12 immigrant workers at Trump golf course fired, lawyer says
By BERNARD CONDON
Monday, January 28
NEW YORK (AP) — A dozen immigrant workers at one of President Donald Trump’s golf clubs in New York who are in the U.S. illegally were fired this month even though managers had known about their legal status for years, a lawyer for the workers said Saturday.
As the president railed during the partial government shutdown against immigrants coming into the country illegally, a manager at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County called a dozen immigrant workers into a room one by one Jan. 18 and fired them, said lawyer Anibal Romero.
Many of them had worked at the club for a dozen or more years, he said, and managers knew they had submitted phony documents but looked the other way.
“This is bogus. People have been there for 12, 13, 14 years,” said Romero. He added, referring to one of the president’s sons, “One had the keys to Eric Trump’s bedroom.”
The firings come after workers at another Trump club in New Jersey came forward last month to say managers there had hired them knowing they were in the country illegally, and had even helped one obtain phony documents.
The crackdown at the New York club was first reported by The Washington Post.
The Associated Press left messages with The Trump Organization seeking comment. Eric Trump depicted the firings to the Post as a normal course of business.
“We are making a broad effort to identify any employee who has given false and fraudulent documents to unlawfully gain employment,” he said. “Where identified, any individual will be terminated immediately.”
He added that the “the system is broken.”
Trump has repeatedly cast the millions of immigrants in the country illegally as a scourge on the health of the economy, taking jobs from American citizens. He has said they also bring drugs and crime over the border.
Trump turned over day-to-day management of his business to Eric and his other adult son, Donald Jr., when he took the oath of office two years ago. The Trump Organization owns or manages 17 golf clubs around the world.
One man who was fired, a former maintenance worker from Mexico hired in 2005, told The Post that he started to cry when he was told of the news and pleaded with management to reconsider.
“I told them they needed to consider us,” said Gabriel Sedano. “I’d given the best of myself to this job.”
“I’d never done anything wrong, only work and work,” he added. “They said they didn’t have any comments to make.”
Romero, who also represents immigrant workers at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, said he has called New York state authorities and the FBI to look into hiring practices at the New York club.
“There was a don’t ask, don’t tell attitude at the club,” he said. “We are demanding a full investigation.”
‘Catch-up for years’ as backlogged immigration courts open
By DEEPTI HAJELA and OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ
Tuesday, January 29
NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s immigration courts were severely backlogged even before the government shutdown. Now it could take years just to deal with the delays caused by the five-week impasse, attorneys say.
With the shutdown finally over, the courts reopened Monday morning to immigrants seeking asylum or otherwise trying to stave off deportation, and hearings were held for the first time since late December. Court clerks scrambled to deal with boxes and boxes of legal filings that arrived after the doors opened.
Over 86,000 immigration court hearings were canceled during the standoff, the biggest number in California, followed by Texas and New York, according to an estimate from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. It estimates the courts have more than 800,000 pending cases overall.
The shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demand for funding for a border wall to keep out migrants has only added to the delays in the system, where cases can already take years to be resolved, said Jennifer Williams, deputy attorney in charge of the immigration law unit at Legal Aid in New York City.
“They’re going to be playing catch-up for years,” she said.
The shutdown did not affect hearings for immigrants being held in immigration detention. It also had no bearing on applications for green cards and U.S. citizenship, which are handled by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and are funded by filing fees.
The cancellations were bad news for the many asylum applicants who have been waiting years to win approval so that they can bring loved ones to this country. It could be years before they are given new court dates, immigration attorneys said.
But for those with weak asylum cases, the canceled hearings could be a good thing, enabling them to keep on living in the U.S. and fend off deportation for now.
A spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the part of the Justice Department that oversees the immigration courts, could not immediately say how many hearings were delayed or when they would be rescheduled.
Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said: “What is clear is that the cases that were set for trial during shutdown will likely ultimately end up at the end of the line when a new date is picked.”
Getting back to work didn’t come without problems in courts around the country.
In San Antonio, a long-scheduled asylum hearing for a teenager from El Salvador was canceled because no Spanish-language interpreter was available, said Guillermo Hernandez, the teen’s attorney. The hearing was rescheduled for late April.
“It’s a little bit frustrating because we’re trying to bring these cases to a resolution and move forward, and now we have to fight another day,” Hernandez said.
At an immigration court in San Francisco, attorneys and paralegals carrying large bags, small suitcases or boxes stacked on a dolly waited in line to file documents that in some cases had piled up during the shutdown.
Attorney Sara Izadpanah said six of her clients missed court hearings because of the shutdown and she missed several deadlines to file court documents.
“What happened is pretty serious for a lot of our clients because it could be two or three years before they can get a new court hearing, and by then immigrations law could change,” Izadphana said.
Judge Ila C. Deiss walked into the San Francisco courtroom, where about 15 people waited, and announced that there was no Spanish interpreter present but that a bilingual clerk would be able to help if needed.
One of the cases on the docket was that of a Nepalese woman seeking asylum. The judge set the woman’s final hearing for July 2.
The woman’s attorney, Gopal Shah, said they had to scramble to be in court Monday.
“We were not sure a hearing was going to happen today, but we showed up anyway,” Shah said. “She was lucky her case was heard and a court hearing was set for July because judges already have full calendars.”
Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. Associated Press reporters Nomaan Merchant in Houston; Astrid Galvan in Phoenix; and Amy Taxin in Orange County, California, contributed to this report.
Deepti Hajela covers issues of race, ethnicity and immigration for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dhajela. For more of her work, search for her name at https://apnews.com.
Give first round to Pelosi over Trump in shutdown skirmish
By ALAN FRAM
Sunday, January 27
WASHINGTON (AP) — In the year’s first test of divided government, give round one to Nancy Pelosi. And it wasn’t really competitive.
When the record 35-day partial federal shutdown began before Christmas, Pelosi had just won a vote-by-vote struggle for enough Democratic support to become House speaker. To secure that job, the 78-year-old House veteran had to overcome critics’ arguments that she had been party leader for too long and wasn’t Democrats’ best bet to appeal to diverse, social media savvy audiences.
By the time President Donald Trump capitulated Friday, ending the shutdown, Pelosi had burnished her image as the shrewd, steely and unquestioned leader of her party. That makes her a formidable opponent in what looms as a perilous two years for the White House before the 2020 election.
She had kept Democrats united as public pressure built to end the standoff. And she stood up to Trump repeatedly, challenging his intelligence (“Let’s give him to time to think it — oh, think, did I say think?”) and even exercising her power as speaker to block him from using the House chamber to deliver a State of the Union address planned for this Tuesday.
Trump “found out that Pelosi is no pushover,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who once headed the House GOP campaign organization.
Backers celebrated her triumph by repeatedly reposting a month-old video of an unruffled Pelosi emerging from a televised Oval Office confrontation with Trump, coolly easing sunglasses onto her face and striding toward reporters.
“I’ve heard people say to me, ‘It looks like we really did elect the right person as speaker,’” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said days before Trump’s surrender.
Pelosi demurred when asked whether the shutdown had been a test between herself and Trump.
“I don’t see this as any power play,” she told reporters Friday.
But actually, it unmistakably was a contest between Washington’s two power centers, each gauging the other’s tenacity and smarts.
In a city where perception begets influence, Pelosi clearly emerged with the upper hand. That could set the tone for skirmishes ahead, including investigations that the Democratic-led House, armed with subpoena power, plans into Trump’s businesses and his 2016 presidential campaign’s connections to Russia.
”SpeakerPelosi should give the State of the Union since she’s obviously the one running the country,” tweeted Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.
Immediately ahead is the still unresolved question of how much money, if any, Congress gives him to build the wall he along the U.S.-Mexico border. The short-term bill that Trump signed Friday reopening government will lapse Feb. 15. With three weeks to find a border security compromise, Republicans are using that agreement as a test of Pelosi’s credibility.
“Trust is earned, & Washington can use more of it. POTUS trusted Sen Schumer & Spkr Pelosi & the promise that we can negotiate border security funding in the next 3 weeks,” tweeted Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. He referred to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and used the acronym for president of the United States.
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California insisted that Trump had not surrendered.
“No. He knows the American people are hurting. He put the American people first, so they can get paid. Three weeks to negotiate,” he said in a brief interview.
Pelosi’s upward trajectory during the shutdown contrasted with Trump’s, which plunged in the opposite direction.
The president abruptly rejected a deal on Dec. 19 that would have temporarily averted a shutdown and given bargainers time to seek a border security deal. GOP and Democratic congressional leaders believed he had accepted that agreement and were stunned when he reneged under criticism from conservative pundits.
On Friday, Trump accepted the same offer. But in the interim, he endured numerous self-inflicted wounds.
Polls showed voters blamed largely him for the shutdown. His favorability ratings plummeted and he faced a near rebellion from GOP senators, who bluntly told Vice President Mike Pence a day before Trump yielded that it was time to end the standoff.
Trump was further hurt by endless stories about the tribulations of the 800,000 federal workers going without pay and countless others missing needed government services, plus comments by high-ranking administration officials that made those officials seem unfeeling about the suffering.
Things spiraled dangerously Friday amid a snowballing shortage of air traffic controllers that snarled airports in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, raising questions about safety.
All that for an agreement that contains no guarantee Pelosi and her fellow Democrats will provide a dime for Trump’s wall, which Pelosi has called “immoral” and has said Congress will not finance.
Trump remains hopeful, tweeting Saturday that “only fools, or people with a political agenda” do not want a wall or steel barrier. “It will happen.”
History shows that over the past quarter-century, voters generally don’t punish candidates for shutdowns. This one occurred nearly two full years before the 2020 elections, leaving time for other events and issues to dominate when Trump runs for re-election and House and Senate control are at stake.
Even so, after the performances by Pelosi and Trump, it was Republicans who seemed more concerned about the potential reverberations.
Asked if the shutdown was worth it, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said, “I don’t think they’re ever a good idea. The answer to your question probably has to be, ‘We’ll see what happens.’”
AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Associated Press writer Alan Fram has covered Washington policy and politics, including Congress, since 1987.
An AP News Analysis
Vital economic data was likely lost during the shutdown – here’s why it matters to all Americans
January 25, 2019
Author: Amitrajeet A. Batabyal is a Friend of The Conversation, Arthur J. Gosnell Professor of Economics, Rochester Institute of Technology
Disclosure statement: Amitrajeet A. Batabyal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Rochester Institute of Technology provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
The shutdown may be over – for now – but its consequences will linger on.
One of those concerns is the dizzying amount of economic data the federal government collects on everything from the state of the economy and investment to the cost of college and the quality of nursing homes. During the partial government shutdown, a lot of data simply weren’t collected, which means at a minimum there will be gaps in what people know about the U.S. economy, the jobs picture and housing, to name just a few areas.
Americans may not realize just how vital this is to a wide range of groups and individuals – including an economist like myself.
This is another powerful reason why it’s essential that the president and Democrats agree on a long-term solution during the upcoming three-week truce.
The shutdown affected about 800,000 government workers at dozens of agencies. Of those, roughly 380,000 were furloughed or sent home.
As a result many government researchers were neither collecting nor analyzing a lot of key economic data.
Some of them work for the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, which measures the country’s gross domestic product, as well as provides important data on international trade. The publication of this data was suspended or delayed due to the shutdown.
The work of the Census Bureau, also a part of Commerce, was hit as well. And while Americans primarily associate the agency with tallying the number of people living in the U.S. every 10 years, it also puts out data on the pace of new home building, durable goods and monthly retail sales.
It is presently not clear how quickly and completely the delayed data will be released. Even if the delayed data does get released, it will take several months before the affected agencies return to normal.
After the 2013 government shutdown – the longest before the recent one – there were questions about just how much data were lost or corrupted as a result. The latest shutdown lasted more than twice as long, suggesting the impact may be much worse.
The lapses in data that occurred during this shutdown underscore how vital accurate information is to the functioning not just of the government but society overall.
Going back to the 18th century, America’s founding fathers understood the significance of reliable government-produced data. In urging the newly formed House of Representatives to create the census, for example, James Madison emphasized the value of fact-based data for agricultural, commercial and manufacturing businesses.
Today, we could safely say that three distinct groups rely on government economic data: companies (including their owners and investors), policymakers and American families.
Companies, as you might expect, rely on data like those on GDP, new homes and trade to help them make decisions about hiring, expansion and local market trends. Such data help them reduce uncertainty about the future demand for their products.
The Census Bureau also conducts the American Community Survey, which provides invaluable data on pretty much everything about the U.S. and its people, from what languages people speak to how people commute to work. It was also affected by the shutdown.
Policymakers also rely on these data. Without knowing what’s happening in the economy, everyone from the White House and state and local governments to the Federal Reserve has a much harder time deciding what policy choices to make. Should they raise or lower taxes? Does the economy need some stimulus or would that cause it to overheat? Should the Fed lift or lower interest rates?
The U.S. central bank, in fact, may be the most important consumer of federal economic data. The Fed’s decisions on interest rates influence not only business decisions on capital investment and consumer decisions on automobile and home purchases but also financial stock prices. The bank depends on government economic data like GDP and home construction to evaluate the health of the labor market and to comprehend how prices and macroeconomic metrics are changing.
Without reliable and timely data, the Fed is “running blind,” potentially destabilizing the American economy.
You rely on government data too
But government data are also very useful for the typical American household.
For example, a family that is considering placing an elderly parent or relative in a nursing home can make a more informed decision because it is able to compare the quality of alternate facilities easily. Anyone can do this with the Nursing Home Compare tool, created in 1998 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Similarly, families with college-age children who would like to compare the costs and benefits of different colleges can easily do so by consulting the Department of Education’s College Navigator database, which also provides data on majors, financial aid and graduation rates.
Both of these tools still worked during the shutdown, but it was unclear if the underlying data collection had been affected.
Ultimately, these are just some of the countless ways data collected by the government matters a great deal to every American.
Kurt E. Johnson: If all of the data described were provided only at ½ or ¼th the frequency as it is currently, I don’t think there would be any negative affect on our country.
Cohen agrees to talk to House intelligence committee Feb. 8
By MARY CLARE JALONICK and JIM MUSTIAN
Tuesday, January 29
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has agreed to talk to the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 8, opting for closed-door testimony after pulling out of a separate public hearing due to security issues.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Monday that Cohen will be appearing voluntarily and that the panel will work with law enforcement to make sure he is safe. Cohen last week postponed testimony he was supposed to give the House Oversight and Reform Committee, blaming threats from Trump and the president’s attorney-spokesman, Rudy Giuliani.
Cohen has not detailed the threats, nor has his lawyer. But Trump and Giuliani have publicly urged the Justice Department to investigate Cohen’s father-in-law, insinuating he was part of some unspecific criminal activity. Trump, for example, told Fox News this month that Cohen “should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that’s the one that people want to look at.”
Trump’s fixer-turned-foe is a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign. Cohen also played a pivotal role in buying the silence of a porn actress and a former Playboy Playmate who both alleged they had sex with Trump. The president has denied their claims.
Cohen pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations and other offenses connected to the payments, and he is scheduled to begin serving a three-year prison sentence in March. Federal prosecutors have said Trump directed Cohen to make the payments during the campaign.
Schiff, D-Calif., said Cohen had relayed “legitimate concerns” about his safety and the safety of his family.
“Efforts to intimidate witnesses, scare their family members, or prevent them from testifying before Congress are tactics we expect from organized crime, not the White House,” Schiff said. “These attacks on Mr. Cohen’s family must stop.”
Cohen is also scheduled to talk to the Senate Intelligence Committee next month, in compliance with a subpoena. That interview is scheduled for Feb. 12, according to Lanny Davis, one of Cohen’s lawyers.
Also Monday, Cohen’s lawyers announced a shake-up on his defense team as he continues to cooperate with Mueller and prepares for the congressional testimony.
Cohen’s legal team announced that two attorneys from Chicago, Michael Monico and his partner Barry Spevack, will represent him, replacing New York-based attorneys Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester.
Cohen’s legal team described Monico as one of the “premier criminal defense attorneys in the country.”
The legal shake-up followed what a person familiar with the matter described as a dispute over unpaid legal fees. The person, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said Cohen had not paid “proper fees” to his legal team.
Davis disputed that characterization, saying the shake-up “had nothing to do with fees.”
Cohen did not immediately respond to a text message seeking for comment.
Monico and Spevack issued a joint statement Monday saying they looked forward to “helping Mr. Cohen fulfill what he has told us is his only mission — to tell the truth as he knows it and to turn the corner on his past life and taking ownership for his past mistakes by cooperating as best as he can with all governmental authorities in search of the truth.”
Monico worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago before entering private practice. He has since become one of Chicago’s highest-profile white-collar attorneys dating back to the 1980s, representing those close to the levers of power in Illinois, including powerful aldermen, a confidant of now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and several defendants accused of corruption in dealing with the city of Chicago.
He also represented an owner of Chicago’s E2 nightclub, where a stampede toward a door in 2003 left 21 people dead. Most recently, Monico and Spevack have represented a former Lithuanian parliamentarian and judge fighting extradition from Chicago to face charges in her homeland stemming from her allegations that there’s a well-connected ring of pedophiles in the country.
Mustian reported from New York. AP legal affairs writer Michael Tarm contributed reporting from Chicago.