Category: Immigration

Refugees Are My Neighbors

Refugees aren’t strangers walking off a plane — not permanently. One of my mentors was a North African refugee 30 or 40 years before we met, and now cooks spaghetti and hassles me about whether I’m living up to my potential. A college dormmate of mine was part of a family granted asylum after persecution in the USSR; she teased me for watching Twin Peaks seven years after eveyone else. A lost boy of Sudan is a member of my church. I’ve known him for maybe a decade. He’s getting a law degree now. These are my neighbors. This is my America.

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Headed to Massachusetts

I’ll be moving back to the U.S. in July (specifically Massachusetts), which is bittersweet. I mentioned it in passing about a month and a half ago, in Italian. I will very much miss my friends here, and also the vegetables. But I have stuff to do in the states.

In any case, if you have plans to visit me in Italy, June is the remaining month in which to do that (and I am producing a short film that’s shooting at the end of June, so you’ll be drafted if you show up then). After that, if you want to hang out, I suggest Massachusetts in the autumn, when the leaves are pretty. Or you can wait a few years and figure I’m likely to move again, since I tend to do that every few years.


Rodney says:   A moving target is the hardest to hit, Romie! Good luck.


Travis says: Tell me more about these vegetables of which you speak.

Romie: As a combination of agricultural subsidies and a climate more suitable to farming than most of the U.S., most of the produce we get comes from very nearby, which means both that it doesn’t need to be picked before it’s ripe and that cultivators can select for flavor rather than durability, or resistance to awful weather. So it just tastes better.

But specifically:

– broccoli romanesco is not actually broccoli but looks like broccoli if it was a fractal and tastes mild and creamy

– montepulciano grapes are tiny and full of seeds but taste just like good red wine, because good wine is made from them

– very good sauce tomatoes are usually available

– along the same lines, the apricots actually taste like something instead of rocks

– there’s this weedy thing called agretto which is pretty hard to describe

I think a lot of the “don’t like vegetables” thing in the U.S. is because our vegetables suck, and either taste sour or like nothing. (U.S. pickles are better, though.)

Travis: Can I tell you how refreshing it is to have a face-value conversation? Ask a question, get an answer. Beautifully explained, btw… I must know more about agretto, but I’ll happily research myself. Been thinking about doing some indoor gardening on account of the harsh Texas sun. You’re just the best.

Prank Calls to VOICE Hotline

There have been a lot of prank calls to Trump’s just-launched VOICE line, which you call to share stories about how you’ve been victimized by illegal aliens. A lot of prank calls. A lot of prank calls about Alien aliens. Which has somehow come as a surprise to them.

Adding to the frenzy was the fact that VOICE’s launch date of April 26 was also “Alien Day”—a reference to the moon featured in James Cameron’s 1986 classic, Aliens (LV-426. Get it?).

“Marine veteran Alexander McCoy told Buzzfeed News that he was inspired to call VOICE’s hotline after seeing #AlienDay trending on Twitter.

“I told them I’d been abducted by a UFO,” he told the site. “There was a long pause. I heard them do a big sigh. And they closed out the conversation saying that they’d make a note of it and I should wait for the DHS to investigate my report.”

—”We Asked ICE About the Prank Calls to Their Anti-Immigrant Hotline and They Kind of Lost Their Shit” (Fusion, Rafi Schwartz)

The fatal flaw of Big Brother “report on your neighbor” programs nobody wanted, like this and the fabled Muslim registry, is that resistance is easy and fun, and ICE is going up against both meme culture and an army of people used to making daily calls to congress. What’s one more number on the list? Keep making that rough music, American heroes.


Callers have also bravely snitched on bigfoot and some muggles.

When a Wall is a Dam on the Floodplain of the Rio Grande

Turns out a 30-foot-tall concrete wall in a floodplain is a dam.

Mexico Worries That A New Border Wall Will Worsen Flooding” (Morning Edition, NPR)

Rex says: None of the border states want a wall. Trump has no idea. It is a whim. If he didn’t have such great hair I would doubt a lot of his plans. But that hair is great! Mt. Rushmore great. Build that wall !!

There Are No U.S. Attorneys at the Justice Department

Not any. Not one. None is the amount of U.S. attorneys in the justice department right now.

A month after dismissing federal prosecutors, Justice Department does not have any U.S. attorneys in place,” Sari Horwitz, The Washington Post

I thought the headline had to be exaggerating, but from the body of the article:

“the attorney general does not have a single U.S. attorney in place”

Remember how last month, Trump and Sessions fired everybody who hadn’t already resigned? Welp, no replacements have been hired. Not any of the 93 U.S. attorney positions have been filled.

How are they managing this? Not well. There are acting U.S. attorneys, your basic staff bureaucrat lawyer fill-in pinch hitters, but there are various statutory authorities which only the officially-appointed U.S. attorneys have, when for instance talking to police departments.

What’s weird is that although this is maybe (maybe?) good for libertarian “starve the beast, small government” republicans, it’s super bad for tough-on-crime republicans, like for instance Jeff Sessions. These are prosecutors that are missing. So this looks less like a sinister plot than another manifestation of the administration congenitally not having its ducks in a row.

It’s maybe going to take months to start filling the positions, because of the way congressional approval works. Sessions isn’t the first AG to confront this; newly-appointed Janet Reno did the same “have everybody resign” thing in March of 1993. Which, FYI, means we were U.S. attorneyless during the Waco standoff. If this is normal, it seems like a bad norm.

Proposed Designs for Trump’s Border Wall

Border wall bids include tourist attraction, solar panels” — the Associated Press

Some of the long-shot bids are pretty fun, including forming an autonomous shared state in between the US and Mexico – sort of a Vatican of culture, full of libraries, art galleries, makerspaces, and a hyperloop. Otra Nation, I love your hustle.


Listen to this charming jargon: “Otra Nation is a regenerative territory open to citizens of both Mexico and the United States… the world’s first continental bi-national socio-ecotone.” I have no idea what socio-ecotone means! But this would be the first!