Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has signed sweeping new guidelines to speed up the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. The memos instruct federal agencies to begin hiring 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, as well as 5,000 more Border Patrol agents. They also detail plans to accelerate deportation hearings and to expand the number of people prioritized for removal from the United States. McClatchy is reporting hundreds of thousands more undocumented immigrants in the United States would be subject to what’s known as expedited removal proceedings to get them quickly out of the country. According to McClatchy, children who arrived in the United States as “unaccompanied minors” would no longer be protected against deportation, and their parents would be subject to criminal prosecution if they had paid human traffickers to bring their children across the border. President Trump says he’s also preparing to sign a new executive order banning people from seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States, although White House officials say the new travel ban will not include people with green cards or visas.
A Seattle judge refused to order the release of 23-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina, who was arrested by ICE agents even though he has permission to live and work in the United States under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. Ramirez’s supporters rallied outside the hearing on Friday. This is Paul Quinones with the Washington Dream Act Coalition.
Paul Quinones: “If any of us had any doubt that Trump’s regime has declared an open war and open season on all immigrants in this country, that doubt should have evaporated by now. With Daniel’s arrest, we have seen the federal government breaking its promise and showing that it cannot be trusted.”
We’ll have more on the Trump administration’s crackdown against immigration and immigrants currently living in the United States after headlines.
Two members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus say Republicans forced them to leave a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on Thursday. Illinois Democratic Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez and California Democratic Congressmember Norma Torres prayed for immigrant families after they were thrown out of the meeting with ICE’s acting director, Thomas Homan, about the recent wave of ICE raids. Gutiérrez later said, “In 20-plus years, I have never heard of the Republicans controlling what meetings Democrats can have with officials of the executive branch and never had a staffer ask me to leave a meeting to which I am entitled to attend.”
Trump continued to escalate what he calls his “war on the media” during a 2020 campaign rally in Florida on Saturday, only one day after he tweeted that the media is “the enemy of the American people.” This is Trump speaking in front of a crowd of about 7,000 in Melbourne, Florida.
President Donald Trump: “Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln and many of our greatest presidents fought with the media and called them out oftentimes on their lies. When the media lies to people, I will never, ever let them get away with it. I will do whatever I can that they don’t get away with it. They have their own agenda. And their agenda is not your agenda.”
In fact, while Jefferson often lambasted the press, he also believed it was fundamental to democracy, famously writing in 1823 to the Marquis de Lafayette, “The only security of all is in a free press.” Trump lied or misrepresented statistics repeatedly during Saturday’s campaign rally, including by claiming credit for jobs that were created under the previous Obama administration; once again exaggerating the U.S. crime rate; and lying that refugees admitted to the U.S. are not vetted, when in fact they are vetted in an extensive process that takes two years. During his speech, Trump also appeared to invent an imaginary terrorist attack in Sweden.
President Donald Trump: “Here’s the bottom line: We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden.”
This comment sparked widespread ridicule and criticism, including from former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, who tweeted, “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.” Trump later said his Sweden comment was in response to a Fox News story he’d watched the night before about alleged refugee-related crime. Sweden’s crime rate has fallen over the last decade, even as it has accepted hundreds of thousands of refugees, including from Syria.
Trump’s rally in Florida came as he faced harsh criticism throughout the day Saturday from Arizona Senator John McCain and others after Trump tweeted Friday night, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” This is McCain speaking to Chuck Todd in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Sen. John McCain: “A fundamental part of that new world order was a free press. I hate the press. I hate you especially. But the fact is, we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital. If you want to preserve—I’m very serious now—if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and, many times, adversarial press. And without it, I’m afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”
That’s Arizona Republican Senator John McCain. Journalists and editors also condemned Trump’s comment. Gabriel Sherman, the national affairs editor at New York magazine, called it “full-on dictator speak.” Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said Trump’s comment “crosses an important line.”
Anti-Trump demonstrations continue nationally and worldwide, as thousands of protesters took the streets across the U.S. over the weekend. In New York City, activists, flanked by a marching band and carrying a casket, staged a New Orleans-style mock funeral for the presidency. In Washington, D.C., LGBT protesters kissed each other outside Trump’s hotel to protest the anti-LGBT policies of Trump’s administration. Crowds also took to the streets in Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, along the U.S.-Mexico border and in Los Angeles to oppose Trump’s crackdown against immigration and immigrants currently living in the United States.
Protester: “Well, the fact that my mom was—is an immigrant currently, and I just feel like I need to do this for her, so that she gets the rights she needs, because this whole time she’s working hard to provide for us, and of course she is part of this country, just like all of us. And I’m here fighting for her and my father.”
The weekend’s protests came after Friday’s coordinated day of action, billed the “February 17 General Strike,” saw as many as 100 demonstrations across the United States. Organizers with the group Strike4Democracy say as many as 100,000 people participated nationwide.
In Britain, as many as 10,000 people are expected to join an anti-Trump protest today, as the British Parliament holds a debate on whether to cancel Trump’s state visit to Britain. Nearly 2 million Brits have signed on to a petition calling for Trump’s visit to be canceled. This is British Parliament member Tulip Siddiq.
Tulip Siddiq: “This is a man who has tainted the Muslim communities of seven different countries with the same brush. If we allow Donald Trump into our country on a state visit, what kind of message are we sending to future generations? History will judge us if we allow this man to come to our country without asking him questions first.”
In Spain, as many as 160,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona Saturday to demand the Spanish government admit more refugees. This is Meera Zaroor, a Syrian refugee living in Barcelona.
Meera Zaroor: “People could help us to forget the pain we feel because we miss our loved ones in Syria. Think of us as people, not as a crisis. We are not a crisis, and we didn’t come here to steal people’s houses or their jobs. We came here to live in a secure place, because Syria is not safe.”
Back in the United States, Scott Pruitt was sworn in as director of the Environmental Protection Agency Friday, after the Senate voted 52-46 to confirm him. His confirmation came despite fierce opposition from environmentalists, Senate Democrats and members of the EPA itself, who say they fear Pruitt will suppress scientific findings and undermine their work and that the Trump administration might even seek to abolish the EPA entirely. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times. His confirmation and swearing-in came only one day after a district judge ordered Pruitt’s former office to release thousands of pages of correspondence with oil, coal and gas companies.
Trump met with four possible candidates for national security adviser over the weekend: former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. and retired General Keith Kellogg, who is currently serving as acting national security adviser. The meetings came after General Flynn resigned from the post last week over his December phone call discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador, and Trump’s top pick for his replacement, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, turned down the position, reportedly telling a friend the offer amounted to a “s*** sandwich.”
Trump’s search for Flynn’s replacement comes as the White House remains dramatically understaffed. A New York Times investigation reports Trump has struggled not only to fill his Cabinet—with six members still unconfirmed—but also to fill the important positions of deputy secretary, under secretaries and assistant secretaries for most agencies. The Times reports one of the key barriers is that Trump has been vetoing new people—and even firing existing officials—who have been at all critical of him. On Friday, for example, Craig Deare, the recently appointed head of the National Security Council’s Western Hemisphere division, was fired and marched out of his office, less than 24 hours after Deare criticized Trump’s policies on Latin America during a private talk at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. Deare’s firing is in addition to six top officials within the State Department who have been fired recently over concerns about loyalty.
Trump’s two sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., attended the grand opening of the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai Saturday night, alongside their business partner Dubai billionaire Hussain Sajwani. The golf course is the first of a series of high-profile developments that Trump’s businesses, which are now run by his adult sons, are slated to open during his time in office, posing potential conflicts of interests. This is Donald Trump Jr. speaking at Saturday’s opening.
Donald Trump Jr.: “Thank you very much. It’s incredible to be here looking up at this amazing building after all these years. And, Hussain, thank you very much for the friendship, for the partnership. Ali, Abbas, Mehdi, thank you very much. Look forward to doing—working with you for many years to come.”
In Somalia, a suicide car bomb killed at least 39 people and injured about 50 more after it exploded in a market in Mogadishu on Sunday. This is one of the witnesses.
Witness: “I was very shocked today as I saw people crying in pain and others lying on the ground wounded. Others were already killed by the car bomb, which exploded at the center of the market. Those injured and killed were shopkeepers, pharmacists and butchers.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, although Somalia’s president has blamed the militant group al-Shabab.
In Iraq, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched a campaign to retake western Mosul from ISIS on Sunday, as the U.S. increased airstrikes against the militants in the city. Human rights groups are warning of “extreme risk” for the 650,000 civilians in the western half of the city. The campaign to retake the city of Mosul initially began in October.
Iran’s foreign minister has warned the United States not to send more ground troops to Syria, following a CNN report that said the Pentagon is considering a plan to deploy a large conventional force to Syria. Iran has been backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the U.S. has been targeting ISIS, while supplying some training and support to forces fighting Assad. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said more U.S. troops in Syria would fuel extremism.
Mohammad Javad Zarif: “I believe the presence of foreign troops in an Arab territory, against the wish of the government and the people of those territories, is in and of itself a recipe for these demagogues, these extremists, to rally behind and to gain new support and to recruit new fighters, who are disenfranchised youth, who have been deprived of their dignity because of certain policies that have been followed.”
And in Munich, Germany, more than 1,000 anti-NATO activists demonstrated outside the Munich Security Conference, where U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and other top leaders were gathering. The protesters demanded an end to what they called the war economy. As many as 4,000 officers were deployed to police the protest.