Biden nominates someone who'll make Stephen Miller real mad.
We've discussed the many positive changes at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for the Department of Homeland Security after President Joe Biden replaced the former White House squatter. Now Biden's announced a big change at the top: He's nominated Texas sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead ICE, which hasn't had a permanent director since 2017. The former guy's party controlled the Senate, but he still preferred to have a revolving door of “acting" ICE directors during his horror show administration.
Gonzales was elected sheriff of Harris County (that's Houston) in 2016 and won re-election last year. Harris is the largest sheriff's office in Texas and the third-largest in the country. He'd previously risen to rank of sergeant during his 18 years with the Houston Police Department. He's been a consistent critic of President Klan Robe's grotesque immigration policies.
From the Texas Tribune:
In 2019, when Trump tweeted that his administration would be deporting "millions of illegal aliens," Gonzalez posted on Facebook that the "vast majority" of undocumented immigrants do not pose a threat to the U.S. and should not be deported.
"The focus should always be on clear & immediate safety threats," he said.
I do not support #ICERaids that threaten to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom d… https://t.co/e6JwzMJunM— Ed Gonzalez (@Ed Gonzalez)1562944568.0
Gonzalez also opposed so-called "anti-sanctuary city" legislation from 2017 that would prevent "cities from banning local law enforcement from asking about immigration status and would push civil fines and a misdemeanor offense on law enforcement who don't comply with federal immigration enforcement." So much for local control!
Before Gonzalez was elected sheriff, Harris County and ICE were bosom buddies. Officials were all in on ICE's Secure Communities program where immigration officials scanned the fingerprints of anyone arrested for anything to determine if they were in the country illegally. Harris County had also enrolled in the 287(g) program, which had sheriff's deputies searching county jails for people to deport. Regrettably, this was during the Obama administration. Gonzalez quickly yanked Harris County from that program in 2017.
He stood firm in his belief that the police should stick to preventing crime, which they do in theory, and ICE should enforce civil immigration laws.
"Diverting valuable law enforcement resources away from public safety threats would drive undocumented families further into the shadows & damage our community safety," he said in a 2019 tweet.
Gonzalez's positions align with both human decency and the Biden administration's new policy limiting ICE arrests to recent border crossers, people convicted of aggravated felonies, and clear national security threats (though Ted Cruz was allowed back from Cancun).
ICE currently employs 20,000 people worldwide and has a budget of $8 billion a year. It's also less popular than the Internal Revenue Service, according to a Pew Research Survey from last year.
Although many liberals have called for eliminating ICE outright, most Democratic presidential candidates during the 2020 primary supported restructuring the agency but keeping it intact. President Biden has already begun “retooling" ICE. These are all more benign terms than “abolish," which apparently makes moderates believe Democrats are instituting the dreaded “open borders," where just anyone can come and take over the joint. That's an exclusively American activity.
Community leaders in Harris are both excited and cautiously optimistic about Gonzalez's nomination.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted:
Congrats to my friend Sheriff Ed Gonzalez on being nominated to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the Biden Administration. I'll be sad for him to leave us, but President Biden will gain a compassionate, thoughtful and courageous leader.
Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia raved about Gonzalez's qualifications.
I think this is a great opportunity for so many to move the mission of immigration enforcement in a better direction. I think bringing a local law enforcement official — and not just any, but one who has a perspective on community engagement, smart policing, transparency and working with stakeholders — I think it's going to be a great day for the country.
With Republicans literally using “Biden Border Crisis" as the wi-fi password at their supervillain retreats, we can expect them to pitch a fit that Biden nominated someone to head ICE who's not on Stephen Miller's speed dial. Let 'em whine. Gonzalez just needs to make sure his tweets don't offend Joe Manchin.
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We don't yet know how Trump may have screwed things up, natch.
After months of delays, mostly due to the pandemic, the US Census released its first data chunks from the 2020 count of the US population yesterday, delivering the state population counts that will be used to reapportion seats in the House of Representatives. The big surprise in the data is that the US population grew at its lowest rate since the 1930s, increasing just 7.4 percent since the 2010 Census. There are now 331,449,281 of us, at least officially, and since the first Census in 1790, that's the second-lowest population increase ever.
