full name and address, stated content description, unit of measure and quantity, weight, declared value, and date of mailing. With the tightened security, it helps reduce the number of bad actors who use the USPS loophole to get drugs into the country. This reform was pushed for by both lawmakers and stakeholders for years. The STOP Act is a sensible, necessary, solution to deadly epidemic in the United.
The need for solutions like the STOP Act has been in the works since 2016 and regrettably the deadly opioid crisis has continue to spread and we still desperately need this precaution in 2021. Preliminary federal data found that 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September. This marks the highest amount since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s. The data shows that the coronavirus pandemic unquestionably exacerbated the trend as the largest increase in overdose deaths occurred in April and May of 2020.
It is disappointing that the Biden administration is passing up on an opportunity to keep Americans safe. While the USPS was able to increase the number of inbound international packages reporting AED to 67 percent in January of 2020, it failed to reach its goal of 100 percent of packages by the deadline imposed in the law, January 2021. Robert Cintron Vice President, Logistics United States Postal Service noted that the coronavirus pandemic impacted international mail shipments, affected their ability to do so, but as our country moves forward it is absolutely imperative that we refocus on this important issue.
The Biden Administration Should Keep America and Americans Safe by Enforcing and Upholding the Law
It is vital that we continue to advocate for these solutions as they have the potential to save lives across the country. Therefore, it is imperative for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to go back to the drawing board on its proposed rules for collection of advance electronic information for international mail shipments, and the frameworks for collaboration between the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). American citizens depend heavily on these critical safeguards for protecting our mail system. And it isn’t asking too much for the USPS to live up to similar standards of professionalism as other carriers who have been protecting parcels shipped into America for years. Moreover, the USPS shouldn’t allow itself to be used as a mule — shipping illegal and deadly drugs into America — because of its unwillingness to live up to industry standards that protect all Americans.
While migrants from Central America stream to the U.S. border, any positive effects of Biden’s 'root-cause' strategy will be slow and incremental at best.
The journey of Central American migrants to the U.S. border — a perilous trip across thousands of miles of mountains and deserts — starts in places like the dry corridor in western Honduras.
Many of the region’s 1 million small farmers still live in adobe huts with no running water and suffer acts of humans and nature. Corrupt Honduran officials have invested too little in stabilizing or modernizing the region, allowing violent gangs to extort families. Recent droughts and hurricanes have created widespread hunger.
“It’s been one crisis after another,” says Conor Walsh, the Honduras representative for Catholic Relief Services in Tegucigalpa, the capital. “Many people have already migrated and others are evaluating whether they can stay on their farms.”
These longstanding problems throughout Central America are driving the current crisis on the southern U.S. border, where more than 170,000 migrants arrived in March in search of jobs and asylum. As the Biden administration grapples with this mounting surge, it’s also proposing a $4 billion long-term plan to attack the root causes of migration — corruption, violence, and poverty in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
The initiative is as ambitious as it is familiar. Presidents as far back as John F. Kennedy have pursued similar aims only to come up short. Joe Biden himself ran the troubled Central America initiative during the Obama administration. It encountered the same obstacles that have stymied past U.S. efforts — governmental leaders and business elites who resist good governance and anti-corruption reforms to protect their own interests, according to a study by the Wilson Center, a policy research group in Washington.
Consider Honduras, a showcase of government criminality. President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s election in 2017 was tainted by fraud. He is now under investigation by U.S. prosecutors who have brought a string of cocaine smuggling cases against prominent Hondurans. Members of the National Congress in Tegucigalpa have a habit of embezzlement, thereby robbing citizens of funding for health care, education, and jobs.
Nonetheless, U.S.-funded programs have struggled to make a difference in a nation in which government is a big part of the problem. Catholic Relief Services, for one, has helped boost the corn and bean yields and income of thousands of subsistence farmers in the Honduran dry corridor, offering a glimmer of hope. But a lack of roads, electricity, and credit for farmers means that only a sliver of them benefit from the technical aid. As a result, an unprecedented 47 percent of families in the dry corridor that stretches across Central America are moderately to severely food-deprived, according to an alarming 2017 United Nations study.United Nations World Food Program.
Now comes Biden’s crack at the region. He’s tweaking the U.S. aid playbook in hopes of a better outcome. The administration says fighting corruption is now the top priority since nothing will change until elected officials stop stealing and the governments become more accountable to citizens. Countries will have to meet stricter conditions, such as adopting governance reforms, before receiving aid, and officials face the threat of financial sanctions and revoked visas. The proposed $4 billion strategy, the biggest ever for the region, gives the administration some added leverage.
Vice President Kamala Harris heads the strategy team, which includes White House aide Juan Gonzalez and Ricardo Zuniga, the special envoy to the region. Zuniga was born in Honduras and both men worked on Western Hemispheric affairs in the Obama White House. In March, they traveled to the region and had “very frank discussions” with leaders about transparency, good governance, and anti-corruption, said one administration official.
The Treasury Department followed up those talks with sanctions in late April against Felipe Alejos Lorenzana, a Guatemalan Congressman, and Gustavo Adolfo Alejos Cambara, a former official. They reportedly facilitated payments to lawmakers and judges to try to interfere with the appointment of magistrates and protect against corruption prosecutions, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“You have to create a system of accountability that goes after the very corrupt elements within these governments,” added Steven Dudley, co-founder of InSight Crime, which investigates organized crime in Latin America. “The people Biden put in place have the experience and ideas, but the bridge between that and actually doing something is long.”
The get-tough diplomacy is already hitting resistance. In early April, Zuniga visited El Salvador to press the case against corruption. But President Nayib Bukele, miffed over criticism from a State Department official about his commitment to the rule of law, refused to meet with the envoy.
The snub would be familiar to a long line of presidents who have stumbled in the region. Since 1960 administrations have strategically deployed about $24 billion in foreign aid to Central America and the Caribbean.
During the Cold War years, aid was meant to reduce poverty to build support against leftist movements in El Salvador and its neighbors. It didn’t work. When the decades-long civil wars in the region finally ended in the 1990s, peace did usher in a long stretch of economic growth and declining poverty rates. In the ensuing decade, as drug trafficking and gang violence soared, the George W. Bush administration took its turn in Central America. It sent assistance to combat crime. But the programs lacked coordination and had a limited impact, according to another Wilson Center report.
The Obama administration had bigger ambitions. It expanded on Bush’s security initiative by adding governance and economic programs. The $2.4 billion “strategy for engagement” for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras began in 2014 and included 370 projects to make local officials more accountable, reduce crime and create jobs. In an op-ed supporting the strategy, Vice President Biden praised the nations’ commitment to reform and even met with President Hernandez at the White House in 2015 — an endorsement that proved too bullish.
After five years, the Government Accounting Office was blunt in its assessment of the projects that were mostly run by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Those reviewed by GAO achieved only 40 percent to 70 percent of their own technical targets, such as the number of police officers trained. Officials didn’t even bother to evaluate most of the projects or whether they helped improve governance, security, and economic opportunity.
When the biggest wave of migrants in more than a decade hit the U.S. border in 2019, the Trump administration pulled the plug on the Obama root cause strategy. USAID, now run by Samantha Power, a former envoy to the U.N. under President Obama, didn’t provide a spokesperson to comment for this story despite several requests.
Biden, who now has a second chance to get it right, faces his biggest test in Honduras. Its economy, which was once dominated by exports of coffee and bananas to the United States, has produced a number of ultra-wealthy clans resistant to the idea of cleaning up corruption.
Miguel Facusse, whose nephew served as president of Honduras, became rich from palm oil production and consumer products. But his legacy is tainted by accusations from human rights investigations that his security forces were involved in deadly clashes with small farmers over their claim to land in the region where his plantations operate.
As the economy became more service-oriented, former Vice President Jaime Rosenthal made a family fortune estimated in 2015 at $690 million from banking, telecommunications, and other businesses. But before his death two years ago, Rosenthal was indicted by U.S. prosecutors for participating in a money-laundering scheme with Honduran drug traffickers.
Honduras emerged as a cocaine transshipment point between South America and the United States a few decades ago. The 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted President Manuel Zelaya opened the door to more trafficking. Zelaya, a Liberal Party politician, had raised the minimum wage by 60 percent and defended the land rights of small farmers. Even more worrisome to business leaders like Facusse was that Zelaya had become cozy with leftist despots in the region and pushed to amend the constitution in an apparent attempt to extend his own presidency.
Zelaya’s ouster by the military led to a period of internal tumult, forcing the National Police to focus on restoring order, often violently cracking down on protesters. By 2015, 90 percent of cocaine coming to the United States passed through Central America, with Honduras as the major hub. More recently Hondurans have developed labs to produce cocaine, extending its tentacles in the economy, according to a report by InSight Crime.
Today, President Hernandez tops a list of Honduran politicians, military, and police officers who are under investigation or have been convicted of operating what seems like a state-sponsored drug cartel, according to the U.S. prosecutors. They say in 2013 Hernandez, who was then in Congress and campaigning for the presidency, got access to millions of dollars in cocaine from a murderous trafficker. In return, the politician allegedly told the trafficker, who was convicted in a U.S. court in March, that the military and attorney general would protect his operation. The president has repeatedly denied any involvement in trafficking.
The president’s brother, former congressman Tony Hernandez, was involved in every aspect of the cocaine trade. The end game was political power. He funneled millions of dollars in profits into National Party campaigns for three presidential elections, including the two his brother won in 2013 and 2017, prosecutors say. Tony Hernandez was handed a life prison sentence in March.
The Biden administration points to the silver linings in the dark clouds of the region’s recent history. In the last five years, an effort to root out political corruption made remarkable progress before it was quashed. In 2016, large street demonstrations over the looting of at least $300 million from the public health care system — a small amount of which found its way into Hernandez’s first presidential campaign — forced the president to set up an anti-corruption commission in partnership with the Organization of American States. The United States embraced the move with funding and political support.
The commission’s quasi-independence — it was led by Peruvian prosecutor Ana Maria Calderon Boy and others from outside Honduras — keyed its initial success. The commission set up a new unit of vetted prosecutors within the national government. It went on to reveal an embezzlement scam that later allegedly implicated more than 350 politicians, including President Hernandez, according to the Wilson report. Amid the scandal, he essentially disbanded the commission last year — a decision that brought condemnation from a bipartisan group of U.S. House leaders.
The Biden administration now aims to set up a new anti-corruption group as its main weapon. This time even more independence will be crucial if it’s to work. Zuniga, the special envoy, had discussions with nonprofits in Central America that want to form a U.S.-backed civil society commission. It would draw on the expertise of these groups in exposing corruption and operate outside the reach of national governments to shut it down. But local prosecutors would still have to pursue the cases.
“Instead of creating another commission that the governments can kick out, the United States can support nonprofits that have years of experience doing this work,” says Kurt Ver Beek, co-founder of the Association for a More Just Society in Honduras, who joined the talks with Zuniga. “We will make the corruption cases public and, along with the United States, pressure the governments to bring charges.”
The U.S.-backed effort to reform the National Police also got off to a promising start five years ago. The police served as a tool for cocaine smugglers, who easily exploited lowly paid officers with payoffs for dirty work. “Officers hijacked cars from citizens, dealt drugs for gangs, and lent out their services as hitmen,” according to a 2016 report by Ver Beek’s ASJ, the Christian nonprofit, which received funding from the State Department.
The revelation in 2016 that top police officials organized the assassination of Honduran’s anti-drug czar finally forced President Hernandez and Congress to set up another commission. Two ASJ leaders joined the group, which moved quickly to purge a remarkable 5,000 tainted and inexperienced beat cops and top officials — including six generals — equaling a third of the entire force.
The purge was a watershed moment showing that Hondurans could topple a fortress of criminality. But four years later drug smugglers are beginning to penetrate the police again, forcing good officers to choose whether to take a bribe or a bullet. “Traffickers tell cops, ‘I’ll kill you if you don’t help me, or take a bunch of money,’” says Ver Beek, a Cornell University-trained sociologist. “So they take the money.”
American agencies funded other projects such as community policing to reduce crime in Honduras, which a decade ago had the highest murder rate in the world. In her congressional confirmation hearing, Power, Biden’s new USAID administrator, pointed to the agency’s record of crime-fighting in the country as a bright spot to build on. “In districts where USAID had programming aimed at curbing violence, there was a drop in homicide rates,” she told senators in March. “That is encouraging.”
However, extortion of businesses by criminal gangs — a major driver of migration — may be getting worse. Gang members approach small businesses, such as barbers, food merchants and taxi drivers, and demand a small monthly payment that keeps going up until the owner can no longer pay it and flees. Hondurans refer to extortion as a “war tax,” which victimizes as many as half of all small businesses, Ver Beek estimates.
While officials pilfer public funds and gangs drive businesses to close, it’s no wonder that half of the Honduran population remains almost locked in poverty. The high rate hasn’t improved much over the last decade and is twice the level of neighboring El Salvador. As the Obama administration learned, foreign aid alone can’t do much to help kids escape this poverty trap.
USAID’s Future Employment program had ambitions in 2016 to train 7,500 at-risk youth in Honduras and place half of them in jobs to lure them away from gangs. The program struggled to find enough recruits in tough neighborhoods and enough employers willing to take a chance and hire them. Then the Trump administration cut off funding for projects across the three countries. By the end of 2019, fewer than 1,000 participants had found some employment, mostly in retail, in the year following training, according to a USAID evaluation.
While they certainly benefited from a job in the short term, their prospects of upward mobility are dim without more support from the Honduran government. For instance, the country has a federal minimum wage law that’s set above the poverty line and could help close the inequality gap. But almost half of employers ignore it and the government does little to enforce it, academic studies show.
“We have not produced the same kind of results that I’ve pointed to when it comes to physical security and crime,” Power said of USAID’s economic programs. “Hopefully we can begin to make a dent.”
Power could start by changing the way her agency runs projects in places like Honduras, nonprofit veterans believe. Aid experts have criticized the agency for hiring U.S. and international contractors to administer most of the program funding. The setup marginalizes local organizations that better understand on-the-ground issues and misses an opportunity to develop local advocates to push for reforms, says Sarah Bermeo, who specializes in foreign aid in Central America at Duke University.
“U.S. contractors are certainly overused compared to their ability to deliver results,” Bermeo says. “There is certainly room to improve outcomes by increasing the involvement of local groups in the design and implementation of AID-financed efforts.”
Meanwhile, migrants from Central America are streaming to the U.S. border. The increase that began a year ago has accelerated under Biden, threatening to top 1 million this year, the highest total in more than a decade. Biden’s root-cause strategy won’t change anything at the border in the short run. Advocates say progress will be incremental at best and measured in decades, not years.
“It’s going to be difficult but not impossible for the administration,” says Ariel Ruiz Soto, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “The U.S. investment has to occur over decades for there to be a real change.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended or turned away more than 178,600 people at the U.S.-Mexico border last month, marking what continues to be a growing border crisis.
The last time monthly border apprehensions exceeded this total was in April 2001, the all-time record year for illegal immigration with more than 1.6 million arrests. Unlike now, Border Patrol custody numbers back then were trending downward from March 2001, with more than 220,000 arrests.
Of those illegal aliens taken into custody in April this year, more than 111,000 were single adults not seeking asylum and who were subject to expulsion under Title 42. More single adults have been apprehended so far this year than the total number of families that were apprehended in all of 2019 during the last border crisis.
The Biden administration repeatedly denies there’s a border crisis and often blames the influx on former President Donald Trump and normal seasonal surges, but in April last year, border officials caught just over 17,000 illegal aliens at the southern border, the same number of unaccompanied minors who crossed last month.
“Until this administration applies a consequence for coming here illegally, these numbers are going to remain at crisis levels,” former acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in a statement. “Make no mistake: this is not just a humanitarian crisis on our border — it is a security crisis that is giving drug cartels and human smugglers a historic opportunity to expand their operations in the Western Hemisphere.”
While the average amount of time migrant children spent in custody fell from 115 hours in March to 28 hours in April, drug seizures keep climbing. Overall, Customs and Border Protection saw a 6 percent increase from March to April. Of those drugs being smuggled across the border by cartels, seizures of heroin increased 97 percent and seizures of fentanyl increased 34 percent, already passing the total numbers from the 2020 fiscal year. As noted by The Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson, the effects of these drugs extend far beyond the border crisis.
Experts estimate the volume of drugs confiscated at the border generally represents maybe 10 or 15 percent of total production. That amount of fentanyl — thousands of pounds — coming over the border has deadly consequences once it reaches U.S. cities and towns. Last year, a record number of Americans (some 90,000, possibly more) died of drug overdose. The increase in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020, researchers say, was driven by synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Fatal fentanyl overdoses spiked during the pandemic last spring, claiming more than 6,000 lives in May 2020 alone, and as the year went on they never dropped back down to pre-pandemic levels.
When you break it down, Donald Trump’s trade policy was simple. “No more bad deals,” he’d say while flexing America’s economic muscle and bringing miscreant trading partners back into line.
Joe Biden, on the other hand, has yet to make his trade priorities clear.
There are a few things we do know. One, he’s eager to reunite with partners on the world stage. With the pandemic and climate change as the centerpieces of his administration’s international efforts, we can expect trade pacts to be less important. Two, the president says he wants to fix or build back America before he launches any trade initiatives. Three, he wants to be sure trade initiatives will be “worker-centered” but hasn’t explained what that would look like.
Going forward, the priorities for U.S. trade policy overall ought to be bringing U.S. jobs and manufacturing back from overseas and encourage emerging industries to develop new technologies here in the United States. Internationally, as an example, the White House must convince much of the world to eschew products made by Chinese-owned Huawei when building out 5G networks.
At home, the president and his trade team need to make sure that the innovative activities of companies creating emerging technologies on which we’re all dependent are not being crushed by government bodies like the U.S. International Trade Commission, a six-member, independent, quasi-judicial federal agency that settles certain kinds of trade disputes.
Of late, the commission is a place where non-practicing entities (they’re more commonly called “patent trolls”) are violating patent rights. Through expensive and extensive litigation, patent trolls ask the International Trade Commission to find that a company manufacturing and innovating some product is making illegitimate use of a non-practicing entity’s intellectual property — and, because of it, any device using said infringed-upon patents must be banned from the U.S. marketplace.
That is exactly what Swedish telecom giant Ericsson is asking the commission to do to Samsung and a range of other smart devices and its 5G-related infrastructure equipment. Ericsson is a telecom infrastructure equipment manufacturer, but these days close to a third of its operating profit comes from IP licensing.
Ericsson is currently negotiating with Samsung to renew a patent cross-licensing agreement. Instead of continuing to negotiate, Ericsson is using the threat of a massive U.S. import ban on Samsung products to try to get its way.
If Ericsson’s backup strategy prevails and Samsung devices including cell phones and tablets are excluded from the U.S. market, or if it gets the International Trade Commission to block one of its key competitors in the 5G infrastructure market, it would be a disaster. The digital divide would widen just as the Biden Administration is proposing trillions in new infrastructure spending including broadband.
Spending billions of taxpayer dollars on broadband while at the same time excluding Samsung infrastructure equipment and devices from the market makes no sense. The International Trade Commission will have given Ericsson dominant market power in 5G infrastructure equipment and limited device choices for U.S. consumers. It would be shockingly counterproductive to give Apple a virtual monopoly on sales of sophisticated phones while opening the door to Chinese manufacturers like Huawei, ZTE or their home-grown rivals to service the rest of the U.S. market at a time when the U.S. government is working to prevent Chinese tech attacks on U.S. information security.
There is a better way to settle what is essentially a dispute over patent royalties – the traditional court system.
Ericsson took its complaints to the International Trade Commission because it knows that an exclusion order would nearly cripple its rival. At a minimum, it would give it tremendous negotiating leverage.
It’s time for the president to propose and for Congress to reform the International Trade Commission by addressing weaknesses that enable these kinds of manipulative and illegitimate cases.
Biden should spend less time with historians and more with moderates
A liberal president enters the White House in a time of national crisis. He campaigned as a moderate but soon reveals his intent to govern from the left of the center-left. His bold agenda has plenty of fans among journalists and academics who celebrate the expansion of the welfare state. They write stories and deliver soundbites likening the new chief executive to FDR. The end of Reaganism, they say, is at hand.
I’m referring, of course, to President Barack Obama. Shortly after his election in 2008, Time magazine portrayed him as Dr. New Deal, complete with fedora and cigarette holder. “It would seem that Obama has been studying the 1932 Great Depression campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” wrote E.J. Dionne in his syndicated column. “Conservatism is Dead,” announced the New Republic. “It has been that kind of presidency,” gushed Jon Meacham in 2009. “Barack Obama, moving as he wishes to move, and the world bending itself to him.”
Take a moment to recover from that last bit of purple prose. Then recall that two years after Obama’s victory, Republicans won the House. In 2014, Republicans kept the House and won the Senate. And two years after that, Republicans won complete control of the federal government. Conservatism didn’t die—the New Republic did. (It’s been reborn as a monthly.)
Now the same wonks and historians who compared Obama to the architect of managerial liberalism downplay his tenure in office as overly cautious, modest, and risk-averse. They’ve settled on a new, new FDR: Joe Biden. And Biden is ready to play the part. Even if it means risking Democratic control of Congress.
Biden met recently at the White House with a group of historians who, according to Axios, share his view that “It is time to go even bigger and faster than anyone expected. If that means chucking the filibuster and bipartisanship, so be it.” Biden’s “closest analogues,” Michael Beschloss told the news outlet, are FDR and LBJ. E.J. Dionne says Biden represents “a new disposition through which pragmatic forms of government activism add up to a quiet political revolution.” And Biden “loves the growing narrative that he’s bolder and bigger-thinking than President Obama,” writes Mike Allen. No doubt he does.
You would think that, in the midst of all the pandering and praise, the scholars who talked to Biden might have provided him some actual historical perspective. Every president Biden is said to recall, including Reagan, had to endure numerous setbacks, crises, unforced errors, and unanticipated consequences of their own policies. By 1938, the New Deal was exhausted, the economy hadn’t recovered from the Depression, and FDR won his final two terms largely on the basis of his international stature. LBJ’s landslide in 1964 was followed by a shellacking in 1966 and the collapse of the Democratic coalition in 1968. The GOP lost 26 seats in the House in 1982, forfeited control of the Senate in 1986, and when he left office Reagan handed his vice president a giant deficit, the Savings and Loan debacle, and a zealous special prosecutor.
The historians urging Biden to go big on policy aren’t analysts. They are partisan cheerleaders. If they stepped back, they would see that Biden is weaker than the presidents he admires and that vulnerable Democrats are warning the majority against overreach.
The Biden team gave Axios four reasons the president is ready to ditch the filibuster and push through a $3 trillion infrastructure and green energy bill, changes to election law in the “For the People Act,” and possibly an immigration amnesty. Biden has (1) “full party control of Congress, and a short window to go big,” (2) “party activists” are “egging him on,” (3) “he has strong gathering economic winds at his back,” and (4) “he’s popular in polls.”
But the same evidence could also be read as an argument for caution and restraint. Biden has less support in Congress than any of the presidents he emulates. (Reagan never controlled the House, but often had a majority of conservative Democrats plus Republicans.) At the moment, Biden’s party has 219 seats in the House and 50 in the Senate—meaning he can lose just two votes in the lower chamber and none in the upper one. It’s one thing to enact significant legislation on a partisan majority. It’s something else to enact such legislation on a partisan majority of one during a time when a positive COVID test upsets the whip count.
Nor is following “party activists” a certain route to political success. Economic winds change direction. And while Biden is popular, his disapproval rating in the January Gallup poll was second only to Donald Trump’s. Negative partisanship drives Biden to steamroll the Republicans. It also exposes him to political rebuke.
Some Democrats are beginning to express qualms with various aspects of Biden’s approach. Maine Democrat Jared Golden was the only member of his party to vote against Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Henry Cuellar of Texas was among the first congressmen to draw attention to the crisis on the southern border. Filemon Vela, also of Texas, announced his retirement the other day, a few months after his vote share dropped to 55 percent from 60 percent in 2018. Several House Democrats have said they disagree with Nancy Pelosi’s outrageous plot to expel Iowa Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks and replace her with Rita Hart, who lost by six votes last year. And West Virginia senator Joe Manchin has yet to cosponsor the election bill at the center of the Democrats’ campaign to end the filibuster.
In these early days, Biden’s presidency has been less a transformation than a continuation of the partisan stalemate that has existed since the end of the Cold War. Parties win elections, misread electoral victories as ideological endorsements, overreach, and pay for it at the polls. The Democrats for whom the bill will come due first are well aware of this dynamic. They may not be as good on television as Jon Meacham or Michael Beschloss, but they have plenty of insight into the aspirations and concerns of swing voters. Biden may want to have them over to the East Room. Before they are out of work.
Fairfax County Schools recently ditched merit-based admissions process
A group of parents at the nation’s top high school is suing the county school board for adopting new admissions practices that would slash the number of incoming Asian-American students.
The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a complaint Wednesday on behalf of the Coalition for TJ, a parent organization at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. In recent months, the Fairfax County School Board changed how students are admitted to the Alexandria, Va., magnet school in an attempt to boost enrollment of black and Hispanic students.
The coalition claims that the Fairfax County School Board’s newly adopted admissions processes are unconstitutional and would reduce the number of Asian-American students in the incoming freshman class by 42 percent.
In October, the Fairfax County School Board eliminated the merit-based entrance exam for the elite STEM-focused school. In December, the board limited the number of students each of the county’s middle schools can send to the high school. The lawsuit claims that this new process targets Asian Americans because the three Fairfax middle schools known for funneling students to Thomas Jefferson have predominantly Asian-American populations.
Thomas Jefferson is one of several U.S. high schools that have recently moved away from merit-based admissions in favor of practices that achieve desired racial quotas. Last month, the San Francisco Board of Education abandoned the admissions test for the city’s prestigious public high school in favor of a lottery system, claiming the former system “perpetuate[d] the culture of white supremacy.”
Harry Jackson, the parent of a black student at Thomas Jefferson High School, said that the new admissions process hurts gifted students in addition to Asian Americans.
“This is an attack on Asian Americans and on gifted education,” Jackson said at an online press conference on Wednesday. “It represents anti-intellectualism. Under the guise of trying to diversify Thomas Jefferson, they’re not doing anything to uplift the black and Hispanic community. It’s a targeted hit on the Asian community.”
Julia McCaskill, the parent of three students in Fairfax schools, said the district is blaming its failure to boost black and Hispanic enrollment rates on Asian Americans.
“Diversity is the goal for all of us and Thomas Jefferson does not belong to a certain race or group of people,” McCaskill said. “The lack of diversity of black and Latino students is a failure of the [school board], and instead of fixing those issues, they are focusing the hate on Asian Americans.”
Thomas Jefferson is a majority-minority high school. Roughly 70 percent of enrolled students are Asian. Another 20 percent are white and the remaining 10 percent comprises black, Hispanic, and other minority students.
Fairfax County Public Schools communications director Lucy Caldwell told the Washington Free Beacon that the district maintains that its new admissions process “continues to be race neutral and merit-based.” The district values diversity and says it contributes to the “richness” of education at Thomas Jefferson.
In early February congressional Democrats launched an effort to allow unions to implant themselves once again into the lives of workers – whether they’re wanted there or not. The PRO ACT, which the U.S. House of Representatives will soon consider and which, ironically enough, stands for “Protecting the Right to Organize,” would let big labor once again establish a stranglehold over the American economy.
For decades, since President Jimmy Carter’s epic mismanagement of the U.S. economy, the percentage of workers in the private sector belonging to unions has plummeted. The increased cost of membership along with diminishing satisfaction with what unions were able to do to protect the jobs of their members has led more and more of them to seek alternative arrangements.
In some states, worker independence from big labor is made easier by the existence of laws prohibiting agreements between employers and labor unions concerning the extent to which an established union can require employees to be members or to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment either before or after they’re hired.
This concept, known popularly as “right to work” has worked well since it was first introduced in the period just after the end of World War II. It’s now law in more than half the states and others are moving toward adopting it. If the PRO Act passes, right-to-work laws would be eliminated, meaning workers could be forced to join a union or pay fees equivalent to membership dues as a condition of getting or keeping their job.
To protect against this possibility, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has introduced the National Right to Work Act to preserve the options right-to-work laws make available to workers in states that have them and extend to workers in states that do not. The key point, he says, is that workers, not the unions themselves, should make the relevant decisions regarding membership.
“The National Right to Work Act ensures all American workers have the ability to choose to refrain from joining or paying dues to a union as a condition for employment,” Sen. Paul said. There are 27 states with right-to-work laws on the books, the Kentucky Republican said, adding “It’s time for the federal government to follow their lead.”
More than eight in ten workers believe preserving worker choice in such matters is a preeminent concern, according to a Gallup Poll, with more than seven in ten saying they would vote for a ballot measure protecting right-to-work.
The survey data indicates workers already in unions would like to see their options expanded, likely to leverage efforts at reform. One survey conducted nearly a decade ago for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund found that 91 percent of private-sector union members believed there was too much secrecy in how their dues money was spent, 79 percent said union membership should be voluntary, and 63 percent said they would vote out their union leadership for spending dues money on political ads if it could be done by secret ballot to protect them from retribution.
The Paul legislation would repeal six existing statutory provisions allowing private-sector workers and airline and railroad employees to be fired if they don’t pay dues or administrative fees to a union, putting bargaining power back, the senator said, in the hands of America’s workers. A companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Joe Wilson, R-S.C.
A forgettable speech may be just what the country needs
It was impossible to hear Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address without comparing it to Donald Trump’s. Four years ago, Trump blamed the “American carnage” that propelled his rise to power on a feckless and out of touch elite who had collaborated with nefarious outsiders to rob the middle class of its wealth and status. Trump’s speech was brief (16 minutes long), direct, uncompromising, and unforgettable. It left the political world in shock. George W. Bush spoke for many when he was overheard saying, “That was some weird s—t.” The Trump inaugural foretold a presidency like no other.
President Biden’s inaugural could not have been more different. He is Trump’s opposite not only in ideology but also in background and style. Trump was the only president not to have previous government or military experience. Biden served for almost 50 years in Congress and the West Wing. Trump used social media as a weapon in his politics of polarization and confrontation. Biden has gone out of his way to ignore Twitter, and has relied primarily on traditional media to convey his message.
Trump sought to disrupt the norms of Washington because he and his supporters believed those norms had become a cover for American decline. Biden wants to restore the norms, and to lower the political temperature, because he believes, correctly in my view, that civility and proceduralism stand between America and the abyss. Every aspect of Biden’s inaugural—its structure, its bipartisanship, its quotations, its length—furthered his aim of realigning the office of the presidency with its traditions of institutional decorum.
The speech itself was not memorable. But this prosaic quality was in its own way reassuring. After all, most inaugurals are forgotten. (Can you quote a line from either of Bill Clinton’s, or from either of Barack Obama’s?) Biden’s delivery was much stronger than his text. He recapitulated the themes of his campaign, explained how he believes the nation faces crises of public health, economics, racism, and climate, called for national unity, and pledged to serve all of the people. His peroration was inspiring: “With purpose and resolve, we turn to the task of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts.” Overall, however, you came away with the sense that Biden’s presidency will be defined more by actions than by words.
What stood out most about the entire day was its religious spirit. Biden began the morning with a bipartisan Mass. The benedictions before and after the inaugural program were moving. Garth Brooks offered an incredible rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Biden asked all Americans to participate in a moment of silent prayer. He cited Scripture. And in one of the most interesting passages of his address, he invoked Saint Augustine’s description of a people as “a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.”
For Biden, these common objects are values: “Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and, yes, the truth.” Few would argue with this list. But its very universality raises the question of what separates Americans from other peoples, elsewhere, who also love opportunity and security and liberty. It’s easy to come up with a more particularistic catalogue of the common objects of our national love: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the national motto and symbol, the flag, the Founders, Lincoln, the Capitol building, the land itself. And this difference between transcendental aspirations and concrete loyalties may be one way of thinking about the gulf that separates left from right.
One danger for Biden is that the electorate will come to view his call for unity as a mask for a partisan liberal agenda. There was little policy in the Inaugural Address, but the executive orders he will sign this afternoon and evening, and the legislation he is proposing to Congress, do not herald a future where the parties are reconciled to one another. His presidency might proceed along two tracks, with Biden standing as a symbol of comity and consensus while his administration sustains and expands the Democratic coalition. Biden might want to pay particular attention to a recent Washington Post /ABC News poll showing that 55 percent of independents have “just some” or “no confidence” in his decision-making abilities. Letting Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have their way will not shrink that number.
For now, the ceremony is over. Joe Biden is left with two jobs: End this pandemic and restore faith in America’s constitutional order. His Inaugural Address was a fair start. But speeches won’t be enough. In his videotaped farewell address, President Trump wished his successor luck. President Biden will need it.
Let us begin with this fact: The left always suppresses speech. Since Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, there has been no example of the left in control and not crushing dissent.
That is one of the important differences between liberal and left: Liberalism and liberals believe in free speech. (The present leftist threat to freedom in America, the greatest threat to freedom in American history, is made possible because liberals think they have more to fear from conservatives than from the left. Liberals do not understand that the left regards liberals as their useful idiots.)Recommended
The left controls universities. There is little or no dissent allowed at universities.
The left controls nearly every “news” medium. There is little or no dissent in the mainstream media — not in the “news” sections and not in the opinion sections.
The left controls Hollywood. No dissent is allowed in Hollywood.
That is why we have “cancel culture” — the silencing and firing of anyone who publicly dissents from the left, and even “publicly” is no longer necessary. The National Association of Realtors has just announced that if you express dissenting views (on race, especially) in private, you may be fined and lose your membership in the organization — which effectively ends your career as a realtor.
So, we return to the opening question: Why does the left need to crush all dissent? This is a question made all the more stark because there is no parallel on the right: Conservatives do not shut down dissent or debate.
The answer, though the left will not acknowledge it, is the left fears dissent. And they do so for good reason. Leftism is essentially a giant balloon filled with nothing but hot air. Therefore, no matter how big the balloon — the Democratic Party, The New York Times, Yale University — all it takes is a mere pin to burst it.
Leftism is venerated by intellectuals. But there is little intellectual substance to leftism. It is a combination of doctrine and emotion. The proof? Those with intellectual depth do not stifle dissent; they welcome it.
That is why universities are so opposed to conservatives coming to speak on campus. One articulate conservative can undo years of left-wing indoctrination in a one-hour talk or Q and A. I know this from personal experience on campuses. You can, too. Watch the speeches given by any conservatives allowed to speak on a campus — many of these talks are still on YouTube — and you will see large halls filled with students yearning to hear something other than left-wing pablum. Look at their faces, filled with rapt attention to ideas they never heard that are clearly having an impact. Universities are entirely right to fear our coming to speak. We come with the pin that bursts their $50,000-a-year balloon.
That is also why it is so hard to get any of them to debate any of us. In 35 years of radio, I have never mistreated or bullied a guest. I was unfailingly polite to an icon of the left, Howard Zinn, the America-hating author of the America-hating “A People’s History of the United States.” I even invited a UCLA political science professor and violinist, one of seven members of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra who refused to play when I conducted the orchestra in a Joseph Haydn symphony in the Disney Concert Hall — solely because I’m a conservative. Despite his public letter, in which he accused me of holding “horribly bigoted positions” and wrote, “Please urge your friends to not attend this concert, which helps normalize bigotry in our community,” I nevertheless invited him on my national radio show. He agreed. I had him in studio for an entire hour and treated him and his wife (who accompanied him) with great respect, despite my contempt for his false accusations and his advocacy of the cancel culture. Every American should hear that hour.
