Superpowers come and go. They conceive their political hegemony through violence, assert their dominance with military braggadocio, and fight for survival until their last breath. But the United States, I have always thought, is a different kind of superpower –– gentle, persuasive, and more likely to endure the tide of history that unforgivingly washed away the Roman, British, and Soviet empires. Even with the rise of China and repeated muscle-flexing by Russia, the United States remains the world’s foremost economic and military actor. American nominal GDP of $19.39 trillion is greater than that of the bottom eight of the world’s ten largest economies combined. Constituting less than five percent of the global population, Americans generate and earn over 20 percent of the world’s total income. With an unrivaled annual defense budget of $716 billion, over 6000 nuclear warheads, and an extensive network of allies and strategic partners, the American military is consistently ranked as the most powerful and logistically prepared in the world. Though quantitative indicators are certainly worthy of consideration, we should also acknowledge that they are incomplete. American influence operates in much more subtle and sophisticated ways: captivating minds of people around the world in a way that cannot be quantified or fully documented on paper. Even in the most socially conservative of countries, teenagers are voracious consumers of Hollywood productions and pop music. Chinese and Russian elites tirelessly decry Uncle Sam’s actions but send their children to American schools and universities; for one, Xi Jinping’s only daughter is a Harvard graduate. Every time there is a major political or humanitarian crisis, the world eagerly awaits what American politicians and experts have to say. The US standing on the global arena is thus as reliant on values, culture, and the ingenuity of the American people as it is on our fiscal-military prowess. Unfortunately, President Trump has repeatedly made clear that he is willing to practice the latter but not the former component of American global leadership. He has repeatedly suggested that the US should leverage its economic and political dominance to craft more beneficial trade deals, cajole Mexico’s government into paying for the wall, and get our NATO allies to meet their spending commitments. In light of this Trumpian diplomacy, I cannot help but ask: why not use some of the most persuasive tools in our arsenal –– America’s historic commitment to human rights, freedom of the press, and representative democracy –– to encourage nations of the world to embrace better versions of themselves?
Author: Nick Morgoshia
Does the “lesser of two evils” principle apply when the most fundamental of American values — freedom of the press—comes under assault? Are Middle Eastern geopolitics worth overlooking a heinous crime? Do the end results of cooperating with our so-called ally justify the means? Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, which the CIA and Turkish intelligence agencies have traced directly to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, leaves American policymakers with no easy answers.
Khashoggi, a US-based Saudi journalist and a Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist, was reportedly targeted due to his anti-government rhetoric. In self-imposed exile since 2017, Khashoggi made a living lambasting Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy maneuvers and calling for the freedom of expression and gender equality in the hermetic kingdom. Utilizing the global bully pulpit that is Western media, Khashoggi even went so far as to repeatedly attack the crown prince by name, blaming him for suppressing dissent, arresting reform-seeking female activists, and “advancing a new form of radicalism.”
In light of Khashoggi’s assassination, many have proposed directing a full arsenal of America’s socio-political and economic weapons towards disciplining Saudi Arabia. National security expert Max Boot argued the US does not need to live with Mohammed bin Salman, cautioning the foreign policy establishment against the “he may be an S.O.B., but he’s our S.O.B.” ideology. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has since softened his tone, suggested we should “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia.”
In a recent interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” President Trump observed that it would be “foolish” to punish Saudi Arabia by cancelling arms deals with the kingdom. Hailed as a critical counterbalance to the Iranian influence and a significant expansion of US-Saudi relations, the said deal entails $350 billion in tanks, combat ships, radar, and cyber technology purchases over 10 years. Abandoning the agreement augurs to be a boon to Russian and Chinese defense manufacturers.
Just as other actors are all but guaranteed to fill the arms supply void left behind by the US, a rupture of ties with Saudi Arabia would embolden a ménage of hostile forces to replace American influence in the Middle East. The US-Saudi alliance is, after all, one of the critical sustaining pillars of that influence. Putin’s Russia, leveraging its newfound success in Syria and strong ties with Iran, already rivals American standing in the region. Sacrificing ties with Saudi Arabia only stands to complicate matters further.
