SLATE: “Jeff Sessions Spews Nativist Lies While Explaining Why Trump Is Killing DACA!”

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/09/05/sessions_daca_speech_was_full_of_nativist_lies.html

Mark Joseph Stern writes:

“Many Republicans have made clear in recent weeks that they favor the basic policy DACA enshrined, and merely oppose its executive implementation. Sessions, who helped persuade Trump to kill the program, is not one of those Republicans. In his remarks, he directly denounced the very idea of granting any kind of amnesty to undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children through no fault of their own. At the heart of his speech were two lies, straight from Breitbart, explaining why DACA must end:

The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.

Let’s examine these falsehoods in turn.

First: Sessions claimed that DACA “contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border.” This allegation, often touted by far-right xenophobes, is false. A study published in International Migration, a peer-reviewed academic journal, found that the surge in unaccompanied minors actually began in 2008. (DACA was announced in 2012.) The authors pointed to a host of factors contributing to this phenomenon, including escalating gang violence in Central America, as well as drug cartels’ willingness to target and recruit children in Mexico. But the study found that DACA was not one of these factors. Its authors concluded that “the claim that DACA is responsible for the increase in the flow of unaccompanied alien children is not supported by the data.”

Even without the study, it should be obvious that DACA played no role in this surge of unaccompanied minors because the theory itself makes no sense. Undocumented children who arrived in the United States following DACA’s implementation would not qualify for the program. Only those individuals who “have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007” and “were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012” could receive DACA status. Why would parents send their children to the U.S. to participate in a program in which they are not legally permitted to participate?

Second: Sessions alleged that DACA has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” This line is obviously drawn from the false narrative that immigrants steal jobs from American citizens. There is no actual evidence that DACA recipients have taken jobs from any Americans, let alone “hundreds of thousands.” There is, however, strong evidence that killing DACA will significantly damage the economy—a fact that Sessions conveniently omitted from his speech.

Once DACA is fully rescinded, its former recipients will lose their work permits (and thus their jobs) and face possible deportation. According to the left-leaning Center for American Progress, about 30,000 people will lose their jobs each month as their DACA status expires. The loss of these workers could reduce the national GDP by $280 billion to $433 billion over the next decade. According to estimates by the libertarian Cato Institute, DACA’s demise will cost employers $2 billion and the federal government $60 billion. Trump’s decision to end DACA isn’t a job-saver; it’s a job-killer.

Toward the end of his speech, Sessions praised the RAISE Act, a Republican-backed bill that would tightly curtail immigration into the U.S. Sessions claimed the act would “produce enormous benefits for our country.” In reality, the measure marks an effort to return America to an older immigration regime that locked out racial and ethnic minorities. Sessions has praised the 1924 law that created this regime—a law whose chief author declared that his act was meant to end “indiscriminate acceptance of all races.” On Tuesday, Sessions revived this principle in slightly more polite language.

The attorney general’s utterly gratuitous defamation of young Latino immigrants tells you everything you need to know about the decision to kill DACA. Before Tuesday, the Trump administration seemed eager to frame its DACA decision as respect for constitutional separation of powers: Congress, it insisted, not the president, must set immigration policy. But after Sessions’ speech, it is difficult to view this move as anything other than an attempt to implement the white nationalism that Trump and Sessions campaigned on.”

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Read the full report at the link.

It shouldn’t be news by now that “Gonzo Apocalypto” is a lifelong racist and White Nationalist totally unfit to serve as Attorney General. That’s what Liz Warren and others said during the confirmation process when Sessions’s GOP “fellow travelers” were so eager to brush over his un-American record and his anti-American views.

Latinos, Asians, Blacks, Jews and other American minorities need to unite with those of us who don’t want a return to the “Jim Crow” American South of the earlier 20th Century (which spawned the likes of Sessions and where the white GOP population is still racially and culturally tone deaf) behind some good candidates, get out the vote, and throw the White Nationalists and their GOP enablers and apologists (guys like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and most of the rest of the today’s GOP legislators who take responsibility for nothing while encouraging the Trump Administration’s outrageous conduct by refusing to join with Congressional Democrats to “just say no'”) out of office at the ballot box.  Otherwise, there won’t be an America in the future. We’ve got to stop letting “the “30%” who either never knew or have forgotten what it means to be a real American run roughshod over our country and particularly our kids. It’s going to be a long four years. Feels like it already.

PWS

09-05-17

BREAKING: “GONZO APOCALYPTO” IS POLITICAL POINT MAN FOR ENDING DACA — TRUMP HIDES DURING ANNOUNCEMENT — AG Doesn’t Know Enough Law To Defend African American Voters Or American Kids — Other AGs Able To Do Both — Time For A “Competency Check?”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/09/05/trump-administration-announces-end-of-immigration-protection-program-for-dreamers/?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_daca-1110a-duplicate%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.7cbb30e0641e

David Nakamura reports for the Washington Post:

“In announcing the decision at the Justice Department, Attorney General Sessions said that former president Barack Obama, who started the program in 2012 through executive action, “sought to achieve specifically what the legislative branch refused to do.”

He called it an “open-ended circumvention of immigration law through unconstitutional authority by the executive branch,” and said the program was unlikely to withstand court scrutiny.

 

The Department of Homeland Security said it would no longer accept new applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has provided renewable, two-year work permits to nearly 800,000 dreamers. The agency said those currently enrolled in DACA will be able to continue working until their permits expire; those whose permits expire by March 5, 2018, will be permitted to apply for two-year renewals as long as they do so by Oct. 5.

New applications and renewal requests already received by DHS before Tuesday will be reviewed and validated on a case-by-case basis, even those for permits that expire after March 5, officials said.

Trump administration officials cast the decision as a humane way to unwind the program and called on lawmakers to provide a legislative solution to address the immigration status of the dreamers. Senior DHS officials emphasized that if Congress fails to act and work permits begin to expire, dreamers will not be high priorities for deportations — but they would be issued notices to appear at immigration court if they are encountered by federal immigration officers.

. . . .

Sessions wrote a memo Monday calling DACA unconstitutional, leading acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke to issue a memo Tuesday to phase out the program. The decision came on the day set by Texas and several other states to pursue a lawsuit against the Trump administration if it did not terminate DACA.

It is unclear whether the states will still move forward with legal action.

“As a result of recent litigation,” Duke said in a statement, “we were faced with two options: wind the program down in an orderly fashion that protects beneficiaries in the near-term while working with Congress to pass legislation; or allow the judiciary to potentially shut the program down completely and immediately. We chose the least disruptive option.”

. . . .

The fight now could shift to Congress to act on a bill to grant permanent legal status to the dreamers. A bill called the Dream Act that would have offered them a path to citizenship failed in the Senate in 2010. Several new proposals have been put forward, including the Bridge Act, a bipartisan bill with 25 co-sponsors that would allow extend DACA protections for three years to give Congress time to enact permanent legislation.

But the White House and conservative Republicans could hold out for additional provisions to boost border security, such as funding for Trump’s proposed border wall or new measures to restrict legal immigration.

If DACA is shuttered next year, more than 1,000 immigrants stand to lose their work permits each day once the program is rescinded, according to a recent study by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. Business leaders from major companies, including Apple, Facebook and Google, had lobbied the White House not to terminate the program, citing the economic consequences.”

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Gee, advance concern that a Federal Court might shut down a program is a new one for Gonzo and the Trumpsters. Didn’t seem to inhibit him from arguing some pretty off the wall positions in defense of the Travel Ban, Sanctuary Cities, or why the Voting Rights Act doesn’t protect voting rights.

And we all know how statements like “they aren’t an enforcement priority” work out in practice. The majority of this Administration’s removals are folks who aren’t “priorities.”

And, notably, neither Kelly nor Duke at DHS had the courage and backbone to rein in arbitrary, wasteful enforcement by immigration agents. So, in the end, it makes no difference what the DHS “fake priorities” are; the line agents will bust anybody the feel like busting — because they can. And, after all, busting law abiding members of the community, often when they show up at DHS to check in or seek relief, is easier than tracking down real criminals. Makes the numbers look good, particularly when you obscure the fact that behind each number is a human face that belongs to a real person. Mostly ordinary people, just like the rest of us.

Also, sticking them on the already overwhelmed Immigration Court dockets without some realistic court reform aimed at restoring due process and wise use of “prosecutorial discretion” to keep cases exactly like the Dreamers off the court dockets? It’s “gonzo!” Big time!

There was a time when the Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice stood up for justice for all Americans, including the most vulnerable. But, that was then, this is now. Liz was “right on.”

PWS

09-05-17

CNN: TAL KOPAN’S CONGRESSIONAL FORECAST FOR DACA — STORMY — No Quick & Easy Path To Compromise On The Horizon — Will Parties Precipitate National Disaster To Please Respective Bases?

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/04/politics/daca-congress-trump-decision/index.html

Tal writes:

“Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump’s expected decision to end DACA, but leave some time to save it, punts the popular program that protects young undocumented immigrants to Congress — but passage of a legislative solution remains a steep uphill climb.

Trump is expected to announce Tuesday that he will end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but will offer a six-month delay to give Congress time to come up with a fix, according to sources familiar. Those sources have cautioned that this was the President’s thinking as of Sunday night and could shift ahead of his scheduled Tuesday announcement.
Such a plan would put the issue on Congress’ shoulders amid a busy fall, squeezing Republican and Democratic leadership to decide what their bases could swallow to find a compromise that would keep the nearly 800,000 people who benefit from the program from having their lives upended.

. . . . But the devil is in the details — and it remains unclear to insiders of the debate whether both sides can swallow enough of a compromise to reach a solution.
They have been adamant that they will not accept any deal to fund even small amounts of a border wall or increased immigration enforcement, and cuts to legal immigration would be unacceptable.
“Already you’ve seen the fracturing with people saying you need to pass this as part of border security, or other people saying you need to pass this with cuts in legal immigration, and another group saying you need to pass this on its own, and already that lack of consensus makes this unfeasible in Congress,” said Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney, former Obama administration immigration official and former aide to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Fresco also pointed to advocacy groups on the left as key to Democrats’ decision-making. As long as those groups insist, as they do, that they won’t accept a DACA fix in exchange for more enforcement, Democrats are stuck.
“The politicians are being bolstered by the groups, and the groups themselves are saying don’t trade any enforcement for DACA,” Fresco said. “If that were to change, then the fundamental dynamics of the issue would change, but at the moment that’s not where the advocacy community is — they want a fight on DACA to show that the President is on the wrong side of these issues.”

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Wall funding in return for a DACA with a path to green cards and eventually citizenship seems like a deal that  would allow Trump to throw some “red meat” to his base by delivering on a key campaign promise while minimizing the human damage to our country, our ecomomy, and our future.

“TRUMP” CARDS:

Dems:

Trump can’t legally remove 800,000 Dreamers during his Administration.

See:

BREAKING: Trump Punts DACA To Congress — Will End Program In 6 Mo. Unless Congress Acts!

GOP RESTRICTIONISTS:

Trump will be able to inflict lots of pain and suffering on Dreamers while deporting thousands, forcing others to leave, and making the rest to live in fear or go underground. Dreamers won’t get a chance to vote the GOP out of office (although their kids and grandkids eventually will).

PWS

09-05-17

 

BREAKING: Trump Punts DACA To Congress — Will End Program In 6 Mo. Unless Congress Acts!

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/03/trump-dreamers-immigration-daca-immigrants-242301

Eliana Johnson reports for Politico:

President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, according to two sources familiar with his thinking. Senior White House aides huddled Sunday afternoon to discuss the rollout of a decision likely to ignite a political firestorm — and fulfill one of the president’s core campaign promises.

Trump has wrestled for months with whether to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. He has faced strong warnings from members of his own party not to scrap the program and struggled with his own misgivings about targeting minors for deportation.

 

Conversations with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who argued that Congress — rather than the executive branch — is responsible for writing immigration law, helped persuade the president to terminate the program, the two sources said, though White House aides caution that — as with everything in the Trump White House — nothing is set in stone until an official announcement has been made.

In a nod to reservations held by many lawmakers, the White House plans to delay the enforcement of the president’s decision for six months, giving Congress a window to act, according to one White House official. But a senior White House aide said that chief of staff John Kelly, who has been running the West Wing policy process on the issue, “thinks Congress should’ve gotten its act together a lot longer ago.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

This could be one of Trump’s shrewder political moves. He doesn’t really have to do anything right now, while getting the issue off his desk and putting pressure on the Dems and those more responsible Republicans who have urged him to retain the program to get their collective act together and legislate.

Now it depends on whether Trump can disengage without the usual barrage of xenophobic White Nationalist race baiting truth-challenged rhetoric that tends to accompany all of his immigration moves. That might be hard for Trump, given his normal need to pander to the basist biases of his base.

There is also the problem of what happens if Congress fails. There is no practical way of removing 800,000 American young people. It’s simply beyond the capacity of the system, not to mention that it would destroy our economy and rip apart our society.

REALITY CHECK: Many U.S. Immigration Courts are already setting “new” non-detained cases out to Individual Hearing dates in 2020 & 2021. As Judge Burman’s remarks in the preceding post suggest, those courts that claim not to be out as far might well be using ADR (“Aimless Docket Reshuffling”) techniques to mask the true extent of the backlog and docketing problem.

A few Dreamers got DACA after the entry of a final order of removal. But, the vast majority either 1) applied before being placed in Removal Proceedings; or 2) had their Removal Proceedings “Administratively Closed” (thereby removed from the Immigration  Court’s “active docket”) after DACA was granted. All of these cases would have to be initially docketed or re-docketed upon DHS motion.

The US Immigration Courts’ docket already extends beyond the end of Trump’s current term in 2021. By the time “Dreamer” cases get to Individual Hearings the next Presidential term likely will have expired. After all, even without Dreamers on the docket, and with additional US Immigration Judges on the bench, backlogs have continued to rise as a result of the Administration’s “gonzo” approach to immigration enforcement.

So far, the Administration has addressed the impracticality of unlimited enforcement of a broken immigration system with a pattern of “random acts of cruelty” intended to spread fear, create unease, and keep ethnic and migrant communities on edge.

Let’s hope Congress can get its act together and solve the problem in a bipartisan manner.  If not, more disruption, dislocation, disorder, and just plain downright arbitrary meanness are likely to follow.

“Bad things will happen” to a country that allows a xenophobic, racist, White Nationalist minority (two-thirds of Americans favor some type of relief for Dreamers) to overrule the majority and attack our country’s most precious asset: the young people who are America’s (and the world’s) future. It’s time for those of us in the majority who aren’t part of the “Trump base” to stand up and be heard in opposition to those who would destroy our country’s future and trash the lives of fine American young people in the process! And, politicians who oppose relief for Dreamers need to be removed from office through the electoral process.

PWS

09-03-17

PAUL KRUGMAN IN THE NYT: THE NEW AMERICAN FASCISTS — TRUMP & ARPAIO!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/opinion/fascism-arpaio-pardon-trump.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170828&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=0&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

Krugman writes:

As sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Joe Arpaio engaged in blatant racial discrimination. His officers systematically targeted Latinos, often arresting them on spurious charges and at least sometimes beating them up when they questioned those charges. Read the report from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and prepare to be horrified.

Once Latinos were arrested, bad things happened to them. Many were sent to Tent City, which Arpaio himself proudly called a “concentration camp,” where they lived under brutal conditions, with temperatures inside the tents sometimes rising to 145 degrees.

And when he received court orders to stop these practices, he simply ignored them, which led to his eventual conviction — after decades in office — for contempt of court. But he had friends in high places, indeed in the highest of places. We now know that Donald Trump tried to get the Justice Department to drop the case against Arpaio, a clear case of attempted obstruction of justice. And when that ploy failed, Trump, who had already suggested that Arpaio was “convicted for doing his job,” pardoned him.

By the way, about “doing his job,” it turns out that Arpaio’s officers were too busy rounding up brown-skinned people and investigating President Barack Obama’s birth certificate to do other things, like investigate cases of sexually abused children. Priorities!

Let’s call things by their proper names here. Arpaio is, of course, a white supremacist. But he’s more than that. There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law: What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed, was fascism, American style.

 

So how did we get to this point?

Trump’s motives are easy to understand. For one thing, Arpaio, with his racism and authoritarianism, really is his kind of guy. For another, the pardon is a signal to those who might be tempted to make deals with the special investigator as the Russia probe closes in on the White House: Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.

. . . .

This bodes ill if, as seems all too likely, the Arpaio pardon is only the beginning: We may well be in the early stages of a constitutional crisis. Does anyone consider it unthinkable that Trump will fire Robert Mueller, and try to shut down investigations into his personal and political links to Russia? Does anyone have confidence that Republicans in Congress will do anything more than express mild disagreement with his actions if he does?

As I said, there’s a word for people who round up members of ethnic minorities and send them to concentration camps, or praise such actions. There’s also a word for people who, out of cowardice or self-interest, go along with such abuses: collaborators. How many such collaborators will there be? I’m afraid we’ll soon find out.”

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Read Krugman’s entire op-ed at the link.

A most unhappy commentary. My parents’ generation fought the fascists. Our generation appears to have handed the reins of the US Government over to them.

PWS

08-29-17

TAL KOPAN & JIM ACOSTA ON CNN: Speaker Ryan Says Trump Should Delay DACA Decision While Congress Works On Extension! — Also, Top Seattle Execs Urge Trump To Keep DACA

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/01/politics/paul-ryan-daca-trump-immigration/index.html

Tal & Jim write:

“(CNN)House Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday gave a major boost to legislative efforts to preserve protections for young undocumented immigrants — and urged President Donald Trump to not tear up the program.

Trump told reporters Friday he was still mulling the decision.
Responding to a question about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, on his hometown radio station WCLO in Janesville, Wisconsin, Ryan said Congress was working on a legislative fix to preserve the program.
“I actually don’t think he should do that,” Ryan said of Trump’s consideration of terminating the program. “I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix.”
'Dreamers' anxious as Trump DACA decision looms
‘Dreamers’ anxious as Trump DACA decision looms
Ryan’s statement offers the most public support by anyone in the Republican congressional leadership for some sort of legislation to protect the “Dreamers” under DACA.
The popular Obama administration program — which gives protections from deportation to undocumented immigrants that were brought to the US as children to work or study — has long been targeted by Republicans as an overreach of executive authority.
Nevertheless, a number of moderate Republicans alongside Democrats support the program and have offered legislation that would make the protections permanent.

. . . .

The popular Obama administration program — which gives protections from deportation to undocumented immigrants that were brought to the US as children to work or study — has long been targeted by Republicans as an overreach of executive authority.
Nevertheless, a number of moderate Republicans alongside Democrats support the program and have offered legislation that would make the protections permanent.
Ryan, who worked on comprehensive immigration reform before he became part of House leadership, endorsed that approach in the interview.
“President (Barack) Obama does not have the authority to do what he did … we’ve made that very clear,” Ryan said in the radio interview. “Having said all of that, there are people who are in limbo. These are kids who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home. And so I really do believe there that there needs to be a legislative solution.”
Trump’s decision
Asked whether he’s made a decision on DACA, Trump said: “Sometime today, maybe over the weekend.”
“We love the Dreamers,” he said.
The Trump administration has been discussing for weeks what to do about DACA, responding to the deadline on an ultimatum issued by 10 state attorneys general, led by Texas. The threat: Sunset DACA by September 5 or the states will try to end it in court.
Discussions have heated up this week as officials have met to chart a path forward. While a decision had been possible Friday, and one source familiar had believed a decision was pending Friday morning, by midday, sources familiar with the deliberations did not expect a decision before the weekend.
Parts of the Department of Homeland Security, which administers DACA, have been told to prepare for a decision but have not been given any potential details of what a decision may be.
White House discussing whether DACA deadline can be moved
White House discussing whether DACA deadline can be moved
Sources inside and outside the administration said the White House continues to explore buying itself time and is also considering allowing the attorneys general to proceed with their threat.
That course of action could potentially remove pressure from the White House, where the President has promised to act with “heart” on the matter and give Congress time to pass a legislative fix, and one source said it was under consideration.
Any action by the President to sunset DACA would put immediate pressure on Congress to act, something the White House and a senior congressional source recognize would be a challenge with many other pressing priorities at the moment, from Harvey relief to the debt ceiling to government spending. A go-slow approach on DACA is preferred, the congressional source added.
Big congressional boost
Ryan has long been sympathetic to the plight of Dreamers. At a CNN town hall at the beginning of the year, Ryan was asked by a young woman protected under DACA whether he wanted her deported. He said he was working with the Trump administration and seeking a “humane solution.”
“What we have to do is find a way to ensure that you can get right with the law,” the speaker told the young woman.
But until now, leadership has not helped the push by moderate Republicans to advance legislation to do so. Four different options have been introduced in Congress, including two bipartisan solutions led by Sens. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat. Another proposal from Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has entirely Republican support and is expected to be introduced in a similar form in the Senate by North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis.
In addition to Ryan’s endorsement, another conservative boost on Friday came from Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a staunch conservative who has in the past supported immigration reform.
“I’ve urged the President not to rescind DACA, an action that would further complicate a system in serious need of a permanent, legislative solution,” Hatch said in a statement. “Like the President, I’ve long advocated for tougher enforcement of our existing immigration laws. But we also need a workable, permanent solution for individuals who entered our country unlawfully as children through no fault of their own and who have built their lives here. And that solution must come from Congress.”
Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, a moderate Republican, announced on Thursday he would try to force a vote on one of the bipartisan bills when Congress returns next week through what’s known as a discharge petition, which would require a majority of House members to sign on to work. The speaker’s office had no comment on that effort.”

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Additionally, as reported in the Seattle Times, the CEOs of Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks have added their voices of support for Dreamers:

“The leaders of Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks joined other corporate executives in asking President Donald Trump to keep in place a program that shields from deportation young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects about 800,000 “Dreamers,” is said to be a target for repeal as Republican attorneys general threaten to sue to push the Trump administration to carry out the president’s hard-line pledges on immigration.

 

Supporters of the program, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, came to its defense this week, urging the White House to keep DACA intact. Those ranks swelled with hundreds of corporate executives, lawyers and other organizations who made largely economic arguments in a separate open letter.

“Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy,” the letter said. Signatories include Amazon.com chief executive Jeff Bezos, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Starbucks boss Kevin Johnson.”

http://www.seattletimes.com/business/microsoft-amazon-starbucks-leaders-voice-support-for-dreamers/?utm_source=referral&utm_medium=mobile-app&utm_campaign=ios

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Read Tal’s complete article at the link.

A legislative solution seems to be in everyone’s best interests here!  Let’s hope it will happen.

PWS

O9-01-17

GOP’S WAR ON OUR GOVERNMENT CONTINUES — FEDS’ COMPENSATION, RETIREMENT PROGRAMS TARGETED! — GOP WOULD SOCK IT TO MIDDLE CLASS TO GIVE UNNEEDED TAX CUTS TO RICH CRONIES!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/07/18/gop-again-hits-federal-retirement-in-latest-budget-plan/?utm_term=.4446f1d6d7d6&wpisrc=nl_buzz&wpmm=1

Joe Davidson & Eric Yoder report in the Washington Post:

“The House budget proposal released Tuesday continues Republican efforts to cut federal employees’ compensation by making them pay more for retirement benefits.

Saying they seek “reforms to civil service pensions to put them on a better fiscal path,” the spending plan released by the House Budget Committee calls on staffers “to make greater contributions to their own defined benefit retirement plans.”

While the Republican’s “Plan for Fiscal Responsibility” did not provide details, it echoes previous proposals, including one offered by President Trump this year. He proposed increasing individual out-of-pocket payments toward retirement by 1 percentage point each year until they equal the government’s contribution for those in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).

Over a six-year period, this would result in increased payments of about 6 percent. With no increase in benefits, that would equal a 6 percent drop in pay.

The budget “blueprint” assumes that the main panel overseeing federal employment in the House will take those steps to find the $32 billion in savings over 10 years that the blueprint would require.

The budget plan released by Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) also would end the “special retirement supplement,” which pays FERS employees “the equivalent of their Social Security benefit at an earlier age.”

“These plans put the ownership, flexibility, and portfolio risk on the employee as opposed to the employer,” the GOP document says. “Similarly, federal employees would have more control over their own retirement security under this option.”

Federal employee leaders sharply disagree.

“Slashing the pay and benefits of America’s civil servants while lining the pockets of the wealthiest of the wealthy is a shameful way to govern the country and is emblematic of everything that’s wrong with this horrible budget,” said J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees.”

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Read the complete article with charts at the above link.

These guys are shameless. The USG’s career civil service was once a “model program” that states, private employers, and even other countries sought to emulate. It produced an overall talented, motivated, honest, and effective workforce. And, the promise of an adequate, stable, and predictable retirement program underwritten by Uncle Sam was an important part of that success.

The GOP proposes to end all of that and turn the USG into just another lousy employer more interested in his or her own welfare than the well-being of the employees who are the heart and soul of the business. Shifting risk from the “big guys” like the Government, who can actually leverage investment and insurance markets and raise revenues when necessary, to individual employees who are much less well positioned to bear that risk is immoral, not to mention stupid. You get what you pay for. Reducing government employment to the lowest common denominator will essentially make us a third world country.

I dealt with this in Immigration Court all the time. The main difference between the U.S. and countries folks were fleeing (many of which had plenty of natural and human resources) was the lack of government structure and the inability or unwillingness of government to be an “honest broker” serving the needs of the people at large. In too many countries, corrupt governments are seen as primarily furthering the power and interests of those at the “top of the pile” and keeping everyone else in line.

We once had a President who sought to create a U.S. Government of “the best and the brightest.” Sadly, those days are long gone. Ultimately, all of us, and particularly those who come after us, will pay the price for the GOP’s endemic lack of vision and decency and their failure to honor and appreciate the massive contributions of career civil servants to to overall success of our nation.

PWS

07-18-17

 

NEW GAME IN TOWN: “GRAND THEFT GOP” — Party Plans Biggest Heist In US History — To Be Carried Out In Broad Daylight — GOP Voters Expected To Provide Getaway Car!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/senate-republicans-ready-themselves-for-a-massive-theft-from-the-poor/2017/06/22/902a1a96-5777-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b:homepage/story&utm_term=.6918f77c4db1

Eugene Robinson writes in a Washington Post op-ed:

“The “health-care bill” that Republicans are trying to pass in the Senate, like the one approved by the GOP majority in the House, isn’t really about health care at all. It’s the first step in a massive redistribution of wealth from struggling wage-earners to the rich — a theft of historic proportions.

Is the Senate version less “mean” than the House bill, to use President Trump’s description of that earlier effort? Not really. Does the new bill have the “heart” that Trump demanded? No, it doesn’t. The devil is not in the details, it’s in the big picture.

Fundamentally, what Republicans in both chambers want to do is cut nearly $1 trillion over the next decade from the Medicaid program, which serves almost 70 million people. Medicaid provides health care not just for the indigent and disabled but also for the working poor — low-wage employees who cannot afford health insurance, even the plans offered through their jobs.

Additionally, about 20 percent of Medicaid spending goes to provide nursing home care, including for middle-class seniors whose savings have been exhausted — a situation almost any of us might confront. Roughly two-thirds of those in nursing homes have their care paid by Medicaid.

 

Why would Republicans want to slash this vital program so severely? You will hear a lot of self-righteous huffing and puffing about the need for entitlement reform, but the GOP’s intention is not to use the savings to pay down the national debt. Instead, slashing Medicaid spending creates fiscal headroom for what is euphemistically being called “tax reform” — a soon-to-come package of huge tax cuts favoring the wealthy.

That’s the basic equation in both the House and Senate bills: Medicaid for tax cuts. Both bills start with various of the taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act, but those are mere appetizers. The main course is intended to be big cuts in individual and corporate tax rates that would benefit the rich.

There is no other point to this whole exercise. All the “Obamacare is in a death spiral” talk is Republican wishful thinking, aided and abetted by active sabotage.”

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Undoubtedly, many of those who would die or suffer needlessly as a result of the GOPs “Reverse Robin Hood” operation would be Democrats and non-voters (like children). But, many in the GOP base also fall within the group of poor and “lower middle class” folks who would be sentenced to death or suffering by the GOP. Killing off your own voters, with their support, is an interesting new twist in modern GOP politics. But, obviously Trump, McConnell, Ryan, and their Fat Cat handlers are confident in the gullibility and inability of many in their base to discern either their own or the general public’s best interests. Difficult to comprehend.

PWS

06-23-17

 

BREAKING: GOP SENATORS ANNOUNCE PLAN TO TRASH HEALTH CARE FOR 10S OF MILLIONS OF AMERICANS, FUND MORE TAX BREAKS FOR RICH CRONIES! — Why? — Because They CAN!

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/06/why_the_gop_would_pass_an_objectively_bad_health_care_bill.html

 writes in Slate:

“It is difficult to overstate the sheer unpopularity of the American Health Care Act, the Republican Party’s plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. And it’s not hard to understand why the bill is so unpopular. What’s mystifying is why Republicans insist on passing it, acting as if there won’t be political consequences for a plan that promises pain for tens of millions of Americans.

Jamelle BouieJAMELLE BOUIE

Jamelle Bouie is Slates chief political correspondent.

At Obamacare’s least popular moment, in the fall of 2014, 56 percent of Americans held a negative view of the law, versus 37 percent who approved. Compare that with the Republican version of the AHCA that passed the House of Representatives in early May. In a recent survey from CBS News, 59 percent of Americans disapprove of the GOP proposal, versus 32 percent who approve. A Roper Center analysis shows the proposal with just 29 percent support, making it the most unpopular piece of legislation Congress has considered in decades. And its unpopularity isn’t just a function of blue states like California, New York, and Illinois—there is no state in the union where a majority of voters support the bill.

If the AHCA ends up improving outcomes for Americans—if it delivers affordable health insurance or protects families from medical bankruptcy—it might recover some popularity in the implementation, as was true with the Affordable Care Act, which now has majority support. But we know from the Congressional Budget Office’s evaluation of the House bill that it would increase the number of uninsured by an estimated 23 million people; there are no signs the Senate version will be any less damaging. What’s more, the AHCA may upend the employer health market as well; its deregulatory measures could result in lifetime limits and substantially higher out-of-pocket costs for people who receive insurance through work. The universe of people potentially left worse off by the Republican bill is close to a cross-section of the American public: salaried employees, ordinary workers who rely on the Obamacare exchanges, and the millions of low-income people, children, elderly, and disabled Americans who rely on Medicaid.

Under most circumstances, this would be the ballgame. As a general matter, lawmakers don’t pass hugely unpopular legislation that might harm constituents in such a direct way. It’s easy to say that, for House and Senate Republicans, their “constituents” are those wealthy Americans who receive huge tax cuts under the bill. Still, it’s also true that winning donors isn’t the same as winning elections. Politicians don’t need to value the public interest to reject a bill like the AHCA; a survival instinct should be enough.

Which gets to what’s mystifying about the present situation. If the health care bill becomes law, there’s every indication the Republican Party will suffer for passing it. It is already responsible for a substantial and so-far enduring decline in the president’s approval rating, and it is fueling grass-roots opposition to the already-unpopular Trump administration. If Republicans face an increasingly difficult environment for the 2018 general election, it is at least in part because of the AHCA. And yet, Republicans are intent on passing the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has cannily adopted an unprecedentedlysecretive process meant to insulate the proposal from criticism and expedite its passage. There have been no hearings and no debate. The plan, as it exists, is for a one-week period of public input before Congress votes.

It’s likely that Republicans know the bill is unpopular and are doing everything they can to keep the public from seeing its contents before passing it. As we saw with the Affordable Care Act, the longer the process, the greater the odds for a major backlash. But this presupposes a pressing need to pass the American Health Care Act, which isn’t the case, outside of a “need” to slash Medicaid, thus paving the way for large-scale, permanent tax cuts. The Republican health care bill doesn’t solve any urgent problem in the health care market, nor does it represent any coherent vision for the health care system; it is a hodgepodge of cuts and compromises, designed to pass a GOP Congress more than anything. It is policy without any actual policy. At most, it exists to fulfill a promise to “repeal Obamacare” and cut taxes.

Perhaps that’s enough to explain the zeal to pass the bill. Republicans made a promise, and there are forces within the party—from hyperideological lawmakers and conservative activists to right-wing media and Republican base voters—pushing them toward this conclusion. When coupled with the broad Republican hostility to downward redistribution and the similarly broad commitment to tax cuts, it makes sense that the GOP would continue to pursue this bill despite the likely consequences.

But ultimately it’s not clear the party believes it would face those consequences. The 2018 House map still favors Republicans, and the party is defending far fewer Senate seats than Democrats. Aggressively gerrymandered districts provide another layer of defense, as does voter suppression, and the avalanche of spending from outside groups. Americans might be hurt and outraged by the effects of the AHCA, but those barriers blunt the electoral impact.

The grounds for political combat seem to have changed as well. If recent special elections are any indication—where GOP candidates refused to comment on signature GOP policies—extreme polarization means Republicans can mobilize supporters without being forced to talk about or account for their actual actions. Identity, for many voters, matters more than their pocketbooks. Republicans simply need to signal their disdain—even hatred—for their opponents, political or otherwise. Why worry about the consequences of your policies when you can preclude defeat by changing the ground rules of elections, spending vast sums, and stoking cultural resentment?

It seems, then, that we have an answer for Republicans insist on moving forward with the American Health Care Act. Because they can. And who is going to stop them?”

Here’s some analysis of the GOP Senate Bill from the Washington Post:

“The Senate proposal largely mirrors the House measure with significant differences, according to a discussion draft circulating Wednesday among aides and lobbyists. While the House legislation would peg federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income, as the ACA does.

The Senate measure would cut off expanded Medicaid funding for states more gradually than the House bill but would enact deeper long-term cuts to the health-care program for low-income Americans. It also would eliminate House language aimed at prohibiting federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions, a provision that may run afoul of complex Senate budget rules.

But McConnell faces the prospect of an open revolt from key conservative and moderate GOP senators, whose concerns he has struggled to balance in recent weeks. Republicans familiar with the effort said Senate leaders have more work to do to secure the 50 votes needed to pass the measure, with Vice President Pence set to cast the tiebreaking vote, from the pool of 52 GOP senators. No Democrats are expected to support the bill.

According to two Republicans in close contact with Senate GOP leadership granted anonymity to describe private conversations, McConnell is threatening to bring the bill to a vote next week even if he doesn’t have the votes to pass it. But some believe that message is aimed at trying to pressure Republicans to support the bill, rather than an absolute commitment. A McConnell spokeswoman declined to comment.

Republican aides stressed that their plan is likely to undergo more changes to secure the votes needed for passage, but there were major concerns Wednesday from senators on opposite ends of the GOP spectrum.

“My main concern is I promised voters that I would repeal — vote to repeal Obamacare. And everything I hear sounds like Obamacare-lite,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), whose state expanded Medicaid and has been pushing for a more gradual unwinding of that initiative than many conservatives prefer, said she is waiting to scrutinize what is released but has not seen anything yet that would make her drop her concerns with the proposal.

“Up to this point, I don’t have any new news — tomorrow we will see it definitively — that would cause me to change that sentiment,” she said.

Like the House bill, the Senate measure is expected to make big changes to Medicaid, the program that insures about 74 million elderly and lower-income Americans and was expanded in most states under the ACA. In effect, the revisions would reduce federal spending on the program.

The Senate measure would transform Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to one in which federal funding would be distributed to states on a per capita basis. The Senate measure would also seek to phase out the program’s expansion — although at a more gradual rate than the House version.

Yet the Senate bill would go further than the House version in its approach to cutting Medicaid funding in the future. In 2025, the measure would tie federal spending on the program to an even slower growth index than the one used in the House bill. That move could prompt states to reduce the size of their Medicaid programs.”

Here’s a link to the complete Post article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/senate-gop-leaders-set-to-unveil-health-care-bill/2017/06/22/56dbe35c-5734-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_healthcare835am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.31690d0232b7

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As long as folks stubbornly keep voting for their own demise, that is, against their own best interests, Trump and the GOP are going to take them to the cleaners every time. The GOP Congressional leadership has “bought into” the Trump “Time Square” theory:   “There’s absolutely nothing that we could do that would make these folks vote against us. And, we’re going to take full advantage of them by sticking it to them just like they were Democrats or minorities (or both).”

I suppose if it works, why not line your pockets (and those of your buddies) to the full extent possible at the expense of the People until the party ends (which it might never do — and, if it does, the GOP will be laughing all the way to the bank)?

PWS

06-22-17

“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.”

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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.’ ”

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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/

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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

 

 

 

LINDY WEST IN THE GUARDIAN: The Party of “No Care!” — With Trump & The GOP, There Are No Positives, Only Negatives!

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2017/mar/28/america-party-less-caring-21-century-republicans-gop?CMP=fb_gu

“I don’t know that America has ever seen a political party so divested of care. Since Trump took office, Republicans have proposed legislation to destroy unions, the healthcare system, the education system and the Environmental Protection Agency; to defund the reproductive health charity Planned Parenthood and restrict abortion; to stifle public protest and decimate arts funding; to increase the risk of violence against trans people and roll back anti-discrimination laws; and to funnel more and more wealth from the poorest to the richest. Every executive order and piece of GOP legislation is destructive, aimed at dismantling something else, never creating anything new, never in the service of improving the care of the nation.

Contemporary American conservatism is not a political philosophy so much as the roiling negative space around Barack Obama’s legacy. Can you imagine being that insecure? Can you imagine not wanting children to have healthcare because you’re embarrassed a black guy was your boss? It would be sad if it wasn’t so dangerous.

That void at the heart of the party, that loss of any tether to humanity, is breeding anxiety on both sides of the political divide. According to the Atlantic, Florida Republican Tom Rooney recently turned on his cohort with surprising lucidity: “I’ve been in this job eight years and I’m racking my brain to think of one thing our party has done that’s been something positive, that’s been something other than stopping something else from happening. We need to start having victories as a party. And if we can’t, then it’s hard to justify why we should be back here.”

Vindictive obstructionism, it seems, is not particularly nourishing for the soul.”

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West has a pretty good point.  Every day, the Administration repeals, cuts, removes, reduces, blocks, restricts, revokes, disses, insults, backs away from, abrogates, disputes, defunds, threatens, shrinks, deregulates, withdraws, withholds, threatens — only the rich and corporations “get” anything or are taken care of.  Everyone else is on his or her own with neither help nor encouragement from the Government. Or in the worst case, the most vulnerable among us, migrants, Muslims, the poor, gays, children, the sick, the disabled, are actually picked on, bullied, shamed, and blamed by Trump and his minions.

PWS

03/29/17

 

James Hohmann In WashPost: How Trump Is Winning The War Even While Losing Some Key Battles — “Deconstruction Of The Administrative State” Moving At Full Throttle With No End In Sight! PLUS EXTRA BONUS: My Mini-Essay “On Gorsuch, Deference, & The Administrative State!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/03/27/daily-202-how-trump-s-presidency-is-succeeding/58d88409e9b69b72b2551039/?utm_term=.dbeab923d833

Hohmann writes:

“– Liberals mock Trump as ineffective at their own peril. Yes, it’s easy to joke about how Trump said during the campaign that he’d win so much people would get tired of winning. Both of his travel bans have been blocked – for now. An active FBI investigation into his associates is a big gray cloud over the White House. The president himself falsely accused his predecessor of wiretapping him. His first national security adviser registered as a foreign agent after being fired for not being honest about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. His attorney general, at best, misled Congress under oath.
— Despite the chaos and the growing credibility gap, Trump is systematically succeeding in his quest to “deconstruct the administrative state,” as his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon puts it. He’s pursued the most aggressive regulatory rollback since Ronald Reagan, especially on environmental issues, with a series of bills and executive orders. He’s placed devoted ideologues into perches from which they can stop aggressively enforcing laws that conservatives don’t like. By not filling certain posts, he’s ensuring that certain government functions will simply not be performed. His budget proposal spotlighted his desire to make as much of the federal bureaucracy as possible wither on the vine.

— Trump has been using executive orders to tie the hands of rule makers. He put in place a regulatory freeze during his first hours, mandated that two regulations be repealed for every new one that goes on the books and ordered a top-to-bottom review of the government with an eye toward shrinking it.
Any day now, Trump is expected to sign an executive order aimed at undoing Obama’s Clean Power Plan and end a moratorium on federal-land coal mining. This would ensure that the U.S. does not meet its commitments under the Paris climate agreement.

The administration is also preparing new executive orders to re-examine all 14 U.S. free trade agreements, including NAFTA, and the president could start to sign some of them this week.

— Trump plans to unveil a new White House office today with sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and, potentially, privatize some government functions. “The Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump,” Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker report. “Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to … create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements. … Kushner’s team is being formalized just as the Trump administration is proposing sweeping budget cuts across many departments, and members said they would help find efficiencies.”

Kushner’s ambitions are grand: “At least to start, the team plans to focus its attention on re-imagining Veterans Affairs; modernizing the technology and data infrastructure of every federal department and agency; remodeling workforce-training programs; and developing ‘transformative projects’ under the banner of Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, such as providing broadband Internet service to every American. In some cases, the office could direct that government functions be privatized, or that existing contracts be awarded to new bidders.”

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On Gorsuch, Deference, & The Administrative State

by Paul Wickham Schmidt

Hohmann’s points make quite a bit of sense to me — until he gets down to his rather remarkable conclusion that progressives should have invested more in a fight against Gorsuch. What? Just how would they have done that?  The GOP has the votes to confirm, as they will do, and there is nothing the Dems can do to stop it, except to look feeble, petty, and out of touch in the attempt.

The confirmation hearings revealed nothing that was not already known. Gorsuch should be a reliable conservative vote on the Court, perhaps, but not necessarily, even more than Justice Scalia. Surprise!

We just had an election during which McConnell’s scheme to block the nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supremes, the control of the Senate, and the ability of the next President to appoint a liberal (Hillary) or a conservative (Trump) as Scalia’s replacement were big issues. And, guess what? Whether Dems like it or not, the GOP won both the Presidency and the Senate and thereby the ability to appoint their man (in this case) as the next Justice.

What’s remarkable about that? It would have only been remarkable if President Trump had nominated someone less conservative than Judge Gorsuch. And, certainly, if Hillary had won and the Democrats won the Senate she could legitimately have chosen to resubmit Judge Garland or chosen an even more liberal candidate who would have duly been confirmed by the Democrats over the GOP’s objections. Elections have consequences, particularly when your party loses control of both of the political branches of Government.

I continue to suspect that while Justice Gorsuch will be very conservative, at some point in the future he will be persuaded to side with the so-called “liberal Justices” against some position that is key to the GOP — perhaps, the scope of Executive authority. At that point, the same GOP Senators who gushed on about his “judicial independence” will be screaming “betrayal,” while the Democrats will be congratulating him on “conscientiously following the law.”

Look at how Chief Justice Roberts went from poster boy for judicial conservatism to “dupe of the left” just by failing to veto Obamacare as the GOP had been counting on. All politicians want judges who exercise their “judicial independence” in a predictable way consistent with the political philosophy of the party that appointed them. Once on the bench, however, with lifetime tenure and only their judicial colleagues to answer to, few actually live up to all of the exceptions of their political appointers.

Moreover, I don’t agree with the supposedly “liberal” position that Executive Branch administrative judges (like I was) and bureaucrats (which I also was) should have the power to impose their views on legal issues, even if not particularly sound ones, on the Article III Judiciary. Chief Justice John Marshall must be turning over in his grave, while Thomas Jefferson dances on top of it, at this bizarre voluntary surrender of judicial authority known as “Chevron.”

There is always pressure on Executive Branch officials, be they administrative judges or just “regular agency bureaucrats,” to construe the law in ways that favor Executive policies and Executive power over the power and prerogatives of the other two branches of Government and often over the rights of individuals in the U.S.

Deciding difficult questions of law, where the answers are not clear, is what Article III Judges are paid to do, and what they are supposed to do under the Constitution! At one time, this is what they actually did! The pre-ChevronSkidmore doctrine” already gave the Article III Judiciary adequate latitude to recognize the expertise of certain Executive Branch officials and to defer to their interpretation when it appeared to be the best one, or at least as good as any of the alternatives.

But, Chevron basically substituted the concept of “any plausible interpretation” for the “best interpretation.”  That’s simply not the way an independent judiciary should function under the separation of powers established in our Constitution.

I say all of this as someone who spent the bulk of my professional career as a public servant within the “administrative state” and who, unlike the Bannons of the world, believes in the power of the Federal Government to do good things for the general population. But, I have also seen first-hand the weaknesses and biases of the Executive when it comes to interpreting the law.

Meaningful independent judicial oversight over the “administrative state,” which includes “de novo” (basically unrestricted) review of Executive legal decisions by the Article III Judiciary, is a requirement  for fairness and due process under our Constitution.

Finally, the Dems should abandon Schumer’s ill-conceived idea of a “Gorsuch filibuster.”  Of the minority of Americans who actually care about the Gorsuch confirmation, only a minority of those are opposed. In other words, the Dems are about to proceed on a futile parliamentary maneuver that really only speaks to a small number of voting Americans, who are already in their “base.” Absolutely no need to do that.

What is needed if the Dems don’t want another Gorsuch appointment is to start winning more elections, particularly in the U.S. Senate and for the Presidency the next time around. That will require more than feeble posturing, tilting at windmills, and some additional “Trump fails.”

The Democrats need some dynamic leadership (which currently is conspicuously absent) and some real, down to earth programs and proposals to solve America’s problems (something which I haven’t heard to date). What can the Dems do that the GOP can’t, and why should folks care?

Otherwise, the next nominee for the Supremes could be along the lines of Judge Jeannie or Judge Napolitano. And, the Dems will continue to be powerless to stop it.

PWS

03/27/17

 

immigrationcourtsidePOLITICS: Somewhere Out In Ohio Yesterday Afternoon . . .

at about 3:45 PM EST, an already well-tanned man was sunning himself, dragging on a cigarette, enjoying a big glass of red wine, with tears of joy streaming down his face, his feet propped up, and thinking “YES, there is justice in this world!”

MATT FLEGENHEIMER and THOMAS KAPLAN write in the NY Times that Speaker Paul Ryan is now in “damage control mode” after he and President Trump were “stiffed” by their own party (no Trumpster, you can’t blame this on the Dems, who were kept “locked in the hallway” while this circus was going on, probably having to check Fox News to see what time the vote was scheduled), suffering a stunning, but well-deserved, defeat on their horrible bill to “repeal and replace Obamacare:”

“The episode not only demonstrated an inability to honor a longstanding pledge that powered Republicans through a string of election cycles. It was also a remarkable setback for Mr. Ryan as the body’s principal arm-twister, in his first major test as the speaker under a Republican president.

In January, he coasted to re-election with almost unanimous party support, prompting allies to gloat that he had tamed the hard-line House Freedom Caucus far more deftly than his predecessor, John A. Boehner.

By Friday, his bill had at once alienated those archconservatives and more moderate members who abandoned the legislation as Mr. Ryan and Mr. Trump began caving to demands of the far right, to little effect.

“We were a 10-year opposition party, where being against things was easy to do,” Mr. Ryan said at a sheepish news conference shortly after the bill was pulled, adding with uncharacteristic candor that Republicans were not yet prepared to be a “governing party.”

“We will get there,” Mr. Ryan said, “but we weren’t there today.”

His job will not get easier. With disparate coalitions in his conference, outside groups like the political arm of the Heritage Foundation pushing lawmakers to pursue conservative purity, and a less-than-popular president whom some members have appeared more willing to buck recently, there are few establishment forces helping Mr. Ryan keep the peace.”

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PWS

03/25/17

BREAKING: NQRFPT! — Trumpcare Tanks! — Prez Tells Ryan To “Pull” Doomed Bill!

NQRFPT = “Not Quite Ready For Prime Time” a term sometimes used to describe certain cases on the Arlington Immigration Court docket.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/house-leaders-prepare-to-vote-friday-on-health-care-reform/2017/03/24/736f1cd6-1081-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_housevote715a:homepage/story&utm_term=.e92b3451c27c

The WashPost reports:

“House Republican leaders abruptly pulled a Republican rewrite of the nation’s health-care system from consideration on Friday, a dramatic acknowledgment that they are so far unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We just pulled it,” President Trump told the Washington Post in a telephone interview.

The decision came a day after Trump delivered an ultimatum to lawmakers — and represented multiple failures for the new president and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).

The decision means the Affordable Care Act remains in place, at least for now, and a major GOP campaign promise goes unfulfilled. It also casts doubt on the GOP’s ability to govern and to advance other high-stakes agenda items, including tax reform and infrastructure spending. Ryan is still without a signature achievement as speaker — and the defeat undermines Trump’s image as a skilled dealmaker willing to strike compromises to push his agenda forward.

“I don’t blame Paul,” Trump said, referring to Ryan.”

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Read this article from Vox News about how Speaker Ryan “conned” the “Great Conner” into “going all in” on this terrible piece of proposed legislation which directly violated a number of Trump’s specific campaign promises (not that truthfulness has ever been much of a concern for Trump). Additionally, and perhaps not surprisingly, Trump was somewhat handicapped during negotiations by the fact that according to “those in the know” he never even read the bill he was touting. After all, “why sweat the details?”

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/3/24/15039664/paul-ryan-donald-trump-ahca

NWS President’s Trump’s statement that he “didn’t blame” Ryan, if I were “Speaker Paul,” I’d watch my back (and, perhaps, also my front). The President is not widely known as a “good loser.” To paraphrase one of my college buddies who grew up in South Philly, “Nobody cops a sneaky on DT and gets away with it.”

PWS

03/24/17

 

“POGO RULES!” GOP: “We Have Met The Enemy And It Is Us!” — “Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” Threatens To Shoot Self In Foot — “Great Negotiator” Ends Negotiations Perhaps 40 Votes Short — GOP Leadership To Force Friday Vote On Health Care — They Might Well Lose!

All the reasons why our country is in extreme peril with the GOP “in charge” (so to speak) of the political branches were on vivid display this week. Inept leadership at both the House and White House levels went head to head with the hard core “Bakuninist Wing” on the right which cares not a fig about the overall good of the country or, apparently, about the future of their party either.

It’s still possible, but not probable, that the votes to pass the horrible GOP version of health care “reform” will materialize tomorrow. If it ever became law, it would guarantee misery to the most vulnerable Americans — tens of millions ultimately would lose coverage (about 14 million initially, more to follow) while those who could afford it would likely pay higher premiums than now for less coverage. In simple terms, the GOP’s rich cronies would get huge unneeded and undeserved tax breaks while those Americans (including many short-sighted Trump supporters) most in need would be pushed over the edge.  What’s not to like about that?

Asked to explain how stripping 14 million Americans of their health care “Makes America Great,” the GOP has no answers, only evasions. And, with good reason — the real scheme — benefit the rich at the expense of the not so rich and poor — is highly unpalatable. Never let truth get in the way of bogus campaign slogans.

And, if the House bill does pass, it clearly will be DOA in the Senate. Based on this week’s performance, it’s unlikely that the House, Senate, and White House could ever reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.

Meanwhile, Obamacare is at its most popular and clearly has dramatically reduced the number of uninsured individuals in the U.S. The AMA, AARP, American Nurses Association, and American Hospital Association have all panned the current House proposal. Not to mention that the longer the House GOP “massages” the bill, the worse its “score” from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office gets. The latest version would decrease budget savings by hundreds of millions while still leaving an amazing 24-26 million uninsured.

Obamacare has flaws. But, they could be fixed within the existing framework. However, that would take statesmanship, skill, bipartisan teamwork, and commitment to the public good. Those concepts have simply ceased to be part of the modern GOP agenda.

So, prepare for a “political reality show” tomorrow in the House. Trump has threatened to leave Obamacare in place if the House bill doesn’t pass. Apparently, the theory is that without support from the Executive and Congress, Obamacare will eventually be strangled and die a slow painful death leaving many without insurance but, at least in theory, allowing some of the blame to be shifted to the Obama Administration.  No matter how the vote comes out, responsible government and the common good are almost guaranteed to be the losers.

You can read the 8:29 PM Thursday CNN report on the “final ultimatum” from Trump below.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/23/politics/house-health-care-vote/index.html

PWS

03/23/17