Amy Siskind has published a weekly list of specific news stories representing eroding norms in the United States since Donald Trump took office. It’s a depressing read, and in recent weeks it’s gotten longer and more intense.
Over the weekend, we learned about an administration effort to quash a UN resolution encouraging breastfeeding. This wasn’t just a “hey, we disagree” situation; representatives of the U.S. Government threatened backers with trade sanctions and cuts to military aid. Outrageous.
Our taxpayer dollars also paid for a successful effort at this World Health Assembly meeting removing suggestions of introducing a soda tax from a document advising countries on fighting high rates of obesity.
This week in San Diego, mass trials for people charged with immigration violations, aka Operation Streamline, are starting up. Lawyers for the accused get a few minutes to speak with their clients in a courthouse garage, with US Marshalls standing nearby.
Then there’s this Associated Press story making the rounds today:
The 1-year-old boy in a green button-up shirt drank milk from a bottle, played with a small purple ball that lit up when it hit the ground and occasionally asked for “agua.”
Then it was the child’s turn for his court appearance before a Phoenix immigration judge, who could hardly contain his unease with the situation during the portion of the hearing where he asks immigrant defendants whether they understand the proceedings.
“I’m embarrassed to ask it, because I don’t know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law,” Judge John W. Richardson told the lawyer representing the 1-year-old boy.
Outraged yet? Siskind’s got a whopping 164 abnormalities for the week from the Trump administration in her July 7 posting. Many of these blemishes on democracy could be cause for a protest rally. It’s too much, too often, and way too easy to be overwhelmed.
Ending this Trumpian shop of horrors demands discipline and focus on the part of activists.
Defending the victims, whether they be immigrants caught up in sweeps, people of color abused by MAGAts who feel empowered to express their racism, or sexual abuse survivors unable to seek justice because predators of a certain political persuasion are considered a protected class, must be a priority.
Making the connections between the actions of the current regime and the benefits accruing for those at the top of the economic ladder is another priority. The US actions at the United Nations this past week, in addition to the misogynist agenda they serve, were also about protecting the interests of the pharmaceutical and food processing companies marketing infant formula. The border security “crisis” is a stand-in for racism.
Discipline and focus also mean taking into consideration the intersectionality of oppression as an important component of analysis leading to calls for the public to take action. And wasting people’s time to make a political point or prove partisan purity is a sure path to failure.
Today I’ll examine two failed local responses to the current political climate. One involves a reaction to the holding facilities for immigrant children in the region. And the other involves shaming local politicians for receiving contributions from corporations connected with the private prison industry.
I’m going to try an keep this positive. I’m not trying to be the arbiter of whether or not protests or causes are worthy. I’m not naming names (though it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out). I am presenting these examples in the hope folks learn from other’s mistakes.
A protest scheduled for the East County targeting facilities housing immigrant children swept up by border officials was canceled.
The company targeted was Southwest Key, which seems like an easy target when you learn the Trump administration will be paying them nearly a half billion dollars in 2018 to house immigrant children detained while trying to cross the border.
Four years ago Southwest Key was the good guy in an immigration drama playing out in San Diego. Bigots in Escondido had their way with Sam Abed’s City Council, working a crowd into a frenzy to deny a conditional use permit for a facility housing children from Central America.
This was during a surge of children and families from Central America trying to cross the border to seek asylum. Right wingers greeted the busses carrying these refugees with scorn and a heapin’ plate of racism. At the time I remember being told these not-so-friendly greetings were facilitated by insiders at the Border Patrol calling local nativists.
— Abbie Alford (@AbbieNews8) June 25, 2014
Here’s a snip from my reporting at the time:
By a 7-0 vote the commission decided not to approve the project, saying it would generate more noise and traffic in the neighborhood.
Here’s an example of what was being used to whip up hatred in the community:
The people of Escondido are about to be invaded with criminals from foreign countries, sent to them by the President of the United States. A former hospital closed due to low ObamaCare reimbursements, is being transformed into either a prison or a group home. Of course, once Barack drops them off in Northern San Diego County nothing stops them from walking away and into the shadows of our large towns nearby
The facility in question, once known as the Palomar Continuing Care Center, was closed due to cuts in payments from the State of California caused by the 2011 budget crisis.
The ACLU sued the City of Escondido, which ended up settling in 2017. Taxpayers in that city shelled out $550,000 for an action by politicians costing the area 90 jobs and an estimated $6 – 7 million in new local revenue. But, hey, there was no admission of liability, so nobody had to confess to be racist.
