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Trump Administration Moves to Detain Migrant Families Indefinitely

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  • A new rule proposed by the Trump administration would allow it to effectively detain migrant families indefinitely.
  • The rule would roll back the 1997 Flores agreement which has conditions that limit unlicensed detention centers from holding migrant children and their parents for more than 20 days.
  • Under the new rule, families would be held in detention facilities until their cases could be heard. Officials have said that process would take on average two to three months, but others have pointed out that the backlog of cases could lead to families being detained for years.

New Trump Rule

The Trump administration rolled out a new rule Wednesday that would allow it to indefinitely detain migrant families found crossing the border illegally.

The rule would officially end the Flores agreement, a 1997 legal settlement that requires the government to ensure that migrant children are held in safe and sanitary conditions.

Flores was made as part of a federal class-action lawsuit that claimed migrant children held in detention facilities for extended periods of time suffered emotional and physical harm.

Previous coverage about migrant children at U.S. border facilities.

In 2015, District Judge Dolly Gee ruled that under Flores, migrant children can only be held in border facilities for 20 days before they have to be transferred to a licensed facility, where they also must be provided with access to sanitary facilities, medical treatment, and given the ability to contact family members.

However, states do not license family detention centers, and because children had to be moved to licensed facilities, the 2015 ruling also mandated that the 20-day rule applied to parents who arrived at the border with their children.

Over the last year, the Trump administration has been trying to scrap Flores, arguing that limiting detentions of families has caused the recent surge of immigration.

“The Government will now seek to terminate the Flores Settlement Agreement, a loophole that results in most alien families being released into the country after 20 days,” the White House said in a press release Wednesday. 

“Smugglers have used this loophole as a selling point for aliens who want to cross the border and be released into the interior of the country, exploiting migrant children for profit,” the statement concluded.

Next Steps

Now, under the proposed rule, the administration would be able to hold families until their immigration cases are decided and they are either granted asylum or deported.

According to reports, administration officials said that cases could be resolved in two or three months, but they also noted that because of the massive backlog of immigration cases already in the system, many cases could drag on for months or even years. This means that, at a minimum, children would be kept in detention centers nearly three times longer than they currently are held.

The administration is expected to formally publish the rule later this week. Once it is published, it will go into effect in 60 days, but it first has to be approved by Judge Gee, who has been overseeing the Flores litigation.

However, administration officials expect the legal process to take longer, as immigration advocates have already said that they plan to challenge the new rule in court. 

Advocates have argued that the Flores agreement is essential to provide protection for immigrant children, many of whom are seeking asylum from violence and poverty. 

They say the Trump administration has violated the agreement and harmed migrant children by holding them in facilities with horrible conditions and separating hundreds of them from their parents.

Previous coverage about the Trump administration’s migrant family separation policies.

Others have noted that over the last year, at least seven migrant children have either died in government custody or right after they were released.

“We don’t disagree with detaining children when it’s necessary — namely, if they’re a flight risk or they’re a danger to themselves or others, we agree,” Peter Schey, one of the lead attorneys for the Flores plaintiffs told reporters.

“It’s the unnecessary detention of [a] child that this settlement sought to end,” he continued. “So these regulations really reflect a flagrant disregard on the part of President Trump and his administration for the safety and the well-being of children in the care of the federal government.”

Legal Process

Administration officials have said that the new rule will meet the legal standards set forth by Flores because the detention facilities will be subject to audits to ensure they comply with licensing standards. 

They have also said that the rule is not indefinite detention because migrant families will eventually have their cases heard, even if it takes years.

“This single ruling has substantially caused and continued to fuel the current family unit crisis and the unprecedented flow of Central American families and minors illegally crossing our border,” Department of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan said at a press conference Wednesday. “The new rule closes the legal loophole that arose form the reinterpretation of Flores.”

Schey also said he expects Judge Gee to reject the administration’s new rule. 

“These regulations do not implement the settlement. In fact, it abrogates the settlements. And so I think their efforts will be futile,” he said.

If Gee does not approve the rule, the Trump administration is expected to appeal her decision, and that could drag on for even more months or years, according to legal experts.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Fox News)

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Federal Court Throws Out Alabama Congressional Map, Citing Racial Gerrymandering

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The judges ruled that the Republican-held legislature gerrymandered the map so the state only had one Black-majority district despite Black residents composing 27% of the state’s population.


Alabama Ordered to Redraw Map

A panel of federal judges tossed Alabama’s new congressional map on Monday, ruling that the current version significantly weakens the voting power of Black residents.   

In their decision, the three judges noted that while about 27% of Alabamians are Black, the map drawn by the Republican-led legislature after the 2020 census was gerrymandered to leave just one of the state’s seven districts with a Black majority.

“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the judges wrote. “We find that the plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2022 congressional elections based on a redistricting plan that violates federal law.”

As a result, the panel also ordered state lawmakers to redraw their map so that it includes “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”

The legislature was given 14 days to redo their map before they appoint a special master to do so.

Ongoing Legal Battles

Shortly after the ruling, a spokesperson for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement that his office “strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will be appealing in the coming days.” 

According to reports, the matter could ultimately go to the Supreme Court, which would decide whether lawmakers can draw maps that are gerrymandered along racial lines.

The high court ruled in 2019 that federal courts do not have the power to block congressional maps that are gerrymandered to skew districts in a partisan manner unless a state’s constitution explicitly prohibits such gerrymandering. The justices did keep parts of the Voting Rights Act that ban racial or ethnic gerrymandering, which the federal panel claimed was the case in Alabama.

Alabama’s congressional map is not the only one drawn by Republicans that has been thrown out in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Ohio’s Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to redraw a map that would have given Republicans 12 congressional seats and Democrats just three despite the fact that recently the GOP has only won about 55% of the popular vote statewide.

The state’s high court ruled that the map clearly violated a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (AL.com)

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Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Affirmative Action Cases at Harvard and UNC

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The decision to take up the two cases marks the first time affirmative action will go before the high court’s latest conservative-majority bloc.


SCOTUS Takes on Race-Conscious Admissions, Again

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will again consider whether race-conscious admissions programs at universities are legal in two cases that could have serious implications for affirmative action.

The two lawsuits center around admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), both of which were brought by the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions.

The Harvard case started in 2014 with a lawsuit that claimed the school discriminated against Asian American students by effectively creating a quota for their admission. It also alleged the school a subjective standard to measure personality traits like likability, courage, and kindness.

The Ivy League school denied the allegations, claiming the challengers used incorrect statistical analysis and broadly arguing that race-conscious policies are legal.

In the case against UNC, the group alleged that the school discriminated against white and Asian applicants by giving preference to Black, Hispanic, and Native American students.

The university, for its part, argued that its policies create more diversity among its student body, also echoing Harvard’s argument that such rules are legal under decades of Supreme Court precedents.

Past Precedent Up in the Air

Lower courts ruled in favor of both schools, finding they did indeed comply with Supreme Court decisions.

But in taking up these two cases, the high court’s conservative majority will now examine whether race-conscious admissions are legal at all. The move could decide the future of affirmative action and undermine more than four decades of precedent on the use of race in college admissions.

The last two times the high court took up cases regarding affirmative action, the justices upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious programs by slim majorities. Now, those majorities have been replaced by a conservative bloc that includes three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.

According to reports, the justices will likely hear the cases in October. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)

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Pelosi Reverses Course, Signals Openness to Stock Trading Ban for Congress

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The move comes as public and bipartisan support for legislation banning Congress members from stock trading has grown in recent weeks.


Pelosi Backtracks on Member Trading

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) on Thursday signaled openness to legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks, reversing her previous position on the matter.

“I do come down always in favor of trusting our members,” Pelosi said at a press conference. “If the impression that is given by some that somebody is doing insider trading, that’s a Justice Department issue and that has no place in any of this.”

“To give a blanket attitude of ‘We can’t do this and we can’t do,’ because we can’t be trusted, I just don’t buy into that. But if members want to do that, I’m okay with that,” she continued.

The speaker’s remarks come as she has faced mounting backlash for voicing opposition to such a ban. 

“We are a free market economy,” she told reporters when asked about the matter last month. “They should be able to participate in that.”

While Pelosi herself does not trade, her husband has invested millions in stocks. Those trades have been made public under the 2012 STOCK Act, which has required Congress members and their spouses to disclose when they buy and sell stocks for the last decade.

But the law has a mixed track record. A recent investigation by Insider found that “dozens of lawmakers and 182 senior congressional staff” have violated the law.

The act also came under intense scrutiny after financial disclosures filed by lawmakers exposed that members of both parties made trades in 2020 that benefited their portfolios after receiving early briefings on the seriousness of the pandemic. 

The Justice Department reviewed some of the cases, but it ultimately did not bring any charges. 

Momentum Grows for Congressional Ban

In recent weeks, pressure to reform the STOCK Act has been growing both among the public and in Congress.

Proponents argue that Congress members should be banned from trading stocks altogether to ensure they do not have conflicts of interest or use their access to classified briefings to make money.

According to a new poll from the progressive firm Data for Progress, 67% of voters support a ban. That number rose to 74% when the respondents were given arguments both for and against the idea.

In Congress, there is widespread bipartisan support for legislation to impose stricter regulations, including among top leadership.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) has reportedly said he is considering banning members from trading if Republicans win control of the House and select him as Speaker in 2022.

“I cannot imagine being a Speaker of the House with the power of what can come before committee, you name them and what can come to the floor and trading millions of dollars worth of options,” he told NPR earlier this month. “I just don’t think the American people think that’s right.”

Members of both parties have already put forth proposals. Last week, Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Az.) introduced legislation that would effectively ban lawmakers, as well as their spouses and dependents, from buying and selling stocks.

The same day, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) rolled out a very similar bill, though his version would not include dependents.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Hill) (Business Insider)

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