Trump vows mass immigration arrests, removals of ‘millions of illegal aliens’ starting next week

President Trump said in a tweet Monday night that U.S. immigration agents are planning to make mass arrests starting “next week,” an apparent reference to a plan in preparation for months that aims to round up thousands of migrant parents and children in a blitz operation across major U.S. cities.

“Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,” Trump wrote, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “They will be removed as fast as they come in.”

Large-scale ICE enforcement operations are typically kept secret to avoid tipping off targets. In 2018, Trump and other senior officials threatened the mayor of Oakland, Calif., with criminal prosecution for alerting city residents that immigration raids were in the works.

Trump and his senior immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, have been prodding Homeland Security officials to arrest and remove thousands of family members whose deportation orders were expedited by the Justice Department this year as part of a plan known as the “rocket docket.”

In April, acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were ousted after they hesitated to go forward with the plan, expressing concerns about its preparation, effectiveness and the risk of public outrage from images of migrant children being taken into custody or separated from their families.

Vitiello was replaced at ICE by former FBI and Border Patrol official Mark Morgan, who had impressed the president with statements on cable television in favor of harsh immigration enforcement measures.

In his first two weeks on the job at ICE, Morgan has said publicly that he plans to beef up interior enforcement and go after families with deportation orders, insisting that the rulings must be carried out to uphold the integrity of the country’s legal system.

“Our next challenge is going to be interior enforcement,” Morgan told reporters June 4 in Washington. “We will be going after individuals who have gone through due process and who have received final orders of deportation.

“That will include families,” he said, adding that ICE agents will treat the parents and children they arrest “with compassion and humanity.”

U.S. officials with knowledge of the preparations have said in recent days that the operation was not imminent, and ICE officials said late Monday night that they were not aware that the president planned to divulge their enforcement plans on Twitter.

Executing a large-scale operation of the type under discussion requires hundreds — and perhaps thousands — of U.S. agents and supporting law enforcement personnel, as well as weeks of intelligence gathering and planning to verify addresses and locations of individuals targeted for arrest.

The president’s claim that ICE would be deporting “millions” also was at odds with the reality of the agency’s staffing and budgetary challenges. ICE arrests in the U.S. interior have been declining in recent months because so many agents are busy managing the record surge of migrant families across the southern border with Mexico.

The family arrest plan has been considered even more sensitive than a typical operation because children are involved, and Homeland Security officials retain significant concerns that families will be inadvertently separated by the operation, especially because parents in some households have deportation orders but their children — some of whom are U.S. citizens — might not. Should adults be arrested without their children because they are at school, day care, summer camp or a friend’s house, it is possible parents could be deported while their children are left behind.

Supporters of the plan, including Miller, Morgan and ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence, have argued forcefully that a dramatic and highly publicized operation of this type will send a message to families that are in defiance of deportation orders and could act as a deterrent.

According to Homeland Security officials, nearly all unauthorized migrants who came to the United States in 2017 in family groups remain present in the country. Some of those families are awaiting adjudication of asylum claims, but administration officials say a growing number are skipping out on court hearings while hoping to live and work in the United States as long as possible.

Publicizing a future law enforcement operation is unheard of at ICE. Trump administration officials blasted Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf last year for warning immigrants about an impending raid, saying she endangered agents’ safety.

“The Oakland mayor’s decision to publicize her suspicions about ICE operations further increased that risk for my officers and alerted criminal aliens — making clear that this reckless decision was based on her political agenda with the very federal laws that ICE is sworn to uphold,” then-ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan said at the time.

Homan later retired, but last week Trump said Homan would return to public service as his “border czar.” On Fox News, Homan later called that announcement “kind of premature” and said he had not decided whether to accept the job.

Schaaf responded late Monday to the president’s tweet teasing the looming ICE roundups.

“If you continue to threaten, target and terrorize families in my community . . . and if we receive credible information . . . you already know what our values are in Oakland — and we will unapologetically stand up for those values,” she wrote.

