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White House Challenges Democrats To Prove Their Commitment To Border Security

We are not even into February and the cost of illegal immigration so far this year is $18,959,495,168," Trump said on Twitter.

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Prototypes for President Donald Trump's border wall are seen behind a border fence between Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, Jan. 7, 2019. VOA

The White House challenged opposition Democrats on Sunday to prove they want tough security on the southern border with Mexico now that the longest-ever partial government shutdown has ended and the clock is ticking on a three-week window for negotiations.

Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s acting White House chief of staff, told Fox News Sunday, “This is a chance for Democrats to see if they believe in border security” to thwart illegal immigration and stop the flow of illicit drugs. But Mulvaney said the U.S. leader would secure the border “with or without Congress,” including by declaring a national emergency, if he has to.

Mulvaney said the White House is “seeing Democrats starting to agree with the president” on the need for a wall along nearly 400 kilometers of the 3,200-kilometer U.S.-Mexico border, a stretch where Trump has demanded $5.7 billion in taxpayer funding for some type of barrier.

 

USA, Trump
White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Jan. 2, 2019, in Washington. VOA

 

The dispute shuttered about a quarter of U.S. government operations for 35 days, before Trump on Friday agreed with a Democratic demand to reopen the government until Feb. 15, without any wall funding, while the two sides negotiate over border security funding.

Trump’s chief congressional antagonists, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, have staunchly refused his demand for wall construction money. But Mulvaney said the negotiation period will give Democrats a chance to answer the question, “Are you telling people the truth” about favoring border security, “or doing something that’s politically expedient?”

Democrats so far have suggested they are willing to give Trump the full $5.7 billion he wants for improved security, such as for tightened controls at ports of entry, more border agents and more use of technology to control the border, but none for a wall. The wall was a key campaign pledge of Trump’s during his successful 2016 run for the White House, when he repeatedly said Mexico would pay for it, a claim Mexico City has often rejected.

Mulvaney said Trump wants “a wall where we need it the most.”

USA
Prototypes for President Donald Trump’s border wall are seen behind a border fence between Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, Jan. 7, 2019. VOA
Trump, in agreeing to the end of the government closures, threatened a new government shutdown in mid-February if he cannot reach a border security deal with Congress or to declare the national emergency and build the wall with unspent funds it has found throughout the government and without congressional authorization. But such a declaration would invite an immediate legal challenge, leaving wall construction in doubt.

Mulvaney said, “No one wants [another] government shutdown. It’s not a desired outcome. It’s still better to get [the barrier funding] through legislation.”

But he said that Trump would secure the border, “and he’ll do it either with or without Congress.”

On the same Fox News show, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the sole Democrat who voted last week for Trump’s wall proposal as part of a legislative effort to reopen the government, said Democrats would “look at a wholistic approach” to determine border security needs. “We’ll let the experts tell us what’s needed, help us find the right path.”

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said, “Compromise is the essence of what we do. This has gotten way too political.”

USA
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., left, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks about Zika funding during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 17, 2016. VOA

After Trump and Congress agreed on the three-week hiatus to end the shutdown, some government operations started to open again Saturday, with museums and parks reopening and other government services resuming in the coming days. Shuttered agencies made plans to pay 800,000 federal workers who were furloughed or forced to work without pay for the month they went without the two paychecks they normally would have received.

But federal contract workers may not ever recoup the money for the time they were out of work unless Congress enacts legislation to pay them.

Also Read: The Partial Shutdown Of The Government Of United States Ends

The shutdown, the longer it went on, was having a cascading effect on the U.S. economy, with Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings saying the government closures cost the economy about $6 billion, $300 million more than the wall funding Trump wanted.

On Sunday, Trump continued to assail the effects of illegal immigration, citing disputed statistics.

“We are not even into February and the cost of illegal immigration so far this year is $18,959,495,168,” Trump said on Twitter. “Cost Friday was $603,331,392. There are at least 25,772,342 illegal aliens, not the 11,000,000 that have been reported for years, in our Country. So ridiculous!” (VOA)

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“They Don’t Make Prayerful Offerings When They Harvest,” Story Of The Native American Church

“The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

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The sun sets over the gateway of peyotera Amada Cardenas's house in Mirando City, Texas. Ironwork reflects core Native American Church values of faith, hope, love and charity. VOA

Back in the day, when the “grandmas and grandpas” of the Native American Church (NAC) needed peyote, they would make a 2,000-kilometer pilgrimage from the reservations of South Dakota to the tiny town of Mirando City, Texas, close to the U.S. border with Mexico. That’s where they could find Amada Cardenas, a Mexican-American woman who at the time was the only peyote dealer in Texas.

