Trump Moves to End DACA and Calls on Congress to Act

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday ordered an end to the Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, calling it an “amnesty-first approach” and urging Congress to pass a replacement before he begins phasing out its protections in six months.

As early as March, officials said, some of the 800,000 young adults brought to the United States illegally as children who qualify for the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, will become eligible for deportation. The five-year-old policy allows them to remain without fear of immediate removal from the country and gives them the right to work legally.

Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced the change at the Justice Department, both used the aggrieved language of anti-immigrant activists, arguing that those in the country illegally are lawbreakers who hurt native-born Americans by usurping their jobs and pushing down wages.

Mr. Trump said in a statement that he was driven by a concern for “the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system.” Mr. Sessions said the program had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”

Protests broke out in front of the White House and the Justice Department and in cities across the country soon after Mr. Sessions’s announcement. Democrats and some Republicans, business executives, college presidents and immigration activists condemned the move as a coldhearted and shortsighted effort that was unfair to the young immigrants and could harm the economy.

“This is a sad day for our country,” Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, wrote on his personal page. “It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it.”

Former President Barack Obama, who had warned that any threat to the program would prompt him to speak out, called his successor’s decision “wrong,” “self-defeating” and “cruel.”

“Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us,” Mr. Obama wrote on Facebook.

Both he and Mr. Trump said the onus was now on lawmakers to protect the young immigrants as part of a broader overhaul of the immigration system that would also toughen enforcement.

But despite broad and longstanding bipartisan support for measures to legalize unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children, the odds of a sweeping immigration deal in a deeply divided Congress appeared long. Legislation to protect the “dreamers” has also repeatedly died in Congress.

Just hours after the angry reaction to Mr. Trump’s decision, the president appeared to have second thoughts. In a late-evening tweet, Mr. Trump specifically called on Congress to “legalize DACA,” something his administration’s officials had declined to do earlier in the day.

Mr. Trump also warned lawmakers that if they do not legislate a program similar to the one Mr. Obama created through executive authority, he will “revisit this issue!” — a statement sure to inject more uncertainty into the ultimate fate of the young, undocumented immigrants who have been benefiting from the program since 2012.

Conservatives praised Mr. Trump’s move, though some expressed frustration that he had taken so long to rescind the program and that the gradual phaseout could mean that some immigrants retained protection from deportation until October 2019.

The White House portrayed the decision as a matter of legal necessity, given that nine Republican state attorneys general had threatened to sue to halt the program immediately if Mr. Trump did not act.

Months of internal White House debate preceded the move, as did the president’s public display of his own conflicted feelings. He once referred to DACA recipients as “incredible kids.”

The president’s wavering was reflected in a day of conflicting messages from him and his team. Hours after his statement was released, Mr. Trump told reporters that he had “great love” for the beneficiaries of the program he had just ended.

“I have a love for these people, and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly,” he said. But he notably did not endorse bipartisan legislation to codify the program’s protections, leaving it unclear whether he would back such a solution.

Mr. Trump’s aides were negotiating late into Monday evening with one another about precisely how the plan to wind down the program would be executed. Until Tuesday morning, some aides believed the president had settled on a plan that would be more generous, giving more of the program’s recipients the option to renew their protections.

But even taking into account Mr. Trump’s contradictory language, the rollout of his decision was smoother than his early moves to crack down on immigration, particularly the botched execution in January of his ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

In addition to the public statement from Mr. Sessions and a White House question-and-answer session, the president was ready on Tuesday with the lengthy written statement, and officials at the Justice and Homeland Security Departments provided detailed briefings and distributed information to reporters in advance.

Mr. Trump sought to portray his move as a compassionate effort to head off the expected legal challenge that White House officials said would have forced an immediate and highly disruptive end to the program. But he also denounced the policy, saying it helped spark a “massive surge” of immigrants from Central America, some of whom went on to become members of violent gangs like MS-13. Some immigration critics contend that programs like DACA, started under Mr. Obama, encouraged Central Americans to enter the United States, hoping to stay permanently. Tens of thousands of migrants surged across America’s southern border in the summer of 2014, many of them children fleeing dangerous gangs.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, indicated that Mr. Trump would support legislation to “fix” the DACA program, as long as Congress passed it as part of a broader immigration overhaul to strengthen the border, protect American jobs and enhance enforcement.

“The president wants to see responsible immigration reform, and he wants that to be part of it,” Ms. Sanders said, referring to a permanent solution for the young immigrants. “Something needs to be done. It’s Congress’s job to do that. And we want to be part of that process.”

Later on Tuesday, Marc Short, Mr. Trump’s top legislative official, told reporters on Capitol Hill that the White House would release principles for such a plan in the coming days, input that at least one key member of Congress indicated would be crucial.

“It is important that the White House clearly outline what kind of legislation the president is willing to sign,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said in a statement. “We have no time to waste on ideas that do not have the votes to pass or that the president won’t sign.”

The announcement was an effort by Mr. Trump to honor the law-and-order message of his campaign, which included a repeated pledge to end Mr. Obama’s immigration policy, while seeking to avoid the emotionally charged and politically perilous consequences of targeting a sympathetic group of immigrants.

Mr. Trump’s decision came less than two weeks after he pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff who drew intense criticism for his aggressive pursuit of unauthorized immigrants, which earned him a criminal contempt conviction.

The blame-averse president told a confidante over the past few days that he realized that he had gotten himself into a politically untenable position. As late as one hour before the decision was to be announced, administration officials privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not fully grasp the details of the steps he was about to take, and when he discovered their full impact, would change his mind, according to a person familiar with their thinking who was not authorized to comment on it and spoke on condition of anonymity.

But ultimately, the president followed through on his campaign pledge at the urging of Mr. Sessions and other hard-line members inside his White House, including Stephen Miller, his top domestic policy adviser.

The announcement started the clock on revoking legal status from those protected under the program.

Officials said DACA recipients whose legal status expires on or before March 5 would be able to renew their two-year period of legal status as long as they apply by Oct. 5. But the announcement means that if Congress fails to act, immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children could face deportation as early as March 6 to countries where many left at such young ages that they have no memory of them.

Immigration officials said they did not intend to actively target the young immigrants as priorities for deportation, though without the program’s protection, they would be considered subject to removal from the United States and would no longer be able to work legally.

Officials said some of the young immigrants could be prevented from returning to the United States if they traveled abroad.

Immigration advocates took little comfort from the administration’s assurances, describing the president’s decision as deeply disturbing and vowing to shift their demands for protections to Capitol Hill.

Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, called Mr. Trump’s decision “nothing short of hypocrisy, cruelty and cowardice.” Maria Praeli, a recipient of protection under the program, criticized Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump for talking “about us as if we don’t matter and as if this isn’t our home.”

The Mexican foreign ministry issued a statement saying the “Mexican government deeply regrets” Mr. Trump’s decision.

As recently as July, Mr. Trump expressed skepticism about the prospect of a broad legislative deal.

“What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan,” he told reporters. “But our country and political forces are not ready yet.”

As for DACA, he said: “There are two sides of a story. It’s always tough.”

In: nytimes

Contra el ecumenismo del odio

El Vaticano critica a los fundamentalistas xenófobos e islamófobos en un artículo de la revista de los jesuitas visado por el propio Papa y por el secretario de Estado

El papa Francisco, entre Ivanka (izquierda) y Melania Trump (derecha), en una audiencia en el Vaticano el 24 de mayo pasado. ALESSANDRA TARANTINO (REUTERS)

¿Quién se acuerda de Charles Maurras? Murió hace más de 60 años mientras cumplía cadena perpetua por complicidad con el enemigo alemán durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Fue extraordinaria su influencia intelectual sobre las derechas más extremas europeas, incluidas las españolas, a través de su partido antisemita, ultra y monárquico, Action Française, sobre todo entre las dos guerras mundiales. Igual de extraordinaria fue su tormentosa relación con la Santa Sede, que terminó con su excomunión y las de su seguidores y con la inclusión de un puñado de sus escritos y de la propia revista que dirigía en el Índice de Libros Prohibidos.

El tiempo de las excomuniones y del Índice de los Libros Prohibidos queda lejos, olvidado ya. Roma ya no hace cosas así, al menos desde el Concilio Vaticano II. Pero si las hiciera, no hay duda de que ahora tendríamos algo parecido a un caso Maurras a propósito de las turbulentas ideas y propuestas políticas del presidente Trump y más concretamente de su consejero estratégico Steve Bannon,un príncipe de las tinieblas que inspira las políticas más extremistas de la actual Casa Blanca, como el muro con México y el muslim ban o prohibición de entrada en EE UU a ciudadanos de seis países musulmanes.

Steve Bannon es católico, mientras que Donald Trump nació en una familia presbiteriana. La religiosidad personal de ambos es más que dudosa, como le sucedía a Maurras, hasta el punto de que fue el agnosticismo del escritor francés el que le condujo a la condena eclesial. Bannon se ha divorciado dos veces a pesar de la indisolubilidad del matrimonio católico, y de Trump se desconoce si practica o si tiene siquiera alguna idea religiosa. Pero en ambos cuenta la religión como visión política del mundo, y ahí es donde el Vaticano tiene algo que decir y lo ha dicho, uniendo además en una misma crítica al catolicismo integrista y al fundamentalismo evangelista que tan buen servicio les ha rendido al Partido Republicano para ganar en las elecciones presidenciales.

Aunque el mensaje es bien claro, en cuanto a quien lo emite y a lo que dice, la vía escogida por el Vaticano es sutil e indirecta. Ha sido la revista de los jesuitas Civiltà Cattolica la que lo ha transmitido, a través de un artículo, titulado ‘Fundamentalismo evangélico e integrismo católico en Estados Unidos, un ecumenismo sorprendente’, firmado por su director, el italiano Antonio Spadaro, y por el protestante argentino Marcelo Figueroa. Un católico y un protestante denuncian precisamente la colusión de católicos y protestantes extremistas estadounidenses en un mismo pensamiento al que califican de “ecumenismo del odio”. Según el diario italiano La Repubblica, el papa Francisco en persona, el secretario de Estado Pietro Parolin y el secretario para las Relaciones con Estados Unidos, Paul Richard Gallagher, han corregido y visado el artículo.

El papa Francisco rechaza la narrativa del miedo y de la inseguridad, sobre la que Trump y su derecha alternativa construyen muros ideológicos

La primera característica de esta desviación teológica es el maniqueísmo, un “lenguaje que divide la realidad entre el Bien absoluto y el Mal absoluto”, cuestión en la que los autores citan al propio presidente Trump y que sitúa a los inmigrantes y a los musulmanes entre las amenazas al sistema de vida de Estados Unidos.Una segunda característica que denuncian Spadaro y Figueroa es el carácter de Teología de la Prosperidad que comparten los dos extremismos católico y evangelista. Su evangelio para ricos, difundido por organizaciones y pastores multimillonarios, predica una idea autojustificativa de que “Dios desea que sus seguidores tengan salud física, sean prósperos y personalmente felices”. La tercera característica es una defensa muy peculiar de la libertad religiosa, en la que extremistas católicos y protestantes se unen en cuestiones como la oposición al aborto y al matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo o la educación religiosa en la escuela, y propugnan un sometimiento de las instituciones del Estado a las ideas religiosas e incluso a la Biblia muy similar al que inspira al fundamentalismo islámico.

Esta visión del mundo proporciona una justificación teológica a la guerra y alienta la esperanza religiosa con la expectativa de un enfrentamiento apocalíptico y definitivo entre el Bien y el Mal. Las afinidades con la idea islamista radical de la yihad son bien claras. El artículo denuncia la web de extrema derecha Church Militant, que atribuye la victoria de Trump a las oraciones de los estadounidenses, propugna la guerra de religiones y profesa el llamado dominionismo, que es una lectura literalista del Genésis en la que el hombre es el centro de un universo a su entero servicio. Los dominionistas consideran anticristianos a los ecologistas y observan los desastres naturales y el cambio climático como irremediables signos escatológicos de un final de los tiempos apocalíptico, que no hay que obstaculizar, sino todo lo contrario.

No es posible comprender esta fuerte arremetida del Vaticano contra la extrema derecha estadounidense sin recordar la intervención de Steve Bannon en una conferencia celebrada en el Vaticano en 2014, en la que denunció la secularización excesiva de Occidente y anunció “la proximidad de un conflicto brutal y sangriento, (…) una guerra global contra el fascismo islámico”, en la que “esta nueva barbarie que ahora empieza erradicará todo lo que nos ha sido legado en los últimos dos mil o dos mil quinientos años”. También hay que situarlo en el marco de tensiones entre la Casa Blanca y el Vaticano a propósito de Oriente Próximo, especialmente tras el primer viaje de Trump en el que pretendió conectar con las tres religiones, islam, judaísmo y catolicismo, pero terminó convirtiéndose en un reforzamiento de la alianza con Arabia Saudí y un estímulo al enfrentamiento con Teherán, con consecuencias inmediatas en el bloqueo a Qatar.

El pontífice no solo discrepa de sus propuestas sobre ecología, inmigración o impuestos, sino que rechaza su estrategia en favor de Riad

Curiosamente, Spadaro y Figueroa defienden las raíces cristianas de Europa, pero con una argumentación inversa a la que se escuchaba en tiempos de Ratzinger, de la que ha desaparecido el supremacismo cristiano y blanco. “El triunfalismo, la arrogancia y el etnicismo vengativo son exactamente lo contrario del cristianismo”, aseguran. El artículo termina recordando que el papa Francisco combate la narrativa del miedo y la manipulación de la inseguridad y de la ansiedad de la gente, evita la reducción del Islam al terrorismo islamista y rechaza la idea de una guerra santa contra el islam o la construcción de muros físicos e ideológicos. Con la denuncia del ecumenismo del odio, el Vaticano sitúa a Steve Bannon y Donald Trump en un infierno ideológico análogo al que abrió las puertas a Maurras en 1927, ahora hace justo 90 años, en el que se encuentran condenados los políticos que utilizan la religión para dividir en vez de unir a los seres humanos.

En: elpais


The night John McCain killed the GOP’s health-care fight

It was the most dramatic night in the United States Senate in recent history. Just ask the senators who witnessed it.

A seven-year quest to undo the Affordable Care Act collapsed — at least for now — as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) kept his colleagues and the press corps in suspense over a little more than two hours late Thursday into early Friday.

Not since September 2008, when the House of Representatives rejected the Troubled Asset Relief Program — causing the Dow Jones industrial average to plunge nearly 800 points in a single afternoon — had such an unexpected vote caused such a striking twist.

The bold move by the nation’s most famous senator stunned his colleagues and possibly put the Senate on the verge of protracted bipartisan talks that McCain is unlikely to witness as he begins treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer.

“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict party-line basis without a single Republican vote,” he said in a statement explaining his vote. “We should not make the mistakes of the past.”

