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    MS-13: Yes, They Are Animals

    President Donald Trump recently made a statement about the gang MS-13, calling them “animals.” There was, of course, an uproar about it, with people crying foul claiming the President was calling all illegal immigrants “animals.” But that is not what he said.

    In the typical media frenzy against anything Trump, many in the press misrepresented his statement. Indeed, his comment about MS-13 was not about a particular ethnic population. It was about one of the most vicious gangs this country has ever seen who routinely engage in murder, kidnapping, child prostitution, human smuggling, drug trafficking, and racketing.

    MS-13 is a gang that originated in Los Angeles. While most members are of Central American origin, principally El Salvador, others are from any number of countries and comprised of almost a hundred thousand members it is a worldwide scourge. Thousands of those members are in the United States. Many are illegal immigrants; some are not. Many have been deported time and time again after committing terrible crimes.

    And kudos to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who added, “Frankly, I think that the term ‘animal’ doesn’t go far enough and I think that the President should continue to use his platform and everything he can do under the law to stop these types of horrible, horrible, disgusting people.”

    Let’s not sway from what the President is trying to do here – ridding this country of gang members, illegal immigrants, or otherwise. President Trump does not, and never has, suggested deporting immigrants who come here legally, pay taxes, and contribute to the community.

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    For Memorial Day: The VA Mission Act is a Step Forward for Our Veterans

    It is vital that Americans—and our government—support our troops and veterans with more than a few remembrance days in May and November. Thanking them for their service is necessary in terms of showing our appreciation, but more must be done to help them.

    The VA Maintaining Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act—otherwise known as the VA Mission Act—was passed through the House committee and Veterans Fairs in a show of bipartisanship (it was passed 20-2). This bill would establish the Veterans Community Care Program, to provide care to veterans who are enrolled in the VA healthcare system or are entitled to VA care. The bill would also require Veterans Affairs to develop an education program to inform veterans about their healthcare options. Overall the bill plans to reform the VA’s healthcare infrastructure.

    Overall, the bill plans to reform the VA’s healthcare infrastructure. Military Times writes that it plans “to increase veterans’ access to private-sector doctors, expand caregiver stipends to more former military families and increase medical marijuana research for veterans’ care.”

    Late last year, USA Today ran an article that VA hospitals are ranked on the bottom of the list, for example the Phoenix VA, “where veterans died waiting for care.”

    Let’s make sure this bill is moved forward so that our veterans can receive the tools necessary to get the healthcare they deserve.

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    Should the US Meet with North Korea?

    The return of three detained Americans from North Korea was indeed an opportunity to celebrate. As the countdown begins for a meeting with the U.S. President and Kim Jong Un, this gesture seems like a nod in our favor. But, we need to take care not to get ahead of ourselves.

    The infamous Trojan Horse was a gift filled with soldiers who, once the gate was down, stormed the city. Are the detainees a modern-day version of the same? Or should we look upon the symbolic walk between the South and North Korean borders by the leaders of these countries as the end to the Korean War? Will North Korea cease trying to create and stockpile nuclear weapons?

    These are difficult questions and most government officials must be thinking the same things. In addition, we know that the North Korean people are starving and rumors of crimes against humanity are circling about. Given its history, the United States will have a hard time making a deal with a country that is letting its population suffer in the name of global dominance. As simple as the news media portray this “historic” meeting between two nations, people with experience in government at high levels know there are many layers to the discussion.

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    Thirteen Russians Indicted for Meddling with Election—Now it’s Time to Come Together

    Thirteen Russians were indicted for meddling with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Now that we have names and faces where we can place some blame, is it time to stop crying foul and stop the fighting between our parties?

    Wishful thinking.  We all know the infighting will not stop.  The rhetoric over supposed differences between the Adam Schiff (D-California) vs. Devin Nunes (R-California) memos and the purported revelations in a memo published by Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) add more fuel to the fire.  And it doesn’t advance bringing this all to an end when President Trump continues tweet attacks. (I’m sorry, but debates cannot be logically concluded with a 280 character limit.)

    No one denies that Russia has been trying to destabilize our political system by instigating fights among Americans over politics.  No one argues that their meddling has contributed to triggering an irrational political rift in our country.  Nor has it gone unnoticed that we have been giving the Russians exactly what they want by playing into their hands for far too long. Now that we know who has been meddling in the U.S. election, it is time to punish those who are accountable and move on to other issues.

    But will we?

    Not likely. Legal scholars seem to agree that none of the Russian defendants included in the latest indictments will ever enter an American courtroom to be questioned or tried.  So is this latest from Mueller helping find a resolution of the greater issues?  I doubt it.

    Why can’t we end this bickering and get to the point of protecting American voters – Democrats and Republicans alike – from foreign interference with our electoral process?

    Because its politics as usual.

    Will we ever end this unproductive and childish debate over an election that was won by Donald Trump and lost by Hilary Clinton, pure and simple?  Some liked that result; others hated it.  But the election is long over.  Let’s move on.

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    Strong Unions & Government Balance

    It is well known that unions are more often than not aligned with the Democratic Party. While I am a Republican, I’m hardly one that tows the party line for the sake of party unity. My positions are dictated by what I think is right and reasonable. They are dictated by what I think is important for America, not what a small group of party organizers in Washington’s back rooms think is important.

    That is why I believe in the need for strong unions. They negotiate fair wages, improve benefits, and ensure good working conditions for their members. But, unions can create problems by demanding unrealistically high wages that produce rising, non-competitive costs for goods and services.

    This is why I also believe in the need for a free market. Without a doubt, those who have lost sight of what is a fair wage or good working conditions in a competitive world should not populate either side the union and management sides of the bargaining table if we are to come to workable solutions.

    One does not need to side solely with the union or with management to intelligently govern. I believe it is the government’s role to ensure balance and compromise, not to burden the process with a bureaucracy loaded with political cronies.

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    Americans are Angry, But Let’s Focus on Real Problems

    Americans are angry. Indeed, it seems everyone in the world is angry. Why? Probably because so many politicians speak in anger, echoing the myriad of complaints, both real and imagined, from their constituents. To what purpose?

    Without question we face real problems to be angry about—war, terrorism, crime, poverty, unaffordable health care, sexual harassment, and job equality for women. Yet far too many people refuse to listen viewpoints that oppose their perspective and instead spread irrational anger on Facebook and Twitter without tolerance or logic. Both sides spout vitriolic tirades that serve no worthwhile purpose. And the media goes out of its way to spread the anger.

    It’s become a tragic comedy. People who try to come together on real problems or discuss them in an intelligent fashion are drowned out by uninformed and ignorant. Worse, social media is swamped with silly complaints about long lines at cash registers, young people dressing like slobs, old people driving too slowly, customer service provided by someone on a phone with a foreign accent, or how there’s nothing to watch on television.

    It just doesn’t stop. And understand this: those lines at the cash register are long because of the choices you have. Young people dress the way they do simply to express themselves. They’ll grow up just fine—the same way that you did. Older people drive slowly because that’s the best they can do, and they don’t want to be a burden on someone else. With literally hundreds of channels across television, there really is something to watch if you take the time to look. And the customer service you get from overseas almost always works and keeps the cost of what you buy lower.

    So we continue to complain about little things and annoyances that in the grand scheme of life mean nothing. Let’s resolve to start counting our blessings and focus on real problems, not petty peeves. If you want to be angry, there are plenty of serious matters to fill your day. Wake up.

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    DACA: Challenging Legislation & Why It Should Pass

    In September 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order to phase out DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) over the next six months. DACA provided protection from the deportation of children brought into this country illegally by their parents – it has been stated that about 800,000 youth will be affected by the Executive Order. The end of those six months is near, with the termination of DACA on March 5th, 2018 if legislation does not pass.

    Congress must act now to pass a law to replace DACA before it expires. But DACA was not included in the spending bill that led to our government’s shut down and many are protesting for a plan for these affected families.

    No one can possibly want to deport a single kid who has DACA documentation—not even President Trump. But President Trump had a Hobson’s Choice.

    President Obama attempted to expand DACA but in response governors from 25 states sued. In February 2015, the federal court in Texas issued a preliminary injunction enjoining implementation of DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) and blocking the expansion of DACA. Eventually, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision in a 4-4 vote (before the nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed).

    The states told the Administration that if by September 2017 it failed to rescind the DACA order, the complaint would be amended to challenge both the DACA and DAPA. Many constitutional experts agree that if that were to happen, DACA would most likely fall. Under that threat, President Trump bought six months for Congress to act before the states add DACA to their suit and kids are potentially deported. If President Trump had not acted, a Texas judge would have decided the fate of hundreds of thousands of children.

    In my blog post “DACA: Demystifying the Blame Game” I go more into the topic. Read here for insight into the subject.

    Trump has now offered Congress special treatment and a path to citizenship to more than 1.5 million undocumented immigrants, nearly twice as many as the Democrats purportedly wanted to protect. But now their leadership has rejected that offer as well. Shame on them. We are simply not a country that deports children who have done nothing wrong and who have contributed to our society and economy as much as anyone born here – indeed, many have been model citizens.

    If that means giving Trump funding for his wall, that’s a small price to pay for the freedom our country offers these innocent children. If it means ending the visa program and curtailing chain immigration, that’s well worth saving the future for these children. Congress needs to stop its rhetoric and get things done before time runs out: Legislation must be passed supporting DACA and DAPA.

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    DACA – Demystifying the Blame Game

    President Trump’s latest Executive Order rescinds (over the next six months) President Obama’s Executive Order known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.  DACA provides protection from the deportation of children brought into this country illegally by their parents.    

    Congress now has six-months to pass legislation to replace DACA before it expires.  The arguments on both sides of the debate are strewn with emotion.  All of that, however, needs to be put aside.  We are simply not a country that deports children who have done nothing wrong and who have contributed to our society and economy as much as anyone born here.  Indeed, many have been more “model citizens” than all too many children who are citizens simply because they were lucky enough to be born within our borders.  Nor, as President Obama said, will deporting any of these children increase jobs or raise wages. 

    There are some facts, however, that media on both sides of the debate have largely ignored.  Those facts put President Trump’s decision into much needed perspective.

    A United States President cannot grant legal citizenship to anyone.  In the face of that reality, President Obama issued his DACA order effectuating a deferral of enforcement of existing laws.  In effect, he told prosecutors to prioritize deportation and focus on illegal aliens with criminal records.  And there were, and still are, more than enough illegal criminal aliens to keep authorities occupied for years.  But the point is that DACA is not a right because a President cannot grant such a right.  It was nothing more than an order from the President that prosecutors were to exercise their discretion and put deportation of DACA registrants on the back burner.

    What media also forgets is that President Obama issued DACA because Congress failed to resolve the issue after repeated tries.  So in frustration, President Obama issued two Executive Orders — DACA and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA).  DAPA protected illegal aliens who parented children born in the United States.   In doing so, President Obama circumvented the failed legislative process. 

    In November 2014, President Obama attempted to expand DACA.  In response, Republican governors from twenty five states sued to enjoin implementation of DAPA and the expansion of DACA.  In February 2015, the federal court in Texas issued a preliminary injunction enjoining implementation of DAPA and blocking the expansion of DACA.  Eventually, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision in a 4-4 vote.  That vote was taken before President Trump’s nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed.

    President Obama’s original DACA order was not at risk in the case brought by the states under a procedural agreement.  Instead, the parties agreed to defer it for the time being and focus only on DAPA.  But the arguments cited in support of the demise of DAPA equally apply to DACA.  The basis for the DAPA injunction was the court’s finding that the states had a high likelihood of prevailing on their argument that Obama’s DAPA order was unconstitutional.  It’s the same legal argument used to enjoin the implementation of President Trump’s Executive Order allegedly targeting Muslim immigrants.  In both instances, the court said the President most probably exceeded his authority under the Constitution.  Near the end of President Obama’s term, the states also agreed to delay further proceedings until the Trump Administration had an opportunity to revisit President Obama’s order.

    Their deferral, however, did not come without a threat.  The states told the Administration that if by September 5, 2017, it failed to rescind the DACA order, the complaint (in the case that successfully enjoined DAPA) would be amended to challenge both the DACA and DAPA.  Many constitutional experts agree that if that were to happen, DACA would most likely fall.  And then we’d be left with nothing unless the judge in Texas decided to craft his own Solomon like solution.  If he chose to do nothing, chaos would ensue and God only knows what would happen.  So if President Trump had not acted, a Texas judge would have decided the fate of thousands of innocent children. 

    Thus, President Trump had a Hobson’s Choice – a choice where any decision is a bad one.  So under the states’ threat, Trump bought six months for Congress to act before the states add DACA to their suit and kids potentially get deported. 

    Others will now file suits, too.  But none of them are likely to reverse the Supreme Court decision affirming the demise of DAPA nor its precedent if applied to DACA.  So the writing is on the wall.

    No one can possibly want to deport a single kid who has DACA documentation.  Not even President Trump.  But President Obama exceeded his authority with DACA and DAPA just as much as President Trump exceeded his when he issued his immigration order targeting Muslims.  We can’t have it both ways. 

    So now Congress must act.  If it fails, President Trump says can reconsider and enter an order extending DACA.  In turn, the states will amend their complaint and DACA will likely fall. 

    It’s a mess with plenty of blame to pass around between two presidents who chose to ignore the Constitution and a Congress that can’t do its job.  And without Congressional action, the final decision may be left to a judge in Texas.

    So the message is simple: Congress, do your job and stop the rhetoric.  Pass legislation supporting DACA and DAPA.  America is fed up with your failed leadership.

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    Interrogation Methods: Should We Use Waterboarding Against Terrorists?

    “[T]he law — has long been clear: Waterboarding detainees amounts to illegal torture in all circumstances. To suggest otherwise — or even to give credence to such a suggestion — represents both an affront to the law and to the core values of our nation.”

    Letter to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, November 2, 2007 from Rear Admiral Donald J. Guter, United States Navy (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Navy, 2000–02, Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, United States Navy (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Navy, 1997–2000, Major General John L. Fugh, United States Army (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Army, 1991–93, and Brigadier General David M. Brahms, United States Marine Corps (Ret.) Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant, 1985–88

    Waterboarding, mock executions, introducing hypothermia, and other forms of torture are forms of interrogation that are not within the federal guidelines for interrogating witnesses. But are these interrogation methods ones that the United States should consider using for terrorist detainees?

    As much as conventional politics may demand I consider these measures, I believe that they are barbaric and counterproductive in the same way that I cannot support the death penalty. It is also abundantly clear that those in the military who oversee proper policy on detained prisoners agree that waterboarding is illegal.

    That’s enough for me to conclude that, until someone gives me concrete evidence that such techniques like waterboarding work, I will not consider approving them. And even if such evidence were presented to me, I’m not at all certain I’d agree to allow them unless experts like the Generals and Admirals who wrote to Sen. Leahy in 2007 agree.

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    America: Still the Beacon of Freedom?

    Throughout the world, America is seen as the beacon of freedom.

    We should not shrink from our role to protect that beacon whenever and wherever it is challenged, or our national security is at risk.

    After suffering eight years with a Democrat in the White House, our image and honor around the world doesn’t seem to be getting much better than when President Barack Obama took office and systematically dismantled our image over the eight years of his administration. This country cannot afford four more years of a failed foreign policy that pacifies and placates. We need strong leadership the world will respect—and who will protect the American people.  If President Trump can bring that to his administration, the beacon of freedom will continue to shine.  If not, there’s no telling what will be left of this great nation.

    Where “America First” fits in to all of this is uncertain.  Of course we need to address our domestic problems and the unfair global marketplace that is costing Americans jobs.  But we must also be cautious of isolationism.  Historians will remind us that isolationism was a major reason the world was unprepared for the World Wars of the last century.

    As President John F. Kennedy promised, “America is unwilling to witness or permit the undoing of human rights, and we will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, and oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

    America will never be true to those words if it shirks its global leadership by asking permission from others to keep the beacon of liberty brightly shining.

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