- Associated Press - Monday, October 2, 2017

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sept. 29

Trump’s damaging new caps on immigrants, refugees

President Donald Trump is taking yet another run at keeping out foreigners he considers undesirable, and Minnesota can expect to be among those states that will suffer for it.

This one is a double shot: another travel ban, this time adding North Korea and, inexplicably, Chad, a small African nation that has been a strong U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism. He includes Venezuela, but that ban is aimed mostly at the regime of Nicolas Maduro, who has made a habit of mocking Trump. In addition to the travel ban, Trump wants to slash the number of refugees allowed entry into the U.S. to 45,000 annually, down from 86,000 last year and far lower than the 110,000 former President Barack Obama had pledged.

John Keller, director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, said the travel ban will wind up hurting the U.S. in addition to those denied entry. Applicants include students from wealthy families, tourists and skilled workers sought by U.S. companies. “The vast majority of those who already have visas are the cream of the crop from those foreign countries,” Keller said. “They are generally educated and come from wealth - the type businesses here wish we could get more of. We’re hurting ourselves by not letting them in or kicking them out because their visas can’t be renewed.”

In its first disastrous iteration, the travel ban wound up stranding IT workers in transit, medical personnel bound for the Mayo Clinic and college students. Trump’s continued hammering on visitors from Muslim countries has already had his desired chilling effect - visa numbers are dramatically down. No one has been able to show that the country is appreciably safer for denying a few thousand visas a month from those countries. In keeping with Trump’s focus on stronger borders, resources would be far better spent tracking down those from any country who overstay their visas.

As for refugees, Trump’s new cap is cruel. It makes no distinction between those with questionable backgrounds and those who desperately need the shelter this country can offer and who have much to contribute. The limit of 45,000 is the lowest in decades, at a time when the needs of those fleeing war and persecution have seldom been higher. Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame, whose ward is home to thousands of Somali refugees, said the cap would prove “devastating” to families hoping to reunify. Trump has maintained that refugees are a net cost to the U.S., but a report by his own Department of Health and Human Services showed that refugees, over a decade, brought in $63 billion more in revenue than they cost. The White House quashed those findings, although they were leaked to The New York Times.

Minnesota, with a long-standing tradition of welcoming refugees, has seen firsthand their contributions, whether Hmong, Somali or Liberian. The Trump administration would be better advised to continue - and even intensify - screening of refugees. Setting an arbitrarily low limit only adds fuel to the fears of many that this administration is bent on curbing certain types of foreigners. That is beneath a nation founded as a haven for immigrants - whatever color or religion.

___

Post Bulletin, Sept. 28

Civil rights don’t stop at a business person’s door

People don’t forfeit their right to freedom of speech when they launch a new company. Plenty of businesses feature religious symbols and even Bible verses on their business cards, websites and brochures, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that practice.

But when a company makes a point of telling potential customers that it will refuse service to people because of their race, religious beliefs, gender or sexual orientation, then a line is crossed.

That’s why we strongly agree with the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, which last week ruled against Angel and Carl Larsen, a Minnesota couple that wanted to expand their media production company to include the filming of weddings - but only heterosexual weddings.

This is what they wanted to put on their company’s website: “Telescope Media Group exists to glorify God through top-quality media production. Because of TMG’s owners’ religious beliefs and expressive purposes, it cannot make films promoting any conception of marriage that contradicts its religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman, including films celebrating same-sex marriages.”

The problem is, the Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibits companies from refusing to do business based on sexual orientation, and the district court rightly ruled that such a statement on a website would be “akin to a ‘White Applicants Only’ sign.”

Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim wrote, “Posting language on a website telling potential customers that a business will discriminate based on sexual orientation is part of the act of sexual discrimination itself. As conduct carried out through language, this act is not protected by the First Amendment.”

The Larsens, who are represented by the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit organization, say they will appeal the court’s ruling.

We suspect that they will be wasting their time. Consider:

Can a business owner who is Jewish refuse to serve someone with a tattoo? Of course not.

Can a Mormon refuse service to someone who is carrying a cup of coffee, or wearing a Jack Daniels T-shirt? Certainly not.

But let’s take this to another level: Can a devout Christian doctor refuse to deliver the baby of a drug-addicted, HIV-positive mother? Can a police officer who is a teetotaler refuse to help a drunken driver who has crashed and is bleeding?

Or, even more to the point: Can a day care provider reject a child because he or she has two mothers and no fathers? Or because the child’s parents are Muslim?

Of course not. Such refusals wouldn’t be freedom of speech - they would be discrimination, and in some cases out-and-out professional misconduct.

The bottom line is that no one is forcing the Larsens - or anyone else - to create a business or enter a particular profession. They are doing so of their own free will. Nor can the Larsens be prevented from declaring their conservative Christian beliefs on every document, business card, brochure and website related to their wedding-filming business. That’s their right, and exercising it will probably drive most same-sex couples to look elsewhere for wedding videographers.

But no business can refuse to serve someone on the basis of race, gender, age or sexual orientation - and those who can’t accept this truism should either close their businesses or be prepared for the day when they will have to smile through gritted teeth and say “Yes, we’d be happy to help you.”

___

St. Cloud Times, Sept. 30

Consider this: Just outlaw tobacco

The city of St. Cloud is considering whether to increase the age to buy tobacco in the city to 21.

Really, though, if elected and professional officials of any government wanted to do what’s best for their constituents, they would simply outlaw tobacco.

Yes, admittedly, that seems extreme. Until you try to answer one fundamental challenge: Name one redeeming quality of tobacco.

The health evidence is overwhelmingly and unequivocally negative - even deadly.

The historical and cultural significance of tobacco in the United States - except for American Indian traditions - is built on marketing myths, nothing more.

And then, of course, there’s the money - arguably the real reason an outright ban is seldom given serious consideration.

Economics rooted in tobacco and smoking production certainly benefit those directly involved - including governments, which tax the tar out of tobacco while simultaneously letting various elected officials collect lobbyists’ cash.

But those narrowly targeted economic benefits pale in comparison to the costs tobacco products inflict on all of society - from health care to never-ending public policy debates, the age of purchase being just the latest example.

With all that in mind, the challenge remains: Name one redeeming quality of tobacco.

Raise the age

Of course, nobody expects St. Cloud’s elected leaders to show that much political courage. Still, though, they are on the right track.

Crave the Change, a Central Minnesota organization that’s spent the past decade fighting tobacco use, offers an array of statistics on why boosting the age to 21 makes sense. Among the most compelling:

- Nearly 95 percent of addicted smokers start by the time they turn 21.

- About 77,000 Minnesota kids use tobacco. While half those teens have tried to quit, 80 percent will become adult smokers.

- Overall about 118,000 of today’s Minnesota kids will die from smoking.

Raising the age makes even more sense when you look at what the tobacco industry continues to do to attract kids. Tobacco flavors include menthol as well as sweet flavors like fruits and candy. Not to mention the packaging and marketing of such items.

Of course, those tactics are nothing new. Crave the Change, along with similar groups nationwide, have long cited this research done more than 30 years ago by tobacco giant Phillip Morris and made public only in the past decade:

“Raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchaser to 21 could gut our key young adult market (17-20) where we sell about 25 billion cigarettes and enjoy a 70 percent market share.”

Regional effort

Finally, as the St. Cloud City Council approaches a Nov. 9 public hearing on the matter, residents of neighboring cities Sartell, Sauk Rapids, St. Joseph, Waite Park and St. Augusta should urge their elected leaders to act, too.

Raising the age to 21 in just one city in a metro community made up of six communities will do little good.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide