Saturday, June 23, 2018

Where Migrant Children Are Being Held Across the U.S.


[pink] States with shelters [brown] Locations of known shelters

The more than 2,300 children who were separated from their parents while crossing the Southwest border in recent weeks have been sent to shelters and other temporary housing across the United States.

The shelters are part of a system, shown [above], overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, that was originally established to provide temporary housing for children entering the country without parents.

The system has an estimated 100 shelters in 17 states. The Department of Health and Human Services has not indicated which of these shelters the recently separated children were sent to, but state and local officials have confirmed that some were sent as far as New York, Oregon, California and Florida.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said on Wednesday that 350 migrant children separated from their parents by federal immigration officials had come through a center in Harlem.

The shelter locations above were compiled using information from state agencies and nongovernmental organizations.

Note: Some minors are also placed into foster care. Those locations are not shown on the map.

Additional work by Jasmine C. Lee and Jeremy White.


Roger Cohen, "Trump the European Nationalist Puts America Last," New York Times; original article contains links and iustrations

ATHENS — President Trump, in concert with several European leaders, including those of Hungary, Poland, Austria and Italy, is intent on dehumanizing immigrants and refugees. The aim is to equate them with terrorists and criminals ready to “infest” — Trump’s word — American and European civilization, defined as a threatened white Judeo-Christian preserve.

It’s a consistent policy buttressed by insinuation and lies about the supposed threat, and designed to manipulate fear and nationalism as election-winning emotions in a time of rapid technological change, large migrant flows and uncertainty. Vermin infest, not humans.

Every utterance of Trump on immigration is meant to conflate immigration with danger. This is a direct repudiation of America’s distinguishing essence — its constant reinvention through immigrant churn.

The immigrant brings violence. The immigrant brings terror. The immigrant’s humanity is lesser or nonexistent. These are tropes about “the other” whose capacity to galvanize mobs, and wreak havoc, was proved in the first half of the 20th century. Trump does not hesitate to use them.

Nor does Viktor Orban, the right-wing Hungarian leader, who has said that “every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk.” The Hungarian parliament has just passed legislation that would throw people in jail for providing assistance to asylum seekers and migrants.

It’s known as the “Stop Soros” law, a reflection of Orban’s obsession with the liberalizing work of the Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish. Orban’s propagandists have worked hard to whip up a frenzy over the “cosmopolitan” designs of this “speculator.” From here to words like “infest” is but a short distance, a quick sprint from 1933 to 2018.

Matteo Salvini, the rightist Italian interior minister who has turned away two rescue ships carrying more than 850 migrants since taking office this month, is pursuing a similar objective. Before taking office, he said Italy was packed with “drug dealers, rapists, burglars,” whom he wants to send home. The portrayal of Mexican migrants as “rapists” was, of course, a takeoff point for the Trump campaign in 2015.

It is critical to see Trump as a part of this wider phenomenon. One may debate the reasons for the phenomenon: the destabilizing impact of globalization on Western democracies; stagnant middle-income wages; growing inequality; fear of an automated future; the sheer scale of current migration, with some 68.5 million refugees or internally displaced people in the world; the failure of the United States or Europe to enact coherent immigration policies; the sense of vulnerability that jihadist terrorism since 2001 has propagated; the resultant spread of phobia about Islam; the ease of mob mobilization through fear-mongering and scapegoating on social media.

In the end it does not matter which factors weight most. What matters is to recognize that Trump is strong because of a global nationalist lurch; that his feral instincts make him dangerous; and that he may well win a second term, just as Orban has now won four terms.

To ridicule Trump will achieve little absent a compelling social and economic alternative that addresses anxiety. The Democratic Party, for now, is nowhere near that.

Eighteen months into a presidency during which Trump has shown contempt for the truth, Republican support for him is overwhelming. The fact that this is shameful does not make it any less politically significant. The zero-tolerance border policy that left more than 2,300 children separated from their parents — a policy Trump has now rescinded after coming under enormous pressure — had broad backing until children’s desperate cries delivered what no atrophied Republican conscience could summon: moral revulsion.

Trump likes to go for the jugular. He sees opportunity in a Europe that is split down the middle between nations like Hungary and Poland that make no attempt to sugarcoat their anti-immigrant nativism and states like Germany that have not forgotten that the pursuit of racially and religiously homogeneous societies lay at the core of the most heinous crimes of the last century.

In this split, Orban and his ilk are in the ascendancy. In fact, Orban is the most formidable politician in Europe today. It’s no coincidence that Trump called him last weekend. Their aims overlap.

Nor is it a coincidence that Trump tweeted this week that “Crime in Germany is way up” and that allowing immigrants in “all over Europe” has “strongly and violently changed their culture.”

Let’s put this bluntly: Trump (whose stats on German crime were wrong) backs Orban against Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in the continuing bid to make racism and xenophobia the new normal of Western societies.

Le Monde, the French daily, had a banner headline on its front page this week: “The U.S. President Is Indifferent to Human Rights.” It’s true, of course; we’ve known that for a while. In fact, Le Monde was being charitable. Trump is hostile to human rights.

There are many flashpoints around the world today. But the greatest danger is within. A two-term Trump presidency would likely corrode American institutions and values to the point at which they could scarcely be resurrected. Then, even the screams of traumatized immigrant children torn from their parents may fall on deaf ears.

Megan Cerullo, "Trump-autographed photos of people killed by undocumented immigrants at White House event for ‘Angel Families," New York Daily News

A White House event Friday honoring people who’ve been killed by undocumented immigrants featured photos of the victims — all of which were autographed by President Trump.

Trump highlighted the so-called “Angel Families” in an attempt to shift the narrative around his “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has sparked outrage for separating more than 2,000 immigrant children from their families.

“We’re gathered today to hear directly from the American victims of illegal immigration,” Trump said.

“You know, you hear the other side, you never hear this side.”

"These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones. The word 'permanently' being the word that you have to think about. Permanently — they're not separated for a day or two days, these are permanently separated because they were killed by criminal illegal aliens," he said.

Trump accused his opponents of “burying” the families’ stories. ‘’

Image from article, with caption: President Donald Trump speaks on immigration in the South Court Auditorium, next to the White House on June 22, 2018 in Washington, DC, next to people holding posters of people allegedly killed by illegal immigrants.

“These are the stories that Democrats and people that are weak on immigration, they don’t want to discuss, they don’t want to hear, they don’t want to see, they don’t want to talk about,” he said.

The event had “Angel Parents” standing on stage against a backdrop emblazoned with the phrases “Protect Our Communities” and “Secure Our Borders,” holding photographs of 11 deceased relatives, which bore Trump’s autograph in bold marker.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the President signed the photos or if the families had asked him to sign them.

Trump used the occasion to tout his immigration policies — insisting that the families’ losses will not have been for nothing.

Image from article, with caption: The News' front page for Saturday, 23, 2018.

“We will secure our borders, and we will make sure that they’re properly taken care of,” he said.

He insisted that illegal immigrants commit violent crimes at a far higher rate than U.S. citizens, despite several studies that have found the opposite. "You hear it's like they're better people than what we have, than our citizens. It's not true," he said.

He also griped about the lack of uproar over the mayor of San Diego’s alleged warning to residents about an imminent ICE raid, saying there should be far more outrage.

“And what are they going to do about looking at her, by the way? I've been asking this question now for four weeks. She can do that?” Trump fumed.

However it was Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, a Democrat, who had issued the warning, not San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican.


Julie Turkewitz and Jose A. Del, "Why Are Parents Bringing Their Children on Treacherous Treks to the U.S. Border?" New York Times, June 22; original article contains additional illustrations

President Trump hopes to deter the flow of migrants into the United States, but near the busy border crossing in Arizona, some said that the threat of separation from their children would not deter them.

Image from article, with caption: Miriam, a Guatemalan asylum seeker with her son Franco at Casa Alitas, a private shelter that provides temporary housing in Tucson, Ariz.

TUCSON, Ariz. — When Luis Cruz left behind his wife, four of their children and the house he’d built himself, he’d heard that American officials might split him from his son, the one child he took with him. But earlier this month, the two of them set out from Guatemala anyway.

