Judith Armatta

Judith Armatta is a lawyer, journalist and human rights activist


I’m freaked out. Fires are consuming my state. My air purifier is running bright red, toxic, don’t breathe. Ash covers my desk, the windowsills, clothing, plants, the floors, my lungs. A major highway is closed. Cities evacuated. Hikers rescued from our once green forests. The sky glows an eerie dirty gray and copper. The sun, a red orange ball, is about as spectacular as the eclipse. I breathe ash into my already compromised lungs. I need to wear a mask, but I’m suffocating from the heat. And the South is underwater as category 5 Hurricane Irma assaults the Caribbean and heads toward Florida, with Jose not far behind.

Armed white nationalists, neo-Nazis, KKKers, and other hate groups march in the streets with torches, unmasked, unafraid. A Korean demigod threatens conflagration and his American counterpart wreaks destruction on Obama’s world, my world. Encouraging hatred, division, and violence. Expelling young dreamers to alien lands. Gifting our water, air, and land to those who would profit from their pollution. Promoting violence by and militarization of police, who bully, beat up, terrorize, and kill. Aligning himself with dictators and strong men, disparaging allies. Contemptuous of the constitution and rule of law. Distorting reality for everyone as he lives in the land of lies. Taking from the poor and giving to the rich with smoke and mirrors showing down is up, distorting reality, murdering truth. Encouraging our demons who hate women, immigrants, Muslims, Black people, Latinos, those with disabilities. Granting permission to our dark side.

In his air-conditioned WHITE House, he does not choke on smoke, collapse from heat, wade through chest high water. He lives in a bubble drifting from golf course to golf course. Maralago is not yet underwater, though Hurricane Irma is on the horizon. I am reminded of a movie popular in my growing up years: On the Beach, where only two people remain alive after nuclear war. A gem of a planet and all its vibrant life destroyed. How close are we, I wonder?

Why I Don't Support Medicare for All

I’m not sure what is meant by “Medicare for All.” Is it a more popularly accepted name for Single Payer? Or is it really an expansion of Medicare. If it’s an expansion of Medicare, then let’s be clear. Medicare was partially privatized in 2003 by the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA). As a result, private insurance companies are heavily into the Medicare market.

The MMA created a prescription drug program (Part D) – and handed it to private insurers to offer policies and set premiums and reimbursements. If you don’t want to pay the entire cost of prescriptions out of pocket, you have to buy a Part D plan from a private insurer. Reimbursements and premiums vary from company to company.

In the same legislation, Congress opened the door wider for private insurance companies, allowing them to compete with each other and with “Original Medicare” (Parts A – hospitalization - and B – outpatient services, which are managed by the government for a set premium (currently about $104 a month) by offering “Medicare Advantage” plans. These, too, vary in coverage, deductibles, and premiums, so you will have to shop around, an unpleasant task that faces you each year as premiums and coverage change.

It is also possible to buy a Medicare Supplement Plan (aka Medigap), which, for an additional premium, will cover most copays and deductibles. Again, premiums and benefits vary, so one needs to set aside a couple weeks and forego making the grandchildren Halloween costumes and taking walks in the brilliantly colored fall to compare coverage and try to understand it all, i.e. “Should I stick with Original Medicare Parts A & B or choose a Medicare Advantage Plan?” “If the latter, which one among those offered in the private sector is best for me in coverage and cost?” “Do I need a prescription drug plan, as well, and, if so, which company offers the best deal?” “Does it cover my medications and, if so, how much will it pay?” Are we having fun yet?

Well, you’re not done because even if you have all the coverage discussed above, it won’t cover eye exams and glasses, hearing aids, or dental work. You either have to pay for more policies or pay out of pocket, if you can afford it. For those who haven’t faced the need for hearing aids, you will pay $3,000 to $6,000 -- or less if you’re a Costco member (it’s worth the $55 annual fee). It appears that eyes, ears, and teeth are not part of the human body. Who knew?

It has taken me five years to manage a basic understanding of partially privatized Medicare, law degree notwithstanding. And I am probably wrong.

Does the campaign Medicare for All (that requests my signature daily) mean the Medicare we have now? If it does, I’m not signing any petitions.

Caveat: this is not legal advice. It is cri de coeur and a caution.

An interesting article on the subject is Joshua Holland’s “Medicare-for-All Isn’t the Solution for Universal Health Care.” Holland is a contributor to The Nation, a fellow at the Nation Institute, and hosts “Politics and Reality Radio.” https://www.thenation.com/article/medicare-for-all-isnt-the-solution-for-universal-health-care/


In 1999, I found myself in Skopje, Macedonia, an evacuee from the Kosovo war. While there, I headed a war crimes documentation project, interviewing some of the 800,000 Kosovar refugees. In the midst of tragedy and suffering, I had the privilege of meeting the great humanitarian, Elie Wiesel, who left this earth a little over a year ago. Today, more than ever, we need these gentle, heroic souls, and I need to be reminded that they have walked this earth -- and left a lasting legacy. The following is what I wrote at the time, included in my memoir in progress.

The U.S. Embassy called to say President Clinton was sending Elie Wiesel here as a personal emissary to speak with refugees. They would like me to meet with him. Would I be available? I said I might be able to rearrange my dance card. I didn't hear anything more for a week, when the Embassy officer called from Stenkovac 1 camp and asked if I could come there to meet with Mr. Wiesel. I grabbed Sebi, one of my young Albanian-speaking staff and a refugee from Kosovo, and hopped in a taxi for the hot ride out to the camp.

Despite the fact that UNHCR had still not issued us badges to enter the camps, Sebi and I flashed the badge Aferdita (our office manager) had made for us using a stapler, a business card, and a safety pin. We entered with no trouble. An embassy staff person met us and walked us through the camp to the tent where Mr. Wiesel was meeting with refugees and staff of the International Rescue Commission, of which he was a board member.

This was my first visit to a camp. About what I'd expected, given oral reports and television footage. Hundreds of grey, white, and khaki tents of various sizes lined up in rows on a dirt field with no trees or foliage. Laundry hanging on tent lines. Women bending over, washing plastic cups in shallow basins of water, carrying babies, changing diapers, tending toddlers. Men lying inside tents with little to do. Children teasing strangers, saying "hi" in English, but no boisterous play, no running and shouting. International aid organizations and insignias everywhere. A group of Japanese Peace tourists. My impressions were gleaned from stolen side glances, as we walked and talked with our escort.

Eventually, we approached the small IRC tent, where a couple dozen people gathered around a slight, grey haired man. When he saw me, he stopped the discussion and came forward to greet me, hand extended, saying "Hello, Judith!" That was enough to impress me for the rest of the century -- and well into the next millennium! I introduced him to Sebi, he ushered me to a chair beside him, and the conversation resumed.

The speaker had apparently just finished telling of his ordeal at the hands of Serb forces in Kosovo. He was expressing his anger and bitterness. Mr. Wiesel listened intently, without interruption. Another man entered the conversation and told how his Serb neighbor had killed a member of his family. Mr. Wiesel asked respectfully, "Do you hate all Serbs?" "Yes," the man, a staff member of IRC, replied in perfect English, without hesitation. He said they were a bad race. He'd read about it in a book, so there must be a scientific basis for it. Mr. Wiesel did not argue with him, but turned to a young girl of about 16, who was going to Canada, and asked her if she fell in love with a boy, agreed to marry him, and then found out his parents were Serbs, what would she do. "I would not take him," she replied firmly. Later, with tears in her eyes, she told Mr. Wiesel how a Serbian man had tried to rape her. With her permission, he held and comforted her.

A man who was with Mr. Wiesel, perhaps another IRC board member, urged him to tell about his experience in Auschwitz. He gently but firmly declined. It was these people's pain he had come to witness. He would not belittle it by judging their hatred. Later, I asked him if he hated all Germans. Quite simply, he answered, "No, I never did." And he acknowledged, again without judgment, that some others who survived the Holocaust still shun everything German. Sebi told him that she had worked with Serbs, had Serbian friends, but she would not see them now. He understood. For the Albanians, the terror was immediate. In Kosovo, it continued.

