Walker Now Claims Barrett Is Too Extreme for Wisconsin

Robin Marty

The Wisconsin governor's race goes "I know you are but what am I?" as Republican Scott Walker runs ads saying Tom Barrett is too pro-choice for the state.

Scott Walker, Republican candidate for governor of Wisconsin, has been hammered with commercials unveiling his anti-choice credentials, from his stem cell position to his refusal to believe that rape and incest victims should be allowed to have abortions.

Now Walker is trying to turn the tables on his Democratic rival Tom Barrett, running a commercial that portrays Barrett as too extreme when it comes to allowing reproductive access, alleging that Barrett advocated for abortions through the ninth month of pregnancy.

Via NBC News:

Republican Scott Walker is countering Democrat Tom Barrett’s attack ad on abortion with a new spot calling Barrett extreme for supporting abortion rights.

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Walker’s wife Tonette appears in the new spot defending her husband’s compassion for crime victims. Barrett’s campaign has argued that Walker isn’t compassionate about victims because he hasn’t done enough to stop assaults of patients at the Milwaukee County mental health complex.

Walker’s wife is being used to respond to the criticism Walker has been getting over his housing of violent male patients in with female patients, which lead to a rapid increase of sexual assault in the mental health complex he ran as a county executive.

The new ad attacking Barrett is not available either on Walker’s campaign site or campaign Youtube page, making it difficult to evaluate its facts.  However, in response to the ad, when interviewed in the NBC report, Barrett stated, “I think people need to know where we stand on all of these issues.  My view is that abortion should be rare, legal and safe.”

Analysis LGBTQ

Reimagining Safety for Queer and Trans Communities in Wake of Orlando

Tina Vasquez

“We need to have a national conversation about racism, homophobia, and transphobia,” said Alan Pelaez Lopez, a member of the organization Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. “If these things do not happen, the nation, by definition, will have done nothing to support our communities.”

The same day of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting that would take the lives of 49 mostly Latino and LGBTQ-identified people, thousands of miles away in Santa Monica, California, a man was found with weapons, ammunition, and explosive-making materials in his car with plans to attend the annual Pride festival taking place in West Hollywood later that day.

Conversations around security and safety were raised by law enforcement almost immediately. In the days since, reports have emerged that from San Francisco to New York, there will be more police and “ramped-up security measures” at Pride events nationwide.

But queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) say these responses are missing the mark, because what their communities really need are deeper conversations and more resources that address their specific experiences, including fewer police at Pride events.

House Democrats held a sit-in on gun control this week as a direct response to the Orlando shooting. Though Alan Pelaez Lopez—an Afro-Latinx, gender-nonconforming immigrant, poet, and member of the organization Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement—agrees that gun control is important and should be considered by Congress, they said it can also feel like the community affected by the shooting almost always gets erased from those discussions.

“We need to have a national conversation about racism, homophobia, and transphobia,” the poet said. “If these things do not happen, the nation, by definition, will have done nothing to support our communities.”

Rethinking ‘Pride’ for People of Color

In mid-May, Rewire reported on the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)’s week of action to #RedefineSecurity, which encouraged participants to reimagine what safety looked like in Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and called for them to push back against police presences at Pride events.

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Pride events and festivals take place each June to commemorate the Stonewall riots in New York City, a clash between police officers and members of the LGBTQ community—led by trans women of color—that would kickstart the modern LGBTQ movement.

Even after the Orlando shooting at a gay nightclub, NQAPIA organizing director Sasha W. told Rewire their stance on police at Pride events hasn’t changed, but only grown more resolute.

As an organizer working with queer and trans Muslim, South Asian, and Middle Eastern communities, Sasha W. said the populations they work with say that framing the Orlando shooting as a “terrorist attack” makes them feel “increasingly unsafe.”

“I think part of what we need to remember is to examine what ‘terror’ looked like in queer and trans communities over the course of our history in this country,” Sasha W. said. They cited the Stonewall riots and the inaction by the government during the HIV and AIDS epidemic as examples of some of the many ways the state has inflicted violence on queer and trans communities.

Sasha W. added that pointing blame at Daesh is too easy, and that the oppression queer and trans people face in the United States has always been state-sanctioned. “We have not historically faced ‘terror’ at the hands of Muslim people or brown people. That is not where our fear has come from,” they said.

