The truth about sanctuary cities

There is not much disagreement among Americans that there should be a standardized process for non-citizens to enter America, and those who fail to meet those requirements should be subject to punishment and/or deportation.

The means to get there is the sticky point.

Of course, there was once a point in our nation’s history when the lone requirement was simply to make it to Ellis Island. A doctor would take a look at you to make sure you’re relatively, and voila, you’re on the path towards becoming an American.

Indeed, if you’re reading this, you almost certainly descend from somebody who had that very experience. Of course, times have changed, and the criteria to become American is understandably — and appropriately — more stringent.

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. If you ask some conservative thinkers, their solution would be to round them all up and toss them out tomorrow. That’s just not realistic for an abundance of reasons.

For one, it would put our economy in a tailspin. Undocumented workers contribute billions of dollars in taxes each year. In some cases, they contribute more than those in the top 1% tax bracket who get numerous tax exemptions.

Secondly, it’s simply impossible to identify who is illegal and who is not without discriminating and infringing on people’s rights. Strict and forceful deportation policies create an environment of fear among all immigrants, legal or not.

And this is what brings us to sanctuary cities.

The term derives from a religious movement in the 1980s, when churches felt a moral obligation to shelter Central American refugees from countries fleeing war and persecution. By taking them in, they were subverting the law, but offering sanctuary to innocent victims escaping the horrors of their home nation.

The term has since become more heavily politicized, and was taken to a whole new level during the 2016 election as the central platform focus of Donald Trump.

In 2017, the term “sanctuary city” conjures up images in people’s minds of a lawless city where illegal immigrants can do whatever they want without being criminalized.

But the truth is, according to many published accounts, that local police departments support sanctuary cities.

What qualifies a location a sanctuary city is their refusal to cooperate with the federal immigration agency, ICE, which essentially has a mandate to use any means to identify illegal immigrants and give them the boot. Cities that cooperate with ICE are requested to keep inmates in jail even when they’ve been cleared for release so it can be determined if they should be deported or not.

Not only does this open cities up to potential lawsuits when a detainee is, in fact, legal — which has precedent — but it exacerbates that sentiment of fear between immigrants and police. It eliminates any incentive for immigrants to cooperate with police, thus taking away what could have been a valuable source towards tracking down actual illegal immigrants who are continuously breaking the law.

So while sanctuary cities do exist as a symbol of America’s growing diversity, their primary function is to create a safer environment within cities between residents and police.

Now this isn’t meant to be a total defense of illegal immigrants. They should migrate to America legally. Though it should be noted that while there are plenty of real life incidents of undocumented persons committing violent crimes — sometimes even murder — against innocent Americans, statistically, it doesn’t make it any more likely that an illegal immigrant will commit murder more often than someone who was born here.

Immigration is a very complicated issue. Sanctuary cities are just a part of it.

Next time you hear someone complain about a sanctuary city, maybe you can inform them that they don’t exist as a safe haven for murderous gangs from Latin America, but rather, as a place where local police departments can act in partnership with residents to enforce the law and track down those who truly abuse their privilege of living in America.

When Donald met Vladimir

If you’re tired of hearing about Trump and the Russians, skip to the bottom where you’ll find a video of a golden retriever saving a fawn from drowning.

OK, so Trump met with Putin. For an hour. In the same day the two had met for a highly-anticipated two hour closed door meeting in which both nations expressed entirely different readouts on how it went.

Consistent with the way the whole #KremlinGate scandal has gone thus far, I presume people on the left will label this as another element to the biggest scandal in political history; people on the right will shrug and wonder why we’re so consumed with this topic; while Trump and his team will condemn the news media as “fake” and “sick.”

All three are wrong. At least, so far they are.

As I have expressed before, anyone who doesn’t fully comprehend why even the semblance of collusion between the U.S. and Russia is newsworthy is clearly ignorant or indifferent towards history.

You know the phrase the “Evil Empire?” A Mets fan might respond and say, “Yeah, the New York Yankees.” Well, no. The Evil Empire is the Soviet Union. A country whose name, when spoken aloud, would force high school students to retreat under their desks 60 years ago.

A country that once threatened our annihilation by pointing missiles at us from less than 500 miles away.

Since World War II, there has been practically nothing to gain from cooperation with Russia. Nothing. They have been a hostile actor not only to the U.S., but to our global allies. Their goal, even today, is to disrupt the world order to better align with their own interests.

Russia ceased to be the Soviet Union in the late ‘80s. Thus, millennials grew up without a fear for Russia. And even though Russia is no longer a communist state, they have reverted back to being an authoritarian state since Putin’s ascent to the presidency at the turn of the century.

In short, Russia is not our friend. President Trump is right in that it is not a bad thing to engage with countries who we have long been feuding with. Diplomacy always trumps hostility (no pun intended). But Russia is a special exception. For years, their country has been in decline. International sanctions have left them economically crippled. Unpopular invasions (in Crimea, Ukraine) have left them geopolitically alienated.

Russia is a declining state. But they are compensating for this downturn by asserting their influence on global order by intervening in other country’s elections in support of candidates who they believe would be more lenient towards them. And it’s working.

So given all of this history, both historically and currently, and given the hysteria surrounding the investigation into possible collusion leading up to the election, it is nothing short of mind-blowing that Donald Trump, in a room full of 19 leaders from our nation’s most powerful countries, some of which are our staunchest allies, would bypass them and head straight to Vladimir Putin for a one-hour, private chat. With only a Russian translator.

Never mind the security issue of not knowing what exactly the Russian government translator literally said to Trump and Putin — considering where his national interests lie – but the fact that Trump didn’t realize that this would be a significant event in light of all that’s already going on shows just how obtuse this man really is.

#KremlineGate is probably the most avoidable scandal in political history. First you have Fredo, I mean Donald Trump Jr. accepting a Russian meeting last summer under the context of it being part of Russia’s support for Donald Trump, and now Trump sitting down and yapping with Putin like they’re old buddies — all in plain sight of other world leaders who have every right to wonder what the heck is going on between these two guys.

Any collusion between Russia and the U.S. is a big deal. Will it ultimately be impeachable? Who knows. But this isn’t a left/right issue. It’s a new chapter in what has been a very complicated and unfriendly history between the U.S. and Russia.

OK, I’m done. Here’s the dog video I promised.

My supreme return

As perhaps one or two of you may have noticed, I have not posted in a while. The first week I had a good reason: I was in Orlando for a work trip. The last couple of weeks, however, I just decided I needed a break.

Think of it as my summer blogging vacation (even though summer only started five days ago).

But there were a few reasons why I wished to take a break. One was just to give myself a mental vacation. When I get home from work from a long day, it’s nice to not have to worry about any other obligations.

Secondly, I was getting exhausted from complaining about Donald Trump every day.

Last, I really wanted to use the time to brainstorm how I could channel my creative energy towards a project that can be more productive towards my future. I have no aspirations to become a professional blogger. But I do feel like one day I will come up with an idea that will be worth pursuing – whether it’s a book idea, a screenplay, or any other writing project. Something that can one day be published and enjoyed by the world.

I still haven’t gotten there. And until I do, I figure the most productive answer is to keep writing as much as I can on a regular basis. So, blogging can certainly fulfill that for now.

But it likely won’t be daily. And more importantly, if I am going to discuss politics and current events, I want to talk about things that matter. Not Trump’s tweets. Not the latest outrage on social media. But things that affect the way we live.

Today, for instance, the Supreme Court made two important announcements: It will make a decision in October on Trump’s travel ban, and it will also hear a case involving a Colorado baker’s refusal to serve a gay couple, citing a violation of religious freedom included in the First Amendment.

The travel ban decision is important. Not because it will dictate whether certain immigrants can or cannot come to the U.S. for a short-term period, but because it will set a precedent on the president’s ability to unilaterally enforce immigration restrictions, and therefore set boundaries on presidential powers overall while either strengthening or weakening our government’s longstanding system of checks and balances.

And any one hoping that Neil Gorsuch might become a bit more moderate once he hit the bench is probably disappointed by now. In agreeing to hear the case on the travel ban, the court granted the administration’s request to stay the injunctions put in place by lower courts, thereby putting portions of the ban into effect. Gorsuch (along with justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) wrote dissenting opinions stating that they would’ve allowed the full ban, without limitations, to take effect right now.

The case on a worker’s ability to deny service to gay couples based on religious grounds is important for obvious reasons. If they side with the businesses, then it has the potential to derail progress this nation has made advancing gay rights, two years after the Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

One does not need to ask which side Gorsuch will take on this one.

Finally, Monday marks 20 years to the day when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K) was published.

Now if you could look back on any development in the last two decades that strongly benefited humankind, it was the introduction of the Harry Potter books, which encouraged a generation of children to fall in love with reading.

In the Potterverse, good ultimately defeated evil as Harry got the better of Lord Voldemort.

Let’s hope real life reflects that.

We’ll always have Paris

It’s basically gotten to the point where we are living in a cartoon world where the Trump administration is playing the role of the archetypal bad guys.

Like, if you were to write a kids’ movie or a dystopian novel, and you envisioned an adversarial government as the story’s antagonist, but exaggerated it so much that the reader or viewer would find it implausible that such evil would exist in real life– that’s what we are dealing with.

Our president is boorish and immature. The chief strategist whispering in his ear is a present day Joseph Goebbels. Our Attorney general embodies the appearance of a generic southern racist.

They’ve scaled back on civil rights, LGBT protections, healthcare protections, and now, they are doing all they can to repeal environmental protections.

The latest being Thursday’s announcement to rescind our involvement in the Paris climate accords – a pact signed by 195 countries to limit carbon emissions with the hope of saving the planet, an agreement that was spearheaded by Barack Obama two years ago.

I feel like I say this every week, but … how is this real?!

Trump climate

The one silver lining I tell myself is that just because Trump states something aloud or signs an executive order doesn’t mean things change with the drop of a hat. There’s still checks and balances that limits his abilities and other mechanisms that act as a bulwark against his tyranny.

In this instance, the climate accords state that there is about a 4-year removal process, meaning that full removal from the agreement may be determined by who elect in the 2020 presidential election.

Hate is building for Donald Trump. It’s been happening since day one. But it’s only a matter of time until there is an unprecedented, large-scale rally in Washington, D.C. calling for his ouster.

And if that occurs, I don’t think I’d be able to live the rest of my life with dignity if I don’t go.

Not only is Trump enraging so many with his mind-boggling decisions, but he’s also corrupting our intelligence by making up words.

Either you know about “covfefe” or you don’t. In short, Trump tweeted a made-up word, didn’t delete it for five hours, and the world scratched their heads until then trying to figure out what he meant.

When the media asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer what the president meant — fully expecting him to say it was a typo — Spicer answered seriously, “The president and a small group of people know what he meant.”

I’d say the inmates are running the asylum, but I think we’re well past that.

All I know is that if things don’t change quickly, I think we’ll all be drinking at Tiger Woods levels really soon.

Tomorrow is Friday. after all. The perfect time to start.

Happy covfefe everyone.

A new way to catfish, and tragedy in Baghdad

Remember when being “catfished” meant that you were the victim of an online seduction hoax?

If you don’t, just ask Manti Te’o about it.

Well, forget that MTV-like kerfuffle, because thanks to one diabolical Nashville Predators fan, the term has taken on a whole new meaning.

In case you didn’t hear this story, for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, a hockey devotee named Jake Waddell, of Ohio, decided to:

  • Purchase a catfish
  • Refrigerate it to keep it from rotting
  • Transport it to Pittsburgh from Ohio
  • Flatten it with his truck to reduce its size
  • Store it in between two layers of underwear to gain entry with it into the arena
  • Wait for his opportunity to be near the glass surrounding the ice
  • Throw catfish

Catfish iceThrowing catfish onto the ice is a common practice at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. If you think it’s weird, note that in Detroit, they throw octopi.

The fan was then promptly ejected and charged with three misdemeanors.

But the conviction and dedication that this fan showed to complete his scheme is definitely worthy of rebranding the term “catfishing.” Especially when it’ previously accepted definition was pretty dumb to begin with. Bravo sir.

But let’s move from Nashville to Baghdad. The two epicenters of country music.

While everyone is still grieving and mourning the Manchester terrorist attacks, it’s easy to forget that terrorist attacks happen with even greater frequency in the East than the West. In the past several days alone, terrorist attacks by ISIS have caused double digit casualties in Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The attack in Baghdad on Tuesday occurred at a popular ice cream shop, where parents with their kids often visit, especially during Ramadan to break their fast. More than 30 people were killed.

Baghdad ice cream

This tragedy has barely been mentioned in the U.S., even though, like Manchester, it resulted in the death of innocent children who were just doing things that kids like to do. Instead of going to a pop concert, they were eating ice cream.

Now I’m not going to judge anyone for the fact that one attack received publicity over another, or scrutinize why that happens in the first place, I just wanted to make sure that people who didn’t get the chance to hear about it are now aware.

Speaking of Manchester, Ariana Grande has responded to terror in a big way, first posting an inspiring message on social media, and then announcing that she will beAriana Grande returning to the city this Sunday alongside Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, Usher and more for a benefit concert for the victims’ families.

We will never stop terror. But we we can do is show that it will cause us to live in fear.

When terror happens, we come back with even greater kindness than we showed before the attack.

Terrorists may accomplish their goal of ending lives, but they will never achieve their desire of breaking us down as human beings.

And more importantly, they will never stop us from living in a world where a man can freely walk into a hockey arena and toss a catfish onto the ice.

