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Ken Cuccinelli, Donald Trump's (acting) director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), said in a congressional hearing Wednesday that he was the person responsible for the unannounced decision in August to send letters to hundreds of critically ill immigrants -- many of them children -- telling them and their families they had 33 days to leave the country or face deportation. At the hearing, held by a subcommittee of House Oversight, Cooch was exactly the same charmer as all those years ago when, as attorney general of Virginia, he wanted to ban buttsex and make all abortion sluts get cozy with a vaginal ultrasound wand, for Jesus.

The hearing was a follow-up to that September fiasco where representatives from USCIS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refused to answer any questions about the policy, who had ordered it, or why anyone thought it was a great idea to tell critically ill immigrant kids to leave the USA and please die somewhere else. There was an ongoing lawsuit, you see, so the lower-level dudes couldn't say much of anything. But yesterday, the actual agency heads were there, because Oversight chair Elijah Cummings's last official act on Earth was to send subpoenas to Cuccinelli and to (acting) ICE director Matthew Albence so they'd show up and be accountable.

Didn't mean they had to like being there, though, so both of them started with ritual respects to Cummings, then got on to the business of being as dickish as they could.


Here's video of the hearing, which is well worth watching in full. Because of yesterday's impeachment hearings, the subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties wasn't at full strength, although perhaps some Republicans simply didn't think the topic was worth showing up for.

The Administration's Decision to Deport Critically Ill Children and Their Families youtu.be


In questioning from Rep. Ayanna Pressley, whose Boston district is home to several of those who got the Get Out letters, Cuccinnelli finally acknowledged that he ordered the Code Red all on his own, although he was very slippery about whether Donald Trump or Stephen Miller also pushed for the decision to end "deferred action" for immigrants getting lifesaving treatment in the US.

And how's this for reassuring? Asked if USCIS would switch the policy again under a new (acting) Homeland Security chief, Cuccinelli confidently said he didn't think that would happen, regardless of who the (acting) secretary is -- "unless the program changes." Rest easy!

Cuccinelli devoted much of the hearing to pissy, legalistic nitpicks: there's never been any such thing as "medical deferred action," just "deferred action," and it wasn't a "program," and maybe not even a "policy," just an act of "prosecutorial discretion" on a "case-by-case basis." He also insisted no one in Congress or the American public is allowed to be outraged over it, because there's "no statutory basis" for the process by which USCIS granted sick kids and their families, two years at a time, to stay in the US for treatment. If Congress wants that, Cuccinelli insisted, it should pass a law and stop acting all huffy because he simply decided the US could no longer keep being unlawfully merciful.

Cooch and Albence even devoted a great deal of effort to pooh-poohing the very notion that the letters "threatened" sick people with deportation, because the language of the letter never said they'd automatically be sent back to their home countries to die, just that it "may" happen. Let's take another look at that very nonthreatening language, shall we?

If you fail to depart the United States within 33 days of the date of this letter, USCIS may issue you a Notice to Appear and commence removal proceedings against you with the immigration court. This may result in your being removed from the United States and found ineligible for a future visa or other U.S. immigration benefit.

See? Never said we were definitely gonna deport you at all. Both harped on what a fine fair process surely awaited the sick kids and their families. America never deports kids to die, after all.

Cuccinelli's bloodless attitude in this exchange with Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Missouri) would be astonishing, except this is Trump World. Clay offered multiple examples of families terrified by the letters, including two families who received notice to get the hell out of America within 33 days while their newborn babies were in neonatal intensive care units. Each time Clay tried to mention actual people affected by the policy change, though, Cuccinelli retreated to highly legalistic language. Asked if he knew about the medical straits some families were in when he decided to end deferred action, Cuccinelli seemed downright offended at the very idea.

CUCCINELLI: Congressman, we don't read individual cases when making a procedural decision like that, so the answer to your question is no.

CLAY: Well did you think about maybe these kids needed some lifesaving medical attention, that they could only get here, in this country?

Cuccinelli just didn't see why thinking about that would even enter into it, since he knew that if the families made a good enough case, maybe they could convince ICE not to deport them and their kids wouldn't die. Here's his reaction to the babies in the NICU:

Immigration chief spars with Missouri lawmaker over 'medical deferred-action' policy youtu.be

Cuccinelli finally did manage some emotion, but only when he was accused of not caring. He cared very much -- that Congress hadn't passed a law to tell him not to sic ICE on sick children to deport them, how dare you sir! (Also, Trump would veto any such law, not that Mitch McConnell would let it get a vote in the Senate. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, why haven't you passed Derringer control?)

Clay had had it:

What would you recommend those parents do when they receive that letter? Do you want them to leave the country – pack up their stuff, take their sick child and go? [...] All in the middle of them being there, trying, hoping and praying to save their child?s life – how cruel. Really?

That ellipsis there was Cuccinelli's astonishing answer: Yep, that's what I want 'em to do, you bet! Because remember, they'd get a fair hearing before we'd chuck the babies and their incubators on a plane for Honduras: "Either that, or make their case in the immigration process, where it's appropriate to do so, to stay."

See? The letter said "may," not "will," so why is anyone making any fuss about this at all?

In another exchange, Florida's Debbie Wasserman-Schultz accurately described the Trump/Miller/Cuccinelli immigration policy as an attack on people who aren't white, a true thing that rightwing media got very upset about.

Congressman Jimmy Gomez (D-California) wanted to know why USCIS had rolled out the letters telling people to get out or else (maybe) without any public announcement, and Cuccinelli blandly replied that the agency never makes a public announcement about mere "procedural" changes. Seriously, did the Reich Ministry of Transport issue a press release every time it adjusted the schedule for trains to Birkenau?

Matthew Albence also got some unexpected laughs when Gomez asked about an offhand reference he'd made to some early discussions between ICE and USCIS about changing deferred action. (Albence had insisted that ICE had nothing to do with the eventual policy change, at all.) Albence said he didn't have the exact date, but "it would have been three ICE directors ago, and one CIS director ago" -- in other words, sometime in 2018. That tells you much of what you need to know about the neverending chaos in Trump's immigration works -- whoever the (acting) directors are, the real power is always Stephen Miller.

As of yet, while USCIS says it's returned to its original policy (it's not a "program!!"), the 400 or so people told in August that they need to leave the US immediately haven't gotten any word at all on the status of their applications for deferred action. Nothing to worry about, though, since now they can rest assured that they only "may" face deportation and death from treatable illness.

Still, Cuccinelli did eventually say that in retrospect, maybe the policy change might have gone forward more smoothly had it only applied to new applicants. Translation: It would have drawn less media attention and public outrage if the administration only denied lifesaving treatment to people who hadn't already been getting it.

We're sure the bastards will be far more careful about that going forward.

[WBUR/ CommonWealth / Mother Jones]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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