Thursday, February 8, 2018

NY Times Insults Migrants With Cruel, Tone-Deaf Article on “Global Nomads”

What is a “global nomad?” If you mistakenly thought the New York Times was publishing an article about Tuareg rock superstars Tinariwen, you would be wrong. Or maybe they are writing about Roma people coming to the United States? No, not that either.

The photo at the top of the article should have given me a clue that I wasn’t going to like the contents. Two young, attractive, wealthy white people lounge by a beach house, one on her Macbook, the other in a hammock on his iPhone. Is it an Apple commercial, I thought? As disappointing as it would be to see an Apple commercial passed off as news in the Times, the reality is sadly much, much worse.
“A global network of live-work spaces is springing up to serve this new breed of millennial wanderer.”
Oh yes, dear reader, this article is about the global 1%, that privileged group of humanity with US, EU, Australian, Swiss, or NZ passports who can enter and leave almost any country at will, visa free, splashing around their Dollars, or Euros, or Swiss Francs in just about any country on earth. Ayelet Shachar calls this group the winners of “The Birthright Lottery, the 1% of people lucky enough to be born with the right kind of passport. The world is literally their oyster. (Full disclosure: I am one of these people. But at least I have the decency to feel ashamed of it.)
Personally, I am ashamed to live in a world where the 1% go through special lines in airports all over the world, visa free, never stopped by border patrol, the top worry of their minds whether or not their Macbook gets stolen. Want to earn a US salary but only pay the cost of living in Thailand? No problem! You have a US passport!
Do most “global nomads” notice the long lines of the global 29% at the airport, waiting nervously to see if their visa will be accepted? Do the “global nomads” even know about the 89% of migrants who don’t travel by plane, who have never had a visa anywhere, who get from A to B on rickety boats, or trucks driving at night, who get into a shipping container not certain if they’re going to ever come out again? Do global nomads realize their passport, that little blue or red book, is more powerful, more expensive and more controversial than Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket?
When I was a young, entitled, western college student, we would inflict ourselves on poor cities for a limited period of time, usually in Asia or Eastern Europe, for a period of a few months to a year, before returning home to become productive members of society. Thanks to computers, the 1% doesn’t need to be at home to be productive anymore. Many of them can do their jobs anywhere. And so the “Global Nomad” movement was born.
My issue is not so much with the phenomenon of global nomadism, which actually makes a lot of sense if you like to travel and you can work remotely, but with the cluelessness of the people involved in the movement and, by extension, the Times article about them. It’s like watching someone eat white truffles while claiming that truffles are “peasant food.” The article is full of killer sentences like this one:
“Traveling the globe became a way for Smith to regulate his cost of living according to how much his various online hustles brought in, a strategy that Ferriss called “geoarbitrage.” If you’re scraping together $1,000 a month, the logic goes, the money will go further in Thailand than in New York.”
I’d love to show that sentence to a Thai person applying for a visa to visit family in the US. Or show that sentence to a Zimbabwean. Or what about a stateless person, with no passport from any country? Ha ha ha ha ha!!!! So funny. That person is just laughing and laughing.
But the best sentence in the entire article has got to be this one, out of the mouth of the founder of “Roam,” which provides communal lodging for the nomadic 1% in locations all over the world:
“Nomadism, Haid argued, allows the discontented or disenfranchised to design new, sustainable lifestyles in the global marketplace. It’s a means of letting human capital find the path of least resistance, wherever it may be.”
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! I’ll just show it to the Estonian women riding in the back of a chicken truck, on their way to Germany, they hope and pray. Or one of the Syrian moms struggling to carry her toddler across Turkey. Or to one of the young Somali men being sold in the market in Libya. They will find that quote very, very funny, I assure you. Oh Haid, capital always follows the path of least resistance, but most people cannot, due to a little something called “border patrol”.
For the 1%, international travel is an unimpeachable right, so fundamental that it is never mentioned, completely taken for granted in every way. The Times article is clearly designed for NY Times readers, to help them decide whether or not they might like to try being a “global nomad.” But there should be a huge, red, disclaimer across the top: Just make sure to be born with the right passport.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Trust Me, the Consequences of the DACA Repeal keeps Ryan and McConnell Up at Night

Sebastian Haffner was a young law clerk in Berlin, studying up for a case, when the SA officer came into the law library and demanded that all Jews leave. The red-faced Nazi’s shouts tore through the quiet hush of law clerks bent over musty books in companionable silence, secure in their trust that the rule of law would see their country through the baffling rise of a small-time “pimp,” as Haffner describes Hitler.
As Haffner and his colleagues looked on, several clerks rose to their feet and left the room. On resisted and was dragged out. The SA officer approached Haffner and demanded to know if he was Jewish. Haffner replied in the negative. The Nazis left. Haffner describes the shame and anger that flowed through is body. It had all happened so fast, he hadn’t had time to react. He should have stood up, shouted at the Nazis, demanded that they leave the law library where they had no right to be. Instead, he just sat there.
If DACA expires, thousands of young people in college campuses will loose their legal status and be subject to deportation. Will the Trump administration actually order ICE to deport them? After all, what is the logic behind withdrawing their status if deportation does not follow? Was the point of the law to create more illegality, to simply leave people without a status in the United States? I’m not sure the Republicans are quite ready for what that would mean.
Imagine you are sitting in the quiet library of your school, studying. Around you, dozens of your classmates sit in companionable silence. You’ve heard that ICE is starting to arrest Dreamers. There are rumors they might even come to your school, but so far, the politics of DACA are something that have been happening in the newspapers but have yet to touch your life. Midterms are just around the corner and your mind is mostly occupied by worries about your grades.
Suddenly, two armed ICE agents appear at the door of the library, accompanied by the librarian. You know the agents are from ICE because it says so in big letters on their jackets.
On the other side of the room from you, a young woman with long hair gets to her feet. She seems to know what’s happening. The entire room watches in silence as the two ICE agents wind their way between the desks towards her. There is a hushed conversation, then the young woman grabs her book bag and follows them to the door. Behind you, a girl you know vaguely from physics class rises to her feet.
“Hey!” the girl shouts. “Where are you taking her?”
One of the ICE agents turns. “Sit down, please, miss. We’re here on official government business.” Then the two agents and the girl with the long hair turn and exit the room. You never see them again.
Of course, every American knows that the above scene is total fiction and would never happen. It boggles the mind to think that a bunch of American college students would sit quietly in a library while ICE agents combed their school for DACA recipients. This is a nation where college students will protest what’s being served for lunch.
When you read Defying Hitler, you can tell that Haffner never recovered from that moment. Like Lord Jim, the idea that he could have, and should have, done something, at least register a word of protest, at least stand up and be heard even if it changed nothing. The fact that when put to the test, he did nothing clearly haunted him to the end of his life. But the culture in Germany did not support civil disobedience and the Nazis had already shown themselves capable of terrible violence against any and all resistance. Had Haffner said anything, it’s likely the SA officer would have beaten him to a bloody pulp without thinking twice about it.
I suspect that young American citizens in college campuses might not be so quiet and cooperating when ICE comes to call. After all, an ICE agent isn’t going to attack an American college student in front of a bunch of witnesses. This isn’t Nazi Germany, not even close. In fact, this country has a long, proud history of protest and civil disobedience, particularly on college campuses, and a long history of relative tolerance of these protest. During my lifetime, such protests have usually been limited to rather tame affairs involving events happening in foreign countries. But if ICE starts coming for Dreamers on college campuses, in offices and workplaces, I guarantee you this will change, fast.
Are the Republicans ready for this? I don’t think that they are.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Trump Slashes the UN, but It Could Be So Much Worse

In case you haven't been following the ongoing knife fight between Trump and the UN, you may have missed the relatively modest budget cuts the Trump administration is now proposing. Any cuts in funding to the UN are painful, though if you poll Americans, most agree that we "pay to much" to the UN without realizing that the amount is less than 1% of our annual budget. The organization is perhaps the only giant bureaucracy in the world that is famous in America for its inefficiency, despite the fact that most Americans have zero personal experience with the UN, as opposed to hours and hours of personal experience on hold with their inept, overcharging and inefficiant cable company.

So many of us UN boosters greeted the Trump administration with a heavy heart. We were not surprised to see the Steve Bannon budget of death, nor were we unprepared for Nikki Haley's faux outrage at the fact that the other countries don't always agree with us. The US government has never liked a democratic process it can't control. So I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that the current proposed cuts to the UN budget are only $285 million. Remember that the annual US contribution to the UN, including all specialized agencies and peacekeeping, is over $3 billion. The 40% reduction originally proposed by the Trump administration would have removed at least a billion dollars from the UN's core budget and billions more from peacekeeping and the specialized agencies. It would have crippled the UN's work. (For contrast, you can read about G. W. Bush's cuts to the UN population fund due to concerns over abortion funding here. They were minor in comparison, though highly criticized at the time. Trump has also eliminated funding to the UN population fund.)

Don't get me wrong, these cuts will be felt, particularly if they are in addition to the $200 millions worth of cuts already proposed by the UN itself. But these cuts will leave core functions intact. Of course, the overall affect of multiple Trump administration budget cuts will be felt over the long hall, particularly if this is only the beginning of cuts, rather than the final number. It remains unclear if the Trump administration will preserve UNHCR's current funding levels. If the plan is to keep refugees where they are, countries like Lebanon, Bangladesh, Kenya and Turkey are going to need a lot more money for camps.

What about Stateless Dreamers? An Open Letter to Cory Booker

Millions of people world wide are stateless. The current population of stateless people in the US is unknown, but it is likely that the global problem of statelessness is reflected here in the US in micro. As each country is represented by an immigrant population, so the "country" of those without a country must surely be mirrored here. In addition, there are an unknown number of people born in the US who are not registered at birth. High risk groups include indigenous Americans and populations with a high rate of home birth, for example, certain religious groups.

I am friends with several stateless people in the United States. It's not easy to find stateless people, as many do not know they are stateless and many more are afraid to telegraph their status. Stateless Americans have much in common with the undocumented community, but the situation of stateless Americans is also unique. Many have no pathway to a solution in the US, but stateless Americans also cannot be deported to any country. They are truly in limbo, among the most vulnerable groups.

One of my stateless friends is on DACA, but she tells me it took her ages to apply, as she was told over and over again by immigration attorneys that she does not qualify. I suspect this is probably the case for many stateless Americans brought to the US as children.

Cory Booker's office has started an admirable project on the social media site Medium, highlighting DREAMers and those on DACA. But this open letter urges his office to focus also on the particular issues facing stateless Americans who qualify for DACA. It is also vital to start planning now for how the DREAM Act, when passed (and I say "when" because I believe it will be high on the post-Trump agenda, whichever Democrat gets elected) will affect stateless people and their particular needs.

If you are a stateless American brought to the US as a child, I urge you to get in touch with Cory Booker's office and press them to cover your story.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The European Union Endorses the Enslavement of Migrants in Libya

What happens to workers from Africa who are physically blocked from getting to their jobs in Europe? A chilling CNN report details what happens to people who are unsuccessful in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean and, as a result, have no money to pay for the cost of their voyage. Waste not, want not. Slavery, long a part of north Africa’s history, is the only future for many of the workers who cannot reach the under-the-table jobs in Europe’s capitals. Labor is valuable and many would-be migrants can’t pay back the cost of their transport, so they are sold at auction. Put up a barrier, block the movement of people, goods or capital, and entrepreneurs will find a way to make money anyways.

The European Union has created this situation with their policy of blocking their black and brown workforce, allowing in only a trickle of people, while the rest build up into a giant lake of unwanted labor behind Fortress Europe’s wall. As long as their are jobs in Europe, there will be migrants moving across the desert to fill them. As long as the Italian Navy blocks the boats, there will be destitute workers with no jobs and no way to pay off their smugglers in Libya.