Rumors swirled late Thursday that the Arizona Republican, who had captured the nation’s sympathy this week after delaying his cancer treatment in order to return to Washington, might vote against the GOP’s “skinny repeal” plan — a watered-down version of earlier Republican proposals to repeal the 2010 health-care law.

McCain warned at a hastily arranged news conference Thursday afternoon that he was leaning against supporting the legislation unless House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) assured GOP senators that the House would not move to quickly approve the bill in its current form. McCain and Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wanted Ryan to launch broad House-Senate negotiations for a wider rollback of the law. Two hours later, Ryan issued a statement signaling he would launch negotiations, and Graham and Johnson announced their support.

But not McCain.

Reporters spotted him around 11 p.m.

“Have you decided how you’ll vote?” they asked.

“Yes,” McCain replied.


“Wait for the show,” he said.

McCain headed for the stage — the Senate floor — around midnight, emerging from his office in the Russell Senate Office Building for the subway ride to the U.S. Capitol.

When he arrived, he held a brief conversation with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer ( D-N.Y.), an exchange that left the New Yorker smiling.

“I knew it when he walked on the floor,” Schumer later recounted, explaining that McCain had already called to share his plans.

But few, if any, of his Republican colleagues realized what was about to transpire.

Two votes were called just after midnight. The first was on a Democratic proposal to refer the “skinny repeal” bill back to a committee. The second vote was to pass “skinny repeal,” which would have repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and rolled back a tax on medical devices.

“Let’s vote against skinny repeal,” Schumer told his colleagues before the votes as he once again derided the rushed nature of the health-care debate.

McCain stood on the Republican side of the room nodding in agreement.

With Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) already planning to vote against the plan, Republicans could not afford to lose McCain. Vice President Pence was already at the Capitol prepared to break a tie. Instead, he launched a last-ditch effort to win McCain’s support.

As the first vote began, McCain took his seat next to Graham, his closest friend in the Senate. The South Carolinian mostly nodded as McCain gesticulated, and signaled — through his body language — that he was likely to vote no. When Murkowski walked over to join the conversation, McCain winked and gave her a thumbs down — signaling his intentions.

Collins joined the group as another clutch of Republican senators formed in the well of the Senate Chamber. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who operates in McCain’s long shadow, stood next to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who counts GOP votes, and Pence. Eventually, Flake was dispatched to talk to McCain.

He obliged, walked over to McCain and asked Graham to move over one seat. But McCain did not acknowledge Flake, focusing instead on Murkowski and Collins.

That left Flake, one of the most polite members of the Senate, leaning into the conversation uncomfortably with a pained look on his face, as if he had to tell his father that he had run over the family dog with his car.

Seeing that Flake was not making progress, Pence walked over at 12:44 a.m. McCain smiled, pointed at Collins and Murkowski, said something about “marching orders,” and stood up.

“Mr. Vice President,” he said, greeting Pence. For the next 21 minutes, the vice president cajoled McCain, Collins and Murkowski. Twice during the conversation, a Pence aide came to whisper in the vice president’s ear — other reporters learned it was the White House calling. Pence finally left to take a call, but later returned to speak with McCain.

By then, other senators around the room realized what was happening.

“You could see the body language in the entire chamber change in two hours,” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) recalled. “One side was kind of ebullient, moving around and talking and the other side was subdued, and all of a sudden it began to change. There was an instinctive reaction that maybe this thing wasn’t going to pass. Nobody knew for sure.”

“It was pretty somber,” added Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

At 1:10 a.m., McCain crossed the Senate Chamber to talk to Schumer, Klobuchar and other Democrats, including Sens. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.). As he approached, McCain told them he worried that reporters watching from the gallery above could read his lips. When he realized that the press was indeed watching, he looked up at the ceiling and shouted, “No!” as senators and reporters laughed. Then, Democrats beamed when McCain shared his news. Feinstein gave him a hug.

Walking back to the Republican side of the room, McCain was stopped by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) who also offered a hug.

“I love John McCain. He’s one of the great heroes of this country,” Hatch explained later. “Whether we agree or not, I still love the guy.”

The vote on “skinny repeal” began at 1:24 a.m., but McCain was out in the lobby once again conferring with Pence. In his absence, Collins and Murkowski cast their “no” votes along with the 48 members of the Democratic caucus.

McCain returned at 1:29 a.m. without Pence, approached the Senate clerk and gave a thumbs down — the third “no” vote.

Several people gasped. Others applauded. Reporters dashed out to report the news.

McCain returned to his seat, walking past Cornyn and Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who stood grim-faced and despondent. Cassidy rubbed his face several times with his hands. Thune’s face contorted. The color in Cornyn’s face seemed to drain.

“Certainly Senator McCain knows how to improve the drama,” Cassidy recalled later.

The vote concluded, and the results were announced — the bill was voted down, 51 to 49. Just days before, McCain had fired a warning shot with a lengthy floor speech that criticized the rushed, secretive process that led to “skinny repeal.” Early Friday morning, McCain, Collins and Murkowski delivered the fatal blow.

McConnell, humiliated by the results, stood to address his colleagues. The color of his face now matched the pink in his necktie.

“This is clearly a disappointing moment,” he said.

In: thewashingtonpost

Pentagon spends 10 times more on erectile disfunction meds than transgender services

The Pentagon spent $84 million on erectile disfunction medications in 2014, 10 times the estimated annual medical costs for transgender services.

Military Times reported in 2015 that the military spent $84 million on erectile disfunction medications such as Viagra and Cialis the year before. Meanwhile, a 2016 Rand Corporation study estimated that the maximum annual medical costs for transgender military members would be around $8.4 million, Business Insider reports.

“You’re talking about .000001% of the military budget,” being spent on transgender services, Navy SEAL veteran Kristin Beck, who is transgender, told Business Insider.

President Trump announced Wednesday on Twitter his decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military “in any capacity.” He cited the “tremendous” costs for providing medical services for transgender troops.

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you,” Trump tweeted.

His announcement sparked widespread condemnation from members of both parties, including Republicans who broke with the president to speak out against the ban.

Image: Facebook

In: thehill

Read also:

Trump to ban transgender people from all military service

Retired transgender Navy SEAL: Tell me to my face I’m not worthy of serving


El fracaso de Trump en la reforma sanitaria destapa sus problemas de liderazgo

El republicano sigue siendo un presidente de excepción, apoyado por un núcleo duro, pero rechazado por el resto.

Donald Trump en su reunión con senadores republicanos tras el fracaso de la reforma sanitaria. REUTERS

Donald Trump sigue solo. Tras seis meses en el poder y una agenda en agitación permanente, el multimillonario neoyorquino no ha sido capaz de romper con la maldición de su mandato. Continúa siendo un presidente de excepción, apoyado por un núcleo duro de votantes, pero rechazado por el resto. Una fractura, cristalizada en su bajísima valoración en las encuestas, que el fracaso en la aprobación reforma sanitaria ha dejado en evidencia. Ni siquiera en el proyecto más emblemático y anhelado de la derecha ha logrado unir a su propio partido.

La división republicana ha dejado el liderazgo de Trump por los suelos. El legado de Barack Obama ha mostrado mucha más resistencia de la que se suponía y ha permitido que las carencias del multimillonario afloren. Las encuestas lo han señalado desde el primer día. Su valoración es la más débil de un presidente a esta altura del mandato, y su vertiginosa gestión solo polariza más. Pero esta limitación no implica que haya perdido el apoyo de sus bases. Los sondeos, como indica a este periódico el profesor Larry Sabato, director del Centro para la Política de la Universidad de Virginia, se elaboran sobre población general pero a efectos electorales solo importan los votantes registrados, y ahí Trump permanece incólume. Sin otros aliados, pero fuerte.

Con este bagaje, Trump ha entrado en el laberinto. Fracasado su plan de liquidar el Obamacare y aprobar al mismo tiempo un proyecto propio, está tratando de hallar una nueva salida: votar la eliminación del actual sistema y dejar para una discusión posterior su alternativa. El plan es de alto riesgo. Tres republicanos moderados ya han alertado de que no piensan dar ese paso y que sumaran sus votos a los demócratas. Dada la exigua mayoría republicana en el Senado (52 escaños frente a 48), es casi imposible que la iniciativa prospere.

Pero Trump no ha tirado la toalla. Ha pedido al líder de la mayoría republicana en el Senado, Mitch McConnell, que someta a votación el fin del Obamacare la semana que viene, y paralelamente él mismo ha convocado una serie de reuniones con los senadores, la primera este miércoles, con el objetivo de recuperar terreno perdido y taponar una fuga irreversible en su presidencia. “La inacción no es solución. Tengo una pluma en la mano lista para firmar. No deberíamos dejar la ciudad hasta tener un plan y sacarlo adelante”, les dijo.

La Casa Blanca es consciente de que sin una mayoría estable en el Senado no sólo la reforma sanitaria, sino su plan fiscal y los presupuestos del año próximo corren peligro. Ante este espectro, Trump, el antisistema que venía a drenar el pantano, ha empezado a buscar su apoyo. No será tarea fácil.

Los republicanos tienen la mayoría en las dos Cámaras, pero forman un universo fractal que hizo de la obstrucción un arma mortal contra Obama y cuyo aguijón sigue vivo. Irredentos, centrados en sus intereses de circunscripción y ultrasensibles a las elecciones de 2018 (renovación total en la Cámara de Representantes y un tercio en el Senado), usan su poder hasta la extenuación y no perdonan los deslices. Trump lo ha sentido en carne propia.

El líder que se presentaba como el gran hacedor de pactos ha cometido en la tramitación de la reforma sanitaria graves errores de estrategia. El primero se vio en marzo cuando intentó forzar la votación de una primera versión en la Cámara de Representantes sin tener mayoría asegurada. In extremis tuvo que retirarla y volver a negociar a puerta cerrada.

El bochorno se ha repetido ahora. En esta segunda fase, obligó al líder de la mayoría republicana en el Senado, Mitch McConell a imponer un doble juego:eliminar el Obamacare y aprobar un proyecto alternativo al mismo tiempo. McConnell y otros senadores le advirtieron de la complejidad de la jugada. Demasiado ambiciosa para lograrla de una sola tacada. Trump insistió. Y la fractura volvió a emerger.

Para los moderados, el plan presentado era excesivamente duro en sus recortes a los más desfavorecidos y hacía prever un colapso en la cifra de asegurados de clase trabajadora (unos 15 millones menos en dos años). Y para los radicales, la ley dejaba escapar con vida el Obamacare. El descontento era evidente. Y Trump no supo manejarlo.

El mismo lunes el presidente cenó con un nutrido grupo de senadores y dedicó la mayor parte de la reunión a recordar sus viajes. “No habló más que de Francia y del Día de la Bastilla”, señaló con sorna un senador republicano. Poco después, la rebelión tomó cuerpo y con la oposición de solo cuatro legisladores la ley se hundió.


Donald Trump ha jugado contra las encuestas en la reforma sanitaria. La última elaborada por The Washington Post-ABC y publicada este domingo pasado ya revelaba la falta de confianza en su proyecto. Aunque es cierto que el Obamacare no gusta del todo (sólo el 37% lo apoya con fuerza), aún gusta menos el proyecto alternativo auspiciado por la Casa Blanca (sólo 17% lo apoya con fuerza). Un resultado que se repite incluso entre los trabajadores blancos sin estudios superiores, el sector de voto duro de Trump.

A este factor se suma la propia polaridad del presidente. Excepto en el área económica, donde el 43% aprueba su gestión frente 41% que la rechaza, en el resto de baremos el mandatario suspende. Así el 58% es contrario a su gestión presidencial (36% a favor) y el 55% considera que no ha logrado avances significativos, frente al 38% que sí.


En pleno debate interno, el Partido Republicano sufrió un nuevo jarro de agua fría. La Oficina Presupuestaria del Congreso, un organismo independiente, pronosticó este miércoles que derogar partes de la ley sanitaria actual sin sustituirlas por una alternativa dispararía el número de personas sin seguro médico en EE UU: 17 millones más en 2018 y 32 millones en 2026. Es una cifra muy superior a los 22 millones de personas más sin seguro en nueve años que había calculado el organismo ante la primera propuesta de reforma republicana.

Ante la incapacidad de sumar los votos republicanos necesarios para avanzar con su propia reforma, Donald Trump ha instado a los senadores a derogar primero Obamacare y luego votar por una propuesta que lo sustituya. Pero esa estrategia parece contar con aún menos apoyos entre los legisladores, lo que posiblemente se acentuará con el pronóstico de la Oficina Presupuestaria.

En: elpais

How bosses are (literally) like dictators

Americans think they live in a democracy. But their workplaces are small tyrannies.

Some Amazon warehouse workers have complained about being pushed beyond their abilities by their bosses. Boston Globe / Getty

Updated by  Jul 17, 2017, 8:20am EDT

Consider some facts about how American employers control their workers. Amazon prohibits employees from exchanging casual remarks while on duty, calling this “time theft.” Apple inspects the personal belongings of its retail workers, some of whom lose up to a half-hour of unpaid time every day as they wait in line to be searched. Tyson prevents its poultry workers from using the bathroom. Some have been forced to urinate on themselves while their supervisors mock them.

About half of US employees have been subject to suspicionless drug screening by their employers. Millions are pressured by their employers to support particular political causes or candidates. Soon employers will be empowered to withhold contraception coveragefrom their employees’ health insurance. They already have the right to penalize workers for failure to exercise and diet, by charging them higher health insurance premiums.

How should we understand these sweeping powers that employers have to regulate their employees’ lives, both on and off duty? Most people don’t use the term in this context, but wherever some have the authority to issue orders to others, backed by sanctions, in some domain of life, that authority is a government

We usually assume that “government” refers to state authorities. Yet the state is only one kind of government. Every organization needs some way to govern itself — to designate who has authority to make decisions concerning its affairs, what their powers are, and what consequences they may mete out to those beneath them in the organizational chart who fail to do their part in carrying out the organization’s decisions.

Managers in private firms can impose, for almost any reason, sanctions including job loss, demotion, pay cuts, worse hours, worse conditions, and harassment. The top managers of firms are therefore the heads of little governments, who rule their workers while they are at work — and often even when they are off duty.

Every government has a constitution, which determines whether it is a democracy, a dictatorship, or something else. In a democracy like the United States, the government is “public.” This means it is properly the business of the governed: transparent to them and servant to their interests. They have a voice and the power to hold rulers accountable.

Not every government is public in this way. When King Louis XIV of France said, “L’etat, c’est moi,” he meant that his government was his business alone, something he kept private from those he governed. They weren’t entitled to know how he operated it, had no standing to insist he take their interests into account in his decisions, and no right to hold him accountable for his actions.

Over time, national governments have become “public,” but in the US workplace governments remain resolutely “private”

Like Louis XIV’s government, the typical American workplace is kept private from those it governs. Managers often conceal decisions of vital interest to their workers. Often, they don’t even give advance notice of firm closures and layoffs. They are free to sacrifice workers’ dignity in dominating and humiliating their subordinates. Most employer harassment of workers is perfectly legal, as long as bosses mete it out on an equal-opportunity basis. (Walmart and Amazon managers are notorious for berating and belittling their workers.) And workers have virtually no power to hold their bosses accountable for such abuses: They can’t fire their bosses, and can’t sue them for mistreatment except in a very narrow range of cases, mostly having to do with discrimination.

Why are workers subject to private government? The state has set the default terms of the constitution of workplace government through its employment laws. The most important source of employers’ power is the default rule of employment at will. Unless the parties have otherwise agreed, employers are free to fire workers for almost any or no reason. This amounts to an effective grant of power to employers to rule the lives of their employees in almost any respect — not just on the job but off duty as well. And they have exercised that power.

Scotts, the lawn care company, fired an employee for smoking off duty. After Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) notified Lakeland Bank that an employee had complained he wasn’t holding town hall meetings, the bank intimidated her into resigning. San Diego Christian College fired a teacher for having premarital sex — and hired her fiancé to fill her post. Bosses are dictators, and workers are their subjects.

American public discourse doesn’t give us helpful ways to talk about the dictatorial rule of employers. Instead, we talk as if workers aren’t ruled by their bosses. We are told that unregulated markets make us free, and that the only threat to our liberties is the state. We are told that in the market, all transactions are voluntary. We are told that since workers freely enter and exit the labor contract, they are perfectly free under it. We prize our skepticism about “government,” without extending our critique to workplace dictatorship.

The earliest champions of free markets envisioned a world of self-employment

Why do we talk like this? The answer takes us back to free market ideas developed before the Industrial Revolution. In 17th- and 18th-century Britain, big merchants got the state to grant them monopolies over trade in particular goods, forcing small craftsmen to submit to their regulations. A handful of aristocratic families enjoyed a monopoly on land, due to primogeniture and entail, which barred the breakup and sale of any part of large estates. Farmers could rent their land only on short-term leases, which forced them to bow and scrape before their landlords, in a condition of subordination not much different from servants, who lived in their masters’ households and had to obey their rules.

The problem was that the state had rigged the rules of the market in favor of the rich. Confronted with this economic situation, many people argued that free markets would promote equality and workers’ interests by enabling them to go into business for themselves and thereby escapesubordination to the owners of capital.

No wonder some of the early advocates of free markets in 17th-century England were called “Levellers.” These radicals, who emerged during the English civil war, wanted to abolish the monopolies held by the big merchants and aristocrats. They saw the prospects of greater equality that might come from opening up to ordinary workers opportunities for manufacture, trade, and farming one’s own land.

Marchers in Burford, England, celebrate the “levellers,” who sought to overthrow monopolies in the 17th century. Tim Graham / Getty

In the 18th century, Adam Smith was the greatest advocate for the view that replacing monopolies, primogeniture, entail, and involuntary servitude with free markets would enable laborers to work on their own behalf. His key assumption was that incentives were more powerful than economies of scale. When workers get to keep all of the fruits of their labor, as they do when self-employed, they will work much harder and more efficiently than if they are employed by a master, who takes a cut of what they produce. Indolent aristocratic landowners can’t compete with yeoman farmers without laws preventing land sales. Free markets in land, labor, and commerce will therefore lead to the triumph of the most efficient producer, the self-employed worker, and the demise of the idle, stupid, rent-seeking rentier.

Smith and his contemporaries looked across the Atlantic and saw that America appeared to be realizing these hopes — although only for white men. The great majority of the free population in the Revolutionary period was self-employed, as either a yeoman farmer or an independent artisan or merchant.

In the United States, Thomas Paine was the great promoter of this vision. Indeed, his views on political economy sound as if they could have been ripped out of the GOP Freedom Caucus playbook. Paine argued that individuals can solve nearly all of their problems on their own, without state meddling. A good government does nothing more than secure individuals in “peace and safety” in the free pursuit of their occupations, with the lowest possible tax burden. Taxation is theft. People living off government pay are social parasites. Government is the chief cause of poverty. Paine was a lifelong advocate of commerce, free trade, and free markets. He called for hard money and fiscal responsibility.

Paine was the hero of labor radicals for decades after his death in 1809, because they shared his hope that free markets would yield an economy almost entirely composed of small proprietors. An economy of small proprietors offers a plausible model of a free society of equals: each individual personally independent, none taking orders from anyone else, everyone middle class.

Abraham Lincoln built on the vision of Smith and Paine, which helped to shape the two key planks of the Republican Party platform: opposition to the extension of slavery in the territories, and the Homestead Act. Slavery, after all, enabled masters to accumulate vast tracts of land, squeezing out small farmers and forcing them into wage labor. Prohibiting the extension of slavery into the territories and giving away small plots of land to anyone who would work it would realize a society of equals in which no one is ever consigned to wage labor for life. Lincoln, who helped create the political party that now defends the interests of business, never wavered from the proposition that true free labor meant freedom from wage labor.

The Industrial Revolution, however — well underway by Lincoln’s time — ultimately dashed the hopes of joining free markets with independent labor in a society of equals. Smith’s prediction — that economies of scale would be less important than the incentive effects of enabling workers to reap all the fruits of their labor — was defeated by industrial technologies that required massive accumulations of capital. The US, with its access to territories seized from Native Americans, was able to stave off the bankruptcy of self-employed farmers and other small proprietors for far longer than Europe. But industrialization, population growth, the closure of the frontier, and railroad monopolies doomed the sole proprietorship to the margins of the economy, even in North America.

The Industrial Revolution gave employers new powers over workers, but economists failed to adjust their vocabulary — or their analyses

The Smith-Paine-Lincoln libertarian vision was rendered largely irrelevant by industrialization, which created a new model of wage labor, with large companies taking the place of large landowners. Yet strangely, many people persist in using Smith’s and Paine’s rhetoric to describe the world we live in today. We are told that our choice is between free markets and state control — but most adults live their working lives under a third thing entirely: private government. A vision of what egalitarians hoped market society would deliver before the Industrial Revolution — a world without private workplace government, with producers interacting only through markets and the state — has been blindly carried over to the modern economy by libertarians and their pro-business fellow travelers.

There is a condition called hemiagnosia, whose sufferers cannot perceive one half of their bodies. A large class of libertarian-leaning thinkers and politicians, with considerable public following, resemble patients with this condition: They cannot perceive half of the economy — the half that takes place beyond the market, after the employment contract is accepted, where workers are subject to private, arbitrary, unaccountable government.

What can we do about this? Americans are used to complaining about how government regulation restricts our freedom. So we should recognize that such complaints apply, with at least as much force, to private governments of the workplace. For while the punishments employers can impose for disobedience aren’t as severe as those available to the state, the scope of employers’ authority over workers is more sweeping and exacting, its power more arbitrary and unaccountable. Therefore, it is high time we considered remedies for reining in the private government of the workplace similar to those we have long insisted should apply to the state.

Three types of remedy are of special importance. First, recall a key demand the United States made of communist dictatorships during the Cold War: Let dissenters leave. Although workers are formally free to leave their workplace dictatorships, they often pay a steep price. Nearly one-fifth of American workers labor under noncompete clauses. This means they can’t work in the same industry if they quit or are fired.

And it’s not just engineers and other “knowledge economy” workers who are restricted in this way: Even some minimum wage workers are forced to sign noncompetes. Workers who must leave their human capital behind are not truly free to quit. Every state should follow California’s example and ban noncompete clauses from work contracts.

We should clarify the rights that workers possess, and then defend them

Second, consider that if the state imposed surveillance and regulations on us in anything like the way that private employers do, we would rightly protest that our constitutional rights were being violated. American workers have few such rights against their bosses, and the rights they have are very weakly enforced. We should strengthen the constitutional rights that workers have against their employers, and rigorously enforce the ones the law already purports to recognize.

A Manchester clothes mill, 1909. This is not the world Adam Smith envisioned when he championed free markets. Topical Press Agency / Getty

Among the most important of these rights are to freedom of speech and association. This means employers shouldn’t be able to regulate workers’ off-duty speech and association, or informal non-harassing talk during breaks or on duty, if it does not unduly interfere with job performance. Nor should they be able to prevent workers from supporting the candidate of their choice.

Third, we should make the government of the workplace more public (in the sense that political scientists use the term). Workers need a real voice in how they are governed — not just the right to complain without getting fired, but an organized way to insist that their interests have weight in decisions about how work is organized.

One way to do this would be to strengthen the rights of labor unions to organize. Labor unions are a vital tool for checking abusive and exploitative employers. However, due to lax enforcement of laws protecting the right to organize and discuss workplace complaints, many workers are fired for these activities. And many workers shy away from unionization, because they prefer a collaborative to an adversarial relationship to their employer.

Yet even when employers are decent, workers could still use a voice. In many of the rich states of Europe, they already have one, even if they don’t belong to a union. It’s called “co-determination” — a system of joint workplace governance by workers and managers, which automatically applies to firms with more than a few dozen employees. Under co-determination, workers elect representatives to a works council, which participates in decision-making concerning hours, layoffs, plant closures, workplace conditions, and processes. Workers in publicly traded firms also elect some members of the board of directors of the firm.

Against these proposals, libertarian and neoliberal economists theorize that workers somehow suffer from provisions that would secure their dignity, autonomy, and voice at work. That’s because the efficiency of firms would, in theory, drop — along with profits, and therefore wages — if managers did not have maximum control of their workforce. These thinkers insist that employers already compensate workers for any “oppressive” conditions that may exist by offering higher wages. Workers are therefore free to make the trade-off between wages and workplace freedom when they seek a job.

This theory supposes, unrealistically, that entry-level workers already know how well they will be treated when they apply for jobs at different workplaces, and that low-paid workers have ready access to decent working conditions in the first place. It’s telling that the same workers who suffer the worst working conditions also suffer from massive wage theft. One study estimates that employers failed to pay $50 billion in legally mandated wages in one year. Two-thirds of workers in low-wage industries suffered wage theft, costing them nearly 15 percent of their total earnings. This is three times the amount of all other thefts in the United States.

If employers have such contempt for their employees that they steal their wages, how likely is it that they are making it up to them with better working conditions?

It’s also easy to theorize that workers are better off under employer dictatorship, because managers supposedly know best to govern the workplace efficiently. But if efficiency means that workers are forced to pee in their pants, why shouldn’t they have a say in whether such “efficiency” is worthwhile? The long history of American workers’ struggles to get the right to use the bathroom at work — something long enjoyed by our European counterparts — says enough about economists’ stunted notion of efficiency.

Meanwhile, our false rhetoric of workers’ “choice” continues to obscure the ways the state is handing ever more power to workplace dictators. The Trump administration’s Labor Department is working to roll back the Obama administration’s expansion of overtime pay. It is giving a free pass to federal contractors who have violated workplace safety and federal wage and hours laws. It has canceled the paycheck transparency rule, making it harder for women to know when they are being paid less for the same work as men.

Private government is arbitrary, unaccountable government. That’s what most Americans are subject to at work. The history of democracy is the history of turning governance from a private matter into a public one. It has been about making government public — answerable to the interests of citizens and not just the interests of their rulers. It’s time to apply the lessons we have learned from this history to the private government of the workplace. Workers deserve a voice not just on Capitol Hill but in Amazon warehouses, Silicon Valley technology companies, and meat-processing plants as well.

Elizabeth Anderson is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s studies at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It) (Princeton University Press, 2017).

In: vox

Beyond Trump’s Big, Beautiful Wall

Trump’s plan to wall off the entire U.S.-Mexico border is just one of a growing list of actions that extend U.S. border patrol efforts far past the international boundary itself.

By: Todd Miller & Joseph Nevins

At the already existing border fence that divides Tijuana, Mexico, from Imperial Beach, California. KATIE SCHLECHTER. Image:

In the fall of 2016, Donald Trump’s “big, beautiful wall” along the U.S.-Mexico divide seemed like an unlikely presidential candidate’s campaign bluster. Since the New York real estate magnate’s swearing-in as Barack Obama’s White House successor on January 20, 2017, it is now a serious Executive Branch threat. Only five days after the inauguration, the Tweeter-in-Chief signed an executive order requiring “the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border.” It is to be one “monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.” According to the administration’s official request for proposals, released on March 17, the wall should be “physically imposing in height”—about 30 feet high but certainly not less than 18 feet.

The new administration’s walled hopes and dreams face considerable obstacles. Among them are the fact that most people in the United States are opposed to building the new barrier, particularly one with a price tag of somewhere between $15 and $40 billion USD— or somewhere between 101 and 270 times the National Endowment for the Arts’ annual budget, estimates Carolina Miranda in the Los Angeles Times. According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs poll in early April, only 28 percent of respondents support new spending for the border wall, with 58 percent against. The results are consistent with findings of a Quinnipiac survey from February. It found that 59 percent of voters opposed the construction of Trump’s wall, with 39 percent in favor; the gap only grew when voters were asked their opinions of the project if U.S. taxpayers had to finance it.

In addition, and perhaps most significant, is the matter of property. Most of the already-existing walls and fencing stand on federally-owned land. Much of the rest of the land where Trump’s Great Wall would be built is either privately-held or owned by Native tribes. Given this fact, the Trump administration will have a big legal battle on its hands that could involve years of litigation, predicts University of Pittsburgh law professor Gerald Dickinson in the Washington Post.

Regardless of the outcome of Trump’s plans for the wall along the actual international boundary line, it is but one part of a gigantic enforcement regime, one that already is comprised of approximately 18,000 Border Patrol agents in the Southwest borderlands alone (out of a total of roughly 22,000 agents nationally). The U.S.-Mexico borderlands is also already littered with several hundred miles of barricades—in the form of walls, fences, and low-lying vehicle barriers—almost all of which were constructed since the mid-1990s, across administrations, both Democratic and Republican. In some of the most urbanized stretches along the international divide, double-layered barriers exist. In and around San Diego, for example, a corrugated metal wall is paired with a steel mesh fence, portions of which are topped with concertina wire.

Moreover, the apparatus of exclusion goes far beyond the actual U.S.-Mexico divide. It includes a 100-mile-wide “border zone” inside the territorial perimeter of the United States, an area in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has certain extra-constitutional powers, such as the authority to set up immigration checkpoints. And there is also the interior policing apparatus run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency with about 5,800 deportation officers, a force that Trump seeks to almost triple in size. Before even setting foot in the White House, Trump already had the largest border enforcement apparatus in U.S. history at his disposal. And with the definition of “operational control” for that apparatus altered in Trump’s January 2017 Border Security Executive Order—it now reads the “prevention of all unlawful entries” (emphasis added) into the United States—there is an anticipation of another massive border policing build-up.

This build-up will not only be at the Mexico-U.S. international boundary line, nor will it simply be within the United States’ own national territory. Rather, under Trump, we can expect an expansion of the apparatus of exclusion beyond the country’s official territorial boundaries. As then head of the U.S. Border Patrol Mike Fisher explained before the House Committee on Homeland Security in 2011, “The international boundary is no longer the first or last line of defense, but one of many.” This means there is not only an internal thickening of the border policing apparatus within the United States, but also a multilayered, extraterritorial extension of the border.

“The U.S. border starts at Guatemala now,” Daniel Ojalvo, a staff member at a migrant shelter in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, told a reporter from In These Times in 2015. In other words, greater efforts to stop migrants in southern Mexico and in Guatemala precede the Trump administration; in many ways, they are the product of Obama administration policies. With General John Kelly, the former head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), now at the helm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it is reasonable to expect such boundary “thickening” efforts—wall-building of a sort that rarely gets attention—to grow.

“South of the Border” and the New Boss

During his January confirmation hearing, General Kelly told senators that “a physical barrier will not do the job.” In an exchange with Senator John McCain (RAZ), he said that, as reported by the New York Times, “It has to be a layered defense. If you build a wall, you would still have to back that wall up with patrolling by human beings, by sensors, by observation devices.” In other words, border policing cannot be an “endless series of goal-line stands on the one-foot line,” to use Kelly’s words. Indeed, Trump’s handpicked Homeland Security chief stressed that he believed “the defense of the southwest border starts 1,500 miles south with great countries as far south as Peru.”

One of us saw this U.S. border extension up-close in Zacapa, Guatemala, in January 2017. At a Guatemalan military base, not far from Honduras, part of the 300-person-strong entity, called the Chorti border task force—named after the Indigenous people who live in the region—stood at attention. Established in 2014, the force demonstrated the construction of a roadside checkpoint during our visit. This included weaponizing six armored jeeps, which then tore through the roads of the military base at breakneck speeds, as if they were really in action.

When in 2008 the United States initiated the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI)—a military assistance cooperation with Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala—U.S. officials pointed to “border deficiencies” in the region as particularly problematic. Approximately $1.7 billion USD later, one of the solutions is the Chorti, which works hand-in-hand with a similar force on the Honduran side of the boundary as a binational border patrol. Guatemala also has a border force along its boundary with Mexico, known as the Tecun Uman. And in the works is a third Guatemalan border patrol, called the Xinca, which will patrol the Guatemala-El Salvador divide.

Before the border security demonstration on that sunny January day, the commanders of the Chorti force detailed, via slide show images, all the resources they obtained from the U.S. Embassy in 2016: assault rifles, night vision goggles, bullet-proof vests, a GPS digital map of Central America, 42 armored Jeeps, seven Ford F-450s, 25 Hilux pickups. Slides displayed pictures of U.S. military personnel training the new Guatemalan border patrol in both 2015 and 2016. Another slide detailed those trainings, which included the U.S. National Guard, BORTAC—the special forces unit of the U.S. Border Patrol—and a trip to Ft. Benning, Georgia, the location of the infamous the School of the Americas, which was rebranded as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001.

Fernando Archila Gozalvo, an official from the Guatemalan Ministry of Interior, repeatedly stressed how the new security unit was part police force, part military force. For example, during the training operation that we witnessed, the military stood poised with assault rifles, carrying out perimeter surveillance, while the police set up a checkpoint, questioned the driver of a vehicle passing through that checkpoint, and then practiced pulling people from the car and handcuffing them. The Chorti border patrol had both a police commander and a military commander who wore a maroon beret, identifying himself as a Kaibil. Formed in 1975, Guatemala’s Kaibiles were a special counterinsurgency force modeled off, and initially trained by, the U.S. Green Berets. The 1999 report of the internationally supported Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification called the Kaibiles a “killing machine.”

Washington has long played a key role in the violence of everyday life in Central America and many Guatemalans see this type of border militarization as a continuation of that violent history. Serving the interests of the Boston-based United Fruit Company, the Eisenhower Administration played a key role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected government in Guatemala in 1954. In doing so, it laid the foundation for a series of military-dominated governments and the Guatemalan military’s reign of terror in the 1970s and 1980s. During that time, over 200,000 people—most of them Indigenous Mayans—lost their lives in the context of a brutal conflict between a U.S.- backed military oligarchy and guerrilla forces. The Commission for Historical Clarification concluded that the Guatemalan state was responsible for more than 90 percent of the deaths and had committed “acts of genocide.” The commission also found that U.S. training of members of Guatemala’s intelligence apparatus and officer corps in counterinsurgency “had significant bearing on human rights violations.” It additionally found that Washington, largely through its intelligence agencies, “lent direct and indirect support to some illegal state operations.”

The legacies of that conflict persist amidst the current wave of re-militarization in Guatemala. Even as the Trump administration threatens to cut different types of economic assistance, the bolstering of police and military to Central America is poised not only to continue, but to drastically increase under his regime, if the $54 billion USD proposed increase to the Pentagon’s already bloated 2018 budget is any indication. Under Trump, in Guatemala, it just might be that the past meets the present with even more force. And the Guatemalan past, as the presence of the Kaibil commander shows, still haunts everyday life. Indeed, the very military base in Zacapa where the Chorti border task force finished its trial operation was one of those places where many human rights violations committed by the U.S.-backed Guatemalan military happened. Former Guatemalan president Manuel Arana Osorio was even dubbed the “Butcher of Zacapa” for running brutal counterinsurgency operations in the region in the late 1960s, killing as many as 15,000 people.

So, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that during the training that there was a U.S. military advisor—a major—on base, in a year-long detail to support the Chorti border patrol. Only now classic counterinsurgency has a new twenty-first century form: border militarization. As DHS Secretary John Kelly offered to the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee in February 2017, the U.S. has a “great opportunity in Central America to capitalize on the region’s growing political will to combat criminal networks and control hemispheric migration.” Kelly contended that “leaders in many of our partner nations recognize the magnitude of the tasks ahead and are prepared to address them, but they need our support. As we learned in Colombia, sustained engagement by the United States can make a real and lasting difference.”

Back in Zacapa, after they finish up their checkpoint exercise, the soldiers and police of the Chorti task force talk about how they are separated from their families for weeks at a time to do the work of guarding Guatemala’s border from, according to their mission, the smuggling of narcotics and people heading north, most likely to the United States. Considering that more than 60 percent of the Guatemalan population live below the poverty line, there is no doubt that some of these agents have attempted to go north themselves. According to 2013 numbers, close to one million Guatemalans live in the United States.

In fact, the uniformed U.S. major, who made it quite clear right from the start that he wasn’t talking on behalf of the Embassy nor the military, indicated that he himself was from the U.S.-Mexico border region— more precisely, the city of Brownsville, Texas. On that military base, deep in Guatemala, he explained that his family had to make a choice in the late 1980s when the Reagan administration began to fortify the border: whether to stay in Mexico or move to the United States. He told of how the border had crossed his family: they moved to the United States from Mexico, and shortly thereafter, he joined the U.S. Army. Even as he did his job supporting the Chorti border force, with the blessing of DHS secretary John Kelly, he knew that every time his force drew a militarized boundary they were dividing families, friends, and entire communities.

