Omar, Tlaib Host News Conference on Travel Restrictions

Democratic U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan plan to host a news conference Monday afternoon on travel restrictions to Israel and Palestine, after they were denied entry into Israel last week.
 
At the urging of President Donald Trump, Israel denied entry to the two Muslim representatives over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement. Tlaib and Omar, who had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian group, are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and support the Palestinian-led international movement boycotting Israel.

Before Israel’s decision, Trump tweeted it would be a “show of weakness” to allow the two representatives in. Israel controls entry and exit to the West Bank, which it seized in the 1967 Mideast war along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – territories the Palestinians want for a future state.

Trump’s request to a foreign country to bar the entry of elected U.S. officials and Israel’s decision to do so were unprecedented and drew widespread criticism, including from many Israelis as well as staunch supporters of Israel in Congress. Critics said Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision was a reckless gamble and risked turning Israel into a partisan issue and threatened to undermine ties between the close allies.

Tlaib and Omar are known as supporters of “boycott, divestment and sanctions,” or BDS, a Palestinian-led global movement. Supporters say the movement is a nonviolent way of protesting Israel’s military rule over the occupied territories, but Israel says it aims to delegitimize the state and eventually wipe it off the map.

Last week, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Tlaib had requested and been granted permission to enter the West Bank to see her aging grandmother. Deri’s office released a letter that it said was from Tlaib, which promised to respect travel restrictions during her visit. But after the announcement, Tlaib tweeted she wouldn’t allow Israel to use her love for her grandmother to force her to “bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.”

The two congresswomen are part of the “squad” of liberal newcomers all women of color whom Trump has labeled as the face of the Democratic Party as he runs for re-election. He subjected them to a series of racist tweets last month in which he called on them to “go back” to their “broken” countries. They are U.S. citizens – Tlaib was born in the U.S. and Omar became a citizen after moving to the United States as a refugee from war-torn Somalia.

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After Amash Dumped Trump, His District May Do Same to Him

Eirran Betka-Pope was on her lunch break when she spotted hundreds of Donald Trump supporters protesting outside the office of Rep. Justin Amash, the first Republican on Capitol Hill to say Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against the president.

The protesters, who stood on the sidewalk with “Squash Amash” signs, saw his comments as the ultimate betrayal of a president they adore. But for Betka-Pope, a Trump critic, Amash’s actions were commendable — and worthy of a counterprotest. The 32-year-old from Grand Rapids, who works in theater and sketch comedy, put on a Trump mask she happened to have in her car and joined the crowd on the sidewalk. She held up a piece of paper that read “I suck.”

For the next half-hour, Betka-Pope stood silently as some people insulted her. A few passing drivers honked in support. More than one person flashed a middle finger.

Betka-Pope happily took the abuse for the congressman. But the one thing the Democrat says she won’t do to show her appreciation for Amash is vote for him.

“There are other candidates more aligned with my values,” she said.

Amash’s is another cautionary tale for GOP lawmakers who consider opposing Trump, whose job approval rating among Republicans has hovered around 90% for the past year, according to Gallup. Those who stand against him quickly find it is a lonely place to be and may spell the end of their political career. In the era of tribal politics, the worst thing to be may be a politician without a tribe.

The biggest winners to come out of Amash’s big stand may be Democrats. Amash ultimately left the GOP and is running for his seat as an independent. He is flirting with running for president as a Libertarian, a threat that could wound Trump one more time. More than 200,000 Michigan voters supported a third-party candidate in 2016, when Trump won the state by just over 10,000 votes.

If Amash goes that route, he could help a Democrat win, just as he could if he stays in the race for the Grand Rapids-area House race. His exodus from the GOP has set up a three-way race that could divide right-leaning voters and help the Democratic nominee win what was once a GOP stronghold. Democrats now see it as one of their best chances to pick up a House seat next year.

“I think this was a district everybody was eyeing when we thought we’d be running against one Republican,” said Brian Stryker, a Democratic pollster who’s working for Hillary Scholten, a Democrat seeking the nomination. “It’s better to have two Republicans on the ballot.”

