Emails show Stephen Miller pressed hard to limit green cards

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller wasn’t getting an immigration regulation he wanted. So he sent a series of scorching emails to top immigration officials, calling the department an “embarrassment” for not acting faster, according to emails obtained by POLITICO.

The regulation in question would allow the Department of Homeland Security to bar legal immigrants from obtaining green cards if they receive certain government benefits. The rule will likely be released in the coming days, according to a pair of current and former Trump officials briefed on the timeline.

The emails, which POLITICO obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, shed new light on how aggressively Miller has pressured the Department of Homeland Security to move faster on regulations to limit immigration. Critics say the new rule will be used to shore up Trump’s political base in the coming election year, and that it’s an illegitimate tool to reduce legal immigration. 

One former Trump official said Miller has maintained a “singular obsession” with the public charge rule, which he’s argued would bring about a transformative change to U.S. immigration.

At the receiving end of Miller’s pressure campaign was U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Director Francis Cissna, an immigration hawk with strong support from restrictionist groups who resigned in May amid a broader Homeland Security Department shakeup that also saw the exit of former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other top officials.

In an email sent on June 8, 2018, Miller lambasted Cissna for the pace of his efforts to implement the public charge rule. “Francis — The timeline on public charge is unacceptable,” Miller wrote. “The public charge reg has been in the works for a year and a half. This is time we don’t have. I don’t care what you need to do to finish it on time. You run an agency of 20,000 people.”

In the message, Miller derided Cissna’s overall performance at USCIS, the agency charged with screening visa applicants and processing immigration paperwork. Cissna was known for his deliberate approach to the regulatory process.

“It’s an embarrassment that we’ve been here for 18 months and USCIS hasn’t published a single major reg,” Miller barked.

According to a version of the rule proposed in October 2018, the regulation would allow federal immigration officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who’ve received food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, prescription drug subsidies or Section 8 housing vouchers. It could also deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to receive such government benefits in the future.

With Trump poised to make immigration a centerpiece of his 2020 reelection campaign, a new crackdown on legal immigrants who receive government assistance could energize voters who view immigration — even when done legally — as a fiscal drain and cultural danger.

“This is something that will play well going into the next election, especially considering the prevailing view among the Democratic candidates who are talking about admitting more immigrants and offering more benefits,” said Jessica Vaughan, a director with the Center for Immigration Studies, which pushes for lower levels of both legal and illegal immigration. 

But Miller’s previously undisclosed emails could raise legal questions about whether the public charge rule was rushed to completion. The regulatory process will almost certainly be challenged in court, according to opponents bracing for the change.

In addition, the emails could reinvigorate Democratic efforts to compel Miller to testify before Congress. The White House in April denieda voluntary invitation to testify before the House Oversight Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The committee chairman had pressed Miller to explain his role in the development of what he called “troubling” immigration policies.

Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli — Cissna’s replacement at the agency and another immigration hawk — said the public charge regulation will demonstrate that Trump remains committed to his immigration agenda.

According to a version of the rule proposed in October 2018, the regulation would allow federal immigration officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who’ve received food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, prescription drug subsidies or Section 8 housing vouchers. It could also deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to receive such government benefits in the future.

With Trump poised to make immigration a centerpiece of his 2020 reelection campaign, a new crackdown on legal immigrants who receive government assistance could energize voters who view immigration — even when done legally — as a fiscal drain and cultural danger.

“This is something that will play well going into the next election, especially considering the prevailing view among the Democratic candidates who are talking about admitting more immigrants and offering more benefits,” said Jessica Vaughan, a director with the Center for Immigration Studies, which pushes for lower levels of both legal and illegal immigration. 

But Miller’s previously undisclosed emails could raise legal questions about whether the public charge rule was rushed to completion. The regulatory process will almost certainly be challenged in court, according to opponents bracing for the change.