Cardenas was not Native American, nor was she a member of the NAC. But she understood how sacred the medicine was to church members and defended its use as a religious sacrament to those who sought to ban it.

Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994.
Amada Cardenas, holding a basket of peyote, outside of her home in Mirando City, Texas, 1994. VOA

“After Amada’s passing, the peyote distribution system lost heart and seemed to be about monetary compensation,” said Iron Rope, former chairman of the Native American Church of North America (NACNA) and today chairman of the NAC of South Dakota. He is concerned that the remaining three or four peyote dealers in Texas — all non-Native — don’t give “the medicine” the reverence they should.

“They don’t make prayerful offerings when they harvest,” Iron Rope said. “We’ve heard reports about intoxicated harvesters. Sometimes, the medicine that comes to us was mushy or small, and the harvesting technique was not one that would allow regrowth.”

Careless and sometimes illegal harvesting, along with increased land and resource development in Texas, has led to a decline in peyote’s quality and availability. Prices have gone up, and church members worry the cactus, now listed as a vulnerable species, could become endangered.

In 2013, NACNA began researching ways to conserve peyote and its natural habitat.

Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico.
Lophophora williamsii, more commonly known as peyote, which grows in the wild in southern Texas and Mexico. VOA

Pan-Native religion

Peyote, or Lophophora williamsii, is a succulent that contains psychoactive alkaloids and only grows in southern Texas and a handful of states in northern Mexico.

Indigenous people have used it ceremonially and medicinally for centuries, as noted by 16th century Spanish missionaries, who condemned it as an evil. Peyote use persisted, however, and by the late 1800s, had spread to present-day Oklahoma, where tribes adapted it to suit their individual spiritual traditions.

In the face of government efforts to ban peyote, peyotists in the early 20th century sought to incorporate as a formal religion. In 1918, an intertribal group established the NAC, which has evolved to include tens of thousands of members across dozens of tribal nations. Members view the church as an important component of healing from historic trauma and reconnecting to tradition.

Peyote was banned in the United States in 1970, but the law was later amended to allow peyote to be used in “bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church.”

Texas allows several peyoteros registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to harvest and sell peyote, but only to card-carrying NAC members with proven Native American ancestry.

Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007.
Peyote buttons are shown in the yard of a peyote dealer in Rio Grande, Texas, Oct. 12, 2007. VOA

‘A beautiful ceremony’

Unlike other religious denominations, said Iron Rope, the NAC is not a unified theology.

“Different variations of the ceremony have come into play,” he said. “There are Christian aspects to the NAC today and traditional aspects, as well.”

Wynema Morris, a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and an NAC member, grew up with an understanding of the sacredness of peyote and the religious etiquette surrounding its use.

“It was my own grandfather, Samuel Thomas Gilpin, who actually received peyote early on from the Winnebagos, a neighboring tribe, and passed it on to his sons, my uncles,” she said.

This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled "Cheyenne Peyote Leader." Courtesy: Library of Congress.
This 1924 photo by Edward S. Curtis is entitled “Cheyenne Peyote Leader.” Courtesy: Library of Congress. VOA

Peyote is much misunderstood and maligned, she said, viewed by many anthropologists through the lens of colonial prejudice.

“I don’t like their use of the word ‘hallucinations,’” she said. “You don’t use peyote to get high. You use it to pray and communicate with God — the same God everyone else talks to.”

She described all-night services of prayer, song and meditation.

“The ceremony is beautiful,” she said. “The extraordinary and the phenomenon are not necessarily unexpected, but they are definitely not precluded.”

Sacred gardens

In 2013, NACNA began looking at ways to conserve and sustain peyote for future generations of indigenous Americans, Mexicans and Canadians.

“It was our intent to eventually have our own land and be able to have our own peyote dealer who could understand our concerns as the Native American Church,” said Iron Rope.

The sun sets over "the 605," acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church.
The sun sets over “the 605,” acreage in Thompsonville, Texas, which the Indigenous Peyote Conservation purchased in 2018 for the conservation of peyote, a sacrament of the Native American Church. VOA

In 2017, NACNA and partner organizations formally launched the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI). With funding from the Riverstyx Foundation, a nonprofit that supports research of medicinal uses of psychoactive plants, IPCI purchased 245 hectares (605 acres) of land in Thompsonville, Texas, to serve as “Sacred Peyote Gardens.”

Also Read: Practice What You Preach: Celebrities Should Stand By Their Public Image In Private Domain

It is their hope that by 2021, “the 605” will house a nursery, residential and guest housing, and youth training, all supported by peyote sales.

“It’s about generations to come,” said Iron Rope. “To reconnect them to the land and to the medicine. And that’s the healing process that we’ve been missing.” (VOA)