GOP senators try to undermine Kushner’s immigration plan – POLITICO

Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner is considering increases in the number of low- and high-skilled workers, as well as permanent and temporary workers. | Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Immigration

Senate Republicans will introduce a bill to slash legal immigration in a challenge to the White House adviser’s proposal.

A group of Senate Republicans is moving to slash legal immigration, a plan designed to undercut a proposal by White House adviser Jared Kushner to boost the number of migrant workers admitted into the country.

Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, David Perdue of Georgia and Josh Hawley of Missouri, key allies of President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, will introduce a bill Wednesday that would favor admitting skilled workers and their immediate family members but cut by half the number of legal immigrants, according to officials close to the process.

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The bill will serve to both challenge Kushner’s unexpected effort to increase the number of low- and high-skilled workers, and to remind Trump to make good on his promise to cut both legal and illegal immigration.

“As some White House staff debate immigration policy, we want the president to know that he has support on Capitol Hill for his original plan to limit low-skilled immigration and put American workers first,” said a congressional aide with knowledge of the plan but who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the legislation.

Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who has been working on a plan for months, presented his proposal to the president last week, according to one person familiar with the situation. The president told him he should expand the proposal to include both changes to legal and illegal immigration so as to address what he calls a crisis on the southern border, the person said.

The legislation comes as Trump and Stephen Miller, a White House senior adviser, purge top staff at the Department of Homeland Security as they look to enact tougher policies on illegal immigration.

Trump made cracking down on immigration the centerpiece of his 2016 campaign, calling for a border wall and ending an Obama-era program that allows temporary, renewable work permits for so-called Dreamers who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children.

But in recent months Trump has said he supports higher levels of legal immigration, a priority generally backed by a business community short on skilled workers.

Those comments contradict statements he made in 2017 and 2018, supporting the senators’ prior efforts.

Cotton and Perdue introduced the same bill, the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, in 2017. Hawley, who was elected in November largely on his support of Trump, is joining the effort. A companion bill will be introduced in the House, which will quickly be opposed by the new Democratic majority.

Last year, the White House released an immigration proposal that incorporated aspects of the RAISE Act — including eliminating the visa lottery system, which awards green cards to people from countries with low numbers of immigrants, and restricting the family members whom U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents can sponsor to come to the United States.

“As we speak, we are working with two wonderful senators, Tom Cotton and David Perdue, to create a new immigration system for America. Instead of today’s low-skill system, just a terrible system where anybody comes in,” Trump said on July 26, 2017.

Hawkish immigration activists who are worried that the president will be influenced by Kushner’s more moderate views on immigration welcome the bill.

Two groups, FAIR and Californians for Population Stabilization, are airing ads urging Trump not to violate a campaign pledge by expanding legal immigration.

“Any legal immigration reform plan that deviates from the RAISE framework would betray several of President Trump’s key campaign promises — one of which was reducing overall immigration levels,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which pushes for cuts in legal and illegal immigration. “The White House supported the bill last Congress and they should support it again.”

Kushner, who successfully forged a December compromise on criminal justice reform but is still struggling to deliver a Middle East peace plan, has for months been working on a proposal at Trump’s request even as the the president rallies against legal immigration on the southern border daily.

He convened a series of meetings with dozens of advocacy groups, including business and agriculture organizations. Some, though not all of them, openly support the expansion of legal immigration. It has continued in recent weeks with a smaller four-person White House working group led by Kushner.

Business groups have pushed for additional permanent slots for immigrants coming to the United States, saying the demand has increased since the unemployment rate has fallen and companies have struggled to fill jobs.

Kushner is considering increases in the number of low- and high-skilled workers, as well as permanent and temporary workers, according to the four people familiar with the discussions.

More than 1 million immigrants are allowed into the United States each year on a permanent basis, but only a fraction — 140,000 — come through employment categories. The rest are relatives, refugees or immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. These numbers don’t include immigrants allowed entry for temporary or seasonal work.

The RAISE Act would eliminate the diversity visa lottery, which allows 50,000 people in annually, and limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year. It is expected to reduce legal immigration to roughly 500,000 annually over 10 years.

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Immigration news: Trump and Stephen Miller’s DHS purge targets asylum – Vox.com

President Trump said last week that he wanted the Department of Homeland Security to go in a “tougher direction.” He and top immigration adviser Stephen Miller appear to be trying to get rid of anyone who might tell them that “tougher direction” might be a bad idea — or illegal.

First, Trump withdrew the nomination of Ron Vitiello to permanently head Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Then on Sunday night, he pressured Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to resign and named Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan acting secretary in her stead. (The official who was supposed to succeed Nielsen under federal vacancy law, Undersecretary Claire Grady, resigned Tuesday evening — presumably so that McAleenan could serve as acting secretary instead.)

The administration appears to be putting out rumors that two more DHS figures — the general counsel and US Citizenship and Immigration Services director — are “heading out the door.”

Neither has left yet, and USCIS officials told staff on a call Tuesday that director Francis Cissna is not resigning — raising the possibility that the rumors are coming from somebody who wants both top officials gone.

This wasn’t just a personality clash. According to multiple reports, there are things Trump wanted done that Nielsen wouldn’t do. Reports from Axios published Tuesday morning, and from NBC News and other outlets later in the day, identify both a new agenda that the White House wants to move forward with ASAP (leading with making it harder for asylum seekers to pass their initial screenings to avoid immediate deportation) and some options the administration wants to keep on the table — like reinstating a version of the family separation policy of 2018.

Some of the policies being tossed around are general wish-list items, such as finalizing a regulation that would make it easier to deny green cards to legal immigrants who might use public benefits.

But many of them specifically target the people currently coming to the US without papers — an unprecedented number of families, many of them seeking asylum.

The general vibe of the post-purge asylum crackdown is that the White House is tired of hearing from DHS officials that the things it wants to do are illegal. The general counsel, John Mitnick, is supposed to be in charge of evaluating legality of policy — and a White House source described Mitnick as a “chickenshit lawyer” to Philip Wegmann of RealClearNews for his uneasiness about White House ideas.

Cissna, meanwhile, is generally seen as an immigration hawk who shares the Trump/Miller agenda of cracking down on asylum seekers and reducing legal immigration into the US. But as one source (who asked to remain unnamed so as not to get in the middle of the personnel dispute) described him to Vox, “Francis is a careful, by-the-book lawyer and not likely to push the envelope.”

Miller, who has no legal training, is ready to start pushing that envelope.

It’s not yet clear whether the officials left at DHS will be willing to do the White House’s bidding. Even if they were, it’s not clear whether any of the policies they want would, in fact, be deemed legal by federal judges. But it’s very clear that the White House is no longer interested in being told not to try.

The White House’s frustration with Cissna, who is someone generally on their side, is apparently rooted in the role his agency plays in the process for immigrants who come to the US seeking asylum without papers. The administration appears to believe that more migrants should be deported without being allowed to apply for asylum at all.

The Trump White House has long maintained that there is widespread “fraud” among asylum seekers. Officials routinely argue that only 10 to 15 percent of Central American asylum applicants are ultimately given asylum by a judge, using it as evidence not only that the remaining 85 to 90 percent aren’t ultimately eligible for asylum but that many or most of them were lying their way into the US the whole time. (The real approval rate might be as high as 24 percent — and even that is somewhat misleading because it doesn’t count other forms of legal status that applicants might get.)

So the administration’s proposed solution is to get tougher with the screening interviews people have to pass in order to apply for asylum to begin with.

Somebody who comes to the US without papers is eligible to be deported without trial unless they tell an official they’re afraid of being returned to their home country. If they say that, US law requires the government to give them an interview with a trained asylum officer to see if they have a “credible fear of persecution” that could make them eligible for asylum in the US.

The “credible fear” standard written into US law is deliberately generous. The standard for ultimately approving an asylum application, as a Supreme Court case put it, is that there’s a one-in-10 (or higher) chance that the asylum seeker would be persecuted if returned to their home country. The standard for credible fear, which allows them to apply in the first place, is only a “significant possibility” that the migrant would ultimately meet that one-in-10 standard.

Asylum officers are supposed to “take into account the credibility” of the asylum seeker, “and other facts known to the officer,” in making their assessments. This is where it seems like the White House wants to get tougher; a White House official told Axios that they want to “apply greater rigor and scrutiny to these [asylum] claims rather than credulously accepting what’s said.”

But right now asylum officers don’t simply “accept what’s said.” Training put out by the Trump administration in 2017 encourages asylum officers to probe the asylum seeker’s credibility, and requires asylum seekers to meet a higher standard to prove their identity than had been required under Obama. It didn’t affect approval rates.

