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Anti-Immigrant Groups Launch Misinformation Campaign in Congressional Hearing

Justice Neil Gorsuch False Witnesses

Anti-Immigrant Groups Launch Misinformation Campaign in Congressional Hearing

The House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing on Thursday purporting to examine the benefits of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall. It was little more than a meeting of anti-immigrant leaders pushing anti-immigrant propaganda.

The framing of the hearing—that undocumented people are “straining” U.S. resources—was fraught with inaccuracies. Research cited included a report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) that has been largely debunked.

Dr. Steven Camarota, director of research at the anti-immigrant hate group CIS, presented findings from his report “The Cost of a Border Wall vs. the Cost of Illegal Immigration,” the premise of which is that the border wall will pay for itself.

Camarota claims that if the border wall stopped between nine and 12 percent of the migrants expected to cross the border in the next decade, the fiscal savings from having fewer undocumented immigrants in the United States would cover the costs of the wall. The researcher claims that because immigrants come to the US “with modest levels of education,” they create significantly more in government costs than they pay in taxes. This, Camarota said, results in an “average fiscal burden of approximately $74,722 during their lifetimes, excluding any costs for their U.S.-born children.”

If a border wall stopped between 160,000 and 200,000 people, the fiscal savings would equal the $12 to $15 billion it would cost to build the president’s wall, Camarota said. (A recent estimate placed the actual cost of Trump’s wall at nearly $67 billion.)

The Cato Institute found that the CIS report not only based much of its findings on inaccurate portrayals of undocumented communities—including the assertion that they are mostly uneducated—but relied on outdated data. Using recent data to update the CIS analysis while keeping the hate group’s methodology, the Cato Institute found that a conservative, ten-year cost estimate for the border wall would be $43.8 billion, and that the wall would have to deter about 59 percent of those successfully attempting to cross the border.

While Camarota relied on warmed over, cherry-picked data to form his analysis, he made two glaring omissions. Undocumented immigrants do not put a strain on the economy; rather, they contribute to it. And Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, often college students or college graduates who met specific educational requirements to receive the benefit, exist. Sixty-five percent of those who responded to a recent national DACA survey reported they are in school. Of these, 70 percent are working as well, which means they are paying taxes.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in March released new findings that verify undocumented immigrants are taxpayers, contributing an estimated $11.74 billion to state and local coffers each year. On average, the 11 million undocumented people residing in the US pay 8 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes every year.

Those DACA recipients for whom Camarota conveniently forgot to account pay more in state and local taxes than the average rate paid by the top 1 percent of taxpayers. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy recently reported that the 1.3 million young undocumented immigrants enrolled or immediately eligible for DACA contribute an estimated $2 billion a year in state and local taxes. On average, DACA-eligible individuals pay 8.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

In 2013, Camarota promoted a widely denounced report by Heritage Foundation researchers. One of that report’s authors, Jason Richwine, had argued in his PhD dissertation that genetic differences in intelligence and aptitude existed between whites, Asians, and other races. Camarota referred to the report as the “most detailed and exhaustive ever done on this topic.”

Camarota also had bylines at John Tanton’s Social Contract Press, a white nationalist journal that published the English translation of the “stunningly racist” novel The Camp of Saints—the book White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon cites in interviews explaining his feelings on immigrants.

While Trump failed to secure a down payment for his border wall, backing off his demand that Congress approve funding for the project alongside a short-term spending measure needed to avoid a government shutdown, he has been successful in continuing to normalize anti-immigrant rhetoric, placing anti-immigrant leaders with white nationalist ties in high-ranking federal immigration positions.

For example, CIS, the organization whose findings were featured in Thursday’s hearing, evolved from the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR’s leaders have ties to eugenics and white supremacist organizations. The organization’s founder, John Tanton, is credited with creating the modern anti-immigrant movement.

Trump cited FAIR and CIS prominently on his campaign website for his formal immigration policies. In January, Julie Kirchner, former executive director of FAIR, was reportedly named chief of staff of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Earlier this month, Jon Feere, a former analyst for CIS, was hired as an adviser to Thomas Homan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

For years, the racist, anti-immigrant propaganda put out by CIS has been treated as a credible source by mainstream media organizations. These anti-immigrant hate groups are finding increasingly clever ways to position themselves in public discourse.

Pushing a narrative similar to CIS and FAIR, Negative Population Growth, a quasi-environmental group purportedly concerned with the destruction of the planet, released a report this week proposing the United States pay undocumented immigrants to self deport because “current practices attract immigrants—both legal and illegal—with much lower levels of skill and education than natives, placing a huge burden on American taxpayers.” The group’s president, Don Mann, is on the FAIR board of directors.

The same speakers Trump has trotted out while in the White House and on the campaign trail were also present at Thursday’s hearing.

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), was there to testify and encourage politicians to “stop politicizing” border security, though he and his colleagues do just that.

NBPC is Border Patrol’s union, representing 18,000 agents and support personnel in the U.S. Border Patrol. When NBPC endorsed Trump last year, it was the first time in the union’s history it had officially backed a presidential candidate. Unions for ICE and NBPC reported that morale among agents and officers “has increased exponentially” after Trump signed his anti-immigrant executive orders.

Shawn Moran, vice president of media relations for NBPC, recently suggested on an episode of the Green Line, a union podcast, that the union should be credited with the president’s anti-immigrant executive orders. The Green Line is NBPC’s weekly podcast, recorded at Breitbart News Studios, which is owned by the white nationalist site Breitbart. Bannon, who used to lead Breitbart, was the reported author of Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders.

