Immigration Officials at the Border and the Milgram Experiment

I thought immediately of the Milgram experiment when I saw this interview with Tom Homan the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In 1961 and 1962, social psychologist Stanley Milgram wanted to know if average Americans would follow the orders of an authority even if those orders led them to harm fellow research subjects. Milgram created an elaborate ruse to fool volunteers into thinking they were giving electric shocks to an accomplice of Milgram. Milgram created an experimenter role, an actor who had to learn word pairs, and the actual subject who had to teach the actor the word pairs. When the teacher thought the learner (the actor) got an answer wrong, the experiment called for the teacher to shock the learner for the wrong answer (who the teacher thought was strapped into a chair). The teacher-subject thought the shocks increased with each wrong answer until the learner finally indicated that his heart was hurting and wanted out of the experiment.

No shocks were actually being delivered. However, the teachers thought they were actually giving shocks. The experimenter was in the same room and exhorted the teacher to continue with the experiment over the loud protests of the actor-learner. Milgram’s question was: Would these average citizens continue giving what they thought was painful shocks to a helpless fellow citizen based on the direction of an authority figure?

There were various trials but about two-thirds of the subjects shocked subjects to 450 fake volts because they thought the experiment required it.

Now, ICE officials and workers at the border are refusing to take responsibility for their actions and saying that they do what they do because of the law. One of the factors that social psychologists typically point to is the defusing of responsibility. In the replication of the Milgram experiment, follow up interviews of subjects really highlighted this factor (Watch this clip to see subjects placing responsibility on the experimenters).

I realize that a person cannot just stop doing a job that is needed to support a family. However, over time, there are whistleblowing mechanisms in government and the ability to go to the press. Mr. Homan paused several times before he answered and fell back on the a frighteningly familiar rationale for doing something that has people on the right, left, and center ready to march.

How long will GOP politicians, ICE officials, and workers do what they believe their authorities tell them to do?

The Milgram experiment is an enduring caution that Americans are not immune to cruelty and defusing responsibility in ways that can lead to further tragedy. I think we are already there on the border and need to end the Administration’s zero tolerance policy now. It is inhumane.

See below for original footage of the Milgram study:

Social psychologist Jerry Burger and ABC News reported on this replication in 2007.

Happy Juneteenth!

Happy day to celebrate the end of slavery in the U.S. Juneteenth is a holiday in 40 states; here is a tweet from Jamar Tisby which links to an article which makes a case for Juneteenth as a national holiday. Whether Juneteenth should be the day or another day should be designated, there should be such a holiday to commemorate the end of slavery.

 

Photo: Public domain: Source: The Portal to Texas History Austin History Center, Austin Public Library. Date: June 19, 1900. Author: Mrs. Charles Stephenson

Letter from Rep Mike Kelly on Separation of Children from Parents at the Border

As a follow up to my call last week and an email on the same subject, Rep. Mike Kelly sent this email to me answering whether or not there is a law requiring the separation of children from asylum seeking families. See this post for my answer from his staff.

June 15, 2018

Dear Mr. Throckmorton,

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns regarding President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy for criminal illegal entry into the United States. I greatly appreciate that you have taken the time to contact me on this important issue.

In April of 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum for all federal prosecutors with instructions to follow when prosecuting cases related to illegal immigration. Congress has already codified many of these actions, which have been sporadically applied over the years. This includes prioritizing cases involving the unlawful transportation or harboring of aliens, especially when the individual was illegally brought into the United States to facilitate future criminal activities. The memo also directs prosecutors to pursue cases involving entry into the country by individuals who have already been convicted for illegal entry in the past, especially when the defendant has a criminal history, gang affiliation, or other aggravating circumstances.

Since 1997, it has been U.S. policy to release undocumented immigrant children rather than hold them in federal custody while their cases are considered. Children are released first to their parents if possible, to other adult relatives if not, and to licensed programs if no relatives are available. This policy was confirmed in 2015 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which clarified the requirement for the federal government to quickly release undocumented children, regardless of whether they were apprehended at the border alone or with family members, and even if their parents are facing criminal proceedings. Under the Administration’s memorandum, immigrants who are prosecuted for crossing the border illegally will be able to apply for asylum, but may be detained while their cases are considered. If granted asylum, any conviction for illegally entering the country is vacated. Families who do not illegally enter the country and instead use the legal process of requesting asylum at ports of entry are kept together while their request is processed.

