GONZO’S WORLD: Senators Frustrated By Gonzo’s Inability To Get His Story Straight – How Many Chances Will He Get To “Correct and Clarify” His Testimony?

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/top-senate-judiciary-committee-democrat-wants-jeff-sessions-to-clarify-russia-testimony_us_59ff27f3e4b0baea26324570

Jessica Schulberg reports for HuffPost:

“WASHINGTON ― The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said on Sunday she wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to testify again before the panel to clarify past claims that he was unaware of any communication between members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials.

Sessions has already testified before the committee twice under oath ― during his confirmation hearing in January and during a routine oversight hearing last month ― that he was unaware of communications between the Trump team and Russia. But according to recently unsealed court documents, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos spoke multiple times with Russians about setting up a meeting between then-presidential candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. And Papadopoulos, according to the documents. described his efforts during a meeting on March 31, 2016, that included Trump and Sessions.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on CNN she plans to discuss summoning Sessions back before the Judiciary Committee with the panel’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). She declined to say whether she believed Sessions intentionally misled the committee in the past ― but said the attorney general should focus on getting his facts straight.

“Maybe he has a faulty memory. So, there are a lot of excuses one can make.” Feinstein said. “But at this stage, he’s got to narrow his recollections. When he comes before the committee again, he has to be precise, and it has to be accurate,” she said.

. . . .

“I don’t think he told me the truth,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) told ABC late last week. “I think that on different occasions he either has a terrible memory or he is deliberately not telling me the truth.”

Lawmakers’ frustration with Sessions may be gaining bipartisan traction.

“This is getting a bit old with Jeff Sessions,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday. “He probably should come back and answer the question, yet again, ‘Did you know anything about an effort by the Trump campaign to meet with Russia?’”

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Read the complete article at the link.

Wow, the irony is rich! Gonzo never misses a chance to “pop off” with some misleading story being spread by White Nationalist/restrictionist groups about how vulnerable immigrants struggling to vindicate their legal rights (and often to save their lives) and the lawyers trying to represent them are “abusing the system.” But, he abuses the time and processes of the U.S. Senate, where he used to sit. He’s obviously disdainful of his former colleagues, since he doesn’t even bother to check the accuracy of what he says under oath. Like many “arrogant overprivileged White Guys,” he just doesn’t believe that the rules actually apply to him. Just like his “Supreme Leader,” Trump!   

PWS

11-05-17          

GONZO’S WORLD: CNN: GONZO TAKING HEAT FOR ATTEMPT TO “WHITEWASH” RUSSIA INVOLVEMENT DURING SENATE TESTIMONY!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/02/politics/jeff-sessions-congress-russia-trump-campaign/index.html

Manu Raju, Evan Perez and Marshall Cohen, write:

“Washington (CNN)Attorney General Jeff Sessions is once again under scrutiny on Capitol Hill regarding his candor about Russia and the Trump campaign amid revelations that he rejected a suggestion to convene a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump last year.

According to court filings unsealed this week, Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos suggested at a March 2016 meeting that he could use his connections to set up a meeting between Putin and Trump with the then-GOP candidate’s national security team. An Instagram picture on Trump’s account shows Sessions attended the meeting at which Papadopoulos made the suggestion.
After Trump declined to rule out the idea, Sessions weighed in and rejected the proposed meeting, according to a person who attended.
But Sessions, who was a top surrogate for Trump during the campaign, did not disclose these discussions despite a persistent set of questions from Democrats and some Republicans about Russia during multiple hearings on Capitol Hill. The new information is renewing attention to how forthcoming Sessions has been with Congress.
There is interest from Democrats on both the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees for Sessions to formally clarify his remarks made before both committees given what’s now known about his interactions with Papadopoulos, a Senate aide told CNN. The source said the request for clarification could take several forms, such as having Sessions testify again or submitting a clarification in writing, but that has not yet been determined.
. . . .
The Justice Department did not comment.
But a source familiar with Sessions’ thinking pointed out that others in the room recall that Sessions “shut down” talk of a Putin meeting and that Papadopoulos “didn’t have a lot of credibility.” The conversation moved on to other topics and Papadopoulos did not leave a “lasting impression” with Sessions, the source said.
The source added that Sessions “has no clear recollection” of Papadopoulos and any further interactions with him, even though two were seated next to each other at a second meeting of Trump’s foreign policy team at the Capitol Hill Club steps from the House.
“The attorney general has been entirely truthful and consistent on this matter,” the source said, referring to Sessions’ testimony before Congress where he rejected the notion of meetings and interactions with Russians during the campaign season.
At his Senate confirmation hearing in January, Sessions denied any contacts with Russian officials during the presidential campaign. He later acknowledged that he met then-Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak twice during the campaign. He also testified that he was “not aware” of anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicating with the Russians.
Sessions testified in June that he wasn’t aware of any conversations between “anyone connected to the Trump campaign” and Russians about “any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”
He also testified that he does not remember meeting Kislyak during a VIP reception before an April 2016 campaign event at the Mayflower Hotel, though he acknowledged Kislyak was in the room. Also there were Trump and his son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner. In testimony submitted to Capitol Hill investigators, Kushner said he “shook hands” and “exchanged brief pleasantries” with Kislyak.
Asked under oath at a Senate hearing last month if he believed Trump campaign surrogates had communications with Russians, Sessions replied, “I did not and I’m not aware of anyone else that did, and I don’t believe it happened.”
It is a crime to lie under oath to Congress. Sessions says that his answers were truthful because his meetings with Kislyak weren’t specifically about the campaign. At least two Democratic members of the Senate judiciary committee, Al Franken of Minnesota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, have asked the FBI to investigate whether Sessions committed perjury during his confirmation hearings.
At the Senate judiciary hearing last month, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, asked Sessions: “Did anybody in the campaign, did you ever overhear a conversation between you and anybody on the campaign who talked about meeting with the Russians?”
Sessions replied, “I have not seen anything that would indicate collusion with the Russians to impact the campaign.”
On Wednesday, Democrats said Sessions needs to clarify his comments.
“I was very troubled by Attorney General Sessions comments overall,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee.

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Read the complete article at the link.

As I’ve noted before, Sessions’s laughable account of how he “told the truth” during his Senate testimony doesn’t pass the “straight face test’ — it would be found “incredible” in almost any of the U.S. Immigration Courts he administers. He, Trump, and other campaign officials are obviously struggling to keep their various versions of the story straight.

Given the problems he’s already had, and the widespread interest in the Russia investigation, one might have thought than an “Attorney General of ordinary prudence” would check the records before once again making the “no contact” (“except the ones I didn’t mention previously that you already discovered”)  statement under oath. That might well have brought to light the photograph of him with George Papadopoulos which appears with the full article at the above link. And that might have “refreshed” his memory as to what transpired at the meeting. Or, he might have asked other attendees at the meeting for their recollection of whether Russia was discussed.

Gonzo has no trouble rattling off bogus positions and misleading statistics prepared for him by restrictionist organizations in his quest to smear and discredit migrants, immigrants, Latinos, lawyers, and others. But, when it comes to the very recent matter of Russia and  the Trump Campaign (which, after all, occurred within the last two years, not at some point in ancient history) his memory seems to fail him on a regular basis.

As I predicted very recently, Chuck Cooper is going to earn his money trying to save Gonzo’s tail on this one.