Once a bedrock of Republicanism in the state, Kent County has become more Democratic as Grand Rapids and its suburbs have grown diverse and better educated in recent years, thanks to growth in several universities and the medical sector. The boyhood home of Gerald Ford and hometown of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos now looks a lot like the politically divided suburban districts Democrats flipped in 2018 to win control of the House.

Democrats and Republicans vying for the seat are both raising money easily, with two Democrats on pace to surpass Amash and one Republican already doing so. In a cruel twist for the congressman, Democrats say they’re poised to hammer Amash for the times he voted with his former party, such as his support for a House bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Amash, the son of Arab Christian immigrants from Palestine and Syria, has always charted his own path. As a young state lawmaker he earned the nickname “Mr. No,” holding a hard line against government spending and what he viewed as overreach. He came to Congress in 2010 with the class of small government, tea party Republicans. He quickly stood out as an ideological purist, even in a class of professed purists.

His willingness to buck GOP leaders earned him his first primary challenge in 2014 from a Republican businessman with establishment backing angry that Amash voted against a GOP budget that included a business tax cut. But Amash survived by digging in, holding regular town halls and explaining every vote he took on his Facebook page.

He went on to win the general election by 20 percentage points. Amash won easily again in 2016, even as he criticized Trump for caring more about accumulating power than following the constitution.

Since then Trump appears to have only firmed up support with Republican voters, while more Democrats moved in. Amash’s independence looked more like a liability than an asset.

Anna Timmer, a former Amash supporter who volunteered for his first congressional campaign in 2010, said voters like herself were willing to overlook his opposition to Trump then because many Republicans were unsure about him as well.

“People didn’t know what they were going to get with Trump,” Timmer said. But by 2018 they knew what they were getting — and they liked it, she said. On Amash, she said: “I think he saw the writing on the wall.”

Amash won re-election last year by 11 percentage points — half the margin he had two years earlier and one of his closest races since taking office. Before the year ended, several conservatives and Trump loyalists started talking about mounting primary challenge in 2020.

Amash laid out his position on impeachment in May with a series of tweets , saying special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Trump’s conduct during and after the 2016 presidential election includes “multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice.” The politically powerful DeVos family said it would no longer give him money. GOP state Rep. Jim Lower announced his candidacy two days later, and raised $50,000 in roughly 48 hours.

Amash announced he was leaving the Republican party on July 4, writing in a Washington Post op-ed that “modern politics is trapped in a partisan death spiral.”

Trump responded by calling Amash “one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress.”

Since making his decision, the 39-year-old congressman has been difficult to pin down on his future. His office and campaign declined to make him available for an interview. Speaking to a reporter from Reason magazine at a Libertarian Party convention last month, Amash said he’s still weighing whether he should run for Congress or for the White House as a Libertarian.

“If I feel I can be effective on the national stage, spreading the message of liberty and the message of respect and love then that’s what I’ll do,” he said.

Asked by the Detroit News if he could play a spoiler for Trump in Michigan next year, Amash dismissed the idea.

“Who knows?” he said. “Maybe he’d deny me Michigan.”

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Warren, Sanders Get Personal with Young, Black Christians

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren framed their Democratic presidential bids in personal, faith-based terms Saturday before black millennial Christians who could help determine which candidate becomes the leading progressive alternative to former Vice President Joe Biden.

Sanders, the Vermont senator whose struggles with black voters helped cost him the 2016 nomination, told the Young Leaders Conference that his family history shapes his approach to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and the rise of white nationalism in the United States.

“I’m Jewish. My family came from Poland. My father’s whole family was wiped out by Hitler and his white nationalism,” Sanders said at the forum led by the Black Church PAC, a political action committee formed by prominent black pastors.

“We will go to war against white nationalism and racism in every aspect of our lives,” Sanders said, promising to use the “bully pulpit” to unite instead of divide. 

Warren, a Massachusetts senator and United Methodist, quoted her favorite biblical passage, which features Jesus instructing his followers to provide for others, including the “least of these my brethren.”

