Separations at the border didn’t worry some Trump officials
By COLLEEN LONG and RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR
Monday, July 2
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s top health official could barely conceal his discomfort.
As Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar was responsible for caring for migrant children taken from their parents at the border. Now a Democratic senator was asking him at a hearing whether his agency had a role in designing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that caused these separations.
The answer was no.
“We deal with the children once they’re given to us,” responded Azar. “So we don’t — we are not the experts on immigration.”
Separating families while sidelining the agency responsible for caring for the children was only one example of a communication breakdown in the federal government that left immigrant children in limbo, parents in the dark about their whereabouts and enraged Americans across the country.
Today, the Trump administration is still dealing with the fallout: It’s still not clear how officials will implement the policy or comply with a court order requiring that families be reunited within 30 days.
Instead, the administration is hoping Congress will fix the mess, despite its recent failure to pass immigration legislation.
“We are happy to change the policy when Congress gives us the tools to do it. That’s what we’re asking for,” Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, said on MSNBC.
The idea of separating families goes back to the first two months of the Trump presidency. John Kelly, then the Homeland Security secretary, said it could be used as a deterrent. But the notion was quickly dropped, even as President Donald Trump pushed a hard line on immigration, a crucial issue for his political base.
But behind the scenes, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and others hadn’t given up on the concept. It suddenly reappeared this spring after a persistent spike in illegal crossings. It took the form of the zero-tolerance policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that requires criminally prosecuting anyone coming to the U.S. illegally. Sessions and others argued families would have to be separated because children can’t go to jail with their parents.
How or whether families would be reunited wasn’t much of a concern to the policymakers, according to administration officials and others with knowledge of the discussions who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. That lack of planning was evident in an interview Kelly, now White House chief of staff, did with NPR in May.
“The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever — but the big point is they (the parents) elected to come illegally to the United States,” he said.
The policy sowed confusion and anger not only in the border region, but in Washington. There was a lack of coordination among some of the government agencies involved in the process, the officials said. And there were multiple agencies involved: Customs and Border Protection, part of Homeland Security, detains immigrants. Health and Human Services is responsible for caring for children. Adults are referred to the Justice Department for prosecution. After those cases are resolved — generally a quick process — the adult immigrants are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, another DHS agency.
Children were being sent hundreds of miles away from their parents and parents were unable to access hotlines to help them find their children. Some were deported without their kids. There was no system set up beforehand to link families and no plan on how to bring them back together, the officials said. More than 2,000 children were being separated from about 2,000 parents.
Religious and humanitarian leaders decried the policy. Doctors warned of serious trauma from separation. A pediatrician spoke of seeing a toddler weeping uncontrollably in a shelter and staff prevented from comforting her. Audio leaked of Border Patrol officers joking amid sobbing children.
As the crisis worsened, Trump tried to blame Democrats. Sessions quoted the Bible in his defense of the policy. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen took questions during a tense White House press briefing and said there wasn’t a policy to separate children. She was later heckled at a Mexican restaurant where she was eating dinner.
As criticism became more intense, Trump sought to calm the situation, the officials said. He had initially wanted to sign a full immigration bill as part of an executive order, but was told by attorneys that it wasn’t possible, they said.
So, instead, Trump said he wanted an order written, and written quickly, they said. By midday on June 20, about six weeks after the policy started, Trump had signed papers that stopped separation — but also still required 100 percent criminal prosecution for improper entry.
“We’re going to have strong, very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” Trump said.
Now, the administration is arguing over how to implement the hastily formed order. They’re struggling with how to reunite the families — pushed by a court order this past Tuesday requiring they do so within 30 days, and within 14 days for children younger than 5.
While administration officials insist they know where all the children are, there has been no clear plan on how families will be reunited. Parents are still detained. Some 500 children were already returned to their parents, but those kids never made it out of Border Protection custody.
Some White House aides were determined to reunite families with their children as soon as possible, recognizing it was the only way to put the episode behind them. But another group, including Miller and many at the Justice Department, were advocating a more combative approach, prioritizing removals and prosecutions. Any shift toward the humanitarian concerns, some in that camp have argued, would be a sign of weakness that would reflect poorly on the president, the officials said.
Trump continues to advocate immediate removal, without an appearance before a judge or other due process, for those apprehended entering the country illegally.
Vice President Mike Pence and Nielsen met with Central American leaders on Thursday to discuss the number of migrants trying to cross into the U.S.
In a speech in Guatemala, he said the U.S. was working to reunite families “from your nations who’ve been caught trying to illegally enter the United States – because we believe that we can — as the old book says — “do justice and love kindness.”
But Pence also cautioned: “If you want to come to the United States, come legally, or don’t come at all.”
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Lisa Mascaro and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
Border Patrol Agents Rescue 64 Illegal Aliens Trapped in Tractor Trailers
July 5, 2018
Smugglers Place Lives in Danger as People are Locked in Trailers
WASHINGTON – U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested nine U.S. citizens for smuggling 64 illegal aliens in five separate events over the weekend.
“In addition to securing and protecting our nation’s borders, frontline Border Patrol agents are committed to reducing heat-related injuries and preventing deaths along our borders,” stated U.S. Border Patrol Acting Chief Carla L. Provost. “These rescues are a result of stepped-up enforcement at our immigration checkpoints coupled with our search and rescue efforts that are key to preventing unnecessary loss of life.”
In the last two months, Border Patrol agents have thwarted 42 smuggling attempts involving tractor trailers, rescuing 406 people from possible death due to soaring temperatures along the Southwest border.
On June 30, agents arrested an adult female for attempting to smuggle 10 individuals through a Border Patrol immigration checkpoint. The individuals were discovered in the sleeper cab of the truck after a Border Patrol K-9 alerted to the presence of narcotics and people in the tractor trailer.
That same day, two adult females driving a box truck were arrested for smuggling 7 illegal aliens through the same Border Patrol immigration checkpoint. The individuals were concealed and locked inside of the truck. Three hours later, agents arrested two men attempting to smuggle 21 people concealed inside a box truck. After a K-9 alerted, agents conducted a search of the cargo area and discovered people hiding behind stacks of tires.
On July 1, agents arrested two individuals attempting to smuggle 14 people through a Border Patrol immigration checkpoint. The individuals were discovered concealed in the sleeper compartment of the truck. Later that day, agents arrested two people for smuggling 12 people who were locked in the trailer compartment of an 18-wheeler. All of the smugglers were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for prosecution.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol has stepped up its search and rescue efforts in an attempt to prevent heat-related deaths along the Arizona border. This week, temperatures in Arizona are expected to exceed 115 degrees.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.
Here’s the presidential order of succession — just in case
Patrol releases July Fourth statistics
Ohio State Highway Patrol
July 5, 2018
Eight fatalities; 296 OVI arrests
COLUMBUS – The Ohio State Highway Patrol is reporting eight people lost their lives in four traffic crashes during the July Fourth reporting period, which began Tuesday, July 3 and ended Wednesday, July 4. Impairment was determined to be a factor in at least one of those crashes.
Troopers made 296 arrests for impaired driving and 276 for drug-related charges. The Patrol responded to 297 crashes and made nearly 19,000 traffic contacts in total, which included assisting more than 2,000 motorists.
“When someone chooses to drive impaired the consequences can be deadly,” said Colonel Paul A. Pride, Patrol superintendent. “That’s why troopers make OVI enforcement a priority, whether they’re patrolling during a holiday weekend or any time of day. Motorists should always pre plan a sober way home.”
During last year’s Fourth of July reporting period from June 30 to July 4, there were a total of 21 fatal crashes that killed 21 people. This included eight OVI-related fatal crashes which killed eight people.
Motorists are encouraged to call #677 to report impaired drivers or drug activity.
For a complete breakdown and map of Patrol activity, please visit http://www.statepatrol.ohio.gov/links/July4th2018_PIO.pdf.
Trump hires sexual harassment facilitator and Sean Hannity buddy Bill Shine, formerly of Fox “News” as Communications Director, solidifying the fact that Fox is now State Run Trump TV. As if we needed any more proof.
Russian TV boasts about electing Trump ahead of summit w/ Putin —‘What trouble did we cause? We just elected Trump, that’s all.
Did you know that since 1998 the Pentagon has spent an unconstitutional and unaccounted for $21 trillion? And they tell you that you must give up your social security and Medicare, huh?
Farm Bill With Huge Giveaways to Pesticide Industry Passes House
U.S.-MEXICO — TWO VIEWPOINTS
Opinion: Could Change in Mexico Spur NAFTA Reform?
By Christine McDaniel
President Trump recently congratulated Mexico’s incoming president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, saying there is much to be done that would benefit both countries. Lopez Obrador is eager for a good start with Trump and even told a reporter, “We are not going to fight.”
Both should approach the relationship with cautious optimism, especially if it means modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Lopez Obrador — a leftist who once opposed NAFTA and expressed desires to undo some key reforms — has more recently called for good relations with the United States as he seeks to improve the lives of Mexico’s poor and middle classes. Trump and his team should seize on this fresh start. That, however, will require a shift in their thinking.
A worthwhile NAFTA update would include rules to protect the type of digitally enabled trade that helps small and large firms alike. It would eliminate the few remaining barriers that U.S. firms face on trade and investment across North America. It would lock in stronger rules on intellectual property to protect American businesses, and boost regional energy security that we all rely on.
But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are looking in the wrong direction. Instead of pursuing a pro-growth modernization of the agreement, they are stuck with an ill-fated obsession with the trade deficit. Unfortunately, they seem intent on doing away with investor protections, forcing government intervention and government-set wages in the Mexican auto sector, and even letting the whole agreement expire in five years with a so-called sunset clause.
These “solutions” are a virtual lock to do more harm than good for the United States, while leaving Mexico with nothing to claim.
It defies logic that, as the United States moves away from labor unions and toward a more flexible legal and regulatory labor market framework, we would insist that Mexico do the opposite by pushing for a higher minimum wage in its auto industry. This would raise costs and threaten the competitiveness of automakers in the United States, who are perplexed by the policy proposal. Not to mention, the move would destroy Mexican jobs. Why not let Mexico set its own labor laws according to its own domestic policy needs?
Dictating to auto manufacturers on precisely who can source what from where in an unavoidably global industry is naive at best and borders on the type of state interventionism that we Americans condemn abroad.
The NAFTA sunset clause is an exit ramp to nowhere, depriving every single North American firm of the real gems of free trade agreements: greater investor confidence, less red tape, and permanent access to more customers.
Trump’s team should know better. History shows that when a trade negotiating team has done its homework and makes a strong and broad economic policy case, it can usually herd enough cats both in Congress and with our trade partners to make it reality. But this administration’s team has not done its homework. Their eyes are on the wrong target — the trade deficit — and this has left them with misguided calculations.
The trade deficit is a phony issue. This simple accounting measure has nothing to do with trade policy. If you invest more than you save, as we do, then you need to finance that investment from elsewhere. No one is getting ripped off: The amount of dollars coming into the United States equals the amount leaving the United States.
Why not bring NAFTA into the 21st century? It’s time for our senior officials to turn to the real issues that will benefit a wide swath of U.S. firms, workers and households. Work with Mexico’s new president to implement pro-growth reforms, prevent Mexico from slipping backward, and stabilize our corner of the world.
Mr. Ross and Mr. Lighthizer promised to do no harm on NAFTA. Congress should hold them to it.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Christine McDaniel, a former White House senior trade economist, is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: What’s Next for U.S.-Mexico Relations?
By Joel Martinez
After decades of rightful dissatisfaction with the governing parties of Mexico, Mexicans elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as their next president on the July 1 elections. Garnering 53 percent of the reported vote, the anti-establishment president-elect had a landslide victory that has resulted in a majority of the nine governorships up for election and absolute majority in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies for Lopez Obrador’s coalition.
The Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which once dominated Mexican politics for more than 70 years, experienced a heavy loss at the ballot boxes due to Mexicans’ profound discontent toward the lack of economic growth and opportunities, the persistence of massive poverty and inequality, violence, insecurity, impunity and corruption that has plagued the country, much under the PRI’s watch throughout the outgoing Enrique Pena Nieto administration.
Yet, it was remarkable to witness the strength of Mexico’s young democracy when the losing candidates expressed quick and graceful concessions soon after polls closed. President Trump also congratulated Lopez Obrador at the end of the night, and Lopez Obrador expressed his desire to reach an understanding of mutual respect between the United States and Mexico. Taken together, this marked a positive start to Mexico’s unusually long five-month transition period, which will end Dec. 1, when Lopez Obrador comes into office for the next six years.
However, there are those who are concerned with the fact that Trump and Lopez Obrador are now leaders of two nations whose bilateral relationship not only touches the daily lives of Americans and Mexicans in a way that not many other relationships do, but that is also at risk of unraveling entirely. After all, over the last 30 years the United States and Mexico have established significant political, economic, security and cultural ties that cannot be easily overlooked, not even with the current state of U.S.-Mexico relations: hostility, mainly of President Trump’s doing.
For all the speculation about Lopez Obrador becoming an antagonist of Trump, it is unlikely that he would risk further deterioration of the bilateral relationship. When reflecting on Lopez Obrador’s tenure as mayor of Mexico City, he was less radical and more pragmatic than he recently appeared to be — there are many in Mexico and the United States that believe his recent posture and political rhetoric were for campaign purposes only and that he will ultimately be a rational leader.
Lopez Obrador, and those close around him, should understand by now that an economically strong and physically secure Mexico, from a national security perspective, is in the best interest for both Mexico and the United States. The best opportunity for Mexico to achieve stability is through close cooperation with its most important neighbor — not through isolationist policies.
However, if Trump continues his tirades on Mexico, Lopez Obrador would be expected to demonstrate to his voters that their vote went toward someone who can take bold leadership and defend Mexico against Trump’s hostile rhetoric and actions, which can potentially damage government-to-government relations with the United States.
Lopez Obrador’s victory should not be seen as disruptive or dangerous to U.S.-Mexico relations — Mexico has a smaller cadre of possible policies to deal with the United States than vice versa; it will depend on the United States to structure the relationship as a partnership — yet, President Trump’s erratic behavior should not be disregarded.
The next five months, particularly leading up to the U.S. midterm elections in November, may be a decisive test of how both administrations will behave toward each other for the next few years. It is imperative that elected officials at all levels of government on both sides of the border amplify their support for maintaining and preserving U.S.-Mexico relations. For example, the clearest place our two countries can find mutual benefit in a functioning relationship is in the security space. Equally important, a broad range of civil society actors in both countries should engage their counterparts to share experiences and to leverage the connectivity that exists between the United States and Mexico.
Ultimately, reason will prevail. There are too many stakeholders in the bilateral relationship — from government officials to private sector and civil society, as well as kinship — to let the future of U.S.-Mexico relations rest on personal attacks between Trump and Lopez Obrador.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Joel Martinez is the Mexico research associate at the Center for American Progress. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.