US 2020 Census Citizenship Question

For over a year the Trump Administration has advocated adding a US citizenship question to the 2020 census. This past June 2019, the Supreme Court blocked the citizenship question’s inclusion after Trump Administration lawyers argued it would help enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act. However, the Trump Administration was told that if they provided a more logical reason for its inclusion then the court would reconsider. Therefore, Sunday night, the US Department of Justice welcomed in a new team of lawyers to start preparing to present the citizenship question for a second time before the US Supreme Court.

It should be noted that this debate is occurring while the 2020 census forms are already being printed without the citizenship question included.

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According to the US Constitution, every 10 years the US government must count the number of people living in the United States regardless of their citizenship status. This number then helps the government create voting maps and draw lines around political districts. It also aids in federal funding distributions.

It is illegal for the Census Bureau to share the personal information of US residents participating in the survey to law enforcement or any other government agency.

Talking Points

  • Do you think the question, “Are you a US Citizen? should be allowed on the 2020 US Census?
  • Would adding the US citizenship question scare away immigrants from participating in the census and give us an incorrect population count? Or do you think the number of participants would remain the same?
  • Why do you think President Trump wants to add the Citizenship question? If the citizenship question is included, do you think the results of the census could be used by the Trump Administration to support their immigration policies? Do you think it could benefit the Trump Administration in the 2020 election because of the re-drawing of political party voting lines?
  • Do you think the Citizenship question will pass in the US Supreme Court the second time around? If not, do you think Trump will issue an Executive Order despite the fact that Executive Orders can’t override Supreme Court decisions?
  • Why do you think the Justice Department had to switch their team of lawyers supporting the Trump Administration’s census case?

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E3 Meets in Vienna Today to Determine the Future of the JCPOA Nuclear Deal

The E3 consisting of Germany, the UK, and France, will meet with China, Russia and Iran on Friday, June 28, 2019, in Vienna to discuss Instex, a company formed in January of 2019 to facilitate trade between Europe and Iran. Trade will only consist of humanitarian goods such as food and medicine to avoid violating US sanctions laws.

The primary objective of the E3’s meeting is to save the 2015 JCPOA Nuclear Agreement which the US withdrew from in November 2018 and proceeded to issue heavy US sanctions on Iran.

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Despite Europe’s hopefulness in saving the JCPOA, Iran almost violated the nuclear agreement one day prior to the meeting by threatening to grow their low enriched uranium stockpiles over the 300 kg limit. However, Iran decided to wait until the July 7th 2019 deadline Iran gave the E3 to implement the Instex solution.

In addition to violation threats, President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, proposed the US should agree to re-enter the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal instead of implementing Instex.

“The return to the nuclear deal would be the shortest way to secure the interests of all sides … and also good for the world, the region and especially the international [nuclear] non-proliferation treaty.”

President Hassan Rouhani

Talking Points

  • The capital earned from Instex trade between Iran and Europe is estimated to be a few million Euros which Iranian politicians argue is very little compared to what Iran earned through trade prior to US sanctions. Despite the money concerns, do you think Instex will be enough for Iran to remain committed to the nuclear deal for the sake of being included in the international community and for the hope that the US may eventually lift sanctions as well? 
  • Why do you think Iran would threaten to violate the JCPOA nuclear deal just one day before Iran knows the E3 have scheduled to discuss Instex in Vienna?
  • Why do you think United States’ allies, Germany, UK and France, want to oppose US sanctions on Iran especially after a European country’s, Norway’s, oil tanker was attacked by Iran a few weeks ago?
  • Although Instex is only supposed to trade humanitarian goods that are not under US sanctions, do you think the US will impose new sanctions on Instex to continue the US objective of draining Iran’s wealth?
  • Do you think companies will want to trade with Iran and risk potential US sanctions penalties or blacklisting?

US House Passes Humanitarian Aid Immigration Package the Same Day a Father and Daughter are Found Dead on the US-Mexico Border

A $4.5 Million humanitarian aid package passed in the House on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, by 230 to 195 to improve the horrific conditions experienced by migrant families and children on the US and Mexico border. The House bill has many restrictions on how the government agencies can spend the money such as strictly for humanitarian purposes and not for immigration raids.

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That same day, a photo from the Associated Press of two dead immigrants, a father and 2 year old daughter, laying face down in a river on the US and Mexico border went viral which re-ignited nation-wide immigration talks. The father in the photo, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, and his daughter, Valeria Ramirez, were from El Salvador and were attempting to enter the US to seek asylum. They were waiting at a camp on the Mexican side of the border for their turn to cross into the United States legally. However, it was reportedly 110 degrees Fahrenheit at the camp and there wasn’t enough food so the father decided they would cross into the US illegally and then ask for asylum once they arrived. However, the currents of the Rio Grande river were too strong and drowned the family while crossing.

Ramirez and his daughter had to wait for their turn on the Mexico side before entering the US border legally because of one of Trump’s immigration policies called metering which places a daily cap on the number of asylum seekers accepted into the US legally. The two methods for crossing the United States’ border and seeking asylum are either legally at a port of entry or illegally at any crossing but then turning yourself into Border Patrol to seek asylum.

