They used the horses' reins, not whips, so problem solved.
US Border Patrol agents on horseback were photographed last weekend whipping and grabbing Haitian migrants and generally calling to mind slave patrols, leading to an outcry by the ACLU and calls for the agents to be fired, and while we're at it how about dismantling the Department of Homeland Security and replacing it with something at least 20 percent less fascist. Yesterday at her daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the photos and video "horrific" and said the Border Patrol agents have been placed on desk duty while an investigation of their "brutal and inappropriate measures" goes forward. Here, have some video:
Noting that the investigation is expected to be completed by next week, Psaki said the agents
were placed on administrative leave and will not be interacting with any migrants. So as it relates to those photos and that horrific video, we're not going to stand for that kind of inhumane treatment, and obviously we want this investigation to be completed rapidly.
In what's sure to become the dominant rightwing talking point about the incident, Fox News made a point of explaining several times that the Border Patrol agents were not carrying "whips," but were instead holding their horses' "long reins," so shame on any "Democrats and media outlets" that "falsely described the agents' long reins, which they use to control their horses, as 'whips.'"
Fox repeated the "long reins" bit in the paragraph after that, so get ready for the distinction to be just about all anyone on the right ever wants to talk about, just as any discussion of a mass shooting will inevitably go haring off into a rant about how it wasn't an "automatic" rifle, it was a "semiautomatic" rifle.
We should note, however, that Fox did not come up with a new verb to describe how the agents were using those long reins against the migrants.
Condemnation has also been growing of the Biden administration's decision to deport many of the migrants to Haiti, even though many of them had not lived on the island for years, and had instead come to the US border from South and Central America. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday called the agents' behavior "unacceptable," but also called on Biden to stop using the same "hateful and xenophobic" Trump pandemic policy, Title 42, as an excuse to deport adults seeking asylum at the border. On the Senate floor, Schumer said
I'm told there are four flights scheduled to deport these asylum-seekers back to a country that cannot receive them. Such a decision defies common sense. It also defies common decency and what America is all about.
In addition, this morning the administration's Special Envoy for Haiti, Ambassador Daniel Foote, resigned in protest over the deportations, saying in his resignation letter that he would not be a party to the US's "inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees." Here's his letter:
It's a pretty strong statement of moral outrage, noting that while Haiti is considered so dangerous for Americans that diplomats are "confined to secure compounds" to keep them safe from armed gangs,
The people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to the terror, kidnappings, robberies and massacres of armed gangs and suffering under a corrupt government with gang alliances, simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy. The collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services, and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime. Surging migration to our borders will only grow as we add to Haiti's unacceptable misery.
We need to do better. We really do.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 or $10 a month.
Everybody ready for some GODDAMN SOCIALISM.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took a ride recently with a New York cabbie and New York State Assemblymember Zohran K. Mamdani to bring attention to the cab drivers' fight for debt relief. It's all part of the fallout from the collapse of New York City's taxi medallion system, due to the rise of Uber and Lyft, and also to the pandemic, which severely depressed the demand for cabs. It's a huge debt crisis, which we'll explain further in a moment, but for starters, here's the video, courtesy of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the nonprofit union for city cab drivers.
WATCH: I rode with @NYTWA cabbie Richard Chow and ally to taxi workers @ZohranKMamdani to highlight the horrific me… https://t.co/E2k2JWVUsJ— Chuck Schumer (@Chuck Schumer) 1632332847.0
Now, as The Intercept's Ryan Grim noted on Twitter, Mamdani, the state Assembly member Schumer's riding around with there, won the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America when he ran, so we can only assume that Chuck Schumer is now on board with Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism of some sort. We wholly approve of this development.
So let's back up a little here: What is all this about, and is assigning me a story about New York City cabbies just another of Yr Editrix's fiendish plots to make me look like a rube from Boise goddamned Idaho who doesn't know a damn thing about the hustle and bustle of la-di-da NYC, with its fancy pigeons and rent control and subway pizza rats? Probably! She likes to see me struggle like Victoria Jackson on SNL trying to report on the Contras and the Sandinistas from Managua, Nicaragua.
Happily, there's an internet, so I can look stuff up, like this story from Jalopnik's Raphael Orlove, who explains in brief how the mess developed, who got screwed, and how New York's government appears to be fucking up the relief plan.
Here in New York, you don't just paint your car yellow and start picking people up off the street. You need a special taxi medallion for your car to be a taxi and pick up hails, and the city limits the number of medallions out there. As you can imagine, with limited supply and strong demand, the value of a medallion could rise. As Uber and Lyft have completely reshaped the taxi landscape here in the city, that value plummeted, and yellow cab drivers are now underwater, struggling to pay off loans on medallions now worth a fraction of what they started as.
For instance, as City & State New York says, the "value of a medallion went from $200,000 in 2002 to over $1 million in 2014, then crashed to less than $200,000 soon after." As it turns out, it wasn't just the arrival of Uber and Lyft that were at fault, but also a fair bit of financial fuckery by bad actors gaming the system, if you can believe that:
For years, taxi industry leaders and lending institutions engaged in deceptive or risky lending practices, artificially driving up the value of the medallions and pushing independent owner-drivers into bad loans.
The New York Times won a Pulitzer for its 2019 investigation into the schemes, too, revealing the ugly details of how immigrant drivers got steered into loans they couldn't afford and were then driven to financial ruin. (Does that narrative sound at all familiar to just about anyone who remembers the home mortgage financial crisis?) At the time of the story, more than 950 owners had filed for bankruptcy, and several had killed themselves.
And if financial scheming involving taxi medallions sounds familiar, that's related to some of the frauding Michael Cohen was charged with, too, although that tends to be overlooked because it had nothing to do with Donald Trump.
Worse, as the Times noted in a story this spring about the city's bailout plan,
During the bubble, government officials worsened the problems by exempting the industry from regulations. The city also chose to fill budget gaps by selling medallions and running ads promoting the permits as "better than the stock market."
The city profited from selling all those medallions, while many drivers were ruined. Hell of a way to run an industry! So when the city got a great big chunk of money from the American Rescue Plan, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a bailout plan: $65 million to help drivers. But there's a bigass problem. as Orlove explains, with terse headings, even:
What's The City's Plan?
Let drivers borrow $20,000 to pay their medallion debt, and they can borrow another $9,000 for other monthly payments.
What Does This Accomplish?
With some drivers hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, it doesn't accomplish a lot! All it does, basically, is funnel a bunch of money to big lenders without helping drivers.
The problem is that the $20K loans — even with zero interest — aren't likely to help drivers much, since it'll be up to the drivers to renegotiate their own debts, without any requirement that the lenders accept a deal that would be favorable to the drivers. As New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai explained to The Business of Business, drivers want the city to provide more direct relief instead:
Our proposal has been that the city set up a backstop—if the hedge fund or bank reduced the debt to $125,000, the City of New York would guarantee it, 100% of delinquency. The medallion owners are protected and the banks and hedge fund would be guaranteed $125,000, even if the debt is $300,000 for example. [...]
Even in the [worst] case scenario, our plan would end up costing the city $75 million over 20 years. Our plan is more fiscally sound and would be life-saving. Their plan costs more and does absolutely nothing, offers no relief.
Cab drivers have been protesting the city's inadequate debt relief plan at New York's City Hall this week, and that's why Chuck Schumer is riding around in a cab with a Democratic Socialist, you see. We're starting to like this leftier debt-relievey Schumer, yes we are! It seems like his imaginary couple friends, the Baileys, might have some kids with college debt now, and might even be moonlighting from their insurance jobs with an overpriced, underwater medallion on their cab.
And I'm fairly sure I got through the story without embarrassing myself like some sort of Idaho flyover rube. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to catch the BART to La Guardia.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 to $10 a month so we can be all sophistimacated and shit.
A U.S. law enforcement officer on horseback wielded what appeared to be a lariat, whipping it close to the face of a man wading in the Rio Grande carrying a plastic bag of food.
That is not a description of slave patrols from the 1800s. It was the lede of a story by Reuters on Sunday. And a reminder that, actually, all administrations treat poor immigrants worse than they would treat animals. (Except maybe Trump, who I can only assume murders puppies for fun in his free time.)
At least one officer of the federal government cosplaying a slave catcher used a whip against the migrants. One officer on horseback yelled, "This is why your country's shit, because you use your women for this." The people that Customs and Border Protection officers were attacking were returning to the US with supplies for a group of thousands of people who have been living under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. People living there say they are just trying not to starve to death.
Much like Susan Collins, the White House has expressed its concern.
The White House on Monday criticized the use of horse reins to threaten Haitian migrants after images circulated of a U.S. border guard on horseback charging at migrants near a riverside camp in Texas.
Border Patrol, on the other hand, is doubling down.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said the incident was being investigated to make sure there was not an "unacceptable" response by law enforcement. He said officers were operating in a difficult environment, trying to ensure the safety of the migrants while searching for potential smugglers.
And, despite photographic and video evidence to the contrary, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said at a news conference that the officers were whipping Hatians to "ensure control of the horse." That seems ... unlikely!
Let's back up
Around 12,000 Haitian migrants have been camped under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. The people who were whipped by CBP officers on horseback living out their slavecatcher fantasies had crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico and were attempting to bring back food and water.
Previously, the migrants had been allowed to cross to and from Mexico. On Sunday, they were met with violence. Now, they're being sent back to a country that has been ravaged by natural disasters and violence. As described by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA),
"The back-to-back disasters are exacerbating preexisting vulnerabilities. At the time of the disaster, Haiti is still reeling from the 7 July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and still facing an escalation in gang violence since June that has affected 1.5 million people, with at least 19,000 displaced in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince. The compounded effects of an ongoing political crisis, socio-economic challenges, food insecurity and gang violence continue to greatly worsen an already precarious humanitarian situation. Some 4.4 million people, or nearly 46 per cent of the population, face acute food insecurity, including 1.2 million who are in emergency levels ... and 3.2 million people at crisis levels[.] An estimated 217,000 children suffer from moderate-to-severe acute malnutrition."
Because of this, four months ago, DHS Secretary Mayorkas announced the US would be giving Temporary Protected Status to Haitians. TPS is a temporary immigration status that allows people from countries dealing with serious problems to legally remain in the country. DHS subsequently expanded and extended the program. Unfortunately, the Biden administration decided to only give TPS to Haitians who got to the country before July 29 — even after the August 14 earthquake.
Some 6,500 Haitian migrants and asylum seekers have already been taken into custody. On Sunday, the first flights landed in Port-au-Prince.
The people living under the bridge in Del Rio were not there because they wanted to be. They were waiting there, they thought, to be processed by US immigration officials. Many are seeking to claim asylum, a legal immigration status. Nevertheless, we're sending all of them back.
"It's completely unconscionable," Steven Forester, immigration policy coordinator at the US-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, told Al Jazeera. "There's no way Haiti can handle the people that are in Haiti now given the conditions there. It can't provide for these people."
To kick thousands of needy people out of our country as quickly as possible, the Biden administration is using Title 42 and a policy dreamed up by Stephen Miller that allows for "removals by the US government of persons who have recently been in a country where a communicable disease was present" — which would be every country in the world. If it weren't for this use of Title 42, the thousands of Haitians living under a bridge — and no, that's not optimal! — would have been processed like everyone else who crosses the border. Yes, some would have been held/deported. Others would have been allowed to enter the country and given resources and contact info for places like Catholic Charities.
The Biden administration is also fighting in court to keep this use of Title 42 in place. A district judge ordered the administration to halt these speedy deportations, but the DC Circuit stayed that order.
So much for a humane immigration policy.
Meanwhile, conditions in Haiti keep getting worse. After Moïse was assassinated, the US called for an immediate election. Now, we say "conditions do not yet exist for elections to occur in Haiti and that [the US government] supports Haitian solutions to the country's ongoing problems."
We have no problem sending thousands of people back to there, though!
And, regardless of what you think about Title 42, I think we can all agree (at least here on Wonkette) that Chuck Norris wannabes on horseback shouldn't run around representing our country by literally whipping people.
Or maybe that's just me.
Many thanks to CBP for the reminder that ICE is far from the only agency within the Department of Homeland Security that should be abolished. As far as I'm concerned, we should abolish DHS entirely.
Hear me out! The Department of Homeland Security didn't even exist until 2002, when it was created in the midst of post-9/11 anti-civil liberties fervor. The useful parts of the agency, like FEMA and the TSA, could easily be absorbed by other agencies — with many of them simply going back to the departments they were originally part of.
Secretary Mayorkas and CBP Chief Ortiz's defense of migrant-flogging are reminders that the current system is broken. People and agencies that reward abusive officers, arrest victims for reporting domestic violence, and attack people with lariats cannot be reformed. They need to be entirely dismantled. And whatever replaces them needs to be rebuilt from scratch.
Follow Jamie on Twitter.
A news roundup!
The US military mission in Afghanistan has ended, so right on cue, Republicans are calling for Joe Biden to tell them the real truth about how badly he did, because maybe that will help take some attention away from the January 6 commission. Insurrection supporter Tom Cotton and 26 other Senate Republicans have sent the White House a letter requesting a full accounting of how many Americans remain in Afghanistan following the military evacuation, Politico reports.
The letter asks for information on "the safety and well-being of American citizens, permanent residents, and allies who were left behind in Afghanistan." It also frets about the possibility that instead of evacuating Americans and Good Afghans, some very Bad Afghans may have made it onto the evacuation flights, including "Afghans with ties to terrorist organizations or serious, violent criminals."
That bit appears to be based on recent reporting by Defense One that one evacuee with possible ISIS ties was detained in Qatar, and as many as 100 evacuees have been flagged for further scrutiny. Not mentioned by the senators is the line in the Defense One story mentioning that "In most cases, those Afghans—many of whom have already been vetted through the special immigrant visa process—were cleared by follow-on screening." Gotta scare the hometown folks about refugees, after all! [Politico / Defense One]
Those Visas Didn't Turn Out To Be So Special
Also, a State Department briefer told reporters that the "majority" of Afghans who had applied for special immigrant visas had not made it out of the country, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The U.S. still doesn't have reliable data on who was evacuated, nor for what type of visas they may qualify, the official said, but initial assessments suggested most visa applicants didn't make it through the crush at the airport.
"I would say it's the majority of them," the official estimated. "Just based on anecdotal information about the populations we were able to support." [...]
"Everybody who lived it is haunted by the choices we had to make and by the people we were not able to help," the State Department official said.
That is not good to hear. [WSJ]
For a painful account of the frustrations involved in the SIV program, see David Rhode's New Yorker story of his own efforts to help the family of Tahir Luddin, an Afghan journalist who, along with Rhode and an Afghan driver, escaped Taliban captivity in Pakistan after Rhode was taken hostage in 2009. Luddin, now a US citizen, was able to get his five oldest kids to the US, but his wife and the rest of his kids remained stuck in Afghanistan, with endless paperwork delays. (They finally made it to Qatar during the recent evacuation.) [New Yorker]
The Journal also says that, of the fewer than 200 Americans still in Afghanistan most are likely in families where some members have US citizenship or green cards, while others don't have either.
"The reluctance of mixed-status families seems to register with [the U.S. government] as not wanting to leave," said Morwari Zafar, an Afghan-American anthropologist who founded The Sentient Group, a development consulting firm. "The access afforded to them by their status competes with their social and personal obligation to stay with loved ones."
Has Tom Cotton been briefed?
The State Department and White House say they're still working to bring out as many Afghans and remaining Americans as possible. [WSJ]
Be Sure Your Tear Ducts Are In The Locked, Upright Position
You would probably like some good news after that, so please read this ABC News story about the civilian airliner crews who were sent as part of the US airlift to fly Afghan refugees from Qatar to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Here's United Airlines flight attendant Hope Williams:
"It was a relief to see the children once they made it onto the plane, even at a young age. I think they understood that they were safe." [...]
"Immediately everyone said, where are we going? We're going to Germany. Where are we going after that? The United States of America. There are a lot of smiles, especially from the children. They did speak English and were able to articulate that to the parents."
For many evacuees, it was their first time flying.
"I had an elderly lady friend in the back. And unfortunately, the seat that she was sitting in was just to two seats. She was able to sit there by herself, but towards the end, like during the flight, she laid down on the floor, it was just so uncomfortable. But that's not safe. We're not allowed to do that. So just talking to her, rubbing her back, I think that made the difference. Felt like grandma to me," Williams said.
Makes me feel all Statue of Liberty-y, and I'm not crying, YOU ARE CRYING. [ABC News]
Wingnuts Mad They Didn't See An Execution
Also too, sad news for wingnuts who were extremely excited about video of a man dangling from a Taliban helicopter over Kandahar: It is not the atrocity porn they hoped, or even the "Pinochet Helicopter Rides" they all yearn to give, and simply shows a Taliban guy in a harness being lowered on a cable to try — unsuccessfully — to hang a Taliban flag on a 100-meter high antenna. It is not, as a viral tweet sent by Ted Fucking Cruz claimed, the Taliban using a captured American Blackhawk helicopter to execute someone by hanging.
The tweet was all over rightwing Twitter, and I'm sure by now no amount of debunking will do much good. [AFP Fact check]
Dadaism Lost The War
And finally, Rod Dreher at the American Conservative explains why the US lost in Afghanistan, with a bunch of long dumb excerpts from a story by "Cockburn" first published at "Spectator World." It had nothing to do with strategy or corruption or imperial hubris or the difficulty of bringing democracy to a country riven by ethnic tensions and decades of war.
Heck no! It was Woke Culture and modern art. Cockburn (not the progressive Andrew Cockburn, of Harpers) writes:
America hoped that with enough half-baked social engineering in the half of Afghanistan it controlled, it would eventually be rewarded with victory, and Afghanistan would become the Holland of the Hindu Kush. On Ivy League campuses, students are taught to decry 'colonialism', but the Ivy League diplomats who sought to remake Afghanistan in Harvard's image were among the most ambitious practitioners of it in world history.
Turns out what really killed off any chance of victory was all that gender studies nonsense the US allegedly tried to impose on Afghans. We have our doubts that was really the root cause of the problem. But then there was also the unspeakable attempt to inflict Dadaism on Afghan women, who wanted none of it, supposedly, as proved by a completely context-free 44-second clip from a BBC documentary.
Instead of rattling off anecdotes, perhaps a single video clip will do the job. Dadaism and conceptual art are of dubious value even in the West, but at some point some person who is not in prison for fraud decided that Afghan women would be uplifted by teaching them about Marcel Duchamp:
Watch the video, and you can see the exact point (specifically, 31 seconds in) where the American mission in Afghanistan dies.
Now that's some smart military/political analysis. Has Tom Cotton been briefed? [Spectator World]
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 or $10 a month and we'll never ask if you're our Dada.