As the Brookings Institution points out, that's just a teensy bit more than the 7.3 percent increase during the Great Depression, and "roughly half the 13.2% growth rate of the 1990s, when immigration was high and the last part of the millennial generation was born."
Politically, the state-by-state population shifts means seven seats in the House will be moving, mostly from the Northeast to the Sun Belt, as this handy-dandy map from the Associated Press shows:
Considering that some experts had predicted even larger shifts of congressional seats from blue states to states with Republican-leaning voters, this is actually better news than it might have been. Texas is picking up two seats, and one seat each will go to GOP-leaning Florida, Montana, and North Carolina. The other two seats will go to very blue Oregon and purple-y Colorado.
The states that lost seats were Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and, for the first time since it was admitted to the Union, California. New York would have kept the seat it lost if just 89 more people in the state had been counted, which illustrates pretty dramatically why the Census matters.
This is also a good place to remember the Trump administration's attempts to skew the count by throwing a citizenship question into the Census, and by trying to exclude non-citizens from the reapportionment data. Both attempts failed; the Supreme Court rejected the citizenship question in 2019 because the administration didn't even try to make up a non-illegal reason for it, and slowdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic meant that the initial data on reapportionment never got to Trump before he had to leave office. So thanks, deadly pandemic, you were good for something.
But how good are the numbers, given that Trump also ordered the Census to be cut short weeks before its original end date, which almost certainly left people uncounted? As Rachel Maddow discussed last night, we may have to add "a big asterisk" to many of the 2020 Census's findings:
As NPR's Hansi Lo Wang explains, there are some real concerns that an unknown number of folks the Census Bureau has in the past made extra efforts to reach just didn't get included in last year's count.
[For] this census, there are particular concerns that historically undercounted groups, including people of color, immigrants, renters, rural residents, may have been especially undercounted this time around because of the last-minute changes the Trump administration made to the census schedule, cutting short counting. And because it was so hard to reach those households that didn't respond by themselves, by filling out a form on their own, by sending out in-person visits, doorknockers - literally impossible to do in the early months of the pandemic.
We'll get a better sense of that much later this year, Wang noted, when the American Statistical Association releases its regular audit of the Census Bureau's work in June, and again in December when the Bureau itself releases its own estimates of how many people it may have missed, and the probable rates of undercounting by race and ethnicity. But those reports won't affect redistricting. We bet more than 89 people in New York may have been missed, for instance.
The Census Bureau will get its more granular state-level data to the states by August 16, and that data will be used by states to redraw congressional and state legislative districts.
Bloomberg News notes that the delay in getting all the data out could also cause headaches for the 2022 midterms:
The delayed start could create added chaos at the filing deadlines for next year's congressional elections, as incumbents and their challengers won't know which districts they're running for until their campaigns have already started.
For the states that are losing representatives, that's also going to lead to some potentially ugly fights, Wang points out, since they'll have to decide how to get rid of one of their current members of Congress. Seven current members will have to go, either by resigning, running for a different office, or by the states just plain eliminating the districts out from under them. In Ohio, Tim Ryan has already opted to run for the Senate, for instance.
Also too, as the Brookings Institution reminds us, the shift of seven seats also means that some states will gain more clout, and some will lose it, in the Electoral College. But that may not turn out to be the boon to Republicans it sounds like, at least not in the long term, since the demographics of many red states are also changing to favor Democrats, as we saw last year in Georgia. So that could be good news, depending on how much voter suppression red states get away with.
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New York Post has memory-holed their fake news story, but that's not stopping the Friends!
With the Biden administration walking softly and carrying a big reconciliation stick, the rightwing ecosystem is bereft of any real scandal to howl about. Lesser figures, cursed with pesky integrity or journalistic ethics, might be forced to report the actual news. But not these plucky underdogs! They will cover seven Biden outrages a day, even if they have to make them up out of whole cloth.
And so it was that we'd barely finished with the abject lie about Biden coming for your burgers — be very angry, Grandma! — when it was on to the next pile of nonsense. Today's White House fanfic involves the United States government buying up copies of Vice President Kamala Harris's children's book Superheroes Are Everywhere to give to migrant children at the border.
