Jeff Sessions strays from prepared remarks to praise ‘Anglo-American heritage’ of sheriffs

Update

Jeff Sessions was using a legal technical term “Anglo-American” law, which is a reference to the legal tradition of common law that the American sheriff’s system shares with England.


Attorney General Jeff Sessions strayed from his prepared remarks to comment on the “Anglo-American” historical origins of the sheriff.

Sessions spoke Monday to a the National Sheriffs Association, which represents about 20,000 law enforcement officials across the U.S., but video recordings show an apparent improvisation from the prepared remarks distributed ahead of time to reporters, according to Splinter News.

“The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,” Sessions said. “We must never erode this historic office.”

The remarks quickly raised eyebrows on social media, where commenters perceived the reference as racist in light of the attorney general’s racially problematic history.

The sheriff indeed originated in medieval England, and the name derives from Anglo-Saxon words for the guardian, or reeve, of a county, or shire.

English colonists brought the tradition to America and elected their own sheriffs in the 1600s, and various right-wing fringe movements promote the legal fallacy that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the United States.

[RawStory]

Media

Trump chief of staff John Kelly suggests some Dreamers ‘too lazy’ and ‘too afraid’ to sign up for DACA

Some immigrants may have been “too afraid” or “too lazy” to sign up for the Obama-era program that offered protection from deportation, White House chief of staff John Kelly said Tuesday as he defended President Donald Trump’s proposal aimed at breaking the impasse on immigration.

In remarks to reporters, Kelly described Trump’s plan, which would provide a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million people — more than Democrats had sought. He noted extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was “beyond what anyone could have imagined.”

“There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the president sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million,” he said.

“The difference between (690,000) and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up,” Kelly said.

Kelly spoke as lawmakers have deadlocked in an effort to reach a bipartisan deal on protecting from deportation recipients of the program, known as “Dreamers.”

Barring a last-minute agreement — which seems unlikely — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said his chamber will begin considering the issue, a debate that GOP leaders expect to start next week.

Kelly said Trump would likely reject an effort to pass a short-term extension for the program, which is set to expire on March 5.

But he also noted the March 5 deadline may not have immediate impact. He said immigrants currently protected won’t be priorities for deportation as long as they do not commit crimes.

Kelly said lawmakers need a deadline to force action.

“What makes them act is pressure,” he said.

Kelly in remarks to reporters later Tuesday seemed to double down on his earlier comments about those eligible for DACA, saying “some of them just should’ve probably gotten off the couch and signed up.”

But Kelly added, “But that doesn’t really matter now because President Trump has given them the status,” referring to Trump’s proposal.

In exchange for making citizenship a possibility, Trump wants $25 billion for border security, including money to build parts of his coveted wall along the U.S.-Mexico boundary. He also wants to curb legal immigration, restricting the relatives that legal immigrants could sponsor for citizenship and ending a lottery that distributes visas to people from diverse places like Africa.

“I can’t imagine men and women of good will who begged this president to solve the problem of DACA” would oppose Trump’s proposal, said Kelly, using the program’s acronym. He added, “Right now, the champion of all people who are DACA is Donald Trump.”

A court ruling earlier this month also has blunted the deadline. A federal judge has indefinitely blocked Trump from terminating DACA’s protections for the so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. as children and are living here illegally. The program shields them from deportation and gives them the right to hold jobs.

Still, many lawmakers are uneasy about what might happen to the Dreamers after March 5, and Democrats — and Trump himself — are using that uncertainty as leverage to help force a deal. Kelly’s remarks seemed aimed at easing worries that major deportations of Dreamers could begin right away — a scenario that could be damaging to members of both parties.

“They are not a priority for deportation,” Kelly said of Dreamers who’ve not accumulated criminal records.

[NBC News]

The Trump administration used bad math in its “foreign terrorists” report

Donald Trump has turned to data to argue for stricter immigration policies. According to a report his administration released yesterday, more than 70% of people convicted of “terrorism-related charges” from 2001 to 2016 were born outside the US.

“This report is a clear reminder of why we cannot continue to rely on immigration policy based on pre-9/11 thinking that leaves us woefully vulnerable to foreign-born terrorists,” said Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.

But Trump’s statistics are misleading. That percentage is based on a list of 549 people, which experts say is flawed. First, the list excludes homegrown extremists, who have become the US’s biggest terror threat. Second, the vague term “terrorism-related charges” inflates numbers by including not just people who broke laws “directly related to international terrorism,” but others who were convicted of totally unrelated offenses, such as fraud or illegal immigration in the course of a terrorism-related investigation.

“’Terrorism-related’ is not a term that appears in the US criminal code,” said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute. “It’s pretty meaningless.”

His own analysis, which counts foreign-born terrorists convicted of planning or committing a terrorist attack in the US, found 154 cases from 1975 to 2015. That’s almost 250 fewer than the Trump administration’s count over a longer period of time. The White House and the Homeland Security department did not respond to requests for comment.

Bundling terrorism convictions with those that are merely “terrorism-related” is not new. Attorney general Jeff Sessions, who’s honed in on the issue since he was a senator, had produced a similar report in 2016, and the Department of Justice had relied on a similar method long before that. It’s an approach that has been questioned for years, including in a 2003 report by the Government Accountability Office that found the Justice Department had misclassified dozens of cases the previous year.

One example of how this can happen is the case of three Middle-Eastern grocers who were convicted for stealing boxes of Kellogg’s cereal in 2000—but remained on the list of terrorism-related cases because the Federal Bureau of Investigation questioned them after a source inaccurately tipped agents that the three men had tried to buy a rocket-propelled grenade.

The new report didn’t look at any of the violent homegrown extremists because “domestic terrorism was not what was required by the president’s order,” a senior official told reporters. It doesn’t provide any statistic directly linking the numbers in the report to chain migration, or particular visas, either. “It takes some time and research,” he said.

The new report was a follow-up to president Trump’s March 6 executive order on “protecting America from foreign-born terrorism,” better known as the Muslim ban. In it, he asked the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to gather data on “foreign nationals” who have supported and engaged terrorism.

It’s part of a series of information requests about immigrants Trump has made–including regular reports on immigrants’ crimes–which some critics see as part of public relations campaign to promote the president’s anti-immigration campaign. (Trump has also asked for statistics on “honor killings” and other violence against women by foreigners, and on “sanctuary” jurisdictions that don’t honor DHS requests to hold immigrants until immigration authorities can collect them.)

But Nowrasteh, from the Cato Institute, found the report surprisingly thin given the time and resources the government had since Trump commissioned it last March. His study, published in 2016, includes the type of visa the convicted terrorists used to enter the country. “There’s very little new information in this report,” he said. “They have no excuse.”

[Quartz]

Trump referred to Haiti and African countries as ‘shithole’ nations

President Donald Trump on Thursday referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House, a Democratic aide briefed on the meeting told NBC News.

Trump’s comments were first reported by The Washington Post, which said the group of nations referred to also included El Salvador.

The comments came as senators huddled in the Oval Office with the president to discuss a path forward on an immigration deal. Trump questioned why the United States would want people from nations such as Haiti while he was being briefed on changes to the visa lottery system.

According to the aide, when the group came to discussing immigration from Africa, Trump asked why America would want immigrants from “all these shithole countries” and that the U.S. should have more people coming in from places like Norway. Thursday’s meeting came one day after Trump met with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the White House.

A source familiar with Thursday’s meeting told NBC News the president was particularly frustrated during discussions about the visa lottery system — a program Trump has railed against repeatedly in recent months.

The White House issued a statement that did not deny the remarks.

“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told NBC Thursday, as part of a lengthy statement that did not directly dispute the language reportedly used in the meeting.

“He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”

It’s not the first time reports have surfaced of Trump speaking unfavorably about immigrants, and Haitians in particular. The New York Times reported in December that Trump said Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS,” during a summer 2017 meeting about immigration.

According to the Times, Trump also targeted Nigerian immigrants during that meeting, complaining that once they came the United States they would never “go back to their huts.” The White House vigorously denied the claims in the story at the time.

[NBC News]

Ignoring voilence, Trump admin ends protections for 200,000 Salvadorans

The Trump administration will end protections for certain nationals of El Salvador, a move that could leave more than 200,000 immigrants who have lived in the US more than 15 years without any legal status, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.

The termination will come with an 18-month delay, as the administration also recently did in ending other recent Temporary Protected Status for other countries. That time will allow individuals who have lived under the status to either seek other means of staying in the US or prepare to leave. The delay means the more than 250,000 TPS protectees will have until September 9, 2019, to either find a different way to stay in the US or prepare to leave.
The widely expected move culminates a series of similar decisions from the Trump administration to substantially curtail the use of Temporary Protected Status — a protection from deportation and authorization to live and work legally for nationals of countries that have suffered a disaster such as war, an epidemic or natural disasters.

The DHS says more than 250,000 Salvadorans — all of whom are required to have lived in the US continually since 2001 — are covered by TPS. Previous estimates by the department have put the number who will most likely be left without other protections around 200,000.

The administration has pushed to strongly curtail the use of TPS, a protection provided for by law, saying that the repeated extensions of the typically two-year protections by previous administrations of both parties have ended the “temporary” piece of the status.
DHS has made an effort to emphasize that TPS depends on the original reason for the designation, not current conditions. In El Salvador’s case, that was a devastating series of earthquakes prior to its designation in 2001.

In a call with reporters, a senior administration official said Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen decided the termination was “required” given that the original disaster that precipitated the status has been resolved enough to terminate the protections. Officials on the call repeatedly dismissed questions about the violence and economic conditions that persist in El Salvador, including the MS-13 gang that has been a top target of this administration, saying those factors are irrelevant to the decision.
Critics immediately slammed the decision.

“They have resettled, established their families and lives here in the United States. Most of them see themselves much more as American citizens than Salvadoran citizens and to end that protection and program is going to disrupt many communities across the United States,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, said on CNN Monday. “It’s inhumane and not consistent with American values.”

The criticism wasn’t limited to Democrats. Florida Republican and immigration reform advocate Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart quickly released a statement in “strong disagreement” with the administration.

“These innocent people fled their home country after a disastrous earthquake, and while living conditions may have slightly improved, El Salvador now faces a significant problem with drug trafficking, gangs and crime,” Diaz-Balart said. “Since 2001, these people have established themselves in the United States, making countless contributions to our society and our local communities. It would be devastating to send them home after they have created a humble living for themselves and their families.”

The issue will now be kicked to Congress. Senate negotiators are discussing potentially including a deal to end the diversity lottery, which is a top target of President Donald Trump, in exchange for some resolution on TPS, according to Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake”

“We can deal with diversity visa, if we pair it with TPS, doing some kind of reallocation visas there,” Flake told reporters on Friday.

[CNN]

Reality

The move comes as Trump continues policies that treat immigrants with brown skin as a threat.

Trump frequently uses the El Salvadorian gang MS-13 as an example of the threats of immigration, but MS-13 got its start in the 1980’s when this exact scenario played out and we sent back Salvadorian immigrants to a violent country because of nothing more than xenophobia.

Trump said Haitian immigrants ‘all have AIDS’

The White House strongly pushed back on a report that President Donald Trump spoke about immigrants in a dismissive and demeaning fashion during a June meeting with top administration officials.

The denial came in response to explosive reporting from the New York Times, which wrote that, according to two unnamed officials, Trump said during a meeting in June that people coming from Haiti “all have AIDS,” that recent Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts” in Africa and that Afghanistan is a terrorist haven.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement blasting the paper and denying that Trump had made the comments.

“General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen, and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims and it’s both sad and telling the New York Times would print the lies of their anonymous ‘sources’ anyway,” Sanders said.

The report said the Oval Office meeting during the summer included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and senior officials, including White House adviser Stephen Miller, who the Times said had provided Trump with a list of how many immigrants received visas to enter the United States in 2017.

he Times report said Kelly and Tillerson tried to respond by saying many of the visas were for short-term travelers, but that as Trump continued, Kelly and Miller “turned their ire” against Tillerson, who threw his arms up and retorted that perhaps he should stop issuing visas altogether.

The Times said its report was the product of more than three dozen interviews. The explosive and disparaging remarks about immigrants attributed to the president were sourced to a pair of unnamed officials, one who the Times said was present in the meeting, and another who was briefed about the comments by a second attendee. But the Times says several other participants told them they “did not recall” the President using those words.

[CNN]

CDC banned from using ‘evidence-based’ and ‘science-based’ on official documents

The Trump administration has reportedly banned the Centers for Disease Control from using the phrases “evidence-based” and “science-based” on official documents.

Senior CDC officials distributed the list of “forbidden” words and phrases to policy analysts at the CDC on Thursday, the Washington Post reported Friday. The list also bans the use of “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender” and “fetus.”

Analysts are reportedly prohibited from using the phrases on official documents they prepare for the 2019 budget, which is expected to be released in February.

An analyst who attended the meeting at the CDC in Atlanta told the Washington Post that instead of “evidence-based” or “science-based,” policy analysts are instructed to use the phrase, “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

The analyst told the Post that other branches of President Trump’s health department are likely adhering to the same list of banned words. The source said that others at the meeting reacted with surprise when given the list.

“It was very much, ‘Are you serious? Are you kidding?’” the analyst said, “In my experience, we’ve never had any pushback from an ideological standpoint.”

The Trump administration has been repeatedly scrutinized for declining to acknowledge science-based findings, particularly related to climate change. Trump himself has not said whether he believes in climate science, and numerous members of his administration and his appointees have denied aspects of scientific consensus related to global warming.

[The Hill]

Trump administration lawyers claims the KKK is a protected class

In the circus surrounding the Masterpiece Bakeshop case, in which a Colorado baker refused to serve gay customers, lost a discrimination case and then appealed it all the way to the Supreme Court, a strange tidbit emerged yesterday. In explaining why Jack Phillips, the bakery’s owner, should not be compelled to serve people whose lifestyles go against his religious beliefs, Solicitor General Noel Francisco kept saying that a black sculptor should not be compelled to make art for the Ku Klux Klan.

As Imani Gandy at Rewire pointed out Wednesday, Francisco, who serves as the government’s lawyer, got at least one half of his argument right — no lawyer could successfully argue that it’s discriminatory for an African-American artist to deny service to a KKK member. But that’s because, unlike LGBTQ people, KKK members are not members of a “protected class.”

“The anti-discrimination law doesn’t require every business to serve every person on the planet,” Gandy wrote. “It merely requires that a business not refuse service based on a person’s protected characteristic.”

Under Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, “places of public accommodation” like businesses, restaurants, stores and hotels are not permitted to refuse service to someone based on protected characteristics. Those characteristics include “disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin and ancestry.”

“A protected or ‘suspect’ class,” she continued, “is made up of ‘discrete and insular minorities’: a group of people who have historically been subjected to discrimination, comprise a discrete minority (meaning there aren’t a lot of them, percentage-wise), and have immutable characteristics (meaning characteristics that cannot be changed).

Being a member of the Klan or other bigoted groups is not unchangeable, nor does it subject one to historic discrimination (no matter what racist right-wingers would have you believe).

[RawStory]

White House defends Trump’s Muslim tweets

The White House on Wednesday defended President Trump’s widely condemned retweets of videos purporting to show violence committed by Muslims.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that whether the inflammatory videos are real or not, “the threat is real.”

“I’m not talking about the nature of the video,” she told reporters at the White House. “I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real and that is what the president is talking about.”

Sanders said the videos underscore the need for Trump’s push to bolster national security and secure the nation’s borders.

“Those are very real things. There is nothing fake about that,” she said.

Trump retweeted videos posted by Jayda Fransen, a leader of the far-right organization Britain First. The group is considered a fringe entity in the U.K. and Fransen has been convicted of a hate crime.

The tweets set off a massive backlash against the president on both sides of the Atlantic.

U.S. civil rights leaders accused Trump of fanning anti-Muslim sentiment and the British government condemned the tweets.

“British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents — decency, tolerance and respect,” British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said in a statement. “It is wrong for the president to have done this.”

The Council of American-Islamic Relations also condemned the tweets. The group’s executive director, Nihad Awad, said Trump is “clearly telling members of his base that they should hate Islam and Muslims.”

“Trump’s posts amount to incitement to violence against American Muslims,” he said. “His actions should be condemned by all American political and religious leaders, regardless of their party or faith.”

Fransen’s first tweet read: “VIDEO: Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”

“VIDEO: Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” read another. “VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” read a third.

The videos have not been independently authenticated.

[The Hill]

Donald Trump retweets far-right group’s anti-Muslim videos

Donald Trump has retweeted three inflammatory videos from a British far-right group.

The first tweet from Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, claims to show a Muslim migrant attacking a man on crutches.

This was followed by two more videos of people Ms Fransen claims to be Muslim.

Responding to Mr Trump’s posts, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said it was “wrong for the president to have done this”.

Britain First was founded in 2011 by former members of the far-right British National Party (BNP).

The group has grabbed attention on social media with controversial posts about what they deem “the Islamification of the UK”.

It has put up members to run in European elections and by-elections on anti-immigration and anti-abortion policies, but has not secured any seats.

It also contested the most recent London mayoral election, receiving 1.2% of the vote.

The original video was shared by US conservative commentator Ann Coulter who Mr Trump follows.

Ms Fransen has more than 52,000 followers on Twitter.

She responded enthusiastically to Mr Trump sharing her tweets. She posted on her account: “Donald Trump himself has retweeted these videos and has around 44 million followers!”

“God bless you Trump! God bless America!” she added. The message was also shared on Britain First’s Twitter account.

Donald Trump is once again using Twitter to weigh in on contentious religious-tinged political issues in the UK.

In the past, he’s attacked London Mayor Sadiq Khan for mishandling a militant attack just hours after it occurred. He misattributed a rise in crime in England and Wales to the “spread of radical Islamic terror”. Now, he has retweeted a series of unverified videos posted by a far-right British nationalist group.

For the president, directing attention toward the UK seems to serve a domestic political purpose.

He cites events and opinions there as a warning to Americans of what could happen in the US if they do not heed his policy prescriptions on immigration and border security. The Muslim ban, the US-Mexico wall, increased deportations, the sharp reductions on refugee resettlement – it’s all part of the president’s “national security” package.

While most Americans probably haven’t heard of Britain First and are unfamiliar with European radical nationalist movements, there are white supremacist groups in the US that follow the actions of these overseas operations quite closely. The president on Wednesday signalled that he watches them too.

Earlier this month, Ms Fransen was charged with using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” during speeches she made in Belfast.

She will appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 14 December.

[BBC News]

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