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ICYMI: New Report Exposes Trump Administration Illegally Using TPS Terminations To Boost Re-election, Endangering National Security

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Yesterday, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spearheaded by Sen. Bob Menendez, released a report spotlighting that the Trump administration’s decision to accelerate the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) may have illegally put America’s national security and the lives of hundreds of thousands of US citizen children at risk to benefit his 2020 re-election campaign. Official documents made reference to Trump campaign considerations, which was part of the process of decisions to end TPS despite strong warnings from career government officials that doing so in the manner Trump desired would hurt U.S. interests.

Below is some of the coverage from the release of the report, which we feel should be getting a lot of attention: 

Vox’s Nicole Narea reported in her exclusive article:

The almost 80 pages of internal State Department memos and diplomatic cables — obtained by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as part of an investigation commissioned by Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the committee — show that senior agency officials advised former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that revoking TPS would destabilize the three countries and recommending that, if he must end the program, it should be wound down over three years.

But a State Department policy memo from 2017 also noted that this would put the end of the program “directly in the middle of the 2020 election cycle.” Tillerson scribbled on the memo that the wind-down period should instead be 18 months — a decision that ran counter to every recommendation by career diplomats in the State Department.

Yahoo News’ Caitlin Dickson reported: “WH ignored warnings from State Department officials about ending immigrant protections

Despite those concerns, the political appointees in the State Department urged Tillerson to accelerate the termination of protections afforded immigrants with TPS status. Although senior officials at State had already concluded that TPS status should not be ended quickly, those officials handpicked by Trump believed that the suggested 36-month timeline was too slow because it “would put the wind-down of the program directly in the middle of the 2020 election cycle.”

That memo is among dozens of internal State Department documents included in a new report published Thursday by the Democratic staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The report is the product of an investigation commissioned by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the ranking Democrat on the committee, into the State Department’s role in the Trump administration’s decision to end TPS for Honduras, El Savador and Haiti. It concludes that the White House not only disregarded repeated and explicit warnings against ending TPS from career diplomats, but suggests that the decision to do so may have been influenced by what the report calls “electoral calculations.” 

Rafael Bernal at The Hill highlighted: “Top Senate Dem: Officials timed immigration policy around 2020 election

According to a report written by Menendez’s committee staff, recommendations from American diplomats on the ground in those countries went unheeded. The report further alleged that Trump political appointees advised then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to time the termination of TPS — a policy that allows nationals of countries that undergo catastrophe to stay and work in the United States pending a background check — around the 2020 electoral process.

… Menendez said that he did not yet have the basis to call for a criminal investigation based on the report, but later wrote Linick, asking for an investigation into the communications of three State Department officials involved in the 2017 TPS decisions.

Miami Herald’s Alex Daugherty reports: “Senate Democrats say 2020 election timing drove White House decision to end Haiti TPS

The career staffers warned that deporting nearly 300,000 people would have detrimental effects and split families in communities like Miami, home to the country’s largest Haitian population, and it would create negative political and economic consequences abroad.

But the Trump administration overrode their concerns, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ignored recommendations on Haiti that a 36-month TPS wind down would be better than the 18 months of notice that were originally announced in November 2017, the report said. The 36-month time frame would’ve meant that approximately 46,000 Haitians in the crucial swing state of Florida could face potential deportation around Election Day 2020.

Al Día’s Yamily Habib reported: “The Trump Administration presumably used TPS as a political tool” 

“Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic Staff uncovered that senior Trump administration appointees in the State Department recommended a shorter termination period to avoid hundreds of thousands of TPS recipients losing their status during the height of the 2020 election, ”says the report.

Despite having at hand all the information necessary to know the economic and social conditions of each country – who among earthquakes and hurricanes still struggle to get afloat – the government insisted on jeopardizing the fragile stability of the region and the life of hundreds of thousands of people.

Jonathan D. Salant reported for NJ.com: “This Jersey resident could be deported. Menendez says that’s because Trump is trying to appeal to his base.” 

The experts had warned that ending the program would hurt U.S. foreign policy, jeopardize support in those countries for the war on drugs, and give MS-13 and other gangs a new pool of possible recruits as parents bring their American-born children to a country they’ve never lived in.

Trump administration officials moved ahead anyway, the report said.

“The recklessness and depravity of their anti-immigrant agenda knows no limits,” said Menendez, D-N.J. “In its frenzied rush to strip nearly 400,000 people of humanitarian protections, the administration was willing to play political games with our national security and the safety of TPS recipients and their American children.”

Telemundo and Univision also wrote stories for their digital platforms (in Spanish).