June 4, 2019: This Week in Politics

What’s going on in U.S. democracy this week?

1) The DHS Is Collecting Our Social Media Data

Last week, the U.S. government began collecting social media information from all 15 million people that apply for visas each year. BUT the data it gathers also contains information about American citizens. If you are an American citizen who knows someone applying for a U.S. visa or an American who lives within 100 miles of the border (two-thirds of the U.S. population), the government could access your social media data. And worse of all? Not only is there’s absolutely no evidence that mining social media data makes us any safer — these programs unfairly target Muslim travelers, PoC, activists, and journalists. My brilliant Brennan Center colleagues took the most comprehensive look at the ways in which the government mines social media data from travelers AND Americans in the name of national security.

2) Mexico Tariffs

President Trump is once again using (read: abusing) presidential emergency powers to solve his manufactured “crisis at the southern border”. Trump announced last Thursday that he is placing a 5% tariff on all goods from Mexico (which will increase by 5% each month up to 25%) to pressure the country to do more to stop immigration into the U.S. — citing his authority under a law called the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). Even though many presidents have used the IEEPA more broadly over time, this is an unprecedented use of the authority. Pretty much everyone agrees that this is a terrible move for the economy.

Earlier this year, Trump declared a national emergency at the border to subvert the authority of Congress and obtain funding for his wall, making this the second time he is citing emergency powers to deal with the “immigration crisis”. The Brennan Center has identified 123 statutory powers that become available to president after declaring a national emergency — all of which are ripe for abuse.

3. Census Citizenship Question

In a bombshell revelation, newly surfaced documents filed in the 2020 Census Citizenship Question case reveal that the real reason behind the Trump administration's controversial effort to add a citizenship question to the #2020Census was to protect conservative white political power and harm minority/immigrant communities for next decade — NOT to enforce the Voting Rights Act as they previously claimed. The documents were found on the computer of a now-dead GOP strategist — who was hailed as the Michelangelo of redistricting (eye roll 🙄) — by his estranged daughter, who turned them in.

A bit of background information on the citizenship question on the 2020 Census: The census is a count that occurs once a decade that is supposed to account for everyone — whether adult or child, citizen or noncitizen. It’s a big deal because it determines how many seats each state will have in the House of Representatives, as well as how federal, state, and local governments allocate funds for education, social services, infrastructure, and more. This decade, the Trump administration has made the controversial decision to ask census participants to indicate whether or not they are American citizens. Experts warn that including the citizenship question will lead to a significant undercount of the U.S. population, especially in immigrant communities and communities of color. For context, no census has ever asked the entire U.S. population its citizenship status before. The Supreme Court is currently considering whether or not to allow the citizenship question on the upcoming census — and we hope, the newly released evidence is something the Justices cannot ignore.

The key takeaway here, of course, is don’t piss off your children, my friends.  🙃