All posts by MPolitics

Biden: Congress Should Immediately Make ‘Dreamers’ Citizens

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, unveiling his immigration policy outline ahead of the first 2020 debates , is calling for Congress to grant citizenship immediately to more than 800,000 U.S. residents who were brought to the country illegally as children.
 
The former vice president and Democratic polling leader unveiled some of his immigration priorities on Monday in a newspaper op-ed that blisters President Donald Trump for an “assault on the dignity” of the Latino community through policies and rhetoric designed to “scare voters” in 2020.
 
“Trump repeatedly invokes racist invective to describe anyone south of the Rio Grande,” Biden writes, noting “horrifying scenes … of kids being kept in cages” and other “actions that subvert our American values and our ability to lead on the global stage.”
 
Biden, who launched his 2020 campaign in April, calls for streamlining the asylum system for migrants and spending more on electronic security at U.S. borders rather than Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. And he blasts Trump’s latest threats of mass deportation and his decision to cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, three Central American nations that are sources of the increasing wave of migrants to the U.S. border.
 
Trump, a Republican, maintains that his immigration policies are necessary to keep the country safe. He also has made clear that his 2020 reelection strategy is focused squarely on his base, which since his 2015 campaign launch has embraced his hard-line nationalism and economic protectionism.
 
 Biden’s op-ed is published in the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, with Biden using the English and Spanish versions to praise the diversity of the surrounding city where 20 Democratic candidates will take the debate stage in two heats Wednesday and Thursday.
 
Biden has not yet offered detailed immigration policy proposals beyond the outline.
 
Nonetheless, the op-ed is part of a series of policy pronouncements of varying levels of detail as Biden tries to maintain his lead in national and early state polls of Democratic primary voters. Separately, he’s offered education and climate action proposals, and his campaign has said health care and criminal justice plans are upcoming.
 
In his Miami newspaper piece, Biden further pledges an overhaul of U.S. foreign policy in the Americas, echoing fellow Democrats who’ve panned Trump’s approach to Mexico, Central America and South America.
 
“The Administration’s Latin America policy is at best a Cold War-era retread, and at worst an ineffective mess,” Biden writes, citing Trump’s tariff threats in Mexico, his refusal to grant temporary legal status to political refugees from Venezuela and U.S. ambivalence to rising instability in Central America.
 
The answer, Biden argued, is U.S. engagement and aid that expands “economic opportunity … so that people feel safe to stay in their home countries,” and he argued that as President Barack Obama’s top lieutenant he “led a major, bipartisan effort to address the root causes that push people to flee” those nations.
 
Other than the so-called “Dreamers” brought to the U.S. as children, Biden’s outline does not directly address the more than 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. As vice president, Biden backed a comprehensive immigration overhaul that would have established a path to citizenship for most of those residents. That effort cleared the Senate but died in what was then a Republican-led House.
 
The immigrants brought to the U.S. as children are commonly referred to as “Dreamers” because of never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act, which would have allowed them to remain in the country if they met certain criteria. Opponents say the act would reward people for breaking the law, encourage illegal immigration and hurt American workers.
 
Immigration has not been a top priority among Democratic presidential candidates thus far, other than sweeping condemnations of Trump’s values and priorities. The two Texans in the race — former Cabinet secretary Julian Castro and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke — have placed the most emphasis on the matter.
 
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has joined them in releasing a detailed immigration plan . All three call for a citizenship pathway for immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Castro has gone the farthest, proposing that border crossings be decriminalized altogether, regardless of whether a migrant is seeking legal asylum under the existing process.

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Oregon State Senators Go Into Hiding to Block Climate Bill

A group of Oregon state Republican senators have gone into hiding to stop the passage of a landmark climate change legislation. The western state’s House bill 2020 would set limits to carbon emissions with permits auctioned off to polluting industries. Republicans say the bill would hurt rural Oregonians. Democrats have a majority in both chambers of the state’s congress and the bill is likely to pass if it comes to the floor, which cannot happen unless there is a quorum of two-thirds of senators present. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports the state governor, a Democrat, has given authorization to state police to track them down.

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Oregon State Senators Go Into Hiding to Block Climate Bill

A group of Oregon state Republican senators have gone into hiding to stop the passage of a landmark climate change legislation. The western state’s House bill 2020 would set limits to carbon emissions with permits auctioned off to polluting industries. Republicans say the bill would hurt rural Oregonians. Democrats have a majority in both chambers of the state’s congress and the bill is likely to pass if it comes to the floor, which cannot happen unless there is a quorum of two-thirds of senators present. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports the state governor, a Democrat, has given authorization to state police to track them down.

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Retired US Admiral Joe Sestak Announces Democratic Run for White House

Another Democrat has entered the 2020 race for the White House.

Retired Navy admiral and former Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak announced his candidacy Sunday on his website.

He introduced himself to voters by telling them “I wore the cloth of the nation for over 31 years in peace and war, from the Vietnam and Cold War eras to Afghanistan and Iran and the emergence of China.”

He said he postponed announcing his candidacy to care for a daughter ill with brain cancer.

Sestak was also part of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s national security team, holds a doctorate in government from Harvard, and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate twice.

He embraces many positions popular with liberals, including abortion rights, gun control, and backs the nuclear deal with Iran.

Sestak is the 24th Democrat to officially announce a challenge to President Donald Trump in 2020, with Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren leading the polls so far.

 

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Retired US Admiral Joe Sestak Announces Democratic Run for White House

Another Democrat has entered the 2020 race for the White House.

Retired Navy admiral and former Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak announced his candidacy Sunday on his website.

He introduced himself to voters by telling them “I wore the cloth of the nation for over 31 years in peace and war, from the Vietnam and Cold War eras to Afghanistan and Iran and the emergence of China.”

He said he postponed announcing his candidacy to care for a daughter ill with brain cancer.

Sestak was also part of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s national security team, holds a doctorate in government from Harvard, and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate twice.

He embraces many positions popular with liberals, including abortion rights, gun control, and backs the nuclear deal with Iran.

Sestak is the 24th Democrat to officially announce a challenge to President Donald Trump in 2020, with Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren leading the polls so far.

 

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Kim Jong Un Praises ‘Excellent’ Letter From Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has received a personal letter from U.S. President Donald Trump and is contemplating its contents, North Korean state media reported Sunday.

The official Korean Central News Agency posted a picture of a pensive Kim holding a letter, apparently with White House letterhead. The report quoted Kim as praising its “excellent content.”

“Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong Un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content,” KCNA reported.

The report did not say anything else about the content of the letter.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as he left Washington for a trip to the Mideast on Sunday, confirmed the letter was sent to Kim. The top U.S. diplomat said he is “hopeful that this will provide a good foundation for us to begin, and to continue these important discussions with the Koreans to denuclearize the peninsula.”

Exchanging letters, photos

Trump said earlier this month he received a “beautiful,” “very personal” and “very warm” letter from the North Korean leader.

Though nuclear talks between U.S. and North Korean officials are stalled, Kim and Trump have been exchanging letters and pictures for the past year, and both men say their relationship remains warm.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un meet during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, Feb. 28, 2019.

Working-level talks broke down after a February summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, ended in no deal. Kim was unhappy with the pace of U.S. sanctions relief, while Trump was upset Kim would not commit to completely giving up his nuclear program.

Since then, North Korea has tested several short-range ballistic missiles and other weapons. Kim has said he will give Washington until the end of the year to become more flexible in the talks.

U.S. officials have shrugged off North Korea’s weapons tests and end-of-the-year ultimatum. Trump has said he is willing to hold a third summit with Kim if the conditions are right.

G-20 and beyond

Next week, Trump will visit South Korea following his meetings in Japan at the Group of 20 summit.

There has been speculation, though no evidence, that Trump could try to hold another high-profile summit at that time.

South Korean officials have also said they are working to hold a summit between the leaders of North and South Korea before Trump’s visit.

The letter comes a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a state visit to North Korea, where he promised to play an active role in the nuclear talks. 

“After months of an impasse in the negotiations and little contact between the U. S. and North Korea, it appears there is some diplomatic maneuvering underway,” said Bonnie Glaser, an Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“[It is] unclear yet whether Xi’s visit to Pyongyang played a role, or whether other factors are at play,” she added.