Unfortunately for the emotional and intellectual health of our society, he, Zinn and a few others were anomalies. Of the 100 or so left-wing authors, professors and columnists invited to appear on my show, almost none has responded in the affirmative. They prefer NPR, where they are never challenged.
The opposite, however, is not true: Every conservative intellectual I know says yes to every one of the (very few) left-wing invitations we receive. Of course, we are almost never invited. We regularly invite leftists. Leftists almost never invite us. They claim it’s because we are not up to their intellectual level and they have no desire to waste their time. One would think that the opportunity to publicly show how vapid we conservatives really are would be too good to pass up.
Lax immigration enforcement under Biden could bring about a new border crisis
New data from the Department of Homeland Security capture the changing face of illegal immigration, revealing dramatic shifts that will shape President-elect Joe Biden’s hopes for comprehensive immigration reform.
The report from the Office of Immigration Statistics captures a transition as the share of lone adults, particularly from Mexico, declined, replaced by children and adults traveling with them from the “northern triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. That change in turn has led to a dramatic decline in the number of individuals reported, as members of the latter group rely on more accommodative legal protections to remain in the country far longer than the former.
The report also shows that individuals who were not detained after apprehension are much more likely to still be in the country. That’s a sign, acting deputy homeland security director Ken Cuccinelli wrote, that “catch and release” policies do not work.
That such policies, including an expansion of the use of “alternatives to detention,” are top of the Biden immigration agenda augurs poorly for the incoming president. The challenges that changing migration patterns posed to the Obama and Trump administrations are unlikely to go away under Biden, teeing up yet another border crisis and ensuing political meltdown.
The report combines data from myriad sources to track the “lifecycle” of would-be entrants apprehended over the past five years at the southwestern border, providing information on the immigration status of some 3.5 million apprehensions. Its coverage bookends two major migrant crises: a surge of unaccompanied minors in 2014, and a much larger surge of both families and unaccompanied kids in late 2018 and early 2019.
These two crises are part of the changing face of migration. Whereas in the period of 2000 to 2004, 97 percent of all those apprehended were Mexicans—many of them lone adults seeking work—by 2019 that share had dropped to just 24 percent. By contrast, arrivals from the “northern triangle” countries rose from 44 percent of apprehensions in 2014 to 64 percent in 2019, amid the second crisis. Many of these individuals were children, often quite young, and adults traveling with them, claiming to be their family members.
Those demographic differences strongly determine what happens to an individual after he or she is apprehended. Single adults are quickly deported, with 78 percent of those apprehended over the preceding five years repatriated by Q2 2020. But family arrivals and children are not—just 32 percent of the latter, and only 11 percent of the former, had their cases resolved as of Q2 2020.
Such migration is likely to rise under Biden, who has promised to substantially reduce immigration enforcement and intends to pursue an amnesty, both of which could incentivize further arrivals. Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that apprehensions at the border rose year-on-year in the immediate lead-up to and aftermath of Biden’s election, which may indicate a rising tide of migrants eager to take advantage of a more lax immigration regime.
Those arrivals will enjoy the same preexisting immigration challenges that the Center for Immigration Studies’ Andrew Arthur identified as driving the low number of deportations for families and children. “Loopholes” in federal immigration law incentivize the bringing of children from noncontiguous countries and delay almost indefinitely their immigration court process.
In particular, abuse of the asylum system, and of provisions which require the release from detention of minors and their guardians, results in large populations who arrive, are released, and never show up for subsequent immigration processing. According to the report, just 1 percent of those detained had unexecuted removal orders, while 55 percent of those released were still listed as unresolved.
The reason for this dynamic is not that those who arrive at the southwestern border have reasonable claims to be asylees: Just 14 percent of initial applicants are eventually granted asylum. Similarly, among those cases resolved, roughly 13.6 percent were granted some relief, while the rest were summarily deported.
In other words, the report indicates a large and persistent challenge to the U.S. immigration system, with an ever-growing pool of illegal entrants and an ever-expanding backlog of immigration court cases jamming up the process of legal immigration and the limited resources of DHS.
That dynamic is likely to continue, and even expand, under the Biden DHS. Biden’s promised undoing of many of President Donald Trump’s tougher enforcement tools, including the “Remain in Mexico” policy and the limitation of “reasonable fear” asylum claims, could exacerbate the inflow of people driven by the “loopholes” Arthur and Cuccinelli identify. So too could the deployment of “alternatives to detention,” which Cuccinelli specifically singled out as problematic.
The Biden team, likely spooked by the surging apprehension numbers, has signaled that it will slow-roll the undoing of Trump’s immigration agenda. But it has not promised any of the “targeted legislative fixes” endorsed by Cuccinelli in his letter, leaving in place the adverse incentives. That could lead to another humanitarian crisis at the southwestern border—a ticking time bomb Biden’s team has evinced little interest in defusing.
Notes on the ascendant Left’s new terminology.
ith the rise of the Left inevitable over the next two years, the public should become acquainted with the Left’s strange language of Wokespeak. Failure to do so could result in job termination and career cancellation. It is certainly a fluid tongue. Words often change their meanings as the political context demands. And what was yesterday’s orthodoxy is today’s heterodoxy and tomorrow’s heresy. So here is some of the vocabulary of the woke lexicon.
“Anti-racism.” Espousing this generic compounded -ism is far preferable to accusing particular people of being “racists” — and then being expected to produce evidence of their concrete actions and words to prove such indictments.
Instead, one can pose as fighting for “anti-racism” and thereby imply that all those whom one opposes, disagrees with, or finds distasteful, de facto, must be for “racism.”
“Anti-racism” is a useful salvo for students, teachers, administrators, public employees, political appointees, and media personnel to use peremptorily: declare from the start that you are working for “anti-racism” and then anyone who disagrees with you therefore must be racist, or, antithetically, “pro-racism.”
Oddly, such Wokespeak “anti-” adjectives denote opposition to something that no one claims to be for. For each proclaimed “anti-racist,” “anti-imperialist,” or “anti-colonialist,” there is almost no one who wishes to be a “racist” or desires to be a “colonialist” or an “imperialist.” These villains mostly come to life only through the use of their “anti-” adjectives.
“Disparate Impact.” This word is becoming anachronistic — call it Wokespoke, if you will. In ancient labor-law usage, it often accompanied the now equally calcified term “disproportional representation.” But in 21st-century American Wokespeak, it is no longer necessarily unfair, illegal, or unethical that some racial, gender, or ethnic groups are “over”-represented in certain coveted admissions and hiring.
Thus there can be no insidious, silent, or even inadvertent, but otherwise innate, bias that results in now-welcomed disproportional representation.
“Disparate” thus will likely be replaced by a more proper neologism such as “parity” or “affirmative” impact to denote that “overrepresentation” of one group over another is hardly “disparate,” but just and necessary to restore “parity” for past crimes of racism and sexism.
So disparate impact in general no longer has any systematic utility in matters of racial grievance and will soon be dropped. It was once a means to get to where we are and beyond. For example, at about 12 percent of the population, African Americans are disproportionally represented as players in both Major League Baseball (8 percent), and the National Basketball Association (75–80 percent), as are “whites” likewise in both sports, who constitute 65–70 percent of the general population, but make up only 45 percent of the MLB and 15–20 percent of the NBA. No constant term can be allowed to represent facts such as these.
