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From Tech Workers to College Kids, Trump is Also Taking on Legal Immigrants

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump’s opposition to illegal immigration is well known. But since his inauguration, he has also attempted to overhaul legal immigration, most notably with his executive order barring travel and immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Speculation about other ways the president could restrict legal immigration have been fueled by his statements as well as leaked draft memos. Additionally, there are concerns surrounding potential conflicts of interest between the president’s businesses and his immigration policy, since some of the Trump’s companies rely upon visas that he now controls.

Few people understand the United States’ notoriously labyrinthine immigration system. The confusion is understandable. The State Department lists 76 visa categories that fall under two umbrellas: non-immigrant visas, for those seeking to come to the country for a fixed period, and immigrant visas, for those seeking a path to citizenship.

Here are some of the visas issued by the US government and what we know about Trump’s plans for them:

EB-5: The “millionaire” or “investor” visa
EB-5 holders are required to make a minimum business investment of $1 million (or $500,000 in a “high unemployment” or rural area), creating at least 10 jobs. This visa is controversial: Some argue that it allows foreigners to buy citizenship. Others suggest that these visas are processed too quickly, potentially opening the door to money laundering and other security risks. Earlier this month, Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) cosponsored a bill to end the program.

As Bloomberg reported, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, owns an apartment complex that has taken $50 million in EB-5 funds, mostly from Chinese investors. Trump has not commented on this visa program.

H-1B: Highly Skilled worker visa
H-1Bs allow foreigners who work in a “specialty occupation,” such as technology, engineering, mathematics, or business, to work in the country for three years. (They may renew their visas an additional three years so long as they remain employed.) The worker must have an employment agreement with an American company. The number of H-1Bs is capped at 85,000.

Trump’s stance on H-1Bs has varied. He used harsh language about them on his website, but then in a campaign debate said, “I’m softening the position on his website because we have to have talented people in this country.” He then hardened his position again in a press release, stating that “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.” In his inauguration speech, Trump said, “We will follow two simple rules; buy American and hire American.” This has raised questions about how a “hire American” requirement might impact American businesses that rely on skilled foreign employees, particularly Silicon Valley.

According to a draft executive order obtained by Bloomberg, Trump has plans to overhaul this visa program. The draft order sparked a wave of panic in India’s technology sector, whose workers are the top recipients of H-1Bs. According to executive order drafts leaked to Vox, one of the ways Trump could alter this visa would be to stop the spouses of H-1B holders from working in the United States and restricting these visas to companies that are “the best and the brightest,” which presumably means only largest and most successful American companies.

H-1B3: The “model visa”
This visa is a subset of the “highly skilled workers” visa. When the immigration system was reformed in the 1990s, the modeling industry expressed concern that while supermodels were covered by the O-1 visa (see below), non-supermodels were left out. The “model visa” was created.

First Lady Melania Trump originally worked in the United States on such a visa, and has cited it as proof that she immigrated legally and that others should follow her example. Trump’s modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has benefited from hiring foreign models using this visa. However, as Mother Jones reported last year, some of the company’s models say they came to the United States on tourist visas, which did not allow them to work legally. A Trump Organization executive did not deny the claims.

H2: Seasonal worker visa
H2s allow companies to temporarily hire agricultural workers or other workers without advanced degrees, such as waiters and housekeepers, provided that employers prove that they could not fill these position with citizens.

According to the Washington Post, Trump’s vineyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, recently applied for six H-2A visas. As BuzzFeed reported last week, the vineyard applied for nearly two dozen more earlier this month. Similarly, Trump’s Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago resort requested 78 H2B visas for foreign servers, housekeepers, and cooks. When asked about this at a debate last March, Trump said, “It’s very, very hard to get people. But other hotels do the exact same thing…There’s nothing wrong with it. We have no choice.” Perhaps that was a signal that he’ll leave this visa alone.

F-1: Student visas
These visas allow students to travel to the United States to study at high schools, universities, seminaries, and other educational institutions.

Many students with F visas have been affected by the travel ban. As Mother Jones has reported, many college students were stranded by the ban while returning from winter break. Four thousand Iranian students will be affected should the ban remain in place. Fortune estimates that US colleges could lose $700 million annually if these students’ tuition money dries up. Though Trump hasn’t spoken specifically about changes to student visas, during his campaign, he has called for ending the J-1 visa program for visiting scholars and professors.

O-1: The “artist” or “genius” visa
This visa allows “individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement” to come to the United States to work in their field of expertise. This visa covers everyone from athletes and musicians to famous authors and Nobel Prize-winning scientists. (Athletes who are entering for a specific competition may enter on a P-1 “athlete’s visa.”)

