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A Choice Between Cruelty and Mercy

By Quinta Jurecic

“The man the city sets up in authority must be obeyed in small things and just but also in their opposites,” declares the tyrannical king in the ancient Greek tragedy Antigone. The plan to which he demands obedience calls for separating a brother and a sister across the city’s border—an act terrible in its cruelty but, he argues, necessary for security. The king wants to reestablish order in the city, and he is using the brother’s fate as deterrence.

In the family separation described by Sophocles, the brother is not just exiled but dead; the king, Creon, has left his body to rot outside the city walls without a burial. The Trump administration has not engineered anything quite this cruel. But when it justifies pulling migrant parents away from their children at the U.S. border, it is speaking Creon’s language.

The New York Times reports that the administration began systematically separating parents from children at the border last month, reasoning that a policy this cruel would deter other would-be migrants from making the trip north. Almost 2,000 children were removed from their parents between April 18 and May 31. In the eight months prior, 700 children were separated.

“It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry, period,” said White House aide Stephen Miller, who engineered the policy. “The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.” “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued. “It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon went a step further: “The morality is the law,” he said when confronted with a photograph of a crying child.

This is Creon’s …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Watch the U.S. Turn Away Asylum Seekers at the Border

By Jeremy Raff

“The [narcos] threatened to kill every last person in our house—even the dog,” says Wayner Berduo, a young Guatemalan asylum seeker at the U.S.-Mexican border, in a new documentary from The Atlantic. Berduo says he lost his left eye and the use of his right arm in a violent attack late last year. Like thousands of Central American families, the Berduos say they’re seeking legal protection in the U.S. because of gang violence at home.

But now, the Trump administration is taking steps to prevent them from finding safety in the U.S. On June 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled that the U.S. would no longer accept gang violence or domestic abuse as valid reasons for asylum. Meanwhile, citing lack of space, U.S. agents have started to turn back asylum seekers at ports of entry in recent weeks, leaving throngs of hopefuls at bridges all along the border. Critics say “slow-walking” asylum applicants is just one more measure meant to discourage Central Americans from entering the country.

Repeatedly turned away by U.S. border guards, the Berduo family spent days sleeping on the ground next to the international bridge—trapped in a kind of purgatory that spans the Rio Grande.

…read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Zero Tolerance

By Elaine Godfrey

-Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey)

Today in 5 Lines

  • During a meeting of the National Space Council, President Trump ordered the Pentagon to create a “space force,” which would be the sixth branch of the U.S. military.

  • Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy amid mounting pressure from Democrats and Republicans to stop the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump also chimed in, again blaming Democrats for the unfolding crisis.

  • The administration continued to receive pushback over its “zero tolerance” policy: A growing number of GOP lawmakers condemned the policy and called for legislation to address it. All 49 Democratic senators signed onto a bill prohibiting the separation of children from their families at the border, except in specific instances. California Senator Kamala Harris also went a step further—calling on Nielsen to resign.

  • During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz defended his review of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, saying there was no “documentary evidence” of political bias.

  • The Supreme Court avoided ruling on two major cases dealing with partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin and Maryland, allowing the current district maps to be used in November’s midterm elections.

Today on The Atlantic


The Unlabelling of an ‘Anti-Muslim Extremist’

By David A. Graham

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the venerable civil-rights organization, has issued a formal apology to British political activist Maajid Nawaz and will make a $3.4 million payment over his inclusion in a 2016 list of “anti-Muslim extremists.”

The settlement is the culmination of a bitter battle between the two sides that has stretched nearly two years. As I wrote when SPLC’s original report, A Journalist’s Manual: Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, was published, Nawaz’s inclusion was baffling and difficult to defend. SPLC did not grant Nawaz’s demand for a retraction, but it did make some edits to his entry while defending his inclusion. Then, in April, the group removed the guide altogether.

On Monday, however, SPLC President Richard Cohen posted an apology to Nawaz and to the Quilliam Foundation, his think-tank.

“Given our understanding of the views of Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam, it was our opinion at the time that the Field Guide was published that their inclusion was warranted,” Cohen said in a statement. “But after getting a deeper understanding of their views and after hearing from others for whom we have great respect, we realize that we were simply wrong to have included Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam in the Field Guide in the first place.”

On the merits, SPLC seems to have made the right choice. Nawaz’s inclusion made the report look more like an attempt to police the discourse on Islam than a true inventory of anti-Muslim extremists, of whom there is no shortage, and opened SPLC up to charges that it had strayed from its civil-rights mission at a time when it’s more important than ever. But the terms of the settlement are troubling at a time when free speech and the free press are under fire, sometimes from the very same people who threaten civil rights.

SPLC …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Supreme Court Would Rather Not Decide

By Garrett Epps

A 1960s novelty toy consisted of a small plastic box with a jointed lid and a switch. When the switch was turned on, a hand emerged, grabbed the switch and turned it off, then retreated back into the box.

Big fun.

The Supreme Court’s October 2017 term, which will lurch to its end next week, has, to a surprising extent, come to seem like that novelty toy. Though last October promised a crop of blockbusters, the Court so far has taken every possible opportunity to avoid important decisions.

On Monday, the Court bailed out of the high-profile Wisconsin gerrymandering case on highly technical grounds. But Gill v. Whitford is not the only major case the Court has ducked; indeed, it is not the only major case the Court ducked during that very half-hour session Monday. The justices also artfully dodged Benisek v. Lamone, a companion gerrymandering case from Maryland, and delivered a narrow, and perhaps temporary, win for Fane Lozman, the civic gadfly arrested at a city council meeting in Florida for addressing topics the council members didn’t want to hear about.

So far during June, the Court has managed to strike down a Minnesota law against wearing political apparel at the polls without making any new law or, indeed, shedding any light on the old law; to vacate a lower-court decision concerning minor girls held by immigration authorities who seek abortions without hinting at the answer; to dodge with soothing platitudes the government’s angry ethics complaint against lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union in that case; to reject an immediate appeal in an important abortion case from Arkansas, leaving the issue for now to a lower court; and, of course, to decide Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission with an opinion that favored the single anti-gay baker in his …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Partisan Gerrymandering Stands, for Now

By Vann R. Newkirk II

What anti-gerrymandering activists across the country wanted was a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court, determining once and for all that political maps could be held unconstitutional for partisan bias, and dictating how. What those activists got, however, was a punt.

“The case is remanded to the District Court to give the plaintiffs an opportunity to prove concrete and particularized injuries,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion.

The decision in Gill v. Whitford, one of the most hyped Supreme Court cases on the issue of gerrymandering in the past 50 years, means rather than weigh in on the merits of the case, the nation’s highest court is sending it back down to a lower court, where the battle over the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering will continue.

Federal courts have been active in gerrymandering recently, with the Supreme Court notably striking down GOP-drawn gerrymanders in two North Carolina congressional districts and in 28 of its state General Assembly districts in 2017, along with federal courts dealing several blows to gerrymanders over the past five years. Almost all of that judicial vigilance has come against racial gerrymandering. Via universally applicable tests and precedent set by enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, courts have had a relatively easy time spotting racial gerrymanders. And it’s served them well, given what seems to be an onslaught of racially imbalanced maps passed by state legislatures during the last round of redistricting in 2011.

But Gill v. Whitford’s rise to the top of the Supreme Court docket was all the more remarkable because the plaintiffs’ argument—that Wisconsin Republicans drew state Assembly maps that diluted votes based on a partisan, not racial, bias—is one for which federal courts are considerably less prepared. Supreme Court precedent holds that maps drawn to maximize partisan advantage, pack members …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



When Is a Cage Not a Cage?

By David A. Graham

It’s hard to think of something more tangible than a child incarcerated in a tent city or a former Walmart building—and yet as the story of families being separated at the border mushrooms, one of the central questions has been a semantic one: whether the migrant children are being kept in cages.

Here’s what no one disputes: When the children are separated from their parents, they’re sent to facilities where they are kept in chain-link pens they can’t leave. But are those cages? It depends who you ask.

For example, the Associated Press reported over the weekend: “Inside an old warehouse in South Texas, hundreds of children wait in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.”

The AP is an influential news source. Since most local outlets around the country can’t send reporters to the border, they end up relying on stories from the AP to deliver the news to their readers. In addition, the wire service studiously aims for impartiality in language and reporting, and outlets around the world often adopt the AP’s guidance on language and usage. For the AP to deem the enclosures “cages” means that language will spread.

Breitbart, the faithful servant of the Trump White House’s messaging line, is well aware of this. On Sunday, editor Joel B. Pollak wrote a post devoted to criticizing the AP’s word choice. “The AP’s choice of words is only the latest in what appears to be a series of politically-charged word choices by the wire service,” he said, and contrasted the AP dispatch with a story in the Los Angeles Times that described “chain-link fenced holding areas.” …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The End of Civil Rights

By Vann R. Newkirk II


he fires on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, had barely stopped burning when the Department of Justice released an extraordinary report on the city’s police department. In the findings of the 2015 investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division detailed how a municipality had built its social contract on a slow-rolling racist heist. Activists hoped that the Ferguson report—which was prompted by the 2014 police killing of an unarmed black teenage and found that police conduct had “severely damaged the relationship between African Americans and the Ferguson Police Department”—would not only change the city, but would signal that the United States was finally willing to confront the legacy of white supremacy. The Ferguson City Council reluctantly agreed to a consent decree with the DOJ that would overhaul city policing. Federal courts rejected voter-suppression schemes and reaffirmed affirmative action. Movements from Black Lives Matter to LGBTQ advocacy saw an opportunity to broaden the national civil-rights agenda.

Then Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III took over.

More than a year has elapsed since Sessions, formerly a senator from Alabama, was appointed U.S. attorney general by President Donald Trump. For the Trump administration, much of the last 18 months has been spent fighting the fires of one scandal after the next, and watching as the sprawling investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election—led by Sessions’s own department—has threatened to consume Washington. In that particular drama, the president and his attorney general have clashed. Trump has openly insulted Sessions, claiming that Sessions took a “weak position” on investigating intelligence leaks, and saying that he “would have quickly picked someone else” had he known how Sessions would handle the Russia investigation.  

But behind the scenes, even as the president has agitated in public about …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The American Who Says He’s Been the Target of Five Air Strikes

By Conor Friedersdorf

He was born Darrell Lamont Phelps. He grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, moved down to the city, tried his hand at comedy, and later converted to Islam, adopting the name of Bilal Abdul Kareem. Now 46 years old, he lives in the Middle East, where he has a wife, five children, and a controversial freelance-journalism career focused on Islamist fighters in the Syrian civil war.

In his estimation, the United States government has tried to kill him five times. Last week, he won the ability to proceed with a lawsuit that could save his life. It may also constrain the president’s ability to order other Americans killed.

Nowhere have the claims of post-9/11 presidents been more radical than in the realm of extrajudicial killing. In the telling of their lawyers, the president, in his capacity as commander in chief during war, can keep a classified kill list, add names as he sees fit, then secretly kill those individuals far from any battlefield. Meanwhile, the U.S. is fighting a war bound by neither time nor geography. The most basic human right—the right to life—is weakened accordingly.

Of course, the premeditated, extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens is contrary to the text of the Constitution, which declares in its Fifth Amendment, “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

Yet the Obama administration killed several United States citizens in overseas drone strikes, including Anwar al-Awlaki, who was designated a lawful target by executive-branch lawyers. They declared him to be impossible to capture and engaged “in continual planning and direction of attacks” against Americans. And courts stymied efforts to challenge his death warrant and his death.

U.S. District Court Judge John Bates ruled in 2010 that the target’s father lacked legal standing …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trump’s Immigration Policy Gets Its Moral Reckoning

By Krishnadev Calamur

Outrage over family separations at the U.S.–Mexico border intensified over the weekend, with two first ladies—Melania Trump and Laura Bush—both weighing in, and tension escalating on the ground. The United States government has separated some 2,000 migrant children from their parents in the last six weeks, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The Trump administration’s policy of separating migrants from their children has prompted a national moral reckoning, with comparisons to Nazi Germany and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, but the president and his aides have provided few signs that they will change course—despite the pressure, including from allies. The administration is caught between its need to secure the border and deter illegal immigration with the political, and moral, consequences of separating people from their children, a policy that could fast become a political nightmare for Republicans ahead of the midterm elections in November.

Melania Trump, the first lady, entered the debate Sunday when a spokeswoman said: “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

Also on Sunday, The Washington Post published an op-ed by Laura Bush, the wife of President George W. Bush, in which the former first lady described the separations as “cruel” and “immoral,” despite “the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries.” Bush, making a rare foray into a public-policy issue, also compared the images from the border to “the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”

Democrats have rallied against the policy, have protested outside detention centers, and urged …read more

Via:: The Atlantic