Category Archives: Opinions

The Statue of Libbyty

EthanBenn, Staff Reporter

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Though written nearly two-hundred years ago, these words, forever associated with one of the grandest symbols of the United States, have taken on an interesting meaning during renewed debates over immigration. The center of the national debate over undocumented immigration is now not Washington, D.C. but Oakland, California. Several weeks ago, Mayor Libby Schaaf intentionally warned her community before an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid to apprehend and deport undocumented criminals occurred, sparking the ire of ICE and conservatives. The Trump administration’s decision to move against California’s sanctuary city policies certainly hasn’t helped to cool down the issue.

First of all, the term “sanctuary city” has no legal definition or standing – there is no specific checklist of requirements for a town or other municipality to become a sanctuary city. However, most cities described as such have several characteristics in common, the foremost being that local leaders and officials discourage or even outlaw their own police forces from asking persons about their immigration status or cooperating with federal immigration authorities. The latter happens after an undocumented immigrant is already apprehended, and when ICE issues a request to extend their detainment in order to deport them (Vox goes further into depth in this video) Regardless, this “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to illegal immigration is meant to foster a sense of community and security between local law enforcement and those they serve, as well as push migrants towards social services like hospitals and schools. It’s important to note that even though a town, city or county may not be cooperating with ICE, the person apprehended by the police can still be deported at a later date.

Unsurprisingly, the complicated interactions between federal and state (or local) authorities over the even more divisive and undefined policy of sanctuary cities poses, as I see it, a few questions: (1) What gives mayors and city councils the jurisdiction to designate their municipalities as sanctuary cities, and why do they? (2) When the federal government (or the agencies which represent it) come into direct conflict with local authorities over actions and policy, who “wins?” (3) If the Republican party claims to be for states’ rights, is it unprincipled for its members to not support state and local governments who decide to be sanctuary states and cities, respectively? With any luck, these three questions will give us some place to start.

With that rough definition out of the way, we can dive into the how and why of sanctuary city policies. To me, the answer is in the name itself- they’re sanctuaries. Mass migrations of people out of Mexico and Central America and into these counties and towns, albeit illegally, is a continuation of a historical theme. “The concept of sanctuary derives from the ancient imperative to provide hospitality to the stranger,” writes Elizabeth Allen for the LA Times, and “the sanctuary cities of the 2000s are part of this American tradition.” In a country which preaches the equality of opportunity and egalitarianism and whose citizens generally claim it to be the best place in the world to live a successful life, having refuges for families who’ve trekked hundreds of miles through desert and rough terrain is morally and ethically correct. After all, only a few cities have policies like this. While the reasoning of “it’s the right thing to do” is admittedly weak, it really seems to be one of the main arguments for sanctuary cities.

But warm feelings and compassion don’t supercede the law- federal agencies and local police departments often find themselves at odds because of sanctuary policies. So which is superior, and why? I’m inclined to say the federal government, especially due to something known as the “Supremacy Clause:”

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

This clause essentially states that the laws made by the federal government, (assuming they are constitutional) are supreme to state regulations and legislation. While I’m no constitutional scholar, I would assume this also applies to the agencies which execute federal laws. And now the scale has tipped further into the federal government’s favor, as the Trump administration’s Department of Justice moves to sue the state of California over their sanctuary state status. Via CNN:  “‘The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you,’”  [said] Sessions [to] law enforcement officers at the California Peace Officers Association … ‘“We are fighting to make your jobs safer and to help you reduce crime in America. And I believe that we are going to win.’” Generally, when the federal government decides to fight against states, it comes out the winner, and this does put mayor Libby Schaaf and other pro-sanctuary politicians in an interesting legal predicament. Some members of the GOP have advocated that they be tried for treason for failing to uphold federal law, but what about all the times they’ve encouraged states to shirk national policies in favor of their own local ones?

Health care. Environmental protections. Gay marriage and LGBTQ rights. Gun control. Tax cuts and reductions. If members of the Republican party and American conservatives want to accuse Democratic mayors of shielding undocumented immigrants, and in the process, meddling with the enforcement of federal laws, then they need to acknowledge their past sins as well. From crying “leave it to the states!” to clinging onto the Tenth Amendment as close as possible, it is beyond hypocritical for those opposed to sanctuary cities, but who also opposed following the policies of the Obama administration, to suddenly fall in line behind the Trump administration’s crusade against sanctuary cities. Apparently, the federal government suddenly ceases to be a behemoth of oppression against states when Republicans are in charge.