What’s missing, they said, is a conversation about why police officers make certain people feel safe, and “interrogating where that privilege comes from.” In other words, there are communities who do not have to fear the police, who are not criminalized by them, and who are confident that cops will help them in need. These are not privileges experienced by many in queer and trans communities of color.

Asking the mainstream LGBTQ community to rethink their stance on police and institutions that have historically targeted and criminalized communities of color has been challenging for queer and trans people of color.

What’s become clear, according to Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement founder Jorge Gutierrez, is that after a tragedy like Orlando, white LGBTQ members want to feel united, but many don’t want to discuss how things like race and citizenship status affect feelings of safety. Instead, some will push for a greater police presence at events. 

There have already been instances of white members of the LGBTQ community publicly shutting down conversations around racial justice. Advocates say the public needs to understand the broader context of this moment.

“The white LGBTQ community doesn’t face the criminalization and policing that our community faces every day. Not just at Pride, but every day, everywhere we go. That’s our life,” Gutierrez said. “If you don’t listen to us when it comes to these issues of safety, you’re not just erasing us from a tragedy that impacted us, but you’re really hurting us.”

As Gutierrez explained, in the hours after the shooting, some media coverage failed to mention Pulse was a gay club, failed to mention it was people of color who were killed on Latino night, and failed to mention that trans women were performing just before the shooting broke out. Gutierrez told Rewire he felt like his community and their pain was being erased, so his organization put together a video featuring queer and trans immigrants of color, including Lopez, to discuss their immediate feelings after the Pulse shootingand many shared sentiments similar to Sasha W.’s and Lopez’s. One trans Latina said the shooting was “years in the making.”

“The video was important for us to release because the shooting was being framed as an isolated event that randomly happened, but we know that’s not true. We know that the United States has a history of hurting queer and trans people of color and we needed to produce our own media, with our own messaging, from our own people to tell people what really happened, the history that lead to it happening, and who it really impacted. We didn’t want our voices and our realities as immigrants, as undocumented people, as queer and trans people of color, erased,” Gutierrez said.

Without even factoring in an increase in law enforcement, Lopez told Rewire Pride already felt unsafe for people like them.

“I have experienced a lot of racism [at Pride events], the pulling of my hair from people walking behind me, and I have also been sexually harassed by white people who claim to want to experiment with being with a Black person,” Lopez said.

Though Lopez didn’t attend any Pride events in Los Angeles this year, they told Rewire that in previous years, there was already a large police presence at Pride events and as a “traumatized person” who has had many negative interactions with police officers, including being racially profiled and stopped and frisked, encountering law enforcement was scary.

“Seeing [cops] at Pride makes me remember that I am always a target because at no time has the police made me feel protected,” the poet said. “Signs of heavy police presence are really triggering to people who have developed post-traumatic stress disorder from violent interactions with the police, for undocumented communities, for transgender communities, for young people of color, and for formerly incarcerated individuals. When I think of security, I do not think of police.”

Lopez isn’t alone. Whether it’s law enforcement violence against women and trans people of color, law enforcement working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the detainment and deportation of undocumented people, or the way law enforcement has reportedly discriminated against and harassed gender-nonconforming people, QTPOC have very real reasons for feeling vulnerable around police officers, advocates say.

Another reason Lopez chose not to attend Pride this year: It was being sponsored by Wells Fargo. The banking corporation sponsors over 50 yearly Pride events and has been called a “longtime advocate of LGBT equality” by organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, which also lists Wells Fargo as a top-rated company on its Corporate Equality Index. But Wells Fargo has a history of investing in private prisons, including detention centers. Calls to drop Wells Fargo from Pride events have been unsuccessful. For queer immigrants like Lopez, attending Pride would mean “financially contributing” to the same corporation and system that they said killed their friends, the same corporation that they said has incarcerated their family, and that they said has tried—but failed—to incarcerate them.

Sasha W. told Rewire that for QTPOC, it’s easy to forget that the event is supposed to be about celebration.

“For many of us, we can’t really bring our whole selves into these places that are meant to make us feel free or we have to turn off parts of who we are in order to enjoy ourselves” the organizer said. “And as far as the policing of these events go, I think it’s worth noting that policing has always been about protecting property. It’s always been about property over people since the days of the slave trade. When we see police at Pride events the assumption [by our communities] is that those police will protect money and business over our queer brown and Black bodies.”

“Really Troubling Policies”

As organizations and corporations work to meet the short-term needs of victims of the Orlando shooting, advocates are thinking ahead to the policies that will adversely affect their communities, and strategizing to redefine safety and security for QTPOC.

Gutierrez told Rewire that what has made him feel safe in the days since the Orlando shooting is being around his QTPOC community, listening to them, mourning with them, sharing space with them, and honoring the lives of the brothers and sisters that were lost. His community, the organizer said, is now more committed than ever to exist boldly and to make the world a safer place for people like themand that means pushing back against what he believes to be a troubling narrative about what safety should look like.

However, Gutierrez said that politicians are using his community’s pain in the wake of the Orlando shooting to push an anti-Muslim agenda and pit the LGBTQ community against Muslims, conveniently forgetting that there are people who live at the intersection of being queer and Muslim. Perhaps more troubling are the policies that may arise as a result of the shooting, policies that will add to the surveilling and profiling Muslims already experience and that will further stigmatize and criminalize vulnerable communities.

“The government, the police, politicians, they’re trying to equate safety with having more police on the street, at gay clubs—that are like home to many of us, and at Pride. We know that doesn’t make us safe; we know police are part of the problem,” he said.

“Of course we need to make it more difficult for people to get guns, but we also need more resources for our communities so our communities can truly be safe on the streets, in the workplace, at school, at the clubs, and at Pride,” he said. “That means having healthy communities that have resources so people can thrive and live authentically. The answer to our problems is not more police.”

Sasha W. echoed Gutierrez, saying that their community is already fearful of what’s to come because moments of national crisis often create the space for “really troubling policies.”

“That’s how we got the Patriot Act,” the organizer said. “There is a fear that we are in another one of those moments where there are calls for protection and it’s being tied to the false idea of a foreign threat that requires an increase of surveillance of Muslims. Think of how calls for protection have also hurt queer communities, communities of color, trans communities, like the idea that bathrooms aren’t safe because of trans people. Who is really unsafe in this country, and why do policies hurt us instead of protect us?”

Lopez added: “The Orlando shooting was powered by the fact that the United States has a history of violence against LGBTQIA communities, a history of violence against immigrants, a history of violence against women, and a history of colonization of the island of Puerto Rico … The U.S. needs to address institutional problems of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sex, and sexuality if it wants to put an end to future massacres.”

The question remains: How can vulnerable communities be made to feel safer not just at Pride events, but in a political moment when transphobia is state-sanctioned, Islamophobia is applauded, and communities of color still have to fight for their humanity?

Sasha W. urges QTPOC to “expand their political imagination” and re-envision what security looks like. In the long term, the organizer said, they hope more people recognize who their communities’ “actual enemies” are, instead of turning on each other.

“Let’s recognize that the state has always been something we’ve had to fight to survive and that institutions that hurt us are growing increasingly strong in this moment of crisis, as they often do, so we have to work to disarm and dismantle the institutions that terrorize our communities” they said.

“On another note, we have always been our own best defense, especially in communities of color,” they said. “Supporting each other to protect ourselves better doesn’t happen overnight, I know, but so much of this starts with building community with each other so that we know each other, love each other, and throw down for one another.”

News Human Rights

Airfare Services Available to Pulse Shooting Victims Present Challenges for Undocumented People

Tina Vasquez

Undocumented people can board commercial airlines for flights within the United States, but if they live outside of Washington, D.C. or the 12 states that provide undocumented people with IDs accepted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), they must obtain a foreign passport from their country of origin’s consulate.

In the days since the Pulse nightclub shooting that left 49 people dead and more than 50 injured, advocacy organizations and corporations have taken steps to provide services to the attack’s victims and survivors, along with their families. Some of those services, however, are not without hurdles for undocumented people affected by the tragedy.

Equality Florida, an Orlando, Florida-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, is working with the National Center for Victims of Crime to raise money for the National Compassion Fund, which reports that 100 percent of the proceeds will go to survivors and victims. Those in need of funds must fill out an online form.

Part of the challenge has been making those affected by the tragedy aware of how they can obtain victim relief funds and help with funeral services, or receive counseling and legal services, according to Ida Eskamani, Equality Florida’s development officer for North and Central Florida. The organization is disseminating information about these resources online in both English and Spanish.

JetBlue Airways has been offering free flights to and from Orlando for immediate family members who need to attend funerals or be with their injured loved ones. Survivors and family members can contact 1-800-JETBLUE for more information.

In addition to providing free flights to immediate family members of survivors, United Airlines is waiving all costs for the transportation of remains. In order to qualify for flights or the repatriation of a loved one’s body, family members must fill out forms provided by United Airlines that ask for basic contact information, the victim’s name, and their relationship.

A spokesperson from United Airlines told Rewire that the airline has provided similar services to families affected by other tragedies, dating back to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. The airline doesn’t typically promote it, she said, because it’s not about publicity, but rather “doing the right thing and assisting families in a tangible way.”

Other organizations are making their services available to affected families. On Friday, the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Central and South Florida chapters partnered with Immigration Equality to launch “Immigrant Action Orlando,” which includes a hotline number community members can call. According to a press release, the project was created as a way of helping the many community members who have come forward since the shooting asking for help on immigration matters.

Sunday’s shooting hit Orlando’s immigrant community particularly hard, and families are struggling with the costs of repatriating bodies. Jorge Rivas and Rafa Fernandez De Castro of Fusion reported Monday that several of the victims were undocumented, including Juan Chavez-Martinez, whose family is currently fundraising online to repatriate his body and hold his funeral in Mexico, where his family is based. JetBlue is offering free flights to undocumented community members and Eskamani confirmed with Rewire that United Airlines is also offering flights and transferring remains regardless of citizenship status.

“These are unique circumstances because the Pulse shooting has impacted vulnerable communities who already live in fear, communities who have not been immune to hate,” Eskamani said. “This primarily impacted the Latino community and many who were undocumented, whether they were victims or family members.”

As Rewire reported Wednesday, undocumented survivors and the undocumented family members of victims could qualify for U visas, set aside for victims of violent crimes who are willing to help law enforcement with the investigation. But in the state of Florida, the coverage for hospital care for an undocumented victim is limited. Traveling to Orlando from within the United States can also prove to be difficult for undocumented people.

Undocumented individuals can board commercial airlines for flights within the United States, but if they live outside of Washington, D.C. or the 12 states that provide undocumented people with IDs accepted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), they must obtain a foreign passport from their country of origin’s consulate. Without a passport, they cannot travel by plane to the consulate, which may be located across their state or across the country. Funerals happening outside of the United States are likely off-limits for undocumented family members, even those with foreign passports. In most cases, traveling abroad will result in not being able to re-enter the United States.

For undocumented family members seeking to attend funerals within U.S. territories, immigration law professor Allan Wernick told Rewire there is good news: Many consulates have an emergency process in place and will be empathetic to the circumstances surrounding the Pulse nightclub shooting, and will likely do what they can to hasten the process. But, ultimately, the length of time it takes to obtain a passport depends on the country. Wernick recommends checking with the consulate for specific information about emergency processes and any documentation needed to expedite the process.

Wernick suggests undocumented family members who are able to obtain passports to attend a funeral and who are flying for the first time not be afraid if their undocumented status comes to the attention of the TSA.

“I double dare any TSA or immigration officer to hassle somebody who is suffering this tragedy,” the professor told Rewire. “If they were a member of my family who only had a passport from their country of origin, I would tell them not to worry about flying to attend the funeral.”

Though the professor could not guarantee the successful return of undocumented people taking advantage of these opportunities, he said the chances of an issue arising are slim, “if, for no other reason, TSA or ICE won’t want the bad publicity of hassling the family members of those injured or killed in the shooting.”

Eskamani said the challenges facing immigrant and undocumented communities after the shooting may seem overwhelming, but organizations like hers—and the greater Orlando area—are committed to serving the victims, survivors, and their families.

“As a whole, I believe people are approaching this with love and compassion,” the development officer and Orlando native told Rewire. “We’re very aware that the communities impacted in this shooting are already so vulnerable, but we’re doing whatever we can to lift up those voices, connect these communities, and make some good out of this horrific hate crime.”