“Cultural appropriation.” This adjective-noun phrase must include contextualization to be an effective tool in the anti-racism effort.
It does not mean, as the ignorant may infer from its dictionary entries, merely “the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.”
Asian Americans do not appropriate “white” or “European” culture by ballet dancing or playing the violin; “whites” or “Europeans” surely do appropriate Asian culture by using non-Asian actors in Japanese kabuki dance-drama.
For non–African Americans, dreadlocks or playing jazz are cultural appropriations; dying darker hair blond is not. A black opera soprano is hardly a cultural appropriationist. Wearing a poncho, if one is a non–Mexican-American citizen, is cultural theft; a Mexican-American citizen wearing a tuxedo is not.
Only a trained cultural appropriationist can determine such felonies through a variety of benchmarks. Usually the crime is defined as appropriation by a victimizing majority from a victimized minority. Acceptable appropriation is a victimized minority appropriating from a victimizing majority. A secondary exegesis would add that only the theft of the valuable culture of the minority is a felony, while the occasional use of the dross of the majority is not.
“Diversity.” This term does not include false-consciousness efforts to vary representation by class backgrounds, ideologies, age, or politics. In current Wokespeak, it instead refers mostly to race and sex (see “Race, class, and gender”), or in practical terms, a generic 30 percent of the population self-identified as non-white — or even 70 percent if inclusive of non-male non-whites.
“Diversity” has relegated “affirmative action” — the older white/black binary that called for reparatory “action” to redress centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and institutionalized prejudice against African Americans — to the Wokespoke dustbin.
“Diversity” avoids the complications arising out of past actionable grievances, or worries about the overrepresentation or underrepresentation of particular tribes, or the class or wealth of the victimized non-white.
The recalibrated racially and ethnically victimized have grown from 12 percent to 30 percent of the population and need not worry whether they might lose advantageous classifications, should their income and net worth approximate or exceed that of the majority oppressive class.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion.” This triad is almost always used in corporate, professional, and academic administrative titles, such as in a dean, director, or provost of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
Known more commonly by their familiar, abbreviated sobriquets of “diversity czars,” such coveted billets are usually immune from budget cuts and economic belt-tightening. Often such newly created czar positions are subsidized in times of protest and financial duress by increasing the reliance on exploited part-time or low-paid workers, by either cutting or freezing their hours, benefits, or salaries.
No “equity czar,” for example, can afford publicly to be concerned about university exploitation of all part-time faculty. (See also under “Equity.”)
“Diversity” and “inclusion” are not synonymous or redundant nouns. Thus they should be used always in tandem: One can advocate for “inclusion” without oneself actually being “diverse,” or one can be “diverse” but not “include” others who are “diverse.” However, serving both diversity and inclusion ideally implies that those hired as non-white males are entrusted to hire additional non-white males.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
“Equity.” Equity has now replaced the Civil Rights–era goal of “equality” — a word relegated to vestigial Wokespoke. After 60 years, equality apparently was exposed as a retrograde bourgeois synonym for the loaded “equality of opportunity” rather than a necessary, mandated “equality of result.”
Since seeking equality does not guarantee that everyone will end up the same, “equality” became increasingly unhelpful. Equity, in contrast, means that we do not just treat people at this late date “equally” — since most have been prior victims of various -isms and -ologies that require reparatory considerations.
“Equity” instead means treating people quite differently, even prejudicially so, to even the playing field for our past sins of economic, social, political, and cultural inequity.
“Hate speech.” Most of the incendiary “free speech” protected under the First Amendment is in actuality “hate speech,” and therefore deserves no such protection. If America were a properly woke society, then there would be no need for the First Amendment.
Like much of the vocabulary of Wokespeak, the notion of “hate speech” is not symmetrical. It cannot be diluted, subverted, and contextualized by false equivalencies. So the oppressed, occasionally in times of understandable duress, can use generic gender and race labels to strike back at the oppressor (see “Leveling the playing field”).
Crude stereotypes can be occasionally useful reminders for the victimized of how to balance the predictable hurtful vocabulary of the victimizer. In times of emotional trauma, the use by the oppressed of emphatics and colloquials such as “cracker,” “honky,” “gringo,” “whitey,” or “white trash” can serve as useful reminders of how “words matter.” In general, the rare and regrettable use of purported “hate speech” by one oppressed group against another is not necessarily hate speech, but usually a barometer of how a majority lexicon has marginalized the Other.
“Implicit bias.” “Implicit” is another handy intensifying adjective (see “Systemic racism”). Implicit bias, however, differs somewhat from “systemic racism.” It is analogous to a generic all-purpose antibiotic, useful against not just one pathogen but all pathogens, such as sexism, homophobia, nativism, transphobia, etc., that make up “bias,” a word that is now rarely used without an intensifying adjective.
Also, “implicit,” while implying “systemic,” additionally suggests chronological permanence, as in “innate bias.”
Thus “implicit bias” denotes a hard-to-detect prejudice against the non-heterosexual, the non-white, and the non-male that is sometimes as nontransparent as is it innate to the DNA of the heterosexual white male. Diversity trainers and workshops are needed to identify and inoculate against the virus of implicit bias.
“Intersectionality.” Race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics supposedly “intersect” with one another as shared victimizations. Thus, the community of the oppressed is commonly crisscrossed, and therefore amplified by such osmosis of shared grievances. The postmodern “intersectionality” has replaced the apparently now-banal term “rainbow coalition.”
In theory, the more shared victimizations, the higher the ranking one enjoys within the intersectional community.
However, when intersectionality results in stubborn tribal rivalries and struggles over identity-politics spoils, either one of two things follows: On the good side, those with the most oppressions (e.g., gay women of color) are the most rewarded accordingly. But on the bad side, the intersectional graph is blurred into rank Balkanization or worse.
A bellum omnium tribūum contra omnes tribūs follows, as the number of victims outnumbers the victimizers. Unfortunately, reparatory claims then must be fought over intrasectionally, i.e., each offended tribe unites monolithically in opposition to the others: e pluribus tribibus una becomes plures tribūs ex una.
“Leveling the playing field.” Sports terms can become useful Wokespeak. So to un-level the playing field is to “level” it. Leveling does not mean insisting on equality of opportunity (i.e., ensuring a soccer or rugby field does not slope in one direction), given inherent inequity. After all, when one team has not had access to proper training facilities, it deserves to play on an advantageously sloped field.
So to “level” means most certainly to slope the field for the benefit of one team, which in other matters allegedly suffers from past disadvantage brought on by bias that can only be corrected by and compensated through downhill advantage — or bias.
“LGBTQ.” This is currently the most widely used woke sobriquet for the homosexual and transgendered communities (see “Intersectionality”), although almost no one can agree on what the letter Q actually stands for.
Most clumsy politicians invoke the combined abbreviations — but often mangle and mix up the letters — without knowing really who does and does not qualify within the larger rubric. The term assumes there are few if any different agendas among homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered — at least that might outweigh their common nonbinary affinities.