Trump has invited family members of people allegedly killed by undocumented immigrants to campaign rallies and his first congressional address, and he has credited his interactions with them as the reason for his new Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office, launched this week.

Agnes Gibboney, who was present in Phoenix when Trump delivered his anti-immigration policy speech and who has offered to “help dig the trenches” of the border wall, testified at Thursday’s congressional hearing. Gibboney is a self-identified “Angel Mom,” a term used by The Remembrance Project for mothers of those allegedly killed by undocumented people.

The Remembrance Project is a non-profit that purports to educate and raise awareness about “the epidemic of killings of Americans by individuals who should not have been in the country in the first place.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the group has been “an active figure in anti-immigrant circles for half a decade” and attempts to “drum up support for anti-immigrant stances and policies.”

Remembrance Project Director Maria Espinoza has appeared in white nationalist publications and at white nationalist gatherings. Her organization has received $25,000 in funding from a Tanton group. Espinoza also testified during the congressional hearing on Trump’s border wall.

Trump’s First 100 Days: The Shameful Detainments and Deportations Edition

During President Trump’s first 100 days in office, he has primarily utilized executive orders to try and keep his campaign promises on immigration: building a wall, defunding sanctuary cities, and creating a “deportation force” to remove the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States whom he has largely dismissed as “criminal aliens.”

Although many of these gestures have failed, Trump has succeeded at taking unprecedented steps to further criminalize the undocumented community, focusing on vulnerable people not previously targeted. We share some of the most egregious examples below to show how despite Trump’s failures in his first 100 days, he’s successfully instilled fear in millions of people, their family members, and their communities.

The last week of April dealt a number of powerful blows to Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. He failed to secure a down payment for his border wall, backing off his demand that Congress approve funding for the project alongside a short-term spending measure needed to avoid a government shutdown. Meanwhile, a federal San Francisco judge ruled that Trump overstepped his powers with his January executive order that attempted to cut $4.1 billion in federal grants to so-called sanctuary cities—jurisdictions that fail to comply with or fully engage in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainment and deportation proceedings.

It’s important to note that whether it’s by funneling more resources to the border or expanding the detention system, Trump is merely doubling down on policies the Obama administration helped put into place. In his first 100 days, the 45th president has barely managed to maintain the detainment and deportation rates of the Obama administration—an administration Trump and other members of the GOP have routinely derided as “weak” on immigration.

Under Trump, immigration officials have increased the number of unauthorized immigrants in detention to roughly the level that the Obama administration maintained in 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported. Meanwhile, removals are relatively the same for January and February this year as they were during the same time period in 2016 under Obama. As immigrant-rights activists Marisa Franco and Carlos Garcia reported at the Nation in June, Obama left “his successor the most sophisticated and well-funded human-expulsion machine in the history of the country.”

After countless conversations with activists and affected families, we at Rewire can report Trump has terrorized many undocumented communities during his first 100 days. Under his administration, the nation is seeing some of the most openly aggressive attempts turn undocumented people into criminals. And we can anticipate that under an expanded deportation force—a tenet of one of Trump’s executive orders, which called for the hiring of 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents and 10,000 additional ICE officers—that number will only continue to grow.

Here is just a sampling of the Trump administration’s most shameful detainments and deportations yet:

Transgender Woman Seeking a Protective Order Against Her Abuser

In what the El Paso, Texas, county attorney called an “unprecedented” move, ICE detained an undocumented transgender woman who was at a hearing regarding a protective order against her abusive boyfriend. Ms. Gonzalez was able to attend the hearing because of the ride she was given by an advocate from the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse where she was residing. Reports suggest it may be the first “courthouse stakeout” where at least one ICE agent may have sat in on a protective hearing for the purpose of detaining someone. The judge who issued Gonzalez’s protective order said it was likely Gonzalez’s abuser who tipped off ICE as to her whereabouts, according to the Washington Post. In the weeks since Gonzalez’s arrest, some immigrant women have reportedly dropped their domestic violence cases or declined to report sexual assaults. Because ICE has made a practice of stalking courthouses, many have been afraid to come to court to testify as victims or witnesses.

Deferred Action Recipients

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an Obama-era immigration program that allows undocumented young people who meet certain requirements to obtain a work permit and protection from deportation, renewable every two years. While Trump has flip-flopped on whether or not he will terminate the program, he has also said that DACA recipients are “incredible kids” and that deciding what to do with the immigration program is one of his “most difficult subjects.” But his administration has not spared these young people during nationwide immigration sweeps. In February, Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, became the first known DACA recipient taken into custody by ICE. Others have followed since then, including 19-year-old Josue Romero of San Antonio, Texas; 25-year-old Francisco Rodriguez Dominguez of Portland, Oregon; 22-year-old Jesus Alonso Arreola Robles of Los Angeles; and 22-year-old Daniela Vargas in Jackson, Mississippi. Juan Manuel Montes-Bojorquez is the first known DACA recipient who has been deported under Trump, and he is suing the U.S. government.

Mothers of U.S. Citizen Children Attending Check-Ins

About eight years ago, immigration officials detained Guadalupe García de Rayos in Phoenix, Arizona. She was a mother of two U.S. citizen children and had been in the United States since age 14. After appealing her voluntary deportation, she was allowed by ICE to remain in the United States, with the stipulation that she had to check in with the federal agency first once a year, and then every six months. After Trump took office, García de Rayos went to check in at the central Phoenix offices of ICE in February and was detained. She has since been deported. After years of checking in with ICE, Maribel Trujillo, a mother of four U.S. citizen children from Fairfield, Ohio, was deported. Francisca Lino, a mother of six, including three young children who are U.S. citizens, received a deportation order at a regularly scheduled immigration meeting in Chicago. She is set to be deported in July. Meanwhile, Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented immigrant and mother of three young U.S. citizen children, has been holed up in a Denver, Colorado, church. Fearing she would be detained and deported at her February meeting with ICE, she sought refuge at the church, where she has resided for more than two months.

