Realtalk and forewarning: This week may be the worst news week I’ve ever seen since we started doing the Activism Newsletter. There are a lot of different forms of autocracy happening at once, and it can get overwhelming–as always, we’ll talk more about what can be done below.
Events to Know
Fourth Estate Forsworn. The Environmental Protection Agency barred staff from AP and CNN from a national summit on water contaminants this week, going so far as to push a reporter who works for AP out of the building. (In case anyone was wondering why the AP reporter got the harshest treatment, the EPA is probably holding a grudge over the AP’s superfund site reporting this past winter.) This type of selective barring of mainstream press from public events is very concerning, particularly when Trump point-blank tells reporters that he demeans the press to discredit their negative coverage about him. But the most unusual and antagonistic moment against the fourth estate this week happened when Trump tweeted that the New York Times had made up a source when their source was, in fact, an official press briefing by White House staff where they asked reporters not to name the staff member. Folks, this antagonistic targeting of reporters has been going on for a long time, but the latest stories appear to represent an uptick in aggression, and it’s not good.
- NBC News – Pruitt bars AP, CNN from EPA Summit on Contaminants, Guards Push Reporter Out of Building
- Business Insider – Trump Told ’60 Minutes’ Reporter That He Attacks Media to ‘discredit’ Reporters ‘So No One Will Believe’ Negative Stories About Him
- Washington Post – Trump Falsely Accuses the New York Times of Making Up a Source. It Was an Official Who Briefed Reporters.
1500 Children and Operation Streamline. I’ve seen a lot of folks conflate multiple stories about migrant children this week, so I’ll do my best to break it down: The Washington Post ran a story in late April that said DHHS lost track of about 1500 migrant kids placed with sponsors when they arrived here as unaccompanied minors at the end of last year, and this idea was reiterated this past week by an official from the Administration for Children and Families. It first came out in a Congressional subcommittee hearing designed to refine the placement program because a temporary shelter placed eight children with human traffickers in 2014 (and reports suggest there may have been more children released from shelters to trafficking rings during that time.) When pressed on the point in the April hearing, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielson said she “couldn’t agree more” that the senators had cause to be concerned, and that’s when things went off the rails, because her proposal was full immigration checks—not ordinary background checks–on all the people who take in unaccompanied minors. This will make it harder for undocumented family members to take in children because they might be deported for stepping forward, and not-coincidentally lack of kinship placements is how the trafficking happened in 2014 in the first place. Compounding the issue is a second (and more pressing) story: the Department of Homeland Security has started creating ‘unaccompanied minors,’ because as of this month it’s always removing children from their parents when they arrive at the border, even in instances where everyone is seeking asylum. We’re hearing horror stories about children being separated from their parents at extremely young ages like eighteen months, and parents are routinely struggling to learn where their children are. I honestly cannot stress enough how damaging it is to children’s development to separate them from their parents that young, and it makes deportation proceedings harder to prove for DHS, which means it’s not in anybody’s interest to do this. We absolutely need to push back on this separation practice.
- PBS Frontline – HHS Official Says Agency Lost Track of Nearly 1,500 Unaccompanied Minors
- New York Times – U.S. Placed Immigrant Children With Traffickers, Report Says
- NBC News – Anguish at Southwest border as more immigrant children are separated from parents
- Houston Chronicle – Immigrant Families Separated at Border Struggle to Find Each Other
- Washington Post – What the Legal Process Looks Like for an Immigrant Child Taken Away From His Parents
NFL Kneeling News. The NFL caved to pressure from the White House this week and installed a new rule that fines teams if their players kneel during the National Anthem (but allows players to stay in locker rooms if they don’t wish to stand). Unsurprisingly, this attempt to compromise pleased nobody. The players’ union is upset because the league owners did not consult with the union before making the decision and because it infringes on the players’ right to use their role for social activism. Trump is upset because… he’s Trump, I guess? At any rate, he doubled down and complained about the players’ right to stay in the locker room under the new policy, saying that players who won’t stand for the anthem “maybe shouldn’t be in the country.” I’m apparently not the only one who took his words as a veiled threat to start deporting, but since most of our athletes have birthright citizenship I don’t know how he thinks he’s going to accomplish that.
- New York Times – Trump Supports N.F.L.’s New National Anthem Policy
- NBC News – Trump Says NFL Players Who Kneel During National Anthem ‘Maybe Shouldn’t Be in the Country’
Victory in Ireland. Ireland voted by referendum to overturn its restrictive abortion ban, decisively ending one of the most draconic bans in the developed world. Lawmakers have promised to enact more permissive legislation now that the ban is removed from the constitution, with abortion being generally legal for the first twelve weeks and viability standards in place after. If you want to feel slightly better about humanity today, I recommend reading the #HometoVote hashtag on Twitter, which documented people’s treks back for the referendum.
- Washington Post – Six Things to Know About Ireland’s Abortion Vote
- New York Times – Ireland’s Abortion Referendum Becomes a Test for Facebook and Google
Stacy Abrams Steams Ahead. Among the primary victories to emerge in the past week is the historic endorsement of Stacy Abrams, who won the Georgia governor primary by a landslide. If she wins the election, she’ll be the first black female governor ever elected in our country, which would be a massive victory on a lot of fronts; simply winning the primary is incredibly exciting!
- NBC News – Stacey Abrams wins Georgia ‘Battle of the Staceys’ in bid to become first black female governor in U.S.
