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


Monday, January 21, 2019

What isn't getting done at the Department of Homeland Security during the shutdown

By Geneva Sands

(CNN)While the majority of Department of Homeland Security employees are working without pay during the partial government shutdown, thousands are furloughed and no longer doing the daily work of the department.

About 32,000 employees, out of the 245,000-person DHS workforce, are not working and not getting paid as the partial shutdown reached its 25th day with no end in sight. The empty offices include strategic planning, oversight functions, research and employment verification.

“We don’t even know what questions we’re not answering right now,” said Ryan Baugh, an American Federation of Government Employees local leader who represents staff in the DHS Office of Immigration Statistics in Washington. AFGE is the largest federal employee union.

Since the beginning days of the department in 2002, the DHS Office of Immigration Statistics has been tasked with collecting and reporting data to evaluate the impact of immigration laws and to establish standards of data across DHS.

The office he represents provides “authoritative, high-quality data, to paint a picture of what immigration looks like” in the United States, said Baugh.

“Those questions seem at the heart of what the (shutdown) debate is,” he told CNN.

President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats have been unable to reach a deal to reopen the government since the lapse in funding began a few days before Christmas. At issue is funding over a physical barrier along the US-Mexico border, which the administration says is needed, in part, to manage the “security and humanitarian crises.”

Democratic leadership have refused to meet the President’s demand and as of Tuesday both sides remain at an impasse.

“Moral leadership would allow us to multitask and operate the government while figuring out these important decisions,” said Baugh.

Of the 154 employees in the DHS Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, which oversees the statistics office, six are “excepted” or continuing to work through the shutdown. Everyone in the statistics office was planned to be furloughed, according to Baugh. Due to the shutdown, he was not aware if anyone had been called back to work.

DHS Press Secretary Tyler Q. Houlton declined to comment for this story but previously told CNN that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “is working tirelessly to reach a solution that will pay all DHS employees and end the humanitarian and security crisis on the border.”

Nielsen wrote in a message to employees last week, “The stalemate in Congress is unproductive and you have my pledge to continue to work with and call on Members to do their jobs and fully fund the Department.”

Internal watchdog on furlough
In the department’s watchdog office, the “vast majority of employees are furloughed,” said a statement sent by Deputy Inspector General Jennifer L. Costello.

The inspector general staff that remains working through the shutdown has been instructed to limit activity to work with a “nexus to the protection of life and property,” therefore was able to deploy an on-call duty agent on Christmas Eve to investigate the death of an immigrant child in DHS custody.

“However, there is important oversight work the (inspector general) should and could be doing that we cannot take action on due to the funding lapse. Given that many high-risk DHS programs and operations are continuing to operate during the shutdown, this creates significant risk that serious issues may go unnoticed and/or unaddressed,” Costello said.

Civil rights and civil liberties offices mostly empty
The DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties has a staff of 90, with only two employees working through the shutdown.

The office investigates and works to resolve civil rights and liberties complaints brought by the public against the department, as well as advises the department on policies and reaches out to communities that may be affected by DHS activities.

There are several hundred complaints open at any given time, including an “enormous amount” of work with immigration detention, said a DHS official.

The civil rights and civil liberties lens the office brings to issues “simply isn’t there” during the shutdown.

For example, the office reviews 10 to 15 Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities in any given year to “ensure conditions of detention that (ICE is) holding people (in) is appropriate,” said the official.

“Obviously, that’s not happening,” the official said.

The civil rights office also conducts “larger systemic-type investigations that would touch on many of the issues in news,” such as asylum policy and the policies that led to family separation, said the official.

The lack of civil rights review “compounds” the longer the shutdown lasts as more “plans are hatched” that the office has not “laid eyes on,” said the official.

Nielsen’s advisory council shuttered
The Homeland Security Advisory Council, which provides independent advice to the secretary to support policy decisions, is also not permitted to meet during the shutdown. During normal operations, committees within the council are in touch regularly, but they have had to cease communication amid the shutdown, according to a member of the council.

In the fall, Nielsen and Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan requested that the advisory council “review best practices in the care of children and families and make recommendations to better inform CBP policies and procedures in the future.” The request was announced after what Customs and Border Protection said was a “very high number of referrals being made for medical care” for migrants arriving on the southern border. It’s unclear if the council shared its recommendations with Customs and Border Protection.

Parts of USCIS and FEMA still being paid
US Citizenship and Immigration Services and a portion of the Federal Emergency Management Agency make up the majority of the Homeland Security workforce that continues to be paid from something other than annual appropriations, according to a DHS official.

However, almost all the furloughed Citizenship and Immigration Services employees work for the E-Verify program — 280 employees out of nearly 300 total.

This has affected E-Verify employees and operations nationwide, according to a union official, who works for DHS outside of Washington.

Although the employment program is generally voluntary, except for some state and federal exemptions, employers “can’t follow compliance until E-Verify is back up and running,” said the union official.

Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Michael Bars previously said in part that “fidelity to a lawful workforce doesn’t stop with the suspension of the E-Verify program” and the agency has taken “a number of steps to minimize the impact on both employees and employers.”

“Those forcing a government shutdown in order to protest border security only hurt the interests of the people they’re supposed to put first,” added Bars.

The union official said that if the government wants “to cut down on the amount of people working illegally in the US, E-Verify would be a great way to do it.”

The official’s message to the Trump administration and Congress? “Open the government, so we can go back to work and do our jobs that the American people are asking us to do.”

CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.

White House Looks to Chip Away at Democrats’ Resolve as Shutdown Rolls On

By Peter Nicholas and Kristina Peterson

The White House is working to peel off rank-and-file Democrats from the party leadership to pick up votes for President Trump’s proposed border wall, but is finding little appetite from caucus members to negotiate on their own.

With the partial government shutdown still in place, Mr. Trump has scheduled no meetings this week with the two top Democrats leading the negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Instead, White House officials are making overtures to moderate Democrats, hoping to split the caucus and forge a coalition that will agree to the $5.7 billion in wall construction and border security funds Mr. Trump is demanding as a condition of reopening the government.

No Democrats showed up Tuesday for what was supposed to be a bipartisan luncheon for House members at the White House hosted by Mr. Trump. Some who were invited cited scheduling conflicts, though all face pressure to unite behind Mrs. Pelosi.

“I had a previous lunch already scheduled,” said Rep. Charlie Crist (D., Fla.), explaining why he couldn’t join the president and nine Republican House members who ate lunch in the Roosevelt Room. Mr. Crist said he didn’t believe Mr. Trump was showing proper respect in going over the heads of Democratic leaders.

At a meeting of newly elected House Democrats on Tuesday morning, there was a sense that freshmen Democrats should stick together and not accommodate Mr. Trump, said Rep. Katie Hill (D., Calif.), who attended the meeting.

“The general feeling [was] whoever goes to the White House is setting themselves up to be used as a stunt,” said Ms. Hill, who defeated a GOP incumbent in November.

Mr. Trump’s end-run around the Democratic leadership follows a face-to-face meeting last week that ended badly when the president, after hearing Mrs. Pelosi reject a deal that would fund the wall, walked out.

Looking for a breakthrough, White House officials said they have been tracking statements made by Democrats about the wall and targeting members serving in districts that Mr. Trump won in 2016.

They have invited another group of Democrats to a meeting Wednesday with Mr. Trump, reaching out to the bipartisan, self-styled “Problem Solvers” caucus.

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the Republican whip, said in an interview: “He’s tried everything to get Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to negotiate and they’ve refused. So he is at least trying to reach out to some of these members who ran saying they would be problem solvers. Here’s a problem to be solved.”

At least four Democrats were invited and are leaning toward going, a person familiar with the matter said: Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Dean Phillips of Minnesota, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas. A spokesperson for Mr. Phillips confirmed he had been invited, but said it was unclear if the meeting would occur.

Rep. Scott Peters (D., Calif.) turned down the invitation. “It is an honor to be asked to the White House, but under the circumstances, we ought to open the government and then talk,” Mr. Peters said.

As the shutdown stretched toward a record 26th day Wednesday, options were narrowing. Both sides appeared dug in.

“He is resolved—we’re going to have border security and border funding,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R., Ga.), who attended the meeting Tuesday.

The costs of the shutdown continued to mount.

The federal judiciary announced that it has done enough belt-tightening to keep up paid operations through Jan. 25. It is the second time the courts have announced they could extend full services and employee pay, but the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts warned the judiciary will run out of existing funds in the near future.

Meantime, administrative agencies made plans for the weeks and months ahead. The Treasury Department said that more than half of Internal Revenue Service employees will work during the coming tax-filing season, calling for 46,052 employees to work, up from the fewer than 10,000 workers since the shutdown started.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an update of its staffing showing that nearly 3,000 inspectors and other employees in safety-critical jobs had been ordered back to work without pay.

For its part, the Transportation Security Administration said more than 99% of passengers waited less than 30 minutes to get through security Monday amid absences of workers.

With no clear path to ending the shutdown, the White House has been casting about for a way forward.

Last week, Mr. Trump seemed on the brink of declaring a national emergency that would empower him to bypass Congress and tap into funds to build a wall without lawmakers’ approval. But that prospect has dimmed in recent days, with White House aides conceding that such a move would invite a lengthy court challenge.

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, told reporters outside the White House on Monday that Mr. Trump is “reluctant to use it (a national emergency declaration), because it gets Congress off the hook and it’s a last resort.”

Courts thwart Trump’s bid to enact hard-line immigration agenda as Congress dithers

By David Nakamura

President Trump’s efforts to remake the immigration system through executive power have been repeatedly thwarted by the federal courts, exposing the limits of his strategy to circumvent Congress and hampering his ability to deliver on promises to crack down on illegal immigration.

The Trump administration’s latest legal defeat came Tuesday, when a U.S. district judge in New York blocked its attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The ruling extends a string of setbacks, as federal courts have halted the president’s efforts to end a deferred-action program for young undocumented immigrants, bar Central Americans from seeking asylum in the United States, withhold funds from “sanctuary cities” that do not cooperate with federal enforcement operations and separate immigrant families at the border.

The legal constraints have frustrated Trump, who has railed publicly about the rulings, focusing much of his ire on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. In November, he called that venue a “thorn in our side” and accused it of being led by an “Obama judge” — an assertion that drew a rebuke from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Trump’s aides have accused “activist judges” of supporting “open border” policies.

Immigrant rights groups cheered the courts, calling the judicial branch a bulwark against a president seeking to enact an anti-immigration agenda that violates the law and pursuing policies that have worsened the strain on an already overburdened immigration system.

They pointed to the Trump administration’s moves to block asylum seekers and expand criminal prosecutions of parents who enter the country without authorization, which led to chaotic scenes of children housed in cage-like facilities and migrant camps along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“These executive orders that have come through in the last two years on immigration are not about smart policy,” said David Leopold, an immigration attorney in Cleveland. “They are about an extremist ideology and an attack on immigration, not about solving a problem.”

White House allies, however, said they expect Trump to ultimately be vindicated, arguing the Constitution bestows on the executive branch significant unilateral authority on immigration. Some conservatives accused Trump’s opponents of “venue-shopping” for sympathetic judges but predicted the Supreme Court will rule in the administration’s favor in some of the cases, as it did last summer when a majority of justices affirmed a revised version of a ban on travelers from some Muslim-majority countries on national security grounds.

The Justice Department is expected to appeal the New York court’s ruling on the citizenship question, and Trump has publicly expressed optimism that the Supreme Court later this year will uphold his authority to unwind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that began under President Barack Obama. The Trump administration declared the program unconstitutional in 2017.

“In most of the cases, the president and his administration are on fairly solid footing legally,” said David Inserra, a policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He called the legal challenges an inevitable consequence as opponents seek to slow Trump’s agenda and said there is “a little bit of judge-hunting going on.”

More broadly, Trump’s struggles have highlighted the evolution of how presidents have dealt with immigration since Congress passed the last major overhaul of the system nearly three decades ago. The collapse of efforts at comprehensive legislation during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Obama have led to efforts to make bolder changes through executive power.

For Obama, the first steps came as his administration sought to establish new enforcement priorities that targeted criminals and recent arrivals, while offering reprieves from deportation for undocumented immigrants who had lived in the country for years.

In 2012, during his reelection bid, Obama enacted DACA, which offered renewable two-year work permits to young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. A court challenge to the program was defeated, and Obama felt emboldened in November 2014 to announce a major expansion aimed at shielding up to 4 million parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents from deportation.

Obama said he acted reluctantly after House Republicans refused that year to vote on a Senate-approved bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill. But Texas and two dozen other Republican-led states sued the Obama administration, arguing that it violated the proper rulemaking procedures and that the new program would impose onerous fees on states to provide drivers’ licenses and other benefits to the immigrants.

A federal judge in Brownsville, Tex., enjoined the new program, and after an extended legal battle, the Supreme Court split 4 to 4 in 2016, leaving the injunction in place and effectively killing it.

Unlike Obama, Trump did not wait on Congress before pursuing sweeping actions. In his first week, he announced an executive order to roll back Obama’s immigration enforcement priorities and signed the travel ban on foreign nationals from seven majority-Muslim nation.

That ban was enjoined two days later by a federal judge in New York, and several other courts followed suit, sparking a lengthy legal battle that forced the administration to amend its order twice before winning affirmation in the Supreme Court.

The legal hurdles have continued since then. In some cases, Trump has been defeated on constitutional grounds, including rulings that said the administration violated spending authority bestowed on Congress when it sought to withhold grants to sanctuary cities. In other cases, the administration has been halted on procedural grounds, such as Trump’s bid to end DACA, a plan that courts have called “arbitrary” and “based on a flawed legal premise.”

Trump’s policies are “creating more havoc,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “Rather than solve problems, Trump is manufacturing ‘crises.’ ”

Since shutting the government down in his fight to win border wall funding, Trump has repeatedly threatened to declare a national emergency and use Pentagon funds to build a border wall, although he has backed off in recent days amid concerns from some Republican allies.

