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20 июня, 03:19

Scott slams Trump family separation policy, demands answers from HHS

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TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott intensified his opposition to President Donald Trump’s family separation policy for illegal immigrant children Tuesday night in a letter asking the federal government to give him more information about the minors detained in the state through the recent controversial practice.“I have been very clear that I absolutely do not agree with the practice of separating children from their families. This practice needs to stop now,” Scott wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whose agency is responsible for detaining unaccompanied minors and children taken from their parents who were illegally brought to the United States.Scott also pledged to help reunify children with parents.Scott’s letter came hours after his Senate opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), was denied access to a newly reopened detention center south of Miami in Homestead, prompting Nelson to accuse the Trump administration of a “cover-up.”Hours later, Nelson tweeted there were 94 kids being held at the facility, “who were separated from their families.” It’s unclear whether the children were separated as part of a controversial new “zero tolerance” policy by the Trump administration, or how many unaccompanied minors are in the 1,000-bed facility.Nelson blasted Trump and Scott in a statement emailed to reporters late Tuesday. “President Trump could end this policy with the stroke of a pen,“ he said. “If Gov. Scott really cared about these kids, he would have written this letter to Trump asking him to end this policy instead of asking HHS to confirm what we all already know.” The Florida Democratic Party also chimed in, saying in a written statement that Scott waited to criticize the policy because “he was worried about upsetting his close friend and ally Donald Trump,” and only changed his mind when his “political ambitions” were at stake. Scott isn’t taking his opposition to Trump’s policy as far as a handful of other Republican and Democratic governors who are either pulling out national guard personnel or are refusing to commit them along the border. “There are three members of the National Guard that have been ordered by the U.S. Department of Defense to the United States’ southern border. Governor Scott will not play politics with the National Guard,” Scott’s office said. Scott’s letter to HHS underscored the politically explosive nature of the controversy, which has many Republicans in Congress and in Florida distancing themselves from the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of arresting undocumented immigrants, including those who crossed the border unlawfully just to find a way to apply for asylum because border stations are no longer accepting applications.In Washington, Republican and Democratic senators are beginning to talk across the aisle about ending Trump’s practice of splitting families at the border. But the talks have yet to turn into bipartisan legislation. In his letter to Azar, Scott said the current situation was “a result of decades of failed immigration policies from Washington, including the failure to secure our borders which has led to an influx of illegal immigrants to our country.” He also mentioned that the detention facilities were authorized in legislation approved “by Florida’s entire delegation, including Senators Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson.” “It is extremely frustrating that, after decades of inaction by the federal government, many innocent children are now paying the price for the failures of Washington,” Scott wrote. “Congress must address our immigration system immediately.”Scott’s campaign then sent out an email blaming Nelson for Congress’ failures and faulting the Democrat for signing on to a Senate bill that “would make ‘catch and release’ our new law at the border.” Scott said it would be tantamount to “open borders.”“Bill Nelson favors ‘catch and release;’ I favor ‘catch and send back’. So yes, there’s a legitimate disagreement,” Scott’s campaign said.Scott also asked HHS’ Azar to be notified “immediately of any current or future unaccompanied minors — or children who were separated from their families under President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy” who were on their way to Florida. And he asked whether the agency was giving the kids health screening at the border and or in the center, and whether “health, educational or other social services” were being given to them.Azar was in Miami on Tuesday, but his handlers refused to allow an Associated Press reporter to ask a question of the secretary because the interview request had not been pre-arranged.Scott said the state was notified in February that the Homestead facility, first opened in 2014 to handle a crush of unaccompanied minors from Central America, would be reactivated after being temporarily deactivated.Scott is also familiar with the private contractor running the facility, Comprehensive Health Services, which qualified for as much as $600,000 in tax incentives from the governor’s office in July 2017, months after the company paid a $3.8 million settlement to end a Department of Justice lawsuit alleging it had double-billed taxpayers, according to the Miami New Times.Scott did not address any issues concerning the vendor in his letter and focused on finding out more information concerning the children in the facility and whether Florida could help get the kids back to their parents.“Reunifying the children who have been separated from their families is very important and the State of Florida stands ready to assist in this process,” Scott wrote. “Please inform me on any measures the state can facilitate to help the reunification process.”

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20 июня, 02:50

House GOP: Trump's immigration plea may fall short

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In a freewheeling address behind closed doors, the president promised Republicans he’d support legislation that he panned just days ago.

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20 июня, 02:23

New fingerprint checks could exacerbate shelter crunch for migrant kids

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Separating children from their parents at the border is creating havoc — but a new Trump administration fingerprinting policy may create even more in the future by discouraging their families from claiming them.Even before the White House imposed zero-tolerance border enforcement that led to an explosion in family separations, the Trump administration decided to collect biometrics from people who take custody of unaccompanied minors — with no guarantee that it won’t be used for enforcement.The Health and Human Resources Department, which oversees the care of the unaccompanied minors, signed a memorandum of agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in April that enabled ICE to check the immigration status of the adults who retrieve those minors from custody, along with their criminal history.“There is nothing in that memorandum of agreement that restricts how that information might be used for enforcement purposes,” said Mark Greenberg, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. Under former President Barack Obama, Greenberg led the HHS Administration for Children and Families.Greenberg said the policy could have “an enormous chilling effect” on attempts by parents or guardians to reunite with unaccompanied minors. The fingerprints could be collected from any adult in the child’s intended household.The new policy presents another obstacle placed between migrant children and their parents or guardians. In recent weeks, news reports have chronicled stories of desperate parents trying to locate their kids, including parents deported before they’re able to reconnect.More than 2,300 children were separated from adults over a roughly five-week period in May and June, according to DHS data released Monday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).Under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy, DHS will refer all people suspected of crossing the border for prosecution under federal illegal entry and reentry statutes. When parents head to detention centers, their children become “unaccompanied.”The new fingerprint policy comes as Trump’s aggressive anti-immigration policies already appeared to be driving down the proportion of parents who show up to retrieve children from federal custody.In fiscal 2018, the percentage of parents picking up unaccompanied minors plummeted to 42 percent compared to approximately 60 percent three years earlier, according to congressional testimony and a report from the Government Accountability Office.In addition to the memorandum, the administration published a proposed rule in May that would allow ICE to collect biometric data of potential sponsors and members of their households.A spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families didn't say whether the fingerprint checks had already begun, or when they might start. But it’s clear the enhanced security measures could scare away some parents — and potentially leave shelters for minors even more inundated.“If they’re afraid to come forward, then that’s going to increase the likelihood that these children remain in care for very long periods of time or indefinitely,” Greenberg told POLITICO.The average length of time that unaccompanied minors spend in federal shelters risen to an average of 57 days in such facilities — a sharp increase over the 34 day-average in December 2016. With the enhanced immigration checks of sponsors, the wait will likely grow longer.Steve Wagner, acting assistant secretary at the Administration for Children and Families, said during a May 29 on-the-record interview with reporters that people who decline to retrieve their children may not be fit to be parents. Wagner highlighted the need to vet sponsors of unaccompanied minors to avoid releasing them to a dangerous situation.In one high-profile case in 2014, several unaccompanied children from Guatemala were released to human traffickers and forced them to work on an Ohio egg farm.Still, critics argue the move to check immigration status is aimed more at deterring illegal immigration by making life in the U.S. more difficult.The fingerprint policy wasn’t launched in tandem with the zero tolerance prosecution strategy on the border, but it could also contribute to the growing sense of chaos.“I’m absolutely convinced this is being driven by Stephen Miller to create a crisis, so that [Republicans] have a favorable political environment leading into the election this November,” a DHS official told POLITICO. “They wanted an immigration crisis because they think that’s their best issue. And they had this problem that there wasn’t an immigration crisis.”

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20 июня, 02:01

House GOP budget sets up massive safety net cuts, Obamacare repeal bid

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House Republican budget writers debuted an ambitious deficit-reduction plan Tuesday that would force GOP committees to cut at least $302 billion over a decade and potentially lay the groundwork for another repeal vote on Obamacare.The GOP's sweeping budget plan is the first step toward a filibuster-proof bill that could result in real reductions to popular programs like federal student aid or low-income family block grants. It could also deliver on conservatives' decades-old promise to rein in entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.But that proposal faces long odds in the House, let alone the Senate, where moderates have balked at previous calls to rein in so-called entitlement programs. Republican leaders in either chamber have shown little interest in pursuing a welfare reform agenda in an already tough election year.If approved in both chambers, nearly a dozen House panels would be required to draft legislation by year’s end to dramatically slash funding for mandatory programs under their purview. "For the first time in a long time, we’re going to try to move this narrative back to the mandatory side of spending," Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), the House's first-term budget chief, told reporters Tuesday. He pointed out that mandatory programs, which can't be touched through Congress' regular spending cycle, now make up 70 percent of total government spending.The biggest task would fall on the House Ways and Means Committee, which is asked to cut $150 billion over a decade from a slew of programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income.In a win for many conservatives, the House budget would also leave an opening for repealing and replacing Obamacare through the separate fast-track process of budget reconciliation. The two committees that oversee most Obamacare programs — Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce — both receive reconciliation instructions, though there are no specifics about policy.Another Obamacare battle, however, could prove politically toxic for the two dozen House Republicans who are up for reelection in districts that carried Hillary Clinton in 2016 — the same seats likely to determine control of the House in November. The GOP budget also sets up potential cuts to federal retirement benefits, Dodd-Frank oversight and federal student loans by giving big saving targets for the Education and the Workforce, Oversight and Financial Services committees. Farm subsidies probably wouldn't be targeted, though. The budget would require the House Agriculture Committee to come up with just $1 billion in savings over a decade, though that committee oversees hundreds of billions of dollars in farm subsidies criticized by conservative groups.Those mandatory spending cuts — unlike the rest of the largely symbolic proposal — could actually become law. But first, every single GOP senator, including several moderates, would need to back the idea, a politically unfeasible outcome, particularly in an election year.A nearly identical group of GOP senators already rejected a similar approach last year, when House Republicans sought roughly $200 billion in mandatory cuts alongside their push to overhaul the tax code.Ultimately, House Republicans swallowed the Senate's version of that budget plan, which allowed for a $1.5 trillion increase in the deficit over a decade to account for expansive individual and corporate tax breaks.Womack has spent weeks shaping the proposal, which would get committee approval only with the support of nearly every GOP member of the panel.The makeup of the House Budget Committee, which is packed with fiscal hawks like Reps. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) and Dave Brat (R-Va.), is far different than the broader House GOP conference.Speaker Paul Ryan and his deputies have made no promises that Womack’s GOP budget resolution will make it to the floor.Womack wouldn't say if he expected the GOP budget proposal to get a floor vote. But he, and a handful of other budget writers standing by his side, vowed to make the case. "I would hope that I’m not the lone ranger on this," Womack said.Unlike past years, the House has no obligation to vote on a budget because both chambers agreed months ago on how much to spend in fiscal 2019. The new fiscal plan reflects that same level of discretionary funding, $1.2 trillion, as laid out under the February budget deal, H.R. 1892 (115).In future years, however, the House GOP budget would dramatically reduce spending for domestic programs while slowing the growth of the Pentagon’s budget. Over 10 years, Womack’s plan would slash $8.1 trillion, going far beyond the White House’s budget request, which would add $7 trillion to the deficit over the same time frame.The GOP budget is not as extreme as the plan released last week by Heritage Action, which would reduce the federal deficit by $11.9 trillion over a decade.

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20 июня, 01:53

Furor over Trump’s policies scorches tech

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Microsoft is just the latest giant tech company to face blowback from employees or shareholders over its dealings with the government.

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20 июня, 01:19

Cuomo threatens lawsuit as state and city leaders chastise Trump over family separations

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ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is threatening to sue the federal government over its “zero tolerance” policy on undocumented immigration, which has led to the separation of families. Cuomo, a Democrat, called the separations "inhumane.”The governor and his administration said Tuesday that there are at least 70 children being housed in 10 downstate facilities — including Kingston, Yonkers, Lincolndale and the Bronx — that are operated under contracts with the federal government. The children were separated from their families at the southern border.In a conference call with reporters, Cuomo said state agencies have reached out to offer mental health assistance to the children, but were rebuffed. The governor said the suit — which has not been finalized — would allege that the federal government improperly removed children from the “care, custody, and control” of their parents, where they have a “fundamental right” to remain.“The presumption is [that] parental care is in the best interests of the child, unless the government can prove otherwise,” Cuomo said. “In this case there has been a clear violation of due process … the children were summarily taken from the family.”The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a similar suit that is currently pending in federal court in Southern California. Cuomo aides said state agencies would serve as plaintiffs, and New York’s suit would be filed in federal court.President Donald Trump says it’s necessary to enforce federal laws by prosecuting people who cross the southern border illegally, and children can’t be held in federal jails. Congress is considering legislation that makes comprehensive changes to the immigration system, and Trump is set to visit Capitol Hill on Tuesday.In Albany, state lawmakers joined a nationwide chorus condemning the policy and its attendant separations. State Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) said Trump's policy was “criminal, cruel, it is inhumane, it is unjust” as he offered a resolution on Immigrant Heritage Month. Democrats in the Assembly are planning a Wednesday morning demonstration.Cuomo previously threatened to sue the federal government over the new tax law, but has not followed through since announcing his plans in January. The governor said papers would be filed within two weeks.Mayor Bill de Blasio, for his part, said Tuesday he is considering traveling to the southern border in El Paso, Texas alongside a contingent from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which is considering staging a protest.Earlier this week, de Blasio published an op-ed for CNN saying one of the many children separated from their families at the border had been sent to a facility in New York, but City Hall has not provided any details about the location of the facility. He also called Trump’s policy “inhumane” saying the children’s separation from their families is bound to have a permanent and negative effect.Federal officials have acknowledged that 2,342 children were separated from their parents at the border between May 5 to June 9.City Hall has been unable to provide the exact location of the facility, or a precise number of how many children have been sent to New York, but a spokesperson for the administration said it believes the number could be in the "dozens."“Based off our conversations with providers contracted by the federal government, we believe there are dozens, and possibly many more, of separated children in New York City," Seth Stein, a spokesperson for de Blasio told POLITICO in a statement. "We have every indication that they are being cared for by qualified facilities and foster families. But that doesn’t make these family separations any less unconscionable and immoral in the Mayor’s eyes."

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20 июня, 01:19

Chinese hackers targeting satellite and defense firms, researchers find

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Chinese hackers are waging a wide-ranging cyber espionage campaign against satellite operators, telecommunication companies and defense contractors in the U.S. and Southeast Asia, a cybersecurity company said Tuesday.The firm Symantec said it first noticed the campaign in January, although it has been monitoring the hacking group it dubbed "Thrip" since 2013. This year, Symantec detected "powerful malware" in Asia that it believes the hackers deployed to carry out spying operations and potentially destructive attacks. The news comes as tensions are rising between China and the U.S. over cybersecurity issues. Senators voted Monday to reverse a Trump administration trade deal to save the Chinese telecom giant ZTE due to lawmakers' concerns that Beijing could use the firm's tech to carry out espionage operations in the U.S.What's more, President Donald Trump has accused the Chinese government of not honoring an Obama administration deal with China that forbids cyber theft of intellectual property between the two nations.Thrip's interest in targeting a satellite communications operator indicates it is interested in more than just stealing data, according to Symantec."The attack group seemed to be particularly interested in the operational side of the company, looking for and infecting computers running software that monitors and controls satellites," Symantec said in a blog post. "This suggests to us that Thrip’s motives go beyond spying and may also include disruption."The sophisticated attack, which relied on custom malware as well as more commonly used hacker tools, originated from computers inside China, according to Symantec. Some of the malware the firm uncovered is designed to move around undetected in victims' networks to extract data and steal passwords. "They operate very quietly, blending in to networks, and are only discovered using artificial intelligence that can identify and flag their movements," said Symantec CEO Greg Clark. "We stand ready to work with appropriate authorities to address this serious threat."

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20 июня, 01:16

Congress flails as family separation crisis spirals

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Republicans and Democrats are sharply at odds over how to end Trump’s policy of splitting migrant families at the border.

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20 июня, 01:00

Trump leans on inflammatory rhetoric to defend border separation

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President Donald Trump and his allies are using the same inflammatory language they’ve used to describe violent gangs to defend the separation of undocumented children from their parents at the border.Trump on Tuesday tweeted that immigrants would “pour into and infest” the United States and questioned parents’ decision to send children unaccompanied to the border. The tweet came a day after Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen referred to the “flood” of immigrants, and Fox News host and Trump ally Laura Ingraham described the border crossings as a “slow-rolling invasion of the United States.”The comments have drawn sharp rebukes from elected officials, including at least one Republican.“No, @POTUS, saying immigrants ‘infest’ our country is repugnant, reprehensible, + repulsive,” tweeted retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). “To dehumanize those who wish to make a better life for themselves + their families flies in the face of decency. The real infestation is only one of your baseless rhetoric.”Such heated rhetoric has a long history in anti-immigration politics. Trump’s latest salvo comes just weeks after Trump stirred controversy by stating that some immigrants being deported “aren’t people, they’re animals” – a comment he and the White House said was meant only to apply to members of the MS-13 gang.The White House embraced the ensuing controversy, blasting out a 488-word release that repeatedly described members of the gang as “animals.”“What sort of creatures infest? Vermin infests,” said David Livingstone Smith, a professor of philosophy and expert in dehumanization and racism and the author of the forthcoming “Making Monsters: The Uncanny Power of Dehumanization.” “The attitude that one takes to vermin – to cockroaches, to rats, to infestations of ants – is to exterminate them. That’s what it says.”Immigrant advocates said there’s typically a clear political purpose behind such language.“A government cannot commit open, widespread and notorious violations of human rights under both international and domestic law without substantially dehumanizing the people that they’re inflicting the pain upon to desensitize the nation to the injustices or make the injustices appear okay,” said Jonathan Ryan, executive director of Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, a group aiding families being separated at the border.“The only way to participate in such cruelty is to dehumanize them,” he added.Trump and his allies – including Nielsen at Monday’s press conference – frequently seek to conflate all undocumented immigrants with gang members, particularly those affiliated with MS-13, a gang with Salvadoran origins. “They endanger all of our children,” Trump said of those crossing the border illegally in a speech to the National Federation of Independent Businesses on Tuesday. In fact, only a small fraction of illegal border crossers have connections to gangs.Congress is considering various pieces of legislation to halt the separation of families, but Trump appears committed to continuing to employ the same rhetorical attacks as he calls for strict control of immigration.“Roughly half a million illegal immigrant family units and minors from Central America have been released into the United States since 2014 at unbelievably great taxpayer expense,” Trump added Tuesday. “Nobody knows how much we're paying for this monstrosity that's been created over the years.”