PWS

11-02-17

GONZO’S WORLD: THE “KING OF OBFUSCATION” “STONEWALLS” THE US SENATE! — “He Don’t Know Nothin’ ‘Bout Nothin’” — But He Can’t Tell You Why He Can’t Talk About Why He Doesn’t Know! — And, He Bristles With Righteous Indignation If Anyone Accuses Him Of Not Being Very Forthcoming!

What Jeff Sessions wouldn’t say was more revealing than what he did
How the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Jeff Sessions

THE BIG IDEA: Jeff Sessions was the personification of a hostile witness whenever a Democratic lawmaker questioned him during a contentious five-hour oversight hearing on Wednesday.

The attorney general set the tone early in his first appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee since his January confirmation. “I can neither assert executive privilege nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president,” Sessions said in his opening statement.

There were several yes-or-no questions that should have been easy for Sessions to answer, but he refused. Sometimes what someone will not say is more interesting than what they do.

THE SPECIAL COUNSEL:

— Sessions said he has not been interviewed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But has his team requested an interview? “I don’t think so,” the attorney general told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), reflecting the cautiousness he showed all day. “I don’t know … I don’t want to come in here and be trapped. … I will check and let you know.” Later, Sessions announced: “My staff handed me a note that I have not been asked for an interview at this point.”

— The attorney general declined to express personal confidence in Mueller, a former FBI director: “I think he will produce the work in a way he thinks is correct and history will judge,” Sessions said.

— He also declined to say whether he would resign if President Trump tried to fire Mueller. Sessions said getting rid of Mueller would be up to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein because he has recused himself. (Rosenstein was interviewed by Mueller’s team this summer.)

Sessions says he can’t disclose ‘confidential conversations’ with Trump

“THE CLOUD”:

— Sessions declined to discuss anything the president told him before firing James Comey. He pointedly refused to answer multiple questions about whether Trump told him that getting rid of the FBI director would “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation. “I do not confirm or deny the existence of any communication with the president,” Sessions replied. Yet he didn’t hesitate to defend the president’s dubious rationale for axing Comey, which was the former FBI director’s alleged mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

— If Trump hadn’t mentioned “the cloud,” why not just say so? In sworn testimony this June, Comey recounted a phone call he received from Trump at the FBI on March 30: “He described the Russia investigation as ‘a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’ … He finished by stressing ‘the cloud’ was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated.”

Trump called again on April 11 to ask for an update on when Comey was going to announce publicly that he was not personally under investigation. “I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back,” the former FBI director said. “He replied that ‘the cloud’ was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. … That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.”

— Sessions also would not say whether he was aware of Trump’s draft letter detailing some of the real reasons that he wanted to remove Comey, which Mueller has been reviewing.

Donald Trump and Joe Arpaio campaign together in Iowa last year. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

Donald Trump and Joe Arpaio campaign together in Iowa last year. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

PARDONS:

— Can the president pardon someone under investigation by Mueller before they’ve been charged? “Well, the pardon power is quite broad,” Sessions replied. “I have not studied it. I don’t know whether that would be appropriate or not, frankly.” Pressed further, he added later: “My understanding is a pardon can be issued before a conviction has occurred.” (He said that he’d like to reply with more detail in writing. That was one of his go-to lines throughout the day, though Democrats have complained for months that the Justice Department doesn’t respond to their letters.)

— Could the president pardon himself? Sessions again said he hadn’t studied the issue.

— Did Trump discuss pardoning Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio with Sessions before he announced it? “I cannot comment on the private conversations I’ve had with the president,” he replied.

— What was the process that led to Arpaio’s pardon? “I don’t know that I remember or I know it precisely,” Sessions dodged.

Sessions: ‘I don’t know that I can make a blanket commitment’ to not jail reporters

JAILING REPORTERS:

— Will he commit to not putting reporters in jail for doing their jobs? “Well, I don’t know that I can make a blanket commitment to that effect,” Sessions replied to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). “But I would say this: We have not taken any aggressive action against the media at this point. But we have matters that involve the most serious national security issues, that put our country at risk, and we will utilize the authorities that we have, legally and constitutionally, if we have to.”

Durbin slams Sessions for wanting safer cities, withholding police grants

LGBT DISCRIMINATION:

— Two weeks ago, Sessions sent a memo to all federal agencies on “protections for religious liberty.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked about it: “Could a Social Security Administration employee refuse to accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse?

After four seconds of silence, Sessions replied: “That is something I have never thought would arise, but I would have to give you a written answer to that, if you don’t mind.”

Durbin followed up: Would the guidance Sessions released permit a federal contractor to “refuse to provide services to LGBTQ people, including in emergencies, without risk of losing federal contracts?”

“I’m not sure that is covered by it,” Sessions said, “but I will look.”

“The questions were hardly out of left field — or unfamiliar to the Justice Department,” BuzzFeed notes, adding that the Justice Department has been declining to answer them for weeks.

— The evasiveness played out on a host of other policy questions:

Did Sessions talk with the Texas attorney general about DACA before convincing Trump to end the program? He said such a conversation, if it happened, would be tantamount to “work product” and thus privileged.

Is there any evidence to support Trump’s claim on Monday that the Cuban government was behind the sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats in Havana? “I’m just not able to comment,” Sessions replied.

Democrats noted that Sessions, when he was a member of the committee, would never have tolerated one of Barack Obama’s appointees being so evasive.

— Republicans mostly rallied to Sessions’s defense. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, noted that Eric Holder refused to turn over documents relating to the Fast and Furious program by asserting executive privilege. Though, Grassley added, “The American people have a right to know why (Comey) was fired.”

Jeff Sessions testifies. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Jeff Sessions testifies. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sessions stumbles through questions about communicating with Russia

RUSSIA CONTACTS:

— The main headline out of the hearing is that the nation’s chief law enforcement officer is still getting his story straight on his interactions with the Russians: “Sessions offered a slightly new wrinkle Wednesday, asserting that he may have discussed Trump campaign policy positions in his 2016 conversations with (Ambassador Sergey) Kislyak,” Matt Zapotosky, Sari Horwitz and Devlin Barrett report. “The attorney general said it was ‘possible’ that ‘some comment was made about what Trump’s positions were,’ though he also said, ‘I don’t think there was any discussion about the details of the campaign.’The Post reported in July that Kislyak reported back to his superiors in the Kremlin that the two had discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow. Sessions has previously said he did not ‘recall any specific political discussions’ …”

— Another significant admission: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) asked whether the U.S. government is doing enough to prevent Russian interference in future elections. “We’re not,” Sessions responded.

— In the testiest exchange of the day, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sparred with Sessions over whether he told the truth during his confirmation hearing:

Al Franken Cross-Examines Jeff Sessions On Lying About Russian Meeting

HOW IT’S PLAYING:

— On the left:

  • Slate: “Jeff Sessions Is Using Phony Executive Privilege to Shield Trump, and GOP Senators Are Letting Him.”
  • Esquire: “Jeff Sessions Is Not Donald Trump’s Lawyer. And that suggestion could be a license for corruption.”
  • Mother Jones: “Justice Department Has Communicated With Controversial Election Commission, Sessions Confirms. The revelation fuels concerns over voter suppression efforts and could raise legal questions.”
  • The Nation: “Jeff Sessions Keeps Lying to the Senate. Sessions once claimed he never met with the Russians. Well, sorta, kinda, maybe. It depends…”
  • Los Angeles Times editorial page: “Trump and Sessions are still telling different stories about Comey.”

— On the right:

  • Daily Caller: “Sessions Admits The Wall Won’t Run Full Length Of The Border.”
  • Breitbart: “Sessions: ‘We’re Not’ Doing Enough to Prepare for Future Info Interference By Russia and Other Countries.”
  • Fox News: “Sessions tangles with Durbin over Chicago violence.”
  • Washington Examiner: “Sessions is confident Trump’s travel ban will win in Supreme Court.”
  • Washington Free Beacon: “Franken, Sessions Spar Over Time Restrictions During Russia Hearing: ‘No, No, No.’”

— All politics is local:

Here’s a link to Hohmann’s complete rundown, which contains lots of other news beyond today’s “Gonzo Report:”

https://s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?e=amVubmluZ3MxMkBhb2wuY29t&s=59e886a9fe1ff6159ed350e0

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Gonzo would have been a “perfect fit” in the Nixon Administration which gave birth to the term, “stonewalling!”

Let’s see, Gonzo’s “progressed” from saying under oath that he had no contact whatsoever with any Russians during the campaign, to later “clarifying” that he met with none other than the Russian Ambassador during the campaign (while at least implying that these meetings were in his capacity as a Senator, not a campaign official), to saying that he “may have discussed Trump campaign policy positions in his 2016 conversations with (Ambassador Sergey) Kislyak.” Gosh, that sounds to me like enough to sustain an “adverse credibility finding” in U.S. Immigration Court if said by an immigrant!

But, Gonzo says it’s all the fault of bullies like Sen. Al Franken for springing “trick” questions on him. After all, who would have thought that a major figure in the Trump Campaign (one of his earliest, most vocal, and proudest supporters) would be asked nasty questions about the Russia probe?

Gonzo basically refused to discuss the dark implications of his war on LGBTQ Americans, while allowing as how he might target reporters in the future (this Dude recently made speeches on the First Amendment?) if necessary to stop national security leaks.

And, on DACA, Tal Kopan reports for CNN:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions told senators they have an “opportunity to do something historic” on immigration on Wednesday as he was pressed repeatedly on the administration’s move to terminate a popular protection for young undocumented immigrants.

“We have got to have more than just an amnesty,” Sessions said in his opening remarks. “We need a good improvement in the illegality that’s going on, and there is an opportunity right now, I’m telling you, an opportunity to do something historic.”

Despite multiple follow-ups, Sessions did not diverge much from the remarks, repeatedly telling lawmakers the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was in their hands.

Testifying before the Senate judiciary committee, the longtime immigration hardliner was asked by senators from both parties about the administration’s plans for DACA, which President Donald Trump has opted to end, citing Sessions’ recommendation.

. . . .

Sessions did not lay out details of what the administration may want to do for the Obama-era program, which protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. Sessions has long railed against the program and once again expressed his belief that the executive action was unconstitutional.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, though, who has pursued legislation that would offer DACA-like protections for nearly two decades, pressed Sessions on how he could recommend to Trump that the program is unconstitutional and would be found the same in the courts when the Justice Department still maintains a 2014 Office of Legal Counsel memo on its website that found DACA would be constitutional.

“I believe this is accurate, that the so-called approval of DACA by OLC, Office of Legal Counsel, was based on the caveat or the requirement that any action that’s taken be done on an individual basis,” Sessions said, then appeared to mix up court precedent on the issue.

Sessions said a court had struck down the program because individual decisions were not made, but was seemingly referring to a decision made about an expansion of the program to parents. Courts have not found DACA to be unconstitutional to date. 

Durbin noted that each DACA applicant is evaluated individually. All go through background checks before receiving the two-year permits.

Growing frustrated at Session’s answers, Durbin referenced his former colleague’s past on the other side of the dais. “I believe this is just about the moment that Sen. Sessions would have blown up,” Durbin said. 

Later in the hearing, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, also a lawyer, asked Sessions if he considered any due process or “bait and switch” issues in recommending the program be ended, since DACA recipients willingly gave the Department of Homeland Security their information in exchange for protection when the program was created. Sessions said he didn’t believe it was discussed.

“It’s a valid issue,” Sessions said. “You’re right to raise it.”

But when Hirono pressed Sessions on what might happen to the individuals covered under the program if it ends in six months, Sessions deflected.

“The answer to that is in your hands,” he said. “Congress has the ability to deal with this problem in any number of ways.” He reiterated he did not support “simply an amnesty” without additional anti-illegal immigration measures, but said “if we work together, something can be done on that.”

Here’s the link to Tal’s report:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/18/politics/jeff-sessions-hearing-daca-remarks/index.html

In other words, Sessions continued to assert his conclusory, essentially “law free” position that DACA is unconstitutional. He didn’t even know which case he was wtalking about (and it’s not that he didn’t have any idea that Durbin and others were going to quiz him on DACA). At the same time, he can’t bring himself to acknowledge that the DACA young people have been a great boon to the US and to our economy and that they deserve a path to citizenship. Indeed, if Gonzo had his way and the “Dreamers” were actually removed from the US, it would actually “TANK” our economy by reducing our GNP by nearly one-half trillion dollars! See CNBC, John W. Schoen, “DACA deportations could cost US economy more than $400 billion,” available at this link:

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/05/daca-deportations-could-cost-us-economy-more-than-400-billion.html

And, Gonzo goes on to press his absurd demand that any relief from “Dreamers” be “offset” by  Trump’s “off the wall” immigration restrictionist program. Dreamers are contributing over $400 billion to our GNP, so what’s there to “offset?” We should be happy to have them as permanent members of our society.

No, the real problem here is that the Dreamers and their families (who also are contributing to our society and economy) should have been screened and admitted through our legal immigration system. The solution isn’t to extract a “penalty” from the Dreamers, but rather to expand our legal immigration system so that future Dreamers and their hard-working productive families can be properly screened and legally admitted into the United States in the first place!

That Gonzo, others in the Administration, and the “restrictionist wing” of the GOP keep pushing in exactly the opposite direction is truly reprehensible. The real  “national debate” that we should be having on immigration is how to get Dreamers and other law-abiding undocumented residents on a track to full integration into our society, how many MORE legal immigrants we should admit each year, and how we should select them to achieve the most both for our country’s future and for those vibrant, hard-working, and much-needed future immigrants that we should be attracting! Legal immigration is a good thing, to be valued and welcomed! It’s NOT something to be feared and restricted as Gonzo and his cronies would have us believe! And, by converting most of the flow of “undocumented migrants” into “legal immigrants” we would reduce the need for DHS enforcement directed at the immigrant community. Those resources could be redirected at removing the “real bad guys.”

 

PWS

10-19-17

SURPRISE: Dreamer “Agreement” Coming Apart — Trump’s Position Unclear!

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/10/trump_s_dreamer_deal_is_falling_apart.html

Jim Newell reports for Slate:

“First and foremost,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the committee, said in his opening remarks, “any potential deal on DACA has to include robust border security, and by that, I don’t mean a wall.”

This was the quote that garnered the most coverage and inspired some optimistic tea leaf reading. If congressional Republicans weren’t going to insist on a border wall as part of a deal to protect Dreamers, as per the “deal” Democratic leaders struck with President Trump last month, then a Dreamer-saving compromise would be much more assured.

But the wall isn’t shaping up to be the problem. The problem is what Grassley brought up a few seconds later.

“Second, and equally as important as robust border security,” he said, “we’ve got to make sure any deal includes meaningful interior enforcement.”

This is a development that Dreamers themselves have been concerned about since Democrats announced they would engage with the president to find a replacement for DACA. As the New York Times reported over the weekend, Dreamers fear that their “own long-term safety might be secured only in exchange for an increased threat of deportation for their undocumented parents and friends who do not qualify for such protections under the program.” The latest version of the DREAM Act could secure green cards for 1.5 million people. But if such a deal increases the likelihood of deportation for the vast majority of the nation’s roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants, it’s not exactly a feel-good trade.

The problem with making any handshake agreement with Trump, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer did last month, is that he will most likely change his mind once he finds himself in a roomful of different people with different demands. That meeting took place Monday night, when Trump hosted a dinner with congressional Republicans who expect much more out of a DACA deal. Trump surely wanted to win that room, too.

The agreement Trump made with Schumer and Pelosi—so they thought—would have been to pass the DREAM Act in exchange for non-wall border security measures. You know, drones and lasers and radar gizmos and stuff. But according to Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, an immigration hawk who was at the dinner on Monday night, “the president was very clear” that any deal should only pertain to those Dreamers who “have a DACA permit today,” a significantly lower number than the amount that would be covered under the DREAM Act, and that “it ought to include some kind of enhanced measures, whether it’s on the border or interior enforcement or what have you.” As Georgia Sen. David Perdue, a fellow immigration hawk who’s co-sponsored a bill with Cotton to reduce legal immigration, told me Tuesday, it was clear that any Dreamer deal he’d be willing to support would encompass “enforcement” on both the border and the interior.

Ratcheting up the deportation apparatus to a new level is not what congressional Democrats signed up for when they engaged President Trump in finding a DACA replacement.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy told me Tuesday that an insistence on ramped-up interior enforcement would be “a problem” for his caucus. “I’m not sure that you can get much tougher interior enforcement than you have today,” he said, “as we’re watching pretty arbitrary deportations happen all across our country.” When I asked Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono what would constitute a bridge too far for Democrats, she said any give-and-take needs to be kept “in proportion.” As she pointed out, Republicans are starting to ask for all of the border security and interior enforcement measures included in the failed 2013 comprehensive immigration bill, in exchange for far fewer of that bill’s protections for undocumented immigrants. “I think, as [Illinois Democratic Sen.] Dick Durbin says, that is way too much,” Hirono told me.”

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Read the full article at the link.

Dreamer relief should be a “no-brainer.” But, the GOP appears to be looking for ways to “tank” it, perhaps because Trump had the audacity to speak to the Dems first. Also, the GOP’s restrictionist views are out of line with the majority of Americans and with nearly all credible immigration experts. Yet, the minority restrictionist position is immensely popular with the GOP’s White Nationalist, xenophobic, racist “base.” And today’s GOP is so beholden to that base that they won’t work with the Dems on reasonable immigration proposals.

If anything should be clear at this point it’s that giving DHS more enforcement personnel at present is close to insane. The waste, incompetence, and gratuitous cruelty in the current DHS enforcement operations are astounding. Until existing personnel are used and deployed in a rational, efficient, and honest manner, there is simply no case for more.

Don’t know how this will come out. Perhaps, the parties are just jockeying for position and playing to their respective bases. But, it could turn ugly for both the Dreamers and for America.

PWS

10-04-17

TAL KOPAN FOR CNN: SENATE HEARING WITH ADMINISTRATION ON DACA SOWS CONFUSION! — Only One Thing Clear: Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) Knows That Sessions’s White Nationalist Narrative On Dreamers Is A Lie — And, He’s Anxious To Have A Crack At “Gonzo-Apocalypto” Under Oath!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/03/politics/daca-hearing-lawmakers-frustrated/index.html

Tal reports:

There were other tense exchanges as well, including from the former top Democrat on the committee, Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy, who especially took issue with the Justice Department representative. At the outset of the hearing Chairman Chuck Grassley noted that DOJ had not submitted written testimony for the hearing, and acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler, of the civil division, said he was limited in speaking outside of what was already public because of ongoing lawsuits over the administration’s termination of DACA.

Leahy pressed Readler on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ letter about the rescission of DACA, which suggested lax immigration enforcement was responsible for crime, violence and even terrorism.
“Can you provide this committee with any examples of Dreamers being involved in terror activity? … You don’t have to give me hundreds, just give me one!” Leahy said, raising his voice.
“I’m not aware of any examples,” Readler said.
“Neither is the attorney general when he said that,” Leahy said.
After further back-and-forth about what Sessions meant, Readler noted he would be testifying before this committee himself this month.
“He’s taken longer than any attorney general since I’ve been here, but I’ve only been here 42 years,” Leahy said.

Under questioning from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, who has co-sponsored Durbin’s bill, the DHS officials did say they supported a pathway to citizenship for DACA-eligible individuals in an eventual solution — and said they were largely the type of people the US should want.
“They’re a benefit to the country as are many immigrants coming in,” Dougherty said. “They are a valuable contribution to our society, we need to regularize their status through legislative means.”
He also said DHS did not support the notion of creating a permanent visa status that would never allow people to be naturalized — saying the White House would be of the same mind.
“I think creating second-class citizens or people who are never able to naturalize is not a good model,” Dougherty said, adding “I do” when asked if he thinks the President agrees.”

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Read the rest of Tal’s article at the link.

Pretty obvious why Gonzo would rather spend his time  spreading lies and bogus, alarmist narratives about American young people and immigrant communities rather than facing Sen. Leahy under oath.

Liz was right!

PWS

10-03-17

 

 

Think The Federal Courts Are Going To Save Our Republic From Trump? — Guess Again! — Trump (Or, More Accurately The Heritage Foundation) Is About To Remake Them In His Own Image!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-judicial-nominees-federalist-society_us_59497166e4b04c5e50256f0c?lq

HuffPost reports:

“WASHINGTON ― Most days, it seems like President Donald Trump is sabotaging his own agenda, one tweet at a time. But the White House has been quietly plowing ahead in one area that will affect generations of people: the courts.

Trump is unbelievably well-positioned to fill up federal courts with lifetime judges. He inherited a whopping 108 court vacancies when he became president ― double the number of vacancies President Barack Obama inherited when he took office.

The reason Trump gets to fill so many seats is partly because Obama was slow to fill court vacancies early in his tenure. But the main reason is Republicans’ years-long strategy of denying votes to Obama’s court picks. They refused to recommend judicial nominees, filibustered others, used procedural rules to drag out the confirmation process and, by Obama’s final year, blocked nominees they had recommended just to prevent him from filling more seats.

ALISSA SCHELLER/HUFFPOST

Court vacancies have only increased since Trump took office, as older judges have steadily retired. Trump has already nominated more than three times as many judges as Obama had at this point in his presidency ― 21 compared with six for Obama.

With Republicans in control of the Senate, Trump’s court picks will have a relatively easy time getting confirmed, too. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), has hinted that he may tweak the committee’s rules to make it easier for Republicans to advance some of Trump’s nominees without Democratic support. And once nominees make it to the Senate floor, it takes only 51 votes to advance their nominations and confirm them. There are 52 Republicans, which means they could confirm all of Trump’s district and circuit court nominees without a single Democratic vote.

It used to take 60 votes to advance district and circuit court nominees, but Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rule in 2013 in order to get around a Republican blockade on Obama’s court picks. Now Trump benefits from that change.

It is, in effect, the perfect combination of factors for conservatives eager to tilt the nation’s courts to the right. Trump has piles of seats to fill, a list of nominees recommended to the White House by outside conservative groups, and a Republican Senate eager to confirm them.

“It is a huge opportunity,” said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who specializes in judicial nominations. “The question is how quickly they will move in the future. A lot of what they’ve done so far is low-hanging fruit and pretty easy to do.”

ALISSA SCHELLER/HUFFPOST

A good chunk of Trump’s judicial nominees so far have come through recommendations from The Federalist Society, a right-wing legal organization. Its executive vice president, Leonard Leo, was instrumental in helping the White House put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. He recommended Gorsuch to Trump last fall and took a temporary leave from his job earlier this year to help prepare Gorsuch for his Senate confirmation hearing.

Leo also gave Trump a list of names of potential judicial picks that conservatives would like to see on the federal bench. Trump has already nominated several of them.

One of them is John Bush, a Kentucky lawyer who runs a local chapter of The Federalist Society. Trump nominated Bush, 52, last month to a lifetime post on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Progressive groups are vowing to fight his confirmation given some of his past remarks, which include comparing abortion to slavery and referring to them as “the two greatest tragedies in our country.” Bush has also said he strongly disagrees with same-sex marriage, mocked climate change and proclaimed “the witch is dead” when he thought the Affordable Care Act might not be enacted.

Damien Schiff, also a member of The Federalist Society, is Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The 37-year-old attorney at the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation would serve a 15-year term if confirmed. He came under fire for calling Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy “a judicial prostitute” on a blog several years ago. He has also criticized efforts to prevent bullying of LGBTQ students, referring to messages of equality as “teaching ‘gayness’ in schools,” and has argued that states should be allowed to criminalize “consensual sodomy.”

Both of those nominees had their Senate confirmation hearings last week. They’re now waiting for the Judiciary Committee to reconvene and vote out their nominations.

It’s not unusual for a president to consult with outside groups for potential judicial nominees. What’s different, says Tobias, is how heavily Trump seems to be relying on this particular group versus working directly with senators for judicial recommendations from their states, which is the standard path.

“I think Leonard Leo is just feeding him those people,” he said. “There are real questions about that, whether that’s good for the courts and gets us the finest nominees.”

*****************************************************

Read the entire article at the above link.

Remember, folks, these are lifetime appointments, so although, one way or another, Trump will eventually be gone, his judges will be around for decades. And, because Democrats can’t win Senate elections, they have lost their power to exert any influence whatsoever over Trump’s choices.

PWS

06-22-17

 

H-1B NONIMMIGRANTS: A Needed Visa In Need Of Reform — It’s Essential For Our Economy, But It’s Wrong When US Workers Are Displaced & Degraded — A Plea For Reform By One Who Has Benefitted From The System But Sees The Abuses!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/04/us/understanding-the-h-1b-visa/index.html

Moni Bassu writes in CNN:

“Palmer and other H-1B reformers want accountability.
They say US companies must be required to document their searches to fill positions with American workers. Employers must pay prevailing wages and be prevented from subcontracting or outsourcing H-1B jobs.
Reform advocates are pushing for a system of government enforcement and oversight of the H-1B regulations, not one that is reliant on whistleblowers to expose abuse.
Technology is here to stay. And it is changing at warp speed. The demand for smart talent is not going away. That’s why even the biggest critics of H-1B are the most ardent backers of reform, not elimination.
What I hear them saying is the system ought to work the way it used to, when my father obtained an H-1 visa. He was hired for a job he was uniquely qualified for, and he was compensated with a decent wage.
No one wants to see Americans lose their jobs unfairly, and if my father were still alive, I know he’d be troubled by what I learned about the current H-1B program.
I also know he would be heartened to see that some of the most ardent backers of visa reform are Indian Americans. After all, we are the ones who have most reaped the rewards of H-1B.”
**********************************************
The full article, which gives actual examples of both the benefits and the abuses of the H-1B program is a “must read.” Get it at the link.
Several thoughts. I was very critical, and still am, of House Immigration Subcommittee GOP Members for starting off with controversial, “in your face,” and unneeded enforcement-only bills. See http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Qw
Why not instead start with something bipartisan that would be good for America, like H-1B reform. Chairman Grassley in the Senate has expressed strong interest in reforming the H-1B category to eliminate abuses. And, it appears that most major U.S. employers who use H-1Bs also see the need for reform to preserve and improve the program.
Additionally, things like investment visa “EB-5” reform also appear likely to attract support from both sides of the aisle in both houses.
A second thought, why don’t U.S. companies, particularly those started or run by immigrants, which use H-1Bs start the reforms now. “Reverse” the process. Use highly talented H-1B workers to train U.S. workers, particularly in places where the economic rebound has not yet reached, for whatever reason.
For example, in a recent blog dealt with the situation in the small city of Gillette, WY. http://wp.me/p8eeJm-UY  The folks seemed nice, optimistic, and interested in a brighter future for their community. But, with or without Trump and his environment-busting policies, coal mining as a way of life is on the way out. I can’t imagine that too many of the younger generation are hanging around places like Gillette.
Why not go in and establish some tech centers using H-1Bs as trainers. Sure, working on a computer in an office isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. But, it is something that can be done from anywhere.
And, the costs of doing business, at least initially, are likely to be less in a place like Gillette. Increased economic activity brings with it other needs: buildings, houses, markets, auto dealers, repair shops, HVAC technicians, public servants, schools, teachers, etc. So, there could be something for everyone, even those who don’t want to work at a desk all day.
Maybe, it’s time for those who want immigration reform to stop talking and whining and start doing. Things that demonstrably work and help folks out build their own bases of support. That’s better than trying to convince folks with statistics and pie charts!
PWS
06-05-17

USCIS Nominee Apparently Has Strong Anti-Immigrant Views!

https://psmag.com/news/trumps-uscis-pick-harsh-on-undocument-immigrants

Pacific Standard reports:

“Lee Francis Cissna, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the federal agency that handles applications for visas, refugee status, and citizenship, has put little on the public record in his 20 years as a lawyer, government employee, diplomat, and Capitol Hill aide.

But it turns out he has left many clues about how he could reverse Obama-era policies if he becomes director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a non-enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

On Wednesday, May 24th, Cissna, 50, who has worked on immigration policy at Homeland Security for much of his career, is scheduled to appear at a confirmation hearing chaired by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley. From 2015 until earlier this year, Cissna worked for Grassley on immigration issues, having been detailed to his staff by Homeland Security. During that time, he remained on the agency’s payroll.

While there, he drafted dozens of letters under the senator’s name to Homeland Security officials, helping Grassley, an Iowa Republican, to intensify his oversight of immigration and creating a blueprint for dismantling President Barack Obama’s initiatives, according to a dozen current and former agency and congressional staff members.

