Trump on deported immigrants: “They’re not people. They’re animals.”

President Donald Trump referred to some people deported from the United States as “animals” during a roundtable discussion with California sheriffs on Wednesday. It’s the latest in a series of statements stretching Trump’s entire national political career that carelessly conflate immigration, criminality, and violence.

From the official White House transcript:

SHERIFF (Margaret) MIMS (Fresno County, CA): Now ICE is the only law enforcement agency that cannot use our databases to find the bad guys. They cannot come in and talk to people in our jail, unless they reach a certain threshold. They can’t do all kinds of things that other law enforcement agencies can do. And it’s really put us in a very bad position.

THE PRESIDENT: It’s a disgrace. Okay? It’s a disgrace.

SHERIFF MIMS: It’s a disgrace.

THE PRESIDENT: And we’re suing on that, and we’re working hard, and I think it will all come together, because people want it to come together. It’s so ridiculous. The concept that we’re even talking about is ridiculous. We’ll take care of it, Margaret. We’ll win.

SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.

THE PRESIDENT: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.

It’s not clear who the president was referring to — whether he was simply picking up on Sheriff Mims’s reference to MS-13 gang members or referring to deportees more broadly. But the president didn’t exactly bend over backward to specify that not all immigrants deported by this administration are “animals.”

Trump has used the term “animals” to refer to members of MS-13 before. In a July 2017 speech to law enforcement officers on Long Island, he said: “Few communities have suffered worse at the hand of these MS-13 thugs than the people of Long Island. They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They are animals.” In February, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he said, “These are animals. They cut people. They cut them. They cut them up in little pieces, and they want them to suffer. And we take them into our country.”

No matter how Trump is portraying his policy, his administration is not focusing on deporting people who have committed particularly heinous crimes; gang members; or people with criminal records. From Trump’s inauguration to the end of 2017, ICE arrested 45,436 immigrants without criminal records.

To be sure, ICE arrests of immigrants with criminal records ticked up slightly from the last year of the Obama administration (in which immigration enforcement was subdued compared to previous years) to the Trump administration. But arrests of immigrants without criminal records have also spiked. During President Obama’s last year, about 16 percent of ICE arrests were of noncriminal immigrants; each month since July 2017, between 32 and 40 percent of arrestees have been noncriminals.

The Trump administration is still deporting fewer noncriminal immigrants than the Obama administration did circa 2011, and the proportion of deportees who are noncriminals is usually smaller than the proportion of arrestees who are. But the Trump administration is aiming not just to ramp back up to the deportation peak of Obama’s first term but surpass it, and that’s going to require arresting and deporting a lot of immigrants without criminal records.

If Donald Trump understands his own administration’s policy, he’s never acknowledged it in public. He sticks to the same rhetorical move every time: refer to some specific criminals, call them horrible people and animals, say that their evil justifies his immigration policy, and allow the conflation of all immigrants and all Latinos with criminals and animals to remain subtext.

This is who Donald Trump has been for his entire political career. The worst-case scenarios about his dehumanizing rhetoric — that they would foment large-scale mob violence or vigilantism against Latinos in the United States — have not been realized. But neither have any hopes that Trump, as president, might ever weigh his words with any care at all, especially when encouraging Americans to see human beings as less than human.

[Vox]

Update

The White House said that President Trump was “clearly” referring to members of the MS-13 gang when he called some immigrants “animals” and argued the controversial label is more than appropriate.

Media

Trump nominates homophobic former Family Research Council chief to board of ‘religious freedom’ crusaders

It was announced Tuesday that President Donald Trump nominated Gary Bauer to be the latest member of the Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Bauer once led the Family Research Council, the anti-LGBT organization that advocates that homosexuals are harmful to society. The group has even been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Before that, Bauer was known for his opposition to having an LGBT advisor to former President Ronald Reagan’s Commission on the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the 1980s.

“Millions of Americans try to raise their children to believe that homosexuality is immoral,” he wrote in a 1987 memo. “In many states homosexual practices are illegal, including sodomy. For you to appoint a known homosexual to a Presidential Commission will give homosexuality a stamp of acceptability. It will drive a wedge between us and many of our socially conservative supporters.”

Candidate Donald Trump boasted of his support for LGBT Americans during the 2016 campaign.

“Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs,” Trump even wrote in a June, 2016 tweet.

[Raw Story]

Kelly says undocumented immigrants ‘don’t have the skills’ to assimilate into US society

White House chief of staff John Kelly said he believes the vast majority of undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border into the US do not assimilate well because they are poorly educated.

“Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS13,” Kelly told NPR in an interview released late Thursday, referring to the criminal gang. “But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society.”

The former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said the undocumented immigrants don’t speak English and are “overwhelmingly rural people” from countries where “fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm.”

don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws,” he went on to say.

According to NPR, Kelly supports DHS’ decision in ending temporary protected status (TPS) for Haiti, El Salvador, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sudan, and more recently Honduras.

However, he floated the idea of finding a path to citizenship for the more than 425,000 immigrants, many of whom have lived in the US legally for decades under TPS.

“I think we should fold all of the TPS people that have been here for a considerable period of time and find a way for them to be on a path to citizenship,” Kelly said.

Kelly, who is seen inside the Trump administration as a “hardass” on immigration, was previously accused of degrading undocumented immigrants in February, when he suggested that some were “too afraid” or “too lazy” to sign up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“There are 690,000 official DACA registrants and the President sent over what amounts to be two and a half times that number, to 1.8 million,” he said on Capitol Hill after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to audio posted by The Washington Post.

“The difference between 690 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up,” Kelly added.

After another meeting on Capitol Hill, Kelly later said some people who were DACA eligible but didn’t sign up had reasons but most probably “needed to get off the couch.”

[CNN]

Trump praises conservative activist Candace Owens as a ‘very smart thinker’

President Trump on Wednesday praised conservative activist Candace Owens, who he said “is having a big impact” on American politics.

“Candace Owens of Turning Point USA is having a big impact on politics in our Country,” the president wrote on Twitter.

“She represents an ever expanding group of very smart ‘thinkers,’ and it is wonderful to watch and hear the dialogue going on…so good for our Country!”

Owens is the communications director for Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit that focuses on working with students on college campuses.

Rapper Kanye West recently heaped similar praise on Owens and the two later met in person.

“I love the way Candace Owens thinks,” West wrote on Twitter.

The president last year praised the founder of Turning Point USA just one day after an investigation revealed that an official with the organization had sent racist text messages. The organization fired the employee following the report.

“’The President has accomplished some absolutely historic things during this past year.’ Thank you Charlie Kirk of Turning Points USA,” Trump wrote at the time on Twitter, referring to the organization’s founder.

“Sadly, the Fake Mainstream Media will NEVER talk about our accomplishments in their end of year reviews. We are compiling a long & beautiful list.”

[The Hill]

Reality

The inflammatory Owens used a TMZ appearance to come to the defense of neo-Nazis and call the police killings of black men a trivial issue. She insisted that Trump has neither proposed harmful policies nor made offensive remarks towards African Americans.

Trump Put on the Spot About ‘Sh*thole Countries’ Remark in Presser with Nigerian President

President Trump held a joint press conference today with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and at one point, the African leader was asked about Trump’s infamous comments about “shithole countries.”

Buhari hesitated to weigh in much on this topic, explaining, “The best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

Trump, who didn’t even deny making that comment in the first place, said it didn’t come up in their discussions:

“We didn’t discuss it, and you do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in. But we didn’t discuss it, because the president knows me, and he knows where I’m coming from and I appreciate that. We did not discuss it.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Stands By His ‘Muslim Ban’ Campaign Rhetoric: ‘There’s Nothing to Apologize For’

President Donald Trump apparently stood by his campaign calls for a “Muslim ban” in a news conference with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, telling a reporter he has “nothing to apologize for” regarding his rhetoric.