Mr. Wiesel told me he still struggled to understand hatred and the evil of which humans are capable. He asked the refugee whose neighbor had killed his relative, "How could he do that? To someone he drank wine with, whose children he knew, who had worked beside him and laughed with him?" The man had no answer -- except that he was Serb.

At one point in the discussion, I said that the international community bears some responsibility for what Milosevic has wrought, in that they chose to negotiate with him to end the war in Bosnia. Mr. Wiesel disagreed. He said the Bosnian war had to end, but the fault of the international community was that they failed to intervene sooner.

Mr. Wiesel clearly had a heavy heart after listening to so many tragic stories. He shook his head and wondered how this could happen at the end of the 20th Century. And he offered his concern as well as his deep appreciation for the work we were trying to do. I tried to convey my gratitude for how he chose to live his life and all he'd given to the world. He answered humbly, "We have such a short time here. We must do what we can."

And then I boldly asked if I could get a photograph. He graciously complied, pulling Sebi and me close to him, then telling the photographer to take her time as he was enjoying himself! The cars arrived and he was bustled off to his next appointment, while Sebi and I walked slowly back through the camp. She was as moved as I -- and she had not known of him before this meeting, nor read any of his books. There is something about greatness of spirit that one recognizes in its presence. It is indefinable, yet a palpable presence. I almost think that alone could conquer all the evil in the world. Perhaps, if it wasn't for that, there would be no world left worth struggling for.

The Good vs. The Bad

I am on the board of two nonprofit organizations. One advocates for adults who survived childhood sexual abuse. The other consists of friends and families of people convicted of sex crimes. You might think that makes no sense. Isn’t one the enemy of the other? Isn’t one bad and one good? I don’t think so. All are human beings. Those convicted of sex offenses have been held accountable. Given the recidivism rate of 5%, they are less to be feared than the rest of society. Some who were convicted and made to register as sex offenders for life* were innocent or guilty of behavior that harmed no one – streaking, taking photos of their nude children, sexting while a minor, brushing dirt off a child’s clothed bottom, exploring bodies through childhood curiosity.

Aren’t those who were victimized scarred for life? Some. Not all. It is a disservice to survivors to tell them they can never recover from abuse they suffered as a child. Everyone is different. Many survivors are able to heal and put it behind them. Some even forgive their abusers. Why can’t we? Forgiveness allows us to rebuild community. It lifts something from our souls – the anger and hatred that act like cancers eating us from within.

Not all those who have committed sex offenses can be redeemed. Not all are alike. Some are pathological serial offenders and need to be separated from the community. These are not the majority. Yet in the last 30 or 40 years we have greatly expanded the types of behavior that are sex crimes, while branding all those convicted with the same indelible mark for life: “sex offender.” Punishment is never ending. It can include placement on a public registry; notification of neighbors, colleagues, and others; restrictions on where one can live; limitations on travel (passport identification as a sex offender) and association, as well as extralegal discrimination such as inability to get a job, find housing, or attend school.

Recently, a young star OSU baseball player, Luke Heimlich, was outed as a convicted sex offender. Luke molested a young relative five years ago. She was four when it began and he was 13. His actions were reprehensible, even considering his brain immaturity. Luke served two years’ probation and completed sex offender treatment. He has expressed remorse for the harm he caused and is trying to become a decent, contributing member of society. But what he did at 13 and 15 continues to follow him. After revelation of his past and a public outcry, he stepped down from the baseball team, which is on its way to the College World Series. Before The Oregonian informed the public about Luke’s past, he was considered a top draft pick by Major League Baseball. After, no team selected him. Some have suggested he be banned from athletics, while others that he be banned from attending university.

This is not a contest of sympathy. ‘If we have sympathy for Luke, we cannot care about the little girl (now 11).’ ‘If we are (justifiably) angry at what happened to her, we must hate Luke and ostracize him from our community.’ Are our hearts so small that they cannot encompass caring for both? Luke is not a monster. He is a young man who did something terribly wrong. He has been held accountable and received treatment. He is highly unlikely to commit another sex crime. We should spend as much energy preventing sexual abuse as we do righteously condemning those who are trying to make amends and contribute to the community. *In Oregon, those convicted of sex crimes may apply to be removed from the registry after specified periods of time following the end of supervision. ORS 181.820

"You Are Not Wanted Here"

Portland, Oregon is the whitest city of its size in the United States. I want to deny living there. It feels shameful even though I did not choose it because of its whiteness. I am third generation Oregonian. My friends and family are here. I love the giant firs, the rivers that bisect the city, the easy access to the ocean and mountains, Powell’s Books. I hate its lack of diversity and the racism that lies at its root: Oregon’s original sin.

