National History Day 2019: Triumph & Tragedy Resource Guide | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesThis year’s National History Day theme is Triumph & Tragedy. Below are sample topics pulled from our website’s exhibitions and publications, historical highlights, records, oral histories, collection objects, people search, and blogs. Happy researching!Featured TopicsCivil War and ReconstructionExhibit Black Americans in CongressHistorical HighlightsThe Secession of South CarolinaThe Joint Committee on ReconstructionThe Wade–Davis Reconstruction BillRecordsA.M.E. Church MemorialMemorial of Clara BartonReconstruction Acts PetitionWest Virginia StatehoodWade-Davis BillCollection ObjectsConvalescent Soldiers Passing Through Washington to Join Their RegimentsEminent Upholders in Congress of the War for the UnionGreat War MeetingLetter from a Civil War SoldierThe Last Delegation from South Carolina in the Congress of the United StatesGurre D’AmeriqueHouse Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)Historical HighlightThe 1948 Alger Hiss–Whittaker Chambers Hearing Before HUACRecordsAlger Hiss SubpoenaHUAC Minutes on May Day ParadeLetter to HUAC ChairmanMarch on Washington PamphletCommunism in HollywoodReport on Ronald ReaganCollection ObjectsSpecial Committee to Investigate Un-American ActivitiesTestimony Before the House Un-American Activities CommitteeCongressman Martin Dies Goes to HollywoodBlogBreaking the Code: Duncan Lee, HUAC, and the Venona FilesJapanese InternmentExhibitAsian and Pacific Islander Americans in CongressRecordJapanese Internment BillBlogHouse Select Committee Investigates Japanese Evacuation and RelocationNational Parks and ConservationHistorical HighlightsThe Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937The Committee on Public LandsRecordsAlaska Lands Bills Whip AdvisoryJohn Muir Yosemite LetterLetter for the National Park ServiceLetter Regarding Mount BakerSaarinen’s Tour of Gateway ArchPhilippines and American ImperialismExhibitAsian and Pacific Islander Americans in CongressPeople Resident CommissionersSeptember 11, 2001Historical HighlightsSinging of “God Bless America” on September 11, 2001The House of Representatives Responds to the September 11th AttacksPresident George W. Bush Addressed a Joint Session of Congress on the Subject of the War on TerrorismThe National Guard Assists the U.S. Capitol PoliceThe Committee on Homeland SecuritySpecial Session at Federal Hall in New York CityOral Histories“Due to the Circumstances of Today”: The U.S. House of Representatives Remembers September 11, 2001September 11th Commemorative RibbonCollection ObjectsFederal Hall Joint Meeting Lapel PinHouse of Representatives FlagSeptember 11th Commemorative RibbonThank You Capitol Police Lapel PinBlogsUnique Circumstances: A Look at the House Journal on September 11, 2001Taking the Steps: Unity and Recovery After 9/11September 12, 2001: “We All Went Back to Work”Space Program and ExplorationHistorical HighlightsFirst Major NASA AppropriationMemorial of the ChallengerApollo 11 Crew Members Appear Before a Joint Meeting of CongressCommittee on Science and AstronauticsRecordsJohn F. Kennedy’s Message to CongressNASA Appropriations BillNational Defense Education ActRanger VII’s Photographic FlightOral HistoryPatricia (Tish) Speed Schwartz (Science Committee staff)Collection ObjectsAstronaut John Glenn Addresses a Joint Meeting of CongressGemini 5 Astronauts Address CongressGus Hawkins and an Astronaut SuitVoting Rights Act of 1965Exhibit The House and Civil RightsHistorical HighlightsAn Extraordinary Joint Session of Congress to Support to Voting Rights BillMajority Whip Hale Boggs’ Support of the Voting Rights Act of 1965The Voting Rights Act of 1965RecordsLetter Opposing Voting RightsMt. Pleasant Society Hall RuinsTelegram to Martin Luther King, Jr.Oral HistoriesDocumentary: Selma and the Voting Rights Act of 1965Civil Rights: SelmaCivil Rights: 1965 Voting Rights ActCokie RobertsCollection ObjectsCongressional Delegation to Visit AlabamaPresident SpeaksBlogsCongressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage “Like Going to Normandy with Dwight Eisenhower”War of 1812Historical HighlightsThe House’s First Declaration of WarBurning of the Capitol in 1814BlogBurning of the CapitolVeterans of the War of 1812 President James Buchanan Former Delegate, Member, Senator, and President William Henry Harrison Harrison’s former private secretary and brigade major, Elisha Whittlesey Marylander wounded at the Battle of Bladensburg, William Pinkney Son of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Caesar A. RodneyWatergate and Nixon Impeachment InquiryHistorical HighlightImpeachment Inquiries into President Richard NixonRecordChairman’s Notebook on Presidential Records ActNixon to RodinoWhip Issue Paper on Ethics ReformsOral HistoriesEvents: WatergateCollection ObjectTip O’Neill, Time Magazine CoverWomen’s SuffrageExhibitsWomen in CongressA Century of Women in CongressRecordCommission to Investigate Equal SuffrageBlogsSuffragette City"Congress Took No Further Action": Women and the Right to Petition Featured People Henry Flipper (non-Member)ExhibitBlack Americans in CongressRecordLetter from Lt. Henry FlipperBlog"I Ask Nothing Because I am a Negro": A Letter to the Committee on Military AffairsRepresentative Dalip Singh (Judge) Saund of CaliforniaProfileDalip Singh (Judge) SaundExhibitAsian and Pacific Islander Americans in CongressCollection Object"What America Means to Me"Dalip Singh Saund (portrait)Dalip Singh Saund Calling CardDalip Singh Saund Campaign RibbonSarah Winnemucca (non-Member)Historical HighlightsHopi Indians Performed Sacred Dances at the U.S. CapitolPortraits of Forts for the CommitteeRecordsSarah Winnemucca Hopkins PetitionMemorial of the CherokeesCollection ObjectsSeth Eastman paintingsBlogsLand of Misfortune: Sarah Winnemucca Petitions CongressThe Not-so-Lonesome West
