By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: February 7, 2017
While President Donald Trump is proving himself to be a divider not a uniter, the Attorneys General of Washington State and Minnesota are getting the unity job done. Their case against the President’s ban on immigrants entering the U.S. from seven majority Muslim nations – even those holding valid visas and, sporadically, legal permanent residents with valid green cards – has been a clarion call to fellow citizens to stop Trump now before his Executive Orders come for their own rights.
On Friday, Judge James Robart blocked Trump’s order nationwide. The case is now under appeal at the Ninth Circuit Court and the docket already has 92 entries. Constitutional scholars, law professors, more than a dozen nonprofits, almost 100 tech companies, and 16 Attorneys General from other states are asking the court to keep Judge Robart’s order in place. The public interest is so great that the court is making a live audio feed available to the public for the hearing that will take place today. (Go to bottom of court page under “Live Streaming Oral Arguments,” Washington v Trump. The hearing begins at 3 p.m. PST and 6 p.m. EST.)
Among those who have thus far filed Amicus (Friend of the Court) briefs is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which tells the court it is “a civil rights and human relations organization that seeks to stop the defamation of the Jewish people.” ADL has already expressed its nervousness about Stephen Bannon, Trump’s Chief White House Strategist and former head of Breitbart News. ADL writes on its web site that “Bannon essentially has established himself as the chief curator for the alt right. Under his stewardship, Breitbart has emerged as the leading source for the extreme views of a vocal minority who peddle bigotry and promote hate.”
ADL has written one of the more poignant Amici, telling the court the following:
“The promise of America has been manifest since before the American Revolution. John Winthrop, while still on his transatlantic voyage to the New World, admonished the future colonists of Massachusetts to always remember that their new community would be ‘as a city upon a hill,’ with the entire world watching. In fulfilling this vision, the country welcomed in its early years those disfavored and persecuted in their homelands based on their religious beliefs, including the Pilgrims, the Puritans and the Huguenots. Since then, our nation’s wisest leaders have been guided by Winthrop’s inspiring vision and have strived toward a more inclusive democracy.”
ADL’s writes further on how the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution came about, noting:
“After the United States won its independence, it faced the challenge of designing laws that embodied the enlightened vision of the new nation. In 1785, James Madison published ‘Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments’ in opposition to a bill proposed to Virginia’s General Assembly that would have levied a modest tax to support Christian education. Madison warned that any measure, no matter how slight, that gave a preference to one religion over another would constitute ‘a dangerous abuse of power’ and would betray the vision of ‘a city upon a hill…’
“Virginia recognized Madison’s wisdom. It rejected the establishment bill and instead adopted Thomas Jefferson’s ‘Statute for Religious Freedom,’ which firmly separated church from state and enshrined the principles of religious liberty for all. When Madison went to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he fought for Jefferson’s view to become the law of the land, and it became a bedrock of the rights confirmed by the First Amendment.”
Joining in the passionate debate about what America has stood for since its founding, the following nonprofits jointly filed their own history lesson with the court: the American Immigration Council, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Human Rights First, KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) and Tahirih Justice Center. The groups told the court:
“As President George Washington wrote to a religious minority community containing many immigrants in 1790, ‘the government of the United States . . . gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.’ From as early as the arrival of the Pilgrims, this land has been a haven for immigrants, regardless of their faith and country of birth. Freedom of religion and from the establishment of religion are, of course, enshrined in our First Amendment.
“The Executive Order hews away at these foundations of our nation. If this Court reverses the TRO [Temporary Restraining Order], scores of refugees, students, professors, skilled workers, and many others who already have been approved to enter, or re-enter, the United States will be blocked from doing so solely based on their religion or national origin. For U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (‘LPR’) who petitioned for immigrant visas for their family members and for the family members themselves, reversal of the TRO would cause them to lose their fundamental, constitutional right to live together as a family.”
The six nonprofits, represented by attorney Harrison Frahn of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, also made this bold statement to the court, seriously undercutting Trump’s apocalyptic Tweets on what might happen if the court doesn’t reinstate his order: “Appellants have failed to demonstrate any harm by allowing those affected to enter the country. In the last 30 years, no individual from the seven affected countries has killed an American in a terrorist attack in the United States.”
Almost 100 tech companies, including monster global brands like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Intel filed an Amicus filled with eye-opening statistics – like these:
“The tremendous impact of immigrants on America — and on American business — is not happenstance. People who choose to leave everything that is familiar and journey to an unknown land to make a new life necessarily are endowed with drive, creativity, determination—and just plain guts. The energy they bring to America is a key reason why the American economy has been the greatest engine of prosperity and innovation in history.
“Immigrants are leading entrepreneurs. ‘The American economy stands apart because, more than any other place on earth, talented people from around the globe want to come here to start their businesses.” Partnership for a New American Economy, The ‘New American’ Fortune 500, (2011). Some of these businesses are large. Immigrants or their children founded more than 200 of the companies on the Fortune 500 list, including Apple, Kraft, Ford, General Electric, AT&T, Google, McDonald’s, Boeing, and Disney. Collectively, these companies generate annual revenue of $4.2 trillion, and employ millions of Americans.
“Many of these businesses are small. ‘While accounting for 16 percent of the labor force nationally and 18 percent of business owners, immigrants make up 28 percent of Main Street business owners.’ Americas Soc’y & Council of The Americas, Bringing Vitality To Main Street (2015).”
The tech companies also told the court that the order is already having a negative impact on their employees and their business, writing:
“The Order has had immediate, adverse effects on the employees of American businesses. Several major companies reported substantial disruptions from the Order, because their employees were ensnared in the Order’s travel restrictions.
“This instability and uncertainty will make it far more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to hire some of the world’s best talent—and impede them from competing in the global marketplace. Businesses and employees have little incentive to go through the laborious process of sponsoring or obtaining a visa, and relocating to the United States, if an employee may be unexpectedly halted at the border. Skilled individuals will not wish to immigrate to the country if they may be cut off without warning from their spouses, grandparents, relatives, and friends — they will not pull up roots, incur significant economic risk, and subject their family to considerable uncertainty to immigrate to the United States in the face of this instability.”
At this point, you are no doubt wondering who vetted Trump’s Executive Order. It clearly wasn’t run by the largest and most profitable technology companies in the U.S. In a January 30 article at Mother Jones, Josh Harkinson provides the background of two of the men that have been widely credited with the crafting of the Executive Order: Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller. Bannon is characterized as follows:
“For nearly a year before stepping down as the CEO of Breitbart News to lead the Trump campaign, Bannon hosted a SiriusXM radio show, Breitbart News Daily, where he conducted dozens of interviews with leading anti-Muslim extremists. Steeped in unfounded claims and conspiracy theories, the interviews paint a dark and paranoid picture of America’s 3.3 million Muslims and the world’s second-largest faith. Bannon often bookended the exchanges with full-throated praise for his guests, describing them as ‘top experts’ and urging his listeners to click on their websites and support them.”
But prior to joining Breitbart News, as Wall Street On Parade reported in November, Bannon was a right-wing propaganda filmmaker for a nonprofit called Citizens United. If that name rings a bell, it’s because that nonprofit was behind another famous Supreme Court case – the one that opened the spigots to unlimited corporate funding of political campaigns. In addition to Bannon, Citizens United sent two other top strategists to run the Trump campaign in its floundering days of 2016. One of those was its own President, David Bossie, who was named Trump’s Deputy Campaign Manager.
One of the propaganda films produced by Bannon for Citizens United was “Occupy Unmasked,” a documentary that names Bossie and David Horowitz in the credits. David Horowitz played a major role in promoting a propaganda film released in 2008, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” an effort at fanning the flames of Islamophobia in the U.S. as 100 newspapers and magazines were paid to distribute millions of free DVDs of the film. Including a separate direct mail campaign, 28 million copies of the DVD flooded swing voter states in the waning weeks of the 2008 presidential election. In 2010, we traced the $17.7 million that went into the film to an organization affiliated with Charles Koch.
In other words, keeping fear of terrorists alive, Islamophobia alive, and Americans focused on their personal safety instead of billionaires buying off their democracy, has been a gambit in the shadows since at least 2008.
Now, on cue, Citizens United, together with other right-wing groups, has filed an Amicus with the Ninth Circuit arguing in favor of Trump’s Executive Order. Having succeeded in corrupting Washington with its Citizens United v FEC decision, it is now asking the court to give unprecedented power to a man distrusted by more than half of Americans. It tells the Ninth Circuit: “this is not a judicial question that is properly presented to a federal judge to resolve. That is why the Congress has given virtually plenary authority over immigration and the refugee program to the President of the United States.”
Ninth Circuit oral arguments are scheduled to be heard by Judges William C. Canby, Richard R. Clifton and Michelle T. Friedland.