Then there is Yemen’s devastating civil war between Saudi-backed President Hadi and Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Continued US partnership with Saudi Arabia is critical to ensuring that Yemen does not become another Lebanon, which Iran is known to have used as a base for training terrorists, projecting influence into Palestine, and funding Hezbollah and related groups.
Unfortunately, the geopolitical chessboard rewards pragmatism over idealism. Allying with Joseph Stalin during WWII might have been an affront to America’s self-proclaimed commitment to freedom and human dignity… and yet, Uncle Sam’s pact with the devil was likely the only way of rolling back an even greater threat posed by Nazi Germany.
There can be little doubt that Saudi Arabia is ruled by a ruthless, power-hungry regime that values nothing and no one above its survival. Crown Prince bin Salman and his cronies should be called out for what they are by independent human rights organizations, activists, and reformers. However, as far as strategic relationship is concerned, realpolitik dictates that US-Saudi partnership remains the most favorable option.
On October 2, a few dozen Bates students from Professor Longaker’s Social Movements in Latin America class congregated near Commons to stake out a claim for themselves in the nationwide immigration debate. While the rally was ostensibly organized in opposition to President Trump’s family separation policy, tide of protest quickly shifted from the administration’s ham-handed response to the US-Mexico border crisis. Amid a flurry of chants, you could hear “no one is illegal,” “fight ignorance, not immigrants,” and “education not deportation” – as if the issue at hand is less about incarcerated toddlers than the wholehearted acceptance of undocumented immigration at large.
I have no doubt that the protesting students commit to living by Bates’ academic integrity ideals. That is why I implore them and all like-minded members of our community to think about undocumented immigration as a variation of cheating. Yes, you read it right: unauthorized immigration is as much a challenge to our border security… as big a threat to the financial well-being of working class Americans (while most mainstream economists agree that all types of immigration foster economic growth, there is also a widespread consensus that the influx of low-skilled labor hurts similarly positioned native workers. See the Specifics-Factor Model)… as it is an act of cheating.
Early Monday morning. You have spent the entire weekend preparing for that notorious midterm exam. Worn out by a series of all-nighters, you trudge into the lecture hall ready to put all your hard work to good use. Then it comes to your attention that one of your classmates cheated. Theoretically, it makes little sense to be upset. Cheating is not a zero-sum game: your classmate’s behavior did not prevent you from doing well. And yet, most of us recoil at the very idea of academic dishonesty. Why? Because we are taught to understand, correctly, that cheating is fundamentally unfair to those playing by the rules.
If you think your classmate’s behavior is morally unjustifiable, then put yourself in the shoes of someone trying to immigrate to the United States legally. According to the Department of State Visa Bulletin, citizens of several Asian and Latin American countries should plan to wait upwards of two years before scheduling a consular appointment. And if spending two years of your life trying to get a visa already seems like too much, that is only the start.
Merely entering the United States legally does not make you eligible for citizenship. Before even dreaming of the coveted blue passport, one has to obtain a permanent resident permit, commonly known as a Green Card. Depending on whether one is coming to reunite with family or pursue employment, the process of obtaining a Green Card can lag for years. There are quotas. There are legal fees. There are immigration officers willing to deny your application because of an unintentional error. One may be in the country on a valid visa for decades, but before procuring Green Card, there can be no switching jobs before prior authorization, no in-state tuition benefits, and no easy time getting approved for a mortgage or even a credit card.
Many immigrants ultimately fail in their quest for a Green Card. Those who are successful have to wait at least five more years before proceeding with the naturalization application. A minute mistake on the US civics test can prevent you from finally being able to call yourself “American.” The journey from a dream to immigrate to the United States to the day when you take the oath of citizenship can thus stretch for decades; for some, it is the journey that lasts a lifetime.
Undocumented immigration corrupts the spirit of that journey. It is an act of cheating not solely vis-à-vis our nation’s laws, but all those foreign-born Americans who have sacrificed the time, energy, and material and emotional capital to make this country their very own. Chants like “no one is illegal” and “immigrants are welcome here” suggest there ought to be no distinction between those who played by the rules and those who did not. They do not do justice to an elderly mother waiting for hours in the consulate line to reunite with her daughter… to an international Bates student trying to settle down in the United States after graduation… to an immigrant soldier serving our country overseas.
Of course no human being is illegal. Plagiarizing on a test does not make one an “illegal human being,” yet the behavior they are engaging in is every bit as immoral as it is illegal.
Advocating for those whose immigration status is none of their fault – minors currently detained on the US-Mexico border and DACA recipients, individuals brought to the United States as children – is an empathetic, timely undertaking. The same could not be said about unapologetically embracing all types of unauthorized immigration. Just as there is no room for cheating in academia, undocumented immigration should have no place in the United States.
In an impassioned address to a joint meeting of Congress last week, French President Emmanuel Macron railed against “the ever-growing virus of fake news, which exposes our people to irrational fear and imaginary risks.” That tabloid journalism stirs public passions and tills the soil for erratic, knee-jerk political behavior is nothing new. Look no further than the explosion of the USS Maine, an American naval ship, in the port of Havana in 1898. Even as the sinking remained a mystery – if anything, the evidence suggested a technical malfunction – the 19th century yellow press hastened to spill an ink of blame on Spain, using unverified facts and scandalous headlines to catapult Washington into the Spanish-American War.
At its core, fake news of today is no different from the older iteration; unmoored from reality, fake news sows seeds of disinformation and begets chaos. What has changed is the scope of impact. With the advent of internet and social media, fake news – as well as hostile groups and states perpetrating it – have gained a new platform, making the need to fight against the virus of “irrational fear and imaginary risks” ever more acute on our end. Yet, the West is not prepared to wage a winning battle against fake news… At least not now, when the only question we find ourselves, our leaders, and fellow consumers of media asking is how to stop the flow of fake news. By obsessing over the ‘how’, we all too often fail to ponder why fake news is able to find so much resonance in the first place.
Do not get me wrong, going after the means and ways fake news uses to penetrate our social fabric is important. This means clamping down on illicit foreign funding that makes dissemination of falsehood possible; holding Western-based social media and telecommunication corporations to the loftiest security standard to ensure that cases of identity impersonation and bots are outliers rather than the new normal; and identifying government-backed propaganda bullhorns, such as Russia Today and Sputnik News, accordingly.
The ultimate solution, however, lies in recognizing that although news might be fake, issues and problems that lead people to believe them are very real. These issues include an education system that does not prepare citizens to be skeptical towards media and double-check sources. The world where people are so tired of uncertainty, that is is simply easier for them to buy into the black or white narrative of fake news where blame is most often levelled against one person. The best way to stemming the flow of fake news is through addressing these issues at home.
We have all heard someone say it. At a time when our nation continues to ruminate on the debilitating legacy of the Parkland shooting – and the memories from Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and countless other tragedies have returned to haunt the American psyche yet again – the president, congressmen, and NRA-apologists hold their heads high and say confidently, as if it is a cure for all societal ills, “Just arm the teachers!” Police are often slow to arrive, the logic has it, and allowing educators to act as first responders could save lives. Hence green light to guns in school classrooms, cafeterias, and gyms? Not so fast.
Worryingly yet unsurprisingly, tragedies like Parkland stoke human impulses – prodding the most well-intentioned among us to opt for radical solutions. As a conservative, I am appalled at the deluge of hostility towards the Second Amendment: the nonsensical lumping of law-abiding citizens, whose right to bear arms the Constitution vouchsafes, together with assault rifle-wielding thugs. At the same time, I must confess the proposal to arm educators gives off the same stench of extremism; so much so that one might struggle to decide which aspects of it are most odious.
First and foremost, investing in the concept of “teachers with guns” would reorient schools from their primary purpose: education. If the federal government mandated that every school employ teachers proficient at using firearms, the schools would inevitably start to prioritize gun-adept candidates in their hiring procedures, overlooking their qualification as educators. And, from a purely fiscal standpoint, that would make sense: when public school funding is extremely scarce, why not open doors to teachers who are already experienced gun users – even if they are not the cream of the crop education professionals – to save on training?
According to The Washington Post, arming 718,000 teachers could cost upwards of $251 million (and that is only if we assume the cheapest instruction and discounted Glock). If we instead take into account the full-price, more expensive firearm and advanced training, the cost could go well beyond $1 billion. At a time when thousands of public school teachers work two jobs to make ends meet, pay for classroom supplies out of their own pocket, and still struggle to surmount the achievement gap between low-income and financially secure students, I cannot help but ask: would not the same money be better spent on improving learning methods and outcomes? As Parkland senior Ryan Deitsch aptly put it, “We need to arm our teachers… but with pencils, pens, paper, and the money they need.”
It is no secret that public high schools, especially in low-income areas awash in poverty and crime, are hotbeds of violence. While teachers designated to carry firearms would supposedly have to pass background and mental health checks, flooding schools with guns only increases the likelihood they would fall into the wrong hands – those of students, non-teaching staff members, and outside intruders.
Last but not least, there is an issue of state-chartered militarization of our schools. Many of America’s public schools already conjure up images of warzone bases rather than educational institutions, and arming teachers would only make matters worse. According to The Atlantic, school police in several Colorado and California districts regularly wear AR-15 rifles and have even stocked up on grenade launchers and armored personnel carrier. Even the unabashedly bizzare suggestion of Newsmax host Wayne Roote to equip schools with armed drones does not seem too detached from reality anymore.
Perhaps, instead of rehashing ideological arguments, we should draw upon empirical evidence. Look no further than America’s police forces: militarized to a point where shooting of unarmed civilians – a disproportionate number of them minority individuals from low-income neighborhoods – surprises no more. Applying the same failed practice to schools, institutions tasked with providing inclusive and nurturing environments, advances the calamitous reasoning that the only way to keep citizens out of harm’s way is an ever-militarized state.
Few things stir the American blood as much as the First Amendment. Almost as old as the U.S. Constitution itself, the First Amendment vouchsafes our continued existence as a marketplace of ideas by barring Congress from “abridging the freedom of speech, press, peaceful assembly, and religion.” Throughout history, this rather generic language has given rise to conflicting interpretations – prompting the Supreme Court to examine whether the realm of the First Amendment extends to nontraditional forms of self-expression. In Buckley v. Valeo, the eight justices wrapped their gavels around the issue of campaign spending; more specifically, whether the quantity of money determines the quality of expression. In Texas v. Johnson, the Court tried to decide whether prohibitions on desecrating the American flag violated the First Amendment; that is, if symbolic acts constitute speech. In the pending Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court will render its verdict on one of the most consequential questions facing our generation: whether cakes – and, by extension, artistic creations in their many graphic and culinary forms – amount to free speech.
Same-sex couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins’ trip to Masterpiece Cakeshop, a local bakery, started in a small Colorado town of Lakewood in 2012 and continues on the steps of the United States Supreme Court to the present day. Masterpiece’s owner Jack Phillips declined the couple’s request for a wedding cake, stating that although they were welcome to purchase any other baked goods in the store, he would not cater to an event that ran counter to his deeply held Christian beliefs. Alleging violation of the state’s public accommodation law, Craig and Mullins filed a complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The complaint quickly morphed into a lawsuit and brought favorable rulings for the plaintiffs by both Colorado district and appellate courts.
Per Mr. Phillips’s logic, custom cakes convey messages – for example, having two grooms on a wedding cake inherently purports the idea that non-heterosexual unions are acceptable – and forcing bakers to go against their personal convictions impinges on their First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court decided Mr. Phillips might indeed have a point and agreed to proceed with the case in 2017. Oral arguments have been heard, and a decision is expected by the end of this summer.
The Colorado public accommodation law, pertinent to restaurants, bakeries, hotels, and all other places generally open to the public, prohibits discrimination on the basis of “marital status or actual or perceived sexual orientation”; just as it does in the cases of “race, ethnicity, and national origin.” Unsurprisingly, Phillips’ opponents argue that his refusal to make the cake out of religious beliefs is no different from the restaurants in the Jim Crow South refusing to serve African American customers. After all, one could always claim that their religious convictions advise against racial integration. Refusing to serve someone for who they are – black or white; gay or straight – is most certainly illegal. However, Mr. Phillips by no means refused to serve Craig and Mullins. In fact, he offered to sell them any product available at his store. Declining to comply with customers’ special requests – and given that Mr. Phillips is a painter focusing on custom cakes, every cake has a unique design and constitutes a special request in and of itself – is bad business, not discrimination. Therefore, the case at hand has more to do with the state-mandated interference in Mr. Phillips’s artistic expression rather than his violation of public accommodation laws.
In his many interviews, Mr. Phillips has repeatedly emphasized that it is not just gay wedding cakes he refuses to make; he has continuously turned down customers asking for Halloween, anti-American, and adult-themed cakes as well. That said, I cannot help but ask: if it is decided that the state can indeed force Mr. Phillips to make a cake for Craig and Mullins, does it mean it can also force him to cater to Halloween and bachelorette parties? The scope of implications only keeps getting broader. Would private architects no longer be able to decline projects they believe to be inconsistent with their architectural preferences? Would painters no longer be able to choose who to paint?
Like most people, I sympathize with the Craig and Mullins situation. A wedding is a truly special occasion, and no one deserves unpleasant surprises in preparation for their big day. Yet, undermine the First Amendment rights of one baker, and you set a precedent potent enough to influence constitutional freedoms of millions of Americans.
On July 31, 2017, John F. Kelly replaced Reince Priebus as the White House Chief of Staff. In the days that followed, Kelly ushered in the Administration’s first major leadership reshuffle. Estranged Republicans, disenchanted with the trajectory of the party under Trump, were simmering with hope yet again. Some found reason for optimism in the removal of Bannon. Others – even those of us who have followed Trump long enough to know the President’s flamboyance and impulsiveness were too great for any one person to tame – looked to Kelly to bring cold and rigor to the Oval Office.
Trump will be Trump but perhaps, our naive reasoning had it, new cabinet members would manage to brew a conservative antidote to the populo-nationalist fantasia taking over the GOP.
Today, the specter of Bannon continues to haunt Trump’s presidency. So what that the insurgent political operative has been out for close to six months and that Trump blissfully assures that he “lost his mind” and “has nothing to do with me or my presidency”? Trump’s actions, endorsements, and statements are indistinguishable from the Bannon playbook – the ultimate testament that their recent feud is rooted in self-aggrandizing personalities rather than ideologies.
In the U.S. Senate special election in Alabama in 2017, Trump briefly had Luther Strange’s back in the primary before shifting his support to Roy Moore in the general election. Judge Moore, a Bannon favorite and an omnipresent name in Breitbart editorials, established himself as an unabashed critic of the political class. Moore has repeatedly made inflammatory statements antithetical to the core national, conservative, and human decency ideals.
In his infamous interview with The Guardian that likely had President Reagan spinning in his grave, Moore contended that the declaration about the Soviet Union being “the focus of evil in the modern world” can be applied to the US for “promoting a lot of bad things in the world” – an addendum to his statements that “homosexuality should probably be illegal”; “Muslims cannot hold office in the United States”; and “9/11 might have happened because we distanced ourselves from God.” The toxic attacks put aside, Moore has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women – allegations that Trump, unlike many of his fellow Republicans, was much too willing to overlook.
Not only did Trump officially endorse Moore, but he was generous enough to record robocalls enticing Alabamians to cast their vote for the judge. At the time of the election, Trump and Bannon no longer worked together; yet the two, it seems, did not fall far from the same ideological tree. To Trump – just as to Bannon – the fact that Moore was riding the same tide of firebrand populism that had brought them to power in 2016 mattered more than the candidate’s record and fitness for office.
The president’s recent “shithole countries” remark at a White House meeting with lawmakers also reeks of Bannonism. Instead of approaching the all-important immigration question with tact and grace, Trump combined his usual vitriol with Bannon’s fierce anti-immigrant sentiment to spew out the generalized, highly insensitive, and offensive comment. There is a distinction between proposing to cut immigration levels and transition to a more merit-based system – the issue most of we Republicans feel strongly about – and denigrating a whole group of countries because of their unfortunate geopolitical fate and economic standing.
Underlying the carelessness of Trump’s statement is another Bannonian belief that how other countries feel about the United States is unimportant. So what if small, poor, and less powerful states are offended? And offended they are – Botswana, for example, summoned the U.S. ambassador to express its dismay at the comments made by the leader of the free world.
The Trump-Bannon thinking contrasts sharply with the mainstream conservative view that if our country is to remain the world superpower – one that enemies fear, allies respect, and freedom-loving people look up to as the greatest source of hope and inspiration – we should act prudently and diplomatically.
The Trump-Bannon feud is by no means an ideological disagreement over the future of our party – the party of Lincoln and Reagan. We are witnessing a standoff between the two men with the same ideology whose groundless ambition and self-serving desires outpace each other.
The Bates Republicans are proud to endorse Shane Bouchard ahead of Lewiston’s mayoral runoff on December 12. We — as conservatives, Lewiston residents, and Americans — are fortunate to have a man of Mr. Bouchard’s experience, unwavering commitment, and exemplary integrity working towards a better future of the city our community calls home.
Shane Bouchard is a dedicated husband, father, businessman, and public servant. A sixth-generation native of Lewiston, Bouchard is a graduate of Dirigo High School and Central Maine Community College. Owners of Bouchard Lawncare & Landscaping and Maine Home Recreation — two highly successful local enterprises — Shane and his wife, Allison, recently signed a lease to expand operations. Mr. Bouchard proudly represents Ward Four at the Lewiston City Council, putting his managerial acumen and municipal government know-how to living out the responsibility of being the closest government official to citizens’ wallets. In these times of bitter partisanship across our country, Bouchard aspires to the office of mayor to serve all residents regardless of ideology and to continue giving back to his hometown in “a better, more profound way.” Although we have Mr. Bouchard’s back for many reasons, it is primarily his succinct, well-thought-out positions on the most pressing issues facing Lewiston that afford us faith in his candidacy.
Repairing the Image of Lewiston: According to FBI data put together by Bangor Daily News, Lewiston is one of Maine’s safest cities — an especially impressive standing given that we are the state’s second largest metropolitan area. As mayor, Mr. Bouchard will work to dispel false stereotypes taking a toll on the city’s investment and social climate. At the same time, he will cooperate with local and state law enforcement agencies to further improve public safety. Mr. Bouchard also pledges to visit trade shows across the country at his own expense to promote “our city and the assets we have to offer.”
Rebuilding and Renewing Infrastructure: A successful businessman, Mr. Bouchard understands better than anyone that safe, modern, and aesthetically pleasing infrastructure is the key to fostering tourism and encouraging young people to make Lewiston their home. Bouchard plans to take advantage of the vast space across Lewiston to catalyze change, focusing on the untapped potential of Exit 80 and Riverfront Island. While inspired by the recently revitalized Lisbon Street, Mr. Bouchard thinks there is still work to be done with upper levels of the buildings and façade grants. Bouchard plans to invest in shoring up single-family housing and creating new office and commercial spaces by revisiting zoning laws. As someone who has contributed to the creation of a recycling committee, Mr. Bouchard is in a unique position to ensure that our city becomes more environmentally friendly and its residents — particularly inner-city folks — lead more sustainable lifestyles.
Combating Opioid Epidemic: As a city amidst America’s calamitous addiction crisis, we look to Mr. Bouchard’s innovative, out-of-box proposals for a potential remedy. Bouchard’s plan consists of beefing up cooperation with the police chief and examining zoning laws to locate counselling, treatment, and prevention facilities at locations where they can have the most impact.
Even more importantly, Mr. Bouchard pledges to revisit the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) formula to provide more funds to local non-profits specializing in tackling addiction. That is to say, Bouchard views highly adept agents within civil society as a vehicle of bringing about change.
Encouraging Economic Growth: At a time when there is no shortage of chatter around lowering the mill rate, Mr. Bouchard understands that the fastest and most practical way to lower the mill rate is through accelerating economic growth. Instead of pursuing the Lewiston-Auburn merger — which, according to the Sun Journal can cost as much as $5 million (although government efficiency fund might help, some of that money will inevitably have to come from the cities’ budgets) — Bouchard has his eyes set on ambitious projects such as port authority around the Lewiston-Auburn Airport, historic rail-trail through the city, and outdoor venue near Exit 80. These developments will, in turn, create a positive feedback loop: better infrastructure means more tourists and young professionals in Lewiston, which will further reinvigorate the city.
Shane Bouchard understands that local politics is a people, not a left or right, issue. In Mr. Bouchard, citizens of Lewiston will have an unrivaled champion both locally and in Augusta.
In Mr. Bouchard, our students will have a leader who believes in the potential of young people and an even bigger role for Bates in the city’s daily life.
Following the harrowing October 31 attack on Lower Manhattan, Donald Trump vowed to dismantle the Diversity Visa Lottery after learning that Sayfullo Habibullaevich Saipov – an Uzbek émigré and the confirmed perpetrator – had benefitted from the scheme. In a series of tweets overflowing with his usual vitriol, President Trump blasted the program as a “Chuck Schumer beauty” and promised to “[fight] hard for merit based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems.”
Trump’s statements have gotten would-be immigrants worried, diversity advocates furious, and Americans the country over questioning. What is the Diversity Visa Lottery program anyway? The Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery, also known as the Green Card Lottery, refers to a congressionally-mandated program that allows natives of historically underrepresented countries to obtain permanent residency and ultimately apply for U.S. citizenship. Since being shepherded through the Senate by Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and signed into law by George H.W. Bush, the Immigration Act of 1990 has benefitted up to 50,000 people per fiscal year. Every fall, high school graduates (or, in some cases, professionals whose experience is considered equivalent to an American secondary school diploma) born in a country with low immigration rates to the U.S. – India, China, Mexico, Canada, the UK and a few other nations in Latin America are not eligible – have a chance to enter the State Department-chartered lottery. The lottery is indeed a one-of-a-kind selection process, and leaves one’s possibility of moving to the U.S. and becoming part of its political, cultural, and social fabric to chance.
The multi-million pool of people taking a shot at the American dream by entering the lottery is as unique and dynamic as the U.S. immigration story itself.
When the program first started, it mainly benefitted persons of Irish and Italian ancestry. Then, as Eastern Europeans and Central Asians could finally start travelling internationally, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the program abounded with new entrants. Today, according to the Department of State, most submissions come from Eastern Europe, Africa, and South Asia.
Although Trump’s announcement about bidding adieu to the Diversity Visa Lottery might be nothing short of scoring political points, the President is right in that relegating 50,000 immigration decisions a year to a fiat of luck is neither prudent nor just. Becoming a U.S. permanent resident is a long and painstaking process, and allowing certain individuals to take a shortcut is antithetical to our efforts of sustaining a fair and meritocratic immigration system. Every year, thousands of international students, H1-B workers, and investors – people who are already in the U.S., speak English, and promise to benefit the country given their record of accomplishment at our universities and companies – are denied green cards on quota grounds. At the same time, the Diversity Visa Lottery confers permanent residency on individuals who may or may not be qualified to succeed in the U.S.. Consider this: given that the Diversity Visa Lottery is a lottery by definition, we might be inadvertently prioritizing high school dropouts over much-needed chemical engineers; people with limited English capabilities over those who are fluent; and individuals who have never been in America over ones who have called this country home for years. In light of recent discussion about DACA and the Dreamers’ Act, I cannot help but wonder: would not it make more sense to allocate the same 50,000 permanent resident visas to people brought to the U.S. as children, through no fault of their own?
John F. Kennedy once said: “Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world, and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.” Abolishing the Diversity Visa Lottery is a first step in the right direction.