US Homeland chief: Wait and see on citizenship for immigrants

Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during an interview on Tuesday, in San Diego. (AP)
Updated 03 January 2018
0

US Homeland chief: Wait and see on citizenship for immigrants

SAN DIEGO: The Trump administration would consider immigration legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young people, the US Homeland Security secretary said Tuesday, while emphasizing no decision on that issue has been made and a border wall remains the priority.
Congress is considering three options, including citizenship or permanent legal status for people who were temporarily shielded from deportation, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in an interview.
Details on qualifying for citizenship, including on how many years to wait and other requirements, would have to be addressed.
Asked whether the president would support citizenship, she said, “I think he’s open to hearing about the different possibilities and what it means but, to my knowledge, there certainly hasn’t been any decision from the White House.”
In September, Trump said he wouldn’t consider citizenship for DACA recipients — an Obama-era program that Trump said last year he was ending. He gave Congress until March to deliver a legislative fix.
The options being considered by Congress include permanent residency, residency for a certain amount of time — perhaps three or four years, subject to renewal — and citizenship, Nielsen said.
“It will be interesting to see where (Congress) can get comfortable with what they mean by what is a permanent fix but the idea would be that you move away from a temporary status,” she said.
The secretary said she was hopeful the White House and Congress can reach a deal that includes border and immigration enforcement measures. She said building a wall along the Mexico border was “first and foremost,” and the administration wanted to end “loopholes” on issues that include handling asylum claims and local police working with immigration authorities.
“I remain optimistic. You have to be,” Nielsen said. “It’s very important. The American people have said they wanted it. I think we should find common ground. The devil’s in the detail.”
Nielsen said she and other senior administration officials would discuss a potential deal with members of Congress this week, and the president would take it up in a meeting Wednesday with congressional leaders on legislative priorities for 2018.
The secretary spoke hours after the president blasted Democrats for “doing nothing” to protect DACA recipients. Trump tweeted that “DACA activists and Hispanics will go hard against Dems, will start ‘falling in love’ with Republicans and their President! We are about RESULTS.”
Nielsen, who visited prototypes of Trump’s proposed border wall in San Diego, said the president would request $1.6 billion next year for the barrier, in addition to $1.6 billion he is seeking this year to build or replace 74 miles (118 kilometers) in California and Texas.
“It’s all a down payment,” she said. “This is not going to get us the whole wall we need but it’s a start.”
Trump has met stiff Democratic opposition to the wall, a central campaign pledge. Barriers currently cover 654 miles (1,046 kilometers), or about one-third of the border, much of it built during George W. Bush’s presidency.
Nielsen said closing enforcement “loopholes” was also a priority. She mentioned refusals by some local police to honor requests from federal authorities to detain people in the country illegally; special legal protections for unaccompanied children who enter the country illegally and are not from Mexico or Canada; and criteria for passing an initial screening on asylum claims.
Nielsen said she believed any permanent protection for DACA recipients should be limited to the hundreds of thousands who qualified during the three years it was in effect, not anyone who would meet the criteria if it were still in place. She said it should include permission to work.
“Everybody wants to find a solution — a permanent solution — to DACA,” she said. “I mean I really haven’t talked to anybody who has said, ‘Nah, we don’t want to do that.’“
Nielsen faces a Monday deadline on whether to extend permission for about 200,000 Salvadorans to remain in the country with temporary protected status, which is designed to protect foreigners fleeing natural disasters. In November, her predecessor said she was ending temporary status for Nicaraguans and granted a six-month extension for Hondurans.
Nielsen said she spoke with El Salvador’s top diplomats about how their return would be carried out and said others have gone home to start small businesses. She expressed wariness of temporary extensions.
“Getting them to a permanent solution is a much better plan than having them live six months, to 12 months to 18 months,” she said.


‘Shameful’: US lawmakers blast Trump over Putin summit

Updated 29 min 6 sec ago
0

‘Shameful’: US lawmakers blast Trump over Putin summit

  • ‘Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory’
  • Astonished Republicans and Democrats uniformly condemned Trump, with harsh criticism coming even from hosts on Fox News — a network normally friendly to the president

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump returned late Monday from his European tour to face ire in Washington, where US intelligence officials and senior Republicans were denouncing the president as “shameful” and “disgraceful” after he refused to challenge Russian leader Vladimir Putin over interference in American elections.
Republican Senator John McCain said Trump’s seeming acceptance of Putin’s denial was a historical “low point” for the US presidency and the Helsinki summit between the two leaders a “tragic mistake.”
“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate,” McCain said in a blistering statement.
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”
Taking direct issue with the president who appointed him, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said US spy agencies have been “clear” and “fact-based” in their assessment that Moscow interfered in the presidential race two years ago — an assessment that Trump refused to endorse in Helsinki.
Coats added that Russia remains behind “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”
Trump stunned US political allies and foes alike with his answer to a question about Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 election which saw him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Putin “just said it is not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said.
That came three days after the US Justice Department indicted 12 Russians for hacking Democratic Party computers, the latest in a series of actions taken by the US government since late 2016 in retribution for what intelligence agencies say was a broad plan to support Trump’s election campaign directed by Putin himself.
Yet Trump appeared to take Putin’s word in dismissing that conclusion.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
Trump also appeared to embrace Putin’s offer to have Russian investigators work together with US prosecutors on the case of the 12 just indicted.
“I think that’s an incredible offer.”
Astonished Republicans and Democrats uniformly condemned Trump, with harsh criticism coming even from hosts on Fox News — a network normally friendly to the president.
“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,” he said.
Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Trump’s answer on meddling “will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness.”
Bent on forging a personal bond with the Kremlin chief, Trump headed into the summit blaming the “stupidity” of his predecessors for plunging ties to their present low.
“This is shameful,” said Senator Jeff Flake, a fellow Republican and staunch critic of the president.
“I never thought I would see the day when our American president would stand on the stage with the Russian president and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression.”
The language used by Democrats was much harsher, including accusations of “treason.”
“For the president of the United States to side with President Putin against American law enforcement, American defense officials, and American intelligence agencies is thoughtless, dangerous, and weak,” said Chuck Schumer, the senior Democrat in the Senate.
Democratic California Representative Jimmy Gomez charged: “To side with Putin over US intelligence is disgusting; to fail to defend the US is on the verge of treason.”
Congressman Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump had given Putin “a green light to interfere in 2018.”
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy was blunter: “This entire trip has just been one giant middle finger from President Trump to his own country. Just jaw dropping,” he wrote on Twitter.
Coats’ statement was seen as an uncommonly brusque pushback by the US intelligence community against the White House.
Retired spy chiefs were more direct however.
Coat’s predecessor, James Clapper, called Trump’s acquiescence to Putin “an incredible capitulation,” while former CIA chief John Brennan labelled it “nothing short of treasonous.”