LARRÍNAGA, Tulio | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesAn engineer by training, Tulio Larrínaga, Puerto Rico’s second Resident Commissioner in Congress moved into politics when Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory. Like his predecessor, Federico Degetau, Larrínaga used the Resident Commissioner’s ministerial powers and his own political savvy to encourage and cajole U.S. politicians to reform the island’s civil government. In particular, Larrínaga sought to modify or eliminate aspects of the Foraker Act that infringed on Puerto Ricans’ popular sovereignty and limited the Resident Commissioner’s ability to represent constituents. “Everybody on the floor of this House knows that it is only due to the courtesy of the Committee on Rules … not by any law of Congress, that the Commissioner from Porto Rico is allowed the privilege of the floor,” Larrínaga declared.1Tulio Larrínaga y Torres Vallejo was born in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, on January 15, 1847. He attended the Seminario Conciliar de San Ildefonso in San Juan. Larrínaga studied civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, from 1865 to 1868 and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1871. Among Larrínaga’s projects were the preparation of a topographical map of Kings County, New York, and his work for an engineering firm involved in the construction of Grand Central Station in New York City. Returning to Puerto Rico in 1872, Larrínaga served as a municipal architect of San Juan. He also helped found Ateneo Puertorriqueño (the Puerto Rican Arts and Sciences Association) in 1876 and served as the head of the English department in the cultural center. He was a member of the Royal Economic Society of Friends of the Nation and the insular library commission. In 1879 Larrínaga married Berthy Goyro Saint Victor. The couple raised Tulio, Jr.; Berta; Concepción; and two other children.2Larrínaga is credited with building the first railroad in Puerto Rico—a short line that ran from San Juan several miles south to Rio Piedras—and with introducing American rolling stock to the island. He served for 10 years as an engineer of the Provincial Deputation, working extensively on the construction of San Juan Harbor and on roads elsewhere on the island. He also directed the works of the 1893 Puerto Rico exposition as a member of its jury. Cayetano Coll y Toste, a prominent historian and writer, observes that Larrínaga’s engineering successes benefited from his ability to maneuver in political circles, reminiscing that he was “able to gain the good will of Unconditional Party leader Pablo Ubarri, who exercised great influence over the island administration.” “One can go far with friends in high places,” he added. Larrínaga first became involved in politics when Puerto Rico achieved autonomy from Spain in 1897, joining the Partido Liberal de Puerto Rico (Liberal Reform Party of Puerto Rico). When Puerto Rico came under American governance in 1898, Larrínaga served as the subsecretary of public works and as assistant secretary of the interior under the autonomous government.3In 1900, along with Luis Muñoz Rivera and others, Larrínaga founded the Partido Federalista de Puerto Rico (Federal Party of Puerto Rico), which advocated Puerto Rico’s joining the United States as a territory but retaining control of local institutions. (In 1904 Larrínaga would join the Partido de Unión (Union Party), the successor to the Partido Federalista, which promoted local autonomy while reforming political ties between the United States and Puerto Rico.) During the initial debates over the structure of a civil government for Puerto Rico in early 1900, Larrínaga came to Washington with a political delegation advocating for home rule. He testified before the Senate Committee on Pacific Islands and Porto Rico regarding S. 2264, a precursor bill to the Foraker Act. Larrínaga called for free trade between the United States and Puerto Rico, advocated for territorial status, and discussed universal male suffrage.4 When he testified before the House Committee on Insular Affairs, Larrínaga argued that Puerto Ricans “expect the American Government will give them a Territorial form of government; that they will have some Congressional representation of one or two members,” citing Puerto Rico’s voting experience with Spain as a precedent.5 During the deliberations on the Foraker Act, Larrínaga told the Ways and Means Committee, “Puerto Rico needs a civil government even more than free trade. The people want to feel that they have become in a tangible manner attached to the United States and not a mere dependency.”6Larrínaga began his elective career as a member of the insular house of delegates for the district of Arecibo in 1902.7 In 1904 he won election as Resident Commissioner to the 59th Congress (1905–1907); he served a total of three terms, winning by a comfortable margin each time. His opponent in 1904 was Republican Mateo Fajardo Cardona. Larrínaga’s Union Party polled 62 percent against the Republicans’ 38 percent. Larrínaga was re-elected to the 60th Congress (1907–1909), again by 62 percent, against Republican candidate Ledo Francisco Paria Capo. Two years later, he polled 64 percent of the vote against Republican Roberto Todd and Socialist Santiago Iglesias, a future Resident Commissioner.8 Larrínaga interpreted his party’s electoral domination as proof of Puerto Ricans’ displeasure with the provisions of the Foraker Act, particularly the appointed executive