Regardless, none of this changes what mayor Schaaf did, and what other mayors, city council members, sheriffs and police officers will likely do themselves. Whether she wanted to or not, and I certainly hope she didn’t intend to, Schaaf did help truly criminal undocumented immigrants escape ICE- not families of four, mind you, but gang members, robbers and thugs. Schaff and other advocates for these types of policies are right in that it’s incredibly important not to mix people who came to this country illegally for a chance to work and raise a family with drug smugglers and undesirables, who come to the United States to incite violence and ruin communities. This goes both ways, though- if you don’t want ICE to target relatively innocent families, then don’t allow criminals to hide behind them as a shield, as announcing an imminent raid doesn’t help anyone.

And to cap it all off, I don’t think anyone person mentioned in this article is one-hundred percent correct about the issue- Sessions, Schaaf and so many others are really, in my opinion, exploiting this issue for personal gain. Deporting criminals looks good to the American right as it continues to push the Trump administration’s “rule of law” sentiment, and claiming to protect innocent migrants is the heartwarming story that liberals and progressives can’t get enough of.

Illegal immigration into America, and the sanctuary cities that result from it, aren’t going to be solved by simple, ideological solutions. There must be some sort of balance between upholding the laws of the United States and remaining morally principled- undocumented immigrants are people, too. With any luck, that solution might come soon.


The Roots of Racist Stereotypes


Minorities being elected into political office does not solve racism in the US Government. This argument is beyond facile. A black president isn’t proof that racism has ended. The fact remains that the use of offensive racial terms such as “Negro” and “Oriental” in US federal law was only banned last year. This rhetoric perpetuates racism because they aren’t just used in “old” laws. Racial slurs and stereotypes against black people have real impacts. It goes beyond hurt feelings and unease. These slurs and stereotypes are used to keep black people in their place. Racial “slurs” against white people like “Cracker” also originate from slavery. The difference is that white people were the masters in charge that cracked the whip. Frankly, joking about food and spices (or lack thereof) doesn’t regularly affect the everyday lives of white people. Black people, on the other hand, face incarceration, police brutality, poverty, and housing and job discrimination at levels white people don’t face at the same scale.

Were You Listening, America?

EthanBenn, Staff Reporter

Were you listening, America? Were you tuned into the right frequency, hand on the dial, nodding along with the president’s words?

The state of our union is not just “strong, safe, and proud.” Our nation, Joe Kennedy III pointed out, is a nation of “fractured fault lines.” The story President Trump wove during his first State of the Union address is a tale of two countries – us and them, the coasts and the heartlands, Americans and the ‘real’ Americans, a song told with the notes of the dog whistle and many collective sighs.

A reporter for The New York Times called the president’s speech a Bohemian Rhapsody sort of affair, but his words lacked the rhythm and grace of Queen: from presidential to unprecedented, from benign to bellicose and from heartfelt to horrible, Trump jumped from subject to subject with the wave of his hand and a hearty round of self-applause.

Perhaps the president began his speech, as he saw it, with a healthy serving of optimism – he even said it himself: “A new tide of optimism is already sweeping across our land. Each day since, we have gone forward with a clear vision: to make America great again for all Americans.” But that’s not what every American feels. We can’t. What is there to look forward to?

For this past year has been a slog through mud-filled trenches and a slow crawl across fields battered by shells and covered in barbed wire. The American people have been bruised and beaten, cut and scratched by our leaders in Washington, D.C. –  a people so strong and so great in their resolve can handle any task, but from their own elected representatives? Surely not.

The American people are war weary, but not their leaders. Cue the rancorous applause and chants of USA in response to the promise of a renewed nuclear arsenal, greater defense spending, unmatched military might and no timeline for it all to end. For a nation which loves its heroes, “who live not only in the past but all around us,” some of us are certainly fine with them dying in the line of duty. Perhaps their parents, brothers, sisters, spouses and children will be seated next to the First Lady someday, “and 320 million hearts will break for them.”

My heart is broken, and yearns for the nation it once knew, home to the greatest people on Earth with the fullest and bravest souls – willing to help anyone, at anytime, anywhere – led by the wisest defenders of liberty and our democratic traditions. Where is my America, Mr. President? Mr. Speaker? Majority Leader? Minority Leader? Where has she gone?

But I am not just content with this, nor ready to sit back in quiet resolve and wait for this to be over. I can’t be. We can’t be. America can’t be. If democracy dies in darkness, in the backrooms of the Capitol, behind the heavy doors of restricted briefing areas and on the president’s desk, then we must find a way to keep the flame of this great nation burning in perpetuity – with or without our elected leaders.

The America I once knew is there, still, showing its face in times of crisis. But what good is it if we rally around the flag hand in hand and gather tinder together but once or twice a year?

America, I can do better. We can do better. I hope each and every one of my fellow citizens will join me this year, and help to make America a better place – for all of us.





America, Where is Your Heart?

EthanBenn, Staff Reporter

I’m no expert on cardiovascular surgery, but I know you’ve got to find the heart: that’s the whole point after all. If you ask, any doctor will tell you that it’s between x rib and y space, so many inches away from the center of your chest.

But for politicians, pollsters and people like me, the heart – America’s heart – isn’t easy to find.

Ask someone where America’s heart is, and they might point to Kansas and Missouri, where amber waves of grain smother the land between quaint towns, or to Colorado’s stunning canyons and mesas. But that’s America’s heartland, not it’s heart.

Though maybe that proves what I’ve been thinking for a long time, and maybe you have, too. You can’t find what you don’t have. America doesn’t have a heart, I’m sad to say. Now I don’t mean that there aren’t great and compassionate Americans (whom hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have all proven to exist) or that Americans just don’t care. I mean that this country doesn’t have a spiritual center to drive it forward.

And I don’t mean the religious type of spiritual. I mean we’ve lost the great American spirit that gets us to work with our neighbors and colleagues.

America’s heart is drive and determination. It’s called the American Dream – not the British, French or German Dream. We care deeply about succeeding on our own terms, about fighting for what’s right and living freely.

Unfortunately, too many of those American hearts (sick with grief) have had their American dreams crushed. And that’s a shameful thing.

What America’s heart is has been squared away. Where does it reside? America’s heart can’t be in Washington D.C., that’s for sure. All this talk of “the swamp” makes the whole place seem rather diseased and necrotic. Plus, lobbyists and special interests haven’t been known to carefully consider the health of America.

Meanwhile, I do know a place that America’s heart resides – you and me. We all know that long ago the politicians in Washington lost their hearts, with their chests stuffed full of empty checks and fill-in-the-blank bills. Now we’re seeing how they want us to lose our hearts.

The true Americans have a pulse yet. They see what’s happening, they know what’s happening. And they’re angry.

If we want to find America’s heart, then it’s time to put the living in charge and leave the dead to history.

College and Success


KimaraSmith, Staff Reporter

In 2017, the question of the necessity of college and how it affects one’s ability to be successful is more relevant than ever. Many measure success based on the amount of money obtained, but is that what truly defines success? Society places a strong emphasis on the need to attend college in order to be successful, yet many obtain true success without college.

After attaining two masters degrees in teaching, Sherita Harkness began teaching at Woodland high school in Stockbridge, GA. She expressed that “in order to be successful it is necessary to get a degree and use it in the most effective way possible.” This statement is one that many seem to disagree with completely.

For example, Hannah Kornegay (SR) articulated that “there is no correlation between college and success.” Numerous people including myself seem to share this very same viewpoint. Success is not measured by how much money one makes or the degrees that one has, but is defined as one’s personal accomplishments. These personal accomplishments are an accurate measure of the success a person achieves.

A relevant example about these conflicting opinions are the number of  people that attend college, receive their desired degree then never end up pursuing that career path. Most often, these individuals find success elsewhere without the preferred degree. A recent fad is the abrupt success of Youtubers. Countless millenials have found their own route to success through vlogging and making videos for their subscribers. After becoming an established Youtuber, it is easy to be recognized by prominent businesses and live a prosperous life solely from the funds made possible by vlogging.

Success should be measured on a personal level and college is not necessary to be successful in 2017. The pressure that society places on young people to go to college and get a degree is a pressure that is becoming obsolete.

What Net Neutrality Will Do to Your Internet

SireeshRamesh, Editor-in-Chief

NadiaDowlatkhah, Staff Reporter


“Under my proposal,” said the FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, as he proudly announced his new plan that would repeal net neutrality laws, “the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet.” With that very announcement on a Tuesday morning, Ajit Pai almost single handedly sent the internet into a panicked frenzy. Social media stars took to their audiences pleading to participate in the movement pushing to keep net neutrality. YouTuber Markiplier, for example, proclaimed to his 18 million subscribers that “the internet should be open and accessible to everybody” and “we as a species are not defined by profit.”  A user on even created a petition pleading for Congress to preserve net neutrality. In a little over two weeks, the petition amassed over 800,000 signatures.  

So what exactly is net neutrality, and why are so many people upset about its potential removal? The basic tenet behind net neutrality is that all content is created equal in the eyes of an internet provider. As a result, tech giants like Facebook cannot simply access more bandwidth, and thus higher speeds, by paying internet providers. In net neutrality, internet service providers are almost like a public service providing equal speeds to all content (from a local blog to a social media hub.) In 2015, the Obama administration created clear legal protections to preserve net neutrality.

Yet, the conservative backlash of 2016 and ensuing assignment of Republican Ajit Pai as FCC chairman has led to a reversal in the government’s degree of involvement with the internet. As Ajit Pai sees it, net neutrality will allow internet service providers to gain more money from companies willing to pay for faster service speeds. Ideally, this surplus money would go back into investments that could create technologies that increase overall internet speeds for consumers. On Dec. 14, the Senate will vote on the FCC’s proposal to dismantle net neutrality.

But this isn’t simply a party issue. Liberal and conservative constituents alike have something to lose if Pai’s proposal prevails. The dire nature of this situation can be understood with some context. Let’s say net neutrality was not enforced starting from the year 2000. Though Google would still have reigned as the number one internet search engine and browser provider, Microsoft would have been a major competitor. This is because, at that time, Microsoft was a larger and more profitable company. They could have outbid Google to internet service providers and made their speeds faster than Google’s, despite Google’s superior platform and service. Without net neutrality, Google would not have become such a corporate giant and there’s not a single person who prefers Internet Explorer to Chrome.

Thus, net neutrality impacts any person who uses the web. It’s our duty as a citizenry to make sure that the freedom and equality of the internet is preserved.  


Talented and Gauche

GraceSassaman, Staff Reporter

A standardized creativity test sounds like an oxymoron, right? It’s not, at least according to the TAG, or “talented and gifted,” program. Teachers and students alike have blindly accepted the supposed meaning of scoring well on these tests. It’s confusing to think that literal convergent thinking is considered to be creative thinking. Once a student has met the required standards to be considered talented and gifted, the student adopts a bumper sticker mentality, quietly believing that their natural intelligence will allow them to succeed without putting in effort and referring back to this label when comparing themselves to on-level students.

As a student who has taken both advanced and on-level classes, I can confidently say that there is a notable disparity in the way that my respective teachers have treated their AP and on-level classes but an even larger difference in the way Honors students perceive on-level students. Just the other day, I overheard one of my peers–who is admittedly extremely intelligent–say that he doesn’t understand how someone can have all on-level classes, but he failed to realize that on-level means exactly that–a student who is exactly where they’re supposed to be for their grade level.

This program claims to promote creativity to accommodate for the outstandingly intelligent kids, yet certain math and science scores are required to be enrolled. Those who excel in standardized common core subjects are disproportionately rewarded because their test scores elevate the ratings of a school, so these students are granted with extra resources. The TAG program’s blatant division discourages students on both ends of the spectrum from making the most of their abilities. An obvious fix is to include all students in specialized learning initiatives, allowing them to freely expand upon their talents.

The TAG program is a pipeline for TAG classes in middle school and AP and Honors courses in high school. Of course, every student learns differently, but to withhold certain resources from students who didn’t do well on a random elementary school test is unfair and usually causes them to be excluded from a future of rigorous and academic courses. Intelligence isn’t a fixed concept: it can expand and contract based on how we use our brains to solve problems. The TAG program does nothing but afford those in the program a false sense of superiority.