Things That Matter

ICE Tried To Celebrate Human Rights Day, Julian Castro Was Not Having It

Human Rights Day commemorates the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. Immigration Customs and Enforcement’s (ICE) official account tweeted the agency was recognizing Human Rights Day by using a photo of multicultural children locking hands.

ICE, who has repeatedly been criticized during the Trump administration for several human rights violations including denying children flu vaccinations, separating families, and detaining migrants in inhumane and overcrowded living conditions often compared to concentration camps, received a huge backlash on Twitter – including a clapback from former HUD secretary Julian Castro.

ICE tweeted about Human Rights Day, and Twitter implodes at the audacity. 

ICE’s tweet to honor Human Rights Day included a link to a press release congratulating themselves for being such great big champions of human rights. 

“The women and men of ICE dedicate themselves every day to protecting the dignity and human rights of people around the world. Through our work investigating perpetrators of genocide, torture, war crimes and other violations of human rights, they are committed to seeking the prosecution and removal of human rights violators seeking refuge here.” Assistant Director for National Security David Shaw said in a press release, unironically. “We will not allow the United States to be a safe haven for those who violate human rights.”

In October, Castro visited a migrant detention center in Mexico to see what the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy really looked like. 

 “A lot of families along the border who are part of this MPP program have been subjected to violence, some have been kidnapped, some have been extorted, some have been treated a lot worse than what they were fleeing from,” Castro told BuzzFeed News

Under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy, migrants must wait in Mexican detention centers while their cases are processed in the U.S. 

“I don’t see humanitarian shelter,” Castro said of the detention center. “I see a lot of desperate parents, a lot of desperate children, sick children. I see a polluted river… It’s a disaster. People should not live like this.”

Julian Castro had a few choice words for ICE’s tweet. 

“Delete your account,” was Castro’s simple suggestion to the agency, adding, “we need to break up ICE and build a more humane immigration system.” 

The former HUD secretary advocates for largely redistributing ICE’s duties into other departments. Senator Bernie Sanders is the only candidate that has called for abolishing ICE, according to the Washington Post

“ICE needs to be overhauled,” Castro told The Post. “My immigration policy would transfer the enforcement responsibilities of the agency to other departments such as the DOJ to guarantee higher standards of conduct and more focused prosecutorial discretion — ensuring resources are focused on targeting criminals and national security threats.”

Castro was the first candidate to unveil an immigration plan calling for a complete reformation of our immigration system. He would end migrant detention except in serious cases, create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented families who don’t currently have one, decriminalize illegal border crossings, and establish a Marshall Plan for Central America. 

“I’ve been clear that I’m not going to criminalize desperation. We need to understand that these are human beings. They’re not a criminal record or an invader or an other. They’re human beings that are simply coming — like generations have before — in search of a better life,” Castro told Vox of his plan

Unlike the other candidates, in Castro’s “People First” plan he calls for a complete investigation into the Trump administration’s immigration policies. It states, “there must be a thorough investigation of ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of  Justice’s role in family separation policies instituted by the Trump administration.”

Critics did not miss the irony of ICE’s tweet.

“Satire is dead when the authoritarian gov’t agency that violently rounds up immigrants and throws them into privatized for-profit concentration camps where parents are separated from their children also pretends to honor Human Rights Day with a stock photo,” reporter Ben Norton tweeted. 

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition released a statement criticizing the agency wherein it calls out several ICE controversies including deporting cancer patients, military veterans, and taking asylum seeker Nebane Abienwi off life support against their family’s wishes. They called ICE’s tweet gaslighting given the agency’s track record. 

“ICE is one of the principal abusers of human rights in the United States,” said Katie Adams, Domestic Policy Advocate with the United Church of Christ and Co-Chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition“This is gaslighting in its purest form. December 10th is about holding ICE, and others like them across the globe, accountable for crimes against humanity. Pretending ICE is somehow part of the solution is outrageous.” 

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As Republicans Move To Fill Supreme Court Seat, Julián Castro Says Democrats Should Consider Nuclear Option

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As Republicans Move To Fill Supreme Court Seat, Julián Castro Says Democrats Should Consider Nuclear Option

Gabriela Bhaskar / Getty Images

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, progressives are struggling to figure out their next move. Republicans have made it clear they don’t care about precedent or even following their own made up rules, and plan to attempt to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible.

Some Republicans have even gone as far as saying they’ll vote to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee even if he loses the November election, in a lame duck session of Congress.

This has Democrats in overdrive trying to figure out their game plan and how they’ll respond to Republican efforts to once again steal a Supreme Court seat.

Julián Castro says that Democrats should consider packing the court if they come into power come January.

In an interview with Buzzfeed’s News O’Clock podcast, this year’s only Latino candidate for president said that Democrats should consider adding more justices to the Supreme Court if Senate Republicans rush to confirm a justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. His announcement is a reversal from his stated position during the presidential campaign.

“For many of us, that wasn’t our preference, but the fact is you have Mitch McConnell not abiding by, not working in good faith under the Constitution. … If you have that kind of abuse of the system, then I think that, yeah, Democrats should be open to different ways that we can stave off draconian changes to our fundamental rights,” he said.

During last year’s presidential primaries, Castro said that he “would not pack the court” if we were elected president, but with reproductive rights, voting rights, and healthcare hanging in the balance, he now believes Democrats should consider structural reform to the court.

“When those are the stakes, and Mitch McConnell is the one who’s abused this system, then yeah, I think we need to be open to considering either adding more justices or other structural reforms that will prevent this kind of abuse in the future,” he said.

Nothing in the Constitution limits the number of justices that sit on the Supreme Court.

Credit: Sam Gateaux / Getty Images

Adding more justices to the Supreme Court, or “packing the court”, has become widely popular among progressives as they see it as a last resort to restoring equality to the court. And the only way in writing wrongs committed by Republican Senate leadership.

Obviously, one concern is that if the Democrats increase the court size when they have power, that the Republicans could expand it again when they regain power. And we would have a never ending saga.

But as the Democrats are once again outplayed and outmaneuvered by the GOP, many say it’s a risk worth taking.

Castro also warned that Biden was losing his traction with Latino voters.

Meanwhile, Castro has also expressed concern that the Biden campaign isn’t doing enough to win the support of Latino voters.

“I believe the campaign gets it in that they understand they have work to do,” Castro said, adding that he thinks that Biden will pick up Latino support by Nov. 3 because the campaign is now investing in voter registration, bilingual messaging across platforms, and tailored outreach to different Latino communities, rather than treating them as one unified voting block.

“The Latino community too often is invisible, it’s an afterthought,” said Castro, who was housing secretary under Barack Obama. “Even though it’s going to be the largest non-white voting group in 2020. I think in every way in American society … there’s this image of the Latino community as though everybody got here five minutes ago.”

Joe Biden’s campaign has “to make sure that they are doing everything they can to reach out to a community that already has one of the lowest rates of voting, that needs to be brought into the fold”, Castro said.

With 29 million eligible voters in 2018, or about 12.8% of the total, Latinos voted more than two-to-one for Democrats, according to Pew Research. That was a much lower rate than for the party’s key bloc, African Americans, who went 90%-9% for Democrats.

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Twitter’s AIs Prefer Ted Cruz With Boobs And White Skin Over Black

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Twitter’s AIs Prefer Ted Cruz With Boobs And White Skin Over Black

Ever notice how on some social platforms like Twitter or Instagram that you yourself are mysteriously unable to crop your display images on your own? That’s because Twitter prefers to let their algorithms make the decision. Over the weekend users on Twitter discovered the surprising dangers of letting algorithms crop your own images.

Education tech researcher Colin Madland drew attention to the issue while speaking out about how the video-calling program Zoom, often crops the head out of his black person coworker while on calls.

It didn’t take long for Madland and other users to discover that Twitter’s AIs use discriminatory equations to prioritize certain faces as well. In short, the social platform’s AIs prefer white faces over Black ones.

In response to the discoveries, a Twitter spokesperson acknowledged that the company was looking into the issue “Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing. But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’re looking into this and will continue to share what we learn and what actions we take,” they stated.

Of course, Madland’s discovery is nothing new. In 2019, test results from the National Institute of Standards and Technology revealed that some of the strongest algorithms online were much more likely to confuse the faces of Black women than those of white women, or Black or white men. “The NIST test challenged algorithms to verify that two photos showed the same face, similar to how a border agent would check passports,” Wired points out. “At sensitivity settings where Idemia’s algorithms falsely matched different white women’s faces at a rate of one in 10,000, it falsely matched black women’s faces about once in 1,000—10 times more frequently. A one in 10,000 false match rate is often used to evaluate facial recognition systems.”

Still, it didn’t take long for users on the platform to ask what other physical preferences Twitter has.

Turns out the AIs prefer Ted Cruz with large anime breasts over a normal-looking Ted Cruz.

(To better understand this Tweet, click the link above)

The user who tested the image of Cruz, found that Twitter’s algorithm on the back end selected what part of the picture it would showcase in the preview and ultimately chose both images of Cruz with a large anime chest.

It’s nothing new that Twitter has its massive problems.

For a platform that so controls and oversees so much of what we consume and how we now operate, it’s scary to know how Twitter chooses to display people with different skin tones. The round of jokes and Twitter experiments by users has only revived concerns on how “learning” computer algorithms fuel real-world biases like racism and sexism.

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