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Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley, Facing Progressive Challenge, Turns to GOP Lobbying Firm for Cash

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/06/2018 - 8:25am in

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House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., is raising last-minute campaign cash from a corporate lobbying firm famous for its ties to the Republican Party.

Faced with a surprisingly strong challenge from progressive first-time candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s Democratic primary, Crowley, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, is slated to appear at the the offices of BGR Group on 13th Street in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon for a fundraising reception, according to a copy of an invitation obtained by The Intercept.

The fundraiser is at an odd venue for a Democrat who claims to be an avowed opponent of the GOP.

The invitation lists Crowley’s position in leadership of the Democratic Party and as a member of the powerful Ways & Means Committee, which oversees tax policy. The fundraiser, which asks for $500 minimum to attend as an individual and $1,000 to attend for political action committees, is at an odd venue for a Democrat who claims to be an avowed opponent of the GOP.

BGR is named for its founding partners, all of whom are Republican: Haley Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chair; Ed Rogers, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan; and Lanny Griffith, a former education official in President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

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The firm boasts a high-profile list of clients, many of whom face contentious issues on Capitol Hill.

BGR Group represents defense giants Raytheon, Huntington Ingalls, and United Technologies on procurement. Pharmaceutical firms, including Eli Lilly and Company, retain BGR Group explicitly to stave off the threat of lowering drug prices, according to lobbying disclosures. Cardinal Health — which is facing lawsuits across the country for its role in fueling the opioid epidemic by supplying known “pill-mill” pharmacies — hired BGR Group on pending legislation dealing with “pharmaceutical product distribution.” Other firms facing increasing scrutiny, including Amazon, Verizon, and Chevron, are also BGR Group clients.

BGR also boasts a roster of foreign-based clients. The company represents several foreign governments, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is known for hiring Washington influence-peddling firms as it seeks support for a brutal war it is waging in Yemen. BGR also represents two companies controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman: Alfa Bank and LetterOne Holdings. The FBI is reportedly scrutinizing suspicious communications between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank’s computer servers during the presidential campaign.

Though the firm was founded as a uniquely partisan outfit, the company has hired Democrats in recent years to expand its bipartisan outreach on behalf of clients. Jonathan Mantz, one of the hosts of the Crowley event, is a BGR Group lobbyist involved in Democratic politics.

But the firm continues to be an outspoken voice within the GOP. Rogers, BGR Group’s chair, pens a regular column for the Washington Post. In a column last month, he scorned Democrats for capitulating “to the shallow-minded embrace of socialism” embodied by progressives such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

BGR Group, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on why they were hosting Crowley on Wednesday. Crowley’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration and BGR enjoy friendly relations.

The Trump administration and BGR enjoy friendly relations. The firm’s lobbyists were invited to some of the first transition meetings after the election. While much of K Street bet on Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, BGR Group was one of the few lobbying outfits to donate directly to Donald Trump’s campaign.

The invitation to the Wednesday fundraiser also lists Maggie Gage, a lobbyist with the financial conglomerate Credit Suisse, as a host. The Swiss investment bank was involved in an effort to convince Crowley to help pressure regulators against the Volcker Rule, a signature provision of the Dodd-Frank law that regulated financial firms.

As The Intercept reported, Crowley’s rise within Democratic Party ranks is tied to his ability to raise large sums of money from corporate lobbyists and political action committees. He won endorsements from both local and national Democrats with a history of receiving checks from Crowley-controlled PACs.

The money-driven political approach was evident on Monday evening, when Crowley declined to appear with his opponent at a debate in the Bronx, part of the congressional district he is fighting to represent in Washington. Instead, Crowley sent a surrogate, former New York City Council Member Annabel Palma, to debate Ocasio-Cortez. For her part, Palma is also a recipient of Crowley’s campaign finance machine, having received $2,000 from Crowley’s PAC for her previous bids for local office.

Top photo: Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., departs the House of Representatives for the weekend following final votes on June 15, 2018.

The post Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley, Facing Progressive Challenge, Turns to GOP Lobbying Firm for Cash appeared first on The Intercept.

The U.S. Has Taken More Than 3,700 Children From Their Parents — and Has No Plan for Returning Them

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/06/2018 - 8:19am in

The Trump administration’s program of systematically separating migrant children from their parents is steadily expanding, government officials confirmed Tuesday. Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s “zero tolerance” doctrine, U.S. authorities have been ordered to criminally prosecute all individuals arrested for illegally crossing the border without exception, including asylum-seekers and parents arriving with small children.

The result has been historic, and catastrophic, with the U.S. government intentionally creating thousands of so-called unaccompanied minors whose immigration cases have now become separate from their parents, plunging them, on their own, into an already overwhelmed system of federal bureaucracies.

In a phone call with reporters, senior officials at the various agencies responsible for the crackdown said thousands of families have been impacted by the measures so far. They added that there is no uniform, border-wide guidance in place establishing rules for how immigration agents on the ground should handle cases involving sensitive populations, such as babies and small children. Instead, officials said, it is up to Border Patrol chiefs at individual stations to exercise “discretion” in determining how to handle such cases. Officials described the ongoing effort as a program aimed at “deterrence.”

Brian Hastings, acting chief of law enforcement operations for the Border Patrol, told reporters that from May 5, 2018, through June 9, 2018, a total of 2,235 families comprising 4,548 people were apprehended along the southern border. “The total number of children that were made UACs through this prosecution initiative,” he explained, was 2,342, and the total number of adults referred for prosecution during that time period was 2,206.

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Graphic: Moiz Syed

“All humanitarian considerations and policies remain in place. There’s discretion given to the field chiefs over each of the nine southwest border sectors for the appropriate referrals for sensitive cases, those include adults who are traveling with traveling with tender-age children,” Hastings said. “The chiefs in the field are allowed to make that discretionary call.” When asked if that meant there was no blanket, border-wide guidance on the separation of infants from their parents, Hastings replied, “That’s correct.” He added that “the chiefs in the field” have “generally” considered children under the age of 5 as being “tender aged.” Hastings could not provide statistics on the number of children under 5 who his agency has separated from their parents.

Steve Wagner, acting assistant secretary at Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is in turn responsible for the children the government is taking into custody, said his agency hopes the program will deter parents from entering the country without authorization. “We expect that the new policy will result in a deterrence effect,” he said. “We certainly hope that parents stop bringing their kids on this dangerous journey and entering the country illegally, so we are prepared to continue to expand capacity as needed. We hope that will not be necessary in the future.”

Wagner had no numbers to provide regarding families who have been reunited, post-prosecution, under the administration’s new program.

Shortly after the call, McClatchy, citing a review of federal data, reported that the “Trump administration has likely lost track of nearly 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children, thousands more than lawmakers were alerted to last month.” Last week, the government said it separated 1,995 children from their parents from April through May. Today, the Border Patrol cited a somewhat larger number — 2,342 — for May through June. Earlier this month, The Intercept reported a minimum of 1,358 children were separated from their parents from October 2017 through mid-May. While precise numbers remain fuzzy, due to overlapping timelines reported by different media outlets, it is safe to say the number of migrant kids separated from their parents by the Trump administration is well over 3,700 and climbing.

Testifying before lawmakers last month, the deputy chief of Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, said he anticipates that the government will continue separating families at a rate of roughly 650 cases every two weeks into the foreseeable future. The Border Patrol chief in the nation’s busiest sector, meanwhile, is pushing his agents to ramp up arrests and prosecutions even more, telling the Washington Post over the weekend that his office has not yet reached 100 percent enforcement — as the administration has called for — but that they are working to get there.

Such an increase would require overcoming the mounting political and public pushback the administration’s efforts are currently receiving. But even if zero tolerance ended tomorrow, thousands of families have already been separated, so the question remains: Is there a functional mechanism in place to insure those parents get their kids back?

For attorneys and advocates on the ground, the answer at the moment is no. In a series of interviews over the last week, federal public defenders and legal advocates working within the immigrant detention system and at the ports in Arizona, as well as providers of care to migrant kids nationally and U.S. immigration officials, were unanimous in their criticism of the system — or lack thereof — currently in place to reunite migrant children with their parents.

Dona Abbott is the branch director of refugee services for Bethany Christian Services, a leading organization involved in placing children in ORR custody in foster care. With more than 40 years of experience dealing with children fleeing violence and persecution, she told The Intercept that there is simply no system in place for the reunification of families to criticize or praise. Instead, she said, there is a never-ending list of questions that people who deal with the fallout of family separations have been forced to answer on their own: How do you reunify children with parents who are being deported? Can we reunify them before they’re deported? What does the parent want? What does the parent say is in the child’s best interest?

“Just finding the parent sometimes is a challenge,” Abbott explained.

  U.S. Border Patrol agents arrive to detain a group of Central American asylum seekers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The group of women and children had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and were detained before being sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum status.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

U.S. Border Patrol agents arrive to detain a group of Central American asylum-seekers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

No System in Place

Sometimes arresting agencies are handing kids over to ORR with identifying information, Abbott said, and sometimes they aren’t. Again, she said, there’s no system in place. “There’s a lot of families and a lot of kids affected by this — a lot,” she said. At the same time, none of the child welfare organizations that deal with unaccompanied minors, which the administration is creating more and more of each week, were consulted or warned before “zero tolerance” became the official enforcement posture of the federal government in early April. “We didn’t have a chance to ask questions and talk about how will the system work,” Abbott said. “Typically, you like to do that.”

Currently, the government’s solution for parents whose children it has taken is a 1-800 number. This also presents a problem, Abbott said, because often parents in detention have little to no access to phones. “What we’re finding is that we’re having to call detention centers,” she explained. As an example, Abbott pointed to the case of an 8-year-old girl who Bethany Christian is currently providing care for. “She’s been separated from her mom about a week, and we just keep calling all of the detention centers,” she explained. “Do you have someone by this name?” they ask. “The 1-800 number hasn’t been called, probably because mom hasn’t been allowed to make the call and we’re just not sure where mom is,” Abbot said.

For little kids, certainty about a parent’s whereabouts is of critical importance, Abbott said. “When you’re 8, a week is a long time,” she said. “You just don’t know, is my mom safe?” The issue of state-enforced separations, involving armed men in uniforms with guns, she added, can be particularly jarring for children from areas in Central America and Mexico where the line between organized crime and government security forces is nonexistent, and the entire purpose of the journey north was to escape precisely those kinds of scenarios. Abbott described the case of 10-year-old boy who tells the story of seeing his father handcuffed before they were separated. “That is scary for someone coming from a country where we know, it’s been reported over and over again, police are corrupted,” Abbott explained.

This particular boy’s ordeal also involved another troubling development emerging in recent cases, Abbott added: agents in the field, specifically Border Patrol agents, making on-the-ground calls about who gets to try to claim asylum and who does not. “Border Patrol seems to have a lot of independence and autonomy in their decisions,” Abbott said. “In the case of this little 10-year-old, there just didn’t seem to be anything other than they didn’t think dad had an asylum case and they immediately deported him, but they didn’t deport his son, and they didn’t make sure they went together. So now we have to try to reunite them. And the son is indigenous, which adds another layer of issues.”

Rather than install a system that reunites children with their parents, the administration has imposed at least one new measure that could decrease that likelihood. Earlier this month, McClatchy reported that ORR had entered into a new agreement with the Department of Homeland Security, in which the agency would share fingerprints and run immigration checks on potential sponsors who come forward to take custody of kids. “It’s not just the parent,” Abbott explained. “The new rule is everyone in the household, every adult in the household, must be fingerprinted, and those fingerprints, all those fingerprints, must be handed over to the Department of Homeland Security for criminal investigation. That means, probably, detention and deportation.” Already, as McClatchy reported, “the percentage of unaccompanied youths claimed by parents has dropped from 60 percent four years ago to 41 percent in 2017 after increasing crackdowns.” Abbott expects more of that to come.

“I can’t imagine it won’t exacerbate a difficulty with sponsors not feeling safe coming forward to claim their family member, their child,” she said.

