The Italian deputy prime minister has blamed France for the European migrant crisis, accusing it of impoverishing African nations with “colonialist” policies. He promised to take the issue to the EU and other international bodies.
The Italian deputy prime minister has blamed France for the European migrant crisis, accusing it of impoverishing African nations with “colonialist” policies. He promised to take the issue to the EU and other international bodies.
Luigi Di Maio, leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and Italy’s Deputy PM, launched a scathing attack on France, which he argued is to blame for the inherent causes of the ongoing migrant crisis at EU borders.
Di Maio was speaking at a rally on Sunday, when he touched on recent mass migrant drownings in the Mediterranean. It is believed that up to 170 migrants who left Libya and Morocco on ramshackle dinghies may have drowned in the sea last week. Three migrants were saved by the Italian Navy on Friday off the cost of Lampedusa. The survivors said they were a part of a group of 120 people that sailed from Libya on Thursday. Their boat started to sink after they were at sea for about 10 hours. The victims, according to migrant organizations, include a two-month-old child and at least 10 women. Separately, another boat carrying 53 migrants capsized in the western Mediterranean, according to sole survivor of the incident.
The tragedies have reignited the debate on the hardline migration policy championed by Italy’s right-wing government.
“We would be hypocrites if we just continued to talk about the effects without looking for the causes. If today we have people coming from Africa it’s because some European countries like France never stopped colonizing Africa in their heads,” Di Maio told the crowd.
The politician, who also serves as the minister of economic development, referred to the CFA franc, a currency which is used in 14 former French colonies in West and Central Africa. The currency is guaranteed by the French Treasury and has a fixed rate of exchange with the euro. While it is credited for providing African countries with financial stability, it has often been criticized as a relic of colonial times by proponents of Africa’s full independence from France. They argue that the CFA franc, created in 1945, impedes their economic development as they have no say in French or European monetary policy.
“There are dozens of African states in which France prints its own currency, the franc of the colonies, and with that, it finances the French public debt,” Di Maio said, adding that France should be subjected to sanctions by the EU, and potentially the UN, for “impoverishing those states and triggering those people.”
“The place of Africans is in Africa and not at the bottom of the sea,” he stated. Di Maio further argued that France would fall far back in the international economic rankings if not for its leverage over its former colonies.
“If France did not have the African colonies, which it is impoverishing, it would be the 15th international economic power and instead it is among the first for what it is doing in Africa,” he said. France is currently the world’s seventh-largest economy, according to World Bank data for 2017, and the third-biggest economy in Europe after Germany and the UK.
Di Maio said that his party would submit a proposal to parliament to punish France in the coming weeks.
In a swipe at French President Emmanuel Macron, Di Maio said that he should stop lecturing Italy on morals while his government continue to exploit African nations. Last summer, Macron chastized the Italian government for its refusal to pick up migrants stranded at sea, with his spokesman calling the policy “sickening” and “unacceptable.”
Italy brushed off the criticism, accusing the French government of hypocrisy. Relations between the French and Italian governments were already strained, with Di Maio – along with anti-immigrant Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini – voicing their support for Yellow Vest protests that have plagued Macron’s government since November.
How is getting rid of Trump supposed to be a return to “normal democracy” when that “normal democracy” is a myth, a fantasy belied by massive poverty, inequality and oppression?
“The obscenity of American capitalism and its grotesque exploitation of millions of American citizens – creating islands of super wealth among a sea of poverty – is a repudiation of any notion of a functioning democracy.”
The anti-Trump so-called “liberal” American politicians and media suffer from a cozy big delusion. The Democrats and their supportive media, such as CNN and New York Times, as well as the foreign policy establishment, including the CIA, promote the belief that all of America’s ills and problems will be solved if only President Trump could be impeached.
The so-called “liberal-left” in the US – which has nothing to do with left wing or socialist politics as most of the world would define it – is increasingly warning that Trump is taking America into a dark place of authoritarianism.
Take a recent op-ed in the New York Times by columnist Roger Cohen with the headline: ‘Donald Trump Just Cannot Help It’. It’s a scathing piece which lambasts Trump in very personal terms as a “malignant” conman.
The key line perhaps is when Cohen writes: “The Reichstag Fire was at least a fire. Here, there is smoke and mirrors.” He is referring to what many historians contend was a false-flag arson attack on the German parliament in 1933, which allowed newly elected Chancellor Adolf Hitler to install his Nazi dictatorship by claiming the sabotage was a communist plot.
Many critics of Trump, including Cohen, are concerned that the president is “manufacturing a crisis” over his border wall proposal. They accuse him of using the US government shutdown and the political impasse with Democrats on the proposed border wall funding as a pretext to introduce a state of emergency. Cohen’s mention of the infamous Reichstag Fire has therefore a seemingly radical inference. He, and many others in the American liberal-left, are warning that Trump is a crypto-fascist.
There is some merit to that argument. Certainly, Trump seems to be whipping up a crisis about immigration which is not justified in terms of numbers and conditions on the border with Mexico. The influx of migrants and refugees is widely reported to be at an all-time low going back over the past 40 years. Most of the present migrants are families, fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries. Trump’s scary depiction of “drug dealers” and “terrorists” seems to be unabashed fabulation to incite fear.
His threats of invoking a state of emergency in which he will use executive powers to instruct the compulsory building of a security barriers on the southern border are therefore disproportionate and uncalled for. Trump’s would-be arrogation of emergency powers has disturbing implications of overriding US constitutional law, and sidelining other branches of government. There are genuine concerns that the direction is one of authoritarianism, even fascism.
But here is where too many Americans are deluded about Trump. They think he is the singular problem, an aberrant president. Get rid of him, they say, and we can all return to “normal democracy”.
The reality is that the US has been sliding into authoritarianism, plutocracy and oligarchy, or dare we say fascism, for decades. The political figure of Trump – obnoxious as he is – is merely the culmination of this degenerative process in American politics.
The obscenity of American capitalism and its grotesque exploitation of millions of American citizens – creating islands of super wealth among a sea of poverty – is a repudiation of any notion of a functioning democracy. The two-party pimping for big business, Wall Street and the military-industrial racket that has been going on for decades makes a travesty of any claims about “we the people” and elections. This backdrop of actual functioning oligarchy is why many voters – among the half, that is, who bothered to even vote – reached out to “an outsider” like Trump and his conman promises of change.
However, the inherent problem isn’t Trump. It is the system that produces the conditions and precursors for someone like Trump to end up getting elected.
It should be noted that people like Roger Cohen and other American “liberals” who are wringing their hands about Trump never seemed to express concern about the dominance of big business and banks in running America’s corporatocracy. Cohen and his ilk were also big supporters of US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – wars that were illegal, resulted in millions of innocent casualties, destroyed societies and spread the scourge of terrorism.
How is getting rid of Trump supposed to be a return to “normal democracy”? When that purported “normal democracy” is a myth, a fantasy belied by massive poverty, inequality and oppression of ordinary American workers and their families, alongside criminal imperialist wars of genocide.
Cohen’s reference to the Reichstag Fire false flag and Trump’s propensity for authoritarianism may sound like radical criticism. But it is only radical schtick. It is worse than Trump’s con artistry because it propagates the delusion that America has an underlying democracy. The reality is American democracy stopped functioning a long time ago. When exactly it stopped is debatable.
The 9/11 “terror attacks” in 2001 were certainly a candidate for comparison to the Reichstag Fire false flag event. They ushered in executive powers in Washington to wage criminal wars “against terrorism” anywhere on the planet, and for far-reaching police state surveillance of US citizens.
Or we could go back to the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 when the US created a pretext for the Vietnam War.
Or the assassination of President John F Kennedy in Dallas in November 1963 by his Deep State enemies, which was a coup d’état against American democracy, violating the nation forever.
Or the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 which gave private banks and plutocrats the ultimate power over the creation of money in the US and thus a veto on economic policy.
Many other instances (extermination of native Americans, African slavery) could be cited which testify to the fraud of “American democracy”. The seeds of authoritarianism, militarism and fascism were sown decades ago. To blame this putrefaction of democracy on Donald Trump is the delusion of American apologists for the system’s long-time corruption.
A Kuwaiti beauty blogger is facing fierce criticism over her condemnation of new laws which improve the working conditions of her Filipino maid.
Makeup artist Sondos Alqattan revealed her anger in a video shared with her 2.3 million followers on Instagram. In it, she bemoaned the fact that her “servants” will now be allowed to keep their passports, take breaks every five hours and have one day off per week.
@sondosalqattan I used to like you because i think u are an amazing woman, but what you said about Filipino domestic helper is below the belt, you are nothing but a pretty face, rotten from the inside..
6:33 PM – 18 Jul 2018
“How can one keep a maid at home and not keep her passport? If she takes off or leaves one day, who will compensate me?,” she asked, referencing the money some employers pay to fly workers to Kuwait. “Honestly I disagree with this law. I don’t want a Filipino maid any more.”
Sondos remained unapologetic for the remarks on Monday, posting a statement to the social media platform claiming that she treats her employees fairly and and doesn’t “impose long working hours.” However, she reiterated her belief that workers should not be allowed keep their passports.
The comments sparked a furious backlash online and among the blogger’s fans in the Middle East and Philippines, with many likening her treatment of employees to modern-day slavery.
Several beauty brands have now cut ties with with the Instagram ‘influencer’ with Max Factor Arabia announcing that it would suspend all future work with the make-up artist.
Critics are still reaching out to several other beauty brands on social media and urging them to dissociate themselves from the beauty blogger, including MAC, Shishido, Anastasia Beverly Hills and Etudes House.
Reforms to protect the rights of Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait were introduced in May after months of tense negotiations between the two countries. More than 250,000 Filipinos live in the Gulf country, of which at least 60 percent are domestic workers who live and work in their employers’ homes.
The push to improve domestic workers rights turned a corner when the Philippines issued a temporary ban on workers travelling to Kuwait after 29-year-old Joanna Demafelis was found stuffed inside the fridge of her Lebanese employers. The perpetrators have since been sentenced to death.
In a piece for the Atlantic (6/20/18), former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum countered statements by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, in which Hayes described a harrowing first-person account of a mother forcibly separated from her child at the US/Mexico border as reading like “the literature of a totalitarian government”:
“As Hayes elaborates his horror at the separation of mother from child, he seems to arrive at a conclusion that there is something inherently oppressive about any kind of immigration rule at all….The border crosser goes to them. She is not just ‘living her life … and then all of a sudden, the state can come in and wrench your life apart.’ She, of her own volition, traveled hundreds of miles to challenge the authority of a foreign state to police its frontiers. When her challenge failed—when she was apprehended and detained—what happened next must have felt harsh and frightening. But dictatorial? Totalitarian? In democracies, too, the wrong side of the law is an inescapably uncomfortable place to find yourself.”
Frum’s argument presents the US as unimplicated in the surge in Central American migration except as its victim, a “sovereign state” that must “police its frontiers.” His concluding worry about “the surges that will soon follow from the rest of the planet if the present surge is not checked” suggests he’s given little thought to the particular forces driving people from that region, much less how those relate to US foreign and economic policy.
Why those countries?
The immigrants that Frum is speaking of come largely from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, an area known as the Northern Triangle. According to the Pew Research Center, there are 3 million total immigrants from these countries in the US, and about half of those immigrants are undocumented. While Mexican immigration has been falling in recent years, Central American immigration has increased: from 2007 through 2015, the total number of Northern Triangle immigrants rose by 25 percent.
Yet much media coverage of immigration misses out on why large numbers of people from the Northern Triangle are migrating to the US in the first place.
Over the past three generations, the Northern Triangle countries, long marked by profound levels of inequality, have each experienced horribly destructive civil wars and military coups. Unsurprisingly, the United States has been intimately involved in each of these, supporting anti-Communist regimes during the Cold War and protecting US business interests with truly disastrous results.
In 1954, the CIA orchestrated a coup to remove President Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected leader of Guatemala, at the behest of United Fruit Company (now Chiquita), the country’s largest landowner. During the subsequent civil war that lasted until 1996, the US gave military and financial support to a succession of right-wing governments that committed large-scale human rights abuses that killed hundreds of thousands.
In Honduras in the 1980s, the CIA trained right-wing death squads like Battalion 316 that tortured and assassinated the government’s left-wing political opponents. In 2009, the US State Department under Hillary Clinton supported the overthrow of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya by graduates of the School of the Americas, a notorious US military training academy. The coup created waves of protests and escalated murders of hundreds of activists, including indigenous leader Berta Cáceres.
In El Salvador, when a military coup in 1979 sparked the formation of a leftist guerilla movement known as the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), first the Carter and then the Reagan administration backed the anti-Communist junta in the ensuing civil war by supplying training, military equipment, arms and financial support totalling $6 billion. Much of the aid and arms ended up supporting the junta’s paramilitary death squads. In 1980, these death squads assassinated Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero during a sermon, and later that year raped and murdered four American nuns. In 1981, junta forces massacred over a thousand people, mostly women, children and the elderly, in the village of El Mozote. The perpetrators, the Atlacatl Battalion, had recently completed training with the U.S. military at Fort Bragg prior to the massacre.
The CIA also funded presidential candidate and junta leader Napoleon Duarte prior to his election in 1984 in order to throw a wrench in peace talks, a move that dragged the war on for another eight years.
The Salvadoran civil war, which ultimately ended along with the Cold War in 1992, is estimated to have claimed the lives of up to 75,000 Salvadorans, including over 50,000 civilians, with 85 percent of deaths at the hands of the Salvadoran government and its paramilitary allies. Top US officials like Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams and UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick each denied or obscured the human rights abuses and massacres in El Salvador order to maintain congressional funding for the Salvadoran military junta and other anti-Communist authoritarian regimes throughout Central America. Abrams later called the Reagan administration’s record in El Salvador “one of fabulous achievement.”
MS-13 a Policy Backfire
El Salvador provides perhaps the most striking case of how US responsibility is obscured in the current immigration debate, based on the notoriety of Mara Salvatrucha, a predominantly Salvadoran street gang better known as MS-13.
MS-13 has become a majorscapegoat for Donald Trump and right-wing media in rationalizing harsh immigration policies. The Trump administration has referred to MS-13 gang members as “animals” who “infest” the United States—rhetoric that, as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent (5/25/18) noted, “slaps the dehumanizing slur on the least sympathetic subgroup and then conflates that subgroup with the larger group that is the real target.”
This scapegoating seems to have worked: According to a recent HuffPost/YouGov survey, over 85 percent of Trump voters believe that MS-13 is a major threat to the United States as a whole. This level of anxiety seems misplaced, considering that even the Justice Department claims MS-13 has only about 10,000 members in the US.
For Salvadorans, though, the fear is very real: In 2017, El Salvador had the most murders per capita on the entire planet (109 per 100,000), followed by Honduras (64 per 100,000), with Guatemala coming in at number nine (31 per 100,000). And with stories like “In El Salvador, the Murder Capital of the World, Gang Violence Becomes a Way of Life” (ABC News, 5/17/16) and “Organised Violence Is Ravaging Central America and Displacing Thousands” (Guardian,6/29/17), media have used that violence to fan fears of MS-13 making inroads into US cities and suburbs.
But what Trump’s racist rhetoric and fear mongering media alike ignore is that MS-13 is partially a product of US policy. The gang was actually founded in the Pico Union neighborhood of Los Angeles in the early 1980s, by Salvadoran immigrants and refugees from its civil war. Its subsequent growth from a small street gang in the US to a transnational criminal organization based out of the Northern Triangle provides an illuminating case study of how US foreign policy choices can backfire spectacularly.
Deportation’s Boomerang Effect
The violence of the Salvadoran civil war sparked a mass exodus of Salvadorans to the United States. In 1970, there were only 15,717 Salvadoran born immigrants living in the US. By 1980, there were 94,447 Salvadoran-born immigrants in the US, shooting up to 465,433 by 1990. Undocumented Salvadorans were granted Temporary Protected Status from 1990 through 1994; TPS was extended following a catastrophic earthquake in 2001, and has been periodically renewed since. However, the Trump administration recently revoked TPS for El Salvador, effective September 2019.