[Washington Post]

Doctors Could Refuse to Treat People Based on Race and Age Under Trump’s New Rule

A new Trump administration proposal would change the civil rights rules dictating whether providers must care for patients who are transgender or have had an abortion. News stories have mainly focused on how the proposal might affect LGBTQ rights and abortion rights, but the sweeping proposal has implications for all Americans, because the Department of Health and Human Services seeks to change how far civil rights protections extend and how those protections are enforced.

Roger Severino, the director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, has been candid about his intentions to overturn an Obama-era rule that prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and termination of a pregnancy. In 2016, while at the conservative Heritage Foundation, he co-authored a paper arguing the restrictions threaten the independence of physicians to follow their religious or moral beliefs. Supporters of the approach say it protects the freedom of conscience, but opponents say it encourages discrimination.

His office unveiled the proposed rule on May 24, when many people were focused on the start of the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The rule is the latest Trump administration proposal to strip protections for transgender Americans, coming the same week another directive was proposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that would allow homeless shelters to turn away people based on their gender identity.

The public was given 60 days to comment on the HHS proposal. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know about it.

What would this proposal do?

Fundamentally, the proposed rule would overturn a previous rule that forbids health care providers who receive federal funding from discriminating against patients on the basis of their gender identity or whether they have terminated a pregnancy.

The Trump administration proposal would eliminate those protections, enabling providers to deny these groups care or insurance coverage without having to pay a fine or suffer other federal consequences.

That may mean refusing a transgender patient mental health care or gender-confirming surgery. But it may also mean denying patients care that has nothing to do with gender identity, such as a regular office visit for a bad cold or ongoing treatment for chronic conditions like diabetes.

“What it does, from a very practical point of view, is that it empowers bad actors to be bad actors,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told reporters.

The proposal would also eliminate protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity from several other health care regulations, like non-discrimination guidelines for the health care insurance marketplaces.

Does it affect only LGBTQ people?

The proposal goes beyond removing protections for the LGBTQ community and those who have had an abortion.

It appears to weaken other protections, such as those based on race or age, by limiting who must abide by the rules. The Trump proposal would scrap the Obama-era rule’s broad definition of which providers can be punished by federal health officials for discrimination, a complicated change critics have said could ease requirements for insurance companies, for instance, as well as the agency itself.

And the proposal erases many of the enforcement procedures outlined in the earlier rule, including its explicit ban on intimidation or retaliation. It also delegates to Severino, as the office’s director, full enforcement authority when it comes to things like opening investigations into complaints lodged under the non-discrimination rule.

Why did HHS decide to change the rule?

The Obama and Trump administrations have different opinions about whether a health care provider should be able to refuse service to patients because they are transgender or have had an abortion.

It all goes back to a section in the Affordable Care Act barring discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability or sex. President Barack Obama’s health officials said it is discrimination to treat someone differently based on gender identity or stereotypes.

It was the first time Americans who are transgender were protected from discrimination in health care.

But President Donald Trump’s health officials said that definition of sex discrimination misinterprets civil rights laws, particularly a religious freedom law used to shield providers who object to performing certain procedures, such as abortions, or treating certain patients because they conflict with their religious convictions.

“When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform,” Severino said in a statement. “The American people want vigorous protection of civil rights and faithfulness to the text of the laws passed by their representatives.”

Much of what the Office for Civil Rights has done under Severino’s leadership is to emphasize and strengthen so-called conscience protections for health care providers, many of which existed well before Trump was sworn in. Last year, Severino unveiled a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, and his office recently finalized another rule detailing those protections and their enforcement.

The office also said the proposed rule would save about $3.6 billion over five years. Most of that would come from eliminating requirements for providers to post notices about discrimination, as well as other measures that cater to those with disabilities and limited English proficiency.

The rule would also save providers money that might instead be spent handling grievances from those no longer protected.

The office “considers this a benefit of the rule,” said Katie Keith, co-founder of Out2Enroll, an organization that helps the LGBTQ community obtain health insurance. “Organizations will have lower labor costs and lower litigation costs because they will no longer have to process grievances or defend against lawsuits brought by transgender people.”

Why does this matter?

Research shows the LGBTQ community faces greater health challenges and higher rates of illness than other groups, making access to equitable treatment in health care all the more important.

Discrimination, from the misuse of pronouns to denials of care, is “commonplace” for transgender patients, according to a 2011 report by advocacy groups. The report found that 28 percent of the 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people interviewed said they had experienced verbal harassment in a health care setting, while 19 percent said they had been refused care due to their gender identity.

The report said 28 percent had postponed seeking medical attention when they were sick or injured because of discrimination.

Critics fear the rule would muddy the waters, giving patients less clarity on what is and is not permissible and how to get help when they have been the victims of discrimination.

Jocelyn Samuels, the Obama administration official who oversaw the implementation of the Obama-era rule, said that for now, even though the Trump administration’s HHS will not pursue complaints against those providers, Americans still have the right to challenge this treatment in court. Multiple courts have said the prohibition on sex discrimination includes gender identity.

“The administration should be in the business of expanding access to health care and health coverage,” Samuels told reporters on a conference call after the rule’s release. “And my fear is that this rule does just the opposite.”

[VICE]

Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump Announced Tariff Deal

 The deal to avert tariffs that President Trump announced with great fanfare on Friday night consists largely of actions that Mexico had already promised to take in prior discussions with the United States over the past several months, according to officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations.

Friday’s joint declaration says Mexico agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.” But the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior, the officials said.

The centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged. Ms. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee five days before Christmas.

And over the past week, negotiators failed to persuade Mexico to accept a “safe third country” treaty that would have given the United States the legal ability to reject asylum seekers if they had not sought refuge in Mexico first.

Mr. Trump hailed the agreement anyway on Saturday, writing on Twitter: “Everyone very excited about the new deal with Mexico!” He thanked the president of Mexico for “working so long and hard” on a plan to reduce the surge of migration into the United States.

It was unclear whether Mr. Trump believed that the agreement truly represented new and broader concessions, or whether the president understood the limits of the deal but accepted it as a face-saving way to escape from the political and economic consequences of imposing tariffs on Mexico, which he began threatening less than two weeks ago.

Having threatened Mexico with an escalating series of tariffs — starting at 5 percent and growing to 25 percent — the president faced enormous criticism from global leaders, business executives, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, and members of his own staff that he risked disrupting a critical marketplace.

After nine days of uncertainty, Mr. Trump backed down and accepted Mexico’s promises.

Officials involved with talks said they began in earnest last Sunday, when Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, met over dinner with Mexico’s foreign minister. One senior government official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the closed-door negotiations that took place over several days, insisted that the Mexicans agreed to move faster and more aggressively to deter migrants than they ever have before.

Their promise to deploy up to 6,000 national guard troops was larger than their previous pledge. And the Mexican agreement to accelerate the Migrant Protection Protocols could help reduce what Mr. Trump calls “catch and release” of migrants in the United States by giving the country a greater ability to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico.

But there remains deep skepticism among some American officials — and even Mr. Trump himself — about whether the Mexicans have agreed to do enough, whether they will follow through on their promises, and whether, even if they do, that will reduce the flow of migrants at the southwestern border.

In addition, the Migrant Protection Protocols already face legal challenges by immigrant rights groups who say they violate the migrants’ right to lawyers. A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from implementing the plan, but an appeals court later said it could move forward while the legal challenge proceeds.

During a phone call Friday evening when he was briefed on the agreement, Mr. Trump quizzed his lawyers, diplomats and immigration officials about whether they thought the deal would work. His aides said yes, but admitted that they were also realistic that the surge of immigration might continue.

“We’ll see if it works,” the president told them, approving the deal before sending out his tweet announcing it.

On Saturday, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said the government looked forward to reducing illegal immigration and making the border “strong and secure” by working with Mexico to fulfill the agreement.

Mr. Trump’s decision to use trade as a bludgeon against Mexico was driven in part by his obsession with stopping what he falsely calls an invasion of the country and in part by a desire to satisfy his core supporters, many of who have grown angry at his inability to build his promised border wall.

Many of his top advisers, including those who oversee his political and economic agendas, were opposed to the tariff threat. But the president’s ire is regularly stoked by the daily reports he receives on how many migrants have crossed the border in the previous 24 hours.

Mr. Trump’s top immigration officials had repeatedly warned the president that results from their work to curb the flow of migrants might not be evident until July, and urged patience.

But that effort became more difficult in May, when the numbers spiked to the highest levels of his presidency. During the week of May 24, 5,800 migrants — the highest ever for one day — crossed on a single day. That was quickly followed by a group of 1,036 migrants who were caught on surveillance cameras crossing the border en masse.

Mr. Trump later tweeted out the video, and the tariff threat soon followed.

Throughout the week’s negotiations, officials on both sides worried about what Mr. Trump would be willing to accept in exchange for pulling back on his tariff threat. That question hung over the talks, which were led one day by Vice President Mike Pence and included Mr. Pompeo and Mr. McAleenan.

Mexican officials opened the negotiations with the offer to deploy their new national guard troops against migrants, using a PowerPoint presentation to show their American counterparts that doing so would be a breakthrough in their ability to stop migrants from flowing north through Mexico, often in buses.

In fact, Mexican officials had already made the same promise months earlier when Ms Nielsen met in Miami with Ms. Sanchez and aides to Marcelo Ebrard, the Mexican foreign minister. The purpose of the meeting, according to people familiar with it, was to press the Mexicans to act faster.

Ms. Sanchez also told Ms. Nielsen that the Mexican government’s new national guard, which had been created just a month earlier to combat drugs and crime, would be redirected to the border with Guatemala, the entry point for most of the Central American migrants.

At the time, Ms. Nielsen and the other American negotiators referred to the Mexican promise as the “third border” plan because the Mexicans proposed creating a line of troops around the southern part of their country to keep migrants from moving north.

Mexicans had begun to follow the plan, but not quickly enough for the Trump administration, which said that only about 1,000 Mexican national guard troops were in place by May.

Friday’s agreement with Mexico states that the two countries “will immediately expand” the Migrant Protection Protocols across the entire southern border. To date, migrants have been returned at only three of the busiest ports of entry.

But officials familiar with the program said Saturday that the arrangement struck by the two countries last December always envisioned that it would expand along the entire border. What kept that from happening, they said, was the commitment of resources by both countries.

In the United States, migrants must see immigration judges before they can be sent to wait in Mexico, and a shortage of judges slowed the process. The Mexican government also dragged its feet on providing the shelter, health care, job benefits and basic care that would allow the United States to send the migrants over.

The new deal reiterates that Mexico will provide the “jobs, health care and education” needed to allow the program to expand. But the speed with which the United States can send more migrants to wait in Mexico will still depend on how quickly the government follows through on that promise.

Perhaps the clearest indication that both sides recognize that the deal might prove insufficient is contained in a section of Friday’s agreement titled “Further Action.”

One official familiar with the negotiations said the section was intended to be a serious warning to the Mexican government that Mr. Trump would be paying close attention to the daily reports he received about the number of migrants crossing the border. The official said that if the numbers failed to change — quickly — the president’s anger would bring the parties back to the negotiating table.

“The tariff threat is not gone,” the official said. “It’s suspended.”

[The New York Times]

Trump administration cuts English classes, soccer and legal aid for migrant children at shelters

Citing a tightening budget, the Trump administration announced Wednesday that it is cutting English classes, recreational activities and legal aid for unaccompanied minorsliving in federal migrant shelters.

The activities, including soccer games and ping-pong, are already coming to a halt. The Office of Refugee Resettlement began redirecting funds away from operations that “are not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety” this week, according to a statement from Evelyn Stauffer, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

The Border Patrol announced Wednesday morning that it detained more than 132,000 people at the border last month — around 11,000 of whom were children traveling alone.

Tasked with sheltering a “growing number” of unaccompanied minors, federal officials say they are seeking a $2.9 billion appropriation from Congress. Stauffer said the program is “on pace to run out of funding and will need supplemental funding.”

Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., that provides pro bono legal help to migrant children, said education and recreational activities have become a part of federal migrant shelters over time. But they are now underpinned by federal law.

Both the Flores Agreement — a 1997 federal court settlement that established standards for the quality of housing and child care in migrant shelters — and the 2013 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act — which further defined standards of care for children in federal custody and guaranteed them legal counsel — could stand in opposition to this decision, Young said.

“The court that oversees the Flores Agreement has been consistently very strong in standing up for the appropriate care of these children,” Young said. “So, I think this is easily challenged in federal court and it could be successful if it came to that.”

Young disagrees with the statement’s omission of legal counsel as a service that’s necessary for the children’s safety.

“Legal services are a lifeline for these kids because many of them are fleeing severe violence and persecution in their home countries. Without a lawyer, they can’t prove their cases,” she said.

Regardless, Young urged Congress to allot additional funds for these shelters, and quickly.

“Bottom line, Congress needs to appropriate money for the Office of Refugee Resettlement so they can do their job well,” Young said. “And we need to really start working toward building a system that’s resistant and can withstand this fluctuation in numbers that we’ve been seeing over the past few years.”

[USA Today]

Trump sending ‘500 migrants a month’ to Florida Democratic strongholds

President Donald Trump‘s plans to send potentially hundreds of undocumented immigrants each month to the Democratic strongholds of Broward and Palm Beach counties ignited a torrent of criticism from local Florida officials who called the move political.

“The blatant politics, sending them to the two most Democratic Counties in the state of Florida, is ridiculous,” said state Sen. Gary Farmer, a Democrat who represents portions of Broward County. “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Broward County officials described the plans Thursday in a press release, saying the Trump administration plans to release asylum seekers caught along the southern U.S. border into the county. A month earlier, Trump floated the idea of shipping undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Neither Palm Beach nor Broward counties fit that description, but politically they’re enemy territory for Trump and Republicans.

“That is so typically Trump,” Farmer said. “When the facts don’t fit the narrative, you slightly adjust the narrative.”

Broward County state Rep. Evan Jenne, opposed the move but said the county will do what it can to help those sent its way.

“He has been threatening this for a while, and I’m sure his voters will think it’s a great idea,” said Jenne (D-Dania Beach). “We will do what we can to help them, I’m sure with no help from the federal government.”

Jenne called the Trump policy a form of “fiscal punishment,” a sentiment shared by other regional officials.

A statement from Broward County said Trump “has threatened to send people who illegally cross the border to communities that are considered immigrant friendly.”

“This is a humanitarian crisis. We will do everything possible to help these people,” Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen, a Democrat, said in the statement. “If the President will not provide us with financial assistance to house and feed these people, he will be creating a homeless encampment.”

Adding to the political intrigue, the Trump administration has not said whether it will send immigrants to the state’s most-populous county that’s also a liberal bastion — Miami-Dade, which has Florida’s largest Spanish-speaking and foreign-born population.

Miami-Dade has a large base of support for Trump among Cuban-Americans, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican and early backer of some of the president’s detention policies. The mayor’s son has also lobbied for Trump in prior years.

Immigration and Border Patrol spokesperson Kaitlyn Pote referred questions to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which did not respond to requests for comment.

Rubio said the counties will be getting a big influx of undocumented immigrants from the border.

“Unlawful arrivals are overwhelming our system,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. “Now I have just been informed by #PalmBeach Sheriff that starting next week Border Patrol will begin transporting 500 migrants a month from border to #Broward & PalmBeach #Florida, & releasing them pending an asylum hearing.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), said he has reached out to the White House and DHS to get additional information. He said Democrats “refuse to help fix” the federal immigration policy.

“There were almost 99,000 apprehensions at the southern border in April, more than double the number of apprehensions in January,” Scott spokesperson Chris Hartline said. “It’s a crisis and needs to be fixed.”

Bogen, the Broward mayor, suggested a place to house the hundreds of undocumented immigrants: Trump-owned properties.

“In my opinion, the people that we can’t find shelter for and will become homeless, I would suggest that we bring them to the Trump hotels and ask the President to open his heart and home as well,” Bogen said.

During Florida’s recently-adjourned legislative session, one of the most divisive issues was legislation outlawing sanctuary cities. Democrats and immigration activists flooded the Capitol in protest, but the bill easily passed the Legislature and is supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a longtime Trump political ally.

In a statement after the bill cleared the Legislature, DeSantis said he would sign the proposal.

“We are a stronger state when we protect our residents, foster safer communities and respect the work of law enforcement at every level,” he said.

[Politico]

Former DHS officials blocked Trump plan to arrest thousands of migrants before being ousted

Former leaders at the Department of Homeland Security, including then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, pushed back on a White House plan for mass arrests of migrants shortly before their ouster, according to The Washington Post.

The Trump administration had planned to arrest thousands of parents and children in 10 major U.S. cities to deter further migrants, the Post reported, citing seven current and former DHS officials. The plan involved fast-tracking immigration court cases and expanding the government’s authority to deport migrants who did not show for their hearings. Arrests of the no-shows would involve coordinated raids of the homes and neighborhoods of parents with children, according to the Post.

Nielsen and then-acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Ronald Vitiello put a stop to the plan, citing lack of preparation by ICE personnel and public relations concerns, according to the Post.

“There was concern that it was being hastily put together, would be ineffective, and might actually backfire by misdirecting resources away from critical border emergency response operations,” one DHS official told the Post.

Major boosters of the plan within the administration included senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Matthew Albence. The plan, which is reportedly still under consideration, incorporated cities including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, according to the Post.

The two officials’ pushback was a major factor in their ouster, according to the Post, citing administration officials. When Trump announced the withdrawal of Vitiello’s nomination as ICE director in April, he expressed a desire to go in a “tougher” direction without further elaborating.

“Both he and Nielsen instinctively thought it was bad policy and that the proposal was less than half-baked,” a DHS official told the Post.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

[The Hill]

Trump Twitter rages at ‘BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Bill” that he claims will hurt farmers

President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Capitol Hill Republicans to vote against a bill proving disaster assistance.

The commander-in-chief referred to the legislation as a “BAD DEMOCRAT” bill, writing in all capital letters.

Trump claimed the bill would harm states, farmers, and border security.

“We want to do much better than this. All sides keep working and send a good bill for immediate signing,” Trump demanded.

[Raw Story]

Reality

The major sticking point for Trump is the additional funding Democrats included to help Puerto Rico rebuild after Hurricane Maria severely damaged the island and killed 3,000 people. It amounts to more than $3 billion, including $600 million for nutrition assistance.

Trump has pushed back against giving more money to Puerto Rico, incorrectly stating that the federal government has already allocated $91 billion to help Puerto Rico. It’s actually promised about half of that amount and spent only $11 billion.

‘Shoot them!’: Trump laughs off a supporter’s demand for violence against migrants

A roar rose up from the crowd of thousands of Trump supporters in Panama City Beach on Wednesday night, as President Trump noted yet again that Border Patrol agents can’t use weapons to deter migrants. “How do you stop these people?” he asked.

“Shoot them!” someone yelled from the crowd, according to reporters on the scene and attendees.

The audience cheered. Supporters seated behind Trump and clad in white baseball caps bearing the letters “USA” laughed and applauded.

“That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement,” Trump replied, smiling and shaking his head. “Only in the Panhandle.”

Though Trump didn’t explicitly endorse the suggestion to shoot migrants, his joking response raised concerns that he was tacitly encouraging extrajudicial killings and brutality against asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. The president has long been accused of endorsing acts of violence through his incendiary rhetoric and allusions to the potential for violence at his rallies, a charge that members of his administration deny.

Reached for comment by The Washington Post on Trump’s reaction at the Florida rally, Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, pointed to a response he had given to many critics on Twitter. The president, he noted in his tweet, had specifically said that Border Patrol wouldn’t use firearms to stop migrants from entering the country.

The incendiary remark from the crowd came as Trump, standing before roughly 7,000 people who had gathered at an outdoor amphitheater in the hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast town, railed against what he described as an “invasion” of migrants attempting to enter the United States. Often, he claimed, only “two or three” border agents will contend with the arrival of “hundreds and hundreds of people.”

“And don’t forget, we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons,” Trump said of the border agents. “We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?”

The fans seated directly behind Trump wore serious, perturbed frowns, which were quickly replaced by broad grins after the shouted suggestion that the solution involved firearms. Uproarious laughter rippled across the room as audience members whistled and offered a round of applause.

To critics, Trump’s failure to outright condemn the idea of shooting migrants amounted to a “tacit endorsement” of the sentiment. Many pointed out that such rhetoric was especially concerning in light of the fact that an armed militia group, the United Constitutional Patriots, had been searching the borderlands for undocumented migrants and detaining them against their will.

Last month, after the group’s leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, was arrested on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, the FBI said that the 69-year-old claimed militia members were training to assassinate former president Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and prominent Democratic donor George Soros.

One member of that militia had also questioned why the group wasn’t killing migrants, according to a police report first obtained by left-leaning news outlet The Young Turks.

[Washington Post]

Media

Trump continues to mislead on immigration and Puerto Rico disaster funding

During his rally in Florida Wednesday night, President Donald Trump hit on a lot of familiar themes — the strong economy, building the wall, defeating ISIS and the 2020 election.

Among his “greatest hits,” Trump also repeated several false claims he’s made in the past.

First, the President claimed that Puerto Rico had received $91 billion after being hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, adding that was the highest amount ever given to “anybody” for disaster relief.

Facts first: This is false. Not only has Puerto Rico not received $91 billion, even if it had that figure would still fall below the amount of federal money allocated to recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. In addition, Trump has opposed efforts in Congress to increase disaster relief funding, in part because some of the money would go to Puerto Rico.

So far, roughly $42 billion in federal disaster relief funding has been allocated to Puerto Rico. Only about a quarter of that ($12 billion) has actually been spent.

The $91 billion Trump cites is based on estimated future spending. As administration officials told the Washington Post, the additional $50 billion comes from an “internal Office of Management and Budget estimate of the potential liabilities over the life of the disaster that would need to be committed under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988.”

In other words, the $91 billion is simply an estimate of what FEMA would have to spend to rebuild Puerto Rico, not what’s been allocated. This all comes as Congress battles over $17 billion in additional disaster fund relief, which includes funds for Puerto Rico.

In remarks Thursday afternoon, Trump repeated his $91 billion claims, again stating that Puerto Rico has gotten more money than it actually has.

The theoretical $91 billion is still less than the $114.5 billion the federal government spent on recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, causing an estimated $160 billion in economic damage.

[CNN]

Trump says US is sending immigrants to sanctuary cities: ‘That was my sick idea’

President Trump said late Saturday that the U.S. is already sending immigrants to sanctuary cities and that it was his “sick idea.” 

“Last month alone, 100,000 illegal immigrants arrived at our borders, placing a massive strain on communities and schools and hospitals and public resources like nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said during a rally in Green Bay, Wis. “Now we’re sending many of them to sanctuary cities. Thank you very much. They’re not too happy about it. I’m proud to tell you that was actually my sick idea.”

“What did they say? ‘We want them,'” Trump continued. “I said we’ll give em to you.”

The comments came just a day after Trump said in a speech to the National Rifle Association that the U.S. was forced to release migrants and that it gave sanctuary cities “as many as they can handle,” according to CNN

The Washington Post first reportedearlier this month that Trump administration officials had floated the idea to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The administration had reportedly unsuccessfully tried to persuade DHS to release thousands of detainees in small and midsize cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. 

The move was reportedly meant to put pressure on Democratic lawmakers. 

Trump said in a tweet on April 12 that his administration was actively considering the move. 

“The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities,” he wrote in a separate tweet on April 13. “We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known or its poor management & high taxes!”

DHS has made no formal announcement related to sending migrants to sanctuary cities or Trump’s statement. 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[The Hill]

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