The first question of his joint presser went to Washington Times reporter S.A. Miller, who pointed out that the opposition to the Trump administration’s travel ban in court rests on his campaign rhetoric calling for the ban of Muslims from the U.S.

“The lawyers for your opponents said if you would simply apologize for your rhetoric from the campaign, the whole case would go away,” Miller noted.

“I don’t think it would,” Trump replied. “And there’s no reason to apologize. Our immigration laws in this country are a total disaster, they’re laughed at all over the world, they’re laughed at, for their stupidity.”

“We have to have strong immigration laws,” Trump continued. “So I think if I apologized it wouldn’t make ten cents of a difference to them. There’s nothing to apologize for. We have to have strong immigration laws to protect our country.”

Despite the administration’s claims that its immigration ban on seven Muslim-majority countries is not a ban on Muslims, it has struggled against opponents in court cases who use Trump’s campaign rhetoric calling for a “Muslim ban” against him.

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump Asks If There Are Hispanics In The Room Before Demanding His Wall

President Donald Trump was met with silence at a campaign-style rally in Michigan Saturday night when he asked if there were any Hispanics present, then repeated his demand for a border wall.

Trump skipped the White House Correspondents Dinner to instead regale his fervent supporters in Washington, Michigan. After taking credit for Hispanic unemployment numbers dropping, the president said this:

“Any Hispanics in the room?” Trump asked to relative silence. “Naw, not so many? That’s OK.”

Then he took a swerve into: “In all fairness, Kanye West gets it. He gets it.” The president was referring to the rapper’s recent show of support for him.

Satisfied the audience was lacking in Hispanics, Trump launched into a tirade repeating his demand for his border wall, and said those illegally crossing into the U.S. are somehow voting for Democrats in elections.

“All of these people pouring across are gonna vote Democrat,” he claimed, even though studies have shown few undocumented people vote for anyone, Democrats or otherwise, except in the few places where their votes are specifically allowed.

“They do it for a lot of reasons,” Trump said. “A lot of times they don’t even know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it, but we have to have borders and we need it fast.”

He threatened to “close down the country” if he doesn’t get funding for his wall in next year’s budget.

Before Trump attempted to reach out to Hispanic voters in South Florida earlier this month, he employed a similar tactic of surveying the audience.

“Are there any Hispanics in the room?” Trump asked during a roundtable discussion on tax cuts, The Washington Post reported.

He didn’t wait for an answer.

“No, I doubt it,” he said.

[Huffington Post]

Trump floats September shutdown for ‘border security’

President Donald Trump told supporters at a speech on Saturday that if Congress did not meet his funding demands for border security, he may support a government shutdown this fall.

Trump was speaking in Washington Township, Michigan, at the same time that the White House correspondents’ dinner was taking place back in Washington, DC, with some lawmakers and current and former members of his administration in attendance. During his remarks, he alluded to the appropriations deadline at the end of September.

“We have to have borders, and we have to have them fast,” he said. “And we need security. We need the wall. We’re going to have it all. And again, that wall has started. We got 1.6 billion. We come up again on September 28th, and if we don’t get border security, we’ll have no choice. We’ll close down the country because we need border security.”

Despite his campaign pledge to make Mexico pay for his proposed wall on the US-Mexico border, Trump has demanded that Congress fund the project. Last month, he signed a bill that funds the government through September after expressing frustration with a spending package that included $1.6 billion for border security, but not the wall.

In his speech Saturday night, Trump railed against the Democratic Party on a range of issues, including immigration.

“A vote for a Democrat in November is a vote for open borders and crime,” Trump said.

He continued, “The open border policies of the Democratic Party are not just wrong, they’re dangerous, and they’re in fact deadly. They’re deadly.”

[CNN]

Trump challenges Native Americans’ historical standing

The Trump administration says Native Americans might need to get a job if they want to keep their health care — a policy that tribal leaders say will threaten access to care and reverse centuries-old protections.

Tribal leaders want an exemption from new Medicaid work rules being introduced in several states, and they say there are precedents for health care exceptions. Native Americans don’t have to pay penalties for not having health coverage under Obamacare’s individual mandate, for instance.

But the Trump administration contends the tribes are a race rather than separate governments, and exempting them from Medicaid work rules — which have been approved in three states and are being sought by at least 10 others — would be illegal preferential treatment. “HHS believes that such an exemption would raise constitutional and federal civil rights law concerns,” according to a review by administration lawyers.

The Health and Human Services Department confirmed it rebuffed the tribes’ request on the Medicaid rules several times. Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, conveyed the decision in January, and officials communicated it most recently at a meeting with the tribes this month. HHS’ ruling was driven by political appointees in the general counsel and civil rights offices, say three individuals with knowledge of the decision.

Senior HHS officials “have made it clear that HHS is open to considering other suggestions that tribes may have with respect to Medicaid community engagement demonstration projects,” spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said, using the administration’s term for work requirements that can also be fulfilled with job training, education and similar activities.

The tribes insist that any claim of “racial preference” is moot because they’re constitutionally protected as separate governments, dating back to treaties hammered out by President George Washington and reaffirmed in recent decades under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, including the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

“The United States has a legal responsibility to provide health care to Native Americans,” said Mary Smith, who was acting head of the Indian Health Service during the Obama administration and is a member of the Cherokee Nation. “It’s the largest prepaid health system in the world — they’ve paid through land and massacres — and now you’re going to take away health care and add a work requirement?”

Tribal leaders and public health advocates also worry that Medicaid work rules are just the start; President Donald Trump is eyeing similar changes across the nation’s welfare programs, which many of the nearly 3 million Native Americans rely on.

“It’s very troublesome,” said Caitrin McCarron Shuy of the National Indian Health Board, noting that Native Americans suffer from the nation’s highest drug overdose death rates, among other health concerns. “There’s high unemployment in Indian country, and it’s going to create a barrier to accessing necessary Medicaid services.”

Native Americans’ unemployment rate of 12 percent in 2016 was nearly three times the U.S. average, partly because jobs are scarce on reservations. Low federal spending on the Indian Health Service has also left tribes dependent on Medicaid to fill coverage gaps.

“Without supplemental Medicaid resources, the Indian health system will not survive,” W. Ron Allen — a tribal leader who chairs CMS’ Tribal Technical Advisory Group — warned Verma in a Feb. 14 letter.

The Trump administration has allowed three states — Arkansas, Kentucky and Indiana — to begin instituting Medicaid work requirements, and at least 10 other states have submitted or are preparing applications. More than 620,000 Native Americans live in those 13 states, according to 2014 Census data. And more states could move in that direction, heightening the impact.

Some states, like Arizona, are asking HHS for permission to exempt Native Americans from their proposed work requirements. But officials at the National Indian Health Board say that may be moot, as federal officials can reject state requests.

Tribal officials say their planning process has been complicated by HHS’ refusal to produce the actual documents detailing why Native Americans can’t be exempted from Medicaid work requirements. “The agency’s official response was that they couldn’t provide that [documentation] because of ongoing, unspecified litigation,” said Devin Delrow of the National Indian Health Board. HHS did not respond to a question about why those documents have not been made available.

While the tribes say they hope to avoid a legal fight, their go-to law firm — Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker LLP — in February submitted a 33-page memo to the Trump administration, sternly warning officials that the health agency was violating its responsibilities.

“CMS has a duty to ensure that [Native Americans] are not subjected to state-imposed work requirements that would present a barrier to their participation in the Medicaid program,” the memo concludes. “CMS not only has ample legal authority to make such accommodations, it has a duty to require them.”

Meanwhile, tribal leaders say the Trump administration has signaled it may be seeking to renegotiate other aspects of the government’s relationship with Native Americans’ health care, pointing to a series of interactions they say break from tradition.

“This doesn’t seem to be isolated to the work requirements,” said McCarron Shuy of the National Indian Health Board.

The Trump administration also targeted the Indian Health Service for significant cuts in last year’s budget, though Congress ignored those cuts in its omnibus funding package last month, H.R. 1625 (115). The White House budget this year proposed eliminating popular initiatives like the decades-old community health representative program — even though tribal health officials say it is essential.

Tribal officials noted that both HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan skipped HHS’ annual budget consultation with tribal leaders in Washington, D.C., last month. The secretary’s attendance is customary; then-HHS Secretary Tom Price joined last year. However, Azar canceled at the last minute. His scheduled replacement, Hargan, fell ill, so Associate Deputy Secretary Laura Caliguri participated in his place. That aggravated tribal leaders who were already concerned about the Trump administration’s policies.

Another point of contention for the tribes is that HHS’ civil rights office — while rejecting Native Americans’ Medicaid request on grounds that they’re seeking an illegal preference — simultaneously announced new protections sought by conservative religious groups.

HHS further stressed that the administration remains committed to Native Americans’ health.

“Secretary Azar, HHS, and the Trump administration have taken aggressive action and will continue to do so to improve the health and well-being for all American Indians and Alaska Natives,” according Oakley, of HHS.

But tribal leaders and public health experts say the administration’s record hasn’t matched its rhetoric. “Work requirements will be devastating,” said Smith, the former Indian Health Service acting director. “I don’t know how you would implement it. There are not jobs to be had on the reservation.”

[Politico]

Trump Judicial Nominee Appears to Have Called Undocumented Immigrants “Maggots”

Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the nomination of Michael Truncale, whom Donald Trump selected to sit on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. A longtime Republican donor and activist, Truncale built his career opposing progressive policies, including the Affordable Care Act, gun control, and abortion access. He also appears to have referred to undocumented immigrants as “maggots.”

Truncale made this comment in 2012, when running for Congress in Texas’ 14th Congressional District, a seat that came open upon the retirement of Rep. Ron Paul. (He ultimately lost, coming in third place in the GOP primary.) During a candidate forum hosted by the Galveston County Republican Party and the Republican Network of Galveston County, Truncale said that the state’s Southern border is “very porous.” He continued:

And as a result of the nature of that border we have all sort of bad influences coming in. We have drugs, we have illegal gangs, there is the possibility of bombs from a host of other countries and people from overseas and we must secure that border. I think we should do it with boots on the ground. As a citizen taxpayer, I think that we should take some of the equipment that is coming back from Iraq that citizens have already paid for and instead of sending it to some warehouse in Nebraska or some place, let’s get it to the border patrol. … There can be some fencing, there can be electronic surveillance, and things of that nature to secure the border. But that’s the first thing.

Truncale then added that “with regard to immigration, we must not continue to have the maggots coming in.”

It is difficult to read this statement, first flagged by Harsh Voruganti of the nonpartisan legal blog the Vetting Room, as anything other than a reference to undocumented immigrants. The apparent slur raises obvious questions about Truncale’s impartiality in cases involving Latinos and immigrants, as well as his overall fitness for the bench. Judges may hold strong feelings about border security. But Truncale’s decision to publicly malign unauthorized immigrants raises doubts about his ability to separate personal prejudices from his professional duties.

In that respect, Truncale resembles Jeff Mateer, Trump’s previous nominee to the Eastern District of Texas. Mateer notoriously calledtransgender children part of “Satan’s plan.” (The White House eventually withdrew his nomination.) Like Mateer, Truncale was recommended to Trump by Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. Presumably, Cruz and Cornyn chose him because of his enduring support for the GOP: Truncale served on the executive committee of the Texas Republican Party from 2006 to 2014 and has donated nearly $7,000 to Cornyn’s campaigns over the past dozen years. (He also gave Cruz $1,000 in 2015.) Moreover, Truncale served as a Republican delegate for John McCain in 2008 and volunteered for the Trump campaign. (He has spent his legal career at the firm Orgain, Bell & Tucker, practicing civil defense and white-collar criminal defense.)

Cornyn and Cruz might’ve hoped that Truncale would prove to be less controversial than Mateer. But he is likely to face tough questions at his hearing next week, as Democrats and some Republicans have lost their patience with openly biased nominees.

[Slate]

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