New US National Security Advisor John Bolton Chairs a Website that Spreads Disinformation About Migration

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he would be replacing National Security Advisor Lt. General H.R. McMaster with John Bolton, an attorney and former US representative to the United Nations (2005-2006). While Bolton has had a long and varied career that he describes on the website of his political action committee, he fails to mention there the role that we at Migration Voter find most interesting, as the chair of a website that been successful in spreading false and misleading information about migrants in Europe, the Gatestone Institute.

On Gatestone’s website, John Bolton is described as the “Chairman” of the site, a role he has occupied since 2013, when it was announced by Gatestone Founder and President Nina Rosenwald. (Rosenwald is an active philanthropist who has been described by The Nation and The Intercept as one of the chief financiers of the anti-Muslim movement.) At the time Bolton commented, “I am privileged to be a part of an organization that provides vital information and analysis on a daily basis to address the critical issues facing the United States and all freedom-loving people in a dangerous world.” Since then he has been an active contributor to the site, penning pieces such as “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First” and “How to Get out of the Iran Nuclear Deal.” Gatestone confirmed today that Bolton is still chairman with a press release congratulating him on his new position and stating that his appointment “is great for America, great for its allies and great for the free world.”

Spreading Fear and Confusion

The website spends a great deal of time commenting on America’s allies and its idea of a free world, and their view is rather frightening. Articles like, “Sweden: Rape Capital of the West“, “Germany’s Migrant Rape Crises Continues Unabated“, “France: Toward Total Submission to Islam, Destruction of Free Speech“, “Is the United Kingdom an Islamist Colony?” are filled with inaccuracies and confusing, baseless claims designed to link migrants, particularly Muslim migrants, to sex crime and societal problems. For instance:

  • In the article linked above on Sweden, the authors suggest that Sweden’s rape rate is mainly owed to a “mass influx” of immigrants from the Middle East, but then admit that reports on rape statistics do “not touch on the background of the rapists.”
  • The article on Germany relies heavily on statements that many sex crimes in Germany are unreported or unsolved- a claim that may be true, but bears no plausible relation to alleging the culprits must be migrants.
  • In the article about France, the author claims that opponents of Islam are fiercely prosecuted while “hate-filled, racist organizations are never touched”- and yet government statistics show hundreds of criminal cases brought against people for anti-Semitic hate speech, statements “apologizing for terrorism” and anti-Christian hate crime (among others.)

Using poorly constructed arguments that rely on conflating statistics, anecdotal evidence and logical fallacies to spread misinformation, Gatestone has managed to become prominent, cited by anti-immigrant sources from Breitbart to white nationalist terrorist Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in the 2011 Norway Attacks. (Breivik quoted a Norwegian Gatestone blogger, “Fjordman” aka Peder Jensen, over a hundred times in his terrorist manifesto.)

Links to the European Far Right

The website also hosts thinkers with deep connections to Europe’s far-right anti-immigrant vanguard. For instance, David Horowitz, whose foundation the David Horowitz Freedom Center frequently comments on Gatestone, came under fire in California for possibly violating IRS rules by donating election funds to Geert Wilders’ far-right People’s Party (PVV) in the Netherlands. According to The Intercept:

Records posted by the Dutch interior ministry show that in 2014 and 2015 the Freedom Center provided multiple donations totaling 126,354 euros — approximately $134,000 — to the “Stichting Vrienden van de PVV,” or the Friends of the PVV Foundation, the fundraising arm of the party.

As described in last year’s election manifesto, Geert Wilders’ PVV platform includes withdrawing from the European Union, banning migration of Muslim people to the Netherlands, accepting zero refugees and banning the Koran.

What does Bolton think?

Bolton fails to mention the chairmanship position he has held at the Gatestone Institute since 2013 on either his political action committee biography, his twitter biography, or his biography at the American Enterprise Institute, where he is a Senior Fellow. Will he pursue an agenda in line with Gatestone’s distorted anti-migrant, anti-Muslim worldview in his new position advising the US president? For an administration that has made opposition to migration one of its hallmarks, it seems unlikely Bolton will not add more fuel to the fire.

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 2.36.14 PM

 


Sources and Further Reading
President Donald Trump announcement on Twitter, March 22, 2018
Meet John Bolton, BoltonPAC.com
The Sugar Mama of Anti-Muslim Hate, Max Blumenthal, The Nation, 2012
Her father championed Jewish refugees. She finances the anti-Muslim refugee movement. Lee Fang, The Intercept, 2017.
Breivik’s political idol Fjordman emerges from anonymity VG Nyheter, 2011
One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre In Norway, Åsne Seierstad, 2013
California Non-Profit May Have Violated Tax Law by Donating to Anti-Muslim, Far Right Candidate, Lee Fang, The Intercept, 2017
Where do the Dutch Parties Stand on Refugees? MV
Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr, https://bit.ly/2FYi0c5 (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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“Fake News” and Elections: How did disinformation campaigns come to focus on immigration? Part One: USA 2016

With numerous new studies investigating the impact of false and misleading news on election campaigns, it seems taken for granted that a majority of the false or misleading information relates to immigration. In a new research series, Migration Voter asks why the topic of immigration became central for those wishing to sway campaigns and referendums, looking at the USA, Britain, France and Germany. 

Online manipulation and disinformation tactics”

The US-based democracy watchdog Freedom House released their yearly study investigating freedom on the internet this week, Freedom of the Net 2017. This edition evaluated 65 countries on a range of indicators, including state restriction of internet access and attacks on independent media, but one finding really stood out for us at Migration Voter:

“Online manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 18 countries over the past year, including the United States.” Freedom House

The study discusses numerous forms of “online manipulation and disinformation” in the lead up to elections: completely fabricated news stories about the parties or candidates, bots and fake accounts retweeting and amplifying campaign messages,  and accounts with no discernable side simply sowing chaos and confusion.

But in many of the countries, the disinformation or manipulation focused heavily on one topic: immigration.

Although Freedom House and others studying this phenomenon seem to take it for granted, the power of immigration-related propaganda to shape elections is not a forgone conclusion. It would be equally plausible to focus on individual-driven scandals, the economy, corruption, or even divisive social issues like abortion or gay marriage, as elections have done in the past. So why the sudden shift, and why such a massive shift?

In this series we’ll be evaluating the new information available from Freedom House and numerous other sources to explore the following question: when trying to influence elections, why did foreign and domestic sources believe that focusing on immigration was their strongest bet?

United States

Examining the exit polls from the 2016 presidential election, one could only conclude that immigration was one of the top issues in the United States. 64% of people who voted for Republican candidate Donald Trump identified immigration as their biggest concern, more than any other subject on either side of the political divide. (Terrorism was the second biggest issue concerning people who voted for Trump.) Asked what should happen to “working illegal immigrants,” 84% of people who voted for Trump called for them to be deported. And 86% agreed with the proposition of building a wall along the US border with Mexico. People who voted for Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, generally opposed both mass deportations and the construction of a wall, while identifying “foreign policy” as the most important issue.

For someone concern about and opposed to immigration, it would be reasonable to vote for Donald Trump, who centered immigration policy starting literally day one of his campaign, calling for restricting immigration from Mexico and linking Mexican immigrants with crime.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best …They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” – Donald Trump

He went on throughout his campaign to continuously highlight immigration- both lawful and unlawful, promising if elected to ban Muslims from lawfully entering the US, “build the wall,” end funding for sanctuary cities, and deport immigrants with criminal records (see how he fared on these campaign promises during his first 100 days here).

So did Donald Trump successfully align himself with voters’ already existent wishes on immigration? In other words, did he tap into a growing anti-immigrant sentiment? Or did he successfully persuade voters to think about immigration first and foremost when heading to the polls?

From Economy to Immigration

Looking back four years at 2012, exit polls show that immigration did not make it into the top four issues in the Presidential Election- for either side. Instead, Republican voters prioritized the deficit as the overall most important issue, with the economy ( which is obviously very related) coming in second.  On a second question about the economy, people who voted for Mitt Romney identified taxes as the most important economic issue and prices as the second- both concerns that have the potential to be affected more by domestic policy-makers than by immigration.

Capture

Exit polls from 2012, via CNN

In the years between the 2012 and 2016 election, migration from Mexico continued to decrease, continuing a downward trend that had started in 2004. Immigration from China and India increased, but the overall percentage of the US population that hailed from abroad rose modestly from 13% in 2013 to 13.5% in 2015- only 3.5% more than in 1850, when data is first available. At the same time, the Obama administration deported record numbers of people who came to the US irregularly, well over 2 million people.

Also during this period, popular opinion shifted: according to Gallup, who periodically polls Americans on the “most important problem” facing the country, fewer and fewer people identified the economy as the most important issue facing the United States.

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Via Gallup.

To summarize, in the time between the 2012 and 2016 election, immigration did not dramatically increase,  Mexican immigration to the US decreased, and record numbers of people were deported. It would appear that, more than tapping into frustration based on surges of immigrants or other observable facts, Trump’s campaign was successfully able to persuade a large number of voters that immigration was at the center of their frustrations, not the economy.

But Trump’s campaign had lots of help.

Fake News and Bots

By now, numerous studies have demonstrated that large amounts of the content surrounding the election, both real and fake (“real”, as in, arising from real people and websites, and “fake” as in, arising from concealed organizations pretending to be citizens or interest groups) focused heavily on immigration.

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Image via Slate:

Following Trump’s election, both the US media and Congressional investigatory committees have been heavily focusing on uncovering Russia’s attempt to influence the US election in favor of Donald Trump. So far this influence appears to have played out heavily over social media. Testifying before the US Senate, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said Facebook learned that a set of “coordinated, inauthentic accounts” had spread 80,000 pieces of content using paid ads between January 2015 and August 2017, reaching an estimated 11.7 million people directly, and perhaps 126 million people indirectly through shares, a number that is over one-third of the US population. The content covered a range of issues, including, Stretch notes, immigration.

Immigration Russia Facebook Ad 2016 Election

A sample facebook ad paid for by a Kremlin-backed group, according to the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

But Kremlin-backed groups also published free, “un-boosted” posts, and these may have had an even wider reach. Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, made public his data demonstrating that the reach could have been much higher than estimated by Facebook, especially considering the views of images on Facebook-owned Instagram. The unpaid posts were often lengthy diatribes containing odd wording or mistakes (“Now wait to see how many more states will also ban the so-called ‘refugees’ – more appropriately to call them ILLEGALS.”)

But regardless of the exact numbers of people reach (or influenced) by Russian created content, the influence coming from inside of the United States also tended towards discussing immigration negatively.

The Breitbart Effect

Hyperpartisan media outlets and social media users continued to flourish online and affect the visibility of and attention paid to more balanced sources of news and informationFreedom House

A study cited by Freedom House argues that, more than Russian influence, one “hyper-partisan” media outlet had an outsized impact on the outcome of the election by dragging the conversation of the mainstream media towards both Trump and the topic of immigration: Breitbart News.

The study, conducted jointly by researchers from Harvard and MIT, examined over a million stories published between April 2015 and election day, showing that Breitbart and a related network of conservative media outlets set a tone for the election that successfully influenced coverage from the mainstream media of both presidential candidates Trump and Clinton. For Clinton, this translated to covering scandals such as her emails, and for Trump, this largely translated to covering one of Trump’s primary campaign themes: immigration. By partway through the campaign, the number one word polled voters associated with Hillary Clinton was “email” and for Donald Trump, “immigration.”

While mainstream media coverage was often critical, it nonetheless revolved around the agenda that the right-wing media sphere set: immigration. Right-wing media, in turn, framed immigration in terms of terror, crime, and Islam, as a review of Breitbart and other right-wing media stories about immigration most widely shared on social media exhibits. Immigration is the key topic around which Trump and Breitbart found common cause; just as Trump made this a focal point for his campaign, Breitbart devoted disproportionate attention to the topic.  – Benkler et al in Columbia Journalism Review

The chart below demonstrates just how prominent the theme of immigration was for Breitbart, based on the articles sampled.

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Proportion of Media Coverage Focusing on Immigration by Source – via Benkler, et al, Columbia Journalism Review

Numerous of the articles published on Breitbart contained information about migration that was false, misleading or simply confusing, combined with alarmist, eye-grabbing headlines. For instance, from August 2015, “Unchecked Immigration Greater Threat to US Than ISIS” was an opinion piece that borders on incoherence:

“Americans need to understand that too many legal immigrants from one region, country, or ethnicity which is opposes our historical norms cripples our country’s ability to have a future that stays faithful to our past.”

Another example from August 2015, “Mainstream: Polls Show Americans With Donald Trump on Immigration,” misleadingly stated that a majority of Americans backed Trump’s restrictive immigration measures, using as evidence a poll conducted by Trump campaign advisor Kelly Anne Conway and a poll that surveyed only Republican voters as prime examples.

In another example, Breitbart published in June 2016 this scandalous piece by former congressman Tom Tancredo, “Obama invites 18.7 million immigrants to avoid oath of allegiance, pledge to defend America,” claiming that then-President Obama had unilaterally exempted naturalized citizens from pledging to bear arms, a claim very far from the truth and apparently meant to frighten readers about gun rights, immigrant loyalty, and the motives of the Democratic president.

Why lie?

The combination of Kremlin-backed accounts spreading frightening falsehoods and memes about immigrants with Breitbart’s misleading alarmist invective provided a backdrop that reinforced and spread Trump’s messaging about immigration, touting his proposals (many of which have been impractical to enact) as the only solutions for America’s most urgent issue (according to them). In short, there is ample evidence for the sort of manipulation and disinformation spread during the US election campaign cited by Freedom House and many others. But it still doesn’t tell us why so much of that misinformation was about immigration.

What does it mean that both Kremlin-backed sources and the Conservative/ Far Right media led by Breitbart focused so heavily on misleading immigration-related stories? Were they sincerely concerned with representing the voices of Americans opposed to immigration? Were they attempting to help the Republicans by moving the national conversation to an arena they felt Democrats were weak on?

Both motivations are difficult to accept from the Russian side. What incentive would the Kremlin have to either amplify the concerns of any sub-section of US citizens, or to attempt to highlight policy differences between the two parties? As for Breitbart, the website had focused on immigration prior to both the election and to Donald Trump’s primary win, before which it was still possible that Republicans would lead a traditional campaign focusing on security and the economy. Moreover, it would seem unnecessary to conflate facts, lie and mislead about immigration if Breitbart sincerely wanted to highlight a real political movement.

So what was the real motivation? It seems to us that Breitbart, Trump and the Kremlin all recognized the power of activating a divisive issue like immigration and fueling fear and uncertainty with false and misleading information. As a wedge against both centrist Republicans and Democrats, it could prove capable of making Trump stand out from opponents on both sides with a clearly defined problem and a simple, clear-cut solution. After the primaries, it could be used to move the conversation away from complex areas like foreign policy or the economy, and on to a topic Democrats would be reluctant to engage with but the media would be forced to report on. They knew that such a strategy could bring fringe groups with unusual, even radical views into the mainstream, where they could force real changes that most politicians would have previously been unwilling to touch.

They didn’t just hope, they knew. Because they had just watched the exact same tactic work in the UK.

 

NEXT in our series: The Brexit Referendum in the UK 


and Further Reading
Freedom of the Net 2017, Freedom House, Nov. 2017
Exit Polls of 2016 US Presidential Election, Published by The New York Times, collected by a consortium including ABC News, The Associated Press, CBSNews, CNN, Fox News and NBC News.
Exit Polls of the 2012 US Presidential Election, Published by CNN
Trump Calls Mexicans Rapists (video clip), Youtube
In Historic Shift, New Migration Flows from Mexico Fall Below Those from China and India, Migration Policy Institute, May 2015.
Frequently requested statistics on immigrants and immigration in the United States, Migration Policy Institute, Feb. 2015
Gallup News: Most Important Problem, Gallup, Accessed Nov. 2017
What we know about the Russians’ use of Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Slate, Oct. 2017
Testimony of Colin Stretch, Facebook General Counsel. US Senate Judiciary Committee on Crimes and Terrorism, October 2017.
Sample Kremlin-Backed ads, Democrat House Select Committee on Intelligence
Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda. Benkler et al, Columbia Journalism Review, October 2017.
Oath Creeper, Snopes.com,
Header Image via KellyBDC on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2hv3EB6, (CC by 2.0)

 

AfD’s American Model

By Christina Lee

Results from yesterday’s parliamentary elections in Germany are in, and they could spell big changes for the future direction of migration policy in Germany. Although the dissolution of the Grand coalition between the CDU and SPD, as well as the re-entrance of neo-liberal FDP into the Bundestag will certainly have a major impact, the story of the evening for people interested in migration is the success of the anti-immigration Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, who arrive in parliament for the very first time as the third strongest party with close to 13% of the vote.

This is a major achievement for the young party, which started in 2013 as a Euroskeptic, neo-liberal party and has shifted to making opposition to immigration, diversity, and people who are Muslim the focus of their campaign (our summary of their manifesto can be found here). While many are explaining the party’s success as a backlash to the status quo or as a sign that German society is moving to the right on the issue of migration, we at Migration Voter are equally convinced that the AfD has managed to harness some very powerful methods for gaining and keeping public attention, tricks that they learned by following the success of the right-wing political movement in the United States.

Trump-style Publicity

During the election campaign, the AfD stood out very markedly from their peers by their confrontative and combative style. On their webpage and in social media marketing blasted on facebook and twitter they urged Germans to “take their country back” and depicted the CDU’s Merkel in a burqa or measuring “ordinary” Germans against refugees (and weighing refugees more). They used vibrant, jokey ads mocking Islam and multiculturalism while highlighting women and children, and moved away from the more sober and alarming advertisements they used in the last election, exhorting voters against the Euro and warning of Germany’s imminent destruction.

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As the Spiegel revealed, their “meme”- based social media strategy was likely influenced by their engagement of the US-based PR firm Harris Media, a group that formerly worked on the election campaigns of US Republican Donald Trump and the British anti-immigrant, Euroskeptic party UKIP. As the company touts on its homepage, their founder has been called “the man who invented the Republican internet’ and has been involved in campaigns in favor of fracking and natural gas and opposed to Syrian refugees and solar energy.

The shift towards lighter, meme-worthy advertisements coincided with a press strategy that seemed aimed at garnering any attention, even negative. Like Trump during his campaign in 2016, the AfD barraged the media almost daily with controversial statements and events geared towards grabbing headlines. This would lead to interviews and greater coverage until the next controversial remark would appear and start the cycle again. For instance, AfD candidate for Berlin Beatrix von Storch invited the controversial ex-UKIP representative and right-wing media personality Nigel Farage to come speak at a private campaign event, where he led the crowd in cheering for Donald Trump and Brexit and harshly mocked the media, Merkel,  SPD candidate Martin Schulz and former US President Barack Obama.

Another example came a few days later when a conspiracy theory-laden email, apparently written by co-lead candidate Alice Weidel, leaked to the press. In it, she (allegedly) writes in 2013 that Germany has been “overrun by Arabs, Sinti and Roma” as a result of policy pursued by the government,  “pigs”.. who “are nothing other than marionettes of the victorious powers of the second world war, whose task it is to keep down the German people.” The full letter was published in Welt am Sonntag to objections from Weidel, who initially threatened to sue and later stopped claiming that the document was false (after it had been in headlines several days.)

Just as the firestorm around Weidel was dying down, her co-candidate Alexander Gauland’s taboo-shattering statements at a meeting with supporters broke out in the press, in which he stated (in an apparent dog-whistle to the extreme far-right) that Germans “have a right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars.” This resulted in another round of media condemnations, accompanied with headlines and interview requests for Gauland.

In all these cases (and these are only a few examples), the AfD was itself publicizing the “gaffes” as evidence that the mainstream media was attacking them and attempting to harm them before the election.

Tea-party Crowd Infiltration

The AfD doesn’t seem to just be taking inspiration from President Trump, however. The actions AfD used to protest pre-election rallies of Merkel were extremely reminiscent of the tactics used by Tea Party organizers to get attention for their movement opposing Obamacare.

As investigative journalist Jane Meyer writes in her book Dark Money, which covers the rise of anonymous forms of political financing, Tea party protestors were instructed in how best to disrupt town hall meetings about health care in 2009, creating the illusion of a mass outbreak of anger by ordinary citizens that had in fact been carefully arranged in advance by professionals.

“The anger appeared spontaneous. But the investigative reporter Lee Fand discovered that a volunteer with [Koch sponsored org] FreedomWorks was circulating a memo instructing Tea Partiers on how to disrupt the meetings. Bob MacGuffie, who ran a Web site called RightPrinciples.com, advised opponents to “pack the hall.. spread out” to make their numbers seem more significant, and to “rock the boat early in the Rep’s presentation… to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

Of course, there is nothing illegal about protesting in this way, but it is a distinctive style of protest that is particularly misleading to outsiders. That is why it is interesting that the AfD, with help from other groups, engaged in such a similar tactic in protesting Angela Merkel at her campaign appearances. Opponents of the Chancellor were told about events and given free rides to them on buses provided by the AfD, NPD and local right-wing groups (including some outlawed ones), reports Die Zeit, and were instructed on how best to gain attention: spread out, be loud, and actively seek out reporters. It worked. Numerous reports showed Merkel being booed and whistled at by angry crowds on the campaign trail.

“A maximum of ten percent of the attendees make noise, but they are so conspicuous that they subsequently determine the picture.”

Shadowy donors

It is common on the left and the right to lament the outsized influence of money on American politics, and there have been numerous articles and books written exploring the way that anonymous billionaire donors shape US elections. One way, which ProPublica explains in detail, is to donate anonymously to tax-exempt 501c3 organizations. Under US law, 501c3 organizations must report how they spend their money, but not necessarily where they receive it from. So long as the organization works for “public welfare”, the donations are also tax deductible, even if used for political lobbying and materials such as flyers, billboards and campaign ads. These non-profits are, in theory at least, not supposed to directly engage in politics. However, in recent elections, they have spent millions on advertisements supporting their candidates.

In Germany, the state partially finances election campaigns, which tend to be much cheaper and shorter than American election campaigns. Nevertheless, the AfD seems to have taken inspiration from American politics in a way that is quite unusual for Germany, by funding large portions of their campaign through anonymous donations funneled into a non-profit association.

As the non-profit watchdog group Lobby Control reports, AfD is the only party that has a registered association (e.V) providing millions in support from anonymous donors.

Since spring 2016, it has been taking part in election campaigns by an opaque association – with measures such as large-scale billboards and internet spots worth several million euros . Who is behind the association is unclear; traces lead to the Swiss PR agency Goal AG. The donors deliberately use the association as a legal gap to remain anonymous. This is an unprecedented dimension of non-transparent electoral campaign support in Germany.

The supporting organization engages in campaigning for the AfD via newspaper inserts, billboards (as seen on their website) as well as internet ads and video spots. These and the AfD’s own fundraising have been effective at ensuring a massive online presence for the AfD- an upcoming analysis from Oxford that Der Spiegel previewed will apparently demonstrate that fully 30% of tweets about the election were in favor of the AfD.

A Successful Strategy

In sum, it is difficult to dismiss out of hand that the AfD may have taken some inspiration from Donald Trump and other right-wing movements in the US. In messaging and in tactics, the AfD appears to have liberally borrowed ideas and even occasionally slogans (such as the “Make Germany Safe Again” hat Beatrix von Storch was sporting in a recent twitter selfie.) Undeniably, these tactics have been extremely successful, helping take the party from the fringes to the third largest party in parliament.

What remains to be seen is whether the combative tactics of the campaign will translate well to governing. Unlike in the US, a multi-party system like Germany makes coalition building a practical necessity, and the AfD will need to build more proactive policies into their platform if they want to be anything more than an angry opposition. But here as well there is a US model, for we can see that by bashing the media and creating now altercations with public figures and even other world leaders, President Trump has managed to maintain his base’s support. Whether the AfD achieves its aims is one thing, whether it is able to retain power now that it has gotten some, is another.


Sources and Further Reading
AfD Engages US Agency, (in German) Der Spiegel, Aug. 2017
Nigel Farage’s Full Speech in Berlin Youtube.com
These pigs are nothing more than puppets of the war victors” (in German) Welt am Sonntag, Sept. 2017 (email reproduced in article)
AfD Candidate Weidel is no longer talking about forgery, (in German) Welt am Sonntag, Sept. 2017
Gauland Speech in Kyffhäusertreffens des Flügels (in German), Youtube.com, Sept. 2017
Dark Money, Jane Meyer (New York: Anchor) 2017, page 238.
Alternative Mobs” (in German) (with video) Die Zeit, Sept. 2017
How Non-Profits Spend Millions on Elections and Call it Public Welfare, ProPublica, 2012
Exemption Requirements: 501c3 Organizations, The Internal Revenue Service
Germany: Campaign Finance. The Law Library of Congress.
Why Germany’s Politics are Much Saner, Nicer and Cheaper Than Ours, The Atlantic, 2013.
Party Check before the Election (in German), Lobby Control, Sept. 2017
Recht und Freiheit Verein
Oxford Study: Why the AfD Dominates the Twitter Campaign. Der Spiegel, Sept. 2017.
Header Image: via Beatrix von Storch on twitter

The ups and downs of DACA

By Elisa Santana

On Tuesday, September 5, the Trump administration announced it would terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program. The executive branch will give Congress six months to pass permanent legislation to address DACA recipients, otherwise it will completely phase out the program Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would end the program.

The announcement and public’s response has made DACA a domestic and internationally known acronym.

What led to the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program?

In the early 2000s, federal politicians were tasked with the issue: What should be done with people who were brought to the United States by their parents as children without legal permission, or sent alone as unaccompanied minors? The child may or may not have known while growing up in the United States that they were undocumented.

The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) was first introduced in 2001 to address this issue. The idea was to give youth the opportunity to work legally and obtain higher education without the threat of deportation. Finally in 2010, after being reintroduced multiple times, the DREAM Act came to the U.S. House of Representatives floor for a vote, where it narrowly passed. Soon after its House passage, the DREAM Act failed in the U.S. Senate with a 55-41 vote. This is important because five Democrats at the time voted against the DREAM Act, while three Republicans voted for it.
While Congress and the American public went on with their day-to-day lives, undocumented youth and immigrant advocates waited for relief. 18 months after the failed vote, in June 2012, President Barack Obama announced the DACA program.
The DACA program provides undocumented youth the opportunity to have “deferred action from deportation”. It does not provide a pathway to citizenship, or as some opponents of the program have feared, “amnesty.” Amnesty, in this case, means a blanket pardon extended by the U.S. government where undocumented immigrants obtain citizenship.
It does allow DACA recipients to be considered a low priority for deportation, given their history in the United States and lack of a criminal record. DACA recipients are eligible for a work permit for two years, permitting they have a background check and meet other guidelines:

1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
2. Came to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday;
3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the request for consideration of deferred action
5. Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

DACA gave many individuals the confidence to speak out about their undocumented status. This concept was deemed as “coming out of the shadows.”

Each one of the 50 states and the District of Columbia have people who have been granted DACA, whose total comes to almost 1 million. Over 90% of DACA recipients are currently employed or in school.

Where do things stand on DACA right now?

Even though the State of Texas has the second highest number of DACA recipients (over 120,000), their state government has led the charge to dismantle DACA. On June 29, 2017, Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, along with nine other state attorneys general and the governor of Idaho, sent a letter to the Trump Administration, threatening to sue the executive branch if they did not make a choice to dismantle DACA by September 5, 2017. The letter stated that “DACA unilaterally confers eligibility for work authorization, id., and lawful presence without any statutory authorization from Congress.” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited similar reasons in his September 5 letter to DHS.

The state of Texas cited their successful lawsuit against the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and Expanded DACA– noting the same lawyers who sued the Obama Administration, would sue Trump’s Administration. The DAPA case did make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, however, due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court was tied 4-4. The tied decision left an appeals court’s decision in place, which blocked DAPA and Expanded DACA based on administrative law. The Supreme Court did not make any opinions on presidential power, or unconstitutionality.

The DACA program was established through an Executive Order. This means that President Trump can revoke, modify, or supersede any Executive Order of previous president.In addition, Texas and the other states may have had good reason to believe President Trump would be willing to do so.

On June 16, 2015, during one of his first campaign events, Trump said, “I will immediately terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration. Immediately.” More than a year later on August 31, 2016, Trump says to a crowd, “We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties.” Trump campaigned on the promise to terminate the DACA program and appealed to voters who draw a hardline on immigration. The eleven states threatening to sue Trump over DACA are asking for him to fulfil the promise, which got him elected.

Once in office, Trump picked Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. Sessions has a long history of voting and speaking out against pro-immigration measures. Remember the 2010 DREAM Act vote?– Sessions wrote a letter encouraging his fellow senators to vote against the bill. In his opinion, the DREAM Act rewarded illegal behavior and would give legal status to “gang members” and “aliens with misdemeanor convictions.”

On September 5, Sessions sent a letter to DHS and publicly announced that the Trump administration would phase out DACA. Trump gave Congress a deadline of six months to pass a permanent legislative solution for DACA. The announcement threw the U.S. into a frenzy, with many asking: How could the U.S. government continue to keep young people with undocumented status in limbo?

Congress has not been able to pass legislation on immigration in years, which is why the task ahead is so difficult. In the days after the announcement, President Trump has flip-flopped on the topic. After pledging to phase out DACA on September 5, he said he would revisit the issue if Congress could not pass legislation (September 6). Then in a turn of events, on September 14, Trump said he was working with Democrats on a plan for DACA. The GOP was caught off guard by Trump’s comments, with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan noting that Trump’s plan “’was a discussion, not an agreement.”

Currently, there is a 2017 version of the Dream Act pending in the U.S. Senate. Introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the DREAM Act would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for DACA recipients. It is likely that Republicans will add border security measures to this bill for them to accept its passage.

As far as public opinion goes, a recent poll conducted by Politico shows that 54 percent of voters want Congress to establish a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.

For now, people who have received DACA must renew their application by October 5 if it expires between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018. The renewal application costs $495, with thousands of applications needing to be filed across the country. Undocumented youth who trusted their private information and pay the lump sum to the Department of Homeland Security will have to decide if it is safe to continue investing in the federal program. The thought that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could use data given for the purpose of applying for DACA in their efforts to deport individuals has become a new fear for some. Both ICE and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are hosted under the Department of Homeland Security. 

*Elisa Santana is a guest researcher at the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM) and a German Chancellor Fellow supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Elisa previously worked for at the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington; she advised on immigration, refugees, homeland security, and civil liberties.


Sources and Further Reading
DREAM Act of 2011, US Congress
DREAM Act dies in Senate, Politico, Sept. 2010
Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), US Citizenship and Immigration Services
Number of Form I-821D,Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, by Fiscal Year, Quarter, Intake, Biometrics and Case Status Fiscal Year 2012-2017, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (March 2017)
Results from Tom K. Wong1 et al., 2017 National DACA Study, Center for American Progress, 2017
Re: Texas, et al. v. United States, et al., No. 1:14-cv-00254 (S.D. Tex.), Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas, letter to Us Attorney General Jeff Sessions (June 29, 2017)
Jeff Sessions Letter Advising an End to DACA, reprinted in The New York Times, Sept. 5 2017
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Big Immigration Case Wasn’t About Presidential Power, Peter M. Shane, The Atlantic, June 2016
Here’s What President Trump Has Said About DACA in the Past [w/ video], Time Magazine, Sept. 2017
Letter from then-Senator Jeff Sessions regarding the DREAM ACT 2010, reprinted in Politico, Dec. 2010
S. 1615 DREAM Act 2017, US Senate
Poll: Majority wants Congress to establish path to citizenship for DACA recipients, Politico, Sept. 2017
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals 2017 Announcement, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Sept. 2017
Dreamers’ new risk after Daca: US could use their personal data to target them, The Guardian, Sept. 2017
Header Image; LA March for Immigrants Rights (Sept. 2017) via Molly Adams on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2femn2E (CC by 2.0)

Could backlash over Charlottesville damage Trump’s immigration reform plans?

By Christina Lee

Last week US president Donald Trump endorsed a proposal for a new immigration policy, known as the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or RAISE Act, co-sponsored by Republican Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton. The plan would dramatically alter the US immigration system by reducing family reunification in favor of a points system that would allocate visas to people based on qualifications such as language and skills. It would additionally abolish the diversity visa program, set a modest limit on accepted refugees, and remove residency and employment rights for parents of US citizens. The entire text of the bill can be read here.

Last week the White House seemed geared up for a fight over the topic, sending out combative adviser Stephen Miller to convince the press (video here). But events over the weekend completely stole the spotlight from even this incredibly controversial topic.

On Saturday, a rally of white supremacists erupted in chaos and violence in the collegiate town of Charlottesville, Virginia. A protest organized by a coalition of right wing groups under the banner ‘Unite the Right‘ met to demonstrate the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, and ended in tragedy when a participant mowed into a group of counter-protesters, killing one.

There has been massive national and international outcry against the incident as well as Trump’s initial response, which many claimed did not explicitly disavow white supremacist groups as he condemned violence “on many sides”. He made an additional statement on Monday which then did so, calling white supremacist groups “repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans”. Nevertheless, the incident and Trump’s response has prompted a massive surge of interest in white supremacist/ white nativist groups- some of whom have ties to members of the Trump administration. With concern and interest about such groups at an all-time high, will the main architects of Trump’s immigration policy be discredited by these ties? Let’s take a closer look.

Trump Adviser Stephen Miller tied to Unite the Right Speaker Richard Spencer

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Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr, (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/2fRfWWN

Perhaps the most direct line between Saturday’s rally and the White House goes through Stephen Miller, presidential adviser and speechwriter, one of the chief architects and proponents of the Muslim Ban, and the individual tasked last week with introducing and defending Trump’s immigration reform package to the media.

One of the headliners of the Unite the Right rally was open white supremacist Richard Spencer, founder of National Policy Institute, a white nationalist/ Identitarian think tank based in Virginia. Spencer formerly attended Duke University with Stephen Miller and worked together with him in the Duke Conservative Union to host far-right anti-immigrant activist Peter Brimelow (founder of the nativist website VDARE, where Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler is a frequent commentator) on campus for a debate on immigration, according to two former members of the Union.

In an interview with Mother Jones, Spencer confirmed the two knew each other and shared views on multiculturalism and immigration.

“It’s funny no one’s picked up on the Stephen Miller connection,” Spencer says. “I knew him very well when I was at Duke. But I am kind of glad no one’s talked about this because I don’t want to harm Trump.”

Miller denied the connection to Mother Jones, but did not answer questions about his activities at Duke.

Trump Adviser Kris Kobach Has Ties to White Nationalist Groups and European Anti-Immigrant Extremists

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Image via Andrew Rosenthal on Flickr, (CC by NC-2.0) http://bit.ly/2wgwEWA

Kris Kobach is the current Kansas Secretary of State, a White House adviser, and President Trump’s appointee to a newly established Commission on Election Integrity. He is also a long-standing advocate of radical immigration reform who was advising on immigration policy from the earliest days of the Trump administration.

As the above tweeted photo shows, and Kobach later confirmed as noted by the Kansas City Star, in 2015 he was among speakers at an event of The Social Contract Press, a white nationalist publishing house that hosts conferences and publishes a quarterly journal highlighting anti-immigrant and anti-“globalist” thought. Previous speakers at TSCP events include Peter Brimelow of VDARE (who was person Spencer and Miller invited to speak at Duke, as noted above), and Jared Taylor, the editor of white supremacist website American Renaissance, author of the book White Identity and one of Spencer’s cited major influencers.

Kobach has also branched out beyond the US to forge connections to extremists from Europe.  In March, Kobach hosted Austrian anti-Muslim activist Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Kansas, a meeting Sabaditsch-Wolff documented meticulously for anti-Muslim website Gates of Vienna. She expressed numerous outlandish opinions to Kobach, including her suspicion that George Soros is funding the travel of people seeking asylum through Europe with 500 euros bills, that “Sweden is the European country that is closest to collapse”, and that women in Europe no longer feel safe in public.

Trump Assistant Sebastian Gorka tied to Hungarian Nazi Group

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Image via 7th Army Training Command on Flickr, (CC by 2.0) http://bit.ly/2uXhGk6

Dr. Sebastian Gorka works in an advisory role at the White House and is often seen making the rounds on morning press shows and talk radio to argue forcefully for Trump’s policies. Gorka was born in the UK to parents who fled as political refugees from Hungary following 1956 Rebellion. He has nevertheless been a forceful advocate against allowing refugees like his parents to come to the US, telling Sean Hannity, “We help people when we can help them,” he said. “But that is not a contract for national suicide.” As a spokeman, he has also represented the White House on immigration issues to defend the Muslim Ban and now the RAISE Act, which would also reduce numbers of people allowed to come to the US as refugees.

However, as an active member of Hungarian politics, Gorka was evidently tied to several extreme-right and anti-Semitic groups, including far-right Jobbik. But, as the Forward revealed, he is also allegedly a formal member of a nationalist group that helped deport thousands of Jews from Hungary during World War II and is banned from immigration to the US because of its Nazi ties, the Vitézi Rend.  A high-ranking member of the organization confirmed his sworn membership to The Forward.

“Of course he was sworn in,” Pintér said, in a phone interview. “I met with him in Sopron [a city near Hungary’s border with Austria]. His father introduced him.”

The government of Viktor Orbán has made Hungary a welcoming place for individuals with extremist anti-immigrant and anti-Semitics views like Jobbik, but also for American white nationalists. Richard Spencer and another scheduled speaker at the Unite the Right Tally, Daniel Friberg, met up in Budapest in 2014 for a NPI conference (where Spencer ironically ran into problems with the Hungarian police for potential immigration violations, according to Hungarian news site Index.)

****

The sight of swastikas at the Unite the Right rally, as well as chants of “blood and soil” and “Jews won’t replace us” provokes unnerving historical precedent with nazi movements like the one  Gorka allegedly belongs to. The white nationalists and neo-nazis at Saturday’s events no doubt represent a small group of fringe Americans- but that makes the numerous ties to Trump’s administration, and especially the architects and defenders of his immigration policy, even more difficult to overlook.

 


Sources and Further Reading
The RAISE Act, US Congress, August 2017
Stephen Miller addresses the press about the RAISE Act, Youtube (video), Aug. 2017
Trump condemns Charlottesville violence but doesn’t single out white nationalists, Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2017 (with video)
Trump denounces KKK, neo-Nazis as ‘repugnant’ as he seeks to quell criticism of his response to Charlottesville, Washington Post, Aug. 14, 2017 (with video)
Stephen Miller Defends President Trump’s Travel Ban, Fox News, Jan. 2017 (video)
Immigration ban architect Stephen Miller foreshadowed his policy on journey from Duke to the West Wing, Duke Chronicle, Jan. 2017.
Meet the White Nationalist Trying To Ride The Trump Train to Lasting Power, Mother Jones, Oct. 2016
Kris Kobach rejects criticism for speaking at a ‘white nationalist’ conference, Kansas City Star, Nov. 2015
World gets glimpse of deportation plan Kris Kobach took to meeting with Trump, LA Times, Nov. 2016
Kobach Email Confirms Aim of Voter Fraud Commission is to Gut Vital Voting Rights Law, Slate, July 2017
Introducing Kansas to the Great European Migration Crises, Gates of Vienna, March 2017
Sebastian Gorka (biography), Institute of World Politics
Dr. Sebastian Gorka: ‘U.S. Is a Judeo-Christian Nation But That’s not a Contract for National Suicide!’ Breitbart, Nov. 2016 (with video)
EXCLUSIVE: Senior Trump Aide Forged Key Ties To Anti-Semitic Groups In Hungary, The Forward, Feb. 2017
EXCLUSIVE: Nazi-Allied Group Claims Top Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka As Sworn Member, The Forward, March 2017.
Ineligibility based on Human Rights Violation, State Department
The alien police took custody of the Organizer of the Race Protection Conference, Index.hu, April 2014.
Header Image via Anthony Crider on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2xaBhOu (CC by 2.0)

Holocaust revisionist ‘gaffes’ hide policies that target both Jews and Muslims

US White House press secretary Sean Spicer has been the target of a media firestorm since his unfortunate remarks at a press briefing last week comparing Assad to Hitler, with Hitler coming out favorably. 

“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War Two. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons”…. “I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.”

(He later apologized.)

The remarks were clearly inaccurate, given that Hitler indeed used chemical weapons and deployed them against his own people. But whether or not Spicer was aware of that and simply misspoke, or is poorly informed on the history surrounding World War II, it provoked us at Migration Voter to reflect on recent similar “gaffes” from far-right politicians regarding the Holocaust.

For instance, Front National’s Le Pen said during an event with Le Figaro in April:

I think France isn’t responsible for the Vel d’Hiv…. I think that, in general, if there are people responsible, it is those who were in power at the time. It is not France.”

Vel d’Hiv is the shorthand for an event that occurred during the Holocaust when 13,152 French Jews were rounded up by French police at the direction of the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, where they were murdered. France has taken responsibility for the atrocity in the past, but Le Pen implied this was hurting French pride, saying “France has been mired in people’s minds for years.”

And Germany’s far-right Euroskeptic party Alternative für Deutschland attracted a great deal of negative press following a speech in January by state leader of Thuringia Björn Höcke in which he discussed Germany’s dealing with their role in the Holocaust, referring to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in central Berlin as “a monument of shame.”

“We Germans… are the only people in the world who have planted a monument of shame in the heart of their capital city.” “We do not need any more dead rites in this country. … We no longer need hollow phrases in this country, we need a living culture of remembrance, which brings us first and foremost into contact with the great achievements of our ancestors.”

One of the reasons why the press has seized on these comments is because they supposedly give the lie to the strong stances these parties have each taken against anti-Semitism. These promises of being pro-Jewish and against forms of anti-Semitism have been coupled with a focus on casting Muslims, especially Muslim immigrants, as a threat both to Jews and to the nations in general.

  • Marine Le Pen of the Front National has promised numerous actions to target what she calls “Islamic fundamentalism”, proposing policies targeting mosques and Muslims (such as banning the hijab.) On the other hand, she has made conscious efforts to reach out to the Jewish community, banning anti-Semitic members of her party and sending FN party secretary Nicolas Bay on a goodwill trip to Israel. While there, Bay was interviewed by Haaretz (article behind paywall, but see Breitbart), where he made FN’s position clear: “[French Jews] understand that we’re the only ones who are clearly pointing to the source of the anti-Semitic attacks – the Islamists. Marine Le Pen has already said that the National Front is French Jewish citizens’ shield against these attacks.”
  • AfD takes a similarly strong stance against Muslims and immigrants from Muslim majority countries, stating in their program that “Islam does not belong to Germany” and introducing numerous policies against Muslim religious dress and immigration to Germany, while stating “ The AfD does not concur with the view which regards the criticism of Islam as islamophobic or being derogatory.” They have also spoken out often against anti-Semitism, however. For instance, in a press release in 2016 their Federal Councilor wrote, “The thought of what many of the Muslim immigrants bring along is characterized by anti-Semitism and the rejection of Western values…. Anti-Semitism must have no place in Germany. Many Muslims are still unaware of this and represent a danger to our values and our community.”

In short, despite statements that could be construed as Holocaust revisionism, the officials of the Front National and AfD have consistently been outspoken against anti-Semitism, claiming that their policies, by excluding Muslims and fighting “Islamism”, will be the best safeguard for Jews in their countries.

The complication with this argument, that the press has so far failed to discuss as far as we know, is that a large number of the policies aimed at excluding Muslim religious practices and Muslim immigrants would inevitably also target Jews, as well as other religious minority groups. 

Policies Targeting the Muslim Community that would affect the Jewish Community

Front National

Le Pen, for instance, promises to abolish dual citizenship (see presidential commitment number 27) for non-European holders of two passports. While this would no doubt affect a large population of French people with dual citizenship from Muslim-majority countries, she has stated that it would apply to Israelis as well. (Note, however, that we doubt this policy can go through as worded.)

In another example, Le Pen promises under the banner “Eradicate Terror and Break Up Islamic Fundamentalist Networks” that she will “ban foreign funding of places of worship and their personnel.” Although she explicitly mentions Islam in the title, her language clearly indicates (“places of worship”) this would apply to synagogues and Jewish religious activities (as well as other religious groups, presumably.)

Even more obviously, in her plan “to defend French unity and the national identity” Le Pen proposes constitutional and policy changes that would certainly apply to Jews, Muslims, and any other minority group.

Capture

It is difficult to parse what consequences these changes might have for religious minorities, but it would seem to change their constitutional status and ability to retain their own culture, if it differs from the majority culture. Commitment number 97 is particularly interesting, given Le Pen’s comments on France’s role in the Holocaust.

Additionally, Le Pen and FN have advocated for the elimination of any special religious dietary options in French public schools. In a 2014 interview, Le Pen outlined her position on the issue.

“We will accept no religious requirements in the school lunch menus,” Mrs. Le Pen told RTL radio. “There is no reason for religion [dietary options] to enter into the public sphere.”

This would eliminate any halal but also any kosher options. Therefore, if something banned by both Islam and Judaism – such as pork – was on the menu for that day, then pork is what Muslim and Jewish students would also be served. 

Alternative für Deutschland

In zeroing in on policies they hope will fortify and promote German “high culture” (Leitkultur) and move away from multiculturalism, AfD also promotes ideas that would harm German Jews as collateral damage in their fight against Muslims. For instance, in their platform (pg. 46), they state that German culture is composed of three main sources: Christianity, “scientific and humanistic culture” and Roman law, and that multiculturalism poses “a serious threat to social peace and the survival of the nation-state as a cultural unit”. Judaism clearly lies outside of their three main pillars of German society- does it also form a threat that must be protected against?

Capture

Under the section “End foreign financing of mosques” there are some additional provisions that would be problematic for the Jewish community. AfD calls for a ban on foreign financing of mosques, the banning of any language other than German spoke during religious services, and for imams to get government permission before preaching in Germany. It is difficult to see how these laws could comport with the German constitution generally, but if they would they would necessarily have to apply to all religious groups. This would disproportionately impact Jewish communities as it would ban foreign (such as Israeli or American) donations to synagogues, ban speaking Hebrew, and require visiting rabbis to get permission. German Christian congregations are primarily German-funded, speak primarily German, and are led primarily by German priests, necessarily making the impact of such policies far stricter on religious minorities and immigrant groups.

Again, its worth noting that many of these policies, as stated in their party program, are completely in contradiction with German domestic law and European Union law. However, whether or not they can be achieved, they allow insight into the stated aims and goals of the party.

Why analyze “gaffes” when the policies are clear?

Like with Sean Spicer’s remarks, the Holocaust revisionist statements by Le Pen and Höcke sparked minor scandals and caused many people to ask: were these accidental gaffes, or intentional anti-Semitic messages to voters?

In the case of the FN and AfD, it isn’t necessary to get at the innermost hearts and minds of the party elite via their speeches, because we have access to their direct, stated goals and programs.

If voters are worried about anti-Semitism in populist parties out of concern for its implications for the Jewish community if these parties were to come to power, it is very clearly worth understanding that many of the policies that are meant to target Muslims will harshly affect Jews as well as other minority religious groups, especially those with numerous co-religionists in other countries. Laws restricting the ability to dress a certain way, eat a certain diet or connect with (and fundraise from) people in other countries will evenly impact any person of faith connected to a minority religious group.

Voters who are concerned about anti-Semitism because of the historical context of what happens when a minority religious group is demonized and cast as a threat to the people and their national identity do not need to look too far to see that these parties already do precisely this with Muslims. For some people, that’s part of their appeal. For others, it may be a good reason to weigh their vote carefully.

 

Sources and Further Reading
Sean Spicer apologizes for gaffe” The Guardian, April 2017
Le Pen reopens old wounds” Reuters, April 2017
For Le Pen, France is not responsible for Vel’d’Hiv” Le Figaro, April 2017 (in French)
Vel’d’Hiv Roundup, Wikipedia.org
Chirac admits to France’s Atrocities During WW2 (video), Associated Press (1995)
Transcript of Höcke’s Speech in Dresden, Der Taggespiegel, (Jan. 2017) (in German)
144 Presidential Commitments (PDF), Front National 2017
‘We Just Want to Preserve Our Identity – Like Israel and Trump,’ Le Pen Party Official Tells Haaretz.” Haaretz (Jan. 2017)
French populists visit Israel to build relations“. Breitbart (Jan. 2017)
Manifesto for Germany- AFD party program (PDF), AFD 2017
Pazderski: Many immigrants bring along their anti-Semitic worldview. AFD Press Release (June 2016)
Le Pen Calls to Ban Special Dietary Restrictions, The Telegraph, (April 2014)
Cover image: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Via Olly Coffey on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2nY8ahi (CC by-NC 2.0)

Is the “Trump era” of immigration policy starting to take shape?

Someone who voted for US President Donald Trump on the basis of his promises to get tough on immigrants and refugees could be forgiven for being a bit disappointed some 80 days into his administration. Mexico does not seem any closer to paying for a wall, the “Muslim ban” failed to pass legal muster (as MigrationVoter predicted), and Trump seems to have abandoned, at least for the moment, promises to crack down on funding for sanctuary cities and overturn DACA. (This last one is a real tough one to swallow for anti-immigration advocates. As Mark Krikorian of Center for Immigration Studies writes on his blog, he expected to be disappointed, but not “for Trump to break an explicit promise regarding his headline issue on the administration’s first business day in office.”)

Past disappointments aside, yesterday gave some signs to advocates against immigration that Trump has not abandoned all of his anti-immigrant promises.

First, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, himself a well-known advocate of restrictive immigration policies during his senate years, delivered a speech to border enforcement in Arizona intended to outline coming changes to the immigration and border enforcement system.

For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned: This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch and release practices of old are over.

Sessions announced two types of changes: 1) new recommendations to federal prosecutors mandating prioritization of certain types of crimes, 2) reforms to immigration courts.

New Recommendations to Federal Prosecutors

The new recommendations will require federal prosecutors to consider filing additional criminal charges against undocumented immigrants they capture, including: transportation or harboring of immigrants, fraud and aggravated identity theft (if they uncover forged identity documents) assault on a federal officer, and felony re-entry.

⇒ So what does this really mean? Sessions is essentially instructing federal prosecutors to stack charges against undocumented immigrants as high as possible. If any felony charges stick, that person will be labeled a criminal illegal alien, which as we know, is the group this administration has promised to target for deportation. By pushing for more felony convictions, they widen the number of people who can be considered “criminal aliens” and can make it more difficult or impossible for these people to ever return to the US.

Since these are recommendations, it is obviously at the discretion of prosecutors to push for multiple counts against undocumented migrants in their jurisdiction (and each count takes time and evidence to back up and litigate.) So to ensure that no prosecutors are tempted to ignore these guidelines out of disinterest or convenience, the DOJ has thrown in an additional component: all 94 district attorney’s offices (not just those from border areas) must now appoint a Border Security Coordinator – to headline the efforts against undocumented immigrants. If this is someone’s entire job, they are certainly more likely to prioritize the DOJ’s recommendations and try to convict undocumented immigrants of as any crimes as possible.

Changes to Immigration Court

Sessions announced a new streamlined procedure to appoint more federal judges to immigration benches, with the goal of hiring 50 this year and 75 next year to help reduce the backlog of immigration cases. In addition, all immigrants apprehended at the border will now automatically be sent to detention centers, where judges will directly come to them to decide their fates. For this, he promises to hire 25 new judges. (Note: This backs up an earlier memorandum from Department of Homeland Security calling for detention for all apprehended immigrants and more judges and officers, but it still isn’t clear whether this changes Trump’s federal hiring freeze for other kinds of supporting employees judges may need.)

⇒ So what does this really mean? People on both sides of the immigration debate agree that there is a need for a higher number of qualified immigration judges to ensure that people in immigration detention and awaiting decisions on asylum claims can have their claims adjudicated more efficiently. A “streamlined” procedure for hiring raises eyebrows, in that some may question whether it will be possible to get the best-qualified candidates to judge incredibly complex immigration cases in an abbreviated procedure. Given that under the existing system judges have faced criticism in the past, who knows whether or not this will be a downgrade. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

The potentially more interesting aspect is the 25 new detention center judges. Unlike criminal charges, immigration offenses do not typically entitle the accused to a lawyer. Having adjudication take place directly at the detention center decreases the likelihood of an individual being aware of their rights, such as the possibility of seeking asylum or applying for temporary protection or a special visa (like Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.)

It also raises concerns about the circumstances of detention. Automatic detention for everyone would presumably include children, and there is some question to the legality of this under international law (see, for instance, here and here.)

Newcomers to DHS from the Anti-Immigrant Community

Aside from Sessions’ very clear statements yesterday in Arizona, we received another hint this week at the Trump administration’s intentions to get tough on immigration. The Department of Homeland Security hired two high-profile advisors linked to the group FAIR and think tank Center for Immigration Studies. Both organizations were founded by the far-right anti-immigration activist John Tanton, and support policies like an end to birthright citizenship and heavily reduced legal immigration, as well as much stricter enforcement of existing laws.

According to the DHS spokesman, as reported by CNN Jon Feere, formerly of CIS, has been hired as an advisor to the director of ICE. Over at Customs and Border Protection, Julie Kirchner, the former executive director of FAIR, has been hired as an advisor to the commissioner. We’ll take a deeper look at the implications of these choices later in the week, but for now its worth noting that Trump’s once stalled plans on immigration seem to be moving along once more, and their direction is quite clear.

Sources and Further Reading
Injunction against Travel Ban- Granted (Hawaii et al v. Trump) US District Court of Hawaii, March 2017
Foreign Minister said Mexico not paying for wall- Mark Rubio on ABC NEWS, April 2017
Sanctuary City list on hold – Washington Times, April 2017
Declined Detainer Outcome Report- Suspended, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Will Trump go forward with a Muslim Ban, and if so, how?” MV, Jan 2017
Is Trump going to cancel DACA or not? Mark Krikorian, CIS, Jan 2017
Sessions on immigration– OntheIssues.org
Full remarks of Attorney General Sessions, US Dept. of Justice, April 2017
DHS Memo on Implementing Border and Enforcement Policies, DHS, Feb. 2017
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Hiring Freeze, White House, Jan. 2017
Hard-line anti-illegal immigration advocates hired at 2 federal agencies, CNN, April 2017
(Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr, http://bit.ly/2oXE0e8, (CC by SA 2.0)

Will Trump go forward with a “Muslim ban”, and if so, how?

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Image via Flickr http://bit.ly/2j5kmd7 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

US President-elect Donald Trump campaigned extensively on immigration issues, highlighting his intention to build a wall at the border of Mexico and deport large numbers of undocumented migrants throughout the campaign. In December of 2015, shortly following the Paris terror attacks, he issued a press release entitled “Donald J. Trump Statement on Preventing Muslim Immigration” in which he called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Despite the seemingly clear “Muslim ban” statement from 2015, with its background of the CSP’s survey, Trump’s position appears to have evolved if one looks at the positions taken on his website and by Trump campaign spokesperson Kelly Anne Conway. On December 22, 2016 Conway told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Trump will pursue a policy of extreme vetting that will be country-based, rather than based on religion and that the policies outlined on his website back this up. “I am asking whether being a Muslim will be a trigger, that’s my question, simple,” said Cuomo, to which Conway responded, “No, no its not.”

Looking at Trump’s website for clarification, we find multiple policy proposals pertinent to immigration but few directly concerning Muslims (other than the Dec. 2015 statement). Under “Foreign Policy and Defeating ISIS,” he promises to:

“Suspend, on a temporary basis, immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”

Under the section “Immigration,” Trump outlines numerous proposed changes to immigration policies and comes once again back to vetting, proposing that the US:

“Vet applicants to ensure they support America’s values, institutions and people, and temporarily suspend immigration from regions that export terrorism and where safe vetting cannot presently be ensured.”

So just drawing from Trump’s own published statements, we have three clear possibilities:

  1. Banning certain types of migration on the basis of religion  
  2. Banning certain types of migration on the basis of national/ regional origin
  3. Not banning migration at all but pursuing a policy of extreme vetting from certain regions or for certain religions

Let’s examine each possibility in turn.

1. Banning certain types of migration on the basis of religion

At this point, this seems the least likely possibility given Conway’s denials that being Muslim will be the trigger for exclusion and the scarcity of statements to this effect on Trump’s website (aside from the first one from over a year ago.) But if Trump wanted to ban migration to the US of any Muslim person, even temporarily, would this be possible?

The US Constitution bars discrimination on the basis of religion under the 1st and 14th amendment, and any federal laws that infringe on fundamental rights (such as those in the Bill of Rights) or suspect classifications (such as a particular religious minority group) are judged under the “strict scrutiny” test (see US v Carolene Products, footnote 4). The strict scrutiny test requires that a government law affecting fundamental rights or certain types of minorities (such as religious groups) must serve a compelling interest, be narrowly tailored to meet that interest, and be the least restrictive means of achieving that interest. In other words, a law that would potentially discriminate against a minority group must be practically the only way possible of achieving some need of dire importance to the government. In this case, Trump would likely argue that restricting immigration of Muslims is the best way of achieving the direly important security need of protecting the US from terrorism. While preventing terrorism is no doubt a crucial interest, one can easily point out the flaw in this argument- Muslim immigrants are not the only ones or primary ones who commit acts of terrorism in the US (the majority of U.S. terror acts since 2000 have been carried out by citizens or residents, with around a third being right-wing terrorism), and the vast majority of Muslims have no connection to radical terrorist groups, so the law is probably not narrowly tailored to achieving its means.

But, not so fast. These constitutional protections apply to US citizens, who almost certainly could not legally be barred from traveling and re-entering the US under any “Muslim ban.” But what about non-citizens, such as people wishing to reunite with family members, join a partner, do business, or seek asylum in the US? While the Supreme Court holds that Equal Protection applies to non-citizens, even undocumented migrants, within the US (see Plyler v. Doe at 210) people trying to enter the country are probably not granted the same protection, as multiple presidents in the past have banned groups based on national origin (Iran, Cuba to name a few.)

The real problem with such a ban would likely be the inability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify Muslims.There are some 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and they live in most of the world’s countries and belong to every race. Like with any religion, it would be impossible to pick them out solely using last names, language spoken or country of origin without catching many other people up in the dragnet- like, e.g., Arab Christians, or Sikhs who are often mistaken for Muslim- and missing many others.

Any attempt to determine religion – for instance, by immigration agents asking would-be entrants what religion they are- would clearly be about as effective as previous attempts to sniff out communists (“Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the communist party?”). People could lie out of a variety of motivations, not least of which because they feel unclear about their religious identity, as many do, or because they consider religion a private matter.

Another possibility would be religious profiling- rejecting visa requests, etc, from persons who officials suspect of being Muslim, based on perhaps last names or national origin. But aside from being ineffective, as discussed directly above, any unofficial, behind the scenes profiling would not achieve the effect of pleasing Trump’s supporters, who will probably be looking for hard policies and not secret, implied religious or racial profiling (which at any rate already openly exists at borders).

So an outright Muslim ban, while perhaps not unconstitutional, would prove extremely complicated to enforce and an unlikely choice by the President-elect.

2. Banning certain types of migration based on national/ regional origin.

As discussed above, a move like this has historical precedent and is potentially achievable. But here too, there are problems.

First, as Trump has made clear that his intention is to bar Muslims or at least practitioners of “radical Islam,” there is an issue of which regions or countries could effectively be banned. At first glance, we can see that Muslims make up large segments of the population in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe, as well as Canada. Banning migrants from those countries on the basis that they might be radical Muslims would effectively ban immigration from all but Central and South America, a scenario which seems unlikely to be appealing to Trump, who started his campaign talking about the dangers posed by Mexican immigrants.

If, as in his later statements, Trump wants to ban immigrants from areas that are known for fomenting extremism, it will also be difficult to create a narrow list. As the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism has reported, circa 4,000 EU citizens have traveled to Syria or Iraq to join IS, some 30% of whom have returned to their home countries. The largest number of these are Belgian, French, German, or British, with the highest number coming from Belgium.

If Trump will indeed ban people from “regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism,” its difficult to imagine how he can avoid banning immigration from Europe, or at the very least, Belgium, France, Germany and the UK. Such a ban could potentially have a severe impact on relations with America’s close allies in the EU, or result in reciprocal bans for American travellers to Europe.

3. Not banning migration at all but pursuing a policy of extreme vetting from certain regions or for certain religions

As with the first two proposals, this one suffers from an overbroadness. Pursuing extreme vetting against regions that “export terror” will once again have to include European nations, as well as Africa, the Middle East and Asia (particularly Southeast Asia.) Once again, this will mean strict vetting for virtually the entire world, aside from Latin and Central America. As many parts of the world are already subjected to strict vetting, (especially asylum applicants) we will have to wait for further details to determine how President-elect Trump’s plan will go above and beyond this, and how it will determine whether entrants “support America’s values, institutions and people.”

CONCLUSION

A few weeks out from inauguration it still remains to be seen how active Trump will be in his first 100 days, and whether he’ll be able to move forward on keeping his immigration-related promises. However, it is clear that any plan to ban or limit Muslim migrants or migrants from “terror-exporting regions” will require much more thought if it will pass constitutional muster, be stronger than what we already have, or not turn into an all-out immigration ban. We’ll be staying tuned to see if and how Trump attempts to strike a balance.


READ MOREsources and further literature

The Official Donald J. Trump Homepage
“Trump calls for ban on Muslims, cites deeply flawed poll” -the Bridge Initiative
“Strict Scrutiny” from the Legal Information Institute at Cornell
Terrorism In America from New America thinktank (Datasets are downloadable for analysis)
Plyler v. Doe from Migration Policy Institute
Jimmy Carter’s Sanctions Against Iran (includes ban on entrants from Iran)
Racial profiling will still be allowed at airports, along border despite new policy” The Washington Post from 2014 (cites DHS and Justice Department regulations)
The Foreign Fighters Phenomenon in the EU” from International Centre for Counter-Terrorism
“Isis in the Pacific: Assessing Terrorism in Southeast Asia and the Threat to the Homeland” from the Brookings Institute
Screening Process for Refugees Entering the US (Infographic)” from the White House

This article is analysis and thus contains the author’s opinion backed up with links to reliable sources. You are welcome to challenge our perspective in the comments.