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Trump Counting on His Base to Deliver in 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump won under the U.S. electoral college system but lost the popular vote. His approval ratings have consistently been below 50 percent. Yet in a recent interview with TIME Magazine, Trump said he doesn’t need to reach out to independent voters because his “base is so strong.”  Who makes up Trump’s base, what motivates them, and will their support be enough to deliver a second term for Trump? White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara traveled to Orlando, Florida for Trump’s re-election campaign launch and brings back this report.

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Trump Counting on His Base to Deliver in 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump won under the U.S. electoral college system but lost the popular vote. His approval ratings have consistently been below 50 percent. Yet in a recent interview with TIME Magazine, Trump said he doesn’t need to reach out to independent voters because his “base is so strong.”  Who makes up Trump’s base, what motivates them, and will their support be enough to deliver a second term for Trump? White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara traveled to Orlando, Florida for Trump’s re-election campaign launch and brings back this report.

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Kushner Unveils $50 Billion ‘Peace to Prosperity’ Plan for Mideast

The White House on Saturday outlined a $50 billion Middle East economic plan that would create a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies, and fund a $5 billion transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza.

The “peace to prosperity” plan, set to be presented by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an international conference in Bahrain next week, includes 179 infrastructure and business projects, according to details of the plan and interviews with U.S. officials. The approach toward reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process was criticized by the Palestinians Saturday.

FILE – Palestinians step on Israeli and U.S. flags and hold posters of U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against Bahrain’s workshop for U.S. peace plan, in the Gaza Strip June 18, 2019

No peace, no economic revival

The ambitious economic revival plan, the product of two years of work by Kushner and other aides, would take place only if a political solution to the region’s long-running problems is reached.

More than half of the $50 billion would be spent in the economically troubled Palestinian territories over 10 years while the rest would be split between Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. Some of the projects would be in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where investments could benefit Palestinians living in adjacent Gaza, a crowded and impoverished coastal enclave.

The plan also proposes nearly a billion dollars to build up the Palestinians’ tourism sector, a seemingly impractical notion for now given the frequent flare-ups between Israeli forces and militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza, and the tenuous security in the occupied West Bank. 

The Trump administration hopes that wealthy Gulf states and nations in Europe and Asia, along with private investors, would foot much of the bill, Kushner told Reuters.

“The whole notion here is that we want people to agree on the plan and then we’ll have a discussion with people to see who is interested in potentially doing what,” Kushner told Reuters Television.

FILE – Hanan Ashrawi

Palestinians boycott unveiling 

The unveiling of the economic blueprint follows two years of deliberations and delays in rolling out a broader peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians, who are boycotting the event, have refused to talk to the Trump administration since it recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in late 2017.

Veteran Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi dismissed the proposals Saturday, saying: “These are all intentions, these are all abstract promises” and said only a political solution would solve the conflict.

Kushner made clear in two interviews with Reuters that he sees his detailed formula as a game-changer, despite the view of many Middle East experts that he has little chance of success where decades of U.S.-backed peace efforts have failed.

“I laugh when they attack this as the ‘Deal of the Century,’” Kushner said of Palestinian leaders who have dismissed his plan as an attempt to buy off their aspirations for statehood. “This is going to be the ‘Opportunity of the Century’ if they have the courage to pursue it.”

Kushner said some Palestinian business executives have confirmed their participation in the conference, but he declined to identify them. The overwhelming majority of the Palestinian business community will not attend, businessmen in the West Bank city of Ramallah told Reuters.

Several Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, will also participate in the June 25-26 U.S.-led gathering in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, for Kushner’s rollout of the first phase of the Trump peace plan. Their presence, some U.S. officials say privately, appears intended in part to curry favor with Trump as he takes a hard line against Iran, those countries’ regional archfoe.

The White House said it decided against inviting the Israeli government because the Palestinian Authority would not be there, making do instead with a small Israeli business delegation.

Israel, West Bank, Gaza map

Political disputes remain

There are strong doubts whether potential donor governments would be willing to open their checkbooks anytime soon, as long as the thorny political disputes at the heart of the decades-old Palestinian conflict remain unresolved.

The 38-year-old Kushner, who like his father-in-law came to government steeped in the world of New York real estate deal-making, seems to be treating peacemaking in some ways like a business transaction, analysts and former U.S. officials say.

Palestinian officials reject the overall U.S.-led peace effort as heavily tilted in favor of Israel and likely to deny them a fully sovereign state of their own.