Heroes live in Portland

Donald Trump did not invent bigotry. He did not create xenophobia. Or discrimination.

But what has been highly apparent during his rise is how he has emboldened people who do participate in these nefarious behaviors. By calling to make “America Great Again” and giving no single specific strategy about what exactly that means – he’s letting his supporters interpret it however they want.

And to many of our nation’s most despicable people, the time when America was at its “greatest” was when all laws and institutions catered directly for the white majority, while those outside of that group were basically left to fend for themselves.

Whether you like it or not, America is changing. It’s becoming more diverse. And that has always been our basis, ever since its founding nearly 250 years ago.

We are a nation of immigrants.

A girl leaves a message at a makeshift memorial for two men who were killed on a commuter train while trying to stop another man from harassing two young women who appeared to be Muslim, in Portland

And right now, those immigrants — especially those from Muslim-majority countries — are feeling extremely scared and vulnerable.

Are Muslim-Americans less protected under law than they were before Trump took office? No.

But do they harbor more fear walking down the street? Taking the train? Just entering a room, not knowing whose inside of it and what reaction they are going to get? Of course.

And this environment, fueled by Trump’s words and actions,, is what will be the man’s lasting legacy.

We do not know if yet if this is what directly led to what happened in Portland last week. In case you were totally consumed with your barbecues or your weekend getaway, three men rushed to the aid of two women who were being accosted with anti-Muslim insults.

Two of them were killed.

The three men — the last of whom is expected to live despite taking a knife slash to the neck — are being hailed as heroes.

And they are. Standing up to hate is what makes us heroic. We can all do it in our own way. These three men saw it before there eyes, and they intervened. Two paid the ultimate sacrifice. Their names are Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Rick Best.

Trump condemned the attack on Twitter … two days later.

After last week’s cowardly attack in Manchester, it’s easy for even the most tolerant of humans to become just a fraction of a bit more suspicious of people of Muslim faith.

But that’s what we have to fight against. What we have to remember is that evil and terror has no faith or creed. It is bound in nothing but pure hate and disillusion. And that we are all in this together.

Three people in Portland didn’t forget that.

Will you?

Mr. Trump goes to Riyadh

Every day that step further into the Trump administration feels more and more like we’re living in a bad dystopian fiction novel.

Seeing the man who at one point on the campaign trail called for “a complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. being presented with a gold medal by Saudi leaders in full hijab attire was as mentally puzzling as if you told me that Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner were getting hitched after meeting on Grinder.

It’s like the entire world has gotten together on one big practical joke, and the American people are the victims.

And no soon did my brain complete processing that image when I suddenly was presented with the visual of Donald Trump in a yarmulke praying at the Western Wall.

I normally refrain from using millennial vernacular, but … dafuq?

The most sacred site in Judaism being intruded upon by an orange-haired buffoon who thinks the generations-old conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is as simple as solvable as a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

His next stop? The Vatican.

Trump Saudis

Trump, a man who lives a life so glamorous that the inside of his penthouse suite is literally made of gold, meeting with a man who empathizes so much with the poor that he voluntarily shunned the papal apartment to live in the more modest Vatican guesthouse. They should get along as well as Voldemort and Harry Potter.

(Someone teach Pope Francis two words quickly: Avada kedavra).

This “religion tour” was apparently designed to be a symbolic sojourn to bind the three doctrines under a call for peace, while joining together to combat terrorism.

It’s a noble message. Just not the right messenger.

This was one of my biggest fears when Donald Trump was running for president. The fact that he would be the one representing America on an international stage.

People can definitely scrutinize some of Barack Obama’s domestic and global policy initiatives. But one thing that is undeniable was that the man held himself with grace and dignity wherever he went. He respected foreign cultures and customs, he was well-versed in his host country’s history, and he had a nuanced understanding of the conflicts he was speaking about.

Trump, meanwhile, has shown a tendency to have his opinion changed in a single conversation with a foreign leader, and knows as much about history as my cat understands particle physics.

Everything just seems backwards right now. Donald Trump is our president (still), and The Rock might be our next president.

Which would mean that we may be able to live in a country where we can tell people our last two presidents were victims of a Stone Cold Stunner.

If you, like me, needed something — anything — to take your mind off these chaotic current events, then enjoy this viral video from today of a girl being pulled into water by a sea lion.

I’ll be out of town for most of the week through memorial Day weekend. i’ll try to check in at least one more time before then, but no guarantees.

Until then, enjoy the “Pope-Trump Happenin’ at the Vatican.”

You heard that name here first.