“Birth tourism” is Trump’s next immigration target

The Trump administration has a new target on the immigration front — pregnant women visiting from other countries — with plans as early as this week to roll out a new rule cracking down on “birth tourism,” three administration officials told Axios.

Why it matters: Trump has threatened to end birthright citizenship and railed against immigrant “anchor babies.” The new rule would be one of the first tangible steps to test how much legal authority the administration has to prevent foreigners from taking advantage of the 14th Amendment’s protection of citizenship for anyone born in the U.S.

  • “This change is intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” a State Department official told Axios.
  • The regulation is also part of the administration’s broader efforts to intensify the vetting process for visas, according to another senior administration official.

The big picture: “Birth tourists” often come to the U.S. from China, Russia and Nigeria, according to the AP.

  • There’s no official count of babies born to foreign visitors in the U.S., while the immigration restrictionist group Center for Immigration Studies — which has close ties to Trump administration immigration officials — puts estimates at around 33,000 every year.

How the new regulation would work: It would alter the requirements for B visas (or visitor visas), giving State Department officials the authority to deny foreigners the short-term business and tourism visas if they believe the process is being used to facilitate automatic citizenship.

  • It’s unclear yet how the rule would be enforced — whether officials would be directed to consider pregnancy or the country of the woman’s citizenship in determining whether to grant a visa.
  • Consular officers who issue passports and visas “are remarkably skilled at sussing out true versus false claims,” the senior official said.
  • “The underlying practical issue is that very few people who give birth in the U.S. got a visa for that specific purpose. Most people already have visas and come in later,” according to Jeffrey Gorsky, former chief legal adviser in the State Department visa office.

This is but one step in the administration’s plans to make it harder for people from other countries to benefit from birthright citizenship.

  • “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” the senior official said. “Just the legal recognition that this is improper and wrong and not allowed is a significant step forward.”
  • The plans to address the use of B visas for birth tourism were included in the latest version of the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.
  • Immigration experts expect there to be a similar rule for Customs and Border Protection to go along with the State Department’s regulation.

What to watch: Most of Trump’s major immigration moves have been met with lawsuits. If the regulation leaves it to officers’ discretion to ensure that B visas aren’t used for birth tourism, it would be difficult to challenge in court, according to Lynden Melmed, an attorney and former chief counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

  • “State Department officials have all the discretion in the world to deny people visas,” said Sarah Pierce of the Migration Policy Institute. Foreign nationals who are outside the U.S. and have not yet received visas “don’t have a lot of legal standing.”
  • But specific restrictions that could keep out non-birth tourism visitors — such as pregnant women coming to the U.S. for business, etc. — would be legally questionable, according to Melmed and Gorsky.

[Axios]

Trump administration refuses to release all available aid to Puerto Rico despite earthquakes

The Trump administration is refusing to release all available disaster aid to Puerto Rico despite this week’s earthquakes, citing concerns about “corruption” and “financial mismanagement” on the island, the Daily News has learned.

President Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development was supposed to start disbursing $9.7 billion in aid to Puerto Rico in September as part of a congressional allocation to beef up natural disaster readiness following the devastating hurricanes that battered the island in 2017 and killed nearly 3,000 people.

But HUD has to date only released about $1.5 billion of those funds, and a senior agency official said Thursday that the remainder of the relief cash won’t be released anytime soon despite a string of earthquakes that rocked the island this week and left thousands of residents without power.

“Given the Puerto Rican government’s history of financial mismanagement, corruption and other abuses, we must ensure that any HUD assistance provided helps those on the island who need it the most: the people of Puerto Rico,” the HUD official told The News, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal operations.

The official did not give a timeline for when the aid will be released and downplayed the island’s need for more assistance.

“Puerto Rico already has access to $1.5 billion and has so far only spent $5.8 million — less than 1% of those funds,” the official said.

Congressional Democrats were outraged and said the Trump administration is breaking the law by withholding the congressionally approved money.

“The ongoing withholding of funds appropriated by Congress to Puerto Rico is illegal,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at a Thursday press conference.

