Donald Trump

27 posts

Nationalism Is Hiding in Plain Sight

Nationalism is hiding in plain sight today in almost every corner of the globe, coming at us fast as global economies and governments seek to protect “their own,” whatever that means.

Since taking office, President Donald Trump‘s brand of nationalism has come into focus – economic nationalism. Companies and jobs stay in the U.S. to benefit American workers. Immigrants and outsiders are bad and must be kept out of the country. America should not concern itself with other nations’ problems. America First!

There is another type of nationalism loose in the land that’s not as recognized or lamented – Puerto Rican nationalism, which has been growing for years after a lapse in the 1940s, considered its hey day.

Puerto Rican Nationalism

Puerto Rican nationalism has much in common with Trumpism. Puerto Rico comes first, last and always. Puerto Rico does it better. (This was a tourism slogan until the island’s economy collapsed). ¡Alza la bandera! Puerto Rico can do no wrong, not even in its current economic debacle.

Under the thumb of the United States for over a century, the territory of Puerto Rico has limited agency, which accounts for some – but not all – its nationalistic instincts. These are instincts whose boasts obscure a lack of confidence not an abundance of it, that demands Puerto Rico’s purported uniqueness or singularity be proclaimed every hour on the hour.

They sound a lot like Trump’s trademark claims, aimed at those who have lost confidence in the nation and need much affirmation. As if saying so makes it so.

But if nationalism is bad for America – as both the right and left state – it must be bad for Puerto Rico as well. If Trump is allegedly gaming voters, who are Puerto Ricans gaming? If Puerto Ricans can identify nationalism in Trump, how is it that we cannot identify it in ourselves?

“Puerto Rican nationalism throughout the 20th century has been characterized by Hispanophilia, anti-Americanism, Negrophobia, androcentrism, homophobia, and, more recently, xenophobia,” writes Jorge Duany, the author of several books on Puerto Rico.

All are hallmarks of nationalism. How can this be helpful in forging Puerto Rico’s future?

Quest for Equality

For instance, the quest for Puerto Rico statehood or equality often is built on Puerto Rico’s supposed uniqueness, as lawyer Anthony Suárez argues here in a recent Orlando Sentinel column marking the 100th anniversary of American citizenship for Puerto Ricans.

Puerto Rico is “a perfect bridge” to Latin America. It is “strategically placed.” The island can “lead the charge in American values and institutions.” And on and on, Suárez states.

Which is irrelevant. The island ought to be admitted as a state or cut loose not because it is special but because second-class citizenship is untenable in the United States, where equality supposedly rules. Period.

Corporate Exploitation

In a counterargument, law student Phillip Arroyo states, “The island has been exploited by corporate America for decades through exotic tax loopholes.” Because, of course, Puerto Rico is a passive vessel for American greed.

True up to a point. Puerto Rico and Congress collaborated for decades – with the full consent of the island’s political establishment – on a number of federal tax schemes to bolster the island’s economy whose engine has never generated sufficient activity for its people.

One such “loophole” poured billions of corporate dollars into the island’s banking system, enabling Puerto Rico banks to reinvest the cash in mortgages, auto loans, small business loans and more, benefitting locals (often at usurious rates).

Not a Victim

Then Congress, stalking additional revenue, took it away. Puerto Rico was not a victim. It was a partner that preferred rapid development to creating its own entrepreneurial class, which would have taken longer to develop. As a U.S. territory it took full advantage of the U.S. bond market – Wall Street – borrowing billions to fill budget holes rather than make needed reforms. Until it could no longer borrow.

Puerto Rico was not a victim. It was a partner in its own financial demise. (But Puerto Rico is not a partner in federal programs, in which It is treated unequally.)

A Cult

Pride in ethnicity or identity results in cultish behavior, a religiosity about anything related to Puerto Rico or Puerto Ricans. An egregious example: the 2016 Kissimmee race for mayor which pitted Cuban-American José Alvarez against Puerto Rican Art Otero, who pulled out all the stops to remind voters to “vote Puerto Rican.” As if shared ethnicity were sufficient qualification for elected office. (Imagine a campaign that urged people to “vote white.”)

Fortunately, voters did not play along, supporting the better qualified candidate – Alvarez – with the help of many non Hispanic voters, to be sure.

How can Puerto Rican nationalism help the island? How can nationalism help Puerto Ricans in Florida and other states, where nationalism often is even more pronounced, as in the previous example?

More to the point, has Puerto Rican nationalism helped in any way?  No.

Infantilizing Puerto Rico

Insistence on Puerto Rico victimhood infantilizes the island, shooing away unpleasant truths in which Puerto Rico apparently has no agency, no ability to act. Which is not entirely true.

Cries of nationhood are hollow when Puerto Rico itself has professed little desire to be independent.

