Tag Archives: refugee crisis

Yes, Europeans are as astounded as many Americans … about Trump


Nearly two weeks in Germany and The Netherlands have been entered into the memory book of our life together.

My wife and I spent some glorious time reconnecting with friends and taking in some of the most spectacular countryside either of us ever has seen.

I took a couple of small notebooks with me. I put them in a back pocket. I had intended to write a great deal about politics and policy while visiting with folks. I didn’t do nearly enough of it.

Our journey, though, did give me a couple of key observations about the state of the world as seen through the eyes of western Europeans.

Donald J. Trump’s rise to political power has them as astonished as many of us.

We met a few friends and colleagues of our German friends. “How do you feel about Trump?” a couple of them asked. I gave them my typical response: I do not understand this presidential campaign. More than one of them, knowing we were visiting from Texas, responded with, “How do you feel, then, living in a state where everyone is a Republican?” Not “everyone,” I reminded them.

Our Dutch friends are equally perplexed about Trump. They do not know what precisely this says about the state of American politics and policy — and they are fearful of what a Trump election would mean to the future of U.S.-Europe alliances.

Join the club, y’all!

The second takeaway?

Germans and Dutch appear to live side by side with Muslim immigrants.

While Trump and his minions offer hysterical responses to the plight of Muslim refugees, I witnessed a lot of Muslims doing business in places like Rothenberg, Germany and Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Women wore their hijabs to cover their hair. They mingled in marketplaces with their children in tow. I didn’t see any outward tension.

I am well aware of the rise of ultra-right-wing nationalism in Germany. I also am aware that not everyone in Europe is welcoming the refugees from Syria with open arms and hearts. But the refugees’ presence is quite noticeable and as we made our way through the communities we visited, I was taken aback — just a bit — by the absence of hysteria that some American politicians imply exists in that part of the world.

We’re home now. We’re glad to have enjoyed a marvelous adventure. In the past most of our international travel has involved something related to my previous life as a print journalist. This one was different. It was totally recreational.

However, I have difficulty throwing aside my tendency to look at the world through a reporter’s prism.

I do not intend to leave you with the impression that I learned all there is to learn about European geopolitical views. It’s just an observation I was able to glean from 11 days across The Pond.

Even so, I learned (a) that Europeans share many Americans’ disbelief in Trump’s rise and (b) that they appear to have a more reasonable and rational reaction to what Trump and others insist is an international crisis.

Go figure, man.

Always a political back story


I am a strong believer in what the Founding Fathers intended by creating an independent federal judiciary.

They gave the president the authority to nominate federal judges for lifetime jobs, pending approval by the U.S. Senate. The intent, as I’ve always understood it, was to de-politicize the judicial branch of government.

It works.

Judge blocks order

Then again, politics always seems to be part of the subplot of every federal judicial decision.

U.S. District Judge David Godbey, for example, today struck down Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s ban on Syrian refugees coming to Texas. Paxton cited security concerns in asking for the temporary restraining order. Godbey ruled within hours of the request that Paxton had failed to demonstrate that the refugees posed any kind of threat.

Godbey wrote, according to the Texas Tribune: “The Court finds that the evidence before it is largely speculative hearsay,” the judge wrote. “The [state] has failed to show by competent evidence that any terrorists actually have infiltrated the refugee program, much less that these particular refugees are terrorists intent on causing harm.”

So, it’s fair to ask: Is this judge sitting on the federal bench because a liberal Democratic president, Barack Obama, appointed him? No. He was selected in 2003 by Republican President George W. Bush to serve the Northern District of Texas. Paxton, let’s point out, is a Republican as well.

Does it really matter, then, whether a judge gets picked by a Democrat or a Republican? It shouldn’t. Judges take an oath to uphold the Constitution without regard to political favor. They do, remember, have a lifetime job.

But the politics of this particular issue — the refugee crisis and the political debate swirling all over it — causes one to look carefully at who’s making these decisions.

Judge Godbey appears to have put the law above his political leanings.

Good call on Person of Year, Time magazine


OK, so Time didn’t pick Donald Trump as its Person of the Year after all.

Instead, the venerable magazine went with someone who’s actually accomplished something, been a force for positive change and has earned her spurs leading a continent that’s going through some monumental change.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gets the nod as Person of the Year.

I am fascinated by Time’s description of her upbringing.

She grew up in East Germany, which used to call itself the “German Democratic Republic.” As Time notes, the communist-run dictatorship was neither “democratic” or a “republic.” It was run by tyrants. Thus, young Angela developed an early craving for freedom and liberty.

She and the rest of her country got it when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the communist dictatorship fell apart.

Merkel’s ascent to power was dramatic. Once there, she became Europe’s most powerful leader, which is saying something, given that the continent is populated by several powerful heads of government — such as the British prime minister and the president of France.

Check out this passage from Time’s article on the selection: “At a moment when much of the world is once more engaged in a furious debate about the balance between safety and freedom, the Chancellor is asking a great deal of the German people, and by their example, the rest of us as well. To be welcoming. To be unafraid. To believe that great civilizations build bridges, not walls, and that wars are won both on and off the battlefield. By viewing the refugees as victims to be rescued rather than invaders to be repelled, the woman raised behind the Iron Curtain gambled on freedom. The pastor’s daughter wielded mercy like a weapon.”

The reference here is to the refugee crisis exploding in the Middle East. Merkel has “wielded mercy like a weapon.”

Let’s pay attention on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.


Refugee fight pits states vs. the feds

A young man carries a child as refugees and migrants arrive on a boat on the Greek island of Lesbos, November 7, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Just about any day now I expect some governor to declare that his or her state has the right to protect residents against foreigners, that the governor is preserving the “state’s right” to self-protection.

This might become the leading back story coming out of governors’ refusal to let Syrian refugees into their states.

But according to a University of Michigan law professor — not to mention constitutional scholars all over the place — the governors don’t have the authority to supersede federal law.

The bottom line, according to Richard Primus is this: “They can’t do it. The decision to admit a person to the United States belongs to the federal government exclusively. Once a person is legally admitted to the United States, she can live wherever she chooses. States don’t issue visas any more than they declare war. Indeed, putting foreign affairs under the firm control of one central government was one of the primary motivations of the Founders in creating the Constitution in the first place.”

Primus argues, though, that governors resisting the feds — such as what Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has done fairly routinely — makes good politics, even though it runs directly counter to what the law allows.

Primus writes that the states do have some say in refugee resettlement: “That’s not to say governors are totally powerless to shape the flow of refugees. There are things states can do to make themselves less attractive destinations. Most refugees need help getting their lives restarted—housing, language education, employment leads, and other social services. A fair amount of that resettlement work is run through state social-service agencies with the support of federal dollars. The states are the one with the boots on the ground in education, housing, and so forth—and they could simply decide not to take the federal money and not to provide resettlement services. Several governors have actually taken this line, saying that they’ll cease providing resettlement assistance.”

But to declare categorically that Syrians — or any other foreigner — cannot come to this country? That’s the federal government’s call.



Go for it, Mr. President

Congress had a chance to act on the border crisis in Texas and other states bordering Mexico.

It didn’t.

Now it appears President Obama is going — get ready for it — to take executive action to at least put an immediate, if temporary, fix on the crisis.


Holy cow! Will the Congress sue him over that one, too?

I rather doubt it. Indeed, the speaker of the House of Representatives — which did pass a version of a bill to deal with the problem — has invited the president to use his power to act.

He surely should, given that Congress choked on the issue.

I’m no longer going to refer to this as an “immigration” crisis. It clearly is a “refugee” matter, given that the young people who have flooded to the country are fleeing repression, corruption, enslavement, even death. Those individuals are refugees by anyone’s definition.

They should be treated as refugees, not criminals, which is how many in Congress and around the country continue to view them.

What’s the president going to do — reportedly — to solve this issue by himself?

Obama met with some Texas business executives to discuss the problem, according to the San Antonio Express-News. They indicate that the president is looking at all legal options available to him. “The businessmen said they voiced their support for expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which pushes back deportations of young immigrants who aren’t legally in the country,” the Express-News reported on its blog.

So, does the president take action where the legislative branch has failed so far? Absolutely. Will the House of Reps take issue on this action, should it come, by adding it to its list of gripes against the president?

Pardon me while I laugh.