In addition, the emails could reinvigorate Democratic efforts to compel Miller to testify before Congress. The White House in April denieda voluntary invitation to testify before the House Oversight Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The committee chairman had pressed Miller to explain his role in the development of what he called “troubling” immigration policies.

Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli — Cissna’s replacement at the agency and another immigration hawk — said the public charge regulation will demonstrate that Trump remains committed to his immigration agenda.

[Politico]

Trump Just Strong-Armed Guatemala Into a “Safe Third Country” Agreement.

The United States and Guatemala have reached a deal that has the potential to end most asylum seekers’ ability to seek protection at the US-Mexico border.

Under an agreement announced Friday afternoon, asylum seekers who travel through Guatemala on their way to the United States would be returned to Guatemala and forced to seek protection there. That would largely block Salvadorans and Hondurans from receiving asylum in the United States, as well as large numbers of asylum seekers from around the world who travel by land to the US border after flying to South America. Instead, only Mexicans and Guatemalans would be able to seek protection at the border.

The agreement would not apply to children who arrive at the border alone and would remain in effect for two years, according to a copy released by the Guatemalan government (in Spanish).

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said on a press call that he expects the deal, which is known as a safe third country agreement, to take effect in the next few weeks. Earlier this month, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court blocked President Jimmy Morales from unilaterally signing such an agreement. It is still not clear how Morales’ administrations plans to get around that. 

Beyond that it is unclear how Guatemala—which has become the leading sending country of migrants to the United States under Trump—plans to provide refuge for the thousands of asylum seekers who could arrive from El Salvador, Honduras, and elsewhere. As the Washington Post‘s Mexico and Central America bureau chief, Kevin Sieff, pointed out on Twitter, Guatemala doesn’t exactly have much recent experience handling asylum claims.

The deal, if it goes into effect, would be one of Trump’s two most important efforts to undermine the asylum system. The other is the Remain in Mexico program, which is forcing thousands of asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are pending in US immigration courts. Combined, the two policies could block the vast majority of asylum seekers who come to the southern border from entering the United States. People who fly or travel by sea to the United States would still be eligible to apply for asylum. (The problem for asylum seekers, particularly those who aren’t wealthy, is that it is often impossible to get a visa to fly to the United States, which is why people turn to smugglers instead.)

McAleenan said that by requiring people to apply for asylum in Guatemala, the agreement would “increase the integrity of the [asylum] process, keep vulnerable families that are really economic migrants out of the hands of smugglers, and allow us to reach those with asylum claims more expeditiously.”

Morales was supposed to come to the White House on July 15 to sign a safe third country agreement, but the trip was canceled at the last minute in response to the Constitutional Court decision. Trump responded to the Guatemalan court decision this week by threatening to impose tariffs on Guatemala and ban Guatemalans from entering the United States. 

Like Trump, Morales is a former television personality who ran for president in 2015 as a political outsider. Since then, Morales has worked aggressively to undermine a renowned UN-backed anti-corruption commission that has targeted members of his family. His administration also has gone out of its way to please Trump, moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem immediately after the United States did. The Trump administration has been largely silent about Morales’ efforts to undermine the rule of law in Guatemala.

[Mother Jones]

Trump Attacks Congresswomen in Unhinged Presser: ‘They Hate Our Country’ With a Passion, ‘They Hate Jews’

In his first public comments since he leveled attacks on Democratic congresswomen that many saw as racist, President Donald Trump defended his tweets in a press conference on the south lawn of the White House.

Trump took questions in a contentious back-and-forth from the press and continued to hit Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for “hating Israel” and three other freshman congresswomen, namely Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Rashida Tlaiband Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the last of which he blamed for Amazon not building a East Coast headquarters in Queens, New York.

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump wrote of the congresswomen in a Twitter thread Sunday morning.

“They are very unhappy,” Trump told reporters on Monday. “I’m watching them, all they do is complain. All I’m saying, if they want to leave, they can leave.”

He then turned his focus of derision on Rep. Omar, referring to her as “somebody that comes from Somalia.” He continued that Omar is “never happy, says horrible things about Israel, hates Israel, hates Jews.”

“I look at the one, I look at Omar,” Trump said. “I don’t know, I never met her. I hear the way she talks about Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has killed many Americans.”

He finished, “They can leave, and you know what? I’m sure there will be many people that want to miss them.”

Trump spoke at length, ultimately claiming that these four congresswomen, “hate our country … with a passion” before oddly lamenting how the “Democrat party” would be making a big political mistake by getting behind these four individuals.

[Mediaite]

Reality

Trump lied about Omar’s Al Qaeda comments.

Trump admin dramatically limits asylum claims by Central Americans

The Trump administration on Monday moved to dramatically limit the ability of Central American migrants to claim asylum if they enter the United States by land through Mexico, the latest attempt by the White House to limit immigration and toughen the US asylum process amid overcrowded conditionsat border facilities.The rule from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security would prohibit migrants who have resided or “transited en route” in a third country from seeking asylum in the US, therefore barring migrants traveling through Mexico from being able to claim asylum and as a result, drastically limit who’s eligible for asylum. Over recent months, there’s been a dramatic spike in apprehensions at the US-Mexico border. The majority of migrants are from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They’ve had to travel through Mexico to reach the border and upon arriving in the US, some have turned themselves into the US Border Patrol and claimed asylum.The regulation addresses that group of migrants.

“Until Congress can act, this interim rule will help reduce a major ‘pull’ factor driving irregular migration to the United States,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan in a statement. It will allow the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to “more quickly and efficiently process cases originating from the southern border, leading to fewer individuals transiting through Mexico on a dangerous journey.”There are some exceptions: an asylum seeker whose claim was denied after applying for protection in a country, if someone has been trafficked, and if someone transited through a country that did not sign one of the major international treaties on refugees. The rule would take effect immediately but is certain to face legal challenges. Under US law, migrants are allowed to claim asylum once on US soil. There’s a caveat, however, for those who come through safe third countries, meaning countries that the US has entered into an agreement with. The United Nations’ refugee agency defines “safe country,” in part, as “being countries in which refugees can enjoy asylum without any danger.”But Trump’s own statements on Mexico could undercut that definition. In tweets, the President has called Mexico “one of the most dangerous country’s in the world” and claimed that the murder rate in the country has increased.”The Coyotes and Drug Cartels are in total control of the Mexico side of the Southern Border. They have labs nearby where they make drugs to sell into the U.S. Mexico, one of the most dangerous country’s in the world, must eradicate this problem now. Also, stop the MARCH to U.S.” Trump tweeted in April.

[CNN]

Trump Defends Migrant Detention Centers: ‘They’re Really Well Run’

President Donald Trump defended the quality of life at migrant detention centers on Friday when asked about the negative conditions reported from several of them throughout the week.

Speaking with the White House press pool, Trump faced inquiries about how Democratic lawmakersnews reports, and the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s review have painted a horrific picture of the living conditions at detainment centers. Trump said that the centers “are run beautifully.”

“They’re clean, they’re good, they do a great job” Trump said. “They’re crowded because the Democrats will not give us any relief from these loopholes. We have loopholes that are so bad. We have asylum that’s so bad. So these places are — many of them, not all of them – but many of them are incredible. They’re really well run.”

Trump went on to defend Border Patrol on the grounds that they weren’t trained to be caretakers, and he dismissed negative reports about their facilities as he continued to say “they’re doing a phenomenal job.”

“I think they do great with those facilities. You know how it can be taken care of? Number one, tell them not to come,” Trump said. “I think that the Border Patrol has been treated very, very badly by certain members of Congress. For the most part, they’re very respected by Congress, but certain members of Congress say very bad things and lie and exaggerate.”

[Mediaite]

Trump says he’s considering executive order to force census question

Donald Trump told reporters he is “thinking of” issuing an executive order to force including a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census, according to the White House pool.