When Oregon was on the verge of statehood, granted in 1859, it was divided between those who wanted to allow slavery and those who did not. The compromise was to prohibit slavery (and thus competition from people using free labor), but also to prohibit African Americans from residing in the state. While this was not enforced, it sent a powerful message: “If you are African American, you are not wanted here.”

“Delegates to Oregon's constitutional convention submitted an exclusion clause to voters on November 7, 1857, along with a proposal to legalize slavery. Voters disapproved of slavery by a wide margin, ensuring that Oregon would be a free state, and approved the exclusion clause by a wide margin. Incorporated into the Bill of Rights, the clause prohibited blacks from being in the state, owning property, and making contracts. Oregon thus became the only free state admitted to the Union with an exclusion clause in its constitution. [emphasis added] Gregory Nokes.

The constitutional exclusion remained until 1926. Other racist language in the constitution was not removed until 2002. Oregon originally ratified the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but within a few years rescinded its ratification and did not correct it until 1973. The state resisted ratifying the 15th Amendment (Voting Rights) until 1959.

The reverse side of racial exclusion is that white people were drawn to Oregon because of its whiteness. I don’t know, but I pray that my ancestors weren’t part of this diaspora. It’s quite possible they were. This is our shameful legacy. It is why white supremacists feel more at home here than African Americans. It is why black people make up only 2% of Oregon’s population and 9.3% of its prison population.

“In 1850, the U.S. Congress passed the Oregon Donation Land Act, a piece of legislation designed to promote White settlement in the Oregon Territory by expropriating Native American land and giving it to Whites for free, causing a population boom of White settlers of 300 percent. The move to Oregon for many White settlers was motivated by a desire to create an all-White society free from the racial tensions brewing before the start of the American Civil War. The first steps taken to create this all-White society involved bloody battles against Native American peoples and their eventual compulsory removal from their land.” [citations omitted]

Oregon in the 1920’s had the highest population of Ku Klux Klan members in the U.S. They can be seen posing for photographs with Portland’s officials. Another photo shows the KKK with members of the Royal Riders of the Red Robe, a Klan auxiliary of foreign born Protestants. The Klan’s philosophy is evident in its motto: “’100 percent Americanism,’ an ideology that developed during World War I as a reaction to the perceived threat to national unity posed by the influx of non-Protestant, non-English-speaking immigrants.” Sound familiar?

In 1988, three men associated with White Aryan Resistance (WAR) beat Mulegeta Seraw, an Ethiopian student, to death on a Portland street. The Southern Poverty Law Center sued Tom Metzger, head of WAR, his son, and WAR for incitement of murder. An Oregon jury returned a $12.5 million verdict in favor of the estate of Mr. Seraw, despite Metzger’s defense that he was merely exercising his First Amendment Rights. The verdict bankrupted WAR.

In more recent years (with the election of a black president, followed by the hate-filled rhetoric of a bigoted president), we’ve seen the rise of white militias (such as the Oath Keepers, active in Oregon), white supremacist, and white separatist groups. The number of anti-Muslim organizations in the U.S. grew from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. A report by the Council for American-Islamic Relations found that hate crimes targeting Muslims surged 584 percent from 2014 to 2016.

Once on the fringe, these hate groups now march in Portland streets and propagandize and proselytize on the internet. Prisons, too, are a breeding ground for white supremacist gangs, and Oregon, like the rest of the country, has grotesquely expanded the number of people we lock up. Jeremy Christian spent eight years in Oregon prisons. According to one person who knew him before he was sent up, it was there he connected with white hate groups and became radicalized. We gave up on prison as rehabilitative long ago.

On May 27, 2017, Jeremy Christian verbally assaulted two young women, one black, the other Muslim on a MAX train. Christian is a self-proclaimed white separatist. He reportedly yelled at the women “Get off the bus and get out of the country.” When three men intervened, he killed two (Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Ricky John Best) and seriously injured the third (Micah David-Cole Fletcher). The three men were white Portlanders, one was Jewish. Will this send a message to white supremacists seeking to move here? They are planning to rally in downtown Portland on June 4. While they are free to speak, we do not welcome those who promote hate.

We honor Taliesin, Rick, and Micah and embrace the two young women who were vilified. This kind of courage is also Oregon’s legacy. We can’t change Oregon’s history or increase Portland’s diversity overnight. But we can make it welcoming to all those who seek a community striving for inclusion and the enrichment it brings. As civil rights attorney Arjun Singh Sethi wrote in The Washington Post: “Attacks like Portland’s will keep happening unless we all fight racism, simply being sorry isn’t enough.”

Portland is also enriched by numerous groups promoting diversity and fighting against hate (links to a few are given below). One of them, the Asian and Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), provides suggestions for how we can grow a better community:

“We continue to affirm our support for those who have been terrorized and traumatized, and seek community-driven solutions to address the root causes of oppression. We uplift local efforts including; 1) ending racial profiling and establishing strong community centered police accountability; 2) ensuring all students have access to quality ethnic studies education; 3) creating safe cultural spaces for communities to gather, and; 4) educating to counter hate ideologies and indoctrinations especially amongst our youth.”

We can also support those who are working against racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, misogyny, and xenophobia – with our time and/or money. And we can look to them for guidance and information to help us move forward. I will end with another thought from APANO:

"These times of fear and violence require us to reflect deeply on root causes, and is not an excuse to over-police our communities. May more Oregonians take action to interrupt hate and stand for love. In these terrible moments, we are reminded of our fragile humanity and the need to build institutions that function as systems of care and are focused on the inherent worth and dignity of all people.”

Links (not exhaustive by any means): Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes: https://oregoncahc.org/

Unite Oregon: www.uniteoregon.org

Change Lab, Race File: www.racefiles.com

APANO: www.apano.org

Coalition of Communities of Color: www.coalitioncommunitiescolor.org

Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO): https://irco.org

NAACP Portland Chapter: www.portlandnaacp1120.org

Urban League of Portland: https://ulpdx.org

Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA): https://nayapdx.org

Western States Center: www.westernstatescenter.org

Rural Organizing Project: www.rop.org

Partnership for Safety and Justice: www.safetyandjustice.org

Black Lives Matter Portland: https://blackpdx.com

Basic Rights Oregon: www.basicrights.org

Southern Poverty Law Center: www.splcenter.org

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): www.cair.org

Convicting the Innocent

Last week I attended the Oregon Innocence Project's annual fundraising event (given my limited income, I have no business contributing but I always do!). There was a full house -- lots of well-heeled lawyers. Stephen Wax, OIP legal director -- formerly federal public defender for 31 years, gave an update of their work. Here are some highlights.

In their three years of existence, they have received about 350 requests from prisoners to investigate their cases and have investigated 238 -- since the beginning of the OIP three years ago. The majority of the requests are from people convicted of sex offenses. Forty-six percent (46%) of these cases involved a child. The OIP has taken on four cases, two involve sex offenses, one is a murder with a death sentence, another is manslaughter. In two of the cases, the prosecutors have cooperated in securing DNA testing. In the capital murder case, the prosecutor refuses to cooperate, despite considerable evidence of innocence. (Steve didn't say who the prosecutors are.) Sixteen (16) people convicted in Oregon have been exonerated to date for a total of 65 lost years.

