US opens new housing at Mexico border for migrant children, amid outcry

Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the US-Mexico border in six-weeks. Despite wide condemnation, the Trump administration defended the policy, saying it was just enforcing the law.

    
A family is detained at the Mexico-US border (Getty Images/J. Moore)

Due to an increasing number of migrant children in government custody, officials in US President Donald Trump’s administration confirmed on Friday that a temporary encampment near the US-Mexico border in Texas had been built.

The new shelter, which consists of large tent structures, opened on Thursday and has the capacity to hold 360 children. The temporary camp is located near an official border crossing point, some 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of the Texan city of El Paso.

According to Kenneth Wolfe of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the shelter was designated for “minors referred by DHS (Department of Homeland Security) to HHS for our unaccompanied alien children program.”

A boy from Honduras being taken into custody by US Border Patrol agentsA boy from Honduras being taken into custody by US Border Patrol agents

DHS confirmed on Friday to the Associated Press that some 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults from April 19 through May 31. DHS did not provide a breakdown of the separations by age, but the reasons were illegal entry, immigration violations or possible criminal conduct by the adult parent.

The startling figure is a result of a new directive from Attorney General Jeff Session, who on April 6 announced a “zero tolerance” policy on immigration that would refer all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution.

Cases that involved families were typically sent for civil deportation proceedings. These allow children to remain with their parents. The new directive eliminates that option and has led to the separation and internment of the children in temporary shelters.

Read more: Caravan of migrants tests Trump’s anti-immigrant policies

Widespread outrage

The Trump administration has come under fire for both the criminalization of all immigration cases and the family separations. Stories of weeping children, including infants, torn from the arms of frightened parents, flooded the media and a chorus of church groups, politicians and children’s advocates called the practice inhumane.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi decried the policy as “barbaric” and said that President Trump had the power to stop it.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans distanced themselves from the White House, saying they were not comfortable with family separations. “We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents,” Ryan said on Thursday.

In a pointed critique, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops called the practice of separating babies from their mothers as “immoral” and not the answer.

Read more: Could President Trump actually fulfill his anti-immigration promises?

A family being taken into custody at the US borderA family being taken into custody at the US border

Sessions: bible backs the rule of law

But the administration has been unapologetic, saying that their goal is merely to follow the law, blaming Democrats for having created the situation in the first place.

In response to the criticism of the Conference of Catholic Bishop’s, Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the bible to defend the controversial policy.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said.

The comments sparked outrage and a heated exchange between journalists and the White House press office. But spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not flinch.

“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” she said. “It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.”

Read more: Super Bowl ad about German immigrant stirs controversy

Congress to tackle immigration

The outrage has put pressure on Republicans to present immigration legislation. By Friday, Republican leaders were said to be putting the finishing touches on two bills in the House of Representatives. One of the bills would be a hard-right proposal and the other one a more moderate compromise.

The compromise bill would provide citizenship to young immigrants brought to the US illegally as children, and reduce the family separations.

Trump caused confusion when he said on television on Friday that he would not sign the moderate bill. The White House then drew back from his comments and indicated the president was ready to consider both.

Watch video02:37

Risking the dangerous journey to the US

jcg/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)

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COURTESY: DW

Windrush scandal puts UK immigration policy on the spot

The UK government has resorted to damage-control mode after an outcry over the deportation and hounding of British Caribbean citizens resident in the country since the 1950s and 1960s. Samira Shackle reports from London.

The Empire Windrush ship (Getty Images/Keystone/D. Miller)

It started with Paulette Wilson, a 61-year-old grandmother who had moved to the UK when she was 10. In October, it emerged that after 51 peaceful years living in the UK, she had been told she was an illegal immigrant and locked up in a detention center. Then came Anthony Brian, a 60-year-old man, resident in the UK for 52 years and facing deportation to Jamaica, a country he had left when he was eight years old.

In recent weeks, the horror stories have been coming thick and fast of people born in the Caribbean who came to the UK as children in the 1950s and 1960s facing serious problems with their immigration status because they never formally naturalized or applied for a British passport. As Home Secretary Amber Rudd acknowledged last week, some have already been wrongfully deported. Others have been unable to access healthcare for serious conditions such cancer or have lost their jobs and homes.

Two members of the so-called Windrush generation, Mozi Haynes und Ruth Williams (picture alliance/empics/Yui Mok)Mozi Haynes (right) with his mother Ruth Williams was threatened with deportation after decades of living in the UK

David Michael is a councilor in the London borough of Lewisham and deputy chair of the British Caribbean Association. He arrived in the UK in 1965 at the age of 10. “This has sent shock waves through the British Caribbean community,” he told DW. “I was not personally surprised because in my experience some British politicians are obsessed with immigration. They conveniently airbrush the benefits Britain has gained from former colonies and the gargantuan contributions West Indians, Caribbean and Commonwealth people have made to Britain.”

The Windrush generation

Those who arrived in the UK from 1948-71 from the Caribbean are known as the Windrush generation, named after the first ship that arrived in Essex with workers from Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago and other islands. That first ship carried 492 passengers, many of whom were children.

They had been invited to move to the UK to help with postwar reconstruction in the face of major labor shortages. At the time, most of these countries were still colonized by Britain, and so immigration status was not an issue. In 1971, when the influx ended, Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain. But the Home Office did not keep a record of those given leave to remain or issue any paperwork confirming it, so it is difficult for people to prove their status.

That has become a problem since the introduction of Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policy in 2012. It aims to make life in the UK as difficult as possible for people who do not have the legal right to be here. In practice, it means having to show immigration papers in order to rent property, use the National Health Service or continue working.

UK PM Theresa May apologizes for statements about the Windrush generation (Reuters/D. Leal-Olivas)Prime Minister Theresa May has come under fire for her “hostile environment” policy which she initiated as Home Secretary in 2012

Despite the frequently anti-immigration stance taken by much of the British media and political establishment, the treatment of often elderly British Caribbean citizens has prompted unanimous outrage. “The Windrush scandal has taken the government utterly by surprise,” Sophie Gaston, head of international projects at the think tank Demos, told DW. “The issue has united the country and the media alike around the dignity and respect afforded to Britain’s postwar migrants and, importantly, created a prominent political space to recognize their enormous social and economic contribution. What cannot be understated is just how unique the level of media consensus has been around this issue, after years of polemic debate on the topic of immigration.”

Late apology

The government was initially slow to respond but, as the scandal built, Rudd offered an unprecedented apology, saying: “Frankly, how they have been treated has been wrong — has been appalling — and I am sorry.” She added that her own department, the Home Office, had become “too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual.”

Major questions remain over the fate of EU citizens currently resident in Britain, and it is possible the scandal — which has placed the government’s hostile environment policy under scrutiny — could have an impact.

Infographic on dual citizenship in Europe

“On a policy level, it has raised serious questions about the capacity of the Home Office to cope with the tremendous task of managing EU migrants after Brexit, and will undoubtedly encourage a much closer level of scrutiny in any unfavorable decisions taken as part of that process,” said Gaston.

The Home Office has appointed a team of 20 people to ensure that Windrush citizens are no longer classed as illegal immigrants.

“The British government needs to deal with the situation expeditiously,” said David Michael. “It is totally unconscionable. Positive action is called for and not an extracted apology. This just highlights that so many aspects of British life are not inclusive, and that we do not value, appreciate or celebrate difference.”

Watch video03:21

UK launches Commonwealth charm offensive as Brexit nears

COURTESY: DW

France presents new immigration bill

The new legislation would criminalize illegal border crossings but aims to cut the waiting time on asylum applications. Migrant rights groups have called for the bill to be withdrawn, labeling it “too repressive.”

People with suitcases walk past the burning Calais refugee camp on October 26, 2016. (picture-alliance/AP Photo/T. Camus)

French President Emmanuel Macron’s government presented a controversial immigration bill to the Cabinet on Wednesday, amid criticism from migrant organizations and members of Macron’s own party.

Macron has faced pressure to act on immigration after he won the 2017 presidential election, which saw 34 percent of the second round vote go to far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who had campaigned on immigration concerns.

Read more: Opinion: The EU is divided by refugee policy

The new legislation includes plans to:

  • Introduce fines of €3,750 ($4,620) or a 1-year jail term for people who illegally cross borders within the EU
  • Double the time asylum-seekers can be held in detention to 90 days
  • Halve the amount of the time asylum-seekers have to appeal if their refugee status is denied
  • Hasten the deportation of those asylum-seekers deemed to be economic migrants
  • Cut the average waiting time on asylum applications from 11 months to six

‘Most vulnerable will be punished’

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb has said the law is “balanced” and “aligned with European procedures,” arguing that if France did not tighten its laws it would attract refugees put off by tougher rules elsewhere in Europe.

