Trump Administration Targets Immigrants on Public Assistance

Legal immigrants who use or appear likely to tap public assistance programs could find it harder to come to the U.S. or stay permanently under a Trump administration proposal released Saturday.

Legal immigrants could be denied a green card, which grants permanent residency, if they have received certain government assistance which they were legally allowed to access. About 27 million people live in families that have received benefits and had at least one immigrant family member, according to a June analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.

The proposal released by the Department of Homeland Security shows President Donald Trump is not backing off tightening immigration despite a backlash and court action over some policies, including the separation this summer of children and parents entering the country illegally.

Conservatives have cheered the new proposal, which was first floated last year, as necessary to prevent immigrants from becoming a drain on public services such as Medicaid and food stamps. Democrats and immigrant rights groups argue the rule would punish people who are entitled to benefits and legally live in the U.S.

The proposed rule must still be finalized following 60 days for public comment. Certain groups, including refugees, would be exempt.

The change would broaden the framework the U.S. considers when deciding status and entry for immigrants who are likely to receive public benefits such as nutrition assistance, low income housing subsidies and Medicaid above a specific threshold, according to the information released Saturday.

“Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement. She added that “This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”

“Building on the traumatic separation of families at the border, the Trump administration has taken another cruel step,“ Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said Saturday in a statement. ”This proposed rule change will similarly result in the separation of families and is just the latest assault on immigrant families.”

[Wall Street Journal]

DHS transferred $169 million from other programs to ICE for migrant detention

The Department of Homeland Security transferred $169 million from other agencies to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the detention and removal of migrants this year, according to a document sent to Congress by DHS.

Many of the transfers came from key national security programs, including $1.8 million from the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, $9.8 million from FEMA, $29 million from the U.S. Coast Guard and more than $34 million from several TSA programs. DHS also transferred $33 million from other ICE programs to pay for detention and removal, making the total amount of money transferred $202 million.

The FEMA and Coast Guard transfers were first reported by “The Rachel Maddow Show.” On Tuesday night, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., announced on the show that nearly $10 million was moved from FEMA’s budget to ICE. The budget document Merkley cited, which was later released and publicized by the DHS Watch program at America’s Voice, an advocacy group based in Washington, showed a breakdown of how DHS moved money between different programs and agencies.

The department has the authority to move funds around internally with the approval of Congress and transfers are not unusual. The total DHS budget for fiscal 2018 was $65 billion; FEMA’s total budget was $15.5 billion.

DHS spokesperson Tyler Houlton tweeted Tuesday night that, “Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts. This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda.” He also said that the transferred money came from routine operating expenses and “could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations.”

On Wednesday, FEMA director Brock Long told Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, that none of the $10 million transferred from FEMA to ICE came from the Disaster Relief Fund, saying that Merkley was “playing politics” ahead of Hurricane Florence.

However, money was taken from the response and recovery, preparedness and protection and mission support operations budgets, which are used to prepare for emergencies like Florence. Those FEMA budgets are for “training for all hazards, preparing our warehouses, making sure we have things ready to go so that we can pre-deploy like you see FEMA doing now,” Moira Whelan, FEMA’s former chief of staff for the office of Gulf Coast rebuilding, told Maddow on Wednesday.“Taking money away from that operation doesn’t just harm [FEMA’s hurricane response], it harms us with any disaster we face.”

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the other transferred funds.

DHS stated in the document that the transfers to ICE were made due to “increasing operational demands.” The transfers were requested so ICE could add more than 2,000 detention center beds on top of 38,000 adult beds it predicted it would need in its initial budget request for the year. Those beds cost an additional $93 million above the allocated budget, according to the document provided to Congress.

The number of detained migrant children in federally contracted shelters has also increased, growing fivefold in the past year,The New York Times reported Wednesday.

ICE also expanded two kinds of flight operations as part of its removal program, increasing the cost of the already $369 million program by $107 million. Its daily air charter services alone increased by 28 percent this year.

The AP reported Wednesday that according to the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, DHS notified Congress on June 30 that it wanted to transfer $200 million from other agencies to ICE, including the funds from FEMA. Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the transfer was approved by the Republican subcommittee chairs and no Democrats signed off on it.

The transfers occurred in August. Ur Jaddou, director of DHS Watch, called the reshuffling of funds an example of “upside down priorities.”

Jaddou said the document suggests the Trump administration would rather separate families “and detain and deport parents [than] prepare for hurricanes.”

[NBC News]

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]

Immigration judge removed from cases after perceived criticism of Sessions

The Justice Department plans to take dozens of cases away from an immigration judge who has delayed deportation orders, in part for perceived criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the union representing immigration judges said Wednesday.

CNN reported Tuesday that the Justice Department replaced Philadelphia Immigration Judge Steven Morley with an assistant chief immigration judge last month to hear a single case on his docket, which resulted in a young undocumented immigrant, Reynaldo Castro-Tum, being ordered deported.

Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Jack Weil told Morley that comments in the Castro-Tum case were perceived as “criticism” of the Board of Immigration Appeals and attorney general’s decisions and that they were “unprofessional,” according to the grievance filed by the National Association of Immigration Judges. The cases all involve young undocumented immigrants and whether they got adequate notice from the government about hearings at which they failed to appear. Weil also told Morley that he himself should have either ordered Castro-Tum deported or terminated the case altogether.

It’s the most public fight yet between the union that represents the nation’s roughly 350 immigration judges and Sessions, who has intently focused on the immigration courts under his purview. The immigration judges have long bemoaned their structure under the Justice Department, but have taken particular issue with many of the moves pursued by the Trump administration that they say interfere with their ability to conduct fair and impartial court proceedings.

Unlike federal judges, immigration judges are employees of the Justice Department and the attorney general has the authority to hire them, manage their performance measures and even rule on cases with binding authority over how the judges must decide similar issues.

The judge’s union says DOJ broke the collective bargaining agreement by violating Morley’s independent decision-making authority.

Morley denied those comments were unprofessional and reiterated he made the proper decisions in the case based on the facts and due process, the grievance said.

“He’s being targeted for what is perceived to be criticism of the attorney general when it is in fact just a judge doing his job, raising concerns about due process,” Judge Ashley Tabaddor said Wednesday on behalf of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

[CNN]

Reality

The removal of Judge Steven Morley subverted the judicial process, undermined his independence, and impugned his competence and integrity, all to obtain a particular outcome in the case, according to the judges’ union and its labor complaint.

Trump threatens government shutdown over border security

President Trump warned on Sunday that he would be willing to “shut down” the government over border security.

“I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT!” he said in a morning tweet.

“We need great people coming into our Country!” he added.

The president in an earlier tweet on Sunday morning said “many” border crossers are using children for “sinister purposes.” He also blasted existing U.S. immigration laws and urged followers to vote for Republicans.

“Please understand, there are consequences when people cross our Border illegally, whether they have children or not – and many are just using children for their own sinister purposes. Congress must act on fixing the DUMBEST & WORST immigration laws anywhere in the world! Vote ‘R,’ ” he said.

[The Hill]

Trump Dismisses Missed Deadline for Reuniting Migrant Families: The Solution is Come Here Legally

The Federal government is all but certain to miss Tuesday’s court-imposed deadline for reuniting migrant families (via Vox). But President Donald Trump is downplaying the blown deadline — and, in fact, pinning the blame on migrants.

Speaking outside the White House prior to leaving for the NATO summit in Brussels, the president sounded off against illegal immigration when asked about the missed deadline.

“I have a solution,” Trump said. “Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That’s the solution. Don’t come to our country illegally. Come like other people do, come legally.”

He added, “I’m saying this, very simply. We have laws. We have borders. Don’t come to our country illegally. It’s not a good thing.”

The president went on to again make the baseless, erroneous assertion that Democrats are advocating for open borders.

“Democrats want open borders and they don’t mind crime,” Trump said. “We want no crime and we want borders where borders mean something. All right? And, remember this, without borders, you do not have a country.”

[Mediaite]

Army discharging some immigrant recruits

The U.S. Army has begun quietly discharging some immigrant members, a move that could put those member’s immigration status at risk, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

Immigration attorneys told the AP that they knew of more than 40 immigrant recruits and reservists who had been discharged from their service or whose status is now at question.

Some of the military members told the AP that they did not know why they were discharged. Others said they were told they were labeled a “security risk” because of relatives abroad and or because their background checks were incomplete.

Spokespeople for the Pentagon and the Army told the news outlet that they could not comment on the discharges or say if there have been any policy changes due to pending litigation.

The Defense Department told the AP in a statement that “[a]ll service members (i.e. contracted recruits, active duty, Guard and Reserve) and those with an honorable discharge are protected from deportation.”

The immigration attorneys told the AP that many of the immigrants received an “uncharacterized discharge,” putting into question their ability to remain in the U.S.

Immigrant military members can obtain citizenship if they receive an honorable discharge. The AP reported that basic training has been delayed for discharged immigrant soldiers, which means they can’t become naturalized citizens.

Recruits must have legal status in the U.S. before enlisting in the Army. About 10,000 immigrants are currently serving in the military, with most going to the Army, according to the outlet.