“Marginalized.” The marginalized are those dehumanized by the white majority culture on the basis of race, sex, and sexual orientation. On rare occasions, the category can be difficult to articulate, given the intrusion of irrelevant class considerations that supposedly remedy “marginalization.” Income and wealth, however, are transitory criteria; sex and race are not. Jay-Z, Barack Obama, and LeBron James are permanently marginalized in a way that an unemployed Pennsylvania clinger is not.
“Micro-aggression.” “Micro” is another qualifying adjective of our subtler age in which active race- and gender-based prejudices are almost impossible for the novice to spot.
Instead, adept micro-aggression experts and skilled diversity trainers can detect double entendres, gestures, inexplicable silences, facial expressions, fashions, and habits — the “code” that gives one away as an offensive sexist or racist. Such skills, much like cryptography, as mastering a cult’s hand gestures can be taught through workshops to the general population to enable them to break these silent systems of insidious aggressions.
“Proportional representation.” This, and its negative twin, disproportional representation, is another ossified term (see “Disparate impact”) that has largely served its 1990s purpose and is now relegated to Wokespoke.
Originally, it meant that various minority groups deserved to be represented in hiring and admissions, and in popular culture, in numbers commensurate to their percentages in the general population.
But in 21st-century Wokespeak, the goal of ensuring “proportional representation” can now be racist, sexist, and worse — given that females enroll in, and graduate from, colleges in far greater numbers than their proportions of the general population, or that African Americans, from lucrative professional sports to coveted federal jobs such as the U.S. Postal Service, are represented in number greater than their percentages in the general population.
To reflect new demographics, proportionality is becoming questionable; disproportionality is now almost good.
“Race, class, and gender.” Another Wokespoke, Neanderthal tripartite term that is dropping out of Wokespeak.
“Class” no longer matters much in America. Billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros are not enemies of the people; white impoverished deplorables in West Virginia certainly are. Oprah is a victim. So are Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg and Michelle Obama. Class is an anachronism.
To ensure distance from the irredeemables and clingers, Wokespeak will soon likely reduce the catechism to just “race and gender.”
“Safe space.” Safe spaces on college campuses (see “Theme house”) are not just segregated by race, gender, and sexual orientation; they are better described as official no-go zones for identifiable white heterosexual males. It would be debatable whether particular non-white or non-heterosexual or non-male groups can intrude into the segregated spaces of other particular groups. In general, these segregated enclaves offer sanctuary against “implicit bias” and “systemic racism.” Labeling them as “segregated spaces” is proof of implicit bias and systemic racism.
“Systemic racism.” “Systemic” belongs to this newer family of intensifying adjectival epithets (e.g., “micro,” “implicit,” etc.) that are necessary to posit a pathology that otherwise is hard to see, hear, or experience.
When one cannot point to actual evidence of “racism,” one can simply say that it is nowhere precisely because it is everywhere — sort of like the air we breathe that we count on, but often can’t see or feel.
“Theme house.” Theme houses are university dorms or sponsored off-campus student housing segregated by race. “Theme” is a useful euphemism for segregation, given that in theory there can be dorms for those of all races who share musical, artistic, or scholarly interests — or “themes,” e.g., an opera dorm or History House. But, in fact, “theme” today refers usually to race, gender, and ethnicity.
In Wokespeak, everyone is for theme houses; no one is for racially desegregating them. Being against the racial segregation of college dorms can become racist; being for them is never racist. Picking a future college roommate on the basis of race can be allowed — if neither the selector nor the selected is so-called “white.”
“The Other.” See under “Diversity.”
“Unearned white privilege”— as opposed to mere “white privilege.” The intensifier “unearned” is usually an added-on confessional by middle-aged white people in administrative or elite professional and coveted billets who wish to express their utmost penance for their high salaries, titles, and influence.
“Unearned,” however, is not to be confused with “undeserved.” Instead, it suggests certain white elites who wish to publicly confess their guilt for doing so well but without having to resign and to give back what they admittedly claim they did not earn.
Thus a college president is allowed to confess to having enjoyed “unearned” white privilege that nonetheless does not mean his present position is “undeserved.”
In sum, despite the fact that he was unfairly catapulted into the presidency, the college president’s manifest genius displayed after obtaining the job means he is now woke and clearly deserves to remain in the post. In other words, what explicit “unearned” was then, implicit “deserved” is now.
As we look around at the Christmas decorations, programs, ceremonies, shopping, cards, greetings and the whole Christmas season, what messages do we get? What does it all mean?
Clearly, something unusual and good is in the air. People seem friendlier, parties and benefits are everywhere. Charities, soap kitchens, and the Salvation Army are busier than usual.
When we think of the origin of Christmas, we realize that it began as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Today, however, it is possible to go through the entire Christmastime without ever hearing that name. Many children are taught that the central figure of Christmas is Santa Claus on his mission of kindness and goodwill.
So, what about this Jesus Christ? Is he still important, even relevant?
Well, we know he must be important if much of the world still celebrates his birthday which happened two millennia ago. With a little research, we can discover that much of the world still belongs to the organization he founded, namely, the Christian church in its many variations.
Why? Why is this man’s influence still felt after so many centuries?
That is a harder question to answer. And there are many answers, some officially pronounced by church authorities, some by individuals. Ultimately, each person must give his/her own answer.
This is my answer.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ was God-come-to-earth, God’s creation of the perfect man. That idea has a richness that confirms our value as human beings, because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”, as John’s gospel tells us. In Jesus, we have been given a vision of the perfect human being, the assurance that such a being CAN exist in spite of all the evil and pettiness we see around us.
The coming of Jesus calls us all to a higher version of ourselves, a better self. The coming of Jesus set the standard of human behavior much higher than it had been before. All of us have our failures as human beings, but the fact of Jesus Christ allows us to better understand when we fail and gives us hope that we – and other people, as well — can do better, can be more like the Christ.
Then there is his story. We have only pieces of his story — bio-sketches in the gospels, along with some of his key teachings. Some of the things that happened in that story, however, are fundamentally shocking.
He could have come to earth as Superman, but he didn’t. He came as a helpless little baby. He chose to be born poor – not the first choice of most of us. He worked his way up in the world by his words, backed up by his works – both of which were extraordinary.
He chose peaceful rebellion instead of military force. He forgave his enemies. He called everyone his brother (or sister). And he worked miracles on occasion to demonstrate that he had the power to do otherwise but chose kindness and mercy rather than violence and force. So, they killed him.
But then he did the most spectacular deed of all: he rose from the dead!
Therein lie the lessons of the perfect man: powerful yet humble, peaceful yet killed by violence, defeated yet triumphant, defining victory as resurrection rather than domination. His message is an interpretation of human life at odds with everything the world teaches us about a successful life. It is a call to become a better person.
The transcendent lesson is pretty clear: We are all going to die. What will matter then is how we lived. How closely to that perfect human being have we been able to become?
Christmas celebrates the coming of God to earth, to us. It is a thrilling realization that this event happened, this event that brings hope and joy and forgiveness into our lives and gives us a vision of the mountain top from which we can launch our own resurrection. If God so loved us, then we are all worth loving, we all can love fearlessly, completely and happily.
We celebrate and give each other gifts as a recognition of God’s love for each of us, of your value as a person loved by God and loved by me – a value which was revealed once and for all on the day that God sent his Son to be born in a manger in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.
So, yes, Christmas is still relevant.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!