Trump: Immigrants didn’t want to come to America before I was president because ‘Obama wasn’t a cheerleader’

President Donald Trump’s strange rant about fireworks at Mt. Rushmore wasn’t the only head-scratching exchange that occurred during his recent interview with reporters from The Hill.

During another part of the interview, Trump was asked about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) criticism of the internment camps he’s been using to house immigrant children.

Trump completely dodged the question and instead tried to blame former President Barack Obama for his own family separation policies.

“Obama built many of these, cells as he calls them, as they call them,” Trump said. “Remember the big, the big deal where they showed the cells all over and they said, Donald Trump, and they showed young children in the cells and Donald Trump built these cells? It turned out they were built in 2014 when Obama was president. No the conditions are much better than they were under President Obama.”

The president then bragged about the fact that Hispanic employment was low before pivoting back to attacking Obama by claiming that no immigrants wanted to come to the country when he was president.

“Because our economy is so good, you know we have the lowest unemployment rate that we’ve had in fifty-one years,” he said. “We have the lowest unemployment rate for Black, for Hispanic, for Asian, for women, but we have the lowest rate that we’ve had in, in you know many generations and what’s happening, and it wasn’t that way when I came in by the way, in fact the country was ready to tube, we were gonna have a big problem. And what did it were the regulations and other things. Also I think maybe the cheerleading did it, you know President Obama wasn’t a cheerleader, he was saying you can’t get manufacturing jobs, you need a magic wand. He wasn’t a positive cheerleader.”

[Raw Story]

Trump repeatedly flashes piece of paper he claims is part of secret Mexico deal

President Donald Trump continued to insist Tuesday that there is a secret component of his migration deal with Mexico, even flashing a piece of paper to reporters that he claimed spelled out the undisclosed portion.

“In here is the agreement,” Trump said, pulling the paper from a coat pocket and repeatedly holding it up as he spoke to reporters. “Right here is the agreement, it’s very simple. In here is everything you want to talk about, it’s right here,” he said, without opening it up.

“This is one page. This is one page of a very long and very good agreement for both Mexico and the United States,” Trump said.

“Without the tariffs, we would have had nothing,” the president said.

“Two weeks ago, I’ll tell you what we had: We had nothing. And the reason we had nothing is because Mexico felt that they didn’t have to give us anything. I don’t blame them. But this is actually ultimately going to be good for Mexico, too. And it’s good for the relationship of Mexico with us,” he continued.

Trump said he couldn’t show reporters what was on the paper. “I would love to do it, but you will freeze action it. You will stop it. You will analyze it, every single letter. You’ll see. But in here is the agreement.”

The president said that it’s his “option” as to whether the undisclosed agreement will go into effect.

“It’s not Mexico’s, but it will go into effect when Mexico tells me it’s okay to release,” Trump said, adding that first Mexico has to ratify whatever agreement they’ve made. “It goes into effect at my option.”

Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford captured and tweeted a photo of the piece of paper, a portion of which can be read to say “the Government of Mexico will take all necessary steps under domestic law to bring the agreement into force with a view to ensuring that the agreement will enter into force within 45 days.”

Despite the president’s insistence that there is a secret deal, the Mexican government has denied that there are any undisclosed parts of the U.S.- Mexico deal.

“Outside of what I have just explained, there is no agreement,” Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Monday.

[ABC News]

‘All of it is new’: Trump, administration officials defend deal with Mexico against reports saying little is new

President Donald Trump and senior members of his administration on Sunday defended the U.S. agreement with Mexico to avoid tariffs that Trump threatened to impose if the country did not stem the flow of migrants, disagreeing with critics who said the U.S. got little new in exchange for dropping the threat.

“All of it is new,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told “Fox News Sunday.” “We’ve heard commitments before from Mexico to do more on their southern border. The last time they deployed down there is about 400 or 500 officers. This is more than a tenfold commitment to increase their security.”

Democrats derided the deal as overblown and unnecessary.

“I think the president has completely overblown what he purports to have achieved,” said Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic presidential candidate, speaking on ABC’s “This Week” show. “These are agreements that Mexico had already made, in some cases, months ago. They might have accelerated the timetable, but by and large, the president achieved nothing except to jeopardize the most important trading relationship that the United States of America has.”

A senior administration official told NBC News that some key elements of the deal, announced Friday, had been agreed to months ago, but added that the two sides had agreed to expand on some of the previous commitments.

Mexican officials agreed to move more quickly to deter migrants than they had previously, the official said, adding that their commitment to deploy up to 6,000 troops was modestly larger than the earlier agreement, representing a promised personnel increase of about 10 percent.