The reports comes amid a Trump administration crackdown on immigration, including a “zero tolerance” policy mandating that all undocumented immigrants caught at the border face prosecution.

[The Hill]

Trump slams Dems for call to abolish ICE

President Trump on Tuesday accused Democrats of “demeaning” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, suggesting that the criticism of the agency by some liberals could hurt the Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections.

“When we have an ‘infestation’ of MS-13 GANGS in certain parts of our country, who do we send to get them out? ICE! They are tougher and smarter than these rough criminal elelments [sic] that bad immigration laws allow into our country. Dems do not appreciate the great job they do! Nov.” he tweeted in an apparent reference to the November elections.

“How can the Democrats, who are weak on the Border and weak on Crime, do well in November,” the president asked in a second tweet. “The people of our Country want and demand Safety and Security, while the Democrats are more interested in ripping apart and demeaning (and not properly funding) our great Law Enforcement!”

Trump’s tweets came as some Democrats have started to call for ICE to be abolished amid an intensifying controversy over the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy prioritizing the prosecution of people who cross into the U.S. illegally through Mexico.

That policy has caused thousands of migrant children to be separated from their parents at the border. Protesters gathered in cities across the U.S. over the weekend to demand an end to the practice.

While Trump signed an executive order last month intended to allow children to be detained with their parents, it remains unclear how the government expects to enforce it. A 1997 consent decree bars law enforcement from holding minors for longer than 20 days — a limit that does not apply to adults.

Days after that order was signed, a federal judge in San Diego ordered the government to work quickly to reunite migrant families that had been separated under the policy. However, it is not clear how officials plan to meet the deadlines imposed by the court.

[The Hill]

Reality

U.S. Customs and Border Protection numbers show that they captured about 180 MS-13 members who crossed the border last year out of 187,000 illegal immigrants, this makes up 0.096% of those entering the U.S. illegally.

MS-13 is a threat, but Donald Trump is hyping their numbers and conflating vicious gangs with a typical immigrant to scare his supporters into fearing Hispanics.

Trump falsely claims he never told House Republicans to vote for immigration bill

President Donald Trump falsely claimed on Saturday that he never encouraged House Republicans to vote for an immigration bill, despite tweeting such an encouragement three days earlier.

“I never pushed the Republicans in the House to vote for the Immigration Bill, either GOODLATTE 1 or 2, because it could never have gotten enough Democrats as long as there is the 60 vote threshold,” the president wrote on Twitter. “I released many prior to the vote knowing we need more Republicans to win in Nov.”

Trump explicitly called for Republicans to support Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte‘s bill on Wednesday with an all-caps Twitter endorsement.

“HOUSE REPUBLICANS SHOULD PASS THE STRONG BUT FAIR IMMIGRATION BILL, KNOWN AS GOODLATTE II, IN THEIR AFTERNOON VOTE TODAY, EVEN THOUGH THE DEMS WON’T LET IT PASS IN THE SENATE,” Trump wrote on Twitter before the Wednesday vote. “PASSAGE WILL SHOW THAT WE WANT STRONG BORDERS & SECURITY WHILE THE DEMS WANT OPEN BORDERS = CRIME. WIN!”

At the time, House Republicans were trying to gather votes to pass a compromise bill that they were hoping would draw support from both conservatives and moderates in their conference. The proposal was expected to fail beforehand and did so by an overwhelming 121-301 vote.

Trump‘s position on the bill wavered several times before it even came to a vote, with the president at one point saying he wouldn’t sign the bill. He also said last week that the Republicans’ bill wouldn’t pass the Senate. By Wednesday he had tweeted his support.

The president’s reversal Saturday comes as he has sent a number of tweets during his weekend in New Jersey, ranging from news about his Supreme Court appointment to thoughts on progressive outrage over the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and even encouragement to buy former White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s new book.

Trump is in Bedminster for the weekend with his family, although he may mix in some work with possible interviews with people on his shortlist for Supreme Court seat.

[Politico]

President Donald Trump: ‘Our Laws are the Dumbest Anywhere in the World’

On the same day as immigration protests and marches were held throughout the nation, President Donald Trump called for those entering the country without proper paperwork to be immediately escorted “back out.”

“When people come into our Country illegally, we must IMMEDIATELY escort them back out without going through years of legal maneuvering,” Trump opined in a midafternoon tweet.

He then added this about U.S. law: “Our laws are the dumbest anywhere in the world. Republicans want Strong Borders and no Crime. Dems want Open Borders and are weak on Crime!”

Trump’s tweet follows an earlier tweet where he claimed, “I never pushed the Republicans in the House to vote for the Immigration Bill.” Just a few days ago, however, he said just that.

[Mediaite]

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