The White House might try to sway asylum officers — one idea is to force them to compare asylum seekers’ testimony to State Department country reports, for example — but it can’t force them to flunk a certain number of asylum applicants.

“I think they’ve hit the limit of everything they can do on the credible fear side” under existing law, one congressional staffer told Vox.

The White House appears to disagree.

In particular, they believe that having Customs and Border Protection officers do the screening interviews, rather than professional asylum officers from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, will result in fewer people being found “credible” and passing the screening.

Last week, an official in the Border Patrol agents union told the Washington Times that they would start conducting some screening interviews in as little as two weeks. But more recent reports don’t have that timeline.

The law doesn’t bar Border Patrol officers from doing this, but it does say that the person conducting the screenings has to have “had professional training in country conditions, asylum law, and interview techniques comparable to that provided to full-time adjudicators of applications.”

Given that asylum officers — the “full-time adjudicators” — are given several-weeks-long training courses and weekly professional development seminars, it’s extremely unlikely that an already overloaded Border Patrol corps will be able to meet that standard.

Additionally, asylum seekers are allowed to appeal to an immigration judge if they fail their screening interviews. And while judges are overturning fewer negative determinations than they used to, they may well have a more lenient credibility standard than Border Patrol agents do.

The most well-developed policy option on the table is something it and DHS have been considering, on and off, for several months: a partial reinstatement of widespread family separation for families who enter the US without papers.

This doesn’t appear to be something the White House is pushing for as actively as it’s pushing for changes to asylum screenings. But reports earlier in the week indicated that Trump has become re-enamored of family separation, and that Nielsen refused to put it back on the table — while McAleenan, her temporary successor, hasn’t ruled it out.

Bringing back some family separation would be possible despite a court ruling preventing the government from deciding to separate parents and children. That’s because of the way that court ruling, made by Judge Dana Sabraw in June 2018, interacts with a 2015 ruling that prevents the government from detaining families indefinitely.

The government is allowed to ask parents to choose between detention or separation — a possibility the Trump administration refers to as “binary choice.”

As a ruling in July put it, “Detained parents may choose to exercise their Ms. L right” — their right to stay with their children, under the ruling Sabraw issued last summer — “or to stand on their children’s Flores Agreement rights” not to be detained indefinitely. So parents would be forced to choose to either waive their children’s rights and be detained indefinitely, or waive their own rights and get separated.

The administration was openly considering this plan in fall, as the number of families apprehended at the US-Mexico border began to reach unusual levels. Now the numbers are truly unprecedented. But the administration hasn’t pulled the trigger on “binary choice” even as the numbers have become truly unprecedented.

Possibly, ICE simply doesn’t have the space to implement binary choice, because it only has a few thousand spaces in family detention facilities — if half of the 53,000 parents and children apprehended in March chose detention over separation, ICE would have to release most of them anyway. That may explain why it’s not the White House’s first choice right now. But it appears to be one the White House wants back on the table.

In theory, the administration doesn’t need to use “binary choice” to expand family detention. It just needs to finalize a regulation already in the works.

The Flores agreement, the lawsuit (first settled in 1997 and modified in 2015) that stops the federal government from keeping children in indefinite detention, was supposed to be a stopgap until Congress or the executive branch came up with laws or regulations (respectively) to address the needs of children in immigration custody. Instead, several presidents just let the court agreement serve that purpose.

But last fall, the Trump administration published a draft regulation that would allow families to be detained together for as long as necessary until their court cases were completed.

Before finalizing the regulation, the administration is obligated to read through the public comments submitted on the draft, and to address anything important raised in them. But it doesn’t need to change the regulation just because a lot of people disapprove of something.

The public comment period closed before the midterm elections. Several months later, the final regulation still hasn’t been published, and it’s not clear why.

It’s possible that Judge Dolly Gee (who has overseen the Flores settlement since its inception) will rule that the regulation doesn’t address her original concerns about care of children, and will stop it from going into effect. But the administration would be able to appeal that, just like they appeal every other adverse court ruling on immigration. The fact that they haven’t tried might be explained, again, by the lack of capacity — or by someone in DHS objecting who might now have left.

The last part of the asylum crackdown, as identified to Axios, involves giving fewer work permits to asylum seekers while they are waiting for their cases to be approved or denied.

Under federal regulation, an asylum seeker can apply for a work permit five months (150 days) after sending in her full asylum application. The work permit isn’t valid after her asylum claim is denied, and she has to demonstrate that she’s still seeking asylum if she tries to get it renewed. But given the length of time that immigrants who aren’t in detention have to wait for resolution of their asylum claims, that could be years.

The administration believes that work permits are a “pull factor” encouraging asylum seekers to come. That’s probably true, though it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not also victims of persecution. But the regulations are pretty clear about asylum seekers being allowed to apply for work permits, and any direct order from USCIS to start denying those permits would probably be struck down as a violation of the regulations.

It’s not clear if the White House envisions passing a new regulation — which would take months — or if it wants USCIS to just quietly start denying work permits based on whether the applicant is an asylum seeker who just got to the US or has some other form of legal status. We may be about to find out.

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Inmigración 101: El Racismo en la Historia de las Leyes de Inmigración – kcet.org

Inmigración 101: El Racismo en la Historia de las Leyes de Inmigración  kcet.org

Para bien o para mal, las leyes de inmigración han utilizado el miedo y la exclusión para definir cómo luce este país.

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Homeland security secretary resigns amid flap over immigration – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

WASHINGTON >> Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned today amid the administration’s growing frustration and bitterness over the number of Central American families crossing the southern border, two people familiar with the decision said.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / March 18

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at George Washington University’s Jack Morton Auditorium in Washington.

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WASHINGTON >> Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned today amid the administration’s growing frustration and bitterness over the number of Central American families crossing the southern border, two people familiar with the decision said.

President Donald Trump thanked her for her work in a tweet and announced U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would be taking over as acting head of the department. McAleenan is a longtime border official who is well-respected by members of Congress and within the administration. The decision to name an immigration officer to the post reflects Trump’s priority for a sprawling department founded to combat terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Though Trump aides were eyeing a staff shake-up at Homeland Security and had already withdrawn the nomination for another key immigration post, the development today was unexpected.

Nielsen traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday with Trump to participate in a roundtable with border officers and local law enforcement. There she echoed Trump’s comments on the situation at the border, though she ducked out of the room without explanation for some time while Trump spoke. As they toured a section of newly rebuilt barriers, Nielsen was at Trump’s side, introducing him to local officials. She returned to Washington afterward on a Coast Guard Gulfstream, as Trump continued on a fundraising trip to California and Nevada.

But privately, she had grown increasingly frustrated by what she saw as a lack of support from other departments and increased meddling by Trump aides, the people said. She went into a meeting with Trump at the White House in Sunday not knowing whether she’d be fired or would resign, and she ended up resigning, they said.

Her resignation letter , obtained by The Associated Press, had not a whiff of controversy unlike others who have left from the administration.

“Despite our progress in reforming homeland security for a new age, I have determined that it is the right time for me to step aside,” she wrote. “I hope that the next secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation’s discourse.”

There have been persistent tensions between the White House and Nielsen almost from the moment she became secretary, after her predecessor, John Kelly, became the White House chief of staff in 2017. Nielsen was viewed as resistant to some of the harshest immigration measures supported by the president and his aides, particularly senior adviser Stephen Miller, both on matters around the border and others like protected status for some refugees. Once Kelly left the White House last year, Nielsen’s days appeared to be numbered. She had expected to be pushed out last November, but her exit never materialized. And during the government shutdown over Trump’s insistence for funding for a border wall, Nielsen’s stock inside the White House even appeared to rise.

But in recent weeks, as a new wave of migration has taxed resources along the border and as Trump sought to regain control of the issue for his 2020 re-election campaign, tensions flared anew.

Arrests all along the southern border have skyrocketed in recent months. Border agents are on track to make 100,000 arrests and denials of entry at the southern border this month, over half of which are families with children.

Nielsen advocated for strong cybersecurity defense and often said she believed the next major terror attack would occur online — not by planes or bombs. She was tasked with helping states secure elections following Russian interference during the 2016 election.

She dutifully pushed Trump’s immigration policies, including funding for his border wall, and defended the administration’s practice of separating children from parents, telling a Senate committee that removing children from parents facing criminal charges happens “in the United States every day.” But she was also instrumental in ending the policy.

Under Nielsen, migrants seeking asylum are waiting in Mexico as their cases progress. She also moved to abandon longstanding regulations that dictate how long children are allowed to be held in immigration detention, and requested bed space from the U.S. military for some 12,000 people in an effort to detain all families who cross the border. Right now there is space for about 3,000 families and facilities are at capacity.

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It may take 2 years to identify thousands of migrant children separated from families – USA TODAY



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President Donald Trump says his administration is ensuring the country knows “this is an actual emergency” at the U.S.-Mexico border. (April 5) AP

As the Trump administration works to address what it describes as a growing “crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said in a court filing that it may take two years for the government to identify thousands of migrant children who were separated from their families. 

The filing Friday outlined the government’s plan to use data analysis and manual reviews to sift through the cases of about 47,000 children who were apprehended by U.S. immigration officials from July 1, 2017, to June 25, 2018, to identify which children might have been taken from family members. It estimated the process “would take at least 12 months, and possibly up to 24 months.” 

Last month, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw expanded the number of migrant families that the government may be forced to reunite under his previous order after an inspector general report revealed that the administration had an undisclosed family separation pilot program in place starting in July of 2017. The ruling was made as part of a lawsuit led by the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Judge: Trump administration may have to reunite thousands of additional migrant families

“The administration refuses to treat the family separation crisis it created with urgency, ” the ACLU said in a statement Saturday. “We strongly oppose any plan that gives the government up to two years to find kids. The government swiftly gathered resources to tear families apart. It must do the same to fix the damage.”

In recent months, the number of families crossing into the U.S. has climbed to record highs, putting severe strains on an already overburdened immigration system. In the past, most of those seeking to illegally cross the border were single, mostly male, Mexican nationals coming in search of work.

More than half are now parents and children fleeing impoverished Central American countries where violent crime is rampant. 

“The numbers are overwhelming right now,” Gregory Archambault, the director of enforcement and removal operations in San Diego for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told The Associated Press. “Everybody is stressed because there are these mass numbers of people.” 

“More and more people now accepting the fact that it’s a real crisis,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday during an interview with Fox News. 

Mulvaney said the issues of migrant families and unaccompanied migrant children required congressional action because “there’s legally nothing that the (Department of Homeland Security) can do with the children.”   

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., said Democrats want to work with the president on a solution.

“Separating children from their families at the border is not humane. It’s not what the United States should be doing, and we continue to see this administration engage in those policies,” Luján said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Friday’s court filing came the same day President Donald Trump declared that there is “indeed an emergency on our southern border,” during a tour of the border in Calexico, California. He cited an upturn in the number of migrants arriving at the border in recent months. 

“It’s a colossal surge and it’s overwhelming our immigration system, and we can’t let that happen,” Trump said.

“We can’t take you anymore. We can’t take you. Our country is full,” he warned those who might attempt to come to the U.S.

Like Trump, Mulvaney applauded Mexico for its apprehension of migrants in recent days, which he claimed was sparked by Trump’s threats to close the border or impose tariffs on Mexico’s auto exports if the country did not do more to stem the flow of northbound migrants.

But despite the White House’s claims that Mexico was apprehending migrants for the “first time in decades,” Mexico has taken hundreds of thousands of migrants into custody in the past four years from the “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Mexico said its numbers in recent months were “about average.” 

“There is no very substantive change,” Mexico’s foreign secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, said this week. “There has not been a drastic change.”

Fact check: Trump is wrong on Mexico’s migrant apprehensions

Luján said Trump “continues to use immigration as a distraction.” He questioned whether the Department of Homeland Security was “accurately describing” its apprehension statistics because he said many families were voluntarily turning themselves in to seek asylum status.

“This is not the national security crisis that the president continues to describe,” Luján said. “There is a humanitarian crisis but it’s created by President Donald Trump.” 

Some immigration experts agree with Luján’s assessment. They say Trump’s policies have caused so much chaos along the border that they may be encouraging illegal crossings.

For example, the family separation controversy helped to highlight the fact that families won’t be detained for long in the U.S. if they’re detained at all.

And metering, in which people are asked to return to a busy port of entry on another day to seek asylum, may have encouraged asylum-seekers to cross illegally, said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

“This policy chaos, coupled with a sense that the U.S. government may at some point really shut down the border, has generated an urgency to migrate now while it is still possible,” Selee said.

More: Fourth person in six months dies in ICE immigration detention center

Contributing: Alan Gomez, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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