The official also pointed to an expansion of the program allowing migrants to remain in Mexico while their asylum cases are processed as something new, with both sides agreeing to increase resources in the effort.

Mexico did not agree to accept what is called a “safe third country” treaty, which would have allowed the U.S. to reject asylum seekers if they had not first applied for refuge in Mexico — something the Trump administration had strongly pushed for.

The New York Times, citing U.S. and Mexican officials familiar with the negotiations, reported Saturday that while Trump excitedly presented the agreement as a groundbreaking deal, it contained actions largely agreed upon in earlier negotiations.

The Mexican government had already pledged to deploy its national guard to stem the flow of migrants during secret negotiations with then Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in March, the Times reported. And the agreement to expand a program that allows asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases are processed was reached in December and announced by Nielsen to the House Judiciary Committee in a hearing that same month.

The president disputed the Times’ report in a Twitter post on Sunday, calling the article “another false report” and lamenting that he was not getting enough credit in the media for his dealmaking.

“We have been trying to get some of these Border Actions for a long time, as have other administrations, but were not able to get them, or get them in full, until our signed agreement with Mexico,” Trump wrote. “Additionally, and for many years, Mexico was not being cooperative on the Border in things we had, or didn’t have, and now I have full confidence, especially after speaking to their President yesterday, that they will be very cooperative and want to get the job properly done.”

Trump added that there were “some things” the countries agreed on that were “not mentioned” in his administration’s press release, but he did not say what those were.

In a tweet on Saturday, Trump said Mexico agreed to “immediately begin buying large quantities of agricultural product from our great patriot farmers!”

But in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Marta Bárcena Coqui did not confirm whether any such agreement regarding agricultural products was a part of the deal.

On Friday, the two countries reached an agreement after days of negotiations in Washington that led Trump to drop — at least temporarily — his threat of tariffs on Mexican goods that would have increased in 5 percent increments to 25 percent over a several-month span.

In announcing the agreement, the State Department said Mexico agreed to deploy its national guard, “giving priority to its southern border,” while expanding “migrant protection protocols” requiring those seeking asylum in the U.S. to stay in Mexico until their cases are processed. Many of the specifics of the agreement have yet to be released.

While Trump has hailed the agreement on Twitter, the White House is taking a wait-and-see approach to the deal. The senior administration official said the administration will monitor the flow of migrants at the border to see if Mexico is carrying out its promises and if it’s working to curb the flow of migration. If Trump feels enough progress has not been made, the deal may be re-evaluated.

After threatening substantial tariffs on Mexico, Trump had come under intense pressure from business leaders and top Republicans to retract the threat because of concerns such tariffs could cause substantial harm to the U.S. economy.

On “Fox News Sunday,” McAleenan said the threat of tariffs worked.

“People can disagree with the tactics,” he said. “Mexico came to the table with real proposals.”

[NBC News]

Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump Announced Tariff Deal

 The deal to avert tariffs that President Trump announced with great fanfare on Friday night consists largely of actions that Mexico had already promised to take in prior discussions with the United States over the past several months, according to officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations.

Friday’s joint declaration says Mexico agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.” But the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior, the officials said.

The centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged. Ms. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee five days before Christmas.

And over the past week, negotiators failed to persuade Mexico to accept a “safe third country” treaty that would have given the United States the legal ability to reject asylum seekers if they had not sought refuge in Mexico first.

Mr. Trump hailed the agreement anyway on Saturday, writing on Twitter: “Everyone very excited about the new deal with Mexico!” He thanked the president of Mexico for “working so long and hard” on a plan to reduce the surge of migration into the United States.

It was unclear whether Mr. Trump believed that the agreement truly represented new and broader concessions, or whether the president understood the limits of the deal but accepted it as a face-saving way to escape from the political and economic consequences of imposing tariffs on Mexico, which he began threatening less than two weeks ago.

Having threatened Mexico with an escalating series of tariffs — starting at 5 percent and growing to 25 percent — the president faced enormous criticism from global leaders, business executives, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, and members of his own staff that he risked disrupting a critical marketplace.

After nine days of uncertainty, Mr. Trump backed down and accepted Mexico’s promises.

Officials involved with talks said they began in earnest last Sunday, when Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, met over dinner with Mexico’s foreign minister. One senior government official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the closed-door negotiations that took place over several days, insisted that the Mexicans agreed to move faster and more aggressively to deter migrants than they ever have before.

Their promise to deploy up to 6,000 national guard troops was larger than their previous pledge. And the Mexican agreement to accelerate the Migrant Protection Protocols could help reduce what Mr. Trump calls “catch and release” of migrants in the United States by giving the country a greater ability to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico.

But there remains deep skepticism among some American officials — and even Mr. Trump himself — about whether the Mexicans have agreed to do enough, whether they will follow through on their promises, and whether, even if they do, that will reduce the flow of migrants at the southwestern border.

In addition, the Migrant Protection Protocols already face legal challenges by immigrant rights groups who say they violate the migrants’ right to lawyers. A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from implementing the plan, but an appeals court later said it could move forward while the legal challenge proceeds.

During a phone call Friday evening when he was briefed on the agreement, Mr. Trump quizzed his lawyers, diplomats and immigration officials about whether they thought the deal would work. His aides said yes, but admitted that they were also realistic that the surge of immigration might continue.

“We’ll see if it works,” the president told them, approving the deal before sending out his tweet announcing it.

On Saturday, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said the government looked forward to reducing illegal immigration and making the border “strong and secure” by working with Mexico to fulfill the agreement.

Mr. Trump’s decision to use trade as a bludgeon against Mexico was driven in part by his obsession with stopping what he falsely calls an invasion of the country and in part by a desire to satisfy his core supporters, many of who have grown angry at his inability to build his promised border wall.

Many of his top advisers, including those who oversee his political and economic agendas, were opposed to the tariff threat. But the president’s ire is regularly stoked by the daily reports he receives on how many migrants have crossed the border in the previous 24 hours.

Mr. Trump’s top immigration officials had repeatedly warned the president that results from their work to curb the flow of migrants might not be evident until July, and urged patience.

But that effort became more difficult in May, when the numbers spiked to the highest levels of his presidency. During the week of May 24, 5,800 migrants — the highest ever for one day — crossed on a single day. That was quickly followed by a group of 1,036 migrants who were caught on surveillance cameras crossing the border en masse.

Mr. Trump later tweeted out the video, and the tariff threat soon followed.

Throughout the week’s negotiations, officials on both sides worried about what Mr. Trump would be willing to accept in exchange for pulling back on his tariff threat. That question hung over the talks, which were led one day by Vice President Mike Pence and included Mr. Pompeo and Mr. McAleenan.

Mexican officials opened the negotiations with the offer to deploy their new national guard troops against migrants, using a PowerPoint presentation to show their American counterparts that doing so would be a breakthrough in their ability to stop migrants from flowing north through Mexico, often in buses.

In fact, Mexican officials had already made the same promise months earlier when Ms Nielsen met in Miami with Ms. Sanchez and aides to Marcelo Ebrard, the Mexican foreign minister. The purpose of the meeting, according to people familiar with it, was to press the Mexicans to act faster.

Ms. Sanchez also told Ms. Nielsen that the Mexican government’s new national guard, which had been created just a month earlier to combat drugs and crime, would be redirected to the border with Guatemala, the entry point for most of the Central American migrants.

At the time, Ms. Nielsen and the other American negotiators referred to the Mexican promise as the “third border” plan because the Mexicans proposed creating a line of troops around the southern part of their country to keep migrants from moving north.

Mexicans had begun to follow the plan, but not quickly enough for the Trump administration, which said that only about 1,000 Mexican national guard troops were in place by May.

Friday’s agreement with Mexico states that the two countries “will immediately expand” the Migrant Protection Protocols across the entire southern border. To date, migrants have been returned at only three of the busiest ports of entry.

But officials familiar with the program said Saturday that the arrangement struck by the two countries last December always envisioned that it would expand along the entire border. What kept that from happening, they said, was the commitment of resources by both countries.

In the United States, migrants must see immigration judges before they can be sent to wait in Mexico, and a shortage of judges slowed the process. The Mexican government also dragged its feet on providing the shelter, health care, job benefits and basic care that would allow the United States to send the migrants over.

The new deal reiterates that Mexico will provide the “jobs, health care and education” needed to allow the program to expand. But the speed with which the United States can send more migrants to wait in Mexico will still depend on how quickly the government follows through on that promise.

Perhaps the clearest indication that both sides recognize that the deal might prove insufficient is contained in a section of Friday’s agreement titled “Further Action.”

One official familiar with the negotiations said the section was intended to be a serious warning to the Mexican government that Mr. Trump would be paying close attention to the daily reports he received about the number of migrants crossing the border. The official said that if the numbers failed to change — quickly — the president’s anger would bring the parties back to the negotiating table.

“The tariff threat is not gone,” the official said. “It’s suspended.”

[The New York Times]

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 likens Irish border to wall between US and Mexico

Donald Trump has started his visit to Ireland by comparing its post-Brexit border with Northern Ireland to the US border with Mexico, along which he wants to build a permanent wall.

Trump, sitting next to a visibly uncomfortable taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, waded into the Brexit debate minutes after Air Force One touched down at Shannon airport on Wednesday afternoon.

“I think it will all work out very well, and also for you with your wall, your border,” he said at a joint press conference. “I mean, we have a border situation in the United States, and you have one over here. But I hear it’s going to work out very well here.”

Varadkar interjected that Ireland wished to avoid a border or a wall, a keystone of Irish government policy.

“I think you do, I think you do,” Trump said. “The way it works now is good, you want to try and to keep it that way. I know that’s a big point of contention with respect to Brexit. I’m sure it’s going to work out very well. I know they’re focused very heavily on it.”

In London on Tuesday Trump met the Brexiter politicians Nigel Farage, Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson, all of whom have played down the idea that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland will be a problem after the UK leaves the EU.

Trump echoed their confidence in Shannon. “There are a lot of good minds thinking about how to do it and it’s going to be just fine. It ultimately could even be very, very good for Ireland. The border will work out.”

The Irish government has mounted an intense, three-year diplomatic effort arguing the opposite, that Brexit threatens peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland.

The US president’s comments were an awkward start to what is expected to be a low-key end to his visit to Europe, with much of his time spent at his golf and hotel resort in Doonbeg, County Clare. From Shannon airport he took a short helicopter ride to his resort on the Atlantic coast.

Addressing the media after Trump’s departure, Varadkar said he explained the history of the border and the Troubles in their private meeting. “We talked Brexit. President Trump shares our objective to keep the border open.” He said Trump had not elaborated on why he thought Brexit could benefit Ireland.

The two leaders also discussed trade, visas and taxes paid by US corporations with operations in Ireland.

The Irish president, Michael D Higgins, made an unexpected intervention on the eve of the visit by calling Trump’s policy on the climate emergency “regressive and pernicious”, a critique protesters will echo at rallies in Shannon and Dublin.

Trump told reporters he was unaware of Higgins’ comments and reiterated that the US had enjoyed cleaner air and water since he became president, a claim he also made in London.

After three days of pomp, pageantry and politics during his state visit to Britain, Trump and his entourage, which includes his wife, Melania, and his four adult children, will be mostly out of the public gaze in the remote, windswept landscape of Loop Head peninsula.

On Thursday, Trump will travel to France for D-day commemorations before returning to Doonbeg, where he is due to play a round of golf on Friday before flying home.

The Irish police deployed 1,500 uniformed officers plus 500 members of specialised units, including divers and armed and air support, to secure Shannon airport and Doonbeg.

Trump’s 162-hectare (400 acre) resort was in lockdown and closed to the public. Newly installed surveillance cameras with night-vision capability fed images to a police control room.

Roads to the adjacent village of Doonbeg remained open. Locals have erected US flags and expressed hope Trump would visit one of their pubs, despite him being teetotal.

The resort employs more than 300 people during summer and is an economic lifeline for the region. Fr Joe Haugh, the parish priest, said: “The people are 99.9% behind him.”

Elsewhere, there were protests by individuals and groups opposed to the US president’s record on the environment and the rights of women, immigrants, ethnic minorities and LGBT people.

Demonstrators set up a “peace camp” outside Shannon airport, and the Trump blimp used by protesters in London was due to appear at a rally in Dublin on Thursday.

The visit has created a political and diplomatic challenge for the Irish government. Trump is not popular in Ireland. Varadkar reportedly asked to have the meeting at Shannon airport, a neutral venue, rather than in Trump’s resort.

The hosts, however, are keen to lobby the US president over trade, visas for Irish workers and support for the peace process. They also want to explain the potential impact of Brexit on the border and try to placate Trump over Ireland’s low-tax regime and use of Huawei technology in the new 5G network.

Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, sought a delicate balance when asked about Higgins’ criticism of Trump’s climate policies. The Irish president caught the mood of the Irish people quite well, he told RTÉ, but regressive was “a better adjective” than pernicious.

The hosts will be hoping Trump does not broach a source of personal irritation. Environmental objections have stalled a sea barrier he wishes to build to protect his resort from erosion. The US president has described the battle as an “unpleasant experience”.

[The Guardian]

Trump: ‘Foolish’ for GOP to try to stop tariffs on Mexico

President Trump on Tuesday insisted he will follow through with new tariffs on Mexico if it does not do more to curb illegal migration and said it would be “foolish” for congressional Republicans to try and stop him.

“We are going to see if we can do something, but I think it’s more likely that the tariffs go on,” Trump said during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Addressing deliberations by Republicans on a measure that could limit his tariff power, Trump said, “I don’t think they will do that. I think if they do, it’s foolish.”

Trump’s proposed tariffs on Mexican imports are scheduled to take effect on Monday. A 5 percent tariff on all goods would be imposed, and it could grow to 25 percent by October unless Trump is satisfied with steps taken by Mexico on immigration.

A team of Mexican diplomats is in Washington this week seeking to convince the administration to back away from the plan, which has also unsettled U.S. businesses. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to break off from Trump’s European trip to attend the meetings.

Asked if Mexico has done enough to avoid the tariffs, Trump responded “no, we haven’t started yet” and reaffirmed the tariffs will begin “next week.”

But the president added the two countries would be talking over the coming weeks and months and expressed hope Mexico will “step up and give us security for our nation.”

Trump’s tariffs, which were opposed by some of his closest trade advisers, have also run into resistance on Capitol Hill where Republicans who traditionally support free trade want the president to change course, fearing they could derail efforts to ratify a new North American trade pact.

Some GOP senators have floated the possibility of passing legislation to disapprove of the Mexico tariffs and curtail his ability to unilaterally impose tariffs in the future, but there are differences on how to proceed.

Trump suggested GOP lawmakers would be punished politically for going against him, claiming he has a 94 percent approval rating among Republican voters and pointing out “there’s nothing more important than borders” for his base.

It remains unclear what Mexico might have to do in order to satisfy the president’s concerns.

In announcing the tariffs, Trump tweeted that all illegal immigration would have to “STOP” but administration officials later said there was no specific goal that would need to be met and instead the Mexican government would have to show progress on securing its border with Guatemala, deporting migrants and cracking down on criminal gangs.

Trump attacks judge who blocked border wall plans as ‘Obama activist’

After a federal judge blocked his attempt to build key sections of his border wall with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency, Donald Trump criticised the justice for being an “activist” appointed by Barack Obama.

In what may prove a temporary setback to the president, US district judge Haywood Gilliam Jr’s order, issued on Friday, stopped work from beginning on two Pentagon-funded projects: a section of border barrier spanning 46 miles in New Mexico and another covering five miles in Yuma, Arizona.

Trump inherited barriers covering 654 miles, or about one-third of the border with Mexico, the country he insisted during his 2016 campaign would pay for a border wall but which flatly rejected the idea.

Of the 244 miles of barrier covered by contracts awarded so far, more than half is covered by Department of Defense money. All but 14 miles awarded so far are to replace existing barriers, not extend coverage. Ignoring that, Trump has regularly claimed his wall is being built.

On Saturday, from Japan, Trump pledged to file an expedited appeal.

Echoing other controversial attacks on judges, he tweeted: “Another activist Obama appointed judge has just ruled against us on a section of the Southern Wall that is already under construction. This is a ruling against Border Security and in favor of crime, drugs and human trafficking. We are asking for an expedited appeal!”

While Gilliam’s order applied only to two projects, the judge made clear he felt the challengers were likely to prevail at trial on their argument that Trump was wrongly ignoring Congress’s wishes by diverting defense department money.

“Congress’s ‘absolute’ control over federal expenditures, even when that control may frustrate the desires of the executive branch regarding initiatives it views as important, is not a bug in our constitutional system,” the judge wrote in a 56-page opinion.

“It is a feature of that system, and an essential one.”

It was not a total defeat for Trump. Gilliam, who is based in Oakland, rejected a request by California and 19 other states to prevent the diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars in Treasury asset forfeiture funds to wall construction, in part because he felt they were unlikely to prevail on arguments that the administration skirted environmental impact reviews.

The administration faces several lawsuits over the emergency declaration but only one other seeks to block construction. A judge in Washington DC on Thursday heard arguments on a challenge brought by the House of Representatives that says the money-shifting violates the constitution.

In February, Trump declared a national emergency after losing a fight with the Democratic-led House that led to a 35-day government shutdown. As a compromise, Congress set aside $1.375bn to extend or replace existing border barriers in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.

Trump grudgingly accepted the money, then declared the national emergency in order to siphon money from other government accounts, identifying up to $8.1bn. The funds include $3.6bn from military construction funds, $2.5bn from defense department counter-drug activities and $600m from the treasury asset forfeiture fund.

The Pentagon has transferred the counter-drug money. Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, is expected to decide soon whether to transfer the military funds. Gilliam’s ruling gives a green light, at least for now, for the administration to tap the treasury funds.

Trump’s adversaries say the emergency declaration was an illegal attempt to ignore Congress. The administration says Trump was protecting national security as unprecedented numbers of asylum-seeking families arrive at the southern border.

[The Guardian]

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]

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