Sanctuary in America: Haven or insurrection by other means?

An in-depth look at dueling definitions of ‘sanctuary’ in America and Southwest Florida and what they mean for the future

The Statue of Liberty in New York, the first sight for generations of immigrants seeking sanctuary in the United States. (Photo: Wikimedia)

July 7, 2021 by David Silverberg

Today the term “sanctuary” has taken on new meaning and is serving as a new cause of political controversy and contention.

This conflict is coming to a head in Southwest Florida—specifically in both Naples and Collier County—as movements to create sanctuary jurisdictions based on political criteria roil an otherwise placid region best known for its sunshine and beaches.

To understand the current conflict, it helps to go back into history and survey the evolution of the concept of sanctuary.

What are the origins of that concept? In the American political context, what were the sanctuaries of the past? What are the new concepts and how do they differ from previous concepts?

In a local context, how are these clashing concepts playing out in the American state of Florida—and especially in Southwest Florida?

And lastly, where is this heading and how is it likely to resolve itself?

Origins

In 1471 English King Edward IV is denied access to Lancastrian fugitives who have taken sanctuary in Tewkesbury Abbey. (Painting: Richard Burchett)

The notion of a place of sanctuary is very ancient.

The ancient Greeks and Romans revered groves and temples where people could find refuge from the forces that threatened them. In ancient Rome even slaves could find sanctuary at statues of gods and owners who otherwise possessed them would respect the site.

But it was in the Middle Ages that what is commonly thought of today as sanctuary made its appearance. By the thirteenth century a person could take refuge from secular authorities or a mob in a church. The refugee was allowed 40 days of safety during which time he had to be fed and protected; meanwhile, the interlude afforded time for negotiations, clemency, confession or proof of innocence. If none of those things took place, the refugee left the church, forfeited his goods and went into exile—but stayed alive.

Perhaps the most famous illustration of a medieval appeal for church sanctuary occurs in the novel (and movies) of The Hunchback of Notre Dame when the hunchback Quasimodo rescues the gypsy girl Esmeralda from hanging and, crying “sanctuary!” takes her into the cathedral for protection.

There have been other acts of sanctuary since then: French Huguenots were given refuge in England in 1681 in what may have been the first instance of a state offering sanctuary to another’s nationals. Today the concept of asylum has taken the place of the religious concept and been formalized between countries.

But in the United States the concept of sanctuary took different forms than in Europe—and for very different reasons.

The American context

In 2017 New Yorkers protest President Donald Trump’s ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. (Photo: Wikimedia)

From the day in 1620 that the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock, the continent of America became a sanctuary for people fleeing religious persecution.

After the American revolution, President George Washington best expressed the American sense of tolerance and sanctuary in an August 17, 1790 letter to the Jewish congregation at Newport, Rhode Island, in which he said: “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

The concept of sanctuary was deeply woven into the social fabric of the United States. It was next tested by the greatest moral challenge of the 19th century: slavery.

Beginning in the late 1700s anti-slavery activists using a variety of routes became known as the Underground Railroad, providing escaping slaves assistance and sanctuary on their way to ultimate sanctuary in non-slavery locations, chiefly Canada.

In the 20th century there were waves of dissent that gave rise to sanctuaries. In the 1960s dissident churches gave sanctuary to civil rights activists and Vietnam War draft resisters. Many Vietnam war resisters and those giving them sanctuary were arrested.

In the 1980s during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, Cold War conflicts in Latin America led to a rise in political refugees fleeing to the United States from countries like Nicargua, where the US was supporting a “Contra” movement against the communist government and El Salvador where the US was advising a repressive government.

“Sanctuary widened from the idea of a church to sanctuary communities who confronted immigration policies and intolerance as manifested in immigration policies,” writes Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser in the 2017 paper The Sanctuary Movement: A Brief History. “These actions included legal help and provision of shelter in private homes and other settings. They provided shelter in churches and homes, and created a modern Underground Railroad for refugees.”