Some of the people who led the counter-protests against the right wingers at the Temecula border facility managed to prevail upon the would-be organizers of this year’s planned protests in El Cajon. The terrified looks of the children in those busses in 2014 still haunt many of us. The protest was canceled.
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned (and they are far from perfect) about Southwest Key’s ability to house the children given the present political atmosphere; scaring their charges shouldn’t be one of them.
Here’s a quote from a deep dive into the company, via Henry Grabra at Slate:
Southwest Key released a statement announcing its opposition to the family separation policy, though only after the Trump administration suspended it in response to public outrage. But Sanchez has not expressed regrets for taking in separated kids. Where Houston’s Mayor Turner saw complicity, he saw an obligation. “If we don’t take care of them, who’s going to take care of them?” he said in an interview with a Houston television station. “They’re going to wind up in a detention center, a real detention center, and other facilities that are not adequate for children.”
That was not an abstract question. Every former Southwest Key employee I spoke to was personally against the Trump administration’s family separation policy. But once kids had been separated from their parents, they suggested—as Sanchez had—wouldn’t it be better for them to wind up in reputable, clean, safe facilities? Facilities once acclaimed as a model by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council?
Next up, we get into the thorny question of politicians who’ve accepted contributions from companies reaping huge profits off the private prisons being filled with immigrant detainees.
First of all, this is an issue worth raising. The question worth asking is how much time and energy needs to be directed at politicians who’ve–for the most part–played by the rules everybody else does. This money is ubiquitous in California politics.
From Capital Weekly:
…in deep blue California, it is the Democrats who take in the most contributions from for-profit correctional corporations, primarily Florida’s The GEO Group and the Tennessee-based CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America.
Both The GEO Group and CoreCivic own and operate immigration detention facilities for the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), facilities that are at the center of President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.
California Democrats – the state party, candidates, and affiliated PACs – received about $250,000 from GEO Group and CoreCivic thus far during the 2017-18 election cycle. GEO Group contributed $156,000, while CoreCivic gave $94,839. Relative to the dollars contributed to Democrats by tech, developers, unions, gambling, and cannabis interests, the money is small. However, private prison contributions to Democrats are more than double what Republicans received ($100,000).
Congressman Juan Vargas, who has been an advocate for migrants during his tenure in Washington, had an uncomfortable encounter at the Keep Families Together rally in June.
After Vargas denied ever receiving contributions from any of those companies, activist Mark Lane whipped out his cell phone with a screen proving otherwise, to the tune of $3000, right after Vargas said he’d make a charitable donation equal to ten times the amount if any could be proved. There is no word on who’s getting the $30,000 yet.
State Senator Toni Atkins announced $12,000 in donations via press release on Friday spread out to ACLU, Alliance San Diego, Casa Conelia Law Center, and the ABA Immigration Justice Project.
Saying she never personally solicited any donations from private prison companies, Atkins went on to say given the injustice of Trump policies it was appropriate to assist those affected by the Zero Tolerance policies.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has also made donations to various organizations “to make up for the fact that I take money from entities I don’t agree with.” I’ve seen the list, by the way, but am honoring the Assemblywoman’s request to keep it low key.
She says–and I agree–a legislator’s record is the most important basis for understanding their worth, whether it’s to the community or corporations. This business of claiming legally allowable donations automatically determining allegiance is highly overrated. People who believe $3000 buys a legislator’s loyalty need to get a grip on reality.
I’m glad local politicians are doing the right thing with private prison corporations’ donations. Former Sheriff candidate Dave Myers is right to be pressing this issue. Others should do the same.
Most of all, the Democratic Party at the State and local level need to take a stand. No press releases needed.
As a practical matter, none of the local Democrats who’ve accepted private prison money are facing challengers who would do anything different. So let’s ask them and ask them some more, at least until a meaningful alternative exists.
A public protest next week aimed at local Dems has only nine people signed up attend as of this morning. Good.
The (now) weekly protest at Customs & Border Protection (CBP) Sector HQ in Chula Vista is a much better investment of time and energy. I can only hope it takes on the same kind of attention the weekly Issa protests ended up attracting.
There is a petition at Change.org out there asking local Democrats and the party to reject Core Civic money. I like the idea, hate the execution.
I won’t sign it or link to it because it’s part of a certain bitter and failed candidate’s revenge scheme. Only one Democrat gets mentioned, one who happens to be married to the winner in the particular contest the failed candidate lost.
There are simply more important things to be doing presently. As somebody who covers and participates in local political activism, I know all about supporting more than one cause and chewing gum at the same time. And there are simply some people who have bad ideas not worth supporting, even if they claim to be righteous.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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