The truth, he said this week, moments after they arrived at a cream-colored migrant shelter in Tucson, was that he would rather be apart from his child than face what they had left behind. “If they separate us, they separate us,” said Mr. Cruz, 41. “But return to Guatemala? This is something my son cannot do.”

For years, children and parents caught crossing the nation’s southern border have been released into the United States while their immigration cases were processed, the result of a hard-fought legal settlement designed to keep children from spending long months in federal detention. In the eyes of the Trump administration, this practice has served as an open invitation for people like Luis Cruz, and has played a major role in driving thousands of families across the border with Mexico.

Mr. Trump’s newest immigration policies — first an effort to separate families crossing the border, and now an effort to change the legal settlement on migrant family detention — represent an aggressive effort to rescind that invitation, one that has plunged the nation into a debate about the limits of its generosity.

But interviews at shelters and passage points along both sides of the border this week, as well as an examination of recent immigration numbers, suggest that even with tightened restrictions on families, it’s going to be difficult for the president to stanch the flow.

Though it’s impossible to know yet whether the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” crackdown on illegal border crossers will have a significant deterrent effect, one thing was clear this week at the Arizona-Mexico border: Many families — especially those from countries in Central America plagued by gang violence and ruined economies — are making the calculation that even separation or detention in the United States is better than the situation at home.

“Why would you undertake such a dangerous journey?” said Magdalena Escobedo, 32, who works at the migrant shelter here in Tucson, called Casa Alitas. “When you’ve got a gun to your head, people threatening to rape your daughter, extort your business, force your son to work for the cartels. What would you do?”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April announced a policy of prosecuting all illegal border crossers, yet federal agents caught nearly 52,000 people at the border in May, marking a steady rise in illegal entries after a sharp decline during the first year of Mr. Trump’s administration. More than 250,000 migrants had been arrested this year as of late May, according to data by United States Customs and Border Protection; that number is close to the total number arrested in all of 2017, about 311,000.

Casa Alitas, a low-slung building down a dusty street in Tucson, takes in families who’ve presented themselves to border officials to ask for asylum. Once they’re processed at immigration facilities, authorities drop them off here for a meal and a shower before they head off to stay with friends or relatives and wait for their day in court.

On Thursday, men like René Pérez, 40, who made it into the United States with his son this week, said he was well aware that they might have been separated or placed in custody. “If it happens, it happens,” said Mr. Pérez.

Across the border in the Mexican town of Nogales, many parents preparing to cross the border said temporary separation from their children in the United States would be better than facing the violence back home.

Pancho Olachea Martin, a medic, took a group of Central American asylum seekers to a shelter in Nogales.

“I’d rather accept that, to know that my son is safe,” said Lisbeth de la Rosa, 24, who was waiting in line to enter the United States with her 4-year-old son.

“It’s worth it,” said Lidia Rodríguez-Barrientos, 36, standing with her 9-year-old daughter. “Why? Because we’re afraid to go back.”

What has guided much of border detention policy in recent years is a 1997 agreement in the case Flores v. Reno, in which the federal government was barred from detaining migrant children, save for a short period and under certain conditions. The agreement was interpreted later to include children traveling with their families.

Unwilling to separate young migrants from the parents traveling with them, both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations arrived at the policy of releasing families while they awaited immigration proceedings—though Obama administration officials did so only after having been successfully sued over their policy of holding families together in detention.

Critics, including Mr. Trump, have long said that allowing migrants to go free while their immigration cases are pending encourages parents to enter the United States with children, and some conversations bear that out.

“This is the reason I brought a minor with me,” said Guillermo T., 57, a construction worker who recently arrived in Arizona. Facing unemployment at home in Guatemala, he decided to head north; he had been told that bringing his 16-year-old daughter would assure passage. He asked that only his first named be used to avoid consequences with his immigration case.

“She was my passport,” he said of his daughter.

The Trump administration is asking for changes to the Flores settlement that would allow officials to detain children with their families for longer than the short period allowed under the agreement. Lawyers for the Obama administration already asked for changes to that settlement and were denied. In any case, it’s unclear if that will stop people from coming.

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a global fellow at the Wilson Center who has interviewed hundreds of Central American migrants in the field, said that they are primarily motivated to leave their countries by violence and lack of economic opportunities, phenomena which she described as closely connected.

She said these migrant families choose the United States because they often have networks in the country already and know that there are many job opportunities. “There are push and pull factors. The push factors are the lack of economic opportunities and the security problems in their countries. It’s a mix of these conditions. The pull factors are of course the jobs and the families.”

Even with steep drops in the number of recorded murders in the past year, El Salvador and Honduras, the home countries of many migrants, are still among the most dangerous countries in the world. Poverty is hammering away at livelihoods in much of Central America, and for some, the decision to leave is a gamble on a better life.

For others, it’s a matter of saving the one they have.

On Thursday, federal officials dropped Mr. Cruz and his 16-year-old son, also named Luis, at Casa Alitas. Both wore black, despite the southwestern heat, and inside, they sat at a table covered with a cloth of bright sunflowers.

They eagerly consumed big bowls of soup before explaining why they had come.

The elder Mr. Cruz, a lemon and orange grove worker, had hoped to live his life in his home state of Suchitepéquez. Then in late May, his son was approached twice by a gang who demanded he join them, flashing a gun and urging him to commit his first extortion. “They kill you if you don’t obey,” said Mr. Cruz.

On June 3, the pair left for the United States, and then presented themselves at the border to ask for asylum. After lunch at the shelter, the younger Mr. Cruz pulled a piece of paper from his pocket, unfolding it to reveal a letter his school director had written before he left — a note they hoped would be the evidence they needed to win asylum in the United States.

“The student had to withdraw himself from school due to violence and gang persecution,” she wrote. “He decided to move to save his life.”

Julie Turkewitz reported from Tucson and Jose A. Del Real reported from Nogales, Mexico. Miriam Jordan contributed reporting from Los Angeles and Frances Robles from Miami.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Birth tourism brings Russian baby boom to Miami - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

Cynthia McFadden, Sarah Fitzpatrick, Tracy Connor and Anna R. Schecter,, Jan.09.2018; article contains videos and images

Image from, under the heading: "Birth tourism brings Russian baby boom to Miami"

MIAMI — Lured by the charm of little Havana or the glamour of South Beach, some 15 million tourists visit Miami every year.

But for a growing number of Russian women, the draw isn't sunny beaches or pulsing nightclubs. It's U.S. citizenship for their newborn children.

In Moscow, it's a status symbol to have a Miami-born baby, and social media is full of Russian women boasting of their little americantsy.

"It's really common," said Ekaterina Kuznetsova, 29. "When I was taking the plane to come here, it was not only me. It was four or five women flying here."

Ekaterina was one of dozens of Russian birth tourists NBC News spoke to over the past four months about a round-trip journey that costs tens of thousands of dollars and takes them away from home for weeks or months.

Why do they come?

"American passport is a big plus for the baby. Why not?" Olesia Reshetova, 31, told NBC News.

"And the doctors, the level of education," Kuznetsova added.

The weather doesn't hurt, either.

"It's a very comfortable place for staying in wintertime," Oleysa Suhareva said.

It's not just the Russians who are coming. Chinese moms-to-be have been flocking to Southern California to give birth for years.

What they are doing is completely legal, as long as they don't lie on any immigration or insurance paperwork. In fact, it's protected by the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says anyone born on American soil is automatically a citizen.

The child gets a lifelong right to live and work and collect benefits in the U.S. And when they turn 21 they can sponsor their parents' application for an American green card.

As president, Donald Trump has indicated he is opposed to so-called chain migration, which gives U.S. citizens the right to sponsor relatives, because of recent terror attacks. And as a candidate, he called for an end to birthright citizenship, declaring it in one of his first policy papers the "biggest magnet for illegal immigration."

"You have to get rid of it," he said on "Meet the Press" on NBC. "They're having a baby and all of a sudden — nobody knows — the baby is here. You have no choice."

In a twist, as the Daily Beast first reported, condo buildings that bear the Trump name are the most popular for the out-of-town obstetric patients, although the units are subleased from the individual owners and it's not clear if building management is aware.

There is no indication that Trump or the Trump Organization is profiting directly from birth tourism; the company and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Roman Bokeria, the state director of the Florida Association of Realtors told NBC News that Trump- branded buildings in the Sunny Isles Beach area north of Miami are particularly popular with the Russian birth tourists and Russian immigrants.

"Sunny Isles beach has a nickname — Little Russia — because people who are moving from Russian-speaking countries to America, they want … a familiar environment."

"They go across the street, they have Russian market, Russian doctor, Russian lawyer," he added. "It's very comfortable for them."

Image: Oleysa Suhareva traveled from Russia to Miami to give birth.Oleysa Suhareva's baby became an American citizen by being born in Miami.Courtesy Oleysa Suhareva

Reshetova came to Miami to have her first child, hiring an agency to help arrange her trip. The services — which can include finding apartments and doctors and obtaining visas — don't come cheap. She expects to pay close to $50,000, and some packages run as high as $100,000. Bokeria says some landlords ask for six months rent up front.

One firm, Miami Mama, says it brings about 100 Russian and Russian-speaking clients to the U.S. per year, 30 percent of them repeat clients. The owners are Irina and Konstantin Lubnevskiy, who bought Miami Mama after using the firm to have two American children themselves.

The couple says they counsel clients to be completely transparent with U.S. immigration officials that they're expecting.

"We tell every client, 'You have the documents, you have to tell the truth. This is America. They like the truth here,'" Konstantin said.

"I would like the American people to understand they don't have to worry," he added. "Those who come here want to become part of the American people."

But Miami Mami has drawn scrutiny from law enforcement. In June, it was raided by the FBI, and an employee was convicted of making false statements on passport applications. The owners say they knew nothing about it, fired the worker and their business license was renewed.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment on the case, and the FBI said it could not discuss "an active investigation."

There is no official data on birth tourism in the United States. The Center for Immigration Studies, which wants stricter limits on immigration, estimates there are 36,000 babies born in the U.S. to foreign nationals a year, though the numbers could be substantially lower. Florida says births in the state by all foreign nationals who live outside the United States have jumped 200 percent since 2000.

Customs and Border Protection says there are no laws governing whether pregnant foreign nationals can enter the country or give birth here.

"However, if a pregnant woman or anyone else uses fraud or deception to obtain a visa or gain admission to the United States, that would constitute a criminal act," the agency said.

When federal agents raided California "maternity hotels" catering to Chinese clients in 2015, authorities said in court papers that some of the families falsely claimed they were indigent and got reduced hospital rates.

In Miami, the Jackson Health System said 72 percent of international maternity patients — who represented 8 percent of all patients giving birth last year — pay with insurance or through a pre-arranged package.

Reshetova said she understands the concerns some have about birth tourism, because it's also an issue in Russia.

"But I pay by myself," she said. "I pay with my money, bring it here to America. I'm not going to take something to America.

"I don't know what my daughter will choose in future. But if I can spend money — my money — for her choice, why not?"

Cynthia McFadden and Sarah Fitzpatrick reported from Miami, and Tracy Connor from New York. Anna Schecter contributed reporting from New York, and Natasha Lebedeva from Washington.

America’s white population shrinks for the first time as nation ages - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

Reid Wilson,

uncaptioned image from article

The number of non-Hispanic white people in the United States decreased for the first time in the nation's history between 2015 and 2016, according to new figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The data show the nation's white population is aging rapidly, as Americans delay their decision to have a family and as the flow of foreign immigrants from European countries ebbs. At the same time, minority populations are growing much faster, hastening a demographic shift that has been decades in the making.

The average non-Hispanic white American is 43.5 years old, according to the new data. The average Hispanic American, by contrast, is 29.3 years old.

Demographers say the decline in the white population has been coming for decades, as Americans decide to have children at later ages and as the baby-boom generation moves toward retirement. Today, there are fewer white women in prime childbearing years as a share of the overall population than ever before, and more minorities in childbearing years than ever before.

"White fertility has gone down. There's a little bit less white immigration in the last year," said William Frey, a demographer and sociologist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "As the white population becomes older, that means that even if fertility gets up a little bit, it's not going to be what it was a long time ago."

The decrease in the overall white population is a downward revision of the 2015-2016 data released last year. Between 2016 and 2017, the non-Hispanic white population declined about 0.02 percent, to 197.8 million people.

The Census Bureau said the Hispanic population continued to grow, reaching 58.9 million in the middle of 2017, up 2.1 percent from the year before. The number of African Americans rose 1.2 percent to 47.4 million, and there are 22.2 million people of Asian heritage, up 3.1 percent over last year.

The median age of a U.S. resident crept up to 38 years in the last year, which analysts said is a reflection of larger generations like the baby boomers and millennials getting older without having as many new children as they once produced.

"Baby boomers and millennials alike are responsible for this trend in increased aging," said Molly Cromwell, a Census Bureau demographer. "Boomers continue to age and are slowly outnumbering children as the birth rate has declined steadily over the last decade."

Utah's residents are the youngest state in the nation, with a median age of 30.9. The median resident of Texas, Alaska and the District of Columbia is under age 35.

At the other end of the spectrum, Maine has the nation's oldest residents, with a median age of 44.7. New Hampshire's median age is 43.1, while residents in Florida, West Virginia and Vermont are all north of 42 years old.

On Wednesday, the Pew Charitable Trusts released new population growth figures showing Utah was the fastest-growing state between 2007 and 2017, when it grew at an average rate of 1.79 percent per year, followed by Texas, Colorado, North Dakota, Nevada and Washington.

Two states -- Michigan and West Virginia -- have lost population over the past decade. Census estimates show West Virginia's population stands at 1.815 million people, down about 18,000 compared to a decade ago. Michigan's population, north of 10 million a decade ago, is down about 40,000.

Overall, U.S. population growth has slowed every year since 1992, Pew researchers found. Two-thirds of all states grew more slowly in the second half of the past decade than during the first half.

About 531 counties have seen their median age decline since 2010, and more than half of those were in Midwestern states. Many of those counties are in areas that experienced an oil boom as fracking became a source of plentiful high-paying jobs; counties in states like North Dakota and Montana got younger, as did oil-rich regions of Oklahoma and Texas.

Appalachian counties and regions heavily dependent on coal in western Virginia and North Carolina aged significantly, as did coastal counties in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida -- all areas popular with retirees who migrate for warmer weather. Rural Mountain West counties were also more likely to see their median age increase as younger residents moved to larger cities and towns.

Florida has the highest percentage of senior citizens, at 20.1 percent of its overall population. More than 19 percent of the populations in Maine and West Virginia were older than 65, whereas just 10.8 percent of Utah's population is over the age of 65.

More than 90 percent of the population in four states - Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and West Virginia - is made up of non-Hispanic white residents. Texas had the highest population of African Americans, at 3.8 million, while California has the largest Hispanic, Asian and Native American populations.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Opinions: It’s time for Sally Hemings to show us the unvarnished Thomas Jefferson - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

By Melody Barnes, Washington Post

Hemings image from

June 15 at 5:49 PM

Melody Barnes is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the Compton Visiting Professor in World Politics at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. She served as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council from 2009 until 2012.

On Saturday, a new exhibit will open at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Virginia, in a significant step toward telling the fuller truth of America’s national story. Visitors will find the life of Sally Hemings — Jefferson’s slave, his deceased wife’s half sister and the mother of his “other” children — depicted in greater detail than ever before. As an African American, a woman and a Monticello trustee, I believe this project is vital for the country and for its democracy.

I grew up in Virginia, where Jefferson was always — and only — celebrated: author of the Declaration of Independence and of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, designer of the state Capitol and founder of the commonwealth’s flagship university. My high school, like so many others in the United States, bears his name. But we didn’t learn everything about Jefferson. Nothing was taught about Jefferson the plantation owner, who enslaved other human beings — including Hemings, who went unmentioned in our history books. Like millions of other students across the country, we were denied a full understanding of Jefferson. He was one-dimensional, without complexity and beyond criticism.

Decades later, much has changed, including what we know and publicly acknowledge about our third president. He was a champion of American democratic principles — liberty, tolerance, equality and pluralism — yet he defied their meaning as the owner of men and women who looked like me. His first draft of the Declaration of Independence denounced slavery; he introduced legislation in Virginia to prohibit the importation of enslaved Africans; and he proposed a ban on slavery in the Northwest Territory. But Jefferson later fell publicly silent on the subject and ultimately owned 607 enslaved people during his lifetime, letting only a few go free when he died.

Some who visit Monticello choose to ignore those facts, while others wonder why it stands at all, given Jefferson’s life as a slave owner. My hope is that Americans and visitors from around the world will come to understand the past in a meaningful, unvarnished way, and will leave with a fresh appreciation of the need to protect human rights and democratic principles. That requires an honest accounting of the facts and recognition that Monticello has a responsibility to share them with every visitor.

Historians at Monticello have been on a decades-long journey to tell the full story. For 25 years, they have collected oral histories from descendants of Monticello’s enslaved families in a project called “Getting Word.” There is a tour focused on the Hemings family, and the historical site’s first-ever app was entitled “Slavery at Monticello.” Now comes perhaps the most significant development yet: on Saturday, an exhibit about Hemings opens in Monticello’s South Wing, where she is believed to have lived. It is not a typical period room, but an immersive digital experience that reveals her story and that of her children through the words of her son Madison Hemings. This is a historic opportunity to further illuminate Sally Hemings’s humanity while also contemplating the lives of the other enslaved women, men and children on the plantation.

Monticello embodies much of what America grapples with as a nation. The journey to acknowledge and understand Monticello’s past was often bitter and halting, just as it has been for the country and its history.

No nation has ever given birth to a multiethnic democracy that, from the start, both espouses and executes upon the principles of freedom. In the current American moment — riddled with anger and desperation, and mired in a centuries-old struggle about power — the need is especially urgent to honestly examine the past and chart a way forward. Understanding the story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings is a crucial part of that task because their history provides a through-line to many of the country’s 21st-century challenges.

Unwinding institutionalized racism and sexism, as well as a culture of supremacy, is a daunting challenge. It might be impossible. But as an American, I believe making the effort is essential — and that success will come only with the truth.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

"The core divide in our politics" -- Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

David Brooks, "Donald Trump Is Not Playing by Your Rules," New York Times

Image from

[I]n the low-trust Trumpian worldview, values don’t matter; there are only interests. In the Trumpian worldview, friendship is just a con that other people try to pull on you before they screw you over. The low-trust style of politics is realism on steroids.

Whether it’s on the world stage, at home or in his own administration, Trump is trying to transform the nature of relationships. Trump takes every relationship that has historically been based on affection, loyalty, trust and reciprocity and turns it into a relationship based on competition, self-interest, suspicion and efforts to establish dominance. By destroying trust and reciprocity he creates an environment in which he can thrive.

This is a fundamental challenge to the way politics is done. What Trump did to the G-7 is essentially the same thing he did to the G.O.P. He simply refused to play by everybody else’s rules and he effectively changed the game. Trump is really good at destroying systems people have lost faith in. ...

[T]he core divide in our politics is no longer the conventional left-right divide. The core issue in our politics is over how we establish relationship. You can either organize relationship at a high level — based on friendship, shared values, loyalty and affection — or you can organize relationship at a low level, based on mutual selfish interest and a brutal, ends-justify-the-means mentality. ...

An Asian-American Awakening: Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

Wall Street Journal

A racial minority fights discrimination from elite schools and universities.

