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Immigrant families remain under Trump’s heel

Yesterday, Donald Trump took the bold and decisive step of signing an executive order against himself.

Specifically, against the separation of migrant families at the southern border that was occasioned by his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration.

“Thank you @POTUS,” first daughter and White House advisor Ivanka Trump tweeted, “for taking critical action ending family separation at our border.” Yes. Thank you, daddy, for mopping up the humanitarian crisis you yourself created for political gain. I so love when you do that.

Still, it is noteworthy, even unprecedented, that President Trump has surrendered on an issue of such vital importance to his core supporters. Nor does it seem likely that it was First Lady Melania Trump or de facto First Lady Ivanka who talked him down.

More probably, the president could smell what was on the breeze; a CNN poll published on 18 June showed 67% of Americans disapproving of family separations. Senate Republicans, in a rare display of moral courage, unanimously denounced the practice. Even Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), an immigration hardliner and famously the most hated man in Washington, slithered out of his pit to register his disgust.

Viewed from any angle, this policy is a disaster. A disaster for its underage victims, chiefly, but also for the United States, its government, its ruling Republican party, and its president.

In the first place, if anyone expected a hard line stance to deter undocumented immigrants, that hope proved futile. Leaked Homeland Security documents show that the number of people caught illegally crossing the border actually rose by 5% in May — from what was already characterized as an historic high in preceding months.

Of course, family separations were never sincerely intended to hold back the tide. As President Trump himself made abundantly clear, he was using caged children as bargaining counters against Democrats (and Republicans) in the House of Representatives who have refused to fund the building of a border wall. With the November midterms looming, Trump is desperate to unite his base by making headway on this keynote campaign promise.

The president tried to play chicken with Congress with thousands of helpless migrant children in the back seat. He swerved, and in so doing, perhaps crashed into the limits of his power. If there’s one silver lining here, it’s the demonstration that even a recalcitrant, ineducable child-Tsar like Trump can be restrained by the preponderance of public opinion.

If there are two silver linings, the other is the shambolic, humiliatingly inept management of this policy by the administration. It really is a wonder these people found their way out of their mothers’ wombs.

As The Washington Post has observed, Trump and his minions offered a rainbow of contradictory explanations and excuses for their callous insistence on separating children from their parents.

The president’s chief of staff, John Kelly, and the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, both described separations as a deterrent against undocumented immigration. When asked if that was the case on Monday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen dismissed the very idea as offensive.

White House aide Marc Short characterized the separations as government policy; Nielsen said, before Congress, “We do not have a policy to separate children from their parents.”

Presidential advisor and surrogate Kellyanne Conway said she didn’t want anybody to “use these kids as leverage.” But when Sessions first announced the ‘zero tolerance’ prosecution of immigrants that started all this, he explained the rationale: “Congress has failed to pass effective legislation that serves the national interest—that closes dangerous loopholes and fully funds a wall along our southern border.” Sounds like a classic hostage situation to me.

Finally, and to no one’s surprise, the president has contradicted himself over and over and over again. He said he felt illegal immigrants must be prosecuted. Then he said he was forced into doing it by the Democrats. He was against a ‘moderate’ immigration reform bill. Then he was for it. And, of course, he couldn’t end the separations by executive order until he spontaneously did so yesterday afternoon.

Make no mistake: the executive order does not end the crisis. It may, in fact, be illegal. Trump wants to keep up the prosecution of as many migrants as possible without estranging parents from children. How you ‘keep families together’ when mom and dad are in prison is another question.

Besides, there is no plan to reunite the 2,000 children who were already removed from their parents’ care. The executive order will halt future separations for the time being, and two pieces of remedying legislation are being debated. But there’s every possibility we’ll be back to square one in a month.

Perhaps some small comfort can be taken in the knowledge that the chaos of the president’s mind, his obdurate lack of strategy, is contagious. It has spread throughout the administration, hamstringing all attempts to explain what the hell this policy was — other than repugnant.

As Eugene McCarthy observed, “The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency.”

I fear that will be cold comfort indeed for children who will go to sleep tonight without their parents to tuck them in.

Twitter: @WoobieRoods

Canada remains dedicated to Paris Agreement despite U.S. decision

The Paris Agreement has been making headlines worldwide after the Trump administration removed themselves from the Paris Climate Agreement and ignited world-wide criticism. Though the United States seems to be doomed to a coal-filled future, where does Canada stand when it comes to Paris Agreement goals?

