About Me

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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


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Immigration Lawyers Blast Delays in Citizenship, Green Cards

WASHINGTON — Immigration lawyers on Wednesday blasted delays in the U.S. government’s handling of applications for citizenship, green cards and other immigration benefits.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association said the wait times nearly doubled over a four-year period while the number of immigration applications rose only slightly.

“Throughout the nation, these delays are harming families, vulnerable populations, and U.S. businesses that depend on timely adjudications,” the group, which includes more than 15,000 immigration attorneys and law professors, said in a report.

The lawyers said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — which is funded by application filing fees — is shifting its focus away from serving immigrant applicants and becoming “a third immigration enforcement component of DHS.”

The association asked for more congressional oversight and greater transparency.

A spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the agency has opened three new field offices and expanded 10 others in an effort to speed up the processing of naturalization applications and other benefits. The workforce grew by 38 percent over the past five years.

“The truth is that while many factors relating to an individual’s case can affect processing times, waits are often due to higher application rates rather than slow processing,” said spokesman Michael Bars.

But the lawyers association, which looked at data from 2014-2018, pointed to a 2018 report by the Department of Homeland Security showing the net backlog of cases at USCIS doubled during the 2017 fiscal year while the agency saw a 4 percent increase in applications.

AILA officials say the average nationwide wait time for naturalization was 5.6 months in budget year 2016. And in fiscal year 2018, it was 10.2 months.

Jason Boyd, one of the immigration lawyer analysts, said the need for reforms is urgent.

USCIS Immigration Delays Grow Longer And Longer

By Stuart Anderson

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has found a way to make life more difficult for immigrants – make them wait longer. As a result of longer USCIS processing times, employers and high-skilled foreign nationals are less likely to view America as a great place for careers and innovation, while other foreign-born individuals wonder why treating people poorly has become official government policy.

New research from Jason Boyd, a policy counsel at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), finds U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is “adjudicating cases at an unacceptably and increasingly slow pace.”

Boyd found the average time for USCIS to process a case increased by 46% the past two fiscal years: “Case processing times increased substantially in FY 2018 even as case receipt volume appeared to markedly decrease. . . . Viewed as a whole, USCIS’s national average processing time data reveals a legal immigration system in a tailspin.”

Specific policy choices in the first two years of the Trump administration have contributed to the long delays. “In 2017, USCIS implemented a sweeping new in-person interview requirement for employment-based green card applications,” notes the report. “Increased delays in the adjudication of employment-based benefits have undermined the ability of U.S. companies to hire and retain essential workers and fill critical workforce gaps.”

H-1B professionals and prospective new employers can now wait more than a year for USCIS to make a decision on an H-1B application. (See here, Form I-129, California Service Center.) In FY 2018, the USCIS processing time for an I-140 form (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) was approximately 8 months, compared to 3 months in FY 2014. (Processing times do not include green card waits of 10 years or more for Indian professionals caused by the per-country limit and the low annual quota on employment-based immigrant visas.)

Due to limited resources at USCIS offices, the in-person interview requirement for employment-based green cards has forced people to wait longer to become a U.S. citizen. The wait time for USCIS to process naturalization forms increased to 10.2 months in FY 2018, almost twice as long as the 5.2 months it took to process an N-400 form in FY 2014. An I-130 petition for an Immediate Relative of a U.S. citizen took 9.7 months to process in FY 2018, up from 6 months in FY 2016.

Shortly after Donald Trump took office, key administration staff members began drafting an executive order they hoped could be used to enact a variety of new immigration restrictions. While the initial drafts that were leaked to the press listed specific policies, the presidential executive order that was finally released was written broadly. That allowed those who drafted the order to use and cite it to justify a variety of actions, since the order mentioned “new rules” and “new guidance” on immigration. This was the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order issued in April 2017.

In addition to waiting longer, people in business immigration categories are more likely to have their cases denied than in the past. Once the impact of the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order spread through the layers of the administration, “The proportion of H-1B petitions denied for foreign-born professionals increased by 41% from the 3rd to 4th quarter of FY 2017,” according to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy.

A major consequence of the increase in denials and the long waits is that many H-1B professionals are now reluctant to change jobs. Under the law, contrary to popular perception, an H-1B visa holder can change his or her job to a new company even before a new petition is approved for the new employer. However, USCIS stopped allowing employers to pay an additional fee, called premium processing, to obtain quicker decisions for change of employer cases. That means many H-1B professionals are afraid to leave their current employer and start working for a new company. The H-1B visa holders worry that the increase in denials means they may have an application denied months after starting a new job. That would leave them with no job and likely no alternative but to depart the United States to avoid being out of status.

Despite arguing its policies are designed to protect U.S. workers, it would seem current administration policies harm U.S. workers in two ways. First, as noted, because of the administration’s policies H-1B professionals are less likely to leave an undesirable employment situation. Critics of H-1B visas have argued that less labor mobility for H-1B professionals can lead to someone being exploited by a bad employer and undermine U.S. workers. Second, the waits, denials and uncertainty are encouraging U.S. employers to shift more work and more workers outside the United States, which affects both those jobs and complementary jobs that could have been created in the U.S. Particularly in the long run, that’s an unfortunate development for U.S. workers and America’s place as a center for innovation in the world.

We should recognize that when the president and others in his administration use the term “merit-based” immigration, they do not mean welcoming more high-skilled foreign nationals to immigrate to or work in the United States. They simply mean fewer immigrants, including refugees, asylum seekers, family-based and, ironically, even employment-based immigrants.

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

Undocumented worker who worked for Trump golf course to attend State of the Union

By Elise Viebeck

An undocumented worker who recently worked for Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., and left after she publicly disclosed her immigration status will attend President Trump’s State of the Union address next week.

Victorina Morales, who was born in Guatemala, will be a guest of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey Democrat, when the president speaks to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. Watson Coleman’s office confirmed the decision Wednesday.

The choice to invite Morales follows news stories about the Trump Organization’s failure to fully check the work status of all its employees, even as Trump described illegal immigration as a national crisis and demanded funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that about a dozen undocumented workers were fired this month from the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, N.Y. Eric Trump said Tuesday that the company will implement E-Verify, a federal program that vets workers’ immigration status, across all of its properties.

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Lawmakers — and presidents — often seek to make a statement with the guests they invite to the State of the Union. In 2017, Trump brought the relatives of people who authorities said were killed by undocumented immigrants. In 2016, former president Barack Obama invited a “dreamer” — an undocumented immigrant brought to the United States as a child — who served in the Army. Obama also left a vacant seat to honor victims of gun violence.

Morales has been one of the most vocal of the undocumented workers who have recently gone public to describe their experiences working for Trump’s company. She was featured in a New York Times story headlined “Making President Trump’s Bed: A Housekeeper Without Papers.”

This week, Morales joined three other former workers on Capitol Hill to petition members of Congress for protection and highlight what their lawyer and some Democratic lawmakers described as potential lawbreaking by the Trump Organization. Two of the four workers said the company helped them obtain false documents to justify their employment, a claim that Eric Trump denied.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is now gathering signatures for a letter calling on the FBI to launch an investigation. He met with the group Monday.

“The number of immigrants claiming they were employed illegally by the Trump Organization has risen to more than 20 individuals and raises serious questions of criminal activity and numerous violations of employment laws at the Trump Golf Club in Westchester County, New York, and Bedminster, New Jersey — including conspiracy charges, procuring false documents, and forced and coerced labor,” the letter states.

Eric Trump started managing the Trump Organization’s day-to-day operations with his brother Donald Trump Jr., when his father took office. The president maintains an ownership stake in the company.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Victorina Morales was fired by the Trump Organization. In fact, her attorney said he advised her not to return to work after she went public, but she never received a notice of termination.

Tom Hamburger, David Nakamura and Jonathan O’Connell contributed to this report.

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Trek Across the Border Veers Into More and More Remote Terrain

By Simon Romero and Caitlin Dickerson

ANTELOPE WELLS, N.M. — The Border Patrol’s tiny base in the southwest corner of New Mexico is so remote that the wind howls through the surrounding basin where jaguars still stalk their prey.

But that hasn’t stopped thousands of Central Americans from journeying in recent weeks to the rural outpost and other isolated points along the Southwest border, launching increasingly desperate bids for asylum in the United States.

In a two-day span in January, 362 migrants surrendered to the Border Patrol in Antelope Wells, overwhelming the small base’s capacity to process asylum requests. Last week, a new group of 306 migrants arrived at the same location, including children in need of immediate medical care — a situation officials in New Mexico say is without precedent.

Prompting these trips to ever-more-remote border locations are not only the nearly 700 miles of border wall and fencing built since 2006, but the Trump administration’s increasingly rigid immigration policies aimed at deterring the flow of migrant families, mostly from Central America, that have streamed in from Mexico since 2014.

Over the past year, the government has limited the number of asylum seekers who are allowed to present their cases each day at certain ports of entry, stationed agents on bridges to turn asylum seekers away and launched tear gas at migrants attempting to cross the border near San Diego.

The administration went even further last week, announcing that it would start requiring some asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their applications are processed, which can take years. Officials plan to implement the new policy at the San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego before expanding it to crossings in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Taken together, these moves effectively have forced some Central American migrants to wait for months to apply for asylum, sometimes sleeping on the street or in crowded shelters in Mexican border cities.

Frustrated and increasingly desperate, thousands of families have lately been opting to pay smugglers to take them to remote border stations where they can surrender quickly to American officials and hope to be allowed to remain in the United States while their asylum claims are processed.

In December, which saw a record number of families arriving at the border, 27,518 migrants traveling in families were apprehended in areas outside normal border stations. The El Paso sector, which includes the suddenly busy area of rural New Mexico, saw a 1,866 percent increase in family apprehensions during October and November of 2018, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Pushing migrants toward remote desert locations puts them at higher risk of dehydration, heatstroke or hypothermia. Most are choosing the more dangerous crossing routes because they have been foreclosed from seeking asylum at the more widely traveled border crossings, said Fernando Garcia, director of the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso. “How else to explain the desperation of thousands of people making it to the middle of nowhere just so they can surrender to Border Patrol?”

Trump administration officials have argued that the new policies are an attempt to discourage migrants from even attempting the dangerous trips through Mexico where they are especially vulnerable to extortion and human trafficking. Officials contend that existing legislation encourages parents to bring children along on the journey.

Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, laid blame on the federal government having to comply with the Flores agreement, a 1997 legal settlement aimed at preventing lengthy detentions of migrant children, and subsequent legislation codifying parts of the settlement into federal law.

“We continue to call on Congress to address this humanitarian and security crisis that entices smugglers to bring families across the border,” Ms. Waldman said.

Border Patrol officials have put forward various theories about why crossings at remote locations are climbing that have nothing to do with the administration’s policies. Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said in a conference call with reporters in December that smugglers could be trying to hold down the transit fees they pay to other criminal organizations with sway in northern Mexico by dropping migrants near remote locations like Antelope Wells.

In an interview in El Paso, Jose Romero, a supervisory agent in the Border Patrol’s sector that oversees operations in New Mexico, offered another explanation, claiming that Mexican cannabis smugglers were trying to distract agents in the field by flooding remote stations with asylum seekers.

“Our adversary is no idiot,” Mr. Romero said, adding that while agents were arresting 247 migrants in Antelope Wells one January day, traffickers were trying to smuggle hundreds of pounds of marijuana across the border in another location. “Now they know where our weak spots are,” he said.

The administration has not been unmindful of the hazards of migrants venturing into little-traveled regions. Partly in an attempt to deter such crossings and what government officials describe as “meritless” asylum claims, the administration tried last year to refuse to accept asylum applications from anyone who had not entered the country at a legal border crossing, but that policy was blocked by the courts. And Antelope Wells, though remote, is a legal border crossing.

Just how dangerous such crossings are became apparent in December, when Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala, died in United States custody after she and her father crossed the border in a group of 163 migrants that surrendered to agents at Antelope Wells. Only a few weeks later, an 8-year-old boy from Guatemala, Felipe Gómez Alonzo, died after crossing the border about three miles west of the Paso Del Norte port of entry in El Paso.

But the numbers have only continued to grow. Since the start of the 2019 fiscal year, the Border Patrol said, it has found at least 24 groups of 100 or more migrants that had crossed around the Bootheel, the sparsely populated area where New Mexico’s border with Mexico dips southward like a cowboy boot’s heel.

At the end of a 45-mile road from the decaying hamlet of Hachita that runs through grazing lands dotted with creosote bushes, the Border Patrol has maintained a small presence at Antelope Wells for decades. A sign says the base is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The population of Antelope Wells, once 2, sometimes soars all the way into the high single digits when more than a handful of agents are deployed here for weeklong assignments.

At another remote point to the west in Arizona, the Border Patrol reported that 376 migrants had tunneled through the sandy soil under the border fence near Yuma, earlier this month and then surrendered to agents. The group, which included dozens of children, ranks among the largest groups of families and unaccompanied children ever arrested on the border with Mexico.

Immigration activists say the increase in remote crossings is just the latest development in a decades-long effort to push immigration out of urban areas, tracing back at least to Operation Blockade, a Clinton administration initiative in 1993 to curb unauthorized crossings in the city of El Paso. Border fencing erected in Southern California and Arizona in recent years drove some of the biggest migration flows toward the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where the river marks the border and many migrants are able to cross with a short boat ride.

Busy border crossings like the one in McAllen, Tex., now have relatively elaborate infrastructure set up to handle newly arrived families seeking asylum. But no such facilities exist in this stretch of rural New Mexico, raising fears that the recent deaths of the two Guatemalan children won’t be the last.

The grim cost of United States immigration policies is hardly new. Law enforcement authorities have found the remains of about 8,000 migrants who have died while crossing the border with Mexico since the 1990s. And while undetected illegal border crossings have fallen sharply over the past decade, hundreds of migrants continue to die making the attempt each year.

At least 413 migrants were found dead along the border in 2018, according to a preliminary count by the International Organization for Migration, up from 412 in 2017 and 399 in 2016.

“We’re seeing the increase in people crossing out here, and we’re afraid,” said Amanda Adame, 39, a cattle rancher whose family lives in Hachita, about 45 miles north of Antelope Wells. “We’re fearful for the families that are going across and fearful for our own safety.”

Still, humanitarian groups say they are waging an uphill battle to save lives along the border. Some cite the conviction in January of four volunteers from the Unitarian Universalist Church in Tucson on charges of abandonment of property after they left caches of food and water in an Arizona wildlife refuge where migrants have died while crossing into the United States.

“Asylum seekers shouldn’t have to cross in the middle of the desert,” said Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler, a member of the advocacy group No More Deaths in Tucson. “This is the newest stage of policies that have been sentencing migrants to death for decades.”

Simon Romero reported from Antelope Wells, N.M., and Caitlin Dickerson from El Paso.

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

For Democrats, Shutdown Success Also Brings Danger

By Gerald F. Seib

Stick around Washington long enough and you will learn a simple rule: Success also brings risk. Danger comes calling when the winning side in a political fight either overreaches in its hour of triumph or fails to turn newly won political capital into something useful.

This is the risk for Democrats right now. There is no doubt they won—convincingly—in their showdown with President Trump over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall along the southern border. They stared down the president during a monthlong partial government shutdown, and in the end they got exactly what they were demanding: a temporary reopening of the government without providing any money for the wall.

Yet the shutdown drama also carried three little-noticed problems for Democrats.

First, they now have spent the opening period of their new control of the House of Representatives focused not on their priorities—health care in particular—but instead on Mr. Trump’s top priority, immigration.

Second, the shutdown prevented the new Democratic House leadership, and all those new House members elected last November, from starting off by demonstrating they can govern effectively.

And third, the shutdown mess sullied everybody’s reputation, at least a bit. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that positive feelings about the Democratic party fell to 35% this month from 39% in December. That means the share of Americans who have positive feelings about Democrats is essentially no different from the 34% who have positive feelings about Republicans.

Now both Democrats and the president enter a crucial three-week period in which the government will be funded while the two parties try to work out a compromise on border security. Will Democrats accept some funding for a border wall—something they were willing to swallow just a couple of months ago? Or will they continue to try to deny Mr. Trump any wall money? That hard-line stance would please Democratic activists who want to keep fighting the president on all fronts—but also would run the danger that Democrats come to be seen by middle-of-the-road voters as the unreasonable party.

Where, in short, does the Democrats pressing their advantage end and overreach begin?

John Delaney, who just retired as a Democratic House member to run for president, advises his colleagues to try to win legal status for Dreamers—young immigrants brought here illegally as children—in return for a larger border-security package that includes some funding for a border “barrier.” That, he argues, would show that Democrats are “for things” rather than simply “against things.”

“Even though the Democrats and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi won the shutdown, in the eyes of most Americans outside the Beltway the whole thing was an embarrassment and was an example of how broken our politics really are,” Mr. Delaney, who represented Maryland in the House, argues. “The vast majority of the American people want their leaders to compromise to get things done, not stick to rigid ideology.”

In particular, Mr. Delaney advocates a set of bills to deal with “real issues facing Americans,” including enhancing infrastructure, protecting digital privacy, dealing with the opioid crisis, lowering prescription-drug costs and perhaps an expansion of the earned-income tax credit for lower-income workers.

“The vast majority of the American people want their leaders to compromise to get things done, not stick to rigid ideology.” —John Delaney, former Democratic congressman from Maryland and 2020 presidential candidate
David Axelrod, who was the top political strategist for former President Obama, says Democrats succeeded in showing the president “that Congress is a co-equal branch of government and won’t be cowed or bullied by his antics.”

But, he adds that “it was a messy month for Washington as a whole” and sounds a cautionary note for fellow Democrats: “Most of the new members of the House were elected on a pledge to do more than stand up to Trump. They campaigned to earnestly pursue substantive policy advances on problems like the high cost of health care, child care and education. At a minimum, they need to get caught trying.”

The danger for Democrats is that, in a continued fight over border security, they could become the party that appears absolutist by opposing variations on a wall or fence they supported previously.

Certainly Mr. Trump, in an interview with The Journal on Sunday, was laying the groundwork for painting the Democrats as the obstructionists going forward: “If everything goes like this, nothing will happen for two years other than they’ll try to get me out of office in a different way because they know they’re not going to beat me in the election.”

So Democrats are framing the next three weeks as a time of debate on “smart border security” rather than a wall. After that, says Donna Brazile, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, the party “will get back to regular order” and its agenda. She notes that health care will be the focus of four committee hearings in Congress on Tuesday.

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

Mexico Won't Accept Minors Awaiting US Asylum Claims

MEXICO CITY — The head of Mexico’s immigration agency said Monday that his country won’t accept migrants younger than 18 while they await the resolution of their U.S. asylum claims

National Immigration Institute Commissioner Tonatiuh Guillen also said Mexico won’t extend the policy beyond a single border crossing, the El Chaparral crossing in Tijuana.

Mexican officials had previously said the United States expressed interest in extending the “remain in Mexico” policy to other border crossings. But Guillen said Mexico will accept only asylum seekers aged 18 to 60 at El Chaparral.

Mexico will accept migrants only from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and will give them four-month visas.

Guillen said that since Dec. 1, Mexico has given 3,983 transit visas to Central Americans, most of whom hope to reach the United States. Mexico will also extend other work-visa programs to apply to more Mexican states and more Central American countries.

The “remain in Mexico” program had been set to start last week with about 20 migrants returning to Tijuana.

U.S. authorities plan to bus asylum seekers back and forth to the border for court hearings in downtown San Diego, including an initial appearance within 45 days.

The U.S. has witnessed a surge in asylum claims, especially from Central American families. Due largely to a court-imposed 20-day limit on detaining children, families are typically released with a notice to appear in immigration court. With a backlog of more than 800,000 cases, it can take years to settle cases.

The new U.S. policy purportedly aims to reduce incentives for migrants to make asylum claims, on the belief they will be released and allowed to spend years in the United States even if their claims are eventually rejected.

Migrant activists fear the program will make it harder for asylum seekers to successfully argue their cases.

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

Friday, January 25, 2019

Singh v. Whitaker

The plain language of 8 C.F.R. Sec. 1208.13(b)(3) does not require the government to propose a city, state, or other type of locality as the area of relocation, rather the Department of Homeland Security may properly propose a specific or a more general area as the place of safe relocation. The Board of Immigration Appeals must then conduct its safe relocation analysis with respect to that proposed area, however specifically or generally defined. In considering the reasonableness of an political asylum petitioner's relocation, the BIA must consider whether the petitioner would be substantially safer in a new location if he were to continue expressing his political opinion. It cannot assume the petitioner will silence his political activity to avoid harm.

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

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

By Geneva Sands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.

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

By Peter Nicholas and Kristina Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The costs of the shutdown continued to mount.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Nakamura

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 18, 2019

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

By David Weigel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Miriam Jordan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Democrats Jilt Trump on Lunch Talks but Look for Shutdown Exit

By Julie Hirschfeld Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Annie Karni contributed reporting.

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