Macron Comes to Washington for Trump’s First State Visit

 

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, to the White House on April 23rd. The French President’s state visit marks the first of Trump’s administration. Macron also addressed a joint session from the House floor on Wednesday.

Macron and his wife, Brigitte, shortly after their arrival at the Blair House residence, took quickly to the streets of Washington, walking past the White House complex to the Lincoln Memorial and greeting tourists, according to Yahoo News.

Macron brought with him an oak tree sapling for planting on the South Lawn of the White House. The tree came from the Belleau Woods, site of a World War One battle in 1918 where 9,000 Americans died. Trump and Macron shoveled dirt on the freshly planted tree. “France is a very special country,” said Trump. “It’s a great honor.” Pictures taken by a Reuters photographer, Yuri Gripas, appeared to show that the tree planted vanished. The photographs showed only a yellow patch of grass in the spot on the White House grounds where the tree used to be.

Macron followed handshakes and hugs with Trump with a vicious attack on his policies in a speech to Congress. He strongly disagrees with the White House on the Iran nuclear deal and climate change, but sees France as a close ally of the U.S.

Regarding the purpose of his trip, Macron said “this visit is really important in our current context, with so many uncertainties, troubles and, at times, threats,” according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Specifically, the French president framed the visit as an opportunity to persuade the president to keep the U.S. in the Iranian nuclear agreement; which Trump pulled out of last year. But, at the White House on Monday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said that the visit was intended to “celebrate the long enduring friendship” between the two nations, WSJ reports.

Speaking to Congress, Macron said that one day, the U.S. will come back to the Paris agreement. “Let us face it. There is no planet B.” he continued, “I believe in building a planet for our children that is still inhabitable in 25 years. Some people think that securing industries and current jobs is more important than climate change … I hear this concern, but we must find a smooth transition,” CNN reported. Last year, Trump said of the U.S.

withdrawal that he was governed with an American First policy, and that he was carrying out the will of the voters who propelled him to the White House. “I was elected by the citizens of Pittsburgh,” Trump said, “not Paris.” Currently, the United States and Syria are the only countries in the world not in the agreement.

Trump and Macron also disagreed on the Iran deal, and it was a major point of discussion during their press conference at the White House. Trump has threatened to quit the Iran deal on May 12th, and may still do so. “This is a deal with decayed foundations. It’s a bad deal. It’s a bad structure. It’s falling down. It should have never, ever been made. I blame Congress. I blame a lot of people for it,” Trump said. “I will say, if Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid”, he added. Macron appealed to their diplomatic friendship, speaking alongside Trump, stating, “We’ve spent more than an hour, just the two of us — and had the conclusions been that the United States of America would walk away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and France would not move, then our friendship would be wasted”, reported CNN. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on European leaders to support the agreement. “It is either all or nothing. European leaders should encourage Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more important to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Overall, Macron’s meeting with Trump was a success of kind, according to Financial Times. Macron did not persuade Trump to rethink his policies. But he reaffirmed his personal relationship with Trump and the longtime alliance between France and the U.S. At the same time, Macron stood on his political stance, markedly different from Trump. Given Mr Trump’s treatment of other world leaders, this was no small achievement, reported Financial Times. Although, the French president returned to Paris with no deal on climate change or the Iran accords, globally, his visit was seen as a success.

Senate Confirms Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State

It has been nearly a month since President Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and named CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his replacement.

According to CNN, the United States Senate confirmed Pompeo as the 70th Secretary of State on April 26. Five members of the Democratic Caucus, Sens Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Tim Kaine, Angus King and Joe Donnelly, broke with the rest of their party to support Pompeo.

Despite the five aforementioned senators, the vast majority of the Democratic Caucus voted against Pompeo’s confirmation. In an op-ed by Ben Cardin, Maryland’s senior senator, in The Washington Post, the Senator criticized Pompeo’s hawkishness towards Iran and other countries as well as his unwillingness to stand up to the president.

According to Vox, others are concerned with Pompeo’s voting history and statements; in the past, Pompeo has voiced support for military intervention in Iran and North Korea in order to topple those regimes. Pompeo claimed President Obama covered up the Benghazi attacks, that homosexuality was a “perversion” and asserted that the Muslim community was “silent” after the Boston bombing.

In addition to Pompeo’s Democratic backers, CNN reported that every Republican, including Rand Paul, supported Pompeo; this is surprising given Rand Paul’s criticism of Mike Pompeo this week.

In Pompeo’s confirmation hearing, Rand Paul issued a severe line of questions. He criticised Pompeo’s support for the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and claimed that Pompeo’s interventionist tendencies are not what Trump voters want.

Given his statements, Rand Paul’s announcement supporting Pompeo on April 24 was an upset in Washington, D.C.  Paul said on Twitter, “Having received assurances from President Trump and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the President on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination to be our next Secretary of State.”

According to CNN, despite the criticisms of Pompeo, Senate Republicans claim that the Democrats are “obstructionists,” blocking Pompeo’s nomination because they don’t like the president. They point to the need for a Secretary of State and cite Pompeo’s public service.

President Donald Trump echoed the sentiment of Senate Republicans on April 23, when he tweeted that it is “Hard to believe Obstructionists [sic] May [sic] vote against Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State.”

Despite the controversy surrounding Pompeo’s nomination, he passed with far more votes than expected at the beginning of the week; this is a major win for the president.

SMCM Board Member Criticized For Silencing Progressives

An official from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) was secretly recorded admitting to tipping the scales away from a progressive Democrat toward a more moderate one. That official was St. Mary’s County Congressman Steny Hoyer.

Hoyer has represented Maryland’s 5th Congressional district, where St. Mary’s College of Maryland is located, since 1981. During his tenure, he has climbed the ranks within the Democratic party, ascending to the number two spot, house minority whip. It is in that capacity, on the behalf of the DCCC, that Hoyer met with a progressive Democrat, Levi Tillemann, and urged him to drop out of his Congressional Democratic primary race, according to the Intercept.

Since 1995, Hoyer has been a member of the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Board of Trustees.

When Hoyer and Tillemann met in a Denver hotel, Hoyer said that the DCCC has a “policy that early on, we’d try to agree on a candidate who we thought could win the general and give the candidate all the help we could give them.” That help includes “extra resources from the DCCC,” namely money, according to Vox.

Officials from the DCCC maintain that they have been transparent in their support of candidates throughout the primary elections. The DCCC’s National Press Secretary, Tyler Law, said in a statement, “we have been clear all cycle that we reserve the right to get involved in primaries to ensure that there is a competitive Democrat on the ballot in November.”

But, many progressives argue that the organization’s involvement counteract democratic ideals. Tillemann pushed back against Hoyer in their meeting, arguing it was unjust for “a decision [to be] made very early on before voters had a say.” Tillemann, then, asked Hoyer if he thought that “the DCCC knows better than the voters of the 6th Congressional District?”

“Staying out of primaries sounds small-D democratic, very intellectual and very interesting” Hoyer responded, “but if you stay out of primaries, and somebody wins in the primary who can’t possibly win in the general [it is] not [a] very smart strategy.”

Vox reports that party officials claimed they would remain neutral in Democratic primaries, but “the secret recording of Hoyer makes it clear the party isn’t doing that.”

“Progressive candidates are finding that the DCCC has mobilized support for moderate candidates with access to early campaign cash at the expense of progressives,” according to The Intercept. By financing their opponents, many argue, the DCCC is effectively preventing grassroots campaigns from taking off.

Hoyer’s office defended his statements, according to The Baltimore Sun. When asked about the recording a communications aide said, “Whip Hoyer is committed to taking back the House, and that involves working with local leaders to identify and support the strongest candidate for that district.”

“In terms of candidates and campaigns, I don’t see anything inappropriate in what Mr. Hoyer was engaged in — a conversation about the realities of life in the race as to who can make the general election,” the number one Democrat, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said of the recording.

“The [Democratic] party, notably, has a poor track record in selecting candidates that can win the general election,” Lee Fang writes in The Intercept. Fang cites 2006 surprise victors who were also deemed too left-leaning to win by the DCCC.

Progressives say that this is a trend within the DCCC. Tillemann campaigned on election integrity, fighting climate change, “Medicare for All,” free community college and “confronting economic inequality and monopoly power,” according to the Intercept, while his opponent, Jason Crow, is more business friendly.

Such mirrors the situation other progressives have faced. Mai Khanh Tran was urged to drop out of the running for Congress in California after the DCCC sided with a former Republican, Gil Cisneros, according to The New York Times. Pennsylvania progressive Democrat Greg Edwards told The Morning Call that he was urged to withdraw from the primary by national DCCC representatives who back a more moderate candidate, despite having led the field of Democrats in year-end fundraising reports. Laura Moser, another progressive, had to defend herself after the DCCC posted “a short but brutal collection of hits” against her on their website, according to The Washington Post.

Yet, some left-leaning pundits support the DCCC actions. Eric Levitz of New York Magazine wrote a piece titled “Rigging’ Primaries Is Fine. Backing Bad Candidates Isn’t” about the Hoyer tape, arguing, “in toss-up districts with crowded primary fields, and a conspicuously strong (or weak) general election candidate … it might be wise for the DCCC to intervene.”

Tilleman is under fire from the Democratic leadership for both the substance of his argument and the methods he used to get the audio recording. “I don’t know that a person can tape a person without the person’s consent and then release it to the press,” Pelosi told reporters according to Vox.

“This was a very difficult decision to make … I respect confidentiality and I respect privacy” Tilleman told The Baltimore Sun.

DCCC strategy is in the news right now as the midterm elections approach. Both the Democratic and GOP primaries will take place on June 26, 2018.  

Three Figures, in Life and Death: Naomi Parker Fraley, Barbara Bush, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

An American Legend

For seven decades, the real identity of an American legend was kept quiet. “Rosie the Riveter” was the focus of a campaign aimed at recruiting females for industry work during World War II. Her image of a strong, working woman brought the attention of many. A record number of American women entered the workforce during the war, filling the vacancies left by men who left for war.

The real Rosie the Riveter’s identity was not revealed for decades. The woman behind the image, Naomi Parker Fraley, was a waitress in California. Fraley died at the age of 96 in January of 2018.

In 2016, when her connection to the feminist touchstone became public, Fraley told People magazine that she did not want “fame or fortune, but I did want my own identity.” She had worked in a Navy machine shop during World War II. Her appearance was captured by a photographer, focusing on the bandanna she wore in her hair for safety. This photograph was first published in a newspaper. Later on, the image was used for the well-known Rosie the Riveter campaign poster.

After the war, she became a waitress, married, and began a family. When she first saw the poster, she thought the woman looked like her, but did not at first connect it with her picture in the newspaper all those years ago.

Fraley and her sister attended a reunion of female war workers in 2011, where the image was largely displayed. Fraley recalled: “I couldn’t believe it. I knew it was actually me in the photo.”

Fraley wrote to the National Park Service, from which she received a letter in response asking her to help determine “the true identity of the woman in the photograph.” She was not pleased that her identity was being disputed, but after the photographer’s original photographer and location was uncovered, there was no question that Fraley was the infamous woman.

In the People magazine interview, Fraley described the importance of having strong female icons. She said, “The women of this country these days need icons. If they think I’m one, I’m happy.”

The description of the original photograph was: “Pretty Naomi Parker looks like she might catch her nose in the turret lathe she is operating.”

Death Not Feared

Barbara Bush, former first lady of the United States, passed away in April of 2018. She was 92 years old. Prior to her death, she was often referred to as “America’s warm hearted grandmother.”

Bush had faced many health problems for years. She reportedly battled chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure for years. She had been previously hospitalized a few times for her health, but two days before her death it was announced that Bush had “decided not to seek additional medical treatment.”

Throughout her life, Mrs. Bush was constantly in the public eye. She was seen as various public symbols, such as “consummate wife” and “homemaker.” Her husband, former president George H.W. Bush, began as a Texas oilman, and worked his way up to becoming commander in chief. Their eldest son George W. Bush, one of six, also became president.

Before her passing, Mrs. Bush said that she “didn’t fear death,” perhaps because the family faced serious tragedy in the past. The death of their eldest daughter left a lasting impression on the family, especially Mrs. Bush.

Pauline Robinson “Robin” Bush, was typically rowdy and healthy, like her siblings. However, she began showing signs of fatigue, so she was taken to a pediatrician. A few days later, the Bush family received the news that Robin was diagnosed with leukemia. She passed away at age 3.

Barbara Bush did not fear death. She had suffered an unthinkable tragedy early in her life, and spent a majority of her adult life in politics.

Family friend and former president Bill Clinton said after her passing: “She had grit and grace, brains and beauty. Barbara joked that George and I spent so much time together I had become almost a member of the family, the ‘black sheep’ that had gone astray.”

Mother of a Nation

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away at the age of 81. She was best known for being a South African anti-apartheid campaigner and former first lady, once married to Nelson Mandela.

For over a year, Mrs. Mandela had been in the hospital numerous times due to a “long illness.” She had spent most of her life in the public eye, yet later in life her reputation had been tainted.

She met Nelson Mandela in 1957 when his marriage to Evelyn Mase was ending. After their marriage, they were known for being the country’s most famous political couple. Both were jailed for their roles in the anti-apartheid movement. The political activism kept them both apart from each other for quite some time during the movement. There was a period when they were in hiding, keeping them further apart still.

When her husband was jailed in 1964, she increased her role in politics and was constantly harassed by South African security police. She became an international symbol of resistance for her fight against the apartheid movement. She rallied for poor, black township residents who demanded freedom. Her husband was released from his life sentence in 1990.

After spending some of her life in solitary confinement for her activist role, she was banished to a remote rural area, but returned to the township soon after. Her home was burned down, and the suspected perpetrators were members of the South African security forced. She became widely known as the “Mother of the Nation.”

The Mandelas divorced in 1996, but she chose to keep his surname. They kept close ties, yet critics began accusing her of using his name for political gain. Her reputation was put on the line once more when she was accused of fraud and murder, both of which she denied.

When a 14-year-old township militant, Stompie Seipei, was murdered, the senior anti-apartheid activists accused Winnie. She had a group of young men as her bodyguards, known as the Mandela United Football Club. She had great influence over young, radical activists, which contributed to the growing controversy.

Stompie had been seized by her bodyguards in 1989 before he was found dead. She was charged with assault and kidnapping of Stompie and one of her bodyguards was charged with the murder. Mr. Mandela continued to support his future ex-wife during this troubling time.

She claimed not-guilty but was sentenced to six years in jail. An appeal court reduced the sentence to a fine.

President Mandela later accused his ex-wife of adultery and fired her from her role as deputy minister of arts and culture. She was accused of leading a lavish and expensive lifestyle while standing among poor, black South Africans whom she was fighting for. She was described as a modern-day Robin Hood, often taking loans for people who had little money, but critics said she “should have known better.”

The conviction for theft was overturned, but she was given a three-year-and-six-month suspended sentence for fraud.

Near the end of her life, she was elected to numerous party committees, extending her influence in politics. She was present for the last moments of her ex-husband’s life, and was also in a prominent position at his memorial services.

Her controversial life ended peacefully this past April. She often praised President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said regarding her death: “In the face of exploitation, she was a champion of justice and equality. Shew as an abiding symbol of the desire of our people to be free.”

A Modest Proposal: People Are Starving, Limit Yourself to One Billion Dollars

By: James Bagley


Since 1978, American workers’ productivity has almost doubled and real GDP has tripled. Growth has occurred relatively steadily in both measures, despite the second-worst financial crisis in American history within the past two decades. In the same 40-year period, real wages for workers in the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution have stagnated, and the poverty rate has mostly remained in the high teens and low twenties despite hovering around 15 percent in the late 60s and early 70s following the implementation of President Lyndon Johnson’s great society programs.

So if the wealth generated by economic growth is not going to the poor, middle class or even the upper middle class, where is it going? It is going to those at the very top of the income distribution.

Professor Thomas Piketty’s World Inequality Report showed that the richest 1 percent of people in America controlled about 25 percent of the country’s assets in 1980 but that figure rose to over 40 percent in 2017. And this is not a result of gains to everyone being distributed slightly unevenly: an analysis done by the Economic Policy Institute showed that had income growth between 1979 and 2007 been distributed equally across all workers, the poverty rate would have declined by almost four percentage points, but the rise in income inequality over that same period added five and a half percentage points to the poverty rate.

This is not news. Inequality has been the unspoken goal of conservative economic policy since the Reagan era, couching drastic tax cuts for the wealthy in the rhetoric of “job creators” and wealth “trickling down.” Following the 2016 presidential campaign, there has been an increase in public interest around the issue of economic inequality. Yet, even since then, most policy prescriptions are about finding ways to reduce income inequality moving forward. This would, of course, be a good step, but it wrongly treats the disastrous outcomes of the past 40 years as immutable.

Those responsible for the past few decades of American economic policy are scientists performing a failed experiment that causes human suffering. The appropriate response is not simply to stop the experiment, but also to do whatever possible to counter its harmful effects. Deliberate policy choices have created a society in which more than half of the population cannot afford a $500 emergency expense, such as replacing tires on a car, without borrowing money while over 500 individuals have personal wealth in excess of $1 billion. Things like a more progressive income tax, stronger labor unions, Medicare for all, and a federal job guarantee are all critical components to improve the situation moving forward, but they will not do nearly enough to redistribute the wealth currently being hoarded by plutocrats.

One fairly small potential step is the billionaire’s tax. The concept is simple: If you are hoarding over $1 billion of personal wealth, you are taxed until you are not. The moral case for the tax is straightforward. It is inhumane for some to live with extravagant fortune while others die from a lack of basic necessities. Any moral philosophy that suggests otherwise is devoid of morality and has replaced it with an absolute fealty to a spurious free market that cannot exist in reality. The amount of money necessary to lift every American living in poverty in 2017 above the poverty line is slightly over $171 billion.

Assuming every billionaire in America remained in America and paid the tax, it would bring in over $2.4 trillion. In other words, simply by asking 569 people to live on the meager sum of $999 million each, we could eliminate poverty in America 14 times over.

Of course, there are tons of political and logistical barriers to implementing the tax, and while eradicating poverty is a noble goal, there are many other positive ends toward which that money could be put. With that in mind, it is best to view this not as a direct policy proposal, but rather a more concrete demonstration of exactly how much wealth simply sits in the offshore tax havens of the ultra-wealthy and how much human misery could be lessened by using it to help people who desperately need it.

Perhaps next time Jeff Bezos can’t think of a single way to use his immense wealth that isn’t space travel, he could consider the millions of people on his own planet who don’t even have the means to feed and clothe themselves.  

Immigration Courts and how the Justice System is Failing Immigrants

By Zachary Mossburg

As a candidate for President in 2016, Donald Trump strongly played into some
Americans fear of immigrants.

Most will remember his remarks that while “some” Immigrants from Central America were “good people,” the majority were criminals and rapists. Once he was inaugurated as President, the Department of Homeland Security created an office for the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, called VOICE – or Victims of Immigration
Crime Engagement.

The stated purpose of this office is to create an online database tracking “illegal alien perpetrators of crime.” Much has been said in the past almost two years about the racist policies of the Trump Administration, and his treatment of immigrants has been notoriously harsh. The existence of the office of VOICE is a perfect example of both of these
issues.

We must, as a society, also focus on the actual lives of immigrants who are affected by the Trump Administration’s policies, many of whom, due to political turmoil and gang violence in central and southern America, face death or violence if deported. However, as Sarah Stillman the director of the Global Migration Project at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism – has noted, most of the conversations happening in policy circles about these lives
are devoid of names and faces.

Despite tracking alleged crimes committed by “illegal alien perpetrators of crime,” the government has no way of tracking the lives of people who are deported, even those who claim they face certain death if deported. Sarah Stillman and the
Global Migration Project at Columbia University set out to do just this. After this database was started in early 2016, Stillman and the Project have found over 60 cases of immigrants who had been deported “to their deaths or other harms.”

In light of this situation, it seems of utmost importance to ensure that immigrants are afforded proper criminal rights when facing deportation. Just like anyone in the American justice system, immigrants, even ones here illegally, are constitutionally guaranteed the rights to due process and equal protection under the law. Despite this, deportation is seen as a civil citation rather than a criminal one, meaning that those facing deportations are not afforded the rights guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, including the vital right to counsel.

This means that large numbers of those facing deportation, including children as young as three, have to represent themselves in immigration court and deportation proceedings. A study by the American Immigration Council found that only 37 percent of immigrants obtain counsel for their deportation hearings and only 14 percent of immigrants who are already detained obtain counsel. Additionally, those represented by counsel fare far better than those who are not. 44 percent of those who are represented are released from detention, as opposed to 11% of those who are not represented. It is clear that not having ample legal representation poses a huge problem for immigrants facing the prospects of being deported.

The place that these deportation proceedings take place, immigration courts, do more to deny immigrants their civil rights than to ensure them. In this setting immigrants face more obstacles than just the possibility of having to represent themselves – often in a language they are not familiar with. There are a total of 60 immigration courts throughout the United States, and they are most in varying states of administrative disaster. The backlog of cases is massive, and in some cities such as New York and Los Angeles, the backlog for a case is over two years, whereas in Chicago some cases have waiting periods of five years. During this waiting period, crucial evidence could go missing or get destroyed and key witnesses can die or go missing, impairing the fairness of the trial. As of February 2018, there was a total case backlog of 684,583 pending cases. The combination of this administrative inefficiency and the life or death situation that many immigrants find themselves in led Judge Dana Leigh Marks to remark during a PBS Newshour interview in 2017 that “in essence, we are doing death penalty cases in a traffic court setting.”

Administrative incompetence is not the only problem facing the structure of immigration courts. Unlike every other court in the United States, immigration courts are not under the jurisdiction of the Judicial branch. Instead, they are under the control of the Executive Branch and the Department of Justice, meaning that currently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has oversight over this system. The glaring problem with this setup is that unlike other components of the justice system in the U.S., immigration courts are subject to the shifting political priorities of different administrations. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration have made sure that this is the case. One pressing and recent example of this is a recent memo sent by the Department of Justice putting a quota on immigration judges. Quotas have been ruled illegal in other institutions, such as many police departments around the country, and quotas pose a threat to the integrity of the system as a whole.

The very establishment of quotas makes it part of a judges job to care less about a case and care more about clearing cases quicker. Rather than basing decisions on the rule of law and its application to cases on an individual basis, judges instead must focus on completing a certain number of cases in order to stay employed. This is not to mention the actual number of the quota that has been imposed, which will require judges to complete about three cases per day according to the National Association of Immigration Judge’s union. This stretches the judges thinner than they have already been stretched by a backlog of over 600,000 cases and additionally denies immigrants ample time to gather evidence and witnesses for their deportation hearings.

The Trump Administration’s attack on the independence of immigration courts goes beyond the imposition of quotas. On April 10th, the Justice Department announced it will be ending the Legal Orientation Program, which provides “people who are detained and facing deportation with basic information about immigration laws and their rights.” The ending of this program coupled with the fact that immigrants do not have the same right to counsel guaranteed to other Americans makes it so that immigrants facing deportation often do not know the full extent of the legal predicament they are in, or how to properly get out of it. When looking at these policy shifts in the context of statements made by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, these recent events all have one goal in mind: to speed up deportations without care for due
process of the law.

The combination of quotas and the ending of the LOP make it so that judges have to churn through cases quicker with defendants who often will be either without counsel or unknowing of the rights they have. Considering the threats of violence and even death in the cases of many of those seeking asylum in America, this seems to be a gross miscarriage of justice.

Reconsidering the database established by Sarah Stillman and her graduate students at Columbia University, it is hard to see how the number of deported immigrants who face death or other harms will do anything but continue to rise under the Trump Administration.

How do we fix the miscarriage of justice that takes place in the immigration court system? The first fundamental thing that needs to be done is to make the system independent of the Justice Department and the Executive Branch. Under the current system the Attorney General, currently Jeff Sessions, has wide authority over the courts, including the power to refer cases to themselves. This is grossly authoritarian in nature, and one man, no matter the position they hold, should be allowed to unilaterally decide the fate of an immigrant’s life. The first step of fixing immigration courts is to make them impervious to political priorities and administration changes, and the way to go about this is to move their jurisdiction from the Executive Branch to the Judicial Branch. Obviously, this is not a process that can happen overnight, so a reasonable and necessary first step would be to ensure the constitutional right to counsel for anyone facing deportation. The fact that children as young as three years old and people who struggle to speak English can go in front of an immigration judge and have their lives decided without appropriate representation is inherently un-American. Besides the political pressure applied by the establishment of quotas and the imbalance of information created by the dissolving of the Legal Orientation Program, Jeff Sessions has taken one other important step to comply with
Donald Trump’s racist mandate.

On March 5th he reversed a 2014 decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals that required immigration judges to hold a hearing before deciding an asylum case. This means that now immigration judges can decide the fate of some of America’s most vulnerable immigrants – people who are essentially political refugees in our country and who do not have the right to be represented in court – without even holding a hearing to allow the immigrant to make their case in person. Until the system that paints immigrants as criminals and intruders to our society is reformed, and until America’s constitutional rights are extended to all of those living in our country no matter their place of origin, and until the system that decides the fate of asylum seekers is depoliticized, the immigration court system in our country will remain in desperate need of amelioration and the civil rights of immigrants will continue to be violated on a daily basis.

Student Finds Lead in SMCM Water

A student tested a sample of water from Calvert Hall of St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) and found that it tested positive for lead contamination.

Trisha Scotton, ‘18, who wrote a St. Mary’s Project (SMP) titled “Get the Lead Out: How Flint Michigan Ignited my Interest in Lead Poisoning,” bought a lead test kit and used it to check Calvert Hall “because it is the oldest building” on campus. Scotton says that any building built before 1957 likely has lead in the pipes.

Scotton says that the water came in as just below the “acceptable” level according to the test kit, but adds the caveat that “any level of lead is immediately bad for you.”

According to Scotton, she has told officials from the school and that they “are doing something” to address her findings.

The College periodically releases water testing data. According to their tests, in 2016 SMCM’s drinking water “met both Federal and State requirements.”

Lead was most recently tested in 2014; the report states that they found a lead action level 15 parts per billion, whilst the ideal level is zero.

This information can be found on smcm.edu under the title “Water Quality Report.”

News-in-Brief: Commencement Speaker Announced, Senior Week Details

On April 4 2018, SMCM newsroom announced that this year’s commencement speaker will be Wanda Queen Draper, an activist and communications expert. Draper is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism, the Johns Hopkins University Graduate School of Contemporary Studies and the University of Maryland School of Law. According to SMCM newsroom, Draper “is dedicated to uplifting and empowering communities in need. Her view of community service as a social responsibility has led her to take on hunger, homeless, and education, amongst many other worthy causes. The highlight of her community service was serving on the founding board of the Reginald Lewis Museum from 1999 to 2008. During that time, $38 million was raised to build the museum and $2 million to install the permanent collection.”

Leading up to Commencement, senior week starts the week after finals and officially begins on May 9, with a Beach Day Picnic at the Waterfront. Senior Gala takes place in the Campus Center at 6 PM on May 10, and on May 11, graduating students meet at the Rec Courts in to rehearse crossing the stage. Later that day, students and their families have the option to attend a Family Dinner at the Great Room, followed by the Senior Convocation on the Townhouse Greens, where an as-of-yet not announced faculty speaker chosen by seniors will deliver an address, and students will light candles and watch a slideshow of submitted images. All this is gearing up for the big day itself, where seniors will get to celebrate their graduation from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and hear Draper’s address.

Commencement will take place on Saturday, May 12 at 10 am.

US Income Inequality is a Humanitarian Crisis

American exceptionalism is alive and well, but we should be ashamed of it.

Today, the United States is one of the wealthiest nations the world has ever seen, but we have some of the most egregious income inequality to boot.

The United States of America is the “city upon a hill” which politicians from Reagan to Obama so dearly describe it as, but not for admirable reasons.

Income inequality in the US is so bad that when the United Nations sent a representative to examine poverty in states, he found that the “United States has proved itself to be exceptional in … problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights.”

That UN representative is named Philip Alston. His title is UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and he found that despite incredible pockets of wealth and technological advancement, the United States has been negligent, leaving an incredible 40 million people in poverty.  

The US has the highest level of inequality of all Western nations. Of the 37 member-nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the US ranks 35 in terms of poverty and inequality.

In preschool, most of us are taught that fairness is ensuring that everyone gets a slice of the pie. If that pie has eight slices, the top one percent of households by income have 3.2 slices of that pie, the other 99 percent share the remaining 4.8 slices, according to New York University economics Professor Edward N. Wolff and The Washington Post.

This gross inequity is pervasive, it plays a role in every horrendous facet of injustice, from a lack of access to life-saving drugs to homelessness to the influence of dark money in elections.

Rampant, unfettered capitalism is to blame. To continue in a system which has such a nonchalance towards the suffering of millions is immoral and history will reflect poorly on us if we don’t address it.  

Democratic and Republican governments have been complicit in this immoral inequality. In 2016, I wrote a piece claiming that a return to politics as usual, with a more “normal” Republican like Bush would be better than Donald Trump. This was a mistake. Establishment figures from both parties have been working together to maintain this status quo.

Luckily, there are already policies drafted to combat this inequality. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the presumed 2020 presidential candidates, has made waves through the introduction of a federal jobs guarantee.

In addition, numerous Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation to “open up an existing government health insurance program, either Medicare or Medicaid, to anyone who wants it” according to The Washington Post.

Both of the aforementioned policies would not only provide necessary services to the people of this nation but also work to retroactively balance the inequity of this nation.

Such is the only way to right the wrongs this country has allowed to occur.

News-in-Brief: SMCM Named Green Power Champion by EPA

St. Mary’s College of Maryland ranked top in the Capital Athletic Conference for use of renewable energy in this years Green Power Challenge, run by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Schools are evaluated based on how much renewable energy they use, not the percentage of the overall power usage that comes from green energy sources. SMCM was ranked above Salisbury University in the challenge. Data for other schools in the conference were not listed on the EPA website. With 22 million kilowatt hours of green energy used, SMCM was honored as the leader of our conference. The highest ranked school nationally was University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with 250,070,000 kWh of Green Power used- however, 6 percent of their energy still comes from nonrenewable sources, while green power makes up 117 percent of the overall energy consumption at SMCM. The school with the highest percentage of green energy overall was Georgetown University, with 133 percent of their energy consumption coming from renewable power sources.

According to the Office of Sustainability, our green energy consumption is “equivalent to the annual energy usage of 2,000 American homes.” Sustainability intern Jeanette Warren sent an all-campus email on April 26 to announce the accomplishment, adding “Thanks to generous funding from our Green St. Mary’s Revolving Fund (GSMRF) and Renewable Energy Certificates (REC’s), St. Mary’s is continuously investing in sustainable building projects, like our LEED Gold-Certified Anne Arundel Hall.”