Like everything involving immigrants, it's a crisis!
The Trump administration's total war on immigrants took another big step forward this week, as the Justice Department opened a whole new section devoted to stripping US citizenship from naturalized citizens who lied on their citizenship application forms. The DOJ is spinning it as an effort to rid America of the very worst, scummiest criminals who have wormed their way into Our Great Nation, no doubt due to liberals who hate America. The actual number of people who'll end up losing their citizenship is likely to be small -- in the hundreds, at most -- but the new "Denaturalization Section" of the Office of Immigration Litigation will help achieve some top administration goals: It will reinforce the narrative that immigrants in general are criminals and all pre-Trump laws were too lax, plus it will send immigrants the message that they're never safe -- not even after they become citizens.
Isn't SCOTUS season just the best?
Oh goodie, the Roberts Court is doing things again.
Tuesday, in an absolutely horrific opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that the parents of a Mexican child shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent could not sue over his death.
Because why shouldn't we let federal law enforcement murder children with impunity?
Everything about this, from what happened to what SCOTUS has to say about it, is awful.
The opinion is exactly what it sounds like. Using justifications of vague concepts like "national security" and "border protection," Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion heartlessly describes the fatal shooting and blithely brushes off arguments that will likely affect people's rights for decades to come.
My face basically looked like this the entire time I read it:
Yup, goatee and all.
We're going to need a Truth Commission when this is all over.
In an attempt to prevent immigrant kids from getting asylum, the government is going through notes taken in counseling sessions and picking out items that can be used against the kids, even though the counselors assured the kids the sessions would be confidential. What's worse, the practice may be technically legal, although obviously it's unethical as fuck. The government insists it's absolutely necessary to protect America, because when some kids discuss the traumas that led them to seek asylum in the US, they also say things that can be used to suggest they're dangerous thugs who might kill us all.
In the Washington Post, Hannah Dreier focuses on the ordeal of one young Honduran asylum-seeker, Kevin Euceda, who lived through hell and escaped an MS-13 group that wanted him to kill someone to prove his loyalty to the gang. In 2017, he crossed the Rio Grande with his older sister; she was 18, so was quickly deported. But Kevin, then 17, was placed in a youth shelter that contracted with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is responsible for housing minor immigrants until they're placed with sponsors (or, increasingly, until they're old enough to deport). By law, all detained kids are required to see a counselor within 72 hours of coming into the ORR system, under the 1997 settlement meant to protect detained kids. Haha, joke's on you, Kevin: Under Trump, those sessions were no longer confidential, although the counselor — a recent graduate doing work toward her professional license — didn't know her notes would be turned over to ICE, either.
First, the bureaucratic roadblocks. Next, the transformation into giant insects.
As we have noted several times, there's a certain horrifying brilliance to the endless schemes Stephen Miller has contrived to limit immigration — not just by those terrible murderers and rapists Donald Trump scares Fox viewers with, but anyone trying to use the legal means of immigration the Right is always screaming about. It's very much like the infinitely creative ways the white power structure in the Jim Crow South came up with to humiliate black people and make their lives miserable. Someone should do a study on the psychology of all that, how it's tied to authoritarian thinking. Miller and his minions have managed to weaponize virtually every part of federal law to keep people out.
That zero tolerance of immigration extends even — or especially — to those the law is supposed to help. Like for instance victims of crimes. Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell explores the administration's latest twist of the bureaucratic knife, in which an undocumented woman she calls "Yolanda" went to the police to report she'd been violently raped, then left trapped in a basement for hours. Congress passed a law allowing crime victims who cooperate with police to apply for what's called a "U Visa," because fighting violent crime is a good thing. But not as important to this administration as blocking all immigrants.
Yolanda's application was denied because the administration decided last fall it will now reject visa applications that include any blank spaces, even when there's no earthly reason to fill in the blank. Yolanda's son has no middle name, so she wrote nothing for that item. Sorry, your application has been rejected because it's incomplete.
A most cunning plan.
Tuesday night, Donald Trump gave his torchlit State of the Union address in which he warned that scary sanctuary cities are stockpiling criminal illegals to come rape and kill you all. Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security sent a nastygram to New York state officials, informing them that effective immediately, no New York residents would be able to use most of DHS's popular programs that let travelers get through airports more easily. Because national security, you see, and also good old revenge against any state that doesn't buy into Trump's Deport Everyone agenda. The letter, first reported by Fox News, insists that since the state won't let DHS paw through driver's-license databases in search of undocumented immigrants, then it's just not safe to let anyone from New York use the expedited-travel programs. You know how it is, with those MS-13 guys putting their machetes in their checked baggage and then flying executive class to do crimes.
But kids with severe medical issues shouldn't need a congressional delegation to get help.
