Women know Stephen Miller. Stephen Miller is that asshole you meet on Tinder, who wants to send you a message so he can let you know your pictures from the Women’s March are really sexist against men. The kind of guy who says, “WELL ACTUALLY,” or, “let me play devil’s advocate here,” before blatantly insulting you and your intelligence. The one who says your name in a way you can almost see the your name in italics (and maybe all caps) coming out of his mouth — over and over. He’s the guy who walks up to you at a bar, hits on you in the most obnoxious manner possible, asks you questions, and proceeds to spin your basic beliefs into a web of bullshit. He’s the smug jerk who pretends to not understand phrases that are commonly used in the vernacular. Instead, he takes every comment you say completely literally, and suggests you are the dumb one for speaking like a human and not a robot. He’s the kind of racist asshole that he makes you out to be a racist monster — and all you said was, “Hey, I think that black lives matter.”
“Well, actually, Manda, it’s pretty racist that you even see race. Manda, why do you have to bring race into it? And that just shows me, Manda, that you are being racist against everyone who isn’t black, and you’re racist against black people, Manda, because you’re acting like they can’t take care of themselves and need a slogan. And, Manda, just to play devil’s advocate, but maybe cops kill black people more because more of them are criminals.” [insert self satisfied smirk]
Clearly, I’ve been tricked into a first date with a Stephen Miller or two. You live, you learn, you more obsessively Google first dates, swipe left more, and life goes on.
Except we can’t just swipe left or abandon our seat at the bar to get rid of him — because insufferable Stephen Miller is a top White House advisor. And life can’t go on for everyone — Miller might have pretended to not understand that Acosta was using hyperbole when he asked if the English requirement meant the US would only admit people from the UK or Australia, but don’t be fooled: that is Stephen Miller’s wet dream.
It’s truly remarkable how many interviews and statements given by or about members of this administration sound frighteningly similar to things sexual harassers or abusers say to women. If only we had had some kind of clue, indicating how horrible a Trump presidency would be….
It’s exhausting to stay outraged about everything that has happened in Trump’s first 100 days, but at least Attorney General Jeff Sessions keeps going out of his way to remind us how horrible he is.
Sessions has made it clear that fear mongering should replace facts when it comes to creating policy. Forget the antics of the rest of the administration; keeping up with Sessions’s decisions alone is almost a full time job. Here are some of the shitty things that shitty Jeff Sessions has done (and I won’t even talk about how I watched him dig around his nose and stare at his boogers when I was at his confirmation hearing):
When Sessions was sworn in, President Trump signed a handful of executive actions that were right in line with Sessions’s beliefs. One was the Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers. In this order, the President called for “multi-jurisdiction prosecution efforts” to deal with violence against police officers.
Never mind that violence against police is down. Never mind that there is no epidemic of unsolved crimes against cops. Facts clearly aren’t important to the Trump administration.
If facts mattered, the Violence Against Women Act wouldn’t have met so much resistance from Jeff Sessions back in 2013.Until 2015, tribal officers could not prosecute non-Natives who committed crimes on tribal land — resulting in Native American women being sexually assaulted more than four times the national average, primarily by men who were not Native American. This was a problem the 2013 renewal of the Violence Against Women Act specifically addressed by allowing some tribal courts to sometimes prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence.
Sessions voted against VAWA, claiming that this tribal court provision was a “big concern” for him. But now, when he wants to convince the country that police are the ones we need to protect from violence, forcing multi-jurisdiction prosecution efforts is fine. Cool.
Created by Obama in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were born after 6/15/81 and who came to America before they were 16. Applicants have to be enrolled in school and pass a background check. The idea behind DACA was to help young people who were working to become valuable members of society by streamlining the citizenship process, especially since so many of the people eligible were primarily raised in the US.
Back in January, Donald Trump said that DACA recipients “shouldn’t be very worried.” By February, Juan Manuel Montes became the first DACA recipient to be deported. Now it’s April, and I’m still not convinced Donald Trump knows what DACA is — but I’m damn sure Sessions knows and hates DACA.
“I believe everyone that enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported…we’re going to focus first, as the president has directed us, on the criminal element,” Sessions announced on ABC’s This Week (emphasis mine).
Their first focus might be the criminal element, but Sessions has a pretty messed up perception of constitutes criminal activity. Over 1.5 million undocumented people have told the federal government that they are here and applied for DACA. Now these same people have to place their trust in Sessions, who seems to have a burning desire to end the program.
Black Lives Matter
After high profile police killings, the DOJ will come into a city and investigate the police force. They will spend a year or two interviewing citizens and cops, doing ride alongs, holding meetings, and combing through documents to understand if there are problems within the structure of the department. After they create a report on their findings, they work with the city to make a consent decree — a legally binding contract that details how the city will address the issues the DOJ has found. Baltimore is, of course, one of the cities to be a recipient of such an investigation — and it has the unique position of having the process of creating and signing the consent decree spread between the Obama and Trump administrations.
