Things That Matter

Time Is Running Out To Complete The Census, Here’s Why It’s So Important To Make Sure You’re Counted

The drama over the 2020 Census continues.

First was a Supreme Court decision that found the Trump administration wasn’t being totally honest about it’s reasoning for including the citizenship question on the 2020 Census – so the court effectively removed the question from the census. 

Then, Trump tried to delay the constitutionally mandated census to give his administration more time to come up with a better reason to tell the courts.

None of that worked as planned by the administration, and the Census has continued as normal. However, so many in minority communities – particularly migrant communities – have been fearful of completing this year’s census. Well, new evidence shows just how important it is to make sure we’re all counted.

As the 2020 census winds down, here’s a reminder of why it’s so important to make sure we all complete our census.

Now, more than ever, it is the responsibility of Latinos to fill out the census, or else miss-out on integral funding and representation.

The 2020 Census is ending early, thanks to a decision by the Trump administration to end data collection and outreach sooner than initially planned, which could lead to massive undercounts within BIPOC communities.

The Latinx population is already at a higher risk of being undercounted because of language barriers, fears over immigrant status, and for living in hard-to-reach areas. Latinx leaders are continuously pushing for increased visibility and accessibility to fill-out the census, especially now, as many issues have been overshadowed by a global pandemic.

But at some point, it is not the responsibility of our leaders, but for citizens to take initiative.

Latinos are not filling-out the 2020 Census at the levels they should, and in areas with large Latinx populations, the self-response rate is alarmingly low.

Take for instance, Rep. Nanette Barragán’s district in Los Angeles. In 2010, her district had a self-response rate of 68.6%. Now with the one-month cut-off and the ending of household outreach nearly two weeks early in some areas, her district is now just at 60.1%.

“We cannot let them erase us,” Barragán wrote

But it wasn’t long ago that Trump tried to completely derail this year’s census.

The Trump administration has decided to print the 2020 census forms without a citizenship question, and the printer has been told to start the printing process, Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco confirms to NPR.

The move came shortly after the Supreme Court ruled to keep the question off census forms for now and just a day after printing was scheduled to begin for 1.5 billion paper forms, letters, and other mailings.

President Trump had said he wanted to delay the constitutionally mandated headcount to give the Supreme Court a chance to issue a more “decisive” ruling on whether the administration could add the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” A majority of the justices found that the administration’s use of the Voting Rights Act to justify the question “seems to have been contrived.”

But according to Trump, all of that info from his own administration is fake news.

President Trump had tweeted that his own Commerce Secretary’s statement, suggesting there would not be pushback on the Supreme Court’s decision to leave a citizenship question out of the census, was “FAKE.”

Here’s his own Tweet about the #fakenews:

CREDIT: @REALDONALDTRUMP / TWITTER

The saga to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census and the emerging divisions within the Trump administration to its implementation follow a months-long court battle that ultimately ended up with a narrow Supreme Court victory for opponents of the question.

Though many on Twitter were already fact-checking the President using statements from his own administration.

CREDIT: @KYLEGRIFFIN1 / TWITTER

I mean if they’ve already started printing the forms, according to numerous administration officials, what could the President be talking about?

Many speculate he’s just trying to position himself as a fighter among his supporters so they think he’s doing all he can to get the citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

All this confusion comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision that ruled the Trump administration wasn’t being forthcoming about its real reason for wanting to ask the citizenship question.

CREDIT: @NINATOTENBERG / TWITTER

The Supreme Court left the citizenship question — “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” — blocked from the 2020 census for now, in part because of the government’s explanation for why it added it in the first place.

However, opponents of the question, who have worked for more than a year to get it removed, are claiming victory.

The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, said the court “cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given” by the Trump administration.

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Trump Wanted To Torture Migrants By Deploying A Military ‘Heat Ray’ At The Border

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Trump Wanted To Torture Migrants By Deploying A Military ‘Heat Ray’ At The Border

Saul Loeb / Getty Images

It’s no secret that President Trump envisions his far-from-completed border wall as essential in his plan to overhaul the U.S. immigration system. Given previous reports of arming the border with snakes or alligators, it’s obvious that Trump envisions the wall as a punitive source of physical harm as much as a deterrent.

So it should come as little surprise that the president has wanted to deploy military-grade weapons to the border to actually ‘torture’ and ‘maim’ those who try and cross the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization. However, a recent New York Times report goes into further detail on Trump’s ideas and they are, in fact, quite shocking.

The Trump Administration allegedly wanted to deploy a military-style weapon at the border to deter migrants.

Last week, it was reported by the New York Times that in 2018, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) had proposed using non-lethal weapon developed by the military to induce agonizing pain in migrants attempting to cross the border, with the intent to force them to turn back.

Described in overly simplistic terms by the Department of Defense as a “non-lethal, directed-energy, counter-personnel system,” the ADS is essentially a pain projector (the Times used the term “heat ray”) that subjects targets to the sensation of “heat felt from opening the door to a hot oven” all over their body. If deployed, the device would essentially make even approaching the U.S.-Mexico border a painful experience. 

So what exactly is the device that Trump and other CBP officials wanted to deploy?

Credit: Paul Richards / Getty Images

Although these ‘heat rays’ may sound like weapons for a made-for-TV villain, they’re actually very real. The U.S. Air Force began developing a weapon decades ago to give soldiers a non-lethal option for dealing with civilian mobs or or riots at overseas military bases.

The truck- or Humvee-mounted Active Denial System can affect multiple persons at range of up to one mile away. It silently emits a very high frequency microwave-like beam that can penetrate clothing and heats water molecules on the surface of the skin to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 C).

The resulting sensation, described as being akin to pressing a hot fluorescent light bulb to the skin, is so intense that within seconds affected persons are reflexively compelled to jump aside or run away. Supposedly the pain dissipates within seconds, though some accounts describe a lingering tingling that can last hours.

Although Trump floated the idea, according to DHS officials it was never considered as part of a border enforcement strategy.

Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Although Trump and CBP officials mentioned the possibility of deploying ADS, per the Times, the idea was flatly rejected by Kirsten Nielsen, then the secretary of Homeland Security. She allegedly told an aide after the meeting that she would not authorize the use of such a device, and it should never be brought up again in her presence.

However, the idea of using a ‘heat ray’ to torture migrants was at least entertained by some within the agency, likely emboldened by Trump’s increasingly harsh rhetoric against immigrants.

A former DHS officials is the one sounding the alarm on Trump’s alleged plan.

Speaking with The Daily Beast, former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor claimed he’d sat in meetings with the president in which “[Trump] says, ‘We got to do this, this, this, and this,’ all of which are probably impossible, illegal, unethical.” 

Among the things Taylor claims the president suggested are efforts to gas, “maim,” and “pierce the flesh” of migrants attempting to cross into the United States without documentation. At one point, Taylor said, “[Trump] looks over me and he goes, ‘You fucking taking notes?”

Other ideas Trump reportedly floated — such as building a trench around the border and filling it with alligators or snakes — was also shot down, according to the Times.

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A Federal Court Ruling Could Finally Put Much Needed Stimulus Funds In The Hands Of Native Tribes

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A Federal Court Ruling Could Finally Put Much Needed Stimulus Funds In The Hands Of Native Tribes

Sharon Shischilly / Getty Images

Indigenous communities in the Unites States have often been forgotten or deliberately excluded from federal policy. Many nations have been forced to go it alone and, as Covid-19 ravages Native lands, many tribe members have died.

After more than two centuries of exclusion, amid a global epidemic, Indigenous communities are once again being excluded from the decision-making process in Washington even as Covid-19 devastates their communities.

But while Indigenous peoples haven’t always had success before the courts, there has been real momentum of late. In July, the Supreme Court recognized roughly half of Oklahoma as Indigenous land, in a ruling that will have far-reaching consequences in the state justice system and beyond.

Now, Native Americans are having to fight once again for what they’re owed as the federal government distributes the more than $150 billion in stimulus money. More than a dozen Indigenous organizations warned, starting in early April, that if the Trump administration did not listen to tribal governments, they ran the risk of turning the relief package into a “grave injustice.”

A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to give Native tribes their withheld stimulus money.

Credit: Sam Wasson / Getty Images

Frustrated and disgusted that it has taken so long for the Treasury Department to distribute federal stimulus funds to Native American tribes, a federal judge ordered Secretary Steve Mnuchin to distribute the money immediately, according to HuffPost. The judge said that tribes should have received their portion of the CARES Act months ago when other Americans received theirs.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta was particularly critical of Mnuchin’s decision to hold back $679 million in funding set aside for tribes while waiting on a decision in another case that will determine whether tribal businesses are eligible for the funding, as The Hill reported.

In his ruling, Mehta said “Continued delay in the face of an exceptional public health crisis is no longer acceptable.”

Over the past three months, the Treasury Department has managed to send out billions of dollars in loans to small businesses, checks to families and aid to corporations. But distributing the $8 billion pot set aside for tribal governments has proved more difficult. As a result, tribes, already critically underfunded and among the nation’s most vulnerable communities, have not received all the money they need to weather the pandemic and begin recovering from the economic toll.

“Congress made a policy judgment that tribal governments are in dire need of emergency relief to aid in their public health efforts and imposed an incredibly short time limit to distribute those dollars,” he wrote in an order released late Monday night. “The 80 days they have waited, when Congress intended receipt of emergency funds in less than half that time, is long enough.”

Some tribes were owed $12 million in federal funding and yet got nothing from the government.

Credit: Mark Ralson / Getty Images

Much of the fault is with the Treasury Department which counted the populations of Native tribes differently that Congress had intended. This meant that some tribes would end up with zero funding while some for-profit tribal companies could end up with millions.

Since some tribes do not have a designated reservation or service area, their population counts were listed as zero and they received only the minimum $100,000 allocation.

“We are not races — we are sovereign nations,” said Chief Ben Barnes of the Shawnee Tribe. He added “How can a tribe have zero people?” noting that more than 3,000 people belong to his tribe. “It was a simple clerical error, but no one at Treasury tried to fix it.”

The oversight was even more egregious, Barnes said, because there is also a census count that, while not completely accurate, would have ensured the tribe got closer to the $12 million it believes it is entitled to based on enrollment numbers.

As the legal wrangling continues, the picture on the ground is disastrous.

The Indian Health Service (IHS) reports there have been nearly 33,000 COVID-19 cases reported to IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health organizations. In May, the outbreak in the Navajo Nation surpassed New York as the highest infection rate in the country—today, its infection rate is double any state. Today, the nation has more cases, in terms of raw numbers, than several states.

And while the funding threats and lack of resources threaten everyone, Indigenous elders—sometimes the only remaining speakers of nearly lost languages—face particular danger.

In recent years, there have been furious efforts to collect Indigenous histories and preserve nearly lost Indigenous languages. COVID-19 threatens to undo much of that work as it cuts through the elderly population.

“COVID-19, like many diseases, renders Indigenous elders—our knowledge-keepers and language holders—particularly susceptible to illness and death,” wrote Gina Starblanket and Dallas Hunt, two Indigenous professors and writers in the Globe and Mail in late March. “This virus not only places us at risk, but the future well-being of coming generations as well

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