“There is a dramatic difference between how President Trump has rolled out unlawful and unconstitutional policies so frequently that it becomes the norm, as compared to his predecessors, whose respect for the law was far less in question,” said Gregory Chen, government relations director at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

It’s not just immigration. The Trump administration has suffered legal setbacks on other high-profile actions, including a ban on transgender military troops and rules that allow employers and insurers to decline to provide birth control on religious grounds.

But for both Obama and Trump, there is perhaps a common lesson forged by their struggles on immigration — executive power has its limits. The question is whether congressional lawmakers will ever move to rein in presidents by filling the void that their own inaction has created.

“Congressional action is often the most sustainable and important action in the long run,” Inserra said. “There are some issues that can be addressed by executive action, but they can be challenged in the courts — and they can be easily undone by another administration.”

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

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Trailer: The message of Julián Castro's visit to Puerto Rico

By David Weigel

SAN JUAN, P.R. — The first trip by any presidential candidate, before the campaign trail blurs into a haze of Pizza Ranches and VFW halls, is supposed to send a message. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s first trip to Iowa began in the state’s deep red western counties, where Democrats never expect to win. Donald Trump’s first campaign rally took place in Phoenix, where he could emphasize his hard line on immigration.

On Sunday, former HUD secretary and San Antonio mayor Julián Castro made Puerto Rico, an island with 3.1 million American citizens and no electoral votes, his first campaign stop outside Texas. He started with a speech to Latino activists and hit the road to visit neighborhoods badly damaged, and in some cases abandoned, after the 2017 devastation of Hurricane Maria.

“We need to make sure not only that you recover, but that you thrive,” Castro told a Sunday morning gathering of the Latino Victory Fund, a political organization founded in 2014 to make around-the-year contacts to Latino voters. “To make sure that you are respected. To make sure that you count.”

Castro is not the first Latino candidate for president. But he’s approaching his campaign differently from his party’s most recent nominees, who vied to be the first black president and the first female president but bristled — at least at first — at coverage that focused on their identities. Castro, 44, has positioned himself as the antithesis of the president — a descendant of Mexican immigrants with zero nostalgia for how things used to be.

“What Julián represents is a forward-looking young talent who’s governed a city that looks like the United States in the 21st century,” said Henry Muñoz, the finance chairman of the DNC, who is officially neutral on the race. “What’s interesting to me is seeing how many people of color will be in this race. They have outstanding records and they speak to people, either because of age or cultural identity, who look like them.”

For many Democrats, that’s a new argument. In 2008, Hillary Clinton’s campaign against Barack Obama was premised on something that was easier to say in private than public: that the younger, nonwhite son of an immigrant would lose white working-class voters. In interviews about a potential Joe Biden candidacy, some of the former vice president’s colleagues have pitched him as the kind of guy who could win those voters back. Former senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who’s 76, told the New York Times that Biden was “moderate enough” to win his state; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who’s 85, told CNN that Biden would bring the “secret ingredient” of “credibility” into a presidential run.

Castro, who is likely to be joined soon by a cluster of Democrats running with an eye on identity, does not look back. The president says that he represents “Pittsburgh, not Paris,” and considers pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord to be the sort of policy that flips “Rust Belt voters.” Castro, in his announcement speech and in Puerto Rico, said he would reenter the accord on his first day in office; he also endorsed a “Green New Deal.” He doesn’t dismiss the idea of winning back Obama-Trump voters, but he talks about what Democrats could offer a bigger, younger coming electorate; the implication is hard to miss.

When the past appears in Castro’s remarks, it’s not to demonstrate a time when America offered a better deal to average citizens; it’s to describe how protests improved the country. A story about his mother’s health care (“thank God for Medicare”) becomes a pitch for “Medicare-for-all.”

Castro’s campaign is also designed to maximize the Latino vote itself — more powerful than ever in the early Democratic primary calendar but rarely mobilized. As reported by this newsletter Sunday, the LVF is working to double Latino turnout in the first three primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. It is already a major factor in Nevada (the fourth “early” state), and it is ripe for mobilization in California and Texas. Early voting will be taking place in those states while the first four are voting; there are, for the first time, millions of potential Latino votes in play before the first month of the primaries is over.

Annette Taddeo, a new state senator from Florida, said Castro had a long head start on making that happen. As mayor of San Antonio, he’d been one of the best-traveled Latino surrogates in his party. (He is not rolling out endorsements yet, but Democrats know who he has already built contact with.) That was remembered by Florida Democrats, who lost razor-thin races for governor and Senate last year in large part because Republicans communicated early with Latino voters and Democrats didn’t.

“Rick Scott was everywhere,” said Taddeo, referring to the two-term governor who defeated Nelson in the Senate race. “If you were arriving to Florida from Puerto Rico, you saw his ads welcoming you to the state. I looked at the inauguration for the new president of Colombia, and there was Rick Scott! Republicans send their best surrogates to Florida, and Democrats just don’t.”

Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico who in 2008 tried to become the nation’s first Hispanic president, said in an interview that he was disappointed when Castro was not picked as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate — the umpteenth case he saw of his party taking Latinos for granted.

“Latinos are always taken to the altar, and then at the end we’re given a nice divorce,” Richardson said in an interview. “My advice for Julián is this: Don’t run just as a Hispanic candidate with Hispanic issues. Run as a Democratic candidate, talk about immigration and education, and concentrate on Hispanic states, which have a larger role than ever in the primary.”

And in Puerto Rico, which has more delegates than Iowa but rarely becomes competitive in the primary, Castro was the first 2020 candidate to see hurricane damage up close. He joined San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for a walk around a damaged neighborhood and a recovery center; over horchata, he and a small group of community activists talked over how the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which he ran under Obama, could develop the island “the right way.”

The Republican National Committee, which is working to brand Castro as an opportunist, accused him of “trying to further his own political aspirations off of a natural disaster.” But locals had little good to say about the Trump administration and plenty of praise for how a presidential candidate had bothered to fly down and meet them.

“You’re so young and handsome!” said Omara Rios, a 49-year-old community activist, before sitting down with Castro to discuss what San Juan needed from the rest of the country.

Amy Klobuchar. “I have made very clear that I’m looking at this. … I also had said I wanted to talk to my family. So big news today — my family is on board, including my in-laws, showing some momentum.”

Kirsten Gillibrand. She’s expected to announce her candidacy for president tonight on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Eric Swalwell. He used some of his floor time in the debate over censuring Steve King to mention that he’s got deep roots in western Iowa.

John Delaney. He became the first 2020 candidate to weigh in on Brexit, which, if you recall, Barack Obama also opposed. (Delaney is against it.)

How Steve King won. With every day that passes, more Republicans are denouncing Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and calling on him to resign from Congress. It’s one of the fastest turnarounds politics has ever seen — Republicans who campaigned with King for years, from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), have denounced him and said the nine-term congressman has no place in their party.

Just as remarkable as the speed of this public shaming is how little it means for King’s agenda. The current controversy started after Trip Gabriel, a New York Times reporter who has covered Iowa extensively, published a look at how the congressman “set the agenda for the wall and anti-immigrant politics.” What tripped King up was his exasperation that terms such as “white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization” had become “offensive.”

By the end of Tuesday, King will have no committee assignments, an official censure levied against him and at least one 2020 primary challenger. What no one can take away from him is that agenda. He set it. He won. The government is shut down over an idea — a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexico border — that was fringe when King entered politics.

One way to demonstrate the change is by looking at the Republican Party’s platform. In 2000, the last election before King came to Congress, the party’s official stance on immigration was that it should be monitored but encouraged. While the platform attacked the Clinton administration’s “lax enforcement of our borders,” it made no mention of a wall. Instead, it argued that “the long-term solution for illegal immigration is economic growth in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean” and that work visas should be expanded to “greatly increase the number of highly qualified workers in all sectors of the American economy.”

That is not what the party believes anymore. The 2016 platform endorsed a wall across the border and specified that it “must cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.” It also called for an end to DACA and DAPA and hinted at a rollback for work visas. “In light of the alarming levels of unemployment and underemployment in this country, it is indefensible to continue offering lawful permanent residence to more than one million foreign nationals every year,” the platform committee wrote. In November 2000, the unemployment rate was at 4 percent; in November 2016, it was at 4.6 percent.

What got King into trouble was his years of flirtation with white-nationalist politicians, including endorsements of far-right leaders in Canada and Europe. But the policy that motivated him was immigration restriction and a border wall. If he were leave office tomorrow, he could do so confident that his ideas had won and the pro-business/pro-immigration lobby he campaigned against had lost. In 2007, 2013 and 2015, most serious Republican candidates for president courted King, whose district contained more Republican votes than any other part of Iowa. There were plenty of opportunities to distance from him; those opportunities just weren’t taken.

Inside Iowa, the debate over replacing King is not about his immigration legacy but about how his racist statements and general ineffectiveness amounted to a waste of a safe seat. King already faces at least one primary challenger, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, who has said King’s comments do not represent western Iowa. In 2016, he faced Rick Bertrand, another state legislator, who blasted King for squandering his seniority. And then, in 2018, King won reelection by only 3 points, in what should be a slam dunk 20-point district.

“For as strong a Republican district as this was, he should have been in leadership in the Agriculture Committee,” Bertrand said in an interview. “Steve just fired himself from that committee. This is a self-inflicted wound.”

But neither that primary or Feenstra’s challenge so far focused on immigration and the call for a border wall. Bertrand, who is still thinking over whether to run again, said that there was a “responsible and humane way of implementing immigration policy” and that it differed very much from King’s. But the wall was another issue.

“From a policy standpoint, any Republican is going to align with the president,” Bertrand said.

The wall, which used to be a talking point for a lonesome Iowa congressman, is now presidential policy. That is not changing soon, no matter what becomes of King.

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced her presidential exploratory committee Dec. 31, she dominated traditional and social media — and not always in the ways she liked. The Facebook page that got the most likes for its Warren reaction was titled “Elizabeth Warren is Batsh#t Crazy.” The top articles shared about her on Reddit dealt with her claims of Native American heritage. Posters on 4Chan brainstormed ways to make Democrats sound conflicted, or even negative, about the Massachusetts Democrat.

“Pose as a concerned Democrat and criticize her for being white,” one wrote. “Criticize her for being a woman. Do whatever it takes to further divide the left and prevent them from unifying behind a candidate for 2020. If we can manufacture another Bernie/Hillary split, they’ll get crushed in the general election.”

All of that came from Storyful, a social media analysis company, which has been tracking the online conversation about Democrats and finding a surplus of trolls. None of it was particularly surprising, as these sites (especially 4Chan) have been hubs for “s—posters” looking to meddle in politics, often in support of Donald Trump.

“We spotted a trend on 4Chan to divide the left; you pretend you’re a Democrat, and try split the party,” said Kelly Jones, the researcher who looked into Warren’s launch.

The point of these trolling campaigns can get lost, now that the candidates and the media know to look for them. One conservative troll’s campaign to get accounts tweeting “We Want Bernie” at Warren was spotted right away — it was announced via tweet — and never got covered seriously. But it’s becoming part of the atmosphere around every launch. When Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) announced that she would be setting up a campaign soon, Jones noticed 4Chan posters planning to promote her candidacy, with the same goal of sowing division among Democrats.

On Tuesday afternoon, a Democrat stopped by a Compass coffee shop in the District’s U Street neighborhood and stumbled across a one-sheet memo for Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s 2020 presidential campaign. It even had a logo, with a mountain-filled triangle representing an “A,” and plenty of additional descriptions of the triangle’s meaning.

There was one small problem: Klobuchar’s operation had no idea what was going on. “While the Senator likes mountains, last time we checked Minnesota doesn’t have a lot of them. This must have been prepared by an overly enthusiastic supporter, but it was not commissioned by our team,” said Justin Buoen, a senior Klobuchar adviser.

This newsletter is not in the business of spreading misinformation, but it will spread hilarity, and this memo provided 10 to 12 solid minutes of amusement for a press corps wondering when Klobuchar will move. Enjoy.

“Beto O’Rourke’s immigration plan: No wall but no specifics,” by Jenna Johnson

A lengthy interview with the former Texas congressman reveals how much of his thinking on immigration is just that — contemplation and negotiation, with no hard answers yet.

“The Law That Just Passed In New York Is A Huge Win For Voting Rights,” by Ari Berman

A deep dive on the package of voting changes that wiped away decades of repressive New York laws, making it much easier to register and to cast a ballot in the largest state that had allowed no early voting.

“‘This model of education is not sustainable,'” by Sarah Jaffe

A report from the L.A. teachers’ strikes, which have a direct impact on the presidential hopes of Mayor Eric Garcetti — and a whole lot of meaning beyond that.

… one day until the first non-Colbert media event of Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign
… four days until Eric Swalwell returns to South Carolina
… 14 days until the State of the Union address

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

Trump Administration to Nearly Double Size of Detention Center for Migrant Teenagers

By Miriam Jordan

The federal government said this week it had effectively closed a teeming tent city for migrant children on the Texas border, a facility that opponents of the Trump administration’s tough immigration policies had described as a juvenile prison.

But plans are now underway in Florida to nearly double the capacity of a similar, unregulated detention center for migrant teenagers, federal officials confirmed this week.

The government plans to expand the number of children housed at a “temporary shelter” in Homestead, Fla., from 1,350 to 2,350 in January, according to a Dec. 26 letter from the Department of Health and Human Services outlining the plan.

A department spokeswoman confirmed the plans, but said that the facility still houses only 1,100 minors as of this week. “As you know the numbers are unpredictable,” Lydia Holt, the spokeswoman, said in an email. “Our job is to be prepared and have capacity when/if needed.”

Like the tent city in Texas, the facility in Florida, adjacent to Homestead Air Reserve Base, is a “temporary” or “influx” shelter on federal land. Thus, it is not subject to state regulations and inspections intended to guarantee child welfare — only to a loose set of Health and Human Services guidelines.

In contrast, permanent shelters traditionally used to detain minors must abide by state requirements for staff vetting and training, as well as standards that ensure minors are educated and safe.

The number of children in federal custody has been shrinking rapidly since the Trump administration last month eased a strict security policy that had delayed — often by months — the placement of newly arrived children with sponsors, typically relatives already in the United States.

The Trump administration had required that everyone in a potential sponsor’s household submit fingerprints to the F.B.I. for a background check, which many families, some of whom are undocumented, were unwilling to do. Coupled with a surge in unaccompanied teenagers arriving at the southwest border, mostly from Central America, the policy prompted a shortage — and a scramble — for shelter beds.

To help handle the overflow, the government in June opened the camp at Tornillo, Tex., a collection of tents on a barren patch of desert about 35 miles southeast of El Paso. It quickly grew to house more than 2,800 migrant teenagers. The camp had the look and feel of a military barracks, with what critics described as inadequate health care and education services.

Children had little access to legal services. Instead of several hours of schooling a day, as is offered at licensed shelters for migrant children around the country, children at Tornillo were offered workbooks which they were under no obligation to complete, migrant advocates said.

The Office of Inspector General in November criticized the facility’s failure to conduct F.B.I. fingerprint background checks on staff, and also said it had too few staff members to provide sufficient mental health care.

Eventually, the private nonprofit operating the sprawling desert site informed the government that it did not wish to extend its management contract, setting it up to close.

“This tent city should never have stood in the first place, but it is welcome news that it will be gone,” Will Hurd, the Republican congressman who represents the southwest Texas border region, wrote on Twitter.

The number of migrant children under detention reached record numbers last year, an increase due to both the large numbers of children crossing the border and the roadblocks imposed by the Trump administration to releasing them to family members.

The crunch has eased with the elimination of the policy requiring fingerprints of all adults in any household in which a migrant child is placed. Fingerprints are now only required of the adult who is sponsoring the minor.

As of Jan. 13, about 10,500 migrant minors were held in more than 100 shelters across the country overseen by Health and Human Services, down from about 14,700 in December. Despite the recent decline, the number of children in federal custody remains substantially higher than a year ago, when about 7,550 were staying in shelters.

The news that federal officials plan a significant expansion at the Homestead facility is a clear signal, immigration legal analysts say, that the Trump administration is not changing its policy of holding migrant teenagers in detention, but is merely changing the location.

Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon who led a congressional delegation to Tornillo last month and pressed for it to be shuttered, said that the expansion of Homestead shows that “the Trump administration has not changed its fundamental strategy of deliberately hurting kids as part of its ongoing strategy of deterrence.”

“It’s a shell game of moving kids from one facility to another,” Mr. Merkley said in a telephone interview.

The Homestead site, about 30 miles south of Miami, housed teenage migrants from June 2016 to April 2017, but closed after the number of children entering the country dwindled. It reopened in March 2018 amid the surge in arrivals and is now the country’s biggest detention site for unaccompanied minors.

The facility’s “temporary” or “influx” shelter status suggests that children will be kept there only briefly. But the tent city at Tornillo was also intended to be a temporary home for a few hundred migrant children. Instead, its population multiplied and the stay of many children dragged on for months.

The children at Homestead sleep in dorms with bunk beds, take classes inside a massive tent and eat meals at a dining hall. Some of the dorms are fashioned from former military barracks. As at other shelters, including state-licensed facilities, the children are not free to leave the site, which is fenced and guarded.

“Homestead has the same maladies that Tornillo suffered from,” said Holly Cooper, a co-director of the immigration law clinic at the University of California at Davis.

Ms. Cooper will visit Homestead next month with a team to assess whether it is in compliance with the terms of a 1997 consent decree, known as the Flores agreement, establishing guidelines for the treatment of minors in government custody. “We have received multiple complaints about the facility and will make the investigation of the conditions in Homestead a top priority for the coming months,” she said.

The Miami-Dade County public school district has not been asked to provide teachers to work at the Homestead facility, even though the district staffed classrooms when the shelter previously opened under the Obama administration.

The schools superintendent in Miami-Dade County, Alberto Carvalho, said that he raised a concern about the failure to provide certified teachers at Homestead in a letter last summer to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, but that she did not directly address his question. “It would appear to me that there is a continued inequity of the quality and standards of education provided to children in that shelter,” Mr. Carvalho said.

Federal officials said the government was committed to providing excellent care for migrant youths at the facility, and said all staff members receive F.B.I. fingerprint background checks. “Even though Homestead is on federal property, we continue to maintain the high standards of care expected in our permanent shelters,” Ms. Holt, the H.H.S. spokeswoman, said in a statement.

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

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Democrats Jilt Trump on Lunch Talks but Look for Shutdown Exit

By Julie Hirschfeld Davis

WASHINGTON — House Democrats spurned an invitation from President Trump to have a bipartisan lunch at the White House on Tuesday, as increasingly agitated lawmakers in both parties and on both sides of the Capitol began casting about for a compromise to end the standoff that has pressed the partial government shutdown into its 25th day.

The Democrats’ absence from the lunch was the latest indication that the party is continuing to stand firm against Mr. Trump’s demand that any proposal to reopen the government must include $5.7 billion for a wall on the southwestern border. White House officials, who had issued the invitation in the hopes of showing fissures among Democrats, used the snub to deflect responsibility for the prolonged shutdown, arguing that Mr. Trump was the one trying to end the impasse. A slew of recent polls have found that the public largely blames Mr. Trump and Republicans for the continuing dysfunction.

“Unfortunately, no Democrats will attend,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement about the lunch, which was to include nine rank-and-file House Republicans. “The president looks forward to having a working lunch with House Republicans to solve the border crisis and reopen the government. It’s time for the Democrats to come to the table and make a deal.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, have refused to negotiate over border security until the government reopens, but Mr. Trump has ruled out separating the two issues. While the Democrat-led House has passed several bills to end the shutdown, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has said he will not advance the legislation knowing that the president will not sign it.

Behind the scenes, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill toiled without success to find a solution Mr. Trump would accept.

In the House, some freshman Democrats who won in districts carried by Mr. Trump in 2016 planned to meet on Tuesday to talk about whether — and how hard — to push their leaders to negotiate with the White House.

“Maybe it’s an outlier view compared to some others in the Democratic Party, but I believe we have a responsibility to get in a room and negotiate,” Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan, said in an interview.

Ms. Slotkin said she convened the session with other newly elected Democrats because she and her colleagues wanted “a better sense of what our appropriate voice should be” on the matter. She added that she was trying to assist Ms. Pelosi, not undercut her.

But Ms. Slotkin said she got an earful from constituents over the weekend, and promptly called the speaker’s office on Monday to report what she had heard. She has also been talking quietly with Republicans — she would not name them — about how to find a way out of the stalemate.

Yet Democratic leaders expressed confidence that their members would not break from their leaders’ strategy, notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s attempts to entice them.

“Is anybody surprised that the president is trying to get votes anywhere he can get votes?” Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, told reporters on Tuesday. “We are totally united — totally.”

In a closed-door meeting of House Democratic leaders on Monday, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Hoyer said they had no problem with the idea of rank-and-file Democrats meeting with Mr. Trump. Ms. Pelosi said such a session would give lawmakers a sense of “what we’ve been dealing with” in a series of tense meetings with the president in the Situation Room since the shutdown began. “They’ll want to make a citizen’s arrest,” she added at one point, according to an official in the room who spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversation was private.

In the Senate, a group of Republican and Democratic senators met privately on Monday in the office of Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, to try to find a way out of the gridlock, but the talks yielded no breakthrough.

The group included Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who tried last week to forge a compromise that would pair border security funding with legal status for certain groups of immigrants facing deportation. Democrats in the room said no progress could be made on such a deal until the government was reopened, two officials familiar with the talks said, and Republicans agreed.

“What I would hope is that the president would reconsider” and allow the government to reopen for a brief period while senators worked on a compromise, said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, who attended the session.

But the president has repeatedly ruled out doing so, and privately told Democrats this month that such a move would make him look foolish.

As the gridlock continued, the Trump administration was searching for ways to lessen the pain of the partial shutdown for those affected. Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, said she was working on legislation to ensure that the Coast Guard, the only branch of the military going without pay during the lapse in funding, would be compensated.

The acting director of the Office of Personnel Management has been working with payroll providers to ensure that some federal workers going without compensation would receive back pay within a few days of when the government reopens, according to a senior administration official. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity without authorization to discuss the plan, said it would affect more than half of the federal work force that is not getting paid.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Annie Karni contributed reporting.

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

New U.S.-Bound Migrant Groups Set Off From Honduras

By José de Córdoba

MEXICO CITY—A new caravan of Honduran migrants has set out toward the U.S., prompting President Trump to press his case that a border wall is the only way to stop illegal immigration.

A group of about 500 migrants, including families, set out from a bus station in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula late Monday, according to video images on local media and Karla Rivas, an official with ERIC, a local Jesuit organization that monitors migration. Another group of some 600 migrants set out early Tuesday, Ms. Rivas said, adding that they appear to have plans to merge.

The caravan is fueling the debate over Mr. Trump’s proposed border that has led to a partial shutdown of the U.S. government. The president is demanding Congress include $5.7 billion in this year’s budget to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico to stem illegal immigration, drugs and crime that he says is flooding in.

Democrats say a wall would be ineffective in fixing those problems and is a waste of money. They also point to the lowest levels of illegal immigration across the southern border since the early 1970s. Without a budget deal, the government has been partially closed for 25 days as of Tuesday, the longest in modern U.S. history.

“Tell Nancy and Chuck that a drone flying around will not stop them. Only a wall will work,” Mr. Trump said in a Twitter message.

Part of the caravans members are on foot, but others have taken buses. Early Tuesday, Guatemalan officials denied entry to about 60 migrants who didn’t have valid identification, said Ms. Rivas, as they passed through the neighboring country on their way to Mexico and to the U.S.

The migrants have been organizing through social media for longer than a month, according to a WhatsApp group monitored by The Wall Street Journal.

“There is no visible leadership,” said Ms. Rivas. “It’s the same dynamic as the last caravans, spreading the word through social media.”

On Tuesday, messages on the chat group showed pictures of some of the migrants stopping along the road in Honduras to eat tamales.

The caravan follows several far bigger caravans ahead of midterm elections last year that created widespread attention as Mr. Trump and his allies made immigration and secure borders a priority issue. The biggest had as many as 7,000 people as it made its way across Mexico to the U.S. border.

The Honduran government estimates about half of the migrants in the first caravans returned home. Many of the rest are in border cities like Tijuana waiting to apply for asylum in the U.S. Mexico has offered many of them work permits while they wait.

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

Census Can’t Ask About Citizenship, Judge Rules

By Corinne Ramey

A federal judge in New York blocked the Trump administration from asking about citizenship on the 2020 census, saying Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to add the question broke the law.

“Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census—even if it did not violate the Constitution itself—was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside,” wrote U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who had presided over a trial about the question last year.

The decision comes as a result of two lawsuits filed by cities, states and left-leaning advocacy groups. The plaintiffs had argued adding the question ignored the Census Bureau’s own research, would lead to a significant undercount and was motivated by discrimination against immigrants. The lower count could result in fewer congressional seats and billions of dollars in lost federal funding in districts with large numbers of immigrants, they said.

The Trump administration said it had acted lawfully and needs citizenship data to enforce the Voting Rights Act. The government hasn’t asked about the citizenship status of the entire population since the 1950 census.

The ruling is a blow to the Trump administration, whose immigration initiatives have been faulted by federal courts for running afoul of the law. Courts have blocked, at least temporarily, Mr. Trump’s early efforts to stop citizens of several Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S., his attempt to ban asylum claims by people who cross the border illegally, and his bid to cancel a program benefiting undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

In a tweet in November, Mr. Trump said judges shouldn’t legislate security and safety at the border. “They know nothing about it and are making our Country unsafe,” he wrote.

On Tuesday, the plaintiffs hailed Judge Furman’s ruling. “Accurate population counts are imperative for allocating funding for critical programs and support systems and for determining fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office is a plaintiff in the suit.

Dale Ho, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represented the plaintiffs, said evidence at trial showed that adding the question would wreck the once-in-a-decade count. “This ruling is a forceful rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities,” Mr. Ho said.

The Justice Department is disappointed and still reviewing the ruling, a spokeswoman said. “Our government is legally entitled to include a citizenship question on the census and people in the United States have a legal obligation to answer,” she said. “Reinstating the citizenship question ultimately protects the right to vote and helps ensure free and fair elections for all Americans.”

Judge Furman, who was appointed by President Obama, said the plaintiffs had proved they would be harmed by the addition of the citizenship question. He also said Mr. Ross violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how federal agencies develop regulations.

“He failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices—a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut [Administrative Procedure Act] violations,” the judge wrote in his 277-page ruling.

The judge also said the plaintiffs hadn’t proved Mr. Ross acted with discriminatory intent.

Tuesday’s ruling is the first on the citizenship question, which is the subject of a number of lawsuits currently pending in federal courts across the U.S. Two similar lawsuits, brought by the state of California and several cities and groups, went to trial in federal court in San Francisco last week. Two more lawsuits, brought by a coalition of groups and residents from Maryland and Arizona, are due to go to trial this month in Maryland. A seventh lawsuit was filed in November by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil-liberties nonprofit.

The Justice Department is expected to appeal. The case could potentially be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. An appeal would need to move quickly, as the Census Bureau has indicated it needs to finalize the questionnaire later this year.

The Supreme Court already has played a role in the suit. In recent months it declined to postpone the New York trial, but did temporarily shield Mr. Ross from being questioned under oath in the case.

Although the trial is over, the high court next month is scheduled to consider what types of evidence are fair game for consideration in the litigation. Judge Furman wrote his ruling in a way that may minimize the impact of the Supreme Court’s answer to that question.

The judge said he was able to conclude from the written agency record in the case that Mr. Ross’s decision to add the citizenship question was unlawful. All the additional evidence introduced in the case just further confirmed and illustrated “how egregious” the secretary’s actions were, the judge said.

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Rayamajhi v. Whitiker

There is no duress exception to the material support terrorist bar in 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1182(a)(3)(B)(iv)(VI), nor a de minimis funds exception.

Rayamajhi v. Whitiker - filed Jan. 15, 2019 
Cite as 2019 S.O.S. 16-70534 

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

No, asset forfeiture will not pay for the wall

By Christopher Ingraham

In recent days, the White House and several Republican lawmakers have floated the idea of using asset forfeiture money held by the Justice Department to cover the initial cost of Donald Trump’s proposed border wall. The proposal has drawn harsh criticism from civil libertarians, including some in the president’s own party.

Below is a primer on this highly contentious law enforcement practice that’s drawn fire from critics on the left, right and center in recent years.

What is asset forfeiture?

Asset forfeiture is a legal mechanism that allows authorities to seize and, provided certain conditions are met, permanently keep cash and property from people suspected of crimes. Forfeiture can happen under the criminal justice system, which requires a criminal conviction in order for property to be permanently forfeited. But it can also proceed under civil law, which does not require a conviction or even a criminal charge to be filed.

Why is asset forfeiture controversial?

Because civil forfeiture does not require a criminal charge to be filed, cash and property can be taken from individuals who are never convicted of any wrongdoing. A Washington Post investigation documented that between 2001 and 2014, police seized at least $2.5 billion from people who were not charged with a crime. And a 2017 report by the DOJ’s inspector general found that since 2007 the Drug Enforcement Administration took at least $3.2 billion in cash from people not charged with a crime.

Stories abound of authorities seizing large amounts of cash from individuals who were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing: A convenience store owner in North Carolina. A 64-year-old immigrant living in Ohio. A college student. The tour manager of a Burmese Christian rock band.

When a law enforcement agency forfeits property, it typically gets to keep it for itself, to be used for things such as buying new equipment and paying for staff bonuses. Critics of the practice allege that the ease of forfeiting property and the broad discretion agencies have to use it creates a profit motive. Research from the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm that represents forfeiture defendants, has found that forfeitures increased in eras of budget cuts.

How much forfeiture money does the federal government have?

In fiscal year 2018, the DOJ’s asset forfeiture fund had a net balance of about $1.5 billion, roughly triple the balance that was in there in 2001. The Treasury Department maintains a separate asset forfeiture fund with a balance of $2.2 billion as of fiscal year 2017 (more recent data from the Treasury is not yet available).

While the federal government does not release detailed breakdowns on the source of those funds, previous research by the Institute for Justice found that 87 percent of federal forfeiture proceedings advanced on a civil basis, rather than a criminal one. That means that large amounts of that money were taken from individuals never convicted of any crime. Taking money seized from these individuals and putting it toward an unpopular presidential policy priority would probably be highly controversial.

Can the federal forfeiture money be put toward the wall?

Under federal law, money from the DOJ’s forfeiture fund can only be put toward certain specified uses, including maintaining the fund itself, paying overtime and salaries of law enforcement officers, paying informants and upgrading law enforcement vehicles. Similar rules govern the money in the Treasury Department’s forfeiture fund. Absent congressional action, authorities wishing to appropriate money for a wall from either fund would have to justify that use under existing statutes, and it’s unclear whether they’d be able to. ABC News’s Tara Palmieri has reported that Justice Department officials are “fiercely against” using DOJ forfeiture money in this fashion.

Could the forfeiture fund pay for the entire wall?

No. A 2017 internal report by the Department of Homeland Security estimated the cost of the wall to be $21.6 billion. That’s more than 10 times the total amount in the Justice Department’s forfeiture fund as of 2018. Even adding the entirety of the funds in the Treasury forfeiture account as of 2017 would only account for a fraction of the total cost.

The latest known balances of both funds, in fact, only add up to $3.7 billion — $2 billion less than President Trump’s $5.7 billion funding demand to reopen the federal government. Even in the highly unlikely scenario in which both forfeiture funds were zeroed out completely, there would still be billions in additional funding required to completely build the wall.

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

As Government Pulls Back, Charities Step In to Help Released Migrants

By Jose A. Del Real and Manny Fernandez

SAN DIEGO — Migrants who are allowed to remain in the United States to pursue asylum are usually given a choice when they are released from detention in San Diego: Go to the Greyhound bus station and fend for themselves, or try to find a cot and a shower at a local shelter.

One way or another, once the migrants have been dropped off by discreet white Immigration and Customs Enforcement vans in border towns across the Southwest, they are no longer the federal government’s problem.

President Trump has tried and failed to end a practice he derisively calls “catch and release,” and thousands of undocumented migrants apprehended at the border every month are still being granted routine entry to the United States while their cases are processed by immigration courts.

But as the number of migrant families in recent months has overwhelmed the government’s detention facilities, the Trump administration has drastically reduced its efforts to ensure the migrants’ safety after they are released. People working along the border say an ever larger number of families are being released with nowhere to stay, no money, no food and no means of getting to friends and relatives who may be hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Federal officials say they are unable to do more to help the migrants, and local governments have often been hesitant to get involved because of cost and potential liability.

Stepping into the void has been a growing network of charities, expanding along the border from California to Texas. Dating back well into the Obama administration, when the surge in migrant families began, these churches and other nongovernmental organizations have strung together millions of dollars worth of assistance to help keep migrants off the streets and speed their reunion with family members in the United States.

“The government isn’t doing anything — it’s been a total make-it-up-as-we-go thing,” said Kevin Malone, one of the founders of the San Diego Rapid Response Network, a consortium of faith-based nonprofits in the area. “People are working 24 hours a day trying to make this happen. Everyone is strapped.”

While there has never been a good solution to the issue of what to do with migrants after they are released by immigration agents, recent steps by the Trump administration have exacerbated the situation.

Undocumented migrants are held initially at Border Patrol and ICE facilities as their claims for asylum are registered. Previously, government agents would help coordinate plans for their release, contacting family members in American cities and helping secure transportation, even sometimes paying for bus tickets. When charity-operated shelters were full, government agencies sometimes held them a little longer, until they could be transferred.

Those practices, known collectively as “safe release,” ended in October, according to a statement from ICE, because the agency has become overwhelmed by the number of migrants it has to process.

Part of the problem, government officials say, is that the courts have established a limit of 20 days for holding migrant children in detention, and the government has a very limited number of detention facilities that can handle both adults and children. An earlier attempt to detain them separately was struck down by the courts and rescinded. Waiting to coordinate releases with charity shelters can result in migrant families being held in detention for too long, officials say.

“After decades of inaction by Congress, the government remains severely constrained in its ability to detain and promptly remove families with no legal basis to remain in the U.S.,” the agency said. “To mitigate the risk of holding family units past the time frame allotted to the government, ICE has curtailed reviews of post-release plans from families apprehended along the southwest border.”

Yet those now trying to help the migrants say the government has abandoned its moral responsibility to make sure they are released safely.

Under President Obama, the government also had no infrastructure to provide services to newly released migrants; instead it relied on a cooperative relationship with private shelter operators. Now, the shelter operators say, that cooperation has become fraught.

Some charity networks have had to quickly become experts in refugee aid in American border towns. They provide showers, nutrition and clean clothes. Many “guests,” as the volunteers call the migrants, arrive hungry, sick or traumatized. They need fresh diapers for their infants and clean clothes for their older children.

The sole shelter in San Diego, run by Jewish Family Service of San Diego, has processed nearly 5,000 asylum applicants since it began operating two months ago. It was built “on a wing and a prayer,” according to Mr. Malone, and has had to move five times to find adequate space. Newly arrived migrants are provided with austere blue cots, portable showers and donated bread and fruit. They are also screened for illnesses.

Kate Clark, the director of immigration services at Jewish Family Service, said the organization stepped in nine weeks ago when it learned migrants were being “dumped at the border.” But despite California’s political leaders talking about being receptive to migrants, “every single night, our ability to ensure that none of the migrants are sleeping on the street is questionable, because of the capacity of our shelters,” Ms. Clark said.

Their operating costs run between $350,000 and $400,000 a month, largely raised by faith organizations and a GoFundMe account. Still, on days when 100 or more refugees are dropped off, they have little option, because of capacity constraints, other than to turn away families and leave them homeless.

“It’s been a difficult couple of years, but there’s never been anything like this,” said Etleva Bejko, the director of refugee services at the organization.

The charities have also had to learn how to cope with the illnesses that migrants can develop during the difficult journey from Central America, which many make on buses and on foot.

Marcela Wash, a registered nurse who has helped treat migrants in San Diego, said that many arrive dehydrated and in various states of medical distress. Rashes, scabies, and respiratory infections have been extremely common, she said. She estimated that 80 percent of the women she saw had lice.

“Their journeys were hard, of course, but many of these things they caught either at a shelter in Tijuana or in detention,” she said.

Once migrants are healthy enough to travel, the shelter pays to transport them to join relatives wherever they are in the country, while their cases proceed in court.

Some border towns have a more established base of nonprofit assistance for migrants, but they too have seen demands grow in recent months.

In El Paso, the Annunciation House has coordinated migrant releases with ICE for years. The migrants typically stay for a few days at the charity’s main building or at one of nearly two dozen churches, hotels and other sites that are part of its shelter network. In recent months, the charity has been assisting about 2,200 migrants a week in El Paso.

On a recent afternoon, the shelter’s headquarters, a red brick building about a mile from the border, bustled with activity, part migrant dormitory, part cafeteria and part triage center. Upstairs, a worker holding bundles of laundry walked past family dorm rooms with bunk beds, as the aroma of a dinner being prepared filled the halls. Downstairs, migrant families waiting for a ride to the bus station kept busy by helping to unload a UPS truck parked outside. A new batch of donations had arrived, to add to the towers of Amazon boxes full of clothing and other goods that people around the country had donated.

The cost of these operations can be crushing. In just two Texas border regions — the El Paso and McAllen areas — several Catholic groups, charities and local governments have spent roughly $2 million in recent years on migrant relief efforts.

On Friday, Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, was preparing to pay for several rooms at a hotel for the next seven days to handle an overflow of migrants from their shelter. The tab came to about $14,000. Depending on the number of migrants ICE releases, the shelter’s hotel expenses can climb as high as $150,000 a month.

Bureaucracy and politics can tie up more significant investments at the local level. Mr. Malone, the executive director of the San Diego Organizing Project, said San Diego municipal and county officials have suggested to him they have been waiting for the state to officially declare a crisis to lend a hand. He presumed that had to do with the bottom line.

“It became just a bunch of people pointing fingers,” said Mr. Malone. “And at the end of the day, the other question was, ‘Who is going to pay the check?’ That’s the real reason that no one talked about.”

The California Department of Social Services gave the shelter $500,000, but the money could only be used for “case management,” including intake, registration and “know your rights” orientations. It could not be used for most of the shelter’s operating costs, or for transportation costs for the migrants, one of the primary needs. San Diego County has provided medical guidance and nursing and support staff.

“We want to help prevent a crisis,” Mr. Malone said. “It’s been our crisis, and I’ve been telling them, soon it’s going to be yours.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The city of McAllen, Tex., which has seen the largest number of migrant families during the recent surge, has contributed $517,000 since 2014 toward a relief effort run largely by Catholic Charities.

In El Paso, city leaders were forced to act after federal officials made a series of unannounced nighttime releases of hundreds of migrants during Christmas week. The city officials put migrants on municipal buses to keep them warm, took them to shelter sites and coordinated the response with the local Office of Emergency Management. El Paso officials were told that none of the cost would be reimbursed by the federal government.

“It’s kind of hard to ask the federal government for emergency relief when they’re creating the problem to begin with,” Dee Margo, the mayor of El Paso, said at a recent City Council meeting.

Mr. Garcia, who runs Annunciation House, said that in October, for the first time since 2014 that he could remember, there were several releases of migrants onto the streets of El Paso without any coordination.

“I started getting calls from the police department, and everybody and their grandmother was calling me to figure out what was going on,” he said. “I wish to God you could get into one of their offices to ask them, ‘What in the world were you thinking when you did that? What was the objective?’”

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

Pentagon Extends Troop Deployment at Mexican Border Through September

By Mihir Zaveri

The deployment of active-duty United States troops at the border with Mexico will most likely be extended through September, the Pentagon said Monday.

The Pentagon’s border mission had previously been scheduled to end on Dec. 15, and the Defense Department later extended the deployment into January. Then came Monday’s announcement.

In a rare use of military force first announced in October, the Trump administration sent about 5,900 active-duty troops to join up with Border Patrol agents and National Guard members, as a caravan of Central American migrants made its way toward the United States.

The move was viewed by many as unnecessary political fear-mongering as the midterm elections approached. Border and military officials insisted the caravan was a serious threat.

On Monday, the Pentagon said that its “assistance” would continue through Sept. 30 at the Department of Homeland Security’s request, and that the support would focus on “mobile surveillance and detection” and placing concertina wire “between ports of entry.”

It’s not clear exactly how many troops are currently at the border or how the number is expected to change — a Pentagon official said in November that the number was expected to dip below the 5,900 initially deployed. The Pentagon did not immediately answer further questions about Monday’s announcement.

The extension comes as a new migrant caravan was forming in Honduras, and Mr. Trump and Congress’s differing visions on border security have led to the longest shutdown of the federal government in American history.

Mr. Trump continues to push for a wall to stem what he calls a crisis at the border.

But the reality is more complicated.

Illegal border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades, and border-crossing apprehensions in 2017 were at their lowest level in more than 45 years.

But a record number of families have tried to cross the border in recent months, and asylum claims have jumped as many migrant families say they fear returning to their home countries.

The troops, who are prevented by the Posse Comitatus Act from engaging in law enforcement activities within the country, had been spread across small bases where they spent the initial weeks setting up concertina wire and other security barriers. Later, the troops were also giving rides to Border Patrol agents and conducting more training.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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