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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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House To Send Impeachment Article Monday, Starting Impeachment Trial Process

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  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the House will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the impeachment trial process.
  • The news comes one day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
  • The senators could still come to their own agreement to delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs. 
  • Some Democrats have signaled support for this move because it would give them extra time to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominations before the trial starts.

Pelosi To Send Impeachment Article

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday.

The move will officially trigger the start of the impeachment trial process. The announcement comes one day after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.

Despite Pelosi’s decision, the senators still could come to their own agreement to start the ceremonial proceedings but delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.

In fact, Democrats, who have been pushing for a schedule that would allow them to still confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees before the trial proceedings start each day, have signaled that they might not oppose a delay because it would give them extra time for confirmations.

During his announcement this morning, Schumer indicated that the details were still being hashed out.

“I’ve been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial,” he said. “But make no mistake a trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote on whether to convict the president.” 

McConnell, for his part, responded by reiterating that his party will continue to press for Trump’s team to be given enough time.

“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House,” he said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense.”

While the leaders may not have worked out the particulars yet, according to reports, both parties have already agreed that this trial will be shorter than Trump’s first impeachment, which lasted three weeks.

Implications for Power-Sharing Deal

The new impeachment trial deadline could also speed up the currently stalled negotiations between Schumer and McConnell regarding how power will be shared in a Senate with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.

Democrats effectively control the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris will be the deciding vote, but she cannot always be there to resolve every dispute.

As a result, McConnell and Schumer have been working to come up with a power-sharing deal for day to day operations, similar to one that was struck in 2001 the last time the Senate was split 50-50. However, those negotiations have hit a roadblock: the legislative filibuster.

The filibuster is the long-standing Senate rule that requires a supermajority of at least 60 senators to vote to end debate on a given piece of legislation before moving to a full floor vote. Technically, all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris could agree to change the rule to just require a simple majority to legislation advance, or what’s known as the “nuclear option.”

That move, in effect, would allow them to get through controversial legislation without any bipartisan support, as long as every Democrat stays within party lines. Many more progressive Democrats have pushed for this move, arguing that the filibuster stands in the way of many of their and Biden’s top priorities.

Given this possibility, McConnell has demanded that Democrats agree to protect the filibuster and promise not to pursue the nuclear option as part of the power-sharing deal. 

But top Democrats have rejected that demand, with many arguing that having the threat of filibuster is necessary to get Republicans to compromise.

In other words: if Republicans fear that Democrats will “go nuclear,” they will be more likely to agree to certain bills and measures to avoid that.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Politico) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Biden Signs 17 Executive Order During His First Day in Office. Here’s What You Need to Know

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  • In the first hours of his presidency, Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders and proclamations, many of which focused on rolling back Trump administration policies regarding immigration, the environment, and protections for minority groups.
  • Biden also implemented several measures to tackle the coronavirus, including requiring masks to be worn on federal property and by federal employees. He is also expected to announce a new national strategy aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.
  • On Thursday, Biden will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which would speed up the development and distribution of vaccine-related equipment.

Biden Rolls Back Trump Policies

President Joe Biden signed 17 executive actions and proclamations Wednesday afternoon. Many of his first acts in office are focused on rolling back several policies implemented by former President Donald Trump that Biden’s aides said have caused the “greatest damage” to the country.

“I thought there’s no time to wait, get to work immediately,” Biden told reporters present during the signed of several of the orders. 

Here is a breakdown of some of the key measures Biden implemented.

Immigration

Biden immediately ended all construction on the border wall by overhauling the national emergency declaration Trump had enacted to divert billions in federal funds to his central campaign promise.

The new president also expanded protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and overturned a Trump policy that made immigration enforcement more strict and

In similar actions, he also ended the travel ban on multiple Muslim-majority countries and revoked a Trump administration order that would have excluded non-citizens from the 2020 Census count.

The Environment

One of the most significant actions Biden took was signing a letter to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. It will take 30 days for the return to go into effect.

The president also issued a sweeping order that reversed a number of the Trump administration’s environmental policies, including revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, re-establishing a working group to look into the social costs of greenhouse gasses, and temporarily banning oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Justice for Minority Groups

In one far-reaching order, Biden directed all federal agencies to review equity in their programs and policies. They are required to issue a report within 200 days that, among other things, details how each will remove barriers to opportunities and ensure all Americans have equal access to federal resources.

Biden also ended Trump’s policy that limited federal agencies, contractors, and other organizations from holding diversity and inclusion training. The same order also disbanded the 1776 Commission created by Trump to study his claims that the education system was too liberal in its teaching of American history.

In a separate order, the president issued changes that will broaden federal protections against sex discrimination to include LGBTQ+ Americans, reversing a previous action by Trump.

Government Accountability

As part of a broad measure aimed at general accountability in the executive branch, Biden issued an order that will establish ethics rules for all people in his administration. The same order will also require all executive branch appointees to sign an ethics pledge. 

Separately, the president additionally froze all new regulations Trump had put in place during his last few weeks in office until they can be further evaluated.

Economy and Coronavirus

Chief among Biden’s first acts in office were his plans for the coronavirus pandemic and the damage it has caused to the American people.

In terms of financial relief, Biden extended the ban on evictions and foreclosures and paused student loan payments until September.

As for direct actions concerning the pandemic, the president imposed a mask mandate for all federal employees and anyone on federal property. He also signed an extensive order aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.

Biden is expected to enact more policies in regards to the coronavirus in the coming days, including taking more executive actions to ramp up testing and vaccine distribution, safely reopening schools and businesses, and provide more money to states to help carry out those efforts, among other things.

To achieve these goals, he will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which will compel American companies to manufacture supplies for the pandemic response such as PPE and other items needed for vaccines.

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

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U.S. To Join WHO-led Vaccine Distribution Plan as Biden Implements a Flurry of COVID-19 Executive Orders

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  • Dr. Anthony Fauci indicated Thursday that President Joe Biden will join COVAX, a World Health Organization-led COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
  • Fauci’s announcement comes one day after Biden signed an executive order reversing former President Donald Trump’s plan to remove the United States from the WHO. 
  • Among other orders, Biden plans to implement a mask mandate for airports, planes, trains, and other forms of interstate travel. He has already ordered masks to be worn on all federal property. 
  • Biden is also expected to invoke the Defense Production Act on Thursday, which would speed up the development and distribution of vaccine-related equipment.

U.S. To Join COVAX

Just one day after President Joe Biden signed an order to keep the United States in the World Health Organization, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the country will join its global COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.

That plan, COVAX, is a collaborative effort between 92 countries to ensure that COVID vaccines aren’t only distributed in wealthy countries.

The idea behind the plan is that establishing a global herd immunity will be much more effective at curbing the spread of the virus than just establishing herd immunity in countries that can afford to buy large quantities of the vaccine, especially when international travel picks back up. 

The plan is not without its shortcomings. Earlier this week, the WHO stated that some countries participating in COVAX have been disregarding the plan and buying large quantities of vaccines for themselves.

Nonetheless, in a video conference call Thursday morning with the WHO’s executive board, Fauci — now chief medical advisor to the president — said the Biden administration believes it can inoculate every American while also helping people in other countries.

Biden’s plan to join COVAX is a stark contrast from the Trump administration, which refused to participate in the program. 

Fauci said Biden will issue the directive to join COVAX later Thursday. 

Additionally, Fauci noted that the U.S. once again “intends to fulfill its financial obligations” to the WHO. 

In his attempt to leave the organization, Trump cut off payments from the U.S.; however, his administration never got the chance to fully cut ties with the organization because the U.S. wasn’t scheduled to officially leave until July of this year. 

Biden Signs Mask Mandate, Other Orders To Come

Among other COVID-related executive orders signed Wednesday, Biden implemented a national mask mandate for people on federal property. 

Sometime Thursday, Biden is also expected to sign another order requiring masks to be worn in airports, as well as on airplanes, trains, and other interstate transit systems.

Also on Thursday, Biden is also expected to sign an order that will establish a COVID-19 testing board. Once implemented, the board will be responsible for increasing testing rates, addressing supply shortfalls, and determining the rules and regulations for international travelers coming into the U.S. It will also have the power to distribute resources to minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

On top of that, Biden plans to sign an order that will direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse states and Native American tribes for their emergency response efforts. Notably, those reimbursements include costs related to reopening schools.

Finally, Biden is expected to invoke the Defense Production Act on Thursday. Such a move would speed up the production of masks and other equipment needed to help administer vaccines.  

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Reuters) (CNBC)

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