Common Ground? The Evidence, Please

Frances Kissling

Can we truly say we have found common ground on family planning when all we have done is found a few people who disagree with us on reproductive rights as human rights are able to support a bill that provides family planning funding?

There have probably been more than enough articles on
Rewire on "common ground" on abortion. I am loathe to add one more, but
motivated by the kind words my colleague and friend Rachel Laser had to say
about my support for the Ryan-DeLauro bill – the Reducing the Need for Abortion
and Supporting Parents Act – I thought I’d better weigh in.

These days just about everything that has anything to do
with family planning or government support for pregnant women is deemed "common
ground." This is an inaccurate use of the term. For example, I support the Ryan-DeLauro
bill, not because it brings together opponents and supporters of the right to
choose abortion (and it is a stretch to claim that it has done that) but
because it contains many provisions that would help women and girls avoid
pregnancy when they want to and expand benefits for women who want to continue
their pregnancies. The bill is not perfect; it is not comprehensive and it is
by no means model abortion rights legislation. Neither is Prevention First, a
similar bill that is the brainchild of Rep. Louise Slaughter and former Sen. Hillary
Clinton; Prevention First does more than Ryan-DeLauro to
provide contraception to women, but it does not include support for women who
wish to continue their pregnancy. But no bill needs to do everything, and
either or both these bills, if they ever made it to committee hearings and the
floor of the Congress, would represent substantial improvements in meeting
women’s needs.

The choice community is more favorably inclined to
Prevention First because it avoids the "Reducing the Need" framing, which is not
contextualized from a woman’s rights perspective. Ryan-DeLauro also includes
some troubling provisions around expanding the availability of medically unnecessary ultrasounds and
providing less than objective assistance to women who are carrying fetuses diagnosed
with abnormalities. (For example, Ryan-DeLauro does not mention abortion as one of the appropriate
choices a woman might make if she finds out through ultrasound or other
diagnostic tests that she is carrying a fetus with disabilities.) And there is specific
concern that anti-choice groups who operate crisis pregnancy centers have used
ultrasound manipulatively and will now get government money to expand that practice.
The bill tries to protect against such use by setting criteria for grantees
such as the provision of objective and scientifically accurate information, but
we all know that there is a gap between how legislation is written and how it
is regulated. (When proponents and opponents of comprehensive sexuality
education participated in a Ford Foundation common ground project, they could
not even agree on what constituted factually accurate information or objective
research findings.)

I have chosen not to quibble and to ardently support both
bills. I wish Prevention First also addressed women who need help continuing a pregnancy,
but not all things are possible.  I think
it is urgent that the pro-choice community, which has been the major advocate
of the range of reproductive choices and needs, do more. But it is hard to
claim that those opposed to abortion have been advocating for
comprehensive sexuality education, reducing maternal mortality or providing
family planning in the US or overseas.

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We can do all of this as pro-choice people and
organizations. We can do it without making common cause with those who disagree
with us on the underlying principles that inform positions on all the
reproductive health issues. In fact, there is something to be said for parallel
tracks on the family planning issue: with those who support family planning
because it is a woman’s right to control her fertility making clear and
separate values arguments, while those who support it because they want to see
fewer abortions making their case. We don’t even agree on whether or not there
is ever a need for abortion. Rev. Jim Wallis, one of the most widely-quoted spokespeople claiming that we have found common ground on reducing abortions, objects to
language that says we should reduce the need for abortion and believes there is
never a need for abortion other than to save a woman’s life.  Can we truly say we have found common ground
on family planning when all we have done is found a few people who disagree
with us on reproductive rights as human rights are able to support a bill that
provides family planning funding?

And we really want to be sure that people don’t
think such narrow and heavily caveated support for family planning is "new
ground" for us. Along with many supporters of abortion rights, I fought against
welfare reform, which took women away from their children or denied them
support. I worked for family planning, comprehensive sexuality education and
economic justice and jobs for women. I never needed to stand next to the
Catholic bishops or any other anti-choice group in order to be effective, although I respect them when
they work for things that help women.

After reading Rachel’s article, which situates Ryan-DeLauro
as a common ground bill, I looked at the record on the legislation’s supporters
in Congress and among interest groups. The article mentioned a link that would provide
me that information, but it wasn’t there when I looked. Rachel, it would be great if you could provide more specific info about
the way in which Ryan-DeLauro has added a significant number of supporters for
family planning to the field.
Frankly, I just don’t see it.

Let’s take a look at who in the House has supported the
bill. And let’s remember that in spite of all the hype from the Third Way,
Faith in Public Life, Sojourners and the Catholic Alliance for the Common
Good, the common ground advocates who support all or part of the bill, the bill
which was first introduced in 2005/6 has not gotten a hearing or vote in the House
Health Education and Labor committee to which it has been assigned, has not
made it to the house floor and has no companion bill on the Senate side. I
point these things out reluctantly as I adore Rosa DeLauro and Tim Ryan, but
the facts are the facts. Nor has the bill gained the support of even a handful
of heavy hitter anti-abortion members of Congress.  It
has not a single co-sponsor who is a Republican. Of the 27 out of 435 members
of the house who support it, four have mixed records on abortions, four are
anti-choice and only one, Dale Kildee, opposed family planning before he signed
on to this legislation. Not much progress here.

If Ryan-DeLauro were being actively or passively supported
by organizations opposed to abortion or more accurately opposed to family
planning and economic justice for mothers and children, I’d count that as another
indicator of success. If those new groups got off their butts and away from the press releases praising themselves for ending the nonexistent abortion war long enough to hold lobby days, issue
written statements of support or visit Republicans and anti-family planning
members of Congress to get them to sign on, that would be progress. In fact
that is not the case. In 2007, Third Way circulated a list of "supportive
organizations" behind Ryan-DeLauro (it seems to be the most current list, but
updates appreciated). Enumerating "supportive organizations" is a smarmy way a
group that doesn’t have full support or written statements sometimes tries to
beef up its list of sponsors. I don’t know the full story behind this list, but I do know that
one of the groups listed, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, is so far
out of the mainstream of Catholic practice that it only supported those parts of
the bill that provide support for women who continue pregnancy and not for family
planning. If the common grounders can’t convince social justice Catholic groups
to take the position about 95% of Catholics hold on family planning which is
that it is moral and should receive government support then I am not sure they
have found much common ground, nor are they very effective lobbyists. Listed as
supporters are some major choice groups such as NARAL, RCRC, CFC and the
Religious Institute and Protestants for the Common Good. Of course Third Way,
which is pro-choice, is also listed. I am not sure why PPFA and other pro-choice
groups are not listed. It is not clear if they have endorsed the bill or if Third
Way feared that a list that included all the pro-choice groups would appear unbalanced.
Anti-abortion groups that support the bill are few and it is not clear how much of the bill they actually support.
Three anti-abortion groups are listed: Sojourners, Redeem the Vote and the
previously mentioned Catholics in Alliance.

Rachel also argues that Rev. Joel Hunter, a courageous evangelical
pastor who stepped down as head of the Christian Coalition because he was seen
as "too liberal" on poverty and the environment and has emerged as a leader in
evangelical circles, supportive of Obama and member of the President’s Council
on Faith Based and Neighborhood partnerships, changed his position on family
planning and sex education, but she provides no citation to back this up nor
does she give any specifics. Now, let’s be clear – among Christians, only the
Catholic Church is opposed to the use of contraceptives by married couples. So
I really need to know: what is different about Joel Hunter’s position,
especially given his opposition to lifting the global gag rule? And if there
are others who have changed their position precisely what is the change?  I am scouring the web sites, including that of
Hunter’s church, Northland, and I’m not seeing anything that indicates a shift on
the issue. I raise these issues not to denigrate the work Third Way and others
are engaged in, but to hold them to the standard of evidence we all apply when
we are evaluating the success of a political effort. I want examples and data,
not just press releases with vague claims of having changed many minds or made
peace.

So far I don’t see evidence of success.  I would respectfully suggest that those who
are pushing Ryan-DeLauro or the general theme of reducing the need for abortion
as an advance in ending the war over abortion have a lot of work to do before
they set themselves up as the new change agents on the issue – and certainly
before they criticize the strategy of the pro-choice movement.

There are serious analytical questions that have not yet
been answered by those who urge a common ground agenda on abortion or
reproductive health – and that includes the President. The definition of common
ground is weak. Common ground on abortion seems to mean ignoring abortion.

I find my reactions to this current effort somewhat ironic.
From my first days at Catholics for Choice, I reached out to those who disagree
with me. I invited those opposed to abortion to the office to discuss the issue
and present their views; I supported the Public Conversation Project efforts to
bring pro-choice and pro-life people together and even dialogued with their
facilitation with a colleague on the other side. I think it is those
experiences that make me wary of the current effort and somewhat disappointed
in the rather shallow approach to common ground that is being fostered
especially by religious groups.

Anyone who has seriously engaged the "other" knows how hard
it is to really find common ground. It is facile to say, "We all agree that
reducing the need for – or number of – abortions would be a good thing" and
conclude that therefore we have common ground. We may not have common ground at
all. If one set of people believes that the reason to reduce the number of
abortions is because abortion is murder and the other believes the reason to
reduce the need for abortion is because women prefer to prevent pregnancy
rather than to have an abortion, although abortion is a morally justifiable
act, we do not have common ground.

Perhaps those who think they have found common ground on
abortion have actually found common ground on political expediency. They want
to take abortion out of the political arena – some because they want to talk
about other more "important" issues and some because they think abortion is a
political loser. The reality is we need more talk about abortion, not less.
Moreover, while we could do without a culture "war" on abortion we cannot do
without an ongoing cultural debate about abortion, however annoying it may be
to candidates for public office. There are important values at stake in the way
we think about and what we believe about abortion. Whether or not we change
anyone’s mind, coming to understand our differences and respect them is a good thing.
It is not however common ground. It is rather common decency. Struggling for
public policy that reflects our values rather than sweeping them under the rug
is the principled course of action for both those who support the right to choose
and those who oppose it.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to Philly.com, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.

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.