Things That Matter

Rebellious Women On Twitter Are Gearing Up To Be #FilthyMouthedWives Thanks To Donald Trump’s Latest Attack

Sarah Morris / Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s trigger fingers turned to Twitter fingers once again. This time he attacked Chrissy Teigen and husband John Legend on Twitter. Trump felt MSNBC didn’t give him sufficient credit on criminal justice reform.

His “tweetstorm” comes in the wake of a new border crisis: Hurrican Dorian survivors from the Bahamas without visas have been denied entry to the United States. Not only are these survivors fleeing a dangerous situation, but this border rule is completely new. Bahamians were previously allowed to enter the United States with a passport and a clear criminal record. The rule is so new, no one was aware it existed until hundreds of Bahamians were turned away. Moreover, the President is also involved in another financial scandal in which the air force has launched an international investigation after it was discovered crew members stayed at Trump’s luxury Turnberry golf resort in Scotland. 

What do these scandals have to do with Teigen and Legend? Nothing. So why is the President of the United States picking on celebrities, when these two much more pressing issues, amid many more, are at the center of the news cycle? Well, I don’t pretend to know what is in Donald Trump’s heart, but I do have a dictionary and know what the word “deflection” means. 

The President compares himself to Obama — again.

On Sunday night, Trump was watching an MSNBC town hall on criminal justice reform. To his chagrin, he felt he didn’t receive any credit for signing the First Step Act into law. Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, who has been a longtime activist appeared on the episode. 

“When all of the people pushing so hard for Criminal Justice Reform were unable to come even close to getting it done, they came to me as a group and asked for my help. I got it done with a group of Senators & others who would never have gone for it. Obama couldn’t come close….” he tweeted. 

“musician @johnlegend and his filthy mouthed wife, are talking now about how great it is – but I didn’t see them around when we needed help getting it passed. “Anchor” @LesterHoltNBC doesn’t even bring up the subject of President Trump or the Republicans when talking about….” 

“…..the importance or passage of Criminal Justice Reform. They only talk about the minor players or people that had nothing to do with it…And the people that so desperately sought my help when everyone else had failed, all they talk about now is Impeaching President Trump!”

Don’t come for John Legend and Chrissy Teigen.

“Imagine being president of a whole country and spending your Sunday night hate-watching MSNBC hoping somebody–ANYBODY–will praise you.  Melania, please praise this man.  He needs you,” Legend joked. 

However, Teigen wasn’t as nice. Trump didn’t even refer to Teigan by her name, he simply called her John Legend’s “filthy-mouthed wife.” 

Former Trump communications director Anthony Scaramucci noted that Trump has a penchant for targeting private citizens like no other. 

“Have any of the other presidents in recent history — modern history — gone after their private citizens whether they’re celebrities or not celebrities?” Scaramucci told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on New Day. “(For) the last two and a half years this guy has acted like a bully, crazy person against his fellow citizens.”

Is any of what Trump is saying remotely factual? No, of course not.

While Trump did sign the First Step Act in 2018, a bipartisan effort to reform the criminal justice system, many activists, including Latino Justice PRLDEF, do not believe it remotely goes far enough to repair our broken system. Moreover, Trump’s grievance in the first place was factually incorrect. During the Dateline episode, Lester Holt did give Trump credit and showed footage of him signing the bill into law. 

The First Step Act reduces mandatory minimum sentences in certain cases and will result in the release of 3,000 inmates. There are 2.3 million incarcerated people in the United States right now. Of those inmates, roughly 451,000 are nonviolent drug offenders.

John Legend is a real activist.

John Legend has been an activist for years. He is on the advisory board of the Bail Project, which provides free bail assistance to low-come individuals who are legally presumed innocent. He is the founder of the Show Me Campaign, which hopes to provide every child access to education, and #FREEAMERICA, a program to reform the criminal justice system. That’s why he was at the town hall. 

The President is unhinged, and this is another example of how those checks and balance system they taught you about in high school are deeply flawed. 

Some People Claim This Sandy Hook PSA Has Gone “Too Far” In Illustrating the Impact of School Shootings

Things That Matter

Some People Claim This Sandy Hook PSA Has Gone “Too Far” In Illustrating the Impact of School Shootings

We’ve come to the point in American history where deaths due to gun violence have become what many would call a crisis. According to data collected by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, guns were responsible for more deaths than car accidents were. So it comes to no surprise when certain activists take it upon themselves to bring attention to what many label an epidemic. On Wednesday, the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a non-profit organization founded with the goal of “protecting children from gun violence with programs that work”, did just that. The NPO released a short video, titled “Back-To-School-Essentials” that made waves through the internet.

The video begins exactly the way so many back-to-school commercials start: discussing the coolest new gadgets to buy for your kids this Fall.

Sandy Hook Promise / Youtube.com

A smiling boy pulls a backpack out of a locker, bragging that his mom got him the “perfect bag for back to school”. A young girl shows off the colorful binders that are “just what she needs to help her stay organized” for the school year. But things take an odd turn with the third student. As the student describes his headphones as “just what [he] needs for studying”, we can see that not all is quite right in the background. As the boy listens to his music, oblivious, we see students running in the behind him, appearing to be panicked.

As the commercial wears on, it becomes even eerier when students are speaking carefree to the camera while scenes of carnage unfold around them. The commercial wears on with each scenario becoming eerier: a girl uses her sweater to bar a door shut, keeping an active shooter out of the gymnasium. A different student uses her new socks as a tourniquet to keep a bleeding student alive. The video ends on a chilling note: a young girl hides in a bathroom stall, tears running down her face. The camera closes up on her as we hear an active shooter enter the bathroom. “I love you, Mom,” she types into her phone.

The video ends with a simple title-card over a black screen: “School shooting is preventable when you know the signs.”

Sandy Hook Promise / Youtube.com

The PSA then directs the viewer to find out more about the organization at sandyhookpromise.org. According to Sandy Hook Promise’s About page, the “above-the-politics” organization is made up of “several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012”. Their mission is to “honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation”. Their main action-items are to target mental health programs to individuals who are “at-risk” at engaging in gun violence and by advocating for policy changes in order to prevent school shootings. 

As of now, the video has racked up over 1 million views on YouTube in under 24 hours.

The virality of the PSA is likely due to its execution: we’re all used to seeing vacuous back-to-school commercials whose sole intentions are to sell us something. “Back-To-School Essentials” lulls us into a sense of comfort with its upbeat music before jerking us into the current violent reality of school-aged students’ lives. According to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks every mass shooting in the country, the US has had 283 mass shootings since September 1st of 2019. 

The video isn’t without controversy–some Twitter users are disturbed by how close to home the video’s scenarios are.

In fact, many viewers are finding the PSA hard to watch. On Twitter, users are complaining of tearing up after watching the video. Some even claim to “feeling sick” by the video’s contents. 

In response, some Twitter users are glad of the reality-check the PSA is providing:

It’s evident that making their audience uncomfortable from watching the video was one of the organization’s goals. That way, it makes it harder to ignore the reality of school shootings and their impact on children’s lives.

This woman explained how the video hit a little too close to home:

It seems we’ve come to the point in our culture where we feel we need to buy phones for our children in the event that they experience a school shooting. 

This Twitter user applauded the Sandy Hook Promise Organization’s bravery in committing to their message:

Sometimes the only way to get your point across is to explain, in the starkest terms possible, how dire the situation is. This video managed to convey that in a powerful way.

This Latina was effected by the PSA on a visceral level:

Reactions like this prove that public service announcements, when done right, can achieve exactly what they set out to achieve.

Simply from the Twitter reaction, it’s clear that this video has touched a lot of people.

To learn more about Sandy Hook Promise and its mission to prevent gun violence, visit www.sandyhookpromise.org.

An Incoming International Harvard Student Has Been Denied Entry To The United States

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An Incoming International Harvard Student Has Been Denied Entry To The United States

Cengiz Yar / Getty Images

The Trump administration’s immigration policies are criminalizing survivors, tearing families apart and emboldening racists and xenophobes throughout the country. But President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda is also negatively impacting higher education in the US. According to multiple recent reports, it has become increasingly difficult for international students to receive their visas, also adding a greater workload on universities and their employees who try to help students work through the red tape and advocate on their behalf.

Those in higher education and immigration law say that the process for international students to attain their visas have become harder under Trump.

 According to government data, approval of student visas is down and many remain in limbo for longer periods. The latest available department data show that student visas declined by more than 100 thousand from 2016 to 2018. This has led to an overall decrease in the number of new international students enrolled at US colleges. For instance, survey data collected by the Institute of International Education during the 2016–17 school year found that enrollment of international students fell by 3 percent from the previous year. In the most recent data, which looks at the 2017–18 school year, it fell by close to 7 percent.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators reports that these visa obstacles started after Trump issued a memorandum in 2017 that called for the “heightened screening and vetting of applications for visas and other immigration benefits” as well as new or updated requirements for visa holders studying or working at US colleges. Additionally, the Atlantic reports that changes initiated by the Trump administration in 2018 made it even harder for recent graduates with student visas to continue living in the country legally. 

“I’ve been in the field for almost 20 years, and the amount of immigration changes during the last three years has been exponential,” Kristy Magner, who oversees Tulane University’s Office of International Students and Scholars, told the publication. 

One of the most high-profile cases was that of Ismail B. Ajjawi

In August of 2019, the incoming Harvard Palestinian freshman from Lebanon was detained by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a Boston airport. The 17-year-old was denied entry after CBO officers found social media posts from his friends that criticize the US. As a result, Ajjawi’s visa was canceled. However, because the teen was detained at an airport, sparing him from being officially deported, he was able to re-apply for a visa back home. Ten days later, Ajjawi returned to Boston and was able to start school.

Also in August, nine Chinese students who were returning to the US as undergraduate students at Arizona State University were detained at Los Angeles International Airport.

 According to the university, the students were in CBP custody for a week and were “denied admission to the U.S. to continue their studies.” They were ultimately forced to return to China, despite being “academically eligible to return to ASU and to the United States under their visas.”

“[I]t is beyond my comprehension how the U.S. government could establish and implement policies that bring about the outcomes we are now witnessing,” ASU president Michael Crow wrote in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. 

While these cases are among the most extreme, they follow a growing pattern of increased difficulty for international students. 

Many institutions, including New York University, expressed seeing more students denied travel in advance of their trips.

NYU was one of the first schools to establish support for immigrant students upon the start of Trump’s presidency. In January 2017, just days after Trump’s inauguration, it created the Immigrant Defense Initiative, which offers “free, confidential advice and representation” to students and staff who could be at risk for deportation. Other universities, including Columbia University, the California State University system and George Washington University, now also offer free immigration-related legal services for students. 

But students, and now university employees who are tasked with new responsibilities in helping the international academics, need more help. Back in July, Harvard University president Lawrence Bacow sent a letter to Pompeo and McAleenan sharing his grievances. “Students report difficulties getting initial visas — from delays to denials,” he wrote. “Scholars have experienced postponements and disruptions for what have previously been routine immigra­tion processes such as family visas, renewals of status, or clearance for international travel.”

Dr. Hironao Okahana, associate vice president of policy and research analysis at the Council of Graduate Schools, told Teen Vogue the rise in incidents like Ajjawi’s are concerning and worth further investigation. 

“[W]e’ll be carefully observing to see if any additional incidents occur as quarter-system schools begin their term in a few weeks,” he said.

In addition to the denial of visas and slowed-down processes, universities face another problem: Trump’s anti-immigration agenda is stopping international students from applying to US institutions. 

“I think that both [the Trump administration’s] immigration policy and the messaging of the day are literally turning [international] students away … and making them less inclined to want to study in the United States,” Brian Rosenberg, the president of Macalester College, a liberal-arts institution in St. Paul, Minnesota, told the Atlantic.

As a result, some schools are doing additional work to ensure international students that they are welcome at their universities.

Philip A. Glotzbach, the president of Skidmore College, told the Atlantic that his staff has had to “work a lot harder” to recruit and retain international students. Additionally, Barbara K. Altmann, the president of Franklin & Marshall College, said that her school has been taking “extraordinary measures … so international students know [they’re welcome here].” For instance, because one in five students at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, liberal-arts school is from outside of the US, mostly China, it has created a network of Chinese nationals that send reassuring messages to incoming students from the Asian country. 

“These incidents,” said Okahana, “as isolated as they may be, are troubling and have created chilling effects.”

Read: Migrants Are Dying In US Immigration Custody And Here’s What You Need To Know About The Victims