Queens-Brooklyn Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who grew up in Puerto Rico, said HUD’s own inspector general recently concluded there’s nothing to suggest the island can’t properly manage the aid.

She also said it isn’t HUD’s prerogative to block the funds, as they were approved by Congress.

“The real motivation for withholding these dollars is Donald Trump’s disdain for the people of Puerto Rico and heartless disregard for their suffering,” Velazquez told The News.

Velazquez joined Queens-Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in sending a letter earlier this week to HUD Secretary Ben Carson demanding the outstanding $8.3 billion be released to Puerto Rico immediately, arguing the island needs whatever assistance it can get in the wake of the earthquakes.

Schumer said Carson had not responded as of Thursday and reiterated a call for the administration to end its “counterproductive vendetta” with Puerto Rico.

“As opposed to erecting hurdles to recovery, the administration should be clearing a path, righting past wrongs and delivering the support our fellow American citizens so clearly need,” he said.

At least one person has died since a magnitude 6.4 earthquake shook Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Several major aftershocks have followed, destroying homes and leaving two-thirds of the island without electricity.

Trump declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico earlier this week, opening up about $5 million in federal funds to be spent on emergency services in light of the earthquake.

But Democrats say that’s not close to enough and urged the administration to stop withholding the hurricane relief cash that was supposed to be released months ago.

“Holding these resources back means delaying the island’s economic and physical recovery, period,” Velazquez said.

Trump has had a thorny relationship with Puerto Rico’s leaders for years.

After the 2017 hurricanes, critics accused the president of racism after he expressed reluctance about releasing aid to Puerto Rico while pledging sweeping support for states like Texas and Florida when they suffered natural disasters.

Trump infamously tossed paper towels at a crowd of Puerto Ricans when he visited the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria in October 2017.


[New York Daily News]

Trump Just Called DACA Recipients ‘Hardened Criminals’ Hours Before Their Supreme Court Case

Hours before the Supreme Court would hear arguments in a case to determine the legal status of nearly 700,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, President Trump tweeted a message for them.

“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals,” wrote Trump, referring to immigrants who’ve benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

The missive came as protestors and activists swarmed the Supreme Court ahead of its hearing on the Obama-era law that gives certain immigrants temporary legal status and a work permit, which they can renew every two years. Recipients need to have come to the U.S. before age 16, graduated high school (or be enrolled), and passed a background check.

Trump’s Tuesday morning tweet echoes the language he frequently uses to describe immigrants. But according to a 2017 report from the libertarian think tank CATO Institute, DACA recipients have lower incarceration rates than people born in the U.S. And to be eligible for the program, applicants can’t have been convicted of a felony — or even a string of misdemeanors.

After he took office, Trump initially waffled on whether his administration would preserve the policy. In February of 2017, Trump called DACA beneficiaries “absolutely incredible kids.” But facing pressure from immigration hard-liners, Trump swiftly changed his tune. By September of that year, he announced that the Department of Homeland Security would end the program completely.

That fight has now arrived at the Supreme Court, which will decide whether it’s lawful for the Trump administration to end the program. Nearly 700,000 immigrants rely on DACA to live and work in the U.S., the vast majority of which are women under the age of 25.

Despite the fact that his own administration is pushing to dismantle the program, Trump has punted the issue to Democrats in Congress. He added in his tweet that, if the Supreme Court rules in his administration’s favor, the White House will work with Democrats on a plan to keep DACA beneficiaries in the U.S.

“President Obama said he had no legal right to sign order, but would anyway. If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!” Trump wrote.

[VICE]

Trump approves plan for record low number of refugee admissions

President Trump has approved a plan to reduce the cap for refugee admissions to the country for fiscal 2020 to 18,000, the lowest level on record since the program began more than three decades ago. 

In a statement announcing the move this weekend, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “the core of the Trump Administration’s foreign policy is a commitment to make decisions based on reality, not wishes, and to drive optimal outcomes based on concrete facts.” 

Pompeo went on to say that “this year’s determination on refugee admissions does just that, even as we sustain our longstanding commitment to help vulnerable populations and our leadership as the world’s most generous nation.” 

The plan, which was announced in late September, has drawn pushback from Democratic lawmakers, including governors who have said they will continue to welcome refugees to their states despite the steep reduction.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said last month that her state is a “sanctuary state” and that Oregon will continue to “stand with refugees” in light of the executive order issued by the Trump administration, which allows states to turn away refugees. 

“These are people who cannot return home because they fear for their lives and their families. And to make matters worse, the Trump administration wants to slash the number of refugees our country will welcome this coming year to 18,000, the lowest ever on record,” she said then.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said in a letter to Trump last month that his state will continue to accept refugees fleeing violence and added that he was “dismayed” by the administration’s plans to drastically reduce the refugee cap to 18,000 — a significant jump from former President Obama’s proposed cap of 116,000 refugees in 2016.

“To reject refugees outright emboldens the message of those who seek to inspire hatred by saying that we, as Americans, do not have compassion or care for specific groups of people in the world facing persecution or worse,” Wolf wrote in the letter.

According to The New York Times, under the new move by the Trump administration, only 5,000 people who wish to flee their home countries for fear of persecution due to their religion will be allowed admission into the U.S. as part of the refugee program.

Fewer than 2,000 Central Americans will reportedly be allowed admission under the program going forward as well as 4,000 Iraqis who aided the United States military during the Iraq War.

The new cap for Iraqi refugees is reportedly less than half of the 9,829 who were admitted under the Obama administration in fiscal 2014. Under the Trump administration during fiscal 2019, just 153 Iraqi refugees whose applications were given high priority were admitted into the country. 

[The Hill]

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]

The DOJ sent immigration court employees a link to a racist and anti-Semitic blog post attacking immigration judges

The Justice Department sent immigration court employees an email this week that linked to an article attacking immigration judges with offensive and anti-Semitic slurs, BuzzFeed News reported on Thursday.

The article was posted on the white nationalist website VDare, which routinely traffics in racist and anti-immigration rhetoric and has explicitly targeted immigration judges in the past.

Ashley Tabbador, the head of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said in a letter to the Justice Department that the email came from the department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).

Tabbador wrote that the article “directly attacks” immigration judges “with racial and ethnically tinged slurs,” and the label ‘Kritarch,'” according to BuzzFeed. “The reference to Kritarch in a negative tone is deeply offensive and Anti-Semitic,” Tabbador added.

Kritarch is a term derived from the concept of a “kritarchy,” or a society run by judges. It’s referenced in the Old Testament’s Book of Judges as a type of rule in ancient Israel. VDare has repeatedly used the term to pejoratively refer to immigration judges. 

Tabbador called on James McHenry, the head of EOIR, to take action following the dissemination of the article.

“Publication and dissemination of a white supremacist, anti-semitic website throughout the EOIR is antithetical to the goals and ideals of the Department of Justice,” she wrote. She added that the court should withdraw the email and issue an apology to immigration judges.

“Separately, EOIR should take all appropriate safety and security measures for all judges given the tone and tenor of this posting,” she wrote.

The post was sent to immigration court employees as part of a daily briefing that usually includes links to news reports about immigration, BuzzFeed reported.

EOIR Assistant Press Secretary Kathryn Mattingly told Insider in a statement, “The daily EOIR morning news briefings are compiled by a contractor and the blog post should not have been included. The Department of Justice condemns Anti-Semitism in the strongest terms.”

[Business Insider]

Trump officials unveil rule allowing indefinite migrant family detentions

The Trump administration on Wednesday said it would unveil a new rule that would allow migrant families to be held indefinitely, ending a procedure known as the Flores Settlement Agreement that requires children to be held no longer than 20 days.

The decision is a momentous change in detainee policy that the administration has sought as a disincentive for people crossing the border. 

“This rule allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a statement.

Under the new system, immigrant families could be held for the duration of their court proceedings, which officials claim could be resolved within three months.

McAleenan said the new rule takes aim at a 2015 “reinterpretation of the Flores Settlement Agreement” in which a California district court ruled accompanied minors are subject to the same detention limits as unaccompanied minors.

The 2015 change, McAleenan said, “has generally forced the government to release families into the country after just 20 days, incentivizing illegal entry, adding to the growing backlog in immigration proceedings, and often delaying immigration proceedings for many years.”

The Trump administration has frequently blamed Flores for the spike in family border crossings over the last few years, claiming the promise of eventual release creates an incentive to enter the country illegally. On Wednesday, it defended the change as closing a “loophole exploited by human smugglers.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), however, panned the move, saying it will “put even more stress on our immigration system and add to the chaos the Administration continues to create.”

“The Trump Administration has managed to find a new low in its continued despicable treatment of migrant children and families. Terminating the Flores settlement is illegal and goes against our longstanding American values about the treatment of children,” Thompson said in a statement.

The new rule would establish new standards for conditions in detention centers while simultaneously removing the 20-day maximum detention limit that has existed since the original 1997 court ruling.

“Large numbers of alien families are entering illegally across the southern border, hoping that they will be released into the interior rather than detained during their removal proceedings,” the two agencies that created the rule, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

“Promulgating this rule and seeking termination of the FSA [Flores Settlement Agreement] are important steps towards an immigration system that is humane and operates consistently with the intent of Congress.”

The rule will be published in the Federal Register on Friday and will be effective 60 days later — if it is approved by the courts.

However, the process is likely to take significantly longer.

“Obviously, there will be litigation, as you know, all new immigration rules have faced litigation in my career,” said McAleenan.

Under the terms of the 1997 consent decree that eventually led to the 20-day limit in Flores, the regulation must be approved by Judge Dolly M. Gee of United States District Court for the Central District of California, who heard the original case.

Gee, who was appointed by President Obama, denied the administration’s request last year to extend family detentions after a 2015 ruling that officials could not hold unaccompanied children in unlicensed facilities longer than 20 days.

The upcoming litigation means the proposed rule could be significantly delayed or sidetracked in the courts.

“This rule contemplates terminating the Flores Settlement Agreement. And actually, there’s a legal proceeding just to do that coming out of the implementation. So we do expect litigation but we do hope to be able to implement as soon as possible,” said McAleenan.

Trump officials have sought to address Gee’s concerns with indefinite detention by creating a federal government licensing regime which includes public audits of facilities conducted by a third party.

And McAleenan painted a rosy picture of family detention units under the new rule.

“For example, the first family residential center in Berks, Pa., has a suite for each family [to be] housed separately. Furniture, bedding, towels, clothing and toiletries are provided,” said McAleenan.

He added the facilities would include medical care and educational wings, as well as leisure activities for detainees.

But DHS has bed space for 2,500 to 3,000 individuals in family units at current funding levels, a fraction of the number of Central Americans who claim asylum every month.

McAleenan blamed Congress, where Democrats worked to limit the administration’s capability to detain immigrants, for the limited facilities.

“Just a quick reminder, we did ask Congress for additional family beds in the 2019 budget process and the supplemental, and we did not receive them. So I think that’s important to recall,” said McAleenan.

Additional legal challenges to the rule are likely from immigration advocacy groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought several Trump administration immigration policies, slammed the rule as “yet another cruel attack on children.”

“The government should NOT be jailing kids, and certainly shouldn’t be seeking to put more kids in jail for longer,” the group tweeted.

“This is yet another cruel attack on children, who this administration has targeted again and again with its anti-immigrant policies.”

McAleenan said the “multihundred-page rule” would preserve the original intent of Flores, granting asylum-seeking families a safe place to live while their cases go through immigration courts.

The rule comes amid a flood of federal action to limit both legal and illegal immigration, and another lengthy rule to submit documented immigrants to a “public charge” test that’s been shown to be rife with inconsistencies.

That rule would make a receipt of public benefits, like food stamps or Medicaid, a negative factor when considering a noncitizen’s application for a visa or green card.

Earlier in the summer, the administration announced a rule expanding authority for expedited deportation, where immigration cases are not reviewed by judges, from within 100 miles of the border to anywhere in the U.S.

It also promulgated a rule which would deny asylum claims for immigrants who pass through another country before reaching the southern border.

All of those moves, which experts say would severely limit immigration, face legal challenges.

[The Hill]

1 2 3 20