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What’s Wrong With this Picture? DHS Lies, ICE Under Investigation, Journalists Under Surveillance, and Money Taken from Soldiers’ Pay and Pensions

 

Over the past week, we’ve seen new levels of hypocrisy from the Trump administration and congressional Republicans, as they bend over backwards to embrace Trump’s draconian immigration vision and the unpopular and unconstitutional power grab emergency declaration.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Communications Director of America’s Voice, “The President’s brand is chaos, and his reelection strategy is to exploit fear and misinformation to appeal to his base, but the rest of us are clearly seeing what Trump and the Republican Party are doing. His policies to deter asylum-seekers and delay their processing and adjudication put additional pressure on the border, while the President and his top officials lie about the policies they have implemented and misrepresent the facts. The tools the President is using are nothing short of chilling, from watch lists of activists and journalists to double-speak and deception that would make George Orwell blush. This is not business as usual and is not a strategy to bring the country together to find border and immigration policy solutions, but rather a continuation of his policy to divide and distract the country in order to maximize outrage among the segment of American voters who support the President.”

Below we review just a few of the low-lights – which are a depressing preview of things to come in 2020 from Trump and Republicans, as Ron Brownstein explores.

1. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are under investigation, and journalists and activists are under surveillance. As Buzzfeed’s Nidhi Prakash, Julia Reinstein, and Salvador Hernandez report:

The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general is investigating whether immigration officials violated policies when they created a secret list of journalists, attorneys, and activists to be stopped at the southern border for questioning — as Democratic members of Congress demanded answers.  “It’s really questionable and problematic when the US government is trying to prevent US citizens, journalists, from reporting on these border issues,” Bing Guan, a freelance photographer on the list, told BuzzFeed.

2. Under oath, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen repeatedly lied to Congress. Her argument to Congress was, essentially, believe my lies not your eyes. As the Daily Beast’s Scott Bixby summarized:

Nielsen, who was in her third hour of aggressive questioning on border security matters by Democrats on the House Committee on Homeland Security, repeatedly refused to answer Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) on whether U.S. Customs and Border Protection was “still putting children in cages” at detention facilities on the U.S. southern border. Nielsen instead described the cages as “areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection” of children in USCBP detention.

“Sir, they’re not cages. We don’t use cages for children,” Nielsen said. “To my knowledge, CBP never put a child in cages.” [America’s Voice has called for Nielsen’s resignation.]

3. The Trump administration plans to use soldiers’ pay and pensions to pay for Trump’s border wall. As the Associated Press’ Andrew Taylor and Lisa Mascaro report:

“The Pentagon is planning to tap $1 billion in leftover funds from military pay and pension accounts to help President Donald Trump pay for his long-sought border wall, a top Senate Democrat said Thursday. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told The Associated Press, “It’s coming out of military pay and pensions. $1 billion. That’s the plan.”

4. Pushing Emergency Declaration and Playing Fast and Loose with the Data to Try and Justify the the Unpopular and Unconstitutional Power Grab/Fake Emergency. As we explored yesterday, the Trump administration’s vicious cycle of circular logic and cynicism to justify the emergency declaration is jaw-dropping, including playing fast and loose with statistics, blurring distinctions between those legally seeking asylum and border apprehensions of unauthorized migrants, while failing to acknowledge that their own policies have contributed to the humanitarian crisis of families traveling to our border. Facing a potentially embarrassing rebuke in the Senate, all of this latest hype is being deployed in order to justify that there’s a crisis that requires the unconstitutional and unpopular emergency declaration power grab.

5. Trump plans to freeze hiring of immigration judges, which will only worsen the problem and stall existing cases. As Buzzfeed’s Hamed Aleaziz noted:

The Trump administration will pause its hiring of immigration judges, slow its procuring of support staff, and cancel a training conference, dealing a setback to the government’s efforts to cut down on a crushing backlog of cases, according to a Justice Department email obtained by BuzzFeed News.

…The pause on hiring delivers a blow to an administration that has long complained that the immigration court backlog, which has increased in recent years to more than 800,000 cases, has led to wait times stretching months and years.