If Trump’s travel ban is upheld, celebrities from the seven specified countries could be affected. International disapproval of the ban could affect major events, such as Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Olympics, which will be decided in September. According to ESPN, international soccer officials’ disapproval of the president’s travel ban could affect the United States’s chances of hosting the World Cup in 2026.

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From Tech Workers to College Kids, Trump is Also Taking on Legal Immigrants

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Kellyanne Conway’s White Nationalist Retweet Is No Mistake

Mother Jones

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Late Monday, coming off a long evening of responding to Gen. Mike Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser, senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway found solace in a tweet from a user named Lib Hypocrisy:

Conway not only retweeted the message but also wrote, “Love you back,” and wished her “Hapless Haters” a happy Valentine’s Day.

But there was just one problem: Lib Hypocrisy is an explicit promoter of white nationalism and other bigotry. This is evident from the account’s profile, which includes the hashtags “#WhiteIdentity” and “#Nationalist.” It features a cartoon image connoting Pepe the Frog, the adopted mascot of the racist “alt-right” movement, and a shout-out to Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician who wants to shut down mosques.

These are some of Lib Hypocrisy’s recent tweets and retweets:

Asked about her retweet of Lib Hypocisy by BuzzFeed on Tuesday, Conway implied that she hadn’t been in control of her account at the time. She said she “obviously” had no idea who Lib Hypocrisy was, adding, “I denounce whoever it is.” The tweets were soon deleted.

Conway’s move continues a long-standing pattern of Trump and his inner circle engaging with white nationalists and then claiming ignorance when confronted about it—as Mother Jones documented in multiple investigations since last summer. Other such “mistakes” include:

Trump failing to disavow support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke when asked about it repeatedly on CNN, and then blaming a “bad earpiece.”
Trump appointing a white nationalist leader as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, and then blaming a “database error” for the move.
Trump tweeting an image of himself superimposed over a picture of WWII-era Waffen-SS soldiers, and then blaming a mistake by an intern.
Gen. Michael Flynn sharing a #NeverHillary tweet that said, “Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore,” and then claiming it was a mistake.

Those are just the cases in which Trump and his backers have backpedaled. There are many other similar instances in which they haven’t even bothered to explain or apologize:

Trump twice retweeting @WhiteGenocideTM
Trump retweeting @EustaceFash, whose header image at the time also included the term “White Genocide.”
Trump tweeting an image of himself as Pepe the frog
Trump tweeting an image of “Crooked Hillary” superimposed over a pile of cash and the Star of David
Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous Skittles tweet
Trump tweeting blatantly false and racially inflammatory crime statistics

The most charitable interpretation of this behavior is ineptitude. Regardless, the result is clear: According to one study of 10,000 Twitter accounts that followed Trump, more than a third also followed the account of at least one prominent booster of white nationalism—a movement now widely regarded as having a direct line into the Oval Office.

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Kellyanne Conway’s White Nationalist Retweet Is No Mistake

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Mother Jones Wins “Best Picture Award for the Magazine Industry”

Mother Jones

It’s been an extraordinary few months for Mother Jones—from publishing a massive investigation on private prisons to breaking the story of a veteran spy’s allegations that Russia had sought to compromise Donald Trump, to launching a new model for investigative reporting on a foundation of reader support. Today, those breakthroughs and more were honored with the most prestigious award in the magazine industry, the 2017 Magazine of the Year award from the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). MoJo also took home the award for Best Reporting for Shane Bauer’s “My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard,” and we were a finalist in the General Excellence category.

This was the first year Mother Jones was nominated for Magazine of the Year—our industry’s equivalent of the Best Picture Oscar—alongside The New Yorker, New York, Cosmopolitan, and California Sunday. Judges recognized our work on the most important political stories of the year, including Trump’s conflicts of interest, his ties to white nationalism, and the Russia memos, along with myriad investigative and immersive narratives, dramatically increased traffic and visibility, and a widely acclaimed redesign of our website and print magazine.

“Holy shit,” as our editor-in-chief, Clara Jeffery, put it in accepting the award, adding that she was “super proud of our entire team.” The recognition comes at an especially important time, she said, when “the media is under attack. Whether we are magazines that specialize in news and politics, or whether we are magazines that delight and distract, we are going to need both. I really hope we all stick together in the time to come.”

