Monday, May 28, 2018

Is Obama the same as Trump?

Via Wikipedia.

While I'm up on the issue, I think I need to devote a few words to President Obama, in response to the thing that's going around like this:


To me that first tweet has that libertarian kind of "Hey man I'm just being honest" vibe that makes me crazy. At this particular historical moment "Obama is bad" means exactly "There's no difference between Obama and Trump", as you go on to demonstrate when you assert that the same one-word description, "indefensible", applies equally to both, "frankly", in respect to the immigration issue. Why else would you bring it up, except in the service of a claim that it doesn't make any difference and electing Trump wasn't such a bad thing?

In addition to the fact that the one piece of evidence adduced there is just not true, and that's not a secret.

The facts of the matter, as it became controversial in the spring of 2014, were being reported all over the map, depending on which news source you were reading—according to The Economist, expulsions of undocumented immigrants were at nine times the rate of 1994, "easily outpacing all previous presidents," while the Los Angeles Times claimed that deportations "of people who were settled and working in the United States" had been falling steadily and were down 40% since he took office in 2009—but what was really going on was in the first place two changes of terminology, as Anna Law explained in the Washington Post:
One problem is the continued use of “deportation” in virtually all media reporting. In actuality, that category has been obsolete in immigration law since 1996. Prior to 1996, immigration law distinguished between immigrants who were “excluded,” or stopped and prevented from entering U.S. territory, and those who were “deported,” or expelled from the United States after they had made their way into U.S. territory. After 1996, both exclusion and deportation were rolled into one procedure called “removal.” At that point, the term “deportation” no longer had any meaning within the official immigration statistics. Its continued use in media reports is part of the confusion.
The large number of immigrants who are apprehended, usually but not exclusively along the southwestern border, and prevented from entering the country were part of a category called “voluntary departure” before 2006. Now that is called “return,” which also includes the subcategory of  “reinstatement.” 
When these "voluntary departure" cases became "returns",  they also magically turned into post-1996 "deportations" bringing on an instant spike in the number of "deportations" in the last two years of the Bush administration, and this effect was compounded by the Obama administration's enthusiasm for the no-frills "catch and release" approach, which greatly speeded up the "return" process and thus increased the total number of "deportations":
There is also a large category of “expedited removals” of persons that do not appear before an immigration judge but the procedure carries all the sanctions as a judge ordered removal. These would-be immigrants accept this sanction that forgoes a court appearance before an immigration judge because formal removal — in which the U.S. government runs them through legal proceedings and pays for their return to their home country — would result in a multi-year bar (five to 20 years) on their eligibility to legally reenter the United States. Critics deride this policy “as catch and release.” The consequences of a return are much less harsh than a formal removal because the returned immigrant could come back legally, and presumably illegally, at any time.
But these were all "exclusions" in the language of 1995. In the language of 1995, there was no increase in "deportations" at all, but rather a substantial decrease, as suggested in that L.A. Times article. The only change was in the process in which people caught at the border by CBP were sent back, which became a lot more efficient, and from the Republican point of view not nasty enough.

Another approach to arguing that Obama is the same as Trump on immigration is based in this week's news story about the Trump program announce by Attorney General Sessions last week:
“If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said at the conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”
("Required by law" means that they will bring felony charges of child smuggling against parents, who will be put into custody of the US Marshals Service while their children will have to go to HHS shelters—they can't be entrusted to suspected criminals. Of course no law requires them to make these absurd indictments in the first place.)

The Obama administration, it's being said by some self-denominated "leftists",  as in this by Tina Vasquez for Rewire, is equally guilty:
Before Jeff Sessions Separated Immigrant Families, Obama Did It
Well, in principle yes, as they say on Radio Yerevan, but first of all the Bush-era program in question, the Alien Transfer Exit Program, was aimed not at Central American refugee families, but at Mexican men looking mainly for work, who mostly traveled alone; second of all, was designed to separate them not from particular people, but from particular places—shipping them hundreds of miles from their homes and dumping them there at peculiar times of day, definitely to be spiteful and cruel, I'm not denying that—but third of all, they weren't allowed to separate parents from children as the Sessions program does:
a 2004 memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Mexico stipulates that it is DHS policy to protect the unity of families. However, families are defined to be immediate families (spouse, parent, child, and sibling), rather than extended families (e.g., aunt/ uncle, cousin, niece/nephew, etc.). 
Via Jesuits Conference Social Ministries.

So that the CBP agents hunting down adult males on the ATEP circuit didn't have much official opportunity (just in the red segment of the circle on the left) to separate families at all, which is unfortunately not to say that it didn't happen, many of those guys are truly nasty and enjoy breaking the rules if they can hurt somebody, especially as the size of the force grew and the recruitment standards plunged, as the Jesuits noted in the report cited above:
At [the former assistant commissioner's] request, and with the support of Commissioner Basham, Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs (CBP–IA) sought and obtained authority to conduct pre–employment polygraph testing of the law enforcement officer (LEO) applicant pool. The first pre–employment polygraph exams were administered in February of 2008, during the final phase of the [2006 through 2008] Border Patrol hiring initiative. The results of the initial polygraph testing were shocking. Confirmed by detailed admissions of the applicants, it was clearly established that more that 55 percent were very clearly unsuitable for employment as federal LEOs. In addition to this remarkable finding it was further established that many of the applicants had prior involvement in felony crimes, [including] violent crimes. A particularly relevant finding was the large number of applicants who had previously engaged in smuggling activity. 
But it couldn't happen much, such breaking up of cousin and uncle-aunt groups as occurred wasn't the purpose of the program (gratuitously unkind though it may have been), and Obama didn't do it.

If you look at the record of what Obama did do about immigration, the wonderful speeches that got him the huge Latinx vote of 2012, the excellent comprehensive immigration bills that the Congress he was stuck with refused to pass (not because they didn't have majorities favoring the legislation but because they didn't want to allow him a victory), the DACA and DAPA programs, the pleading and eventually action on behalf of refugees, especially from the America-destroyed Middle East, the only thing that stands out as bad is the revival of family detention centers in 2014 (the Obama administration had abolished them in 2009), a panicky response to the unaccompanied Central American children crisis of that summer, which freaked everybody out—it was a lot of kids! (And as detailed in the earlier post they seriously made the detention center system work better than it had done in the Bush era.)

You can fault Obama for the things he didn't evidently do, especially the apparent tolerance for abuse on the part of ICE and CBP agents, but also the administration's failure to explain those deportation statistics, or anything else, but you also have to remember what a terrible political hand he held after the 2010 elections. There's a question what speaking out would have accomplished in the atmosphere of those days, other than to get him howled at more as an appeaser, an America-hater, a foreigner himself. How dare you attack our heroic Border Patrol!
[Roberto, 33, tried to cross into the U.S. through Nogales in October 2014. He and another migrant were hidden in some brush when a Border Patrol agent saw them. When Roberto saw that the agents were heading toward him, he knelt down. An agent told him to put his hands on his head and he did. At that moment, another agent ran up to him and kneed him in his ribs, which pushed him violently from his kneeling position to the ground. The agent then put his boot on Roberto’s head so that he could not move. The other migrant that was detained at the same time said “why are you hitting him if he hasn’t done anything?” The agents then grabbed Roberto by his collar to pull him up and the agent who had kneed Roberto started to yell at the other migrant. He said that he could kill both of them because they were in his country. While putting handcuffs on Roberto and the other migrant, the agents continued to hit them, threaten them, and spit on them. When the supervising sergeant arrived, the agent who had kneed Roberto said that both migrants had resisted arrest, which was not true.
Once the two were in the car, the sergeant asked Roberto what had really happened and Roberto explained. He pointed out to the sergeant where he was bruised in the ribs and said that if he had been running away there would have been no way that the bruises would be in that particular place. The sergeant saw that Roberto could not even get down from the car because of the pain and told him that he could file a complaint. Upon arrival to a Border Patrol holding cell, an agent took him to a medical clinic where the doctor said that he had broken two ribs and in the official medical report said that the break was because of a blow. Roberto was brought to Tucson and someone from Internal Affairs interviewed him about the incident, took photos of the injury, and said they would investigate. He was then charged with illegal reentry and through Operation Streamline was sentenced to a month in jail. In his month in jail, he was not given another medical exam. The officials from Internal Affairs that he tried to follow up with regarding the investigation never responded to him. He is not sure whether or not they carried out an investigation or disciplined the officer.] 

To me, it's impossible to say whether he could have accomplished more or not; for him, as a lawyer and politician, I think he has a natural reluctance to embark on a project that's likely to fail, and that's something we have to live with with all of them. He knew what needed to be done, I think, following up on the good work of Johnson and Reagan (one thing I'll always give that idiot credit for, though I suppose he was only supporting the cheap-labor addiction of his Southern California friends), and didn't manage to do much of it. Is he anything, even remotely, like Donald Trump? No, friends. Don't say that.

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