As with the Vietnam War sanctuary movement, periodically the federal government would crack down on the sanctuaries and their refugees. Federal authorities arrested refugees and the Immigration and Naturalization Service deported them.

In the 21st century the 2016 election of President Donald Trump gave rise to immediate fears of deportation of “Dreamers;” undocumented US residents who had come to the country as children and been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. During his campaign Trump said he would abolish DACA and deport the nearly 700,000 people, many of whom had known no other home.

Within days of Trump’s Nov. 3, 2016 election, his brutalist and threatening anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric led to a wave of “sanctuary campuses” at American colleges to protest his approach and provide refuge to migrants and Dreamers. From campuses the concept spread to cities.

The location of migrant sanctuary cities as of March 2021 according to the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank advocating restricted immigration. (Map: CIS)

The “sanctuary city” of the Trump era was one that refused to cooperate with federal deportation efforts. When a migrant was arrested, officials of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) directorate of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would issue a “detainer” requesting a 48 hour delay before the person was released so that his or her immigration status could be checked. If the detainee was found to be undocumented, the person would be subject to deportation. In “sanctuary cities,” officials refused to honor detainers.

The sanctuary city movement was based on the conviction that Trump administration policies were rooted in prejudice and persecution and therefore unjust. It took hold mainly in the Pacific northwest, the Atlantic northeast, California, the upper Midwest and in Colorado.

Although there were no declared sanctuary cities in Florida, on June 14, 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law outlawing sanctuary cities for migrants in the state.

Backlash

Gun owners demonstrate against restrictions outside the Virginia state Capitol in Richmond on Jan. 20, 2020. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Taking a leaf from the immigration sanctuary cities movement, conservative groups began using the “sanctuary” label for causes they regarded as threatened by the federal government.

To date, these causes have been protecting gun ownership, prohibiting abortion and nullifying federal laws.

“The push to impose ‘sanctuary’ and similar legislation is not the result of an organic, grassroots movement but rather a well-funded campaign marketed by the gun lobby and supported by antigovernment extremist groups such as Gun Owners of America, Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA),” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Gun sanctuaries

On Dec. 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 six and seven-year old children, six adult staff and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. It was perhaps the most traumatic mass shooting in American history.

The shooting resulted in a wave of revulsion across the country and renewed calls for gun controls, some of which resulted in the passage of new laws governing gun ownership. This in turn led to a counter-effort.

On May 22, 2013, in response to the state of Maryland passing the Maryland State Firearms Act (MFSA) restricting the sale of different types of firearms, requiring their registration and limiting the size of magazines, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution calling the county a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County.”

The Carroll County resolution announced that the county would not “authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers or offices for the purpose of enforcing any element of the MFSA that infringes on the right of people to keep and bear arms… .”

While Maryland’s Harford and Cecil counties also passed such resolutions, this was the first time the word “sanctuary” was used in such an official measure, according to one account. According to another, in 2018 it was Monroe County, Illinois that was the first to use “sanctuary.”

Since then, similar resolutions have been passed by states, counties and municipalities across the country. There was another wave of resolutions following the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre of Feb. 14, 2018. As of July 2021, about 1,200 local governments in 42 states had adopted such resolutions.

In Southwest Florida, Collier County passed a resolution declaring it would not “assist, support or condone” any infringement of the Second Amendment on Feb. 26, 2013 but did not use the word “sanctuary.” Lee County passed a resolution on March 25, 2013, DeSoto County declared itself a gun “haven” on Jan. 21, 2020, and Charlotte County declared itself a gun sanctuary county on May 11, 2021.

Second Amendment sanctuary states and counties as of 2021. Statewide sanctuaries are in blue, county sanctuaries are in green, both county and state sanctuaries are in purple. (Map. Wikimedia)

Anti-abortion sanctuaries

On June 22, 2019 anti-abortion activist and preacher Mark Lee Dickson convinced the town council of Waskom, Texas, population 2,189, to pass an ordinance creating a “sanctuary city for the unborn.”

(For a fuller account of Dickson, the anti-abortion sanctuary movement and Naples, Fla., see: “‘Sanctuary city for the unborn’ movement threatens Naples, Fla., economic recovery.”)

Since Waskom, 32 towns and cities have voted in anti-abortion ordinances, according to the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn website.

Of these, 29 are in Texas, of which the largest is Lubbock, population 278,831; two are in Nebraska (tiny Hayes Center, population 288 and Blue Hill, population 941); and one is in Ohio (Lebanon, population 20,529). Eight Texas cities are counted as “denying” an ordinance and the movement calls the state capital of Austin a “city of death” for its adamant opposition. The movement is aiming at 39 potential new sanctuary cities in Texas and one in Florida—Naples.

The movement continues its efforts, proclaiming that it is “Protecting our cities by outlawing abortion, one city at a time.”

Anti-federal sanctuaries

With the debate over pandemic masking and other health measures in 2020 and in the wake of President Donald Trump’s defeat and the failure of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, there was a new wave of “bill of rights sanctuary” efforts—essentially anti-federal sanctuaries—primarily in the southern United States.

These had their genesis in the gun sanctuary movement but went even further, back to the Posse Comitatus movement that began in the late 1960s. That movement held that local sheriffs were the highest ranking law enforcement officers in any county and no higher legal authority should be recognized. That, in turn, gave rise to a Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association founded in 2011 to get local sheriffs to uphold the Second Amendment by refusing to enforce any state or federal restrictions on gun ownership.

The premise of these ordinances is that the federal government, having fallen into hostile hands, is now going to try to violate rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights—mainly the Second Amendment. Under these ordinances, localities, primarily at the county level, refuse to cooperate with any federal actions they regard as unlawful.

Who would determine that the Bill of Rights was being violated, what exactly constitutes a violation and how it will be remedied is unclear.

By specifically calling on states and counties to “nullify” federal actions the movement harkens back to the pre-Civil War debate over “nullification,” when South Carolina politicians argued that they had the right to nullify federal laws with which they disagreed. In 1830 that idea was crushed by Sen. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts in the Senate (who concluded with the memorable line: “Liberty and union, now and forever, one and indivisible!”) and President Andrew Jackson, a southerner, who notably declared in a dinner toast: “Our federal union! It must be preserved!”

The current movement has a number of drivers. Organizations include Gun Owners of America, a non-profit lobby founded in 1976, which “sees firearms ownership as a freedom issue.” Another is Oath Keepers, the extremist organization of current and former military and law enforcement personnel whose members participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection and are being prosecuted.

KrisAnne Hall (C-SPAN)

An activist and nullification evangelist based in northern Florida is KrisAnne Hall, who characterizes herself as a “constitutionalist.” She has associated with far right and white nationalist groups, providing legal justifications for extremist anti-government beliefs. In YouTube videos and speaking engagements Hall preaches a pre-Civil War interpretation of constitutional relations and actively promotes nullification.

Addressing people who would pass nullification ordinances, in an April 21, 2021 video Hall stated: “If [your] law does not state that ‘we will not enforce this law’ and ‘we will not allow the federal government to enforce these laws here;’ if your law does not contain that language, it is useless!” she argued.

“We’ve got states out there that are trying to walk the fence, trying to placate you with their ‘Second Amendment sanctuaries’ and they’re going to turn around and say, ‘OK, we’re not going to enforce these laws but the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] can come in and do it, the [Federal Bureau of Investigation] can come in and do it, DHS can come in and do it, whatever, the [Internal Revenue Service] can come in and do it. That’s not sanctuary, people, that’s setup. That’s enticement, that is entrapment, that is wrong.

“And so if your law does not include some kind of restriction and penalty for the federal government exercising those laws in your state, it is not a good law,” she insisted.

Hall came to Southwest Florida on April 24, 2021 to address the Republican Club of South Collier County, where she shared a stage with Dan Cook, a Naples-based far right activist, and Alfie Oakes, the grocer and owner of Seed to Table.

A nullification “Bill of Rights sanctuary” ordinance was put on the agenda of the Collier County Commission on June 22. It is due to be considered next Tuesday, July 13.