  U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen (L) leaves after she briefed members of the press as White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders (R) looks on during a White House daily news briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House June 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. Nielsen joined White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders at the daily news briefing to answer questions from members of the White House Press Corps.   (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, left, leaves after she briefed members of the press as White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, right, looks on during a White House daily news briefing on June 18, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

False Claims About Separations

In a call with reporters last week, public affairs officials with the various Trump administration agencies responsible for separating migrant kids from their parents defended their actions on the grounds that they have no other choice, falsely claiming that the law requires such separations. Demanding that they not be quoted in their effort to “correct the record,” the flaks blamed the media for irresponsible reporting. In particular, they claimed that the federal government is not separating babies from their parents and denying that government agents have used false pretenses to take kids from their parents, never to be returned again. Abbott said both claims were false.

For one, she said, the government has definitely separated babies from their parents. “The average age now of a child we have in care is 7, but we have children from 8 months all the way to 17,” she said. Second, she said, Bethany Christian provided care for a 6-year-old girl, who, along with her mother, described the pretense of a bath being used to carry out a separation. “Her mother was told, ‘We’re going to give her a bath,’ and they took her and never brought her back. Put her in foster care. I’m sure some immigration officer thought that saved the trauma of the separation, crying and screaming, but I can’t imagine what that mom thought,” Abbott said. “Maybe what the government is trying to say is, ‘We’re not systematically condoning that,’” Abbott said, but the fact remains: “We’ve heard it directly from a parent and a child.”

The chaotic implementation of “zero tolerance” is leading to all sorts of experiences like this, Abbott argued, and the public is only hearing a fraction of them. She described another, about a little boy who came to Bethany Christian carrying a belt. “An adult belt just rolled up and clung in his hands,” Abbott explained. “We were like, ‘Oh, what’s this about?’ We finally get the belt away from him and inside, as we unravel it, is dad’s name and phone number.” For Abbott, the presence of the number sent a clear message. “Dad had in one last desperate moment” said to himself: “What can I send with my son that tells somebody where to find me?”

“So he writes it on his belt,” she said. “We’ve just had too many kids have those kind of separation stories to suggest that it is anything but a little chaotic. More than a little bit — it is chaotic.”

Abbott is hardly alone in her concerns. Two sources The Intercept interviewed regarding the government’s family separation program — including an attorney who has represented children in ORR custody and a senior DHS official working on immigration issues — spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press. They, too, pointed to the absence of an effective system to reunite parents with their kids.

Contrary to claims from the administration, the attorney said the government is indeed separating parents from children even when those families present themselves at lawful ports of entry. “We’re definitely seeing that, even though sometimes the administration says they’re not doing that,” they told The Intercept. Similarly, they added, the government’s claim, relayed in a background call with reporters last week, that it is not separating babies from their parents, is simply not true. “That’s wrong,” they said. “We’re seeing babies.”

 In this handout photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection,  U.S. Border Patrol agents conduct intake of illegal border crossers at the Central Processing Center on June 17, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. (Photo by U.S. Customs and Border Protection via Getty Images)

In this handout photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol agents conduct intake of illegal border crossers at the Central Processing Center on June 17, 2018, in McAllen, Texas.

Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection via Getty Images

No Way Home

The likelihood that those children will find their way back to their parents is entirely uncertain, the attorney added. In cases where a parent expresses a desire to be deported with their child, Immigration and Customs Enforcement promises to coordinate on reunification, they said, but has routinely failed to follow through. “We’ll get a promise of coordination and then it doesn’t happen,” they said, adding that instead attorneys come to learn that a parent has already been deported just as the reunification process is unfolding. “There’s just not any commitment to the coordination of removal or reunification before removal. There doesn’t seem to be any plan.” The DHS official agreed with that assessment. “It’s all up in the air,” they told The Intercept. “There’s no way this ends well. I feel like now that we’ve crossed this precipice, there’s no limit as to how far Trump and his people will go.”

In the absence of clarity, defense attorneys involved in the prosecutions that lead to family separations have turned to federal magistrate judges for relief, and in some cases, the judges are taking action.

In Tucson, upwards of 70 migrants are criminally prosecuted, in group hearings, for illegally crossing the border every day under the government program known as Operation Streamline. With those prosecutions spiking 71 percent over the last year, and family separations becoming routine, federal defense attorneys have begun asking judges presiding over the hearings to take unusual steps in order to increase the chances that parents will be reunited with their children. “One of the things we were asking for the judges to order, and the judges have been receptive to ordering, is that our clients be kept here, even if they receive a sentence of time served, and they’re subject to deportation — that they be kept here in order to be reunited with their kids,” Molly Kincaid, a federal public defender in Tucson told The Intercept. “They’d literally rather be kept in custody and reunited with their children.”

Kincaid explained, “Most of our clients who are affected by this are getting the misdemeanor, they’re only being charged with the misdemeanor because it’s their first entry.” Normally, she said, people charged with the first-time offense take the plea, accept the time served, and are quickly deported. Now that parents and children are in the mix, she said, an increasing number of defendants are expressing that they want to remain in the country. “It’s very bizarre because most of the time that’s what our clients want — they want the misdemeanor and to go back home as soon as possible, but when you have a child here, obviously that’s the most important thing,” Kincaid said.

So far, the magistrate judges in Tucson have appeared receptive to the effort. “In every single case where an attorney is requesting that recommendation, our magistrate judges are making them,” Christina Woehr, also a federal public defender in Tucson, told The Intercept. In an effort to bolster recommendations, Kincaid has additionally sought orders requiring the government to disclose the locations of children in custody. Any increase in transparency would be a welcome change, the two attorneys said.

Earlier this month, Kincaid appeared before Magistrate Judge Bruce G. Macdonald’s during a Streamline hearing. Her client, Cerafino Perez Andres, a Guatemalan father, had crossed the border with his 15-year-old daughter five days earlier. Following his arrest, Perez Andres’s daughter was taken by the government and, standing before Macdonald, Kincaid explained that he had no idea where she was. Federal prosecutor Christopher Lewis told Macdonald that CBP and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have “no knowledge or control as to where they will place those children,” and that the kids are the responsibility of ORR, which does not have a mechanism for reporting back on the whereabouts of the children it receives from DHS agencies.

“I’m hoping, though, that you can ask them to at least provide you with that information,” Macdonald told Lewis, according to audio of the hearing obtained by the Arizona Daily Star.

“I can inquire, but there’s no mechanism on the part of ORR to report that back,” the prosecutor replied.

“Well, I’m asking for you to ask them to report that back,” the judge said.

Cosme Lopez, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, stressed that the judge’s words were not an order. “I think the pivot point here is ORR,” Lopez told The Intercept, downplaying the Department of Justice’s role in family separations. “Our involvement has really not changed that much,” he said. “We have nothing to do with the children or the apprehension,” he added. “Our piece is so minute, it’s not even funny,” he insisted. The DOJ does not literally apprehend then process children, but the department’s role in family separation is not “minute.” Family separation is the consequence of a “zero tolerance” directive initiated by Sessions, who is head of the Justice Department. This change in prosecutorial priorities is at the very core of the national scandal that family separation has evolved into. The DOJ is just as implicated as all of the other enforcement agencies.

Kincaid and Woehr, the federal public defenders, point out that judges placing detention recommendations on their clients’ cases is hardly a solution to the situation at hand. They describe the measures more like a band-aid intended to staunch the enormous due process and emotional damage currently being done to migrant families. “It’s a pretty terrible choice to have to make as a parent,” Woehr said. “Do you want to be held in indefinite detention hoping you are reunited with a child who, you don’t know where they are, or do you want to ask to be deported and let your child’s immigration case wind its way through our system?” Woehr added, “The issue we run into with asking the government to disclose the location of the children is ICE says, ‘Well, they’re not in our custody anymore; they’re in ORR custody, so we have no way of finding their location,’ which shifts the burden of finding the location of the child to our detained or deported clients, which just adds to the terrible situation that they’re facing.”

“It’s Kafkaesque,” she said. “It’s just a nightmare.”

Kincaid agreed. “It’s one of the things that we’re struggling with right now and that we’re trying to address — is basically how to follow up with our clients to see if this reunification is happening, to see if they’re actually staying here, or they’re just getting deported immediately and their kids are staying here, which is obviously the worst-case scenario for most of our clients,” she said. “I can tell you that the whole situation seems to be shrouded in mystery for us.” Both pushed back on arguments, such as those from the Trump administration, that the migrants impacted by family separation bring their kids to U.S. in order to exploit a loophole and thus, gain entry into the country. “I don’t get that at all,” Kincaid said. “I’ve never heard that from any client,” Woeher added. Describing the experiences her clients have recounted, Kincaid said, “It really is more of a situation of real desperation.”

Fighting for Reunification

Beyond the horror of seeing parents separated from their kids, the attorneys said the current situation raises serious due process and proportionality questions. “Parents in this country who are citizens and are going through a process to potentially have their parental rights terminated — they have a lot of rights,” Kincaid pointed out, and yet, in the case of migrants, parents are losing their children through rapid-fire procedures in remote, closed-off government facilities. There’s also the question of how the punishment fits the crime, when the crime is a misdemeanor and the punishment is indefinitely losing your child. “You’re looking at a day in custody as your sentence, but oh, as a collateral consequence of your sentence, you’re going to lose your child for maybe a year — we don’t know,” Woeher said of the current practice.

For now, the public defenders’ focus remains on reunification, though it’s a campaign they wish they did not need to undertake. “We’re fighting for reunification right now but really, I think, the best thing that could happen is to go back to prosecutorial discretion, where you just don’t charge these cases,” Kincaid said. “Let’s not put ourselves in this situation to begin with, where we’re separating families.”

Part of what’s making the impact of “zero tolerance” and family separation so profoundly difficult to respond to, especially in terms of reunification, attorneys say, is that huge numbers of the people involved are little kids, toddlers, and babies — all of whom now have their own immigration cases, and no parents around to help.

With three offices and nearly 70 people on staff, the Florence Project has been the sole provider of free legal representation for people in immigration detention in the state of Arizona for nearly 30 years. Since January, the organization has documented 350 cases of family separation, and attorneys there are feeling the effects of representing very young clients. “Our kids program used to work mainly with 16-, 17-year-old Guatemalan boys, unaccompanied minors,” Lauren Dasse, the project’s executive director, told The Intercept. “Now we’re seeing a lot of young children. A lot of our clients are young and separated from parents.”

Those clients, Dasse said, have included a blind 6-year-old girl who was separated from her mother, and other preverbal, nonverbal, and disabled children and babies. The difficulty of sorting out these newly unaccompanied kids’ individual immigration cases, and reuniting them with their parents, is immense, Dasse said. “This is the most challenging thing I’ve seen,” she explained. “And I’ve heard that from staff cohorts in the field for a long time doing immigration defense and criminal defense, that this is the most challenging that they’ve had to do, is prep an inconsolable 4-year-old for their asylum hearing. You can imagine.”

And it’s not just the young kids, Dasse pointed out. “We have an older client, I think she’s 13, and she feels very guilty about her dad being detained because her dad was fleeing with her to keep them both safe,” she explained. “She’s put in a place where she has to make very adult-like decisions, with us representing her. She shouldn’t be in that place where she has to think of her own asylum case at this moment, because she has her guardian, her parent, as opposed to the unaccompanied minors that we’ve worked with for 20 years.”

Dasse described what’s felt like “a perfect storm of things that have happened over the past few months that have made our work and fighting your case so much more challenging.” She fears the combined impact of Trump administration efforts are aimed at increasing the time people spend in detention, so they will become more likely to abandon their cases, even if those cases involved potentially legitimate asylum claims. “Everything’s pointing to prolonged detention, and then the pressure is on people to give up on their cases,” she said. The DHS immigration official agreed, adding that the message from the administration appears to be “if you aren’t willing to be torn from your kids, spend six months or more in detention, and suffer humiliation and a complete upheaval of your life, then you don’t really need asylum.”

In response to the crackdown, the Florence Project is staffing up and building a rapid response team to handle family separation. Due to the government’s utter lack of transparency, much of that work involves combing through volumes of Streamline hearing transcripts, searching for parents whose children might have been taken. “It’s all very time-consuming,” she said. “Time-consuming and urgent. There’s an urgency right now that we’re all feeling.” The stakes right now couldn’t be greater, she argued.

“We are creating immeasurable trauma — immeasurable trauma, that will have lifelong effects on people,” Dasse said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Abbott, of Bethany Christian, echoed that sentiment. “I’ve worked with unaccompanied children since 1977,” she said. “Forty years in child welfare, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. It’s so systematic.” Normally, she explained, the kids she works with have become unaccompanied for a reason. They are fleeing a war, for example, or a natural disaster, or some other crisis that causes them to enter the system without their parent. This is something different. In the U.S. context, she said, “people have managed to make it all the way to somewhere where they’re asking asylum and then are being separated.”

“This is purposeful, not part of the chaos of fleeing for your life. This is purposeful separation after you arrive at a border asking for safety,” Abbott said. “Quite honestly, I’ve never experienced where we use children as a deterrent.”

Top photo: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain a group of Central American asylum-seekers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018, in McAllen, Texas.

The post The U.S. Has Taken More Than 3,700 Children From Their Parents — and Has No Plan for Returning Them appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump Cabinet’s Bible Study Minister Justifies Child Separation as Consequence of Immigrants’ “Illegal Behavior”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/06/2018 - 3:05am in

Tags 

Justice, Politics

Amid increasing scrutiny of President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, criticisms have been lodged against the policy of family separation at the border by, among others, members of his own party and otherwise stalwart Christian right allies of the GOP. One Christian ally of the White House, though, came out swinging in favor of taking children away from their parents: Capitol Ministries.

Ralph Drollinger, the head of the private Christian group, which leads Bible study sessions for Republican lawmakers and senior members of Trump’s Cabinet, led the charge to defend the administration even as photos and stories emerge showing children crowded into cages and snatched from their mothers.

“It follows that when someone breaks the law of the land that they should anticipate that one of the consequences of their illegal behavior will be separation from their children.

“No one, especially my personal friend, the kind-hearted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, desires that a mother or father be separated from their children,” wrote Drollinger, in a message to supporters on Friday. But, the Capitol Ministries leader said, there are “three classifications of people in every country, as was true in ancient Israel in the Old Testament.” In Drollinger’s interpretation, there are citizens, legal immigrants, and foreigners — the latter were known as being “illegal,” he said — and the Bible only forbids family separation for citizens and legal immigrants.

“It follows that when someone breaks the law of the land that they should anticipate that one of the consequences of their illegal behavior will be separation from their children,” Drollinger wrote. “Such is the case with thieves or murderers who are arrested and put in jail.”

Sessions attracted controversy after citing a Bible verse to defend the administration’s “zero-tolerance” border enforcement strategy. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” the attorney general declared during a speech in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last Thursday.

Despite the support from a right-wing Christian group that’s especially close to the administration, other conservative Christians are pressuring the Trump administration to change its practices. Earlier this month, a group of evangelical pastors signed a letter harshly condemning the child separation policy. “The traumatic effects of this separation on these young children, which could be devastating and long lasting, are of utmost concern,” stated the letter, which was signed by the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who gave an opening prayer at Trump’s inauguration and is reportedly close to the president, among other evangelical leaders.

Drollinger, who has become immensely influential following the 2016 election, believes Sessions correctly invoked the scripture.

“The passage the Attorney General cited, Romans 13, bespeaks of this: there are and there should be serious, known consequences for breaking the laws of the land — otherwise the law becomes toothless and inconsequential and it is no longer a deterrent to harmful behavior, which is what God designed it to be,” Drollinger wrote, citing his own Bible study on illegal immigration, published on the Capitol Ministries website two years ago.

“To procedurally exclude foreign individuals who might be criminals, traitors, or terrorists, or who possess communicable diseases is not racist in the least!”

In the 2016 Bible study, Drollinger wrote that “immigration laws of every nation should be Biblically based and strictly enforced — all with the utmost confidence that assurance that God approves such actions by the nation’s leaders.” He added, “To procedurally exclude foreign individuals who might be criminals, traitors, or terrorists, or who possess communicable diseases is not racist in the least!”

Drollinger, a former college basketball star turned spiritual adviser to conservative politicians, has quietly amassed power in Washington, D.C., through his Monday evening Bible studies with conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Several Cabinet members, including the vice president and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, pray on a regular basis with Drollinger’s group. As the minister recently told a German newspaper, he provides the administration with “the high-protein diet of the Word of God.” In the past, Drollinger bashed gay rights and called Catholicism the “world’s largest false religion.”

As The Intercept first reported, shortly after the presidential election, Drollinger could barely conceal his excitement that members of his inner circle would soon occupy the White House. He published a press statement celebrating the fact that Trump’s appointments for his administration were drawn from “long time sponsors of the Members Bible Studies.”

“It follows then that the sudden rise of Pence, Sessions, and Pompeo — all men who are disciples of Jesus Christ — serve to vividly illustrate the truth of 1 Timothy 2:1-4!” Drollinger announced, referring to a Bible verse that calls for prayer “for kings and all who are in authority.”

Drollinger’s controversial interpretations extend to other areas of GOP orthodoxy. Capitol Ministries claims “that Islam and its Koran are nothing more than a plagiarism of OT truths” — a reference to the Old Testament — “and a non-chronological, sloppy one at that — topped off with a falsified diminution of Jesus Christ.”

Top photo: Clergyman and retired professional basketball player Ralph Drollinger at the Capitol Hill Club, in Washington, D.C. in October 2017.

The post Trump Cabinet’s Bible Study Minister Justifies Child Separation as Consequence of Immigrants’ “Illegal Behavior” appeared first on The Intercept.

THE DAMNATION OF THE PROFESSIONAL REPUBLICAN POLICY INTELLECTUALS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 11:10pm in

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by Bradford DeLong   (originally published at Grasping Reality with Both Hands) THE DAMNATION OF THE PROFESSIONAL REPUBLICAN POLICY INTELLECTUALS I have long known that the thoughtful and pulls-no-punches Amitabh Chandra has no tolerance for fuzzy thinking from Do-Gooder Democrats. He is one of those who holds that not even a simulacrum of utopia is open […]

Yanis Varoufakis: Why Germany Neither Can Nor Should Pay More To Save the Eurozone

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 6:24pm in

Why Germany is not the solution to the Eurozone's woes.

Why North Korea Can Never Trust the U.S.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 6:00pm in

Why North Korea will be unable to accept any deal the US offers.

Gaius Publius: Union-Busting by Planned Parenthood in Colorado

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 5:44pm in

Planned Parenthood shows its true colors, which is loyalty to the top 10%.

Trump Lies About Germany, Again, to Cast Immigrants as an Existential Threat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 7:17am in

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The president of the United States told a blatant lie about Germany on Monday, claiming that the nation’s crime rate — which is at its lowest level in 25 years — has gone “way up” since Europe granted asylum to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the wars in Syria and Iraq.

The lie, posted on Twitter by Donald Trump, was an attempt to justify the exceedingly cruel measures he ordered to deter unauthorized immigration, including the arrest of asylum-seekers at the southern border and the removal of their children for detention in cages.

It was widely debunked and criticized by Germans, like the political scientist Marcel Dirsus.

As Mathieu von Rohr of the German magazine Der Spiegel pointed out, Trump’s false claim about crime in Germany — which is down 5.1 percent overall since last year and 2.4 percent for violent offenses — also misled readers about the continued popularity of Chancellor Angela Merkel, even as she resists calls for a crackdown on asylum-seekers from allied conservatives in the state of Bavaria.

Jeremy Cliffe, the Berlin bureau chief of The Economist, noted that Trump’s grasp of the politics of immigration in Germany is also shaky. While it is certainly true that Merkel’s party has lost some support to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, the far-right party is still supported by just 16 percent of the voters in recent polling, and its leader, Alexander Gauland, trails Merkel 50-12 in overall approval.

Undeterred by the facts, Trump followed his false claim with a second tweet, in which he revealed that the lie about Germany was part of a broader effort to cast immigration, at least by nonwhites, as an existential threat to both Europe and the United States.

While it was not clear what, exactly, Trump thinks is happening in Europe — where there has been a sharp decline in migration from the Middle East and Africa since 2015 — he repeated the comment in prepared remarks at the White House later on Monday. “The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” he said. “You look at what’s happening in Europe, you look at what’s happening in other places,” Trump added. “We can’t allow that to happen to the United States.”

What is particularly striking is that Trump, like Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right interior minister who recently shut his nation’s ports to migrants saved from drowning, is not responding to a real crisis but attempting to manufacture a sense of siege for political advantage at a moment when the number of undocumented immigrants seeking admission has actually declined.

The undocumented population in the U.S. was already declining in 2015 when Trump launched his campaign by railing against an imaginary epidemic of crime caused by Mexicans, and has continued to fall since he became president.

In Europe, the United Nations reports that fewer than 40,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to seek refuge in the first half of this year — just 15,000 of them in Italy — compared to more than 1 million arrivals by sea in 2015.

Data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees shows a sharp decline in migrants crossing the Mediterranean this year.

In Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban focused his entire election campaign on the supposed threat posed to European civilization by Muslim migrants, the police detained just 10,415 people for entering the country without permission last year, and only 1,300 were granted asylum.

As he has in the past, Trump seems to be implying that harsh measures — like those taken recently by his administration and by far-right leaders in Italy and Hungary — were necessary to defend both the physical security of Europe and America, as well as to preserve their white, Christian majorities.

That underlying racist theme was, of course, the very loudly spoken subtext of Trump’s first speech as a candidate for the presidency, when he attacked Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. It was there too, in his nearly obsessive criticism of Merkel during his campaign, when his speeches were punctuated — again and again and again — by false claims about a nonexistent crime wave destroying Germany, where his grandparents were born.

Just two weeks before Merkel responded to the migrant crisis of 2015 by opening Germany’s borders to refugees, Trump told Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business that the German chancellor was “a fantastic leader — I was with somebody the other day who thinks she’s the greatest leader in the world today, she’s the smartest and the greatest leader in the world today.”

Two months later, Trump told a crowd in Knoxville, Tennessee, that he no longer admired Merkel. “I think what she did to Germany is a disgrace,” he said. He went on to say that giving shelter to Syrians would “destroy all of Europe” and falsely claimed that “they’re having riots in the streets; they’re having crime that they’ve never had before.”

“We talk about immigration, we talk about borders. Do you see what she’s done to Germany?” Trump asked a crowd in New Hampshire two months later, after Merkel was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year instead of him. “The crime is astronomical. It’s not working. They’re having riots now in the street, and the German people are now saying, ‘We’ve had it; we’ve had it.’ We can’t let that happen to us.”

“Germany is a behemoth, an economic behemoth. It’s being destroyed by what Merkel has done there, what she has done to Germany,” Trump told supporters in South Carolina in February 2016. “I have friends from Germany, they’re leaving Germany,” he continued. “These are people who were so proud, a year ago, of being in Germany — German people. They were so proud, they used to brag. I said, ‘Are you still proud?’ Not so proud.”

The culmination of Trump’s attacks on the German leader for her openness to refugees from the Middle East and Africa was a line he trotted out in Ohio in August 2016. “Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel,” Trump read from a teleprompter, before pausing to allow for boos. “And you know what a disaster this massive immigration has been to Germany and the people of Germany,” he continued. “Crime has risen to levels that no one thought they would ever, ever see. It is a catastrophe.”

Top Photo: German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked toward U.S. President Donald Trump during a gender equality meeting he arrived late for at the G7 Summit this month in Quebec.

Updated: Tuesday, June 19, 5:00 a.m. EDT This column was revised to add statistics about the declining number of undocumented immigrants arriving in Europe and the United States in 2018.

The post Trump Lies About Germany, Again, to Cast Immigrants as an Existential Threat appeared first on The Intercept.

MoveOn Endorses Democratic Primary Challenger to the Potential Next Speaker of the House

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 4:36am in

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The largest online progressive organization in the United States is breaking with House Democratic leadership and endorsing a primary challenge to Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, who is regularly floated as the next potential speaker of the House.

The endorsement of challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who’s running to represent the 14th District covering parts of the Bronx and Queens, gives a significant lift to her long-shot campaign in its final days, as Crowley has been blanketing the airwaves with television ads. The endorsement, regardless of its impact on the race, is extraordinarily damaging to Crowley’s hopes for leading the Democratic Party in the House once Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California steps aside.

Crowley has been positioning himself for a run as a liberal alternative to Pelosi’s longtime No. 2, Steny Hoyer of Maryland. But he had done so relying on an outdated frame of what constituted progressive politics, raking in Wall Street cash and generally marrying corporate-friendly politics with liberal approaches to marriage equality, environmental protection, and reproductive freedom. The race against Ocasio-Cortez has also brought an unhelpful spotlight on the inner workings of Crowley’s Queens machine, which runs a foreclosure mill, reaps profits from families who die without wills, and enriches Crowley’s friends and relatives.

The blow from MoveOn comes within a week of another setback from the left. After Crowley solicited an endorsement from Rep. Ro Khanna, a progressive freshman from Silicon Valley, Khanna faced a firestorm of protest. He quickly backtracked, announcing a dual endorsement of both Crowley and Ocasio-Cortez, effectively nullifying his initial nod.

Crowley’s ability to sell himself as a progressive to his caucus in a leadership race is made difficult by Khanna’s public walk-back and the MoveOn endorsement of his challenger. Members of Congress who came of age in the past generation associate the group with grassroots liberal opinion.

Top photo: Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivers campaign posters throughout her neighborhood in the Bronx, New York, on April 21, 2018.

The post MoveOn Endorses Democratic Primary Challenger to the Potential Next Speaker of the House appeared first on The Intercept.

Leaked State Department Memo Advised Trump Administration to Push for “Islamic Reformation”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 2:55am in

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The Trump administration, as part of a dual effort to counter both Iran and the Islamic State, should push for an “Islamic Reformation,” a State Department memo advised the White House last year.

The suggestion was ultimately not adopted as part of the National Security Strategy announced in December, but that a so-called reformation of Islam was up for discussion at the highest levels of the State Department and National Security Council underscores the extraordinary rise of a once-fringe, far-right approach to foreign policy. Were it to be adopted as official policy, it would mark a radical departure by directly inserting the U.S. government into a theological discussion that is carried out almost exclusively among anti-Muslim zealots.  

“The goal against Iran and ISIS is to break each’s brand and Islamic extremism,” reads the document, which was obtained by The Intercept. “In seeking a public diplomacy means for undermining the ideological basis for supporting the current Iranian or ISIS structures, an emphasis on ‘Islamic Reformation’ should factor in heavily.”

The document, on the subject of “ideological competition,” was submitted to the White House National Security Council by the State Department Policy Planning Staff in the summer of 2017 — a period in which the NSC was drafting the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy. The State Department at the time was helmed by Rex Tillerson, who distanced himself from President Donald Trump’s anti-Islam rhetoric. Mike Pompeo assumed leadership in April, and his track record as an anti-Muslim ideologue has many worried about the State Department’s approach to Islam.

A State Department official confirmed the authenticity of the memo and told The Intercept that the paper was “one of dozens” of documents that helped inform the framing of the National Security Strategy. “As with all pre-decisional documents designed to stimulate discussion, a healthy dose of skepticism is appropriate as to how much of a single thought or phrase from the document survived debate and discussion,” the official wrote. “‘Islamic Reformation’ is a phrase that has been used and debated by analysts of Muslim world for decades, and was used in the article as an historical analogy, not a policy prescription.”

Founded in 1947, the Policy Planning Staff is the department’s in-house think tank. It is headed by the hawkish former Bush administration official Brian Hook, who was in charge at the time the memo was produced. According to the department’s website, Hook and his team “take a longer term, strategic view of global trends.” The document was finished shortly after Hook had purged career staffers he considered to be insufficiently loyal to Trump or too friendly with Iran. Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, for instance, was pushed out of Hook’s policy department following a right-wing smear campaign that questioned her loyalty to the United States, reporting falsely that she was born in Iran.

The policy shop, shorn of expertise and stocked with ideologues, is now producing material unlike anything it has before, according to a range of former State Department, Pentagon, and NSC officials, advisers, and lawyers consulted by The Intercept. They said that they had never seen the contentious and inflammatory phrase “Islamic Reformation” — a call for a Martin Luther-like figure to bring Islam into modernity that is rooted in tropes that presume Islam to be inherently violent and backward — used in an official U.S. government document before.

The lack of expertise comes through in the memo. “Iran is under increasing political and military pressure, giving support to domestic oppositional forces in both ISIS-held territory and within Iran. [U.S. government] ideological activity should find greater receptivity in such an environment,” the memo suggests. But the Shia ayatollahs of Iran and the Sunni militants of ISIS are openly hostile to each other, rendering the analysis nonsensical.

“These people are curating crap” from the far-right, anti-Muslim blogosphere.

“These people are curating crap” from the far-right, anti-Muslim blogosphere, said a separate senior U.S. government official, referring to the unnamed authors of the State Department paper. (The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to discuss these matters.)

The document goes into detail about how to bring about this so-called reformation, including a remarkable passage acknowledging the cynical use female empowerment as a means to further the goals of American empire. “Two practical target groups for this approach are women and youth, though they are by no means the only potential targets. Focusing on female-empowerment as the primary information messaging goal within the Islamic-influenced world will allow the United States to maintain a moral component for American power and its liberation narrative,” it reads.

“Demands for an Islamic Reformation are nothing new,” wrote Todd Green, an associate professor of religion at Luther College and a former U.S. State Department adviser on Islamophobia, in September 2017. “They have fueled the careers of some of the most prominent anti-Islam activists in the West today.” For example, conservative writer and ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has expressed support for the Trump administration’s so-called Muslim ban, published the book “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now” in 2015.

Peter Mandaville, a former member of the Policy Planning Staff under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told The Intercept there were a number of “political, intellectual, and legal” problems with the “Islamic Reformation” proposal. “First, the United States government has no standing to be taking positions on matters of Islam, or what is or is not a correct … understanding of a world religious tradition,” said Mandaville, a professor at George Mason University and the author of “Islam and Politics.”

“Second, the U.S. government pointing to a particular interpretation of religion, pointing to a particular religious scholar, and saying, ‘Hey, this guy, he is awesome, follow this guy’ would most likely have the effect of wrecking any standing that individual had. Third, the U.S. Constitution forbids the federal government from undertaking any kind of activity that expresses a preference for any particular religion or any particular interpretation of religion.”

Robert Tuttle, professor of law and religion at the George Washington University Law School and an expert on the Establishment Clause, said that “the United States government does not express its views on religious matters.”

It is not settled, however, whether the Establishment Clause applies to U.S. foreign policy. “You could argue that the Establishment Clause doesn’t apply overseas, instead it only applies domestically,” said Tuttle, author of the book, “Secular Government, Religious People.” “I don’t think that’s a very good argument and the Supreme Court has not settled the debate.”

Case law on the question is sparse, but a 1991 decision from the 1st Circuit held in Lamont v. Woods that “the operation of the Establishment Clause strongly indicates that its restrictions should apply extraterritorially.”

The Trump administration, of course, has already weighed in theologically in its own way. Trump ran for president on a platform of banning Muslims from the U.S. and one of his favorite phrases on the campaign trail was “radical Islamic terrorism.” He badgered his opponent Hillary Clinton, as well as former President Barack Obama, for avoiding the term, suggesting that uttering those words out loud would conjure up a patronus of sorts to counter the dark-spirited Dementors committing violence in the name of Islam.  

“A Horrendous Idea”

In addition to the issue of legality, there are fears that the Policy Planning Staff’s “emphasis on an ‘Islamic Reformation’” could backfire on the United States and do more harm than good.

“The idea of the United States promoting some sort of reform of Islam as a tool of foreign policy is a horrendous idea,” Green told The Intercept. “The last thing the United States needs to be doing is intervening in internal theological debates within Muslim communities, irrespective of whether those communities are located in Iran or here in the United States.”

For Green, the U.S. government delving into Islamic theology and “deeming which Muslims are acceptable and which are not” gets into “dangerous territory.” “Frankly, if you want to discredit those groups, the first thing you could do is prop them up and say, ‘This is the theologically correct version of Islam.’”

“This could be taken the wrong way, as some sort of an agenda to subvert Muslim societies.”

Qamar-ul Huda, a former senior policy adviser in the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs under both Obama and, for the first half of 2017, Trump, agreed with Green. “This could be taken the wrong way, as some sort of an agenda to subvert Muslim societies,” said Huda, who is Muslim and has an academic background in Islamic studies. “On the ground [in the Muslim-majority world], it will feed into the sense that the U.S. is turning into an anti-Muslim, Islamophobic country.”

At the height of the war on terror discourse, during the George W. Bush era, polls suggested that majorities of Egyptians, Pakistanis, Indonesians, and Moroccans believed that the United States was trying to weaken and divide the Muslim-majority world. Any evidence that members of the Trump administration, many of whom have strong ties to far-right, anti-Muslim groups, want to “reform” Islam could provoke similar concerns, and a backlash in Muslim communities and countries across the world.

A former senior U.S. diplomat who served in Afghanistan told The Intercept: “For a lot of people in the region, it will confirm their suspicions and conspiracy theories. When the leadership is bandying around these ideas, it sort of wipes out a lot of the good work that is being done on the ground [by U.S. diplomats].”

“This good Muslim/bad Muslim narrative … is a slippery slope,” said the former diplomat, who pointed to U.S. policymakers’ conflation of “Sunni and Shia groups together” as evidence of their inability to understand the basics of Islam, let alone reform it.

Distraction From Self-Examination

Huda suggested that the authors of the document lack religious literacy and are “very myopic.”

“I think there’s an unfortunate assumption by those in the policy world that … if you’re more religious or Islamically religious … you are more prone to radical thinking,” he said. “That’s nonsense because there’s no study I know of that shows the more religious you are, the less you become open for dialogue, and I’ve been studying this for 30 years.”

The assumption that Islam is the root cause of violence is “flawed,” Green agreed, and “reflects the shallow thinking that continues to infect far too many sectors of the U.S. government when it comes to the drivers of violent extremism.” According to “The Fear of Islam” author, “Most scholars who study terrorism and violent extremism argue that political and social conditions are the most important factors driving this violence. Islam certainly gets instrumentalized in this violence, but that’s different than claiming it is the cause.”

“As long as we focus on what Muslims need to be doing, we don’t need to do any self-examination of our own foreign policy.”

“Calling for an Islamic reformation has very little to do with what Muslims are or are not doing in terms of reform,” added Green. “It’s a distraction. As long as we focus on what Muslims need to be doing, we don’t need to do any self-examination of our own foreign policy and our role in the rise of violent extremism abroad.”

The Trump administration, however, has been keen to focus on the role that Islamic ideology, rather than geopolitical or socio-economic factors, supposedly plays in fomenting extremism and violence. The phrase “Islamic reformation” was not ultimately included in the final National Security Strategy, which was published in December 2017 and committed the United States to battling “jihadist terrorists.” Still, its inclusion in the State Department submission reflects the broader “thinking” on this issue of influential Trump administration officials, according to the senior U.S. government official who spoke with The Intercept.

The official pointed out that the environment today is much more favorable to such an ideology-heavy agenda, given the sacking of more moderate, less Islam-obsessed figures such as Tillerson and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and the new “top cover” provided to anti-Islam ideologues inside the administration. Hook, who runs the policy department, has only seen his stature rise as more ideological allies have filled the building.

Green also highlighted the role played by a fringe far-right, anti-Muslim “Islamophobia network,” which has been mainstreamed by the Trump administration, in pushing conspiratorial and bigoted ideas about Islam and Muslims, from “no-go zones” to mass rape hysteria. “The secretary of state and the national security adviser have strong ties to this network,” he said, referring to Pompeo and John Bolton, respectively.

McMaster tried on multiple occasions to convince Trump to resist using language that conflated Islam with terrorism. The president fired McMaster in March and replaced him with hawkish neoconservative Bolton, the former chair of an anti-Muslim think tank.

“McMaster and Tillerson weren’t convinced of this [Islamic reformation] argument,” the U.S government official said. “Now you have Pompeo and Bolton who live and breathe this stuff.”

Top photo: Brian Hook, Director of Policy Planning for the Department of State, speaks at The 2017 Concordia Annual Summit in New York on September 19, 2017.

The post Leaked State Department Memo Advised Trump Administration to Push for “Islamic Reformation” appeared first on The Intercept.

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