In this week’s Extra, Extra! we discuss immigration, healthcare, and political interference. Additional links touch on white supremacist violence in Germany, the climate crisis, and censorship around the world.
Immigration Continues to be Horrifying
Rachel: It’s not news that immigration policy under Trump has become even more of a nightmare than it was under Obama, which is saying something — asylum has become virtually impossible to navigate; deportations and ICE violence are seemingly everywhere; the standards for visas and green cards are constantly shifting and become harder to meet every month; and of course family separations continue around the country. This week has been particularly hard — coming on the heels of the confusing, ominous news a couple weeks ago that the Supreme Court would uphold the Trump administration’s enforcement of ‘public charge’ standards for residency applicants, which means increased scrutiny on whether applicants have ever used public benefits, Medicaid, or other perfectly legal resources, there’s more stories of how the state is targeting immigrants across the state!
As part of Trump’s vengeful backlash against sanctuary cities, a “supercharged arrest operation” is being coordinated in cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark to pursue arrests of immigrants targeted for deportation.
As part of the fallout of the administration’s aforementioned recommitment to the “public charge” standard for residency, some immigrant families are now afraid to take food and resources they and their children need because they have reason to fear it will endanger their status.
On the project of trying to find the parents of separated children across the border and reunite them, a probability not at all guaranteed.
Related to the story last week about indigenous burial grounds threatened by the border wall, Homeland Security continues to bulldoze contracting laws in the name of building the border wall.
Natalie: Over the last four years here in the US, we’ve been confronted by the reality of political interference in our elections. The Russians hacked our democracy in 2016 and, thanks to a lack of accountability, they’re prepared to do it again in 2020. But what sometimes escapes our narrow view is that the manipulation of politics by both internal and external forces (including by the United States) is, indeed, a global problem…and our failure to seek a global answer is akin to using a bandaid when what you really need is a tourniquet. It is a “public health crisis.”
This is the next frontier in the theft of our democracies. It’s not just bots on twitter or facebook, it’s actual video, forged by outside forces. This is beyond deceptively edited videos of political opponents, “we are crossing over into an era where it’s going to be impossible to trust what we see and hear.” This piece frames the discussion a little too positively for me…the idea that Indian housewives are building a connection with a version of their leadership that doesn’t actually exist isn’t cause for celebration, it’s a cause for consternation.
Himani: This early use of political deepfake videos is presented benignly as a way for candidates and parties to reach constituents they might not otherwise. But to me, that is incredibly alarming. In a country like India, where linguistic and cultural differences have been both violently rejected and violently appropriated, the lie that Hindu nationalist leaders can speak directly to the masses in their native language is dangerous because it sends a false message about acceptance and inclusion, coming from a party that has made violence against those who are different part of its brand.
This type of outreach to constituents from different backgrounds is difficult because of how language and culture have been and continue to be politicized. In fact, we saw Amy Klobuchar (who previously voted for making English the national language in the US) botch this spectacularly while introducing herself to the Las Vegas Culinary Workers Union. Politicians should have to work to gain this level of trust among their constituents, especially among those who might have valid reasons for not trusting them. They shouldn’t be able to get this trust wholesale by the use manipulated videos. And, of course, as Natalie discussed, this is just the tip of the iceberg with political deepfakes.
What is the hardest thing for people who need medical assistance to do? More often than not, it’s work. Bills have been proposed and are underway in over 20 states, to require people to work, in some cases up to 80 hours a month, in order to qualify for Medicaid. This is something the Trump administration is promoting, because it apparently leads people to live healthier lives? When they have to work, even if it compromises their health, in order to get healthcare? Because our value as human beings is defined by our capitalist productivity? Thankfully, residents in Kentucky and Arkansas pushed back and against Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, and last week, a federal appeals court decided a work requirement is unlawful and has blocked these states, especially Arkansas, whose work requirement went into effect in June of 2018 and left 18,000 people without medical care by December, from continuing to enforce this requirement. But we’ll be staying on the lookout for how this plays out in other states.
Himani: Like so many crises around the world, the economic depression in Venezuela has been going on for so long now, the severity of it can fade into the background for those of us who aren’t affected by it. A year ago, it seemed like things could possibly turn around when Juan Guaidó attempted to overthrow Nicolas Maduro, but that failed bid for power didn’t result in the political and economic transformation Venezuela desperately needs.
Last week, The Guardian launched this new series highlighting how dire the situation in Venezuela is, through the lens of its impact on children. This is not for the faint of heart, as reporters dive into the heart-wrenching decisions that no one should ever have to make and yet so many are faced with.
Tragedy in Hanau, Germany
Trump Intervenes in Justice
The Climate Crisis
Natalie: Can my lone response to this be that we’re well and truly fucked? Because we are. We are fucked. I fear for the future of this planet.