Two of the San Antonio Four (Anna and Cassandra) were special guests and talked about their ordeal and their eventual exoneration 20 years after being charged. The four Latina women had recently come out as gay. The seven and nine year old nieces of one were coerced by their father to make the allegations of gang rape. Homophobia contributed substantially to their prosecution and ultimate conviction. The women refused to plea bargain because they were innocent. Three were sentenced to 15 years, the girls' aunt received a 37 1/2 year sentence. While in prison, they refused sex offender treatment for the same reason, their innocence, and, as a result, spent time in solitary confinement. One woman had two small children, another was pregnant and had a 2-year-old, when they went to prison. The women served from 12 to 16 years in prison. Now, they are traveling throughout the U.S. to tell their story. They were exonerated in November 2016. Here's CNN's story: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/24/us/san-antonio-four-exonerated/

Not included, but what the women told us last night:

1. The nieces' father made up the charge because their aunt refused to date him.

2. The father later married another woman who had two sons. They had a child together. After they divorced, the father coerced their daughter to accuse one of the sons of sexual abuse. He was found guilty and sent to prison at 17 and is now a registered sex offender for life. The father has not yet met his karma.

While Texas will compensate these four women for the lost years, Oregon has no compensation law for those wrongfully convicted. Nationwide, the Innocence Project reports 2,028 exonerations, for a total of 17,693 years lost. Forty-seven percent (47%) of these exonerees were black, 12% here Hispanic. Thirty-nine (39) percent were convicted of murder, 15% of sexual assault, 11% of child sexual abuse.http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/Exonerations-in-the-United-States-Map.aspx

Oregon Innocence Project: www.oregoninnocence.org


By “decisively” bombing Syria, Donald Trump, the clown, has suddenly become America’s hero. Rapidly jumping on the bandwagon, pundits and pols and average Americans left questions about the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia in the dust, as well as the health care debacle. Who wants to bet the polls will show a surge in support for The Donald?

Trump was acting out America’s foundational myth when he ordered a missile attack on Syria. Americans, responding from psycho-social memory, swooned. Trump became the knight in shining armor who rescues the damsel in distress, the frontiersman who rescues the maiden kidnapped by Indians. Americans rush to applaud because it is the myth on which America was founded. We are the good guys who defend the weak (read “women and children”) against the bad guys.[1] With one violent blow. No messy rescuing refugees for us.

As much as I want to punish Assad for his chemical weapons attack, my question is “Has the bombing of one airport stopped him?” No one claims there were chemical weapons there. Which means he still has them and can use them again in four years, two years, next month, tomorrow. Did we wipe out some planes? Damage runways? That’s questionable, particularly considering that the U.S. gave Russia advance notice of the strikes. Any reason to believe they didn’t pass along that wee bit of information to their long-time partner, Assad? My second question is “What now?”

While the chemical weapons attack killed 80 people, the six-year long war has taken the lives of 470,000: 207,000 civilians, 24,000 children, 23,000 women, and displaced 11 million more. Over 90% of civilian deaths were caused by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance.[2] Nor was this the first chemical weapons attack since the one in 2013 that took the lives of 1,300. Assad has been using chlorine gas against civilians throughout the war and continues to do so.

The media and politicians rush to spin this as an Obama failure. He didn’t act out our foundational myth, though no one seems to recall that he intended to and pursued diplomacy only after Congress refused to give him authority for air strikes. Instead of doing nothing, he worked out a deal with Putin and Assad in which Assad would get rid of his chemical weapons. He sent a lot of them out of the country, but either held some back or made more. Trump didn’t destroy any, as far as a we know. We say Assad’s a bully and Obama was wrong to trust him. After the bombing, we’re still left with the bully. Unless we bomb Syria back into the Stone Age (as we did Iraq) and drive him from power (as we did Hussein and Qadafi), the situation on the ground in Syria remains pretty much the status quo. And if we do bomb Syria back to the Stone Age? We can see where that got us in Iraq. The rise of a ruthless, headless group of fanatics who revel in killing innocents – wherever.


[1] See Faludi, Susan, The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Co. (2007), Chapter 8.

[2]  http://sn4hr.org/wp-content/pdf/english/207_thousand_civilians_were_killed_by_hands_of_the_
Syrian_alliance_Iranian_Russian_en.pdf   (PDF: 207K Civilians Killed by Syrian Alliance)


I AM NOT AFRAID of the Iranian student who has been studying in the U.S., but cannot return from a visit home.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the Sudanese doctor working in Cleveland who was forced to leave the U.S.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the MIT professor’s Iranian parents who hold green cards, but were prevented from returning to celebrate their grandchildren’s birthdays.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the Syrian medical student’s two uncles, two aunts, and two teenage cousins who had immigrant visas but were turned back after arriving in Philadelphia.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the young Iranian scientist and his wife who were planning to take up residence in Boston where he had a fellowship to study cardiovascular medicine at Harvard before their visas were canceled.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the Iraqi man who worked for a U.S. contractor in Iraq but was denied entry to visit his wife and son in the U.S.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the Kurdish family of five seeking refuge from Iraq who were returned there despite having valid visas.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the three Somali brothers who have been vetted and approved to enter the United States. They’ve been living in a Nairobi refugee camp for 25 years.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the 10-year-old refugee from Iraq where his father was an interpreter for the U.S. Army.

I AM NOT AFRAID of Hajira and her six daughters, all Somali refugees, who have been staying in a Nairobi refugee camp awaiting emigration to the U.S.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the 50 Syrian families fleeing death and the loss of their homes and livelihoods every hour.

I AM NOT AFRAID of refugees from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, seeking asylum from murderous gangs.

I AM AFRAID OF STEVE BANNON who devised the immigration ban that has disrupted so many lives, and, at least in one case, caused the death of a 75-year-old Iraqi woman with a green card, who was seeking medical care in the U.S.

I AM AFRAID OF STEVE BANNON because he is a white nationalist, who led a media empire into becoming what a former Breitbart editor called a “a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”

I AM AFRAID OF STEVE BANNON because he promotes the “alt-right,” a haven of white nationalists.

I AM AFRAID OF JEFF SESSIONS because he praised the 1924 Immigration Act that imposed a racist quota system favoring Northern Europeans and said that between 1924 and 1965 it had “created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America,” The Atlantic reported.

I AM AFRAID OF JEFF SESSIONS because he has been the key bridge between anti-immigrant groups and Congress since 1997. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

I AM AFRAID OF DONALD TRUMP because he has chosen white supremacists as his close advisors, directed a massive immigration halt, closing U.S. borders to 60,000 to 100,000 people who have been approved for entry, ordered a wall to be built on the U.S. border with Mexico, tweeted racist, misogynist, xenophobic rants, creating space in normal discourse for white supremacists.

I AM AFRAID OF DONALD TRUMP because he is commander in chief of the largest military in the world and has the ability to start a nuclear war.

I AM AFRAID OF DONALD TRUMP because he has no respect for the U.S. constitution or international law.

I AM AFRAID OF DONALD TRUMP because he does not believe in an independent judiciary.

I AM AFRAID OF DONALD TRUMP because he has no respect for the rule of law.

I AM AFRAID . . . .

I AM ENCOURAGED by the federal judges who have stayed the order prohibiting refugees and asylum seekers and people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

I AM ENCOURAGED by the State Department employees who have expressed their opposition to his unconstitutional order and those who immediately implemented Judge Robart’s stay of that order, allowing tens of thousands with legitimate visas to enter the U.S.

I AM ENCOURAGED by the thousands of fellow citizens, immigrants, and visitors who rushed to airports across the country to protest Trump's unconstitutional immigration order.

I AM ENCOURAGED by millions of fellow citizens, immigrants, and visitors who have taken to the streets and social networks to protest this fascist-leaning president.


“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana.

I read a story in the New York Times today (January 17, 2017): “America or Mexico? An Agonizing Decision,” by Caitlin Dickerson. Rachel McCormick, born in the U.S., and Irvi Cruz, born in Mexico and immigrated illegally to the U.S., met in the U.S., married, and had two girls, Sarah, 4, and Anna, 2. Irvi is not a U.S. citizen and cannot apply for citizenship through his wife because he has traveled back and forth to Mexico several times. To apply now, he would have to leave the U.S. for 10 years.

With Trump threatening to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, Irvi and Rachel are faced with a fateful decision: do they remain in the U.S. waiting for the day Irvi is deported or do they pack up and go to Mexico, a strange land where Rachel and the girls will feel a perplexing and, at times, frightening displacement. As Ms. Dickerson wrote: “So the couple were boxed in by two bad options: take a chance on a new life in the small, struggling town in Mexico where Irvi grew up, or stay here and try to ignore the shaky ground beneath them.”