“That’s about two things,” Warren said. “Every single one of us has the Lord within us. …. Secondly, the Lord does not call on us to sit back. The Lord does not just call on us to have a good heart. The Lord calls on us to act.”

Sanders and Warren are looking for ways to narrow the gap with Biden, who remains atop primary polls partly because of his standing with older black voters. Polls suggest that younger black voters, however, are far more divided in their support among the many Democratic candidates.

The senators, both of whom are white, connected their biblical interpretations to their ideas about everything from economic regulation and taxation to criminal justice and health care.

“This is a righteous fight,” Warren said, who noted that she’s taught “fifth-grade Sunday School.”

Sanders, while not quoting Scripture as did Warren, declared that “the Bible, if it is about anything, is about justice.” His campaign, he said, is “not just defeating the most dangerous president in modern American history. We are about transforming this nation to make it work for all of us.”

Warren and Sanders received warm welcomes, with notable enthusiasm for their proposals to overhaul a criminal justice system both derided as institutionally racist and to eliminate student loan debt that disproportionately affects nonwhites. 

“They obviously tailored their message in a way that would resonate with this audience,” said Chanelle Reynolds, a 29-year-old marketing specialist from Washington, D.C. “But that means they spoke to issues and concerns that we care about.”

Reynolds described her generation of black voters – churchgoing or not – as more engaged than in the past, but cautious about choosing among candidates months before the voting begins. “I’m going to take my time,” she said, adding that “the last election, with Trump, shook us up, and we’re not going to let this one go by.” 

Indeed, the youngest generation of voters typically doesn’t shape presidential primary politics, for Democrats or Republicans. 

Impact of black voters

Black voters collectively have driven the outcome of the past two competitive Democratic nominating fights. But Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 built their early delegate leads largely on the strength of older black voters in Southern states with significant African American populations. 

Those states again feature prominently in the opening months of Democrats’ 2020 primary calendar, giving black millennials in metro areas such as Atlanta, along with Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina, a chance to wield their influence early in the process. 

Beyond the primaries, the eventual Democratic nominee will need younger black voters to flip critical states that helped elect Trump: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. 

“Anybody who’s not talking to every community, particularly within the African American community, you’re running a fool’s race,” said the Rev. Leah Daughtry, a pastor from Washington, D.C., and member of the Democratic National Committee, who co-moderated the Black Church PAC forum.

Three other 2020 candidates – Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, former Obama housing chief Julian Castro and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana – attended the conference on Friday. Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris are the most prominent black candidates in the 2020 race.

Mike McBride, a pastor who was Daughtry’s fellow moderator, stressed that the black church and the black community as a whole are not monolithic. Democrats, he said, must reach beyond the traditional Sunday services in places such as South Carolina, the first primary state with a sizable black population. 

“We need candidates to show up on our turf, not always asking us to show up on their turf,” McBride said in an interview. 

Daughtry said all Democratic candidates were invited, and she noted the absence of other leading candidates, including Biden, who is attending campaign fundraisers in the Northeast this weekend.

“He missed an opportunity,” Daughtry said, to “make his case” to younger voters “who don’t know him like older folks do.”

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Sanders, Warren Among 2020 Candidates to Address Native Americans

For the first time in more than a decade, Native Americans have the opportunity to question presidential candidates on issues of importance to Indian Country.

“This is our chance to tell candidates that they can earn our votes,” said organizer O.J. Semans, co-executive director of the national Native American voting rights organization Four Directions.

FILE – O.J. Semans, of Rosebud, S.D., executive director of the voting advocacy group Four Directions, At a South Dakota Election Board hearing, July 31, 2013.

Nine presidential hopefuls, Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development Julian Castro, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Montana Gov., Democrat Steve Bullock, Navajo pastor Mark Charles and author Marianne Williamson say they will participate in the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum.

The two-day event opens Monday in Sioux City, Iowa. Organizers say invitations were extended to candidates from all major political parties, although so far only these nine candidates hoping to unseat President Donald Trump in the 2020 election have confirmed their attendance. The organizers also say talks are continuing with several other campaigns.

