Homeland Security Secretary: Critics of Current Border Enforcement Are Those Whose Policies Created This Crisis

Homeland Security Secretary: Critics of Current Border Enforcement Are Those Whose Policies Created This Crisis

This is a transcript of Department of Homeland Security Secretary ‘s remarks to reporters at the White House Monday.

Well, good afternoon. It is my pleasure to be here because I would love to see if I can help explain some of what’s going on and give you some of the facts. I know there have been a lot put out there, but hopefully we can clarify some things today.

I just wanted to start by thanking the sheriffs of the United States. I had the privilege of speaking to them this morning at the National Sheriffs’ Association Conference. We are so thankful for their partnership at DHS and all they do to protect our community. So I thank them.

So I want to provide you an update on the illegal immigration crisis on our southern border and the effects — the efforts the administration is taking to solve this crisis and to stop the flood of illegal immigrants, drugs, contraband, and crime coming across the border.

So let’s just start with a few numbers and facts. So in the last three months, we have seen illegal immigration on our southern border exceed 50,000 people each month. Multiples over each month last year.

Since this time last year, there has been a 325 percent increase in unaccompanied alien children and a 435 percent increase in family units entering the country illegally.

Over the last 10 years, there has been a 1,700 percent increase in asylum claims, resulting in asylum backlog to date, on our country, of 600,000 cases.

Since 2013, the United States has admitted more than half a million illegal immigrant minors and family units from Central America, most of whom today are at large in the United States. At the same time, large criminal organizations such as MS-13 have violated our borders and gained a deadly foothold within the United States.

This entire crisis, just to be clear, is not new. It’s been occurring and expanded over many decades. But currently, it is the exclusive product of loopholes in our federal immigration laws that prevent illegal immigrant minors and family members from being detained and removed to their home countries.

In other words, these loopholes create a functionally open border. Apprehension without detention and removal is not border security. We have repeatedly called on Congress to close these loopholes. I, myself, have met with as many members have been willing to meet with me. I’ve testified seven times. I will continue to make myself available to ask that they work with us to solve this crisis.

Yet the voices most loudly criticizing the enforcement of our current laws are those whose policies created this crisis and whose policies perpetrate it.

In particular, we need to reform three major loopholes. Let me quickly walk you through them. First, we need to amend the 2008 Trafficking Victims Prevention Reauthorization Act, or TVPR — which is much easier to say.  This law encourages families to put children in the hands of smugglers to bring them alone on this dangerous trek northward.  And make no mistake, we’ve talked about this before — this trek is dangerous and deadly.

Second, we need to reform our asylum laws to end the systemic abuse of our asylum system and stop fraud. Right now, our asylum system fails to assist asylum seekers who legitimately need it.  We are a country of compassion. We are a country of heart. We must fix the system so that those who truly need asylum can, in fact, receive it.

Third, we need to amend the Flores Settlement Agreement and recent expansions which currently allow for — which would allow for family detention during the removal process.  And we need Congress to fully fund our ability to hold families together through the immigration process.

Until these loopholes are closed by Congress, it is not possible, as a matter of law, to detain and remove whole family units who arrive illegally in the United States.

Congress and the courts created this problem, and Congress alone can fix it.  Until then, we will enforce every law we have on the books to defend the sovereignty and security of the United States. Those who criticize the enforcement of our laws have offered only one countermeasure: open borders; the quick release of all illegal alien families and the decision not to enforce our laws.  This policy would be disastrous. Its prime beneficiaries would be the smuggling organizations themselves, and the prime victims would be the children who would be plunged into the smuggling machines and get gang recruitment on the trip north.

There’s a lot of misinformation about what DHS is and is not doing as it relates to families at the border and I want to correct the record. Here are the facts:

First, this administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border. We have a statutory responsibility that we take seriously to protect alien children from human smuggling, trafficking, and other criminal actions while enforcing our immigration laws.

We have a long-existing policy. Multiple administrations have followed that outline when we may take action to protect children.  We will separate those who claim to be a parent and child if we cannot determine a familial or custodial relationship exists.

For example, if there’s no documentation to confirm the claimed relationship between an adult and a child, we do so if the parent is a national security, public or safety risk, including when there are criminal charges at issue and it may not be appropriate to maintain the family in detention together.

We also separate a parent and child if the adult is suspected of human trafficking. There have been cases where minors have been used and trafficked by unrelated adults in an effort to avoid detention. And I’d stop here to say, in the last five months, we have a 314 percent increase in adults and children arriving at the border, fraudulently claiming to be a family unit.  This is, obviously, of concern.

And separation can occur when the parent is charged with human smuggling.  Under those circumstances, we would detain the parent in an appropriate secure detention facility separate from the child.

What has changed is that we no longer exempt entire classes of people who break the law. Everyone is subject to prosecution. When DHS refers a case against a parent or legal guardian for criminal prosecution, the parent or legal guardian will be placed into the U.S. Marshals Service custody for pretrial determination, pursuant to an order by a federal judge.  And any accompanied child will be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services and will be reclassified as an unaccompanied alien child. That is in accordance with the TVPRA — a law that was passed by Congress — and a following court order, neither which are actions the Trump administration has taken.

And let’s be clear: If an American were to commit a crime anywhere in the United States, they would go to jail and they would be separated from their family. This is not a controversial idea.

Second, children in DHS and HHS custody are being well taken care of.  The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement provides meals, medical care, and educational services to these children.  They are provided temporary shelter.  And HHS works hard to find a parent, relative, or foster home to care for these children.  Parents can still communicate with their children through phone calls and video conferencing.

And a parent who is released from custody can be a sponsor and ask HHS to release the child back into their care.  Further, these minors can still apply for asylum and other protections under U.S. immigration law, if eligible.

We take allegations of mistreatment seriously. And I want to stress this point: We investigate. We hold those accountable when, and if, it should occur. We have some of the highest detention standards in the country. Claiming these children and their parents are treated inhumanely is not true and completely disrespects the hardworking men and women at the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Third, parents who entered illegally are, by definition, criminals.  Illegal entry is a crime as determined by Congress.  By entering our country illegally, often in dangerous circumstances, illegal immigrants have put their children at risk.

Fourth, CBP and ICE officers are properly trained to care for minors in their custody.  DHS and HHS treats all individuals in its custody with dignity and respect, and complies with all laws and policy.  This reinforces and reiterates the needs to consider the best interest of the children, and mandates adherence to establish protocols to protect at-risk populations, to include standards for the transport and treatment of minors in DHS and HHS custody.

Additionally, all U.S. Border Patrol personnel in the southwest border are bilingual — every last one of them.  They are directed to clearly explain the relevant process to apprehended individuals, and provide detainees with written documentation in both Spanish and English that lays out the process and appropriate phone numbers to contact.

And finally, DHS is not separating families legitimately seeking asylum at ports of entry.  If an adult enters at a port of entry and claims asylum, they will not face prosecution for illegal entry.  They have not committed a crime by coming to the port of entry.

As I mentioned, DHS does have a responsibility to protect minors. And in that case, as well, we will only separate the family if we cannot determine there is a familiar relationship, if the child may be at risk with the parent or legal guardian, or if the parent or legal guardian is referred for prosecution.

We have a duty to protect the American people, and it’s one that I take very seriously. Here is the bottom line: DHS is no longer ignoring the law. We are enforcing the laws as they exist on the books. As long as illegal entry remains a criminal offense, DHS will not look the other way.  DHS will faithfully execute the laws enacted by Congress, as we are sworn to do.

As I said earlier today, surely it is the beginning of the unraveling of democracy when the body who makes the laws, instead of changing them, tells the enforcement body not to enforce the law.  I ask Congress to act this week so that we can secure our borders and uphold our humanitarian ideas.  These two missions should not be pitted against each other.  If we close the loopholes, we can accomplish both.

Before I take questions, I just want to ask that, in your reporting, please consider the men and women of DHS who are dedicated law enforcement officers and who often put their lives at risk.  Let’s remember their sacrifice and commitment to this country.

