Judge will temporarily halt deportations of reunited families

A federal judge on Monday said he will issue a temporary halt to deportations of migrant parents who are reunited with their children.

U.S. District Court Dana Sabraw said during court proceedings in San Diego that he will stay deportations pending resolution of the issue.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion earlier in the day that called for reunited migrant parents to be protected from deportation for seven days after being reconnected with their children.

The ACLU, which represents the plaintiffs in a high-profile case over family separations at the border, said the pause was needed to ensure that parents slated for removal can make informed decisions about whether to leave their children behind in the United States.

The “persistent and increasing rumors” that parents will be deported immediately after reunification necessitates the moratorium, the ACLU argued in the filing.

Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart said in Continue reading “Judge will temporarily halt deportations of reunited families”

7th Circuit gives Trump temporary win on ‘sanctuary’ policy

A federal appeals court on Tuesday temporarily narrowed the scope of a nationwide injunction against the Trump administration’s attempt to withhold grants from so-called sanctuary cities.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stay the nationwide aspect of the injunction, so that it will apply only to the plaintiff, the city of Chicago, pending further consideration. The full bench of the appeals court will hear oral arguments over the scope of the injunction on Sept. 6.

A Justice Department spokesman criticized the use of broad injunctions against federal policies, saying “their increased use creates a dangerous precedent.”

The decision amounts to a victory for President Donald Trump in his quest to bring into line jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, which have been a frequent target of the president’s ire.

During a speech last week among “angel Continue reading “7th Circuit gives Trump temporary win on ‘sanctuary’ policy”

Border arrests projected to drop in June

The pace of arrests on the U.S.-Mexico border dropped in June, according to a preliminary government estimate — potentially signaling that the Trump administration’s controversial "zero tolerance" policy discouraged migrants from traveling north.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is projected to arrest roughly 37,000 people at the border in June, based on arrest data from June 1-16, a DHS official told POLITICO.

If that trend held after June 16, it would represent roughly an 8 percent falloff from May — a decline that might demonstrate that zero-tolerance prosecutions of undocumented migrants who crossed the southern border, and the family separations that resulted, created a disincentive for Central Americans to attempt unauthorized entry to the U.S.

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted Tuesday, "To the people of Central America: You are our neighbors. We want you & your nations to prosper. Don’t risk your lives or the lives Continue reading “Border arrests projected to drop in June”

White House: ‘We’re simply out of resources’ to detain migrant families

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders conceded today that the administration lacks the resources to detain migrant families arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The admission followed a report that federal immigration officials had temporarily stopped referring families caught at the border for prosecution. The prosecutions were part of President Donald Trump’s controversial “zero tolerance” strategy that resulted in more than 2,300 children being split apart from parents in recent weeks.

"We’re not changing the policy,” Sanders said at the White House daily press briefing. “We’re simply out of resources. And at some point, Congress has to do what they were elected to do."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told the Associated Press earlier in the day that agents have temporarily stopped referring families caught at the border for criminal prosecution, a public confirmation of a reality discussed by administration officials last week.

Continue reading “White House: ‘We’re simply out of resources’ to detain migrant families”

Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy is effectively dead

President Donald Trump may not admit it, but practically speaking, his administration’s “zero-tolerance” border strategy is dead.

Top officials at the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that reality at a meeting Thursday afternoon, according to a former department official with knowledge of the meeting.

“It’s going to be ‘catch and release’ because they don’t have the detention beds for them,” the former official said.

That same message was delivered by Brandon Judd, president of a union for Border Patrol agents, who told CNN Thursday that the executive order Trump signed Wednesday requiring families caught at the border to be detained together simply left his agency no choice.

"We’re going to have to release them," he said.

Homeland Security and Justice Department officials did not respond to requests for comment.

But the policy slammed into a series of brick walls that made it all but impossible to fully enforce on the Continue reading “Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy is effectively dead”

Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy is effectively dead

President Donald Trump may not admit it, but practically speaking, his administration’s “zero-tolerance” border strategy is dead.