The United States has the world’s most generous immigration system – one which attracts individuals and families from around the globe seeking security and their own experiences of the American Dream. While we should continue to draw on this spirit of acceptance and understanding, this cannot come at the cost of violating the U.S. rule of law. Children should not be subject to detention in federal custody, but failure to prosecute crimes related to illegal entry only encourages further criminal activity, endangering the lives of immigrants and U.S. citizens alike.

A recent report by the Department of Homeland Security showed a 315% increase in illegal aliens fraudulently using children to pose as family units to gain entry into the country in the past two years. These individuals have attempted to take advantage of previous leniency to commit horrendous crimes like human trafficking. It is critical that the United States maintains the rule of law and discourages future criminal activity while maintaining our status as a welcoming nation for unjustly persecuted persons and those in countries of conflict. Rest assured, I will continue to monitor this situation and will keep your thoughts in mind should any relevant legislation come before me for a vote.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff if I can be of assistance in the future. It is an honor and a privilege to represent Western Pennsylvania in the United States Congress.

If you would like to hear more from me on this issue and others, please subscribe to my newsletter at www.kelly.house.gov.

Sincerely, 


Mike Kelly
Member of Congress

I continue to look into the specifics of this tragedy. A briefing by the Dept. of Homeland Security on Friday revealed that nearly 2,000 children had been removed from their parents, some of which were from asylum seeking parents.

I followed up with a specific question asking about a law (there isn’t one) and whether or not he might be mistaken about asylum seeking families being separated. According to news reports, such families are experiencing separation no matter where they present themselves. I intend to keep an open mind, however, because there are so many conflicting reports.

Rep. Mike Kelly’s Office: There is No Law that Requires Separation of Children from Asylum Seeking Families

UPDATE: On the 15th I received a letter from Mike Kelly’s office in response to an email I sent asking the same questions as in this post. See the letter here.

……………..

Today, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated Donald Trump’s false claim that there is a law that requires children be removed from their asylum seeking parents at the U.S. border. Watch:

Because I couldn’t find a law nor has anyone supporting the policy cited a specific law, I called my representative Mike Kelly (R-PA). The fellow who answered the phone (I didn’t get his name) said he would help me find that law. As he searched for it, he engaged in a bit of discussion with me about people illegally crossing the border. However, my question was about those presenting for asylum with children together as a family.

After searching and talking for about 10 minutes, Rep. Kelly’s staffer concluded that there is no law requiring the separation of children from their parents. He indicated that the practice fell within the jurisdiction of the border agencies and immigration officials and ultimately the Trump administration.

Thus, according to the office of my Trump supporting Republican representative, President Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders are deceiving the American people by saying there is a law which they are simply enforcing. 

How low can Sanders and company go? Today she invoked the Bible after Jeff Sessions also did to justify this awful policy. Watch the video above to the end.

In one way, I am glad that Kelly’s office acknowledged that there is no law requiring the Trump administration policy. However, on the other hand, it is discouraging to know that Rep. Kelly must silently know that the story being sold to the American people is false.

Trump Says Nuclear Threat is Over; North Korea Experts Skeptical

A former foreign service officer who served in North Korea while Kim Jong-Un’s father ruled is skeptical of President Trump’s claim that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” David Lambertson who worked as American liaison to the Korean Economic Development Organization in North Korea told me that the threat is over only in Trump’s “imagination.”

Early yesterday, President Trump congratulated himself in this tweet:

Lambertson spent five years as a part-time KEDO representative and was also an ambassador to Thailand during his career. He was in North Korea as a part of the project negotiated during the Clinton administration with Kim Jong-Il, the father of Kim Jong-Un. In exchange for a promise of halting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, a consortium of nations agreed to build a nuclear power plant in North Korea. Eventually, the project ended without a completed plant and without the promises being kept by North Korea.

Lambertson told me that Trump returned from his summit with Kim Jong-Un “with very little of substance to show us.” Moreover, Trump gave up a couple of “substantive points, namely the halt to ‘provocative war games,’ and simply the elevation to world statesman of the world’s worst dictator.”

Making a comparison to the Iran treaty, Lambertson said that the meeting was “the beginning of a ‘process,’ we are told–one that will bear close watching.”  He added that “every milestone along the way needs to be looked at carefully and skeptically.”

Lambertson said “we should be thankful” that “tensions with North Korea are lower than they were” but added, “until there is actual, verifiable progress toward denuclearization, we should keep our enthusiasm under control, despite Trump’s bloviating.”

Lambertson concluded:

The North Korean nuclear threat has not disappeared, except perhaps in the President’s imagination.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations concurs with Lambertson:

Since Trump has returned from Singapore, he has praised Kim Jong-Un as a ruler who loves his people. This of course will come as a surprise to the people of North Korea.

The American Lawyer Reports Gospel for Asia’s Sanctions

Given the size of Gospel for Asia, I expected Christian media to report on the sanction imposed on GFA by federal Judge Timothy Brooks in the RICO lawsuit last week. Judge Brooks scolded GFA’s lawyers for abusing the process and for treating discovery as a “shell game.” He announced his plan to appoint a Special Master to oversee the discovery process in the case.

Outside of this blog, the only other coverage of Judge Brooks’ drastic action is in the American Lawyer. This publication focused on the fact that the legal team representing GFA is fronted by high profile attorney and former Bush administration Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.

GFA issued a terse statement to the publication, saying that they strongly disagreed with the Court’s rulings.

The article neatly summarizes the case as well as GFA’s stall tactics up to now. Regular readers should be familiar with the details but give the American Lawyer some love and move on over to check it out.

Revoice Evermore

The controversy over the upcoming Revoice conference continues to resound through social media. To catch up a little, read my first post on the matter.

Revoice is an organization composed of people who seek “to encourage, support, and empower gay, lesbian, and other same-sex attracted Christians so they can experience the life-giving character of the historic, Christian sexual ethic.” The group encourages same-sex attracted people to be open about their orientation in traditional church structures but to remain celibate.

In essence, it looks like those opposed to Revoice don’t like it that Revoice supporters refer to themselves as gay or queer or as a sexual minority person. Both sides believe gay people should be celibate, but the anti-Revoicers don’t think it is right to use gay as a self-description.

Evidence is compelling to me that same-sex attracted people demonstrate a variety of essential differences which justify a descriptive difference even if they decide their beliefs don’t allow same-sex sexual behavior.

At the heart of the discussion is biblical exegesis of I Corinthians 6 suggesting that Christian converts not only leave their behavior behind but also their identity and state of being. Recently, Rev. Owen Strachan made this point in a Patheos post, writing:

 In layman’s terms, Paul views the Corinthians as having broken decisively with their old identity and practice. They were thieves, but are not any longer.  They were drunkards, but are not any longer. They were homosexuals (whether the malakoi or the arsevokoitai, the passive or active homosexual partner, respectively, according to the Greek) but are not any longer.

Strachan adds:

David Garland says it well in his own exegetical commentary: “The implication is that Christianity not only offers a completely new sexual ethos and a new ethos regarding material possessions but also brings about a complete transformation of individuals. God’s grace does not mean that God benignly accepts humans in all their fallenness, forgives them, and then leaves them in that fallenness. God is in the business not of whitewashing sins but of transforming sinners.”

The verses in question are I Corinthians 6:9-11:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [a]effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Assuming these words are translated correctly,* I wonder if there could be another way to understand this passage. Strachan wants us to believe that spiritual conversion changes a person from gay to not gay. His exegetical partners set up a complete transformation standard for conversion.

However, empirically speaking, this is rare. Most same-sex attracted people who have converted to Christianity remain same-sex attracted many years after conversion. Since Strachan and his Revoice critics view same-sex desire and attraction (not just behavior) as sin, then they leave the same-sex attracted Christian without hope. I don’t know what they think changes at conversion for a gay person. I know this is an inconvenient observation, but it is a true one. I asked Strachan in a comment at his blog to address this issue but he has not answered.

In the list above, some of those traits are more likely to change completely with conversion than others. For instance, I have little trouble believing a thief will completely transform but not all converted alcoholics do.  Relapse happens.

Will Covetous Believers Go to Heaven?

In my view, the I Corinthians 6 passage affirms that God can reach anyone with forgiveness and redemption. Even swindlers, thieves and adulterers can be justified, and once justified, one is always justified. Once you were not justified, but now you are. Some of those Corinthians were pretty far gone but God forgave and justified even them. To say that God requires a complete transformation standard defies human experience. If covetous believers aren’t going to make it, then very few are going to make it, including many preachers.

As far as I can tell, the Revoice approach is quite traditional but recognizes the reality of human experience. To them, “gay” doesn’t signal a rejection of their beliefs but rather is a matter bearing true witness.

 

*It is no secret that the translation of several of the traits described as sins in the I Corinthians 6 passage has been disputed. I am not taking a position in this post on the accuracy of the translation.

 

 

Federal Judge Sanctions Gospel for Asia in Fraud Case

On June 4, federal Judge Timothy Brooks sanctioned mission giant Gospel for Asia in the ongoing fraud case of Murphy v. Gospel for Asia for failure to produce evidence as requested multiple times by the court. The court found that GFA “needlessly squandered the resources of the parties…and put an ‘extraordinary drain on the Court’s resources,” and that GFA’s “abusive conduct in this case since August constitutes a willful violation of its discovery orders.”

Judge Brook’s Order

In sanctioning GFA, Judge Brooks will require GFA to pay for a Special Master to oversee the gathering of evidence.  In the process, this attorney will have the ability to appoint a forensic accountant and will have access to all pertinent GFA records and communications.

Setback for Gospel for Asia

This is a major setback for GFA. For several years, GFA has been defending itself by saying that all funds are spent as donors intend. However, now after months of telling Judge Brooks that this can be proven, GFA is no closer to producing the evidence.

In his order, Judge Brooks accuses GFA of evasive tactics and warns them that discovery is not a shell game. Furthermore, he denied GFA’s claims that they have no control over entities in India. He pointed to documents demonstrating wire transfers between entities, the fact that Yohannan’s family members sit on many boards in common, Yohannan’s prominent status in Believers’ Church and prior ability to get financial documents from organizations they say don’t control.

Judge Brooks had strong words for GFA saying that they had failed to “obey clearly worded directives issued by this Court and to respond in good faith to Plaintiff’s discovery requests.” The federal judge has found GFA’s behavior in litigation to be far from what was promised by spokesman Johnnie Moore in 2016:

Gospel for Asia is 100% focused on continuing its work around the world while working very hard to put an end to the false accusations being continually made against the ministry. Gospel for Asia can document the legal and ethical use of funds donated and clearly answer every question…

As Judge Brooks pointed out in his order, GFA has had many chances to document their use of funds but has stalled all along the way. Now, they face sanctions in federal court and the appointment of a Special Master.

 

 

Jeff Breakfast Knows What Happened to My Blog

Comedian and CEO of Pathymnal Jeff Breakfast reveals the reasons for my recent demise.

Whatever it was, we know Warren did it, and that’s final. Okay—It’s not so much what he DID DO as what he DIDN’T DO. But hey, you didn’t hear it from me. Fine, you did—He DIDN’T SHUT HIS MOUTH is what. How dare he blow the whistle we gave him! Where I come from, If a “truthteller” keeps calling out fraud and injustice like some jackass, he’s bound to get a taste of fraud and injustice all right—homegrown style. Stings like a really large amount of bees, don’t it? All of this is of course invisible and uninteresting to the public and as such, neither he nor anybody else will think to “sing” about our dubious dismissal in public.

That seems clear.

Being from the Seattle area, the Rev. Breakfast has had things to say about Mark Driscoll before. And he has something to say about him here:

Say, speaking of which, how would you like to hear a spanking new hymn composed by Mark Driscoll? These sweet strains of praise from a former record company executive will fill your soul with the feeling that his new full-priced hymnal just might bridge the gap between you and God. We’ll just go ahead and start playing it three seconds ago and oops you are already listening to it so might as well not stop now. From his sharpie to your ears, don’t you just feel like it would be great if you tried to love it? After ten seconds you can click away it if you don’t have the faith of a mustard seed that your life or private parts could use an authoritarian man ordering them around.

So go read the rest of Rev. Breakfast’s explanation, it will bewilder and amuse.