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Trump’s New Health Initiative Will Spell Relief for Americans

Trump’s New Health Initiative Will Spell Relief for Americans

This week, the Trump administration is moving forward with significant regulatory relief for millions of Americans seeking more affordable health coverage and better choices than they can get under Obamacare.

The Department of Labor, pursuant to President Donald Trump’s October 2017 executive order, has just published a final rule to enable small businesses to more easily join together and form association health plans. The new rule would apply to sole proprietors, the self-employed, or persons owning their own businesses, allowing them to take advantage of these plan offerings.

Authorized under federal law, the rules governing association health plans are the same rules that exist today that enforce consumer protections in large group, or corporate health insurance. Persons with a pre-existing medical condition, for example, cannot be denied coverage, and federally regulated association health plans cannot drop persons from their coverage because they get sick, or charge them higher premiums because they have a pre-existing condition.

When Trump ordered the Department of Labor to develop the new rules last year, he wanted to give small employers and employees who work in the same kind of business, such as plumbers or electricians, the right to form these associations. He envisioned American businesses joining and establishing a large, common health insurance pool to provide affordable coverage for workers and their families anywhere in the nation.

With these new pooling arrangements, governed by updated regulation, the associated firms would be able to offer health insurance to large numbers of workers and their families at the city, county, or state level, or in metropolitan areas that cross state lines. Large interstate pooling through the vehicle of business-based health insurance could emerge under the new rule.

Broader availability of these plans could also reverse the continuing downward slide in the number of small businesses offering coverage. The National Federation of Independent Business reports that over the period 2004 to 2016, the number of small businesses offering insurance coverage fell from 42 percent to 29 percent. That decline sharply accelerated under Obamacare between 2013 and 2015.

Because these plans would be federally regulated group health insurance, employers, employees, and their families who would join together in association health plans would also qualify for the generous job-based, federal tax relief for employer coverage.

It is hard to overestimate the crucial importance of this tax relief. In a June 15, 2018, letter to the secretary of labor, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and 30 of his Senate colleagues highlighted the tax and economic advantages of the Trump regulatory reform:

Employer-provided coverage is approximately $5,000 cheaper per policy for a family of four because of federal tax breaks. Furthermore, when sole proprietors and businesses join together to purchase as a larger group, employers may reduce their administrative costs, bargain for better deals from insurance companies, and create stable risk pools with more people.

Soaring premiums and explosive deductibles characterize Obamacare’s individual markets in most states. In an analysis of these markets in seven states, actuaries estimate that 2018 individual premium rates averaged 37.3 percent for the standard (“silver”) plans.

Association health plans would be particularly attractive for middle-class Americans who do not qualify, because their income is too high to receive the generous Obamacare health insurance subsidies. Likewise, unless they are self-employed, none of these middle-class Americans can get individual tax relief for the purchase of Obamacare coverage under current law. Many of these persons would be able to secure far more affordable, stable, and flexible coverage for themselves and their families through a new, federally regulated association health plan.

Association health plans could have a substantial impact in the health insurance markets, reducing the costs and expanding health insurance coverage for millions of Americans. As Alexander and his colleagues note, there are 11 million Americans who are uninsured because they work for a small firm that does not offer coverage who could directly benefit from this option.

Moreover, there are 9 million Americans in Obamacare’s individual markets who get no taxpayer subsidy, for whom the new association health plans would be an attractive option.

Cost and coverage estimates, as the Congressional Budget Office emphasizes, are highly uncertain. Examining an initial version of the Trump rule, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that about 4 million persons would enroll in association health plans by 2023, and that the introduction of these plans would help to reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

Preliminary work by Avalere, an independent health care consulting firm, paints a mixed picture. They project an increase in 130,000 uninsured over four years, as well as an increase in enrollment in association health plans of about 3.2 million, drawn from Obamacare’s individual and small group markets.

Avalere also projects a robust reduction in annual premium costs. For persons leaving the small group market, Avalere estimates a premium cost reduction of about $2,900. For persons leaving the individual market, premiums would be $9,700 less. Avalere also projects that the exodus from Obamacare would increase premiums in the individual market by an estimated 3.5 percent, and 0.5 percent in the small group market.

In short, the impact on Obamacare premiums would range from modest to minimal.

The market, driven by resurgent choice and competition, will determine whether enrollment or cost reductions are either modest or robust. In either case, persons will be able to keep Obamacare if they like it, or get the insurance they want at lower costs.

Relief cannot come soon enough. Millions of Americans are struggling with Obamacare’s skyrocketing health insurance costs, declining choice and competition, and narrower networks of doctors and medical specialists. While liberals in Congress want to prop up Obamacare with more regulations and bigger taxpayer subsidies, Trump is offering Americans a way out.

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Trump Administration Action Could Lower Health Care Costs, Expand Coverage for Small Business Employees

Trump Administration Action Could Lower Health Care Costs, Expand Coverage for Small Business Employees

A new Labor Department regulation finalized Tuesday—which will make it easier for small businesses to pool resources to negotiate with large employers—will expand health care coverage for 4 million Americans by 2023, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Out of that 4 million–who were previously required to buy on the individual market through Obamacare exchanges–400,000 do not have insurance, according to a May 23 CBO report.

Further, under “association health plans,” premiums are estimated to decrease between $1,900 and $4,100 per year, a senior Department of Labor official told The Daily Signal during a background briefing with two reporters Monday.

The plans, also known as AHPs, make it easier for entities to offer health insurance plans through legal arrangements allowing business associations or unrelated employers to jointly offer health insurance to members and employees.  

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last October to put the process in motion, and the Labor Department put the proposed regulation in the Federal Register in January and has gone through the public comment period.

The rule is finalized on the day Trump is set to speak to the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s largest advocacy group for small businesses.

Currently, 8 million Americans employed by small businesses and another 3 million sole proprietors, who do business without employees, don’t have access to a group health insurance plan. Solo proprietors are currently required to buy health plans on the individual market. Now, they can band resources with other small businesses with 50 or fewer employees to buy association health plans.

Association members must have a “commonality,” which could be based on region or industry, senior administration officials said on background. Potential examples would be an industry organization, such as the National Restaurant Association, or statewide Chamber of Commerce or other regional business organization allow employers to band together to negotiate for large insurance plans.

The “association health plans, combined with a separate rule not yet finalized that will allow people to buy short-term insurance plans,” will reduce the federal deficit by $1 billion, according to the CBO report on May 23.

Association health plans will have three phases, the first completed on Sept. 1, the second on Jan. 1, and the final on April 1, a senior Department of Labor official said.

Critics of the plan contend it will water down regulation and weaken the existing Obamacare exchanges. America’s Health Insurance Plans, the health insurance lobby, has warned that such plans could be prone to fraud without state oversight.

However, Labor Department officials contend this increases competition and choices.

“The main objective of this effort is to expand choices for people who do not yet have insurance and [create] more options for employers and employees to take advantage of,” Robert Moffit, a senior fellow in health policy studies at The Heritage Foundation and a former assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, told The Daily Signal in January when the regulation was first submitted to the Federal Register.

One of the many critiques of Obamacare was that it did not allow people to buy insurance plans across state lines, and further has left many coverage areas with a single option.

Individual small businesses without many employees could band together—in some cases across state lines—to create a health insurance plan covering a combined, large pool of employees, not unlike that of a health plan run by a big company with its own large pool of employees.

While association plans are targeted for small businesses, a larger corporation could join one. However, these companies already have existing plans, so there would be less incentive to do so.

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The Truth Behind 4 Wild Claims About Detaining Children at the Border

The Truth Behind 4 Wild Claims About Detaining Children at the Border

The Trump administration is taking heat from Democrats and Republicans for separating parents and children after they illegally crossed the southern border.

Over the six weeks from April 19 through May 31, federal officials separated about 2,000 children from their families at the U.S.-Mexican border, the Associated Press reported last week.

President Donald Trump blamed the procedure on Democrats in Congress.