Right before Baltimore held a public hearing on their consent decree, the DOJ asked for a delay in the implementation of the consent decree, and a review of all active decrees. The judge denied the Baltimore motion, and the public hearing went on as scheduled. Despite having the motion denied, the DOJ decided to again bring up the possibility of delaying the process.
“Reasonable minds may disagree if this decree is the perfect way forward,” stated John Gore, the DOJ’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General, describing the verydocument his department created and signed. Gore added that the current administration has “grave concerns” over the decree, and reiterated the need for the already-denied motion for a delay.
The city responded that, not only was a delay was not necessary, but community input was the most important part of reform, and that both parties went to great lengths to involve the community in the creation of the consent decree. To delay it would shake the confidence the community has in the reform — of course, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes consent decrees “undermine respect for our police officers,” I assume that protecting the community is no longer a function of the DOJ.
Under any other circumstances, watching the DOJ argue against justice would have been unusual. In a way, Sessions’s DOJ helped bring residents and the police together: of the 49 residents who spoke at this hearing, the vast majority sided with the stance of the Baltimore Police Department.
In July 2015, I attended a very crowded town hall meeting at Sojourner-Douglass College. The first half of the meeting was a panel discussion, and the second half was community members sharing their stories with representatives from the Department of Justice. Many tears were shed as citizens repeated how grateful they were that the DOJ was finally there, that someone was finally listening to their stories. At the time, had you told me that these representatives would become the sabotaging enemies of reform, I would have laughed at you.
The day after the Baltimore Uprising, people gathered around the riot police set up at Penn and North. There were prayers, debates, and crying — but there was also a feeling of cautious optimism.. People expressed hope that maybe now the government would do for Baltimore what it had done for Ferguson — a full investigation into the workings of the police department. Maybe now people would listen.
I would find it hard to believe that this sentiment is not expressed nationwide, every time a police shooting sparks large protests. So what happens when we take away the only government organization that listens?
When the next Freddie Gray or Philando Castile is killed, when the next city has had enough — will Sessions directly say, “sorry, but we no longer wish to help those who have been victimized by the police”? Did John Gore’s years working for Jones Day prepare him to be the one to tell people the official stance of the federal government is that their lives and struggles don’t matter?
Do you want a riot, Jeff Sessions? Because this is how you get a riot.
Imagine being 11 years old, speaking little or no English, and walking into a court room for the first time in your life. Now imagine you’re representing yourself: unsure of what to say or when to say it; unsure of where to stand or sit, likely untrusting of most adults. Yet, the court room waits and expects for you to tell your story to strangers in a way that allows you to stay in your new home. Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? Yet for the unaccompanied minors who are apprehended while trying to enter America, it’s a very real possibility. In the American justice system, immigration proceedings do not warrant an appointed attorney. Instead, these children are expected to pay for their own lawyer, find an attorney willing to work pro bono, or represent themselves in court.
This is where Kids In Need Of Defense (KIND) steps in. KIND is a non-profit organization that works to partner these kids with lawyers and law firms, providing them with legal guidance and representation. The lawyers that work alongside KIND help the children navigate the system and clarify everything in a way the children can understand. This is a dramatic change from asking children to fill out form blanks themselves. KIND matches children with lawyers to help these children understand their rights and the complex process they are going through it. In 2017, it looks like KIND needs support more than ever.
Several years ago I was able to attend a training for law firms looking to work with KIND, and I found the information invaluable. Christie Turner Herbas and Laura Nally, the KIND attorneys that led the training, not only provided valuable background information on why so many children are coming to the US, but also taught us how to handle working with the children. KIND attorneys stressed the need to explain things that would easily be overlooked, or that we might incorrectly assume the children know. For example, a child might spend months thinking that the first time she talks to a judge, she risks being deported straight from the court room (not true!). Children too young to understand borders may not grasp why moving from mom’s house in Guatemala to Grandma’s house in Maryland warrants months of legal proceedings.
The past three years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the United States. Children from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras make up a large chunk of this number. KIND told us that, in an effort to understand the increase, the UN Refugee Agency asked 404 unaccompanied children detained by US authorities to explain why they left. The answer can largely be summed up as fear: fear of the gangs taking over their cities, fear of forced recruitment into human smuggling, fear of being killed after witnessing a crime, or fear of sexual assault. In some cases the children were victims of violent or sexual crime at the time they left; other times, they knew it was a very likely possibility and considered it safer to risk coming to America. (For more details, you can see the full study here.)
The journey of an unaccompanied child from their homeland to another country is hardly an easy one. It’s difficult to imagine many children would take the risk if they did not truly believe that very real danger awaited them should they stay at home. Everything they are struggling with must outweigh their fear of being caught, getting lost, and being kidnapped on the way to the US.
This post has been updated due to the actions of the US President in 2017.