All but one Senate appropriator on Wednesday voted to approve a $4.59 billion emergency funding measure designed to address the humanitarian situation at the U.S. southern border, a rare bipartisan move by a congressional panel on a topic that typically sparks partisan rancor.
But House Democrats expressed “concerns” — and it was also unclear whether President Donald Trump would accept the measure because of restrictions on how the money can be used.
The Senate move comes at a critical time amid a surge of undocumented migrants at the border, particularly unaccompanied children, putting a strain on resources, specifically for the agency — the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) — in charge of housing those children. The agency has warned it will run out of funding by month’s end.
The deal struck by senators gives $1.2 billion to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to relieve the overcrowding at detention facilities and for improving migrant care.
(Reporting by ABC News)
Second US Appeals Court Rules Trump Cannot End Protections For Dreamers
WILMINGTON, Del (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday that President Donald Trump cannot end a program that shielded from deportation immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, the second time the administration has lost an appeal on the issue.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said in its ruling that the 2017 rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program violated administrative law because the policy change was not adequately explained.
The ruling reversed a decision by a federal court in Maryland, and sent the case back for further proceedings.
The Department of Justice declined to comment.
Republican Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, began DACA in 2012. It shielded a group of immigrants known as “Dreamers” and has given them work permits but not a path to citizenship. About 800,000 people, mostly Hispanics, have received DACA protection.
Trump has taken a stern stance against illegal immigration. His administration announced plans in September 2017 to phase out DACA, arguing that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he bypassed Congress and created the program.
Rights groups, states and individuals filed numerous lawsuits against the Trump administration over the decision to end the program. A series of lower courts have generally ruled against the government, leaving DACA in place for now.
The appeals court in Virginia found by a 2-1 decision that the rescission of DACA was arbitrary and capricious and violated administrative law.
Judge Robert King, appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, and Judge Albert Diaz, appointed by Obama, formed the majority. Judge Julius Richardson, who was appointed by Trump, dissented.
A similar decision was reached by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in November, which upheld a lower court injunction against ending the program.
The Supreme Court currently has three Trump administration appeals pending that seek to revive the administration’s DACA proposal but the justices have so far delayed acting on them. It is likely the conservative-leaning court will ultimately have the final say on the issue.
On Thursday, Trump unveiled a proposed overhaul of the U.S. immigration system to favor educated English speakers over people with family ties to Americans, a plan he will push in his 2020 re-election campaign.
But the plan did not include protections for ‘Dreamers,’ a sticking point for Democratic lawmakers who say a permanent fix for this group of immigrants must be part of any proposed policy changes.
Trump Unveils Plan To Overhaul US Legal Immigration System
President Trump unveiled a new immigration plan Thursday to move U.S. immigration toward a “merit-based system” that prioritizes high-skilled workers over those with family already in the country.
The plan, which does not address the fate of young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, stands little chance of advancing in Congress, where lawmakers of both parties have greeted it with skepticism.
“Today we are presenting a clear contrast,” Trump said in a speech at the White House’s Rose Garden. “Democrats are proposing open borders, lower wages and, frankly, lawless chaos. We are proposing an immigration plan that puts the jobs, wages and safety of American workers first. Our proposal is pro-American, pro-immigrant and pro-worker. It’s just common sense.”
Providing protections from deportations for such young immigrants, known as “dreamers,” has been a leading priority for Democrats since Trump sought to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said earlier Thursday that the plan does not include those protections because the issue is too divisive.
“Every single time we have put forward or anyone else has put forward any type of immigration plan and it’s included DACA, it’s failed. It’s a divisive thing,” Sanders told reporters at the White House, adding that the issue was “left out on purpose.”
Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, who helped develop the plan, previewed it with other Trump aides in private briefings for lawmakers over the past week. But there appears to be no clear path toward advancing the plan through Congress.
White House aides emphasized that Trump is enthusiastically on board with an effort to demonstrate that he endorses legal immigration to help U.S. companies even as he has railed against other groups, including immigrant families seeking asylum and refugees.
The DACA program, created by President Barack Obama through executive action in 2012, has provided renewable two-year work permits to more than 800,000 immigrants who arrived as children.
Trump moved to terminate the program in fall 2017, calling it unconstitutional, but federal courts have enjoined the administration from stripping the protections from those already enrolled, and the case could come before the Supreme Court in the next term. Trump has said he hopes the court permits him to end DACA, which he believes would give him more leverage to negotiate a broader immigration overhaul with Democrats.
House Democrats have put forward a bill that would offer a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, as well as for immigrants who are living in the United States under temporary protected status, which Trump has also sought to end.
Speaking to reporters, Sanders said protections offered through the DACA program are “certainly something to discuss and look at and address.”
“But this plan is focused on a different part of fixing the immigration system, and we’d like for people to not reject it before they even sit down and really learn about it,” she said.
Sanders also sought to put Democrats on the defensive ahead of the formal release of Trump’s plan, claiming there is “nothing in there that Democrats shouldn’t be for.”
“We want to move to this merit-based system,” she said during an interview on Fox News. “Democrats right now, unless they get on board this, the only thing they’ve said they want is open borders. I think that is a terrible thing for our country, and I think it’s a terrible message for them going into 2020. I think it would be wonderful to watch them get on board with something that helps secure our border.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) panned Trump’s plan before its formal release.
“Truth be told, the reported White House plan isn’t a serious attempt at immigration reform,” he said during remarks on the Senate floor. “If anything, it’s a political document that is anti-immigration reform. It repackages the same partisan, radical, anti-immigrant policies that the administration has pushed for the two years — all of which have struggled to earn even a simple majority in the Senate let alone 60 votes.”
At a news conference Thursday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that she favors bipartisan “comprehensive” reform and that her chamber plans to act on several fronts, including protections for dreamers.
Pelosi said she had yet to be briefed on Trump’s plan but took issue with the use of the term “merit.”
“It is really a condescending word,” she said. “Are they saying family is without merit?”
Pelosi also argued that other Trump administration actions on immigration have contributed to what she called a “humanitarian crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“When you take children out of the arms of their parents, when you separate families, when you do what the administration has done at the border, you are making matters worse,” the speaker said.
Trump’s proposal won’t advance through Congress without buy-in from Democrats and is instead designed more as a messaging document from the White House that details what immigration ideas Trump can promote beyond his hard-line enforcement tactics.
Senior White House officials briefed Republican congressional aides on the broad contours of the administration’s new policy Thursday morning — stressing that the plan would still prioritize immediate families while doling out more generous amounts of green cards based on an immigrant’s skills and educational background.
About 1 million immigrants are granted green cards every year. Unlike with previous White House proposals, the administration took pains to ensure that the net number of green cards — which grant foreigners legal permanent residency in the United States — stayed the same as it is currently so that the overall level of immigration would not be cut.
Under the new system, about 57 percent of green cards would be issued on merit, compared to about 12 percent now, according to White House aides Brooke Rollins and Mercedes Schlapp, who briefed GOP aides on Thursday. About two-thirds of green cards are currently based on family ties, but the new White House proposal would slash that percentage down to about a third, according to an official who attended the briefing.
The plan, White House officials said at the briefing, was primarily to unify Republicans and to show “what we can all be for,” said the official, who requested anonymity to detail a private discussion.
The new system, as White House officials described it, would create a two-step process that begins with a civics test and a background check. Then green card applicants would be evaluated on the new points system.
It would allow applicants to rack up eligibility based on factors such as age, ability to speak English, job offers and educational background.
The White House also asked GOP aides to avoid using the phrase “chain migration” — a term often invoked by the president himself to refer to the process of sponsoring immigrants, particularly parents and siblings, based on familial relations.
There is no finished legislative text, but the White House said it would like all 53 Republican senators to co-sponsor it once it is released in bill form. At one point, Rollins — who works closely with Kushner — said the Department of Homeland Security would get involved in the plan later, which left Hill aides curious to why they hadn’t been previously.
On the issue of dreamers, Schlapp told Republican aides that Trump has repeatedly put forward proposals to resolve the fate of the DACA program and that it was Democrats who have refused to cooperate — although Trump himself demanded restrictions to immigration in exchange that were a nonstarter with most Democrats and some Republicans.
A number of White House aides are skeptical of the plan having any chance of passing and say the president having a Rose Garden speech for immigration is a waste of his time, when he should be traveling to promote trade or working on international affairs.
Kushner’s team has kept the plan “close hold,” one senior White House official said, “which is good, so no one else gets blamed for this.”
Kushner’s team has tried, with mixed results, to build support for the plan.
During a Roosevelt Room briefing with surrogates Wednesday afternoon, Kushner described the new proposal as a “starting point,” according to an attendee, and the president’s son-in-law said the White House was not under any illusions that this would easily get through.
(Reporting by Washington Post)
Trump Renews Threat To Close Mexican Border, Send More Troops
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday again threatened to close part of the southern border and send more “armed soldiers” to defend it if Mexico did not block a new caravan of migrants traveling toward the United States.
“A very big Caravan of over 20,000 people started up through Mexico,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “It has been reduced in size by Mexico but is still coming. Mexico must apprehend the remainder or we will be forced to close that section of the Border & call up the Military.”
Trump also said, without offering details, that Mexican soldiers recently had “pulled guns” on U.S. troops in what he suggested was “a diversionary tactic for drug smugglers.”
“Better not happen again! We are now sending ARMED SOLDIERS to the Border. Mexico is not doing nearly enough in apprehending & returning!” Trump tweeted.
It was not clear what Trump meant by “armed soldiers” since at least some of the troops on the border already are armed. It also was unclear what specific caravan Trump was alluding to.
U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they are expecting a request from the Department of Homeland Security in the coming days for additional troops, although that number is expected to be in the low hundreds. About 5,000 active duty and National Guard troops already are at the border.
The U.S. Defense Department said earlier this month that six Mexican military personnel questioned two U.S. Army soldiers near Clint, Texas, about 30 miles (48 km) southeast of El Paso. The U.S. military said the Americans were in an unmarked car and an inquiry had found that they were in U.S. territory.
Newsweek magazine, citing the military report on the incident, said the U.S. soldiers were briefly held at gunpoint by the Mexicans, who took one American soldier’s gun and put it in the car.
The Mexican troops had believed the U.S. soldiers were south of the border and therefore in Mexico. After a brief discussion, the Mexican troops left the area, a Mexican official said.
The two U.S. soldiers were traveling in an unmarked vehicle, according to a brief statement issued later on Wednesday by the Mexican foreign ministry, which added to the confusion.
Asked about Trump’s tweet at a news conference, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said his administration would investigate the incident Trump mentioned.
“But we’re not going to fight with the U.S. government,” he said. “We are not going to allow ourselves to fall into any provocations.”
Trump has made a tough stance on immigration a cornerstone of his presidency. He called the situation at the southern border a national emergency as a way to get money to build a border wall after Democrats in Congress thwarted traditional means of funding.
Officials arrested or denied entry to more than 100,000 people along the Mexican border in March, more than twice as many as during the same period last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In March, Trump threatened to close the border if the Mexican government did not immediately stem illegal migration, although later he praised Mexico for efforts to stop people from crossing illegally into the United States.
Mexico has returned 15,000 migrants in the past 30 days, a senior government official said on Tuesday, pointing to an uptick in deportations in the face of pressure from Trump to stem the flow of people north.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on Wednesday on the Trump administration’s controversial policy of sending asylum seekers back to Mexican border towns to await their U.S. immigration court hearings.
A lower-court judge ruled against the policy but the 9th Circuit said it could continue while the legal fight continues.
The Trump administration says the policy is one way to reduce the number of asylum seekers being released into the United States for the months or years it can take their deportation cases to be decided. Critics say returning vulnerable migrants to often dangerous cities in Mexico violates U.S. and international laws.
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