Trump suggested shooting Hispanic migrants in the legs

President Trump suggested having migrants shot in their legs during a March meeting with White House advisers in the Oval Office, The New York Times reported Tuesday. 

The Times’ report is based on interviews with more than a dozen White House administration officials involved in the events the week of the meeting. The article is adapted from a forthcoming book by reporters Mike Shear and Julie Hirschfield Davis, titled “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.” It will be published Oct. 8. 

The aides told the Times Trump suggested to advisors during the Oval Office meeting that they should shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. 

The suggestion came after Trump had publicly suggested shooting migrants if they threw rocks, the Times reports. Trump had made the suggestion about shooting migrants that threw rocks during a speech in November

Officials who spoke to the Times also recall Trump often suggesting fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators. 

Trump also “wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh,” the Times reports. 

When advisors told Trump some of his suggestions were not allowed, he reportedly became frustrated. 

“You are making me look like an idiot!” Trump shouted, according to the Times, citing multiple officials in the room’s description. “I ran on this. It’s my issue.”

The meeting was set for 30-minutes and the Times reports it lasted more than an hour. Officials in the room included then Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Customs and Border Protection Chief Kevin McAleenan, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Steven Miller, according to the Times. 

A White House spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

[The Hill]

Trump admin delays funds for human-trafficking victims that would help non-citizens

 The Trump administration abruptly delayed a $13.5 million grant to house human trafficking victims just five days after saying that “non-citizens” could be served by the program.

The program’s funds, which were approved two years ago by multiple federal agencies, are now in limbo with no indication when money will be distributed and no public explanation for the change.

The money was intended to support housing and supportive services for victims of sex and labor trafficking, including immediate emergency shelter and short-term housing of up to 24 months, according to the notice of funding availability. The money could also be used for providing trafficking victims with furniture, child care services, trauma therapy, cell phones and household items.

The grants were to be dispersed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in collaboration with the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services. HUD hosted a webinar on August 22 through the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness for organizations interested in applying for the money, which the council described on August 13 as an “unprecedented partnership” between the DOJ and HUD.

On September 4, the funding announcement was updated to “allow recipients [of the funds] to serve non-citizens,” including lawful permanent residents and foreign national victims, the funding notice said.

Five days later, the grant solicitation was cancelled, according to the federal government’s grants.gov website, which currently states: “This Funding Opportunity has been CANCELLED and is NO longer accepting applications.”

A spokesperson for the Justice Department told NBC News the program has been “postponed,” not cancelled and that a separate HUD website describing the grant as “cancelled” is a mistake. DOJ has not explained why, but the agency asked for the funds back from HUD and the spokesperson says DOJ will now run the program itself.

HUD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sent a letter to HUD and DOJ on Friday criticizing the administration for abruptly stopping the grant and asked the agencies to explain what had happened. “Survivors of trafficking must have access to safe and affordable housing,” wrote Brown, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. “A decision to postpone these housing and services grants into oblivion will be a decision to waste anti-trafficking resources already on the table.”

[NBC News]

Trump Attacks Puerto Rico Ahead of the Storm—When the Island Is More Vulnerable Than Ever

Hurricane Dorian is set to make landfall today in Puerto Rico, with the potential of winds up to about 75 mph and heavy rains. The storm will strike only weeks before the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which tore the island apart in September 2017. Even though Zoé Laboy, the governor’s chief of staff, told reporters on Sunday that “Puerto Rico is ready,” recovery takes a long time—and even longer given the political and fiscal challenges the island has faced both internally and from the Trump administration.

“The recovery process from disasters, particularly from a catastrophic event like Maria, is measured in years, in decades,” says Samantha Montano, an emergency management and disaster science expert at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. “When you’re looking at a community already undergoing a recovery process, you’re in a more vulnerable state.”

Both during and after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, the island’s devastation and recovery dominated the headlines. Maria left nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans dead, and damage to the electrical grid meant that almost half a million residents were without power for more than four months. Puerto Rico’s electrical grid had already been in need of an upgrade before the storm, and it took 11 months before the island regained power. An estimated $95 billion in damages burdened a colony already in a decade-long economic slump, unable to contend with $120 billion in outstanding debts and obligations. Economic conditions and the storm caused the island to lose roughly 4 percent of its population, with many young people and families moving to Florida—a dynamic that has further slowed the recovery.

On Tuesday, President Trump falsely claimed on Twitter that Congress granted Puerto Rico $92 billion in aid. According to FEMA’s data on disaster funding, Congress has allocated a total of almost $42.7 billion, less than half of the sum Trump claimed, to the Puerto Rican government for disaster assistance, flood control, and other services related to recovery. Of the amount Congress has approved for Puerto Rico, less than $14 billion has been disbursed to the island so far. In 2017, Trump visited the island in the aftermath of Maria and memorablytossed paper towels to Puerto Ricans in an aid distribution center before cutting short his perfunctory visit to the United States territory.