- CNN – What Stacey Abrams’ Massive Primary Win Means for Her Chances to be the Nation’s First Black Woman Governor
Things to Watch
Bad News Bears. This was another bad week for environmentalists, between Yet Another Pruitt Spending Scandal and a proposed Department of Interior rule that would roll back protections for bears, wolves, and caribou in Alaska. The new regs propose, among other things, baiting brown bears with donuts and bacon, shining spotlights into black bear dens, shooting mama wolves and pups during denning seasons, and shooting caribou from motor boats. The comment period starts on Tuesday, and only permits written comment, ruining my Cunning Plan to Leave Eight Hours of the Best Sad Bear and Wolf Noises the Internet Has to Offer on Ryan Zinke’s voicemail. But we should definitely leave comments!
- CNBC – EPA Spent Nearly Double What it’s Allowed to Decorate Scott Pruitt’s Office
- AP – Interior Moves to Lift Restrictions on Hunting Bears, Wolves
- Federal Register – Department of the Interior Proposed Rule
Immigration Uncertainty. Trump held an “immigration roundtable” this week, which appeared to mostly be an excuse to spread misinformation about MS-13 rates of entry, deduct aid money from other countries, and claim unaccompanied minors “aren’t innocent”. Then the next day, he agitated for further immigration legislation, which would potentially be good news in a vacuum because Paul Ryan keeps stonewalling House Republicans who are trying to force a DACA vote. Except Trump, unsurprisingly, is still insisting on “a real wall” and also dunking on due process, asking “Whoever heard of a system where you put people through trials?” (yes, really). Meanwhile, while testifying before the House Committee on Education and Workforce, Betsy DeVos erroneously stated that it was a “local community decision” whether school officials called ICE on students (when in fact, calling ICE would be an unconstitutional action on the school’s part as well as a violation of ICE’s sensitive location policy to apprehend students at schools). Things seem to keep getting worse on this front, and we need to keep a close eye and engage often.
- Washington Post – Trump Warns Against Admitting Unaccompanied Children: “They’re Not Innocent”
- Politifact – What the Republican discharge petition means for DACA, ‘Dreamers’
- CNN Politics – Trump calls for sweeping changes to US immigration legal process
- Newsweek – Betsy Devos ‘Ignorant’ About Schools’ Power to Report Undocumented Immigrants to ICE, Rights Groups Say
North Korea Uncertainty (Again). This week has been incredibly bizarre on the North Korea front, with the White House still prepping for a summit in two weeks despite officially canceling with the world’s most passive-aggressive letter earlier in the week. But even if the summit does happen, the White House may have missed its chance to investigate several concerning North Korea actions, such as stockpiling chemical agents and selling nukes to Syria, because we have to return to the topic in a conciliatory posture after Trump’s very public fit. But the administration is still selling commemorative coins at a discount, which is probably the most succinct summary of current American politics I could possibly offer.
- New York Times – Trump’s Letter to Kim Canceling North Korea Summit Meeting, Annotated
- Washington Post – Summit Collapse Foils Chance to Press North Korea on Suspicious Sites
- NBC News – Trump Wanted to Cancel North Korea Summit Before Kim Jong Un Could
- Time – The White House Gift Shop Is Offering Discounts on Commemorative Coins for the North Korea Summit Trump Just Canceled
May is coming to an end. This first half of the year has been intense to say the least. But this only means we are strong and resilient. Let’s keep up the good fight!
Activism For Everyone
If you’ve been getting this newsletter for the past year, and haven’t made a single phone call to your elected officials, it’s okay so long as you call them today! The issue surrounding 1,475 missing children is not only unbelievable malpractice, but also has a lot of momentum surrounding the story which means we have a chance to make a change!
The Fight For Safety: As if immigration policy wasn’t already a huge concern, we now know that approximately 1,500 children have gone missing while within the care of the Feds because of policies on immigration that separate children from their families at the border. It’s now extremely urgent to use this news and momentum to push for DACA solutions. Call your House members and tell them to support the discharge petition for DACA. There are several great sites that have compiled resources and info, and there are also marches are being organized for June 14. If you are more inclined to let your wallet do the talking, there are several nonprofit initiatives ranging from an Amnesty International call to action to an Act Blue Support Kids at the Border campaign to a Kids in Need of Defense fund to an ACLU petition, and all of these organizations can put your assistance to good use to help these kids.
Part two of this action is to call your electeds in both chambers, and ask them to start an investigation into DHS/ICE and HHS practices, in light of the story about unaccompanied minor children (UAC) who have gone missing after going through the ICE process; there are lots sites that have great scripts for calling. (It’s particularly helpful to call members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, House of Representatives Committee for Homeland Security, and House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.)
Related actions include fighting against ICE raids.
Show Pride: It’s Pride Month and there are celebrations all across the country to celebrate love, diversity, acceptance, and unabashed self-pride within the LGBT community. Check out Resistance Calendar to see if there are parades, festivals, workshops, or any other celebrations happening around where you live. PBS has a rad collection of documentaries and shorts to commemorate Pride Month.
In LA The 2018 LA Pride Festival will be held in West Hollywood Park on June 9 and 10, beginning at noon local time. NYC Pride’s first ever Human Rights Conference will be held at SUNY Global Center on June 14 at 8 a.m. local time, and in San Francisco SF Pride will host two days of community engagement and entertainment at the Civic Center Plaza on June 23, starting at noon local time, and on June 24, beginning at 11 a.m. local time.