Protests: Part II On Positions and Personalities

It is often difficult to know how readers receive my writings. I get too little feedback. When, on rare occasions, I write a blog that strikes a strong positive nerve, I hear from some readers. When the ratio of clickers goes up from the usual norm of just over 30% to over 40% of readers who receive and read this blog, this becomes a clue that I have resonated with readers’ interests. But I always know when a blog pisses off some readers. I really hear from them.

Much to my surprise, my blogs on the American immigration crisis of zero tolerance and separated families upset some readers. That is, they were critical of my blog. I do not know if all were critical since a number of responses from readers disappeared in a rare glitch and I have not been able to find them. One I know was from a reader in Manitoba, and I doubt if she was critical. But it was gone before I could open it up. However, the critical blog responses that I received and the one I reprinted from the reader on the Mexican/Texas border were far more numerous and more widespread than I had anticipated.

The list of complaints included the following:

My bias: a) I am a Bernie Saunders socialist;

  1.    b) I am a hypocrite;
  2. i) I am critical of children trying to penetrate Israel from Gaza but not of Central Americans trying to get into the United States;
  3. ii) I defend the Israeli response that entails shooting children but I criticize the Americans simply for rounding up the illegal entrants in the United States and holding them until they can be deported;

iii) I call President Trump a liar but I do not put the same brand on Prime Minister Trudeau who is as much of a double dealer as his American counterpart if not more so.

Evidence of Canadian hypocrisy:

  1. a) Mayor John Tory’s announcement that Toronto facilities and demands have been overwhelmed with finding housing for asylum claimants;
  2. b) The Prime Minister, an alleged hypocrite writ large, talks big while doing so little; e.g., when Canadian interests count, as in Alberta, he guts his environmentalism to ship oil out of the country and, in the case of refugees, appears as a bleeding heart but, in reality takes in only enough refugees to show he has a big heart.

On America, I am allegedly guilty of:

  1. a) impugning the civility of American border patrol officers
  2. b) impugning the American president unjustly for the American Congress legislates; the president executes laws that are made, so do not blame the president for the imbroglio;

On America compared to Canada: – American detention centres are luxurious compared to the Canadian ones.

Quite a list of indictments! Let me defend myself by answering each in turn.

Am I a Bernie Sanders socialist? That would surprise my youngest two sons who were supporters of Bernie while I was critical in spite of sympathizing with some of his platforms. I was wary of his populism, though not nearly of the same dimension as Trump’s. However, my boys (really grown men) argued that Bernie’s populism was needed to counter Trump’s appeal and he was electable and Hilary was not. In any case, anyone who read my blogs during the American election should know that I was not a supporter of Bernie Sanders. Besides, the point is irrelevant to the debate over the current American president’s immigration policies.

My alleged hypocrisy:

I thought my blogs on the recent Gaza fence war indicated that young children were not used by Gazans as defensive shields. There were boys younger than sixteen throwing rocks, but overwhelmingly those trying to get through the fence were not children at all, and the few that were, were not young ones, though some youngsters were included in the peaceful demonstrations held some distance from the fence.

More importantly, those trying to eliminate the fence between Gaza and Israel had no interest in migrating to Israel; their goal was part of a long term struggle to destroy Israel. The comparison might have been apt if the border crossers at the southern border of the United States were Mexicans rather than Central Americans and their goal was at least to recover the territories they lost to the United States in the American-Mexican War in the nineteenth century. The Central Americans wanted to become U.S. citizens and were fleeing violence in their home countries rather than forming part of the contingent perpetrating violence.

Israel shot those attempting to cross the border while America only arrested them. So the charge against me for hypocrisy went. Are Central Americans a security threat to the United States? President Trump wanted to paint that picture. He described Mexican migrants as smugglers, gangsters and drug pedlars. But more Mexicans then were already going back across the border than crossing. This was one of the successes of NAFTA; it opened up greater prospects for Mexicans. But Trump was elected and he wanted to do away with NAFTA.

Further, though some migrants from the violent countries of Central America had been gang members, the vast majority were definitely not. The crime rate among migrants coming into the United States is lower than that of native born Americans.  More significantly, M13, also known as La Mara Salvatrucha and one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States, was a by-product of the California prison system where M13 was created in the early 1980s. 80% of M13 gang members were born in the U.S., though M13 recruits some members from recent migrants from Central America. M13 is also active in Canada. Most members of M13 are children of families from El Salvador. There is no doubt that M13 is a very dangerous gang well known for its practice of merciless retribution if they are “crossed.”

The effort at branding both the legal asylum claimants and those who cross the border illegally as criminals is merely part of President Trump’s effort at distraction and deception and his effort to stir up the insecurities of his base. In that, he has been successful. In recent polls, his support has dropped, probably because of embarrassment over the separation of families, but not by very much. And not to historic lows. Only to the average approval/disapproval rating of 42/58 that he has “enjoyed” for the past twelve months.

I was also accused of hypocrisy because I called President Trump a liar but I did not paint Prime Minister Trudeau with the same brush who, my reader insisted, is as much of a double dealer as his American counterpart if not more so. I strongly disagree. Donald Trump is a serial liar of extraordinary proportions. There is absolutely no comparison. But this is not the place to be distracted with an examination of claims that Justin Trudeau has misled the Canadian public or whether Canada compares poorly or equally to American efforts in helping refugees. I dealt with this yesterday. Tomorrow I will write about how Canada handles immigration detainees and, in particular, families with children.

I did not deal with Mayor John Tory’s announcement that Toronto facilities and demands have been overwhelmed with finding housing for asylum claimants, That issue only came up later in the day after I sent the blog out. One reader’s complaint that 48% of Toronto hotel spaces are occupied by refugees is utterly outlandish. Mayor Tory was only referring to Toronto’s emergency shelter system and the back-up in student residences. Further, the figure used was a projection. “At the current rate of arrivals, the city projects that refugee claimants will represent nearly 54 per cent of Toronto’s shelter population by November.” Refugees currently occupy 40% of the city’s emergency shelter supply.

In fact, there is already a federal program. Quebec, which has a much larger influx than Ontario, is not complaining; it has a triage system in place. However, Ontario just had an election and the new government will have to partner with the federal government to expand existing facilities or distribute the refugee claimants. I believe John Tory’s announcement was simply a wily and indirect way for one very supportive of refugees to put pressure on the new Ford government.

James Kilgour, the director of the office of emergency management, said that the city’s shelter system has reached its capacity to accommodate new arrivals and the city has activated a protocol to secure contingency housing sites and Red Cross staffing support. Over the last six decades, the city has always had both a compassionate and coordinated approach to waves of refugees. When the Hungarian refugees arrived in 1957, I was managing the student cooperative housing at the University of Toronto. We housed many Hungarian refugees that summer. These days, 800 refugees, 200 of them children, are housed in student dorms. 368 refugee claimants were admitted into Toronto’s emergency shelters over the last two months.

On America, I have never impugned the civility of American border patrol officers. I do not know if they are universally civil, but they have been to me when I cross the border. Further, it is in my self interest not to irritate them lest I get targeted. As far as the claim that the American Congress legislates and the claim that the president executes laws that are made, not quite true in a number of respects.

Law is not just made by legislation. It is also made by regulations and policies introduced by the federal government. This was the case with the ban on migrants from a number of Muslim countries by President Trump. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, just ruled that such a policy fell within the law as long as the president, whatever his personal beliefs and utterances, did not make any reference to such discrimination (anti-Muslim) in the formal policies and regulations. As U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts opined in casting the deciding vote, if the order itself does not mention Islam, the president’s remarks about the travel ban, and his express intent in imposing it, can be left out of consideration. A further factor justifying the Supreme Court’s decision was deference to presidential authority. According to the ruling, the Court must respect the right of the President, within bounds, to exercise his authority in interpreting law. “In addressing the constitutionality of the order, we must consider not only the statements of a particular President, but also the authority of the Presidency itself.”

That ruling will provide a source for considerable discussion and analysis of legal jurisprudence for years to come. But that is not part of my defence here.

I referred to Jeff Sessions interpreting refugee law as excluding those threatened by murderous gangs from making a refugee claim. That interpretation will be determined by the American courts as to whether it is a valid or whether a policy of separating refugee claimants from their children crosses the laws protecting all children in the U.S. Certainly, if Donald Trump deports asylum claimants without giving them due process and a refugee hearing, he would unequivocally be breaking American law.

On America compared to Canada: – American detention centres are luxurious compared to the Canadian ones. So one reader opined. I did not know my reader had ever visited one. I have. Many, in fact. In Canada and Australia. But not the American ones. I visited the Toronto one many times. Entry is generally restricted to lawyers of the detained, interpretors and academic researchers who obtain permission to interview the detainees. The Toronto detention centre, formally called the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre, is located at 385 Rexdale Blvd. It occupies a refurbished old motel near the racetrack. It has a separate section for mothers with children. The detention centre is surrounded with barbed wire and security guards patrol the halls. Cameras can observe any move of those housed there. Thank goodness, we have very few detention centres.

Tomorrow I will examine Canadian policies on detention and its record in detaining families and children. Readers can then judge whether I or Canadian officials have been hypocritical, and, if so, to what degree.


With the help of Alex Zisman


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