(Needless to say, at MoJo we plan to double down against attacks on freedom of the press and democracy as a whole. If you’d like to help support unrelenting investigative reporting, subscribe here or donate here.) And if you already do—or if you’re part of the MoJo community in other ways, as a frequent reader, sharer, or cheerleader, or as someone who uses our journalism to change the world: THANK YOU. MoJo is unique because we rely on users, not advertisers or deep-pocketed interests, to make our work possible. This award belongs to you.

Here’s what it looked like when Clara and the MoJo delegation learned the news at the awards ceremony:

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Mother Jones Wins “Best Picture Award for the Magazine Industry”

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In Flint, We Are Laying Tragedy on Top of Tragedy on Top of Tragedy

Mother Jones

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I mentioned yesterday that continuing to keep Flint residents in terror of their water, even though it’s now safe, is just compounding tragedy with tragedy. Today, however, a friend directs me to another example of this, from a New Yorker story about Maya Shankar, an Obama staffer who was looking at ways that behavioral science might be put to work in Flint. It starts with a conversation between Shankar and Kent Key, who works at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine:

Key shared a personal story about the son of a family friend who had begun acting out in school. The boy’s mother had come to Key for help. When Key asked the boy what was going on, he replied, “Well, they said I’m not going to be smart anyway.”

“These kids are internalizing the messages about how the lead is affecting them,” Key said….It wasn’t immediately clear what had come out of the gathering. But, as she and Tucker-Ray left for their next appointment, Shankar began contemplating aloud the possibilities. She said to Tucker-Ray, “Did you see how my eyes widened when he said that thing about the kids giving up because they think they’re going to be dumb?”

….As their last day in Flint drew to a close, Shankar and Tucker-Ray hurried to a final meeting. They had arranged to talk with a disabled Gulf War veteran and community activist named Art Woodson, who didn’t think much of the federal government. At a local municipal building, where an enlarged photograph of corroded lead pipes adorned one wall, Woodson told Shankar about his worry that local kids would give up when lead’s symptoms surfaced, or even before. “What I see,” he said, “is hopelessness.”

This is yet another tragedy. Children in Flint had mildly elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream for about a year or two. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but the effects of this are fairly modest. To put it in terms most people will recognize, it means that some children in Flint will lose about one IQ point. Maybe two. That’s a tragedy, but it’s an even bigger tragedy if kids and their parents respond to this by thinking their lives are permanently ruined. The truth is that in nearly all children, the effects will be only barely noticeable.

I don’t know what the right response is here. On the one hand, nobody pays attention unless you yell and scream and demand attention. If it weren’t for this, authorities would have ignored Flint even longer than they did. On the other hand, the effects of all this yelling and screaming can be disastrous in the long term if residents end up with the belief that Flint’s kids are now all destined for a life of misery and cognitive decline.

What’s the answer? I’m just some white guy in California, and nobody in Flint is going to pay any attention to what I’m saying. I don’t blame them. Nor do doctors want to publicly agree with me, because nobody wants to downplay the effects of lead poisoning. I get that too. I can already imagine the number of tweets and emails I’m going to get demanding to know why I think Flint is no big deal. And yet, the effects of not acknowledging the truth in a serious but sober way can be devastating. There has to be a better way.

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In Flint, We Are Laying Tragedy on Top of Tragedy on Top of Tragedy

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The Press Corps We Deserve

Mother Jones

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“FAKE NEWS—A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter account blared last week, after CNN reported that US intelligence officials had briefed him and President Barack Obama on an alleged Russian operation to co-opt him and gather compromising information.

The allegations, summarized in a memo that a former foreign intelligence official passed to the FBI last summer, were not new. They were first reported by MoJo‘s David Corn on October 31. That was, to state the obvious, eight days before the election; it was also three days after FBI Director James Comey announced that the bureau had discovered what might be a new batch of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Though those emails hadn’t yet been reviewed (and turned out to reveal nothing) Comey thought they were significant enough to bring them to the world’s attention. He did not make a similar announcement about this other trove of information. Make of that what you will.

Nor, it should be noted, did the rest of the press devote even a fraction of the attention it lavished on the email announcement to the Russia story; some even speculated that a batch of Russia-related stories that broke that day had to be the result of an “oppo dump,” suggesting that the journalists were covering this issue simply because Clinton forces were pushing it. (This assumption is still poisoning the debate, but that’s for another day.)

Let’s be absolutely clear: David’s story was the result of enterprise reporting and fact-checking. Mother Jones did not choose to publish the memos themselves or detail the specific allegations because we were not able to independently verify them. (As David noted on Twitter, “even Donald Trump deserves journalistic fairness.”)

