Trump wonders what US gets out of helping people

So, the US had a deal with Australia to take some refugees that were seeking to settle in Australia and Trump had a phone call with their Prime Minister. How did that go?

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief – a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Donald Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

Wonderful, what was that main point of contention?

‘‘This is the worst deal ever,’’ Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center.

Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admissions of refugees, complained that he was ‘‘going to get killed’’ politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the ‘‘next Boston bombers.’’

Trump returned to the topic late Wednesday night, writing in a message on Twitter, ‘‘Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!’’

The issue centers on a population of roughly 2,500 people who sought asylum in Australia but were diverted to facilities off that country’s coast at Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Deplorable conditions at those sites prompted intervention from the United Nations and a pledge from the United States to accept about half of those refugees, provided they passed U.S. security screening.

Trump was also skeptical because he did not see a specific advantage the United States would gain by honoring the deal, officials said.

Trump needs there to be an advantage to him to help refugees? Of course he does.

Now I’m scared to see what he said to the Mexican President:

President Donald Trump warned in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart that he was ready to send U.S. troops to stop ‘‘bad hombres down there’’ unless the Mexican military does more to control them, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.

Ah, a war with Mexico, that sounds like something Trump would think about.

And how would a war under Trump go? Here’s (via here) a clue:

U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.

As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.

Welcome to Trump World, I hope we survive the place.

Trump wants to block all Muslims

The LA Times talks about the goal of the travel ban:

Trump’s top advisors on immigration, including chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior advisor Stephen Miller, see themselves as launching a radical experiment to fundamentally transform how the U.S. decides who is allowed into the country and to block a generation of people who, in their view, won’t assimilate into American society.

That project may live or die in the next three months, as the Trump administration reviews whether and how to expand the visa ban and alter vetting procedures. White House aides are considering new, onerous security checks that could effectively limit travel into the U.S. by people from majority-Muslim countries to a trickle.

and why they’re doing it:

The trio, who make up part of Trump’s inner circle, have a dark view of refugee and immigration flows from majority-Muslim countries, believing that if large numbers of Muslims are allowed to enter the U.S., parts of American cities will begin to replicate disaffected and disenfranchised immigrant neighborhoods in France, Germany and Belgium that have been home to perpetrators of terrorist attacks in Europe in recent years.

Within decades, Americans would have “the kind of large and permanent domestic terror threat that becomes multidimensional and multigenerational and becomes sort of a permanent feature,” one senior administration official argued.

“We don’t want a situation where, 20 to 30 years from now, it’s just like a given thing that on a fairly regular basis there is domestic terror strikes, stores are shut up or that airports have explosive devices planted, or people are mowed down in the street by cars and automobiles and things of that nature,” the official said.

These are the same kind of statements that have in the past included the Irish, Italians, Greeks, and Jews, among others. It is typical of racist xenophobes like Trump and Bannon. Umm, let’s look at some murder rates:

  • United States: 3.9 per 100,000
  • Belgium: 1.8
  • France: 1.2
  • Germany: 0.9

I would hate for the US to become one of those violent hellholes.

Trump: let’s be nasty and make the US less safe

So, President Trump has decided to go the anti-life route:

President Trump signed an order Friday to suspend admission of all refugees for 120 days while a new system is put in place to tighten vetting for those from predominantly Muslim countries and give preference to religious minorities. Trump said that the goal is to screen out “radical Islamic terrorists” and that priority for admission would be given to Christians.

People are given refugee status if there is a danger to staying in their country, so it’s almost certain that people will die because of this order.

Also, Trump he wants to give priority to Christians, but Kevin Drum notices that the country that sent the most refugees to the US last year was the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is a majority Christian country. He can’t even discriminate against Muslims right.

The order went into affect immediately so even people who were in the air when it was signed have been blocked. Let’s look at some:

The lawyers said that one of the Iraqis detained at Kennedy Airport, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, had worked on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for 10 years. The other, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was coming to the United States to join his wife, who had worked for a U.S. contractor, and young son, the lawyers said. They said both men had been detained at the airport Friday night after arriving on separate flights.

So, Iraqis who had helped US troops and had been given permission to enter the US after a long screening process were blocked. Given they were targeted because they helped the US, I wonder how many Iraqis will be willing to help US troops in the future? If fewer Iraqis are willing to help, that will make the job more dangerous for US troops. Thanks Donald.

As an aside, a coincidence has been noticed:

The order would place a 30-day stop to visas for immigrant and visitor visas for travelers from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia, all Muslim-majority countries whose citizens the order says “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” But it would not affect travelers from all Muslim countries — the ban does not apply to Egypt, Turkey, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, which by complete coincidence are all countries where the Trump Organization has business interests.
If this was anyone other than Trump, everyone would know it really was a coincidence but with Trump you never know.
Note: The ACLU has filed suit on the behalf of the refugees that were blocked. It might be a good time to support the ACLU.

The Good Samaritan

I’m not religious (being agnostic and all) but I went to Sunday School when I was a kid and so have heard the Parable of the Good Samaritan (go here for the passage):

25 Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;(Deuteronomy 6:5) and your neighbor as yourself.”(Leviticus 19:18)
28 He said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31  By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32  In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33  But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, 34  came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ 36  Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?”
37 He said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
A bit of background: Samaritans and Jews came from the same religious background but had split and now didn’t like each other much. So if you replace the injured man with someone from your group and the Samaritan with someone from a group that you don’t get along with, you get the idea of what Jesus what saying. Martin Luther King Jr. looks at this here in a fairly famous way here (in his I’ve been to the mountaintop speech in Memphis):

One day a man came to Jesus and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base.  Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from midair and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho.  And he talked about a certain man who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side; they didn’t stop to help him. Finally, a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying this was the good man, this was the great man because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother.

Now, you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that one who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony. And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem, or down to Jericho, rather, to organize a Jericho Road Improvement Association.  That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho Road is a dangerous road.  I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho.  And as soon as we got on that road I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road.  It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about twelve hundred miles, or rather, twelve hundred feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about twenty-two feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road.  In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around.  Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking , and he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” That’s the question before you tonight.

Now let’s see what Republicans are saying about Syrian refugees (from here, here, and here):

More than half the nation’s governors say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states, although the final say on this contentious immigration issue will fall to the federal government.

States protesting the admission of refugees range from Alabama and Georgia, to Texas and Arizona, to Michigan and Illinois, to Maine and New Hampshire. Among these 31 states, all but one have Republican governors.

“We cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion,” (Speaker of the House) Ryan said Tuesday after meeting with House Republicans. “This is a moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.”

Most of the Republican presidential candidates have called for the program (a program to bring in refugees) to be suspended, though Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas wants to make exceptions for Christians.

Breaking from the pack, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush shifted his approach Tuesday and said the U.S. should not do away with its “noble tradition” of helping refugees.

In a letter to Ryan, Ben Carson — the retired neurosurgeon and a Republican front-runner — called for Congress to block funding for any programs “that seek to resettle refugees and/or migrants from Syria into the United States, effective immediately.”

“Until we can sort out the bad guys we must not be foolish,” Carson said in a news conference in Nevada.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee similarly heaped pressure on Ryan, saying in a statement: “Speaker Ryan needs to make it clear that if the President won’t stand to protect America from wholesale open borders, then Republicans will.”

“If Ryan will not lead and reject the importation of those fleeing the Middle East without assurances that we can separate refugees from terrorists, then Speaker Ryan needs to step down today and let someone else lead,” Huckabee said.

In addition, Govs. John Kasich and Bobby Jindal of Ohio and Louisiana, respectively, said they would work to keep refugees out of their states.

All of these men claim to be Christians (hell, Huckabee is a minister), which means they all know about the Good Samaritan and what they are supposed to do if they want to go to heaven. It turns out they are all the Priest or Levite in the story (if you look at King’s interpretation you can see that’s exactly what they are) and, according to Jesus, not good neighbors.

Now, as I said above, I’m not a Christian and so I want the people to be screened before they’re accepted into the US, which is already being done–the process takes 18-24 months, but I want the US to help these people even if they end up in my neighborhood. I guess I’m just more of a Christian than all those Republicans.

Why Is US Not a Haven

A while ago, I linked to a story about a Canadian judge who decided officially that the US does not protect refugees. I guess it’s a big story up in Canada, but here in the US we don’t care what Canada thinks and, it seems, we don’t really care about refugees. Still, the NY Times has an update on the story with more details:

The case concerned a 2002 agreement between the United States and Canada on the treatment of people fleeing persecution from other places, and the agreement itself requires compliance with international conventions on refugees and torture.

Under the deal, which became effective three years ago this month, people from other countries entering Canada from the United States by land could no longer ask for asylum, on the theory that they should have done so in the United States. (The agreement works in reverse, too, but most refugee traffic moves north.)

In his studiously technical 124-page decision, Justice Phelan found that a one-year deadline for filing asylum claims here, enacted by Congress in 1996, had been applied in recent years in ways that violated the international convention on refugees.

He found a similar flaw in a provision of the USA Patriot Act that, as interpreted by the Bush administration’s immigration courts, allows people to be excluded for providing material support to terrorists — even if the support was coerced or under duress.

In other words, providing food at gunpoint may be material support of terrorism, as is paying ransom for a kidnapped relative.

Justice Phelan’s decision also cited the findings of a Canadian commission in the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian whom the United States sent to Syria, where the commission said he was tortured.

“Canada, which has a lot of respect for the institutions and traditions of the United States, was forced to conclude that the U.S. is violating refugees’ rights,” said Janet Dench, the executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

“It should be a wake-up call,” she said, sounding a little plaintive.

Of course, the Bush administration doesn’t seem to care. What a surprise.

Canadian Judge Says US Not a Safe Place for Refugees

This isn’t surprising to hear from liberals, but an offical ruling from a Canadian Judge?

According to Canadian news accounts, Justice Michael Phelan’s ruling struck down an agreement that once barred thousands of refugees seeking asylum in Canada. The judge said the United States does not protect refugees fleeing political persecution and torture, which international conventions require.

Instead, it adheres to rigid policies which may result in mistreatment, including forcing victims of abuse to return to the countries in which they were mistreated, he said.

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