Dems make U-turn on calling border a 'manufactured crisis'

Democrats have done a U-turn on their claim from earlier this year that President Trump’s concern about illegal immigration at the southern border was a “manufactured crisis.”

Democrats now acknowledge there is a genuine humanitarian crisis and are preparing to pass legislation that would provide as much as $4.5 billion in federal aid to address the surge of migrants from Central America. 

A surging number of arrests, media reports of smugglers renting children to desperate migrants to help them gain entry into the United States and stories of children dying in U.S. custody have changed the narrative.

Earlier this year, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused Trump of exaggerating problems at the border to stoke fear among Americans and distract from the turmoil of his own administration.

After Trump issued an Oval Office address to the nation on Jan. 8 proclaiming the border situation a “crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” Schumer and Pelosi gave a side-by-side rebuttal.

“This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration,” Schumer said in the midst of a 35-day government shutdown sparked by a partisan disagreement over funding border barriers.

Other Democrats made similar dismissals.

“The President has manufactured a humanitarian crisis. It is solely Trump’s fault NOT the Democrats,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) tweeted.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, admonished Trump in a video statement: “Mr. President, we don’t need to create artificial crises. We have enough real ones.”

Trump subsequently backed down and agreed to reopen the government despite getting only $1.3 billion for border barriers, less than what Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee voted for earlier in the year.

Democrats again balked before the Memorial Day recess when they refused to add Trump’s request for $4.5 billion in emergency border funding to a disaster relief bill that the president signed into law two weeks ago. But the steady stream of heart-wrenching stories and eye-popping statistics has changed the political environment on Capitol Hill, and it now appears a bipartisan deal on the border is imminent.

Polling shows that voters have grown more concerned about the migrant surge at the border since the government shutdown over Trump’s border wall earlier this year. A Washington Post–ABC News poll published in late April found that more than a third of Americans saw illegal immigration as a “crisis,” an increase of 11 percentage points compared to January.

A Harvard CAPS–Harris Poll survey published in early May found that 56 percent of U.S. voters said they believed there is “a growing humanitarian and security crisis” at the border, while 44 percent said it was a “manufactured political crisis.”

Schumer last week described the Democrats’ plan to address the crisis in a floor speech, and two of its main elements mirrored a plan being pushed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Graham said Tuesday that he is in talks with Schumer to merge their proposals and expressed hope that reforms such as allowing migrants from Central America to apply for asylum from their own countries or from Mexico and to provide money for more immigration judges on the border — two ideas that Schumer has also endorsed — could be added to the border supplemental bill.

“I haven’t heard anyone say it’s a manufactured crisis for quite some time,” Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) observed of his Senate Democratic colleagues.

Customs and Border Protection agents have seen a 135 percent increase in apprehensions on the southern border, including a 74 percent increase in unaccompanied minors and a 463 percent increase in family units during the first six months of fiscal 2019 compared to 2018.

Arrests at the border jumped to 144,000 in May, including 55,000 children apprehended. It marked a 32 percent increase compared to April and the highest number of arrests in one month in more than a decade. At least five migrant children have died after being detained by Border Patrol agents.

“In recent weeks it’s gotten clearer and clearer there is a dramatic humanitarian crisis, again, at the border,” said Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. 

He blamed Trump’s “refusal to move forward” on comprehensive immigration reform as “contributing to that humanitarian crisis” but added “there’s a lot we could do jointly and should do jointly” in Congress right now to address the border situation.

Democrats such as Coons admit that “manufactured crisis” was probably not the best phrase to use months ago as it might now be seen as minimizing the human suffering at the border. Coons said colleagues who used that terminology were trying to argue that Trump’s policies had made the situation worse. 

“The phrase manufactured crisis could be misunderstood as suggesting it’s not a real crisis. It is a real crisis. There are people actually suffering. There are children dying. There are families in distress. It is a crisis,” Coons said. “The phrase ‘manufactured’ I think was used by some to emphasize the president’s role in making it worse.”

Asked Tuesday if it was right to call the border situation a manufactured crisis earlier this year, Schumer blamed Trump for making conditions much worse.   

“The bottom line is very simple: The border situation has been made worse and worse and worse by President Trump,” he said.

Schumer argued that Trump’s policy of removing young children from their parents in detention is “inhumane” and called the president’s varying strategies for slowing the migrant surge, such as calling for a border wall and threatening tariffs against Mexico, “erratic.”

“Now he says send a million immigrants back home. Every day he has a new policy, none of which have never been followed through on,” he said.

Democrats now concede, however, they may need to give ground on improving border security but claim that Republicans should also be more open to providing assistance to Central American counties, improving the conditions of immigrants detained and giving them a chance to pursue legitimate asylum claims.

Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, said conditions at the border have deteriorated dramatically since Democrats accused Trump of using the Oval Office to stoke fears about a “manufactured crisis.”

“It’s actually evolved. We’ve seen an escalation just in the last couple months. We have seen a big increase in the last two of half months from Central America. It evolved over time,” he said.


Trump Says He Will Begin Deporting 'Millions' of Illegal Aliens Next Week

The president took to Twitter last night and casually mentioned that ICE would "begin the process of removing" millions of illegal aliens starting next week.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in. Mexico, using their strong immigration laws, is doing a very good job of stopping people.......

Before the left gets its nose out of joint and the right swoons with ecstasy, two things should be kept in mind:

  • There are no funds allocated -- or likely to be allocated -- by Congress for such a massive effort
  • Besides 7-year-old kids, does anyone believe anything Donald Trump says anymore?

His cabinet certainly doesn't.

Fox News:

Mark Morgan, the director of the agency, did not announce any new initiatives during his stop in Louisville on Sunday, where he spoke about the humanitarian and national security crisis at the border.

ICE did not immediately respond to an email from Fox News for comment.

An administration official said that the new effort would focus on the more than 1 million people who have been issued final deportation orders by federal judges but remain at large in the country.

“Countless illegal aliens not only violate our borders but then break the law all over again by skipping their court hearings and absconding from federal proceedings. These runaway aliens lodge phony asylum claims only to be no-shows at court and are ordered removed in absentia,” the official said. “... These judicial removal orders were secured at great time and expense, and yet illegal aliens not only refuse to appear in court, they often obtain fraudulent identities, collect federal welfare, and illegally work in the United States. Enforcing these final judicial orders is a top priority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Some in Trump’s administration believe that decisive shows of force — like mass arrests — can serve as effective deterrents, sending a message to those considering making the journey to the U.S. that it’s not worth coming.

I'm sure informing immigration enforcement officials of the plan slipped Trump's mind at the last cabinet meeting.

Obviously, this "plan" is a campaign ploy. Like Trump's "wall," which keeps getting smaller every time he talks about it, a deportation plan that would send millions of people to their home countries is solely designed to excite his excitable base of support. There isn't nearly enough money and nowhere near enough ICE agents, to even begin to deport illegals in the numbers Trump mentions.

But truth is a commodity to our president, to be bought and sold like a Park Avenue brownstone. At this point, Trump is selling. How many voters will actually buy into this fantasy plan?



Police Shootings Have Brought Ethnic Groups Together To Fight For Change

Hours before he was supposed to walk the stage at his June 2017 alternative high school graduation, Le was shot and killed by a King County sheriff’s deputy in Burien, Washington, a town just south of Seattle. Police were responding to reports of a man threatening residents and acting bizarrely.

While police originally said the 20-year-old Vietnamese American was armed with a knife and lunged at the officer who shot him, the department revealed more than a week later that he was holding a pen. Two of the three bullets the officer fired at Le hit him in his back.

Toxicology reports showed Le had the hallucinogen LSD in his system. The King County sheriff’s review panel concluded last August that the deputy was justified in firing at Le.

The shooting shocked the community, said Linh Thai, the director of the nonprofit Vietnamese Community Leadership Institute of Seattle.

For most Vietnamese Americans in the area — many of them refugees who fled Southeast Asia in the last half-century — “respect is automatically given to those in authority,” the U.S. Army veteran said. And, according to federal data, Asian Americans are the least likely to be killed by police.

But Le’s death left a “gap of distrust.”

“If Tommy got killed in the way that he did, what about me?” Thai asked. “We could all be targeted. Nobody is safe.”

In the months after Le’s shooting, Thai persuaded other Asian Americans in Washington state to join a broad coalition of Native American tribes, black leaders and nearly 20 other ethnically and ideologically diverse groups that were already working to change how police treat residents of color. They would no longer be silent.

The group successfully pushed a 2018 ballot initiative that aims to strengthen police training by requiring police in Washington state to undergo more de-escalation and mental health training, administer first aid after a use of deadly force, and cooperate with an independent investigation into the use of deadly force.

Andrè Taylor, who led the effort for change in policing after his brother was shot and killed by police in 2016, said the only way they could get statewide support was to unify many different groups for a grassroots movement.

“We’ve lost so many times,” Taylor said. “We’ve been fighting these incidences separately, and we needed each other now more than ever.”

The Washington coalition gathered more than 350,000 signatures for a ballot initiative that passed with 60% support last November. When members of the law enforcement community saw the initiative had statewide support, they came to the table to help.

Police kill Native Americans, black people and Latinos at a higher rate than white people, according to a CNN analysis of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Since the Black Lives Matter movement gained prominence in 2013, much of the public focus has been on African Americans. But broader racial and ethnic coalitions pushed the recent changes in policing practices in a handful of states, said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel at LatinoJustice, a New York-based civil rights group.

“We can’t change policing practices and policing culture unless we have solidarity among all groups affected,” he said. “All these groups had an equal say and had a very clear sense that policing practices based on excessive force don’t make us safer and create more distrust in communities.”

Activism against questionable policing practices has been strong in communities of color, including among Latinos, for the past half-century, said Cartagena, alluding to Mexican-American activists in California and Puerto Rican activists in New York.

In California, Latino communities took to the streets several times over the past five years protesting fatal police shootings of unarmed Latino teenagers. Latino activists from Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Bakersfield were leaders in the recent debate to change the use-of-force standard in California that is now moving through the state legislature, Cartagena said.

Ethnically diverse coalitions also pushed for changes to New York’s policy on independent police investigations, Florida’s policy on felon voting rights policy in 2018 and New Jersey’s policy on independent police investigations in 2019, Cartagena said.

Washington state has a history of such cross-cultural activism. When Cartagena fought for the restoration of felon voting rights a decade ago, he recalled, Washington was the only state where he saw Latinos, blacks and Native Americans working together to overturn the voting ban.

Even so, the passage of the ballot initiative last year in Washington state was “extremely unusual,” said Christy Lopez, who led the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s investigation and consent decree negotiations with the Ferguson Police Department after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri.

The effect on communities

More than three years after police officers shot and killed Jacqueline Salyers as she sat in her car, her family and fellow Puyallup tribal members are still not satisfied with the official account from Tacoma police of the 2016 shooting.

Salyers’ boyfriend, a seven-time felon, was wanted on drug, firearms and robbery charges. Two weeks earlier, her family warned police she was the victim of domestic violence and being held involuntarily.

Officers eventually caught up with them. When two officers approached their idling car, Salyers attempted to drive away. An officer opened fire, shooting four times. One bullet hit her in the side of her head, killing her. Officers were cleared of wrongdoing.

Tribal tradition calls for putting away pictures and mementos of deceased loved ones for a year. Salyers’ mother, Lisa Earl, couldn’t bring herself to do it. She wanted to be reminded of her loss.

Native Americans are killed by police at a higher rate than any other racial group, according to CDC data. And non-tribal police are responsible for 83% of deadly encounters with Native Americans, according to a 2017 study from Claremont Graduate University.

When civil rights activists approached the Puyallup tribe about the 2018 police training initiative, members reached out to every tribe across Washington state to gather signatures and support.

They called it the “Rez-to-Rez” tour. All 29 tribes in Washington got on board — the first time in their history that they came together on a statewide campaign. The moment was encapsulated by tribal council member Tim Reynon, standing in front of the 268-foot waterfalls of the Snoqualmie Tribe on a rainy, early winter day as the water thundered down.

“As their elders talked, I had this overwhelming feeling come over me,” Reynon recounted from his office, clinching his fists. “When we come together as a tribal people, when we unify as tribes of this state, we are as powerful as those falls.”

Police came to the table

Beyond the hundreds of thousands of signatures, polls showed clear statewide support for the Washington ballot initiative in the months leading up to the November election. Even the Seattle Seahawks professional football team donated $25,000 to the cause.

When it became apparent the initiative was going to pass, the Washington State Fraternal Order of Police, a chapter of the biggest police union in the country, representing 3,000 of the state’s 11,000 police officers, joined negotiations.

Union leaders realized they had to take a leadership role in negotiations to change the negative narrative surrounding policing and add clarity to proposals that may not be “practical,” said James Schrimpsher, the legislative chairman of the Washington chapter.

“We recognize that every profession has to change,” he said. “Status quo can only work for so long. We’re going to try a different approach. We’re going to be part of this collaborative process, be at the table and engage.”

To be sure, many members of the law enforcement community rejected the initiative process. Mike Solan, president of the Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs, was one of the most vocal opponents of the initiative.

“[This initiative] is not about training,” the Seattle SWAT officer told KIRO Radio in October. “What this is truly about is to make it very, very easy to politically prosecute police officers for doing their jobs.”

Solan declined to speak to Stateline.

Previous ballot initiative attempts failed, in part due to opposition from law enforcement organizations. But this latest attempt was different.

“Police are very responsive to public opinion,” said Lopez, who is now a Georgetown Law professor. “It’s important that the public is educated and speak out and vote. Once law enforcement knows what the public believes, that can be a very powerful motivator for change.”

But in other parts of the country, Lopez said it is still challenging to get police to work with activists to implement new policing policies.

A year after then-Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, sued Chicago over police practices and civil rights violations, Madigan, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, also a Democrat, and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson negotiated a consent decree in 2018 to reform the Chicago Police Department — a rare partnership. A federal judge approved the consent decree in January.

The lawsuit was inspired by a U.S. Justice Department investigation into Chicago’s police practices. As part of the agreement, an independent monitoring team will issue public statements every six months on the city’s progress in implementing required changes to policing.

The Fraternal Order of Police’s Chicago chapter pushed back against the consent decree, saying it wanted to be part of the decision-making process for policing changes.

Both Democrats and Republicans in the California State Assembly helped pass a bill in May that will change the standards for police use of deadly force, from when officers deem it “reasonable” to a judgment “based on the totality of the circumstances.”

The bill was introduced shortly after Sacramento Police killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in his grandparents’ backyard March 18. The death inspired mass protests in the state capital. A coalition of multiracial groups advocated for the legislation, which was widely opposed by police unions.

The bill now heads to the state Senate, where there is strong support. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has indicated he will sign the bill into law.

In New Orleans, police launched a peer intervention program in 2016, which encourages officers to monitor one another to prevent misconduct and encourage better policing.

These changes are a bright spot in a broader, “deeply troubling” trend under the Trump administration, Lopez said. Over the past two years, the U.S. Department of Justice has shifted away from the police oversight that was commonplace during the Barack Obama presidency, backing away from consent decrees and turning its focus to officer safety.

What’s next

Officials at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, with the input of community groups, are working this summer to rewrite the rules for de-escalation and mental health training. The new rules will also cover requirements under the new law that officers administer first aid after a use of force and undergo a mandatory independent investigation into a deadly use of force.

Under the changes to the use-of-force standard, prosecutors no longer must prove officers acted with “evil intent” or “malice” if they are charged for using excessive force. The standard was impossibly narrow, proponents of the initiative said. A Seattle Times investigation found that 213 people were killed by Washington police between 2005 and 2014. Only one police officer was charged.

The new standard asks if a “reasonable” officer would find the use of force necessary.

What happened in Washington state is “leaps and bounds above what’s happened in other states,” said Alison Holcomb, the political director of the ACLU of Washington. But what’s important to see now, she said, is whether the community and law enforcement can continue talking to each other.

“It was beautiful for the communities to build those bridges and come together,” Holcomb said. “But for what purpose? Where do we go from here? The real implementation is how the language takes life.”

There are challenges. It’s been difficult to recruit new officers because of negative public perception, Schrimpsher said, but he plans to continue collaborating with community leaders.


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