So many things feel like they’ve come to a standstill because of the Coronavirus, but, in the words of Anais Mitchell, “the sun just goes on rising.” This week’s Extra! Extra! Covers US election interference, two articles from opposite sides of the world sharing the challenges facing immigrants and refugees and Chelsea Manning’s recent release from jail.
A reminder that for right now, we’re putting news about COVID-19 in its own roundup that can be found here!
US Voting Rights and 2016 Election Interference
Natalie: It’s been amazing to see what Republicans across the country are doing while our collective attentions are monopolized by coronavirus.
In Kentucky, the legislature continues to meet (so much for social distancing!) and just passed a voter ID law that’ll govern this fall’s election. In Idaho, where one county has been forced to shelter in place due to a community outbreak of coronavirus, legislators are focused instead on anti-trans legislation..
And in DC, there’s this: while Congress is consumed with finding a suitable relief package, the Attorney General of the United States is trying to eliminate the possibility that there will be any accountability for the attack on American democracy in 2016. Once again, the Trump presidency will be shielded from being exposed for the fraud that he is.
It’s all just a reminder we need to be vigilant about staying engaged on issues beyond coronavirus…because, as the saying goes, “the Devil never sleeps.”
No One Migrates without a Reason
Himani: Around the world, people continue to be dehumanized for being different, for being other. America has long positioned itself as the country of immigrants, the “melting pot,” the place where people from around the world could go to find solace. Of course, that was always a lie.
In America, Republicans and the Trump administration keep spreading dangerous myths about immigrants. This isn’t new: the notion of “anchor babies” has been around for at least two decades and the 1996 immigration law arguably created the inhumane situation that exists in the US today. Now we’re at a point where the US has resettled the lowest numbers of refugees in the last three decades, people in situations like the Uighars in China who face violence and persecution.
What these two articles reminds us is that the vast majority of immigrants face countless challenges when they make the difficult decision to uproot their lives. That’s true whether we’re talking about Latinx people seeking a better life for their family in the US or Uighars trying to find safety and security for their children in Turkey. People don’t make decisions like this out of malice. They don’t just have children because that will somehow give them security. (In fact, they sometimes have children because the hUS has made contraceptive care so difficult to access.) And those children – even if they are more fortunate than the ones who were left behind – don’t, by any means, have it “easy.”
But the other thing that connects these two stories, for me, is the hope these communities create for each other and their dedication to the fight to improve the lives of others in situations like their own.
Rachel: Given the context that only essential jobs and orgs are supposed to be operating normally right now, it’s become even more glaringly clear that this administration views ICE raids, family separation and deportation as “essential” — raids have continued, including on quarantined homes and in hospitals where people are seeking treatment. In at least one (anecdotal) case, it’s reported that ICE agents posed as doctors to gain access to a home where they wanted to arrest someone. While of course ICE’s actions are always harmful and violent on a personal and structural level, right now it’s incredibly clear that they’re also willfully contributing to the spread of a pandemic and potentially condemning those who they detain to infection – ICE detention centers are crowded and have always been severely lacking in hygiene and sanitation resources, even before they became in short supply. In addition to demanding our elected officials work to release and distribute the necessary resources to healthcare workers and to individuals, we need to demand that they stop expending state resources on an institution that now more than ever serves only to harm.
Chelsea Manning Released from Prison
Rachel: As many of us know and have been following, whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been detained indefinitely in solitary confinement essentially as punishment and coercion for refusing to testify before a grand jury against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. She was initially jailed for her cooperation with WikiLeaks, and had her sentence commuted in 2017 by Obama; she was then subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury and once again jailed when she refused to testify. In addition to her incarceration, Chelsea was fined exorbitant amounts, $1000 per day, as a repercussion for her refusal to cooperate. Incarceration is always harmful, and hers has been no different; this week, news broke that Chelsea had attempted suicide while in prison, her third attempt over the long course of her multiple incarcerations. She survived, and was treated in the hospital.
The good news is that shortly after her hospitalization, a federal judge actually ordered Chelsea’s release – he announced that her testimony was no longer needed before the grand jury, and so coercive measures weren’t necessary any longer. It’s unclear whether this was a genuine announcement – Judge Trenga was already scheduled to issue a ruling – or whether the court was motivated to wrap up the issue and Chelsea’s incarceration by her suicide attempt.
While Chelsea will be freed, her fines remain, totaling over $250,000 — obviously Chelsea hasn’t been able to earn income while incarcerated. A friend has organized a GoFundMe for supporters to help contribute toward paying the cost.