In the bleak hellscape of Donald Trump's immigration policy, we occasionally get glimpses of hope and moments of good news, like this story of how several members of Congress managed to get help for a 6-year-old girl with Down syndrome and a heart condition. The girl and her family -- her mother and an eight-year-old brother -- fled Central America, and had passed an initial screening in their asylum case. But under the Trump administration's latest strategy to restrict asylum, they were still forced to stay for three months in an unsafe camp in Matamoros, Mexico. Earlier this month, a congressional delegation managed to arrange entry to the US for the girl and her family, a day after US Customs and Border Protection had refused to let her into the country.
Why yes, the USA is happy to let kids face death, at least until somebody with connections steps in on their behalf.
Give me your Norwegians, your ... nah, just Norwegians, OK?
The Supreme Court yesterday allowed Stephen Miller's new fuck-the-poor immigration rule to go into effect, giving the administration the go-ahead to start denying green cards and visas to legal immigrants who have used federal anti-poverty programs. The Court didn't actually decide whether the changes to the "public charge" rule are constitutional, but lifted lower courts' injunctions so the administration can get busy enforcing the rule, even as it's being challenged in lower courts. So now Team Trump will at least be able to get to fucking over less well-off immigrants right away, at least until the rule is maybe found unconstitutional or thrown out altogether by a different president. And with Trump and Republicans bent on remaking the courts as rapidly as possible, who knows whether another executive will be allowed to rescind the horrible rules put in place under Trump?
We're feeling very cheerful about the courts, you bet.
It's not like tying kids to chairs and putting bags over their heads makes us the baddies. Does it?
In Part Nine Million of our series "the cruelty is the point" (credit Adam Serwer), we bring you this story from Mother Jones about the treatment of migrant kids at a juvenile detention center in Virginia, one of just two juvie lockups where the government stores "unaccompanied minors who are deemed threatening." The story, by Samantha Michaels, traces the ongoing legal case against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center, which started with a lawsuit in 2017 accusing the facility of using harsh disciplinary methods against migrant teens who haven't committed any crimes but are locked up because of their immigration status. (Not that harsh discipline is healthy for any kids in lockup, regardless of their rap sheets!) This week, the case is getting new attention because a crowd of nationally recognized prosecutors and even a few state attorneys general have filed an amicus brief as the case moves forward on appeal. We'll get to those details in a moment.
The suit argued that instead of getting the kids necessary mental health care for PTSD and other disorders stemming from their experiences as migrants, staff at the facility instead subjected them to punishments like being routinely tied to chairs for misbehavior, sometimes with a bag over their heads so they could get the full Gitmo Jr. experience.
A federal judge in Maryland ruled Wednesday that Donald Trump's executive order giving state and local officials the power to reject refugee resettlement is "unlawful" and doesn't "appear to serve the overall public interest." The executive order, issued in September when the Stephen Miller administration announced the US would slash refugee admissions to the lowest level in modern history, had required that before any refugees can be resettled, state governors or local officials would have to give their express written consent.
In his ruling, US District Judge Peter J. Messitte wrote that
Giving states and local governments the power to consent to the resettlement of refugees — which is to say veto power to determine whether refugees will be received in their midst — flies in the face of clear Congressional intent.
If you're a nerd who enjoys reading court decisions, check it out. It's very clearly argued, and you get the sense Judge Messitte found the government's arguments insultingly bad.
You want this disaster aid, don't you?
We were skeptical yesterday when we saw the Trump administration had finally ended its illegal delay of disaster relief to Puerto Rico. The $8.2 billion in aid was appropriated by Congress last year to pay for rebuilding after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, and the funds should have been made available in September. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development refused to release it, citing worries about "corruption" in the Puerto Rican government. No, it probably wasn't legal to hold the aid, either.
Then, last Tuesday, the island was hit by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that killed one person and has done at least $110 million in damage, though that amount is expected to rise as Puerto Rico continues to be hit with aftershocks. Yesterday, HUD officials announced they were very generously releasing the aid that should have been distributed months ago, and we wondered what new fuckery might follow.
Puerto Rico, if there's anything to magical thinking, we're sorry. There's new fuckery. For Puerto Rico to actually get the aid, it will have to jump through a whole bunch of new hoops imposed by the administration -- conditions that states on the mainland haven't had imposed on them following disasters. Gosh, why could it possibly be that Puerto Rico was singled out for special treatment? If only we could guess. It just might be because Trump's a goddamn racist and a petty asshole.
That's our working theory at least.
For the 2017 disaster, not the earthquake this month.
A week after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico on January 7, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has decided it will finally release $8.2 billion in aid that Congress appropriated to help the island rebuild after Hurricane Maria in 2017. HUD officials readily admitted to Congress in October that they'd blown right past a September deadline to release the aid, because the department was worried about "corruption" in the territory's government. Since then, the department hasn't said anything at all about the continuing delays.
Fun trivia fact: When Congress appropriates money, federal agencies have to spend it. It's the law, as you may remember from other Trump administration abuses of power as one of the very things for which Donald Trump is being impeached. Agencies aren't allowed to withhold aid because the "president" has a racist rage-boner over Puerto Rican officials who fail to recognize his response to a hurricane was perfect.
Are they Mexican troops? They are not!
We're building the wall! And who's gonna pay for it? That's right, it's our military and their families. PROMISES KEPT!
Last year, after a 35-day shutdown, Donald Trump agreed to accept just $1.4 billion in WALLbux from Congress. After which, he promptly declared a state of emergency to justify raiding military construction funds for another $3.6 billion and demanded that congressional Democrats "backfill" the money to prove they don't "hate the troops." And now he'd like to steal that money again, plus a whole lot more. The Washington Post reports that this year's heist will net $7.2 billion of Pentagon funding that had been allocated to anti-narcotic programming and military construction.
Trump took $2.5 billion from military counterdrug programs for border barrier construction in 2019, but this year his administration is planning to take significantly more — $3.5 billion. Trump administration officials also are planning to take $3.7 billion in military construction funding, slightly more than the $3.6 billion diverted in 2019.
Emboldened by the green light from the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which lifted a lower court stay on spending the filched cash, the White House is racing to get some substantial portion of the border fencing up so that Trump can claim credit for it at his pitchfork rallies. They're no longer even bothering to pretend that Mexico will foot the bill.
'The Puerto Rico Earthquakes? What sport do they even play? Get back to me if they make the playoffs.'
Puerto Rico was hit by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake Tuesday, followed by a series of aftershocks that have left many residents of the island sleeping outside or in shelters. The territory's still-fragile electrical grid was entirely offline for much of the day following the pre-dawn quake, but is being restored more quickly than following Hurricane Maria in 2017, which left much of Puerto Rico without electricity for months. Guess the grifters from Montana weren't involved this time out. The territory's power authority said today that power had been restored to 80 percent of customers, but NBC News reports it might take a year to fully fix one generating station that provides about a quarter of Puerto Rico's electricity.
Donald Trump has so far not made any public comment on the earthquake, although he may be vaguely aware it happened since he did at least sign an emergency declaration Tuesday evening, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency to help get emergency aid to people who need it. But no tweets or statements to the press, or at his big slob picnic last night in Ohio, although he did find time to mention he beat Abraham Lincoln as Best President Ever. Today, he found time to retweet a Republican senator's praise for Colorado firefighters heading to Australia, but not a word about the latest American disaster that isn't him.
Stephen Miller pushes to declare Moon a 'safe third country.'
The Trump administration's efforts to eliminate the asylum process continues, this time into downright bizarre territory. Yr Wonkette likes to joke about how all rightwingers seem to think everyone from Latin America is from "Mexico," and as the above 100 percent real Fox News chyron demonstrates, the Right is pretty helpful in creating that impression. But now the administration is out to deter asylum applicants who really are from Mexico by sending them to Guatemala, which makes all kinds of sense. Buzzfeed News reports that, under an expansion of an already controversial program aimed at preventing anyone from gaining asylum at the southern border, the US will begin sending Mexican asylum-seekers to Guatemala instead of allowing them to seek refuge in the US.
Well sure it's probably a violation of US and international law. Why would that stop this bunch? Besides, look at all the federal judges Mitch is getting confirmed!
He LOVES the Republican Party, and doesn't see what he did wrong.
They finally found a voter frauder! Gustavo Araujo Lerma, 64, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento to three years and nine months in federal prison after being found guilty in August of passport fraud, voting by an alien, and aggravated identity theft. Lerma was almost everything the paranoid rightwing rants about in-person voting fraud and illegal immigration are obsessed with: a Mexican national who bought a US citizen's birth certificate and Social Security card in 1992 and has voted illegally in federal elections ever since then. But only once per election, not changing clothes, putting on glasses, and voting again and again. That guy still has yet to be sighted in the wild. Until then, white nationalists will have to chase church buses around on election day, because elderly black people are probably frauding like crazy.
Oh yes, and he's a very loyal Republican who not only voted for Donald Trump, he also donated to the party and got some nice swag, like
letters of thanks from the president, former Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and current RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
Or their autopens, at least. Stands to reason a fake Trump voter would collect a bunch of fake autographs, no?
She really is a goddamn legislative virtuoso.
Republicans have claimed all year that the Democratic-controlled House is so obsessed with harassing Donald Trump it won't focus on the "important business of the American people." Democrats aren't funding the troops or helping keep America great. They're getting their Columbo on against the president. The GOP likes to mention a specific piece of legislation that Democrats have neglected: USMCA, Trump's warmed-up, week-old Thanksgiving leftovers of NAFTA.
Yeah, Nancy Pelosi, where is USMCA? Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst wonders when you'll "stop the shenanigans" and get this bill passed. Americans don't want to see politicians squabbling in Washington and holding impeachment trials against a criminal president. They want to see their elected officials passing bipartisan legislation that makes no one happy. Well, Speaker Pelosi has listened to their earnest pleas and plans to announce a deal to advance USMCA this morning. This is happening just a couple hours after House Democrats are expected to drop two articles of impeachment -- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress -- on the president's fuzzy head. During her press conference today, Pelosi rubbed Trump's face in it some more.
PELOSI: There is no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA. But in terms of our work here, it is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration.
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