Nine million families of mixed parentage face this same dilemma. This dilemma is not new, though I knew nothing about its forerunner until I began reading The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II by Jan Jarboe Russell. In addition to forcing 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living in the U.S. (62% were American citizens) into concentration camps during WWII, the US government arrested and imprisoned Japanese, German, and Italian noncitizen fathers who were on J. Edgar Hoover’s list of “dangerous enemy aliens,” begun in 1936 on orders from President Franklin Roosevelt. There were thousands of them. Their property was confiscated. Their families left destitute. No criminal charges were brought. They received no due process, no legal representation, no trial. The arrestees were not allowed to see the evidence or confront the witnesses against them (some were spiteful neighbors or coworkers). Nor could they appeal.

Immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, they were arrested and taken from their homes, families, work, and communities. These detainees were sent to a special camp at Crystal City, Texas where they could be reunited with their families who were U.S. citizens. The families had to choose whether to join their loved ones in a prison camp and give up their freedom, or remain separated for the unknown duration of the war and possibly forever. The main purpose of the camp was to gather people the U.S. could exchange for “important” U.S. POWs (diplomats, businessmen, doctors) held in Germany, Japan, and Italy. The program was informally known as “quiet passage.”

The U.S. wasn’t content with “enemy aliens” and their families living in the U.S. They needed more bodies for the one-to-one exchange demanded by Germany. Our government made agreements with 13 Latin American countries to deport Germans, Japanese, and Italians living within them to the U.S., where they would be imprisoned in the Crystal City camp until they could be exchanged. These Latin American immigrants had no ties to the U.S. It was a shocking case of overreach.

Families were faced with a choice: to join their noncitizen parent or husband to be included in what was euphemistically called “repatriation,” or to break up the family, possibly forever. If they joined him in repatriation, they would find themselves in countries they were unfamiliar with, countries at war, where people were starving and could not help, where they had nowhere to live, no means to earn a living. Some died of starvation and illness.

Ms. Russell interviewed a number of the children whose parents were forced to make this choice and tells their tragic stories in this excellent book. Quiet passage was a secret program. It provides a template and a warning. As Ms. Russell concludes: “[T]he issues in the book—the roundup of immigrants, prisoner exchange, the danger of scapegoating in a climate of fear, the trauma of war—are as real today as they were in 1942.”


A foreign power has helped choose our president. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Ireland, Canada, or Norway. Maybe they will come to the rescue as the U.S. falls into chaos or fascism, governed by a cabal of the superclass (read David Rothkopf’s “The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, where a number of Trump’s appointees are discussed). It also wasn’t Iran, the Republic of Congo, Vietnam, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, or Cuba, any of which (and more) could legitimately play tit for tat. The U.S. does not have clean hands here.

Now, I know how the Iranians must have felt when the U.S. orchestrated the removal of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, following his nationalization of the oil industry until then controlled by British companies. Or the Congolese when the U.S. aided the Belgians in assassinating Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of an independent Congo, to preserve our access to uranium used in making nuclear weapons. Or the Chileans after the US-backed military coup that ousted progressive leader Salvador Allende, another ‘fearsome’ economic and social reformer. And on and on. . . .

Despite our sins, can we really allow Vladimir Putin (ex-KGB agent) to ruin our already-battered democracy? It took the Iranians (Persians) over 25 years to get rid of the U.S.-friendly Shah (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi), and his replacement was anything but a democrat. Chileans voted Pinochet out of office in 1988, after 17 years of human rights violations, including murder and disappearances. We’re hoping for only four years max, but it could be eight – and that’s if the citizens still have a meaningful vote. How can we stop this from happening?

Support the appointment of an independent commission to investigate the CIA’s report. Longtime Executive Director of the American Security Project, Jim Ludes, tweeted: "Intel community must brief electoral college about Russia before vote. EC exists to protect republic from candidate under foreign influence." Tell your electors to not cast their votes for Russia’s candidate. Contact your ‘elected’ representatives and senators and tell them to show some spine. And the Democratic Party. Or we’ll all be speaking Russian.

Acquiescence is not an option.