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With Kavanaugh on court, White House ready for legal battle over asylum rules

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By Julia Ainsley

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration expects to be sued over the draconian new immigration plan it unveiled Thursday afternoon, say two senior administration officials with knowledge of the discussions — but with Justice Brett Kavanaugh now on the Supreme Court, it expects to win.

In the weeks before the midterms, even those Trump administration officials who fought bitterly with each other over how to curtail illegal immigration learned they could agree on a few things.

First, of the measures most likely to be approved by the president, all were likely to lead to a lawsuit.

But second, when sued, they believed they would ultimately prevail. According to the two senior officials, they think that with Kavanaugh in place, the Supreme Court will rule in their favor.

Kavanaugh, who took the spot of the more moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy on Oct. 6, is known for his conservative opinions that often side with the executive branch’s assertion of power.

Image: Migrants, part of a caravan traveling en route to the United States, ride in a truck on the road that links Tapanatepec and Santo Domingo Ingenio, near Santo Domingo Zanatepec
Migrants, part of a caravan traveling en route to the United States, ride in a truck on the road that links Tapanatepec and Santo Domingo Ingenio, near Santo Domingo Zanatepec, Mexico, on Nov. 7, 2018.Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

President Donald Trump teased the plan in vague terms in a speech from the White House last week, vowing to block any immigrants caught crossing the border between designated ports of entry, even if they made a claim for asylum.

The administration published the rule Thursday, with a signed proclamation by the president by Friday morning. It is expected to place all future illegal border crossers — those arrested between ports of entry — into detention with expedited deportation, regardless of whether they make an asylum claim.

The ACLU has already announced plans to sue.

Previous executive actions on immigration, including the Trump administration’s defense of the travel ban and its opposition to the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA,) have landed in federal court. The travel ban was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court and DACA is making its way there.

The hardline measures the White House is preparing to take to bar immigrants caught crossing the border illegally from claiming asylum are expected to follow the same path.

Although the Trump administration expects to be enjoined and stopped in the near term, they believe a policy based on the discretionary authority of the president over who is admitted to the U.S. will ultimately hold up in the Supreme Court, one of the officials said.

With Congress stalled on immigration reform, an executive action that is ultimately upheld in court is the best alternative, the other official said.

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. Customs & Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to comment on its legal strategy.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which led lawsuits to stop the travel ban and to reunite families separated by Trump’s “zero tolerance policy,” is prepared to sue again.

“If the administration announces a ban on asylum for those who enter between ports of entry, we will be prepared to go to court as necessary,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “But we will wait to see precisely what is put into place.”

Other legal experts and immigration advocates have said the policy would be in violation of domestic and international law. They cite international treaties that say an asylum seeker can make a legitimate claim anywhere, regardless of how they enter.

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Italy MEP offers Brexit OLIVE BRANCH and admits Rome TERRIFIED by no-deal

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ITALY eurocrat Paolo De Castro has given Theresa May a glimmer of hope her Withdrawal Agreement can be “improved”, as Italian business leaders admitted fears billions of pounds worth of trade between Rome and London could be at risk by a no-deal Brexit.

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Shutdown could further endanger whales

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By Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine — Rescuers who respond to distressed whales and other marine animals say the federal government shutdown is making it more difficult to do their work.

A network of rescue groups in the U.S. works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to respond to marine mammals such as whales and seals when the animals are in trouble, such as when they are stranded on land or entangled in fishing gear. But the federal shutdown, which entered its 33rd day Wednesday, includes a shuttering of the NOAA operations the rescuers rely upon.

NOAA plays a role in preventing accidental whale deaths by doing things like tracking the animals, operating a hotline for mariners who find distressed whales and providing permits that allow the rescue groups to respond to emergencies. Those functions are disrupted or ground to a halt by the shutdown, and that’s bad news if whales need help, said Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium in Boston, which has a rescue operation.

“If it was very prolonged, then it would become problematic to respond to animals that are in the water,” LaCasse said. “And to be able to have a better handle on what is really going on.”

The shutdown is coming at a particularly dangerous time for the endangered North Atlantic right whale, which numbers about 411, said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, a senior biologist with Whale and Dolphin Conservation of Plymouth, Massachusetts. The whales are under tight scrutiny right now because of recent years of high mortality and poor reproduction.

NOAA recently identified an aggregation of 100 of the whales south of Nantucket — nearly a quarter of the world’s population — but the survey work is now interrupted by the shutdown, Asmutis-Silvia said. Surveys of rare whales are important for biologists who study the animals and so rescuers can have an idea of where they are located, she said. No right whale mortalities have been recorded so far in 2019, but there have been at least 20 since April 2017.

“There’s a really significant impact on marine mammal conservation based on this shutdown,” Asmutis-Silvia said. “We have little to no ability to find them because of NOAA’s being furloughed.”

Many in the conservation community are anticipating potential changes to the federal government’s Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan, which is a tool to reduce incidental deaths of whales. But that process, too, is on hold because of the shutdown.

Calls from The Associated Press to NOAA spokespeople were not returned. Some spokespeople for the agency have voicemail set up to say they will return to work when the shutdown is over.

Outside of the federal government, work to protect whales is still going on. The developer of an offshore wind energy project off Massachusetts announced Wednesday it is partnering with environmental groups on a plan to try to protect the right whales.

And not all the news about the whales is gloomy. A Florida research team has located the third right whale calf of the season. None were spotted last season.

Scott Landry, director of marine mammal entanglement response for the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts, said that a NOAA whale entanglement hotline is currently being forwarded to him, and that he’s managing to pick up the slack so far. Rescue groups anticipated the shutdown and are working together to make do until it’s over, he said.

In Virginia, one of the state’s first responders for whale rescues is the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach. Mark Swingle, the aquarium’s director of research and conservation, said the center would not have “the usual assets we depend on to support the response” if it needs to assist an endangered whale.

That’s because NOAA staff and the Coast Guard would not be available, Swingle said.

“These circumstances require extremely specialized training and resources and NOAA is the lead organizer of large whale and other disentanglement efforts,” he said. “Live strandings pose their own set of challenges that NOAA helps navigate appropriately.”

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Brexit Article 50 news: Will Article 50 be extended?

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BREXIT Article 50 being triggered was the first action the UK took towards withdrawing from the European Union in 2017. Could article 50 be extended?

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