“Because of federal and local neglect, Puerto Rico is still not prepared for another natural disaster,” says José Caraballo-Cueto of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Puerto Rico. “Two years after Maria, thousands of residents are without roofs, the electrical grid is more or less in the same, weak condition, and many roads and bridges in the countryside were not completely restored.” Caraballo-Cueto, who is also the former president of the Puerto Rico Economists Association, says that instead of establishing a systematic approach to using the funds for recovery, the two entities responsible for distributing the money—the local government and the unelected, federally appointed fiscal control board that makes decisions about how Puerto Rico can spend money—”prefer to depend almost exclusively on NGOs and on the federal government to recover.” 

Although Dorian likely won’t hit the island with a force comparable to Maria’s Category 4 strength, with its 155 mile an hour winds and torrential rain that stalled over the island, for the thousands who remain without roofs, “it doesn’t matter how much it rains, it’s a big issue,” says Jenniffer Santos-Hernández, an expert in emergency management at the University of Puerto Rico’s Centro de Investigaciones Sociales. Santos-Hernández acknowledges that even though the government and some communities have more resources than they did during and after Maria, “the way that FEMA and the emergency management agency in Puerto Rico collaborate is not necessarily the best, because it’s very politicized.” Emergency management in Puerto Rico is “not really a professional career, but a political appointment.” Given Puerto Rico’s colonial status, the “lack of trust among the actors…becomes amplified.”

Puerto Rico’s recent political turmoil further complicates the issue of both preparedness and recovery, should the storm bring greater damage to the island’s already compromised infrastructure. On July 24, less than two weeks after the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo published889 pages of a chat group featuring misogynistic and homophobic language and possible evidence of corruption among the governor and 11 of his associates, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned. On his way out of office, he appointed Pedro Pierluisi as secretary of state—an attempt to ensure that Pierluisi would succeed him as governor—only for a court to rule five days later that the process had been unconstitutional, disqualifying Pierluisi from service. Wanda Vázquez Garced, the island’s secretary of justice, who has faced allegations that she didn’t fully investigate issues around aid distribution after Hurricane Maria, was sworn in as governor on August 7.

The political upheaval caused FEMA to require extra documentation for reimbursement, applicant information, and work plans in Puerto Rico. This policy had been enacted in the fall of 2017 after Hurricane Maria but was eventually rescinded after the government of Puerto Rico established internal controls for the spending. The day after Rosselló’s resignation, FEMA reinstated the policy citing “the ongoing leadership changes within the Puerto Rican government, combined with continued concern over Puerto Rico’s history of fiscal irregularities and mismanagement.”

How that decision would potentially affect funding or additional support should Dorian cause major damage to the island is unclear. But in a response to a March 2019 General Accountability Office review of disaster funding in Puerto Rico, the island’s government said the policy “places an undue burden” on residents applying for federal aid and “significantly delays” reimbursement. The government’s letter asserted, “FEMA has never implemented such a [system] for any previous disaster in the nation.” FEMA did not respond to a request for clarification of this policy.  

A punitive federal response to Puerto Rico’s internal political problems was not restricted to FEMA. The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on August 2 that roughly $9 billion in disaster mitigation funds earmarked for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands would be separated from overall disaster mitigation funding for nine other states. Before the HUD decision, funding for the states and the territories was going to be disbursed together, but the new decision allowed HUD to give money to the states while delaying money for the territories. In a statement, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, “Recovery efforts in jurisdictions prepared to do their part should not be held back due to alleged corruption, fiscal irregularities and fiscal mismanagement occurring in Puerto Rico.” He cited the July 10 arrest and indictment of Julia Keleher, the island’s former education secretary, on charges of improperly steering sizable contracts to associates in 2017.

[Mother Jones]

Trump whines about paying for disaster relief in Puerto Rico as another storm barrels down on US territory

President Donald Trump complained — again — about disaster relief aid for Puerto Rico for hurricane relief as another storm approached.

The president has repeatedly and falsely claimed that Congress had allocated $92 billion of aid money to the U.S. territory for relief aid for 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which inflicted an estimated $90 billion in damage.

In fact, the island was allocated $42.5 billion but actually received only a fraction while the bulk of the aid has remained in Washington as part of a bureaucratic approval process.

The president tweeted out another complaint about the spending as Tropical Storm Dorian approached Puerto Rico.

[Raw Story]

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.

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