In Another Blow for Migrant Rights, the US is Leaving Negotiations for a “Global Compact” on Migration

Those of us in refugee affairs have been following the development of the possible Global Compact on Migration, which it is hoped would facilitate global cooperation on the refugee and migration crisis. Today, the Trump administration announced it is leaving the process, essentially saying that whatever the rest of the world decides to do about the migration crises, the US will not be taking part in that decision. As Marc Goldberg at UN Dispatch points out, it’s a bizarre decision with no upside for the US, but will probably win Trump praise from immigration and anti-UN hardliners, for whom all international cooperation is a plot to undo US “sovereignty.” (Never mind that we are the biggest and richest country, and that as a result, we set most of the policy at these things.)

Goldberg aptly compares our decision to leave the negotiations over the migration crisis to our decision to leave the Paris Accord. In both cases, it’s like our apartment building caught on fire, and our neighbors pounded on our door to get us to come down the stairwell with them, and we keep saying, “no thanks, we don’t believe in fire.”

Many hoped the negotiations currently underway to cooperate on migration and refugees would result in a binding agreement. Maybe the Trump administration is worried about that, too. Trump’s over the top reaction to the refugee deal between the US and Australia shows that he intends to cut all immigration, no matter how tiny, no matter how humanitarian, no matter how much our allies and neighbors desperately need our help, including the resettlement of refugees, in an attempt to “wall” the US off from the rest of the world.

The problem, of course, is that immigration enforcement is hugely expensive, often doesn’t work, and simply leads to the destabilizing of important allies and neighbors. The world exists. It is not “fake news.” Take a look at the strain Lebanon is now under as a result of the huge influx of Syrian refugees. Lebanon is one of our most important allies in the Middle East. Where is this going?
It’s very typical of Americans to ignore the rest of the world — we have spasms of isolationism every few decades. But if you go on ignoring a fire in your apartment building, like ignoring climate change or the refugee crisis, you’re going to start feeling pretty warm sooner, rather than later. One day you might look up from tweeting and realize that all of your neighbors have exited the building with out you, and the fire is now at your door.

The Supreme Court Allows the Travel Ban to Go Forward: Because Setting Immigration Policy is Part of what the Government is Supposed to Do

Donald Trump ran for President of the United States as an immigration hardliner. He promised his supporters he would crack down on all types of immigration to the fullest extent of the law. Immigration is almost entirely within the purview of the federal government, so promising to crack down in immigration is actually something the President of the United States can promise.
Nevertheless, during the election, multiple people said that a Trump Presidency would not change the status quo very much because of “checks and balances.”

With Republicans in charge of congress, by “checks and balances, they meant that the courts would provide a check on Trump’s most extreme impulses. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding about what the courts are supposed to do.

Most importantly, it shows a dangerous misunderstanding of what the Supreme Court does: settle disputes between Federal Appellate Courts and interpret the Constitution. It is not the Supreme Court’s job to declare a President’s policy to be too extreme or too radical, it’s job is to adjudicate whether or not the Constitution of the prohibits the President from enacting that policy. And the President’s powers on immigration under the Constitution and under Federal law are sweeping.
Today, the Supreme Court temporary upheld Trump’s revised travel ban while the legal challenges against it proceed in the lower courts (read the decision here.) This does not mean that the ban will not be overturned as unconstitutional once the two cases against it reach the Supreme Court, merely that the President is given deference to enact laws under the powers which he has been granted by the Constitution until the courts have had an opportunity to weigh the issue. The Constitutionality of the travel ban is very much unclear, but I personally believe it is probably Constitution. The President has broad powers to restrict immigration.

Trump was hired by American voters to do a job: limit immigration, particularly from Muslim countries, and this is what his travel ban is trying to accomplish. I strenuously disagree with the travel ban. I think it is a moral and political abomination. But we all knew what the stakes were in this election. Voting matters — if you are a US citizen, your vote in 2018 will be the much-needed check on the President’s powers.