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Tag: homeland security

As America Mourns Gun Victims, Republicans Block Domestic T​​error Bill

Washington (AFP) - Republicans in the US Senate prevented action Thursday on a bill to address domestic terrorism in the wake of a racist massacre at a grocery store in upstate New York.

Democrats had been expecting defeat but were seeking to use the procedural vote to highlight Republican opposition to tougher gun control measures following a second massacre at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday.

There was no suggestion of any racial motive on the part of the gunman who shot dead 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

But the shock of the bloodshed, less than two weeks after the May 14 murders in Buffalo, New York, has catapulted America's gun violence crisis back to the top of the agenda in Washington.

"The bill is so important, because the mass shooting in Buffalo was an act of domestic terrorism. We need to call it what it is: domestic terrorism," Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of the vote.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would have created units inside the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to combat domestic terror threats, with a focus on white supremacy.

A task force that includes Pentagon officials would also have been launched "to combat white supremacist infiltration of the uniformed services and federal law enforcement."

Schumer had urged Republicans Wednesday to allow the chamber to start debate on the bill, offering to accommodate Republican provisions to "harden" schools in the wake of the Texas murders.

Just ahead of the vote, Schumer said he had wept while studying pictures of the young victims, calling the state's pro-gun governor, Greg Abbott, "an absolute fraud."

Abbott has made efforts to loosen gun restrictions in Texas, including signing into law a measure last year authorizing residents to carry handguns without licenses or training.

The domestic terrorism bill's 207 co-sponsors included three moderate Republicans in the House.

But there was not enough support in the evenly split 100-member Senate to overcome the Republican filibuster -- the 60-vote threshold required to allow debate to go forward.

Republicans say there are already laws on the books targeting white supremacists and other domestic terrorists, and have accused Democrats of politicizing the Buffalo massacre, in which 10 Black people died.

They have also argued that the legislation could be abused to go after political opponents of the party in power.

Democrats are looking for Republicans to support a separate gun control bill, and said Wednesday they would work over the coming days to see if they could find common ground with enough opposition senators to circumvent a filibuster.

"Make no mistake about it, if these negotiations do not bear fruit in a short period of time, the Senate will vote on gun safety legislation," Schumer said

Ex-Trump Staffer To Lead Protest Against Prosecution Of Capitol Rioters

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Matt Braynard, who served as data chief for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, has announced that he will host a rally on September 18 in support of people charged with crimes in connection with the rioting by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

In 2017, Braynard founded a nonprofit organization called Look Ahead America, which says on its website that its mission is to "register, educate, and enfranchise" the "rural and blue-collar patriotic Americans who are disaffected and disenfranchised from the nation's corridors of power."

He had announced on Steve Bannon's podcast in late July that he was organizing a "huge" rally to "push back on the phony narrative that there was an insurrection."

In a video posted to YouTube on Aug. 9, Braynard said that the event, which he is calling the "#JusticeforJ6 Rally," would be co-hosted by Cara Castronuova, a celebrity fitness trainer, conservative commentator, and co-founder of a nonprofit organization called Citizens Against Political Persecution.

Braynard teased a lineup of speakers that he said would be announced in the coming days. "These are people that you are going to be very excited to hear are joining their voices with ours and are going to be at the rally as part of our effort to raise awareness of this tragedy, of this grave violation of civil rights of hundreds of our fellow Americans," he said.

Braynard says that he has obtained a permit for the rally, which is to be held on the West Lawn of the Capitol, and a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department told the Huffington Post that the permit was approved. A spokesperson for the Capitol Police confirmed to WUSA9 that they're aware of the rally.

More than 500 people have been charged with crimes by the Department of Justice for actions taken during the riot at the Capitol, as a result of which five people died. Since January 6, four Capitol Police officers who responded to the riot have died by suicide.

Braynard told Bannon in July that the protest was "largely peaceful" and that any violence happened in instances where protesters were "egged on in many cases by the Capitol Police."

Braynard kept a relatively low profile throughout the Trump presidency but reemerged in the aftermath of the 2020 election, when he began independently collecting voting data and, in collaboration with the Thomas More Society, a conservative legal organization with ties to Trump's legal team, claimed it proved there had been massive fraud.

Braynard's voting data was cited in multiple failed lawsuits filed by Trump lawyers and supporters in an attempt to overturn the election results.

In the months since January 6, Braynard has also been one of the leading conservative voices trying to reframe the narrative of the insurrection. He's been holding rallies in support of people arrested for their actions on January 6 all summer, including one at the D.C. Central Detention Facility on July 17 that drew about 100 people.

Braynard asked in his announcement on YouTube that attendees at the rally "be respectful and kind to all law enforcement officers who may be present. ... And if they ask you to do something, please do so."

Meanwhile, intelligence communities have warned that there remains a serious threat of violence from right-wing extremist groups. On August 6, ABC News shared a Department of Homeland Security bulletin that warned of "an increasing but modest level of activity online" by 2020 election, noting, "Some conspiracy theories associated with reinstating former President Trump have included calls for violence if desired outcomes are not realized."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Political Dysfunction Holds Innocent 'Dreamers' In Purgatory

Someday, many years from now, historians will use the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as a case study in the monumental dysfunction of American democracy in the early 21st century. But there is no guarantee that the issue will be consigned to the history books by then. Many of the "dreamers" could pass on to the next world before our political institutions have settled their fate in this world.

DACA was initiated in 2012 by President Barack Obama after he gave up on persuading Congress to pass legislation that both Democrats and many Republicans — including President George W. Bush — thought was wise and necessary. The program allowed foreigners brought here illegally as children to remain in the United States and eventually gain citizenship if they met certain criteria.

Broad public support for legislation was not enough to overcome irresponsible fearmongering and partisan gridlock. The blameless became the victims of the feckless.

Obama resorted to executive authority to grant a reprieve to hundreds of thousands of young people who were American in everything but citizenship documents — having grown up here, attended school here and even served in the U.S. military. But DACA was quickly mired in litigation that cast the intended beneficiaries into a perpetual purgatory.

Last week, a federal judge in Texas struck it down as a violation of federal administrative law. "The executive branch cannot just enact its own legislative policy when it disagrees with Congress's choice to reject proposed legislation," wrote Judge Andrew Hanen. At the same time, he specified that his decision does not "require DHS or the Department of Justice to take any immigration, deportation, or criminal action against any DACA recipient, applicant, or any other individual that it would not otherwise take." The "Dreamers" remain in limbo.

Americans can reasonably disagree on how to combat undocumented migration and what to do with foreigners who choose to break our laws in coming here. But the point of expelling those who didn't make that choice is beyond comprehension.

It would amount to punishing children for the sins of their parents. It would also amount to punishing grandchildren: DACA recipients have given birth to 250,000 U.S. citizens.

It would mean wasting the investment Americans have made to educate these members of our community. It would mean forfeiting their productive skills, to the detriment of the economy. It would deprive companies of workers and destroy small businesses founded by people pursuing the American dream.

But it would not deter migration. The Central Americans now waiting at our southern border didn't embark on a death-defying 1,000-mile journey because of an executive order issued nine years ago that may not survive. They did it out of a desperate desire to escape violence and poverty. Expelling every "dreamer" wouldn't keep a single migrant away.

On Monday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recognized as much, ruling against environmentalists and ranchers who said DACA violated the law mandating an environmental impact review for some major federal actions. The unanimous panel rejected the ridiculous claim that the program entices more foreigners to sneak in.

Wrote Judge Jay Bybee: "Plaintiffs ask us to assume that aliens outside the United States who are, by definition, ineligible for DACA relief would learn about the policy; mistakenly believe it applicable to them or that they might obtain similar relief from a future administration; come to the United States based on their misconceptions; and permanently settle near Plaintiffs, thereby increasing the population and straining environmental resources. The attenuation in this chain of reasoning, unsupported by well-pleaded facts, is worthy of Rube Goldberg."

Republicans in Congress have long criticized DACA as an illegal use of executive power. But the logical response would be for them to usurp this presidential decree by passing a bill to protect the "Dreamers." Many GOP members say they can't abide such legislation until the border is "secure," which is the equivalent of not going to confession until you're sure you'll never sin again.

A Pew Research Center poll last year found that 74 percent of Americans, including 54 percent of Republicans, support legislation to grant permanent legal status to the "Dreamers." The support has been there for a long time. But the state of our democracy is such that the solution the American people want is one they may forever be denied.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Homeland Security Renews Warning On Right-Wing Terror Threat

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A national terrorism alert was released on Friday to warn about the possibility of extremists striking as COVID-19 restrictions easing in various states across the country.

According to ABC-13, the latest National Terrorism Advisory System alert released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) serves as an extension of the previous warning of possible civil unrest before the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. The previous alert regarding January 6 was set to expire on Saturday, May 15.

While the alert does not offer details about any isolated threat, it warns of "potential danger from an increasingly complex and volatile mix that includes domestic terrorists inspired by various grievances, racial or ethnic hatred and influences from abroad," per the publication.

Those types of threats are said to have intensified since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic due to "conspiracy theories and deepened anger at the government in some quarters over the shutdown of the economy."

"Violent extremists may seek to exploit the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions across the United States to conduct attacks against a broader range of targets after previous public capacity limits reduced opportunities for lethal attacks," the bulletin said.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas weighed in on the latest alert and the present-day terroristic threats in the United States. "Today's terrorism-related threat landscape is more complex, more dynamic, and more diversified than it was several years ago," Mayorkas said.

In wake of the growing concerns about domestic terrorism, DHS has incorporated a new domestic terrorism monitoring division within its Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Approximately 7.5 percent of the federal agency's grant funding has been designated for monitoring terroristic threats.

Top Homeland Security Officials Were Appointed Illegally

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The Trump administration's top officials at the Department of Homeland Security—Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli—were illegally appointed to their positions, the Government Accountability Office said Friday.

The decision from the internal government watchdog states that the appointments were not in compliance with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act or Homeland Security Act.

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DHS Acting Secretary Struggles With Questions On Pandemic

Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, struggled to give clear answers on several key issues regarding the coronavirus during his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

There have been over 80,000 reported coronavirus cases and over 2,700 deaths. Markets plunged Monday in reaction to the virus spreading across the world and negatively affecting travel and productivity in multiple nations.

At the hearing, Wolf appeared unprepared to discuss the data about the spread of the virus in the United States, or the government’s preparedness, during questioning by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA).

“You can’t tell us how many your models are anticipating?” Kennedy asked.

“No, senator,” Wolf said and referred Kennedy to the Department of Health and Human Services. He added that a task force has been convened to deal with the topic.

“Don’t you think you ought to check on that, as the head of Homeland Security?” Kennedy asked. Wolf said that he would and that there were task forces working on the issue.

“I’m all for committees and task forces,” Kennedy responded, “but you’re the secretary, I think you ought to know that answer.”

A few minutes later, Wolf was unable to tell Kennedy whether the country has enough respirators for physicians and patients in the event of an outbreak.

“I would refer you to HHS on that,” Wolf said.

“You’re the secretary of Homeland Security, and you can’t tell me if we have enough respirators,” Kennedy replied.

After Wolf said his department is working with others to find the response, Kennedy interjected. “You don’t know the answer, do you?”

Wolf also told Kennedy that not enough face masks for the American public had been obtained and that he did not know how many needed to be purchased.

“You’re asking me a number of medical questions,” Wolf protested.

“I’m asking you questions as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. And you’re supposed to keep us safe. And you need to know the answers to these questions,” Kennedy said.

After Wolf said it would be “several months” until a vaccine for coronavirus would be available, Kennedy said, “That’s not what we just heard testimony about.”

Kennedy noted to Wolf that the numbers relating to virus preparation he cited during his testimony weren’t matching up.

“You’re supposed to keep us safe. And the American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus, and I’m not getting them from you,” Kennedy concluded.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Mass Arrests Of Immigrant Families To Begin, Despite Warnings By Homeland Security

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is preparing to conduct mass arrests of migrants in as many as 10 American cities beginning on Sunday, the Washington Post reported.

The administration had reportedly considered the proposal before, but officials’ objections had stalled the plan. Even now, the Post reported, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan has concerns about the operation. While the current plan will reportedly target as many as 2,000 immigrant families in the country, he has reportedly suggested a smaller scale effort that would only go after 150 families.

The report explained:

McAleenan has warned that an indiscriminate operation to arrest migrants in their homes and at work sites risks separating children from their parents in cases where the children are at day care, summer camp or friend’s houses and not present for the raids. He also has maintained that ICE should not devote major resources to carrying out a mass interior sweep while telling lawmakers it needs emergency funding to address the crisis at the U.S. border.

But President Donald Trump, in an apparent effort to please his base, has made clear that he wants to be seen as tough on immigrants. On Monday, he sent out a tweet saying the administration would soon “begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens.” It’s not close to feasible that Trump will be able to achieve that scale of arrests, of course, but part of the purpose seems to be to terrify the immigrant population, so exaggeration is a feature, not a bug. (The Post noted that officials were surprised Trump announced the plans on Twitter since such operations are not usually previewed.)

And while the operation — dubbed the ‘Family Op’ — ostensibly only targets undocumented immigrants, the reporting indicates it will include wide-reaching arrests, suggesting that some people not eligible for deportation could get erroneously detained:

ICE agents have limited intelligence on the locations of the families with court-ordered deportations beyond their last known addresses. But White House and ICE officials believe agents will be able to make many “collateral arrests” by vacuuming up foreigners living in the country illegally at or near the target locations.

Even if the operation goes off entirely as planned, however, it would constitute a devastating attack on immigrant communities, capriciously destroying families and traumatizing children.

The open animus behind the effort is glaring. Since there are millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, immigration enforcement is invariably about making decisions about which enforcement actions to prioritize. Under President Barack Obama, the administration moved toward focusing on deportations of immigrants who committed serious crimes.

By focusing instead on families, Trump reveals that “crime” isn’t really what he cares about in immigration enforcement — even as he uses false suggestions of immigrant criminality to justify targeting immigrants in the first place. If the government actually cares about reducing crime, it can focus its limited resources on responding to actual crimes. If what it really cares about, though, is making the lives of immigrant families worse and pleasing racist voters, then the “Family Op” fits the bill.

IMAGE: Relatives separated by deportation and immigration hug at the border during a brief reunification meeting at the banks of the Rio Bravo, a natural border between U.S. and Mexico, October 29, 2016. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/File Photo

Kamala Harris Grills DHS Chief On Racist Remarks And White Nationalist Threat

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) sparred with Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen over the president’s racist remarks — and the administration official’s apparent support for those views.

Nielsen said earlier Tuesday during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the president was simply repeating an observation about hard-working Norwegian immigrants, but Harris said Trump was unfavorably comparing them to African and Haitian immigrants.

“You spoke of them, according to the president, as the people of Norway — well, you know, they work very hard — the inference being the people of the 54 states of Africa and Haiti do not,” Harris said. “That is a fair inference.”

She then blasted Nielsen’s claim under oath that she was not aware that Norway was a majority white nation.

“You run the Department of Homeland Security,” Harris continued, “and when you say you don’t know if Norway is predominantly white when asked by a member of the United States Senate, that causes me concern about your ability to understand the scope of your responsibilities and the impact of your words — much less the policies that you promulgate in that very important department.”

Harris asked Nielsen why she ignored domestic terrorist attacks by white supremacists in her opening remarks about security threats faced by the U.S. — and she said the omission was “deeply troubling.”

“You must understand the inference, the reasonable inference, that the American public is drawing from the words you speak much less the words of the president of the United States,” Harris said.

Nielsen later complained that Harris had unfairly drawn conclusions based on her testimony.

“If you don’t mind, it’s not a fair inference to say that my comments about Norway were in contrast to any other country,” Nielsen said. “What I was describing was the president’s views upon meeting with the prime minister, and what I was quoting was what he was told in meeting with the Norwegian delegation. That’s what he repeated, words that he repeated that I repeated. It was not in contrast. With respect to white supremacy, we expanded our prevention efforts in the Department of Homeland Security to ensure we in fact are going after violence of any kind, any kind is not appropriate and I will not allow it to occur if it’s within our authority to stop.”

Harris made one brief response before ceding the floor.

“Mr. Chairman, I would just ask that the record — so we can all review it — will reflect in the opening statements when discussing challenges to our homeland in terms of security, the white supremacist threat was not mentioned,” Harris said.