Mark Trahant, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and editor of Indian Country Today, will moderate a series of panels, giving tribal leaders and Native American youth a chance to air concerns and ask candidates questions on matters of particular importance to Native voters. 

‘We are here’

Semans expressed delight that many major news organizations will be covering the event.

“For two days, all of the United States is going to know we’re here,” Semans said. “We didn’t get wiped out, we are not extinct, and we have a political voice in which issues that until now have been set on the back burner are now going to be able to be discussed.”

Four Directions co-founder O.J. Semans, right, and Marcella LeBeau, whose ancestor died at Wounded Knee, June 25, 2019,

Of the hundreds of issues of importance to Native American voters, panelists will focus on two in particular, said Semans:

The Remove the Stain Act, which Washington Rep. Denny Heck introduced in the House in June as H.R. 3467. If enacted, the bill would rescind the 20 Medals of Honor awarded to members of the 7th Cavalry who on December 29, 1890, murdered nearly 150 Lakota in the Wounded Knee Massacre. The Medal of Honor is America’s highest military honor, given out to members of the armed services who demonstrate outstanding bravery and valor.

“Our second priority issue for the forum is missing and murdered indigenous women and children,” said Semans. “Women and children are sacred to our societies, and in order for us to maintain our societies and cultures, we must do what we were taught, which is to protect women and children, who we are losing in outrageous numbers.”

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Native women are 10 times as likely to be murdered as the national average, falling victim to domestic or drug-related violence, sexual assault or sex trafficking.

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center has called on lawmakers to expand tribal jurisdiction over cases of missing and murdered women and children; allocate more resources for victim services; improve data collection and expand tribal access to federal criminal databases, among other measures.

Earth Feather Sovereign, left, of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, playing drums and signing in the Capitol Rotunda after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Olympia, Wash.

“Actually, underfunding is the fundamental to all these issues,” said Semans. “We wouldn’t have to be discussing funding for our transportation or infrastructure, we wouldn’t have to have discussions on housing and health care and law enforcement if the federal government fully honored the treaties.”

In a related development, Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced Friday she will work with New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) on legislative proposals addressing chronic federal underfunding of tribes, as well as barriers to tribal sovereignty.

The federal government has a responsibility to write a new chapter in the story of its government-to-government relationship with tribal nations. Read my and @SenWarren‘s OP-ED in @IndianCountry: https://t.co/6dmxGrzswm

— Rep. Deb Haaland (@RepDebHaaland) August 16, 2019

The last time Native Americans had a chance to speak directly to presidential candidates was in August 2007 at the “Prez on the Rez” forum on the Morongo Reservation in California. Only three candidates, all Democrats for the 2008 race, participated. Then-New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel took part.

This week’s forum is named for civil rights leader Frank LaMere, a citizen of the Winnebago tribe in Nebraska. He died in June.

Co-sponsors include the Native Organizers Alliance, the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund.

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Omar Rejects Netanyahu’s Claims About Itinerary

U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar has rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertions that she and fellow lawmaker Rashida Tlaib had no intention of meeting with Israeli officials before Netanyahu barred them from visiting Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank next week.

Omar posted her Israeli itinerary on Twitter Friday, which included meeting with Jewish and Arab members of Israel’s parliament and Israeli security officials.

Let’s be clear: the goal of our trip was to witness firsthand what is happening on the ground in Palestine and hear from stakeholders —our job as Members of Congress.

But since we were unable to fulfill our role as legislators, I am sharing what we would have seen. (THREAD)

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) August 16, 2019

Israeli military veterans had planned to give the lawmakers a tour of Hebron where “settlement expansion has resulted in a two-tiered city, with Palestinians under military occupation forced to walk on the opposite side of the street from Israelis.” She said Israeli military veterans would have conducted the tour and talked about “their experiences with the occupation.”

The U.S. lawmaker said her delegation had also scheduled a briefing on the Bedouin community in East Jerusalem, while the United Nations was set to deliver a briefing on the effects of humanitarian aid cuts on Palestinians.

A video conference with Gazan youth was planned. Omar noted that Israeli officials do not allow members of Congress to visit Gaza.

Tlaib decides not to go

Earlier Friday, Tlaib had reversed her decision to travel to the West Bank, just hours after the Israeli Interior Ministry said it would allow the U.S. lawmaker to see her Palestinian grandmother on “humanitarian grounds.”

In a Tweet Friday morning, Tlaib said, “It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.”

Tlaib had written a letter to the Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Thursday, requesting admittance to see her grandmother, saying it could be the last opportunity to see her. In the letter, Tlaib said she would “respect any restrictions and not promote boycotts against Israel.”

Deri said in a tweet he had approved Tlaib’s request as a gesture of goodwill “but it was just a provocative request, aimed at bashing the state of Israel. Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother.”

Congresswomen denied entry

Israel had said Thursday it would deny both Tlaib and Omar entry, setting off a new round of controversy in the debate over U.S. support for its ally in the Middle East.

The two Democratic lawmakers have been vocal critics of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians. They were set to visit Israel and several cities in the West Bank.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told public broadcaster Kan on Thursday, “We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel. In principle, this is a very justified decision.”

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted shortly before Thursday’s announcement, writing, “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”

It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2019

Later in the day, Trump defended the Israeli decision. “I can’t imagine why Israel would let them in,” he said, repeating that the two lawmakers were “very anti-Jewish and very anti Israel.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president’s comments “are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President.” Pelosi reaffirmed her love of Israel but said the move to deny entry to Omar and Tlaib “is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great state of Israel.”

Omar and Tlaib’s frequent criticism of Israel has drawn accusations of anti-Semitism for months. Omar was condemned by the congressional leadership in her own party for invoking an offensive trope about Jews and money in social media postings earlier this year.

Omar said the Israeli government’s ban on her entry into the country prevented her from fulfilling her duties as a member of the U.S. Congress.

Tlaib tweeted a photograph of her Palestinian grandmother, who she said “deserves to live in peace & with human dignity.”

This woman right here is my sity. She deserves to live in peace & with human dignity. I am who I am because of her. The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. Congresswoman, is a sign of weakness b/c the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening. pic.twitter.com/GGcFLiH9N3

— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 15, 2019

Omar and the Palestinian-American Tlaib are supporters of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), a nonviolent movement that seeks to economically pressure Israel into ending its occupation of the West Bank, among other goals. Some advocates of BDS support a single-state solution that critics say would lead to the destruction of the Jewish state.

The freshman members of Congress have repeatedly presented a challenge for the House Democratic leadership, as their outspoken statements on U.S. policy in the Middle East have drawn Trump’s attention.

Omar and Tlaib were two of four House Democratic freshman members of color whom the president has said should “go back” to their home countries. Omar, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, is the only one of the four who was born outside the United States. The president’s supporters chanted, “Send her back” after Trump mentioned the congresswoman at a rally earlier this year. The president later said he did not like those chants.

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution in July condemning the BDS movement. Both Omar and Tlaib voted against that resolution.
 

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Trump Warns of Economic Downturn if He Loses Next Year

President Donald Trump is warning U.S. voters that the economy could crash if he is turned out of office next year. His warning came this week as he sought to reassure supporters in New Hampshire about the state of economy amid signs of a possible recession on the horizon, something analysts say could cripple his re-election hopes next year. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
 

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O’Rourke Visits Town Targeted by ‘Terrifying’ ICE Raids

Beto O’Rourke on Friday became the first Democratic presidential candidate to visit one of the Mississippi towns where federal immigration agents raided chicken processing plants and arrested nearly 700 people, kicking off a new phase of his campaign he says will focus on President Donald Trump’s damaging policies.

It was the former Texas congressman’s first campaign stop since he suspended his White House bid for nearly two weeks to stay in his hometown of El Paso, where a mass shooting killed 22 people Aug. 3. 

The gunman drove more than 600 miles to open fire near the U.S.-Mexico border after posting an anti-immigrant screed online. O’Rourke argues that Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric helped inspire the attack.

He still plans to visit Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, which kick off presidential primary voting, but has now vowed also to travel the country to highlight the stories of some of those people who, in his view, have been most hurt by Trump administration policies.

Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks in Spanish to Guatemalan immigrant Agusto Lopez Coronado in Canton, Miss., Aug. 16, 2019. Coronado initially declined to give his name to journalists after the immigration raids at the chicken plants.

Food for out-of-work migrants

That brought O’Rourke, a fluent Spanish-speaker, to Canton, home to a plant owned by Peco Foods Inc., which was among those raided Aug. 7. He met privately with several immigrants in a grocery store in a neighborhood where many people come from Honduras and Guatemala. His campaign also distributed containers of eggs and bags of rice, cornmeal and black beans to immigrants who walked from a mobile home park where they live down the road from the chicken processing plant.

O’Rourke later told reporters that several immigrants said both they and their spouses work at the plant, one on day shift and one on night shift so someone is always home to take care of their children because their pay is too low to afford child care.

Asked why he thinks the workplace raids took place in Mississippi, O’Rourke said: “I don’t know, other than to strike terror into the heart of this community.”

“And if that were the goal, and I think it is from Donald Trump — we’re seeing a tenfold increase in these kinds of ICE raids in his administration versus the last administration — if that is his goal, he’s getting it done,” he said. “He’s terrifying this community, people who have done nothing to anybody else, pose no threat to America. So, there’s no other reason to raid this community, other than to terrify this community.”

Largest raids of Trump term

Last week’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids at seven plants in six Mississippi communities were the largest conducted at workplaces during Trump’s presidency, with 680 people arrested for being in the country illegally. Images of children weeping as they pleaded for their parents to be released became national news and shook many of the affected communities to the core, touching people beyond those who worked in the poultry industry.

Still, after Trump took office, then-acting Director Thomas Homan said ICE would try to increase all worksite enforcement actions by 400%, part of a larger effort to enforce immigration law.

Giwada “Gi Gi” Williams of Canton, Miss., waits to see Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, Aug. 16, 2019, in Canton, Miss. Williams said she is concerned about people who were caught up in immigration raids at Mississippi chicken plants.

Worried workers, worried town

Agusto Lopez Coronado, 42, is from Honduras and said he has lived in the United States for 19 years, working for 10 of those years at the chicken processing plant. He said his wife, who is also from Honduras and had worked at the plant for five years, was arrested during the raid and is now jailed in Louisiana.

“We need permission to work so we won’t be afraid,” Coronado said in Spanish. “We’ve got kids who are growing up and, if we’re not going to work, how are we going to live?”

Canton resident Giwada “Gi Gi” Williams, said Friday she worries about the immigrants and their families.

“Who wants to work at the stinking chicken plants? These people — they get up and go to work,” Williams said. “And then this happens to them?”

O’Rourke policy statement

Also, Friday, O’Rourke released a plan to combat “hate, white nationalism and gun violence” that would institute a voluntary program under which the federal government would buy handguns from owners and a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons. He said that, as president, he’d declare violence associated with white supremacists as organized crime and create domestic terrorism offices within the FBI and other federal agencies to help combat it.

O’Rourke’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, noted that the campaign halted virtually all fundraising while O’Rourke was in El Paso out of respect for the shooting victims, saying in an email to supporters, “We’ve just suffered several of our lowest fundraising days of the campaign.”

“Moving forward, we’re going to be working with a fire under us,” O’Malley Dillon wrote. “We are going to be as clear and as strong as possible in drawing our contrasts with Donald Trump.”

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‘A Heavy Lift’: Religious Black Voters Weigh Buttigieg’s Bid

Joe Darby, a South Carolina pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, pondered a sensitive question that he knew was on the mind of his congregation. Would black voters be able to reconcile their conservative religious doctrine with voting for a gay candidate for president?

“It’s a heavy lift in the black church,” says Darby, who is also a Charleston-area NAACP leader. “Just as nobody who is racist likes to say, ‘I’m a racist,’ nobody who is homophobic in the black community likes to say, ‘I’m homophobic.'”

In South Carolina, the first state with a predominantly African American electorate, part of the dialogue focuses on a conflict between a cultural openness for same-sex marriage and the deeply held religious convictions that could impede support for the 2020 race’s only gay candidate — Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

The historically diverse field of Democratic presidential hopefuls is overflowing with options. But it is also forcing conversations about the roles — if any — that gender, race and, for the first time, sexuality should play in voters’ decisions.

Black voters comprise more than 60% of South Carolina’s Democratic electorate. But an overwhelming majority of African Americans — 79%, according to a recent Pew study — also identify as Christians, which some church leaders note can contribute to internal strife between their religious convictions and how they feel about a gay candidate, if they think doctrine says it’s wrong.

“I’m interested to see how Buttigieg is going to play,” said Darby, saying that the mayor “does the best job of articulating his faith of any of the candidates” but is inherently running up against barriers with those to whom he’s still an unknown. “The most damning comment was at a clergy breakfast, and when his name was brought up another guy said, ‘Yeah, that’s the guy who kissed his husband on TV.'”

Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, has not traveled to South Carolina to campaign. Chris Meagher, Buttigieg’s spokesman, said voters are still getting acquainted with the mayor, who this month became the first 2020 Democratic candidate to hire a faith outreach director.

“Pete is focused on meeting folks where they are,” Meagher said. “It just means quantity of time and spending time with folks and making sure that he’s listening to their concerns and that they’re hearing his plans and his policies and his values.”

Besides his overt expressions of his faith, Buttigieg also has offered a broad policy agenda for African Americans and has been outspoken on the issue of race. But he consistently polls in the low single digits among black voters.

Buttigieg, 37, has acknowledged he has ground to make up in terms of making his case to African American voters in South Carolina, where he also attended a Black Economic Alliance forum this summer. On Friday, he’ll sit down for an interview with black church leaders at an Atlanta event expected to attract 5,000 black millennials. This weekend, he’ll return to South Carolina, planning a series of town halls and attending an AME church service.

With six months until South Carolina’s vote, Buttigieg, like many others in the field, is still working to introduce himself to the electorate. But in some corners of South Carolina’s faith community, according to Darby, first impressions may have already hampered Buttigieg’s on-the-ground debut efforts.

Jon Black, an AME pastor along South Carolina’s coast in Bluffton, said that he presumes the church will ultimately move past any divisions over homosexuality and same-sex marriage, as it did previously with divorce.

“If we can get in a time machine and go down the road 25 years, I think the issue would be resolved,” Black said. “It may take us 25 years to make that turn, but we’ve always supported the disinherited, disenfranchised. … We’ve got to stand with those people who may be the most threatened.”

The church as a whole may not make that change anytime soon, but Black said he didn’t feel that the issue of Buttigieg’s sexuality would override his support if his policy positions prove strong.

“If it gets down to two or three candidates and one happens to be gay, I don’t think that would be a problem for black communities,” Black said.

The attempt to square a willingness to hear all candidates out with a faith-based attitude toward issues of homosexuality is surfacing in conversations in some church communities. Seated in a basement fellowship hall, as Wednesday night services boomed in the sanctuary above, several members of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, mulled over the intersection of sexuality and what many of them agreed should be 2020’s top imperative.

In some circles of faith, LaVelle Pitts said, relying on biblical crutches like the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as a condemnation of homosexuality can be convenient, but it’s not the full story.

“Am I my brother’s keeper? Of course I am,” Pitts, 52, said. “He’s still a person. If his politics are on target, I have no problem voting for him. … If you judge him, you may find yourself in that same situation.”

“You have to completely love them more than you love yourself,” agreed Vanessa Young, a 24-year-old small-business owner. “I think that we just need to love them a little.”

Even when faith and sexuality seem in conflict, said Feliccia Smith, the prevailing sentiment should fall on the side of love and wanting someone to feel whole.

“Regardless of the topic, the church is supposed to be a helping and a healing voice,” said Smith, who declined to give her age. “You don’t accept the sin, but you love the person. … And at the end of the day, God’s word is God’s word.”

