Less than a full day after cheering a bipartisan deal being worked out in Congress to stabilize the individual insurance marketplace, President Donald Trump suggested he couldn’t support it. In a tweet sent Wednesday morning, Trump said that while he stood behind Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who worked with Washington Sen. Patty Murray on…
California lawmakers on Saturday passed a “sanctuary state” bill to protect immigrants without legal residency in the U.S., part of a broader push by Democrats to counter expanded deportation orders under the Trumpadministration.
The legislation by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), the most far-reaching of its kind in the country, would limit state and local law enforcement communication with federal immigration authorities, and prevent officers from questioning and holding people on immigration violations.
After passionate debate in both houses of the Legislature, staunch opposition from Republican sheriffs and threats from Trump administration officials against sanctuary cities, Senate Bill 54 was approved Saturday with a 27-11 vote along party lines. But the bill sent to Gov. Jerry Brown drastically scaled back the version first introduced, the result of tough negotiations between Brown and De León in the final weeks of the legislative session.
The decision came hours after a federal judge in Chicago blocked the Trump administration’s move to withhold Justice Department grant funds to discourage so-called sanctuary city policies.
On the Senate floor minutes before 2 a.m. on Saturday, De León said the changes were reasonable, and reflected a powerful compromise between law enforcement officials and advocates.
“These amendments do not mean to erode the core mission of this measure, which is to protect hardworking families that have contributed greatly to our culture and the economy,” he said. “This is a measure that reflects the values of who we are as a great state.”
Officially dubbed the “California Values Act,” the legislation initially would have prohibited state and local law enforcement agencies from using any resources to hold, question or share information about people with federal immigration agents, unless they had violent or serious criminal convictions.
After talks with Brown, amendments to the bill made this week would allow federal immigration authorities to keep working with state corrections officials and to continue entering county jails to question immigrants. The legislation would also permit police and sheriffs to share information and transfer people to immigration authorities if they have been convicted of one or more crimes from a list of 800 outlined in a previous law, the California Trust Act.
Some immigrant rights advocates who were previously disappointed with the list of offenses under the Trust Act, were dismayed to see the same exceptions applied in the so-called sanctuary state bill. The list includes many violent and serious crimes, as well as some nonviolent charges and “wobblers,” offenses that can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, which advocates said has the potential to ensnare people who do not pose a danger to the public.
But immigrant rights groups did not withdraw their support for Senate Bill 54 and also won some concessions. Under the additions to the bill, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would have to develop new standards to protect people held on immigration violations, and to allow immigrant inmates to receive credits toward their sentences serviced if they undergo rehabilitation and educational programs while incarcerated.
The state attorney general’s office would have to develop recommendations that limit immigration agents’ access to personal information. The attorney general also has broad authority under the state constitution to ensure that police and sheriffs agencies follow SB 54’s provisions should it be signed into law.
“This was a hard-fought effort, but the end product was worth the fight,” Jennie Pasquarella, immigrants’ rights director with the ACLU of California, said in a statement Saturday.
The compromise helped draw support for the bill from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), and moved the California Police Chiefs Assn.’s official position from opposed to neutral. The California Sheriffs Assn. remained opposed.
In a statement Saturday, Thomas Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said California politicians had “chosen to prioritize politics over public safety.”
“This bill severely undermines that effort and will make California communities less safe,” said Homan, who hosted a March town hall with Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones on immigration enforcement that erupted in protests.
In their respective chambers on Friday, at least 20 members of the Assembly and six members of the Senate took the floor for debate on the bill, voicing complex stances on illegal immigration, federalism and the diversity of families in California.
Assemblyman Steven Choi (R-Irvine), a first-generation immigrant from South Korea, argued that he came to the U.S. legally and said the bill created “chaos” for a country built on law and order.
Others pointed to the opposition from sheriffs organizations, saying SB 54 tied officers’ hands, allowing serial thieves, chronic drug abusers and gang members to slip through the cracks. Supporters countered the Trump administration was trying to paint all immigrants in the country illegally as criminals.
They pointed to provisions in the bill that would make hospitals, schools and courthouses safe zones for immigrants from federal immigration authorities at a time of fear for some communities.
“We are ironically ending this session the way we started, talking about protecting the most vulnerable among us,” Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said.
