- On Sunday President Donald Trump said in a tweet that “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen,” who are from other countries should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
- The tweets appeared to refer to Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley, who have recently been publicly sparring with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
- Both Democrats and Republicans responded, condemning Trump’s tweets, and noting that all of those women with the exception of Omar were born in the U.S.
- The four Congresswomen and others responded, with many calling the tweets racist. Trump responded Monday morning, demanding that they apologize and saying that they were the ones who are racist.
After significant backlash, President Donald Trump defended controversial tweets he made Sunday calling for ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” from other countries to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
Though Trump did not name anyone specifically, he seemed to be referring to a group of four freshman Congresswomen known as “the Squad,” who have been publicly clashing with Nancy Pelosi over the last week.
That group includes Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).
All four representatives are women of color and all were born in the United States with the exception of Omar, who was born in Somalia, but fled the country during the civil war when she was a child and later became a U.S. citizen when she was a teenager.
While there have been clashes between Pelosi and some of these members in the past, tensions grew recently after the Squad voted against the $4.5 billion border aid bill because they were concerned the money would go towards Trump’s immigration crackdown, rather than bettering conditions in detention centers.
Those tensions boiled over last week after Pelosi told The New York Times that the Squad “didn’t have any following.”
That did not go over so well and after a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Post that Pelosi was explicitly “singling out of newly elected women of color.”
The Squad Responds
All four of the Congresswomen responded to Trump’s tweets on their own Twitter accounts shortly after.
“Mr. President, the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “But given how you’ve destroyed our border with inhumane camps, all at a benefit to you & the corps who profit off them, you are absolutely right about the corruption laid at your feet.”
“You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder,” she continued. “On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.”
Omar responded on Twitter, going after Trump and accusing him of encouraging white nationalism.
“Mr. President, As Members of Congress, the only country we swear an oath to is the United States. Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen,” Omar said.
“You are stoking white nationalism bc you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda.”
Pressley responded to Trump’s tweet, writing “THIS is what racism looks like.”
“Want a response to a lawless & complete failure of a President?” Tlaib wrote on Twitter. “He is the crisis. His dangerous ideology is the crisis. He needs to be impeached.”
Tlaib also later tweeted out a video and wrote in the caption, “I will #neverbackdown and no bully, even this racist President, will wavier the work we have to do.”
Others Lawmakers Respond
Numerous Democrats also responded, condemning the president’s tweets.
According to The Washington Post, by Sunday evening at least 90 House Democrats and Independent Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), who just left the Republican party, had denounced the Presidents remarks. The Post also reported “more than half of them using the words ‘racist or ‘racism’ to describe his tweets.”
Notably, Nancy Pelosi responded to Trump in a tweet.
“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again,” she wrote. “I reject @realDonaldTrump’s xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation.”
Republicans Speak Out
A growing number of Republicans also criticized the president’s comments.
“POTUS was wrong to say any American citizen, whether in Congress or not, has any ‘home’ besides the U.S.,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) said on Twitter.
Republican Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) also posted on Twitter, saying that Trump’s tweets were not reflective of his constituents, and urged him to “immediately disavow his comments.”
A growing number Republican Senators also spoke out against the president’s tweets Monday. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) posted a statement on Twitter and said: “the President interjected with unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language.”
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) also reportedly told CNN, “President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from. Three of the four were born in America and the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine.”
Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, often a staunch supporter of Trump, advised the president to “Aim Higher,” but stopped short of outright condemning the president’s tweets.
“We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel, they hate our own country,” Graham said on Fox and Friends. “Aim Higher. They are American citizens. They won an election. Take on their policies. The bottom line here is this is a diverse country.”
Trump’s New Tweets
On Monday, Trump responded to the backlash.
“When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said,” Trump wrote.
Also on Monday, Pelosi sent a letter to Democratic Congress members urging them to support a resolution that would condemn Trump’s tweets.
“This morning, the President doubled down on his attacks on our four colleagues suggesting they apologize to him,” Pelosi wrote. “Let me be clear, our Caucus will continue to forcefully respond to these disgusting attacks.”
“The House cannot allow the President’s characterization of immigrants to our country to stand. Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the President’s xenophobic tweets,” she continued.
Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Tlaib, and Omar are expected to hold a press conference at 5:00 p.m. EST.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Guardian) (Fox News)
New York City Moves to Ban Cashless Businesses
- New York City’s Council passed a bill on Thursday that prohibits businesses from going cashless.
- Supporters argue this approach discriminates against low-income groups, undocumented individuals, and people of color who are less likely to have bank accounts.
- Meanwhile, opponents of the cashless ban argue it is more convenient for workers to only deal with digital transactions.
- If New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio approves the bill, businesses will face a fine for refusing to accept cash as payment.
