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Trump’s Immigration Rhetoric Takes On Racial Undertones As He Vows US ‘Will Not Be A Migrant Camp,’ Repeats False Claim Blaming Democrats For His Policies

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Image of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents used with permission

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2018 — President Trump’s rhetoric on immigration began taking on openly racist undertones Monday, as his administration doubled down on false claims that Democrats in Congress are responsible for President Trump’s policy of detaining asylum seekers and separating children from parents, and that many of the people accompanying children to the border are smugglers and not their parents.

“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said during a National Space Council event in the White House East Room. “Not on my watch.”

Trump’s references to migrant camps and refugee holding facilities were widely seen on social media as not-so-subtle racial “dog whistles” directed to elements of his political base that see refugee-friendly policies as part of a conspiracy by global elites to implement a so-called “white genocide” by allowing nonwhite immigrants with higher birth rates into majority-white countries.

After repeating the false claim that Democrats are responsible for his own administration’s immigration policies, Trump said that his administration’s policy of separating asylum seekers from their children is rooted in “horrible laws” on immigration.

Separating families is Trump administration policy, not law

While the president is correct in saying that the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act – which makes “improper entry” into the United States a misdemeanor – became law after a Democratic Congress overrode then-President Harry Truman’s veto, none of the 12 subsequent occupants of the Oval Office have chosen to use the law by prosecuting asylum seekers.

Instead, improper entry into the U.S. was largely treated as a civil violation until this April, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would prosecute anyone caught trying to enter the country illegally.

The change in policy stems from the Trump administration’s stated desire to deter immigrants from South and Central America from coming to the United States.

The president called the family separation that results from his own administration’s policy “so sad,” but once again echoed Europe’s resurgent nationalist movements with a warning that “a country without borders is not a country at all.”

The policy is necessary, Trump said, because immigrants are bringing “death and destruction.”

“They are thieves and murderers and so much else,” he added.

No evidence that increased immigration causes higher crime rates

However, Trump’s claim that illegal immigration results in more crime is without merit.

A University of Wisconsin study published in March found that that the increase in illegal immigration since 1990 has not resulted in a corresponding increase in crime, and a separate study by the same researchers found that increased illegal immigration does not cause a corresponding increase in non-violent crime, either.

One of the study’s co-authors, criminologist Kevin Light, explained to National Public Radio that “increased undocumented immigration since 1990 has not increased violent crime over that same time period.”

Trump’s off-topic remarks were the second time in less than 12 hours that he made a false claim conflating immigration with crime.

After viewing a Monday morning Fox News segment about German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political troubles stemming from nationalist resistance to her immigration policies, Trump tweeted: “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

The president’s claim echoes those made by members of Europe’s resurgent far-right and white nationalist movements. But it is baseless in light of a recent report by German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle revealed the country’s crime rate is at its lowest level since 1992.

The Trump administration also claims (without evidence) that many children are brought by smugglers, not parents

Later in the morning, he continued the tweetstorm by repeating that and other false claims in support of his administration’s immigration policies.

“Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country. Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the U.S.,” Trump said.

Shortly after, he added: “It is the Democrats fault for being weak and ineffective with Boarder [sic] Security and Crime. Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!”

The White House has claimed smugglers are posing as parents in large numbers since last month

Both claims are false, but they aren’t the first time he or members of his administration have claimed that a significant percentage of asylum seekers accompanied by children are traffickers posing as parents.

During a briefing call with reporters last month, Justice Department spokesperson Devin O’Malley noted that in Fiscal Year 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials saw a 315 percent increase in “individuals using children to pose as family units to gain entry into the country” over the previous fiscal year.

Administration officials, including White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller, suggested at the time that so-called “loopholes” in American immigration law entice human traffickers to pose as families with children.

“There’s nothing that would put more children in danger than for the United States to establish a policy – which these loopholes have gone a long way towards doing – that individuals traveling with minors will be spared from both civil and criminal consequences,” he said.

Miller, whose hardline anti-immigration stances date back to his high school days spent railing against the use of Spanish in his school’s morning announcements, said the policy Democrats want is one that spares anyone crossing the border from consequences if they have a child with them.

Such a policy is tantamount to “completely and totally open borders,” Miller said. And it “is already leading to horrendous hemispheric consequences” and is “driving… the child-smuggling trade.”

Although O’Malley promised more information to back up his claims, neither he nor Miller has responded to repeated requests for that information from BeltwayBreakfast.

But three weeks later, both White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley and White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp echoed Miller’s unsupported claims that Democrats are in favor of “open borders” and that most children accompanying asylum seekers are being trafficked.

“What Democrats want is a radical open border policy that lets everyone out into the interior of this country with virtually no documentation whatsoever,” Gidley said Monday while defending Trump’s child separation policy by repeating the false claim that Democrats are responsible for it. He added that the children are being “sent with these coyotes,” using a slang term for human smugglers.

Later on, Schlapp downplayed the harm to children caused by being forcibly separated from their parents and once again claimed that human traffickers are benefiting from “loopholes” in immigration law.

“The smugglers are the ones who are benefiting from this,” she said. “It’s human traffickers who are putting these children’s lives in danger.”

Schlapp promised to provide further information to back up her claims but did not respond to several requests to follow through on that promise.

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Andrew Feinberg is the Managing Editor and lead Washington Correspondent for Breakfast Media, and covers the White House, Capitol Hill, courts and regulatory agencies for BeltwayBreakfast and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has written about policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007.

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White House ‘Compromise’ Bill Contains Previously-Rejected Immigration Reforms, Makes Asylum Claims More Difficult

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Illustration by Amy Kins/Pixabay

WASHINGTON, January 23, 2019 — Despite promises to the contrary, legislation Republicans are promoting as a “compromise” to reopen the government is actually a vehicle for sweeping changes to the American asylum system.

Administration officials have spent the days since President Trump announced the proposal promoting it as a bipartisan compromise, packed with incentives meant to lure Democratic support. The Senate is expected to take up the measure sometime on Thursday, which will be the 33rd day of the longest partial government shutdown in American history.

One provision that White House officials have touted as a concession to Democrats would provide for a temporary extension to the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, which allows certain people whose parents brought them to the US illegally as children to obtain temporary work and residence permits. Also included is language to extend Temporary Protected Status to a small number of foreign nationals from disaster-stricken countries.

Democrats have universally panned both the DACA and TPS provisions as fixes to the president’s own messes, created when he and his administration unilaterally ended both programs during his first year in office.

The DACA extension, however, became a moot point this week after the Supreme Court declined to hear the Justice Department’s appeal of a lower court decision which allows existing DACA recipients to renew their permits.

Although the DACA and TPS provisions give the appearance that Republicans are giving away something in a form of legislative horse-trading, buried towards the end of the bill is language that would take away processes and programs supported by Democrats and immigration advocates.

The asylum provisions contained in the Central American Minors Protection Act would render unaccompanied minors from South and Central America ineligible for asylum unless they apply at processing centers in their home countries or at to-be-determined locations. Arriving in the United States without a parent or guardian would also render one ineligible for asylum.

The bill would also strip courts and immigration judges of any jurisdiction to review most asylum denials, while handing that duty over to Department of Homeland Security officials answerable only to the executive branch. It would also expand the circumstances under which an asylum seeker’s claim could be deemed frivolous, a determination which can carry severe sanctions.

One Justice Department official close to the process said the attempt to deny asylum seekers due process is more of the same for the Trump administration.

“They believe that these people are not Americans and are not entitled to the same rights that Americans have. They would like to write asylum out of the law because they do not believe America will survive if we give away too much of our pie,” said the official.

The official suggested the current “border crisis” is a direct result of the administration’s deliberate overloading of the immigration court system in hopes that the public will accept the whole system being thrown out and replaced by one in which almost no one can find refuge in the United States.

“They do things to make it almost impossible for someone to win their case, because they don’t believe these people should be allowed to remain in the United States,” the official said. “They don’t have the votes to change it so they’re delegitimizing it and making it dysfunctional.”

The official was particularly concerned about the possibility of the law being changed to put asylum determinations under the purview DHS officials, and noted that when DHS officials make removal decisions, their rejection rate is “very high” compared with the immigration courts.

“The law…does not lend itself to rushing through these situations,” said the official, who pointed to the president’s recent televised speech in which he once again ridiculed the idea of giving asylum seekers access to immigration courts.

“This administration is completely at odds with the existing legal structure. They do understand the law, but they don’t believe the fundamental basis of it is correct.”

Corroborating the Justice Department official’s clams, one former Immigration and Customs Enforcement official who spoke with BeltwayBreakfast also suggested that the end goal is actually to overwhelm the system. At that point. there will no longer be enough resources to provide asylum-seekers and other immigrants with the due process rights they are owed under current law.

But a senior DHS official whom the administration made available to reporters late Tuesday said the purpose of the legislation is not to limit anyone with “legitimate” claims of asylum.

“We believe that the provisions will actually encourage more people with legitimate claims to asylum” by making it easier for them to apply, he said, adding that it is “apparent to everyone” that there are “widespread” frivolous claims.

American Immigration Council Policy Analyst Aaron Reichlin-Melnick disputed the administration’s claim that many asylum claims are fraudulent.

“Just because somebody loses their asylum case, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have a fear of persecution in their home country. It’s just that their fear may have fallen within grounds that didn’t qualify for asylum under the law,” he said, noting that the attorney general already has great discretion to interpret the statutory ground on which asylum is granted.

Reichlin-Melnick said the proposed changes reflect a disdain for the idea that asylum seekers are entitled to due process.

“The administration has characterized the basic fundamental principle that America will act as a refuge for those fleeing persecution as a loophole,” he said. “Everyone has the right at least to go through the asylum process and the administration would prefer to cut off access to the asylum process rather than deal with all asylum seekers in general.”

Tennessee-based immigration lawyer Greg Siskind suggested that the asylum provisions in the White House bill show that the Trump administration isn’t serious about actually reforming the immigration system or reopening the government, particularly since they’ve appeared in several previous immigration bills.

“They’re poison pills,” Siskind said. “For Democrats, it would be politically disastrous to vote for them to sign off on that stuff, so it makes one wonder what their purpose is other than to antagonize.”

Siskind echoed the sentiments of the Justice Department and ICE officials by suggesting that the Trump administration don’t want anyone to be able to apply.

“They don’t want people applying for asylum — that’s the bottom line,” Siskind said. “There’s just one thing after another that’s designed to make the U.S. asylum system as unattractive and unavailable as possible.”

Despite the administration’s hopes that sufficient Democratic votes could be found to end debate on the measure, the bill has encountered a reception as chilly as the subfreezing temperatures that have gripped Washington in recent days. Without Democratic support, the Republican proposal is not expected to garner the 60 votes Senate rules require to end debate on Thursday.

Asked about her expectations for Thursday’s vote, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was far from confident, telling reporters that she hopes the bill would be successful.

Sanders appeared to preview the administration’s strategy for confronting the bill’s eventual failure by suggesting the sole responsibility for a lack of a deal would fall on Senate Democrats.

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Immigration

As Migrant Caravan Heads North, Trump Blames Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras — And Democrats

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President Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen meet with Border Patrol officials as they visit the Border Wall prototypes near San Diego on February 13, 2018.

WASHINGTON, October 22, 2018 — With the midterm elections two weeks away, President Trump is trying to keep his immigration policy at the front of voters’ minds by blaming Democrats and the nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico for the continuing progress of a large caravan of migrants — which Trump said includes “unknown Middle Easterners” — making its way northward.

Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in,” Trump wrote, calling the caravan of roughly 6,000 people constitutes a national emergency.

He later added: “Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally.”

Trump closed the three-tweet series by vowing to end or reduce foreign aid to the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, as those countries “were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S.”

When BeltwayBreakfast asked one senior White House official how Trump expected those countries to stop people from emigrating — short of emulating the former East German Democratic Republic keeping people in with walls — the official was unsure but said an answer would be forthcoming.

Both the president and members of his team, particularly Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, have said repeatedly that immigration is a winning issue for them despite widespread outrage over the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy — which led to several thousand children being separated from their families at border crossings — and widespread support for a pathway to citizenship for so-called “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them to the United States illegally as children.

The caravan in question was organized by a group called Pueblos Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders (not connected to the Washington, DC-based nonprofit) and consists of migrants who wish travel in one large group to protect themselves from the gangs and cartels who often target small groups and individuals. Organizers say the goal of most migrants traveling in the large group is to present themselves for asylum, either in Mexico or at a United States port of entry.

While such caravans are organized regularly, the coverage they’ve received in various media outlets has led to an inordinate amount of attention from the avid television watcher currently ensconced in the White House, who appears to have taken their very existence as a personal affront. 

Trump has made immigration policy a centerpiece of his political strategy since the first day of his campaign for the presidency, when he railed against Mexican “rapists,” who he alleged were “bringing crime and drugs.” 

Since becoming president in 2017, he has frequently lashed out at Democrats and blamed them for what his administration calls “loopholes” in immigration law that prevent the Department of Homeland Security from immediately deporting asylum seekers or keeping them incarcerated while their claims are pending.

Although Trump continues to suggest that migrants traveling in the group are looking to enter the U.S. illegally, asylum seekers who present themselves at a port of entry (and to a lesser extent to U.S. Border Patrol agents) actually avail themselves of a legal process that can result in their being given permission to remain in the United States.

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Trump Administration Convinced Germany To Take Ex-Nazi Guard ‘On The Moral Ground’

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Jakiw Palij exits a plane in Dusseldorf on Tuesday after being deported from the US. BILD EXCLUSIVE/Sebastian Karadshow/Josef Frank Weiser

WASHINGTON, August 21, 2018 — The United States’ Ambassador to Germany on Tuesday told reporters that the Trump administration was able to deport former Nazi concentration camp guard Jakiw Palij because new German cabinet members were willing to accept him after years of previous refusals by Berlin.

Germany saw it as a moral obligation…because this individual served in the name of the former German government,” said Amb. Richard Grenell during a conference call with reporters. “It was something that the new cabinet members accepted.”

Mona Ragheb, Senior Advisor for the Human Rights Law Section of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which conducted the operation to remove Palij, said the removal operation “ensures the US will not become a safe haven for Nazis.”

She told reporters that the removal operation “was affected without incident” Monday night, and took place by way of “a specially chartered air ambulance which was appropriately staffed to address his medical needs. Palij arrived in Germany on Tuesday at roughly 8:00 a.m. local time.

The 95-year-old, born in what is now Ukraine, had been ordered deported by an immigration judge in 2004, but had remained in the United States because no country would agree to accept him.

But the empanelment of a new German cabinet changed things, Grinell said, combined with a decision by s by the Trump administration to make a moral argument for Germany accepting him rather than a legal one.

“In order to get him out of [the U.S.] it was important to…argue on the moral ground,” he added.

Grenell thanked Germany’s new foreign and interior ministers for their assistance in resolving the Palij case, which he said had been a priority of President Donald Trump.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Grinell said, “brought a new and different energy” to the longstanding negotiations over the former Nazi guard, while Interior Minister Horst Seehofer took “a creative look” at whether to admit Palij, who longtime Justice Department Nazi hunter Eli Rosenbaum said was the last known Nazi war criminal awaiting deportation from the United States.

Previous ex-Nazis who’ve been deported from the U.S. have been prosecuted upon their return to Germany. One notable example was that of John Demjanjuk, the Ukrainian-born Red Army soldier who participated in atrocities at the Sobibor concentration camp after volunteering to serve in the German army as a way of getting out of a POW camp.

Demjanjuk, an Ohio resident during his time in the United States, was deported to Germany in 2009 after several previous attempts at deportation and trial, including one resulting in a 1988 conviction for crimes against humanity in an Israeli court (which was later overturned). In 2011, a German court convicted him of 27,900 counts of murder, but because Demjanjuk died in 2012 before his appeal was heard, he was legally a free and innocent man at his death.

Whether Palij will be tried for his alleged crimes is up to the German government, though Grinell stressed that the Trump administration did not ask Berlin to commit to any legal process.

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