Asylum Seekers

Reporters Without Borders considers Mexico to be the deadliest country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere. In 2016 alone, 11 journalists were killed because of their work exposing corruption and injustices. After receiving repeated death threats for his story about police officers violating the rights of citizens, journalist Martin Mendez was physically assaulted in his Guerrero, Mexico, home. He decided to seek asylum in the United States. Mendez crossed the border into El Paso, Texas, in February and his attorney turned him over to Border Patrol, who immediately detained him. Mendez has been in detention ever since, despite passing his credible fear interview weeks ago. Asylum officers conduct a credible fear of persecution or torture interview when a person who is subject to expedited removal expresses an intention to apply for asylum, expresses a fear of persecution or torture, or expresses a fear of return to their country, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Other asylum seekers have similar stories under the Trump administration, including Ana, who made the journey from Guatemala to the United States and presented herself at the border in accordance with international asylum law. Ana was afraid to return to her native Guatemala, where a gang member shot her in the head at the restaurant where she worked. Last month, a U.S. asylum officer reportedly accused her of lying about her story and fast-tracked her deportation.

Those Seeking Citizenship

At a USCIS office in Lawrence, Massachusetts, earlier this month, ICE reportedly detained five undocumented immigrants—and four of them were there for appointments seeking legal residency, including Leandro Arriaga. The father of four U.S. citizen children had been in the country for 16 years. As the Washington Post reported, Arriaga went to the office for his marriage petition interview—the first step to gaining legal status through his wife, a naturalized citizen. He had no criminal record. Despite those seeking citizenship being targeted, immigration attorneys are strongly encouraging the estimated 13 million lawful permanent residents, also known as green-card holders, who legally reside in the United States to promptly apply for naturalization given the immigration enforcement priorities of the current administration.

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The Trump administration’s push to deport undocumented groups less likely to be removed by previous administrations will only continue. For instance, he has suggested he’ll take the battle over sanctuary cities all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And a USCIS official has proposed removing temporary protected status from an estimated 50,000 Haitian immigrants currently residing in the United States, fast-tracking their deportations. Emboldened under Trump’s regime, ICE may continue targeting undocumented communities in new, horrifying ways.

But with every anti-immigrant move Trump makes, there has been resistance at all levels: mayors and attorneys general refusing to comply with Trump’s push to end sanctuary cities; college campuses, churches, and restaurants emerging as sanctuaries; and advocacy and immigrant rights organizations mobilizing and marching in support of undocumented people.

Most important to highlight is the incredible resilience and resistance of the most affected people: the undocumented communities who are fighting back every day, in ways both big and small. A recent American Prospect piece by journalist Aura Bogado featuring a Central American mother in Los Angeles fearful of deportation under Trump illustrated that simply existing is resisting.

The U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents are also fighting back. Along with many other children on a tour to spread awareness about the issues undocumented communities are facing, 11-year-old Uriel, the son of two undocumented immigrants, recently addressed a crowd in Raleigh, North Carolina. The small, bespectacled boy, nervous at first, read from his prepared speech, expressing his fears that one day, his parents would be deported.

“Donald Trump, we can’t be living like this,” Uriel said. “We can’t keep living with fear that at any moment our parents can be arrested leading to a deportation. It’s in your hands to keep our families united.”

Breaking: Trump Appoints Anti-Choice Extremist to Prominent HHS Post

President Trump on Friday installed virulent anti-choice activist Charmaine Yoest as assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The appointment vaults Yoest to one of the top positions at HHS, the agency that sets public health policy in the United States. She will report to HHS Secretary Tom Price, serving as his “principal counsel on public affairs—providing executive leadership, policy direction, and management strategy.”

In other words, Yoest will communicate the policy decisions of her boss, who believes “there’s not one” woman who can’t afford birth control, to the press and the public.

Yoest’s record on reproductive rights is arguably even more extreme than Price’s.

Trump’s appointment legitimizes the former president and CEO of Americans United for Life (AUL), an anti-choice copycat legislation mill looking to restrict the right to access comprehensive reproductive health care nationwide. The federal courts have largely blocked AUL’s efforts.

By tapping Yoest, the Trump administration sends a clear signal that it plans to use HHS to restrict reproductive rights as much as possible, no matter how much money that will cost taxpayers.

“It is unacceptable that someone with a history of promoting myths and false information about women’s health is appointed to a government position whose main responsibility is to provide the public with accurate and factual information,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation America, said in a statement. “Charmaine Yoest has spent her whole professional life opposing access to birth control and a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion. While President Trump claims to empower women, he is appointing government officials who believe just the opposite.”

As Emily Bazelon wrote in a 2012 profile of Yoest for the New York Times, the anti-choice activist’s “end goal isn’t to make abortion safer. She wants to make the procedure illegal.”

“She leaves no room for exceptions in the case of rape or incest or to preserve the health of the mother,” Bazelon wrote. “She believes that embryos have legal rights and opposes birth control, like the IUD, that she thinks ‘has life-ending properties.'” Yoest reportedly dismissed using contraception to bring down the abortion rate as a “red herring.”

Yoest worked as a senior adviser to Mike Huckabee’s failed 2008 presidential campaign. Huckabee holds a hardline opposition to abortion rights, and in 2015 suggested he would be open to the idea of using federal troops to stop legal abortion. Yoest also worked as vice president at Family Research Council, which has been classified as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Yoest served on the Trump campaign’s anti-choice advisory council. She came to Trump’s defense when he faced allegations of sexual assault.

Yoest is one of many anti-choice advocates installed at HHS since Trump took office. Paula Stannard, who ProPublica reports was hired to the agency as a “beachhead” in January, worked at HHS in the George W. Bush administration. Anti-choice activist Hadley Arkes has claimed that during Stannard’s time at HHS she worked on dubious “born-alive” efforts.

“Trump has broken nearly all of his promises to the American people in his first 100 days, but he has certainly stuck to his pledge to erode the constitutional right to abortion, punishing women in the process,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “This nomination helps fulfill that twisted promise and speaks volumes about the Trump administration’s continued disdain for reproductive freedom and women’s rights.”

Yoest has already influenced the U.S. Supreme Court for decades to come, per White House pool reports. Yoest, along with other prominent anti-choice activists who helped guide the process, convened at the White House on February 1, the day after Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.

Congressional Republicans are already pressuring HHS officials to wield regulatory power undermining reproductive rights.

A day before Yoest’s appointment, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives met with Price to discuss so-called conscience protections, according to a press release from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). McCarthy, House Budget Committee Chair Diane Black (R-TN), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and other prominent anti-choice lawmakers swayed Price to examine the Weldon Amendment, which prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against health-care plans based on whether they cover abortion care.

Congressional Republicans have falsely alleged the Weldon Amendment doesn’t go far enough and forces doctors to provide abortion care. They sought to codify and expand it last year in a successful House vote, but the legislation failed to advance to the U.S. Senate.

McCarthy said the Republicans are “fully confident” that their meeting with Price would yield a “fresh look” at the “controversy and other conscience violations.”

Suspended Alabama Justice Aligned With Radical Anti-Choice Group to Run for U.S. Senate

Roy Moore, the Alabama chief justice suspended for urging state judges to defy federal court rulings on marriage equality, announced a bid for Congress this week.

“I know and I think you do too that the foundations of the fabric of our country are being shaken tremendously,” Moore said in a press conference. “Our families are being crippled by divorce and abortion, our sacred institution of marriage has been destroyed by the Supreme Court, and our rights and liberties are in jeopardy.”

Moore, along with colleague Justice Tom Parker, “explicitly made the judicial case for prosecuting women who have had abortions” in a 2014 decision upholding the conviction of an Alabama woman for child endangerment after she gave birth to a healthy baby who tested positive for cocaine, Rewire reported.

“From local to international, all law flows from the divine source: it is the law of God,” Moore wrote. “The law of nature and of nature’s God binds all nations, states, and all government officials—from Great Britain to Germany to Alabama—regardless of positive laws or orders to the contrary.”

The following year, Moore was the subject of a judicial ethics complaint claiming he had shown public support for anti-choice domestic terrorists by speaking at a rally hosted by Operation Save America. The complaint accused Moore of being “guilty of domestic treason by association, conflict of interest, misconduct, collusion and consorting with the enemy.”

“You know, some told me, ‘you know they’re a radical group,’” Moore said of Operation Save America at the rally, according to AL.com. “I said yeah. They are radical for God.”

“We appreciate what you do,” he continued.

The Alabama supreme court last week upheld Moore’s suspension for issuing an administrative order urging state probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark marriage equality decision. Moore cannot be re-elected to Alabama’s supreme court due to age restrictions.

Moore had previously been removed from office in 2013 for refusing to comply with a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state supreme court. He has come under fire from pro-choice and LGBTQ advocates for his extreme rhetoric opposing abortion and LGBTQ rights.

He will challenge Sen. Luther Strange (R) in an August 15 primary.

Strange was appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley in February to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate.

Report Outlines How Trump’s First 100 Days Affected Immigrant Women, Families

Nashali is 13 and constantly scared that her mother, an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco, will be deported.

“My father left because my grandparents were sick. Now, I’m fearful that my last support, my mom, will be taken away from me. She takes me to school every day, she does everything for me,” she said in a teleconference Thursday announcing a new report from the We Belong Together campaign that discusses the impact of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days on immigrant women and their families. (Rewire is not using the last names of the children in this story for safety reasons.)

“But even though I’m afraid, my mom has prepared us in case she gets taken away. We know that we shouldn’t open the door and we have the right to remain silent,” said Nashali, who has participated in the campaign, delivering letters to elected officials asking them to support women and families. “Kids my age shouldn’t have to deal with the stress of if and when we will see our parents again. We only want our families to stay together.”

There are approximately 5 million undocumented women living in the United States: mothers, daughters, sisters, workers, organizers, members of the LGBTQ community, and survivors of gender-based violence. The current administration’s policies have made them fear for their safety and a target for deportation, said Amanda Baran, co-author of the report and a policy consultant for We Belong Together.

Part of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the We Belong Together campaign mobilizes people “in support of common sense immigration policies that will keep families together and empower women,” it explains on its website.

“One thing is clearer than ever—the fight for women’s equality is inextricably linked to realizing the needs of immigrant women and women of color,” said the authors of Trump’s First 100 Days: Immigrant Women and Families on the Frontlines in the report.

“It is no surprise that women are under attack around the world as Trump, who dismisses boasting about sexual assault as innocent locker room talk, makes good on hateful campaign promises premised on nativism, and that among the primary targets of his Administration are black women, immigrant women, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, and families living in poverty.”

The 15-page report outlines how attacks against immigrant women have increased during Trump’s first 100 days in office. Policies like the administration’s travel ban against refugees from six majority-Muslim countries, executive orders on immigration enforcement, and persistent efforts to defund and limit women’s access to sexual and reproductive care have created a climate of fear where women feel hunted, exploited, and are often afraid to report crimes, Baran said.

Gilda Blanco, a Black immigrant from Guatemala and an organizer with the National Domestic Workers Alliance in Seattle, said in the press call that she sees firsthand how unsafe Black undocumented immigrants in her community feel when the criminal justice system is designed to criminalize and profile them.

“These 100 days have been a dizzying violation of our human rights and our human dignity as Black immigrants. But I am part of the resistance, and we will not allow this new administration to continue to attack immigrant families.”

Nevertheless, immigrant women and their families are leading the resistance and standing up to the discriminatory policies that effectively leads to their separation.

“Women and children are organizing in their communities to protect each other from immigration enforcement, demand that local leaders protect schools and healthcare, stop bans and walls with legal action, and create safe spaces for immigrant lives and Black lives,”said Andrea Cristina Mercado, chair of the We Belong Together campaign, in a press release.

Just this month, several such families gathered in front of the White House to send Trump the message that they belong together, she said.

The We Belong Together report closes with a paragraph celebrating the “visionary leadership” of women and families who are speaking out and demanding change.

These include six undocumented hotel housekeepers in North Carolina who say their boss sexually assaulted them for years, threatening them with deportation if they were to complain, the Charlotte Observer reported earlier this month. The women have filed a lawsuit against the Hilton Charlotte University Place, with their trial scheduled for July.

Other brave women and families include Jeanette Vizguerra and her children, who have joined the We Belong Together campaign and have spoken publicly about their case. Vizguerra sought refuge at a local church in Colorado to avoid deportation after becoming a target under the Trump administration, the Denver Post reported.

And 11-year-old Leah in Florida took part in the four-city We Belong Together Kids Caravan tour earlier this month to tell President Trump that she will speak out for her undocumented mother, and that families matter.

The report concludes that policymakers, elected officials, the media, and the public can support these women and families by opposing policies grounded in nativist, racist, and misogynistic ideologies; disrupting narratives that equate immigrants and communities of color with criminality; and exposing the impact of immigration enforcement and criminal justice policies.

Following Increased Anti-Choice Protests, Bomb Threat Reported at Virginia Building Housing Abortion Clinic

Two signs, reading “Bomb Bomb Bomb” and “Bomb Bomb,” were left near the door of an office building in Falls Church, Virginia, on Thursday afternoon, according to the owner of the abortion clinic housed in that building.

The sheets of paper, which local police are investigating as a bomb threat, triggered the building’s second evacuation of the day. In the morning, in response to reports of smoke and the sound of explosions from employees in the building, local firefighters had discovered what a spokesperson for the Falls Church Police told Rewire were exploded firecrackers.

The office building, located on South Washington Street in the Washington, D.C. suburb, houses several doctors’ offices, including Falls Church Healthcare Center, a reproductive health clinic that provides abortions. For years, abortion opponents have protested outside the building on Saturdays, Rosemary Codding, director of the clinic, told Rewire in a phone interview. But lately, these protests have been an almost daily occurrence, Codding said. She believes the firecrackers in the elevator and the bomb threat are connected, and that whoever left them was targeting her clinic.

“Pro-choice healthcare centers have experienced an increase in harassments, threats and the presence of protesters since the election,” Codding said in a written statement.

Susan Finarelli, communications director for the City of Falls Church, told Rewire in an interview that police are investigating both of today’s incidents and have not yet determined whether they are related or who the target of the bomb threat is. She said police are also investigating an incident in July, when a similar sign reading “bomb” was found outside the office building, leading to a building evacuation.

“We don’t know that they are the target,” Finarelli said, referring to Falls Church Healthcare Center, “but it is a concern for the police, and we are keeping that in mind. The investigation is ongoing.”

All over the country, abortion clinics are facing increased harassment and threats of violence, despite the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and other federal laws designed to crack down on such actions.

The National Abortion Federation (NAF) last week released a report showing that 2016 saw an increase in intimidation tactics at abortion clinics, including vandalism, burglary, and bomb threats. The group also noted an “escalation in hate speech and internet harassment,” which it said intensified after the November election. In 2016, clinics across the country reported nearly 43,000 incidents of hate mail and internet harassment compared to nearly 26,000 incidents in 2015, according to the report. Similarly, clinics reported nearly 62,000 instances of picketing, compared to nearly 22,000 instances the year prior. And according to NAF, clinics reported nine bomb threats in 2016, compared to four in 2015.

Codding said that she has definitely noticed an uptick in the number of protests outside her building since Donald Trump won the presidential election and believes there is “absolutely no question” the two are related.

One of the signs left outside the building housing Falls Church Healthcare Center (Image via FCHC)

In general, abortion providers and advocates are nervous about whether the Trump administration will investigate or prosecute incidents of harassment and threats of violence against clinics.

“We … remain concerned that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not adequately enforce the laws that protect abortion providers and their patients from violence,” NAF’s report reads. “Sessions has a long record of opposing protections for abortion providers, and was endorsed by the antiabortion extremist group Operation Rescue.”

Michelle Kinsey Bruns, an abortion rights advocate and volunteer clinic escort, told Rewire that the increased rate of clinic threats nationwide should be concerning for the U.S. Department of Justice because, as recent history has shown, such threats often escalate to actual violence.

“For decades, there has been a pattern of escalation from threats to vandalism to violence by anti-choicers directed at clinics,” Burns said. “It’s all on a spectrum of very real intimidation of the staffs and the patients who are in these health-care centers.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to clarify the number of sheets of paper left by the door and the manner in which they were left.

Responses to Serena Williams’ Pregnancy Are Steeped in the Racism and Sexism She’s Long Faced

Serena Williams is the best tennis player—and arguably the best athlete—in the world. Her passion and determination make her a standout on the court, and her charisma constantly delights millions of fans. Last week, three months after winning the Australian Open, Williams announced via Snapchat that she is 20 weeks pregnant.

Williams’ post—which she said was actually accidental during a Tuesday night TedTalk in Vancouver—was met with widespread joy. At the same time, however, it has sparked a number of discussions about her identity as an athlete and a mother. And while there is definitely precedent for athlete-mothers, many of the conversations about Williams continue to be steeped in the misogynoir she has long faced as a Black woman.

Some of these conversations tried to undercut Williams’ recent professional success. After doing the math, for example, media commentators realized that Williams had won her 23rd Grand Slam tournament while pregnant. In response, New Scientist initially put out a now-deleted tweet that raised the question: “Could Pregnancy have helped Serena Williams win the Australian Open?”

As Furaha Asani, a PhD candidate and a Black woman biochemist, wrote on Medium, “Black joy seems to catalyze a reaction in which those always willing to manifest their unscrupulous agenda break into hives if they cannot have at trying to drag these women down.”

Asani continued that the video clip posted by New Scientist “begins with how pregnancy ‘could’ help, and only in the second half does it become clear that it probably didn’t help. So in conclusion, the [greatest of all time (GOAT)] won because she is the GOAT. They should have made that clear from the start.”

“Serena is stellar, and irresponsible scientific communication sucks. Casual racism and sensationalism should never be welcome in science,” Asani concluded.

As a woman who has been pregnant four times, I can assure you that pregnancy is a phenomenal experience and every experience is unique. I can also attest that simply being able to tie my shoelaces and drink water without vomiting—because I was growing a human inside me—was a victory. I can not fathom competing in an international tennis tournament. To be so critical of Williams that only a far-reaching theory is possible to explain her greatness is wretchedly racist and sexist.

Additional jabs have come from Williams’ fellow athletes. Along with a host of sexist behavior aimed at other female athletes, former tennis player Ilie Nastase made racist remarks about the possible color of Williams’ baby’s skin. (Williams’ fiancé, Alexis Ohanian, with whom she is having the child, is white.) Nastase has not yet apologized for his comments. And although he was suspended from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for his other actions, at the time of writing this piece, he has not faced any specific consequences for flaunting his bigotry.

About the incident and the others like it that Williams has been enduring since she was 17, Complex Sports‘ Dria Roland asked: “When has anyone actually been punished for mocking Serena? In her two decades of dominance, it’s hard to find an instance of any governing body ever offering Serena any concrete measure of protection or justice.”

Williams herself addressed this incident in a powerful Instagram post that included parts of Maya Angelou’s magnificent poem “Still I Rise.”

“It disappoints me that we live in a society where people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments toward myself and my unborn child, and sexist comments toward my peers,” Williams wrote. “I humbly thank the ITF for any consideration given to the facts in this case. They will have my full support.”

As Roland and others have pointed out, Williams has been subject to extreme, disproportionate criticism because she is a powerful Black female athlete. “Especially in the post-Civil Rights era, black female athletes representing the U.S. have been held up as examples of our progress,” said Lou Moore, a history professor at Grand Valley University who specializes in African-American studies, gender history, and sport, in an interview with the Daily Beast. “But in Serena’s case, dominating a traditionally white, middle-class sport hits on American racism and sexism in such a way that it overrides the usual narrative.”

“The public loves policing mothers, and it loves policing Serena,” noted Lindsay Gibbs, an avid tennis fan and ThinkProgress sportswriter who has previously written about the racism and sexism Williams has faced.

Though, thus far, there has been no widespread suggestion that Williams will quit tennis, Gibbs pointed out to me via email, “As we saw most recently with Kim Clijsters, the media does not know how to talk about world-class athletes who are also mothers without pandering to them at every second. So I expect there to be more pandering than direct criticism, though there will be criticism too, of course.”

Williams is certainly not the first athlete to be pregnant while competing. She would certainly not be the first player to return to professional sports after giving birth. There is a phenomenal list of predecessors—including, as Gibbs mentioned, fellow tennis player Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, and Victoria Azarenka, who was in the first weeks of her pregnancy when she won Indian Wells and Miami last March. It is not hard to expect that Williams would return to training and competing after she has her baby.

Moore recognized, however, that there may be pressure for her to retire. In an interview with me, he said, “I think in the past this is what a lot of people wanted: to reinforce heterosexuality and patriarchy where the women gives up the athletic career to be a mom, because after all, society didn’t really think it was career for a woman to be an athlete, just a mother.”

“Serena, if she chooses to ‘come back,’ will change the narrative” and reinforce the fact that women can be mothers and athletes at the same time, he continued. “This is Serena. This is a whole different level of fame.”

Still, Moore thinks that progress has been made in how we see female athletes and their roles in general. Of Williams’ pregnancy, he said, “not everybody hated on her. I think it’s also important to note that as a society we’ve come a long way from trying to convince women to avoid competitive athletics because naysayers said it would hinder [their] ability to have children, to this public celebration of the top athlete announcing her pregnancy.”

The topic of “naysayers” is a relevant one. According to a 2014 report by the Women’s Media Center, the majority of sports media positions are occupied by white men—hardly a guarantee that writers will hold particularly or personally knowledgeable positions about balancing motherhood and careers as athletes, especially athletes of color. This will likely be reflected in the way many of them write about Williams’ decisions and opine about her career.

“I think if Serena chooses to publicly document this, this will be a big deal: transformative,” Moore added. “But I also think there will be a certain segment of the population upset that she didn’t choose to be a full-time mother. That narrative won’t leave women’s sports.”

Judging by Williams’ heartfelt comments to her “Dearest Baby” in an Instagram post, including the adorable comment “I can’t wait for you to join the players box next year,” Gibbs is correct when she says it is very likely Williams will return as passionate as ever—with her partner and a healthy baby to cheer her on with the rest of us.

But, Gibbs reminded us, “There is no reason why a healthy woman who is willing to put in the work can’t return to the top of her athletic field after having a baby, so treating it like it’s some sort of an exception to a rule is insulting as well.”

“Becoming a mother will always be a part of Serena’s story, and it absolutely should be,” she continued. “But we must be able to appreciate her as an athlete first and foremost when she is competing on the court; she’s earned that respect.”

Montana Governor Says He’ll Veto 20-Week Abortion Ban

Montana’s Democratic governor plans to veto legislation that outlaws abortion care at 20 weeks, a spokesperson told Rewire on Thursday.

Gov. Steve Bullock “strongly believes a woman’s medical decision should stay between herself, her doctor, her family, and her faith,” said Bullock’s press secretary, Marissa Perry.

SB 329, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, relies on junk science claiming a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks post fertilization—which doctors call 22 weeks’ gestation, calculated from the first day of a person’s last menstrual period. The bill bans abortions at 20 weeks’ fertilization, except in cases of serious physical health risk or life endangerment. In those instances, the emphasis remains on the fetus, with medical practitioners instructed to end the pregnancy in a way that gives the “best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.”

Violators of the Republican-backed measure could face fines of $1,000 or up to five years behind bars.

Perry said Bullock had not yet seen the bill, but said the governor has a record of vetoing anti-abortion legislation. Bullock has ten days from when legislation reaches his desk to veto it, or the bill becomes law without his signature, Perry said.

Republicans control both of Montana’s legislative chambers. The bill’s lead sponsor, state Sen. Keith Regier (R-Kalispell), has backed various anti-choice bills over the years. He sponsored failed legislation to make abortion a homicide, and an unsuccessful ban on administering abortion pills via telemedicine. Regier was behind a 2012 fetal homicide bill, which went into law without the governor’s signature.

The influential anti-choice groups Americans United for Life and the National Right To Life Committee drafted the first “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act” for Nebraska in 2010, as Rewire reported. Since then, Republicans and reproductive rights opponents around the country have advanced or enacted unconstitutional 20-week abortion bans under the guise of preventing a fetus from “feeling pain.”

The medical establishment holds fetal pain is unlikely before the third trimester.

New Coalition Unites Movements to Overcome Dr. King’s ‘Giant Triplets’

As the Democratic Party faces an implosion over its progressive agenda (or lack thereof), human rights organizations representing vulnerable communities are finding ways to collaborate and “go beyond moments of outrage … and beyond barriers between communities that have much at stake and so much in common.”

“The Majority” launched late March with the support of 50 advocates and organizations, Aaron Morrison of Mic reported on March 23. The coalition is fighting “for a future where all our children can navigate their lives without fear and harm; a future where all our folks can flourish and thrive, not just survive,” its organizers said in a press statement.

The Majority’s first campaign, “Beyond the Moment: Uniting Movements from April 4th to May Day,” includes participants representing the Black Lives Matter Global Network, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Dream Defenders, Mijente, SolidarityIS, Color of Change, Climate Justice Alliance, Fight for $15, and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.

“It’s an incredible coming together in a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-sector space to push back against recent attacks,” Malcolm Torrejón Chu, an organizer with the national anti-gentrification Right to the City alliance, told Rewire. “It’s about deepening our bonds of solidarity, deepening how communities work together against corruption and corporate rule so we can all lead secure, dignified lives.”

The alliance has joined the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Climate Justice Alliance, and Indigenous Environmental Network to form It Takes Roots, a collaborative participating in Beyond the Moment.

April 4 marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech in New York City, where he discussed the threat of the “giant triplets”—racism, extreme materialism/capitalism, and militarism. He was assassinated exactly a year later while organizing alongside Black sanitation workers in Memphis. May Day, the International Worker’s Day held on May 1, emerged out of the fight for an eight-hour workday in 1886 Chicago that led to striking workers being killed and, later, protesters hanged.

“In the context of a new President using grandiose promises of job creation to mask the fundamentally anti-worker and pro-corporation nature of his policies, it is imperative that we put forth a true, collective vision of economic justice and worker justice, for all people,” the organizers of Beyond the Moment said in a statement.

“This May Day, we are uniquely positioned to recast the predominant left narratives around economic justice toward a more radically inclusive frame that elevates the voices of Black and Brown workers, and to bring together a broad sector of the left to provide meaningful interventions around anti-Blackness, intersectionality and racial justice.”

On May Day, mass mobilizations will take place, “grounded in an intersectional analysis that centers anti-Black racism, capitalism and militarism to expose how intertwined issues of social inequality really are across communities,” a statement on the website reads.

Mark-Anthony Johnson from Dignity and Power Now and the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL)—which as Morrison reported at Mic inspired the The Majority coalition—told Rewire that the organizations making up M4BL “are coordinating efforts to challenge and beat back policies of an administration whose aim is undermine the dignity and wellbeing of Black people.” For these groups, he added, “it is necessary to build a multi-racial … effort to defend our communities from the aggressive moves this administration is making.”

Those moves include reducing digital privacy regulations and ramping up law enforcement protections and efforts to “reduce crime and restore public safety,” which advocates say is about “criminalizing Black and Brown communities and funneling millions to his corporate allies,” as Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson put it in a February statement.

On April 4, the Majority called for mass political education; an expansion of the #SanctuaryForAll movement “to include dialogue around anti-Blackness, non-immigrants, non-refugees, and Indigenous rights”; and supporting “the ongoing struggle for LGBTQIA rights and economic justice for workers, the unemployed and the cash-poor.”

“We hear a lot about the need for sanctuary. What we want to see is a vision of expanded sanctuary for immigrants, Muslims, refugees, Black folks against police violence, Indigenous people’s against oil pipelines; expanded sanctuary at every level of our community for all,” Torrejón Chu said.

Another participant, the Health, Environment, Agriculture and Labor (HEAL) Food Alliance is proud to be part of The Majority to continue creating positive change across communities with other allies, director Navina Khanna told Rewire.

“At HEAL, we hold workers, particularly the many Black and Brown migrant and immigrant workers across the food system who sustain our lands and lives, as leaders in our work for justice and transformation. As the current administration’s xenophobic policies and rhetoric attempt to divide us, we are committed to strengthening our collective ability to care for and uplift one another,” she said in an email.

The Majority hopes for trans-local actions to continue in the weeks to come. The coalition “will be taking action across the country to not only challenge local government to expand their definition of sanctuary, but to divest from community institutions, such as policing, that undermine the dignity of Black people. Black and Brown communities share a collective future to which we believe these funds should [be] invested, including in community-based alternatives to incarceration, mental health treatment, and education,” Johnson said.

Although white conservative power seeks to disenfranchise them at the polls, people of color are a rising majority in this country, the Majority organizers said in the statement.

“We know that when there there is linked oppression, there will be linked defiance, defense and expansion of what it means to protect all our communities. And in many ways, our vision for the future is linked, too: a radical future where we can determine our destinies, a world that we’ve been dreaming of where all Black lives matter,” the Beyond the Moment website reads.

CORRECTION: Quotes from Malcolm Torrejón Chu have been updated for clarity.

Here’s How Fox News Functions As a Mouthpiece for Anti-Choice Propaganda

The anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and its campaign to smear Planned Parenthood have been debunked and discredited, though a Fox News viewer probably wouldn’t know as much. 

That’s because a staggering 90 percent of the network’s statements about CMP in the past year during evening news programs were inaccurate, according to a recent study by media watchdog Media Matters for America. The network most commonly pushed the falsehood that CMP, which coordinated its propaganda campaign with Republican lawmakers, does “investigative journalism.” Fox failed to mention that GOP-led state and federal investigations have refuted the claims made by the group, the study found.

Analyzing 12 months of evening cable news coverage on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News beginning in March 2016, Media Matters discovered that a single segment on CMP ran on a network other than Fox.

CMP engaged in a coordinated campaign beginning in summer 2015, using surreptitiously recorded and deceptively edited videos to falsely allege that Planned Parenthood had profited from fetal tissue sales. The claims sparked anti-choice legislation as well as a host of state and federal investigations—none of which found evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of the health-care provider.

Fox News’ Hannity was the only evening cable news program to feature a segment with activist and CMP founder David Daleiden during the time period analyzed. “[Host Sean] Hannity and Daleiden made a total of eight inaccurate statements about the credibility of CMP’s findings in this segment,” Media Matters’ study found.

A California judge issued an arrest warrant for Daleiden and his colleague Sandra Merritt after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office charged the two with 15 felonies in relation to their work in the anti-choice propaganda campaign.

Planned Parenthood clinics saw an uptick in violence coinciding with the release of CMP’s propaganda videos, but this sort of occurrence was barely mentioned within the past year on the networks analyzed by Media Matters. CNN ran no segments about the spike in anti-choice violence, Fox News ran one, and MSNBC ran three.

A nationwide survey of clinics published by the Feminist Majority Foundation in February, which was “the first quantitative measure of nationwide violence recorded since the release of the CMP videos,” found that anti-choice extremists had been “emboldened by” the campaign waged by CMP and Republican legislators. “The Survey found that the percentage of clinics reporting the most severe types of anti-abortion violence and threats of violence has dramatically increased in the past two years, jumping to 34.2 percent of clinics in the first six months of 2016, up from 19.7 percent in the first six months of 2014,” a report on the survey said. “Some of the most frequent types of violence and threats were blocking access to and invasions of clinics, stalking, death threats, and bombing threats.”

Both Fox News and CMP share connections to the Trump administration. President Trump has noted that he regularly receives his news from the network. He has hired several network figures and frequent guests for roles in his administration.

Media Matters for America Reproductive Rights Program Director Sharon Kann said in a statement to Rewire that Fox News’ willingness to serve as a mouthpiece for CMP could have serious consequences. “This pipeline of dangerous misinformation now extends all the way to the White House,” she said. “We know President Trump loves to watch Fox News. With the placement of anti-abortion extremists like Kellyanne Conway at high levels in the administration, this anti-choice misinformation is even more likely to find a receptive audience.”

Trump White House adviser Kellyanne Conway consulted for CMP in 2015, recently released financial disclosure forms show. Conway’s polling firm was reportedly hired by Daleidan to “get the message right” ahead of the release of the group’s misleading attack videos.

Kann said cable news’ failure to address the anti-choice propaganda campaign’s mistruths has had policy implications across the country.

“It may be tempting to dismiss this as just a Fox problem, but the network’s ceaseless repetition of CMP’s misinformation can—and already has—resulted in the codification of policies targeting abortion providers, patients, and clinics to the detriment of people everywhere,” Kann said.