- San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New Jersey all approved cashless bans in businesses last year.
Cashless Ban Approved by City Council
New York City’s Council approved a bill on Thursday that bans businesses from going cashless.
The measure was almost unanimously passed and is an effort to decrease discrimination of low-income groups, undocumented individuals, and people of color who are less likely to have bank accounts or access to credit.
Councilmember Ritchie Torres was the bill’s lead sponsor.
“We in the City Council have real concerns that an increasingly cashless marketplace could have a real-world discriminatory effect on low-income communities, especially communities of color, that lack access to credit and debit,” Torres said at a press conference right before the bill was passed.
Just over 11% of households in New York — about 354,000 — do not have a bank account, according to a 2019 report by New York City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection. An additional 21.8% of households are underbanked, meaning they have a bank account but use alternative financial methods for some needs.
Torres also noted that even those who do have access to bank accounts might still prefer cash because of its familiarity and its nature of allowing more privacy.
“Whatever your reasons, consumers should have the power to choose their preferred method of payment,” Torres said.
If the bill is approved by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, restaurants, stores, and other retail outlets will be required to accept cash as payment. If any businesses do refuse hard currency, they will be subject to a fine of $1,000 and $1,500 for each following offense.
Businesses will have the option of adopting cash conversion machines as long as the machines do not charge any extra fees. In the case that one of these machines is not working, the business must directly accept cash.
A spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio told The New York Times on Wednesday that he supported “the intent” of the bill, but still planned to go over it.
Cashless Ban Movement
New York City is the latest to pass legislation prohibiting businesses from refusing cash. In 2019, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New Jersey all approved these bans for similar reasons.
While many are in favor of cashless bans, the idea has received pushback from others. Business owners have argued the method is more convenient for their workers. Leo Kremer, co-founder of the Dos Toros Taqueria chain that runs through New York City, has previously expressed this take.
“We are only interested in being cashless because it allows us to make our restaurant more seamless,” Kremer said at a hearing on the bill in February.
Kalman Yeger, a councilman from Brooklyn, thought those who voted for the bill were “overreaching.”
“We are inserting ourselves in the business of business in a way that we don’t have the right to,” Yeger told The New York Times.
See what others are saying: (ABC) (The New York Times) (Guardian)
U.S. Announces New Visa Rule Targeting “Birth Tourism”
- The Department of State unveiled a new rule aiming to stop pregnant women from coming to the U.S. to give birth so their children get American citizenship.
- The rule states that this practice — commonly referred to as “birth tourism” — “poses risks to national security.”
- The new regulation allows consular officers to deny visas to visitors if they believe they’re traveling to the U.S. for this purpose.
- It also requires those traveling to the U.S. for medical purposes to prove to consular officers that they can pay for the treatment they seek.
- The changes will go into effect as of Friday, Jan. 24.
Crackdown on Birth Tourism
The U.S. Department of State announced on Thursday plans to stop pregnant women from entering the country to give birth so their children are granted American citizenship, a practice commonly referred to as “birth tourism.”
Under the new rule, consular officers can deny visas to visitors if they believe their travel to the country is primarily for this purpose.
“The Department considers birth tourism an inappropriate basis for the issuance of temporary visitor visas,” the rule states.
The visas that this new regulation covers are those categorized as “B nonimmigrant visas,” issued for pleasure, medical purposes, or to visit friends or family.
“This rule reflects a better policy, as birth tourism poses risks to national security,” the Department of State said in the document. “The birth tourism industry is also rife with criminal activity, including international criminal schemes.”
By the law of the 14th Amendment, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”
President Donald Trump has spoken out about his disapproval of this policy before. In the past, he has called it a “magnet for illegal immigration,” and last August he expressed his wish to remove it.
The State Department’s new rule will officially take effect on Friday, Jan. 24. It will only affect those from countries who need a visa to visit the United States.
In addition to cracking down on birth tourism, the State Department’s new rule also tightens qualifications for those seeking medical treatment in the U.S.
It requires that those seeking a nonimmigrant visa for this reason “must demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the consular officer,” their ability to pay for their sought-after medical services, as well as proof that a medical practitioner has already agreed to help.
Reactions to the New Rule
After the Department of State’s new rule was made public, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham gave it her nod of approval.
“It will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism,” Grisham said in a statement. “The integrity of American citizenship must be protected.”
Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona tweeted a link to The New York Times article on the story and added a simple word of support: “Good.”
Others, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, were not happy about the change.
“This administration is now targeting pregnant. women.” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “When you single out the most vulnerable, the cruelty is the point.”
Supreme Court Hears Landmark Case Regarding Scholarships for Religious Schools
- The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a potential landmark case that could allow religious schools to receive publicly-funded scholarships, even if a state’s constitution says they can’t.
- The case involves a Montana program that was ended after the state realized it was unintentionally being used to aid religious schools using taxpayer money.
- Opponents argue that the provision, which prohibits public funds from going to religious organizations, is rooted in religious discrimination.
Montana Sparks Lawsuit After Ending Scholarship Program
The Supreme Court of the United States began hearing Wednesday what could potentially be a landmark case concerning the separation of church and state for schools.
Specifically, the Court is considering a case out of Montana that could allow religious schools to receive publicly-funded scholarships, even if a state’s constitution prohibits such a move.
The situation that now sits upon SCOTUS’s doorstep began in 2015 when the Montana state legislature created a tax-credit program for people wanting to donate to a scholarship fund.
That program allowed people to donate dollar-for-dollar tax credits up to $150.
An organization named Big Sky then capitalized on the program and created a fund to help parents wanting to send their children to private schools; however, there was a catch: 12 of the 13 schools that Big Sky sent money to were religious. In fact, about 70% of private schools in the state are religious schools.
Those donations directly conflict with Montana’s state constitution, which says the state cannot set aside public money for “…any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.”
Such a law is known as a “no-aid” provision.
Montana later decided to cut the program before eventually being sued on the basis of religious discrimination. One attorney argued that the only reason Montana shut down the program was because it included religious schools. That attorney also argued that the U.S. Constitution mandates equal protection under the law. In other words, Montana must apply the tax-credit program equally between private schools, both religious and nonreligious.
“Once you have these programs, you have to treat families going to religious schools equal to families going to nonreligious schools,” that attorney, Erica Smith, told NPR.
The case’s lead plaintiff—Kendra Espinoza— had also been vocal about her need for such a program.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Espinoza said not only did she have to pick up extra jobs but she also “pretty much sold everything in my house that wasn’t tied down” just to afford to send her two daughters to a religious private school. In addition to that, her two daughters took on jobs mowing lawns and cleaning offices to raise money.
Espinoza’s accounts are a far cry from the common stereotype that only rich people send their children to private schools, with Espinoza even directly saying that her family needs assistance to be able to afford private school.
“Baby” Blaine Amendments
While Montana didn’t introduce its tax-credit program until 2015, Espinoza’s case is also rooted in law that dates back to the 1800s.
In 1875, a politician by the name James G. Blaine introduced a similar “no-aid” amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That ended up failing, but different versions of it were adopted in most states, with Montana passing theirs in 1889.
Most historians have referred to the original proposed amendment as the “Blaine Amendment,” with the later ones being dubbed “baby” Blaine Amendments. Historians also agree that such amendments were only adopted in a bigoted retaliation to the mass immigration of Catholics into the U.S.
Thus, since the law was borne of bigotry against Catholics, Espinoza and her lawyers argued that it violates the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against religion.
On the other hand, the state of Montana disputed the discrimination claim, pointing out that its “no-aid” provision was revised and rewritten in 1972.
The state even had all but one of the surviving delegates at that 1972 convention submit a brief discussing how the revised Constitution was debated. According to NPR, one delegate even says that a number of the delegates were also ministers, with many of them speaking “very ardently in favor of public funds not going to religious education.”
That delegate, Mae Nan Ellingson, also argued that the state passed the “no-aid” provision to “protect religious liberty,” saying the state feared that if religious organizations were included, someone in the future might try to attach conditions to the aid.
The case eventually made its way to the Montana Supreme Court, where the Court ruled the state had not violated religious protections granted by the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up the Case
That decision, however, was then appealed to the SCOTUS, which began hearing arguments Wednesday.
In its brief, Montana continued to defend its no-aid provision, saying, “The No-Aid Clause does not prohibit any religious practice. Nor does it authorize any discriminatory benefits program. It simply says that Montana will not financially aid religious schools.”
On Espinoza’s side, the Trump Administration and Education Secretary Betsy Devos have backed her. The move is not an unexpected one for Devos, who attended private school herself and later sent her kids to private schools. Devos is also a heavy advocate of “faith-based education.”
With this case now reaching SCOTUS, any decision could have far-reaching effects. Including Montana, 38 states have no-aid provisions.
If Montana wins, its tax-credit program would remain shut down. It would then continue to be able to keep public money away from religious schools, but religious schools would still be able to receive federal funds.
However, if the state loses, religious schools across the country—regardless of previous state law—might be able to access scholarship funds paid for by taxes.
Currently, the latter decision appears to be the more likely outcome. In recent years, the Court has become more conservative on church vs. state issues. In 2017, it decided that Missouri couldn’t ban a church school for applying for a state grant that fixes up playgrounds. Since then, the court has only grown more conservative, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the bench.