Syria Letter – 14 April 2016

I am writing again about the situation in Syria, which I am sure is of great concern to the entire country. My main concern is that I do not want the United States to be dragged into a civil war in Asia. I don’t completely understand the reasoning behind the Republican President’s decision to attack the Syrian government at this time. Mostly I am disgusted with the administration’s decision to lash out at the government of Syria, when his other actions in office are directly harming the people being murdered by that government.

Obviously, there are limits to what you are able to do about this. My hope is that you will do what you can to help the Syrian people to escape this terrible situation and to help other refugees, both in the Middle East and in other places that are also in dire straits but are not making the headlines. We should continue to give aid to these people and ignore the Administration’s budget on this and other issues. We should do more to help refugees to settle in the United States, again in spite of the administration’s desire. In a better political situation, we would have Congress taking the lead in these matters with an AUMF document that keeps the United States out of this civil war.

While I understand that domestic issues are front and center right now, I believe this is something that would have a large amount of support from both parties and may do more to bring some comity back to Congress. Something that has been missing these past few months.

 

Immigration Letter – March 20

I’ve been writing my delegation, from a very Republican state, constantly since January. I’m posting these in the hope there may be some arguments others can use in their letters or articles.

March 20, 2017

I saw through the local paper that you recently attended a town hall meeting at the Dole Center. I am glad you were able to attend and I hope you continue to meet with your constituents from Lawrence. While I was unable to attend, I understand it mainly focused on healthcare. I have already sent you a couple of emails on this, so you likely do not need to hear more from me for now.

However, one of your remarks at the start of the town hall worried me a great deal. I believe the moderator mentioned that 100 people at KU were directly affected by the travel restrictions, and you were asked about your feelings on the second travel ban. I believe you called the second ban a “step in the right direction to keep us safe.”

I have been opposed to the Republican President’s travel ban from the beginning and it is this mistaken belief that it is supposed to keep the U.S. “safe” that I am especially unhappy about. Refugees are the ones who are most affected by this ban, and there is absolutely no evidence that refugees are a meaningful threat to our safety. Of the 784,000 refugees admitted since 9/11, exactly three have been arrested for terrorist activities in the U.S. Two of those were for sending support back to Iraq, not for an actual attack on the U.S., and the third did not prove to have a credible threat of attack.

This is an incredible rate and should demonstrate that the Refugee vetting program is working as well as humanly possible. There is absolutely no justification for including refugees in any ban, temporary or not, and at a time when we are facing the greatest refugee crisis since WWII, there is every reason to want to help these people. The Republican President has proposed turning our backs on all of them, and in his current budget proposal has asked to cut foreign aid as well. I do not support his decision or his proposed cuts. If implemented, I believe the decision will be seen as terrible as when we turned our backs on Jewish refugees fleeing Fascism, or as the internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII.

I hope you will take this under consideration and reevaluate your support of the President’s immigration ban.

Sincerely,

Raymond Hodgson

Immigration Letter – February 26

I’ve been writing my delegation, from a very Republican state, constantly since January. I’m posting these in the hope there may be some arguments others can use in their letters or articles.

February 26, 2017

I am thankful that the courts have chosen to intervene on this issue and I can understand not wanting to spend valuable time on the legislative calendar on an issue that will likely be settled elsewhere.

I still am unconvinced on the security justification for the executive order. George W. Bush never felt the need to pass such an order even in the wake of 9/11. None of our closest allies have passed such a ban. Great Britain, which has fought beside us through all of this, has not only decided against any refugee ban, but has gone so far as to pass a unanimous resolution condemning the Republican President’s current action.

In short, I find it difficult to trust the judgement of an Administration that believes, in its first week, that it knows more than our past two Presidents and all of our closest allies.

However, I am more worried right now about the impacts of “Extreme Vetting” which has not been covered by the court rulings and has the potential to do much damage to our country’s reputation.

In the past few weeks, I have seen news reports of actions targeted against Muslims by US CIS and CBP agents.

These actions include:

  • A report of a British Citizen, not a dual national and so not part of the order, who was refused entry at a pre-screen in Iceland. He is a school teacher from Wales who was on a class trip to the US, and also a Muslim.
  • A report of a Canadian student athlete who was refused entry to the U.S., supposedly because of a tie to a jihadist he may have known in High School, but the connection was tenuous at best. He is also a Muslim.
  • A report of a Syrian family seeking asylum, so currently allowed entry due to the court situation, who chose to flee US CBP agents through below freezing temperatures to Canada because of the uncertainty about whether they would find safety in the U.S. They are also Muslims.
  • A report of a US Citizen, Muhammad Ali, Jr., who was detained for several hours and nearly refused entry, in spite of a valid US Passport. He is also a Muslim.
  • A couple of reports of US Citizens being denied global travel permits without adequate explanation even though they were originally on track for approval before the Executive Order. They are frequent business travelers that are ordinarily granted such permits without any difficulty, and they are also Muslims.
  • A report of Mem Fox, a 70 year old Australian Children’s author, who was insulted by U.S. Border agents and detained for several hours in Los Angeles. No explanation was given as to why she was treated so, though a formal apology was given later on by the U.S. government. She has traveled to the U.S. hundreds of times and now says she will never do so again.
  • Reports of CBP stopping all travelers on a domestic U.S. flight and forcing them to show ID, even though CBP does not normally act outside of U.S. border crossings.

And these are just the reports that make the news, there may be many others that do not.

I do not know if this is part of some new policy by the Administration, some action taken by CBP and CIS on their own, or simply unconnected incidents that were picked up by the media. And neither does any one else from what I can tell outside of (possibly) the Administration. These actions by themselves would seem to call for some oversight by Congress, but so far no one in the Kansas delegation at least seems willing to look into this, even informally. I understand wanting to concentrate on your own priorities and those of the Republican Party, but public oversight is the best antidote to the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that is affecting U.S. religious minorities, immigrants and visitors to our country.

And this is setting aside the effect this order has had on extremists in the U.S. Since the order was signed, mosques have been burned, people have threatened Jewish Centers and vandalized Jewish Cemeteries. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Garmin engineers in Olathe, KS who were shot by a man who simply hated immigrants.

The lack of transparency by the Republican Administration regarding its current immigration policy, the unnecessary haste in passing the Executive Order, and the lukewarm response towards attacks against religious minorities has shown a complete lack of leadership and is hurting our country’s standing around the world. I hope that Congress will not continue to keep silent or the damage being done may be difficult to repair.

Healthcare Letter – March 7

I’ve been writing my delegation, from a very Republican state, constantly since January. I’m posting these in the hope there may be some arguments others can use in their letters or articles.

March 17, 2017

I am writing today to ask you to vote against the proposed Healthcare Act. Barring that, I hope you will at least work to remove the most egregious parts of the bill and also only work to only pass a bill that has been reviewed by the CBO and shown to be neutral or positive in terms of the overall impact on the budget. A bill that sacrifices our future finances is no real replacement at all.

Healthcare services are unlike any other service in the economy in that the person using the service cannot always know before hand that they will need it and cannot be sure what the costs will be. The benefits to individual families and to society at large of good health are also difficult to understate. In my time living in Australia, I have seen firsthand the benefits of a healthcare system that puts the needs of people first, rather than the needs of insurance companies. It has been difficult to explain to the people here why America has made the choices it has, when the outcomes have been less than ideal.

Needless to say, I have not been a huge fan of the Affordable Care Act. I do understand the arguments in favor of having decisions made locally rather than by some faceless bureaucracy, however I do not believe either the ACA or the Republican replacement bill will do that. In both cases, we end up with decisions being made by a patchwork of government regulations, hospitals and insurance companies, each with their own agenda and none of them necessarily with the needs of the patients in mind. The Republican replacement bill seems to merely tilt the balance in favor of the Insurance companies at the expense of the poor and the elderly without actually improving outcomes for anyone.

This bill, especially the House version which has brazen giveaways to Insurance company executives, is not what Republican voters have fought for over the last eight years. I question whether this is really the legacy you want for the Republican party. It will surely become a sore point for every election in the foreseeable future.

Also, I am frankly baffled at the claims from the Republican leadership that this bill will increase patient choices when it includes provisions that directly go after the healthcare provider of choice for millions of American women, namely, Planned Parenthood. I understand that abortion is a sensitive issue for many voters, but this bill is not the appropriate vehicle and any debates over the merits of Planned Parenthood as an organisation should be dealt with separate from the healthcare needs of the entire country.

In closing, I believe that the best argument the Republican Party has made against the ACA was over the way it was passed, over the objections of the entire conference with little or no opportunity for compromise. The replacement bill, as it stands now, includes all of the exact same problems as the ACA without the certainty of any real solutions to the problems in the American healthcare system. The only certainty is that all of the blame for these problems will now pass to the GOP, and that the other party is ready to start its own “repeal and replace” campaign for the next election cycle. For that reason, I urge you to vote no on any bill that does not actually fix our country’s healthcare system.