Things That Matter

The White House’s Halloween Party Had A Station For Kids To ‘Build The Wall’

Just when you thought life at the Trump-occupied White House couldn’t get scarier, the president of the United States decided to hold an actual party for kids there. As reported by Yahoo News, children in attendance at the party which took place on October 25th were encouraged to take part in a build the wall” activity.

For the White House’s big Halloween bash, children were encouraged to take part in Trump’s politics by constructing a wall.

Those who were invited to the event were families of executive-branch employees and VIP guests. Children were instructed to write their names on brick-colored paper cards and then asked to tape their cards to a wall located on the first floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In photos published by Yahoo News, dozens of red card with the names of the children who participated can be seen plastered to the walls of the Eisenhower offering building. 

According to a spokesperson for Vice-President Mike Pence, each office in the Eisenhower building put up decorations. One of the decorations included a construction-themed display that according to Yahoo “had a sign that read ‘Trump’s Crew.’”  The Hill reported that close to the display was a sign that read “America First,” the very slogan Trump has received backlash and criticism for using because of its close associations with the Ku Klux Klan.

Other activities reportedly included paper plane construction workshops, carnival, and candy games as well as activities that prompted the children to explore what they would do when they grew up. 

According to reports, not every parent was impressed by the decorations so much as they were “horrified.” 

Yahoo News reported that an anonymous attendee of the activities said that they were “Horrified. We were horrified.” Yahoo also interviewed others who attended and weren’t bothered at all. One Trump administration worker said that “everyone loses their minds over everything, and nothing can be funny anymore.”

Ben Rohrbaugh, a former Border Security director in the White House National Security Council who served during the President Obama-era described the wall display to Yahoo News as a “gross thing” to have kids do. “To the extent it’s a representation of an actual wall on the southwest border, the kids have made nearly as much progress as the president has since 2017.”

Immigration activists have been quick to slam the wall display underlining its cruelty and crossing of a line. 

 “I don’t think they understand the amount of pain that people are going through at the border for them to make a joke out of it,” Erika Andiola, the chief advocacy officer for RAICES told the Cut in an interview. “We still are dealing with children in cages even if people are not calling it that, so it’s not a joke.”

Though the White House has not commented on the Halloween border wall activity, Vice President Mike Pence that he had not been aware of it.

“I have no idea. I’m not aware of it,” Pence told Yahoo! News.

Erica Castro, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro, slammed the activity on Twitter.

“This is not the example we should be leading for our children,” she tweeted in response to the activity. “During Halloween 2021, we will invite all children and families to the White House with the spirit of unity, joy and celebration.”

Twitter users were quick to respond to the contentious Halloween activity.

Erica Castro, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro, also criticized the activity on Twitter.

In a series of posts to her Twitter account, Castro condemned the event and shared that under a Castro administration, “everyone matters. Everyone is welcome.”

“This is not the example we should be leading for our children,” she tweeted. “During Halloween 2021, we will invite all children and families to the White House with the spirit of unity, joy and celebration.”

Trump Administration Hikes Up DACA Renewal Fee

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Trump Administration Hikes Up DACA Renewal Fee

Juan Escalante @JuanSaaa / Twitter

A new proposal brought forth by immigration officials might hike up the cost of immigrants entering the United States as children. According to a New York Times report, the Trump administration proposal would increase fees for applicants by more than 60 percent and handover more than $200 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Friday, the Trump administration proposed increasing a “range of fees” tacked onto applications for those seeking legal immigration and citizenship.

If it is sent into motion, the proposal would increase citizenship fees by more than 60 percent. Under the new plan, fees for applicants would skyrocket from $725  to $1,170. The proposal would also allow the government to charge asylum seekers $50 for applications and $490 for work permits. Such a rule would make the United States one out of four countries in the world to force asylum seekers to pay for applications. Australia, Fiji and Iran all charge for asylum protection. 

If instituted, the proposal would be yet another roadblock implemented by the Trump administration to restrict immigration through legal means.

Over the past few months, immigrants and immigration advocates have seen similar attempts at hacking through the rights of immigrants before. Recently the Trump administration issued a series of policies that work to withhold permanent residency to immigrants in the United States have been deemed incapable of financially supporting themselves. They have also blocked entry to immigrants applying for visas on the basis of health insurance status. On October 4, 2019, Trump published a Presidential Proclamation that prevents entry to visa applicants are unable to provide proof of their ability to obtain health insurance within 30 days of entering the United States. 

“Healthcare providers and taxpayers bear substantial costs in paying for medical expenses incurred by people who lack health insurance or the ability to pay for their healthcare.  Hospitals and other providers often administer care to the uninsured without any hope of receiving reimbursement from them,” the proclamation read. “The costs associated with this care are passed on to the American people in the form of higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher fees for medical services.  In total, uncompensated care costs — the overall measure of unreimbursed services that hospitals give their patients — have exceeded $35 billion in each of the last 10 years.”

 Ur Jaddou, former chief counsel at USCIS under the Obama administration called the new policy, “one more way under the administration that they are making legal immigration unattainable.”

“Currently, USCIS is conducting its biennial fee review, as required under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, to study the agency’s revenue, costs and needs,” a spokesperson for USCIS told BuzzFeed News. “As always, USCIS will publicly communicate information on its fee review through a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the federal register, should a decision be made to adjust its fees. No determination has yet been made.”

Immigration advocates on social media have been quick to slam the proposal as unfair. 

“The proposal to get rid of fee waivers is a whole statement and stand against the poor. From the public charge stuff to this. Worse thing too is this is how people actually feel,” film director Angy Rivera wrote in a thread that lambasted the policy. “The Department of Homeland Security’s plan will be open to public comment for 30 days starting Nov. 14. Make sure to flood them!”

Other users who quick to underline the significance of taking the funds from these applicants and transfer them to  Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration plans to “transfer money raised through the new proposed fee schedule to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency under DHS that carries out deportations, workplace investigations and other immigration enforcement actions. The money would be used to root out any potential fraud in future applications for citizenship, green cards, asylum and other immigration benefits.” 

“At this point I feel like they are just putting numbers in hat, and tossing it around. This is money we use to live and maintain our families, minimum wage ass job won’t cover this. This is just business to make money, y’all taking advantage of us,” Cristal Ruiz Rodriguez wrote in a tweet.

There’s no doubt that the Trump administration’s latest attack on immigrants is a wealth tax.

The Trump administration’s new policy would not be applicable to immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and asking for asylum. 

Melissa Rodgers is the director of programs for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and told the Washington Street Journal that the proposed fees would be unaffordable for those who could have had a chance at citizenship.

“This is a wealth tax on becoming a U.S. citizen,” Rodgers said in a statement. “It’s part and parcel of the assault on the naturalization process.”

Latin America’s First Indigenous President Is Forced To Resign After Weeks Of Protests And Irregular Election Results

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Latin America’s First Indigenous President Is Forced To Resign After Weeks Of Protests And Irregular Election Results

José Luis Rodriguez / Getty

Protests are occurring throughout Latin America as calls for environmental and economic justice strengthen from Chile and Brazil to Venezuela and Ecuador. Now, Bolivia has become the latest flash point for the growing widespread movements across the region.

What started as a protest against President Evo Morales seeking an additional presidential term (he was constitutionally term-limited) has resulted in his abrupt resignation and in what many are calling a coup.

President Morales resigned the presidency after he lost support from the Bolivian police and military.

Bolivia’s political crisis deepened Sunday as President Evo Morales resigned amid allegations of “serious irregularities” during last month’s election and pressure from the country’s armed forces.

Morales faced mounting protests in the aftermath of the October 20 vote as demonstrators and the Bolivian opposition accused electoral authorities of manipulating the vote count in favor of the incumbent. He denied the allegations and declared himself the winner, but was eventually forced to resign

But what led to his resignation?

In the hours after polls closed, preliminary results showed Morales slightly ahead of his opponent, former President Carlos Mesa. But the opposition and international observers became suspicious after election officials stopped the count for about 24 hours without an explanation. When the count resumed, Morales’ lead had jumped significantly.

Electoral monitors from the Organization of American States (OAS) published a report Sunday alleging irregularities that impacted the official vote count.

In the aftermath of the report, Morales initially promised new elections would be held and the country’s electoral council replaced. However just hours later the president had resigned after the head of the Bolivian Armed Forces, Cmdr. Williams Kaliman, asked Morales to step down in order to restore peace and stability.

The decision follows weeks of raucous anti-government protests across the country. 

Demonstrators have burned down the headquarters of local election offices, set up blockades, and paraded a mayor barefoot through the streets after cutting her hair and showering her in paint.

Many are calling this an outright coup committed by the military and US-backed politicians.

The international reaction has been swift and vocal.

On Monday, Mr Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous leader, struck a defiant note on Twitter, saying that “the Bolivian people have never abandoned me and I will never abandon them”. He has also said that he was the victim of a “civic coup”.

International allies of Mr Morales echoed his characterisation of what had happened. The Russian foreign ministry said that “the wave of violence unleashed by the opposition didn’t allow the presidential mandate of Evo Morales to be completed”.

Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said that events in Bolivia constituted “a coup because the army requested the resignation of the president, and that violates the constitutional order of that country”.

Spain also expressed its concern over the role of Bolivia’s army, saying that “this intervention takes us back to moments in the past history of Latin America”.

But what do Bolivians actually think of all of this?

Mr. Morales, a former coca farmer, was first elected in 2006. He has earned praise for fighting poverty and improving Bolivia’s economy but drew controversy by defying constitutional term limits to run for a fourth term in October’s election, which is alleged to have been rife with irregularities.

The biggest criticism of Evo Morales was his lack of respect for Bolivia’s democracy – accused of overstaying his welcome and refusing to step down. 

But the fact that the military has called the shots on the president standing down does not do much for Bolivia’s democracy either. 

Now Evo Morales has gone, there is a power vacuum. Increasing numbers of his Mas party are resigning, and it feels like there is a need for retribution – for Evo Morales and his people to pay the price for the mistakes they made while in power.

His supporters have called this a coup – his detractors the end of tyranny. The priority now is to choose an interim leader, call new elections and bring a polarised Bolivia together or face yet more unrest and violence in the coming weeks.