Analysis: Insurrection by other means

The anti-federal, anti-abortion sanctuary movement has remained largely under the media radar, spreading in rural areas among small towns that rarely get national attention. To most Americans it no doubt seems fringe, odd and often absurd, so it has long been ignored.

But it bears attention because it is an effort to subvert and, indeed, overthrow the authority of the federal government and replace it with—what? Its advocates want to treat the nation’s laws, Constitution and Bill of Rights like a buffet whose offerings they can pick and choose or ignore if they wish. But law doesn’t work that way and the only alternative seems armed anarchy.

The anti-federal sanctuarists (and you read that word correctly, for the first time here) can make the argument that the left (or in the usual formulation, the radical Democratic left) started the sanctuary movement first.

They have a point. But there are important differences between what we’ll call “social” sanctuaries and “nullifying” sanctuaries.

In the American political definition, no matter who asserts it, “sanctuary” is an effort to carve out an exemption or exception from federal law—which should be uniformly applied and enforced across the country.

The social sanctuaries—the Underground Railroad, Vietnam resistance, Central American refuges, DACA and migrant sanctuaries—were all illegal and were acknowledged as such. They were acts of civil disobedience in which the participants were aware they were breaking the law and could face the penalties. They did it nonetheless because they felt they were serving a higher moral cause.

The nullifying sanctuaries—the anti-abortion and anti-federal sanctuary movements—are attempts to cancel federal law, the Constitution and Bill of Rights through creation of what is essentially a counter-government where federal law does not apply.

When it comes to local governments the big difference between the anti-abortion and anti-federal sanctuary movements and their gun sanctuary predecessor is that they are trying to impose ordinances on their jurisdictions—rules with the force of law and penalties for violations. Previously, towns and counties passed resolutions, which expressed an opinion or sentiment and did not carry penalties.

By denying the jurisdiction of federal law, the nullifying sanctuary movements are actually practicing insurrection by other means.

By passing these ordinances, states, counties and municipalities are starting down a slippery slope whose logical end is the creation of a separate polity subject to its own laws and sovereignty. This is also known as insurrection, rebellion or secession. The ordinances may pay lip service to the Bill of Rights but in fact they are rejecting the United States Constitution with its Bill of Rights, all the other amendments and protections of the rule of law.

Americans have fought and died to prevent that kind of insurrection. Just because this movement is legalistic and non-violent doesn’t make it any less dangerous to the cohesion and indivisibility of the United States.

The battlefield for America’s future has moved from the walls of the Capitol building to the small towns and rural counties of its heartland but the stakes are no less high.

America has been here before. It has faced and overcome rebellion, nullification, secession and most recently insurrection. It now needs to overcome the threats to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights cloaked in the language and the trappings of sanctuary. The choice is between constitutional democracy and anarchy.

Anyone looking for a sanctuary for freedom and the rights of the individual need look no further than the United States itself and its Constitution. It’s the greatest sanctuary in history.

Now it’s up to every truly patriotic American citizen to ensure that it remains that way.


The Collier County Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 13 at 9:00 am. Public petition speakers are limited to ten minutes and general address speakers to 3 minutes. The Commission Chambers and Commissioners’ offices are located on the third floor of the Administration Building at 3299 Tamiami Trail East, Suite 303, Naples, Fla.

Meetings are also aired live on Collier Television CTV and are available online via Video On Demand.

To reach commissioners:

Rick LoCastro

Andy Solis

Burt Saunders

Penny Taylor
Chair

William L. McDaniel, Jr.


To read more about past sanctuary movements:

What’s the history of sanctuary spaces and why do they matter? by Elizabeth Allen

The sanctuary movement: A brief history by Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser

Talk on the logic of sanctuary, given at Duke University by Elizabeth Bruening

How Trump’s war on sanctuary cities affected immigrants by Felipe de la Hoz

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

UPDATED: Supreme Court rules against Trump, preserves DACA; SWFL politicos react

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA protest in favor of DACA in New York, Sept. 9, 2017.     (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

June 18, 2020 by David Silverberg

Updated 5:30 pm with reactions and statements.

The US Supreme Court today ruled against the Trump administration’s effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, protecting the legal residency of immigrants who came to the United States under the age of 16.

The 5 to 4 decision, whose majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, brings to an end the administration’s two-year effort to end the program initiated under President Barack Obama in 2012.

Numbers for DACA recipients in Lee and Collier counties are unavailable. However, there are an estimated 800,000 DACA “dreamers” nationwide and 32,795 in Florida.

Local dreamers have been profiled in the past by WINK News and NBC2.

In his opinion Roberts wrote that the administration did not follow proper legal procedures in attempting to end DACA.

Roberts made clear that the decision did not deal with the substance of the DACA program. “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” he wrote. “We address only whether the [Department of Homeland Security] complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.”

Southwest Florida representatives and candidates reacted with relative predictability to the Supreme Court decision.

The two Democratic candidates for Congress in the 19th Congressional District hailed the decision.

“DREAMERs have always been Americans,” stated David Holden. “This is their home and I’m glad the Supreme Court saw through this administration’s cruelty and made a decision to uphold justice. Many families in SWFL have DACA, DAPA [Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents], or fall somewhere in the grey scale of our current, practically impossible immigration system.”

He continued: “With this win, we must generate the momentum necessary to create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and their families; find permanent solutions for those who fall under TPS [Temporary Protected Status]; and realize an immigration system that is empathetic, efficient, and unbiased. The Senate now has no excuse and must pass the overwhelmingly popular Dream and Promise Act, or H.R. 6. SWFL owes much of its economy, culture, and community to immigrants, and I’m thrilled they can sleep a little easier tonight.”

Cindy Banyai expressed support for the decision: “The Supreme Court ruling blocking Trump’s cancellation of DACA is a major step in checking administrative overreach,” she stated. “As Justice Sotomayor noted in her opinion, cancelling DACA on the back of hateful rhetoric towards the same group of people needs to be called out. There is no room for racism and xenophobia in our country and this decision helps restore balance and accountability in that regard.”

Of the sitting members of Congress for Southwest Florida, only Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) issued a statement: “I am pleased that the individuals who benefit from DACA are still protected, but as I’ve repeatedly said, both sides have been playing politics for far too long on this issue, and it’s time to come up with a permanent solution for those who are here at no fault of their own. I reiterate my willingness to work with anyone and everyone on a bipartisan, bicameral solution that provides a path toward permanence, while also adhering to the rule of law. DREAMERS, who are here at no fault of their own, and have not violated US laws, deserve to be here legally, freely, and with certainty.”

Of the nine Republicans running, only Darren Aquino responded to The Paradise Progressive‘s request for comment and issued a tweet on the subject: “I 100% disagree with the recent #DACADecision. You’re looking at a politicized justice system that works to stop Trump at all costs. Illegal immigration hurts us in so many ways. I am going to propose national E-verify legislation to combat illegal immigration” [sic].

Trump issued four rapid-fire tweets on the subject immediately after the Supreme Court decision was announced. He stated that he needed new Supreme Court justices and a new legal solution to end DACA. “The Supreme Court is not willing to give us one, so now we have to start this process all over again,” he stated in one tweet. “The DACA decision, while a highly political one, and seemingly not based on the law, gives the President of the United States far more power than EVER anticipated. Nevertheless, I will only act in the best interests of the United States of America!” he wrote in another.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) hailed the decision: “Today is a joyous and proud day for our country, as the Supreme Court has rejected the Trump Administration’s illegal, immoral assault on young immigrants who make America more American, which the Court rightfully found to be ‘arbitrary and capricious,’” she stated.  “The Court’s decision upholds our values, the law and the will of the American people.  Dreamers have the overwhelming support of the public, with more than three out of four voters saying Dreamers should be allowed to stay – including more than two-thirds of Republicans.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Five years to the day after Naples raid, new actions loom over migrant workers

Deportation 2-21-17
ICE agents arrest suspects in a 2017 raid.                (Photo: DHS)

July 16, 2019 By David Silverberg

Today, July 16, marks the anniversary of one of the biggest law enforcement raids on migrant workers in Southwest Florida history.

It was on this date five years ago that Florida Division of Insurance Fraud investigators raided Incredible Fruit Dynamics in Naples and arrested 105 workers for fraudulent documentation, use of personal identification, identity theft and workers’ compensation fraud.

The anniversary comes as the threat of deportation raids continue to hang over Southwest Florida along with the rest of the country.

The 2014 raid demonstrated the role and extent of undocumented or fraudulently documented workers in the economy of Southwest Florida. It’s a role that continues today.

The company was owned by Alfie Oakes, owner of Oakes farms, Food & Thought organic farm market and Seed to Table.

At the time, authorities made clear that Oakes was not being charged; they were trying to find the source of the false documents. Oakes denied knowing anything about the undocumented workers in his employ. “We definitely knowingly never hired any illegals,” Oakes told The Naples Daily News. “The company hires only people that provide Social Security cards.” He and his brother Eric had purchased the company and kept the workers on, some of whom had been working there for over 10 years.

Though he checked Social Security cards, “If everything looks legit, we’re not allowed by law to challenge them,” he said, referring to discrimination laws. “It’s kind of a fine line when you’re hiring people.”

Southwest Florida has always been a center of cheap migrant labor, given its extensive agricultural sector. In 1960 the legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow and CBS News exposed the harsh conditions under which migrant workers labored in the fields in Immokalee in its landmark documentary, “Harvest of Shame.”

This past weekend, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel made their presence known in Immokalee they succeeded in instilling fear—but from a law enforcement perspective, they also gave possible deportees time to flee. Unlike the 2014 raid, which was intended to actually catch wrongdoers, the point of this activity just seemed intended to terrorize.

Commentary: Terrorism vs. enforcement

In his campaign kickoff speech in Orlando on June 18, President Trump accused Democrats of being driven by “hatred, prejudice and rage” but that seems a perfect description of what is driving him and his approach to governing.

In the past, immigration enforcement was guided by an effort to effectively apprehend wrongdoers or suspects, while minimizing disruption but still sending a strong signal.

President Barack Obama’s administration was active in pursuing undocumented migrants who had committed crimes or had deportation orders against them. Between 2009 and 2011, federal authorities deported 385,000 people per year, according to Department of Homeland Security data. In 2012, that hit a high point of 409,000. However, the Obama effort was directed at migrants with criminal records who posed a danger to the community or those with court-ordered removal orders against them. They featured careful intelligence, stealth and discretion.

Despite broad allegations of migrant criminality by Trump, his enforcement efforts seem intended to just showboat, stoke fear and vent his bile against foreigners, particularly those from south of the US border.

This comes at the same time as the president’s latest eruptions on Twitter against Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-5-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-13-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-7-Mass.). No other word will serve to describe his insults— it’s racism, pure and simple. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. From the day Trump announced his candidacy his racism, xenophobia and cruelty have been on full display. The only difference now is that he has no restraints and no filters, there’s just pure hatred, prejudice and rage.

In Southwest Florida, the member of Congress whose district encompasses Immokalee is Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.). When asked about the possibility of raids, arrests and deportations, all he would say was, “Until we have a real fix of a system that is totally broken and has gotten worse, these things are going to continue to happen,” according to the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s not an issue of what I support or not. ICE is going to follow the law and I expect them to follow the law and to do so in a way that’s honorable.”

Meanwhile, Diaz-Balart’s neighbor to the west, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) has introduced legislation to cut legal immigration by half and make asylum-seeking more difficult both by shortening deadlines and restricting applications to ports of entry. Rooney’s legislation (House Resolution 481) doesn’t go as far as the administration, which is proposing a rule to prevent asylum applications at the border at all and only in the countries refugees are fleeing.

Diaz-Balart is right: The immigration system is broken and needs fixing. But anti-immigration hardliners have consistently sunk past efforts at bipartisan solutions and this president and his administration haven’t put forward any sane solutions other than a brick-and-mortar wall and the president’s “hatred, prejudice and rage” as expressed in cruelty and callousness toward refugees and asylum-seekers.

Democratic members of Congress and immigration advocacy groups are suing to prevent the administration’s proposed new rule and are demonstrating against the administration’s anti-immigrant actions.

This is the battle will be decided in the 2020 election.

As a side note, it’s worth following up on the Alfie Oakes story. On Aug. 13, 2018 the Naples Daily News reported that Oakes Farms Food & Distribution Services had been awarded a $46.8 million contract by the US Defense Logistics Agency to supply food to the military.

Six days later, Oakes posted a screed on Facebook against “the Democratic party recently morphing into all out socialism” and complaining that “current events are censored from the MSM [mainstream media] to support their one world order narrative.”

“The puppeteers that orchestrate the MSM, most of our universities, the [Democratic National Committee] along with the Obama administration have been pushing for a one world order that would ultimately destroy the opportunity for the individual,” he wrote. “We must with all our might reject socialism and adhere to the genius of the christian [sic] principles that our founding father so masterfully created (through the hand of GOD in my opinion) so that we may continue to be the beacon of the world for individual prosperity and freedom.”

It will be interesting to see if there are any raids this time at Oakes Farms.

Liberty lives in light

© 2019 by David Silverberg

 

Mueller report reaction, immigration and more: The Rooney Roundup and Mario Monitor

01-13-19 us capitol cropped

The Rooney Roundup – and introducing the Mario Monitor

421 days (1 year, 1 month, 28 days) since Rep. Francis Rooney has met constituents in an open, public forum

With this article we add monitoring of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), the western side of whose district includes large portions of Collier and Lee counties, including Golden Gate Estates, Immokalee and a major portion of Lehigh Acres.

April 19, 2019 by David Silverberg

It has been a momentous seven weeks since our last Rooney Roundup. In that time Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report was released and the president initiated a purge of the top leadership of the Department of Homeland Security. Congress recessed for two weeks on Friday, April 12 and will reconvene on Monday, April 29.

While Southwest Florida has hardly been the center of national attention, its representatives—Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.)—were active on other issues.

According to WINK-TV, yesterday Rooney issued a statement saying that with release of the Mueller Report the nation should move on. However, as of this writing, such a statement has not appeared on his official website or on his Twitter page. Diaz-Balart has not issued a statement. A query about their positions was sent to both offices by The Paradise Progressive and this report will be updated if an answer is received.

 Cutting legal immigration

On April 10, Rooney introduced the House version of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act (RAISE Act), a bill intended to cut legal immigration to the United States by at least half.

The bill was introduced in the Senate the same day by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) as Senate bill 1103. Cotton introduced it in 2017 in the previous Congress where it was endorsed by President Donald Trump. White House advisor Stephen Miller praised it as “what President Trump campaigned on.” However, it never made it out of committee.

On its first introduction 1,400 economists—including six Nobel laureates—were inspired to write an open letter to Trump and the congressional leadership favoring immigration and opposing the bill’s measures.

“Among us are Republicans and Democrats alike,” stated the letter. “Some of us favor free markets while others have championed for a larger role for government in the economy. But on some issues there is near universal agreement. One such issue concerns the broad economic benefit that immigrants to this country bring.”

The 2019 bill introduced by Cotton and Rooney:

  • Would ensure that family members of legal immigrants to the United States would not be automatically admitted to the country, which was done in the past to ensure family cohesion but which critics call “chain migration;”
  • It would end the Diversity Visa Lottery program, which provides green cards to applicants from underrepresented countries on a lottery basis to strengthen diversity;
  • It would limit the number of refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year, reducing legal immigration by half.

According to Cotton and Rooney, the current immigration system does not favor merit or skill-based immigration, either in allowing the immigration of family members or in the lottery.

This is not Rooney’s first swipe at reducing immigration this year, particularly for asylum-seekers. On Jan. 10, he introduced the Asylum Protection Act of 2019 (House Resolution 481), which reduced the time during which an asylum seeker could apply for asylum, from one year to just 30 days. Furthermore, asylum applications would have to be made at official ports of entry; so a migrant could not ask for asylum at any other point along the border. With only three co-sponsors, the bill remains in committee.

Letter writing campaign

Rooney has still been unable to make the moratorium on offshore oil drilling in the Gulf permanent. In his most recent effort, he and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-1-Fla.) on April 17 sent a letter to Trump requesting an Oval Office meeting on the topic.

Rooney also sent a letter to the commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers asking that the Corps monitor the use of glyphosate-based herbicides in coordination with state agencies. The herbicides can contribute to blue-green algae growth of the sort experienced in Southwest Florida last summer.

Major votes

While the House of Representatives took votes on major issues over the past seven weeks, Rooney was absent and Diaz-Balart opposed the measures. By missing these votes, Rooney avoided offending both constituents and President Trump. The bills in question were:

  • Save the Internet Act of 2019 (House Resolution 1644) restoring net neutrality, which passed 232 to 190 on April 10. Rooney missed this vote, Diaz-Balart voted against it.
  • HR 271, which condemned the Trump administration for trying to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in court. This bill passed the House by a vote of 240 to 186 on April 3. Rooney missed this vote, Diaz-Balart voted against it.
  • HR 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, which passed the House on April 4 by 263 to 158. Rooney missed this vote, Diaz-Balart voted against it.
  • Senate Joint Resolution 7 to remove US forces from the war in Yemen if their activities were not explicitly authorized by Congress. This bill passed the House by 247 to 175 on April 4. Rooney missed this vote, Diaz-Balart voted against it. The bill passed both chambers and was vetoed by Trump.
Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg

Opinion: Bigotry in Trump’s speech could impact Southwest Florida

Jan. 8, 2019 by David Silverberg

There’s no evidence of a humanitarian or security crisis in Southwest Florida. The foreigners who usually arrive fly into Florida Southwest International Airport or drive down Route 75 from Ontario. A wall around Florida would be more useful for keeping out seawater than keeping out migrants.

As a result, there was very little in President Donald Trump’s national speech that seemed to apply to Southwest Florida. This was a national debate on a national issue that must be resolved in Congress at a national level.

However, what did flow out of Trump’s speech that can affect Southwest Florida and every city and town in the nation was his clear hatred of all immigrants, his stereotyping of broad swaths of people and his citations of only the worst examples of human behavior.

For every instance of an undocumented migrant who committed a crime, one can also cite the example of an immigrant who came to America, worked and thrived, perhaps put his life on the line in service to the United States and his fellow Americans and who made a contribution—some major, some minor—to this country.

But these don’t matter to Donald Trump. His poisonous hatred is capable of infecting Southwest Florida. It cannot help but lead to rising intolerance, suspicion and xenophobia. In the days ahead there will no doubt be instances of violence and hate crimes as a result of the kind of prejudice that Trump is promoting.

We can have debates over border security and the need for a wall. We can fact-check his figures and dissect his language. We can weigh the costs of his government shutdown. But what we can’t do is close the door and put back the bigotry that he releases into our homes.

Enough time has passed that generations—and Trump in particular—have forgotten where this kind of hatred led. Unchecked in Germany, it led to domestic tyranny, the Holocaust and World War II.

But closer to home, it’s worth remembering that this kind of prejudice and hatred, whipped up by hysteria and unconfirmed accusations, led to the lynching of two African-American teenagers in Fort Myers as recently as 1924.

We’ve long put away the days and passions of Nazism and Jim Crow and they should never be resurrected. But Trump is deliberately resuscitating long-dead demons of racism and hatred in pursuit of his narrow personal ends.

It’s up to everyone who knows history, who opposes bigotry and wants a big, vibrant and prosperous America and a peaceful and inclusive Southwest Florida to battle these demons, whether they appear in our hearts, our minds or in our dealings with our neighbors—no matter where they were born.

Liberty lives in light