As the major talked on that hot day at the Zacapa base, we could see the parched mountains surrounding where the Chorti force enacted their border exercise. Not only were we in the middle of the extending U.S. border regime, we were in the middle of the Central American dry corridor that extends through El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. According to climate scientist Chris Castro, the northern triangle of Central America is “ground zero” in Latin America for ecological upheavals in a changing and destabilizing climate. The thirsty mountains around us were one indication of a drought that was pushing parts of Guatemala into famine. In 2015, hundreds of thousands of people across Central America were pushed to the brink when the annual rains never arrived and harvests failed. Add to the mix the destructive superstorms and hurricanes that have battered the region and the northern triangle region represents a “catastrophic convergence,” to use the term of sociologist Christian Parenti, of political, economic, and ecological issues—all of which are compounding one another. At a global level, the United Nations predicts that by 2050, 250 million people will be displaced because of ecological disasters due to climate change.

The Trump administration will not only be deepening the violence and economic despair that propels people north from places like Guatemala through its border policies; through its embrace of climate change denialism and policies that will only increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, it will also be aiding a regional ecological crisis in Central America. And instead of stopping migration, such policies are likely to accelerate the forced displacement of possibly millions.

Where is the Wall?

As founder of the Global Detention Project Michael Flynn (not the Trump administration’s former national security advisor) described in a 2003 article published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and entitled “Donde está la frontera?” (Where is the Border?), the outward expansion of the U.S. border enforcement apparatus gives new meaning to the concept of a “wall.” According to Flynn, a wall is much more than a physical barrier. “U.S. border control efforts,” he argued, “have undergone a dramatic metamorphosis in recent years as the United States has attempted to implement practices aimed at stopping migrants long before they reach U.S. shores.”

These efforts manifest themselves not only in Guatemala, of course. They are present in many countries around the world. Agents from the special forces BORTAC unit have, according to CBP, “global response capability.” Agents from the unit have travelled to countries like Peru, Panama, Belize, Mexico, Honduras, and Ecuador to first provide a “diagnosis” of those countries’ respective borders, and then offer a “prescription” of training and resources to solve border “woes.” BORTAC has done this not only throughout Latin America, but also in other parts of the globe, including Iraq, where it trained border police and its tactical unit from 2006 to 2011.

As part of its own effort to spread “hard” borders across the globe, the U.S. State Department has also run training programs in countries that include Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Turkey. These efforts are part of an initiative known as the Export Control & Related Border Security Program (EXBS). In addition to conducting trainings, EXBS has provided, as the State Department gushes, “state-of-the-art detection equipment and equipment training” to U.S. allies.

Since 2003, CBP has opened offices abroad, starting in Mexico City, Brussels, and Ottawa. Presently, there are 21 such CBP outposts in cities ranging from Panama City to Johannesburg to Cairo. Homeland Security has even set up “preclearance” sites in the airports of Shannon, Ireland and Vancouver, Canada. It was in this last city where, this past November, U.S. agents blocked Canadian journalist Ed Ou from boarding a flight headed to North Dakota. Ou was on his way to cover the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) stand-off at Standing Rock when CBP detained him for more than seven hours after he declined to give border agents the password to his phone. What Ou experienced in Canada was one small manifestation of an expensive and expansive regime of control and exclusion that will cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $20 billion USD in 2017, if you combine the budgets of both CBP and ICE. This constitutes a mammoth increase of approximately $1.5 billion USD over the annual budgets of the early 1990s.

It is on this already gargantuan budget that the Trump administration seeks to bestow even more largesse. According to the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018, Trump has a little over $2.5 billion USD designated for “tactical infrastructure” and other surveillance technology on the border, including money to “plan, design and begin building the wall.” This would amount to just a fraction of the total cost to construct what he promised during his campaign. Regardless, the physical wall that Trump envisions in the U.S.- Mexico borderlands is and should be a concern. As Verlon Jose, tribal chairman for the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose reservation in southern Arizona borders Mexico, declared in November 2016: “Over my dead body will a wall be built.” This sentiment resonates with many border residents along the 2,000-mile divide, who have voiced opposition.

While the U.S.-Mexico border wall may be the most xenophobic of symbols, it is just a small part of a policing apparatus that is spreading far beyond formal U.S. borders on waves of ever-increasing budgets for U.S. border and immigration control. As the pursuit of what is now called, in official parlance, “homeland security” has shown time and time again, such monies exact high human costs—from migrant deaths and divided families to myriad civil and human rights violations, and ecological degradation. It is this larger “prize” upon which we must focus, and that we must resist and ultimately eradicate.

Additional author information:

Todd Miller
Todd Miller is a journalist who lives in Tucson, Arizona. He is the author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security (City Lights Books, 2014) and the forthcoming Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security (City Lights, 2017).

Joseph Nevins
Joseph Nevins teaches geography at Vassar College. Among his books are Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid (City Lights Books, 2008), and Operation Gatekeeper and Beyond: The War on “Illegals” and the Remaking of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (Routledge, 2010).


‘One Child,’ by Mei Fong

Feng Jianmei recovers from a forced abortion, 2012. Credit Katharina Hesse. Image:

Readers would be forgiven for thinking that the announcement, on Oct. 29, 2015, that China was changing its one-child policy would have turned this book from an account of the daily lives of Chinese people into a work of history. Not so. The event itself came rather late for Mei Fong’s “One Child.” But she makes disconcertingly clear that the repercussions of population control will continue to reverberate throughout China. The policy itself remains a monument to official callousness, and Fong’s book pays moving testimony to the suffering and forbearance of its victims.

It is often assumed that the limitation to a single child was an act of Maoist despotism. In fact, as Fong shows, it was associated with the post-Mao opening. Deng Xiaoping, China’s leader after 1978, had set a target of quadrupling the country’s per capita national income by 2000. China’s planners decided that they could achieve this goal only if, in addition to increasing the size of the pie, there were fewer people to share it.

So they determined, in their words, to “adjust women’s average fertility rate in advance.” The man who ran the program that treated women as if they were production functions was a rocket scientist, Song Jian, who had worked on ballistic missiles. Song went on to help manage the giant Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. His was a world in which unintended consequences were not important.

Population control was not unusual in the 1980s. India also had a fertility-­control program. The United Nations gave its first-ever population award to the Chinese minister for population planning in 1983 (along with Indira Gandhi). But China’s application of population control was particularly ruthless.

In 2012, Feng Jianmei, a factory worker pregnant with her second child, was taken to a clinic, forced to sign a document consenting to an abortion and injected with an abortifacient. She was in her seventh month. Pictures of her lying next to her perfectly formed seven-month dead fetus went viral. But hers was hardly an unusual case. In the 1990s, population targets became a major criterion for judging the performance of officials. It is no surprise that they carried out the one-child policy ruthlessly. Reading this account, one wonders why rape as a weapon of war is (rightly) seen as a war crime, whereas the forcible violation of women’s bodies in pursuit of government policy wins United Nations awards.

As Fong makes clear, the one-child policy was not just a crime. It was a blunder. Fertility would have fallen anyway, as happened in other Asian countries, albeit not quite so far and fast. But the policy further distorted sex ratios, resulting in more boys than girls. And it changed expectations: Most people now want only one child. That is why the policy may prove to be hard to reverse.

The greatest strength of Fong’s book is her reporting (she was a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in China). Fong meets Liang Zhongtang, who fruitlessly attempted to dissuade China’s leaders from adopting the policy in the 1980s. She interviews people at adoption agencies that are suspected of seizing second children and selling them to Westerners. She sees Tough Pig, a boar that survived for 36 days without food or water under the rubble of a vast earthquake in Sichuan Province. The earthquake highlights how unexpected are the tragedies of China’s population policy: Thousands of only children were killed when shoddily built schools collapsed, leaving their stricken parents childless — a disaster in a country where the importance of family has survived even the one-child restrictions. Unlike the earthquake, that policy was — and remains — an unnatural disaster.

In: nytimes 

1 2