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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.

No, Mr. President — The Puerto Rico Crisis Is Not About You

When the going gets tough, the tough go golfing.

Doubtless in years to come, every home in Puerto Rico will proudly display replicas of the golfing trophy President Trump dedicated to the brave citizens of the beleaguered island to memorialize Hurricane Maria.

Unless I miss my guess, donaldjtrump.com will soon be peddling them along with Make America Great Again T-shirts, ball caps, coffee mugs and engraved medals featuring the great man’s likeness.

The ball caps are $40, the medallions $45. So I’m guessing maybe $50 for the trophy.

OK, enough sarcasm. But can anybody point me to a more tone-deaf presidential gesture than Trump’s dedicating a golfing trophy to a desperate population he’d described as lazy ingrates begging for a government handout?

“Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help,” Trump tweeted.  “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”

Coming from a guy who couldn’t change a flat tire without his chauffeur, that’s pretty rich. But then it’s only when Trump evades his White House minders and holes up at one of his private country clubs that Americans get the full measure of their thin-skinned, boastful chief executive.

Basically that’s what happened during the long weekend after Category 5 Hurricane Maria tore across Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, leaving behind a path of unimaginable, almost Biblical destruction the president scarcely noticed. Instead of being on the job at the White House as the storm approached, Trump was sequestered at his Bedminster, N.J. golfing resort—too distracted conducting a Twitter war with NFL players to grasp the enormity of what was taking place.

Partly, too, the cable TV news networks where Trump gets most of his information were a bit slow off the mark. Blame hurricane fatigue in the wake of Harvey and Irma. But whatever the reason, the president only got engaged after the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, made an impassioned plea on behalf of her devastated island.

Reacting to a comment by acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, that her agency’s efforts were a “good news story,” Mayor Cruz, who had been wading through chest deep water to reach stranded flood victims, got emotional. “This is not a ‘good news story,” she told a CNN reporter. “This is a ‘people are dying’ story. It’s a life-or-death story.”

Indeed, the scope of the destruction in Puerto Rico was so vast as to beggar imagination. There was no electrical power or clean water anywhere on the island. Hospitals had been shut down; fuel for generators was in short supply. Ports and airports had been rendered inoperable, roads blocked, and telephone networks destroyed.

“The level of devastation and the impact on the first responders we closely work with was so great that those people were having to take care of their families and homes to an extent we don’t normally see,” an anonymous FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) official told the Washington Post. The Puerto Rican government’s inability even to communicate with its own emergency workers was critical. The storm had essentially reduced the island’s 3.5 million citizens to a state of nature.

American citizens, let’s recall, every one.

“I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives,” San Juan’s mayor said at a news conference a week after Hurricane Maria made landfall. “I am done being polite, I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell. . . . We are dying here. If we don’t get the food and the water into the people’s hands, we are going to see something close to a genocide.”

Trump, of course, took it personally. Because in his mind, everything in the world is about Donald J. Trump. “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” he said on Twitter.

Almost needless to say, there was no evidence of that, only Trump’s paranoia. Cruz hadn’t even mentioned his name. She had begged the President of the United States to understand the gravity of the humanitarian crisis Puerto Rico faced, and to respond.

Ultimately, despite the personal abuse and racial insinuations Trump heaped upon Puerto Rico’s victims, the mayor’s plea worked. The White House appointed Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan to command relief efforts. Buchanan told reporters that federal manpower on the island was insufficient to the crisis—not too surprising given how badly FEMA has been overstretched lately—and began to unravel the logistical nightmare Mayor Cruz complained of.

Again needless to say, the Golfer-in-Chief has begun taking bows. But if there’s a hero in this sad tale, it’s Carmen Yulin Cruz.

Democrats Must Also Address Illegal Immigration

As respectable Republicans panic over Donald Trump’s storm of insults against Hispanics, Democrats may be tempted to sit back and watch the other party estrange millions of potential voters. But they do so at their own peril.

Democrats already have the luxury of being far less offensive, whatever position they take on immigration. But they must take a position, and that position must draw a line between legal and illegal. To do so, they can’t flinch when advocates of open borders unleash unpleasant accusations against any Democrat who attempts to honor that line.

Fear of uncontrolled immigration is not limited to crazed right-wing white folk. Blacks have long felt themselves unfairly replaced by immigrants. As poet Toni Morrison wrote, “whatever the ethnicity or nationality of the immigrant, his nemesis is understood to be African American.” The evidence remains anecdotal, but many blacks have expressed support for Trump over this issue.

Many immigrants also have highly mixed feelings about open borders. To my surprise, a nonwhite nurse from the Philippines, a friend, has been sending me pro-Trump literature.

Over half of Latinos in the U.S. workforce were born in this country. They are thoroughly American. And that doesn’t count the huge number of foreign-born Hispanic workers here legally.

Their wages and benefits are also being depressed by unauthorized migrants willing to work for less. And as many states and cities raise their minimum wages, some employers will be even more tempted to hire the undocumented under the table and at lower pay.

Many Democrats who honor and admire immigrants remain frustrated by a surge of unskilled foreign workers into the hard-hit bottom rungs of the labor market. It is one cause of economic inequality. A Pew Research Center poll has 79 percent of Democrats saying that the immigration system needs to be completely rebuilt. And just look at the exasperated comments by self-described liberals following opinion pieces praising the benefits of immigration without making any distinction between legal and not.

The reasonable path out of the mess is to legalize most of the undocumented while stopping future unauthorized migrants. President Obama valiantly tried to win over skeptics by demonstrating a will to enforce. For these efforts, the open-border crowd on the left condemns him as “deporter in chief.”

Note the hostile reaction to Obama’s recent move to discourage a new surge of illegal immigration from Central America. Agents for his Department of Homeland Security had arrested for deportation 121 migrants whose claims for asylum were denied in the courts.

“Our borders are not open to illegal migration,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said. In any other country, that would have been an unremarkable statement.

But advocates for undocumented immigrants and some Democrats in Congress went ballistic. They accused Obama of crimes against innocent families.

If powerful Democrats can’t back deporting 121 people whose appeals for asylum were turned down, why would the American public trust them to respect a comprehensive immigration solution?

As the party of unions and working people, the Democratic Party used to be more hawkish on immigration than the GOP — and with the support of its immigrant members. At a certain point, though, many leading Democrats replaced the labor agenda with an ethnic one.

Because Trump’s magic sauce includes a strong defense of the social security net, Bernie Sanders thinks he could attract some of the populist’s working-class supporters. He or Hillary Clinton probably could. But each must first make clear that our national labor market can’t be a global one. That means defending the principle, without apology, that who and how many come into this country matters.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

Photo: Immigrants and community leaders rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to mark the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration in Washington, November 20, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque