Roundup: Church and Politics, Future of Supreme Court

Brady Swenson

Wading into the brackish waters of church and politcs; Election important to future of Supreme Court; Closer look at the 'rape exception' in South Dakota abortion ban; Services fall short for rape victims; Editorial boasts benefits of family planning; Nobel Prize for Medicine awarded to discoverers of HIV and HPV; and more.

Church and Politics

Many church leaders make forays into politics, especially in the months leading up to an election.  This year is certainly no exception and there was much to evidence that fact in the news over the weekend.  Both the New York Times and the Boston Globe ran stories about the Catholic Church’s efforts to influence their congregants’ votes, which celebrated its worldwide “Respect Life Day” yesterday.  The New York Times reports that Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pa., “has ordered every priest in the
diocese to read a letter warning that voting for a supporter of
abortion rights amounts to endorsing homicide.”  The Boston Globe says that “one of the highest-ranking American bishops at the Vatican, Archbishop
Raymond L. Burke, last week warned that the Democratic Party risks
becoming the ‘party of death.'”  Mixing church and politics is not limited to the Catholic church.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that one local pastor, Rev. George Marin, in his sermon yesterday called on his congregation “to reject [Barack Obama] as the next president of the United States.”

South Dakota blogger Todd Epp, after watching a local televised Catholic service during which a priest asked fellow Catholics to vote for “pro-life” candidates, wondered aloud if opposing political views would receive equal air time on local television in a state considering an abortion ban this November 4.

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But there are Catholics and other people of faith who are of a different political mind and, as the NYT article reports, they are more vocal and better organized this year than most:

In a departure from previous elections, Democrats and liberal
Catholic groups are waging a fight within the church, arguing that the Democratic Party better reflects the full spectrum of church teachings.

is a contest for credibility among observant Catholics, with each
faction describing itself as a defender of “life.” The two sides
disagree over how to address the “intrinsic evil” of abortion.

The escalating efforts by more-liberal Catholics are provoking a vigorous backlash from some bishops and the right.

Two Catholic groups have been working together to distribute leaflets and pamphlets to their fellow Catholics in an attempt to provide an alternative argument, that the Democratic Party’s stance on social issues is more in line with Catholic teaching than the GOP’s.  In response the Bishop’s Conference of the church has taken steps to effectively ban the pamphlets:

In the aftermath of the 2004 election, many liberal Catholics
complained that parishes had distributed millions of copies of a voter
guide created by a group called Catholic Answers that highlighted five
“nonnegotiable” issues: abortion, stem-cell research, human cloning,
euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

In response, liberal groups
like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance quickly began preparing
alternative guides emphasizing a broader spectrum of the church’s
social justice teachings.

Then the Bishops Conference, perhaps
to forestall a blizzard of competing pamphlets, all but banned
third-party voter guides from parishes, requiring the explicit
endorsement of the presiding bishop.

But some, including the
bishop of La Crosse in Wisconsin, a swing state, have nevertheless
chosen to authorize distribution of the “nonnegotiable” guides this
year. The liberal groups are trying to distribute their material
through direct mail and at meetings of lay Catholic groups.


Election Could Greatly Influence Supreme Court

Today marks the opening of the 2008-2009 term of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Be sure to check out Emily’s great preview of the upcoming term that will feature a number of cases that could expand or curtail women’s ability to challenge discrimination in the workplace.

The November 4 presidential election will likely influence the makeup of the court for decades to come as three of the Supreme Court’s more liberal justices could retire (PDF) in the next four years.  For that reason an editorial in USA Today, and an article in the LA Times that Amie blogged about this weekend, both argue that Roe vs. Wade in particular, and other major court issues as well, hang in the balance this election:

The focus on Roe is particularly acute this year because the
shrinking number of justices who have upheld abortion rights in recent
cases are among the court’s oldest members. Justice John Paul Stevens is 88; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75 and has had major health problems. In addition, Justice David Souter
is rumored to be weighing retirement. Abortion-rights opponents talk
hopefully of being within one or at most two new justices of
overturning Roe and allowing states to again outlaw abortion altogether.

The two candidates have a different opinion on the kinds of justices they would appoint to the Supreme Court:

McCain has said repeatedly he would nominate justices in the mold of President Bush’s appointees,
John Roberts and Samuel Alito, “who have a proven record of strict
interpretation of the Constitution.” Among his most crowd-pleasing
lines with GOP primary audiences was, “One of our greatest problems in
America today is justices that legislate from the bench, activist

Obama has held up as his model Earl Warren,
the chief justice who steered a fractured court to the unanimous
decision in 1954 that outlawed segregated schools. Warren also presided
over an era of the court’s expansion of protection of civil liberties
and civil rights in numerous other areas.

“Part of the role of the courts,” Obama has said, “is going to
protect people who may be vulnerable in the political process, the
outsider, the minority, those who are vulnerable, those who don’t have
a lot of clout.” He has also said that he “would not appoint somebody
who doesn’t believe in the right to privacy,” the legal doctrine that
is the foundation of Roe v. Wade.


A Closer Look at the “Rape Exception” in the South Dakota Abortion Ban Proposal

Cara at Feministe.us has taken a critical look at the rape exception included in the South Dakota abortion ban on the ballot next month.  Cara responds to anti-choice arguments that abortions are used to cover up incest and rape so a ban on abortion would actaully deter rape and incest, effectively labeling advocates of reproductive choice co-conspirators in rape and incest.  She also questions the argument that a new rape reporting law included in the ban that shifts the burden of reporting from the victim to the doctor would actually ease trauma for the victim:

Yet again, anti-choicers are co-opting feminist language to further
their agenda, by claiming they know what is best and most empowering
for women without bothering to ask them first (and assuming it would be
the same answer from all women if they had). This stuff is disturbing
enough when they’re merely patting us on the head and telling us that
they know we’ll be happier if only we accept our rightful punishments
for sex, but they’re taking it to a whole new, misogynistic level when
using the same tactics to speak specifically about rape victims.


For Many Rape Victims Treatment and Support Services Fall Short

The LA Times reports on a study conducted in Illinois that identified 10 services that should be provided for victims of rape “such as rape crisis counseling and preventive treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.”  Of 156 responding hospitals fewer than 1 in 10 offered all of the services:

All of the emergency rooms provided medical care to assault victims,
but just two-thirds offered rape crisis counseling and only 40% made
emergency contraception available to their patients. Roughly two-thirds
reported that they tested and treated for sexually transmitted
infections, and less than one-third provided precautionary HIV

Other studies have shown similar results. A national study published in
2007 in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy looked at the
treatment provided to almost 180,000 sexual assault or rape victims
nationally in 2003. Antibiotic treatment to protect against sexually
transmitted infections was provided in less than 10% of cases. A 2004
study of Pennsylvania emergency departments, published in the
International Journal of Fertility and Women’s Medicine, found that
less than half routinely offered emergency contraception counseling.


Plan a Family, Save the World

An editorial in the Seattle Times argues in favor of improving access to family planning services around the world, itemizing its numerous benefits, and asks the reader to “[i]magine the next president of the United States moving decisively to
slow down the world’s population growth as it arcs from today’s 6.7
billion toward a predicted and perilous 9.2 billion by 2050.”

A replacement fertility rate for the world would be roughly 2.1
children per woman — the current U.S. rate. Yet in sub-Saharan Africa,
the rate is 5.4. In parts of Asia it’s almost as high — reflecting, in
the words of New York demographer Joel Cohen, “cultures in which the
survival of women depends on having a large number of children, and the
prestige of men on having a large number of wives who have many

There’s overwhelming evidence that family-planning services help
women and couples prevent unintended (and often high-risk) pregnancies,
with a byproduct of higher infant-survival rates and sharply reduced


Infertility Patients Caught in the Legal, Moral and Scientific Embryo Debate

An interesting story in the LA Times takes a look at the tough decisions infertility patients and their loved ones must make about the fate of embryos they have created but do not plan to use.  While voters in Colorado will be deciding when life and personhood begin in a ballot measure this November “infertility patients nationwide — whose feelings about abortion run
the gamut — are finding themselves ensnared in a debate about when
life begins.”

“They are in the middle of this ideological war, although they may not
be aware they are in the middle of a war,” says Renee Whitley,
co-chairwoman of the national advocacy committee for Resolve, an
organization supporting people with infertility. “This is the politics
of embryos.”


Obama Argument Against McCain Health Care Plan Examined

The CNN Truth Squad took a look at Senator Barack Obama’s claim that the $5,000 tax credit the McCain plan offers is not enough, Obama says that “the average cost of a family health
care plan these days is more than twice that much — $12,680. So where
would that leave you? Broke.”  The CNN Truth Squad found the claim to be accurate “[i]n the narrow set of circumstances Obama lays out.”


Nobel Prize for Medicine Goes to Discoverers of HIV and HPV

The scientists who discovered two of the world’s most devastating sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, which causes AIDS and HPV, whcih causes cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women, Harald zur Hausen of Germany and the French researchers Françoise
Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, were announced Monday as the winners
of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine

In its citation, the Nobel Assembly said Barré-Sinoussi’s and
Montagnier’s discovery was one prerequisite for the current
understanding of the biology of AIDS and its antiretroviral treatment.
The pair’s work in the early 1980s made it possible to clone the
HIV-1 genome.

The assembly said zur Hausen “went against current dogma” when he
found that oncogenic human papilloma virus, or HPV, caused cervical
cancer, the second most common cancer among women.

“His discovery has led to characterization of the natural history of
HPV infection, an understanding of mechanisms of HPV-induced
carcinogenesis and the development of prophylactic vaccines against HPV
acquisition,” the citation said.

The award to Barré-Sinoussi was something of a milestone. Only seven
women had won the medicine prize since the first Nobel Prizes were
handed out in 1901.

The last female winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
was the American researcher Linda Buck, who shared the prize in 2004
with Richard Axel. They won for their work in studying odorant
receptors and the organization of the olfactory system in human beings.


Analysis Law and Policy

After ‘Whole Woman’s Health’ Decision, Advocates Should Fight Ultrasound Laws With Science

Imani Gandy

A return to data should aid in dismantling other laws ungrounded in any real facts, such as Texas’s onerous "informed consent” law—HB 15—which forces women to get an ultrasound that they may neither need nor afford, and which imposes a 24-hour waiting period.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down two provisions of Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law, has changed the reproductive rights landscape in ways that will reverberate in courts around the country for years to come. It is no longer acceptable—at least in theory—for a state to announce that a particular restriction advances an interest in women’s health and to expect courts and the public to take them at their word.

In an opinion driven by science and data, Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority in Whole Woman’s Health, weighed the costs and benefits of the two provisions of HB 2 at issue—the admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center (ASC) requirements—and found them wanting. Texas had breezed through the Fifth Circuit without facing any real pushback on its manufactured claims that the two provisions advanced women’s health. Finally, Justice Breyer whipped out his figurative calculator and determined that those claims didn’t add up. For starters, Texas admitted that it didn’t know of a single instance where the admitting privileges requirement would have helped a woman get better treatment. And as for Texas’ claim that abortion should be performed in an ASC, Breyer pointed out that the state did not require the same of its midwifery clinics, and that childbirth is 14 times more likely to result in death.

So now, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in the case’s concurring opinion, laws that “‘do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion’ cannot survive judicial inspection.” In other words, if a state says a restriction promotes women’s health and safety, that state will now have to prove it to the courts.

With this success under our belts, a similar return to science and data should aid in dismantling other laws ungrounded in any real facts, such as Texas’s onerous “informed consent” law—HB 15—which forces women to get an ultrasound that they may neither need nor afford, and which imposes a 24-hour waiting period.

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In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld parts of Pennsylvania’s “informed consent” law requiring abortion patients to receive a pamphlet developed by the state department of health, finding that it did not constitute an “undue burden” on the constitutional right to abortion. The basis? Protecting women’s mental health: “[I]n an attempt to ensure that a woman apprehends the full consequences of her decision, the State furthers the legitimate purpose of reducing the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed.”

Texas took up Casey’s informed consent mantle and ran with it. In 2011, the legislature passed a law that forces patients to undergo a medical exam, whether or not their doctor thinks they need it, and that forces them to listen to information that the state wants them to hear, whether or not their doctor thinks that they need to hear it. The purpose of this law—at least in theory—is, again, to protect patients’ “mental health” by dissuading those who may be unsure about procedure.

The ultra-conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in 2012, in Texas Medical Providers v. Lakey.

And make no mistake: The exam the law requires is invasive, and in some cases, cruelly so. As Beverly McPhail pointed out in the Houston Chronicle in 2011, transvaginal probes will often be necessary to comply with the law up to 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy—which is when, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 91 percent of abortions take place. “Because the fetus is so small at this stage, traditional ultrasounds performed through the abdominal wall, ‘jelly on the belly,’ often cannot produce a clear image,” McPhail noted.

Instead, a “probe is inserted into the vagina, sending sound waves to reflect off body structures to produce an image of the fetus. Under this new law, a woman’s vagina will be penetrated without an opportunity for her to refuse due to coercion from the so-called ‘public servants’ who passed and signed this bill into law,” McPhail concluded.

There’s a reason why abortion advocates began decrying these laws as “rape by the state.”

If Texas legislators are concerned about the mental health of their citizens, particularly those who may have been the victims of sexual assault—or any woman who does not want a wand forcibly shoved into her body for no medical reason—they have a funny way of showing it.

They don’t seem terribly concerned about the well-being of the woman who wants desperately to be a mother but who decides to terminate a pregnancy that doctors tell her is not viable. Certainly, forcing that woman to undergo the painful experience of having an ultrasound image described to her—which the law mandates for the vast majority of patients—could be psychologically devastating.

But maybe Texas legislators don’t care that forcing a foreign object into a person’s body is the ultimate undue burden.

After all, if foisting ultrasounds onto women who have decided to terminate a pregnancy saves even one woman from a lifetime of “devastating psychologically damaging consequences,” then it will all have been worth it, right? Liberty and bodily autonomy be damned.

But what if there’s very little risk that a woman who gets an abortion experiences those “devastating psychological consequences”?

What if the information often provided by states in connection with their “informed consent” protocol does not actually lead to consent that is more informed, either because the information offered is outdated, biased, false, or flatly unnecessary given a particular pregnant person’s circumstance? Texas’ latest edition of its “Woman’s Right to Know” pamphlet, for example, contains even more false information than prior versions, including the medically disproven claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation.

What if studies show—as they have since the American Psychological Association first conducted one to that effect in 1989—that abortion doesn’t increase the risk of mental health issues?

If the purpose of informed consent laws is to weed out women who have been coerced or who haven’t thought it through, then that purpose collapses if women who get abortions are, by and large, perfectly happy with their decision.

And that’s exactly what research has shown.

Scientific studies indicate that the vast majority of women don’t regret their abortions, and therefore are not devastated psychologically. They don’t fall into drug and alcohol addiction or attempt to kill themselves. But that hasn’t kept anti-choice activists from claiming otherwise.

It’s simply not true that abortion sends mentally healthy patients over the edge. In a study report released in 2008, the APA found that the strongest predictor of post-abortion mental health was prior mental health. In other words, if you’re already suffering from mental health issues before getting an abortion, you’re likely to suffer mental health issues afterward. But the studies most frequently cited in courts around the country prove, at best, an association between mental illness and abortion. When the studies controlled for “prior mental health and violence experience,” “no significant relation was found between abortion history and anxiety disorders.”

But what about forced ultrasound laws, specifically?

Science has its part to play in dismantling those, too.

If Whole Woman’s Health requires the weighing of costs and benefits to ensure that there’s a connection between the claimed purpose of an abortion restriction and the law’s effect, then laws that require a woman to get an ultrasound and to hear a description of it certainly fail that cost-benefit analysis. Science tells us forcing patients to view ultrasound images (as opposed to simply offering the opportunity for a woman to view ultrasound images) in order to give them “information” doesn’t dissuade them from having abortions.

Dr. Jen Gunter made this point in a blog post years ago: One 2009 study found that when given the option to view an ultrasound, nearly 73 percent of women chose to view the ultrasound image, and of those who chose to view it, 85 percent of women felt that it was a positive experience. And here’s the kicker: Not a single woman changed her mind about having an abortion.

Again, if women who choose to see ultrasounds don’t change their minds about getting an abortion, a law mandating that ultrasound in order to dissuade at least some women is, at best, useless. At worst, it’s yet another hurdle patients must leap to get care.

And what of the mandatory waiting period? Texas law requires a 24-hour waiting period—and the Court in Casey upheld a 24-hour waiting period—but states like Louisiana and Florida are increasing the waiting period to 72 hours.

There’s no evidence that forcing women into longer waiting periods has a measurable effect on a woman’s decision to get an abortion. One study conducted in Utah found that 86 percent of women had chosen to get the abortion after the waiting period was over. Eight percent of women chose not to get the abortion, but the most common reason given was that they were already conflicted about abortion in the first place. The author of that study recommended that clinics explore options with women seeking abortion and offer additional counseling to the small percentage of women who are conflicted about it, rather than states imposing a burdensome waiting period.

The bottom line is that the majority of women who choose abortion make up their minds and go through with it, irrespective of the many roadblocks placed in their way by overzealous state governments. And we know that those who cannot overcome those roadblocks—for financial or other reasons—are the ones who experience actual negative effects. As we saw in Whole Woman’s Health, those kinds of studies, when admitted as evidence in the court record, can be critical in striking restrictions down.

Of course, the Supreme Court has not always expressed an affinity for scientific data, as Justice Anthony Kennedy demonstrated in Gonzales v. Carhart, when he announced that “some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained,” even though he admitted there was “no reliable data to measure the phenomenon.” It was under Gonzales that so many legislators felt equipped to pass laws backed up by no legitimate scientific evidence in the first place.

Whole Woman’s Health offers reproductive rights advocates an opportunity to revisit a host of anti-choice restrictions that states claim are intended to advance one interest or another—whether it’s the state’s interest in fetal life or the state’s purported interest in the psychological well-being of its citizens. But if the laws don’t have their intended effects, and if they simply throw up obstacles in front of people seeking abortion, then perhaps, Whole Woman’s Health and its focus on scientific data will be the death knell of these laws too.

Commentary Politics

On Immigration, Major Political Parties Can’t Seem to Agree on What’s ‘Un-American’

Tina Vasquez

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Immigration has been one of the country’s most contentious political topics and, not surprisingly, is now a primary focus of this election. But no matter how you feel about the subject, this is a nation of immigrants in search of “el sueño Americano,” as Karla Ortiz reminded us on the first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Ortiz, the 11-year-old daughter of two undocumented parents, appeared in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad earlier this year expressing fear that her parents would be deported. Standing next to her mother on the DNC stage, the young girl told the crowd that she is an American who wants to become a lawyer to help families like hers.

It was a powerful way to kick-start the week, suggesting to viewers Democrats were taking a radically different approach to immigration than the Republican National Convention (RNC). While the RNC made undocumented immigrants the scapegoats for a variety of social ills, from U.S. unemployment to terrorism, the DNC chose to highlight the contributions of immigrants: the U.S. citizen daughter of undocumented parents, the undocumented college graduate, the children of immigrants who went into politics. Yet, even the stories shared at the DNC were too tidy and palatable, focusing on “acceptable” immigrant narratives. There were no mixed-status families discussing their deported parents, for example.

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other. By the end of two weeks, viewers may not have known whether to blame immigrants for taking their jobs or to befriend their hardworking immigrant neighbors. For the undocumented immigrants watching the conventions, the message, however, was clear: Both parties have a lot of work to do when it comes to humanizing their communities.  

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“No Business Being in This Country”

For context, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence are the decidedly anti-immigrant ticket. From the beginning, Trump’s campaign has been overrun by anti-immigrant rhetoric, from calling Mexicans “rapists” and “killers” to calling for a ban on Muslim immigration. And as of July 24, Trump’s proposed ban now includes people from countries “compromised by terrorism” who will not be allowed to enter the United States, including anyone from France.

So, it should come as no surprise that the first night of the RNC, which had the theme of “Make America Safe Again,” preyed on American fears of the “other.” In this case: undocumented immigrants who, as Julianne Hing wrote for the Nation, “aren’t just drug dealers and rapists anymorenow they’re murderers, too.”

Night one of the RNC featured not one but three speakers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. “They’re just three brave representatives of many thousands who have suffered so gravely,” Trump said at the convention. “Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more, nothing even close I have to tell you, than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders, which we can solve. We have to solve it.”

Billed as “immigration reform advocates,” grieving parents like Mary Ann Mendoza called her son’s killer, who had resided in the United States for 20 years before the drunk driving accident that ended her police officer son’s life, an “illegal immigrant” who “had no business being in this country.”

It seemed exploitative and felt all too common. Drunk driving deaths are tragically common and have nothing to do with immigration, but it is easier to demonize undocumented immigrants than it is to address the nation’s broken immigration system and the conditions that are separating people from their countries of originconditions to which the United States has contributed. Trump has spent months intentionally and disingenuously pushing narratives that undocumented immigrants are hurting and exploiting the United States, rather than attempting to get to the root of these issues. This was hammered home by Mendoza, who finished her speech saying that we have a system that cares more about “illegals” than Americans, and that a vote for Hillary “puts all of our children’s lives at risk.”

There was also Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious racist whose department made a practice of racially profiling Latinos and was recently found to be in civil contempt of court for “repeatedly and knowingly” disobeying orders to cease policing tactics against Latinos, NPR reported.

Like Mendoza, Arpaio told the RNC crowd that the immigration system “puts the needs of other nations ahead of ours” and that “we are more concerned with the rights of ‘illegal aliens’ and criminals than we are with protecting our own country.” The sheriff asserted that he was at the RNC because he was distinctly qualified to discuss the “dangers of illegal immigration,” as someone who has lived on both sides of the border.

“We have terrorists coming in over our border, infiltrating our communities, and causing massive destruction and mayhem,” Arpaio said. “We have criminals penetrating our weak border security systems and committing serious crimes.”

Broadly, the takeaway from the RNC and the GOP nominee himself is that undocumented immigrants are terrorists who are taking American jobs and lives. “Trump leaned on a tragic story of a young woman’s murder to prop up a generalized depiction of immigrants as menacing, homicidal animals ‘roaming freely to threaten peaceful citizens,’” Hing wrote for the Nation.

When accepting the nomination, Trump highlighted the story of Sarah Root of Nebraska, a 21-year-old who was killed in a drunk-driving accident by a 19-year-old undocumented immigrant.

“To this administration, [the Root family’s] amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting,” Trump said. “One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”

It should be noted that the information related to immigration that Trump provided in his RNC speech, which included the assertion that the federal government enables crime by not deporting more undocumented immigrants (despite deporting more undocumented immigrants than ever before in recent years), came from groups founded by John Tanton, a well-known nativist whom the Southern Poverty Law center referred to as “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

“The Border Crossed Us”

From the get-go, it seemed the DNC set out to counter the dangerous, anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed at the RNC. Over and over again, Democrats like Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) hit back hard against Trump, citing him by name and quoting him directly.

“Donald Trump believes that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists. But what about my parents, Donald?” Sánchez asked the crowd, standing next to her sister, Rep. Loretta Sánchez (D-CA). “They are the only parents in our nation’s 265-year history to send not one but two daughters to the United States Congress!”

Each speech from a Latino touched on immigration, glossing over the fact that immigration is not just a Latino issue. While the sentiments were positiveillustrating a community that is thriving, and providing a much-needed break from the RNC’s anti-immigrant rhetoricat the core of every speech were messages of assimilation and respectability politics.

Even in gutsier speeches from people like actress Eva Longoria, there was the need to assert that her family is American and that her father is a veteran. The actress said, “My family never crossed a border. The border crossed us.”

Whether intentional or not, the DNC divided immigrants into those who are acceptable, respectable, and worthy of citizenship, and those—invisible at the convention—who are not. “Border crossers” who do not identify as American, who do not learn English, who do not aspire to go to college or become an entrepreneur because basic survival is overwhelming enough, what about them? Do they deserve to be in detention? Do their families deserve to be ripped apart by deportation?

At the convention, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a champion of immigration reform, said something seemingly innocuous that snapped into focus the problem with the Democrats’ immigration narrative.

“In her heart, Hillary Clinton’s dream for America is one where immigrants are allowed to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, pay their taxes, and not feel fear that their families are going to be ripped apart,” Gutiérrez said.

The Democratic Party is participating in an all-too-convenient erasure of the progress undocumented people have made through sheer force of will. Immigration has become a leading topic not because there are more people crossing the border (there aren’t) or because nativist Donald Trump decided to run for president, but because a segment of the population has been denied basic rights and has been fighting tooth and nail to save themselves, their families, and their communities.

Immigrants have been coming out of the shadows and as a result, are largely responsible for the few forms of relief undocumented communities now have, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who meet specific qualifications to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. And “getting right with the law” is a joke at this point. The problem isn’t that immigrants are failing to adhere to immigration laws; the problem is immigration laws that are notoriously complicated and convoluted, and the system, which is so backlogged with cases that a judge sometimes has just seven minutes to determine an immigrant’s fate.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is also really expensive. There is a cap on how many people can immigrate from any given country in a year, and as Janell Ross explained at the Washington Post:

There are some countries, including Mexico, from where a worker with no special skills or a relative in the United States can apply and wait 23 years, according to the U.S. government’s own data. That’s right: There are people receiving visas right now in Mexico to immigrate to the United States who applied in 1993.

But getting back to Gutierrez’s quote: Undocumented immigrants do pay taxes, though their ability to contribute to our economy should not be the one point on which Democrats hang their hats in order to attract voters. And actually, undocumented people pay a lot of taxes—some $11.6 billion in state and local taxes last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy—while rarely benefiting from a majority of federal assistance programs since the administration of President Bill Clinton ended “welfare as we know it” in 1996.

If Democrats were being honest at their convention, we would have heard about their failure to end family detention, and they would have addressed that they too have a history of criminalizing undocumented immigrants.

The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, enacted under former President Clinton, have had the combined effect of dramatically increasing the number of immigrants in detention and expanding mandatory or indefinite detention of noncitizens ordered to be removed to countries that will not accept them, as the American Civil Liberties Union notes on its site. Clinton also passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which economically devastated Mexican farmers, leading to their mass migration to the United States in search of work.

In 1990, then-Sen. Joe Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act, which passed in 1994 and specifically excluded undocumented women for the first 19 of the law’s 22 years, and even now is only helpful if the victim of intimate partner abuse is a child, parent, or current/former spouse of a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.

In addition, President Obama is called by immigrant rights advocates “deporter in chief,” having put into place a “deportation machine” that has sent more than two million migrants back to their country of origin, more than any president in history. New arrivals to the United States, such as the Central American asylum seekers coming to our border escaping gender-based violence, are treated with the same level of prioritization for removal as threats to our national security. The country’s approach to this humanitarian crisis has been raiding homes in the middle of the night and placing migrants in detention centers, which despite being rife with allegations of human rights abuses, are making private prison corporations millions in revenue.

How Are We Defining “Un-American”?

When writing about the Democratic Party, community organizer Rosa Clemente, the 2008 Green Party vice president candidate, said that she is afraid of Trump, “but not enough to be distracted from what we must do, which is to break the two-party system for good.”

This is an election like we’ve never seen before, and it would be disingenuous to imply that the party advocating for the demise of the undocumented population is on equal footing with the party advocating for the rights of certain immigrants whose narratives it finds acceptable. But this is a country where Republicans loudly—and with no consequence—espouse racist, xenophobic, and nativist beliefs while Democrats publicly voice support of migrants while quietly standing by policies that criminalize undocumented communities and lead to record numbers of deportations.

During two weeks of conventions, both sides declared theirs was the party that encapsulated what America was supposed to be, adhering to morals and values handed down from our forefathers. But ours is a country comprised of stolen land and built by slave labor where today, undocumented immigrants, the population most affected by unjust immigration laws and violent anti-immigrant rhetoric, don’t have the right to vote. It is becoming increasingly hard to tell if that is indeed “un-American” or deeply American.