An Asian-American Awakening
Have progressives poked a sleeping giant? A thousand New  Yorkers showed up Sunday at City Hall to protest Mayor Bill de Blasio’s bid to substitute de facto racial quotas for a merit-based admission test at the city’s elite public schools.
Two things make the protest striking. First, the protesters were Asian-American. Second, the big local dailies, save for the New York Post, didn’t cover it.
New York is not the only place where Asian-Americans are revolting against racial preferences as a tool to help minorities. Four years ago, a backlash by Asian-American lawmakers in California helped defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would have repealed a state prohibition against considering race in education and other government functions. Meanwhile, a lawsuit accuses Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“For years Asian-Americans have been viewed as the ‘model minority’—you know, quiet and well-behaved,” says Chunyan Li, a professor of accounting at New York’s Pace University. “But when we see the effects of social engineering on the future of our children, we can get nasty against the politicians too.”
It wasn’t supposed to work like this. In theory, only the white patriarchy loses from affirmative action, and all people of color share the same interests, regardless of their history or socioeconomic status or achievement.
But affirmative action as practiced today by the American education establishment is blowing a big hole in these assumptions. As Ms. Li notes, many Asian-American families now see that one minority’s floor is another’s ceiling—and that the effect of race-based admissions is to set one group against another. It is all the more galling for the signal it sends, which is that if you happen to be the wrong minority, you will be penalized for your hard work and achievement.
Certainly this is the implication of Mr. de Blasio’s effort to change the admission standards for the city’s eight most selective public high schools. At the moment, admission to these schools is determined by the Specialized High School Admissions Test. The progressive dilemma is that the outcomes on this test do not match their desired racial outcome.
Take Stuyvesant, the best-known of New York’s specialized schools. Asian students account for 72.9% of the student body, against 2.8% for Latinos and 0.7% for blacks.
Asian-American parents—who aren’t always as affluent as the stereotype—fully understand what this means: Any change that introduces criteria other than merit will mean that qualified Asian applicants will be denied seats in favor of unqualified black and Latino ones. The signs Asian-Americans waved at Sunday’s protest reflected this understanding: “Keep the test,” “Excellency is color blind,” and “I also have a dream.”
As these Asian-Americans were protesting in New York, a lawsuit by a group called Students for Fair Admissions has been working its way through pretrial discovery. The suit accuses Harvard of unlawfully discriminating against Asian-Americans today in the same way the Ivy League once limited the admission of Jews.
The group notes that roughly 20% of applicants Harvard admits are Asian-American today, just as in 1993—when the Asian-American population was half what it is now. The higher percentage of Asian-Americans represented at universities that do not use race (e.g., 43% at Caltech) suggests Harvard is deliberately keeping the number low. A 2009 Princeton study of admissions at leading universities found that Asian students had to score 140 points higher on their SATs than whites to have the same chance of getting in.
In addition to the lawsuit, a  2015 complaint filed by a coalition of more than 60 Asian-American groups has led to an investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights. Asian-Americans are questioning the orthodoxy of racial preferences.
Harvard argues that it is a private university and its admissions practices are “trade secrets” it should not have to make public. But the Civil Rights Act applies to private institutions as well as public ones, and Harvard wants it both ways: It takes half a billion public dollars a year, yet it does not want to have to explain what looks to be a glaring gap between qualified Asian-Americans and admitted Asian-Americans.
This Friday, Students for Fair Admissions will file for summary judgment, arguing that the facts are so compelling that a trial is not necessary. The district court is not likely to agree. But given the intensive discovery process—Students for Fair Admissions has taken 40 depositions and looked over thousands of internal documents—a trial would be of great interest to the Asian-American community, and could prove highly embarrassing for Harvard.
“We may be considered the successful minority,” says Ms. Li, “but we are still very small politically.” Perhaps that’s beginning to change, as Asian-Americans awaken to what the last acceptable racial discrimination is doing to their children.

‘The World as It Is’ Review: A Witness to Hope and Change - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

Martin Peretz, Wall Street Journal

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As Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes was a White House myth shaper. His memoirs codify the myths for posterity. Martin Peretz reviews [Rhodes's] “The World as It Is”

[C]hoosing Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton was not a falling-back; it was a genuine choice between opposing sets of values. When Americans chose Mr. Trump, they were accepting less economic certainty for more cultural cohesion, fewer benefits of internationalism for more national determination. This isn’t a new phenomenon, and it isn’t an exclusively rightist one.
The Democratic Party is currently tribalizing itself into identity groups, a tribalism that explains itself as a response to oppression but that also reflects a normal human need: to collect into categories that confer belonging and agency. But it’s hard to imagine Mr. Obama or Mr. Rhodes being interested in this: It’s a different conception of human beings and politics, one that calls into question premises of their own.