Talk of Puerto Rico’s greatness does not bolster confidence but makes it suspect, helping to create faux heroes such as ex-terrorist Oscar López Rivera. Or mythologizing our indigenous past or revolutionary resistance. Having “confidence in confidence” doesn’t mean you possess it.

Alza la bandera, if you will. But for Puerto Ricans faced with economic and migrant crises aquí y allá  the way to harness the future is to unfurl the flag with less rah-rah and more realism grounded in an actionable agenda. Or continue to suffer the consequences of shoddy sovereignty.

˜˜Maria T. Padilla, Editor

Homeland Security Casts Wide Net Over Undocumented Immigrants

The new immigration enforcement directive casts a wide net over undocumented immigrants in the U.S. /ICE

The Department of Homeland Security Tuesday cast a wide net over undocumented immigrants in a new enforcement directive that broadened the categories of who is subject to  apprehension and potentially deportation.

The move is likely to exacerbate the fear and anxiety running through immigrant communities since Donald Trump was elected president.

One man at an immigration meeting with newly minted Congressman Darren Soto said it felt like “it’s attack after attack.”

The DHS directive is in response to a January 25 executive order by President Trump, titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”

Broad Categories

Because it is so broad just about anybody can be stopped, questioned, detained and deported, including undocumented immigrants who:

 (I) have been convicted of any criminal offense;

(2) have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;

(3) have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense;

(4) have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency;

(5) have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;

(6) are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States;

or (7) in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.

Categories (2) and (3) make it clear that the directive doesn’t target only undocumented individuals convicted of a crime, as former President Barack Obama‘s previous priority did, but the undocumented can be detained and removed if they are charged but not yet convicted of a crime, a potential opening for lawyers to challenge as that provision may violate due process.

Shift in Approach

The directive represents a wholesale shift in thinking and approach about how to handle the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants in the U.S., many of whom are Latinos. Previous estimates indicated that fewer than 1 million undocumented immigrants remained in the country who had been convicted of crimes which made them deportable.

Under Obama’s eight-year administration, nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants were deported, an unprecedented number, prompting some critics to label him the “Deporter in Chief.”

The new enforcement action aims at all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States – with the exception of the undocumented children and parents who fall under Obama’s “deferred action” programs.

Exemption for DACA and DAPA

The exemptions of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for  Parental Arrivals (DAPA) are the sole bright spots in an otherwise bearish immigration enforcement directive.

DACA and DAPA beneficiaries total about 4 million.

To ensure enforcement, the directive also calls for hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, nearly doubling the current number and boosting the likelihood of a run-in with ICE.

Many Latinos – undocumented or not, citizen or permanent resident or not – have a higher chance of being stopped and questioned as immigration agents search for the undocumented among us.

Immigrant Profiling

Farmworker advocate Tirso Moreno likened it to a form of profiling during Congressman Soto’s immigration community meeting.  Moreno also raised the issue of potential “bullying in the streets” of people stopped at traffic signals, for instance.

“I realize it’s not going to be easy,” Soto replied.

Soto added that lawsuits are likely as there are “many institutions that are ready to step up,” referring to colleges and universities that have indicated they are not going to comply with immigration orders.

Miami-Dade County has taken the opposite course, as its County Commission voted last week to end its status as a sanctuary for immigrants and agreed to cooperate with federal immigration officials. Miami-Dade has the largest population of immigrants in Florida.

Florida Ranks Third in Undocumented Immigrants

According to Pew Research, Florida ranks third in the nation for undocumented immigrants,  placing the state behind California and Texas. The Center for Migration Policy estimates there are over 700,000 undocumented immigrants in Florida.

Plus, about two-thirds of those undocumented did not cross the southern border with Mexico, as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) has indicated. They entered the country legally but overstayed their visas, considered a civil offense.

About 66 percent of the nation’s undocumented immigrant adults have been in the country at least a decade, the Pew Research reported, making them long-term residents.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Venezuela Gets Attention in Trump Tweet

The presidential tweet and photo op in support of imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López. / Trump Twitter feed

Venezuela got some attention this week from President Donald Trump, who earlier publicly supported Venezuela opposition leader Leopoldo López in a tweet

Trump may have been encouraged by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), who was photographed with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and López’s wife Lilian Tintori in the White House, perhaps also signaling that all is forgiven between Rubio – whom Trump mocked as “Lil Marco” throughout the presidential campaign – and the President.

Rubio and his wife later were scheduled to have dinner with Trump in the White House.

“Venezuela should allow Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner & husband of (just met w/ ) out of prison immediately,” Trump tweeted.

Foreign Policy magazine asked, “Could it be that the Venezuelan president is one strongman Trump doesn’t like?”

Venezuela does deserve U.S. attention. It is without a doubt a rogue nation. The once oil-rich country has plummeted into poverty, its people are starving, its constitutional guarantees under attack. Venezuela accused opposition leader López, an economist trained in the U.S.,  of inciting violence and anti-government protests. He was imprisoned about three years ago.