Kushner’s attempt to decide economic priorities first while initially sidestepping politics ignores the realities of the conflict, say many experts.

“This is completely out of sequence because the Israeli-Palestinian issue is primarily driven by historical wounds and overlapping claims to land and sacred space,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator for Republican and Democratic administrations.

Kushner acknowledges that “you can’t push the economic plan forward without resolving the political issues as well.” The administration, he said, will “address that at a later time,” referring to the second stage of the peace plan’s rollout now expected no earlier than November.

Kushner says his approach is aimed at laying out economic incentives to show the Palestinians the potential for a prosperous future if they return to the table to negotiate a peace deal.

Kushner stressed that governments would not be expected to make financial pledges on the spot.

“It is a small victory that they are all showing up to listen and partake. In the old days, the Palestinian leaders would have spoken and nobody would have disobeyed,” he said.

West Bank to Gaza travel corridor

Kushner’s proposed new investment fund for the Palestinians and neighboring states would be administered by a “multilateral development bank.” Global financial lenders including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank plan to be present at the meeting.

The fund would include “accountability, transparency, anti-corruption, and conditionality safeguards” to protect investments.

A signature project would be to construct a travel corridor for Palestinian use that would cross Israel to link the West Bank and Gaza. It could include a highway and possibly a rail line. The narrowest distance between the territories, whose populations have long been divided by Israeli travel restrictions, is about 40 km (25 miles).

Kushner said that if executed the plan would create a million jobs in the West Bank and Gaza, reduce Palestinian poverty by half and double the Palestinians’ GDP.

But most foreign investors will likely stay clear for the moment, not only because of security and corruption concerns but also because of the drag on the Palestinian economy from Israel’s West Bank occupation that obstructs the flow of people, goods and services, experts say.

Marshall Plan approach

Kushner sees his economic approach as resembling the Marshall Plan, which Washington introduced in 1948 to rebuild Western Europe from the devastation of World War II. Unlike the U.S.-funded Marshall Plan, however, the latest initiative would put much of the financial burden on other countries.

President Donald Trump would “consider making a big investment in it” if there is a good governance mechanism, Kushner said. But he was non-committal about how much the president, who has often proved himself averse to foreign aid, might contribute.

Economic programs have been tried before in the long line of U.S.-led peace efforts, only to fail for lack of political progress. Kushner’s approach, however, may be the most detailed so far, presented in two pamphlets of 40 and 96 pages each that are filled with financial tables and economic projections.

In Manama, the yet-to-released political part of the plan will not be up for discussion, Kushner said.
 

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Kushner Unveils $50 Billion ‘Peace to Prosperity’ Plan for Mideast

The White House on Saturday outlined a $50 billion Middle East economic plan that would create a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies, and fund a $5 billion transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza.

The “peace to prosperity” plan, set to be presented by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an international conference in Bahrain next week, includes 179 infrastructure and business projects, according to details of the plan and interviews with U.S. officials. The approach toward reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process was criticized by the Palestinians Saturday.

FILE – Palestinians step on Israeli and U.S. flags and hold posters of U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against Bahrain’s workshop for U.S. peace plan, in the Gaza Strip June 18, 2019

No peace, no economic revival

The ambitious economic revival plan, the product of two years of work by Kushner and other aides, would take place only if a political solution to the region’s long-running problems is reached.

More than half of the $50 billion would be spent in the economically troubled Palestinian territories over 10 years while the rest would be split between Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. Some of the projects would be in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where investments could benefit Palestinians living in adjacent Gaza, a crowded and impoverished coastal enclave.

The plan also proposes nearly a billion dollars to build up the Palestinians’ tourism sector, a seemingly impractical notion for now given the frequent flare-ups between Israeli forces and militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza, and the tenuous security in the occupied West Bank. 

The Trump administration hopes that wealthy Gulf states and nations in Europe and Asia, along with private investors, would foot much of the bill, Kushner told Reuters.

“The whole notion here is that we want people to agree on the plan and then we’ll have a discussion with people to see who is interested in potentially doing what,” Kushner told Reuters Television.

FILE – Hanan Ashrawi

Palestinians boycott unveiling 

The unveiling of the economic blueprint follows two years of deliberations and delays in rolling out a broader peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians, who are boycotting the event, have refused to talk to the Trump administration since it recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in late 2017.

Veteran Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi dismissed the proposals Saturday, saying: “These are all intentions, these are all abstract promises” and said only a political solution would solve the conflict.

Kushner made clear in two interviews with Reuters that he sees his detailed formula as a game-changer, despite the view of many Middle East experts that he has little chance of success where decades of U.S.-backed peace efforts have failed.

“I laugh when they attack this as the ‘Deal of the Century,’” Kushner said of Palestinian leaders who have dismissed his plan as an attempt to buy off their aspirations for statehood. “This is going to be the ‘Opportunity of the Century’ if they have the courage to pursue it.”

Kushner said some Palestinian business executives have confirmed their participation in the conference, but he declined to identify them. The overwhelming majority of the Palestinian business community will not attend, businessmen in the West Bank city of Ramallah told Reuters.

Several Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, will also participate in the June 25-26 U.S.-led gathering in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, for Kushner’s rollout of the first phase of the Trump peace plan. Their presence, some U.S. officials say privately, appears intended in part to curry favor with Trump as he takes a hard line against Iran, those countries’ regional archfoe.

The White House said it decided against inviting the Israeli government because the Palestinian Authority would not be there, making do instead with a small Israeli business delegation.

Israel, West Bank, Gaza map

Political disputes remain

There are strong doubts whether potential donor governments would be willing to open their checkbooks anytime soon, as long as the thorny political disputes at the heart of the decades-old Palestinian conflict remain unresolved.

The 38-year-old Kushner, who like his father-in-law came to government steeped in the world of New York real estate deal-making, seems to be treating peacemaking in some ways like a business transaction, analysts and former U.S. officials say.

Palestinian officials reject the overall U.S.-led peace effort as heavily tilted in favor of Israel and likely to deny them a fully sovereign state of their own.

Kushner’s attempt to decide economic priorities first while initially sidestepping politics ignores the realities of the conflict, say many experts.

“This is completely out of sequence because the Israeli-Palestinian issue is primarily driven by historical wounds and overlapping claims to land and sacred space,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator for Republican and Democratic administrations.

Kushner acknowledges that “you can’t push the economic plan forward without resolving the political issues as well.” The administration, he said, will “address that at a later time,” referring to the second stage of the peace plan’s rollout now expected no earlier than November.

Kushner says his approach is aimed at laying out economic incentives to show the Palestinians the potential for a prosperous future if they return to the table to negotiate a peace deal.

Kushner stressed that governments would not be expected to make financial pledges on the spot.

“It is a small victory that they are all showing up to listen and partake. In the old days, the Palestinian leaders would have spoken and nobody would have disobeyed,” he said.

West Bank to Gaza travel corridor

Kushner’s proposed new investment fund for the Palestinians and neighboring states would be administered by a “multilateral development bank.” Global financial lenders including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank plan to be present at the meeting.

The fund would include “accountability, transparency, anti-corruption, and conditionality safeguards” to protect investments.

A signature project would be to construct a travel corridor for Palestinian use that would cross Israel to link the West Bank and Gaza. It could include a highway and possibly a rail line. The narrowest distance between the territories, whose populations have long been divided by Israeli travel restrictions, is about 40 km (25 miles).

Kushner said that if executed the plan would create a million jobs in the West Bank and Gaza, reduce Palestinian poverty by half and double the Palestinians’ GDP.

But most foreign investors will likely stay clear for the moment, not only because of security and corruption concerns but also because of the drag on the Palestinian economy from Israel’s West Bank occupation that obstructs the flow of people, goods and services, experts say.

Marshall Plan approach

Kushner sees his economic approach as resembling the Marshall Plan, which Washington introduced in 1948 to rebuild Western Europe from the devastation of World War II. Unlike the U.S.-funded Marshall Plan, however, the latest initiative would put much of the financial burden on other countries.

President Donald Trump would “consider making a big investment in it” if there is a good governance mechanism, Kushner said. But he was non-committal about how much the president, who has often proved himself averse to foreign aid, might contribute.

Economic programs have been tried before in the long line of U.S.-led peace efforts, only to fail for lack of political progress. Kushner’s approach, however, may be the most detailed so far, presented in two pamphlets of 40 and 96 pages each that are filled with financial tables and economic projections.

In Manama, the yet-to-released political part of the plan will not be up for discussion, Kushner said.
 

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