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]

Former DHS officials blocked Trump plan to arrest thousands of migrants before being ousted

Former leaders at the Department of Homeland Security, including then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, pushed back on a White House plan for mass arrests of migrants shortly before their ouster, according to The Washington Post.

The Trump administration had planned to arrest thousands of parents and children in 10 major U.S. cities to deter further migrants, the Post reported, citing seven current and former DHS officials. The plan involved fast-tracking immigration court cases and expanding the government’s authority to deport migrants who did not show for their hearings. Arrests of the no-shows would involve coordinated raids of the homes and neighborhoods of parents with children, according to the Post.

Nielsen and then-acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Ronald Vitiello put a stop to the plan, citing lack of preparation by ICE personnel and public relations concerns, according to the Post.

“There was concern that it was being hastily put together, would be ineffective, and might actually backfire by misdirecting resources away from critical border emergency response operations,” one DHS official told the Post.

Major boosters of the plan within the administration included senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Matthew Albence. The plan, which is reportedly still under consideration, incorporated cities including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, according to the Post.

The two officials’ pushback was a major factor in their ouster, according to the Post, citing administration officials. When Trump announced the withdrawal of Vitiello’s nomination as ICE director in April, he expressed a desire to go in a “tougher” direction without further elaborating.

“Both he and Nielsen instinctively thought it was bad policy and that the proposal was less than half-baked,” a DHS official told the Post.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

[The Hill]

Trump piles on Rep. Tlaib over Holocaust comments

President Trump on Monday joined Republicans blasting Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., for comments the Democratic congresswoman made about the Holocaust to Yahoo News’ podcast “Skullduggery.”

“Democrat Rep. Tlaib is being slammed for her horrible and highly insensitive statement on the Holocaust,” Trump tweeted. “She obviously has tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. Can you imagine what would happen if I ever said what she said, and says?”

In her “Skullduggery” interview Friday, Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, called Trump “a crooked CEO.” In a different part of the interview, she discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role Palestinians played in helping provide a “safe haven” for Jews following the Holocaust.

“There’s a kind of a calming feeling, I always tell folks, when I think of the Holocaust and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors — Palestinians — who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence, in many ways, have been wiped out, and some people’s passports,” Tlaib said. “And just all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time. And I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that, right, in many ways. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away, right, and it was forced on them.”

Tlaib did not specify what her ancestors did to help Jewish refugees fleeing Europe during and after the Holocaust. The grand mufti of Jerusalem, the Islamic cleric overseeing the Muslim holy sites in the city, incited riots against Jews immigrating to Palestine and allied himself with Hitler during World War II. The Arab states surrounding Israel opposed its creation as a Jewish state in 1948 and launched a war against it.

Conservative critics quickly seized on Tlaib’s comments, interpreting them to imply that she approved of the Holocaust, something her spokesman said was not what she meant.

“Rashida Tlaib says thinking of the Holocaust provides her a ‘calming feeling,’ shockingly claims Palestinians created ‘safe haven’ for Jews,” read the headline in the Washington Examiner.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., tweeted a link to the Examiner story and called on House Democratic leadership to “take action” against Tlaib.

Tlaib’s spokesman, Denzel McCampbell, issued a statement accusing Cheney, Republican leaders and “right-wing extremists” of “spreading outright lies to incite hate.”

“Liz Cheney should be ashamed of herself for using the tragedy of the Holocaust in a transparent attempt to score political points,” McCampbell wrote. “Her behavior cheapens our public discourse and is an insult to the Jewish community and the millions of Americans who stand opposed to the hatred being spread by Donald Trump’s Republican Party.”

McCampbell then attempted to clarify Tlaib’s remarks.

“Rep. Tlaib said thinking about this effort to provide a safe haven for people fleeing persecution brought calm to Rep. Tlaib because her ancestors were involved in helping those tragically impacted by the Holocaust. The Congresswoman did not in any way praise the Holocaust, nor did she say the Holocaust itself brought a calming feeling to her. In fact, she repeatedly called the Holocaust a tragedy and a horrific persecution of Jewish people.”

He added: “This behavior by a bankrupt Republican leadership is dangerous and only increases hateful rhetoric from those who want to cause harm to oppressed people.”

The attacks from Republicans on Tlaib are reminiscent of those against another freshman Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., over her criticism of Israel. Both Tlaib and Omar were the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

[Yahoo News]

Trump Twitter rages at ‘BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Bill” that he claims will hurt farmers

President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Capitol Hill Republicans to vote against a bill proving disaster assistance.

The commander-in-chief referred to the legislation as a “BAD DEMOCRAT” bill, writing in all capital letters.

Trump claimed the bill would harm states, farmers, and border security.

“We want to do much better than this. All sides keep working and send a good bill for immediate signing,” Trump demanded.

[Raw Story]

Reality

The major sticking point for Trump is the additional funding Democrats included to help Puerto Rico rebuild after Hurricane Maria severely damaged the island and killed 3,000 people. It amounts to more than $3 billion, including $600 million for nutrition assistance.

Trump has pushed back against giving more money to Puerto Rico, incorrectly stating that the federal government has already allocated $91 billion to help Puerto Rico. It’s actually promised about half of that amount and spent only $11 billion.

‘Shoot them!’: Trump laughs off a supporter’s demand for violence against migrants

A roar rose up from the crowd of thousands of Trump supporters in Panama City Beach on Wednesday night, as President Trump noted yet again that Border Patrol agents can’t use weapons to deter migrants. “How do you stop these people?” he asked.

“Shoot them!” someone yelled from the crowd, according to reporters on the scene and attendees.

The audience cheered. Supporters seated behind Trump and clad in white baseball caps bearing the letters “USA” laughed and applauded.

“That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement,” Trump replied, smiling and shaking his head. “Only in the Panhandle.”

Though Trump didn’t explicitly endorse the suggestion to shoot migrants, his joking response raised concerns that he was tacitly encouraging extrajudicial killings and brutality against asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. The president has long been accused of endorsing acts of violence through his incendiary rhetoric and allusions to the potential for violence at his rallies, a charge that members of his administration deny.

Reached for comment by The Washington Post on Trump’s reaction at the Florida rally, Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, pointed to a response he had given to many critics on Twitter. The president, he noted in his tweet, had specifically said that Border Patrol wouldn’t use firearms to stop migrants from entering the country.

The incendiary remark from the crowd came as Trump, standing before roughly 7,000 people who had gathered at an outdoor amphitheater in the hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast town, railed against what he described as an “invasion” of migrants attempting to enter the United States. Often, he claimed, only “two or three” border agents will contend with the arrival of “hundreds and hundreds of people.”

“And don’t forget, we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons,” Trump said of the border agents. “We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?”

The fans seated directly behind Trump wore serious, perturbed frowns, which were quickly replaced by broad grins after the shouted suggestion that the solution involved firearms. Uproarious laughter rippled across the room as audience members whistled and offered a round of applause.

To critics, Trump’s failure to outright condemn the idea of shooting migrants amounted to a “tacit endorsement” of the sentiment. Many pointed out that such rhetoric was especially concerning in light of the fact that an armed militia group, the United Constitutional Patriots, had been searching the borderlands for undocumented migrants and detaining them against their will.

Last month, after the group’s leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, was arrested on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, the FBI said that the 69-year-old claimed militia members were training to assassinate former president Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and prominent Democratic donor George Soros.

One member of that militia had also questioned why the group wasn’t killing migrants, according to a police report first obtained by left-leaning news outlet The Young Turks.

[Washington Post]

Media

Trump continues to mislead on immigration and Puerto Rico disaster funding

During his rally in Florida Wednesday night, President Donald Trump hit on a lot of familiar themes — the strong economy, building the wall, defeating ISIS and the 2020 election.

Among his “greatest hits,” Trump also repeated several false claims he’s made in the past.

First, the President claimed that Puerto Rico had received $91 billion after being hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, adding that was the highest amount ever given to “anybody” for disaster relief.

Facts first: This is false. Not only has Puerto Rico not received $91 billion, even if it had that figure would still fall below the amount of federal money allocated to recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. In addition, Trump has opposed efforts in Congress to increase disaster relief funding, in part because some of the money would go to Puerto Rico.

So far, roughly $42 billion in federal disaster relief funding has been allocated to Puerto Rico. Only about a quarter of that ($12 billion) has actually been spent.

The $91 billion Trump cites is based on estimated future spending. As administration officials told the Washington Post, the additional $50 billion comes from an “internal Office of Management and Budget estimate of the potential liabilities over the life of the disaster that would need to be committed under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988.”

In other words, the $91 billion is simply an estimate of what FEMA would have to spend to rebuild Puerto Rico, not what’s been allocated. This all comes as Congress battles over $17 billion in additional disaster fund relief, which includes funds for Puerto Rico.

In remarks Thursday afternoon, Trump repeated his $91 billion claims, again stating that Puerto Rico has gotten more money than it actually has.

The theoretical $91 billion is still less than the $114.5 billion the federal government spent on recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, causing an estimated $160 billion in economic damage.

[CNN]

Trump pardons ex-soldier convicted of killing Iraqi prisoner

President Trump on Monday signed an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon, to a former Army first lieutenant convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner.

The White House released a statement announcing Trump’s decision to pardon Michael Behenna, who was sentenced in 2009 to 15 years for shooting and killing Ali Mansur Mohamed. The move comes after repeated requests from Oklahoma’s attorney general for Trump to pardon Behenna. 

“Mr. Behenna’s case has attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public,” the White House said, noting that more than two dozen generals and admirals as well as numerous Oklahoma officials have expressed support for Behenna, who hails from the state. The statement added that Behenna has been “a model prisoner.”

“In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency,” the statement read.

Prosecutors argued Behenna shot and killed Mansur, an alleged al Qaeda operative, in the desert in 2008 in retaliation for an improvised explosive device (IED) attack. Mansur had previously been ordered released because of a lack of evidence of his connection to the terrorist group, and Behenna reportedly killed him while returning him to his hometown after attempting to question him about the IED attack.

Behenna was paroled in 2014 and was to remain on parole until 2024 prior to the pardon. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) recently petitioned the Trump administration to pardon the Oklahoma native, writing to Attorney General William Barr in April that Behenna was convicted because of improper jury instructions and because prosecutors did not turn over evidence bolstering his claim of self-defense. Hunter had previously petitioned for the pardon in February 2018.

“I commend President Trump’s decision to grant a full pardon for Mr. Behenna,” Hunter said in a statement Monday evening. “Mr. Behenna served his country with distinction, honor and sacrifice. He has admitted to his mistakes, has learned from them and deserves to move on from this incident without living under its cloud for the rest of his life.”

“My hope is that Michael and the rest of his family can rest easy this evening knowing they can put this tragic situation behind them.”

[The Hill]

Trump says US is sending immigrants to sanctuary cities: ‘That was my sick idea’

President Trump said late Saturday that the U.S. is already sending immigrants to sanctuary cities and that it was his “sick idea.” 

“Last month alone, 100,000 illegal immigrants arrived at our borders, placing a massive strain on communities and schools and hospitals and public resources like nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said during a rally in Green Bay, Wis. “Now we’re sending many of them to sanctuary cities. Thank you very much. They’re not too happy about it. I’m proud to tell you that was actually my sick idea.”

“What did they say? ‘We want them,'” Trump continued. “I said we’ll give em to you.”

The comments came just a day after Trump said in a speech to the National Rifle Association that the U.S. was forced to release migrants and that it gave sanctuary cities “as many as they can handle,” according to CNN

The Washington Post first reportedearlier this month that Trump administration officials had floated the idea to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The administration had reportedly unsuccessfully tried to persuade DHS to release thousands of detainees in small and midsize cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. 

The move was reportedly meant to put pressure on Democratic lawmakers. 

Trump said in a tweet on April 12 that his administration was actively considering the move. 

“The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities,” he wrote in a separate tweet on April 13. “We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known or its poor management & high taxes!”

DHS has made no formal announcement related to sending migrants to sanctuary cities or Trump’s statement. 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[The Hill]

Trump ignores black #1 NFL pick to congratulate white player with history of racist tweets

In his first tweet on Saturday morning, President Donald Trump ignored the first player picked in the NFL draft, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, who is black, to praise the number two pick — a white player with a history of racist tweets.

In his tweet, Trump skipped over the Heisman Trophy winner to celebrate Ohio State’s Nick Bosa — who missed most of the 2018 season — for being picked second.

“Congratulations to Nick Bosa on being picked number two in the NFL Draft. You will be a great player for years to come, maybe one of the best. Big Talent! San Francisco will embrace you but most importantly, always stay true to yourself. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” he tweeted.

According to to the San Franciso Chronicle,”Bosa recently deleted tweets in which he called Colin Kaepernick a ‘clown,’ referred to Beyonce’s music as ‘complete trash’ and called ‘Black Panther’ the worst Marvel movie. On Thursday, the website Blacksportsonline posted threads showing Bosa following and liking accounts that feature white nationalist posts. The twitter feed @rzstprogramming showed Bosa retweeted a tweet referring to ‘crappernick.’”

[Raw Story]

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