Top officials at the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that reality at a meeting Thursday afternoon, according to a former department official with knowledge of the meeting.

“It’s going to be ‘catch and release’ because they don’t have the detention beds for them,” the former official said.

That same message was delivered by Brandon Judd, president of a union for Border Patrol agents, who told CNN Thursday that the executive order Trump signed Wednesday requiring families caught at the border to be detained together simply left his agency no choice.

"We’re going to have to release them," he said.

Homeland Security and Justice Department officials did not respond to requests for comment.

But the policy slammed into a series of brick walls that made it all but impossible to fully enforce on the Continue reading “Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy is effectively dead”

Family separations will persist under Trump’s order

President Donald Trump’s new executive order to keep migrant families together leaves his administration plenty of wiggle room to keep them apart.

The most urgent question is what will happen to thousands of children already separated from their parents under the administration’s “zero tolerance” border enforcement strategy.

Under that policy — fully implemented in early May — all suspected border crossers are referred for federal prosecution, with no exceptions for parents and asylum seekers. During a nearly five-week period in May and June, federal authorities separated more than 2,300 children from their parents at the southwest border.

“They’ve got to go find the parents and reunite the kids with the parents,” said one former Obama and George W. Bush administration official. “No aspect of this is easy, but they created this mess and they have to go back and fix it.”

But the executive order contains no language addressing Continue reading “Family separations will persist under Trump’s order”

New fingerprint checks could exacerbate shelter crunch for migrant kids

Separating children from their parents at the border is creating havoc — but a new Trump administration fingerprinting policy may create even more in the future by discouraging their families from claiming them.

Even before the White House imposed zero-tolerance border enforcement that led to an explosion in family separations, the Trump administration decided to collect biometrics from people who take custody of unaccompanied minors — with no guarantee that it won’t be used for enforcement.

The Health and Human Resources Department, which oversees the care of the unaccompanied minors, signed a memorandum of agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in April that enabled ICE to check the immigration status of the adults who retrieve those minors from custody, along with their criminal history.

“There is nothing in that memorandum of agreement that restricts how that information might be used for enforcement purposes,” said Mark Greenberg, a senior Continue reading “New fingerprint checks could exacerbate shelter crunch for migrant kids”

Crowley collapses at immigration protest

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley briefly collapsed Wednesday afternoon during a two-hour protest over the Trump administration’s handling of undocumented immigrant children and families at the border.

Crowley, eight other House Democrats and dozens of activists were blocking an intersection a short walk from the White House on an overcast but humid D.C. afternoon when the 56-year-old fell to the ground.

He took a drink of bottled water, then stood up and walked to the nearby W Hotel with the help of Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) and Gustavo Torres, executive director of the immigrant rights group CASA Maryland.

“He’s O.K.,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), who trailed Crowley into the hotel. “He just got a bit of cold water.”

A Crowley spokeswoman said the New York lawmaker collapsed due to “heat exhaustion,” but had recovered.

The congressman tweeted about the incident shortly afterward. Continue reading “Crowley collapses at immigration protest”

Border arrests rise in May amid debate over family separations

The number of people arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border rose 5 percent in May compared with the previous month, according to data released today by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Border Patrol caught 40,344 people along the Southwest border in May, a steep increase over the historically low arrest levels during President Donald Trump’s first year in office.

The latest figures follow the Trump administration’s controversial decision to enact a “zero tolerance” approach to prosecutions for illegal entry at the border. Beginning in early May, DHS moved to refer all suspected border crossers for prosecution, a practice that will increase family separations. In a two-week period after the policy went into effect, 658 children were taken from adults, according to Senate subcommittee testimony by a CBP official.

Democrats have blasted Trump for jeopardizing the health and safety of migrant children, who are classified as “unaccompanied minors” when Continue reading “Border arrests rise in May amid debate over family separations”

Sessions defends separating families at the border

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday defended the increase in family separations expected to result from a new Trump administration strategy to prosecute all people suspected of crossing the border illegally.

“We believe every person that enters the country illegally like that should be prosecuted,” Sessions told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, according to a transcript of the interview. “And you can’t be giving immunity to people who bring children with them recklessly and improperly and illegally.”

Democrats have ripped the administration over the past month for what they consider unwarranted family separations. President Donald Trump today repeated his baffling Twitter claim that the policy, announced by Sessions on May 7, was caused by "bad legislation passed by the Democrats."

In the past, the White House press office, when asked to verify Trump’s baffling claim, has pointed to a 2008 bill that passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support and Continue reading “Sessions defends separating families at the border”

White House blasts Merkley after his attempt to visit a shelter for migrant children

The White House on Monday blasted Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) over his criticism of an administration policy that will increase family separations at the border.

Merkley — who’s called the Trump administration’s handling of children and families “cruel” — livestreamed on Sunday an attempt to enter a Texas shelter for unaccompanied minors.

He was turned away and later tweeted criticism of the decision.

“I was barred entry. Asked repeatedly to speak to a supervisor — he finally came out and said he can’t tell us anything. Police were called on us,” he wrote. “Children should never be ripped from their families & held in secretive detention centers.”

Merkley said his office had contacted the operators last week and was told it would not be granted access, an answer he called “unacceptable.“

"You’re seeking asylum, and the first thing that happens when you get here is you’re torn Continue reading “White House blasts Merkley after his attempt to visit a shelter for migrant children”

Blowback over border separations amps up tensions inside Trump administration

The White House was thrown into turmoil after a handful of photographs of school-aged immigrant children, held behind fences in detention centers, ignited on social media.

President Donald Trump and top aides including policy adviser Stephen Miller felt deeply frustrated that these images, which dated back to the Obama administration, were getting pinned on them, according to people familiar with the reaction. So they created a special working group to do what this White House does best — push back and shift blame to Democrats through presidential tweets and a rare on-the-record briefing by Miller.

In reality, Trump’s own administration has increased the likelihood of family separation with a new policy to refer anyone suspected of crossing the border illegally for prosecution, including asylum seekers. The change is in keeping with the “shock and awe” tactics favored by top White House policy aide Stephen Miller, the architect of last year’s Continue reading “Blowback over border separations amps up tensions inside Trump administration”

White House’s Miller blames Democrats for border crisis

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller bashed Democrats on Tuesday for not repealing laws and overriding court rulings that he said encourage Central American migrants to seek refuge in the United States.

Miller’s rare on-the-record briefing appeared an attempt to contain damage from President Donald Trump’s tweet over the holiday weekend that Democrats were to blame for family separations at the border. The claim was characterized widely in the press as a blatant falsehood.

In a telephonic briefing with reporters, Miller and other senior administration officials ticked off a series of legal changes that they said would quell the recent increase in migrant traffic at the southwest border.

The administration has pushed Congress to pass legislation that would allow the swift removal of unaccompanied minors from Central America, permit longer detentions of family units arrested at the border and tighten standards for asylum claims.

“If we were to have Continue reading “White House’s Miller blames Democrats for border crisis”

U.S., Mexican officials to discuss asylum pact

President Donald Trump has criticized Mexico for not doing enough to stop the flow of Central American migrants toward the U.S. — but an asylum deal under discussion this week could change that.

Officials from the Trump administration and the Mexican government will meet Thursday and Friday to discuss a possible “safe third country” agreement, according to two sources, one from the Homeland Security Department and one from the Mexican government.

Under such a pact, migrants would be required to seek asylum in Mexico if they passed through that country en route to the U.S. The U.S. and Canada inked a similar deal in 2002.

Reaching a safe third country agreement with Mexico won’t be easy, given the Mexican government’s profound irritation with President Trump, who has attacked Mexico (and Mexicans) repeatedly and still insists that Mexico ought to pay for a wall along the southwest U. Continue reading “U.S., Mexican officials to discuss asylum pact”

Nielsen slams ‘loopholes’ that allow migrants to claim asylum

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen urged Congress Tuesday to tighten standards for asylum, which she portrayed as "loopholes" that encourage illegal immigration.

"Asylum is for people fleeing persecution, not those searching for a better job," Nielsen said in opening remarks at a Senate committee hearing. "Yet our broken system — with its debilitating court rulings, a crushing backlog, and gaping loopholes — allows illegal migrants to get into our country anyway and for whatever reason they want. This gaming of the system is unacceptable."

Nielsen also expressed support for the administration’s recent decision to refer for prosecution all people suspected of crossing the border illegally, which will likely lead to an increase in families separated at the southwest border.

"[Attorney General Jeff Sessions] has declared that we will have zero tolerance for all illegal border crossings," she said. "And I stand by that."

Nielsen nearly quit last week Continue reading “Nielsen slams ‘loopholes’ that allow migrants to claim asylum”

Trump administration to step up family separation at the border

The Trump administration will more frequently separate families at the southwest border under a new policy to be announced Monday, a DHS official told POLITICO.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen signed a memo Friday that directs the department to refer all suspected border-crossers to the Justice Department for prosecution under a federal statute that prohibits illegal entry, according to the official.

The stringent enforcement of federal immigration law comes as arrests on the border have climbed in recent months. Border Patrol caught about 38,000 people at the U.S.-Mexico border in April — more than three times the level during the same month a year earlier, though still well below the level in recent decades.

The new DHS policy follows an April announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that calls for U.S. attorney’s offices along the southwest border to prosecute cases of suspected illegal entry “to the extent Continue reading “Trump administration to step up family separation at the border”

Texas, six other states call for immediate halt to Dreamer program

A coalition of seven states led by Texas called on a federal court Wednesday to immediately halt an Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

The legal maneuver comes after the states filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Trump administration over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which also shields participants from imminent deportation.

In a motion for a preliminary injunction, the states argue the 2012 program leads to additional costs in health care, law enforcement and education among the plaintiff states, as well as increased competition for jobs.

The plaintiffs, which also include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia, argue the DACA program “flouts” laws enacted by Congress and “would reshape the separation of powers” within the federal government if allowed to continue unimpeded.

The lawsuit creates even more uncertainty for the roughly 694,000 “Dreamers” enrolled Continue reading “Texas, six other states call for immediate halt to Dreamer program”

Texas and 6 states sue Trump administration over DACA program

Texas and a coalition of six other states filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The 137-page lawsuit is the latest legal twist over the fate of DACA, which grants work permits to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The other states are Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia.

President Donald Trump moved to phase out the program in September after attorneys general from Texas and nine other states threatened to dispute in court the legality of the executive-branch program. At the time, Trump said he hoped to reach agreement with Congress on statutory language to maintain DACA. Subsequently, though, Trump imposed multiple conditions on codifying DACA that congressional Democrats rejected, including new limits on legal immigration.

Under Trump’s phaseout plan, DACA protections were set to begin expiring in large numbers starting Continue reading “Texas and 6 states sue Trump administration over DACA program”

Top immigration enforcer Homan set to retire in June

Thomas Homan, the top official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will retire in June, the agency confirmed Monday.

Homan called his decision to retire “bittersweet” in a written statement, and cited a need to spend more time with his family. “My family has sacrificed a lot in order for me to serve and it’s time for me to focus on them,” he said.

A career law enforcement official with more than three decades’ experience, Homan was named acting director of the agency in late January 2017.

In the 15 months that followed, Homan frequently defended President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration. He occasionally appeared at the podium of the White House daily briefing to defend the administration’s war against so-called sanctuary cities and the work of federal immigration officers.

The White House nominated Homan in November to become ICE director, but the nomination stalled due to fervent Continue reading “Top immigration enforcer Homan set to retire in June”