Supreme Court Approves Ban
On Tuesday, Jan. 22, the Supreme Court approved President Trump’s military transgender ban, thus reversing the Obama administration’s move to allow transgender people to serve in the US military. This decision was voted in with a five to four majority in the Supreme Court, with the four liberal judges voting against it (The New York Times, “Supreme Court Revives Transgender Ban for Service,” 01.22.2019).
The policy bars transgender individuals who have had or require gender transition medical care from serving in the military. It stipulates that transgender individuals can serve in the military, but only if they do so in their sex assigned at birth (BBC, “US Supreme Court allows Trump Military Transgender Ban,” 01.22.2019).
President Trump announced his plans to enact this ban in a 2017 tweet: “The United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” he said. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail” (CNN, “Supreme Court Allows Military Transgender Ban to go into Effect,” 01.22.2019).
While the Supreme Court’s decision does not require that the military enforce this ban, the decision does give the military the opportunity to discriminate against transgender individuals (BBC, “US Supreme Court allows Trump Military Transgender Ban,” 01.22.2019).
After the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Pentagon released a statement in response. Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, said: “As always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity. [The Department of Defense’s] proposed policy is NOT a ban on service by transgender persons. It is critical that DoD be permitted to implement personnel policies that it determines are necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world. DoD’s proposed policy is based on professional military judgment and will ensure that the U.S. Armed Forces remain the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world” (CNN, “Supreme Court Allows Military Transgender Ban to go into Effect,” 01.22.2019).
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated, “[The treatment cost] erodes military readiness and unit cohesion.” However, a study into the financial effects of transgender military members revealed that the financial burden of gender transition medical treatment is minimal, as it would only cost between 2.4 and 8.4 million (CNN, “Trump to reinstate US military ban on transgender people,” 07.22.2017).
This cost, in comparison to other military costs, is less than one-tenth of the price for a new fighter jet, and five times less than what the military spends annually to provide Viagra (Washington Post, “The military spends five times as much on Viagra as it would on transgender troops’ medical care,” 07.26.2017).
Several advocates, politicians and organizations have spoken out against Trump’s ban. As Senior Staff Attorney for the HIV and LGBT project with American Civil Liberties Union Joshua Block said, “This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country. The President is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country” (CNN, “Trump to Reinstate US Military Ban on Transgender People,” 07.22.2017).
Mexico Eases Entry Process
A new migrant caravan is heading toward the U.S. border. This caravan is expected to increase in size, as thousands of people are already waiting at Mexico’s southern border (CBS, “Migrant caravan grows as Mexico fast-tracks humanitarian visas,” 01.23.2019).
Although the majority of the people in the caravan hope to enter the United States, the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has made it easier for migrants to obtain work permits and visas, thus encouraging them to stay in Mexico. This pro-immigrant policy lies in stark contrast to President Trump’s anti-immigration policies (New York Times, “Mexico Moves to Encourage Caravan Migrants to Stay and Work,” 01.25.2019).
The Mexican government has eased the entry process to protect the human rights of immigrants. According to a Mexican senior immigration official, “The principles guiding the government are respect for migrants’ human rights and not to confront them violently,” (Wall Street Journal, “New Caravan Grows as Mexico Eases Passage,” 01.22.2019).
These humanitarian visas make it possible for the migrants to travel through Mexico without fear of deportation, as well as work there (Wall Street Journal, “New Caravan Grows as Mexico Eases Passage,” 01.22.2019). The new policy surrounding the humanitarian visas allows people to get a visa in as few as five days, as opposed to the previous timeframe of one month, which has encouraged migration to Mexico.
This new policy is in an attempt to make immigration more humane. Since its implementation, more than 12,000 potential migrants have applied for the humanitarian visa. One such migrant, Susy Polanco, a Nicaraguan woman who migrated to Mexico with her seven family members, said, “We heard about the opportunity for visas and decided this was our chance … There is too much repression now in Nicaragua” (LA Times, “Thousands of migrants at Mexico’s southern border seeking new humanitarian visas,” 01.24.2019). Mexico is also motivated to encourage workers’ movement due to a a need to fill jobs (New York Times, “Mexico Moves to Encourage Caravan Migrants to Stay and Work,” 01.25.2019).
The Mexican president has further encouraged migration to Mexico for work opportunities by promising to create jobs in southern Mexico and Central America, raising the minimum wage by 16 percent and formulating plans to enact a $30 billion dollar plan for regional development (New York Times, “Mexico Moves to Encourage Caravan Migrants to Stay and Work,” 01.25.19). As a result of these opportunities, some people prefer to stay and work in Mexico, whereas others hope to continue on to the United States (CBS, “Migrant caravan grows as Mexico fast-tracks humanitarian visas,” 01.23.2019).
– Olivia Watson, Guest Reporter