politics

What We Learned From President Trump’s State Of The Union Address

CSPAN / YouTube

President Trump delivered his State of the Union address to a split Congress for the first time Tuesday night. Topics like border security, immigration, abortion and health care dominated his address. There was even calls for unity among both Democrats and Republicans as he outlined bipartisanship policies like criminal reform and infrastructure improvements. Yet during his 1 hour, 22 minute speech, one of the longest on record, President Trump used his address to blast Democrats and rev up his political base. Here are the biggest takeaways from the State of the Union.

The president will not back down on a border wall.

With just 10 days left to avoid yet another government shutdown, President Trump spoke adamantly about his mission to secure a wall along the U.S. southern border. “I will get it built,” Trump said. “Walls work, and walls save lives.” Yet most of his claims about immigration and border wall security were either greatly exaggerated or false all together. Illegal border crossings have only declined in the past two decades while reaching their lowest point back in 2017 since 1971. He also made claims about drugs “pouring” into the country due to ineffective borders yet the huge majority of drugs are seized at ports of entry, not along the open border.

Immigration continues to be a divisive issue in the country.

President Trump attempted to correlate illegal immigration and violent crime during his address but many in the Democratic side say this is just not true.

“The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well-being of all Americans,” Trump said during his address.

According to NPR, studies show that illegal immigration doesn’t increase the prevalence of violent crimes. Studies show that native-born residents are more likely to be convicted of a crime than were immigrants in the country lawfully or unlawfully.

The President also mentioned, “large, organized caravans” coming to the U.S. but failed to provide any information on the claims. In January, a new caravan of migrants from Central America was expected to come north but many now plan to remain in Mexico. This is large part thanks to policies put in place by the new Mexican government that will supply job opportunities while they wait to seek asylum.

President Trump took aim at New York’s landmark abortion law.

Just last month, lawmakers in New York passed a new law expanding abortion rights in the state on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The law would protect access to the procedure until 24 weeks of pregnancy in an effort to standardize abortion protections if Roe v. Wade were ever overturned. Trump made the call on Congress to pass legislation that would prohibit what he called “late-term abortion”. His remarks further intensify the controversial issue versus “pro-life” and “pro-choice” advocates. Abortion is expected to be an issue that Trump has said he plans to focus on during the 2020 election.

Women are getting all the headlines.

While President Trump spoke about the number of women benefiting in the economy, it was the number of women, particularity in the Democratic side, who grabbed the headlines.

“All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before …and exactly one century after the Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before,” Trump said.

Many Democratic congresswomen were wearing white as a sign of solidarity and in honor of the suffragists. But after Trump made his remarks about the great number of women elected to Congress, they began to cheer and applaud the historic significance.

“You weren’t supposed to do that,” Trump said jokingly. Cameras focused in on new high-profile additions to Congress on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) who gave high fives all around. It was one of the rare bipartisan moments throughout the entire address.

The address in many ways was a kick-off to the 2020 election.

As President Trump aspires to be a unifying political leader he will need to address more than just concerns of his own base. Issues like global warming and increasing antisemitism among minority groups were either not talked about at length or ignored all together during his address. The president was elected with less than a majority of the popular vote in 2016 and has yet to made a concerted effort to expand his base in the two years since taking office.

The 2018 midterm election showed cracks in his base starting to form as Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives and now must work with a divided congress. President Trump may have used the State of the Union as an opportunity to broaden his base perhaps one last time before the campaign for the 2020 election begins. If he is to gain new supporters, it’s going to take a lot more than just speaking to his base.


READ: Latina Activist, Undocumented Immigrants Will Attend President Trump’s State Of The Union

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Texas Officials Attempt To Purge Voters From Rolls But Get Sued Over Claims Of Voter Suppression

Politics

Texas Officials Attempt To Purge Voters From Rolls But Get Sued Over Claims Of Voter Suppression

Hadley Paul Garland / Flickr / texassecretary / Instagram

When Texas Secretary of State David Whitely made inflammatory claims of voted fraud, there was already suspicion from the get-go. Whitley and Attorney General Ken Paxton notified county election officials on Jan. 25 that they suspected there were 95,000 noncitizens on their voting rolls, 58,000 of whom appeared to have voted in one or more elections since 1996. But the accusations were met with criticism and a bevy of lawsuits claiming “voter suppression,” particularly against Latinos. Texas officials have since conceded that at least 20,000 of the registered voters flagged as potential noncitizens actually had their citizenship verified.

Texas officials had to qucikly walkback an attempt to revoke voting rights from thousands of citizens.

The problem with Whitley’s claims are that the list was made through state records going back to 1996. It shows which Texas residents weren’t citizens when they got a driver’s license or other state ID. This means people who may have had green cards or work visas at the time they got a Texas ID are on the secretary of state’s office’s list, and many have become citizens since then.

After news that the numbers in the list of “flagged voters” was inaccurate, Whitley began warning counties across Texas to double-check voters citizenship. This led to several counties removing more than 20,000 names of people who registered with the Department of Public Safety. Estimates show about 1 million foreign-born Texans have become naturalized since 1996 with a majority of the state’s immigrant population born in Latin America. In the days since, county election officials are investigating the names listed further and suspect there may be more eligible voters, including naturalized citizens, on the list.

Voting rights organizations are suing with claims that Whitley’s investigation is another attempt of silencing the Latino vote.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is among a handful of organizations that have filed a lawsuit against Whitley and Director of Elections Keith Ingram for the creation and rollout of what they are calling a “flawed voter purge list that discriminates against naturalized citizens.”

Luis Roberto Vera, national general counsel for LULAC, says the Secretary of State’s claim of voter fraud is irresponsible on many levels. He says the investigation was pulled out for one primary reason: to suppress the Latino vote.

“This was done to intimate Latinos nothing more than that because the truth of the matter is those numbers are very misleading,” Vera said. “We’re the easiest people to target in the state of Texas especially after this previous election.”

Vera points out that last November’s midterm elections saw the traditionally Republican state of Texas vote Democratic in various counties. There was surge in turnout across the state that saw a narrow victory for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz who won by a slim margin of victory of 2.7 percentage points. The rise in numbers could be attributed to the campaign former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and the longstanding efforts of voting rights groups to encourage the Latino vote. According to the Huffington Post, Almost 78 percent of the 95,000 suspected noncitizen voters identified live in counties that voted Democrat in the 2018 midterm election.

The call of voter fraud is nothing new in the U.S. but rarely do the numbers show it’s a rampant growing issue.

What’s going on in Texas is nothing new as claims of voter fraud have been heard throughout the country for many years. Back in 2012, Florida officials put together a list of about 180,000 possible noncitizens. Shortly after it was cut down to about 2,600 names to only be verified and shortened to about 85 voters who were ultimately removed from the polls.

Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, founder and executive director of Jolt Initiative, a Latino voting rights group in Texas, says the moment she saw the voting fraud report she knew it was wrong. Ramirez says the state has made various efforts to make it harder for Latinos to vote which includes redistricting and strict voter I.D. laws.

“They [Texas] fear losing control and not having power. Instead of having power with their ideas they are using it to try and make it harder for us to vote,” Ramirez said. “Texas came within 2 points of turning blue and the thought of that for many in power here scares them.”

Ramirez points out that this shift in demographics in Texas is happening quickly not just in voting numbers but the growing population in the state overall. She says in Texas half of those turning 18 are Latino and state officials are casting a wide net on a whole racial group by doing releasing this false information.

“This info is dubious and it’s an attempt to stop eligible voters from voting,” she said. “In Texas, we have a low turnout and they are attempting to make sure the number of people who don’t vote particularity, Latino and Asians, stay that way.”

While the claims of voter fraud may have been exaggerated, they still have an effect on the perception of voting altogether.

While Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did call the investigation “a work in process,” the facts show that this is just another case of a failed process. Within hours of Whitley’s calls of voter fraud, the news grabbed headlines and even President Donald Trump weighed in on the claims. All this happened without any verification that Whitley’s unverified information was true, or in this case widely exaggerated.

Vera says this practice needs to be prevented from happening as unverified claims of voter fraud still make an impression in the public eye that is hard to fix. He says President Trump’s false claims in 2016 that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally became an issue after he spoke up. Even after his claims were proven false, Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire, and North Carolina took action to prevent voter fraud from happening in their respective states.

“The email sent out made a big splash in the media and pushed this idea that there is a rampant voting issue happening in our country which could be further from the truth,” Vera said. “They did this to try and intimidate us but they failed again.”


READ: New York Passes The Dream Act Giving Students, Regardless Of Immigration Status, Access To Tuition Aid

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