As it turns out, Canada has a lot of work to do in order to achieve the objectives set out in the Paris Agreement, but remains dedicated to the accord. When the U.S. dropped out of the Paris Agreement, not one other country followed suit and Prime Minister Trudeau went as far to release a statement criticizing President Trump’s decision: “We are deeply disappointed that the United States federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris agreement,” Trudeau said. “Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth. Canadians know we need to take decisive and collective action to tackle the many harsh realities of our changing climate.”

It appears the Canadian government understands climate change is an important issue, but is this country doing enough to combat the devastating effects of carbon emissions? The Columbia Institute, a non-profit dedicated to research and building sustainable communities, released a report card assessing the federal government’s climate change achievements and outlining which areas need improvement. According to the report, entitled Top Asks for Climate Action report,  as of 2015, Canada ranked 58 out of 61 countries for climate protection performance. The government has met certain climate change goals by implementing a national price on carbon, establishing a national transportation strategy, and offering dedicated funding to public transit in its municipalities. Alternatively, things Canada needs to work include setting greenhouse gas targets that would meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement, eliminating subsidies to fossil fuel industries, and moving towards renewable energy instead of locking the economy into a high carbon path.

The next step would be for Canada to adopt science-led and legally binding greenhouse reduction targets and follow best practices of countries like Finland, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Mexico. As a part of the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) mandates nationally determined commitments by 2020. Canada’s current targets do not meet the Paris Agreement standards, and these new objectives would need to be set at 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 from the current standing goal of 30 per cent.

South of the border, the Trump government announced on June 1 the United States wouldn’t remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, citing the accord as ‘unfair’. Ignoring the pleas of many U.S. stakeholders, Trump instead offered to renegotiate the terms. The European Union outright refused to engage in negotiations. Instead, the EU plans to bypass the federal government and work directly with U.S. businesses, governors, and mayors to keep up with the climate change commitments.

Though this decision is devastating from an environmental perspective, it opens up key opportunities for Canada. If the U.S. is solely dedicated to promoting fossil fuels, the clean technology sector is ripe for the taking and Canada has the option to become a leader in renewable energy. Since there are only three countries in the world that haven’t signed the Paris Agreement (Syria, Saudi Arabia, U.S.), there are a lot of stakeholders looking for ways to implement clean technology and the green economy will only grow from here.

Though the U.S. has made a critically bad decision to leave the Paris Agreement, Canada and the rest of the world remains dedicated to slowing climate change and saving planet earth. Trudeau is leading the country towards becoming one of the more sustainable places to live in the world, but a lot of work remains. If Canada does set concrete greenhouse reduction goals that match targets set in the Paris Agreement and then actually implements them, the country will be well on its way to trying to combat the inevitable pollution caused by our climate-change-denying-neighbour down south.

Oscars’ best picture win will reflect what society stands for today

Films often reflect societal views; confronting current issues and using the artistic power of the lens to capture history. Watching someone perform on film brings out various elements of the human condition and can hold incredible sway over the viewer. Thus, to celebrate such artistic feats, the Oscars emerged as one of the most highly viewed awards shows of the year.

In the last few years, the Oscars have been criticized for favouring films with ‘white’ actors, even producing a popular hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. This year, the nominations strayed from the ‘white’s-only’ club to include several strong contenders with leading roles for people of colour. Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, is a film that follows a young gay man through his childhood, teen years, and adulthood, and touches on various issues that affect the African American community in the United States today. This film is a front-runner to win Best Picture, with seven other nominations as well. Another nominated film with leading roles for people of colour is Fences, directed by Denzel Washington, is a film that explores the intergenerational trauma of racism and a father’s inability to help his son succeed because of his own failed success. The third film that touches on African American themes is Hidden Figures, directed by Theodore Melfi, and is based on the true story of a group of African American women that worked for NASA and helped the first space mission launch in the 1960s.

La La Land, a musical directed by Damien Chazelle, is nominated for 14 awards and many expect this film to win best picture. The musical focuses on Hollywood and the struggles that come with stardom. The musical score in this film happens to be phenomenal. Lion, by Garth Davis, arguably has one of the most unique storylines and is based on the true story of a boy adopted from India who used google earth to find his family after he was lost as a child. The tear-jerker of the year is Manchester by the Sea, directed by Kenneth Lonergan, that explores how losing one’s children can destroy you as a person.

Many critics believe that La La Land will win Best Picture because a) it is a fantastic film, b) has won several other awards already and c) was well-received by the academy. A rising sentiment is being whispered among film buffs though that Moonlight will take the crown. Since President Donald Trump has come into power, there has been a growing protest movement in Hollywood that opposes his racist, xenophobic and otherwise extremist right-wing ideologies. A new unified movement in the film community is rising up against the racist and islamophobic reign of terror that has overtaken the United States. Due to the societal convictions of the progressive left, Moonlight should win — also because it is a wonderfully touching film that deserves the recognition.

Though La La Land captures the heart of film and music and has beautiful cinematographic references, Moonlight represents the United States as it currently stands today. Jenkins’ manages to take the struggles of being black in America today and turns it into an art piece. This film offers an opportunity for a person of any ethnicity, age, or religion to step into the role of being a young, gay, African American boy, and it is when the leading character Chiron pauses in silence, that you can feel years of black history and oppression being played out one scene at a time.

No matter what, this year’s Oscar win for best picture will undoubtedly be representative of what Hollywood cares really about — whether that be ignoring reality and embracing the sublime in La La Land or facing the visceral reality of how society has failed people of colour in America in Moonlight. Tune in Sunday, Feb. 26th at 8:30 E.S.T. to find out.

What is the legality of President Trump’s immigration ban?

The past eleven days in the United States has been nothing short of shocking, with several executive orders reeking of racism, xenophobia and megalomania passed by newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump that have turned many people’s lives upside down.

Trump’s executive order to ban immigration has suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely, and blocked entry of people from seven countries; Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, for 90 days. The decision has rocked the globe and has resulted in complete chaos on the U.S borders since the order was signed on Jan. 27.

The legality of the decision to ban citizens from Muslim-majority countries has been widely questioned by legal officials in the United States, and it appears that the order contravenes at least two constitutional amendments and may also be violating international human rights laws. On Saturday night, federal judge Ann Donnelly from Brooklyn blocked the order from sending people back to their home countries in the airport by claiming that it infringed upon Due Process and Equal Protection under the United States Constitution.

Protection for Refugees under the constitution

Due Process is covered under the fifth and fourteenth amendment and prevents against denying people entry who have valid visas. Equal protection should protect refugees from being sent back to unsafe conditions that threaten their safety and livelihood. Similar rulings were issued in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington. The Department of Homeland Security agreed to comply with rulings, but didn’t release detainees or comply with the ruling right away.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in New York is leading one of the biggest lawsuits on the issue and is claiming that the Establishment Clause in the constitution indicates that one religious denomination cannot be preferred over another. Though Trump’s order does not officially target Muslims, it does establish that it would help citizens of ‘minority religions’ in the seven listed countries, all of which have a Muslim majority. This indicates that the order attacks the Muslim majority, and thus violates the Establishment Clause.

After the executive order was granted, US Attorney General Sally Yates questioned the legality of the immigration ban and refused to direct staff in the justice department to execute the order. She was subsequently fired on Monday.

International Human Rights Laws

The ban may even contravene international human rights law as pointed out by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Geneva refugee convention requires the international community take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. The refugee convention, which is a United Nations treaty signed by the U.S., also prohibits discrimination against refugees on the basis of religion. Though the President of the United States is able to suspend entry to ‘any class of aliens’, a 1965 revision of law also indicates that people cannot be discriminated against based on their race, sex, nationality, place of birth or residence.

The best chance of success to repeal the immigration ban is for the Supreme Court to define the executive order as unconstitutional. This stands a good chance of being granted due to several counts of unconstitutionality that have been brought up by legal agencies across the country. The decision really comes down to the power of the law as distinctly separate from politics and if judicial branch is capable of being a supposedly impartial legal system. This is arguably the only chance the United States has to protect itself from megalomaniacs like President Trump.

The fate of many lives is at stake and one can only hope that the law is, indeed, just.

The environment is screwed with Donald Trump as president

If the environment wasn’t under imminent threat before, it most certainly is now that the United States elected Donald Trump as their newest president.

President, Donald Trump (I can’t believe that string of words in now a reality) has proposed to cancel President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and famously claimed in a tweet that climate change was a ‘Chinese Hoax’. Trump’s various claims do not bode well for the planet and its future.

