About Me

My photo
Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com

Translate

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Federal judge blocks Texas immigration law

Politico 
By Ted Hesson
August 30, 2017

A federal judge in Texas blocked the bulk of the state’s immigration law targeting sanctuary cities on Wednesday, a victory for civil rights groups and Democratic-led city governments that oppose the measure.

The order came two days before a Sept. 1 deadline to implement the new law, which seeks to ensure local police cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia issued a preliminary injunction against most provisions of the measure, known as SB 4. The law authorizes local police to ask about immigration status during routine stops, and threatens police chiefs with misdemeanor charges and fines if they fail to enforce federal immigration laws.

The decision to put the law on a hold is a blow to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, and also to the Trump administration. In June, the Justice Department submitted a legal filing in the case to demonstrate its support.

Five of the six largest cities in Texas — Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and El Paso — are part of the suit against the law, a fact the judge noted in his order on Wednesday.

“Their cumulative population exceeds six million people,” he wrote. “This is representative of the public opposition to SB 4 and the overwhelming public concern about its detrimental effect.”

Garcia, appointed by President Bill Clinton, ruled that key provisions of SB 4 conflicted with federal law. At the same time, he noted in the order that Texas law enforcement officers would not be prohibited from inquiring about immigration status during lawful stops, or sharing that information with federal authorities.

Unfazed by the setback, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton vowed to continue the legal battle to see the law put into action.

“Texas has the sovereign authority and responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens,” he said in a written statement. “We’re confident SB 4 will ultimately be upheld as constitutional and lawful.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He also cited the ongoing hurricane relief efforts in South Texas and concerns that undocumented immigrants may be afraid to seek aid amid an immigration crackdown.

“This week’s crisis with Hurricane Harvey is just the most recent example why people need to feel safe approaching our local police and support groups, no matter what,” Adler wrote.

Terri Burke, executive director of the Texas branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, stressed that the legal challenge to the law would continue to wind its way through the courts.

“This fight isn’t over yet,” she said in a written statement, “so we call upon law enforcement, local officials and supporters who have fought so hard to stop this law not to let up until SB 4 is well and truly dead.”

Josh Gerstein and Henry C. Jackson contributed to this report.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Federal Judge Blocks Texas’ Ban on ‘Sanctuary Cities’

New York Times 
By Manny Fernandez
August 30, 2017

HOUSTON — A federal judge in San Antonio on Wednesday blocked Texas from enforcing its ban on so-called sanctuary cities, questioning the constitutionality of a law that has pitted Republican state leaders against several Democratic-leaning cities.

The judge’s ruling was only temporary, and prevents the law from taking effect on Friday while a suit against it goes forward. But the decision served as a legal blow to one of the toughest state-issued immigration laws in the country and puts the brakes on a measure backed by the Trump administration that critics had called anti-Latino. The law has become so divisive that it served as the backdrop of a shoving match at the Texas Capitol between Hispanic Democratic lawmakers and their white Republican colleagues.

The law, known as Senate Bill 4 or S.B. 4, prohibits cities and counties from adopting policies that limit immigration enforcement, allows police officers to question the immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest and threatens officials who violate the law with fines, jail time and removal from office. It also directs local officials to cooperate with so-called immigration detainer requests, which allow foreign-born detainees to be transferred to federal custody after they are released from state or local custody.

A number of the state’s biggest cities, including Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, all of which are run by Democrats, joined a lawsuit against Texas seeking to strike down the law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, in May.

In his ruling issued Wednesday evening, the judge, Orlando L. Garcia of United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, granted a preliminary injunction preventing the law from taking effect while the suit continues.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Trump Tax Plan May Free Up Corporate Dollars, but Then What?

New York Times 
By Patricia Cohen
August 29, 2017

The tax overhaul promised by President Trump and Republican congressional leaders is lugging a remarkably heavy load. The goal is not only to reduce the tax bills of corporations and small businesses, but also to stimulate investment, create jobs, increase global competitiveness and promote economic growth.

Whatever the intentions, though, pushing the world’s largest and most diversified economy in any particular direction is a colossal undertaking. In addition, there is a large and sophisticated tax avoidance industry dedicated to frustrating the most carefully worded proposals.

But as Mr. Trump prepares to outline his corporate tax overhaul ideas in a speech on Wednesday in Springfield, Mo., economists and tax experts warn that the path is likely to be treacherous.

Consider the tantalizing $2.6 trillion in global profits that American companies are keeping out of their home accounts and out of the Internal Revenue Service’s reach.

A pro-growth tax policy would presumably aim not only to reach profits kept abroad as a tax dodge, but also to encourage companies to use that money to expand their business and hire more workers.

That was what President George W. Bush set out to do in 2004 when he imposed what was meant to be a one-time reprieve and lowered the tax on those funds to 5.25 percent from a potential top rate of 35 percent. More than $300 billion flowed back into the United States, but despite safeguards, companies used most of the money to pay shareholder dividends or buy back stock, not to reinvest.

“Repatriation has little effect on real investment in the United States,” said Alan Viard, a tax expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a former senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

That’s because repatriation is not really about geography. Most of the money is not stashed in some underground vault overseas, but already in American financial institutions and capital markets. Repatriation is in effect a legal category that requires a company to book the money in the United States — and pay taxes on it — before it can be distributed to shareholders or invested domestically.

The whole notion of earnings trapped offshore is misleading, Steven M. Rosenthal, a tax lawyer and senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “The earnings are not ‘trapped,’” he said. “They’re not offshore. They’re not even earnings. They’re accounting gimmicks that allow earnings to be shifted abroad.”

What’s more, companies already get something akin to tax-free repatriation by borrowing against those funds, with the added bonus of being able to deduct the interest paid on those loans from their tax bill.

A shortage of cash does not seem to be what is holding back companies from expanding. Corporate profits are higher as a share of the nation’s gross domestic product now than they have been in decades, said Kimberly A. Clausing, an economist at Reed College who studies the taxation of multinationals. According to a study by Treasury Department economists, “excess” or above-average profits by a few global giants have increased.

“It’s not clear that giving them an even higher share of profits, or a windfall, is going to lead to extra investment,” she said.

A recent survey of business leaders by the international accounting and advisory firm Friedman, for example, found that just 23 percent would reinvest repatriated funds. Most would use the money to pay dividends or engage in share buybacks.

To some economists, offering technology companies like Apple and Microsoft and pharmaceutical companies like Merck and Pfizer a discount on the corporate taxes they would normally owe simply rewards bad behavior.

“A lot of the funds got overseas in the first place via tax dodges, so giving firms a tax break on the money coming back seems like compounding the problem,” said William Gale, co-director of the Tax Policy Center and a former economic adviser to the first President George Bush. Repatriation at a discount rate “is a tax break,” he said.

If taxing foreign earnings that have already accumulated overseas is difficult, so is eliminating incentives that reward companies for continuing to keep profits in tax havens. To that end, Mr. Trump and the Republican leadership have pushed to slash the corporate tax rate and switch to what is known as a territorial system that would tax only profits earned in the United States and not those earned in other countries.

Mihir Desai, an economist at Harvard Business School, likes that approach. “We currently have the worst of all worlds,” he wrote in an email. “We have a high marginal rate,” which encourages companies to avoid taxes and puts the United States at a global disadvantage.

“And we have low average rates” — because of all the loopholes — “which indicate that we’re not collecting as much as we used to, given the very high level of corporate profits.”

The crucial questions are how to pay for a lower rate and how to prevent abuses. Corporate tax cuts that lead to huge deficits could hobble the economy. And a territorial system without sufficient safeguards could end up encouraging even more businesses to shift profits, operations and jobs to countries with lower tax rates.

Other nations with territorial systems have tried to prevent companies from wriggling out of paying taxes, while tax experts have suggested proposals ranging from a minimum global tax to tighter rules to prevent companies from relocating their patents and copyrights to tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

But skeptics worry that making the system airtight is impossible. “It’s an endless cat-and-mouse game,” said Matthew Gardner, senior fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a research group based in Washington. “What’s driving companies to engage in paper transactions is not our 35 percent tax rate,” he said, but other countries’ willingness to undercut whatever rate the United States settles on. “You can never win if you are competing against their zero tax rate.”

Mr. Gardner argued that a broader definition of American competitiveness is needed that includes not only the tax system, but also the business infrastructure that the tax system supports — bridges and roads, health care, education and research and development. “If all you think about is the tax rate, then it should be zero,” he said. “Competitiveness is about finding the right balance.”

The damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey on Texas — which Mr. Trump has promised to help address with federal money — shows how quickly new budget demands can materialize.

Establishing rates that are sustainable over the long haul contributes to economic growth. “If Republicans cut tax rates to levels that are unsustainable, everyone will believe rates will go up,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and the author of several books on globalization and economic inequality. “And that means you’re going to get even less investment, because they are looking at future tax rates.”

In general, though, Mr. Stiglitz argued that the link between tax cuts and economic growth is vastly overstated. “There is no evidence that cutting the tax rates stimulates more investment,” he said.

“Growth is low because labor force growth is slow,” and it is only going to grow slower because of immigration restrictions, he said. “And we’re not investing in education and research, which is why productivity is slow. The notion that changing taxes is going to lead to a growth spurt is pure nonsense.”

Follow Patricia Cohen on Twitter: @patcohenNYT

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Trump Republicans Invigorate, and Complicate, Party’s Fight for Senate

New York Times 
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
August 29, 2017

WASHINGTON — An anti-immigration Republican who is a fervent supporter of President Trump announced on Tuesday that he will challenge Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, a move that solidifies the president’s stamp on the emerging electoral landscape for 2018.

The announcement by Representative Lou Barletta gives Republicans a relatively well-known challenger to Mr. Casey as the party tries to take advantage of an electoral map that heavily favors Republicans. But it also shows the political headwinds the Republicans face: The party’s base voters remain loyal to the president and his agenda, even as the larger electorate drifts away.

Mr. Trump had urged Mr. Barletta to run, and in jumping into a crowded primary field, the 61-year-old congressman buoyed Republicans from the president’s wing of the party. He announced his candidacy in a three-minute biographical campaign video in which he reprised Mr. Trump’s slogan, pledging to “make Pennsylvania and America great again.”

His entry into the race comes as national Republicans are working feverishly to recruit candidates. So-called Trump Republicans are emerging in states from Florida — where the Republican governor, Rick Scott, is toying with running against Senator Bill Nelson — to Michigan, where the rock musician Robert James Ritchie, better known as Kid Rock, has dropped hints that he will challenge Senator Debbie Stabenow. Mr. Ritchie, along with Sarah Palin and the right-wing rocker Ted Nugent, paid Mr. Trump a memorable visit to the White House.

But if Mr. Trump’s backers are enthusiastic about the prospect of increasing their numbers in the Senate, mainstream Republicans are terrified that candidates who cast themselves in the mold of Mr. Trump will cost them seats. In two states — Arizona and Nevada — Trump Republicans are making life exceedingly difficult for Republican incumbents by waging primary challenges against them.

“The party needs to be extremely careful,” said Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist in Kentucky who is close to Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader. He warned that if Congress switched hands, Democrats would move to impeach Mr. Trump. “You do not want to put yourself in a situation to give the Democrats an opening to ruin this presidency,” he said.

Thirty-four senators — 25 aligned with the Democrats and nine Republicans — are up for re-election next year. While Democrats are defending 10 seats in states won by Mr. Trump, only one Republican — Senator Dean Heller of Nevada — is seeking re-election in a state carried by the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Heller has drawn a primary contest from Danny Tarkanian, a lawyer and the son of a well-known basketball coach; Mr. Tarkanian, a perennial candidate, has been described as a cheerleader for the Trump White House. In Arizona, Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who has been harshly critical of Mr. Trump, is being challenged by Kelli Ward, a strongly conservative former state senator and osteopathic physician. Mr. Trump has made no secret that he favors Dr. Ward.

“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” the president wrote on Twitter this month.

In his first seven months as president, Mr. Trump has generally drawn high job approval ratings among Republicans. But a national survey made public Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that nearly a third of Republicans said they agreed with the president on only a few or no issues, and a majority expressed mixed or negative feelings about his conduct as president.

At the same time, the party in power typically loses electoral seats during a midterm election. And while Republicans feel bullish about the prospect of unseating Democrats in red states like Missouri and Indiana, the rise of a divisive corps of Trump Republicans may complicate that task, said Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

In Maine, for instance, Gov. Paul R. LePage, an erratic and irascible Republican in the mold of Mr. Trump, is considering a possible challenge to Senator Angus King, a popular independent who votes with Democrats. In Virginia, Corey Stewart — a close ally of Mr. Trump who lost a Republican primary for governor — is running against Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat who ran for vice president alongside Mrs. Clinton. If no other Republican emerges, that could tip the race strongly in Mr. Kaine’s favor.

“The map is very favorable to Republicans, yet some of these Trump Republicans are putting Republicans’ own seats at risk, and that shouldn’t be,” Ms. Duffy said.

Ms. Duffy characterized Republican recruiting efforts for 2018 as “a mixed bag.” In Indiana, where Senator Joe Donnelly is among the most vulnerable Democrats in the nation, Republicans have two strong candidates: Representatives Todd Rokita and Luke Messer. Mr. Rokita has strongly embraced Mr. Trump; Mr. Messer is running as more of an establishment candidate.

But in Wisconsin, where Senator Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic incumbent, could be vulnerable, no credible challenger has emerged from a crowded Republican field. Perhaps the leading Republican is Kevin Nicholson, a Marine Corps veteran who must explain away his Democratic past.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans think they have a strong candidate in Mr. Barletta, a onetime mayor of the small city of Hazleton. But both Ms. Duffy and G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College who is a longtime observer of politics in Pennsylvania, say Mr. Casey will be tough to beat.

While Pennsylvania helped deliver Mr. Trump the presidency, it remains a swing state. A recent NBC/Marist poll found that Pennsylvanians are divided on Mr. Trump, while Mr. Casey has positive approval ratings.

“Is Barletta going to be a Trump surrogate?” Mr. Madonna asked. “If so, I don’t know how he pulls away.’’

Follow Sheryl Gay Stolberg on Twitter at @SherylNYT.

A version of this article appears in print on August 30, 2017, on Page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump Republicans Complicate Party’s Fight for the Senate.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

An Uneasy Time for Immigrants in Texas. Then the Rains Came.

New York Times 
By Simon Romero and Miriam Jordan
August 29, 2017

HOUSTON — This has been a harrowing year for the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who have put down stakes in Houston.

Stepped-up enforcement of immigration measures put many on edge over deportations, while Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed one of the nation’s most punitive laws against cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. President Trump has amplified his harsh line on illegal immigration and renewed his promise to build a border wall.

Then came the chaos of Hurricane Harvey.

Families among Houston’s estimated 600,000 undocumented immigrants – the largest number of any city in the United States except New York and Los Angeles, according to the Pew Research Center – fled their homes to escape the flooding despite their anxiety over being turned away at shelters or facing hostile immigration agents.

“People were telling each other that the immigration men were coming to check our papers,” said Eloy Gonz├ílez, 40, a truck driver who made it to the sprawling shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center. All he had were the drenched clothes he was wearing when he escaped the flooding in Pasadena, a suburb of Houston where thousands of immigrants live in the shadow of oil refineries.

“The rumors are false but the fear is still there,” said Mr. Gonz├ílez, an immigrant from northern Mexico, emphasizing that he was one of the “lucky ones” who is legally in the United States.

Even as political leaders in Houston sought to reassure residents that routine immigration enforcement would not be conducted at shelters and food banks, many people fleeing their homes expressed dismay over what they described as mixed signals coming from immigration authorities in the upheaval around Hurricane Harvey.

The Border Patrol did not suspend operations at checkpoints in Texas on Saturday even after the storm unleashed destruction in parts of the state, drawing sharp rebukes from human rights activists who said the decision put the lives of undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families at risk.

The American Civil Liberties Union said that maintaining the checkpoints stood in contrast to the position taken just last October by the Border Patrol during Hurricane Matthew, when authorities explicitly said that there would be no immigration enforcement checkpoints.

Officials with the Border Patrol sought to ease fears, contending that the checkpoints in Texas are set up south of areas affected by the storm, but rights groups pointed out that many people in Houston could potentially pass through the checkpoints to reunite with family members or seek refuge in Mexico.

Public statements from some immigration authorities added to the sense of confusion and unease. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said that routine enforcement would not be conducted at evacuation sites, shelters or food banks.

But in the same statement the organizations said, “The laws will not be suspended, and we will be vigilant against any effort by criminals to exploit disruptions caused by the storm.”

As many immigrants coped with the flooding of their homes, a sense of dread over state and federal immigration policies hung over shelters here in Houston and other parts of the state where people are hunkering down as rain continues to fall.

Houston, which emerged as one of the nation’s most diverse cities after receiving a huge influx of immigrants and refugees from around the world in recent decades, exemplifies the undercurrents of opportunity and distress. Vietnamese and Indian entrepreneurs dominate certain corridors, where they run restaurants and shops. The city is home to the largest Afghan refugee population in the United States.

But the biggest group hails from Latin America, and many of them are undocumented immigrants who crossed the border to fill jobs in restaurants, hotels and construction.

Houston has been the destination for thousands of Central Americans fleeing gang violence and poverty since 2014, advocates say. Typically, mothers who arrive with children are fitted with ankle monitors that track their movement while they wait for their asylum case to be adjudicated. The monitors, which are clunky, must be charged every 12 hours or so. Even in normal conditions, they cause rashes and cuts.

“Most of our clients have ankle monitors, and we don’t know how these devices will withstand being underwater,” said Miriam Camero, a caseworker in Houston for RAICES, an immigrant legal-aid group based in San Antonio.

Sowing confusion and fear among some people here, more than two dozen Border Patrol agents from a special operations detachment in South Texas arrived in Houston with a dozen vessels to help with the emergency relief effort. But Manuel Padilla Jr., a chief patrol agent with the agency, found it necessary to go on the local Univision news in Houston to reassure people in Spanish that the agents were here to save the lives of people endangered by the storm, not to check their documents.

For many undocumented immigrants, the sight of Border Patrol boats on their flooded streets was enough to frighten them. “Just physically and visually seeing the Border Patrol out there caused panic,” said Cesar Espinosa, executive director of FIEL Houston, an immigrant rights organization. “They thought they were coming to get them.”

Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, sought to ease some of the anxiety, reflecting Houston’s reputation as a frequently progressive, immigrant-friendly city. But Mr. Turner also stepped into the fray over a bill passed by the State Legislature in May, known as Senate Bill 4, scheduled to go into effect on Friday unless a federal judge enjoins it after several localities challenged it in court.

The law would ban police chiefs, sheriffs and other law-enforcement officials from stopping an officer from questioning an individual about his or her immigration status. It would also mandate that jail administrators honor all requests from ICE to hold an immigrant who is deportable for the agency to pick up.

In a news conference on Monday, Mr. Turner called for putting the “law on the shelf” while the city focuses on rescuing victims of the storm.

Still, organizations that assist immigrants expressed an array of concerns over S.B. 4, considered the harshest anti-illegal immigrant law since Arizona passed a tough bill years ago that was watered down by the Supreme Court.

“The S.B. 4 issue is very real in our community, and although S.B. 4 does not require any local official to check immigration status it certainly has created a climate of fear,” said Geoffrey Hoffman, director of the immigration clinic at the University of Houston Law Center.

“I think the recent words of the mayor may have ameliorated some of our concerns,” he added, “but again people do not know how or if things will change after September 1, given the statewide effective date.”

A lack of trust among immigrants has deepened since President Trump was inaugurated in January and immigration arrests, particularly of those without criminal records, ramped up.

“The history is ICE says one thing and does another,” said Barbie Hurtado, a community organizer for RAICES, the San Antonio legal services group. “The fear is out there. People don’t want to come out and say who they are and seek help.”

Adding to the fear, Ms. Hurtado said, are reports that Mr. Trump is weighing ending an Obama administration program that has granted permission to stay and work to about 800,000 immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children.

For some of the families sleeping on cots in Houston’s convention center, the signals coming from Washington, and the state capital, Austin, were clear, and alarming.

“All we want to do is work hard and raise a family,” said Jorge, a 43-year-old employee of a Houston catering company. Declining to give his last name, he explained that he had to seek shelter with his wife and three daughters after their home was flooded. When he was asked about his immigration status, he simply looked at the floor and said that he and his wife moved to Houston years ago from Guanajuato in central Mexico.

“This is where we are right now, at the mercy of the elements,” he said. “We were already so scared. It would be a disgrace if they come after us now.”

Simon Romero reported from Houston and Miriam Jordan from Charlotte, N.C. Reporting was contributed by Staci Semrad in San Antonio, Vivian Yee in Atlanta and Nicholas Kulish and Liz Robbins in New York.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Trump offers Texans in-person reassurances on storm recovery

Associated Press 
By Ken Thomas
August 29, 2017

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Eager to show he’s on the job and taking action, President Donald Trump offered upbeat reassurances Tuesday to Texans who felt the wrath of Harvey, promising local residents, “We are going to get you back and operating immediately.”

Starting his visit to Texas in wind-whipped but sunny Corpus Christi, Trump’s motorcade passed broken trees, knocked-down signs and fences askew as it made its way to a firehouse for a briefing with local officials.

“This was of epic proportion,” the president declared as he pledged to provide model recovery assistance. “We want to do it better than ever before. We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, ‘This is the way to do it.’”

Afterward, Trump stood on a ladder between two fire trucks and spoke to a crowd of hundreds of people gathered outside.

“What a crowd. What a turnout,” Trump said, thanking Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. “This is historic. It’s epic what happened, but you know what, it happened in Texas, and Texas can handle anything.”

Trump’s optimistic reassurances stood in contrast to the more measured assessments coming from emergency management officials, who are cautioning about a long, difficult road ahead.

Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who appeared with Trump, warned, “This recovery is going to be frustrating.”

“Recovery is a slow process but rest assured we’re doing everything we can,” Long said.

Trump drew cheers as he waved a Texas flag before the Corpus Christi crowd. He told the residents they were “special” and “we love you,” but didn’t directly reference those who had died or were displaced by the storm’s fury.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters traveling with Trump that his visit was focused on coordination among different levels of government and laying the groundwork for what is expected to be a lengthy recovery effort.

“The president wants to be very cautious about making sure that any activity doesn’t disrupt the recovery efforts that are still ongoing,” she said aboard Air Force One shortly before it touched down in Corpus Christi.

Trump traveled with first lady Melania Trump and Cabinet secretaries who will play key roles in the recovery.

The president, who wore a black rain slicker with the presidential seal on his chest and a white cap that said “USA,” was briefed in Corpus Christi on relief efforts. He later flew to meet with state officials at the emergency operations center in Austin. Mrs. Trump, who traded in her usual stiletto heels for a pair of white sneakers, wore a black baseball cap that read “FLOTUS,” an acronym for “first lady of the United States.”

The Cabinet secretaries were to meet with their Texas counterparts during Trump’s visit.

Trump has embraced the role of guiding the nation’s response to Harvey, which made landfall along the Gulf Coast on Friday night as a Category 4 storm near Corpus Christi, and moved northeast along the Texas coast over Houston. The storm has dumped more than 30 inches of rain in parts of Texas and authorities have rescued thousands of people left stranded by the storm.

Trump’s vow of swift action on billions of dollars in disaster aid is at odds with his proposed budget, which would eliminate the program that helps Americans without flood insurance rebuild their homes and cut grants to states that would allow them to take long-term steps to reduce the risk of flooding before disaster strikes.

Trump’s budget for 2018 zeroes out the Community Development Block Grants, a key program that helped the Gulf Coast rebuild after Hurricane Katrina and helped New York and New Jersey come back from Superstorm Sandy. In the 2017 budget, the Republican-led Congress restored some of the block grant money.

While Trump’s pending budget request didn’t touch the core disaster aid account, it proposed cutting several grant programs to states to help them reduce flood risks before a disaster strikes, as well as improve outdated flood maps to help communities plan for floods and take steps to better manage development in flood zones.

All told, Trump proposed cutting such grant programs by about $900 million.

Trump saw a largely functioning Corpus Christi, a city of 325,000, where damage was minimal. Power has largely been restored, particularly in commercial areas. Some restaurants have reopened and stores are restocked. Hotels are jammed with evacuees from hard-hit areas to its northeast, including Houston. Residents have been advised to boil drinking water because authorities cannot guarantee the integrity of the city’s lead and steel water system.

__

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Darlene Superville and Andrew B. Taylor in Washington contributed to this report.

__

On Twitter follow Ken Thomas at https://twitter.com/KThomasDC

___

For complete Harvey coverage, visit https://apnews.com/tag/HurricaneHarvey

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Enforcement of Trump’s Travel Ban

Wall Street Journal 
By Joe Palazzolo
August 28, 2017

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Monday on whether President Donald Trump’s administration should be able to enforce its travel ban against extended family of U.S. residents.

The lower courts have been wrestling with the enforcement of the ban, which suspended the admission of refugees and blocked travel from six predominantly Muslim countries. The Supreme Court in June partially lifted orders blocking the policy but barred the Trump administration from applying the ban to foreigners who have a “close familial relationship” with a U.S. resident or “formal, documented” ties to a U.S. entity, such as a university.

The Ninth Circuit arguments were an offshoot of the Supreme Court’s review of the travel ban. The justices are scheduled to hear arguments in October in what could be the most closely watched case of the term. Monday’s hearing in the Ninth Circuit, sitting in Seattle, was meant to determine how to enforce the ban until then.

Lawyers for the Trump administration argued that a “close relative” should only include parents, children, siblings and in-laws.

Lawyers for Hawaii and an imam in the state, who are challenging the travel ban, argued for a broader definition that included cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, grandparents and grandchildren. The three Ninth Circuit judges, all appointees of President Bill Clinton, seemed to prefer the more inclusive version.

“How can the government take the position that a grandmother or a grandfather or an aunt or an uncle of a child in the U.S. does not have a close familial relationship?” Judge Ronald Gould, asked the government lawyer, Hashim Mooppan.

Mr. Mooppan said the administration drew from federal immigration law, which defines “immediate relatives” as children, spouses and parents of U.S. citizens.

Colleen Sinzdak, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells US LLP who represents Hawaii, said her team grabbed its broader definition from past Supreme Court decisions.

“This isn’t language plucked out of nowhere,” she said, adding that in two cases the high court described close family relationships as including grandparents, nieces, nephews and cousins.

Judge Richard Paez wanted to know what was “significantly different between a grandparent and a mother-in-law?”

Mr. Mooppan explained that, in marriage, “your spouse’s family becomes your family”—one step removed from the “family unit,” unlike grandparents, who are two leaps away.

The other question the Ninth Circuit must decide is whether refugees’ ties to their resettlement agencies in the U.S. exempt them from the travel ban.

Resettlement agencies enter in agreements with the State Department to provide assistance to prospective refugees, an arrangement that lawyers for Hawaii said qualified as a “formal, documented” tie to a U.S. group.

“There is no relationship between the refugee and the resettlement agency that is created by the assurance,” Mr. Mooppan said in response.

He said about 900 refugees have been admitted based on relationships in the U.S. beyond connections to their resettlement agencies.

A ruling in the case could come in the next few weeks.

Write to Joe Palazzolo at joe.palazzolo@wsj.com

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

'What universe does that come from?' Judges criticize travel ban weeks before it heads to Supreme Court

Los Angeles Times 
By Jaweed Kaleem
August 28, 2017

A panel of U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges heard arguments Monday in Seattle over how broadly President Trump’s travel ban can be enforced, and seemed inclined to uphold exemptions that let U.S. residents’ relatives continue to arrive from banned countries.

The judges, Michael Hawkins, Ronald Gould and Richard Paez, who will issue their opinion later, will not decide whether the ban is legal. That question, one the same judges considered this year in a decision that suspended the ban, is left to the U.S. Supreme Court to take on when it hears arguments over the issue in about six weeks.

Instead, the judges are looking at who falls under the ban. They prodded lawyers from the Trump administration and the state of Hawaii, which has sued, about how immigration law applies to Supreme Court orders on who is exempt from it.

Trump originally signed the ban in January before it was blocked in federal courts. It was then modified and struck down again before the Supreme Court resurrected a limited version of it.

The ban, which went into effect on June 29, prevents travel to the U.S. by nationals of Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Iran for 90 days. Separately, it stops all refugee resettlement for 120 days. But the Supreme Court said that it can’t apply to anyone who has a “bona fide” relationship to a person or entity in the U.S.

Deputy Assistant Atty. Gen. Hashim Mooppan argued that the court should strengthen the ban by removing exemptions for people with specific relatives, such as grandparents, in the U.S. Currently, banned nationals can still travel if they have a grandparent in the U.S.

Gould, who like the other judges is a President Clinton appointee, seemed skeptical of the idea.

“How can the government take the position that a grandmother or a grandfather, or aunt or uncle, of a child in the U.S. does not have a close familial relationship? Like, what universe does that come from?” he asked.

Paez also seemed to not buy what opponents have derided as the “grandma ban.” He asked why the government accepted in-law parents as legitimate U.S. connections but not grandparents.

“Could you explain to me what’s significantly different between a grandparent and a mother-in-law, father-in-law?” Paez asked. “What is so different about those two categories? One is in and one is out.”

But the judges were less critical of the refugee ban, which has blocked most refugees from resettling in the country since the it went into place this summer. Refugees who have family members in the U.S. can resettle. They include about 900 who were allowed in since July.

But travel ban opponents say the ban still blocks 24,000 refugees who have been given formal assurance that the U.S. government would allow them to resettle under a 110,000-person refugee cap that President Obama put in place before he left office. Trump’s ban slashed that number by more than half to 50,000. The cap runs through the fiscal year that ends in September.

Mooppan said in court that such formal assurances did not count as “bona fide” connections of refugees to the U.S. or to a resettlement agency.

“The refugee assurance does not create any relationship between the resettlement agency and the refugee. It’s a relationship between the resettlement agency and the government,” which contracts out to the agencies to help immigrants settle in the U.S., Mooppan said.

In less than an hour of arguments, the judges also questioned Colleen Roh Sinzdak, an attorney from the law firm Hogan Lovells who represented the state of Hawaii. At one point, Sinzdak attempted to point out to the panel that courts had previously found the travel ban to be illegal, but Hawkins cut her off.

“We’re not here on the merits,” he said. “We’re trying to shape a remedy that will satisfy the United States Supreme Court so when they hear the case in a couple of months on the merits, they can make an appropriate decision.”

Aside from a handful of examples — such as people who have university admission and employment offers in the U.S. and those residing in the U.S. who have mother-in-laws abroad — the Supreme Court in June did not define what counts as a bona fide U.S. connection. The lack of clarity has led to a series of lawsuits.

After the Supreme Court decision, the Trump administration issued guidelines saying that family connections included only people with a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, fiance or fiancee, or a parent-in-law in the U.S.

And while thousands of refugees had been approved for resettlement, the administration said a relationship to a resettlement agency by itself did not constitute a bona fide U.S. connection for those immigrants.

Then last month, a federal district judge in Hawaii ruled that exceptions had to be made for grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and brothers- and sisters-in-law. The judge, Derrick K. Watson, also disagreed with the Trump administration about refugees. He ordered that refugee agencies could count as bona fide connections and cleared the way for more refugee travel.

The Trump administration appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which placed a hold on the judge’s ruling on refugees until the 9th Circuit could consider the case. In the meantime, lawyers have started filing briefs on the travel ban’s constitutionality to the Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for Oct. 10.

jaweed.kaleem@latimes.com

Jaweed Kaleem is The Times’ national race and justice correspondent. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com