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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


Friday, July 28, 2017

Republicans Open Debate on Bill Funding Trump’s Border Wall

Wall Street Journal 
By Laura Meckler and Siobhan Hughes
July 27, 2017

WASHINGTON—House Republicans were working to pass legislation Thursday funding President Donald Trump’s promised wall along the border with Mexico, after dodging controversy surrounding transgender military service that threatened to derail the bill.

House leaders also helped their chances by ensuring that members don’t have to vote directly on the border wall spending, which is opposed by Democrats and some Republican lawmakers. The wall funding is included in a larger bill to fund the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is less controversial.

At the same time, some House conservatives had been threatening to vote against the spending bill unless the White House promised not to use tax dollars to fund gender-reassignment surgery for these service members, a House Republican aide said Thursday.

Two weeks ago, an amendment to ban such spending failed on the House floor, and GOP leaders told proponents that a second vote wasn’t likely to turn out any differently. Proponents asked leadership if there was some other way for Congress to force a policy change and were told no.

Conservatives in both the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee then reached out to the White House, holding conversations with policy staff and “at the highest levels,” one aide said. Two other aides said that Mr. Trump was concerned that the spending bill—including money for the border wall—could fail if he didn’t act on the transgender issue.

The conservatives didn’t request an outright ban on transgender people serving in the military—only a guarantee taxpayer funds wouldn’t pay for gender-reassignment surgery. They were surprised when Mr. Trump announced a ban via Twitter Wednesday morning, reversing an Obama-era change. Pentagon officials said they, too, were surprised.

A White House spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr. Trump made the decision after consultation with his national security team and because he believed that service of transgender people “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion.”

With the transgender issue out of the way, the House is now expected to pass the spending bill and its $1.6 billion for Mr. Trump’s promised border wall.

But the border wall, too, is controversial, so Republican leaders staged the debate so members won’t have to vote directly on its funding. Several GOP aides said leaders were concerned that such a vote could fail, delivering Mr. Trump an embarrassing defeat on one of his priorities.

On Thursday, the House voted along mostly party lines, 230-196, to begin debate on the military and veterans spending bill.

Under a maneuver set by GOP leaders, that vote has the effect of automatically adding the border money to the underlying bill. The House Rules Committee also barred consideration of any amendments related to border security or the wall.

Two GOP aides said the debate was set up this way to ensure that the controversy over the border wouldn’t jeopardize the underlying spending measure.

Rep. John Carter (R., Texas) said on the House floor Thursday that existing fencing on the border has helped to reduce illegal immigration and said the new barriers funded by the legislation would continue to improve security.

“If immigrants are crossing this border illegally, then so are drug traffickers, smugglers and human traffickers,” he said.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.) and other Democrats countered by pointing to Mr. Trump’s promise that Mexico would fund the project. She said the proposal came with “nary a peso from Mexico.”

“Our nation does not barricade itself away from the rest of the world,” she said.

Still, House Democratic leaders are urging Democrats to vote against the spending bill, in part because it funds a border wall. If their efforts succeed—and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) has a reputation for keeping Democrats in line—Republicans would need to pass the legislation with only members of their own conference.

The addition of border-wall funding also complicates the path forward in the Senate, where Republicans need 60 votes to clear most legislation but control only 52 seats. Senate Democrats have said they oppose paying for the construction of a wall, which as a candidate Mr. Trump promised would be funded by Mexico.

That is on top of another, broader problem besetting the measure. Democrats are worried that Republicans will try to relax cuts imposed by a 2011 budget law for military spending without ensuring equal treatment for nonmilitary spending. Without an agreement to treat both kinds of spending equally, Senate Democrats have warned they will vote against military spending legislation.

The proposed $1.6 billion for next year would pay for a total of about 74 miles of new or replacement barriers, for an average cost of about $21 million per mile. That includes 32 miles of new border wall and 28 miles of a new levee wall in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, and 14 miles of replacement secondary fencing in San Diego.

Opponents of that spending who want to vote no will also have to oppose the more popular underlying bill, which provides funding for the military and other security needs.

That includes $658.1 billion for military training and equipment; $37.6 billion for energy and water infrastructure and nuclear-weapons programs security; and $88.8 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, including $8.4 billion for mental-health care, $50 million for opioid-abuse prevention and $65 million for modernizing the VA’s electronic health records. The bill would also increase funding for the Capitol Police, to $422.5 million.

—Benjamin Kesling and Kate Davidson contributed to this article.

Write to Laura Meckler at laura.meckler@wsj.com and Siobhan Hughes at siobhan.hughes@wsj.com

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

House of Representatives Boosts Military Spending, Gives Trump Border Wall Money

By Richard Cowan
July 27, 2017

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a $68 billion increase in military spending next year with legislation that also provides money to start construction of President Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall.

The bill increased spending on the U.S. capability to defend itself from foreign missile attacks amid growing concerns about North Korea’s increasing capacity to hit the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile after it successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in July.

The money for the wall is dwarfed by the $658.1 billion the bill would provide for the Defense Department, an increase of $68.1 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $18.4 billion above Trump’s budget request.

The House voted 235-192 for the fiscal 2018 spending bill that would provide $1.6 billion for initial construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, which was a centerpiece of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Democrats repeatedly have referred to any money for the wall as a “poison pill” and are likely to try to kill it in the Senate.

Congress is up against an Oct. 1 deadline – the start of a new fiscal year – for either passing spending bills or temporarily extending funding at current-year levels to give negotiators more time to come to agreements.

Funding for the wall was tucked into a wide-ranging national security appropriations bill at the last minute by Republican leadership, knowing that many House members who oppose the wall would not sink defense spending with a “no” vote.

Trump has argued that a “big beautiful wall” was needed along the entire southwestern U.S. border and that Mexico would ultimately pay for its construction.

Mexico has flatly refused to pay and in recent weeks Trump indicated that there could be portions of the border that are not conducive to a wall.

Democrats and many Republicans in Congress have questioned the feasibility and effectiveness of a border wall, with immigration advocacy groups arguing that it would not stem the flow of illegal border crossings and would hurt U.S.-Mexico relations.


In interviews in recent weeks with more than a half-dozen Republican senators from states that voted for Trump for president last November, only Ted Cruz of Texas embraced building the wall.

Similarly, House Republicans representing districts along the U.S.-Mexico border have expressed opposition to the barrier, which could end up costing well over $21 billion.

Representative Nita Lowey, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, called the wall a “waste … that experts confirm is unneeded and ineffective and cuts against our values as Americans.”

Furthermore, Lowey noted that Pentagon funding would run into a technical problem as it breaches a cap on defense spending by $72 billion. If the bill became law, she said, it actually would “trigger across-the-board cuts of 13 percent to every defense account” in order to stay within the cap.

The beefed up defense spending would allow the Pentagon to continue military activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and other trouble spots and hire more troops while providing soldiers with a 2.4 percent pay raise.

It also would allow the Pentagon to undertake a shopping spree with money to buy ships and submarines, aircraft, tanks and other big-ticket items.

The House-passed bill also includes an increase for America’s nuclear weapons stockpile managed by the Department of Energy, as well as for U.S. Capitol Police following a June 14 shooting that gravely wounded Republican Representative Steve Scalise.

A $825 million increase for the Missile Defense Agency to more than $8.6 billion is more than Trump asked for and includes additional boosters and missile silos for the main system that would defend against an ICBM attack, a program run by Boeing Co.

Missile defense would also gain 14 more THAAD interceptors made by Lockheed Martin Co.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Mike Stone; Editing by Chris Sanders, Lisa Shumaker and Bill Trott)

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

Inside Trump’s snap decision to ban transgender troops

By Rachel Bade and Josh Dawsey
July 26, 2017

After a week sparring with his attorney general and steaming over the Russia investigation consuming his agenda, President Donald Trump was closing in on an important win.

House Republicans were planning to pass a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico.

But an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops was threatening to blow up the bill. And House GOP insiders feared they might not have the votes to pass the legislation because defense hawks wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations — something GOP leaders wouldn’t give them.

They turned to Trump, who didn’t hesitate. In the flash of a tweet, he announced that transgender troops would be banned altogether.

Trump’s sudden decision was, in part, a last-ditch attempt to save a House proposal full of his campaign promises that was on the verge of defeat, numerous congressional and White House sources said.

The president had always planned to scale back President Barack Obama-era policies welcoming such individuals in combat and greenlighting the military to pay for their medical treatment plans. But a behind-the-scenes GOP brawl threatening to tank a Pentagon funding increase and wall construction hastened Trump’s decision.

Numerous House conservatives and defense hawks this week had threatened to derail their own legislation if it did not include a prohibition on Pentagon funding for gender reassignment surgeries, which they deem a waste of taxpayer money. But GOP leaders were caught in a pinch between those demands and moderate Republicans who felt the proposal was blatantly discriminatory.

“There are several members of the conference who feel this really needs to be addressed,” said senior House Appropriations Committee member Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) on Tuesday. “This isn’t about the transgender issue; it’s about the taxpayer dollars going to pay for the surgery out of the defense budget.”

That’s why House lawmakers took the matter to the Trump administration. And when Defense Secretary James Mattis refused to immediately upend the policy, they went straight to the White House. Trump — never one for political correctness — was all too happy to oblige.

“[P]lease be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

The president’s directive, of course, took the House issue a step beyond paying for gender reassignment surgery and other medical treatment. House Republicans were never debating expelling all transgender troops from the military.

“This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” said one senior House Republican aide. The source said that while GOP leaders asked the White House for help, they weren’t expecting — and got no heads up on — Trump’s far-reaching directive.

While Democrats and centrist Republicans are already blasting the move, one White House official said the decision would be “seen as common-sense” by millions — though likely vociferously protested by others.

“It’s not the worst thing in the world to have this fight,” the administration official said.

The announcement, multiple sources said, did not sit well with Mattis, who appeared to be trying to avoid the matter in recent weeks. Congressional sources say Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), the original author of the House’s transgender proposal, tried numerous times to phone Mattis to discuss the transgender issue.

He only got back to her the day she forced the matter on the House floor in mid-July.

It is unclear what Mattis told Hartzler at that time. But insiders say he felt there was no need to rush upending the policy, arguing the Pentagon needed time to study the issue. Their decision would affect at least 2,450 transgender active-military personnel, according to a Rand report — though military LGBT activist groups as many as as 15,000 soldiers fall into that category.

After lawmakers went around Mattis to engage the White House, Mattis was consulted before the announcement and knew the ban was being considered, according to several White House officials. But the decision ultimately came down from Trump and was “White House-driven,” Trump aides said.

The president was also annoyed by the Pentagon delay, one person said. A different official said the White House had gotten positive reaction from conservatives, an important factor amid their displeasure with Trump’s recent bashing of Jeff Sessions.

The transgender fight first surfaced in the House a few weeks ago. With the backing of almost the entire GOP conference, Hartzler offered an amendment to a defense authorization bill that would ban funding for gender reassignment surgeries and treatments for transgender active-duty personnel.

Republican supporters were shocked when a group of 24 mostly moderate Republicans teamed up with 190 Democrats to kill the effort in a 209-214 vote.

Republicans spent much of a closed-door GOP conference meeting the next morning steaming about what happened.

“It’s not so much the transgender surgery issue as much as we continue to let the defense bill be the mule for all of these social experiments that the left wants to try to hoist on government,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a conservative supporter of the Hartzler proposal, said last week.

He added: “It seems to me, and all due respect to everyone, that if someone wants to come to the military, potentially risk their life to save the country, that they should probably decide whether they’re a man or woman before they do that.”

Supporters of Hartzler’s proposal were determined to try again. Last week, they began pushing GOP leadership to use a procedural trick to automatically include the controversial proposal in a Pentagon spending package set for a floor vote this week. The idea was to tuck the provision into a rules package governing the legislation, sidestepping a second potentially unsuccessful amendment vote and adding it to the bill without a floor fight.

Under intense pressure from moderates in the Tuesday Group to reject the idea, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his team shied away from the strategy, worried that it would make them look hypocritical for circumventing regular order.

“Leadership should respect the will of the House — and that’s already been expressed,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), a centrist who opposed the amendment. “These transgender service-people are serving our country and have signed up and agreed to risk their lives for this country, so we want to honor that commitment as well.”

That’s when lawmakers turned to the White House for help. They figured the administration could speed up a decision and settle the dispute once and for all.

“Conservatives were telling [the] White House they didn’t want money in a spending bill to go to transgender health services,” said one senior administration official, noting that it accelerated Trump’s decision.

Their argument fell on sympathetic ears, White House sources said. Chief strategist Steve Bannon encouraged Trump to deal with the matter now.

Hartzler and her supporters were elated.

“I’m glad the president will be changing this costly and damaging policy,” Hartzler said after the Trump’s announcement. “Military service is a privilege, not a right. We must ensure all our precious defense dollars are used to strengthen our national defense.”

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

US-Mexico border mayors convene amid high-stakes debates

Associated Press 
By Elliot Spagat
July 27, 2017

SAN DIEGO — The first meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association since Donald Trump became president of the United States begins Thursday as the stakes of debate in Washington could hardly be higher for the region of 12 million people stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

Trump is moving ahead with plans to build a “big, beautiful wall” separating the two countries and add 5,000 Border Patrol agents, despite uncertainty about how much Congress will agree to pay. The U.S., Mexico and Canada are preparing to overhaul the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, one of Trump’s favorite punching bags.

As with other border gatherings of mayors and governors, one challenge was getting enough elected officials to attend. This year’s hosts, Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego and Juan Manuel Gastelum of Tijuana, Mexico, ensure that two of the region’s largest cities are represented. Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, will be there, as will McAllen, Texas.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo won’t attend because he will be in the state capital for meetings with the governor and legislators, said spokeswoman Olivia Zepeda. Pete Saenz, mayor of Laredo, Texas, needed to tend to city affairs after two weeks of business travel, said spokeswoman Blasita Lopez. Absent mayors from Mexico include the leaders of Mexicali, Nogales and Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros.

Border mayors generally advocate for robust trade between the two countries and expanded international crossings to ease the flow of goods and people. They have given a cold shoulder to Trump’s wall.

Panels at the two-day gathering — the group’s fifth since 2011 — will cover Nafta, infrastructure, the state of U.S.-Mexico relations, public health and urban development. The mayors will work on a joint resolution on bilateral trade.

“Border mayors and governors have struggled over the years to create and sustain forums in which they can get to know each other and work together on a common agenda,” said Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute in Washington.

The group’s rotating venues may prove more challenging for small-city hosts who have more limited budgets and resources.

“Right now the border mayors association is a great idea with enough energy to get a meeting off the ground but without a structure,” Wilson said. “They need some glue to the organization.”

The Border Governors Conference, which dates back to the 1980s, has been moribund for several years. In 2010, then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer canceled a Phoenix event after Mexico’s border governors boycotted because she signed a tough law against illegal immigration. The New Mexico governor at the time, Bill Richardson, convened a meeting in Santa Fe, but he was the only one of four U.S. border governors to show. New Mexico was also the only U.S. presence the following year.

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

His future clouded, Sessions opens mission to El Salvador

Associated Press 
By Sadie Gurman
July 27, 2017

WASHINGTON — With his future as the nation’s top prosecutor in doubt after a week of blistering public scorn from the president, Attorney General Jeff Sessions flew to El Salvador Thursday seeking ways to stamp out the brutal street gang MS-13.

As the Trump administration tries to build support for its crackdown on illegal immigration, it has increasingly tried to make the gang with Central American ties the face of the problem. Recent killings tied to its members have stoked the national debate on immigration.

Trump praised Sessions when he announced his mission to eradicate the gang in April. But the attorney general has since fallen out of favor with his onetime political ally.

In day after day of public humiliation, Trump said he rued his decision to choose Sessions for his Cabinet and left the former Alabama senator’s prospects dangling. Trump’s intensifying criticism has fueled speculation that the attorney general may step down even if the president stops short of firing him. But Sessions is showing no outward signs that he is planning to quit, and on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that Trump “wants him to lead the department.”

“Look, you can be disappointed in someone and still want them to continue to do their job,” she said.

Sessions boarded a plane Thursday morning with several aides and leaders of the Justice Department’s criminal division but did not take questions from the news media traveling with him.

Forging ahead with the tough-on-crime agenda that once endeared him to Trump, Sessions plans to meet his Salvadoran counterpart, Attorney General Douglas Melendez, before convening with other law enforcement officials on what his program calls a transnational anti-gang task force. He will tour a detention center and meet former members of MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, which Sessions has called a top threat to public safety in the U.S.

The gang is an international criminal enterprise, with tens of thousands of members in several Central American countries and many U.S. states. The gang originated in immigrant communities in Los Angeles in the 1980s then entrenched itself in Central America when its leaders were deported.

MS-13 is known for hacking and stabbing victims with machetes, drug dealing, prostitution and other rackets. Its recruits are middle- and high-school students predominantly in immigrant communities and those who try to leave risk violent retribution, law enforcement officials have said.

Its members have been accused in a spate of bloodshed that included the massacre of four young men in a Long Island, New York, park and the killing of a suspected gang rival inside a deli. The violence has drawn attention from members of Congress and Trump, who has boasted about efforts to arrest and deport MS-13 members across the country.

Law enforcement officials believe some of the recent violence has been directed by members of the gang imprisoned in El Salvador.

The violence has drawn increasing attention from members of Congress and Trump, who has boasted about efforts to arrest and deport MS-13 members across the country. Officials in El Salvador, as well as Guatemala and Honduras, have expressed concern about increased deportations of the gangsters back to their countries. Transnational gangs like MS-13 already are blamed for staggering violence in those so-called Northern Triangle countries.

Both Trump and Sessions have blamed Obama-era border policies for allowing the gang’s ranks to flourish in the U.S., though the Obama administration took unprecedented steps to target the gang’s finances. Federal prosecutors have gone after MS-13 before but say they’ve recently seen a resurgence.

Thursday’s trip was planned before Trump’s broadsides against his attorney general, and it remains to be seen whether his work in El Salvador will help mend their fractured relationship. Their shared view, rare among the political class, that illegal immigration was the nation’s most vexing problem was what united Sessions and Trump.

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

Candidate for DHS job withdraws because of transgender ban

July 27, 2017

A candidate for a senior position at the Department of Homeland Security withdrew from consideration on Wednesday, citing President Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

John Fluharty, a former executive director of the Delaware Republican party, informed a DHS official in an email Wednesday morning that he was pulling out of contention to be the assistant secretary of partnership and engagement at the department.

“As I mentioned in our conversation, I am a strong advocate for diversity, both in the Republican Party and in government,” Fluharty wrote in an email obtained by POLITICO. “The President’s announcement this morning — that he will ban all of those who identify as transgender from military service — runs counter to my deeply held beliefs, and it would be impossible for me to commit to serving the Administration knowing that I would be working against those values.”

Fluharty, who is openly gay, said he interviewed for the job on Tuesday, one day before Trump’s surprise tweet that the government “will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity” in the U.S. military.

The decision blindsided much of the federal government, including many at the Defense Department and in the White House. It has led to widespread confusion about the what will happen to openly transgender members of the military, and the White House has not yet provided clarity on the issue.

Department officials confirmed Fluharty was under consideration, though it’s unclear whether he was in line to get the job at the department.

“He was one of many candidates being considered and he withdrew from consideration,” DHS spokesman David Lapan wrote in an email. “We’re not aware of anyone else who withdrew for that reason.”

DHS has had trouble filling the assistant secretary of partnership and engagement position. David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, who had come under criticism for a series of deaths at the jails he oversees, was under consideration for the job. But DHS announced in June that he was no longer in contention.

The assistant secretary, which does not require Senate confirmation, coordinates outreach to state, local and tribal officials and law enforcement.

Fluharty said he was contacted about the prospect of applying for the position last week, and agreed to do the interview on Tuesday. Though he was interested in the post, he opted against it after the president’s announcement.

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

Match site launches for anti-Trump lawyers and non-profits

By Edward-Isaac Dovere
July 28, 2017

President Donald Trump has inspired a new online dating service—between Democratic lawyers seeking pro-bono work and opposition non-profits in need of help.

We the Action, launching Friday, will be an online portal to connect lawyers with legal work waiting to be done, from reviewing leases and contracts to filing Social Security claims to potentially heading to court in immigration cases. Non-profits will be able to post the services they need, and search through online profiles created by attorneys detailing expertise and availability.

Several connections have been made already by the 501c3, funded by the California-based Emerson Collective, the organization founded and led by Laurene Powell Jobs.

“After the election and as Trump was coming, there was this huge outpouring of lawyers who just wanted to know what they could do,” said Marc Elias, the D.C. Democratic elections lawyer who is serving as We the Action’s board chairman. “We ought to be able to match this great demand for legal services.”

Democratic operative Addisu Demisse and Emerson Collective immigration expert Marshall Fitz make up the rest of the board.

We the Action is in part a response to the explosion of new groups formed in the wake of Trump’s election, many of which are low on funding and resources.

“Non-profits are on the frontline, and there are more and more of them every day. This is a way to connect lawyers that want to help with organizations that need help,” said Sarah Baker, who worked in the White House counsel’s office under President Barack Obama and will be We the Action’s executive director.

The attorney profile asks which states they are member of the bar in for matters that require it, but the website will be able to connect lawyers and non-profits no matter the distance. And the hope is to provide an avenue for attorneys who want to get around firms’ sometimes ponderous and complicated pro bono policies.

The rush of lawyers to the airports in the wake of Trump’s first travel ban drove home the point: hundreds arrived, few had any relevant immigration law expertise and no one was providing any direction.

“There wasn’t any place for a progressive lawyer who simply wanted to make a difference,” Elias said.

Eleven larger organizations are forming the backbone of support and outreach: Access Democracy, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Equality New York, the International Refugee Assistance Program, the Latin American Coalition, Let America Vote, NARAL Pro Choice America, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands and Voto Latino.

“There is great need for legal support and so many skilled lawyers who want to participate in the pursuit of equality and justice,” said Gabriel Blau of Equality New York, “but until now, there hasn’t been a sufficiently focused and robust tool to make that match.”

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

With Sessions, Trump Is Picking on the Wrong Guy

New York Times (Op-Ed) 
By Quin Hillyer
July 27, 2017

MOBILE, Ala. — Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, the Queens-born developer and the Alabama lawyer, are finding that similar positions on political issues can mask deep differences on underlying principles.

For Mr. Trump, who has excoriated his attorney general on Twitter and reportedly discussed firing him, what matters most is personal loyalty to him, or rather loyalty to whatever he thinks his needs are at any particular moment. For Mr. Sessions, fealty to the law trumps all. For Republicans nationwide, it’s an acid test: side with a mercurial president who demands devotion, or with the attorney general, who insists on probity and the letter of the law.

If there’s one thing you need to know about Mr. Sessions, it’s that he reveres the Constitution, as he understands it. He was the author, in his first Senate term, of a law that established a commission to commemorate the 250th birthday of the “father of the Constitution,” James Madison, in 2001, and to use it as an occasion for constitutional and civic education. Mr. Sessions introduced Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist at the birthday gala, and personally convened a symposium of Madisonian scholars that met in conjunction with it.

For better or worse, Mr. Sessions sees the world in black-and-white, law-and-order terms — criminals on one side and trustworthy law enforcement on the other. That’s one reason he has re-expanded the use of civil asset forfeiture, drawing intense (and deserved) criticism from across the political spectrum. He takes the same approach with illegal narcotics.

This same worldview explains why he so readily recused himself from the Russia investigation; for him, this was a simple procedural question. In Senate testimony he accurately described the effective meaning of the regulation that governed his recusal: “Department employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they have served as a campaign adviser.”

Moreover, he has deep faith in the American political system and its institutions. He is deeply trusting of the Justice Department’s criminal division; his highly regarded deputy, Rod Rosenstein; and the professionalism of the F.B.I. rank and file. In Mr. Sessions’ mind, removing himself from the equation put Mr. Trump in no more or less legal danger than before, because the facts and the law would lead where they would lead, regardless of his participation.

If anything, Mr. Sessions most likely thought he was doing what was best for the president. If Mr. Trump is investigated and found innocent, then it would be in the president’s political interest to be found innocent in an investigation that is not under the purview of Mr. Sessions, who until recently was considered tremendously close to the president.

But it’s unlikely that loyalty or partisan politics entered his mind. As a prosecutor, Mr. Sessions had a distinguished record of going after Republican officials accused of misdeeds and of declining to pursue Democratic officials he thought (correctly, as it turned out) were wrongly charged.

This is the man Mr. Trump hired, and reportedly now wants to fire. If he thought he was getting a lackey, a wingman or the political equivalent of a capo, he was sorely mistaken. (Indeed, Mr. Trump, knowing that his base likes Mr. Sessions, is probably hoping the constant abuse will force him to resign. If so, Mr. Trump is picking on the wrong guy.)

Liberals who excoriated Mr. Sessions probably won’t like him after this episode is over, whatever the outcome. But any fair-minded person must grant that unlike his boss, Mr. Sessions has the courage of his convictions. He believes illegal immigration hurts low-skilled American workers. He believes illegal narcotics ruin lives. He believes (wrongly) that trade protectionism helps American workers. He backed Mr. Trump last year, despite concerns about Mr. Trump’s bombastic disregard for social norms to which Mr. Sessions himself adheres, because he saw Mr. Trump as a fellow believer who, for all his flaws, had the actual ability to achieve those ends.

Mr. Sessions got tremendous criticism from longtime friends and allies here in Alabama for endorsing Mr. Trump so early in the 2016 primaries. I’ve been given rather detailed descriptions of some of those private conversations; Mr. Sessions was polite as ever, but stuck to his guns.

His former colleagues in the Senate made haste on Tuesday to defend him. They clearly are appalled by Mr. Trump’s one-way loyalty test. Reports have several cabinet members also in near revolt over Mr. Trump’s mistreatment of Mr. Sessions. But those statements of support for the attorney general were the easy part. How they follow through in the coming weeks, especially if the president fires him, will determine whether they are remembered as principled lawmakers or craven pols.

Jeff Sessions’ principled obeisance to the rule of law may be foreign to the president, but eventually this truth will hit close to home: If Mr. Trump knifes rather than protects his friends, soon no friends will remain to watch Mr. Trump’s back.

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

Jeff Flake Plants a Flag

New York Times (Opinion) 
By David Brooks
July 28, 2017

Do you ever get the feeling we’re all going to be judged for this moment? Historians, our grandkids and we ourselves will look and ask: What did you do as the Trump/Scaramucci/Bannon administration dropped a nuclear bomb on the basic standards of decency in public life? What did you do as the American Congress ceased to function? What positions did you take as America teetered toward national decline?

For most of us, it’s relatively easy to pass the test. Our jobs are not on the line when we call out the mind-boggling monstrosity of what’s happening. For Republican senators, it’s harder. Their consciences pull them one way — to tell the truth — while their political interests pull them another way — to keep their heads down.

Some senators are passing the test of conscience — Ben Sasse, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, Mike Lee and John McCain. And to that list we can certainly add Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. In a few days he comes out with a book called “Conscience of a Conservative,” which is a thoughtful defense of traditional conservatism and a thorough assault on the way Donald Trump is betraying it.

Flake grew up in rural Arizona. “Cattle ranching is the hardest work I’ve ever known and the best people I have ever known have been cattle ranchers,” he writes. He was one of 11 children and his family did not dine out, even once, while he was young. He lost part of a finger and learned frontier self-reliance on the ranch. As a Mormon he learned to be wary of the government, and especially the way it can persecute minorities.

He came to Congress in 2001 and earned a reputation as a scourge against federal spending and earmarks and as a champion of tax cuts. But he walked into a Republican Party that was descending from Goldwater and Reagan, his heroes, to Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay. When I had coffee with Flake this week, he spoke about the philosophical and political corruption of the DeLay era with uncharacteristic contempt.

Things got worse. In 2016 the Republican Party, Flake argues in the book, lost its manners. “It seems it is not enough to be conservative anymore. You have to be vicious.” And it lost its philosophy. “We become so estranged from our principles that we no longer recognize what principle is.”

Flake told me he doesn’t want his book to be seen simply as a broadside against Trump. The rot set in long before, but Trump takes the decay to a new level.

On the day in 2015 when Trump endorsed a Muslim ban, Flake tweeted “Just when you think @realDonaldTrump can stoop no lower, he does.” Flake attended prayers at an Arizona mosque that afternoon. At the core of this book is a bill of indictment listing the ways Trump has betrayed the Goldwater Creed:

“Is it conservative to praise dictators as ‘strong leaders,’ to speak fondly of countries that crush dissent and murder political opponents …? Is it conservative to demonize and vilify and mischaracterize religious and ethnic minorities …? Is it conservative to be an ethno-nationalist? Is it conservative to embrace as fact things that are demonstrably untrue?”

Flake told me he didn’t even tell his staff about the existence of this book until just two weeks before publication because he didn’t want them to talk him out of publishing it.

He began working on it at night during the general election campaign, assuming it would be an autopsy for the party after Trump’s defeat. “It matters more now. It would be easier to wait until after the next election,” he told me, but he wanted to plant his flag at a time when his political future is at risk, at a time when it matters.

Frankly, I think Flake’s libertarian version of conservatism paved the way for Trump. People are being barraged by technology-driven unemployment, wage stagnation, the breakdown of neighborhoods and families. Goldwater-style conservatism says: “Congratulations! You’re on your own!” During the campaign, Trump seemed to be offering something more.

But Flake is in most ways an ideal public servant. He is an ideological purist but a temperamental conciliator. On spending and free trade he takes lonely principled stands; on immigration he’s crafted difficult bipartisan compromises.

In a time when politics has become a blood sport, he’s sunny and kind. “Assume the best. Look for the good,” his parents taught him. But he possesses a serene courage that is easy to underestimate because it is so affable.

Most important, he understands this moment. The Trump administration is a moral cancer eating away at conservatism, the Republican Party and what it means to be a public servant.

The 52 Senate Republicans have been thrust by fate into the crucial position of responsibility. They will either accept this decay or they will oppose it. They will either collaborate with the Trumpian path or seek to direct their party and nation onto a different path.

Flake has taken his stand. As the other Senate Republicans look at his example, they might ponder this truth: Silence equals assent.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on July 28, 2017, on Page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Jeff Flake Plants a Flag.

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