Trump baselessly claims Democrats are behind migrant caravan

Donald Trump thrust a caravan of migrants heading toward the US border into the midterm election campaign, saying at a rally on Thursday night that the race will be “an election of the caravan”.

A group that now numbers about 3,000 people has left Honduras and has reached Guatemala’s border with Mexico, with the ultimate goal of reaching the US – infuriating Trump.

“It’s going to be an election of the caravan. You know what I’m talking about,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Missoula, Montana, declaring his intention to use the migrants’ journey as a bludgeon against Democratic candidates.

There is evidence that Trump’s use of the caravan as a campaign issue may be effective among the Republican base. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that 75% of voters who intend to vote for a Republican congressional candidate consider illegal immigration a “very big” problem for the country.

That makes it the top-rated issue for Republican leaning voters. By contrast, only 19% of voters supporting a Democrat called illegal immigration a very big problem. Democratic voters instead called gun violence, the affordability of healthcare and college education, government ethics, the gap between the rich and poor, and a host of other issues very big problems.

Trump claimed, without any supporting evidence, that Democrats were behind the caravan, and raised conspiracy theories that the Central Americans had been paid to come to the United States for political reasons.

“Now we’re starting to find out – and I won’t say it 100%, I’ll put a little tiny question mark at the end. But we’re probably not going to need it, but we have the fake news back there,” he told the crowd, adding a familiar jab at news reporterscovering his campaign appearances.

“A lot of money’s been passing through people to come up and try to get to the border by election day, because they think that’s a negative for us. Number one, they’re being stopped. And number two, regardless, that’s our issue.”

Trump appeared to be referring to a video postedby the Florida representative Matt Gaetz, which he claimed showed women and children being given cash to “storm the US border @ election time”. He suggested without evidence that the source could be “Soros? US-backed NGOs?” referring to George Soros, an American billionaire who is the frequent subject of rightwing conspiracy theories.

A journalist who interviewed people on the ground where the video was taken reported that local merchants had collected money and given it out as aid to migrants. He located the site in Guatemala, not Honduras as the congressman had claimed.

Gaetz later posted a tacit correction, saying he had believed the video was taken in Honduras because it was sent to him by a Honduran official.

Speaking of Democrats, Trump said: “They wanted that caravan. And there are those who say that caravan didn’t just happen. It didn’t just happen.”

Trump threatened on Thursday to close the US-Mexico border and deploy the military if caravan members approach the frontier.

The Mexican government said it was in touch with members of the caravan, some of whom have arrived at the country’s southern border seeking refuge, and will process any legitimate claims for entry in an orderly manner. Mexican officials have said that anyone who enters illegally will be subject to deportation.

Despite the extremist campaign trail rhetoric, the Trump administration has supported a Mexican government plan to work with the United Nations refugee agency to deal with the caravan, USA Today reported.

[The Guardian]

Trump Defends Child Separation in Contentious Exchange With Lesley Stahl: ‘I’m President and You’re Not’

President Donald Trump‘s interview with Lesley Stahl for 60 Minutesaired on Sunday night, and during one contentious exchange, the president snapped at the CBS News journalist.

Stahl first asked Trump if he had any regrets from his first two years in office, and he replied that the press has treated him “terribly.”

When Stahl pressed, Trump held firm: “I regret that the press treats me so badly.”

Stahl pressed further and eventually asked Trump about his controversial immigration policy that separated migrant children from their parents at the southern border. Trump retorted by falsely claiming his policy was the same as former President Barack Obama‘s.

“It was on the books, but he didn’t enforce it,” Stahl corrected, noting Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. “You enforced it.”

When Trump defended the policy as an effective deterrent to illegal immigration, Stahl asked if he would reprise the program. The president did not respond, but held that “there are consequences from coming into a country, namely our country, illegally.”

Trump eventually called out Stahl for her questions, claiming he was being treated differently than Barack Obama.

“I disagree, but I don’t wanna have that fight with you,” Stahl said.

“Lesley, it’s okay,” Trump snapped back. “In the meantime, I’m president and you’re not.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Booted Foreign Startup Founders. Other Countries Embraced Them

A master’s degree from Yale and angel investments in his startup weren’t enough to protect Mezyad AlMasoud from Donald Trump. A little more than a year ago, Trump moved to kill a nascent visa program meant specifically for company founders with capital in hand, such as AlMasoud. The Kuwaiti’s immigration lawyer called his Wall Street office to tell him that without the startup visa, which could have been granted under a plan known as the International Entrepreneur Rule, he had two weeks to leave the U.S. That afternoon, AlMasoud spent hours sitting by the East River, looking out at the Brooklyn Bridge. The thought running through his mind: “How do I tell my 5-year-old daughter I failed?”

As it turned out, he didn’t have to. Flair Inc., his financial technology startup, incorporated in June and is starting to hire engineers who can develop its money-management web services for pro athletes. It’s just not in the U.S. Flair is hiring in Vancouver, where AlMasoud was one of the first people accepted to a startup visa program that looks a lot like the fast-track Obama plan Trump blew up. In the past 18 months, similar programs with a range of perks have sprung up in at least a dozen countries, including the U.K., China, Japan, Israel, Germany, Estonia, Australia, and New Zealand. As with many of his peers, the first choice was always America, says AlMasoud, whose startup is among 130 created by people admitted to Canada’s new visa program since February.

Immigrant founders and co-founders have a strong track record in Silicon Valley (see Google, Tesla, EBay, Stripe), as do the children of immigrants (Apple, Oracle, Amazon.com). But the Valley’s fabled Sand Hill Road is no longer the center of the venture capital world, and as the Trump administration continues to increase restrictions on most forms of immigration, other locales are even more eager than usual to frame themselves as the next great innovation hub. Startups are doing a lot more venue-shopping than they used to, says Merilin Lukk, who runs Estonia’s recruiting program and has brought at least 160 founders to the country since last year, creating about 440 jobs.

Countries have offered all kinds of perks to differentiate themselves. A new program in Israel throws in $20,000 relocation bonuses, a local accountant, Hebrew classes, yearly flights home, and paid cellphones. Other offers include low-interest loans, six-day visa processing, and, most important, the equivalent of a green card. “The fight over tech talent is not something that is coming in the future. It’s happening right now,” says Kate Mitchell, the founder of Scale Venture Partners in Foster City, Calif. “And we are losing.”

That’s a bit of an overstatement for the time being, but the U.S. certainly isn’t trying to match those offers. The Trump administration derailed the legacy Obama program a week before its planned rollout last year, and although a lawsuit by the National Venture Capital Association managed to force the feds to eyeball an initial handful of applications, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says the program “does not adequately protect U.S. investors and U.S. workers” and that the agency intends to officially scrap the program as soon as it has finished reviewing public comments on the matter.

The move is part of a broader set of moves to restrict visa immigration, including the H-1B visas that have historically gone overwhelmingly to tech workers. Critics of the program, including labor advocates as well as Trump-style nationalists, say the visas have too often been abused by outsourcers and companies that simply want to pay workers less. There may be some truth to that: More than 50 percent of the country’s working science and engineering Ph.D.s are foreign-born. But another way to look at those numbers is that America needs immigrants.

Canada is one of many countries that seem less conflicted, says AlMasoud, who’s enjoying his weekend hikes in the Vancouver area without looking over his shoulder. The Canadian immigration agency says it has approved 200 applicants for permanent residency since February, and AlMasoud is hoping he’ll be on that list soon, too. For now, he’s trying to get Flair to a point where he can apply for approval from American financial regulators and start showing it off publicly. Only occasionally, as when he reminisces about NBA games or his bygone ’67 Pontiac GTO, does he grow wistful about the opportunities he left behind. “It had always been my dream to start a business in the U.S.,” he says. “Because of what Trump has done, now I have to hire Canadians.”

[Bloomberg]

Trump Administration Targets Immigrants on Public Assistance

Legal immigrants who use or appear likely to tap public assistance programs could find it harder to come to the U.S. or stay permanently under a Trump administration proposal released Saturday.

Legal immigrants could be denied a green card, which grants permanent residency, if they have received certain government assistance which they were legally allowed to access. About 27 million people live in families that have received benefits and had at least one immigrant family member, according to a June analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.

The proposal released by the Department of Homeland Security shows President Donald Trump is not backing off tightening immigration despite a backlash and court action over some policies, including the separation this summer of children and parents entering the country illegally.

Conservatives have cheered the new proposal, which was first floated last year, as necessary to prevent immigrants from becoming a drain on public services such as Medicaid and food stamps. Democrats and immigrant rights groups argue the rule would punish people who are entitled to benefits and legally live in the U.S.

The proposed rule must still be finalized following 60 days for public comment. Certain groups, including refugees, would be exempt.

The change would broaden the framework the U.S. considers when deciding status and entry for immigrants who are likely to receive public benefits such as nutrition assistance, low income housing subsidies and Medicaid above a specific threshold, according to the information released Saturday.

“Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement. She added that “This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”

“Building on the traumatic separation of families at the border, the Trump administration has taken another cruel step,“ Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said Saturday in a statement. ”This proposed rule change will similarly result in the separation of families and is just the latest assault on immigrant families.”

[Wall Street Journal]

DHS transferred $169 million from other programs to ICE for migrant detention

The Department of Homeland Security transferred $169 million from other agencies to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the detention and removal of migrants this year, according to a document sent to Congress by DHS.

Many of the transfers came from key national security programs, including $1.8 million from the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, $9.8 million from FEMA, $29 million from the U.S. Coast Guard and more than $34 million from several TSA programs. DHS also transferred $33 million from other ICE programs to pay for detention and removal, making the total amount of money transferred $202 million.

The FEMA and Coast Guard transfers were first reported by “The Rachel Maddow Show.” On Tuesday night, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., announced on the show that nearly $10 million was moved from FEMA’s budget to ICE. The budget document Merkley cited, which was later released and publicized by the DHS Watch program at America’s Voice, an advocacy group based in Washington, showed a breakdown of how DHS moved money between different programs and agencies.

The department has the authority to move funds around internally with the approval of Congress and transfers are not unusual. The total DHS budget for fiscal 2018 was $65 billion; FEMA’s total budget was $15.5 billion.

DHS spokesperson Tyler Houlton tweeted Tuesday night that, “Under no circumstances was any disaster relief funding transferred from @fema to immigration enforcement efforts. This is a sorry attempt to push a false agenda.” He also said that the transferred money came from routine operating expenses and “could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations.”

On Wednesday, FEMA director Brock Long told Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, that none of the $10 million transferred from FEMA to ICE came from the Disaster Relief Fund, saying that Merkley was “playing politics” ahead of Hurricane Florence.

However, money was taken from the response and recovery, preparedness and protection and mission support operations budgets, which are used to prepare for emergencies like Florence. Those FEMA budgets are for “training for all hazards, preparing our warehouses, making sure we have things ready to go so that we can pre-deploy like you see FEMA doing now,” Moira Whelan, FEMA’s former chief of staff for the office of Gulf Coast rebuilding, told Maddow on Wednesday.“Taking money away from that operation doesn’t just harm [FEMA’s hurricane response], it harms us with any disaster we face.”

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the other transferred funds.

DHS stated in the document that the transfers to ICE were made due to “increasing operational demands.” The transfers were requested so ICE could add more than 2,000 detention center beds on top of 38,000 adult beds it predicted it would need in its initial budget request for the year. Those beds cost an additional $93 million above the allocated budget, according to the document provided to Congress.

The number of detained migrant children in federally contracted shelters has also increased, growing fivefold in the past year,The New York Times reported Wednesday.

ICE also expanded two kinds of flight operations as part of its removal program, increasing the cost of the already $369 million program by $107 million. Its daily air charter services alone increased by 28 percent this year.

The AP reported Wednesday that according to the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, DHS notified Congress on June 30 that it wanted to transfer $200 million from other agencies to ICE, including the funds from FEMA. Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the transfer was approved by the Republican subcommittee chairs and no Democrats signed off on it.

The transfers occurred in August. Ur Jaddou, director of DHS Watch, called the reshuffling of funds an example of “upside down priorities.”

Jaddou said the document suggests the Trump administration would rather separate families “and detain and deport parents [than] prepare for hurricanes.”

[NBC News]

US cracking down on citizenship for hundreds of Hispanics along border

The Trump administration is reportedly accusing hundreds of Hispanics living along the U.S.-Mexico border of having fraudulent birth certificates, stripping some of their passports and throwing their citizenship into question.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that cases it examined and interviews with immigration attorneys suggest a dramatic increase in immigration enforcement and a decrease in the number of passports issued by the U.S.

Some passport applicants with official U.S. birth certificates are being jailed in detention facilities as they await immigration proceedings, while others have had their passports revoked when they tried to reenter the U.S., The Post reported.

The newspaper did not say exactly how many people the U.S. appears to be investigating for allegedly having fraudulent birth certificates. The Post reported that the administration “is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands.”

A State Department official told The Hill in a statement that the agency “has not changed policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications.”

“There are numerous reasons why a customer may be asked to provide additional documentation or information. The burden of proving one’s identity and citizenship falls on the applicant for a U.S. passport regardless of where the application was submitted,” the official said.

The official said that “the U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.”

The U.S. government has alleged that fraud is sometimes perpetrated by midwives and other birth attendants who sell legal birth certificates to children born in Mexico.

“This fraud is often documented through convictions, plea agreements, and confessions by midwives, mothers, and other family members,” the State Department official said.

According to The Post, the State Department under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama investigated people who had been delivered by midwives in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley based on a 1993 case in which a midwife pleaded guilty to selling Texas birth certificates to parents of children born in Mexico.

After the government settled in a case involving the American Civil Liberties Union in 2009, the number of passport denials dropped off, according to The Post.

Now, the government is apparently denying passports to those it suspects of having fraudulent birth certificates at an increasing rate, regardless of whether they were delivered by midwives, the newspaper reported.

The State Department official emphasized that “the standard for determining whether a person is entitled to a passport, regardless of whether the person was born in a home, hospital, or with the assistance of a doctor or midwife, is the same. The applicant must demonstrate through a preponderance of evidence that he or she was born in the United States.”

“Applicants who have birth certificates filed by a midwife or other birth attendant suspected of having engaged in fraudulent activities, as well as applicants who have both a U.S. and foreign birth certificate, are asked to provide additional documentation establishing they were born in the United States,” they added.

“Individuals who are unable to demonstrate that they were born in the United States are denied issuance of a passport,” the official said. “The Department’s determination in such cases affects only the passport, and not citizenship status, of the applicant.”

[The Hill]

Immigration judge removed from cases after perceived criticism of Sessions

The Justice Department plans to take dozens of cases away from an immigration judge who has delayed deportation orders, in part for perceived criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the union representing immigration judges said Wednesday.

CNN reported Tuesday that the Justice Department replaced Philadelphia Immigration Judge Steven Morley with an assistant chief immigration judge last month to hear a single case on his docket, which resulted in a young undocumented immigrant, Reynaldo Castro-Tum, being ordered deported.

Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Jack Weil told Morley that comments in the Castro-Tum case were perceived as “criticism” of the Board of Immigration Appeals and attorney general’s decisions and that they were “unprofessional,” according to the grievance filed by the National Association of Immigration Judges. The cases all involve young undocumented immigrants and whether they got adequate notice from the government about hearings at which they failed to appear. Weil also told Morley that he himself should have either ordered Castro-Tum deported or terminated the case altogether.

It’s the most public fight yet between the union that represents the nation’s roughly 350 immigration judges and Sessions, who has intently focused on the immigration courts under his purview. The immigration judges have long bemoaned their structure under the Justice Department, but have taken particular issue with many of the moves pursued by the Trump administration that they say interfere with their ability to conduct fair and impartial court proceedings.

Unlike federal judges, immigration judges are employees of the Justice Department and the attorney general has the authority to hire them, manage their performance measures and even rule on cases with binding authority over how the judges must decide similar issues.

The judge’s union says DOJ broke the collective bargaining agreement by violating Morley’s independent decision-making authority.

Morley denied those comments were unprofessional and reiterated he made the proper decisions in the case based on the facts and due process, the grievance said.

“He’s being targeted for what is perceived to be criticism of the attorney general when it is in fact just a judge doing his job, raising concerns about due process,” Judge Ashley Tabaddor said Wednesday on behalf of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

[CNN]

Reality

The removal of Judge Steven Morley subverted the judicial process, undermined his independence, and impugned his competence and integrity, all to obtain a particular outcome in the case, according to the judges’ union and its labor complaint.

Trump threatens government shutdown over border security

President Trump warned on Sunday that he would be willing to “shut down” the government over border security.

“I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT!” he said in a morning tweet.

“We need great people coming into our Country!” he added.

The president in an earlier tweet on Sunday morning said “many” border crossers are using children for “sinister purposes.” He also blasted existing U.S. immigration laws and urged followers to vote for Republicans.

“Please understand, there are consequences when people cross our Border illegally, whether they have children or not – and many are just using children for their own sinister purposes. Congress must act on fixing the DUMBEST & WORST immigration laws anywhere in the world! Vote ‘R,’ ” he said.

[The Hill]

Trump Dismisses Missed Deadline for Reuniting Migrant Families: The Solution is Come Here Legally

The Federal government is all but certain to miss Tuesday’s court-imposed deadline for reuniting migrant families (via Vox). But President Donald Trump is downplaying the blown deadline — and, in fact, pinning the blame on migrants.

Speaking outside the White House prior to leaving for the NATO summit in Brussels, the president sounded off against illegal immigration when asked about the missed deadline.

“I have a solution,” Trump said. “Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That’s the solution. Don’t come to our country illegally. Come like other people do, come legally.”

He added, “I’m saying this, very simply. We have laws. We have borders. Don’t come to our country illegally. It’s not a good thing.”

The president went on to again make the baseless, erroneous assertion that Democrats are advocating for open borders.

“Democrats want open borders and they don’t mind crime,” Trump said. “We want no crime and we want borders where borders mean something. All right? And, remember this, without borders, you do not have a country.”

[Mediaite]

Army discharging some immigrant recruits

The U.S. Army has begun quietly discharging some immigrant members, a move that could put those member’s immigration status at risk, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

Immigration attorneys told the AP that they knew of more than 40 immigrant recruits and reservists who had been discharged from their service or whose status is now at question.

Some of the military members told the AP that they did not know why they were discharged. Others said they were told they were labeled a “security risk” because of relatives abroad and or because their background checks were incomplete.

Spokespeople for the Pentagon and the Army told the news outlet that they could not comment on the discharges or say if there have been any policy changes due to pending litigation.

The Defense Department told the AP in a statement that “[a]ll service members (i.e. contracted recruits, active duty, Guard and Reserve) and those with an honorable discharge are protected from deportation.”

The immigration attorneys told the AP that many of the immigrants received an “uncharacterized discharge,” putting into question their ability to remain in the U.S.

Immigrant military members can obtain citizenship if they receive an honorable discharge. The AP reported that basic training has been delayed for discharged immigrant soldiers, which means they can’t become naturalized citizens.

Recruits must have legal status in the U.S. before enlisting in the Army. About 10,000 immigrants are currently serving in the military, with most going to the Army, according to the outlet.

The reports comes amid a Trump administration crackdown on immigration, including a “zero tolerance” policy mandating that all undocumented immigrants caught at the border face prosecution.

[The Hill]

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