“If we don’t take this into account, we won’t be able, tomorrow, to guarantee the right to asylum in France,” Collomb said.

But staff at the asylum court have raised concerns that the tighter turnaround on cases will make it harder for applicants to appeal.

The bill has caused some divide in France’s left-right coalition government. Jean-Michel Clement, a lawmaker who joined Macron’s centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) party after switching from the Socialists, said the new legislation would hurt those who are already vulnerable.

“The most vulnerable will be punished,” Clement said. “It’s not forbidden to put a little humanity into a draft law.”

Read more: Follow the money: What are the EU’s migration policy priorities?

Another LREM lawmaker, Mathieu Orphelin, on Tuesday said increasing the detention time from 45 days to 90 days was problematic, adding that he intended to draw up amendments to the bill.

People working with organizations that assist refugees also criticized the bill, with some workers at France’s refugee protection office OFPRA going on strike to protest the bill on Wednesday, calling it “an unequivocal departure from France’s tradition of asylum.”

Read more: The Migration Dilemma: ‘We were treated like animals’

Migrant charity Cimade said it was asking for the bill to be withdrawn. “We’re not even in favor of fighting for changes to the bill, because the philosophy behind it is just too repressive.”

Watch video00:24

Macron vows no return of Calais migrant camp

How many asylum claims does France receive: According to OFPRA, France received a 100,000 asylum applications in 2017 — its highest number for a single year to date.

‘Jungle’ camp gone, but Calais still a migrant hot spot: At the center of the French immigration crisis is the port town of Calais in the country’s northeast, where the infamous “Jungle” migrant camp was closed down in October 2016. The city is the closest point between France and Britain, with two cross-Channel transport systems: the Eurotunnel and ferries. The town continues to be a hub for asylum-seekers hoping to make it to the United Kingdom.

Tension between France and Britain: An agreement in 2003, known as the Touquet Accords, moved the British border to Calais and left France to deal with migrants who had been refused entry into Britain. In January, Macron said he wanted to negotiate a better police cooperation with the UK to handle the migrants in Calais, as well as more money from Britain to help develop the city.

Watch video00:53

Debris and ashes: ‘Jungle’ of Calais demolished

law/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

Trump backs citizenship for Dreamers, while slashing legal immigration

 

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said he will support a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, according to a telephone briefing by the White House for Republican congressional staff members. His remarks could move negotiations on an immigration deal that is stalled in Congress but Democrats have signaled that his proposal is a non-starter.

The call, hosted by White House adviser Stephen Miller, outlined the demands for any deal on DACA, which includes a $25 billion “trust fund” for a border wall, an end to family reunification, also called “chain migration” by conservatives, and an end to the diversity visa lottery.

Play

 Trump to back pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million dreamers1:59

But in a more detailed outline of the proposal released by the White House later on Thursday, it calls for a massive increase in border security and a massive decrease in legal immigration by aiming to “protect the nuclear family migration” by only allowing family immigration sponsorships to include spouses or children, rather than extended family members.

In addition to $25 billion in border security, it would appropriate funds to add new enforcement officers, immigration judges and prosecutors – efforts to more quickly deport people who are in the country without legal papers.

The path to citizenship would be provided to DACA recipients via a “10-12 year path” that includes “requirements for work, education and good moral character.”

A path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers is a significant concession for Democrats, most of whom say they will not support any deal that does not provide for citizenship. It’s similar to a bipartisan proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also includes a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

But Democrats say that the massive increase in border security, elimination of most family migration and the end to the diversity visa lottery is a lopsided deal.

“Dreamers should not be held hostage to President Trump’s crusade to tear families apart and waste billions of American tax dollars on an ineffective wall,” Durbin said in a statement. “This plan would put the administration’s entire hard-line immigration agenda — including massive cuts to legal immigration — on the backs of these young people.”

Trump told reporters Wednesday night before leaving for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he’d support legalization that would “morph” into citizenship.

Many on Capitol Hill have been waiting for specifics from the president on what he wants to see in an immigration bill. He has expressed requirements in line with conservative principles while also signaling his openness to a more lenient plan, confusing the topic for lawmakers attempting to draft legislation.

Play

 Dreamer: The goalpost keeps moving for our families 5:18

“We’re grateful for the president showing leadership on this issue, and believe his ideas will help us ultimately reach a balanced solution,” Michael Ricci, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, told NBC News.

