Militias, Marijuana, and Migrant Stories

Border near Tijuana, photo by Jonathan McIntosh, published under Creative Commons license

Border near Tijuana, photo by Jonathan McIntosh, published under Creative Commons license

This weekend’s big immigration story was the gun-toting, right-wing militia that is going after migrants on the southern border. They claim to be “helping” the Border Patrol, but   state officials, including New Mexico’s governor and attorney general, have denounced the group, and one of its leaders has been arrested on weapons charges.

April 20, observed in some circles as an international day to celebrate cannabis, was marked by USCIS in an announcement that marijuana use or employment in marijuana industries in states that have legalized marijuana will be considered a bar to establishing the “good moral character” that is one of the requirements for citizenship.

In other news: individual immigrant stories show the pain, danger, and dehumanization of the administration’s punitive, deportation-focused policies.   Continue reading

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Focus on Minnesota Immigrants

Ilhan Omar

Photo by LeoPaltik1242, published under Creative Commons license.

You’ve heard of Ilhan Omar, a first-generation Somali immigrant now representing Minneapolis in Congress, but do you know her story? MPR tells some of her personal history and the family traditions of civic involvement that still inform her life.

“Omar was just 8 years old when civil war broke out in Somalia. She still remembers the night militia men entered her family’s compound in Mogadishu.

It was the early 1990s and the nation imploded over the increasingly totalitarian rule of President Siad Barre. He was ousted along with the national army, and in their void a conflict among clans erupted, pitting neighbors against neighbors. Omar’s family home in the city was in the middle of two opposing forces.

“I remember hiding under the bed with one of my aunts and one of my sisters and sort of everything getting quiet inside the home,” Omar recalled. “And then militia men who were outside of our windows started talking about ways that they could make their way in.”

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DHS Under Trump: Focus on Immigrants, Not Counterterrorism

Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey

Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey, used under Creative Commons license

Firings at the Department of Homeland Security highlight a major shift away from the Homeland Security part of its mission. Cyberterrorism? Counterterrorism? Not priorities for an administration obsessed with immigration. Continue reading

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Attorney General Barr on Asylum Seekers: No Bail, Just Jail

Cruelty Is Not a Family Value

From photo by Fibonacci Blue, published under Creative Commons license.

In the latest administration attack on asylum, Attorney General William Barr ordered an end to bail for asylum seekers who have not entered at ports of entry. His order reverses long-standing policy granting bail to asylum seekers, 96 percent of whom show up for their immigration court hearings after release.

The order will not go into effect for 90 days, because the government does not have enough jail beds to lock up all asylum seekers. Civil rights groups will challenge the order in court.

In related news, the back-and-forth over Trump’s tweeted threats to send thousands of asylum seekers to sanctuary cities continues in confusion: Continue reading

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Listening to Yo Yo Ma


World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland [Creative Commons license)

“I’ve lived my life at the borders. Between cultures. Between disciplines. Between musics. Between generations,” world-renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma told CNN. “In culture, we build bridges, not walls. A country is not a hotel and it’s not full.”

This weekend he went to Laredo, Texas to perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s six cello suites at the foot of the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge and to talk about immigration. Yo Yo Ma knows immigration. He was born in France to Chinese parents, moved to the United States as a child, and made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of nine. He has performed for six U.S. presidents and has a list of awards as long as your arm, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Kennedy Center Honors.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to insist that the country is full and immigration must stop. No more cellists, no more doctors, no more strawberry pickers, no more home health aides, no more roofers, no more engineers, no more chemists and physicists. No more refugees, no more freedom-seekers, no more family members. No to everyone. Except, maybe, for people from Norway. But maybe not even them. Continue reading

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Tax Day Reminder: Immigrants Pay Taxes, Too

#StandOnEveryCorner in St. Paul

#StandOnEveryCorner in St. Paul

Just a few reminders on tax day: immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, pay billions of dollars in taxes each year. Payroll taxes from undocumented immigrants pay billions into Social Security and Medicare, keeping these funds solvent for longer, even though they can never receive either. Specifically: Continue reading

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Some Clues on ‘Tougher’ Immigration Policy


Nobody, including Trump, really knows what he means by a “tougher” immigration policy, but some of the week’s news gives clues about possible directions. First, there’s his plan to send detained migrants to sanctuary cities. Two other striking moves involve Attorney General Barr redefining immigration courts, and a new regulation that would further include asylum seekers. Continue reading

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