De León introduced SB 54 on what was an unusually acrimonious first day of the 2017 legislative session, as lawmakers in both chambers were locked in bitter debate over the still newly elected President Trump.
It was at the center of a legislative package filed by Democrats in an attempt to protect more than 2.3 million people living in the state illegally. Other legislative proposals and budget deals have expanded workplace protections against raids from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and increased legal defense services for immigrants facing deportation and financial aid for students without legal residency.
Senate Bill 54 received national attention as the U.S. Department of Justice pledged to slash government grants for law enforcement from any so-called sanctuary cities, which limit the collaboration between local and federal authorities on immigration enforcement.
In a statement Saturday, Department of Justice spokesman Devin O’Malley said “state lawmakers inexplicably voted today to return criminal aliens back onto our streets.”
“This abandonment of the rule of law by the Legislature continues to put Californians at risk, and undermines national security and law enforcement,” he said.
At the request of the California Senate earlier this year, former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H Holder Jr. reviewed the bill and said it passed constitutional muster, adding that the states “have the power over the health and safety of their residents and allocation of state resources.”
Still, debate raged on and divided even law enforcement officials and associations. In Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck voiced his support, while L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell was a vocal opponent.
In a statement Saturday, McDonnell said the final version of the bill was not perfect, but “reflects much of what the LASD implemented years ago and the work is well underway.”
On Friday, lawmakers said some children without legal status were too afraid to go to school, while police statistics showed a drop in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence as immigrant victims refused to come forward.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) said the era was reminiscent of the 1980s, when her father dreaded immigration raids.
“We are not living in a hypothetical fear,” she said. “That fear is a reality.”
Tens of thousands of activists took to the streets of Catalonia in protest against police violence during the outlawed independence referendum.
Metro stations shut down in Barcelona and traffic, public transport and businesses were disrupted as pickets blocked dozens of roads after trade unions called a strike in the wake of the violence.
Nearly 900 people were hurt as police struck voters with batons and dragged them along the streets as they tried to stop the referendum on Sunday.
The vote had been deemed illegal by the Madrid government and the country’s top court, but was backed by the Catalan regional authorities.
Catalonia’s leader Carles Puigdemont told the BBC that the region would declare independence in a matter of days.
He said that his government would “act at the end of this week or the beginning of the next”.
If the Spanish government tries to intervene, he said it would be an “error which changes everything”.
In solidarity with Catalans, a few hundred people gathered outside Downing Street in London to demonstrate against the police violence and call for Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy to resign.
On Tuesday, about 300,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona to march in protest, the news agency AFP quoted city police as saying.
Barcelona FC, the city’s football club, joined the strike, saying it would close for the day and none of its teams would train. Carmaker SEAT was forced to shut a production line.
To the north of Barcelona, a line of tractors moved down a road blocked to traffic, accompanied by protesters chanting “Independence!” and “The streets will always be ours!”
Groups of firemen marched and played bagpipes in Barcelona as people cheered them.
People entwined flowers into the gates of Ramon Llull school, where Spanish police clashed with those wanting to vote in the banned referendum on Sunday.
Barcelona tourist attractions such as museums and architect Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church, were shut.
Outside Downing Street in London, activists carried placards which read: “Stop the repression. Rajoy must go” and chanted: “Rajoy, hear us say ‘State violence, no way’. Theresa May, hear us say ‘State violence, no way”‘.
Marc Delcort Fradera, who is based in the UK but returned to Barcelona to vote at the weekend, said he had felt moved to “mobilise” following the violence.
He said: “When I woke up on Sunday I just couldn’t believe. I was expecting some kind of repression by the Spanish police but I didn’t expect that much repression and violence.”
He added: “It’s (tonight is) the first demonstration I’ve been to. After what I saw yesterday and Sunday I decided I wanted to do something and start mobilising because something has to change.”
Catalonia, Spain’s richest region, has its own language and culture and a political movement for independence that has strengthened in recent years.
Pro-independence parties who control the regional government staged Sunday’s referendum in defiance of Spanish courts that had ruled it illegal.
Hundreds were injured on polling day when police fired rubber bullets and charged at crowds with truncheons to disrupt the vote.
Those who participated voted overwhelmingly for independence, a result that was expected since residents who favour remaining part of Spain mainly boycotted the vote.
Opinion polls conducted before the vote suggested only a minority of around 40 per cent of residents in the region back independence. But a majority wanted a referendum to be held, and protesters said the violent police crackdown against the ballot had energised the breakaway camp.
“What happened on October 1 has fired up independence feeling that will never die,” said 18-year-old student Monica Ventinc, who attended a protest on Tuesday.
Spain’s King Felipe VI gave a televised address to the nation at 9pm local time (7pm UK time) on Tuesday after he met the prime minister to discuss the situation in Catalonia.
He said the “irresponsible behaviour” of Catalan leaders put Spain’s economic stability at risk.
The king added that the state needs to ensure constitutional order and the rule of law in Catalonia.
He said that the bid by authorities in the north-eastern region to push ahead with independence has “undermined coexistence” in Catalonia.
“Today, Catalan society is fractured and confronted,” Felipe said, referring to the political crisis as “very serious moments for our democratic life”.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said the referendum is valid and its result must be implemented. Spain’s Constitutional Court prohibited the ballot, siding with Madrid which argued that it contravened the country’s 1978 constitution which bars breaking up the country.
The referendum has plunged Spain into its worst constitutional crisis in decades, and is a political test for Mr Rajoy, a conservative who has taken a hardline stance on the issue.
Outside of Catalonia, Spaniards mostly hold strong views against its independence drive.
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday called for military exercises after U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat of a possible armed intervention in the country, but Maduro insisted he still wanted to hold talks with the U.S. leader.
As Maduro told supporters in Caracas to prepare for an “imperialist” invasion, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence sought to calm concerns in the region about Trump’s talk, promising a peaceful solution to Venezuela’s “collapse into dictatorship.”
The unpopular Maduro, struggling with a disintegrating economy at home and increasing diplomatic isolation abroad, has used Trump’s comments on Friday to reaffirm long-standing accusations that Washington is preparing a military attack.
“Everyone has to join the defense plan, millions of men and women, let’s see how the American imperialists like it,” Maduro told supporters, urging them to join the two-day operation on Aug 26 and 27 involving both soldiers and civilians.
Thousands of government supporters rallied in Caracas where they denounced Trump’s suggestion of a “military option” to resolve Venezuela’s crisis.
Over 120 people have been killed since anti-government protests began in April, driven by outrage over shortages of food and medicine and Maduro’s creation of a legislative superbody that governments around the world say is dictatorial.
Maduro said Trump’s advisors had confused him about the true situation in Venezuela.
“I want to talk by phone with Mr. Trump, to tell him ’They’re fooling you, Trump, everything they tell you about Venezuela is a lie. They’re throwing you off a cliff.’”
The White House last week rebuffed Maduro’s request to speak to Trump, saying the president would talk with Venezuela’s leader when the country returned to democracy.
Earlier in the day, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino appeared in a televised broadcast with dozens of battle-ready troops behind him at an army base, including soldiers with shoulder-fired missile launchers pointed skyward.
In a speech, he warned that the United States wanted to steal the OPEC nation’s oil reserves.
Late socialist leader Hugo Chavez frequently staged military exercises during his 14-year rule, many of which involved defending the country against mock foreign armies.
Critics generally dismissed them as bravado meant to distract from problems at home.
Venezuela’s opposition coalition on Sunday rejected foreign threats to the country. It did not specifically identify Trump or the United States, but criticized Maduro’s close relationship with Communist-run Cuba.
Vice President Pence said the United States would bring economic and diplomatic power to restore democracy in Venezuela.
“A failed state in Venezuela threatens the security and prosperity of our entire hemisphere and the people of the United States of America,” said Pence, speaking to reporters in the Colombian coastal city of Cartagena.
“The regime is experiencing change right now and what we’re witnessing is Venezuela is collapsing into dictatorship.”
Countries across Latin America, where the United States flexed its military muscles throughout the 20th century, rejected Trump’s comments and said U.S. intervention was unwelcome.
On Sunday night, in an apparent effort to ease alarm, Pence said the United States was confident that a peaceful solution could be found to the country’s political and economic crises.
The country last month, at Maduro’s behest, elected a “constituent assembly” with sweeping powers including the capacity to rewrite the constitution. Maduro says the assembly will bring peace to the country.
His adversaries boycotted the election, calling it a power grab meant to keep the ruling Socialist Party in power and insisting it will do nothing to tame soaring inflation or resolve food and medicine shortages.
KISUMU, Kenya — The sun had barely risen, but protesters were already bracing for another wave of confrontations with the police in the city of Kisumu on Saturday after an election disputed by supporters of Kenya’s opposition party.
As the smell of tear gas and smoke from burning debris clung to the morning mist, residents began assessing the damage from the previous night’s protests after the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta, a vote that many in this part of western Kenya believe was stolen, even though international observers concluded that it was fair and transparent.
In Nairobi, the capital, the opposition National Super Alliance Party claimed that the police were provoking violence and accused them of killing dozens of people nationwide, although party officials provided no evidence for their claims. Reports from news agencies put the death toll from violence overnight at 11.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, an independent organization, said Saturday that 24 people had been killed in election-related violence since Tuesday’s vote, including 17 in Nairobi. A provincial commissioner in Kisumu, Wilson Njega, said that at least one person had been killed in the city.
Hundreds of residents of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold, clashed overnight with the police, who, they said, cut off electricity to create confusion, sprayed live bullets into crowds, fired tear gas and blasted them with water cannons. The police, witnesses said, conducted house-to-house raids in parts of the city, and residents accused some officers of beating them with clubs and stealing money from them. The police in Kisumu declined to comment on the allegations.
“If the police are coming to beat us, we are ready for war,” Calvin Otieng, a Kisumu resident, shouted, waving a plastic bottle filled with flammable liquid, his eyes bloodshot. He had not eaten for days, he said. Large groups of men talked loudly on a major road that was blocked with rocks, burning tires and overturned market stalls. Some shops had been set on fire, their corrugated walls, still smoking, collapsed in a metallic heap.
“We are angry and we want to demonstrate,” said another resident, Ken Wamungu, 30. “But the police are not protecting our right to protest.”
Around midnight on Friday, Mr. Kenyatta was declared the winner against Raila Odinga, the 72-year-old opposition leader. The announcement was made after a long and bitter contest that was roiled by allegations of vote rigging, fears of violence and the unresolved murder of a top election official just days before the vote.
Throughout his campaign, Mr. Odinga roused supporters by warning that the election results would be manipulated. As ballots were being counted, he claimed that the electoral commission’s servers had been hacked — which he linked to the poll official’s death — to award Mr. Kenyatta a significant lead. Then, the opposition leader asserted that he had obtained secret information from the electoral body showing him to be the real winner.
So far, Mr. Odinga has not provided evidence supporting those allegations.
But tensions were ratcheted up when he refused to concede defeat, saying that the electoral commission had not properly addressed the opposition’s grievances before officially announcing the winner. He has urged his followers to remain calm, but he also said he did not “control the people.”
At the same time, top opposition officials have indicated that they are unwilling to resolve their concerns about election fraud in court, as they tried, unsuccessfully, to do after the 2013 election. Election observers warned that such comments could be interpreted by the opposition’s supporters as a call to protest. Many did.
Shortly after the announcement of Mr. Kenyatta’s victory was televised, riots erupted in major cities across Kenya. They were mostly in poor areas that are generally neglected by the central government, and where residents suffer from high unemployment and rising living costs. Many cannot afford to buy ugali, a staple food, or pay school fees for their children. “We are hungry and angry,” said a Kisumu resident, Steve Odundo, 22.
So far, the death toll is lower than feared, given Kenya’s history of electoral violence.
In 2007, elections that were viewed as widely flawed touched off bloodshed that left at least 1,300 people dead and 600,000 displaced. After elections in 2013, when voting systems were afflicted by widespread malfunctionsand there were again accusations of vote rigging, more than 300 people were killed. Mr. Odinga claimed that he was robbed of victory in both elections.
Many supporters of Mr. Odinga said they were angry that international observers, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, did not appear to take the opposition’s claims seriously.
The protests have also put attention on response by the police. Human Rights Watch called on the Kenyan authorities to exercise restraint.
They “should not use tear gas or live ammunition simply because they consider a gathering unlawful,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
At the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Hospital, named after Mr. Odinga’s father, an independence hero, six people were being treated for gunshot wounds and other injuries.
David Okoth, 32, was shot in the neck. His brother, Martin, said the pair had been eating at home when they heard a commotion. When they stepped outside, he said, “we saw a police car coming close by, spraying bullets at us.” One of the bullets hit Mr. Okoth, he said.
Moses Oduor, 28, had traveled to Kisumu from Nairobi to vote in his ancestral home. When young men started rioting, police officials began raiding houses in parts of Kisumu, yanking people outside and beating them, he said.
Mr. Oduor said he sustained broken ribs and a broken leg during a confrontation with police officers. The police also took his wallet, money and phone, he said. “But they threw my ID card back at me,” he said.
Jebel Ngere, a police official overseeing operations in Nyandala, a neighborhood in Kisumu, declined to comment on witnesses’ claims, but he said that many of the protesters were using the election as a pretext to loot. One local supermarket was vandalized, he said.
Protesters, armed with rocks, slingshots and machetes, were being pushed away from major roads and central parts of the city, which the police and soldiers were trying to secure, Mr. Ngere said.
But the protesters kept returning in waves, he said, taunting the police with rocks and other projectiles, before being forced to retreat again.
About 600 uniformed members of the security forces and plainclothes officers have been deployed in Kisumu, a number far greater than after previous elections, according to officials.
On one road in Nyandala, only soldiers and police officers were visible. Some were taking a break, reading newspapers. Others drank fizzy drinks at a shop, the only one open.
Suddenly, a rock was thrown at them from inside a maze of houses. Then another. Two police officials quickly took cover near some stalls and moved along the walls.
“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” Mr. Ngere said. “But this time around, we have made proper arrangements.”
“Everything is prepared,” he said, in a somewhat ominous tone.
WASHINGTON — President Trump embraced legislation on Wednesday that would cut legal immigration to the United States in half within a decade by sharply curtailing the ability of American citizens and legal residents to bring family members into the country.
Arguing that the United States has taken in too many low-skilled immigrants for too long, Mr. Trump invited two Republican senators to the White House to put his weight behind their bill that would judge applicants for legal residency on the basis of education, language ability and job abilities that would benefit the country.
“This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” Mr. Trump said.
“This legislation,” he added, “will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens. This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.”
The bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, would reduce overall legal immigration by 41 percent in its first year and by 50 percent by its 10th year, according to projections cited by its authors. The reductions would come almost entirely from those brought in through family ties. The number of immigrants granted legal residency on the basis of job skills, about 140,000, would remain roughly the same, though a much higher proportion of the reduced overall number.
The proposal revives an idea that was included in broader immigration legislation supported by President George W. Bush in 2007 but that failed in Congress. Republican supporters argued that it would modernize immigration policy that had not been updated significantly in half a century, but critics in both parties contended it would harm the economy by keeping out workers who filled low-wage jobs that Americans did not want.
Under the current system, most legal immigrants are admitted to the United States based on family ties. American citizens can sponsor spouses, parents and minor children for visas that are not subject to any numerical caps, while siblings and adult children get preferences for a limited number of visas available to them. Legal permanent residents holding green cards can also sponsor spouses and children.
In 2014, 64 percent of more than one million immigrants admitted with legal residency were immediate relatives of American citizens or sponsored by family members. Just 15 percent entered on the basis of employment-based preferences, according to the Migration Policy Institute, an independent research organization. But that does not mean that those who came in on family ties were necessarily low skilled or uneducated.
The projections cited by the sponsors said legal immigration would decrease to 637,960 after a year and to 539,958 after a decade.
The legislation would establish a system of skills points based on education, English speaking ability, high-paying job offers, age, record of achievement and entrepreneurial initiative. But while it would still allow the spouses and minor children of Americans and legal residents to come in, it would eliminate preference for other relatives, like siblings and adult children. The bill would create a renewable temporary visa for elderly parents who come for caretaking purposes.
The legislation would limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 a year and eliminate a diversity visa lottery that the sponsors said does not promote diversity. The senators said their bill is meant to emulate “merit-based” systems in Canada and Australia.
“Our current system does not work,” Mr. Perdue said. “It keeps America from being competitive.”
Mr. Cotton rejected the notion that the current system was a symbol of American compassion. “It’s a symbol that we’re not committed to working-class Americans and we need to change that,” he said.
But Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, criticized the measure, noting that agriculture is his state’s No. 1 industry and tourism is No. 2. “If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy, which relies on this immigrant work force,” he said.
“Hotels, restaurants, golf courses and farmers,” he added, “will tell you this proposal to cut legal immigration in half would put their business in peril.”