Four days ago, the department that oversees the Census, the Commerce department, said it was printing Census forms without the question.

Chaos ensued.

The president said reports that this was happening were fake – even though the Commerce secretary said it was happening – and then a Justice department lawyer had to defend the president’s comment without anyone in the department apparently being briefed on it.

The judge presiding over the case of whether its legal to include a citizenship question in the Census is not happy about how things are playing out.

On Wednesday, just before the Fourth of July holiday, federal district court judge George Hazel convened a call with the attorneys and said:

If you were Facebook and an attorney for Facebook told me one thing, and then I read a press release from Mark Zuckerberg telling me something else, I would be demanding that Mark Zuckerberg appear in court with you the next time, because I would be saying I don’t think you speak for your client anymore.

[The Guardian]

Reality

This would be a constitutional crisis in two ways, first going around the courts, and second the power of the census is given to Congress in Article I while the presidential powers are spelled out in Article II. Trump has no constitutional authority over the census.

Trump says immigrants ‘unhappy’ with detention centers should stay home

President Donald Trump, facing renewed criticism from Democrats and activists over his handling of a migrant crisis on the U.S.- Mexico border, said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that immigrants unhappy with conditions at detention centers should be told “not to come.” 

Democratic lawmakers and civil rights activists who have visited migrant detention centers along the border in recent days have described nightmarish conditions marked by overcrowding and inadequate access to food, water and other basic needs.

The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general on Tuesday published graphic photos of migrant-holding centers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley crammed with twice as many people as they were meant to hold.

“If Illegal Immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centers, just tell them not to come. All problems solved!” Trump said on Twitter.

The Republican president has made cracking down on illegal immigration a key part of his first-term agenda after campaigning on the issue ahead of the 2016 election.

“Our Border Patrol people are not hospital workers, doctors or nurses,” Trump wrote earlier on Twitter. “Great job by Border Patrol, above and beyond. Many of these illegals (sic) aliens are living far better now than where they … came from, and in far safer conditions.”

Criticism of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency grew after reports this week that current and former agents had posted offensive anti-immigrant comments and targeted lawmakers on a private Facebook group.

Acting Department of Homeland Security chief Kevin McAleenan on Wednesday ordered an investigation, calling the comments “disturbing.” McAleenan said any employee who had “compromised the public’s trust in our law enforcement mission” would be held accountable.

The Facebook posts, first reported by ProPublica, included jokes about immigrants dying and sexually explicit content about U.S. Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who criticized the detention facilities after a tour this week.

[Reuters]

Trump dismisses furor over conditions for migrants

President Trump on Wednesday came to the defense of border agents and scoffed at Democratic lawmakers’ furor after an internal watchdog report found detained migrants are living in dismal conditions in federal detention facilities.

In a series of tweets, Trump credited Border Patrol with doing a “great job” and going “above and beyond.” He blamed Democrats and existing immigration laws for ongoing issues at the border.

He further claimed that many immigrants detained in the overcrowded facilities are “living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions.”

“No matter how good things actually look, even if perfect, the Democrat visitors will act shocked & aghast at how terrible things are. Just Pols,” Trump tweeted. “If they really want to fix them, change the Immigration Laws and Loopholes. So easy to do!”

report released earlier Wednesday from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General described squalid and overcrowded conditions at detention centers, while reporting little progress in recent months by the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection, its parent agency.

The report described standing room only cells for migrants, who were not fed hot meals or given showers. The centers also continue to hold children, some of whom are showing up at the border unattended.

Democrats expressed outrage over the treatment of migrants after a group of lawmakers traveled to the border earlier this week to tour one of the holding centers in Clint, Texas.

A ProPublica investigation published Mondayprovoked additional fury when it detailed a Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents that was filled with derogatory posts targeting migrants and Democratic lawmakers.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Wednesday he has ordered an investigation into reports of the vulgar messages.

[The Hill]

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]

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