Who Makes Policy Campaign 2016 Edition

Say No to NSEERS

Are you an immigrant? Do you have any “unique” traits that indicate where you’ve come from or what non-white Anglo-Saxon line of blood you are a descendent of? If so, you can pretty much guarantee that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is against your residency in this country. How dare you take up the space that is meant for “real” Americans? Kobach has decided that you pose a threat to the safety of our country…which is also YOUR country as much as Kobach would like to get you to feel otherwise. I know this because not only is he helping Trump shape his incredibly restrictive and bigoted immigration policy reforms, he has a history of being a shameless white nationalist.

The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System was created in reaction to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The sociopolitical climate of our country immediately after that horrific event was one that called for the implementation of programs that would enhance national security measures so as to ensure that any future attempts to attack us would be thwarted. During such nerve-wracking times when the whole nation is plagued by fear and uncertainty, it is important for the leadership to be the calming authority figure that can be counted on to take drastic action if that’s what they deem necessary in order to put Americans’ minds at ease. It has to start with restoring the people’s trust in their government’s ability to protect them. If the means to that end involves restricting the rights of certain groups of people due to the likeness of their physical characteristics or religious beliefs to those of the perpetrator of the most recent act of violence, then that is just the price our country is willing to pay in return for some peace of mind. Now let me repeat that sentiment but using words that more accurately reflect how these ideas play out in reality. The wealthy white elite are perfectly okay with disenfranchising groups that are different from them, because different means not as good or important, and then when it’s the same type of different as the individual that committed an act of terror against our nation – well then what other choice is there but to assume that all the members of this group are just as likely as the actual perpetrator to be a threat to our nation’s safety. If you subscribe to the same religious as a terrorist, the govenrment feels it is justified in lumping you in with that person and taking away some of your rights, even though you as an individual have done nothing wrong. Because #safetyfirst, right?

No. Not right at all.   

After terror attacks, restoring the country to a sense of “normalcy” is easier when the flawed logic behind the process used to do so is just not addressed.  How can you determine an individuals potential to take a certain action in the future if the only evidence that exists which would serve to support your conclusion is that the same action was already taken by someone similar to them? Similar in that they share certain characteristics that have not been proven to have any direct bearing on any one person’s capacity for violence, thought processes, decision-making skills, personal values and morals, etc. But these aspects of their being are not acknowledged because judgement was already passed long ago, the moment it became apparent that this person is the same kind of “other” as the person that did the terrible thing to our country.  

If you fall into any number of the multitude of groups considered “others” you may be familiar with this treatment.

The nuances regarding what type of person you are on the inside, or whether your heart is as big and warm as the sun – these are all irrelevant when our country (=rich white men) are feeling vulnerable and on unsteady ground because a totally separate, free-thinking individual that was from the same geographic area or shared some of your physical attributes took violent action against our beloved citizens – a group that you actually consider yourself a member of.It’s just too bad your skin color/ accent/ hair texture/ hijab usage/other noticeably distinguishing characteristics had to out you as a possible member of the “opposition.”

A brain wracked with fear will go to great lengths to make sense of things it does not understand. It is easier to come to terms with something that you were able to classify in some way, even if the thread connecting one thing to the other is incredibly thin.

Here we are 15 years later, and our collective anxiety level is not equivalent to that which we experienced following 9/11. Probably because we haven’t been attacked again on such a grand scale ever since that day. So is there really a justifiable need for the reinstatement of NSEERS? What perceived threat is the Trump camp basing this sudden need for targeted data collection?  If the safety of Americans truly is at risk, if the general population feels as though their basic human rights are being threatened, they will look to the government to provide them with protection through any means necessary, which can –and some would say should – include racial, ethnic, and religious profiling. If most terrorists are known to be Muslim, then why shouldn’t we take the extra precaution of having every single member of the Muslim faith be legally made to undergo procedures that no other Americans are expected to do? (Hint: that’s called persecution and it’s just not nice). It is not only immoral and illogical to hold an entire group responsible for the violent actions of a select number of individual group members, but it is also an inefficient means of policing for potential future perpetrators. In terms of successfully managing issues to do with national security, the government’s resources would be more effective if they were allocated toward the implementation of safety initiatives that used actually relevant facts as evidence when determining whether the person being monitored poses any threat to our nation at all. NSEERS has no place in 2017 America.

Additional Note: I’m not sure if this is meant to be humorous, tongue-in-cheek, or completely serious, but someone has created a “National Registry of White Males” google doc and I wanted to share it.

Immigrants BEWARE! (except Melania, of course)

The election of Donald Trump as our next president means a lot of changes are in store for America, and immigration is definitely going to be one of the policy areas he hits the hardest. Trump’s xenophobic comments caused irreparable damage to our society from the moment he started his campaign, but the real danger now stands in the fact that his xenophobia can feasibly be translated into law come next year. This article from Forbes has an easy-to-digest breakdown of what judicial changes we can anticipate during Trump’s presidency pertaining to refugees, immigrants, and let’s not forget: THE WALL (cue eye roll). As it turns out, building a wall would not actually be an effective method of reducing illegal immigration, but that’s not the point. The anti-“other” sentiment behind this major rallying cry for his supporters is more terrifying than any physical barrier he could build. As another article put it, “Equally disconcerting is the metaphorical wall Trump has already built against immigrants using xenophobia and toxic rhetoric.” We can only hope that Americans as a people will rise above this antiquated nationalistic mentality.

Job Posting: Entry-Level Position, 2 Years Experience Required

….but to fill the position of U.S. President, no experience required?!

Voters should not need reaffirmation of just how unqualified Trump is to occupy the seat of President without having previously occupied any other sort of political office in his life, as compared to Hillary’s decades worth of government work. But judging by the fact that Trump still has supporters, the American people seem to need maybe just one more reminder. The Clinton Campaign came up with a genius tool that takes us back to a random point in recent history and compares what Hillary was doing in that year as compared to Trump. The results are all at once amusing and upsetting. This interactive webpage is smart in its simple and blunt juxtaposition of the two candidates lives leading up to their campaign for U.S. Presidency, and hopefully will be effective in swaying some undecided voters.

It’s tough not to just fall down a rabbit hole and keep clicking, but the nausea induced by some of Trump’s past helped me to stop. Here’s just one example:

2006: Hillary is re-elected to the U.S. Senate with 67 percent of the vote, and doing bipartisan work to improve health care for military servicemembers.

2006: Trump says he “sort of hope[s]” for the housing market to collapse—saying he could “make a lot of money” from it.

Be Nice to Your Neighbors…

…they know where you live!

With race relations – especially between law enforcement and minorities – occupying one of the top categories of election talk, I thought this article about a neighbor bypassing the courteous knock-on-the-door and jumping straight to threatening police involvement was one worth sharing. Having gotten to know you all rather well over these past couple of months, I am certain that most of you will enjoy the response Richard Brookshire (MPA!) penned to his rude neighbor (be sure to read the whole thing which is posted as an image within the article).

Op-Eds: Immigration

The two op-eds I read for this week’s assignment addressed the topic of immigration, however one focused on the role played by the Supreme Court, and the other was a more generalized overview of the immigration issue as it is being approached by members of the more conservative side of our nation.

This op-ed from the New York Times titled The Supreme Court’s Silent Failure on Immigration written by Linda Greenhouse was the more persuasive of the two articles. It was well organized and focused on one very specific instance in recent history, backing up all opinions with just the right amount of facts for me to feel like there was a sufficient amount of evidence while also not feeling bogged down by excessive data. It made an emotional appeal by showing how the decisions of the Supreme Court affect real people, and it quoted one other article, titled “Giving Reasons” by Frederick Schauer, which was poignant enough to stick with me:  “Announcing an outcome without giving a reason is consistent with the exercise of authority,” he writes, while giving reasons is “a sign of respect,” “a way of opening a conversation rather than forestalling one.”

The other article I read came from the National Review and was titled Fishtown Needs Less Immigration, written by Mark Krikorian – the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. The article focuses on Charles Murray’s changing views about immigration, broadly stated as switching from a typically Libertarian perspective of supporting high levels of immigration, to a more conservative Trump-supporting view of setting high restrictions on immigration. I tried my best to go into this with an open mind and not have a negative attitude toward the article before having even read it, however I have to say that an article that is openly biased and unapologetically partisan does not lend itself to being “persuasive” per se. It immediately put me in a mindset where I was not even willing to consider the author’s opinions as legitimate. Aside from that, I had a hard time following the article due to the excess of other works and authors quoted throughout. It ended with “Welcome to the fight, Charles. This time I know our side will win” which just felt gauchely immature. (I’m a little ashamed that a fellow Armenian wrote this!)

The Digital Disruption of our Economy

This is just a followup on some of our class discussion last week regarding the ever-diminishing reliance of our economy on actual manufacturing. With our current reality ushering us all (rather forcefully) into an almost purely digital age both socially and economically, this article does make a good point of how our movement away from a focus on tangible resources and a movement toward a higher valuation of ideas is encouraging a new era of collaboration across borders – social, economic, national, you name it – higher levels of cooperation amongst people and corporations is necessary in order to be successful within this newly developing worldwide reality.

Here’s the infographic I had mentioned:


Denmark Trying to ‘Spray the Migrants Away’

It’s easy to forget that as we all sit here and listen to Trump talk about fencing out Mexicans and banning Muslims from our country, across the pond a lot of Europe is still trying to effectively manage their own migrant related issues. The refugee crisis has created a uniquely challenging situation for the more developed countries on the continent, as it is not an easy task for a leader to balance the moral obligation – influenced greatly by the pressure exacted by the rest of the international community – to assist people of other nations in their desperate time of need, while making sure not to disadvantage or neglect their existing constituency in the process. Even if no massive changes actually occur in the lifestyles of citizens, members of the population are likely to take action against [their perception of] the social & economic issues that the new transplants have bestowed upon the country. The distribution of an “Anti-Migrant Repellent” in Denmark is just one example of how some people are choosing to express their refugee-related discontent. I personally didn’t expect a form of activism with such a reprehensibly low maturity level to come out of Denmark of all places, but every barrel has a bottom and somebody has to dwell there I guess. One funny (or rather, terrifying) thing is that (although I’m sure this was done intentionally by the speaker) Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric has itself ‘migrated’ right into the daily vernacular of the European people, as shown by a quote from the leader of the party that started this ‘spray’ initiative: “We are not saying that migrants are all rapists, but the problem with mass migration is the mass, and because of the mass it will in time replace the indigenous people of Europe.” This begs the question; would this have all gone down the same exact way in the pre-Trump-running-for-president years of our world? How long will it be until we can as a human race collectively accept the genuinely devastating damage being done to the human population and our social relations with one another due to Donald Trump’s hate speech and its rapid spread across the airwaves to every corner of the world?

The Good Immigrant

The Netflix miniseries “The Night Of” was an overnight hit among viewers and critics alike. It had a captivating story line led by relatable characters that people quickly became emotionally invested in, combined with suspenseful cliffhangers that made some viewers unable to resist binge-watching the entire series in just a few days (I may or may not be one of those guilty parties…). However, it wasn’t just the superficial cinematic appeal that made this show such a success. A huge contributing factor to the wide range of viewers “The Night Of” attracted was how it fearlessly and directly broached the topic of racism, particularly the current climate surrounding terrorism and the racial profiling of Middle Easterners. It was also unique in it’s honest presentation of the vast differences in how each character interpreted the night’s events, going beyond the obvious role that race plays. It spanned a whole spectrum of social differences among the characters – from their economic strata, to their relationship status, to their chosen fields of work, and even the different positions some of them held within the same career field – which was done with the purpose of opening the audience’s eyes to the reality of just how much these seemingly minor differences from one person to the next can impact their worldview. The topic is relevant to our current state of affairs and the show succeeded in educating viewers in an entertaining, somewhat addicting, method of communication. If like me you were left wanting more once the series concluded, you may share in my excitement at having discovered this book that was just published titled The Good Immigrant. It is a collection of stories compiled by Nikesh Shukla about the experiences of people living as immigrants in Britain, which I’m sure will provide some interesting insight for the purpose of comparison to the experiences of immigrants living here in the U.S.  One of the stories is authored by Riz Ahmed, the actor that plays the main character in “The Night Of” and I very much look forward to reading about what his real life experiences have been as an immigrant as compared to those of his character Naz. The title of one online review of the book sums it all up nicely: “Sitting comfortably? The Good Immigrant will change that: This collection of essays about black and minority ethnic experience in Britain is a powerful antidote to generalisation and lazy thinking.”



Immigration Polling Info

According to this update published at the end of August by Rasmussen Reports, Americans are softening their stance on how to manage the illegal immigrants that are already living in the United States.

“41% of Likely U.S. Voters now think legalizing the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States is more important than gaining control of the border, up from 34% in February. Just over half (51%) still believe gaining control of the border is more important when it comes to immigration reform, but that’s down eight points from 59% six months ago.”

Would it be too optimistic to interpret these changes as an indicator of a major decrease in support for Trump? As we get closer to election day the polls are showing that more and more people disagree with one of his biggest selling points, which provides us with just the tiniest bit of hope that Trump supporters may soon see the light and defect.

The P in POTUS Stands for Pneumonia

Hillary Clinton’s recent pneumonia diagnosis has given the media exactly what they’ve been pining for: a freshly committed absolutely unforgivable sin, further proving just how careless and unfit Hillary Clinton is for the ultimate leadership position – I mean really, how dare she get sick? How dare she continue campaigning resolutely, pushing herself to her body’s physical limit because she knows that the future of the U.S. depends on her defeating her opponent? And finally, how DARE she attempt to maintain a microscopic bit of privacy surrounding her health and not immediately share her medical issues with the entire world? Of course, Hillary went into this campaign knowing that her every move, every thought, and every cough would be scrutinized. That’s par for the course when you put in a bid for the Presidency. But, as one human being thinking about the decisions made by another human being, I can understand the choice she made especially now that I see what was waiting for her on the other side. You can’t blame her for trying to avoid adding any more fuel to the fire her opponents are building for the final step of their witch hunt. She knew that going public with her diagnosis would spur an inevitable onslaught of every news outlet respectfully reporting the facts making baseless presumptions about “what this all means for America” (or some other dramatic derivative of that phrase repeated ad nauseum). The right wants to discredit her completely and this pneumonia diagnosis has lent them just the lighting they need to best showcase their newest piece of “evidence” proving that Hillary is not a viable contender in this race. The media’s ultimate goal is to make money and that means they must, and they will, do everything in their power to attract the public’s attention.




The best way to achieve this noble goal of MORE MORE MORE? In this particular case they chose to turn something relatively benign into fodder for thousands of unfounded and over dramatic articles, soundbites, and video clips, forever looping on the news channels and through our brains. The majority of what is reported in a case such as this can be categorized as hyperbolic click-bait, but we cannot be so naive as to underestimate the effect it has on shaping public opinion – our topic for this week’s class. The ever-present media and their increasingly sneaky ways of getting their stories on the express train to our eyeballs makes reading the news akin to sifting through a pile of garbage looking for a few flakes of gold scattered throughout. The ability to filter out the nonsense and be able to recognize the worthy items is a necessary skill – one that I look forward to sharpening over the semester.  While ingesting all the bits of “information” that we are constantly being fed by the legions of news outlets out there, it is vital to remember that there are ulterior motives at play here. In many cases integrity is shamelessly compromised in the name of profit. Every action the media takes is calculated and deliberate and it would serve us all well to keep that fact in mind while going about our daily lives – especially during this crucial time leading up to the election.

To end on a lighter note, the Huffington Post published a compilation of tweets all related to the issue of Hillary Clinton’s health. It’s titled “12 Perfect Responses To Hillary Clinton Being A Human and Getting Sick” and it is simultaneously hilarious, depressing, and infuriating. If you want to laugh even harder, this painfully sarcastic article shown to me by Jonathan will not leave you disappointed.