Katie Pavlich - Poll: Americans Want More Aggressive Deportation of Illegal Immigrants
Posted: 4/7/2015 8:15:00 AM EST

The debate about President Obama's executive action on illegal immigration is ongoing and the issue is sure to be a hot topic on the 2016 presidential campaign trail, but a new Rasmussen Report shows the vast majority of Americans do not believe the federal government is aggressive enough with deporting illegal immigrants. 

Just 16% of Likely U.S. Voters think the U.S. government is too aggressive in deporting those who are in the country illegally. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 62% believe the government is not aggressive enough in deporting these illegal immigrants, up from 52% a year ago and 56% in November. Fifteen percent (15%) feel the current number of deportations is about right.

Further, a majority of Americans do not believe children brought to the United States illegally by their parents should be able to stay and want welfare benefits for illegal immigrants cut off. 

Thirty-two percent (32%) believe illegal immigrants who have American-born children should be exempt from deportation, an element of Obama’s plan, but 51% now disagree. In November, voters were much more closely divided: 38% said they should be exempt from deportation, and only 42% disagreed. Seventeen percent (17%) remain undecided.

But then most voters (54%) continue to feel that a child born to an illegal immigrant mother in the United States should not automatically become a U.S. citizen, as is now the case. Thirty-eight percent (38%) favor the current policy of automatic citizenship for these children. Opposition has ranged from 51% to 65% in surveys since April 2006. Support has been in the 28% to 41% range in that same period.

An overwhelming 83% of voters think someone should be required to prove they are legally allowed in the United States before receiving local, state or federal government services. Just 12% disagree. These findings have changed little over the past four years.

Earlier this year U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued a stay in the implementation of President Obama's executive action on illegal immigration until a lawsuit from 26 states against the action is carried out through the courts.

Matt Vespa -  Democrats: Get A $2,000 Tax Credit For Turning In Your Assault Rifles
Posted: 4/6/2015 9:45:00 PM EST

Congressional Democrats have a grand scheme to make America’s streets safer; incentivize people cannibalize to their Second Amendment rights for tax credits. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) will introduce the Support Assault Firearm Elimination and Education of our Streets Act, which will do just that (via the Hill):

“Assault weapons are not about hunting, or even self-defense,” DeLauro said. “There is no reason on earth, other than to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, that anyone needs a gun designed for a battlefield.”

Though DeLauro is in favor of stronger guns laws that would completely ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, she emphasized this bill would not force gun owners to turn in their firearms.

The legislation would provide up to $2,000 in tax credits for gun owners who voluntarily hand over assault weapons to their local police departments.

The assault weapons legislation comes in response to the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., DeLauro’s home state, in December 2012.

DeLauro originally introduced the bill in January 2013, just one month after the Newtown shooting, but the legislation fell short in the Republican-controlled House. She plans to reintroduce it next week when Congress returns from recess.

She said the bill would help “get more assault weapons off the streets."

“Just days after the Newtown tragedy, President Obama asked, ‘Are we doing enough to protect our children?’ And he admitted the answer is, ‘no.’ That must change,” DeLauro said.

DeLauro is announcing the assault weapons legislation this week in conjunction with National Public Health Week.

I wish we could ignore these pieces of legislation that are factually challenged, and somewhat offensive given that they feel tax credits will incentivize Americans to depreciate their civil rights through monetary means. Truth be told, you could hunt with a Ruger Mini-14, which has a 30-round magazine and fires the same Remington .223­–or 5.56–ammunition used by AR-15 owners. Also, any firearm can be used for self-defense, congresswoman. Though, it comes down to a level of practicality.

Lastly, rifles are seldom used in crimes. The New York Times published ProPublica’s Lois Beckett’s piece on the assault weapons in 2014, where she wrote it's a "myth" that banning these firearms would curb gun violence; something we­–on the pro-civil rights side–have been saying for quite some time:

Over the past two decades, the majority of Americans in a country deeply divided over gun control have coalesced behind a single proposition: The sale of assault weapons should be banned.

That idea was one of the pillars of the Obama administration’s plan to curb gun violence, and it remains popular with the public. In a poll last December, 59 percent of likely voters said they favor a ban.

But in the 10 years since the previous ban lapsed, even gun control advocates acknowledge a larger truth: The law that barred the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 made little difference.

It turns out that big, scary military rifles don’t kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year. Little handguns do.

In 2012, only 322 people were murdered with any kind of rifle, F.B.I. data shows.

Don’t worry about handgun bans; that’ll never get off the ground.

Also, keep in mind that this bill is being introduced when gun violence is at a two-decade low.

Vivian Hughbanks  - Baltic States Buckling Down For Russian Action
Posted: 4/6/2015 8:25:00 PM EST

In response to increasingly aggressive Russian military moves, Lithuania announced Friday that it will increase defense spending by one third -- more than the nation has allocated to defense since becoming a NATO member in 2004.

Lithuania isn’t the only Baltic state that’s gearing up in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine last summer. In the region, concern for another move by Putin to expand Russia’s borders isn’t a question of if, but when.

“The Russian aggression in Ukraine has had overwhelming effect on EU security overall,” Tanel Sepp, Deputy Chief of Mission for the Estonian Embassy to the United States told Townhall. “It is about violating different norms and international agreements. It was agreed that you cannot change borders of a sovereign state by force. Russia thinks differently right now.”

Next month, NATO forces from nations across Europe will participate in a grand-scale military training exercise called SIIL 2015 in Estonia.

The NATO exercise is a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which was launched to “demonstrate freedom of movement and deter regional aggression” last year “in response to Russia’s armed support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said in a statement.

Apprehension over Russia is also prevalent in the European Parliament, according to German MEP Beatrix von Storch.

“There is a big fear of the Russian bear,” Von Storch told Townhall. “It is a blunder of epic proportions that the European Union has failed its historical mission of promoting peace within Europe. We are very close to the collapse of the post-cold-war order. This should alarm anybody who has an interest in lasting peace.”

Also last week, Lithuania announced that they would implement a military draft beginning in May. The draft will conscript 3,000 citizens between the ages of 18 and 38 into military service. Lithuania has observed Russian military drills in the isolated region of Kaliningrad, which neighbors Lithuania to the southwest.

“This will get our army to a whole new level, it will be ready to ensure defense and deterrence, both in its own right and together with the allies,” Defense Minister Juozas Olekas said Friday, according to Reuters.

“Of course there is some threat, and in the Baltic states, we feel it very well here," Latvian MEP Roberts Zile told Townhall. "At the same time, there is a big difference between the Crimea case and if Putin will decide to do something similar in Estonia or Latvia. In that case, we have to remember that Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania are NATO member states… Will it work, if it happens? This is the biggest question mark also for European parliamentarians."

Leah Barkoukis - Huge Increase in Foreign Fighters Joining Terrorist Groups Worldwide
Posted: 4/6/2015 7:43:00 PM EST

The United States and its allies will have an increasingly difficult time ‘degrading and ultimately destroying’ the Islamic State, and al Qaeda for that matter, given the simple fact that their ranks continue to swell—particularly from foreign fighters.

According to a new United Nations report, between mid-2014 and March 2015, more than 25,000 people from over 100 countries came to join the fight. In other words, there was a 71 percent increase in the number of foreign fighters worldwide.

[The panel of experts monitoring U.N. sanctions against al-Qaida] said the scale of the problem has increased over the past three years and the flow of foreign fighters "is higher than it has ever been historically."

The overall number of foreign terrorist fighters has "risen sharply from a few thousand ... a decade ago to more than 25,000 today," the panel said in the report to the U.N. Security Council.

The report said just two countries have accounted for over 20,000 foreign fighters: Syria and Iraq. They went to fight primarily for the Islamic State group but also the Al-Nusra Front. […]

In addition to Syria and Iraq, the report said Afghan security forces estimated in March that about 6,500 foreign fighters were active in the country. And it said hundreds of foreigners are fighting in Yemen, Libya and Pakistan, around 100 in Somalia, and others in the Sahel countries in northern Africa, and in the Philippines.

Unfortunately, and as the panel notes, this is a huge problem that “pose[s] an immediate and long-term threat” that needs to be tackled on many levels. This includes, but is not limited to, preventing fighters from returning to their home countries, staying on top of foreign fighters’ travel, particularly those from Western nations, and trying to stop the radicalization and recruitment of people to begin with.

No easy feat, to be sure, but one the global community must address before the problem gets even worse.

Daniel Doherty - Obligatory Post: Jeb Bush Once Self-Identified As A Hispanic
Posted: 4/6/2015 6:30:00 PM EST

Let's clear the air.

Jeb Bush has found himself, if you’ll pardon the expression, in a bit of hot water after The New York Times publicized the fact that he once falsely self-identified as a Hispanic on a government document.

Bush, as everyone who’s seen — or met — him knows, is white. Per the article:

In a 2009 voter-registration application, obtained from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, Mr. Bush marked Hispanic in the field labeled “race/ethnicity.”

A Bush spokeswoman could offer no explanation for the characterization. However, Mr. Bush took to Twitter late on Monday morning to call the situation a mistake.

Bush tweeted out this message – “My mistake! Don’t think I’ve fooled anyone!” – in response to an innocuous and tension-diffusing tweet his son sent out brushing aside the suggestion that his father self-identified as a Hispanic on purpose, or to gain some kind of professional or pecuniary advantage. Clearly, Team Bush wants us to know he did not.

Bush’s embarrassing and headlining-generating gaffe, however, is not the best way to draw attention to himself shortly before making what many believe will be a very important announcement. In fact, it could lead, as Ed Morrissey notes, to some problems down the road.

“[Elizabeth] Warren’s story damaged her because it made her look inauthentic, and this could have the same impact on Jeb, too — especially with two authentic Latinos in the Republican primary fight,” he writes, referring to the Massachusetts senator's questionable statements about her heritage, which surfaced during her 2012 senatorial campaign. “Jeb and Marco Rubio are friends, so Rubio probably won’t overtly attack Jeb over this, but what about Ted Cruz? He’s not exactly afraid to take on Republican establishment figures, and Jeb’s the proxy for them all in the 2016 cycle.”

And yet my hunch is that, in the scheme of things, this is a very minor bump in the road for Team Bush. Unlike Warren, who benefited from her questionable ancestral claims (as Ed notes), Bush almost certainly made this mistake by accident and for no other reason than his own carelessness. Nevertheless, that doesn’t necessarily mean he should be given a free pass, or his rivals should forget the incident.

Surely they won't, but I suspect that they will have much more to criticize him about than a mistake he made six years ago when trying to exercise his constitutional right to vote. He's the establishment candidate in the race after all.

Leah Barkoukis - CNN Fails World Geography...Again
Posted: 4/6/2015 4:15:00 PM EST

Geography is not difficult, especially with Google at all of our fingertips, but CNN continues to fail over and over and over and over again:

Brought to you by “the most trusted name in news.”

Guy Benson - Video: Jindal Strikes Smart Tone on Religious Liberty
Posted: 4/6/2015 3:30:00 PM EST

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal used his appearance on Meet the Press this week to frame the roiling, and often ignorant, religious liberties debate in a savvy and sensible manner. Jindal rejected discrimination against gay people, focusing on the very narrow (and widely-supported) right of small businesses in the wedding industry to decline to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies and celebrations (via Ed Morrissey):

TODD: Well, let me ask you this. Do you agree with some other social conservatives that you think Governors Pence and Governor Hutchinson of Arkansas and Indiana have essentially caved to too much pressure?

JINDAL: Well, Chuck, I was very worried about the law in Indiana. I’m disappointed. Let’s remember what this debate was originally all about. This is about business owners that don’t wanna have to choose between their Christian faith, their sincerely held religious beliefs, and being able to operate their businesses. Now, what they don’t want is the government to force them to participate in wedding ceremonies that contradict their beliefs. They simply want the right to say, “We don’t wanna be forced to participate in those ceremonies.” So I was disappointed that you could see Christians and their businesses face discrimination in Indiana. I hope the legislators will fix that, rectify that. Chuck, there used to be a bipartisan consensus in this country around religious liberty saying that as Americans we don’t all have to agree with each other, but we should respect each other’s rights and freedoms. And that’s what this debate is about. Are we gonna use government to force people to contradict their own sincerely held beliefs.

TODD: Well, the debate, I guess, is about the line on freedom and a personal conviction versus how you conduct yourself in a business. So you think it’s okay based on religious conviction for a business to deny services to a same-sex couple?

JINDAL: Well, Chuck, we’re not talking’ about restaurants denying service to people who wanna come and have dinner. We’re not talking about day-to-day routine commercial transactions. We’re talking about a very specific example here of business owners, of florists, of musicians, of caterers who are being forced to either pay thousands of dollars or close their businesses if they don’t wanna participate in a wedding ceremony that contradicts their religious beliefs. So in that instance, yeah, I think part of the First Amendment means that we allow individuals to obey their conscience, to obey their religious beliefs.

Jindal tries to shift his attention to "what this debate was originally about," but it's quite important to underscore that laws like Indiana's RFRA have been used to protect the rights of religious minorities (Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Native Americans, etc.) within cases that have nothing whatsoever to do with gay rights.  As far as that issue is concerned, however, Jindal is correct to shut down talk of blanket denial-of-service "liberties" and bear down on the discrete wedding participation issue.  RFRAs do not establish an affirmative license for discriminatory practices, as ill-informed or dishonest demagogues have recently suggested; they merely afford targets of lawsuits and government sanctions to invoke religious liberties in self-defense, with no guarantee of prevailing in court.  Raising a RFRA defense merely requires that a stricter set of balancing tests be applied to the facts of the case prior to a decision being rendered.  As Gabriel Malor noted last week, not a single RFRA defense in gay rights-related legal dispute has ever succeeded.  This suggests that perhaps more explicit "wedding participation carve-out" legislation might be in order, especially if the Supreme Court establishes same-sex marriage as a Constitutionally protected right later this spring.  Such a modest accommodation for a specific and small band of businesses' conscience rights, in the face of a massive social sea change, would be entirely appropriate.  It would also help foster a society in which tolerance is a two-way street, and coexistence is a reality, not an unevenly-applied slogan.

By the way, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson appears to have played his cards well in this whole episode.  Part of the reason Indiana's law faced such intense heat was that it slightly expanded the verbiage of the federal RFRA to explicitly incorporate several precedents established by the courts -- namely, that businesses have conscience rights, and that RFRA defenses can be mounted in private lawsuits.  With an eye on the Hoosier State firestorm, Hutchinson requested that his legislature alter its legislative language to exactly mirror the federal text, which President Clinton signed, and a version of which Barack Obama supported in Illinois.  The legislature in Little Rock complied, and their bill is now law.  By going this route, Hutchinson defused critics' hysteria, and allowed supporters to make the clean political point about Clinton and Obama, without any caveats.  Arkansans are now covered by RFRA's protections, and the aforementioned precedents can speak for themselves in court, if necessary.  By  contrast, Indiana's amended law actually makes it harder for, say, a Muslim florist to raise a RFRA defense if she's sued for asking not to service a same-sex wedding in the state.  These complications are why I'm increasingly convinced that reasonable supporters of gay rights should favor a system of legal civil marriage and robust anti-discrimination laws -- with clear, wide-ranging exemptions for religious institutions (churches, religious schools, etc), along with limited, carefully-tailored exemptions for private businesses exclusively within the realm of wedding participation.

Daniel Doherty - Report: Hillary 2016 Announcement Coming Any Day Now
Posted: 4/6/2015 2:30:00 PM EST

The Hill reports that Hillary Clinton could declare her candidacy for president of the United States as soon as today. Not surprisingly, the timing of the announcement is well-protected and "closely guarded" – but with so many GOP candidates piling (or scheduled to pile) into the race, perhaps she's ready to make her move earlier than anticipated:

Most staffers hired for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign have no idea when she’ll announce, according to a CNN report, but have been told that they must be ready to start their campaign roles at any moment — starting Monday.

Until then, they are working out of an office meant for her personal staff, according to the report. The campaign-in-waiting’s digital team has reportedly been operating out of the space’s kitchen.

Naturally, there has been much speculation that, when push comes to shove, Hillary Clinton will refuse to put her name forward and run for president. Now, however, that she’s staffing up and opened a base of operations in Brooklyn, such forecasts remain rather difficult to believe.

Polls show that she is the clear favorite to clinch the Democratic nomination – and the experts are already fretting that if she passes the torch, Republicans will inevitably recapture the White House and end the era of Hope & Change.

And of course, she can't let that happen. She may not be able to win – as many have pointed out – but she's still running nonetheless.

The die, it seems, has already been cast.

Katie Pavlich - White House: Democrats Criticizing Iran Deal Are "Principled" But Republicans Are Trying to Sabatoge
Posted: 4/6/2015 1:45:00 PM EST

As negotiations between the United States and Iran continue over the terror regime's nuclear program, the White House is arguing any criticism about Congress not being involved in negotiations is coming from Republicans with political motives. 

But a closer look at members of Congress criticizing the White House deal with the Iranians shows it isn't just Republicans who are concerned about being frozen out of the process. A number of Democrats have also voiced their concerns. In fact, Democrats in the Senate are so skeptical of the White House refusal to involve Congress that Republican Bob Corker may have enough votes to override a deal should the President sign one at the end of June. 

Regardless of bipartisan opposition, the White House is pinning opposition and criticism of the current deal and process on Republicans. The administration is painting Republican concerns as illegitimate while at the same time entertaining the same concerns of "principled" Democrats.

"My view is that there are a number of members of Congress that have considered this in a principled way. And those are members of Congress with whom we can have legitimate conversations about our efforts to try and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Earnest said Monday afternoon. "There are a substantial number of members of Congress, all of them Republicans as far as I can tell, who have engaged in an effort to just undermine the talks from the very beginning." 

Earnest once again slammed Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and other Republicans who sent a letter directly to Iran's Ayatollah last month explaining how any deal reached by the White House without Congress will be temporary. 

It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution—the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices—which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.

First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.

A deal is expected by the end of June after talks were extended last week. Guy has all of the details about what the deal looks like at this point and where talks may end up in coming months.

Cortney O'Brien - Chilling: Bosnian Soccer Fans Join 'Kill the Jews' Chant in Vienna
Posted: 4/6/2015 12:45:00 PM EST

They were dressed in their team’s colors and chanting passionately and excitedly – the only problem was they weren’t in the stadium cheering on their team. Bosnian soccer fans who were in Vienna, Austria on Friday for a match between Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina, chanted “Kill the Jews” alongside pro-Palestinian demonstrators in central Stephanplatz square before heading to the game. It was a frightening spectacle that proved anti-Semitism is still a jarring reality in Europe.

Here is the chilling video, via the Jerusalem Post:

At first they stood calmly and shouted "Free Palestine" back and forth. Then, one can hear a single voice among the protestors shout out "Kill the Jews." The calls to violence swelled as the other protestors joined. In a swarm of rage, they began to jump up and down shouting "Ubij, ubij Židove," which means "Kill, kill the Jews."

Anti-Semitic demonstrations such as this were ubiquitous last summer throughout Europe when hostilities between Israel and the terror organization Hamas reached a dangerous climax. In one particular example of hate, protesters looted shops and burned cars in Sarcelles, France while others chanted “Gas the Jews!”

Other forms of Jewish hatred are not so apparent. A piece in The Guardian on Sunday profiled seven Jewish people living Europe, beginning with this introduction, “These are gruelling times for those in Europe who identify themselves as Jewish or have a Jewish background.” The featured European citizens described specific acts of prejudice aimed against them as they tried to live their normal lives. More information on the rise of anti-Semitism in this region can be found in my piece, ‘An Old Hatred Returns.’

In addition to the Jewish intolerance prevalent in Europe, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognizes the danger a nuclear Iran could be to his country. He has tried to persuade President Obama to reject any kind of agreement with Iran, most recently arguing it could threaten Israel’s very existence.

Yet, the Obama administration is full speed ahead with a preliminary agreement that in part lifts all sanctions against Iran. The president insists these terms are America’s ‘best bet’ and legislators such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are chiding Netanyahu as if he was a child: “I wish Netanyahu would contain himself.’

Perhaps Netanyahu is not containing himself because he recognizes the many threats Israel faces. If you were the prime minister and watched the above video, would you too not want to ensure Israel’s safety?