Some Republicans, especially those with more hard-line views on immigration, praised the plan.

“The president’s framework is generous and humane, while also being responsible,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said.

Immigration activists, however, blasted the plan for ending family reunification, and vowed to oppose it.

“They think that by offering up a spoonful of sugar — relief for Dreamers — they can get Congress and the American people to swallow the bitter medicine of radical nativism,” Frank Sharry, founder of America’s Voice, an immigration rights group. “We are going to fight this tooth and nail.”

United We Dream Advocacy Director Greisa Martínez Rosas, who would be a DACA beneficiary, went further in a statement.

“Let’s call this proposal for what it is: a white supremacist ransom note,” she said. “Trump and Stephen Miller killed DACA and created the crisis that immigrant youths are facing. They have taken immigrant youth hostage, pitting us against our own parents, Black immigrants and our communities in exchange for our dignity.”

The ACLU also did not pull any punches, saying that “the only community that benefits from this supposed generosity are white supremacists.”

The nonprofit advocacy organizationadded that the “proposal is clearly an effort to sabotage bipartisan talks on the issue by continuing to put issues on the table that are non-starters.”

Play

 Schumer pulls offer to to fund border wall 13:04

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, said in a tweet that Trump’s proposal didn’t “pass the laugh test.”

$25 billion as ransom for Dreamers with cuts to legal immigration and increases to deportations doesn’t pass the laugh test.

And Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., excoriated the bill in a statement.

“We cannot allow the lives of young people who have done everything right to be used as bargaining chips for sweeping anti-immigrant policies,” she said. “The White House is using Dreamers to mask their underlying xenophobic, isolationist, and un-American policies, which will harm millions of immigrants living in the United States and millions of others who want to legally immigrate and contribute to our country.”

Meanwhile, other Democrats in the House and Senate — as well as liberal advocates — shared their continued displeasure with Trump’s proposal on social media.

The White House’s immigration framework is not a serious attempt to reach an agreement on . It is Stephen Miller’s nativist wishlist, which pits children against children and immigrants against immigrants. We need a !

By ending DACA, @realdonaldtrump subjected 800k Dreamers to deportation. Now he wants to hold them hostage to Steven Miller’s anti-immigrant wish list. It’s insulting. We already have a bipartisan solution to the Trump-created crisis: it’s called the Dream Act.

‘s immigration plan is about one thing: white supremacy. It is about fundamentally changing the makeup of our country by removing people of color and preventing them from coming in the first place.

Democrats shut down the government over the issue of immigration for three days, demanding progress on the issue of protecting Dreamers. Trump, who announced he was ending the Obama-era DACA program in September, gave Congress until March 5 to find a legislative solution for the people who were brought to the U.S. as young children by their parents and whose legal status remains in limbo.

To end the government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to take up DACA if no deal is reached between the White House, the Senate and the House before February 8, which is when the next government funding bill runs out.

In a statement Thursday, McConnell thanked Trump for putting forth the framework.

“I am hopeful that as discussions continue in the Senate on the subject of immigration, Members on both sides of the aisle will look to this framework for guidance as they work towards an agreement,” he said.

A White House official told reporters that they would like to see their proposal, which is likely to be more conservative than anything the Senate would devise, brought up the week of February 5, just days before the funding deadline.

Trump Says He’s Open to U.S. Citizenship for DACA Illegal Aliens

President Trump told mainstream media reporters on Wednesday that he was open to breaking his immigration commitment by giving a pathway to U.S. citizenship to nearly 800,000 illegal aliens shielded from deportation by the President Obama-created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

In statements outside the White House, Trump told the Associated Press (AP) that he would be open to giving U.S. citizenship to DACA illegal aliens, saying “It’s going to happen.”

The AP reported:

President Donald Trump says he’s open to a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the country as children and are now here illegally.

Trump told reporters, “We’re going to morph into it. It’s going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years.” [Emphasis added]

Trump was talking about the young immigrants who had been protected from deportation and given the right to work legally in the country under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

According to Bloomberg News, an anonymous administration official is already walking back Trump’s comment about citizenship for DACA illegal aliens, saying the remark does not indicate an upcoming policy proposal by the White House.

Trump on DACA recipients: “Tell em not be concerned, OK? Tell em not to worry about it. We’re going to solve the problem… They should not be concerned.”

Trump on citizenship for DACA recipients: “We’re going to morph into it. It’s going to happen, at some point in the future, over a period of 10 to 12 years.”

Trump also said he would be demanding at least $30 billion to build a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as an end to the process known as “chain migration,” where newly naturalized citizens can bring an unlimited number of foreign relatives to the U.S., and an end to the Diversity Visa Lottery program, which imports 50,000 random foreign nationals every year from countries with known terrorism issues.

On immigration bill, Pres Trump said he wants $30-billion – including $25-billion to build a border wall. In exchange, would agree to a path to citizenship for DACA “Dreamers,” during a 10-12-year period if no criminal record.

Pres Trump also said he wants family reunification/chain migration limited to husbands/wives and children. Says parents are tricky. Wants visa lotteries to undergo significant changes – or ended.

“If you don’t have a wall, you don’t have DACA,” said Pres Trump, again insisting the wall is essential to an immigration deal. He wants $25-billion in funding, but believes it won’t cost that much. “We’re talking about probably 800 miles of wall,” says the pres.

In another break of commitment, Trump said he was open to potentially extending the DACA program beyond its March 5 deadline of when Attorney General Jeff Sessions said it would officially end.

If no immigration deal by March 5th DACA deadline, he might extend the deadline. “Yeah I might do that,” but he’s not guaranteeing because he wants to give Congress incentive to act.

While the White House’s official position on a DACA deal has been that they would be open to giving legal status only to DACA-enrolled illegal aliens in exchange for the end to chain migration, elimination of the Visa Lottery, and full funding for a border wall, the administration has never been supportive of citizenship for illegal aliens.

Granting a pathway to U.S. citizenship to DACA illegal aliens would break Trump’s long-held campaign promise that no amnesty for illegal aliens would be granted until illegal immigration to the U.S. was fully ended.

In Trump’s historic 2016 immigration speech, he specifically said “There will be no amnesty.”

“For those here illegally today who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only. To return home and apply for re-entry like everybody else under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined today.”

“It’s our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us.”

“Anyone who tells you the core issue is the needs of those living here illegally has simply spent too much time in Washington.”

Trump’s comments come just after a new Harvard-Harris poll revealed that his pro-American immigration agenda of reducing legal immigration levels to raise the wages of Americans is wildly popular with American voters, as Breitbart News reported.

For example, 85 percent of black Americans said they supported a merit-based immigration system, rather than the current flow of chain migration. Another 72 percent of Democrat, former voters for Hillary Clinton agreed that the legal immigration system should be based on skills, not family ties.

Currently, the U.S. admits more than 1.5 million legal and illegal immigrants every year, with more than 70 percent coming to the country through the process of chain migration. Mass immigration to the U.S. has had a detrimental impact on America’s working and middle class, which have seen stagnant wages for decades and continued outsourcing of blue-collar and some white-collar jobs.

The poll found that more than 80 percent of Americans support curbing legal immigration levels, a plan that Trump has endorsed to raise the wages of working and middle-class Americans and stem the current never-ending flow of cheaper, foreign competition that burdens the country’s blue-collar workers the most.

Since DACA’s inception, more than 2,100 illegal aliens on the program have been kicked off because they were found to be either gang members of convicted criminals.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.

Trump administration attempts to link terrorism cases with immigration

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

The Trump administration on Tuesday released a report attempting to link terrorism with migration, arguing that it was evidence of the need to dramatically reshape the nation’s immigration system.

The report, ordered by President Trump in an executive order last year, said that 75% of the 549 people convicted of terrorism charges since 9/11 were born outside the U.S. Administration officials called that a sign that the U.S. needs to scrap its policy of family preferences for visas, which they call “chain migration,” and a diversity visa lottery program.

But the report did not specify how many — if any — of the convicted terrorists entered the country through those means. It also did not detail how many of the convictions were related to attacks or plans in the U.S. versus overseas and how many involved people who went to fight overseas for the Islamic State or another terror group. Those details were not available, officials said.

“The focus of our immigration system should be assimilation,” a senior administration official said on Tuesday, speaking on condition that his name not be used. He said the nation should give priority to potential immigrants who speak English, who have an education and those who are “committed to supporting our values — not family members of people already here.”

“This report is likely just the tip of the iceberg,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the Senate Judiciary Committee during testimony Tuesday.

The report, due last year, is being released in a highly charged moment in the immigration debate, as Trump and some Republicans in Congress seek tough new border and immigration measures in return for a deal protecting the 690,000 people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals  program. The official said the timing of the report was coincidental.

Latest updates

White House doctor says Trump scored perfect marks on cognitive test, needs to lose weight

President Trump registered a perfect score on a cognitive screening test as part of his physical examination taken last week, the White House physician said Tuesday, adding that Trump requested the test to rebut accusations that his mental faculties are declining.

“There’s no indication whatsoever that he has any cognitive issues,” Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the chief White House doctor, whose tenure treating presidents began with George W. Bush, told reporters during a lengthy White House briefing. “He’s very sharp. He’s very articulate when he speaks to me.”

“Absolutely, he’s fit for duty,” Jackson said.

Congress White House

Senate advances bill to continue NSA surveillance program; passage expected this week

The National Security Agency campus at Ft. Meade, Md. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press) None
The National Security Agency campus at Ft. Meade, Md. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

A bill to continue the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs for five more years advanced Tuesday in the Senate, overcoming objections that it did not do enough to protect Americans’ civil liberties.

Opponents came close to filibustering the measure, which was approved by the House last week. But the Senate’s narrow 60-38 vote puts it on track for final passage this week.

Voting stretched more than an hour as senators lobbied key holdouts in dramatic fashion on the Senate floor.

A coalition of Republicans and Democrats sought to limit the program, operating under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s section 702, ever since former federal contractor Edward Snowden disclosed its reach in 2013.

Two years ago, Congress agreed to reforms requiring the government to seek warrants for bulk data collection.

But civil libertarians wanted further restrictions to prevent eavesdropping on Americans without a court-issued warrant. Others argued the surveillance system was vital for national security.

President Trump confused matters last week when he tweeted criticism of the bill before quickly reversing himself, after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan intervened, ahead of the House vote.

The bill would reauthorize the program, with some changes, through 2023.

This is the test Trump’s doctor says the president aced. How well can you do?

At a press conference Tuesday, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the chief White House doctor, stated that President Trump aced a cognitive screening testas part of his physical examination taken last week.

The test administered, Jackson noted, was the widely used Montreal Cognitive Assessment, a brief written and oral examination covering basic recall exercises, language questions, abstraction and more.

The president, according to Jackson, received a perfect score of 30.

See how well you do below:

Congress Immigration White House

Sen. Cory Booker calls Homeland Security chief ‘complicit’; Nielsen testifies she never met a ‘Dreamer’

Sen. @corybooker: “When the Commander-in-chief speaks or refuses to speak, those words just don’t dissipate like mist in the air. They fester. They become poison. The give license to bigotry and hate in our country.”

Sen. Cory Booker rebuked Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen as “complicit” Tuesday for failing to recall — or object to — President Trump’s vulgar language about immigrants from Africa and other countries.

“Why is this so important? Why is this so disturbing? Why am I frankly seething with anger?” Booker asked at the Senate Judiciary Hearing.

“We have this incredible nation where we have been taught it doesn’t matter where you’re from. … It’s about the content of your character,” he said.

“You’re under oath,” he told Nielsen. “You and others in that room that suddenly cannot remember? … Your silence and your amnesia is complicity.”

The impassioned exchange came as Nielsen testified that she had never met with any “Dreamers” — the young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, who now face deportation under Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.

The personal stories of Dreamers’ accomplishments have captivated lawmakers. Trump last week rejected a bipartisan deal to help them during a White House meeting.

Trump ignited furor when he criticized the plan for allowing immigrants from Africa, Haiti and other “shithole” countries. Trump told the lawmakers he wanted more Europeans, specifically from Norway.

Two Republicans, Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, have given shifting accounts of the meeting, first saying they didn’t recall Trump using the word and then denying he did.

Nielsen told senators she did not hear Trump’s specific comments, but was struck by other “rough talk” in the Oval Office.

Booker, invoking Martin Luther King Jr. and other human rights leaders, described the president’s “shithole” remarks as part of a racially tinged pattern that included his support of “both sides” of the deadly neo-Nazi protest over the summer in Charlottesville, Va.

“We know what happens when people sit back and are bystanders and say nothing,” Booker said, noting the death threats he and other senators of color have received.

“When the commander in chief speaks or refuses to speak, those words don’t dissipate like mist in the air. They fester. They become poison. They give licenses to bigotry and hate in our country.”

Nielsen told the senator she shares his passion against white supremacists and insisted the department is going after those groups. “It can’t be tolerated in the United States,” she said.

Trump administration confirms it halved payment to U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees

 (EPA)
(EPA)

The Trump administration said Tuesday it had cut in half a scheduled annual payment to the United Nations relief agency that serves millions of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.

A funding cut had been anticipated since Jan. 2, when President Trump complained on Twitter that the United States gives what he described as hundreds of millions dollars a year to the Palestinians, who do not show “respect or appreciation” in return.

After Trump’s tweet, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson put a hold on the annual U.S. payment to UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, while the State Department launched a review.

On Tuesday, the State Department said it would pay $60 million to UNRWA but would withhold an additional $65 million pending the review. As the world’s richest country, the U.S. is the largest donor to the U.N. agency.

Trump’s tweet followed widespread condemnation of his Dec. 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and eventually to move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Palestinians, who consider Jerusalem the capital of a future state, said Trump’s move crippled chances for a negotiated peace deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The White House was especially angered on Dec. 21 when the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly voted, 128-9, to approve a nonbinding resolution that declared Trump’s decision “null and void,” despite Trump’s threats to cut funding from the world body.

According to its website, UNRWA helps provide education, healthcare and social services to more than 5 million Palestinians in parts of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Created in 1949, it isn’t associated with the Palestinian government and doesn’t take part in peace talks with Israel.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said administration officials had considered cutting off all money to the relief agency but were convinced by neighboring Arab states that such a drastic move would be highly destabilizing.

She said the Trump administration wants to see other countries pay more to support the U.N. agency’s mission.

“This is not aimed at punishing anyone,” she said. “It has long been a concern … how UNRWA manages its money.”

DACA to remain in effect while Trump administration asks Supreme Court to overturn judge’s order

President Trump sits and Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
President Trump sits and Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

The Justice Department said Tuesday it will ask the Supreme Court to overturn a federal judge’s ruling that prevents President Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which currently offers protections from deportation for about 700,000 people who came to the U.S. as children.

But the administration has not asked courts to put the ruling by U.S. District Judge William Alsup on hold while the Supreme Court considers what to do. The effect will be to allow the DACA program to continue while the litigation proceeds.

“Until further notice … the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded” by Trump, a spokesperson for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Tuesday. “We are still accepting applications.”

Although the administration is seeking a speedy review by the high court, the justices are under no obligation to expedite the case — or even to hear the administration’s appeal. They could send the case back to a lower court for further proceedings.

At minimum, the high court would likely take several weeks to consider the case. That could buy congressional negotiators additional time to come up with a legislative solution for the so-called Dreamers, the young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.

The Homeland Security Department announced Saturday that it would once again start processing applications for renewal of DACA permits because of Alsup’ ruling. The judge’s ruling also ordered the department not to terminate any existing permits.

The judge, who is based in San Francisco, made his ruling applicable nationwide.

“It defies both law and common sense for DACA … to somehow be mandated nationwide by a single district court in San Francisco,” said Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions.

UPDATE

11:50 a.m.: This article was was updated throughout with additional details and background.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham: Let’s end this ‘s-show’ on immigration

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks on Capitol Hill. (Alex Brand/Associated Press)
Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks on Capitol Hill. (Alex Brand/Associated Press)

A leading Republican senator on immigration urged President Trump to abandon his harsh and profane statements about Africa and some other countries and return to an attempt to get a bipartisan deal to protect young immigrants and boost border security.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who confronted Trump at a White House meeting last Thursday after the president apparently complained of immigrants from “shithole countries,” said Trump may have gotten bad advice from his staff before the meeting.

“This has turned into an s- show and we need to get back to being a great country,” Graham said Tuesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

He said Trump needed to return to his mood and language of Jan. 9, when the president said he wanted a bipartisan deal that continued to protect from deportation about 800,000 people brought to the country illegally as children and was made with “love.”

The so-called Dreamers were allowed to apply for deferral from deportation under an Obama-era program known as DACA, but Trump last year moved to phase out the protection, kicking the sensitive issue to Congress for a solution.

Shortly before the meeting on Thursday, Trump had an agreeable conversation with Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, Graham said.

“What happened between 10 and 12?” Graham asked Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of Homeland Security, who testified to the House committee. “I don’t [know] either and I’m going to find out.”

“Tuesday we had a president I was proud to golf with and call my friend,” Graham said. “I don’t know where that guy went. I want him back.”

Graham said Congress and the White House still could come up with a deal on DACA, as long as it contained some measures on border security and changes to the legal immigration system. He said Republicans would not support a so-called clean bill on DACA, that excludes other issues.

“I’m telling my friends on the other side – DACA and nothing else is not going to happen,” he said.

Homeland Security head, in sworn testimony, says she did not hear Trump call African countries ‘shitholes’

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

The head of the Homeland Security Department denied that President Trump referred to some countries as “shitholes” during a White House meeting about immigration —  though she didn’t dispute that Trump used vulgar language.

“The conversation was very impassioned,” secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I don’t dispute that the president was using tough language. Others in the room were also using tough language.”

“I did not hear that word used, no sir,” Nielsen said, responding to a question from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). She didn’t specify what Trump did say. Nielsen is the only Cabinet member who was in the room.

Pressed about Trump’s expressed preference during the meeting for immigrants from Norway, Nielsen also said she couldn’t be sure that the country’s population is mostly white.

“Norway is a predominantly white country, isn’t it?” Leahy asked.

“I actually do not know that, sir, but I imagine that’s the case,” she said.

Reports last week said that Trump said he wanted fewer immigrants from “shithole countries” in Africa and more from places like Norway. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) confirmed Trump’s statements after the first reports.

Pressed by Durbin on Tuesday, Nielsen said she did not “specifically remember the categorization of countries in Africa.”

“Do you remember him saying, “I want more Europeans; why can’t we have more immigrants from Norway?” he asked.

Nielsen said she remembered Trump calling immigrants from Norway hard-working.

The White House did not deny that Trump made the comment after reports on the meeting surfaced last week. Over the weekend, the president and some Republican senators have disputed it. Some White House aides have said Trump actually used the word “shithouse.”

Trump’s language has further inflamed the debate on how to address immigration and a deal on the DACA program, which provides protections from deportation.

White House

A week after California mudslides, Trump sends condolences through press secretary statement

 (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Nearly a week after horrific mudslides hit California’s Central Coast and killed at least 20 people, President Trump sent his condolences to those affected in his first public statement on the disaster.

The two-sentence statement was released by the White House press secretary on Monday.

“The President has been briefed and will continue to monitor the mudslides in California. The President and First Lady extend their deepest sympathies to the families affected, their appreciation for the first responders saving lives, and their prayers for those who remain missing.”

Trump’s belated response stood in contrast to his repeated statements and tweets of condolences and promises of aid after hurricanes slammed Texas, Louisiana and Florida last year — all states that, unlike California, backed Trump for president in 2016.

The mudslides’ toll could go higher. Four people remain missing, and authorities said Sunday their focus has gone from search and rescue to recovery. The disaster has wiped out 73 homes and damaged hundreds more.

Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

White House Caught Doctoring Transcript For Second Time

Yesterday’s televised session on immigration is being spun as evidence that President Trump isn’t senile. You might think Trump’s supporters would be touting something a little more upbeat than “not senile,” but that’s hard to do when Trump demonstrated virtually no understanding of a subject that has literally been his signature issue for the past two years. Pretty much the best you can say about Trump’s performance is that he didn’t fall asleep or start telling stories about his old days on The Apprentice.

Matt Yglesias has the right take on this. As he (and everyone else) has noted, Trump was obviously confused even about DACA, the topic that Congress has to decide right away:

The key exchange of the afternoon came when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked the president if he might like to completely abandon his administration’s stated position on the issue under discussion and, instead, adopt the Democratic position. At this point, you would expect a Republican Party politician to restate the Republican Party’s position on the issue….Trump, instead, just said he agreed with Feinstein!

The Washington Post picks up the story:

So pliant was Trump that when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of the most liberal members of the chamber, asked if he would support “a clean DACA bill” that protects the dreamers with no other conditions, the president sounded amenable. “Yeah, I would like to do it,” Trump said.

Trump’s apparent concession so alarmed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that he interjected himself, although he was careful only to gently contradict the president….McCarthy apparently was not the only one concerned by Trump’s seeming agreement with Feinstein. When the White House released its official transcript Tuesday afternoon, the president’s line — “Yeah, I would like to do it” — was missing.

A White House official said that any omission from the transcript was unintentional and that the context of the conversation was clear.

“Unintentional.” Sure it was. Just like it was last July.

This episode shows not just that the White House is dishonest, but that it’s stupid. Doctoring a transcript to remove the one line that everyone gasped at in real time is idiotic. Apparently one of the new tasks of the press in the Trump era is going to be scouring White House transcripts for errors. Unintentional though they may be, surely we’re all interested in keeping these historical records accurate. Right?

Courtesy: Mother Jones

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