Progressive Political News

ICE Tells Foreign Students to Leave the Country If Their Schools Are Going Online-Only

President Donald Trump speaking in Washington, DC, on Saturday during a July 4 event.Patrick Semansky/AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.The Trump administration is giving a draconian choice to foreign students at schools that plan to offer only online courses this fall: Quickly transfer to a school with in-person classes or leave the country.
The new policy announced on Monday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement comes as colleges debate how to safely reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some schools are resuming in-person courses; others are adopting hybrid models that combine in-person and online courses; and some are going fully online. 
With classes set to begin in September, it’s not clear how students would be able to transfer to a new university in time to stay in the United States. That may be the point.
After failing to get Congress to cut legal immigration, the White House has succeeded in using the pandemic as an excuse to shut off nearly all ways for people to come to the United States. Now it’s extending that crackdown to some students who are already in the country.

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A Judge Handed the Standing Rock Tribes a Big Win in Their Dakota Access Pipeline Fight

A water protector prays as he and others defend a sacred site near Turtle Island against the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Missouri River at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 2016.Joel Angel/Zuma

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.After four years locked in legal struggle over the construction of the controversial 1,172 mile-long, Dakota Access Pipeline, the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes won a major victory on Monday when a federal court ordered the pipeline to cease its operations by August 5. Judge James E. Boasberg, from the US District Court of the District of Columbia, ruled that the US Army Corps of Engineers—tasked with awarding the permits for construction—failed to fully assess the environmental risks posed by a segment of the pipeline. The tribes argued the segment, which runs under Lake Oahe, a large reservoir half a mile from Standing Rock Reservation land, has both despoiled sacred land and contaminated their water supply.
“Fearing severe environmental consequences,” the ruling states, “American Indian Tribes on nearby reservations have sought for several years to invalidate federal permits allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry oil under the lake. Today they finally achieve that goal—at least for the time being.”
At the heart of the ruling is the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), an assessment that the Corps is supposed to conduct when serious questions arise around potential environmental consequences of a proposed project.
According to the ruling, the corps handed Dakota Access, LLC the permits it needed to construct the pipeline under Lake Oahe without bothering to create an EIS, despite long-standing environmental concerns. “The Corps has thus violated NEPA by determining that an EIS was unnecessary even though one of the EIS-triggering factors was met,” notes the ruling. To resume operations pipeline operations, the Corps will need to prepare an EIS, which by its own estimate will take until summer of 2021. In the meantime, the flow of oil will trickle to a halt and the pipeline will be emptied.
Boasberg’s order is sure to be a major blow to Kelcy Warren, the Trump-supporting CEO of Energy Transfer Partners LP, the company behind the pipeline and Dakota Access, LLC. As Bloomberg reports, “The Energy Transfer founder has stood by the project, going so far as to say he talks about Dakota Access ‘like I talk about my son.’” Since then, Warren has hosted a campaign fundraiser for Trump’s 2020 campaign.
In 2017, when he became president, Trump pushed for completion of the project, which had been stalled during the closing days of the Obama administration. As my colleague Nathalie Baptiste reported in 2017, “Indigenous activists and their allies began fighting the pipeline in 2015, but their most serious set back took place immediately after the inauguration when President Trump signed executive orders to advance approval of the pipeline.”
The completion of the EIS next year, might mean that the pipeline’s operations will resume. Still, the ruling represents a major breakthrough for the tribes and activist groups that have protested the pipeline since its inception. “Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” said Mike Faith, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe  “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

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The “Better Call Saul” Cast Is Making Music, Painting, Growing Gardens, and Raising COVID Relief

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.There’s a little-known show you’ve never seen, in entertainment obscurity, called Better Call Saul, a spinoff of the littler-known Breaking Bad. If you’re one of the tens of people who’ve heard of these up-and-comers and seen an episode or two, you’ll be pleased to know that your favorite BCS actors livestreamed from their homes together a few days ago. Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Giancarlo Esposito, Tony Dalton, Michael Mando, and Patrick Fabian chatted in support of COVID-19 fundraising by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, the screen actors guild’s support wing, to help the wider community with medical bills, rent, and other essentials.
Giancarlo is starting a podcast while growing radish and lettuce. He waters them every day. Steadily. With razor-sharp precision. Rhea is brushing off her paint brushes after 20 years. Patrick adopted a dog. Michael recorded his first song (“My first love has always been music”). Actors who play criminal moonlighters and crime-adjacent “good people” are people too. Journalist Daniel Fienberg did a nice job moderating the chat. If you missed it, here you go, and more info on COVID-19 relief efforts is here. Jonathan Banks was missed. He was busy practicing his stink eye while debugging gas caps.

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Michael Flynn Is Flat Out Nuts

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.This is fucking nuts:

The man Trump appointed to the most sensitive national security position in US government and a current martyr/hero of the Trumpist right just posted a video of himself taking the QAnon oath. https://t.co/w5dyHCUEwz
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) July 5, 2020

Apparently Flynn’s descent into madness, which started around 2014, is now complete. Thank God he’s nowhere near the levers of power at this point.
BTW, I’m planning to start KAnon, a competitor to QAnon. To join, you’ll have to take an oath to deconstruct all my blog posts to find the secret messages I’ve been embedding into them for the past 20 years. After you’ve decoded all 20,000 of them, all you have to do is arrange them in the proper order and they will tell you what to do. Once you do this, you will be promoted to KAnon corporal, the first step on your way to KAnon field marshal. So get cracking.

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Supreme Court Puts an End to Faithless Electors

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.The Supreme Court says that states can require electors to vote for the presidential candidate they’re supposed to vote for:

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that states may require presidential electors to support the winner of the popular vote and punish or replace those who don’t, settling a disputed issue in advance of this fall’s election.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court, and settled the disputed “faithless elector” issue before it affected the coming presidential contest. The Washington state law at issue “reflects a tradition more than two centuries old,” she wrote. “In that practice, electors are not free agents; they are to vote for the candidate whom the state’s voters have chosen.”

This has two consequences. First, states can join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and make it stick. Under the terms of the NPVIC, electors are required to vote for the winner of the popular vote, but only if states with a majority of electors have joined the compact. Today’s ruling makes this legal and enforceable.
Second, it puts an end to “faithless” electors, who vote for Ron Paul or Colin Powell or whoever they think makes the cutest protest statement. In 2016, ten electors tried to cast faithless votes, and it’s time for this to stop. We live in an era where it’s common to blow up political norms, and this could easily have gotten out of hand. Far better to put a hammer on it now than later, when it might actually affect an election. All that’s left now is for states to follow up and write laws requiring electors to do what they’re supposed to do.

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More than Policing Needs to Change

The calls for real transformation of policing are urgent and needed, but not enough. Transformation can start, but not end, there. 
The police, after all, are only the front end of the criminal justice system. Prosecutors’ offices are next in line; then courts, trial and appellate. Prisons and corrections departments are the back end. Together, these institutions compose a dehumanizing system, one that speaks invariably of “processing” cases.

Yes, we should start with transforming the police. But it will be too little if that front end of the system — and thus of structural racism, antipathy to the impoverished, and systemic injustice — is all that we transform.

Racial disparities increase, rather than decrease, at each step. Disproportionately, people of color are stopped, harassed, and arrested by the police; this is especially true for Blacks. They and many other people of color also face racial inequities in terms of charging, plea bargaining, and sentencing.
By 2018, Blacks accounted for just 12% of the nation’s population but one-third of its prison population. African Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites.
In this form of systemic racism, prosecutors, courts, and corrections departments deserve at least as much attention as police agencies. Recent years have seen the election of so-called “progressive” prosecutors. But only a few, including San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin and Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner, have attempted real structural changes in the system, beyond sloganeering.
Overall, courts give structure and durability to systemic racism and antipathy toward the impoverished. Courts tolerate two subsystems. Those with money often can achieve relatively good outcomes, while the millions who are poor usually are consigned to overworked, underfunded indigent defenders and often “processed” into bad outcomes. 
In courts, an accused’s wrongs are “crimes,” but the wrongs of police, prosecutors, and judges are “errors” routinely excused as harmless. This leads to impunity and a repetition of wrongs by emboldened government actors, and a corresponding loss of public faith in police, prosecutors, and the courts.
Thanks to the courts, too, police officers who violate the U.S. Constitution in “good faith” usually are immune from liability. No criminal defendant gets a pass for good faith. Further, bad faith or the biases of police officers mostly don’t count. Even if the traffic stop was motivated by racism or a desire to snoop, by judicial rule it is fine if the officer claims a minor traffic violation. 
At the system’s back end, prisons are another obvious target for transformation. The land of the free and home of the brave, with less than 5% of the world’s population, has more than 20% of the world’s prisoners. A prison abolition movement, led by people as scattered as Angela Y. Davis in the United States and the sociologist Thomas Mathiesen in Norway, has been around for 50 years or more. It should be heard. 
Finally, legislatures are architects of the criminal justice system. They deliberately underfund much of it, especially the defense of the poor. They also have created the redundant layers of police agencies that threaten to smother whole segments of the American populace. 
Especially in communities of color, people are over-policed by a stack of police agencies that compete with one another for arrest statistics and prestige. These include a municipal police department, an overlying county sheriff’s office, and sometimes a state police force. Many cities now pile on public housing police, public transportation police, port authority and airport police, park police, capitol police, and campus police — most of these with broad policing powers that extend well beyond their core missions.
We also have more than 90 federal law enforcement agencies, again assigned broad powers and overlapping authority. That’s right: nearly eight dozen nationwide police agencies created and run by the federal government, which in theory has no general police power at all under our Constitution.
So yes, we should start with transforming the police. But it will be too little if that front end of the system — and thus of structural racism, antipathy to the impoverished, and systemic injustice — is all that we transform.
This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

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