“They’re obstructing. They’re really obstructionists and they are obstructing,” Trump said Monday at the White House. “The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility. It won’t be.”

“If you look at what’s happening in Europe, if you look at what’s happening in other places, we can’t allow that to happen to the United States–not on my watch,” he said.

During the White House press briefing Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said: “This is a very serious issue that has resulted after years and years of Congress not taking action.”

Here’s a look at four of the more questionable claims made about the enforcement action.

1. Democrats’ Law or Trump Policy?

“The Democrats forced that law upon our nation,” Trump asserted last week.

Democrats, backed by some media commentators, counter that it’s not the law but a Trump administration policy.

Actually, experts say, the situation is a combination of a bipartisan law and a Clinton administration policy.

In 1997, the Clinton administration entered into something called the Flores settlement agreement, which ended a class action lawsuit first brought in the 1980s.

The settlement established a policy that the federal government would release unaccompanied minors from custody to their parents, relatives, or other caretakers after no more than 20 days, or, alternatively, determine the “least restrictive” setting for the child.

In a separate development, in 2008 the Democrat-controlled Congress approved bipartisan legislation to combat human trafficking and President George W. Bush, a Republican, signed it into law.

Section 235 (g) in that law, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, states that unaccompanied minors entering the United States must be transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement rather than to the Department of Homeland Security.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit expanded the Flores settlement in 2016 to include children brought to the country illegally by their parents.

For consistency between the provision of the anti-trafficking law and the 9th Circuit’s interpretation of the Flores agreement, children who came into the country illegally with parents had to be taken into HHS custody, said Art Arthur, former general counsel for Immigration and Naturalization Services (now known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as well as a former federal immigration judge.

“As soon as their parents are detained, the children are classified as unaccompanied,” Arthur, now a resident fellow for law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Signal.

2. Unprecedented Action by Trump Administration?

Some media outlets have called the practice of separating children from parents at the border “unprecedented” or a “new low” for the United States.

What’s different under the Trump administration, though, is a “zero tolerance” approach to enforcing existing immigration laws and policy.

On May 7 in Scottsdale, Arizona, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to prosecute all adults who illegally enter the country, including those accompanied by their children, under a provision of federal law (8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)) that covers illegal entry.

“If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law,” Sessions said. “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally. It’s not our fault that somebody does that.”

Since it takes more than 20 days to adjudicate an asylum claim, the 9th Circuit’s interpretation of the Flores settlement agreement essentially provides three options, said David Inserra, a homeland security policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation.

“The Trump administration currently faces two options: Either release every family that crosses the border and claims asylum and know that most of them will never show up at their immigration court hearing; or release the child as required by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ interpretation of the Flores settlement while holding the parents while awaiting trial,” Inserra told The Daily Signal.

“A third, better solution is to fix the loophole created by the 9th Circuit with regard to Flores and improve the asylum process to discourage frivolous asylum claims, while also better serving those with legitimate asylum cases,” Inserra added.

Proposed legislation by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would reverse the 9th Circuit’s interpretation.

“This would mean only a brief period of separation while the parents are prosecuted,”Arthur said.

Depending on the outcome, the family would be reunited and either be released or deported together.

3. ‘Concentration Camps’?

Much of the criticism of separating children from parents at the border has been from Democrats.

However, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who served under President George W. Bush, and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who was once lieutenant governor of Maryland, both compared the practice to Nazi concentration camps.

The Department of Homeland Security rejected the comparison, noting that most children caught crossing the border illegally are not detained by federal officials.

“We have high standards,” Nielsen said during the White House press briefing Monday. “We give them meals and we give them education and we give them medical care. There are videos, there are TVs. I visited the detention centers myself.”

In the last fiscal year, 90 percent of apprehended children were released to a sponsor who was either a parent or close relative, according to the department.

Homeland security officials also say they work with HHS to improve and ease communication between detained parents and their children in HHS care.

Sponsors may be “a parent, adult sibling, relative, or appropriate home that meets criteria for the safety of the child and continuation of any immigration proceedings,” according to DHS. Also, a parent who is prosecuted and later released can be a sponsor and ask HHS to restore custody of the child.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has dedicated a facility to operate primarily as a family reunification and removal center. ICE staff who interact with parents will receive training in trauma-informed care, and the agency will assign staff trained in mental health care to detained parents who have been separated from children, according to DHS.

4. Taking Babies From Nursing Mothers?

CNN reported last week on an illegal immigrant from Honduras who claimed her nursing daughter was pulled away from her before she was handcuffed. CNN cited a lawyer from a liberal legal group called the Texas Civil Rights Project.

In a conference call with reporters last week, a senior Department of Homeland Security official said this was not the case.

“We do not separate breastfeeding children from their parents. That does not exist. That is not a policy. That is not something that DHS does,” an official told reporters Friday. “We believe that that is false.”

An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 individuals are smuggled into the United States each year. For perspective, that number constitutes about 5.7 percent of total apprehensions of illegal immigrants in 2017, though apprehensions don’t account for all border crossings.

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Trump Is More Right Than Wrong About Migrant Crime in Germany

Trump Is More Right Than Wrong About Migrant Crime in Germany

President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday, “Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

This was a clear reference to the migrant flow of recent years that has provoked such controversy in Europe.

Trump’s tweet has, unsurprisingly, led to some criticism. The Washington Post, The New York Times, and NBC, among others, have all hit back, stating that crime is actually down in Germany.

There is some truth to this. Germany’s 2017 official crime statistics do show a reduction in crime. But that’s only part of the story.

For starters, just look at the threat of Islamist terrorism.

True, this threat predates the refugee flow of 2015. Holger Münch, head of Germany’s domestic criminal investigation agency, outlined in March 2016 that Germany had prevented terror 11 attacks between 2000 and 2013.

Yet even allowing for this, the scale of the terror threat today compared with the threat before German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders is stark.

Heritage Foundation research shows that Germany faced more terror plots in 2016 alone than in the entire period Münch referred to. More often than not, the perpetrators were Syrian and almost always recently arrived asylum seekers in the country.

Think of it another way: Before Merkel opened the borders, there was a conspicuous lack of suicide bombings outside music festivals, of civilians being hacked at on trains with an axe, of Christmas market shoppers being run over by trucks.

Alternatively, consider violent crime. German statistics say that overall, violent crime is down 2.4 percent. Once again, however, this is not the whole story.

A study commissioned by the German government, published this January, measured the effect of the asylum flow from 2015 and 2016 on violent crime in Lower Saxony. This is a part of the country where 9 percent of the population were born abroad and 170,000 people are asylum seekers.

Between 2007 and 2014, crime in this region was down 21.9 percent. Yet between 2015 and 2016, it jumped by 10.4 percent, of which 92.4 percent came from newly arrived immigrants. The same report found that between 2014 and 2016, solved violent crimes that were committed by asylum seekers shot up from 4.3 percent to 13.3 percent. (German government statistics report an overall increase of violent crimes in the country of 6.7 percent between 2015 and 2016).

Yes, the picture is more complicated than Trump suggests, and it would be preferable if he were more careful with his public statements. Yet concerns over immigration and terrorism are rampant throughout the European continent.

Just look at recent elections in Italy, Austria, and Germany, among others. Unless Europe is now inhabited by tens of millions of paranoid, Islamophobic racists, there is a reason regular voters are backing outsider parties who promise to crack down on immigration.

Trump’s tweet comes closer to capturing the mood and feeling in Europe than his critics. He seems to recognize what so many politicians and media figures won’t: that Europe faces a major crisis in its culture and in its democracy. Obsess over the technicalities of this specific tweet and you are missing the trees for the forest.

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EPA Sends ‘More Reasonable’ Version of Obama’s WOTUS Rule to the White House

EPA Sends ‘More Reasonable’ Version of Obama’s WOTUS Rule to the White House

The process of undoing the Waters of the United States came closer to completion following the EPA’s announcement that it was sending the White House a scaled-back version.

The Waters of the Untied States (WOTUS), one of former President Barack Obama’s signature environmental achievements, was immediately met with controversy when it was enacted in 2015. Critics cited ambiguity in the rule that opened the door for federal government overreach, among other issues. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt — the attorney general of Oklahoma at the time — led a multi-state lawsuit against the sweeping water rule.

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The fate of WOTUS was quickly considered for reform with the entrance of the Trump administration. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in February 2017 calling for review of the regulation. Pruitt announced he was working on repeal in June of that same year.

As a birthday gift to President Trump, Pruitt announced Thursday he was sending the White House a “more reasonable” WOTUS rule.

The EPA and the Department of the Army on Friday sent a legal proposal to the Office of Management and Budget, revising the definition of WOTUS. The move is part of the two-step process the EPA and Army are conducting as they consider reforms.

“Farmers, ranchers, landowners, and other stakeholders are counting on EPA to listen to their input when it comes to defining ‘waters of the United States,’” Pruitt stated in a press release. “Today, we are taking an important step toward issuing a new WOTUS definition and answering President Trump’s call to ensure that our waters are kept free from pollution, while promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of the federal government and the states under the statutory framework of the Clean Water Act.”

WOTUS is one of many Obama-era environmental regulations the Trump administration has rolled back or done away with completely.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Heritage Policy Experts Unveil Plan to Balance Federal Budget

Heritage Policy Experts Unveil Plan to Balance Federal Budget

Policy experts at The Heritage Foundation unveiled the think tank’s extensive “Blueprint for Balance” report on Monday, with the goal of providing Congress with a plan to balance the federal budget and rein in government spending.

“This blueprint is about freeing the American people to prosper,” said Romina Boccia, deputy director of the Institute for Economic Policy Studies at Heritage, as she introduced a panel that included three of the foundation’s other economic experts.

The budget process provides Congress with an opportunity to scale back unsustainable spending, said Boccia, also a research fellow at Heritage.

Stephen Moore, a fellow with the Project for Economic Growth at Heritage, said that that budget process is “severely broken.”

Moore lamented the lack of “guardrails” in the budget process, and noted that while federal revenue was up 13 percent in 2017, spending also increased 10 percent, with a large increase coming in the form of discretionary—not mandatory—spending.

“If we’re going to get to a balanced budget, we need economic growth,” said Moore, a former economics and public policy writer for The Wall Street Journal. “We need to ensure that the economy is growing faster than the debt.”

“If you combine faster growth and include the spending reductions, we could balance the budget in five years,” he said, noting that the Heritage plan had a goal of balancing it in six years.

Adam Michel, a policy analyst at Heritage focusing on taxation and the federal budget, emphasized the importance of the continuation of the policies that led to the passage of tax reform in December. He particularly noted that the “Blueprint for Balance” makes all of the tax cuts in that bill permanent.

“A larger economy will balance significantly sooner,” Michel said, echoing Moore’s statement on economic growth, adding that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was helping increase economic growth immensely.

Moore said that “a flat tax is the goal,” but added anything that moves the country in the direction of simplifying the tax code is a step in that direction. The December tax cuts were a “good step in the right direction.”

Relying purely on economic growth and the resulting increase in tax revenue isn’t the only part of balancing the budget, however.

Justin Bogie, Heritage’s senior policy analyst for economic policy studies, said that without cuts to spending, the path to balancing the budget is still narrow.

Bogie said that the blueprint included “major changes” to Medicare and Social Security, noting that Medicare in particular could become insolvent within 10 years.

Calling Congress’ current spending practices “unsustainable,” he warned that there would be “negative consequences on the U.S. economy” if the government doesn’t “get this debt problem under control.”

For Boccia, getting the “debt problem” under control is not just a practical issue, but also a moral one.

She noted that this generation’s children and grandchildren are “not participating in the political process right now, where decisions are being made that are mortgaging their future.”

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60,000 ‘Dreamers’ Arrested but Allowed to Stay in US

60,000 ‘Dreamers’ Arrested but Allowed to Stay in US

About 60,000 illegal immigrants protected from deportation have been arrested but allowed to remain in the United States, including 10 accused of murder, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.

The numbers cover the so-called Dreamers, illegal immigrants who are allowed to work in the U.S. and are shielded from deportation under an Obama administration program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told “Fox & Friends” exclusively that the 59,786 arrests–about 8 percent of DACA recipients–fell into categories ranging from “driving-related” offenses to drug-related crimes. He noted that 53,792 DACA recipients had a prior arrest on their record.

More than half of DACA applicants with more than one arrest–54.8 percent– will continue to be approved for protection against deportation unless they are convicted of a crime that falls under the DACA guidelines, Cissna told Fox.

Cissna said officials released the information to inform Congress and the public because of multiple inquiries regarding alleged criminal activities by the population of roughly 700,000 protected under DACA.

Cissna’s agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The announcement comes as Congress considers two Republican-sponsored immigration bills.

Both bills contain provisions for individuals brought to the U.S. illegally as children and are supported by President Donald Trump, USA Today reported.

The first bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., aims to extend the renewal time for DACA protection from every two years to every six years. The second bill, from House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers as well as $25 billion to build Trump’s promised border wall.

The data from homeland security officials doesn’t indicate, however, how many DACA recipients were convicted of a crime that should disqualify them from the program.

To be denied U.S. residency after reapplying every two years for a “grant of deferred action” on deportation, an applicant must have been convicted of a felony, three or more isolated misdemeanors, or one significant misdemeanor.

Citizenship and Immigration Services defines “significant misdemeanor” as one where an individual is convicted and  imprisoned for less than a year but over five days, and on a list of more serious offenses such as drug distribution or trafficking, burglary, or “driving under the influence.”

Andrew Arthur, a resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, clarified to The Daily Signal how so many arrested Dreamers could maintain U.S. residence.

“Basically, the answer is threefold,” Arthur said in a phone interview. “Even though they have a conviction, it may not be a felony or misdemeanor as USCIS was defining the term. The second is that USCIS’s most recent numbers included individuals arrested, not convicted.”

“Lastly, some of them may have fallen through the cracks–like any bureaucratic situation with [a large amount of people], you are bound to have people fall through the cracks.”

President Barack Obama went around Congress and imposed DACA in 2012 through executive action. Trump intends to end the program and has asked Congress to agree on a replacement through law, but that has yet to happen.

In a commentary for The Daily Signal on “myths” about DACA beneficiaries, Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, wrote:

The Obama administration did not check the background of each DACA beneficiary, despite a requirement that they have no felony convictions and pose no threat to national security. Only a few randomly selected DACA applicants were ever actually vetted.

“Given the fact that DACA wasn’t an immigration bill, the effect it will have is unclear,” Arthur said of Cissna’s announcement. “But it’s important since Congress set parameters [on who is allowed in the country]. Going forward, any bill should look at criminal conviction numbers rather than changing the standard [each time], unless Congress wants to change [parameters] across the board.”

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Asylum Numbers Significantly Drop in European Union

Asylum Numbers Significantly Drop in European Union

Asylum numbers for people seeking entry into the European Union dropped significantly between 2016 to 2017, according to the European Union asylum office.

The number of asylum seekers seeking entry into the EU lowered by 43 percent from 2017 to 2016, The Guardian reported Monday. The EU’s asylum office received 728,470 applications in 2017 compared to 1.3 million applications in 2016. The office also received 108,020 applications from Syria in 2017, a number that decreased by 68.4 percent since 2016.

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Germany received the highest amount of asylum applications, coming in at 222,560 applications in 2017 compared to 745,155 applications in 2016. Italy, France, Greece, and the United Kingdom followed Germany.

The three countries Syria, Iraq, and Afganistan are the main places of origin for asylum seekers, making up 29 percent of the total number.

“Now really is the time for EU member states to come together and to agree on their approach to this issue,” said Sophie Magennis of the United Nations refugee agency, according to The Guardian. “We do not have a crisis of numbers, we continue to a crisis of political will and that is something that needs to be addressed.”

EU officials will meet next week to discuss how to handle the refugee crisis in each of their countries.

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