So what does Trump’s presidential win mean for the environment? Essentially, it means that the planet is in peril.

Trump represents an American ideology that focuses solely on the economy at the expense of lowering carbon emissions. At a conference in Bismarck, North Dakota in May 2016, he supported oil fracking and also stated he would minimize the U.S commitments to the Paris Agreement. The U.S is currently the second largest producer of oil and Trump’s agenda to push fossil fuels even more will increase carbon emissions tenfold. He hinted that the failing oil economy can be resolved if the United States exploited the lands that have been previously considered off limits, including the Outer Continental Shelf. He also wants to push more production in the non-renewable energy sector. This would be a short-term solution and would harm the economy, not to mention the environment, in the long term. By over-flooding the energy sector with more oil through fracking, it would further lower the value per barrel of oil and would decimate even more land that is already threatened in the United States.

Trump has publicly stated several times that he would wipe Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was a fruit of labour for the democratic president. Within the Clean Power Plan, the environmental protection agency (EPA) gave each state the power to decide for themselves how to lower carbon emissions in power plants by using renewables or nuclear energy instead of carbon pricing. States were supposed to submit plans by 2016-2018 and would start cutting emissions by 2022 at latest. The EPA estimated that the plan would lower power plant emissions by 32 per cent by 2030 as compared to rates in 2005. Trump has claimed he intends to cancel this plan and has vaguely threatened to get rid of the EPA all together. He has not recommended any alternative plans to lower carbon emissions.

The future of the environment in the United States looks dark, but there is hope. Strong environmental advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club, one of the largest environmental advocacy groups in the United States that has been fighting to protect the earth since 1892, are not going to give up.

There are many other groups that are preparing to continue the fight for climate change despite this unwelcome change of leadership in the country.

Trump may surprise his citizens by not canceling environmental agreements, though I won’t be holding my breath. It is a historical and frightening time to be living in such close proximity to a country that has a leader who cares so little about climate change. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. We can only hope he was serious about creating clean air and clean water (the only vague environmental commitments he has made), and is willing to see that climate change goals are inextricably linked to providing those very things.

Otherwise, Canada may want to start building that wall.

Are you fearful of a Trump presidency? You should be.

Note: offensive language to follow.

I can’t wait for the American elections to be over, but at the same time, I fear it. I fear the very real possibility that Republican candidate Donald Trump could be the next President of the United States.

The man is a racist, a bigot, a misogynist, and just plain stupid. He has no real policy other than “kill ISIS” and can’t frame a sentence with any sort of grammatical structure.

Despite his lack of policy, ideas, or genuine political experience, what really bothers me is his attitude. He doesn’t give a shit about the job of president. He just wants the power that comes with it (and probably the money).

Trump’s actions speak louder than the words he constantly spits out in front of the camera. “No one respects women more than I do,” he says into the microphone just days after a video was released showing him saying he likes to kiss women without their permission and “grab (women) by the pussy.” He retorted in a non-apology by saying this was “locker room talk.”

This, my fellow readers, is the definition of rape culture: thinking it’s okay to talk about violence against women (which by the way inspires real violence against women) and then not acknowledging anything is wrong.

But, Donald Trump doesn’t care about rape culture; just like he doesn’t care about women, immigrants, the poor, and, well, anyone who isn’t white and wealthy. It’s obvious to anyone with a heart beat that all he wants is the position — so that he can prosecute who ever he wants and do whatever he wants. For a man who is probably on the verge of bankruptcy, despite the $14 million loan his father gave him, the office of the presidency is a jackpot; it’s nothing more than a chair and a paycheque.

Sadly, here’s the rub: it doesn’t matter what the media says or how ridiculous an answer Trump gives people during the public debates. It doesn’t matter that Hillary Clinton is much more qualified and has to demonstrate these qualifications with Trump looming over her in an intimidating manner. The people who support Trump will vote for him no matter what, and that is where my fear comes from.

The way he talks makes people afraid of the world, and therefore people are willing to throw away common sense for someone who says they will protect them from those evils. These evils could be immigrants, terrorists, and yes, even women.

If Trump is elected President come Nov. 8 (Not the 28th as he has claimed), the United States will de-evolve — it will no longer be known as a country with freedoms for everyone. It will no longer be a country others respect. In fact, it will be a country everyone (even Canada) fears.

 

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