Talking Points

  • †The camps on the Mexican side of the border were established because of an agreement between President Trump and Mexico’s President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. However, the camps are reportedly intolerable, too hot, overcrowded, and there isn’t enough food. If the camps were re-modeled and improved, would it encourage migrants to wait to cross the border legally? Or will migrants always feel an urgency to cross the border no matter how nice the living conditions are at the camps?
  • Nancy Pelosi said that the House of Representatives’ aid package will provide food, shelter, sanitary items, and medical care as well as limiting the amount of time an unaccompanied minor can be held at the border. This makes one ask, what would this new humanitarian package really look like and how can we ensure that this humanitarian aid doesn’t create similar camps to the ones on Mexico’s border?
  • One of the fears for Congressmen voting on the Bill was that this money would be given to the same government agencies that have been tearing families apart at the border and that this aid money may be used to enhance those agencies’ agenda rather than for humanitarian purposes. Is this something you fear as well or do you trust the government agencies to use the aid money wisely for its intended purpose?
  • Do you think metering encourages asylum seekers to enter the US legally at a port of entry or encourages asylum seekers to enter the border illegally?

Trump Issues More Sanctions on Iran After US Drone Shot Down

President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order, Imposing Sanctions with Respect to Iran, on June 24, 2019, after recent Iranian aggressions including Iran’s attack on a US spy drone over the Strait of Hormuz last week.

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The US sanctions target the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and anyone appointed by the Supreme Leader from accessing US financial institutions and assets under US jurisdiction. It also includes the sanctioning of eight military commanders in the IRGC, one of the Commanders being, Amirali Hajizadeh, who was responsible for shooting down the US drone last week.

After the aggressions, President Trump decided not to launch a military strike against Iran because of the 150 person death toll that was estimated from an attack. Instead President Trump decided to use a cyberattack against a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) that monitored oil exports and to issue new US sanctions on Iran.

Talking Points

  • Secretary of US Treasury, Steve Mnuchin announced that the new Executive Order which issued US sanctions on the Supreme Leader was already planned before the US drone was shot down last week. More sanctions are also planned against Iran’s foreign minister for later this week. What are the advantages of the United States’ strategy of planning out gradual targeted sanctions against Iran vs. issuing all sanctions against Iran at one time through comprehensive sanctions?
  • Steve Mnuchin also explained to reporters the US strategy against Iran,”I think the president has been clear, maximum pressure on the sanctions…So that is our strategy.” Do you think the tactic of sanctions against Iran really works? At what point are sanctions deemed ineffective and military actions is considered a necessary next step?
  • Do you think it’s smart for the US to take action such as sanctions alone and without working in conjunction with US allies?
  • Iran’s Foreign Ministry responded to the US sanctions by tweeting that sanctioning the leaders of Iran’s nuclear negotiations, the Supreme Leader and Zarif, “means the permanent closure of the doors of diplomacy.” What are your thoughts on Iran’s response to the sanctions?

US Launched a Cyber Attack Against Iran After Iran Shot Down US Drone

President Trump decided last Thursday, June 20, 2019, that a cyberattack against Iran would be a more proportionate retaliation to Iran’s attack on a US Drone over the Strait of Hormuz than a military airstrike which would kill approximately 150 people.

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The US Cyber Command launched the cyberattack against Iranian missile control systems and the same Iranian military intelligence unit that attacked the US drone last week which monitors the shipments of oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz. It was reported that computers used to control missile and rocket launches were affected and that radar systems were shut down around the time of the attack. However, it is unclear whether the attack was successful in shutting down these systems or whether Iran shut down the systems to prepare for the attack. Iran claims that the cyberattack was unsuccessful.

Talking Points

  • President Trump’s decision to launch a cyber attack instead of a military strike to avoid human casualties presents the question of what are the advantages and disadvantages of cyber-warfare vs. conventional warfare?
  • There aren’t many details available about the objectives of the US Cyber Command’s attack on Iran last week and it is unknown whether the attack was successful or not. Cyber-warfare can add a layer of secrecy where the consequences of an attack are more private compared to conventional warfare which is public. Because of this secrecy element, should governments provide evidence and be more transparent about cyber attacks so as not to lose the public’s trust or is it better for warfare to be more private between nations?
  • The Iranian news agency, The Fars News Agency, called the cyberattack a bluff because Iranian officials claimed it was unsuccessful. Because of cyber warfare’s secrecy, can cyber warfare be used to spread disinformation to fulfill a nation’s political and foreign policy objectives?
  • Some experts believe it was a mistake to launch a cyberattack on Iran because now Iran will learn how to defend against that form of cyberattack and the US will be unable to use it again in the future for a more serious situation. Do you believe Iran’s attack on a US drone and their alleged attacks on oil tankers isn’t serious enough for the US to retaliate with a cyberattack?
  • Should the US government and US companies expect and prepare for Iran to retaliate with their own cyberattack? Which sector of the US do you think Iran would most likely target-military, financial, energy?

Iran Shoots Down US Spy Drone Over the Strait of Hormuz

One week after the Japanese and Norwegian oil tanker explosion in the Strait of Hormuz, an American Navy High Altitude Unmanned Aircraft System aka Broad Area Maritime Surveillance ISR (BAMS-D) Aircraft aka RQ-4A Global Hawk Drone was shot down in the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian Surface to Air Missile system called Third of Khordad. The RQ-4A drone was deployed to the region last month to carry out reconnaissance and intelligence missions by providing real-time footage of a targeted area. It is specifically used to spy on Iranian military activities and trade due to the increase in US sanctions. This explains why the drone was found over the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil trading route.

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An Iranian commander admits that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down the drone but claims the drone was in Iranian airspace and violated their border security. However, the drone was reportedly 17 miles from Iran in international airspace. Therefore, the attack has been interpreted as an unprovoked attack by Iran on the US. There were also reports that Iran attempted to shoot down a second drone but failed.

Currently, the US is hoping to locate the drone wreckage before Iranian officials do to potentially find additional evidence to prove that the drone was located in international airspace when it was shot down and not within Iran’s borders.

Due to the attack occurring in a major oil trading route, oil prices rose 3% after the attack which is an example of the larger global ramification of Iran’s aggressions.

The only way for our enemies to be safe is to respect our sovereignty, national security, and the national interests of the great Iranian nation

Major General Hossein Salami, Head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp

Talking Points News

  • This is the second Iranian attack in a week and there have been further reports of Iran attacking Saudi Arabia this week as well. Is Iran carrying out these attacks in retaliation to US sanctions?
  • Iran admits to attacking the drone but claims the drone was invading Iranian airspace. However, the US claims the drone was actually in international airspace. What kind of proof and evidence is needed to determine exactly where the drone was located and whether Iran’s attack was lawful or not?
  • Major General Hossein Salami, was quoted as saying Iran does “not want war with any country, but we are completely, and totally, ready and prepared for war.” Will the US have to re-think sanctions and the JCPOA nuclear deal to handle Iran diplomatically? Or do you think that if these attacks continue, it could lead to a military confrontation?

1,000 US Troops to be Deployed to Poland

President Trump declared last week while meeting with Polish President, Andrzej Duda, at the White House, that Trump has agreed to deploy 1,000 more US troops to Poland on top of the 4,500 troops already stationed in Poland. This is an alternative deal to President Duda’s original offer of paying 2 Billion to build a “Fort Trump” for the US to have a permanent US base in Poland to protect Poland from Russia’s aggressions.

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Poland has been threatened by Russian aggression in the region ever since it was occupied by the Soviet Union ending in 1990 and more recently since Russia annexed Crimea from the Ukraine in 2014. The US military began sending troops to Poland in 2016 to fulfill the Nato Military Alliance agreement which is why there is already a US base and 4,500 US troops in Poland.

In September 2017, the Russian military launched Zapad or “West”, a series of war games in neighboring Belarus where one of the military training scenarios involved (fictionally) targeting Poland with nuclear weapons. Polish Officials feared Zapad was Russia’s strategy to invade Poland and to repeat the Ukrainian war. In response, Poland collaborated with neighboring NATO countries to carry out their own war games at the end of September 2017.

Currently, Russian military presence continues to grow in Kaliningrad, Russia’s border with Poland, where thousands of Russian troops and advanced weaponry are stationed. Therefore, Poland’s President has expressed the desire to establish stronger ties with the West to deter Russia from invading Poland. Former Polish Foreign and Defense Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, said in an interview last year that Poland’s strategy is to deter Russia but not threaten Russia and the United States’ deployment of troops will help Poland reach that critical balance.

As part of the US- Polish deal, the additional US troops will be US military personnel currently stationed in Germany and all troops will stay in Poland on a rotation system. Under the agreement, a squadron of Reaper Drones for surveillance reconnaissance missions will also be deployed to the region. Poland has agreed to finance the needed infrastructure for the base, US Special Operations capability, and an area support group in return for the United States’ protection. Additionally, a combat training center will be built in Drawsko Pomorskie, Northern Poland, to train both American and Polish military personnel.

Both countries seek to conclude international agreements and other arrangements necessary to realise the common vision for enhanced defence cooperation, including the streamlining of the functioning of the US forces in Poland.

US and Poland Agreement

Talking Points

  • †Ever since Russia’s annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine, the United States has partnered with NATO members, Britain, Canada, and Germany to station their military in NATO Baltic countries, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to be prepared for a potential Russian aggression. What do you think the probability is of Russia invading one of those countries if NATO weren’t there for protection?
  • Government officials have been questioning, will sending more US troops to Poland conflict with Trump’s belief that the burden sharing among NATO members is unequal? Why is it that other European countries couldn’t station their military there instead of the US?
  • Do you think President Trump should agree to President Duda’s offer for a Fort Trump or permanent US military base in Poland? What would be the positive and negatives of having a permanent US base in Poland?
  • Do you think Russian war games such as Zapad are purely for military training or do you think it is a strategy to spread the fear of invasion in the Baltics?