Trump suggests support for family separations, after earlier practice caused outcry

President Donald Trump suggested on Saturday that he believes the controversial policy of family separations could continue in the United States and that the practice could dissuade immigrants from entering the country illegally.

Trump’s comments come on the heels of a Friday report in The Washington Post that the White House is actively considering plans that could again separate parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The newspaper, which cited several administration officials it did not name, reported that one option under consideration would detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days and then give parents a choice of staying in family detention with their child as their immigration cases proceed or allowing children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians could seek custody.

“We’re looking at a lot of different things having to do with illegal immigration,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.

“I will say this: If they feel there will be separation, they don’t come,” Trump said.

The practice of separating children from their parents at the border ignited a firestorm of criticism. Under pressure, Trump in June signed an executive order that said he said would end the practice and allow families to be detained together.

At least 2,600 children were separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that called for prosecuting everyone who entered the country illegally. A federal judge ordered families to be reunified, and in September the government reported it had reunified or released 2,251 children.

The policy, in effect from May 6 through June 20, did not put a significant dent in the number of families crossing the border, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Trump has made illegal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign and presidency. On Saturday he insisted he wants workers to come into the country but repeated his refrain that he wants a “merit-based” immigration system and that he opposes the current lottery system.

A bill proposed by Republicans in August would halve the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States while moving to a “merit-based” system of entry. Trump has said he supports that bill.

[NBC News]

Trump administration proposes tough rules on protests

The Trump administration is proposing to overhaul rules for protests in front of the White House and at other iconic locations in Washington, D.C., in an effort that opponents say is aimed at shutting down free speech.

The National Park Service’s (NPS) proposal, for which public comments are due by Monday, would close much of the sidewalk north of the White House to protests, limit the ability for groups to have spontaneous protests without permits in that area and on the National Mall and open the door to potentially charging some demonstrating groups fees and costs for their events.

The plan was released in August with little fanfare. But civil rights groups have been sounding alarm bells in recent days as the comment period comes to a close.

In making the proposal, the NPS cites its mandate to protect land, saying that it wants to “provide greater clarity to the public about how and where demonstrations and special events may be conducted in a manner that protects and preserves the cultural and historic integrity of these areas.”

But opponents see a connection to President Trump’s disdain for protesters, and congressional Republicans’ denunciations of recent demonstrations against new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as “mob rule.”

They argue that the iconic places in Washington, D.C., that hosted Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech in 1963 and the Occupy encampments in 2012 need to remain as welcoming as possible for the First-Amendment-guaranteed right to protest, not just for D.C. locals, but for people from around the country who travel to the nation’s capital.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said that while most recent administrations have tried to crack down on protests covered by the NPS unit known as the National Mall and Memorial Parks, the Trump effort is more significant.

“This administration’s come in with the most bold and consequential overhaul. The consequences are enormous,” Verheyden-Hilliard told The Hill.

“There’s never been such a large effort at rewriting these regulations,” she said. “I don’t think there can be any question that these revisions will have the intent and certainly the effect of stifling the ability of the public to protest.”

While the proposal itself wouldn’t lead directly to fees being charged for protests, it asks the public to weigh in on the possibility.

Verheyden-Hilliard was particularly critical of a proposal to reduce distinctions between demonstrations and “special events,” which include concerts and festivals. Demonstrations have previously been subject to less scrutiny in permitting and can get their permits almost automatically.

Under the proposal, those protections could change, especially if anyone sings or dances at a protest.

“Speech plus music doesn’t lose its speech character,” she said. “If the event is focused on expressing views and grievances, it is a demonstration.”

The American Civil Liberties Union’s local chapter said in a blog post that major protests like King’s speech could become too expensive for their organizers.

“Managing public lands for the benefit of the American people is what Congress funds the National Park Service to do. That includes demonstrators just as much as tourists or hikers,” wrote Arthur Spitzer, co-legal director of the ACLU of D.C.

Top Democratic lawmakers are also getting involved.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, joined with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), his counterpart for the House Judiciary Committee, and other Democrats this week in denouncing the fee idea in a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“National parks must be accessible and open to the American public for peaceful assembly,” they wrote.

“While the recuperation of costs may be an appropriate standard for special events that are celebratory or entertainment-oriented, the proposed shift could have the disastrous result of undermining the freedoms of expression and assembly — which are fundamental constitutional rights — in one of our nation’s premier public parks.”

NPS spokesman Brent Everitt said any fee changes would require a separate regulatory proposal. But he nonetheless defended potential fees, citing as an example the 2012 Occupy protests in downtown D.C.’s McPherson Square and elsewhere, which cost the agency nearly $500,000.

“At this time, we want to have a genuine conversation with the public about updating a comprehensive plan to best facilitate use and enjoyment of the National Mall while preserving and protecting its monuments and memorials. Permit fees and cost recovery considerations are just one part of that overall conversation,” Everitt said in a statement.

He said the agency wants input on whether the costs to the agency are an “appropriate expenditure of National Park Service funds, or whether we should also attempt to recover costs for supporting these kinds of events if the group seeking the permit for the event has the ability to cover those costs.”

The myriad rules and standards for events on NPS land in the nation’s capital have been shaped largely by decades of litigation. And if the agency pursues a regulation like the one proposed, the lawsuits will only continue.

“If these regulations go through in current form or a substantially similar iteration, we are prepared to have them enjoined,” Verheyden-Hilliard said. “We believe that they are unconstitutional and fundamentally unsound. And moreover, they are unjustified.”

The NPS is taking comments through Monday on its regulations.gov portal.

[The Hill]

 

Trump administration halts visas for same-sex partners of diplomats, UN employees

President Donald Trump’s administration began denying visas to the unmarried, same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and officials and employees of the United Nations this week — making marriage a requirement to be eligible for a visa.

The policy was made effective Monday.

It comes despite the fact that the majority of countries do not recognize same-sex marriage and many same-sex couples face prosecution in their own countries.

The shift was detailed in a memo circulated at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York last month but unveiled in July, according to the State Department.

The policy shift gives the same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and U.N. workers until the end of the year to get married or leave the country.

The State Department said in a briefing Tuesday that the policy will affect about 105 families in the USA, 55 of which have links to various international organizations. It was not clear how many foreign diplomats and U.N. employees with pending U.S. posts will be affected by the policy change.

Twelve percent of the 193 U.N. member states represented in New York allow same-sex marriage, according to Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who served under President Barack Obama.

The Trump administration said the new policy is more consistent with the Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage. The heterosexual partners of foreign diplomats and U.N. employees are also not eligible for U.S. visas.

Critics of the move argued the policy would create hardship for gay couples from countries that ban same-sex marriage or offer only civil unions. Those who marry in the USA to secure their visa status could face criminal proceedings once they return to their home nations.

“Those not yet in the country will need to show they’re married to secure a visa, potentially forcing those living in countries without marriage equality to choose between a posting at UN headquarters or family separation,” Akshaya Kumar, deputy U.N. director at Human Rights Watch, wrote in a blog post.

UN Globe, which advocates for non-discrimination of LGBTI staff at the United Nations and in its peacekeeping operations, said it was an “unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage.”

Power, the former ambassador, described the policy in a tweet as “needlessly cruel and bigoted.” The State Department said the rule change would promote equal treatment. It said it recognized that not all countries permit same-sex marriage and it was prepared to work with individual cases to find a solution for those not able to marry.

[USA Today]

Trump Officials ‘Did Not Want’ Census Survey To Ask About Sexual Orientation

Plans to add questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to the largest survey in the U.S. — the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey — stalled after President Trump entered the White House last year.

The newly released testimony of an official at the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, points to a possible reason. Earl Comstock, who heads the department’s Office of Policy and Strategic Planning, was recently deposed for the lawsuits over the 2020 census citizenship question.

Asked by Matthew Colangelo, an attorney for the plaintiffs, if sexual orientation and gender identity questions were not included “because you came to the policy position you did not want to ask” them, Comstock replied: “That was the administration’s conclusion, yes.”

A transcript excerpt of Comstock’s Aug. 30 deposition was filed Wednesday with Manhattan federal court by the plaintiffs’ attorneys from the New York state attorney general’s office, the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Arnold & Porter.

As NPR has reported, four federal agencies during the Obama administration submitted requests for sexual orientation and gender identity questions to be added to the American Community Survey. Last March, however, the Census Bureau announced that there was “no federal data need” to do so.

A “sensitive” topic

During his deposition, Comstock appears to have mistaken that those requests were for the 2020 census and not the American Community Survey, which the Census Bureau also conducts.

“The prior administration had wanted to add … to the decennial census a question on sexual orientation and gender identity,” he testified, according to the transcript excerpt. “So for all the people that are raising an uproar right now about the addition of this [citizenship] question, apparently there was no concern about adding such a question on another sensitive topic last year.”

The requests for the questions came from the Justice Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Environmental Protection Agency.

In a June 2016 letter to the Census Bureau, then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro wrote, “Valid, reliable, and nationally representative data on sexual orientation and gender identity are essential to HUD fulfilling its mission.” The Justice Department noted in its request that such data could help the agency enforce the Civil Rights Act’s protections against employment discrimination.

Under the Trump administration, however, Justice Department officials contacted the Census Bureau about the “appropriateness” of sexual orientation and gender identity topics appearing on the upcoming American Community Survey, according to a March 2017 letter sent by the Commerce Department that was published on the website of Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware.

Later, Justice Department officials stood down on the agency’s request, saying that it “requires thorough analysis and careful consideration.” The department did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the status of its analysis.

A spokesperson for the Census Bureau, Michael Cook, referred NPR’s inquiries to the Commerce Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The White House also did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

“Inadvertently listed”

Asked by email in March if any Census Bureau officials were concerned the Trump administration would not support the requests to add sexual orientation and gender identity questions to the American Community Survey, Cook replied: “N/A.” Asked to clarify, he later wrote back, “It should have read as NO.”

While the 2020 census is set to include new relationship categories differentiating between “same-sex” and “opposite-sex” couples, the Census Bureau so far has not directly asked about sexual orientation or gender identity in its surveys.

A group of Senate Democrats introduced a bill in July that would require such questions on census forms for every U.S. household by 2030 and by 2020, on the American Community Survey. About one in 38 households every year are required by federal law to answer that survey.

In March 2017, the issue made a brief appearance in the appendix of a Census Bureau report announcing the proposed question topics for the 2020 census and an update to the American Community Survey. But hours after the report was posted on the bureau’s website, the reference to “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” as “Proposed” was removed from the second-to-last page.

The bureau said that it was ” inadvertently listed.” But in a draft version of the reportNPR obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, a full page dedicated to the topic that was missing from the final version noted:

[NPR]

US cracking down on citizenship for hundreds of Hispanics along border

The Trump administration is reportedly accusing hundreds of Hispanics living along the U.S.-Mexico border of having fraudulent birth certificates, stripping some of their passports and throwing their citizenship into question.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that cases it examined and interviews with immigration attorneys suggest a dramatic increase in immigration enforcement and a decrease in the number of passports issued by the U.S.

Some passport applicants with official U.S. birth certificates are being jailed in detention facilities as they await immigration proceedings, while others have had their passports revoked when they tried to reenter the U.S., The Post reported.

The newspaper did not say exactly how many people the U.S. appears to be investigating for allegedly having fraudulent birth certificates. The Post reported that the administration “is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands.”

A State Department official told The Hill in a statement that the agency “has not changed policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications.”

“There are numerous reasons why a customer may be asked to provide additional documentation or information. The burden of proving one’s identity and citizenship falls on the applicant for a U.S. passport regardless of where the application was submitted,” the official said.

The official said that “the U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.”

The U.S. government has alleged that fraud is sometimes perpetrated by midwives and other birth attendants who sell legal birth certificates to children born in Mexico.

“This fraud is often documented through convictions, plea agreements, and confessions by midwives, mothers, and other family members,” the State Department official said.

According to The Post, the State Department under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama investigated people who had been delivered by midwives in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley based on a 1993 case in which a midwife pleaded guilty to selling Texas birth certificates to parents of children born in Mexico.

After the government settled in a case involving the American Civil Liberties Union in 2009, the number of passport denials dropped off, according to The Post.

Now, the government is apparently denying passports to those it suspects of having fraudulent birth certificates at an increasing rate, regardless of whether they were delivered by midwives, the newspaper reported.

The State Department official emphasized that “the standard for determining whether a person is entitled to a passport, regardless of whether the person was born in a home, hospital, or with the assistance of a doctor or midwife, is the same. The applicant must demonstrate through a preponderance of evidence that he or she was born in the United States.”

“Applicants who have birth certificates filed by a midwife or other birth attendant suspected of having engaged in fraudulent activities, as well as applicants who have both a U.S. and foreign birth certificate, are asked to provide additional documentation establishing they were born in the United States,” they added.

“Individuals who are unable to demonstrate that they were born in the United States are denied issuance of a passport,” the official said. “The Department’s determination in such cases affects only the passport, and not citizenship status, of the applicant.”

[The Hill]

Trump expands federal contractors’ ability to cite religious freedom in discrimination cases

The Trump administration issued a directive earlier this month that critics argue will allow federal contractors to assert their right to a religious exemption from LGBT discrimination charges.

The Department of Labor directive, issued on Aug. 10, expands the circumstances under which federal contractors can claim they have a religious exemption when battling discrimination charges.

The directive addresses an executive order enacted in 1965 that blocks businesses that work with the federal government from discriminating against people on the basis of sex, gender identity, race, sexual orientation and other factors.

The new notice cites recent Supreme Court decisions, including a ruling in favor of a baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and the 2014 Burwell v Hobby Lobby decision that certain corporations can be exempt from regulations over religious objections.

It also cites recent executive orders by President Trump, including his order earlier this year directing federal agencies to respect and protect religious liberty and political speech.

Critics told BuzzFeed News that the new directive would contradict a promise Trump made when he took office last year to not to touch an executive order issued by former President Obama that banned federal contractors from engaging in LGBT discrimination.

Department of Labor and White House officials told the news outlet that the Obama-era executive order remains in place, but declined to answer questions on when the religious exemption directive could be utilized by contractors.

“The purpose of Directive 2018-03 is to ensure [the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs] guidance on the religious exemption is consistent with federal law related to religious freedom and religious accommodation, including recent U.S. Supreme Court precedents and Executive Orders, which OFCCP is obligated to follow,” a Labor Department official told BuzzFeed News.

The official noted that the executive order enacted in 1965 allows “religious organizations to make employment decisions on the basis of religion.”

The new directive also states that it “supersedes” a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) memo on the illegality of anti-LGBT discrimination.

“The previous FAQ did not reflect recent Supreme Court decisions regarding religious freedoms,” the Department of Labor official told BuzzFeed News.

“President Trump and his Administration are working diligently to improve the lives of all Americans, including faith-based and LGBT communities,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told BuzzFeed News. “We will continue to ensure anti-discrimination protections are in place for all Americans.”

Advocates opposing the new directive told the news site that the policy opens the door for contractors to cite religious exemptions when discriminating against LGBT employees.

“This Administration apparently recognizes — correctly, in our view — that rescinding [Obama’s 2014] executive order outright would cause a huge public outcry,” Shannon McGowan, a former lawyer in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the current head of Lambda Legal, told BuzzFeed News. “So instead, this Administration is trying to accomplish the same end through different means.”

McGowan noted that a fifth of the federal workforce is employed through federal contractors, telling the news site that the “damage that could be done here cannot be overstated.”

[The Hill]

Trump renews attacks on NFL players, calling for suspensions

President Trump on Friday renewed his attacks on NFL players who protest during the national anthem, claiming they “wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define.”

“The NFL players are at it again — taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted.

“Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest,” he continued. “Most of that money goes to the players anyway.”

“Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!” Trump added.

Trump’s new attack came a day after the first big slate of NFL preseason games on Thursday night, during which players from several teams protestedduring “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

[The Hill]

Trump administration tells ACLU to find deported parents

The Trump administration on Thursday informed a federal judge that it isn’t responsible for locating deported parents separated forcibly from their children at the southern border.

DOJ said in a court filing that the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit over family separations, should instead take the lead in reunifying deported parents with their children.

“Plaintiffs’ counsel should use their considerable resources and their network of law firms, NGOs, volunteers, and others, together with the information that defendants have provided (or will soon provide), to establish contact with possible class members in foreign countries,” DOJ said.

The administration suggested that the ACLU find out whether the deported parents wish to be reconnected with their children, or whether they waive that option.

An administration official said Thursday evening that the filing “simply asks the court to require the ACLU to determine the wishes of and fulfill their obligations to their clients, as they have repeatedly represented in court that they would.“

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has statedrepeatedly that no parents were deported without first being given the option to take their children with them. But a Trump administration official told POLITICO on July 25 that an estimated three-quarters of the parents who left the country alone left no record behind that they ever consented to leave their children in the U.S. “We don’t see it in the documentation,” the official said.

At a Senate hearing earlier this week, Matthew Albence, executive associate director for Enforcement and Removal Operations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, repeatedly dodged questions about whether DHS could document that it secured deportee parents’ consent to leave their children behind.

[Politico]

Update

A federal judge has said the Trump administration is 100% responsible to find the lost parents.

Trump wants suspensions for NFL players who kneel during anthem

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that National Football League (NFL) players who do not stand for the national anthem should be suspended for the season without pay.

The comments come a day after the NFL and the union representing its players said they were working on a resolution to the league’s national anthem policy.

The policy, which was announced in May, followed Trump’s denunciation of pregame protests which were intended to call attention to what critics say is often brutal treatment of minorities by U.S. law enforcement.

Trump and others have blasted the gesture as a sign of disrespect to the U.S. flag and the military.

“The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again – can’t believe it!,” Trump said on Twitter.

“First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay.

“The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand,” he said in reference to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The players union, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), recently filed a grievance over the league’s new requirement that players stand for the national anthem or wait in their dressing rooms.

The NFLPA claimed the new policy was inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringed on player rights.

The NFL and NFLPA said on Thursday no new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while the confidential discussions are ongoing.

[Reuters]

Reality

Two days prior, Fox News begged Donald Trump to tweet something out to distract everyone from his failure in Helsinki. Trump took their advice.

Trump Mocks the #MeToo Movement During Montana Rally

Donald Trump, whom more than a dozen women have accused of sexual misconduct, has made no secret of his distaste for the #MeToo movement, defending both longtime pal Roger Ailes and ex-Fox mega-host Bill O’Reilly against charges of sexual misconduct (Ailes he called a “very, very good person,” while of O’Reilly he said, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”). But in February, the president made his position on #MeToo even more explicit: the day after defending former staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse from two of his ex-wives, Trump tweeted that “lives are being shattered and destroyed” by “mere” allegations. “He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that,” Trump said the day prior. “He said very strongly . . . that he’s innocent.” The comments inspired a wave of disquiet among those inclined to support women in speaking out about harassment and abuse. And on Thursday, the president revived his rhetoric during a bizarre rally in Montana ostensibly intended to stoke support for the state’s Republican Senate candidate.

Riffing on his nickname for Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose Native American heritage he has repeatedly questioned, Trump—who made no mention of the hasty same-day resignation of E.P.A. chief Scott Pruitt—told the crowd, “I want to apologize. Pocahontas, I apologize to you . . . to you I apologize. To the fake Pocahontas, I won’t apologize.”

He went on to suggest that if Warren won the 2020 Democratic primary, he would dare her to take an ancestry test during a televised debate. “We’ll take that little kit and say, we have to do it gently because we are in the #MeToo generation, so we have to be very gentle. And we will very gently take that kit, and we will slowly toss it” to Warren, “hoping it doesn’t hit her and injure her arm.” Trump added that he’d give $1 million to charity if the test “shows [Warren is] an Indian . . . I have a feeling,” he said, “she will say no.”

Nor did Trump confine himself to insulting a potential Democratic opponent—during the same speech, he also claimed that Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters had an I.Q. in the “mid-60s,” lobbed derogatory criticisms at journalists, and vouched for Russian President Vladimir Putin. After the rally, Warren fired back with a tweet, writing, “Hey, @realDonaldTrump: While you obsess over my genes, your Admin is conducting DNA tests on little kids because you ripped them from their mamas & you are too incompetent to reunite them in time to meet a court order. Maybe you should focus on fixing the lives you’re destroying.”

The president’s particular strain of misogyny has been on display for much of this week—earlier on Thursday, Trump told reporters that he doesn’t believe allegations that G.O.P. Rep. Jim Jordan knew about the sexual abuse of student athletes while he was a coach at Ohio State University. (Jordan himself has denied them.) “I don’t believe them at all,” Trump said of Jordan’s accusers, adding that he believes in Jordan’s innocence “100 percent”. Thursday also happened to be the day the White House officially hired Bill Shine, the former Fox News co-president who allegedly covered for Ailes for years. In making such statements, Trump seems to be indicating that no line of attack is off-limits—a tactic that successfully set him apart from a crowded Republican field in 2016.

He’s also setting a deeply toxic precedent for the 2020 presidential race—particularly if he faces off against another woman. And though this strategy is likely to appeal to his base, potentially deepening the gulf between people who believe women when they say they’ve been forced to endure sexual harassment and people who don’t, it is not without risk for Republicans. Not only could it further galvanize Democrats, but it could also alienate women voters who, according to a poll published on Friday, have a disproportionately negative view of the president: just 32 percent of women approve of his job performance, compared to 51 percent of men.

[Vanity Fair]

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