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”

Arizona sends 225 National Guard troops to border

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Monday that he’s deploying 225 National Guard troops to assist with border security operations.

“Just updated Arizona border sheriffs on today’s deployment of National Guard,” Ducey tweeted. “225 guard members being deployed today, additional members tomorrow.”

Ducey, a Republican, is the second border-state governor to answer President Donald Trump’s call to mobilize National Guard troops to help stem the flow of illegal immigration.

Trump, who vented repeatedly last week on Twitter about border security, said Thursday that as many as 4,000 guard members could be tapped to assist Border Patrol agents. The National Guard will not arrest or detain migrants, but will engage in supporting tasks that could free up agents to patrol the southwest border.

The escalation of force comes during a period of relative calm along the U.S.-Mexico border. Border arrests in fiscal year 2017 reached their lowest point since Continue reading “Arizona sends 225 National Guard troops to border”

Acosta addresses POLITICO wage-theft investigation

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta today addressed a POLITICO report on weak enforcement of minimum wage and overtime laws, arguing that a new pilot program to encourage voluntary compliance will help workers reclaim unpaid wages.

At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on infrastructure, Acosta faced questions about wage theft — that is, a business’ failure to pay workers legally required minimum wage or overtime pay — from Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

"A recent publication did an investigation that shows that there are an awful lot of folks who are simply not getting paid the minimum wage," Peters said, referencing a Feb. 18 report by POLITICO’s Marianne LeVine. "And even though cases are brought to collect that, most of that money doesn’t actually get back to the workers. In fact, according to the POLITICO investigation, [wage and hour] laws that are not enforced properly cost an estimated $15 billion in Continue reading “Acosta addresses POLITICO wage-theft investigation”

Trump: Democrats blocking DACA fix ‘for political purposes’

President Donald Trump blamed Democrats on Friday for stalled immigration negotiations on Capitol Hill.

"We wanna make a deal,” Trump said, according to a White House pool report. “I think they want to use it for political purposes, for elections. I really am not happy with the way it’s going, from the standpoint of the Democrats."

Trump made the comments during a meeting with White House and Department of Homeland Security officials at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Virginia.

The White House rolled out a four-point immigration plan in late January, but Democratic leaders in the House and Senate rejected the proposal.

Trump’s plan calls for a path to citizenship for nearly 2 million Dreamers brought to the U.S. as children, but it also demands $25 billion for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In addition, the president seeks to dramatically cut Continue reading “Trump: Democrats blocking DACA fix ‘for political purposes’”

Hispanic members unload on Dem leaders at ‘tense’ meeting

Hispanic lawmakers grilled Democratic leaders on Tuesday about the party’s strategy to protect so-called “Dreamers” — and walked away with tensions still running high and divisions deep.

With the next government funding deadline a little more than a week away, Democrats don’t have the appetite for another shutdown but they also don’t agree on what leverage they have to force Republicans into serious talks about a solution for Dreamers.

"Very tense and stressful" was how Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) described the meeting between the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Democratic leaders from both chambers. “A lot of us are very concerned about what is going to happen with Dreamers and what the pathway is to get them the protections that they deserve and need.”

The gathering was the first opportunity since the shutdown for House members to vent to Senate Democratic leaders about the direction of stalled negotiations.

Continue reading “Hispanic members unload on Dem leaders at ‘tense’ meeting”

What should Dreamers do?

The fevered immigration talks in Washington leave so-called Dreamers wondering how long they’ll be able to work legally.

Undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children were permitted starting in August 2012 to apply for work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a life-changing development for young people who previously lived in the shadows.

But President Donald Trump announced in September that he would end the Obama-era initiative, ostensibly because it wouldn’t survive a court challenge. New applications were halted, and renewals were set to end March 5. The move thrust Dreamers into a state of uncertainty and, in some cases, desperation.

Congress and the White House have used the end of DACA to try to negotiate a broader immigration deal that many Republicans insist should include beefed-up security and changes to the legal immigration system.

What does all this mean for Dreamers? Here are some Continue reading “What should Dreamers do?”

Trump open to citizenship for DACA enrollees

President Donald Trump will consider a pathway to citizenship in 10 to 12 years for enrollees in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, he told reporters during an impromptu press conference at the White House on Wednesday evening.

"We’re going to morph into it. It’s going to happen at some point in the future," Trump said, according to audio of the discussion posted online by the Daily Caller. He added that the timeline would be “over a period of 10 to 12 years.”

Trump will also request $25 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the negotiation, as well as $5 billion for other border security measures, he said.

In addition, the administration will seek to scale back family-based immigration and eliminate — or possibly replace — the diversity visa lottery, which grants 50,000 visas each year to people from nations Continue reading “Trump open to citizenship for DACA enrollees”

DACA’s political tribes: A user’s guide

As Congress and the White House wrangle over an immigration deal, with not much to show for it, all sides — from liberal Democrats to President Donald Trump — insist they want an agreement that offers protections to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

But unlike most partisan disputes, which have two sides — Democrat and Republican — the fight over how to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has five. Complicating matters further, some players straddle two or more of the five rival factions.

You can’t follow the action without knowing all points of this five-sided star. Herewith, a guide:

The Doves

The public faces of this bipartisan group are Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), both of whom have come under fierce personal attack from the White House as they’ve sought towrangle a compromise that would offer legal Continue reading “DACA’s political tribes: A user’s guide”

Arpaio running for Senate in Arizona

Joe Arpaio, the controversial former Arizona county sheriff who was convicted of defying a federal court order last year and then almost immediately pardoned by President Donald Trump, said Tuesday he is running for Senate.

Arpaio is running for the seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, he told the Washington Examiner, which first reported the news.

Arpaio served as sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, for 24 years before being defeated for reelection by a Democrat in 2016. He has often teased a possible statewide campaign — raising money for his political committee before ultimately deciding not to run.

“I have a lot to offer. I’m a big supporter of President Trump,” Arpaio told the Examiner. “I’m going to have to work hard; you don’t take anything for granted. But I would not be doing this if I thought that I could not win. I’m not Continue reading “Arpaio running for Senate in Arizona”

Inside the faltering Dreamer talks

Congressional negotiators and the White House are publicly touting progress toward a deal to shield hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation. But behind the scenes, Democrats and Republicans appear to be struggling more than ever on a plan that can earn President Donald Trump’s signature and bipartisan backing from Capitol Hill.

The White House has not provided details to a bipartisan group of key senators on what border security and immigration restrictions they want in return for helping Dreamers, according to the negotiators, who believe that’s a major obstacle.

And in one potentially ominous sign for a deal, two Senate Republicans who had been in talks with Democrats released an unusually downcast statement about the lack of progress in the private negotiations, which began after Trump announced last fall he would kill the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“Over the course of the last several weeks, we Continue reading “Inside the faltering Dreamer talks”

McConnell will allow immigration vote if senators strike a deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring an immigration bill to the floor by the end of January if lawmakers and the White House can reach a compromise, he said in a statement Wednesday.

McConnell acknowledged that a bipartisan group of senators has engaged in discussions with the Trump administration about legislation regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers work permits to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States at a young age and which President Donald Trump is rescinding. The conversations also covered border security, interior enforcement and changes to the legal immigration system, according to the majority leader.

“If negotiators reach an agreement on these matters by the end of January, I will bring it to the Senate floor for a free-standing vote,” he said. “I encourage those working on such legislation to develop a compromise that can be widely supported by both political parties Continue reading “McConnell will allow immigration vote if senators strike a deal”

Kirstjen Nielsen confirmed as Homeland Security secretary

The Senate voted 62-37 on Tuesday to confirm Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary.

Nielsen, who most recently worked as deputy to White House chief of staff John Kelly, will assume control of a department with more than 240,000 employees and a sweeping mission.

In addition to its anti-terror function, DHS is the agency behind President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration crackdown, and it will play a key role in deciding the fate of so-called DREAMers brought to the U.S. as children.

Nielsen is a cybersecurity expert who previously worked in the George W. Bush administration and at the Transportation Security Administration. During her confirmation process, she received the endorsement of top Republican senators and former DHS secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff.

Several Democrats questioned her work experience and independence from John Kelly, her former boss at the White House and DHS.

Homeland Security ends protected status for Haitians with an 18-month delay

The Trump administration will terminate a humanitarian status extended to roughly 59,000 Haitians living in the United States, but with an 18-month delay, the Homeland Security Department announced Monday evening.

Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke faced a Thanksgiving Day deadline to decide whether to renew so-called temporary protected status for Haitians, who were initially granted that status after a destructive earthquake hit the island nation in 2010.

After consulting U.S. and Haitian officials, Duke decided that on-the-ground conditions in Haiti no longer warranted the protection granted under the program. The move means that the Haitians given temporary protected status, or TPS, may remain until July 22, 2019, but could face deportation after that date.

The decision came after “an intense interagency review process” that also took into account Haiti’s ability to repatriate tens of thousands of people, a senior administration official said on a background call with reporters.

Temporary Continue reading “Homeland Security ends protected status for Haitians with an 18-month delay”

DHS extends protected visa status for Hondurans, but ends it for Nicaraguans

Roughly 86,000 Hondurans will receive a six-month extension of a humanitarian status that allows them to work in the United States, the Homeland Security Department announced Monday night.

But temporary protected status will be discontinued for an estimated 5,300 Nicaraguans after a one-year wind-down period that ends in January 2019.

TPS allows immigrants to remain in the United States if their home country experiences a natural disaster, armed conflict or other extraordinary event while they’re here. The temporary designation lasts six to 18 months, but Central American countries enjoyed repeated TPS renewals over the past two decades.

The Trump administration, though, has signaled that it opposes rubber-stamping TPS renewals, and that it will give such requests greater scrutiny.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke faced a deadline Monday to decide whether to renew TPS designations for Honduras and Nicaragua. Both nations first received the designation in 1999, months after Hurricane Continue reading “DHS extends protected visa status for Hondurans, but ends it for Nicaraguans”

Why baby boomers need immigrants

One of the biggest future crises in U.S. health care is about to collide with the hottest political issue of the Trump era: immigration.

As the largest generation in American history – the baby boom – heads into retirement and old age, most of those aging boomers will need someone to help take care of them for at least some portion of their twilight years. Demand for home health aides is expected to outstrip the growth for nearly all other jobs in coming decades, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting the number of home health aide positions will increase 38 percent by 2024. That puts it among the top five fastest-growing U.S. occupations.

So who’s going to do it? The question is one of the biggest uncertainties looming over not only the health care, but the labor market overall. Health policy experts have been raising the alarm Continue reading “Why baby boomers need immigrants”