Words Matter

Dear Group,

By the time you read this the Republican-only immigration “compromise” bill on which McMorris Rodgers said she was “working hard” (Green Bluff town hall on May 29th) will either be discarded by the House Republicans for lack of votes to pass it or she and the Republican leadership will scrape up enough Republican votes to sent it on to the Senate and legislative oblivion. 

Her expressions of  concern and sympathy for the Dreamers ring hollow in light of her actions. She refused to sign the discharge petition that fell just two signatures short of forcing a clean vote on the Dreamers fate, a discharge petition that would have temporarily loosened the stranglehold she and the Republican leadership hold on House business. No. Instead, she insisted on using the Dreamers as hostages for a Republican re-write of immigration law affecting all immigration. 

In working to construct this disgusting Republican bill, McMorris Rodgers’ completely ducked any effort at bi-partisanship. Instead, she withdrew into the Republican propaganda bubble where all immigrates, legal or illegal are tarred with the same brush. McMorris Rodgers completely ignores a bi-partisan majority of Representatives who might have actually voted relief for the Dreamers in a clean bill. 

Her rhetoric suggests motherly sympathy–her actions say she’ll smother her sympathy to appease Trump’s, Steven Miller’s, and Jeff Session”s xenophobia, racism, and subversion of American values manifest in their immigration demands.

I leave you today with this observation. Words matter. A week ago Mara Liasson, long time Washington D.C. political correspondent for National Public Radio, spoke at the Bing in downtown Spokane. She is an impressive intellect. Her careful choice of words drove home a very important point: words matter.

Ms. Liasson dispassionately pointed out the obvious, but little-remembered fact that Mr. Trump and his allies over years have set up an artificial and unnecessary aura of crisis around immigration. She cited Trump’s pre-election demonization of Mexicans as drug dealers and rapists, his post election unnecessary cancelation of DACA, the family separations, and, importantly, the early and ongoing linkage of the word “illegal” to any mention of the word “immigration.”

With impeccable verbal hygiene, each time Ms. Liasson mentioned the Republican “compromise” bills, she subtly emphasized reality: Both of these bills use rhetoric and impressions around “illegal” immigration in order to extract a sweeping changes in legal immigration. 

Her carefully stated words hit me hard. I, constantly bathed in the bilge water that is Republican rhetoric, had started to think of immigrants as “illegal,” to imagine, somehow, that immigration was a “problem” in need of “fixing.” I gagged on that realization. 

Listen carefully to the words. Listen to how the Republican propaganda machine pounds home its ideas. Use every opportunity to use the correct words: The Republicans, including our complicit honey-won’t-melt-in-her-mouth mom, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, are building a narrative around supposed horribly threatening illegal immigration in order to justify a massive cutback of legal immigration

Words matter. Don’t let McMorris Rodgers get away with supporting Trump’s and Steven Miller’s racist, xenophobic agenda.

Keep to the high ground,


The Immigration Reality Distortion Field

Dear Group,

There is a reality distortion field that surrounds the Trump administration and his Republican Party. Like most everyone else, I am guilty of slowly absorbing the constant drip, drip, drip of misinformation that oozes out of every pore of the current Republican government. That is a horrible admission. The distortion of fact fostered by this propaganda has even seeped into otherwise credible media. Today I defer to the writing of Shawn Vestal, clear thinker and columnist for the Spokesman. His article last Thursday, June 21, in the Spokesman entitled The myth of the immigration ‘emergency’ collapsed the distortion field and re-injected a dose of reality for me. I reproduce Mr. Vestal’s article below. In my opinion his writing alone makes a subscription to the Spokesman worthwhile. (Click here to consider a subscription.) [The bolding in the article below is mine.]

Shawn Vestal: The myth of the immigration ‘emergency’

“A faulty assumption has continually been employed to justify the current anti-immigrant zealotry, and it goes like this: We are being flooded with illegal immigrants. They are coming in an unstoppable wave. They are threatening our very way of life.

It’s an emergency!

Set aside, for a moment, the nativism and racism inside this rallying cry. Set aside how strongly such sentiments rely upon the assumed danger of the “they.” What’s particularly incredible about that mantra now – as we begrudgingly stop jailing toddlers at the southern border and ramp up racial profiling on Greyhound buses in Spokane – is that it’s not true.

Not growing. Not a wave.

Not – at least in terms of actual numbers – an emergency.

Last year, the Border Patrol caught about 80 percent fewer “illegal aliens” trying to enter the country as it did in 2000. In real numbers, it fell from roughly 1.6 million to 310,000, the lowest point since 1971, according to federal data.

In Spokane, the drop has been more precipitous: The agents in our regional office apprehended about 15 percent as many undocumented immigrants as they did in 2000. In real numbers, that’s 1,324 apprehensions in 2000, compared to 208 in 2017.

Drug seizures, meanwhile, show a lot of fluctuation. Nationally, the number and the weight of marijuana seizures has been steadily and dramatically declining. The same is true in the Spokane sector, though it went up in 2017 after several years of decline. Cocaine and heroin seizures fluctuate; meth has been rising steadily and alarmingly.

In other words, the statistical picture of drug trafficking along the borders is varied and inconsistent, reflecting a long-term, ongoing problem more than a matter of sudden urgency.

Statistics are always limited: Out of context, a rate of apprehensions may not correlate so much to the size of the problem as it does to the size of the force doing the apprehending.

What if the number of apprehensions plummeted because the number of Border Patrol agents plummeted?

It didn’t. Border Patrol employment has risen dramatically in those years, nationally and in Spokane. A lot of that came after 9/11. But Border Patrol staffing has more than doubled in the same time period – peaking at 21,444 agents in 2011 before dipping slightly again.

In the Spokane sector, that’s gone from 34 agents to 230.

Our immigration system requires reform. But a false sense of emergency has been used to peddle, develop and justify the abandonment of American principles and general human decency. That certainly won’t end just because the administration belatedly recognizes that most Americans won’t abide imprisoning asylum-seeking children.

But at a very basic level – at the level of the factual unit – what’s happening in the country is the opposite of what’s being sold in the immigration panic: Fewer people caught trying to sneak in, even as we’ve ramped up the number of people trying to catch them.

Still, from the top of the government to the field offices of the Border Patrol, the message has been that we are facing a growing threat that must be battled with greater zeal. This week, the Spokane Border Patrol office defended its ramped-up practice of conducting immigration checks on Greyhound buses in Spokane; Council President Ben Stuckart has urged Greyhound to put a stop to the checks, which he argues may violate Spokane city law against discrimination.

“Transportation hubs are used by alien smuggling and drug trafficking organizations to move people, narcotics, and contraband to interior destinations throughout the country,” a Border Patrol spokesman said in a statement. “To combat these growing threats, the U.S. Border Patrol has increased the frequency of transportation checks around the country as an additional enforcement mechanism to reinforce (the agency’s) world-class approach to border security.”

I called the Border Patrol office to ask if they had any concrete evidence to support the notion of these “growing” threats. I was told that the drug seizures show a clearly growing problem; some of those figures do show increases – meth in particular. Others show declines, such as heroin and marijuana.

And the overall picture, as compiled in the agency’s own easy-to-read charts, available on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, simply do not paint a picture of a growing problem.

Bottom line: The total number of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and meth seizures carried out by the Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations has dropped from 585,617 in fiscal year 2012 to 443,689 in fiscal year 2017.

Down 25 percent.”

Striking, isn’t it? Facts matter. If one fails to practice mental hygiene in the face of propaganda one is asking to be led. Hats off to Mr. Vestal for cutting through the fog and snapping me back to reality. 

Keep to the high ground,


CMR, DACA, and the Discharge Petition

Dear Group,

McMorris Rodgers (with Paul Ryan) just avoided a display of something close to real democracy. Instead, they went for the partisan politics and Congressional gridlock on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). (You could be excused if you missed this detail while the Tweeter in Chief keep attention on HIS antics.)

I discussed the DACA discharge petition in CMR’s DACA Bait and Switch. In this case, the discharge petition, a parliamentary maneuver by Republican moderates, would have forced a vote on four DACA bills. At the Green Bluff town hall, McMorris Rodgers announced she was “working hard” to find a solution for the Dreamers. Then, despite some who have characterized her as moderate, she refused to sign the discharge petition. Instead, her “working hard” was to come up with a hard line Republican bill and tamp down the insurrection by the Republican moderates. Apparently, the last thing the Republican leadership wants is a bill that actually addresses straight on the plight of the Dreamers. They know that would be way too popular with the American people.

Last Tuesday Ryan’s office announced the discharge petition had failed…for lack of two more Republican co-signers. All 193 Democrats and 23 Republicans had signed. Tuesday was the deadline for the discharge petition to force a floor vote during the month of June. (I’ve been unable to figure out if its backers would have to start again from square one to mount another challenge in July.) The Ryan/McMorris Rodgers team used their “leadership” to strong-arm moderates members away from signing the discharge petition and an embarrassing set of votes. 

Instead, McMorris Rodgers and company have hurriedly put together a hard-line immigration bill that stands little chance of passage in the House and virtually no chance in the Senate. McMorris Rodgers, who lets the word “bipartisan” pass her lips with some frequency in town halls, worked to concoct a three hundred plus page bill entirely behind closed doors with Republicans only, struggling to come up with a compromise between the factions of her own Party and completely ignoring Democrats.

There will be no straight-up vote on the plight of the Dreamers as a stand alone bill. No, the bill McMorris Rodgers “worked hard” to put together offers a Steven Miller/Trump/Bannon xenophobic overhaul of immigration rules. McMorris Rodgers and company wish to pose this as a compromise. It is not compromise, it is extortion. The two issues it proposes to solve are issues Trump and his administration have intentionally made into acute problems. “OK, we’ll lay off of the Dreamers. We’ll give them permanent residency status and a complicated, lengthy path to citizenship (we don’t want the path to citizenship and voting to be easy or certain…they might vote us out!)” Of course, the need to rescue the Dreamers is all on account of Trump’s executive order to end DACA. “We’ll make the problem urgent and then we’ll offer a fix as a bargaining tool.” So this is “the art of the deal”?

The other concession in the Ryan/McMorris bill is extortion based Jeff Sessions instructions to separate children from parents at the border (heavily backed by the gaunt racist, Steven Miller), apparently as a way to discourage asylum seekers. Voila! “We’ll create this outrage and then as a bargaining chip we’ll offer to fix the problem we’ve created!” 

What do Steven Miller/Trump/Sessions/Bannon and the Republicans get? A dramatic tightening of immigration and asylum rules in line with their racist/nativist tendencies plus massive funding for Trump’s border wall.

From the NYTimes last Thursday, June 14th:

“We’re bringing legislation that’s been carefully crafted and negotiated to the floor,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said Thursday. “We won’t guarantee passage.”

And its passage is far from assured. Within hours of the draft’s release, Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that it would urge lawmakers to vote against the measure, deriding it as “amnesty.”

If the Heritage Foundation calls it “amnesty” there won’t be enough Republican votes to pass this horror even out of the House (much less the Senate) and the Democrats won’t and shouldn’t cave in to extortion. 

McMorris Rodgers will keep saying she’s “working hard.” She’ll try to leave the impression with her constituents she’s seeking a solution for the Dreamers. She tears up while listening to the Dreamers’ stories. Will she support a discharge charge that forces a straight vote on their plight, a vote that might actually show a whiff of real bipartisanship, of real democratic voting, of the will of the majority of the people of the United States? No. Will she stand up to her racist, xenophobic, blustery President? No. Instead, she is “working hard” to play Republican hardball politics that sacrifice the Dreamers and asylum-seeking families on the altar of Trump/Miller/Bannon nativism.

This bill she on which she “worked hard” is not based on the America I was brought up to cherish, not the America I was taught about in school, not the America of the Statue of Liberty. This bill speaks of a mean and inward-looking America, a fearful America, an America I struggle to recognize. 

What good is McMorris Rodgers’ “leadership position” if all she does with it is follow the worst instincts of a hateful, morally bankrupt President and his enablers?

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Trump, the mercurial emperor, has already promised not to sign McMorris Rodgers’ and Paul Ryan’s “moderate” bill. Does anyone remember months ago when Trump famously said something like “send me a bill to fix DACA and I’ll sign it?” I remember it because Trump’s words sent the diligent and very earnest Mormon boy scout, the Senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, to his desk for an all-nighter trying to craft a bill that would we a workable bi-partisan compromise. His effort was slammed. That experience may finally have awakened this one Republican to the authoritarian threat this President embodies. 

CMR’s DACA Bait and Switch

Dear Group,

Trump has whipped up a storm of anti-immigrant fervor (with the considerable assistance of Steve Bannon). He seems to delight in firing up his base with tales of MS-13 gang member activities and then avoiding any distinction between gang members and immigrants in general. His crowds eat it up. To be sure, in his mercurial way he did once throw out a lifeline to DACA recipients, but only after making a show of putting their lives in jeopardy by announcing he would cancel DACA this spring. (So far, that is mostly stalled in the courts, but DACA recipients live lives of ongoing insecurity.)

I was surprised at the Green Bluff Town Closet to hear McMorris Rodgers say they were working hard on a “deal” in the House that would give relief to DACA recipients, the very people that her President has been threatening with deportation and using as a bargaining chip since last fall. It seems clear that if offering DACA recipients a path to citizenship were to come to a clean vote it would pass both the House and Senate. So when she spoke of a “discharge petition” around DACA I briefly dared to hope.

If an absolute majority of the House sign a discharge petition a bill or bills will be “discharged” from committee and voted on the House floor. In this particular case a successful discharge petition would bring to a vote on the House floor four competing DACA “solution” bills. The one that gets the most votes would go to the Senate (only if the approval vote of the winning bill is a majority). The parliamentary details are laid out in an article from the this highly right-biased publication RedState. An “absolute majority” of the House (for a discharge petition) is 218. 192 of 193 Democrats have signed on, as have 23 Republicans, making 213. Obviously, Republican leadership (Ryan/McConnell) would not be happy if this reaches 218. It is a black-eye for them.

Here’s where it gets interesting: McMorris Rodgers is NOT a signatory to the discharge petition. I suppose it would be bad form for her, since she is most often seen behind Paul Ryan’s right shoulder. To hear her speak on Tuesday you would be forgiven if you thought she had a lot of sympathy for the Dreamers (DACA recipients) and she were actively “working” on coming to their aid.

She did discuss one “solution:” funding for the wall in exchange for “a path to ‘permanent residency status.'” I asked for clarification: “That is, NOT a path to citizenship, is that right?” I had heard correctly. Her excuse was to claim that “it wouldn’t become law” implying, I guess, that Trump wouldn’t sign it. But who knows what Trump might do on any given day?

Here’s the crux: The Republicans really, really don’t want any more brown skinned voters in their future, especially brown-skinned people whom they have threatened and bullied.

So in summary, Trump riles up the anti-immigrant, racist base of the far right. Trump threatens the Dreamers with deportation claiming DACA was unconstitutional and knowing the Democrats can always be counted on to be sympathetic. Trump sets a time line and bangs the drum for money for his wall. McMorris Rodgers and company offer themselves as saviors who will broker a tough deal the President just might sign, but they are careful NOT to offer citizenship as even an eventual goal. Meanwhile she pretends sympathy but refuses to sign the discharge petition. Her goal: we leave Green Bluff thinking her heart is in the right place and she’s working hard to make things right for the Dreamers. Pretty slick. Is anyone paying attention?

Keep to the high ground,