Obama Executive Order

Before leaving office, Barack Obama renewed an executive order designating Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to national security. Obama explained that Venezuela’s situation had not improved since the original executive order dated March 2015.

Obama argued against the Venezuelan government’s alleged “erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to anti-government protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of anti-government protestors, as well as the exacerbating presence of significant government corruption.”

Venezuela Shuts Down CNN en Español

Venezuela this week took CNN en Español off the air over its report about fraudulent Venezuelan passports, including passports to people alleged to have terrorism ties. It was one of Venezuela’s few remaining foreign news gathering operations.

CNN en Español  “instigates religious, racial and political hatred,” justified Venezuela’s Telecommunications Commission Director Andrés Eloy Méndez, who also accused the network of distorting the truth, generating a climate of intolerance and being an “imperialistic media organization.”

CNN en Español responded that it would put its live feed on YouTube and make it available in Venezuela.

Sanctions Venezuela Vice President

Prior to the Venezuelan government pulling the plug on CNN en Español the Trump administration hit Venezuela Vice President Tareck El Aissami with sanctions, stating he’s an international drug trafficker. The U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions freezes El Aissami’s assets in the U.S. and prohibits Americans from doing business with him.

CNN en Español and CNN conducted a year-long investigation into El Aissami, linking him to the passport scandal as well.

Protest at Lake Eola

On Saturday the Orlando area’s Venezuelan community was scheduled to march in Lake Eola against the Venezuelan government’s latest move. “No+ Dictatura en Venezuela” read poster for the event, to place at the bust of Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan who “liberated the Americas” in the 19th century.

The protest was to take place in conjunction with worldwide protests in 18-plus cities around the world, also including Miami, New York, Houston, Charlotte (NC) and Washington, D.C.

Orlando’s Venezuelan community tends to be fiercely against President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chávez. Some people posted the CNN live feed link on their Facebook pages.

“Hasta cuando Venezuela, cada día nos cierran más las pocas ventanas de liberated de expresión, reaccionemos,” stated the Facebook post of Pedro Elías Carrasco García, who lives in Venezuela. (Until when, Venezuela. Each day they close the few windows of freedom of expression. We should react.”

Elections Officials Strike Back at Trump

Trump’s allegations of voter fraud could lead people to lose confidence in the electoral process.

President Trump continues to make unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud during the 2016 presidential elections, this time calling for a major federal investigation into what most experts say is a nonexistent problem.

Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million to Hillary Clinton, the highest for any presidential candidate, but he won the Electoral College vote by a narrow margin.

If left unchecked, Trump’s allegations could undermine the nation’s electoral system as voters lose confidence in the voting process. In addition, it could prompt unnecessary actions, such as a repeal of motor voter laws that make it easier to register to vote and to unreasonable voter ID requirements. These and other measures would fall heavily on the Latino and African American voter communities.

Seminole Elections Supervisor Michael Ertel
Orange Elections  Supervisor Bill Cowles

But two well-respected Central Florida elections officials –  Orange and Seminole Counties  Supervisors of Elections Michael Ertel and Bill Cowles  – are speaking out against Trump’s debunked claims.

“Voter fraud is likely one of the least committed felonies in America,” wrote Ertel and Cowles in response to Trump’s assertions in a dual post published on Facebook. “Florida’s system, while not perfect, is among the best at ensuring voter trust.”

(Full disclosure: I have been a poll worker in Seminole County under Ertel and I also translate Seminole County ballot material.)

Here, in their own words, are Ertel’s and Cowles’ answer  to Trump’s assertions.

“Long, but important post. President Trump has created quite the kerfuffle with today’s tweets concerning voter fraud. To be clear: voter fraud is likely one of the least committed felonies in America, and barring system-wide collusion, it is simply not the case that “millions voted illegally.” However, there are always political operatives who attempt to manipulate the process throughout, and to pretend it doesn’t exist at all, is to either be putting your head in the sand or to exercise an extreme naivete of the presence of dirty political tactics. There is good news: Florida’s system, while not perfect, is among the best at ensuring voter trust. We have hard-working, ethical supervisors of elections, and Seminole County is home to pollworkers and staff who together constitute America’s Finest Elections Team. Moreover, like with any crime, there are things which can be done at the state and local levels to decrease the likelihood of the crime being committed. From strong enforcement of existing laws, to realistic voter registration guidelines, to common sense photo ID laws with non-arduous provisions for those without an ID, to local election officials who are savvy enough to identify the potential threat areas and create procedures for eliminating or minimizing the threats, to community members contacting their elections administrators if they see anything they’re not comfortable with. Like with any endeavor, we can’t stop all bad actors from attempts, but we can work together to ensure their efforts are thwarted. An honest appraisal of the process is fair, and if done in a dignified, professional manner, could certainly bear positive results. Because after this new discussion, the trust in the democratic process of electing our republic’s leaders now hangs in the balance.”

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor