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, December 31, 2018

ICE Drafts Guidelines With Fewer Restrictions on Restraining Pregnant Women

WASHINGTON—The U.S. is weighing looser standards for some immigration detention centers, including scrapping certain guidelines governing the restraint of pregnant women and ensuring children can visit detained parents.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has drafted new standards that don’t include a host of current requirements, according to people who have read them.

ICE told Congress last year that it planned to issue new standards for scores of detention facilities, such as county jails, that hold both immigrants awaiting deportation and criminal prisoners for more than a week. The agency said the existing standards “are very prescriptive and often conflict with local and county jails’ policies and procedures,” according to budget documents.

The agency hasn’t made the proposal public, but has provided a draft to a number of organizations for feedback. The American Immigration Lawyers Association, or AILA, provided The Wall Street Journal with the comments it submitted. Others who have read the document confirmed the group’s account and provided additional information.

ICE issued its first national detention standards in 2000, overhauling them twice since then to make them stricter and more specific. Facilities holding both immigrants awaiting deportation and criminal prisoners, referred to as nondedicated facilities, operate under various standards, depending on when their contracts with ICE were signed, along with ICE’s evaluation of facility capabilities and cost.

The standards help the agency decide whether to contract with facilities to house detainees awaiting decisions on deportation and provide guidelines for ICE inspections.

Several government investigations have concluded that the current standards aren’t closely followed or enforced. As a result, some immigrant advocacy groups say the new guidelines will have limited impact.

Still, the proposal furthers a Trump administration push to give local operators more freedom to set their own rules.

ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said the proposed standards “eliminate or greatly reduce a number of prior standards based on ICE’s experience with local law-enforcement partners and the understanding that local practice appropriately covers these requirements.”

The proposed new national detention standards don’t include language from a 2011 overhaul—the most recent—saying women in active labor should never be tied down or shackled, according to text quoted in comments by the AILA. They also exclude a requirement from 2000 that a medical professional must approve any restraints on pregnant women, instead leaving approval to a supervisor.

“It’s just a crucial thing to have that women should not be in restraints when they’re pregnant. And certainly not when they’re in labor or delivery,” said Julie Abbate, national advocacy director for Just Detention International, who also reviewed the proposed revision.

Under President Trump, ICE has already reversed an Obama-era policy that ordered immigration officials to release pregnant women from detention in most cases. After media reports of pregnant women being shackled around the stomach and miscarrying in detention, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill in July to reinstate the Obama policy and ban almost all shackling of pregnant women.

The revised ICE standards also don’t include a provision from 2011 saying facilities should institute procedures that allow children to visit their detained parents, and immediate family members detained in the same facility should be allowed to visit each other, said Kevin Landy, a former Obama political appointee who oversaw that administration’s detention-center overhaul effort and helped the AILA draft its comments.

“There is no reference to children visiting. That language is not in the document,” Mr. Landy said. It also doesn’t include a commitment by ICE from 2000 to arrange visits by children if the facility cannot do so.

In other cases as well, the proposed guidelines are more permissive than the first government standards from 2000. The draft standards no longer include a prohibition on housing nonviolent detainees with violent offenders, Mr. Landy said. The draft also limits the number of letters that the government will pay for detainees without money for postage to send to legal counsel to five pieces a week, according to the AILA comments. Previously there was no limit.

ICE’s Ms. Bennett said standards that have been eliminated or condensed include those regarding emergency plans, marriage requests, nonmedical emergency escorted trips, contraband and population counts, she said. She declined to comment further on the contents of the draft standards.

The U.S. has 121 nondedicated facilities that hold detainees longer than 72 hours, according to the most recent figures from October, which don’t break out facilities that hold detainees longer than a week. Those 121 centers house about 16,300 ICE detainees a day, or about 40% of all detainees. The remaining detainees are held at dedicated ICE centers, nearly all of which are governed by stricter standards.

The proposed standards would introduce some new requirements for the roughly 90 of the 121 facilities that operate under the first detention guidelines set in 2000. Those 90 facilities house about 8,000 detainees. The new standards would, for example, add more requirements regarding detainee transport and searches.

The executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association, Jonathan Thompson, said adding requirements “would present operational challenges which can significantly impact the sheriffs’ ability to run a safe and secure facility.”

ICE declined to say whether the revised standards will apply to all existing contracts, new contracts, or only those operating under the 2000 guidelines. Ms. Bennett said that would be determined once the draft is completed.

The largest nondedicated detention center—the Joe Corley Detention Facility in Texas, which holds nearly 1,000 detainees a day—operates under the 2011 standards. That facility is owned by Florida-based GEO Group Inc., one of the country’s largest private prison operators. GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said the company will abide by any new standards ICE issues for its centers.

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

Justice Department Investigating Migrant Shelter Provider

By Rebecca R. Ruiz, Nicholas Kulish and Kim Barker

The Justice Department is investigating possible misuse of federal money by Southwest Key Programs, the nation’s largest operator of shelters for migrant children, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The inquiry could upend shelter care for thousands of children, escalating government scrutiny of the nonprofit even as it remains central to the Trump administration’s immigration agenda. The charity operates 24 shelters to house children who were separated from their parents at the border or arrived on their own.

The United States attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas is examining the finances of Southwest Key, based in Austin, and whether it misappropriated government money, according to the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the inquiry. Prosecutors on the case are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The inquiry comes after a New York Times report this month detailing possible financial improprieties by Southwest Key, which has collected $1.7 billion in federal grants in the past decade, including $626 million in the last year alone.

The nonprofit has engaged in potential self-dealing with its top executives, stockpiled tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and lent out millions for real estate purchases, acting more like a bank than a traditional charity, according to records and interviews. It has funneled government money through a web of for-profit companies, converting public funds into private money for the organization, which has paid top executives millions of dollars.

In response to The Times’s report, a spokesman for Southwest Key, Jeff Eller, acknowledged management mistakes but said there had been no criminal intent by the charity’s officials, nor “a desire to game the system.” Southwest Key also said it would commission an internal investigation.

Mr. Eller said on Thursday that the charity had not yet been contacted by the F.B.I. or the United States attorney’s office, but that it had “a policy of working with any and all investigations.”

Southwest Key, which became a focal point during the Trump administration’s decision to separate migrant children from their families this year, now houses up to 5,000 children in its facilities. One of them is a converted Walmart Supercenter in Brownsville, Tex., that can hold 1,400 children, drawing complaints that it was warehousing them.

The organization is a linchpin in the shelter system, which is nearing a breaking point. A record 14,000 migrant children are now in federal shelters, housed across 100 permanent sites and a sprawling tent city in the Texas desert.

Federal prosecutors’ interest in Southwest Key builds on a continuing inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the finances of a smaller Texas-based shelter provider, International Educational Services. That nonprofit lost its federal contracts in February for possible self-dealing, including renting shelters owned by charity officials and using public funds to pay them well above what the government permits. Southwest Key’s founder and chief executive, Juan Sanchez, helped start I.E.S. more than 30 years ago, though he is no longer affiliated with it.

Last year, at least eight of Southwest Key’s executives earned more than the federal salary cap of $187,000. Mr. Sanchez made $1.5 million. His wife earned $500,000 as a vice president, and the organization’s chief financial officer made $1 million.

Additionally, Mr. Sanchez and the chief financial officer have for years collected government money in rent as landlords of a Southwest Key shelter. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees migrant shelter grants, requires shelter employees to avoid “private financial gain,” or even the appearance of it. Asked by The Times about the payments this fall, the nonprofit’s leaders said they would sell their personal stakes in the property.

Though Southwest Key has come under scrutiny after a series of abuse allegations at shelters in Arizona in recent months, the organization has remained a critical partner to the government. Mr. Sanchez and the former Walmart have become symbols of the migrant shelter industry.

To get that former superstore up and running, Southwest Key engaged in a convoluted real estate transaction, loaning $6 million to a pair of South Texas developers to buy and renovate the property. Southwest Key now pays nearly $5 million annually in rent — more than the property itself cost. It is unclear whether prosecutors are scrutinizing that deal, which has the potential to disguise kickbacks.

Officials at H.H.S. declined to comment Thursday on the Justice Department’s investigation into Southwest Key’s finances. H.H.S. has hired forensic accountants to review the finances of shelter operators. That review is continuing and could affect the government’s future grant decisions, a spokesman for the agency said. According to government records, H.H.S. last paid grant money to Southwest Key at the end of the past fiscal year, on Nov. 6.

Should Southwest Key’s contracts be in jeopardy, the government would need to find a new custodian for the children in Southwest Key’s shelters across Arizona, California and Texas. When the government revoked the contracts of I.E.S. this year, its shelters’ operations were transferred to another organization, Comprehensive Health Services, a for-profit company.

Mr. Sanchez founded Southwest Key in the 1980s to work with juvenile offenders. Over the years, he steered the organization into migrant shelters — which now constitute the bulk of its work — as well as charter schools and a range of for-profit businesses that even included a florist for a time.

As the federal investigation proceeds, Southwest Key is poised for growth. It has explored opening a shopping center in Austin and secured approval from Texas state authorities to open as many as 11 more charter schools.

“The fact that we have been a very successful organization upsets some people,” Mr. Sanchez said in an interview with The Times in October. “Whether it’s because they haven’t been able to do it or they’re jealous or they wish they could do it. For whatever reason, we just became part of that attack.”

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

Mexico appears willing but unready to hold US refugees

TIJUANA, Mexico — Mexico’s willingness to accept U.S. asylum seekers while their applications are processed appears to be yet another sign of the blooming honeymoon between leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and President Donald Trump, though it is also causing concern among officials in Mexican border cities already struggling to deal with thousands of Central American migrants.

Mexico could have simply refused, as it historically has, to accept the return of non-Mexicans. But this week’s announcement of $10.6 billion in U.S. development aid and the personal relationship between the two presidents appeared to smooth the path. It is the same relationship that helped resolve stalled negotiations on Mexico’s free trade agreement with the United States and Canada.

“Right now it’s a honeymoon, in part because even though one is on the left and the other is more to the right, they have things in common — protectionism, the anti-establishment thing, each one’s nationalism,” said Jose Antonio Crespo, a political analyst at Mexico’s Center for Economic Research and Training.

Crespo noted Trump was getting along better with Lopez Obrador than with his conservative predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto. “Up to now it’s been a honeymoon, who knows how long it will last.”

Mexico, meanwhile, is struggling to say how it will house and protect what could become tens of thousands of Central American migrants who might wind up in its cities along the border with the United States. It is clearly not ready to shelter so many.

Tonatituh Guillen, the head Mexico’s immigration agency, said, “In the short term, the National Immigration Institute does not have the organizational capacity to operate this kind of program … the current legislation also doesn’t help us.”

Mexico is already hosting thousands of Central Americans who arrived as part of a migrant caravan in November. Those migrants were dismayed by Thursday’s announcement.

“This is bad, because every country has its sovereignty, it doesn’t have to depend on another country,” said Luis Miguel Conde, a Guatemalan who travelled to Tijuana with his wife and two children to request asylum in the U.S. “When you apply for asylum in Mexico, they don’t send you to Guatemala to wait. You wait for your application within the country’s territory.”

Tijuana is currently the most popular crossing point for asylum seekers waiting to submit claims in the United States, but the border city is already weary of housing over 7,000 migrants who arrived in the caravan in November.

The city’s police staged a raid before dawn Thursday to clear dozens of migrants who had resisted moving to a shelter farther from the border and camped out on a downtown street a few blocks from the border. Riot police loaded about 120 people onto buses to take them to the Barretal shelter, located about 14 miles (22 kilometers) from the San Ysidro border crossing. Officers arrested two dozen who refused to relocate.

“We did have to detain 24 people who refused to leave the street, and we found some who were doing illegal drugs,” Police Chief Marco Sotomayor said.

Cesar Palencia, director of migrant affairs for the city government, reacted with surprise to Thursday’s announcement by the federal government on housing asylum seekers.

“How would it be done? For how long? How many people? We don’t know what the strategy or the plan is, nor have any studies been done,” Palencia told The Associated Press. “We respect the federal government’s decision, but we would ask that it be accompanied by personnel, funding and a strategy.”

The assistant legal counsel for Mexico’s foreign relations department, Alejandro Celorio, said that there will not be any detention centers for migrants. “They will not be detained,” he said.

But Celorio did not say whether shelters, like the former Barretal concert venue in Tijuana, would be built, expanded or made more permanent — and whose money would be used to pay for such shelters.

The only strategy Mexico’s federal government has launched so far is a TV and radio “campaign against xenophobia” announced Thursday to combat suspicion and dislike of migrants.

“Migrants are not a threat, this is not an invasion,” said Alexandra Haas, the head of Mexico’s anti-discrimination agency.

The most outraged reaction came from U.S. immigration activists, but reaction on the Mexican side was muted, in part because Lopez Obrador’s administration was apparently successful in depicting the decision as a humanitarian measure to protect migrants.

“There is a segment of Mexicans who are better off and don’t feel threatened by migrants who can say this is good, we have to be humanitarian, show solidarity,” said Crespo, the analyst. “But for those (Mexicans) who are looking for a job, they perhaps won’t like this.”

All in all, it will be hard for opponents to accuse a die-hard nationalist like Lopez Obrador of being too pro-American.

“Who can stand up in congress and say: ‘You’re selling the country out,’” said Federico Estevez, a political science professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico. “He (Lopez Obrador) may absorb a cost, but it’s relatively small price to get your neck out of the noose on the immigration issue.”

“I don’t think you can find on the Mexican side much of a coherent stance against these concessions,” Estevez added. “I don’t think you have a very strong constituency on this side” in favor of the Central American migrants.

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

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Appeals Court Knocks Down Rulings in Iraqi Deportation Case

DETROIT — An appeals court on Thursday overturned key rulings by a federal judge who had slowed down or suspended the deportation of Iraqi nationals across the country during more than a year of litigation against the Trump administration.

In a 2-1 decision, the court agreed with the U.S. Justice Department and said U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith repeatedly exceeded his authority in immigration disputes.

One of Goldsmith’s legal conclusions was “broad, novel and incorrect,” while a requirement that deportees get bond hearings was “created out of thin air,” said Judge Alice Batchelder of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in U.S. District Court was “undoubtedly outside the norm for removal proceedings, over which immigration courts hold exclusive jurisdiction,” Batchelder said.

But the practical effect of the 6th Circuit decision is unclear. The government this week followed a Nov. 20 order by Goldsmith to release about 100 Iraqi nationals who are under deportation but had been in custody for more than six months. The judge said “families have been shattered.”

The lawsuit was filed in 2017 after the government suddenly began arresting hundreds of Iraqi nationals, many with criminal records, to enforce deportation orders. They had been allowed to stay in the U.S. for years because Iraq wouldn’t accept them.

But the ACLU argued that their lives would be at risk if they were sent back to their native country. The goal of the lawsuit was to suspend deportations and allow people to return to immigration court to make new arguments about safety.

Because of Goldsmith’s rulings, “hundreds of Iraqis have been able to present their cases before immigration judges, rather than being suddenly deported without a hearing to a county where they are in incredible danger,” said ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman.

Nathalie Asher, a deportation official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the appeals court vindicated the government’s position. She said ICE was reviewing the decision.

“Lawsuits like this one … undermine our immigration laws and enforcement efforts,” Asher said.

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

Democrats Question Homeland Chief Nielsen Over Girl’s Death at Border

By Joshua Jamerson

WASHINGTON—Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday offered a glimpse of the strict oversight to come from Democrats still fuming over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy along the Southern border.

Ahead of the hearing, Ms. Nielsen said the U.S. plans to start returning migrants who enter the country illegally to Mexico until their immigration proceedings are complete.

Ms. Nielsen answered questions from lawmakers about a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died this month at a hospital in El Paso, Texas. She died a little more than a day after she and her father were arrested with a group of about 160 people on Dec. 6 in Antelope Wells, N.M., a remote border crossing in southern New Mexico.

Responding to a query from Rep. Hank Johnson (D., Ga.) about the girl’s death, Ms. Nielsen said that her staff was first notified about the matter on Dec. 7 and she received a “full readout email” on Dec. 13.

Mr. Johnson asked how many other children had died in the custody of DHS.

“I’ll get back to you on that figure,” Ms. Nielsen said. “I’m not going to guess under oath.”

The episode highlights how Reps. Jerry Nadler of New York, the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who will lead the Homeland Security Committee, both see the administration’s immigration policy along the Mexican border as key to their oversight priorities. The representatives wrote a letter Friday notifying Ms. Nielsen that the committees would investigate the circumstances surrounding Jakelin’s death when Democrats take majority control of the House in January.

“Please be assured that our committees will be conducting further oversight of your efforts on this important matter in the upcoming year,” they wrote.

House Democrats are also planning to probe the administration’s immigration policies more broadly, which could include other parts of the government, such as the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“I get sworn in (as chairman) on the third of January, and we’re going to hit the ground running,” Mr. Thompson said in a recent interview. “I’d say by the end of January, we’ll be moving.”

Republicans say they expect Democratic oversight to be more a matter of showmanship than substantive inquiry. “They’re going to want to go for what they consider their high-profile political hearings, and that would be child separation,” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, who will be the top Republican on the Judiciary panel in January. “I fully expect the hearings to be more dramatic in that regard.”

Committee aides and congressional experts say jurisdiction over DHS—which was formed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, in part by consolidating existing functions within the government—is often messy. The Judiciary and Homeland committees are considered the two primary panels in the House that conduct oversight of DHS, but others—such as panels on Transportation and Infrastructure, as well as on Energy and Commerce—also have authority over slices of the sprawling department.

“Congress is still struggling with some of the legacy challenges of creating the Homeland Department,” said Justin Rood, a former GOP aide on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who now works at the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight.

Democratic lawmakers say when they take over the House, they will want to learn more about how agencies, including the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, interpreted and implemented guidance from the Justice Department last spring to prosecute adults who attempt illegal entry into the U.S. The so-called zero tolerance policy provoked a political outcry when it led to the separation of thousands of children from adults who were arriving at the Southern border.

Mr. Trump reversed course over the summer, saying in an executive order that families seeking asylum should be detained together. But in October he again advocated for separating families that cross the border illegally. Now Democrats preparing for hearings have threatened to use their subpoena power in the next Congress to conduct investigations.

“We never had hearings on issues around this ‘zero tolerance’ that upped the number of children being separated from families along the border. We never had hearings addressing the treatment of people in facilities along the border, or for that matter the interior of the country either,” Mr. Thompson said. “I just think that something that comes up that’s in our lane, we would be remiss not to address it.”

Mr. Thompson said he plans to ask Ms. Nielsen to appear before the committee early in 2019 if she remains in her post, though her future at the department has been in question since President Trump removed John Kelly as his chief of staff this month. Ms. Nielsen was a protégé of Mr. Kelly, who endorsed her as his successor when he left DHS a year and a half ago and defended her performance against critics inside the White House.

A GOP aide on the Homeland Committee said that the outgoing chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), co-wrote legislation over the summer to address the situation along the border but Democrats and some Republicans opposed it.

There is a least one Democrat who sees a hard line when it comes to oversight of Homeland matters: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.), the incoming chairman of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. His committee is gearing up for a series of probes into the conduct of Mr. Trump and those in White House, including an investigation into Ivanka Trump’s use of a private email account.

“I mean, I’m interested in it,” Mr. Cummings said of the “zero tolerance” policy in a brief interview last week. “But we have some other things that are much more in our jurisdiction that we need to deal with.”

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

U.S. Will Send Migrants Back to Mexico as They Wait on Asylum Claims

By Azam Ahmed and Mike Tackett

CANCÚN, Mexico — The Trump administration announced a new migration policy Thursday that will require asylum seekers who cross the Mexican border illegally to return to Mexico while their cases are decided.

The United States has been trying for months to get Mexico’s leaders to agree to house those migrants, and on Thursday Mexico’s new government reluctantly agreed.

The American secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, said the move would prevent people from using the asylum process as a way of slipping into the United States and remaining in the country illegally.

“Today we are announcing historic measures to bring the illegal immigration crisis under control,” she said. “Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates.”

In a statement, she said, “‘Catch and release’ will be replaced with ‘catch and return.’”

The new policy, announced as the president and Congress were at odds over funding for a border wall, amounts to the boldest effort yet by the Trump administration to discourage people from seeking refuge in the United States. It follows a series of other curbs that had been introduced, including the separation of migrant families, which was later reversed in an executive order after a public outcry.

The migrant issue has put considerable pressure on the United States’ relationship with Mexico as Trump administration restrictions have left thousands of asylum seekers stranded in Mexican border towns, overwhelming local shelters and resources.

The new policy would also alleviate pressure on American border agents, who for months have argued that they are overwhelmed by the record-breaking number of migrant families seeking asylum.

Mexican officials say they were told of the latest American decision on Thursday morning in letters from the Department of Homeland Security and the United States chargé d’affaires in Mexico, John S. Creamer. The letters stated that the returns would begin immediately under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Mexican Foreign Ministry has essentially agreed to accept the decision by the United States, and will be forced to house thousands of people from other countries, particularly from Central America, as they await their asylum decisions.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Roberto Velasco, said the move did not represent an agreement between the two countries, but rather “a unilateral move by the United States that we have to respond to.”

Mr. Velasco said the rules would apply only to new asylum applicants, not to individuals who have already entered the United States with processes underway. The United States did not initially make clear if the policy applied only to new applicants.

The administration’s move is a sharp departure from decades of American asylum practice, according to legal experts and advocates. The United States has long accepted individuals from across the world fleeing harm or persecution in their home countries.

The program is almost certain to be challenged in the United States courts by human rights groups and advocates. Many have already claimed that sending persecuted individuals to Mexico, one of the most violent countries in the world, places them in harm’s way.

“This deal is a stark violation of international law, flies in the face of U.S. laws passed by Congress, and is a callous response to the families and individuals running for their lives,” said Margaret Huang, the executive director of Amnesty International.

While the individuals would be allowed to return to the United States for court hearings, they would remain in Mexico under a humanitarian visa until their process is completed.

Mexico’s decision to accept the asylum seekers is likely to be seen as a capitulation by the new government to President Trump, who proclaimed over Twitter two weeks ago that Mexico would house asylum applicants to the United States on its soil.

The decision to turn Mexico into a waiting room for migrants seeking entry to the United States is likely to stir anger in Mexico.

Mexico has found itself in the center of Mr. Trump’s ire over migration policy, with the American president lambasting the country for not doing enough to inhibit the passage of Central Americans and others through its territory.

But while Mr. Trump has proposed building walls along the border, Mexico’s new president. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has taken a different approach.

He and his foreign minister announced a new development plan for southern Mexico and Central America that would require some $30 billion in aid to address the root causes of the migration.

This week, the United States applauded the proposal, and promised to work with the Mexicans to realize that plan with more than $5 billion. But that money did not reflect a new commitment of funds — for the most part, the United States government was already spending it in the region.

“This is total capitulation in exchange for the fig leaf of a nonexistent development plan with no financial commitments by the U.S. and no timetable,” said Jorge Castañeda, a former Mexican foreign minister.

Shelters for asylum seekers in Mexico have already been overwhelmed by people who would previously have been quickly processed into the United States, but now have to wait weeks or months to be allowed in under curbs put in place by the Trump administration.

As with many of the administration’s harshest immigration plans that have been introduced with little notice, it was unclear on Thursday how exactly the new policy would be carried out.

A senior Department of Homeland Security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the announcement on Thursday came as a surprise to many people in the agency’s leadership, as well as the rank and file who would be charged with carrying it out.

Correction: December 20, 2018
An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of the spokesman for Mexico’s Foreign Ministry. He is Roberto Velasco, not Velasquez.

Azam Ahmed reported from Cancún, and Mike Tackett from Washington. Caitlin Dickerson contributed reporting from New York, and Kirk Semple from Mexico City.

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

'The Toughest Year': US Immigration Changes Dominated 2018

NEW YORK — Children torn from parents, refugees turned away and a relentless stream of changes to immigration regulation and enforcement.

To those who champion President Donald Trump and believe cracking down on immigration translates to better lives for Americans, 2018’s breathless headlines were a fulfillment of campaign promises. To many others, they harkened back to dark moments in U.S. history.

“This is our generation’s sort of existential moment,” said Frank Sharry, head of pro-immigration group America’s Voice. “Are we going to continue to be a nation that practices ‘e pluribus unum’ and welcomes people from around the world to make this country better? Or are we going to shut the door?”

Throughout 2018, the answer has largely been the latter.

Even as those living in the U.S. illegally remain targets, the administration has sought to redefine what legal immigration looks like, too, slowing or halting those seeking to come to the country for a job offer, through their relationship to a citizen, or to find a home as a refugee or asylee.

“There has been this constant chip, chip, chipping away at the legal immigration system using every tool of the executive branch,” said Doug Rand, who worked in the Obama administration before helping found Boundless Immigration, which helps people navigate the immigration system.

Trump’s so-called “travel ban,” the first iteration of which was unveiled in the president’s first week in office, was upheld in June by the U.S. Supreme Court, stopping most visas for residents of Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela.

It’s had very real consequences for people like Soolmaz Dadgari, an Iranian who came to the U.S. in 2017 so her 4-year-old daughter, Arina, could take part in an experimental study to treat a rare genetic disorder. Dadgari’s husband has been unable to get a visa to join them, and sanctions make it hard for him to send money. She alone cares for a child who can’t walk or talk and requires 24-hour help, as well as another 11-year-old daughter.

“I have no hope,” said Dadgari.

Though global wars, persecution and famine have persisted, the U.S. capped refugee admissions at 45,000 for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the lowest ceiling since the State Department began tracking the figure in 1980. Far fewer were actually admitted in that time frame — about 21,000 refugees — and the number is likely to fall further, with the cap for the current fiscal year set at 30,000.

Meantime, tens of thousands fleeing violence in Central America sought asylum in the U.S. this year. The Trump administration responded by narrowing who is eligible, declaring that neither those escaping gang violence or domestic abuse nor those who cross the border illegally qualify. Both changes have been blocked by federal courts.

“I don’t know what to do,” said Ivis Muñoz, a 26-year-old coffee farmer from Altima, Honduras, who joined a caravan heading to the U.S. in October after a gang member shot him and threatened to kill him. He planned to seek asylum but learned along his journey he was unlikely to be accepted. For now, he remains in Mexico. “I want to go to the United States, though I’m scared they’ll send me back. I’m afraid to be in Honduras, but I don’t feel safe here either.”

More than any other shift in policy, the Trump administration’s move to separate apprehended migrant children and parents shook people around the world. Though Trump eventually ended widespread use of the practice, scars remain.

Evelin Roxana Meyer and her family have struggled financially, so her husband set off for the U.S. in hopes of finding work, bringing their son along. They were picked up by Border Patrol agents and separated, with the father deported and the son spending four months in detention. He turned 12 alone at a Texas facility, and the once-affectionate boy returned home angry in September. He rarely goes out, spending most of his time in his room watching TV. He’s refused to go to school and will have to repeat the sixth grade. He talks back to his parents and hits his little sister.

“This was the toughest year of all,” said 38-year-old Meyer.

Many who support Trump, though, see hope in the president’s actions.

Neil Gouveia came to the U.S. from Guyana as a 7-year-old and considered himself a “liberal New Yorker” until 2016, when he was drawn to Trump for what he believed was his strength on national security. He thinks the year’s action on immigration will ultimately lead to greater dialogue and better policies, and he still believes America stands as a beacon for much of the world.

“People will say what they want to say about America, but there’s hardly anyone who still wouldn’t want to come here,” said Gouveia, 39, a collegiate fundraiser. “They still know it’s like winning the lottery.”

Daniel Stein, who heads the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports restrictive immigration measures, believes the year’s imagery has moved more people to his side of the debate. To those who see an extended assault on a cornerstone American value, he’s unmoved.

“They have a vivid imagination,” Stein said. “We have one of the world’s most generous immigration programs.”

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Honduran mom and children in viral tear gas photo allowed entry to US

By Rosalina Nieves

(CNN)Maria Lila Meza Castro — the mother photographed running with her children away from tear gas at the US-Mexico Border in November — was permitted into the US late Monday night, Sandra Cordero with Families Belong Together told CNN.

Meza Castro and her children were initially denied entry Monday afternoon at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry along the Mexico/California border due to capacity issues, according to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson.

US Congressman Jimmy Gomez tweeted the family is on American soil and has filed for asylum.

“After 7hrs, I can now confirm: Maria Meza & her kids — featured in this @Reuters image fleeing tear gas at the border last month — just filed for asylum. They’re on American soil. @RepBarragan & I are still here observing conditions on the ground. #RefugeesWelcome,” his tweet read.

Earlier in the day, CBP allowed eight unaccompanied minors entry after they waited several hours. They were a part of a group of 15 people that included Meza Castro.

The group of migrants was escorted by California Democratic Reps. Gomez and Nanette Barragan and organizations that included Families Belong Together.

The congressional delegation of two crossed into Mexico late Monday morning and had planned to spend most of the day visiting shelters housing Central American migrants after a planned visit to the port of entry. The organized “turn in” at the port of entry, however, never happened as CBP denied entry to the group when they arrived at the port of entry in the early afternoon. The lawmakers and Cordero had vowed to stay until everyone from the group gets in.

“As members of the Homeland Security Committee we came here to observe the asylum process. In congressional hearings we are told by CBP directors that minors and those most vulnerable can turn themselves in at any port of entry. Yet here we are with 15 migrants — 13 of them children — and they will not let them in,” Barragan told CNN by phone.

Documenting migrants’ conditions
Members of Congress have been asked by several pro-immigrant groups to travel to the border to document the conditions of the migrants while they wait weeks and sometimes months for their turn to cross into the US to ask for asylum.

In a press release, Families Belong Together, one of the groups involved, accused the Trump administration of deliberately slowing down the border processing, forcing migrants into a months-long wait and putting their lives at risk.

“There are children freezing here. They [CBP] have now sent officers in SWAT gear to intimidate us. It is sad to think that these children are just left out here in the cold in US soil,” Barragan said.

In a tweet late Monday, Barragan said, “CBP still refusing to show us inside Otay Mesa facility. We would love to see the full capacity they keep citing.”

A spokesperson for CBP provided CNN with a statement that read in part, “This past year, CBP experienced a 121 percent increase in the number of asylum seekers we processed at our ports of entry, and overall CBP processed almost 93,000 claims of fear in fiscal year 2018. … As we have done for several years, when our ports of entry reach capacity, we have to manage the queues and individuals presenting without documents may need to wait in Mexico as CBP officers work to process those already within our facilities.”

Barragan and Gomez have asked CBP officials on the ground for permission to go inside and see for themselves that the facility is at capacity but continue to be denied entry, they said.

“We are going to find out if they have the capacity one way or another, even if that means we need to ask for the records for this particular day from the oversight committee,” Barragan said.

On Tuesday, another congressional group is expected to visit the CBP station in New Mexico where a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died.

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

Friday, December 14, 2018

Trump’s Baseless Claim That Mexico Will Pay for the Wall Through the New Nafta

By Linda Qiu

Fact Check of the Day

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement does not compel Mexico to pay for the wall, and little in it would divert funds from Mexico to the United States.

President Trump has been vague on how Mexico would pay for his border wall and has suggested various ways this could happen — including imposing fees on visas and border crossings from Mexico or paying through “reimbursement.” On Tuesday, he demanded the money from congressional appropriations. Then, on Thursday morning, he said Mexico “is paying for the wall” through the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The new trade deal does not stipulate that Mexico pay for Mr. Trump’s border wall, nor do any of the provisions in the trade deal divert Mexican funds to finance the wall. The pact simply updated the North American Free Trade Agreement, which allows Mexico, Canada and the United States to trade goods and services with zero tariffs.

Mr. Trump signed the U.S.M.C.A. in November, and it awaits ratification by Congress. There are no official projections of the deal’s effects on tax revenue or economic growth, but experts expressed doubt that the trade agreement could lead to Mexico directly or indirectly paying for the wall.

Key provisions include new rules on automobile production, intellectual property rights and American access to Canadian dairy markets.

“It’s much harder to connect actual provisions of the U.S.M.C.A. to cash for the wall, since they don’t put money in the coffers of the Treasury,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “Any connection between labor, auto rule of origin and other chapters to the wall is pretty remote.”

Scott Lincicome, a trade expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, said he viewed Mr. Trump’s claim with “immense skepticism,” given that the new agreement merely updates Nafta and that none of the changes will be a major revenue driver. He also noted that “the biggest amount of liberalization is on the Canadian side” — not Mexico’s — through gradually opening Canadian markets to American dairy imports.

Mr. Trump may be suggesting that the new agreement will increase economic activity in the United States, therefore generating enough tax revenue to offset the cost of his wall. The new trade deal is intended to make it less lucrative for American manufacturers to locate production in Mexico by requiring higher wages for autoworkers — a provision that the Trump administration says will shift more car production back to the United States.

But even if that happens, higher economic output in the United States “is not coming at the expense of Mexico. It’s a trade growth effect,” said Mr. Lincicome.

It also remains to be seen just how much the U.S.M.C.A. would contribute to economic growth, and how much revenue it would generate. Most trade agreements actually lead to lower federal revenue from tariffs, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but it’s unclear whether their net effect on federal budgets is positive or negative. Still, any potential increase in federal revenue would come from American taxpayers, not Mexico.

Mr. Trump may have had in mind revenue generated from steel and aluminum tariffs — which are separate from the U.S.M.C.A. Both Canada and Mexico are subject to tariffs on metal exports to the United States, though they are trying to find a way to remove or limit those levies. According to Mr. Hufbauer’s analysis, these tariffs will collect around $5 billion in 2018, with costs absorbed by foreign suppliers and American buyers, not just Mexico.

“Assuming the tariffs remain in place for five years at current levels, maybe the Treasury will collect $25 billion, but that’s pretty hypothetical,” Mr. Hufbauer said.

Reuters reported that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico spoke to Mr. Trump on Wednesday, and Mr. López Obrador said they “have not discussed that issue, in any conversation.”

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

Trump, New Mexican President Discuss Migration but Not Wall

WASHINGTON — The White House says President Donald Trump and the new leader of Mexico discussed “positive relations” between the two countries in a phone call this week. But Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters that he and Trump have never discussed the contentious topic of the border wall.

Lopez Obrador’s statement Thursday came less than an hour after Trump asserted in a tweet that Mexico was paying for the border wall through the savings the U.S. garnered in the renegotiated free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.

The two leaders spoke by phone Wednesday about immigration and Lopez Obrador’s push for a Marshall Plan-like effort to spur economic development in Central America.

Lopez Obrador said the conversation was respectful and friendly, but did not discuss the border wall or who would pay for it.

“We haven’t touched that topic in any conversation,” Lopez Obrador said.

The Mexican leader said the possibility of a visit to Washington was raised, but he didn’t think it was realistic until there was at least a draft agreement about investment in Central America.

White House Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Trump and Lopez Obrador “discussed the need to address illegal migration from Central America to the United States.”

The two countries have been working to find a solution for the caravans of Central American migrants traversing through Mexico in hopes of seeking asylum in the U.S.

Trump had an uncomfortable relationship with the previous administration of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Trump had promised during his 2016 campaign to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and have Mexico pay for it. Pena Nieto refused.

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

7-year-old migrant girl taken into Border Patrol custody dies of dehydration, exhaustion

By Nick Miroff and Robert Moore

A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday.

The child’s death is likely to intensify scrutiny of detention conditions at Border Patrol stations and CBP facilities that are increasingly overwhelmed by large numbers of families seeking asylum in the United States.

According to CBP records, the girl and her father were taken into custody about 10 p.m. Dec. 6 south of Lordsburg, N.M., as part of a group of 163 people who approached U.S. agents to turn themselves in.

More than eight hours later, the child began having seizures at 6:25 a.m., CBP records show. Emergency responders, who arrived soon after, measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees, and according to a statement from CBP, she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”

After a helicopter flight to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso, the child went into cardiac arrest and “was revived,” according to the agency. “However, the child did not recover and died at the hospital less than 24 hours after being transported,” CBP said.

The agency did not release the name of the girl or her father, but the father remains in El Paso awaiting a meeting with Guatemalan consular officials, according to CBP. The agency is investigating the incident to ensure appropriate policies were followed, it said.

Food and water are typically provided to migrants in Border Patrol custody, and it wasn’t immediately clear Thursday if the girl received provisions and a medical exam before the onset of seizures.

“Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child,” CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan said in a statement to The Washington Post.

“Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances,” Meehan said. “As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”

The ACLU blamed “lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP” for the girl’s death. “The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths,” Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said in a statement.

Though much of the political and media attention has focused in recent weeks on migrant caravans arriving at the Tijuana-San Diego border, large numbers of Central Americans continue to cross the border into Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. The groups sometimes spend days in smugglers’ stash houses or walking through remote areas with little food or water before reaching the border.

Arrests of migrants traveling as family groups have skyrocketed this year, and Homeland Security officials say court rulings that limit their ability to keep families in detention have produced a “catch and release” system that encourages migrants to bring children as a shield against detention and deportation.

In November, Border Patrol agents apprehended a record 25,172 “family unit members” on the southwest border — including 11,489 in the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol sector in southern Texas and 6,434 in the El Paso sector, which covers far western Texas and New Mexico.

Migrants traveling as part of a family group accounted for 58 percent of those taken into custody last month by the Border Patrol.

On Tuesday, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the agency’s holding cells are “incompatible” with the new reality of parents with children coming across the border to surrender to agents en masse, requesting asylum.

“Our Border Patrol stations were built decades ago to handle mostly male single adults in custody, not families and children,” McAleenan told lawmakers.

The small Border Patrol station in Lordsburg received a group of 227 migrants on Thursday, according to CBP, after taking in a group of 123 on Wednesday. Both groups — extremely large by CBP standards — mostly consisted of families and children, according to the agency.

The agency said it was expecting an autopsy on the child, but results would not likely be available for several weeks. An initial diagnosis by physicians at Providence hospital listed the cause of death as septic shock, fever and dehydration, CBP said.

“Due to patient confidentiality, the hospital is unable to provide any patient information and is referring any inquiries regarding this patient to CBP,” Providence spokeswoman Monique Poessiger said.

Moore reported from El Paso.

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

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Judge Declines to Dismiss Challenge to US Asylum Delays

SEATTLE — Immigrant rights activists can continue to challenge what they describe as unlawful U.S. government delays in asylum cases, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle dismissed some arguments raised by the lawsuit in a ruling Tuesday, but she said the activists can pursue their claim that the delays violate the due process rights of detained asylum seekers across the country. The government sought to dismiss the case.

The Seattle-based Northwest Immigrant Rights Project filed the lawsuit in June against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which said through a spokeswoman Wednesday that it does not comment on pending litigation.

According to the complaint, migrants seeking asylum after entering the U.S. illegally have had to wait weeks or months for their initial asylum interviews, at which an immigration officer determines whether they have a credible fear of persecution or torture in their home country. After that, there have been long delays in getting bond hearings, which determine whether an asylum seeker will be released from custody as the case proceeds.

“They’re doing what they can to keep people locked up for prolonged periods and block asylum seekers from moving forward with their claims,” Northwest Immigrant Rights Project legal director Matt Adams said Wednesday. “What we’ve seen firsthand is many asylum seekers give up after they’ve been locked up for weeks or months without ever getting a bond hearing,” and opt to be deported rather than exercise their legal right to seek asylum.

The group initially filed the lawsuit in response to the administration’s family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border, saying the delays had kept mothers detained at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, from being reunited with their children in immigration custody across the country. Those plaintiffs have since been released, but the lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of thousands of asylum seekers.

The complaint asks the judge to order the government to make credible fear determinations within 10 days and to conduct bond hearings within seven days of an asylum seeker’s request for one.

The government argued that such deadlines are not required by law and that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction to impose them. In its motion to dismiss, the Justice Department argued that because the detainees have only just arrived in the U.S. without being granted admission, they “lack a constitutional right to demand expedited procedures for such hearings.”

Pechman disagreed, saying that because the detainees had crossed into the U.S. they were entitled to greater constitutional protections than the government claimed.

“Simply put, are they ‘excludable aliens’ with little or no due process rights, or are they aliens who are in the country illegally, but nevertheless in the country such that their presence entitles them to certain constitutional protections?” she wrote. “Plaintiffs have adequately plead that they were within the borders of this country without permission when detained, and thus enjoy inherent constitutional due process protections.”

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

Ex-Judges to ICE: End Immigration Arrests at Courthouses

BOSTON — Dozens of retired state and federal judges called Wednesday on U.S. immigration officials to stop making arrests at courthouses of people suspected of being in the country illegally, saying immigrants should be free to visit halls of justice without fearing they will be detained.

Nearly 70 former judges from 23 states — including federal judges and state supreme court justices — said in a letter sent to Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Ronald Vitiello that courthouse arrests are disrupting the criminal justice system.

“I just can’t imagine that we are closing our courtrooms to people who have a right to be there. And you really are closing them if you instill fear in people so they cannot come near a courtroom,” said Fernande R.V. Duffly, who was born in Indonesia to Dutch and Chinese parents and served as an associate justice on Massachusetts’ highest court until 2016.

The judges are urging Vitiello to add courthouses to the list of so-called “sensitive locations” that are generally free from immigration enforcement, like schools and places of worship. They say that only “unequivocal guarantees and protections will restore the public’s confidence that it can safely pursue justice in our nation’s courts.”

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School helped organize the letter, whose signers include judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican governors.

Immigration officials have said communities are forcing their hand by refusing to transfer immigrants in local prisons and jails to ICE custody. They also argue that courthouse arrests are safer for agents because people have to go through metal detectors when they enter courthouses.

ICE says it’s going into courthouses only for certain targets, like gang members and public safety threats and immigrants who have been previously deported or ordered to leave.

“Arrests in courthouses are a routine practice for law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Because many jurisdictions no longer allow ICE to take custody of aliens inside of jails, courthouses are the next safest option,” ICE Spokeswoman Liz Johnson said in a statement.

Courthouse arrests happened under Democratic President Barack Obama, but advocates and lawyers across the country have said the practice has increased under Republican President Donald Trump, creating tensions between judges and federal agents in many states.

In Massachusetts, a state court judge is under federal investigation after she appeared to help an immigrant believed to be living in the U.S. illegally evade an ICE agent who was waiting to pick him up at the courthouse, The Boston Globe reported.

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

Schumer calls on McConnell to pull Trump ‘back from the brink’ on wall fight

By Erica Werner and Sean Sullivan

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer Wednesday called on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to intervene in the government shutdown fight over President Trump’s border wall and “help pull the president back from the brink.”

Schumer’s Senate floor comments came a day after a dramatic Oval Office meeting between Trump, Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, during which Trump declared he’d be proud to shut down the government to get the money he wants for his long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.

A partial government shutdown will begin at the end of next week unless Trump and Democrats break an impasse over Trump’s demands for $5 billion for his border wall for 2019. Democrats are offering him only $1.3 billion for fencing, which continues existing funding levels and does not give Trump more wall money.

During Tuesday’s meeting, with cameras rolling, Trump told Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Pelosi (D-Calif.): “I will take the mantle of shutting down, and I’m going to shut it down for border security.” Trump said he would be proud to do it and wouldn’t blame it on Schumer.

Trump’s declaration that he would own a potential shutdown undercut weeks-long attempts by Republicans and members of Trump’s own administration to brand it a “Schumer Shutdown.”

Republicans also say it’s up to Trump and Democrats to reach a deal. But in face of an apparent impasse, Schumer said it’s time for McConnell (R-Ky.) to get involved. He also warned that Democrats who will take over the House in January will pass the Democrats’ preferred solution — $1.3 billion for fencing — as a first order of business and send it to the Senate.

“Leader McConnell says he doesn’t want a shutdown, but he refuses to engage with the president to tell him what is transparently obvious to everyone else — there will be no additional money for the wall,” Schumer said. “The idea that Sen. McConnell has nothing to do with appropriations as majority leader of the Senate who still is on that committee does not withstand the slightest scrutiny.”

Asked for a response, McConnell aides pointed to comments the majority leader made on Tuesday following the Trump-Pelosi-Schumer meeting, in which he decried the idea of a shutdown.

“Well I hope that’s not where we end up. I understand it was a rather spirited meeting we all watched, but I’d still like to see a smooth ending here and I haven’t given up hope that that’s what we’ll have,” McConnell said at the time.

“One thing I think is pretty clear no matter who precipitates the government shutdown, the American people don’t like it,” McConnell said. “And I hope that will be avoided and that both sides will understand that’s not a great way to end what has, in my view, been the most successful right-of-center Congress in decades.”

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) spoke with Trump following Tuesday’s Oval Office meeting and told reporters later, “I don’t believe he’s bluffing.”

“I think the president is on firm ground here. We need the money,” Graham said. “And the only reason they are not giving it to him is because they just don’t want to help him.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Pelosi and Trump tussled about whether Republicans would even have the votes to get a $5 billion wall bill through the House — with Trump saying they did and Pelosi saying they didn’t.

House GOP leaders are now weighing bringing that legislation to the floor, but it has not been scheduled. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Fox News on Tuesday that he was confident they have the votes. But many GOP members who lost their elections or are retiring have been absent in recent days and leadership could struggle to round of the needed votes.

“We’re so far gone from reality I just don’t think it’s doable,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a retiring member who has opposed some of Trump’s immigration policies. “Even if the president were to pass it in the House, I don’t think there’s much enthusiasm in the Senate to pass it. … I’m not in favor if it, but I’m just one more lemming here.”

At the same time, Trump’s wall remains a priority for many conservative lawmakers who campaigned on the issue and have one final chance to deliver on it before losing the majority.

“I know most members are pressuring leaders to vote on the border bill,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus. “I don’t speak for the president but certainly believe he would encourage immediate action. I certainly support a vote this week.”

Trump long claimed Mexico would pay for the wall — a claim he repeated Tuesday to Pelosi, saying that the money would come from the newly renegotiated North America trade deal. Pelosi dismissed that idea.

Following their meeting Tuesday afternoon, Trump called Pelosi and they spoke briefly, with Trump saying the White House would get back to Democrats on their offer.

Funding for the Homeland Security Department and a number of other agencies, which are now operating on a short-term spending bill, will dry up Dec. 21 at midnight without action by Congress and Trump. Those agencies comprise about 25 percent of government spending. The Pentagon and some larger agencies have already been funded through next September.

Trump on Wednesday wrote on Twitter that Democrats should fund the border wall, citing a shooting in France and payments associated former president Barack Obama’s nuclear deal as evidence the country needed a border wall and could afford to build one.

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

Playing by His Own Rules, Trump Flips the Shutdown Script

By Carl Hulse

WASHINGTON — The trick in Washington has always been to make sure a government shutdown is pinned on the other guy. President Trump is the first to ever pin one on himself.

In a new twist on the old game of shutdown politics dating to the 1990s, Mr. Trump was essentially goaded on Tuesday by Representative Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York into embracing ownership of a shutdown yet to come if Democrats do not accede to his request for $5 billion to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico.

“I will take the mantle,” Mr. Trump told the two Democratic leaders in the Oval Office, saying he would proudly close parts of the executive branch if he did not get his way. “I’m not going to blame you for it,” he continued. “The last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down, and I’m going to shut it down for border security.”

A smiling Mr. Schumer seemed more than satisfied with Mr. Trump’s retort. “O.K., fair enough,” he said.

The moment was a little reminiscent of the climactic scene in “A Few Good Men,” when Tom Cruise’s character elicits an incriminating answer from Jack Nicholson’s Marine colonel. In this case, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer were more than happy to handle the president’s truth. Ms. Pelosi couldn’t say the term “Trump shutdown” enough times.

“We gave the president two options that would keep the government open,” the two leaders said in a joint statement after the remarkable White House session that offered a sneak peek at 2019’s divided government. “It’s his choice to accept one of those options or shut the government down.”

Mr. Trump has consistently played by his own rules in Washington, and perhaps this is just one more example of how he can upend the conventions of the capital and win a shutdown showdown on his own terms. Many of his most enthusiastic supporters are both anti-Washington and pro-border wall, so his decision to potentially close down a section of the federal government to secure funding for the wall could play well with them. It could also generate some welcome backing from his base at a time when he seems under siege on the legal end and is struggling to staff his administration as the two-year mark nears. In addition, the 2020 campaign is already on the president’s mind, and his efforts to limit immigration have worked for him in the past.

With Democrats about to take over the House, the president’s opportunities to win the wall money — a central facet of his 2016 campaign and one he has so far been thwarted on — are diminishing. As that window is closing, shutting down the government is starting to sound like a victory, at least in the president’s mind.

“If we have to close down the country over border security, I actually like that in terms of an issue,” Mr. Trump told reporters late Tuesday after the Democrats had departed. “I will take it because we are closing it down for border security, and I think I win that every single time.”

“I don’t mind owning that issue,” he said of a shutdown.

Politicians with more experience in government shutdowns aren’t so sure that is a good idea. Both parties have engaged in such brinkmanship over the years and paid a political price. In the end, a sudden halt in government services or the closing of national parks feeds the public perception of a dysfunctional Washington, a place in which politicians are unwilling to compromise and find solutions — but are willing to let their constituents suffer the consequences.

And while the border wall is a significant symbolic issue, the dollars at stake in this fight are not huge — basically a difference of under $4 billion. That is the only issue holding up a major package of government spending that has deep bipartisan support.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, would prefer not to go there. He has repeatedly vowed to avoid shutdowns at all costs to try to project a Republican image of government competency.

“One thing I think is pretty clear no matter who precipitates the government shutdown: The American people don’t like it and I hope that will be avoided,” he said Tuesday.

Republicans have for years tried to shed their mantle as the shutdown party after engaging in budget clashes during the Clinton and Obama administrations, which led to government agencies being closed for varying periods of time as the two parties fought it out. The Newt Gingrich-led Republicans took most of the blame in the mid-1990s after President Bill Clinton vetoed the spending plan passed by the Republican Congress over Medicare cuts.

Republicans took it on the chin again in 2013 when the government shut down for 16 days after Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama refused Republican demands to end funding for his new health care law. They were probably spared the worst of the political fallout by the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act just a few weeks later.

At the beginning of this year, it was the turn of Senate Democrats, who briefly provoked a shutdown over the refusal by Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans to protect the special program for undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children. Democrats quickly backtracked, realizing that they were losing politically, and the shutdown extended only over a weekend. Mr. Trump said Tuesday that Democrats got “killed” for that maneuvering.

Such experiences have made both parties leery of delving into shutdown territory. Time still remains to work out some sort of deal. But if no accommodation can be reached, parts of the government might be closing for the holidays. Democrats believe it was Mr. Trump, with his fervent shutdown embrace, who presented them a gift.

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