February 24, 2017
A Note about Community Meetings
As I noted last week, we are in the process of scheduling community meetings in our district for March and April. We have started planning for several meetings across the district and will keep you informed as each gets finalized. As of today, we have two confirmed. Wednesday April 12th we will be in Randolph at Stetson Hall from 7:00 – 8:30 PM. On Thursday April 13th, we will be in East Boston from 6-7:30 PM, location to be determined. Thanks to Rep. Madaro, Senator Boncore and Councillor LaMattina for working with us on the East Boston event. We are also finalizing details for additional meetings and will spread them throughout the 7th Congressional District to accommodate as many constituents as we can. We will send reminders as the meetings gets closer and keep you posted as additional events are confirmed.
A Free Press
It is nothing short of outrageous that the White House blocked some media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN and Politico from attending a White House press briefing today. Even Richard Nixon never shut out the press. Freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones of our democracy, safeguarded by the Constitution that President Trump solemnly swore to “preserve, protect and defend”. President Reagan said: “There is no more essential ingredient than a free, strong, and independent press to our continued success in what the founding fathers called our ‘noble experiment’ in self-government.” Important words to remember today.
Transgender Students and Trump
On Wednesday night the Trump Administration abolished a policy that simply directed states to let transgender students use the restroom they feel most comfortable in. That policy made life a little bit easier for some pretty vulnerable young people. Don’t let anyone tell you this is an issue best left to the states. It’s not. This is about civil rights and about protecting transgender students from discrimination; it is not about states’ rights. By rolling back this policy, transgender students just lost some important protections that helped them feel safer.
I traveled to Germany this week with nine of my Congressional colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, as part of a parliamentary exchange with members of the German Bundestag. The project is organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the Robert Bosch Foundation. The new Administration has created great uncertainty among our allies, so I thought this exchange would be an important opportunity to share ideas and hear directly from some members of the German parliament. We had wide ranging discussions about global security, the world economy, trade, immigration and the relationship between the U.S. and Germany that has rested for more than 70 years on our shared commitment to political freedom and the rule of law. The German officials we met with also expressed some serious concern about the new Administration. We talked at length about the future of the European Union, the role of NATO and Russia.
East Boston High School
Before traveling to Germany, I met with students and staff at East Boston High School. I enjoy visiting schools because they give me a chance to hear directly from teachers and administrators about their experiences in the classroom. They also help illuminate how federal policies are impacting our schools. My conversations with students are always interesting. Regardless of grade or student age, I am impressed with the level of detail in their questions. Not surprisingly, there was great interest in President Trump and in my thoughts on how some of the Administration’s actions will impact Massachusetts. As you can imagine, we all had a great deal to discuss.
Horace Mann School
I also went to the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Allston to meet the students who won the Congressional App Challenge in the 7th CD. This competition was established to encourage students’ creativity and participation in STEM fields. Students compete with their peers by creating and exhibiting their software application, or “app”, for mobile, tablet, or computer devices on a platform of their choice. The winning App was submitted by Kayla Bowdre, Pedro Veras, Liu Xiao Ting and Melisa Arias. It is called Vote 2016: Inside Many Languages. Its creators describe the App as helping “Deaf people understand the ballot questions and save a summary of their answers for the polls. Some Deaf people have a hard time understanding print languages.” I congratulated the students for their great work and creativity. You can see the app in action in this video.
This week, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, issued two Memoranda, Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Policies and Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest. These documents appear to have been written with greater care than the President’s January 27th Executive Order on refugee admissions, which court action has stayed. It is not yet clear what the courts will do with regard to these memos.
I do not object, and I think no reasonable person could object, to an effort to secure our borders, to establish “operational control” of entry into the United States. Nor could one object to the deportation of aliens convicted of crimes or found to have made fraudulent claims for asylum.
These memos, however, propose extreme measures to achieve questionable ends. Their purpose is to deny entry to many migrants and speed the deportation of many others. Persons apprehended at the southern border will be detained or sent back to Mexico, whether or not they are citizens of Mexico. It’s important to note that Mexico is under no obligation to accept someone who is not a Mexican citizen. So this process will require the cooperation of Mexico, a country which the Administration has consistently antagonized.
This will also require the construction of vast new detention facilities for which no cost estimates are yet available. DHS foresees the hiring of 5500 new agents for Customs and Border Protection, and 10,000 new agents for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. There are no cost estimates for all of that additional federal hiring either. Moreover, and more troubling, President Obama’s Priorities Enforcement Program targeting convicted felons, terrorists and gang members is explicitly ended. I fear that limited resources may be wasted on apprehending immigrants who pose no danger to any community.
The memos reinstate a program that many urban mayors and police chiefs object to: it enlists state and local law enforcement officers as what Secretary Kelly calls “force multipliers” to investigate, arrest, and detain any undocumented person with whom they come in contact. This could apply to someone who witnesses a murder or a woman seeking a restraining order to protect her US citizen children from an abusive father.
The memos vastly increase the number of people who could be deported without due process. “Expedited removal” has previously been applied to aliens apprehended within 100 air miles of the border who had been in the United States for two weeks or less. “Expedited removal” is now in effect everywhere in the United States for people who cannot affirmatively prove two years residence here. Courts may note that the Fourth and Fifth Amendments refer to “persons” rather than, more narrowly, to citizens.
Aliens claiming asylum will still be accorded “credible fear” hearings, but the memo states that some will be sent to Mexico until those hearings can be scheduled. The asylum officer must assess the credibility of the applicant’s fear of persecution or torture but must also consider the “statistical likelihood” that the claim will be upheld on review by the Department of Justice. The memos aren’t clear what exactly this means. “Statistical likelihood” on the basis of what sample group? Will asylum seekers be comparted to others from the same continent or nation of origin, or of the same gender, or religion?
The memos express concern for the safety of unaccompanied minors and propose to prosecute as “human traffickers” parents who pay intermediaries to bring their children to the United States. The good news for children is that DACA, the deferred action program for “Dreamers,” remains intact. So far.
Behind the Curtain
Here are this week’s additions. If you need to catch up or share with friends, you can find the full list here.
- On February 21, 2017 the Trump Administration released updated instructions on undocumented immigrants, discontinuing priority enforcement and seeking to find and deport anyone in the United States illegally. New detention facilities will be erected and staff hired (despite Trump’s general hiring freeze for federal workers currently in place). Local law enforcement will be asked to participate in these directives. Regardless of how one might feel about our approach to immigration, these new instructions are just impractical. They will require billions of dollars to implement, for new staff and infrastructure. Local police already have important responsibilities. They should not also be asked to check the citizenship of everyone who runs a stop sign. We have provided more details above about the immigration instructions.
- On February 22, 2017 the Trump Administration rescinded directives from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice related to Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. These directives applied to transgender students. With this action, the Trump Administration abolished a policy that simply allowed transgender students to use the restroom they feel most comfortable in. That policy made life just a little easier for a vulnerable group of young people. This is an issue of civil rights and discrimination, not states’ rights.
What’s Up Next
The next House votes are scheduled for Monday February 27th. At this writing, a legislative schedule is not available.