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Pence sets off firestorm with campaign prayer by ‘Christian rabbi’

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By Alex Johnson

Vice President Mike Pence was roundly criticized on Monday for appearing at a campaign rally in Michigan at which a Messianic rabbi invoked Jesus in mourning the deaths of 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Pence, who has often proclaimed himself to be a born-again evangelical Christian, invited Rabbi Loren Jacobs to the stage at a rally in Waterford Township, a suburb of Detroit, for Lena Epstein, a Republican candidate for the open congressional seat in Michigan’s 11th District.

Jacobs, the founder and senior rabbi of Congregation Shema Yisrael in nearby Bloomfield Hills, opened by invoking “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, God and father of my lord and savior Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah, and my God and father, too.”

(“Yeshua” — derived from a Greek spelling that eventually became “Jesus” in English — is the name by which many Messianic Jews refer to Jesus. You can watch C-SPAN’s video of Jacobs’ prayer here.)



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‘I want a direct shot at the man’

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By Dartunorro Clark

Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, said on Tuesday he’s running in 2020 as a Republican because he wants a “direct shot” at President Donald Trump.

“I want a direct shot at the man who, I think, wishes our country ill,” Weld said on MSNBC. “The best way to get a direct shot is to run against him in his own party.”

Weld, who served as a Republican governor and ran as a vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 2016, said he wants to restore civility to political discourse and challenge Trump’s domestic and foreign policies.

“Everyone knows the president is mean-spirited and that he calls out little people by name. … The more that’s known about the president’s business conduct and his conduct in office, the more I think people are going to come to question whether they really think it’s such a great idea being behind this commander in chief in office,” he said.

Weld said he believes much of Trump’s support is steered by “party bosses” in state GOP committees, but he wants to talk directly to Republican voters about Trump’s conduct and his policies.

“We want the election, both the primary and general, decided by voters and not party bosses,” he said. “I think what (voters) are saying is they are buffaloed and they want to stick with the Republican Party because they like the way it feels. I don’t think they’ve examined the president’s conduct.”

Weld said he and Trump differ on “many, many” issues; Weld said he is an “economic conservative” who has a track record of cutting spending and taxes in Massachusetts. He said the president has demeaned America’s allies and his economic policies have not been good for the country.

“I aim to call the president out on issues like spending and insulting our allies,” he said.

But, Weld said he has one thing in common with the president.

“We’re both big, orange men,” he said.

Primary challenges sometimes precede losses for presidents whose approval ratings have dipped in the run-up to elections. Conservative pundit Pat Buchanan challenged President George H.W. Bush to the Republican nomination in 1992. Bush ultimately lost that general election to Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan challenged President Gerald Ford in 1976. Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in the general election.

Trump remains deeply popular with Republican voters, however. A recent Gallup poll shows that the president has an 89 percent job approval rating among Republican voters, and a 45 percent approval rating overall. Trump’s re-election campaign also raised more than $30 million in the first quarter of 2019, far outpacing the field of Democratic candidates heading into the 2020 race.

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Trump admin’s 2-year timetable for reuniting separated migrant families is too long

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 / Updated 

By Julia Ainsley and Daniella Silva

WASHINGTON — Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal court filing Monday night that the Trump administration’s one- to two-year timetable for reuniting potentially thousands of separated migrant families shows “a callous disregard for these families and should be rejected.”

The ACLU is representing migrant parents who were separated from their families during the “zero tolerance” policy in place last summer, and is also representing children who were separated prior to the policy, when the Trump administration began pilot programs in 2017.

The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that thousands of children were separated prior to zero tolerance, but the government argued that reuniting those children is too onerous. Judge Dana Sabraw of the Southern District of California ordered the Trump administration to begin identifying and reuniting those children anyway, but the Justice Department lawyers have said it will take one to two years.

Attorneys for the ACLU argued in the filing that a list of some of the children separated “very likely exists” because Customs and Border Protection began assigning numbers to track families in April 2018.

“That would immediately reduce the number of cases the government has to review,” the ACLU said in the filing.

Further, the ACLU argued, the government’s ability to quickly identify the more than 2,800 children separated during May and June 218, under zero tolerance, shows that a two-year timetable to identify children separated from their families as far back as June 2017 is too long.

In a Tuesday afternoon hearing, Sabraw asked for Cmdr. Jonathan White, a top official with Health and Human Services who led the department’s efforts to reunite the separated families, to review the ACLU’s filing “as soon as possible.”

Sabraw called on members from the plaintiff’s team to confer with White in the hopes that a “proposal can be made that is more streamlined and more efficient than the government’s initial proposal.”

“This is a very significant issue, obviously, it is as important as the initial reunification and the same care and attention and energy needs to be paid to this second reunification with this class going back to July of 2017,” the judge said.

“Both sides have competing proposals, both sides are working for a common good and I think that needs to be emphasized,” he said. “The first reunification really was a united effort between two adversaries but they came together …. and did remarkable things in quick order.”

White has repeatedly testified that he would have never supported a family separation policy.

The hearing was at times tense, with Department of Justice attorney Scott Stewart taking issue with what he called “the extremeness” of the ACLU’s proposals. Stewart also repeatedly criticized what he characterized as a lack of notification of their Monday filing.

Sabraw set the next status conference in the case for next Wednesday.

Justice Department lawyers have stated that they want three months to create a statistical model before reviewing files. The ACLU called that “wholly insufficient given that the entire review of every file can be done within three months.”

The ACLU asked Sabraw to order the administration to begin an immediate review of paper files across the three agencies who encountered immigrant parents and children.

“The government should therefore issue an immediate directive to case managers at (Office of Refugee Resettlement) facilities around the country to review their paper files for separations, like the government did in the days immediately following the issuance of the preliminary injunction,” the ACLU argued, referring to the injunction by Sabraw that ordered the reunification of families separated under zero tolerance.

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Ruling by Attorney General Barr means thousands more migrants may wait months in detention

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By Julia Ainsley and Doha Madani

WASHINGTON, DC — Attorney General William Barr weighed in on an immigration case on Tuesday, establishing a new precedent that could affect thousands of migrants at the southwest border seeking asylum in the U.S.

In his decision, Barr said that asylum seekers who begin in expedited removal, in which they are not given the right to see a judge, and are then transferred to full removal proceedings, in which they wait to make their case before a judge, should not be released on bond. It means that thousands of asylum seekers who once would have been out on bond and living in the U.S. while awaiting a decision on their status will now be kept in detention centers, where the wait times are now climbing from months to a year.

“This ruling gives [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] the legal authority to detain all of these people indefinitely,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, an immigration think tank. “That’s if they have the capacity. So I think the actual effect of this ruling will be severely limited by ICE”s capacity.”

Due to the limited capacity, Barr said his decision should go into effect in 90 days in order to give ICE time to build bed space.

Under U.S. law, the attorney general has the right to overturn the decisions of immigration judges and establish sweeping new precedents, such as this.

The decision is expected to affect a broad swath of immigrants coming to the southwest border to claim asylum. Immigrants who enter the U.S. without documents, or with documents suspected to be fraudulent, are placed into expedited removal before they have an interview with U.S. asylum officers at which they try to establish they have credible fear for their safety if they return to their home countries. And more than 90 percent of asylum seekers pass the credible fear interview, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics.

Barr’s decision reversed an immigration judge’s decision to release an immigrant on bond while waiting for his proceedings. He also said that the Board of Immigration Appeals, a panel that reviews immigration court decisions, “wrongly decided” that only immigrants who enter the U.S. through legal ports of entry should be detained while others could be released on bond.

As a result of the decision, thousands of asylum seekers will remain in ICE detention while they await a decision in their case. Families with children under 18, however, will not be affected because of a federal court decision that prevents minors from being held longer than 20 days.

The Obama administration was criticized in 2014 for placing bonds so high that immigrants could not afford them.

Barr’s decision could be problematic for ICE, where space to hold detained immigrants is already extremely limited. Many private prison companies and state and local jails are awarded ICE contracts to hold surplus immigrants.

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