council, which often undermined acts of the popularly elected insular house of delegates—which Unionists had consistently pressured Congress to revise or repeal. Such electoral results, he noted, show “very clearly that our people are more determined … to stop the encroaching tendency of that upper house or executive council.”9During his tenure in the House, Larrínaga served on the Committee on Insular Affairs, created to oversee civil government and infrastructure issues pertaining to the United States’ territories overseas, including the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico.10 Unlike his predecessor, Federico Degetau, who was hamstrung by his lack of floor and speaking privileges, Larrínaga enjoyed these privileges from the outset of his congressional career and was well versed in advocating for Puerto Rican interests in Washington. During his first term, in the 59th Congress, Larrínaga submitted six bills and two petitions. Three of the bills dealt with reforming the structure of the civil government as defined by the Foraker Act. He also submitted a bill to amend the law limiting the number of Puerto Ricans who were admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a bill to expand improvements to San Juan Harbor.11 Additionally, Larrínaga appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt “for a greater measure of self-government” for Puerto Rico. “The people of Porto Rico were being treated as if they were not capable of self-government,” Larrínaga told Roosevelt, and the acts of the house of delegates “were practically annulled by the executive council.”12In an editorial about self-rule in Puerto Rico, Larrínaga criticized the Washington Post for describing council members of San Juan municipalities as “self-styled” politicians. “Those representatives have been selected by the most genuine representation of the people of Porto Rico, for the members of the municipal council … are elected directly by the vote of the people, as well as the house of delegates,” Larrínaga countered. He described his election as a mandate to liberalize American rule on the island by reforming the Foraker Act. “The people of Porto Rico sent me here to Washington by the largest vote ever cast in the country to tell Congress and the American people that we wished to elect our senate as we elect the members of the house of delegates, so that we could make our own laws and manage our own local affairs,” Larrínaga wrote.13 In the press and on the House Floor, Larrínaga took exceptional offense to the executive council, first, because he objected to the council’s selection by the President of the United States instead of by popular vote; and second, because he objected to the council’s extraordinary power to alter measures approved by the popularly elected house of delegates. In a floor speech, Larrínaga stressed that for “many years we have been putting up with all the encroachment of our masters in that executive council … we have cooperated with our local government to the verge of humiliation; but the time has come … when we are no longer disposed to allow them to go beyond the limits fixed by the organic act … for the genuine representation of the people in the lower house.”14 During the second session of the 61st Congress (1909–1911), chairman of the House Committee on Insular Affairs Marlin Olmsted of Pennsylvania submitted H.R. 23000 on Larrínaga’s behalf, a bill designed to replace the Foraker Act with a more generous system of Puerto Rican self-government. Whereas the Foraker Act was a “temporary act” that became permanent, the new bill would provide a permanent government for the island. House debates on the bill demonstrated Larrínaga’s more forceful tack, emphasizing the shortcomings and anti-democratic tendencies of the Foraker Act while appealing for greater self-sovereignty on the island. Larrínaga compared his bill to the Constitution of the United States. When asked “whether I preferred the present organic act of Porto Rico to this bill now before the House … with the provision [in this bill] giving us collective citizenship … my answer … is I do,” he said. Larrínaga noted that Chairman Olmsted believed “that the upper house under the present Foraker Act hindered the lower house from enacting any legislation whatsoever.” Larrinaga continued, “He had the honesty to say … what the Porto Ricans have been saying and protesting against every day for the last ten years; that you have not given to the people of Porto Rico any power whatsoever to enact their own laws.”15 After extensive debate, the bill passed the House on June 15, 1910, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Pacific Islands and Porto Rico, where it died.16In January 1906, Larrínaga submitted to the House a memorial petition from the municipal councils of 52 towns in Puerto Rico. The petition requested that voters continue to be permitted to elect the members of the house of delegates by popular vote and that the presidentially appointed executive council be replaced with an insular senate of 14 members also elected by popular vote. As for the directors of the island’s six principal administrative departments, who were selected by the President, the petition asked that they “be appointed by the governor of Porto Rico with the advice and consent of the insular senate.” The petition was submitted to the Committee on Insular Affairs, and no further action was taken.17 In 1907 Larrínaga and the house of delegates lobbied President Theodore Roosevelt, unsuccessfully, to select a native Puerto Rican to serve as secretary of Puerto Rico to administer the insular government’s executive-branch duties.18On November 21, 1906, President Roosevelt visited Puerto Rico en route from a visit to the Panama Canal. He was greeted by a number of political dignitaries, including Larrínaga. During his visit, Roosevelt promised to “continue to use every effort to secure citizenship for Porto Ricans. I am confident that this will come in the end,” he continued. “My efforts will be unceasing to help you along the path of true self-government, which must have for its basis union, order, liberty, justice, and honor.” When Roosevelt returned to the United States, he vigorously lobbied Congress to grant full citizenship to Puerto Ricans, including an appeal in his sixth Annual Message to Congress.19 Five days after submitting the Annual Message, Roosevelt delivered a special message to Congress praising the natural beauty of the island and the effectiveness of its government and reiterating his belief in the “desirability of conferring full American citizenship upon the people of Porto Rico.” “I cannot see how any harm can possibly result from it, and it seems to me a matter of right and justice to the people of Porto Rico,” Roosevelt insisted. “They are loyal, they are glad to be under our flag, they are making rapid progress along the path of orderly liberty.” In the New York Times, Larrínaga noted, “Mr. Roosevelt’s visit had a healthful influence on the political feeling of the country. There was a sentiment of discouragement prevailing on the island. The people thought they were forgotten, but this feeling has now dissipated.”20To supplement such public statements, Larrínaga quietly pressured Roosevelt and Insular Affairs Committee chairman Henry Cooper of Wisconsin to move legislation. Seizing the momentum generated by Roosevelt’s visit to the island, Cooper introduced H.R. 17661, a bill to grant full citizenship to Puerto Ricans. As Larrínaga rounded up the support from other Members, he commented, “The present relation we bear to the United States is ridiculous.… When I went to Europe recently I could say I was a member of the House, yet had to admit I was not an American citizen.” Larrínaga noted that “Spaniards and other foreigners may come to the island, and after a short time become naturalized as American citizens, but the people of Porto Rico, who have lived all their lives there, must remain without citizenship.” When Cooper brought the bill to the House Floor, James Beauchamp (Champ) Clark of Missouri, a future Speaker of the House, objected to debating the bill on the grounds that it “ought to be considered in a full House.” Cooper attempted to schedule a debate for unanimous consent in the next week, but Clark objected again. This resistance effectively killed the bill.21During his second term in the 60th Congress (1907–1909), Larrínaga honed his forceful criticisms of the Foraker Act, tying Puerto Rican dissatisfaction to anti-American sentiment. During a debate about the disapproval of certain laws of the Territory of New Mexico, Larrínaga criticized the Foraker Act as a “leaden block that closed the sepulcher where the liberties and rights of a million freemen are buried.… Instead of … self-government … you will find … the executive is mixed with the legislative, and officers that are appointed by the Executive go down there to make the laws for a people whose customs they do not know; for a people whose faces they have never seen before … and for a people whose laws and language they do not know.” Larrínaga also discussed the economic policies in the act that crippled Puerto Rico’s economy and “ruined the country, because no provision was made to protect our main industry, the industry of the poor man, the coffee industry.” Larrínaga dismissed U.S. statesmen, including House Speaker Joe Cannon, who claimed credit for enhancing Puerto Rico’s economy and political standing. “I hear every day in the political campaign here, ‘We have made Porto Rico prosperous.’ I wish you had,” he declared. “Then no discontent would exist, and perhaps I could be looked upon by my countrymen with more kind regard. I wish you had made Porto Rico happy, but you have not, Mr. Speaker.”22Like his predecessor Degetau, Larrínaga counted among his major legislative interests the retention of the Puerto Rico regiment of the U.S. volunteer infantry from the U.S. Army. The regiment comprised two battalions of volunteer infantry that were authorized by Congress in 1899 and 1900. Introduced on Larrínaga’s behalf by Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs John Hull of Iowa, H.R. 18618 provided for the establishment of the Puerto Rico Provisional Regiment as a full infantry regiment in the U.S. Army. The House passed the bill with a small majority, but three times Larrínaga then attempted to persuade his colleagues to concur with the Senate’s amendments; eventually the House passed the revised bill and President Roosevelt signed it into law on May 27, 1908.23To promote his constituents’ livelihoods, Larrínaga tried to shield Puerto Rican export markets from exorbitant tariffs.24 In 1907 he corresponded with President Roosevelt, Secretary of State Elihu Root, and various subordinates about the negotiations for French tariffs that would adversely affect Puerto Rico’s ailing coffee industry. The French, in a commercial agreement with the United States, proposed a “maximum tariff of 300 francs per 100 kilograms of coffee imported into the French markets,” Larrínaga wrote. “This [tariff rate] would mean the closing of those markets to our main staple. We depend wholly today on France and Cuba for the disposal of four-fifths of our coffee crop, and you can well imagine, Mr. President, what a terrible blow the closing of those markets would be to the island,” he continued.25 Larrínaga also appealed to Root, writing the tariff issue is “a question of life and death to our coffee-planters. As long as our coffees do not receive protection at our home markets, we shall have to depend upon foreign markets for their sale … to preserve the existence of our plantations.”26 Root informed Larrínaga that the 1908 Commercial Agreement between the United States and France “provided for the application of the minimum rate … in return for certain specified concessions in favor of products of the United States, including Porto Rico” and would take effect in February 1908. In the final agreement, products such as coffee were imported “at the rates of the minimum tariff or at the lowest rates” applicable, though such concessions could be revoked by the French president if additional tariffs were added.27 Larrínaga’s lobbying efforts probably saved the Puerto Rican coffee industry. His interest in foreign affairs received a boost when President Roosevelt selected him as a U.S. delegate to the Pan-American Conference in Rio de Janeiro. He also represented the United States at interparliamentary conferences, in Berlin in 1908 and in Brussels in 1910.28Larrínaga secured appropriations and used his experience as an engineer to promote infrastructure projects in Puerto Rico. He had extensive experience with the construction of San Juan Harbor during his tenure as chief engineer for the project, and later, in 1908, he corresponded with Secretary of the Interior James R. Garfield about improvements. After securing a $657,000 appropriation for the dredging of San Juan Harbor, Larrínaga stressed to Garfield that the project should begin immediately, despite the protests of Governor Regis H. Post. Congress’s approval to fund the project was “in accordance with specific plans prepared by the War Department, and we cannot expend a single dollar out of that appropriation for any other part of the work than that fixed in those plans,” Larrínaga reminded Secretary Garfield.29Larrínaga retired at the end of the 61st Congress and returned to his engineering career. He remained politically active by serving on the territorial executive council. On April 28, 1917, he died of heart trouble in Santurce, a suburb of San Juan.30
The Continental Congress’s Ratification of the “Treaty of Paris” | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOn this date in Annapolis, Maryland, the Continental Congress ratified the “Treaty of Paris,” formally concluding the colonies’ war for independence from Great Britain. The treaty confirmed American independence from Great Britain and outlined the withdrawal of royal forces from the colonies. Also among its nine principal provisions, it defined the east-to-west borders of the American colonies from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River, and its north-south borders from Canada to Spanish Florida. It also guaranteed American and British uses of the Mississippi River and fishing rights in Canada. Finally, the treaty pledged Congress to protect the civil rights of colonists who remained loyal to Great Britain throughout the conflict. Although diplomats signed the treaty in September 1783, Congress was required to ratify the document and return it to Great Britain within six months. Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania, who served as President of the Continental Congress, implored states to send delegates to Annapolis to ratify the treaty. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia wrote, “We have no certain prospect of nine states in Congress and cannot ratify the treaty with fewer.” By mid-December 1783, only seven states were represented in Annapolis. One month later, two more state delegations arrived. A total of 23 members from nine states unanimously ratified the treaty. President Mifflin facilitated the treaty’s delivery by sending his private secretary to France to deliver the ratified document. Mifflin also sent two copies with emissaries to ensure its delivery in Great Britain. After the ratification, Edward Hand of Pennsylvania wrote, “God grant the Peace may be perpetual & productive of every happiness to America, as I think it commences with the joint & full accord of all her good Citizens.”
A Parliamentary Inquiry Regarding A Presidential Address | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOn this date, Representative Samuel W. Smith of Michigan put a parliamentary question to Speaker James “Champ” Clark of Missouri. “When the President of the United States appears before Congress to deliver a message,” he asked, “is it a proper form of procedure for a Member or Senator to ask him a question?” Smith had served since 1897, but was retiring at the end of the 63rd Congress (1913–1915) and had “many times been tempted to put a question to him [the President] when he has come before us,” he later confessed. Speaker Clark, having looked into the question before, found instances when a President appearing before Congress had indeed answered questions from Members. But Clark concluded “that the President would have the right to refuse to be interrogated, if he wanted to.” Representative Joseph Moore of Pennsylvania then asked if “a Member should rise in his place while the President is addressing the House and should say, ‘Mr. Speaker,’ would that be in order?” “Well, it might be in order,” Clark said, “but it would be exercising wretched taste.” As the rest of the chamber laughed and applauded, Representative William C. Adamson of Georgia added, “I think if either of the gentlemen ever attempted it, the same man would never attempt it the second time.” President Wilson had addressed Congress five times in both 1913 and in 1914, but curiously did not address Congress again after this debate until December 1915.
A Look at Trump’s Biggest Border LiesOn Tuesday night, President Trump will address the nation in a primetime speech in which he’ll make his case for a 1,000-mile border wall, followed by a trip to South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley on Thursday.But Trump’s characterization of the situation on the southwest border is driven not by facts but by his own nativist agenda and political obsession with building a wall. In advance of the speech, here are some things you might hear, fact-checked.Lie 1: Border crossings are at or near an all-time high.Border crossings are at some of the lowest levels in decades. Trump and his aides fabricate facts and spread misinformation in order to justify many of the president’s false claims about the border, even though the Department of Homeland Security itself reports differently. The Border Patrol’s own statistics show that the number of migrants apprehended at the border last year was the fifth lowest total since 1973.While the Trump administration has repeatedly cited increased migration from Central America as a national security-based justification for the wall, a majority of these migrants are families and unaccompanied children who voluntarily present themselves to immigration authorities. Indeed, the average Border Patrol agent is apprehending fewer than two people per month, and about 60 percent of these migrants are families and children.Lie 2: Terrorists are entering the country through the southern border, creating a national security crisis.Many of the migrants at our southern border are refugees from violence with a right to apply for asylum in the United States. Many are families with young children or children alone. There is no evidence that any terrorist group is sending people through Central America.White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was recently called out for making false claims about thousands of supposed terrorists attempting to enter the country through the U.S.-Mexico border. The Justice Department confirmed to NBC News that “no immigrant has been arrested at the southwest border on terrorism charges in recent years.”Lie 3: The wall would stop gang members.The Trump administration has claimed that a wall is needed in order to stop gang members from coming into the U.S., but many of these migrants are in fact fleeing gang violence and recruitment in their home countries. We have also seen a pattern where government officials have wrongly labeled young migrants as gang members with false and unsubstantiated claims, hyping the threat of groups like MS-13 and threatening the rights of innocent young people.Trump is raising the spectre of gangs to spread harmful stereotypes about immigrants, distort and invent numbers of alleged gang members apprehended at the border, and punish the very people who are most affected by gang violence.Lie 4: The wall would stop drugs from pouring in through the border.The president likes to suggest that construction of a border wall will help bring an end to drug addiction problems in America.However, the clear majority of illegal drugs, including opioids, enter through legal ports of entry, and a wall would have no impact on the use of passenger vehicles, boats, planes, and tractor trailers that are primarily used to smuggle drugs.Lie 5: We need a new wall. There are over 650 miles of existing border barriers. A report by the Government Accountability Office found that Trump’s ill-conceived wall plan would waste billions of dollars and might “cost more than projected, take longer than planned, or not fully perform as expected.”Congress has already approved almost $2 billion to fortify existing border barriers since 2017, and border communities and local officials have protested Trump’s plans for a 1,000-mile long wall.It is also unlikely that new barriers will reduce migration, the project’s purported aim: A recent study by Stanford and Dartmouth economists found that the addition of hundreds of miles of border barriers as a result of the 2006 Secure Fence Act barely had any effect on migration. Our recent report, “Death, Damage, and Failure,” details the harms resulting from border walls. The name sums up how destructive and unnecessary Trump’s wall is: We can't let him and his administration lie and extort their way to building any of it.Members of Congress know that neither the facts nor the public are on his side. A majority of Americans are opposed to Trump’s border wall follies, including his disgraceful and futile push to use a government shutdown to force Congress into giving him billions of dollars in new wall funding.Congress should continue to reject demands for wasteful border wall funds and instead vote on pending bipartisan measures to reopen the government.Sign up for the ACLU’s Best Reads and get our finest content from the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday.
