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Undocumented essential workers in New York state win their fight for pandemic relief

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Undocumented workers in New York and all over the nation have been unfairly shut out of all rounds of federal relief, despite being taxpayers and being overrepresented in fields categorized as essential. “Instead, they have relied on food pantries, lenient landlords and loans from friends,” The Times reported. “I’ve met neighbors who have not been able to pay rent, or put food on the table, or been able to provide their children with a laptop when a public school has not been able to provide one,” State Sen. Jessica Ramos said in the report. She was a lead sponsor with Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa.

In recent weeks, the push for emergency relief escalated, with street vendors, restaurant workers, and other essential workers launching a hunger strike. “We’re here today because they tell us that we’re essential, but they treat us like we’re not,” The Counter reports one hunger striker said on the morning of the action’s launch. Their efforts paid off following the agreement by lawmakers this week. They not only celebrated the news, they ate, breaking their fast on Wednesday after more than three weeks.

“We owe this victory to the bravery of workers all across New York State, who fought for this fund fiercely for a year, culminating in a 22-day hunger strike,” Make the Road New York continued in the statement. “Workers sacrificed their bodies and their health to deliver relief to their communities, and we owe them a deep debt of gratitude.”

The funding agreement is a victory for advocates in more ways than one. Advocates said in the statement that Gov. Andrew Cuomo “not only refused to provide any support for excluded workers,” he also  “attempted to sabotage the fund with a series of bureaucratic hurdles that would have made the funding inaccessible to those who need it most. The restrictions to access that resulted from his last minute jockeying only hurt those who are most in need and have the least access to traditional forms of proof.”

The organization warned that certain bill conditions could make it hard for some undocumented workers to access emergency funds despite losing income last year and through recent months. The Times reports some undocumented workers could be eligible for up to $15,600—“the equivalent of $300 per week for the last year”—under certain criteria, and others eligible for up to $3,200. 

“The budget does include worrisome provisions that will make it extremely hard for some workers to gain access to the funding, given the nature of work that excluded workers often do,” Make the Road New York said. “The budget language includes no clear way for workers to self-attest their employment status or use other forms of documentation and evidence that courts widely accept. Given that excluded workers primarily work in the cash economy, it’s essential that the rollout of this fund provide common-sense flexibility in the kinds of proof that workers can provide.”

“The implementation of this fund will be as critical as its passage. We will be closely monitoring to make sure the process moves swiftly and maximizes relief to excluded workers in need.”

“Finally, while we celebrate today’s news, the fact that workers even needed to fight for this funding is a travesty,” the group continued. “The pandemic has made clear that the well-being of our communities is interconnected and the exclusion of some people hurts us all. It has also laid bare racist exclusions in our social safety net that keep some workers from basic support that’s essential to survival. We hope that people across the country will be inspired by the bravery of workers in New York to end this unjust system once and for all.”


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Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar launch ‘America First Caucus,’ and it’s as bad as you imagine

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While immigration may increase the nation’s “aggregate output,” they acknowledge, it’s still unacceptable because of “the long-term existential future of America as a unique country with a unique culture and a unique identity being put at unnecessary risk.”

IT’S UNIQUE, PEOPLE. UNIQUE.

Oh, and they have ideas about infrastructure. Yes, white supremacist ideas about infrastructure. “The America First Caucus will work towards an infrastructure that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom.” (Do they know that stunningly beautiful infrastructure costs money?)

The progeny of European architecture pretty much puts it right out there, just in case you’d missed the Anglo-Saxon bit: We’re talking about white people, and nobody but. The United States of America is unique … but in a very European way.

So. Why should you not dismiss this as just a handful of Republicans? Punchbowl reports that Greene and Gosar are being joined by Reps. Louie Gohmert and Barry Moore, but that’s still just four. Yeah. Four people elected to the United States Congress creating or signing on to a group intended to bring stunningly, classically white supremacist ideas to Congress. Four is not a lot of people to embrace white supremacy if the four people are random schmoes in a population of millions. Four is a lot of people when you’re talking about a pool composed of those elected to the national government in one of two major parties. There are 212 Republicans in the House and it’s not hard to think of a few more of them who are probably thinking seriously about joining this caucus.

This is also significant because it’s not coming out of nowhere. A “certain intellectual boldness is needed amongst members of the AFC to follow in President Trump’s footsteps, and potentially step on some toes and sacrifice cows for the good of the American nation.” There are footsteps for them to follow in when they sketch out this white supremacist vision of the U.S.—footsteps that went into the White House.

For years the Republican Party as a whole has gotten the benefit of the doubt about its far-right members. It’s just a few, people said. It’s the fringe. But the party as a whole keeps moving toward that fringe, making the fringe of a decade ago the center of the party now. It is never safe to assume that Republicans will cleanse themselves of the racists or the conspiracy theorists or the sex pests in their party. We’ve watched them refuse to do so again and again, and if we don’t learn from that, it’s a guarantee of disaster.


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Oath Keepers ‘lifetime member’ agrees to cooperate with prosecutors in Jan. 6 insurrection case

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Schaffer’s guilty plea to two charges—obstructing an official proceeding and illegally entering the Capitol grounds—makes him the first participant in the insurrection to agree to provide evidence against his fellow rioters. Schaffer, who originally faced six felony charges, will enter the government’s witness protection program as part of the deal.

According to an earlier filing, which was mistakenly made public, Schaffer in March began engaging in “debrief interviews.” As The Washington Post notes, the plea bargain marks a critical step forward in the prosecution of the cases, as other defendants face similar choices in terms of providing evidence for prosecutors, particularly when it comes to the activities of the two key paramilitary organizations involved in the insurrection, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.

“Whenever you have a large group of people arrested,” criminal defense attorney Martin Tankleff told CNN, it’s common for prosecutors to pressure defendants to flip on each other. “They’re going to start talking. They’re going to start sharing information.”

Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who was present in Washington on Jan. 6 but did not enter the Capitol, is one of the key figures being drawn into the net prosecutors are creating with conspiracy charges involving other members of his group. Though federal indictments handed down against his Oath Keepers and Proud Boys cohorts have not named him personally, he is referenced in several of them as “Person 1,” a central player in what prosecutors are describing as a conspiracy to “stop, delay, or hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.”

“I may go to jail soon,” Rhodes recently told a right-wing rally in Texas. “Not for anything I actually did, but for made-up crimes. There are some Oath Keepers right now along with Proud Boys and other patriots who are in D.C. who are sitting in jail denied bail despite the supposed right to a jury trial before you’re found guilty and presumption of innocence, were denied bail because the powers that be don’t like their political views.”

Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola’s attorney wrote in court filings that he believed a so-called “cooperating witness” was sharing information about the Proud Boys. An earlier filing by prosecutors had revealed that this witness heard Proud Boys members claim that “anyone they got their hands on they would have killed,” including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and that they would have also killed then-Vice President Mike Pence “if given the chance.” The men—who all had firearms or access to them—also talked about returning to Washington for Inauguration Day, and that “they plan to kill every single ‘m-fer’ they can.” That witness, prosecutors noted, has not been charged with a crime.

Most of the defendants, as a New York Times piece recently explored, are facing substantial evidence of their crimes culled from videos and photos both in mainstream media and on social media. Indeed, a large portion of that evidence was provided by the insurrectionists themselves.


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Republicans can’t agree with themselves on how tiny an infrastructure package to demand

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An estimated $41.8 billion is needed to repair structurally deficient bridges alone—never mind getting ahead of the bridges that will become structurally deficient in the coming years. Or talking about roads, rail, broadband, schools, veterans’ hospitals, ports, airports, replacing lead pipes for drinking water, caring for our elders while boosting some of the fastest-growing occupations, and supporting medical manufacturing.

As absurd a low-ball as Capito’s $600 to $800 billion was, though, at least she said something that she would be willing to talk about. More Republicans are just saying “No! Smaller!” and counting on voters to recoil from a corporate tax increase.

Voters, however, support raising corporate taxes to pay for infrastructure—in one poll, telling people that infrastructure would be paid for by a corporate tax hike actually increases support for the plan. Another new poll, from Navigator Research, finds narrow majority support for the infrastructure plan that grows to 70% support when people learn what’s in it, with large majorities of independent voters supporting many of the specific components of the American Jobs Plan, including the senior care proposal that congressional Republicans are so intent on disqualifying as “not really infrastructure.”

Even a majority of Republicans polled support that proposal, along with eliminating lead pipes, investing to protect against future pandemics, investing in rail systems, upgrading and building new schools and child care facilities, and more. Things like clean energy and investing in communities of color don’t get Republican majorities, but they do get independent majorities and strong Democratic support. If these proposals would get support from just half the proportion of Republican lawmakers as Republican voters, they would be seen as strongly bipartisan. But instead, congressional Republicans ignore the polling and yell about how Biden is steamrolling them because his willingness to compromise doesn’t extend to being steamrolled himself. These people are not operating in good faith. Doing so would be in violation of their deepest principles and would probably get them kicked out of their party. And they should be dealt with—and reported on—accordingly. 


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