ProPublica reviewed more than 60 of the letters sent by Grassley during the time Cissna worked in his office. Among the policies they criticized were:

An emergency program for Central American children to reunite with parents in the U.S. The system “unquestionably circumvents the refugee program established by Congress,” according to a November of 2015 letter.
The system for granting asylum to people claiming persecution in their home countries. A November of 2016 letter claimed thousands of immigrants were “amassing” in Mexican border cities with the intention of “asserting dubious claims of asylum, which will practically guarantee their entry.”
Giving so-called “Dreamers”—undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children—the chance to obtain travel documents on top of work permits. This program would “open the door to undocumented immigrants to gain U.S. citizenship,” a March of 2016 letter said.
A program allowing undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime to stay in the U.S. even if there are no visa slots available. A December of 2016 letter said the policy is “being exploited by those wishing to defraud the system and avoid deportation.”

*************************************************

Dude seems to oppose many of the best things that USCIS has done to improve the immigration situation. Also appears that like Senator Grassley he has a habit of repeating largely “fact free” restrictionist, white nationalist dogma. Grassley is right on a few things (allowing cameras in court is one of them) but none of the items mentioned in this article.

PWS

05-25-17

REUTERS: Has Trump Won The Border War Without Firing A Shot? — Is Discouraging Women & Children Threatened In The Northern Triangle From Seeking Refuge In The U.S. Something Of Which We Should be Proud?

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-mothers-insight-idUSKBN17F23M?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=Social

Julia Edwards Ainsley reports:

“President Donald Trump has won the first major battle in his war on illegal immigration, and he did it without building his wall.

The victory was announced last week by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which released figures showing a 93 percent drop since December of parents and children caught trying to cross the Mexico border illegally.

In December, 16,000 parents and children were apprehended; in March, a month in which immigration typically increases because of temperate weather, the number was just over 1,100.

It was a remarkable decline – steeper than the 72 percent drop in overall apprehensions – but for eight DHS officials interviewed by Reuters it was not surprising.

Trump has spoken about the need to crack down broadly on all illegal immigrants. But, internally, according to the DHS officials familiar with the department’s strategy, his administration has focused on one immigrant group more than others: women with children, the fastest growing demographic of illegal immigrants. This planning has not been previously reported.

In the months since Trump’s inauguration, DHS has rolled out a range of policies aimed at discouraging women from attempting to cross the border, including tougher initial hurdles for asylum claims and the threat of prosecuting parents if they hire smugglers to get their families across the border.

The department has also floated proposals such as separating women and children at the border.

DHS Secretary John Kelly told a Senate hearing on April 5 that the sharp drop in illegal immigration, especially among women and children, was due to Trump’s tough policies.

To date, it has been the threat of new policies rather than their implementation that has suppressed family migration.

Mothers and children aren’t being separated – and DHS has shelved the plan; parents haven’t been prosecuted, and there is no wall along most of the border. Yet the number of migrants trying to cross – especially women and children – has dropped drastically.

Asked to comment on the policy of targeting women with children, DHS spokesman Jonathan Hoffman referenced the March drop, saying, “Those were 15,000 women and children who did not put themselves at risk of death and assault from smugglers to make the trip north.”

The White House declined to comment and referred Reuters to DHS.

For months, Central Americans had heard about Trump’s get-tough policies. And public service announcements on radio and television presented bleak pictures of what awaited those who traveled north. Some of the ads were funded by the United States, others by United Nations agencies and regional governments.

One radio ad in Honduras featured a mother, saying, “It’s been a year and I don’t know if she is alive or dead. I’d do anything to have her here with me. Curse the day I sent her north.”

The possibility that mothers and children might be separated at the border caused particular alarm, Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister Maria Andrea Matamoros told Reuters

“That worries any mother that wants to go to the United States with their kid, and being separated drastically changes their plans,” she said.

. . . .

After Kelly’s confirmation as Homeland Security chief in late January, several members of the original working group stepped into key roles at DHS. Gene Hamilton, who had worked for then Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, became senior counselor to Kelly, and Dimple Shah, who had been staff director of the House National Security Subcommittee, became deputy general counsel.

Kathy Nuebel-Kovarik, formerly a staffer for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, became policy chief at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Julie Kirchner left her position as executive director of the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform to become a top policy adviser at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

None of the group’s members agreed to be interviewed by Reuters. Several DHS officials said that in their new roles they continued to focus on the issue of women and child migrants. Soon, they had the bare bones of a plan: Since the court ruling on children was an obstacle to prolonged detention, why not separate them from their mothers, sending children into foster care or protective federal custody while their mothers remained in detention centers, the two DHS officials and congressional aide said.

The group also advocated two other policies directly affecting mothers and children: raising the bar for asylum and prosecuting parents as human traffickers if they hired human smugglers.

The thinking was that “if they can just implement tough policies for eight weeks – or even threaten to do that – they would see the numbers of families crossing just plummet,” said one DHS official familiar with the planning.

. . . .

When Kelly and his advisers saw the numbers dropping, they announced they were shelving the idea of separating women and children – at least for now.

Asked whether it may be revived, DHS spokeswoman Jenny Burke said, “Families caught crossing the border illegally, generally will not be separated unless the situation at the time requires it.”

*********************************************

Time will tell if this really solves the “Southern Border Problem.” It would be interesting to see a study of the fate of the individuals who stayed in the Northern Triangle after hearing the “stay home, we don’t want you” message.

This “gang of eight” working group sounds like they have the “right stuff” to go far in the Trump-Sessions regime. And, their solution was probably cheaper than the “high seas interdiction” program developed and used by prior Administrations to prevent asylum seekers from reaching the United States and asserting their legal rights under U.S. and international law.

I wake up every morning thankful that 1) I woke up, and 2) I’m not a refugee. Wonder if any of the “gang of eight” have ever thought of what it would be like to be a refugee in the world they are creating? But, I suppose that at a certain level of intellectual arrogance, folks don’t think that they will ever have to rely on the the humanity and decency of others to survive. The bad news: that’s not always a correct assumption, and sometimes folks reap what they sow.

PWS

04-13-17

 

 

THE HILL: N. Rappaport Says Time For Congress To Pull The Plug On Troubled EB-5 Investor Program

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/immigration/328386-congress-pull-fraud-laden-visa-program-for-mostly-chinese

Nolan concludes:

“So, should the EB-5 program be terminated?

Yes, Congress has had more than 25 years to fix the EB-5 program. There is not going to be a legislative “fix.” The only viable alternative is to terminate it and start over.

I have a few suggestions for the new investment program. It should:

  • Raise the investment amounts;
  • Establish more detailed statutory requirements for regional centers;
  • Require Chinese investors to establish that they have permission from the Chinese government to remove enough money from China to meet the investment requirement;
  • Provide for input from the states on designating Targeted Employment Areas but have the designations made by the federal government;
  • Establish guidelines for making the “Targeted Employment Area” designations which eliminate the current gerrymandering process and ensure that the investment money goes where it is supposed to go; and
  • Include measures to eliminate fraud from the program.

Some lawmakers have given up already. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced bills to terminate the EB-5 program. These members have the right idea. It is time to put an end to a failing, faulty program and implement immigration policies that actually yield the intended result.”

*************************************

Go on over to The Hill at the above link to read Nolan’s complete analysis.

PWS

04/12/17

 

“This Is The Trump Era” — Jeff Sessions Visits S. Border — Announces New Emphasis On Immigration Crimes — Although Majority of Feds’ Prosecutions Already Immigraton-Related, Enough Is Never Enough! — “Incarceration Nation” Coming! Sessions Also Seeks 125 New U.S. Immigration Judges Over Next 2 Years — Sessions “Disses” Forensic Science At DOJ!

https://www.wsj.com/articles/sessions-lays-out-tough-policy-on-undocumented-who-commit-crimes-1491930183

Aruna Viswanatha reports in the WSJ:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to pursue harsher charges against undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, or repeatedly cross into the U.S. illegally, and promised to add 125 immigration judges in the next two years to address a backlog of immigration cases.

The moves are part of the administration’s efforts to deter illegal immigration and is meant to target gangs and smugglers, though non-violent migrants could also face more severe prosecutions.

In a memo issued Tuesday, Mr. Sessions instructed prosecutors to make a series of immigration offenses “higher priorities,” including transporting or harboring illegal immigrants, illegally entering or reentering the country, or assaulting immigration enforcement agents.

In remarks to border patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona on Tuesday, Mr. Sessions spoke in stark terms about the threat he said illegal immigration poses.

“We mean criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent citizens,” Mr. Sessions said, according to the text of his prepared remarks. “It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.”

“This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Mr. Sessions said.

Former prosecutors said they didn’t expect the memo to dramatically impact U.S. attorneys offices along the southern border, which already bring thousands of such cases each year. They said it could impact those further inland, which haven’t historically focused on immigration violations.

In the fiscal year that ended in September 2016, 52% of all federal criminal prosecutions involved immigration-related offenses, according to Justice Department data analyzed by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

. . . .

Immigration advocates said they worried that the memo and tone set by the administration was describing a closer link between criminal behavior and immigration than statistics show.

“We are seeing an over-emphasis on prosecuting, at the federal level, immigration, illegal entry and reentry cases, and far less paid to criminal violations that implicate public safety,” said Gregory Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.”

***********************************

On April 8, 2017, Sari Horowitz reported in the Washington Post on how Sessions’s enthusiastic plans to reinstitute the largely discredited “war on drugs” is likely to “jack up” Federal Prison populations:

“Crime is near historic lows in the United States, but Sessions says that the spike in homicides in several cities, including Chicago, is a harbinger of a “dangerous new trend” in America that requires a tough response.
“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad,” Sessions said to law enforcement officials in a speech in Richmond last month. “It will destroy your life.”

Advocates of criminal justice reform argue that Sessions and Cook are going in the wrong direction — back to a strategy that tore apart families and sent low-level drug offenders, disproportionately minority citizens, to prison for long sentences.

“They are throwing decades of improved techniques and technologies out the window in favor of a failed approach,” said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).”

. . . .

Cook and Sessions have also fought the winds of change on Capitol Hill, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers recently tried but failed to pass the first significant bill on criminal justice reform in decades.

The legislation, which had 37 sponsors in the Senate, including Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and 79 members of the House, would have reduced some of the long mandatory minimum sentences for gun and drug crimes. It also would have given judges more flexibility in drug sentencing and made retroactive the law that reduced the large disparity between sentencing for crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

The bill, introduced in 2015, had support from outside groups as diverse as the Koch brothers and the NAACP. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) supported it, as well.

But then people such as Sessions and Cook spoke up. The longtime Republican senator from Alabama became a leading opponent, citing the spike in crime in several cities.

“Violent crime and murders have increased across the country at almost alarming rates in some areas. Drug use and overdoses are occurring and dramatically increasing,” said Sessions, one of five members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted against the legislation. “It is against this backdrop that we are considering a bill . . . to cut prison sentences for drug traffickers and even other violent criminals, including those currently in federal prison.”
Cook testified that it was the “wrong time to weaken the last tools available to federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents.”

After GOP lawmakers became nervous about passing legislation that might seem soft on crime, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“Sessions was the main reason that bill didn’t pass,” said Inimai M. Chettiar, the director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “He came in at the last minute and really torpedoed the bipartisan effort.”

Now that he is attorney general, Sessions has signaled a new direction. As his first step, Sessions told his prosecutors in a memo last month to begin using “every tool we have” — language that evoked the strategy from the drug war of loading up charges to lengthen sentences.

And he quickly appointed Cook to be a senior official on the attorney general’s task force on crime reduction and public safety, which was created following a Trump executive order to address what the president has called “American carnage.”

“If there was a flickering candle of hope that remained for sentencing reform, Cook’s appointment was a fire hose,” said Ring, of FAMM. “There simply aren’t enough backhoes to build all the prisons it would take to realize Steve Cook’s vision for America.”

. . . .

Sessions’s aides stress that the attorney general does not want to completely upend every aspect of criminal justice policy.

“We are not just sweeping away everything that has come before us.” said Robyn Thiemann, the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy, who is working with Cook and has been at the Justice Department for nearly 20 years. “The attorney general recognizes that there is good work out there.”

Still, Sessions’s remarks on the road reveal his continued fascination with an earlier era of crime fighting.

In the speech in Richmond, he said, “Psychologically, politically, morally, we need to say — as Nancy Reagan said — ‘Just say no.’ ”

************************************

Not surprisingly, Sessions’s actions prompted a spate of critical commentary, the theme of which was the failure of the past “war on drugs” and “Just say no to Jeff Sessions.” You can search them on the internet, but here is a representative example, an excerpt from a posting by Rebecca Bergenstein Joseph in “Health Care Musings:”

“We Can’t Just Say No
Posted on April 9, 2017 by Rebecca Bergenstein Joseph
Three decades ago, Nancy Reagan launched her famous anti-drug campaign when she told American citizens, “Say yes to your life. And when it comes to alcohol and drugs, just say no.” 1 Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions invoked the former First Lady’s legacy in a speech to Virginia law enforcement when he said, “ I think we have too much tolerance for drug use– psychologically, politically, morally. We need to say, as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just say no.’”2 As our nation is confronted on a daily basis with the tragic effects of the opioid epidemic, it is important that we understand just how dangerous it is to suggest that we return to the ‘just say no’ approach.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the ‘just say no’ curriculum became the dominant drug education program nationwide in the form of DARE.3 The DARE program– Drug Abuse Resistance Education– was developed in 1983 by the Los Angeles police chief in collaboration with a physician, Dr. Ruth Rich. The pair adapted a drug education curriculum that was in the development process at University of Southern California in order to create a program that would be taught by police officers and would teach students to resist the peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs. With the backdrop of the War on Drugs that had continued from the Nixon presidency into the Reagan era, DARE grew quickly. Communities understandably wanted to prevent their children from using alcohol and drugs. The program was soon being used in 75% of schools nationwide and had a multimillion dollar budget.3 In fact, I would bet that many of you reading this are DARE graduates. I certainly am.

It did not take long for there to be research showing that the ‘just say no’ approach used in DARE was not working. By the early 1990s there were multiple studies showing that DARE had no effect on its graduates choices regarding alcohol and drug use.4 The decision to ignore the research about DARE culminated when the National Institute of Justice evaluated the program in 1994, concluded that it was ineffective, and proceeded to not publish this finding. In the 10 years that followed, DARE was subjected to evaluation by the Department of Education, the U.S Surgeon General’s Office, and the Government Accountability Office.4 The combined effect of these evaluations was the eventual transformation of DARE into an evidence-based curriculum, Keepin’ It REAL, which was released in 2011.5 But this only happened after billions of dollars were spent on a program that did not work and millions of students received inadequate drug education.

And yet, here we are again. The top law enforcement officer in our nation is suggesting that we go back to the days where elementary and middle school students were told that all they needed to do was ‘just say no.’”

Read the complete post here:

https://sites.tufts.edu/cmph357/author/rjosep06/

***********************************

Finally, just yesterday, on April 10, 2017, Spenser S. Hsu reported in the Washington Post that Sessions was “canning” the “National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013” as a consultant to the DOJ on proper forensic standards.

In plain terms, in Session’s haste to rack up more criminal convictions and appear “tough on crime,” the quality of the evidence or the actual guilt or innocence of those charged becomes merely “collateral damage” in the “war on crime.”

Here’s a portion of what Hsu had to say:

“Several commission members who have worked in criminal courts and supported the input of independent scientists said the department risks retreating into insularity and repeating past mistakes, saying that no matter how well-intentioned, prosecutors lack scientists’ objectivity and training.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of New York, the only federal judge on the commission, said, “It is unrealistic to expect that truly objective, scientifically sound standards for the use of forensic science . . . can be arrived at by entities centered solely within the Department of Justice.”

In suspending reviews of past testimony and the development of standards for future reporting, “the department has literally decided to suspend the search for the truth,” said Peter S. Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, which has reported that nearly half of 349 DNA exonerations involved misapplications of forensic science. “As a consequence innocent people will languish in prison or, God forbid, could be executed,” he said.

However, the National District Attorneys Association, which represents prosecutors, applauded the end of the commission and called for it to be replaced by an Office of Forensic Science inside the Justice Department. Disagreements between crime lab practitioners and defense community representatives on the commission had reduced it to “a think tank,” yielding few accomplishments and wasted tax dollars, the association said.

The commission was created after critical reports by the National Academy of Sciences about a dearth of standards and funding for crime labs, examiners and researchers, problems it partly traced to law enforcement control over the system.

Although examiners had long claimed to be able to match pattern evidence — such as with firearms or bite marks — to a source with “absolute” or “scientific” certainty, only DNA analysis had been validated through statistical research, scientists reported.

In one case, the FBI lab in 2005 abandoned its four-decade-long practice of tracing bullets to a specific manufacturer’s batch through chemical analyses after its method were scientifically debunked. In 2015, the department and bureau reported that nearly every examiner in an elite hair-analysis unit gave scientifically flawed or overstated testimony in 90 percent of cases for two decades before 2000.

The cases include 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison.”

Here is a link to the full article by Hsu: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/sessions-orders-justice-dept-to-end-forensic-science-commission-suspend-review-policy/2017/04/10/2dada0ca-1c96-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html?utm_term=.97b814db4eac&wpisrc=nl_buzz&wpmm=1

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I “get” that some of the advocacy groups quoted in these articles could be considered “interested parties” and/or “soft on crime” in the world of hard-core prosecutors. But, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and the Koch brothers “soft on crime?” Come on, man!

Capitalist theory says that as long as there is a nearly insatiable “market” in the United States for illegal drugs, and a nearly inexhaustible “supply” abroad, there is going to be drug-related crime. Harsher sentences might increase risks and therefore “jack up market prices” for “consumers” of “product,” while creating “new job opportunities” for “middlemen” who will have to take (and be compensated for) more risks and invest in more expensive business practices (such as bribery, or manipulation of the legal system) to get the product “to market.”

But, you can bet that until we deal with the “end causes” in a constructive manner, neither drug trafficking nor trafficking in undocumented individuals is likely to change much in the long run.

Indeed, authorities have been cutting off heads, hands, feet, and other appendages, drawing and quartering, hanging, crucifying, shooting, gassing, injecting, racking, mutilating, imprisoning in dungeons, transporting, banishing, and working to death those who have committed crimes, both serious and not so serious, for centuries. But, strangely, such harsh practices, while certainly diminishing the humanity of those who inflict them, have had little historical effect on crime. The most obvious effects have been more dead and damaged individuals, overcrowded prisons, and angry disaffected families.

125 new U.S. Immigration Judges should be good news for the beleaguered U.S. Immigration Courts. But, even assuming that Congress goes along, at the glacial pace the DOJ and EOIR have been hiring Immigration Judges over the past two Administrations, it could take all four years of Trump’s current term to get them on board and actually deciding cases.

More bad news: Added to the approximately 375 Immigration Judges currently authorized (but, only about 319 actually on the bench), that would bring the total to 500 Immigration Judges. Working at the current 750 completions/year (50% above the “optimum” of 500 completions/year) the currently authorized 375 Immigration Judges could complete fewer than 300,000 cases/year consistent with due process — barely enough to keep up with historic receipts, let alone the “enhanced enforcement” promised by the Trump Administration. They would not have to capacity to address the current “backlog” of approximately 550,000 cases.

If receipts remained “flat,” the 125 “new” Immigration Judges contemplated by AG Sessions could go to work on on the backlog. But, it would take them about 6 years to wipe out the 550,000 case existing backlog.

PWS

04/11/17

 

 

 

Senator Grassley Asks About BIA Review At Sessions’s Confirmation Hearing

http://immigrationimpact.com/2017/01/12/jeff-sessions-affirms-anti-immigrant-views-confirmation-hearing/

Joshua Briesblatt over at Immigration Impact gives us this interesting nugget from the Sessions Confirmation hearing:

“Lastly, Senator Grassley asked Senator Sessions if he would review all the decisions coming out of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The Attorney General has the authority to unilaterally revoke decisions of the BIA. Much of current asylum law is based on decisions by the BIA including those that determine what groups must receive protection from persecution in their home. As Attorney General, he would have the authority to make asylum vastly more difficult for those around the world who flee to the United States to avoid violence. Senator Sessions said that he “does appear” to have that authority and that he has “not thoroughly studied” the issue.”

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Interesting.  Was Chairman Grassley (R-IA) actually trying to suggest that this is something Senator Sessions should undertake as AG?  Actually, I think that if and when he gets around to studying it, AG Sessions will find that he does, in fact, have authority to review any BIA decision. But, if he reviewed all of them — that would be about 35,000 per year — I don’t think he’d have much time left over for anything else, including sleeping and eating.  Most AG’S review, at most, one or two BIA decisions per year.

Still, it indicates a fundamental due process problem with having the Immigration Courts and the BIA lodged in the Department of Justice.  As the chief law enforcement officer and litigator for the U.S., the Attorney General has no business reviewing any BIA decision — it’s a colossal conflict of interest, even by today’s evolving ethics standards.  That’s why the Immigration Court System must, at some point, become truly independent which means removing it from the DOJ and establishing it as some type of independent entity — an independent agency or and Article I or Article III Court.  Until then, true due process in the Immigration Courts may be elusive.

Notably, notwithstanding lots of recent publicity about the exploding docket and the problems crippling the nation’s Immigration Courts, neither Chairman Grassley nor Senator Sessions seemed to be particularly “up” on the issue or to have much idea of the reality of life in the Immigration Courts.  That’s not very encouraging.

PWS

01/13/17