- President Trump has faced widespread criticism for sending federal agents to Portland to crackdown on ongoing protests against racial injustice.
- On Monday, Trump said he wanted to send agents to a number of cities, “All run by liberal Democrats,” including Chicago and New York.
- Administration officials have said deployments to Chicago are already in the works, though they are to deal with gun violence.
- Illinois officials initially rejected the plan, but yesterday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she supported help from the feds as long as it was a partnership between them and local officials, unlike in Portland.
Portland as a Test Case
As violence clashes between protestors and federal law enforcement agents continue to shake Portland, President Donald Trump is threatening to send feds to more U.S. cities, despite widespread objections from numerous mayors.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration deployed federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Marshals to Portland in order to respond to the protests against racial injustice that have been ongoing for over 50 days since the death of George Floyd.
The move reinvigorated the protests, which had largely died down before the arrival of the federal agents. As a result, state and local leaders in Oregon have accused the federal agents of escalating the violence and demanded that they be removed.
Numerous leaders across the country have also condemned the move and questioned its legality. Some have called the deployment of the federal officers to Portland a political stunt for Trump’s own political gain as he falters in the polls heading into the November election.
However, Trump and his administration have remained steadfast in their decision, and according to a DHS official who spoke to Bloomberg on Tuesday, even more agents have been deployed to Portland as the clashes have grown.
Other critics and experts have also expressed concerns that what is happening in Portland is just a test case, and that Trump is simply trying out these tactics there before moving on to other cities.
“My sense is they chose Portland because if they had rolled this out in, say, Minneapolis, it would mean to come in direct confrontation with many more Black activists,” Joe Lowndes, a professor of political science at the University of Oregon told USA Today. “With Portland, it’s a whiter city and they can demonize Antifa or the idea of anarchist looters and kind of take race out of it in a direct way, and make it seem more sympathetic.’’
Trump Threatens to Send Feds to More Cities
Regardless of the political incentives, the idea that Portland is just a trial-run seems to become more and more realistic.
On Monday, reports began circulating that DHS was making plans to deploy about 150 federal agents in Chicago this week. Later that day, Trump himself told reporters he was considering expanding the deployments.
“I’m going to do something,” he said. “Because New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these, and Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.”
On Tuesday, an administration official told Bloomberg that a formal announcement on more deployments is expected to be made at some point this week. Meanwhile, preparations are already being made to send officers to Chicago.
However, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the plan, rather than being sent to crack down on protests, the feds are being deployed to Chicago to focus on gun violence which has surged in the city over the last year.
While no official public announcement has been made by the Trump administration, state and local leaders in Illinois have still pushed back against the alleged plan, with many top officials also seeming to indicate that this is already something in the works.
During a press conference Monday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker slammed the move.
“This is a wrong-headed move on the part of Donald Trump, on the part of Homeland Security,” he said. “I have put a call into the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security. He has refused to call us back.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to prevent them from coming, and if they do come, we’re going to do everything we can from a legal perspective to get them out,” he added.
Those remarks also appeared to echo similar ones made by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot the day before.
“Our democracy is at stake, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to let anybody – even if their name is Mr. President – bring those kind of troops to our city and try to take on our residents,” she told reporters. “That’s not going to happen in Chicago. And I’m going to use every tool at my disposal to stop them.”
Also on Monday, Lightfoot, along with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and the mayors of several other cities, wrote a letter to the administration rejecting the deployment of federal forces in their cities, and demanding they be withdrawn.
“We write to express our deep concern and objection to the deployment of federal forces in our cities, as those forces are conducting law enforcement activities without coordination or authorization of local law enforcement officials,” the mayors wrote. “The unilateral deployment of these forces into American cities is unprecedented and violates fundamental constitutional protections and tenets of federalism.”
“Furthermore, it is concerning that federal law enforcement is being deployed for political purposes,” the letter continued. “The President and his administration continually attack local leadership and amplify false and divisive rhetoric purely for campaign fodder.
But in a press conference Tuesday, Lightfoot also said that she welcomed a federal partnership to crack down on gun violence, though she reiterated that the federal deployment cannot mirror that of Portland’s.
“What I understand at this point, and I caveat that, is that the Trump administration is not going to foolishly deploy unnamed agents to the streets of Chicago,” she said. “We have information that allows us to say, at least at this point, that we don’t see a Portland-style deployment coming to Chicago.”
“Unlike what happened in Portland, what we will receive is resources that are going to plug in to the existing federal agencies that we work with on a regular basis to help manage and suppress violent crime,” she added. “I’ve been very clear that we welcome actual partnership, but we do not welcome dictatorship.”
DHS Officials Speak Out
However, it is not just mayors that have voiced their opposition to the deployments. On Tuesday, Buzzfeed News reported that interviews they conducted of 17 DHS employees who requested anonymity “reveal that many at the agency disagree with the show of force.”
“This administration’s utterly transparent fearmongering of sending federal officers out against peaceful protesters in Portland and Chicago has no purpose other than to support Trump’s reelection bid,” one employee said.
“It is blatantly unconstitutional and an embarrassment to the agency and the career civil servants who work here.”
Others also told the outlet that the move harms the public’s perceptions of the DHS, thus hampering its effectiveness, with one employee saying the deployments “absolutely hurts the reputation of the agency. Most people have no clue what we do, but now they will have this ham-fisted response in their mind as they think about CBP.”
See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (USA Today) (The Wall Street Journal)
Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”
- Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot.
- So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Florida Requires Proof of Residency
Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.
Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it.
According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers.
Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited
Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north.
“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)
Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”
- Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
- Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
- Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.
Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017.
Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony.
“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”
Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.
“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”
What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”
Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing.
“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”
“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”
Nation Impressed by Gorman
“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”
Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration.
Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation.
Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day.
See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.