A Visitor Asks the Speaker for a Moment to Lecture the House | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOn this date, Grace Jackson Clark, an out-of-work stenographer from New Kensington, Pennsylvania, walked uninvited onto the House Floor to ask Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas for time to address the chamber. After dodging a Page who questioned her access to the floor, Clark approached the rostrum with a simple request: she wanted to lecture the American people on proper behavior and hoped that the House could help broadcast her speech. “The country is in a sorry state,” said Clark. “Everyone lives in his own little world wrapped up in his own problems and can’t add up everything that makes up the whole picture. I wanted to stir them up,” she later told the press. The country, she also noted, was “getting a little bit wild.” Many in attendance mistook her dress—a red coat and black beret—for that of one of the four new women Members. After a brief discussion with Rayburn, in which he refused her request, the Sergeant at Arms escorted Clark out of the chamber. “Darndest thing I ever heard of,” said Rayburn matter-of-factly after Clark left. Undeterred, Clark asked John W. Holton (Rayburn’s administrative assistant who did not know that she had just spoken to the Speaker) for help contacting the Members. Holton recommended that she follow tradition and petition Congress in writing. Clark admitted that while her request was rather unorthodox, the recently-published autobiography of former Representative Tom Connally of Texas had inspired her to risk her unusual petition; according to Clark, Connally “did a lot of unusual things” during his life and eventually he became a Senator. Unfortunately for Clark, the Senate was not in session, nor could she locate its chamber doors. When asked how she entered the House Floor, she said, “I just stood outside until my knees stopped trembling, then I went in.” The ease with which she accessed the floor shocked many Members still reeling from the attack by the Puerto Rican nationalists less than a year earlier. Clark’s stunt amplified Member demands for a professional Capitol Police Force.
New Madrid Earthquakes Relief | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesThe area near New Madrid, Missouri, experienced three devastating earthquakes between 1811 and 1812. The first earthquake on December 16, 1811, was felt as far away as Canada and the Gulf Coast, causing very strong shaking over 232,000 square miles of the country. The sparse rural population at the time kept the human toll low, but the effects on the land were severe, liquefying soil and spreading fissures in the ground. Another smaller quake hit on January 23, 1812. The third quake occurred on February 7, 1812, destroying the town of New Madrid and causing structural damage to the city of St. Louis more than 150 miles to the north and widespread landslides. It even affected bodies of water: The Mississippi River appeared to reverse course for a time due to waves produced by the tremors.The cumulative damage prompted William Clark, governor of the Missouri Territory, George Bullitt, speaker of the territorial house of representatives, and Samuel Hammond, president of the legislative counsel, to pen this petition imploring Congress in dramatic language that “provisions ought to be made by law, for granting to the Said Inhabitants relief, either out of the public land, or in Such other way as may seem meet to the wisdom & Liberality of the general government.” In 1815, Congress compensated victims by authorizing the sale of public lands of “like quantity” to those whose land had been destroyed by the earthquakes, making it the first disaster relief act.
Suffragist Susan B. Anthony’s Petition to the 43rd Congress | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOn this date, suffragist Susan B. Anthony’s petition to the 43rd Congress (1873–1875) regarding a fine she received for illegal voting was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Following the Civil War, Anthony—a lifelong advocate for women’s rights—and other suffragists sought to convince Congress to strike gender-specific language in the 14th Amendment, and prevent passage of the 15th Amendment (which extended equal rights and suffrage to African-American men only). Meeting little success, they adopted a “new departure” strategy which interpreted the 14th Amendment as granting all naturalized and native born Americans citizenship, believing that particular status inherently conferred suffrage rights. Anthony was among several women who voted in Rochester, New York, in the November 5, 1872, election. On November 28, she was arrested on the charge of “knowingly and unlawfully” voting. Anthony used her criminal trial as a platform for her views on women’s suffrage, refusing to pay the $100 fine levied upon her conviction in order to gain greater publicity for her cause. After a higher court refused to hear her case, Anthony turned her attention to the legislative branch. She sent a petition and a copy of her trial transcript, imploring the House and Senate to waive her fine. Arguing that she voted “in common with hundreds of other American citizens, her neighbors,” Anthony declared “it is a mockery to call [my] trial a trial by jury.” The House Judiciary Committee failed to act on the petition, though Anthony never paid her fine nor served jail time. Fourteen years after Anthony’s death, the states ratified the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote on August 18, 1920.
House Passage of the 1991 Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force Against Iraq | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOn this date, the House passed a resolution authorizing President George H.W. Bush to use military force against Iraq, 250 to 183. The resolution granted President Bush the power to employ amassed U.S. military forces in the Gulf region to eject the Iraqi military from Kuwait, which it had occupied since August 1990. The vote marked the most divided congressional decision to commit U.S. forces to action since the War of 1812. Only three Republicans voted against the measure—Connie Morella of Maryland, Frank Riggs of California, and Silvio Conte of Massachusetts; more than 80 Democrats—many from southern districts with military constituencies—supported it. The vote came after several days of contentious debate and just hours after the House rejected an amendment by Majority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri and senior Foreign Affairs Committee member Lee Hamilton of Indiana to continue economic sanctions against Iraq. Nearly 270 Representatives spoke about the resolution on the House Floor. Speaker Thomas S. Foley of Washington took the unusual step of addressing the House from the well to argue on behalf of sanctions. “But however you vote,” Foley said in conclusion, “. . . let us come together after the vote with the notion that we are Americans here, not Democrats and not Republicans . . . without anything but the solemn pride that on this great decision day we voted as our conscience and judgment told us we should.” Four days later the U.S. launched an air war against Iraq. The vote marked the first time since the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964 that Congress directly preapproved military action.
How to Fund the Government Without Paying for Trump's Border WallPresident Trump has followed through on his threat to shut down the government in order to feed his border wall obsession. In fact, he’s gone further, stating that he’ll loot his cabinet departments, including the military, if necessary.After Trump refused to sign a bipartisan bill passed by the Senate, which would have kept the government open through February 8, 2019, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders suggested that the administration will somehow find money to pay for a border wall by raiding “every agency” for dollars. “We’re looking at every avenue available to us,” Sanders said. “The president asked every one of his cabinet secretaries to look for funding that can be used” to build the wall.Unfortunately there are bad precedents in the Trump administration for this sort of sham accounting: At the beginning of hurricane season, for example, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shifted nearly $10 million in disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to use for ICE detentions.We have since seen a number of proposals from both the Trump administration and Congress to pay for Trump’s wall fetish. One was to provide $1.6 billion for his border wall along with a whopping $1 billion of “reprogrammed funds” for Trump to use on “immigration-related issues.” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi accurately described this a “slush fund.”There has also been discussion of different types of long-term funding bills that would last until the end of the fiscal year, in September 2019. This could be a trap that gives Trump much of what he wants on the wall: Although a year-long funding bill would reopen the government and avoid more negotiations over DHS funding, it would also present a serious danger of providing Trump with massive resources to build additional border barriers.This is because such a bill — called a “continuing resolution” — replicates funding from the previous fiscal year. The 2018 spending bill for DHS, passed by Congress in March, included $1.375 billion in funding for border barriers — the same level of funding that, without explicit changes from Congress, would be included in a full-year continuing resolution for the 2019 fiscal year.Because the 2018 border funding prohibited the use of Trump’s wall prototypes and specified projects for “fencing,” “replacement walls” or “levee walls,” some incorrectly assume that the bill did not include wall funding. But as the president himself has recently recognized, there is little meaningful difference between a border wall and border fencing. Border communities know that they both lead to government seizures of private property, irreparable damage to wildlife and the environment, and more migrant deaths. Congress has a way out, and it doesn’t involve rewarding the Trump administration for its attacks on immigrants: A continuing resolution could be amended to explicitly divert border wall funds so they don’t fuel Trump’s cruel border policies. After the tragic deaths of two young children in CBP custody, even the agency’s Commissioner Kevin McAleenan has indirectly suggested how funds could be better used. He has testified that Congress could appropriate $4 billion to cover the “deficit at ports of entry” — which is presently invoked to justify the refusal to allow asylum-seekers to exercise their legal right to ask for refuge — and a “budget for medical care and mental health care for children” in new facilities to replace clearly inadequate and dangerous Border Patrol jails.If Congress needs more time to debate these amendments, it should take up the stopgap bill that the Senate passed last week to fund the government until February. Federal workers and contractors should not bear the brunt of Trump’s shutdown.Given that even CBP is talking about funding priorities other than border barriers, there is no reason for the new Congress to give in to Trump. Congress also needs to limit Trump’s ability to raid other budgets, including the military’s, for wall money.The administration is already moving money around to fulfill Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda: In November, The Daily Beast reported that DHS “quietly moved nearly $100 million dollars out of other areas of its budget” — including the FEMA transfer to ICE before hurricane season — to support its detention and deportation dragnet. Members of Congress have objected to the administration’s desire to divert $450 million in Department of Defense funding toward wall construction in Arizona.Immigration and Customs Enforcement needed the additional funds to finance its detention of a record number of people — there are nearly 45,000 people in ICE detention on average per day, significantly higher than the previous record of 40,520 funded by Congress for 2018. In other words, even after Congress funded ICE detention at unprecedented levels, the agency ignored its budget and outspent its account. And now it’s asking Congress not only to bail it out but also to give DHS — the department of family separations, the tear gassing of families, and the fatal neglect of children — a raise.Lawmakers who oppose any border wall spending should know that they have the public on their side: Over 60 percent of Americans oppose Trump’s border wall, and nearly 70 percent think it should not be a congressional priority. Polls have also found that residents of border states are strongly opposed to the wall. Just 35 percent of those surveyed most recently about the shutdown said they backed including money for the wall in a congressional spending bill. And only 25 percent said they supported Trump shutting down the government over the matter.Members of Congress should hold fast in their refusal to fund Trump’s obsession with achieving his monument to brutality at the border.Sign up for the ACLU’s Best Reads and get our finest content from the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday.