TC Fellow Jeffrey Kahn, constitutional law professor, examines travel ban

Tower Center Fellow and SMU Jeffrey Kahn discussed the nature of presidential power, specifically the power of the president to issue impactful executive orders like President Trump’s recent travel ban in an interview on FOX4.

A judge in Washington has already ruled against Trump’s executive order, which prevents refugees from entering the country for 120 days, and bans citizens from seven different Muslim-majority countries for 90 days.

In response to Trump’s tweet admonishing the federal judge, Kahn said “It’s very important that each branch understand that they are co-equal branches in our federal government, and when one branch attacks the integrity or the individual decision makers in their spheres that is an attack that is very, very dangerous for the country.”

Watch the full interview here.

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Event recap | The Mass Politics of Immigration

Dr. Wayne Cornelius, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of California at San Diego, gave a talk at the Tower Center Feb. 1 called “The Mass Politics of Immigration.”

Cornelius argues there have been eight episodes of American nativism dating all the way back to waves of anti-German and anti-French sentiments in the 1790s. His presentation focused on more recent episodes including a wave of anti-Mexican sentiment appearing in 1990 and an anti-Middle East wave beginning after 9/11.

Cornelius tracked the anti-Mexican wave back to California in the 1990s, and more specifically to Proposition 187, a statute with the goal of denying undocumented workers access to public services. He said immigrants were a scapegoat for the economic state of California.

Contributing factors and perceptions to the anti-immigration sentiment

The anti-immigrant sentiment is driven by several factors according to Cornelius, including the number of immigrants coming (which surged in the early ’90s), the country of origin (“problem nationalities”), catalytic events (such as Prop 187 and 9/11), and media exposure (both volume and content). He said excessive media coverage of Latino immigration has shaped public perception by leading people to believe it is a problem, even though people are emigrating from India and China at a much faster rate.

Another contributing factor  is political entrepreneurs who exploit the fears and concerns of people in order to win votes. His first example of this was Pete Wilson, who won the election to become governor of California in 1994.

When the discussion then turned to President Donald Trump, Cornelius said he was simultaneously riding the wave of the anti-immigration sentiment and building it up. The perceptions of immigration that fuel these negative feelings are that immigrants take jobs away from Americans, they increase taxes, they benefit greedy employers and advance corporate welfare, and as Samuel Huntington said, they threaten American culture and identity.

According to Cornelius, the perception of immigration is divided politically as well. “The majority of Democrats say immigrants strengthen us, while the majority of Republicans say they burden us,” he said.

The sentiment against immigration is strongest with the white working class. “They saw that America was changing unfavorably for them, and they believed immigration was driving the change,” he said. Cornelius argues this led them to vote for Donald Trump and the Republican Party.  That being said, anti-immigration feelings are resulting in increased white Republicanism.

The incentive for politicians to engage in immigrant bashing won’t change until demography does. While the Latino population in the U.S. is growing, Latino voter turnout remains low. Even with Trump’s explosive rhetoric, Latino turnout only increased by 1 percent. Gerrymandering will also continue to dampen the Latino voice, according to Cornelius.

The negative bipartisan view of immigration

While roughly 70 percent of the population is in favor of finding a way for undocumented

Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve, asks Dr. Cornelius a question.

immigrants to stay in the U.S., allowing for increased flows of people legally into the country remains unpopular in both parties.

Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve and Tower Center Senior Fellow, argued that this is problematic since immigration is essential to the U.S. economy.

“The goals to attain 3-4 percent GPD growth are dreams without immigration,” Orrenius said.

Cornelius made the argument that people come here illegally for lack of a better option. Without reforming the system, they will continue to come.

“The legal immigration system is broken,” he said.

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Q&A | My time as a campaign manager

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Kovan Barzani, class of 2017, managed Jim Burke’s 2016 campaign for the Texas House of Representatives District 114 in Dallas. Barzani started out as a Fellow at the Dallas County Democratic Party, and within a month he was running Burke’s campaign. Barzani is triple majoring in economics, public policy and management. Upon graduation in May he will be working for Capital One in Dallas as a business analyst. The Tower Center sat down with Barzani to hear his story.

How did you become Jim Burke’s campaign manager?

During my first couple of days as a volunteer at the Dallas County Democratic Party I made this huge spreadsheet that did a bunch of data work for all of the campaigns of the county. I showed it to some of the people who organize where we walk and they were pretty impressed by it so they had me take on a bigger role. By the end of the first week I was doing strategy work instead of making phone calls.

I led the first successful targeted Muslim outreach in Dallas County at that time. That got me a lot of attention. Burke watched me do all of this and I designed a strategy for his district and showed it to him. He really liked it. Then I asked if I could manage his campaign and he said sure. He was a throw-in candidate (someone you put in the race to gauge how the district is doing), but I wanted to make it a little more competitive. Voters shouldn’t just have to see that he’s a Democrat; they should see what that Democrat actually stands for.

What did you learn as a manager?

The importance of logistics. I realized that you can make really cool signs, posters or whatever, but if you don’t have a place to put them, then you’re going to struggle. Even if you have a place, you have to figure out how to get the signs there. I didn’t have a truck so I would have to go to Plano, pick up my mom’s SUV, drive to 635 around that district, put signs down, then drive back to Plano and pick up my car and drive home. I never thought about that when I was making the signs, I just thought we were going to have really cool signs.

What was it like earn a leadership position so quickly?

It was great because I got to go through and do things my way. I didn’t go through old campaign strategies or anything like that. I was taking it by the horns and saying “You know what? We’re going to try some new things out.”

One thing I did was a huge mail service for door hangers. My thinking was that if we could get a lot of people to turn out, we could reshape not just for Jim’s sake but for the Democratic Party in general. That House district that we were in was also in a U.S. Congressional District (Pete Sessions, R-TX, District 32) which voted more for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump. These efforts that we did targeting low propensity voters actually helped Hillary’s performance in Dallas County more than would have traditionally been done. That was my strategy, to make sure that we could get turnout up all around the county, specifically in the northern part.

It reshaped my whole perspective of how politics should be. It should focus heavily on the local but it doesn’t.

How did being in the Tower Scholars Program affect your involvement?

A lot of Scholars were coming in and helping out from time to time and it was that network that helped support me.

In addition, while we didn’t really learn about campaigning in the Tower Scholar classes, we learned that in policy you always want to go back to the constituents and ask them what they want. So early in the campaign before we had a strong platform we went out and walked neighborhoods and asked people what they wanted from a candidate. There’s no guarantee you’ll win but at least you started a discussion. That idea comes from the Program. You can’t be out of touch and make policy.

But the network of the Program is the most powerful thing. Even Republicans within the program told me that they hoped I could pull it off. There’s some camaraderie there that’s nonpartisan, and supporting someone even if you don’t agree with them is a huge thing.

Do you see yourself managing more campaigns in the future?

Now that I’ve gotten into it, it’s a lot harder to get out of it. I’m taking a break for a little bit, but I expect to get back involved with the city council and mayoral races if I can find a candidate that I like and hopefully help them put in a message of change and progress. What I’ve learned now is that the local level, the city level, all of that is where everything really happens. And if you can control your cities and promote a good and strong ideology there, then you’ll probably win these elections. It all starts at that level.

I want to hopefully go on and get a joint MBA and policy degree and see where I go from there. I went from volunteer to campaign manager in less than a month. I didn’t even plan on being a volunteer until two weeks before I became one. So through a short stretch of time, everything exploded and that gives me hope. You need to have some plan and direction, but if you’re willing to put both feet forward, do what you can do, you’re always going to end up in a successful place. You just need to understand your skills and know what you can do.

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Amb. Robert Jordan & Darab Ganji | “Trump administration must differentiate between the regime and the Iranian people”

Tower Center Diplomat-in-Residence Ambassador Robert Jordan and Darab Ganji, political economist and Tower Center board member, coauthored a piece for the Dallas Morning News emphasizing the importance of distinguishing between the Iranian regime and the Iranian people.

“More than 70 percent of the Iranian population of 80 million is under 35 and more than 50 percent is under the age of 25,” Jordan and Ganji wrote.

“These young people desperately seek freedom, equality, human rights, economic opportunity, modernity and a better life — all of which they realize the mullah regime is incapable of delivering.”

After an Iranian missile launch and an attack on a Saudi Arabian naval vessel by Houthi rebels, U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn made a statement saying the Trump administration was “officially putting Iran on notice.”

Tower Chair Joshua Rovner was interviewed on FOX4 to respond to Flynn’s comments. He said they could be construed as a threat to scare Iran out of violating the nuclear deal, or it could be bait. If Iran breaks the deal, the Trump administration can back out as well and revisit imposing sanctions.

Rovner also said Flynn’s comments will reaffirm Iranian hardliners that the U.S. was never committed to helping Iran, while also disheartening Iranian moderates who were clinging to the hope of improved relations.

Jordan and Ganji conclude their piece with this thought: “For Iran, the time has come to marginalize the mullah regime and to supply oxygen to those who yearn for freedom.”

Read their full commentary here.

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Josh Rovner | “Trump’s National Security Council Changes Aren’t Unusual — For The Most Part”

Tower Chair Joshua Rovner was interviewed by FiveThirtyEight about President Trump’s new National Security Council.

Trump issued a memo Saturday outlining the structure of his NSC, as every new president does, but his has caught more national attention than usual.

Read about the changes and what they mean, with Rovner’s input, here.

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Idean Salehyan | “A Look at President Trump’s Travel Ban”

Tower Center Associate Idean Salehyan sat down with KERA Think’s Alia Salem as part of a discussion looking at the legality of and the reasoning behind President Trump’s travel ban.

Trump signed an executive order Saturday banning all travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries and halting the flow of refugees from Syria.

“I think the evidence is clear that something like this harms U.S. national security in the long term,” Salehyan said. “The term ‘extreme vetting’ sounds good for political reasons but anyone who is familiar with the system knows it is a very secure process,” he said.

Listen to the discussion on KERA here.


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Jim Hollifield | “Mexico trade war would put Texas economy, jobs at stake”

Tower Center Academic Director Jim Hollifield was interviewed by the Dallas Morning News regarding the negative impact that reduced trade with Mexico could have on the Texas economy.

“Mexico is a huge part of the Texas success story,” he said. “ The Texas economy stands to be hit hard by Trump policies.”

Read the article here.

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Tower Scholar visits Poland | “Something I Will Never Forget”

Destiny Rose Murphy explores the Radegast Train Station Memorial in Lodz, Poland. Photo: Emily Jones

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Destiny Rose Murphy, class of 2019, spent her winter break in Poland traveling to World War II-era concentration camps and memorials as part of the Embrey Human Rights Program Poland Holocaust Education Trip.

Those who want to earn a Human Rights minor from SMU have the option of either traveling with the program on one of the various trips offered during the year, or participating in a service project. The trip to Poland to study Holocaust-affected areas is one that has been repeated every year for over a decade, and is generally regarded as the most impactful trip that a student can make. This year I was able to go thanks to a donor who provided scholarship funds that covered the costs of the flights, hotel stays and various museum and travel fees associated with the trip.

Our trip took us through almost the entire countryside of Poland, with stops along the way that ranged from small roadside memorials to massive Nazi created camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau. All of us have heard the statistics about the Holocaust: over six million killed, most of them Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and Polish political resistors. The purpose of this trip was to humanize that number. It is difficult to fathom six million, but it is much easier to understand when one looks at the picture of a child who did not survive the war. Each day we learned about new aspects of Polish history, and each day we were exposed to new facts about the atrocities committed during World War II. At most of the sites we left our own memorials; candles and quiet words of remembrance brought us closure in those places of despair. The tour guides who showed us around often peppered their retellings of the past with information about the current turbulent state of Polish politics and examples of how the country does not really see this “history” as history, but as a tragic episode that is still shaping the Polish national conscious today.

I do not regret my trip to Poland; in fact, I would recommend to every member of the student body, staff, and beyond that they make time to do something similar. However, I will never take a trip like that again. It was, bar none, the hardest thing that I have ever done. To be immersed in the ruins of death camps all day, every day, to be away from my family during a season that is synonymous with family time, to be in a country that does not speak my tongue nor serve my comfort food, and to fall asleep each night feeling guilty for being upset about such comparatively small troubles was more emotionally and physically taxing than I can possibly hope to describe.  I pride myself on my knowledge of language and my ability to communicate, and yet to attempt to convey the feelings that I experienced in Poland would be folly.

What I can tell you is that it made me grateful. Christmas Eve in Poland made me grateful for the screaming cousins and arguing family that I am frustrated by all too often back in the States. The freezing rain and constant fog made me grateful for the 70-degree days. I wished I could be back in Texas, cursing the absence of snow on Christmas. Perhaps most impactful were the stories of Nazi soldiers rounding up members of Polish academia, which made me grateful for the freedom I have to triple major and double minor here at SMU without fear of being arrested for the crime of a knowledge of philosophy.

With the political season raging and the unity of the holiday season forgotten already it is easy to fall victim to day-to-day stress. Certainly new classes are frightening for students, and the roll over of the year brings changes in jobs, not to mention the challenges of tax season. For me, however, Poland has provided perspective. Times are hard for many of us, but at least for me, and for most people I know, they are relatively safe. My bed is soft and covered with pillow pets. I get to choose if I want to spend extra money on organic, avocado oil mayonnaise. I get to march in the streets or write a blog post if I feel that my government is heading the wrong direction. These things are all liberties that were taken away from those who came before us, and we would do well to remember that on the days that seem darkest. It is only by remembering that we will know when to stand up to those who threaten us, but so, too, it is through remembering the past that we can cherish the present.

Destiny Rose Murphy is from Denton, Texas and plans on triple majoring in Political Science, English, and Philosophy, as well as minoring in Human Rights and Public Policy and International Affairs. In addition to being an HCM Tower Scholar, she is a Dedman Scholar and a Second Century Scholar. In her free time, she writes and manages social media for the Honors Magazine Hilltopics, organizes events as the Vice President of the Medieval Club, works as the Social Science Chair of the Honors Research Association, and competes with SMU’s award winning competitive ballroom dancing team. She also started a Rotaract club at SMU to give back to the community through service. Her interests in policy focus mostly on the judicial branch, and how policy can be affected through nontraditional, non-legislative means. 

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Nieto cancels trip to U.S. | Luisa del Rosal on the economic impact

President Peña Nieto canceled his trip to the U.S. scheduled for next week.

Earlier Thursday morning, President Trump said in a tweet: “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”

“Mexico does not believe in walls. I’ve said time again; Mexico will not pay for any wall,” Nieto said in a video on Twitter.

Tower Center and Texas-Mexico Center Executive Director Luisa del Rosal said the decision to scrap the meeting could have “deep economic implications” for both Texas and Mexico.

“The average American doesn’t realize the impact a renegotiation of NAFTA could have on prices,” she said. “They will care when the price of an avocado increases 35 percent. Texans will notice when their Ford trucks become unaffordable.”

On average, parts used to manufacture a car cross the border five times.

Elected officials seem to comprehend the gravity of what is at stake. None of the 38 Texans in Congress would voice support for Trump’s border wall, according to the Texas Tribune.

The Tower Center published a story on the importance of the meeting between the two presidents following a seminar from Dr. Rodolfo Hernández Guerrero, professor of contemporary politics of U.S.-Mexico at the University of Texas at Dallas.

In an interview after the lecture, Hernández said Nieto and President Donald Trump having these conversations face-to-face is significant for the relationship.

“That would be a very strong message for Mexicans. It demonstrates dignity. It’s an equalizer,” he said.

Jennifer Apperti, program specialist of the Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center, agreed that it’s essential for the two presidents to discuss the issues in person.

“We’ll be able to say we came to the table, we tried,” Apperti said. “We have to show that we’re on equal terms now.”

Reuters and other news organizations have reported that the U.S. is “scrambling to reschedule the meeting.”

A number of senior U.S. State Department officials have been asked to leave their positions as part of an effort to “clean house” by the White House.

These sudden resignations include: Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond, and Office of Foreign Missions Director Gentry O. Smith.

With incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s lack of formal government experience, these departures are alarming and experts are saying they could prevent the transfer of knowledge from senior officials who have worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

“Most of the resignations at the State Department are from career diplomats, and it will be very interesting to see if other career diplomats take their place or if they will be appointments from outside State,” said Apperti, who previously worked at Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the counterpart to the U.S. State Department.

“At this point it’s unclear if any senior level advisors with hands on experience will remain who are able offer their expertise to the new Secretary, in an ever more complex international context.”

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Here’s what’s at stake for U.S.-Mexico under President Trump

Dr. Rodolfo Hernández Guerrero gave a seminar at the Tower Center Jan. 25.

Top Mexican officials are in D.C. to discuss trade, immigration and security with the Trump administration ahead of Mexican President Peña Nieto’s meeting with Donald Trump next week. The media is flooding with talk of building the wall — el muro — but Mexico’s focus is on the broader implications of the relationship.

Rodolfo Hernández Guerrero, professor of contemporary U.S.-Mexico politics at the University of Texas at Dallas, gave a lecture at the Tower Center Jan. 25 discussing the future of the U.S.-Mexico relationship under President Trump. Here’s a look at what we learned from his talk.

Texas is the Winner of NAFTA

“Who is the big winner of NAFTA?” Hernández asked. “Texas.” According to his presentation, about 380,000 Texas jobs depend on trade with Mexico, and roughly 2 million are trade related. In 2015, Mexico imported $93 billion worth of exports from Texas.

Texan Republicans seem to understand what’s at stake. The Texas Tribune reported that Texan members of Congress don’t agree with Trump’s call to renegotiate the treaty. Rep. Lamar Smith told the Tribune that Texas benefits from deals that make its goods and services available to more people.

Hernández argued that, among other aspects of the deal, the zero-tariff rate will be extremely hard to alter. Renegotiating will likely lead both Mexico and Canada to strengthen deals with countries in Europe and Asia, therefore weakening American influence.

El Muro

The wall has become a symbol of President Trump’s campaign — his suggested quick fix to border security and the influx of illegal immigrants across the border. Even U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions referred to the border wall as “an analogy.”

When asked about her sentiment toward the idea of a wall, Tower Center Executive Director Luisa del Rosal responded that the focus of the negotiations must be more comprehensive than that. The U.S.-Mexico relationship is too sophisticated to be reduced to an ambitious construction project. Hernández also stressed Mexico’s determination to have a holistic approach to the talks.

However, the question that does need to be answered about el muro is who is going to foot the bill. Trump has insisted Mexico will pay, and Nieto has said no way. The Trump administration’s latest proposal was to cut off the flow of remittances sent from immigrants to their families in Mexico. Mexico receives roughly $24 billion in remittances from the U.S., close to Washington’s estimated cost for the wall, which they put at $25 billion.

“It’s possible,” Hernández said regarding the use of remittances. “But the outcome could cost more.”

The economic impact of a solution like that will be immense in Mexico, he said. It would increase poverty, and as a result, it would increase immigration to the U.S. To offset these outcomes, del Rosal said Mexico must invest in its education.

An Opportunity for Reinvention

Mexico was part of the dialogue in both Hillary Clinton and Trump’s campaign. Being in the spotlight provides Mexico with an opportunity, Hernandez said. They can look inward and make changes to be strategic and to become more independent.

“Ultimately this will create a situation where Mexico will be able to have a more equal relationship with the U.S.,” he said.

One thing Trump and Nieto have in common is their unpopularity in their own countries. According to Real Clear Politics, Trump is viewed favorably on average by around 42 percent , and Nieto’s approval rate hovers between 20-30 percent. Part of Nieto’s unpopularity stems from his handling of Donald Trump. While Trump is hated by most Mexicans, according to Hernández, the political class can’t afford to not like him. They have to be practical.

Popularity is related to legitimacy, Hernández said. It reflects the respect of the people. Nieto needs to remain strong and clear with his objectives next week.

“It’s an opportunity to achieve that popularity,” Hernández said.

Listen to Dr. Rodolfo Hernández Guerrero’s seminar:

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