Via America’s Lawyer: As we hurtle toward the November election, Greg Palast joins Mike Papantonio to explain how mail-in ballots and voter roll purges continue to dilute our democracy, particularly among black and poor communities. Also, immigration lawyer Allen Orr discusses how the Coronavirus pandemic is weaponized against migrants and asylum seekers.
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Mike Papantonio: Voter suppression efforts have been ramping up as the 2020 election inches closer and if they’re successful, these attempts to stop voters could definitely change the outcome of the election. Joining me to talk about that is Greg Palast, award-winning investigative journalist and author of, “How Trump Stole 2020.” Interesting title, Greg, I tell everybody, I think I’ve interviewed you for about every book you’ve written. This one, this is an important book, which tells me that mainstream media, corporate media is not paying attention to it, probably. Am I right?
Greg Palast: You mean the, the see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil press? Yeah, I think so. And thank you, that’s why I appreciate you having me on your program.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Let’s start with the elephant in the room, vote by mail. A lot of developments there in the past few days. Tell us what this administration’s done and give us the whole Greg Palast vote by mail 10,000 foot so we can move onto the next question. What’s your take?
Greg Palast: Wow. Okay. Here’s the problem. 22% of all mail in ballots don’t get counted. That’s an MIT study. That’s not Greg Palast. One in five ballots is junk. Now, how does that happen? One in 10 people never get their ballot who’ve asked for them, by the way, that’s why we had those long lines in Georgia. Those are African Americans in Atlanta who never got their mail in ballots, but had requested them including, by the way, the head of the ACLU in Georgia. So people don’t get their ballots. That’s number one. And number two, once you send them in one and 10 is junked. For any type of reason, anyone can challenge a ballot in, in, in America. So they don’t like your signature. You left off, you didn’t put your middle initial when you, when you signed, when you registered with the middle initial. Postage due cost a hundred thousand votes in 2016, 3.3 million ballots in 16 that were mailed in were never counted.
Mike Papantonio: Okay Greg, what we have, what we have here is an election that’s tightening up. You know, the Democrats thought they had the leisure of gee the, you know, Biden’s double digit lead. It’s shrinking as we speak, it’s shrinking in States that really matter, swing States. But the Democrats, I literally heard James Carville say, well, Biden can just stay down, he can just stay down in the cellar and he’s going to win this election. Doesn’t that sound a lot like what they were talking about with Hillary Clinton?
Greg Palast: Yeah.
Mike Papantonio: So I wonder that the vote by mail could be important. It could be important. How safe is vote by mail? How safe is it?
Greg Palast: Not in the least. And this is the big problem, because you can have all these jerks in Hawaiian shirts, the Boogaloo boys, the proud boys, they’re going to go in 50,000, Trump’s calling for 50,000 volunteers. It’s not an intimidation army. People have that wrong. The real danger is, they’re going to go in and say, I don’t like that signature on that ballot. That ballot was taped shut instead of sealed shut by licking the ballot, by licking the envelope. I’m not kidding. And if you think it’s just the Republicans who do that, in New York this past week, the democratic party challenged the counting of 28,000 mail in ballots, the democratic party. Once they establish that precedent, how many ballots do you think Trump’s people will challenge? How many millions I should say. So it’s not safe to mail in your ballot.
Mike Papantonio: Where do we get this idea, you know, you’re, you’re a great investigative journalist. I got to tell you, I, I, I follow your stuff.
Greg Palast: Thank you.
Mike Papantonio: When you say something and put it down on paper, I can count on it. But what I always have wondered is where do we get this idea that the Democrats are going to be better on this than the, than the Republicans? Because I’m hearing these spots of what you’re describing, like what took place in New York, what took place in the primary elections, where, you know, there was a democratic hustle on trying to get rid of Bernie. What, what, what makes you think there’s going to be any difference here?
Greg Palast: Well, because, well, two things. Number one. Yeah, the Democrats do it too. In fact, in my book, I have a chapter called California reman. And for the, for the guardian, I uncovered, are you ready for this? Bernie Sanders was shafted out of 553,000 votes in the March primary here, where I’m calling, speaking from California. That’s what the democratic party did. But nationwide, what you have is a mass wipe out of voters by the Republicans. We’ve had a big purge of the voter list, 16.7 million people, according to the federal government have been erased from the voter rolls. They’re going to have a truck, tough time getting their mail in ballots if you’re not on the voter rolls. And the Republicans will learn, have learned from the Democrats in New York and the Democrats in California and throughout the nation, they’re going to be challenging every single mail in ballot that comes in.
Mike Papantonio: You’re saying they’re, they’re going to cast a ballot. Okay. Where we, we, we know there’s going to be a ballot cast, but you, in your investigation for years, you’ve been at this for years. I remember, I remember talking to you about this four years ago, but in your investigation, what you’re finding is even though those votes are cast, that they’re going to be invalidated. If it, depending on who’s in charge, they’re going to be invalidated according to need of who’s going to, who, who do you want to win the election? Is that, did I state that right, or is it an overstatement?
Greg Palast: That’s correct. You know, the nasty little secret of America’s democracy is that we don’t count all the ballots. So for example, 935,000 people who cast what are called provisional ballots had their ballots rejected, never counted about a million. 1.9 million ballots in, that were cast in precinct were disqualified. Someone said, no, I don’t like that. You know, said, oh, there’s a miss marking, the machine can’t read it. By the way, the chance that your ballot, ballot will be invalidated is 900% higher if you’re black than if you’re white. And now mail in balloting, they can challenge all over the place.
Mike Papantonio: As the Coronavirus rages across the country, one of the most vulnerable populations remains that of migrants who are wanting to seek asylum in the United States and they’re being detained in hotel rooms. They’re facing deportation due to the COVID concerns and thousands of migrants remain at the mercy of ICE agents during an especially dangerous time. Joining me to talk about this is Allen Orr, president elect of the American immigration lawyers association. Allen, I’ve had you on before you, you always nail this topic because you’re doing it every day and you have been doing it many, many years every day. We’ve been seeing news about migrants being separated from their families and kept in overcrowded detention centers for years now. Has the pandemic exacerbated that situation in what you’re observing?
Allen Orr: It actually just fueled the situation. It’s just given the administration another out to say why we don’t want these individuals here, but in fact, COVID is not unique to migrants. As we know that the US has a large number of people who have tested positive and there are deaths here. So it’s just another sort of tool the administration gets to use to use another power of the regulations to sort of prevent asylum seekers from coming into this country. If you sort of look and think about it, they’re only using this sort of tool at the Southern border, and until they start using it at all borders, all land ports, all airports it’s, it’s another social racist sort of policy mean to direct and hit those immigrants coming up from the other parts of South America.
Mike Papantonio: You hear this all the time and that you, you know, there’s really no difference between what this administration is doing and what the Bush administration did and what the Obama administration did. Is there, clear that up if you would, if there are big differences, for example, the hotel rooms, I mean, for decades, haven’t we kept migrants in hotel rooms till we could work them through the system? What’s your take on that issue?
Allen Orr: Right. So the first thing is humanitarian issues aren’t sort of judged on historical spectrum. So just because someone did something in the past, doesn’t mean that it’s legal today. So that’s not an out for any administration to basically say this has happened before, so we get to do it again. And there are tons of things in history that you can think of that would not be allowed under the constitution or international law. Second, yeah, there might have been small cases where individuals might have been in hotels, but these are individuals who are separated from their families and did not go before an immigration judge as required by the law. So what we’ve never seen in any administration before, although the president administration, Obama administration, was known as the deporter in chief as this sort of vagrant understanding of how immigration law works and evading the policies and the judicial rulings and procedures of what immigration requires to give these people who are applicants to the United States, their equal day in court, their due process.
So what this administration has done is basically decided to exclude people which takes them out of asylum process and return them home very promptly and they’re doing this through contractors. So the prisons, the detention centers themselves are private prisons, which are sort of just another fee that taxpayers are paying. And then once again, this sort of exclusion thing is done by contractors, which is another high fee that the American people are paying. So it’s really an expensive cost to sort of do these things. And that’s something that we’ve not seen before.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Allen, it’s, it’s been reported that federal officers are citing COVID concerns when they’re expelling asylum seekers. They’re basing it on, on public health, safety and welfare. Is that a concern? Is it legitimate or just an excuse to push people out quickly without any due process? What is your take on the COVID in regard to the argument, we got to move them through because they’re a threat to public safety? What’s your take?
Allen Orr: Well, it doesn’t really ring clear because that would be everybody’s coming through the border. So why is it that we’re letting truckers through, other applicants through with these applications, sports people through? So if their concern is about COVID, then the borders would be shut completely and that’s just not the case. So it’s really just another administrative hurdle to sort of throw at these other asylum seekers and this social class, because be themselves, the officers of course, sort of pushing these individuals back in Mexico for days in these camps and facilities that aren’t set up for COVID distancing are basically exacerbating the problem. Many of the facilities that have a large COVID outbreak, these detention centers are because of the officers. The officers are the only one going in and out. So they’re actually bringing the problem to work and to these individuals and not doing the social distancing that required, and all of these are done by contractors, which is why it doesn’t appear on that ICE sheet. That’s the problem.
Mike Papantonio: You know, Allen, last time we talked, we talked about what the public’s reaction to all this was. And at the time the issue of children was for, it was, it was right out there. We were seeing pictures of it. We’re seeing, we were seeing abuse of all kinds. And then the public was, you know, they were fairly neutral about it. Now we’re seeing numbers where they’re swinging in agreement with Trump and Trump seems to be dragging that into this election and actually making it a positive for his election. What is your take about public sentiment about all this? Where, where were we and where, where are we now?
Allen Orr: So I think we’re in different places thinking about what it is. There’s concern about COVID and there’s a large sort of drum about it came from China and that we should base that on immigrants. But in fact, in New York city, it came from other immigrants coming from Europe and the concern isn’t really, it’s a distraction for really addressing COVID and sort of giving sort of a fake up of saying it’s immigrants. You’ve seen according to California, basically say these families that have been separated for four years, you need to reunite them. And this administration is not. You’ve seen the Supreme Court basically say, you need to start processing new DACA applications and this administration has not.
So there’s a large up swell from people who are sort of interested in immigration who say, yeah, we’re concerned about COVID and we don’t want it to spread anymore, but there are issues that have been raked under by Congress that this is where it really falls at the feet of Congress of not addressing DACA, not addressing the undocumented here and not addressing the current concerns. And this outrage from the administration, from the actual presidential base is basically saying we don’t have to listen the other branches anymore. And this is, all lies at the foot of Congress.
Mike Papantonio: Allen, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. Thank you for joining me and thank you for being one of the people that are trying to solve this very complicated problem that we’re faced with on the borders. Thanks a lot.
Allen Orr: Thank you for having me.