This particular bullshit appears to have originated with a New York Post story claiming that "Unaccompanied migrant kids brought from the U.S.-Mexico border to a new shelter in Long Beach, Calif., will be given a copy of her 2019 children's book, "Superheroes are Everywhere," in their welcome kits." The story has been memory-holed, along with the follow-up piece on Jen Psaki fielding a question from Fox about it at yesterday's press briefing, but the internet is forever, assholes.
In reality, decent human beings who don't hate brown kids are collecting donated books to give to kids at the Long Beach Entertainment and Convention Center, which is currently being used to house migrant children while the government works to place them with relatives already in the country. As the Washington Post reports, Reuters snapped a photo of one kid's backpack with Harris's book propped up next to it, and the NY Post repurposed it into a totally fictitious story about the government giving one to every child.
After that, it was just a hop, skip, and a jump through the wingnuttosphere for the story to become accepted dogma.
"The Biden administration's weakness caused a surge of illegal immigration," tweeted Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. "Now they're forcing taxpayers to buy Kamala Harris's book to give to those illegal immigrants?"
"After learning officials are handing out Kamala Harris' book to migrants in facilities at the border, it's worth asking… Was Harris paid for these books? Is she profiting from Biden's border crisis?" RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel demanded to know.
(LOL, remember when the RNC made Don Jr.'s stupid book a "bestseller" by using $300,000 of donor money to buy up copies? Or if we really want to talk about something more apposite to "profiting from the 'border crisis,'" maybe she could talk to John Kelly?)
And even as the story fell apart, it continued to be flogged by people who spend their entire day screaming about FAKE NEWS.
The White House doesn't have an idea why the Vice President's book is being included in a welcome bag for migrants… https://t.co/jmAtC8JvsD— Sean Spicer (@Sean Spicer)1619491303.0
Really? Is that how it went down? Seems to us that the former president pocketed tens of millions of dollars from the federal government as he dragged Secret Service agents from Trump property to Trump property for four straight years, all the while collecting cash from foreign governments, lobbyists, and corporations seeking to curry favor with him by dropping piles of cash at his DC hotel. FFS, he even tried to hold the G7 at his Doral property in Miami. But please, Spicey, tell us more about this scandalous boondoggle of Kamala Harris's book royalties!
The Kurvy Kouch Krew was still at it this morning, even as they acknowledged that the story was false.
Fox & Friends still pushing the lie about Harris' book being given out to migrant children even as they sort-of-but… https://t.co/KJx5N2KIyD— Matthew Gertz (@Matthew Gertz)1619526449.0
"Peter asked her about that yesterday," the elder Doocy remarked skeptically. "I don't think she knew about it."
Why ever would a person who traffics in actual news not be up on the latest rightwing fake outrage, that's what Steve Doocy wants to know!
"Well, according to the Washington Post this morning, they're saying that it's not accurate. I mean, Steve, Peter asked an excellent question, because we had heard that," Ainsley Earhardt chimed in. "But they're just saying that a book had been donated to a citywide drive. It's not placed in these welcome bags."
But Doocy was not to be deterred.
"Well, I think the question was, if the government was paying for the book, and whether or not she was making money on it," he continued.
"Oh, right," Earhardt agreed, as if the response was an entirely logical counterpoint.
"It sounds like a third party, probably an NGO is buying them, perhaps" Doocy soldiered on gamely — what? no it doesn't! — "unless they were donated and putting them in."
A single copy of this book was donated by some random do-gooder! There is no NGO buying up copies of Harris's book — Doocy appears to have made that up on the spot, like Jacob Wohl in a fancier suit.
And that's how complete lies become "the truth."
Tune in tomorrow as we learn that the White House is mandating Spanish-only instruction in public elementary schools. PROBABLY.
EDIT: The NYPost has apparently un-memoryholed the story with a helpful note saying that it's first attempt was total bullshit.
This NYPost story about the Psaki exchange is now back up with this added: "Editor’s note: The original version of… https://t.co/Gxtc7WNv9b— Daniel Dale (@Daniel Dale)1619544769.0
So, what's left? Oh, that's right NOTHING.
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