Nodding, Young agreed, saying she wouldn’t feel right passing judgment on Buttigieg solely based on his sexuality: “I definitely can’t place judgment on him because I’ve got to go to Judgment Day myself.”

For many, underlying any skepticism of Buttigieg’s personal life, though, remains a theme that has become a constant refrain among Democrats in this early voting state: If he can oust the current White House occupant, little else matters.

“If he’s got good politics, his personal life has nothing to do with what his job will be,” Pitts said. “We have got to have somebody who’s going to beat Trump.”

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In New Twist, Congresswoman Tlaib Decides Not to Visit Family in West Bank

U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib has reversed her decision to travel to the West Bank, just hours after the Israeli Interior Ministry said it would allow the U.S. lawmaker to see her Palestinian grandmother on “humanitarian grounds.”
 
In a Tweet Friday morning, Tlaib said, “It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in–fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.” Tlaib had written a letter to the Israeli interior minister (Aryeh Deri) Thursday, requesting admittance to see her grandmother, saying it could be the last opportunity to see her. In the letter, Tlaib said she would “respect any restrictions and not promote boycotts against Israel.”

Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in–fighting against racism, oppression & injustice. https://t.co/z5t5j3qk4H

— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 16, 2019

Israeli Interior Minister Deri said in a tweet he had approved Tlaib’s request as a gesture of goodwill “but it was just a provocative request, aimed at bashing the State of Israel. Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother.”
 
Israel said Thursday it would deny Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar entry, setting off a new round of controversy in the debate over U.S. support for its ally in the Middle East.
 
Omar was not mentioned in Israel’s announcement.
 


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The two Democratic lawmakers have been vocal critics of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians. They were set to visit Israel and several cities in the West Bank.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told public broadcaster Kan on Thursday, “We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel. In principle, this is a very justified decision.”
 
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted shortly before Thursday’s announcement, writing, “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”

It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2019

Later in the day, Trump defended the Israeli decision. “I can’t imagine why Israel would let them in,” he said, repeating that the two lawmakers were “very anti Jewish and very anti Israel.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president’s comments “are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President.” Pelosi reaffirmed her love of Israel but said the move to deny entry to Omar and Tlaib “is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great state of Israel.”

Omar and Tlaib’s frequent criticism of Israel has drawn accusations of anti-Semitism for months. Omar was condemned by the congressional leadership in her own party for invoking an offensive trope about Jews and money in social media postings earlier this year.

Omar said the Israeli government’s ban on her entry into the country prevented her from fulfilling her duties as a member of the U.S. Congress.

Tlaib tweeted a photograph of her Palestinian grandmother, who she said “deserves to live in peace & with human dignity.”

This woman right here is my sity. She deserves to live in peace & with human dignity. I am who I am because of her. The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. Congresswoman, is a sign of weakness b/c the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening. pic.twitter.com/GGcFLiH9N3

— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 15, 2019

Omar and the Palestinian-American Tlaib are supporters of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), a nonviolent movement that seeks to economically pressure Israel into ending its occupation of the West Bank, among other goals. Some advocates of BDS support a single-state solution that critics say would lead to the destruction of the Jewish state.

The freshman members of Congress have repeatedly presented a challenge for the House Democratic leadership, as their outspoken statements on U.S. policy in the Middle East have drawn Trump’s attention.
 
Omar and Tlaib were two of four House Democratic freshman members of color whom the president has said should “go back” to their home countries. Omar — a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia — is the only one of the four who was born outside the United States. The president’s supporters chanted, “Send her back” after Trump mentioned the congresswoman at a rally earlier this year. The president later said he did not like those chants.
 
The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution in July condemning the BDS movement. Both Omar and Tlaib voted against that resolution.

 

This story was updated at 11:38 am on August 16

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Trump Under Fire Over Move to Weaken Endangered Animals Law

The Trump administration is under renewed fire from environmentalists following its move earlier this week to weaken the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, more than two dozen states and cities as well as a coalition of health and environmental groups are suing the administration over its rollback of the Clean Power Plan, one of President Barack Obama’s signature regulations to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has more.

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