Former ambassador to Vietnam: Trump wanted me to send back refugees

Former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said he resigned from his post last year after the Trump administration asked him to pressure the Vietnamese government to receive more than 8,000 Vietnamese refugees marked in the U.S. for deportation.

The vast majority of the people targeted for deportation — sometimes for minor crimes — were war refugees who had established lives in the U.S. after fleeing the Vietnam War more than 40 years ago, Osius wrote in an essay this month for the American Foreign Service Association.

“And they were to be ‘returned’ decades later to a nation ruled by a communist regime with which they had never reconciled. I feared many would become human rights cases, and our government would be culpable,” he wrote.

The State Department declined to comment Friday. The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Osius, now vice president of Fulbright University Vietnam, a private, nonprofit institution in Saigon, described his three-year tour as U.S. ambassador in Hanoi as “the high point of my 30-year career in the Foreign Service and the honor of a lifetime.” Efforts to reach him through the university and the foreign service association Friday were unsuccessful.

Osius’s admission took on significant resonance in San Jose, which is home to more than 100,000 Vietnamese Americans, one of the largest populations of Vietnamese-born people outside of Vietnam.

It comes months after Vietnamese activists across the country, including many in the Bay Area, raised concerns that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was rounding up undocumented immigrants from Vietnam in unprecedented numbers that left communities shocked and fearful. They estimated more than 100 Vietnamese were detained across the country in October alone.

The surge in ICE activity appeared to spring in part from the Trump administration’s aggressive efforts to deport immigrants with criminal records, even in circumstances where their home countries haven’t traditionally cooperated with U.S. removal orders. In the past, immigrants in that situation have been allowed to stay in the U.S., but the Trump administration has been pressing Cambodia and Vietnam, in particular, to take back their deportees.

The result is that immigrants who have established roots and lives in the U.S. in spite of their eligibility for deportation are suddenly being detained and shipped out.

Vietnamese and U.S. officials in 2008 signed a repatriation memorandum that in part said Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in America before 1995 would not be subject to deportation. Activists, however, say some of the individuals being detained arrived before 1995, leaving them to wonder whether some of these deportations are illegal. Several organizations filed a lawsuit against the federal government in February for violating its repatriation agreement with Vietnam.

“It falls in line with what we predicted about this administration,” said Nate Tan, a member of the Asian Prisoner Support Committee in Oakland. “I’m not shocked. It’s disheartening and not surprising that this administration is working so hard to deport people who are refugees.”

In his essay, Osius said he feared “this repulsive policy” would destroy any chances Trump had in fulfilling other goals for relations with Vietnam, among them reducing trade deficit, strengthening military relations and coping with regional threats, such as those from North Korea.

“I voiced my objections, was instructed to remain silent, and decided there was an ethical line that I could not cross if I wished to retain my integrity. I concluded that I could better serve my country from outside government, by helping to build a new, innovative university in Vietnam,” he wrote.

Phi Nguyen, litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta, said she’s happy the former diplomat spoke out.

“A lot of what’s been happening has happened behind closed doors,” she said. “I’m encouraged to see somebody going public with speaking out against this policy that the Trump administration is implementing, not only with respect to Vietnam but also with Cambodia, Iraq and Somalia and all of the countries that historically have not repatriated people who are ordered deported.”

[Mercury News]

Zinke tells employees diversity isn’t important

Several employees at the Interior Department have told CNN that Secretary Ryan Zinke repeatedly says that he won’t focus on diversity, an apparent talking point that has upset many people within the agency.

Three high-ranking Interior officials from three different divisions said that Zinke has made several comments with a similar theme, saying “diversity isn’t important,” or “I don’t care about diversity,” or “I don’t really think that’s important anymore.”

Each time, Zinke followed with something along the lines of, “what’s important is having the right person for the right job,” or “I care about excellence, and I’m going to get the best people, and you’ll find we have the most diverse group anyone’s ever had,” the sources said.

Interior last year unexpectedly reassigned 33 senior executive staffers, of which 15 were minorities, according to the lawyer of one of the staffers who was moved. Some of those who were reassigned have filed complaints with the US Merit Systems Board.

The accusations against Zinke come as he is under investigation by multiple agencies, including Interior’s inspector general and Office of Special Counsel, regarding employee reassignment and taxpayer spending on possible politically related travel.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift vehemently denied that Zinke said anything along those lines of criticizing the need for diversity, saying, “the anonymous claims made against the secretary are untrue.”

Swift added, “As a woman who has worked for him for a number of years in senior positions, I say without a doubt this claim is untrue, and I am hopeful that they are a result of a misunderstanding and not a deliberate mistruth.”

Swift pointed to two women and an African-American who Zinke has appointed to senior leadership positions, and said “Zinke has filled several other senior positions at the career and appointed level with individuals from diverse backgrounds.”

But Zinke’s alleged comments were particularly surprising to those who feel the agency has struggled to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.

In a hallway meet-and-greet shortly after Zinke was confirmed, one staffer told CNN that Zinke was asked about diversity at Interior, a department with about 68,000 employees, of which more than 70 percent are white, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
“(Zinke) flat out said, ‘I don’t really think that’s important anymore. We don’t need to focus on that anymore.’ He obviously needed someone to provide him with better talking points,” the staffer said.

A similar comment was made during another hallway greeting session with a different group of employees.

“He said it several times. I think it’s just how he speaks – he has his canned talking points,” said the second source, who heard the same comment from Zinke months later at a holiday party.

A third person, someone who is a minority in a leadership position in the department, said he heard a similar comment during a management meeting.

“That told me everything I needed to know,” the person said. “It’s a hard business as it is, and then not to be respected or appreciated for the diverse perspective that you bring to the situation — and that’s why it’s important in my opinion. It’s the fact that we don’t look at things the same way. When we have conversations about public lands and how they’re used, we cannot afford to have a small percentage of people making those decisions.”

Zinke came under fire from the public and at least one member of Congress earlier this month over remarks seen by some as insensitive. In testimony before the House Natural Resources committee, he greeted Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) with the Japanese greeting “Konichiwa” after she told a story about her grandparents being held in internment camps during World War II, and asked why he was cutting funding to preserve those sites.

Days later, after numerous news stories calling the remarks inappropriate, Zinke doubled down in a comment to reporters, saying “How could ever saying ‘Good morning’ be bad?”

[CNN]

Zinke criticized for ‘juvenile’ comment at hearing

Democrats rebuked Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday for comments he made during a House budget hearing about planned cuts to grant programs that fund institutions focusing on the history of Japanese-Americans.

“The internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans is no laughing matter, @SecretaryZinke. What you thought was a clever response to @RepHanabusa was flippant & juvenile,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Calif.) tweeted, sharing a clip of the exchange.

During the hearing, Zinke took a question from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), who told the Interior chief that she only recently learned of her family’s history at the hands of internment camp officials due to the issue not being discussed by Japanese-Americans.

“I believe it is essential that we as a nation recognize our darkest moments so we don’t have them repeat again,” Hanabusa told Zinke.

“Oh, konnichiwa,” Zinke said in response before answering Hanabusa’s question.

“I think it’s still ‘ohayo gozaimasu’ [good morning], but that’s OK,” Hanabusa said, following a brief silence.

In a tweet Thursday evening, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said the comment was offensive whether Zinke meant it to be or not.

“No better example of why we need continued support for historical sites where the rights of Japanese Americans were violated b/c of race,” Chu wrote.

“Zinke’s comment betrayed a prejudice that being Asian makes you a perpetual foreigner. Intentional or not, it’s offensive. He should apologize,” she added.

Thousands of Japanese-Americans were interned by the U.S. government during World War II. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties act, formally apologizing for the program and granting $20,000 in compensation to any Japanese-American interned during the war.

Zinke said during the hearing Thursday that he was committed to preserving history, and that the funding may have been caught up in other budget cuts.

The Interior Department has faced criticism for its budgets under the Trump administration, in particular Zinke’s plan to raise the fee for entering national parks.

[The Hill]

Media

Trump vetoed Miss Universe contestants for being ‘too ethnic’ or ‘too dark-skinned’

Earlier this year, a report emerged claiming that President Donald Trump would personally rig the Miss Universe pageant to benefit contestants from countries where he had business relationships.

Now a new report published by Michael Isikoff and Mother Jones’ David Corn claims that Trump would also veto certain contestants if he deemed them to be “too ethnic.”

Specifically, one former Miss Universe staffer tells them that Trump would personally “make changes” to the list of finalists “if there were too many women of color” on it.

Another former Miss Universe staffer similarly tells them that Trump would weed out candidates who were too “dark-skinned.”

“He often thought a woman was too ethnic or too dark-skinned,” the staffer explains. “He had a particular type of woman he thought was a winner. Others were too ethnic. He liked a type. There was Olivia Culpo, Dayanara Torres [the 1993 winner], and, no surprise, East European women.”

One former staffer does say, however, that Trump could be persuaded to change his mind about a woman of color being worthy of his pageant “by telling him she was a princess and married to a football player.”

[RawStory]

Trump Recites Inflammatory, Anti-immigrant ‘Snake’ Song

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday recited the lyrics of a song seen as anti-immigration called “The Snake” to drive home his point about restricting immigration — an inflammatory move that harkened back to his days on the campaign trail.

In a speech to conservatives at a convention outside Washington, he also bashed opposition Democrats for failing to back his proposal for putting 1.8 million so-called Dreamer immigrants on a pathway to citizenship in exchange for tightening border security and severely restricting legal immigration.

During his hourlong address, Trump pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and read “The Snake,” a ballad by Al Wilson about a reptile who repays a “tender woman” that nurses it back to health with a deadly bite.

During his campaign, as well as in a speech early in his presidency, Trump used the song, based on one of Aesop’s fables, as a less-than-subtle allegory about immigrants entering the United States.

[Voices of America]

Don Jr. Applauds Poor Indians For Smiling Unlike People in ‘Other Parts of the Emerging World’

Don Jr., President Donald Trump’s eldest adult son and most industrious online defender, is in India this week to peddle luxury apartments bearing the family name.

And Jr., who has oft been referred to as the “smart Trump son,” had some cringeworthy comments about poor Indians that he expressed in an interview with CNBC TV18 in New Dehli.

“I think there is something about the spirit of the Indian people that is unique here to other parts of the emerging world,” Don Jr. started.

“You go through a town — and I don’t mean to be glib about it, but you can see the poorest of the poor and there is still a smile on a face,” he said. “It is a different spirit that you don’t see in other parts of the world and I think there is something unique about that.”

Don Jr. concluded with a comment that sounds like it was inspired by a fortune cookie: “I know some of the most successful people in the world, and some of them are the most miserable people in the world.”

The Trump son’s career in punditry was launched by a rousing speech he gave at his father’s nomination at the Republican National Convention in July 2016, which led many to speculate the scion harbored political ambitions. Since, Don Jr.’s political career has been mostly confined to his very active Twitter profile, which he recently used to tout fringe conspiracy websites suggesting the victims of the Florida school shooting are FBI plants.

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump called intel analyst a ‘pretty Korean lady’ — and asked why she wasn’t negotiating with Kim Jong Un

President Donald Trump’s latest outburst about immigrants from “sh*thole” African countries is far from his first time making racist statements.

In fact, sources tell NBC News that Trump made a career U.S. intelligence officer uncomfortable last year when he grilled her on her Korean heritage and demanded to know why she wasn’t being used to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

According to NBC News, Trump first asked the officer where she was from after she had finished delivering an intelligence briefing. She replied that she originally hailed from New York City, but Trump pushed her by asking where “your people” originally came from.

At that point, she admitted that both of her parents were from Korea — at which point Trump turned to an adviser and asked them why the “pretty Korean lady” wasn’t being used as an asset to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear arsenal.

“The officials who told NBC News of the fall exchange between Trump and the intelligence briefer in the Oval Office in the fall said the president likely meant no harm with his inquiry, but it raised concern of a lack of cultural sensitivity and decorum,” NBC notes, while also adding that a source close to the president claims that his advisers regularly try to get him to stop talking about people’s race — but to no avail.

[Raw Story]

Trump Wonders Why Japan, ‘A Country Of Samurai Warriors,’ Didn’t Shoot Down Missiles

Donald Trump’s trip to Asia has demonstrated at least one firm fact about his foreign policy: He’s not afraid to make his point using stereotypes.

On Sunday, the president expressed surprise that Japan didn’t shoot down North Korean missiles that flew over the country in late August.

The missiles ended up landing in the Pacific Ocean, but Trump is reportedly bewildered by how officials responded to the potential crisis.

Trump said he could not understand why a country of samurai warriors did not shoot down the missiles, according to sources who spokes to the Kyodo News Agency.

Perhaps the president meant the comment as a compliment to one part of Japan’s cultural heritage, but it’s similar to calling England “a country of knights in shining armor,” Mongolia “a country of huns on horseback” or Switzerland “a land of clockmakers that have knives with many accessories.”

According to the Kyodo News Agency, officials from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces explained that they didn’t try to intercept the missiles because experts who had monitored the rockets from launch determined they would not land on Japanese territory.

In addition, the missiles were flying at a speed and altitude that would have made destroying them in flight very difficult, the Japan Times noted, adding that any failure to intercept would have embarrassed Japan while encouraging North Korea.

Shooting down the missiles might also have been interpreted by North Korea as an act of war, further escalating the conflict needlessly, according to an article in Slate.

Of course, Trump has not been shy about making aggressive remarks toward North Korea.

Gizmodo noted that in a speech before the trip, Trump told the troops, “We dominate the sky. We dominate the seas. We dominate the land and space.”

He then added, “Every once in a while, in the past, they underestimated us. It was not pleasant for them, was it? It was not pleasant.”

However, Trump has also shown a small dose of humility during his Asia trip.

On Monday, he gave a speech to Japanese dignitaries and conceded he may not have been completely prepared for the presidency, and that may have negatively affected relations with Japan in the early part of his presidency.

“So my relationship with [Japanese Prime Minister] Shinzo [Abe] got off to quite a rocky start because I never ran for office, and here I am,” Trump said, according to Raw Story. “But I never ran, so I wasn’t very experienced. And after I had won, everybody was calling me from all over the world. I never knew we had so many countries.”

[Huffington Post]

Media

Trump Ends DACA Program

President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, according to two sources familiar with his thinking. Senior White House aides huddled Sunday afternoon to discuss the rollout of a decision likely to ignite a political firestorm — and fulfill one of the president’s core campaign promises.

The administration’s deliberations on the issue have been fluid and fast moving, and the president has faced strong warnings from members of his own party not to scrap the program.

Trump has wrestled for months with whether to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. But conversations with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who argued that Congress — rather than the executive branch — is responsible for writing immigration law, helped persuade the president to terminate the program and kick the issue to Congress, the two sources said.

In a nod to reservations held by many lawmakers, the White House plans to delay the enforcement of the president’s decision for six months, giving Congress a window to act, according to one White House official. But a senior White House aide said that chief of staff John Kelly, who has been running the West Wing policy process on the issue, “thinks Congress should’ve gotten its act together a lot longer ago.”

White House aides caution that — as with everything in the Trump White House — nothing is set in stone until an official announcement has been made.

Trump is expected to formally make that announcement on Tuesday, and the White House informed House Speaker Paul Ryan of the president’s decision on Sunday morning, according to a source close to the administration. Ryan had said during a radio interview on Friday that he didn’t think the president should terminate DACA, and that Congress should act on the issue.

A spokesman for Ryan did not immediately respond to a request for comment. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, “A decision is not finalized. We will make an announcement on Tuesday.”

The president’s expected decision is likely to shore up his base, which rallied behind his broader campaign message about the importance of enforcing the country’s immigration laws and securing the border. At the same time, the president’s decision is likely to be one of the most contentious of his early administration, opposed by leaders of both parties and by the political establishment more broadly.

The White House and Congress have tried to pass the issue off on each other – with each arguing that the other is responsible for determining the fate of the approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who are benefiting from DACA. Though most Republicans believe that rolling back DACA is a solid legal decision, they are conscious of the difficult emotional terrain. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch joined Ryan in cautioning Trump against rolling back the program.

The president is likely to couch his decision in legalese. Many on the right, even those who support protections for children brought into the country illegally through no fault of their own, argue that DACA is unconstitutional because former President Barack Obama carried it out unilaterally instead of working through Congress.

Some Republican lawmakers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have said that Congress needs to pass a law to protect the so-called Dreamers.

“My hope is that as part of this process we can work on a way to deal with this issue and solve it through legislation, which is the right way to do it and the constitutional way to do it,” Rubio told CNN in June.

Trump’s expected decision to scrap DACA within six months represents another challenge for Ryan and fellow congressional Republicans, who are facing an end-of-September deadline to avert a government shutdown and government debt default, while also tackling a Hurricane Harvey relief package and a major tax reform push.

It’s not clear that Congress will be able to come to an agreement on the future of DACA.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who previously said he was very disappointed by Trump’s lack of action on DACA, expressed fresh frustration on Sunday night with the idea of a delayed implementation.

“Ending DACA now gives chance 2 restore Rule of Law. Delaying so R Leadership can push Amnesty is Republican suicide,” King tweeted.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who has called on Trump to stand up for the Dreamers, tweeted out her displeasure with Trump’s expected announcement.

“After teasing #Dreamers for months with talk of his ‘great heart,’ @POTUS slams door on them. Some ‘heart’…” she wrote.

[Politico]

Reality

As a candidate, he pledged that on the first day of his presidency he would terminate Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers work permits to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

Instead, on the 229th day of his presidency, he trotted out Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce that the Trump administration will gradually wind down the program over the next six months. DACA will end more than a year after Trump took office — or possibly not at all. The delay is intended to give Congress time to pass a replacement measure that could provide similar protections to those known as “dreamers.”

 

Donald Trump Goes All In On Slashing Legal Immigration

President Donald Trump threw himself behind a bill on Wednesday that would make it dramatically more difficult for people to come to the U.S. legally, in spite of his past claims that he did not want to cut the number of people allowed into the country.

Trump held an event at the White House with Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) to boost the latest iteration of their bill to slash the ways foreign nationals can move to the United States.

The bill from Cotton and Perdue, known as the RAISE Act, would end the practice of prioritizing green cards for adult children and extended family of people already in the U.S., discontinue an immigration lottery program and limit the number of refugees to be accepted into the U.S. to only 50,000.

The president said the bill would be “the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century” and would “reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars.”

He also claimed the current green card system provides a “fast-track to citizenship” ― although in truth, having a green card is the standard path to citizenship.

The bill would favor applicants “who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” Trump said.

The president said the legislation would require immigrants to be more self-sufficient and prevent them from collecting safety net benefits. “They’re not gonna come in and just immediately collect welfare,” he said.

Current law already bars anyone who might become a “public charge” from receiving a green card, and prevents lawful permanent residents from receiving most safety net benefits for five years. But immigration hawks have long complained of loopholes in those restrictions. For instance, food stamps and Medicaid ― two of the country’s biggest safety net programs ― are exempt from the public charge criteria.

The idea, according to the president and senators, is to move toward a “merit-based” immigration plan, along the lines of the systems in Canada and Australia. But this legislation wouldn’t simply change the makeup of who can come into the country ― it would dramatically reduce the number of immigrants admitted overall, the bill’s proponents say.

“This legislation will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens,” Trump said. “This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.”

Most economists say that immigration is actually beneficial to the economy and that curtailing legal immigration would slow growth. And Canada and Australia both admit legal immigrants at a far higher rate relative to their total populations than the U.S. does, including on the basis of family ties.

Trump also claimed that the current immigration “has not been fair to our people,” including immigrants and minority workers whose jobs, he said, are taken by “brand new arrivals.”

In fact, the bill could disproportionately affect nonwhite Americans, who are more likely to be recent immigrants and still have relatives living abroad, by making the already difficult process of bringing their families to the U.S. next to impossible.

Cotton previously said the bill would help prevent people from immigrating to the U.S. and then bringing over their “village” or “tribe.”

Trump told The Economist in May that he was not looking to reduce the number of legal immigrants. “We want people coming in legally,” he said at the time.

Immigration reform groups and even one Republican senator immediately panned the bill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who pushed for a broad immigration reform bill in 2013, said in a statement that he supports merit-based immigration but believes cutting legal immigration would hurt the economy.

“I fear this proposal will not only hurt our agriculture, tourism and service economy in South Carolina, it incentivizes more illegal immigration as positions go unfilled,” he said. “After dealing with this issue for more than a decade, I know that when you restrict legal labor to employers it incentivizes cheating.”

[Huffington Post]

1 2 3