What we were able to verify, though, was that the former intelligence professional was who he said he was, that he had the respect of many others in his field, that he’d taken his information to the FBI, and that the bureau had followed up.

That an authoritarian foreign power might be seeking to compromise the next president of the United States was news, and it deserved further investigation by the FBI as well as the press. (Mother Jones will definitely stay on the beat—just a few hours ago, David published his latest scoop on this matter.) That neither institution drew sufficient public attention to it may prove to be an error of historic consequence. But that moment has passed. Now, with Trump taking office as the 45th president, the urgent task is to learn from it.

One lesson is that fearless, independent reporting is more critical than ever. If you believe that, consider supporting our nonprofit newsroom. Your donation goes directly to the work that David and his fellow reporters and editors do every day.

Another lesson is that journalists’ reflexive instinct to undercut or ignore each other’s work—standard competitive point-scoring in a normal environment—may have a cost. Because we are no longer in a normal environment. That was chillingly demonstrated in Trump’s response when the Russia dossier story finally became blew open last week.

First came those tweets calling it fake news—a term, don’t forget, that came into use to describe made-up stories intended to boost Trump. (Trump isn’t alone with this rhetorical sleight of hand. Lots of people, on the right and the left, now use “fake news” as a synonym for “news I disagree with.” That’s a perversion of the concept.)

Then, with the press corps assembled at his tower the next morning, Trump sent out his spokesman and his vice president to slam and humiliate the outlets that had made the story big news again, lumping together CNN, which had been careful not to publish the memos or details, and BuzzFeed, which had made the controversial choice to run the documents in full. “Sad” and “pathetic” were some of the kinder terms used.

Finally, Trump went in for the kill. He called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage.” He refused to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta, calling CNN “fake news.” His spokesman later told Fox News that he would “remove” Acosta if he demanded the right to ask a question again.

This response deserves a little unpacking, because it is a dry run for what we can expect going forward. In just a couple of tweets and a handful of comments, Trump sought to (a) discredit all of the press for the decisions of some; (b) neutralize a term that describes, in part, propaganda ginned up by Moscow to help his candidacy; (c) use that term to dismiss a story of enormous concern to the public; and last but not least, (d) play a divide-and-conquer game with the press itself.

The president-elect had started the news conference by complimenting some news outlets (that he did not name) for the “professional” manner in which they handled the Russian intelligence story. But then, as Acosta asked him to “give us a chance to ask a question, sir,” he shook his head: “Not you. Your organization is terrible. Quiet!”

Sorting the press into “good” and “bad” is a tried-and-true tactic of media manipulation. It aims to push reporters to conduct themselves in a way that will land them on the good list, to be rewarded with access, and to fear ending up on the bad list that may come in for punishment and exile. Quiet. Or else.

(What that punishment could look like is already becoming apparent, with Trump demanding that Congress investigate NBC’s decision to report a leak of another element of the Russia story.)

The president-elect and many of his supporters have long made clear their contempt for reporters who pursue inconvenient stories. When they impugn real reporting as “fake news” and use that slur to dodge vital questions, it’s an attack on all journalists—and on the audience. On you.

As citizens, as participants in democracy, you deserve journalists who ask hard questions and refuse to back down when the president tells them to shush. You deserve a press that doesn’t wave off conflicts of interest and possible ties to foreign autocrats as just another wrinkle in the who’s-up-who’s-down of political competition. You need a Fourth Estate that goes exactly where powerful people don’t want it to go.

But the economics of media are such that we are not assured that kind of watchdog press unless we build an alternative to a model where newsrooms are owned by entertainment corporations and financed by cheap advertising. Those corporations and advertisers have lots of interests; a vigorous and unrestrained press is not necessarily the first one. If you sign up as a sustaining donor to Mother Jones, you become part of building the alternative.

Journalists don’t always talk about the backstory to our reporting, and that’s been to our disadvantage. Here at MoJo, we have been seeking to jump-start that conversation with our series of articles on the media business and our own campaign to build a reader-supported model. In the coming year, we hope to roll out more ways for you to participate in that conversation, and in the journalism itself. But don’t be shy to jump in right now: What did you think of how Trump characterized the press? Do you think MoJo should have published the Russia memos? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, or by sending us an email.

P.S. Just have to add this other bit of news that broke just as we were about to publish: Mother Jones has been nominated for three National Magazine Awards (the Oscars of our industry), for general excellence, reporting (for Shane Bauer’s prison investigation), and Magazine of the Year. That’s a huge honor to the insanely hard-working team here—and to you, our readers, who make it all possible. Thank you.

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The Press Corps We Deserve

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