“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]

Phrase ‘White Nationalists’ Cut From Measure To Screen Military Enlistees

A measure in the National Defense Authorization Act meant to keep white nationalists out of the U.S. military no longer mentions “white nationalists” after Congress quietly altered the text after it initially passed the House.

The change, which has not been previously reported, could water down a House-passed amendment meant to address the threat of white nationalists in the military. The House language was specifically drafted to encourage screening for white nationalist beliefs in military enlistees. But after the Republican-controlled Senate passed its own version of the massive military spending bill and the two chambers’ bills were reconciled, the final NDAA instead requires the Department of Defense to study ways to screen military enlistees for “extremist and gang-related activity.”

While it may seem like a minor tweak, the removal of the term “white nationalists” from the amendment text was concerning to Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), who introduced the amendment in July after alarming reports about white nationalists in the U.S. military. 

Earlier this year, federal authorities arrested a Coast Guard lieutenant for allegedly stockpiling weapons in preparation for a terror attack. A series of HuffPost investigations also exposed 11 U.S. service members who had ties to Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group best known for helping organize the deadly 2017 “Unite The Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Stripping the specific mention of “white nationalists” from the legislation could leave the door open for more white nationalists to join the military and could leave the U.S. military off the hook for what many critics say are lackluster efforts to screen enlistees for white nationalist beliefs.

It’s not clear who approved the language change or why. Senators on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, including Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment on the language.

After the House and Senate each passed their own versions of the NDAA, lawmakers from both chambers met to reconcile differences between the two. The final NDAA was then approved by both chambers.

Aguilar said the fact that the final NDAA does not mention “white nationalism” indicates the Senate may not be taking white nationalism seriously.

In a statement to HuffPost, he noted that white nationalists have “successfully enlisted in our military in order to gain access to combat training and weaponry.”

To prevent more white nationalist violence, Aguilar said, “we cannot turn a blind eye to this growing problem which puts our national security and the safety of the brave men and women serving our country in jeopardy.”

“It’s disappointing that Senate Republicans disagree,” he added.

Academics and law enforcement officials have long warned of the specific threat posed by white nationalists who join the military, where they receive combat training they can use to inflict violence on civilians. White supremacists have long been attracted to the U.S. military, and often for good reason. In the 1970s, for example, a Department of Defense directive allowed service members to join the Ku Klux Klan.

Although military rules prohibit service members from committing acts of discrimination or engaging in extremist activity, an unnerving 2017 Military Times poll found that nearly 25% of American service members reported encountering white nationalists within their ranks.

Just this week, an ESPN article revealed the Army football team’s motto had origins in the neo-Nazi gang the Aryan Brotherhood; two cadets flashed the “OK” hand sign, often a white power symbol, on live television during the Army-Navy football game; and Army units memorialized World War II’s Battle of the Bulge on social media by posting a photo of a Nazi war criminal.

Last month, Vice News confirmed that three members of the U.S. military were registered users of the online neo-Nazi forum Iron March.

And in 2018, a series of investigative reports by ProPublica and “Frontline” found multiple members of violent neo-Nazi groups in the armed services.

Aguilar’s amendment to the NDAA this year sought to address this long-standing problem by requiring the Secretary of Defense to “study the feasibility” of screening for “individuals with ties to white nationalist organizations” during initial background investigations of enlistees.

The amendment also requires the Department of Defense to study whether two FBI resources — the Tattoo and Graffiti Identification Program and The National Gang Intelligence Center — could aid the military in this effort.

[Huffington Post]

Trump Goes Full Anti-Semite in Room Full of Jewish People

Back in February 2017, Donald Trump was asked what the government planned to do about an uptick in anti-Semitism, to which he characteristically responded, “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” That statement, like the ones he’s previously made about being “the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” was, and is, obviously not true at all. Prior to being elected, Trump seemed to suggest to a room full of Jews that they buy off politicians; tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton’s face atop a pile of cash next to the Star of David and the phrase, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”; and released an ad featuring the faces of powerful Jewish people with a voiceover about them being part of a “global power structure” that has “robbed our working class” and “stripped our country of its wealth.” After moving into the White House, and just a few short months following his assertion that he is the least anti-Semitic person to walk the earth, Trump refused to condemn neo-Nazis and, just last August, accused American Jews of being “disloyal” to Israel by voting for Democrats. And if you thought the coming holiday season would inspire the president to pump the brakes on blatant anti-Semitism, boy, do we have a surprise for you!

Speaking at the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday night, Trump hit all of his favorite anti-Semitic tropes before a room full of Jewish people. He started off by once again invoking the age-old cliché about “dual loyalty,” saying there are Jews who “don’t love Israel enough.” After that warm-up he dove right into the stereotype about Jews and money, telling the group: “A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all,” he said. “But you have to vote for me—you have no choice. You’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100% of your wealth away!” (It feels beside the point that neither Elizabeth Warren nor any other Democratic candidate has proposed a 100% wealth tax.) He continued: “Some of you don’t like me. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’re going to be out of business in about 15 minutes if they get it. So I don’t have to spend a lot of time on that.”

Not surprisingly, the remarks by the self-described “King of Israel” were swiftly condemned by Jewish organizations. “Dear @POTUS,” the American Jewish Committee tweeted Sunday afternoon, “Much as we appreciate your unwavering support for Israel, surely there must be a better way to appeal to American Jewish voters, as you just did in Florida, than by money references that feed age-old and ugly stereotypes. Let’s stay off that mine-infested road.” Calling the comments “deeply offensive” and “unconscionable,” the Jewish Democratic Council of America said in a statement, “We strongly denounce these vile and bigoted remarks in which the president—once again—used anti-Semitic stereotypes to characterize Jews as driven by money and insufficiently loyal to Israel. He even had the audacity to suggest that Jews ‘have no choice’ but to support him. American Jews do have a choice, and they’re not choosing President Trump or the Republican Party, which has been complicit in enacting his hateful agenda.” The group’s executive director added: “Jewish support for the GOP has been halved since Trump has been in office, from 33 percent in 2014 to 17 percent in 2018, because Trump’s policies and rhetoric are completely antithetical to Jewish values.”

Trump, on whose watch hate crimes have hit historic levels, has not seen fit to respond to any of the criticism yet, but presumably when he does it’ll be to note his appointment as “the second coming of God” and all of his many Jewish friends.

[Vanity Fair]

Far-right, anti-Islam hate group plans to hold event at Mar-A-Lago hotel

A far-right group that alleges that Islamic extremists are infiltrating the U.S. government is set to hold a banquet this weekend at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, according to permits for the event obtained by The Washington Post.

The Center for Security Policy and its leaders have spread the lie that former President Barack Obama is a Muslim and have also falsely alleged that Muslim organizations in the United States have anti-American beliefs, according to the Post. It is labeled a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center 

The group has rented a ballroom for Saturday at Trump’s club in Palm Beach, Fla., for its annual Freedom Flame Award dinner, according to the Post. This is the first time the event, which has previously been held in New York City and Washington, D.C., is being held in Palm Beach, according to the Post’s public records request.

The White House declined to comment to the Washington Post, and the Trump Organization did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.

The permit obtained by the Post says the event will cost approximately $53,000. The organization told the newspaper that it is “a private event.”

Fred Fleitz, a former Trump administration official who is the president and chief executive of the Center for Security Policy, told the newspaper after its initial report was published that the group is not prejudiced against Muslims.

“Muslims are part of our country and our society, this is a good thing,” Fleitz told PJ Media in January, which he cited to the Post. “But what we don’t welcome is the radical ideology that promotes violence.”

Trump cited the group’s research when he proposed “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” during his presidential campaign in 2015, the BBC reported.

According to the Post, Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations alleged that former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney – who is the founder of the Center for Security Policy and has ties to the Trump administration – is “one of the key figures in the Islamophobia industry.”

“They get the influence they seek by handing him money, and he gets the money,” Hooper told the Post.

Earlier this year, ACT for America, which has called Islam a “cancer,” was also set to hold a banquet at Mar-a-Lago but later canceled the event, the Washington Post reported.

The Hill has reached out to the White House, the Trump organization and the Center for Security Policy for comment.

[The Hill]

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 compares impeachment process to ‘a lynching’

President Donald Trump compared the impeachment process to “a lynching” on Twitter Tuesday morning.

A check of his previous tweets and public statements showed that this appeared to be the first time he has used the term as president.

“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights,” he wrote. “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”

Criticism of the president’s tweet was swift – from Democrats and some Republicans.

GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said the word referred to a “painful scourge in our history” and called on Trump to retract his statement.

“We can all disagree on the process, and argue merits. But never should we use terms like “lynching” here. The painful scourge in our history has no comparison to politics, and @realDonaldTrump should retract this immediately. May God help us to return to a better way,” Kinzinger tweeted.

A top Democrat, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said on CNN, “”That is one word no president ought to apply to himself. You know, I’ve studied presidential history quite a bit, and I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anything quite like this.”

Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, an African American Democratic congressman, in a reference to the historical connotations of the word, said, “Do you know how many people who look like me have been lynched, since the inception of this country, by people who look like you.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Rush tweeted.

But GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters that he agrees with the president calling the impeachment probe a “lynching.”

“This is a lynching in every sense,” Graham said, defending the president. “This is un-American.”

Graham said the president’s use of the word in a tweet this morning is “pretty well accurate” in describing what Democrats in Congress are doing to the president by launching an impeachment probe.

“This is a sham, this a joke,” Graham said of the probe.

“I think lynching can be seen as somebody taking the law into their own hands and out to get somebody for no good reason,” Graham said.

“What does lynching mean? When a mob grabs you, they don’t give you a chance to defend yourself. They don’t tell you what happened to you. They just destroy you,” Graham went on.

“That is exactly what is going on in the U.S. House of Representatives right now,” Graham said.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only African American Republican in the Senate, also defended the president — if not his use of the word “lynching.”

“There’s no question that the impeachment process is the closest thing of a political death row trial, so I get his absolute rejection of the process,” Scott said.

“I wouldn’t use the word lynching,” Scott added.

Asked whether he disagreed with those who see the word as racially charged, Scott responded, “Yeah, I do actually disagree. I think the fact of the matter is that you’re talking about something that’s akin to a death row trial from a political perspective, so we should keep our focus on the fact that this is something that is something that has been done behind closed doors,” Scott said.

Trump’s tweet came amid a series of tweets apparently quoting programming on “Fox & Friends,” which included accounts about polling on impeachment and about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

While he has previously referred to both the impeachment inquiry and Mueller probe as a “coup,” Tuesday’s comments appear to be the first time Trump has publicly used the word “lynching” to describe the investigations into his potential misconduct in office.

Trump’s allies, however, have used variations of the the word in such a context.

In September, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz referred to Democratic outcry about Trump’s conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky — which sparked the impeachment inquiry — as a “lynch mob.”

On the campaign trail, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and 2020 presidential candidate Julian Castro said the president’s use of the word was “beyond shameful.”

“It’s beyond shameful to use the word ‘lynching’ to describe being held accountable for your actions,” Castro tweeted.

Sen. Kamala Harris, another 2020 presidential candidate, called Trump’s tweet “disgraceful.”

“Lynching is a reprehensible stain on this nation’s history, as is this President. We’ll never erase the pain and trauma of lynching, and to invoke that torture to whitewash your own corruption is disgraceful,” Harris said in a tweet of her own.

George Conway, lawyer and husband to White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and a frequent Trump critic, called him “deranged.”

The president’s reference to “lynching” comes months after the Senate passed a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime. The bill was introduced by Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker — both now presidential hopefuls — and Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act referred to lynching as having “succeeded slavery as the ultimate expression of racism in the United States following Reconstruction.”

“Lynching is not a relic of a painful past — it is a present and pernicious evil that we still have yet to confront,” Booker said in a statement in February.

[ABC News]

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]

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