During and after the civil war, a majority of Salvadoran-born immigrants ended up in Southern California, particularly in ethnically segregated neighborhoods in Los Angeles, which was at the time in the midst of violence gang turf wars stemming from the crack cocaine epidemic—itself partially the product of plummeting cocaine prices as the result of drug-smuggling by the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contra rebels. In this atmosphere, young, impoverished Salvadoran immigrants formed small street gangs like MS-13 and the Eighteenth Street Gang (also known as Barrio 18) for protection from local African-American and Mexican gangs.
Following the end of the civil war in the ’90s and continued gang violence in Southern California and the Washington, DC, metro area—the other major destination for Salvadoran immigrants—the Clinton administration engaged in a policy of mass deportation of immigrants with criminal records, beginning with the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. This was a continuation of policies of the Reagan administration, who deported thousands of Salvadorans seeking asylum from the civil war. An estimate by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime counted almost 46,000 deportations of immigrants with criminal records (undocumented or not) to El Salvador from the US between 1998 and 2005.
El Salvador, just off its decade-plus-long civil war, was hardly equipped with the institutions necessary to deal with a massive influx of gang members from the United States. Gangs like MS-13 quickly integrated with already established street gangs within the country, bringing back elements of US gang culture such as symbols, identities and norms like tattoos or graffiti that helped bring local gang sets under the MS-13 umbrella.
The response of the Salvadoran government (and other Northern Triangle countries) was to crack down and lock up large numbers of suspected gang members in the early 2000s, a policy known as mano dura, or “firm hand.” Over 30,000 arrests were made under the policy in El Salvador, although many cases were thrown out due to illegal arrests and lack of evidence. Despite this, the arrests concentrated large numbers of gang members in one place: Jails and prisons served as effective locations for centralizing the organization of gangs that were previously only loosely affiliated.
While these newly integrated gangs in El Salvador are still less centralized than Mexican drug cartels, the mano dura policies nonetheless allowed gangs to better coordinate across varied gang sets, and expand extortion rackets to tax neighbors and businesses on their turf, using threats of violence. These extortion rackets, along with continued violence between gangs over turf, have created an atmosphere of fear that Salvadoran families quite reasonably want to get away from.
Pouring Fuel on the Fire
Increased deportations of Salvadoran gang members during the Trump administration will likely have the effect of further swelling gang membership numbers in El Salvador, which will in turn lead to more migration as Salvadorans flee gang extortion rackets and violence. Even police have reservations about the harsh immigration policies, and MS-13 gang members have acknowledged that deportation policies help expand their numbers.
Continued gang crackdowns by the Salvadoran government over the past few years are also an issue that the US has a hand in: Salvadoran security forces accused by the UN of extrajudicial killings of gang members have received millions in US aid and training from the FBI and DEA. Ongoing violent confrontations between Salvadoran law enforcement and gangs also contribute to a climate of fear and resentment among Salvadorans as well. Just as tough-on-crime policies have generally failed to reduce crime in the US, in El Salvador and the other Northern Triangle countries they have just as bad a track record, as shown by the failure of the mano dura policies.
The end of Temporary Protected Status for over 200,000 Salvadorans, and their likely subsequent deportation, will also have a major effect on the Salvadoran economy by decreasing remittances from the United States, which account for over about a sixth of the country’s GDP. The end of TPS, combined with high levels of unemployment and underemployment that are partially attributable to US neoliberal economic policies like the 2006 Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), will likely increase the poverty that feeds youth gang membership and immigration. As Mark Tseng-Putterman noted in Medium (6/20/18),“There are few connections being drawn between the weakening of Central American rural agricultural economies at the hands of CAFTA and the rise in migration from the region in the years since.” Indeed, the destructive impact of US trade policy in Latin America over the years has been actively obscured by the devotion of corporate media to “free trade” nostrums. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman explained when he endorsed CAFTA in a 2006 CNBC interview: “I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.”
