January 30, 2017

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Suspect in Quebec Mosque Attack Quickly Depicted as a Moroccan Muslim. He’s a White Nationalist. (The Intercept)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer exploited the attack to justify President Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. “It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the President is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” Spicer said at this afternoon’s briefing when speaking of the Quebec City attack.

But these assertions are utterly false. The suspect is neither Moroccan nor Muslim. The Moroccan individual, Mohamed Belkhadir, was actually one of the worshippers at the mosque and called 911 to summon the police, and played no role whatsoever in the shooting.


Trump fires acting AG after she declines to defend travel ban (CNN.com)

President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night for “refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States,” the White House said.

“(Yates) has betrayed the Department of Justice,” the White House statement said.


Questions multiply over Bannon’s role in Trump administration (Washington Post)

Bannon has no job experience in foreign policy. After serving in the Navy for seven years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, his eclectic career took him to Goldman Sachs, to consulting to documentary filmmaking and then to the running of Breitbart News, a far-right website known for peddling conspiracy theories.

From his perch as chief of Breitbart News, which produced a satellite radio show, Bannon cemented his role as a champion of the alt-right, an anti-globalism movement that has attracted support from white supremacists and helped power Trump’s populist White House victory.

Trump sees Bannon as a generational peer who shares his anti-establishment instincts and confrontational style. According to several people familiar with their relationship, Bannon has cultivated a rapport with Trump over security issues in recent months, and impressed Trump with his grasp of policy in talks they have held together with top intelligence and military officials.


Starbucks to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide after Trump ban (Yahoo.com)

Message from Howard Schultz to Starbucks Partners: Living Our Values in Uncertain Times

We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question.

The promise prompted #boycottstarbucks to trend on Twitter, here is a sampling of some of the tweets:

On the anti-boycott front:

On the pro-boycott front, it was framed as stealing American jobs from Americans. Weirdly, mainly black people and veterans featured prominently in the narrative, presumably as representative of America’s version of refugees for those pro-boycott?


We started to see an interesting framework develop where the credit for what is happening in the US is shifting from Trump to Bannon. This may be a particularly effective tactic. Trump is nothing if not a narcissist. One can imagine that he will not tolerate anyone overshadowing his moment in the sun, and if the messaging in the media increasingly focuses on Bannon instead of Trump, perhaps he will distance himself from this dangerous demagogue, which can only be a good thing.

President Bannon? (NYT)

As his first week in office amply demonstrated, Mr. Trump has no grounding in national security decision making, no sophistication in governance and little apparent grasp of what it takes to lead a great diverse nation. He needs to hear from experienced officials, like General Dunford. But Mr. Bannon has positioned himself, along with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as the president’s most trusted aide, shutting out other voices that might offer alternative views. He is now reportedly eclipsing the national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

While Mr. Trump long ago embraced Mr. Bannon’s politics, he would be wise to reconsider allowing him to run his White House, particularly after the fiasco over the weekend of the risible Muslim ban. Mr. Bannon helped push that order through without consulting Mr. Trump’s own experts at the Department of Homeland Security or even seeking deliberation by the N.S.C. itself. The administration’s subsequent modifications, the courtroom reversals and the international furor have made the president look not bold and decisive but simply incompetent.


How Trump’s Immigration Order Is Affecting Higher Education (The Atlantic)

There will be wide-ranging effects on post-secondary education that are of particular interest to me, not the least of which will be on enrollment and retention rates. Students from affected countries mid-research who cannot pursue research or leave the country, students from other countries who cannot now journey to the US to present research at conferences, professors who are now limited from travel either into or out of the US. This has cast a dark shadow, indeed.


Tech companies to meet on legal challenge to Trump immigration order (Reuters)

A group of technology companies plans to meet on Tuesday to discuss filing an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging U.S. President Donald Trump’s order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, said a spokesperson for a company organizing the gathering.

The meeting is being called together by GitHub, which makes software development tools.

Amicus, or friend of the court, briefs are filed by parties who are not litigants in a case but want to offer arguments or information to the judge.

Alphabet Inc’s Google, Airbnb Inc and Netflix Inc are among the companies invited, a separate person familiar with the situation said.

Representatives for Google and Netflix could not immediately be reached for comment. An Airbnb spokesman declined to comment.

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January 29, 2017

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UBC Statement in response to U.S. executive order

The University of British Columbia is deeply concerned about a new executive order signed by President Trump on Friday preventing individuals from seven countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days. We are especially concerned about the effect of the executive order on some UBC students, faculty and staff, as well as other scholars in Canada, the U.S., and around the world.

Therefore, I have established a task force, headed by Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President International pro tem Pam Ratner and including representatives from across the university and from both campuses, to determine what assistance the university can offer those affected.

The task force, with an initial budget of $250,000.00, will begin its work immediately.

We will also work closely with the provincial and federal governments, responsible agencies and community groups and other universities across Canada, through Universities Canada, to respond to this unfolding situation.

UBC strongly affirms that it will continue to welcome students, faculty and staff from around the world, including those seeking refuge from violence and hardship. Along with the other members of Universities Canada, we support Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent statement that Canada will continue to welcome those fleeing persecution, terror and war regardless of faith and affirming that diversity is our strength.

UBC’s academic strength and stature depends upon the freedom of our faculty, staff and students to travel abroad for purposes of scholarship and study and upon our ability to welcome the most talented individuals from around the world to our campuses. Actions that restrict this movement based on a person’s nationality or birthplace go against our values as a university.

We will continue to monitor developments and will keep the university community informed of the task force’s deliberations and actions.

In the meantime, students, faculty, staff and other members of the UBC community with concerns about the implications and effects of President Trump’s executive order should contact Adel el Zaim at 604-827-4140 or adel.elzaim@ubc.ca


Kaine likens Trump Remembrance Day statement to Holocaust denial

One could think it was an inelegant framing, an attempt to be inclusive of the myriad victim groups, but why give Trump the benefit of the doubt when the undoubted architect (Bannon) is well-positioned to utilize the favourite tactics of neo-nazis and deniers? The minimization and attempt to erase Jews from the narrative of their own destruction is a preferred tactic of the deniers. It was a whitewash, pure and simple. Otherwise, the statement would have acknowledged the driving force behind the genocide was the destruction of the Jews and then included a comprehensive acknowledgement, by naming, of the other groups targeted. Naming and acknowledging holds power. That the highest leader in the land doesn’t understand that, or willfully neglects it to court the worst subhuman impulses of the alt-right, is a scary thing indeed. Does he have a rudimentary level of intelligence? This should have been a no-brainer.

Kaine also linked the Trump administration’s break with precedent to Trump counselor Steve Bannon, the former publisher of Breitbart, a news site adopted by the so-called “alt-right”.

“I think all of these things are happening together,” Kaine said, “when you have the chief political adviser in the White House, Steve Bannon, who is connected with a news organisation that traffics in white supremacy and antisemitism, and they put out a Holocaust statement that omits any mention of Jews.”


Lyft will donate $1M to ACLU after Trump immigration ban (The Hill)

The ride-hailing company Lyft is pledging to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration ban.

In a letter emailed to customers early Sunday morning, Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green announced their decision to donate money to help “defend our constitution.”

The email condemned Trump’s executive order halting the Syrian refugee program and banning entry to all citizens of several Muslim-majority countries.

“Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft’s and our nation’s core values,” the co-founders wrote.

“We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.”

The million-dollar donation to the ACLU will be made over four years.


Meanwhile, as Uber violated the taxi work stoppage at JFK on Saturday night, a movement took  off to dump Uber accounts:


McCain, Graham: Trump order may become ‘self-inflicted wound’ in terrorism fight (The Hill)

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday said they fear President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration “will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”

“Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred,” the senators said in a joint statement, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”


China military official says war with US under Donald Trump ‘becoming practical reality’

War with the US under Donald Trump is “not just a slogan” and becoming a “practical reality”, a senior Chinese military official has said.

The remarks were published on the People’s Liberation Army website, apparently in response to the aggressive rhetoric towards China from America’s new administration.

They communicated a view from inside the Central Military Commission, which has overall authority of China’s armed forces.


Benjamin Wittes on the EO on Visas

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Outside JFK January 29, 2017 – copyright Craig Ruttle| @dpa

This post over at Lawfare is well worth a careful read.

Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence: Trump’s Horrifying Executive Order on Refugees and Visas

Benjamin Wittes writes:

You don’t target the wrong people in nutty ways when you’re rationally pursuing real security objectives.

When do you do these things? You do these things when you’re elevating the symbolic politics of bashing Islam over any actual security interest. You do them when you’ve made a deliberate decision to burden human lives to make a public point. In other words, this is not a document that will cause hardship and misery because of regrettable incidental impacts on people injured in the pursuit of a public good. It will cause hardship and misery for tens or hundreds of thousands of people because that is precisely what it is intended to do.

He continues:

I would wax triumphant about the mitigating effect of incompetence on this document, but alas, I can’t do it. The president’s powers in this area are vast, as I say, and while the incompetence is likely to buy the administration a world of hurt in court and in diplomacy in the short term, this order is still going take more than a few pounds of flesh out of a lot of innocent people.

Moreover, it’s a very dangerous thing to have a White House that can’t with the remotest pretense of competence and governance put together a major policy document on a crucial set of national security issues without inducing an avalanche of litigation and wide diplomatic fallout. If the incompetence mitigates the malevolence in this case, that’ll be a blessing. But given the nature of the federal immigration powers, the mitigation may be small and the blessing short-lived; the implications of having an executive this inept are not small and won’t be short-lived.

Shaping the Resistance

The scene at JFK as taxi drivers strike following Trump’s immigration ban (USA Today)

New York taxi drivers have their own response to President Donald Trump’s immigration ban: A strike.

As protests continue to break out across major U.S. airports Saturday night following President Trump’s immigration ban, taxi drivers at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport have gone on strike.

In postings to social networks Saturday the New York Taxi Workers Alliance announced that from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET there would be no pickups at JFK as a protest to the immigration ban that some are taking as a ban on Muslims.


Airbnb Is Offering Free Housing To Those Turned Away By Trump’s Refugee Ban (BuzzFeed)

This evening Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky posted a message on Facebook criticizing President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily halting the US refugee program. “Not allowing counties or refugees into America is not right, and we must stand with those whoa re affected,” Chesky wrote.

Chesky announced that Airbnb will provide free housing to refugees who have been turned away from US-bound flights, and are not in their “city/country of residence,” he said. Neither Chesky nor Airbnb responded to questions about the specifics of the program. An Airbnb spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the company “will leverage existing tools and will share details in the next few days.”


Lawyers Work Pro-Bono for Detainees

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University of Michigan Issues Letter of Support for International Students

Full text reproduced as a static link was unavailable at the time of posting:

Protecting the interests of our international community of scholars

For generations, the University of Michigan has been known throughout the world as a leading international community of scholars. U-M has admitted international students since the late 1840s, and our first foreign-born faculty member was hired in 1846. Our ability to attract the best students and faculty from around the globe enhances our teaching, learning, research and societal impact and is in part responsible for our standing as a great public research university.

Fostering an environment that promotes education and research at the highest levels is among my most important responsibilities as the University of Michigan’s president. The leadership of the university is committed to protecting the rights and opportunities currently available to all members of our academic community, and to do whatever is possible within the law to continue to identify, recruit, support and retain academic talent, at all levels, from around the world.

We are currently focused on potential changes to immigration laws, policies and practices that could affect the status and safety of U-M students and personnel, particularly international students and those who may be undocumented. This includes several programs and policies that affect international students and faculty. Additionally, we are working to understand the implications on our community of the “extreme vetting” executive order blocking immigration from certain countries.

Many of our efforts are in collaboration with major academic organizations including the Association of American Universities (AAU) and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). U-M is among more than 600 colleges and universities who have signed a letter supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Executive Order. Here on campus, we have established a working group to help us better understand the needs and concerns of international members of our campus community and to consider ideas for additional support.

The university also supports legislation known as the BRIDGE Act that would allow individuals in the U.S. who arrived as children to stay in the country for another three years without the threat of deportation, while Congress addresses changes to the immigration system. BRIDGE stands for Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy, and it was introduced with bipartisan congressional support.

More information on U-M’s support of undocumented students, as well as information on how you can contact your legislators if you wish to support BRIDGE, is available from Public Affairs. We will keep the U-M community informed by updating this page with any related developments, so I urge you to check it regularly.

The university’s actions related to immigration status are consistent with our long-standing positions on non-discrimination, privacy and public safety. Those are:

  • The University of Michigan welcomes and supports students without regard to their immigration status. We will continue to admit students in a manner consistent with our non-discrimination policy. Once students are admitted, the university is committed to fostering an environment in which each student can flourish.
  • The university complies with federal requirements associated with managing its international programs. Otherwise, the university does not share sensitive information like immigration status.
  • Campus police do not inquire about or record immigration status when performing their duties.
  • In accordance with federal law, the enforcement of immigration law rests with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. Campus police will not partner with federal, state, or other local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law except when required to do so by law.
  • The university maintains a strong commitment to the privacy of student records for all students, consistent with state and federal laws. We do not provide information on immigration status to anyone except when required by law.
  • The university offers in-state tuition to undocumented students who meet certain conditions.
  • The university offers confidential counseling services to all students.

Note: this post is an exact copy of the On the Agenda: Protecting the interests of our international community of scholars post made on the site of President Mark S. Schlissel January 28, 2017.

ACLU Victory

Judge Blocks Part of Trump’s Immigration Order

Judge Ann M. Donnelly of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama, ruled just before 9 p.m. that implementing Mr. Trump’s order by sending the travelers home could cause them “irreparable harm.”

Dozens of people waited outside of the courthouse chanting, “Set them free!” as lawyers made their case. When the crowd learned that Judge Donnelly had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, a rousing cheer went up in the crowd.

While none of the detainees will be sent back immediately, lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case expressed concern that all those at the airports would now be put in detention, pending a resolution of the case. Inviting the lawyers to return to court if the travelers were detained, Judge Donnelly said, “If someone is not being released, I guess I’ll just hear from you.”

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Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism (2008–2013) on Twitter – January 28, 2017 (compiled):

Just spoke to a former staffer of mine who was raised in Iran. Immigrated to Canada at 14, he ran as a Conservative for Parliament at 19. He is so Canadian he has a maple leaf tattoo. He despises the Iranian dictatorship & would be thrown in jail if he returned there. He has renounced Iranian citizenship, & is one of the most hawkish people I know on national security & integration. He is running a successful startup in the USA. As a result of yesterday’s Executive Order, he is now barred from entering USA, where he has created dozens of jobs. Yazidi refugees from Daesh’s genocide, US military officers of Iranian origin & countless others join him in being inadmissible to the US. Meanwhile, Wahabi militants from Saudi Arabia are unaffected by this EO. This is not about national security. It is a brutal, ham-fisted act of demagogic political theatre. Now we are hopelessly polarized between the false choice of open-border naïveté and xenophobia. The Government of Canada should immediately facilitate temporary residency for bona fide travellers stranded by the EO, e.g. by issuing ministerial instructions to visa officers for issuance of Temporary Residence Permits under Sec 25 of Immigration & Refugee Protection Act.