While the United States does not necessarily deserve 100 percent of the blame for the conflicts and economic policies that have led to increases in Northern Triangle violence or immigration, it is certainly a major culprit, and has poured fuel on the fire every time it has had the opportunity to do otherwise.
Ignoring the Context
Yet media ignore this crucial context when discussing current American immigration policies. The Washington Post’s pieces on immigration or MS-13 have seldom mentioned the Salvadoran civil war when discussing immigration, let alone the outsized US involvement in the conflict. Out of hundreds of Post articles on Latin American immigration in the past six months, only a few even mention the Salvadoran civil war (1/11/18, 1/31/18, 2/12/18, 3/12/18, 5/30/18, 6/29/18, 7/2/18). One article in the DC Metro Weekend section (6/14/18) did mention immigration in relation to the civil war, but only in the context of where to get some tasty Salvadoran food in Maryland, while another article (3/2/18) on Venezuelan immigration mentioned the Salvadoran civil war in passing. Only Jose Miguel Cruz’s January 31 article and Micaela Sviatschi’s February 12 article mentioned any US involvement in the Salvadoran civil war. While the Post has explored the connection in greater detail in the past, one would think that the current child migrant separation policy and continuing high levels of Northern Triangle immigration would warrant nuanced and detailed coverage now.
The New York Times fared little better, only mentioning the Salvadoran civil war in the context of immigration or MS-13 a handful times in the past six months (1/13/18, 1/18/18, 1/31/18, 2/8/18, 2/17/18, 3/1/18, 4/30/18, 5/23/18, 5/26/18, 6/12/18), including a book review roundup (1/27/18) and a factchecking article on Trump’s claims about MS-13 (7/1/18). Yet of these articles, only three contained any mention of US involvement in the civil war: the January 13 op-ed by Lauren Markham, the January 18 op-ed by Linda Greenhouse and the May 26 article by Elizabeth Malkin. (Malkin’s piece was less focused on current immigration issues, centering on the El Mozote Massacre.) The rest of the articles only briefly mentioned the Salvadoran civil war.
The corporate press has done a generally good job of covering the staggeringnumber of humanrightsabuses of ICE, including the presence of immigrant detainment camps and the separation of over 2,000 child migrants and asylum seekers from their parents at the US/Mexico border. Other outlets have been better on connecting the imperialist history of US foreign policy with the current immigration issues, like Current Affairs (8/1/16), Vox (5/21/18), The Conversation (5/8/17), Vice (6/28/18) and the Philadelphia Inquirer (6/21/18). Even the Atlantic has published pieces (1/20/18, 3/4/18) that explore the web of US policies that have contributed to the current immigration crisis in Central America.
The fact that neoconservatives like David Frum continually obscure the blowback of imperialist US foreign policy is unsurprising. Perhaps more outrageous is the failure of the establishment press, especially the Washington Post and the New York Times, to grapple with how current immigration issues are connected to US intervention in Central America, and the subsequent gang violence it helped trigger. As Mark Tseng-Putterman (Medium, 6/20/18) aptly put it, the US empire thrives on amnesia. It is the job of the media to inform the public with the nuance and context necessary to understand America’s role in the current Central American immigration crisis.
U.S. President Donald Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin (not pictured) hold a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, on June 16. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Less than 1 percent of Americans consider the situation with Russia a top problem for the United States, according to a Gallup poll released on July 18.
The number of Americans who consider Russia to be the biggest problem facing the country has not surpassed 1 percent in any of the past seven months, the pollster found. While major news outlets have relentlessly pushed the Russian interference narrative for nearly two years, Americans remain overwhelmingly more concerned about domestic issues, with concerns about immigration and the government topping the list of the biggest problems.
Stories surrounding the allegation that Trump campaign associates colluded with Russia have saturated media coverage since the president was elected. To date, no evidence or indictments substantiating that allegation have surfaced.
The lack of proof and the negligible concern from Americans on the Russia issue may be contributing to President Donald Trump’s resilience in presidential approval polls. In 2018, Trump’s approval rating has tracked closely to that of President Barack Obama during his first term, according to Rasmussen Reports, the pollster that was most accurate in predicting the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
The Gallup poll was released on the heels of Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16 and the July 13 indictment of a dozen Russian intelligence officers for allegedly attempting to interfere in the 2016 election by hacking Democratic computer systems. Gallup conducted the survey from July 1 to 11, before either event took place.
More than 1 in 5 Americans consider immigration to be the biggest problem facing the country, Gallup’s survey of 1,033 adults found. Twenty-two percent of respondents said “immigration” or “illegal aliens” when asked to name America’s biggest problem.
According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who rated immigration as the top issue in July reached the highest level in the poll’s 17-year history. The previous peak of 19 percent occurred in April 2006, when Congress was considering a comprehensive immigration bill. The percentage spiked again in the summer of 2014, when large waves of illegal aliens flooded into the United States from Central America, according to Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief. Over the survey’s history, an average of 5 percent of respondents have said immigration is the No. 1 problem.
“When Americans’ naming of immigration as the top problem has exceeded that average by a significant margin, it has reflected real-world events, political attention being paid to the topic, fluctuating salience of other issues, and news coverage,” Newport wrote on July 18.
Americans’ concern over immigration spiked three times during Trump’s first term, reflecting his focus on the issue. The president is pushing to build a wall on the southern border and for comprehensive immigration reform. Trump wants to end the visa lottery program, place limits on chain migration, and institute a merit-based system.
Europe is rethinking its permissive attitude toward immigrants and refugees, but Pope Francis is doubling down on his calls for all countries to welcome them with open arms, even as Italy, which surrounds Vatican City, recently embraced a government that has begun turning away migrants arriving by boat.
During an appearance at a Vatican conference marking the third anniversary of his famous environmental encyclical “Praise Be”, Francis urged the world (i.e. the US) to honor the commitments made in the Paris Accord, and also praised aid groups who rescue and care for migrants.
In a speech with suspiciously political overtones, the Pope said the IMF and World Bank would have an important tole in encouraging sustainable development. If countries don’t abide by their commitments, future generations will inherit a ruined environment.
“There is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts and refuse,” he warned.
While celebrating a mass at St Peter’s Basilica for migrants and people who offer them aid, Francis warned of the “sterile hypocrisy” of those who choose not to help the poor and insecure live a “dignified life”, and lamented how Europe and the US were attempting to close their borders to immigrants and refugees, according to the Hill.
“It grieves us to see the lands of indigenous peoples expropriated and their cultures trampled on by predatory schemes and by new forms of colonialism, fueled by the culture of waste and consumerism,” Francis said.
Indeed, the Guardian described Friday’s conference as “the latest in a series of Vatican initiatives meant to impress a sense of urgency about global warming and the threat it poses…to the world’s poorest and most marginalized people.”
As Francis has continued to sound more like an activist and less like God’s highest authority on Earth, he is set to hold a three-week synod, or conference of bishops, specifically to address the ecological crisis in the Amazon. Francis has said that deforestation threatens to destroy the “lung” of the Earth, as well as the indigenous tribes who live in the rainforest
The pope even went so far as to recently invite oil executives and investors to the Vatican for a closed-door meeting where he reportedly asked them to find alternatives to fossil fuels and warned that they were helping to ruin the environment.
Since becoming Pope in 2013, Francis has shown a willingness to speak on many topics that are unusual for a Pope. These include financial instruments like credit default swaps, which the Holy See singled out as “a ticking time bomb” in a sweeping critique of the global financial system.
To be sure, Francis’s decision to speak in support of several liberal causes – from universal health care to immigration – has angered some conservative Catholics.Steve Bannon recently criticized Francis, saying the Catholic Church is “one of the worst instigators of this open borders policy,” adding that “the Pope – more than anybody else – has driven the migrant crisis in Europe.” Those criticisms arrived after an ally of Francis published an article blasting Catholic voters who voted for Trump while specifically attacking former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon in the shocking singling out of an individual Catholic.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone