Stephen Dinan reports: President Obama’s marquee deportation amnesty has been stalled by the courts, but the rest of his executive actions on immigration, announced exactly a year ago, are moving forward — including his move protecting more than 80 percent of illegal immigrants from any danger of deportation.
The amnesty, dubbed Deferred Action for Parental Accountability was supposed to grant full tentative legal status — including work permits, Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses — to more than 4 million illegal immigrants. It has been halted by a federal appeals court, and its fate will soon rest with the Supreme Court.
But the rest of the dozen actions Mr. Obama announced on Nov. 20, 2014, are still advancing, including a far-reaching set of priorities that effectively orders agents not to bother deporting nearly all illegal immigrants.
“There are 7 or 8 or 9 million people who are now safe under the current policy. That is a victory to celebrate while we wait for the Supreme Court,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who was among the chief cheerleaders pushing Mr. Obama to go around Congress and take unilateral steps last year.
The actions — often mislabeled by the press as executive orders — also included changes to the legal immigration system, such as making it easier for spouses of guest workers to also find jobs; allowing foreigners who study science and technology at U.S. universities to remain and work in the country longer; pushing legal immigrants to apply for citizenship; and waiving the penalty on illegal immigrant spouses or children of legal permanent residents so they no longer have to go to their home countries to await legal status. Read the rest of this entry »
Screening outposts to be set up in Iraq, Lebanon as U.S. urges Arab nations to do more.
The Obama administration is moving to increase and accelerate the number of Syrian refugees who might be admitted into the United States by opening new screening outposts in Iraq and Lebanon, administration officials told Reuters on Friday.
The move comes after President Barack Obama pledged in September to admit an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, torn by four years of civil war and disorder.
The U.S. State Department confirmed the plans to open a refugee settlement processing centre in Erbil, Iraq, before the end of 2015, and to resume refugee processing in Lebanon in early 2016, said spokeswoman Danna Van Brandt.
The White House would not say how many additional refugees it may take in beyond the 10,000, but two senior administration officials said they are seeking ways to increase the number.
Refugees and migrants arrive from the island of Lesbos to the port of Piraeus on Friday. About 25,000 refugees and other migrants are heading to the Greek mainland from the eastern Aegean islands after the country’s seamen’s union called off ferry strikes. (Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press)
“We want to be in a place where we can push out really ambitious goals,” said one of the officials, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
The State Department runs nine screening centres worldwide that serve as meeting points for refugees and U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees who have to decide who is suitable for resettlement in the United States.
Enrollment is falling short. The Obama administration projects that it will have roughly 10 million people on the state and federal exchanges by the end of next year, a staggering climb-down from prior expectations.
Rich Lowry writes: For the press, the debate over ObamaCare is over. There may be a few proverbial Japanese soldiers wandering on isolated islands yammering on about the failure of ObamaCare, but word will eventually filter down to them, too. This assumption is so deeply embedded that it is impervious to new evidence that ObamaCare is an unwieldy contraption that is sputtering badly.
“ObamaCare is a monopoly. It gives money to people to buy its product and through the individual mandate punishes those who don’t. And yet it’s still having trouble making the sale.”
Yes, ObamaCare has covered more people and has especially benefited those with pre-existing conditions (to be credible, Republican replacement plans have to do these things, as well), but the program is so poorly designed that, surely, even a new Democratic president will want to revisit it to try to make it more workable.
“Premiums are rising. Not everywhere, but steeply in some states. Indiana is down 12 percent, but Minnesota is up 50 percent.”
Enrollment is falling short. The Obama administration projects that it will have roughly 10 million people on the state and federal exchanges by the end of next year, a staggering climb-down from prior expectations. The Congressional Budget Office had predicted that there would be roughly 20 million enrollees.
Premiums are rising. Not everywhere, but steeply in some states. Indiana is down 12 percent, but Minnesota is up 50 percent. Health care expert Robert Laszewski points out that it’s the insurers with the highest enrollment and therefore the best information about actual enrollees that have tended to request the biggest increases — a sign that they don’t like what they’re seeing in their data. Read the rest of this entry »
Dave Boyer reports: When President Obama signs into law the new two-year budget deal Monday, his action will bring into sharper focus a part of his legacy that he doesn’t like to talk about: He is the $20 trillion man.
“The Boehner-Obama spending agreement would allow for unlimited borrowing by the Treasury until March 2017. This deal piles on billions of dollars to the national debt by increasing spending over the next three years and then not paying for it for a decade — with half of the offsets not occurring until 2025.”
— Paul Winfree, director of economic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation
Mr. Obama’s spending agreement with Congress will suspend the nation’s debt limit and allow the Treasury to borrow another $1.5 trillion or so by the end of his presidency in 2017. Added to the current total national debt of more than $18.15 trillion, the red ink will likely be crowding the $20 trillion mark right around the time Mr. Obama leaves the White House.
“Of this $154 billion, about $78 billion is paid for honestly. The remaining $56 billion of the legislation — mostly the war spending increase and interest costs — is not paid for at all.”
When Mr. Obama took over in January 2009, the total national debt stood at $10.6 trillion. That means the debt will have very nearly doubled during his eight years in office, and there is much more debt ahead with the abandonment of “sequestration” spending caps enacted in 2011.
“When Mr. Obama took over in January 2009, the total national debt stood at $10.6 trillion. That means the debt will have very nearly doubled during his eight years in office, and there is much more debt ahead with the abandonment of “sequestration” spending caps enacted in 2011.”
“Congress and the president have just agreed to undo one of the only successful fiscal restraint mechanisms in a generation,” said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union. “The progress on reducing spending and the deficit has just become much more problematic.”
“We will be raising the debt ceiling in an unlimited fashion. We will be giving President Obama a free pass to borrow as much money as he can borrow in the last year of his office. No limit, no dollar limit. Here you go, President Obama. Spend what you want.”
— Sen. Rand Paul
Some budget analysts scoff at the claim made by the administration and by House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, that the budget agreement’s $112 billion in spending increases is fully funded by cuts elsewhere. Mr. Boehner left Congress last week.
“The Boehner-Obama spending agreement would allow for unlimited borrowing by the Treasury until March 2017,” said Paul Winfree, director of economic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation. “This deal piles on billions of dollars to the national debt by increasing spending over the next three years and then not paying for it for a decade — with half of the offsets not occurring until 2025.” Read the rest of this entry »
Bridget Johnson reports: ISIS beheaded four Peshmerga in a grisly video released today with a retribution message to President Obama — delivered by an American-sounding executioner — for last week’s raid to rescue 69 prisoners near Hawija, Iraq.
“…There is still no compelling reason to believe that anything we are currently doing will be sufficient to achieve the President’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL.”
— Senator John McCain
Three of the Kurds are forced to watch the fourth prisoner being beheaded before they are subjected to the same fate.
“Obama, you have learned a new lesson. Six of the soldiers of the caliphate faced 400 of your children. They killed and injured them, by Allah’s grace. You were probably surprised by this. O Crusader, it is the support of Allah you did not gain anything, you returned to your base with loss and humiliation.”
The video, viewed by PJM, includes night-vision images of a helicopter attack, though it’s unclear if it’s footage from that night. It also shows clips of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, dead bodies and a field of rubble while ripping off coalition footage of the strikes. U.S. forces said they leveled the compound after the prisoners, who were set to be killed later that day, were rescued.
“Obama, you wage war against Allah. He supports us against you; it is the promise of Allah. Allah will never fail in his promise.”
A narrator speaking in Arabic walks through the decimated compound as he recounts ISIS’ version of events and includes alleged witnesses.
Chuck Ross reports: Hillary Clinton sent an email to her daughter, Chelsea, on Sept. 11, 2012 in which she asserted that an al-Qaida-like group was responsible for the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, it was revealed on Thursday during the former secretary of state’s testimony to the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The email, which was revealed by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan , indicates that Clinton knew early on that the attacks which left four Americans dead was carried out by terrorists. But as Jordan pointed out, Clinton and others in the Obama administration had already begun crafting the narrative that the attack was spontaneous and that the attackers were motivated by a YouTube video many Muslims found offensive.
“Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like [sic] group,” Clinton wrote.
But shortly before the email, after it was revealed that Ambassador Chris Stevens had been murdered in the onslaught, Clinton implied that the YouTube video had served as a motive.
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted to the Internet,” Clinton said in a statement shortly after Stevens’ death.
The Obama administration continued for days after the attack to claim that the YouTube video — entitled “Innocence of Muslims” — had sparked protests which turned violent. Critics of the administration’s handling of the response to the attack assert that the YouTube video was used as political cover to protect Obama ahead of his re-election bid. Obama had been on the campaign trail insisting that he had destroyed al-Qaida.
….Here’s how the shutdown weapon works. The president and his Democratic allies in Congress dictate their priorities on the budget and spending. If Republicans don’t go along, if they pass a budget that doesn’t spend as much as the president wants, Democrats use the filibuster and the veto to block the budget and shut down government. They then use “shutdown theater”—things like erecting barriers around public monuments that require no federal money to stay open—to make this seem like a bigger crisis than it is, and they depend on the press to put all the blame on Republicans. The House GOP, seeing the public approval of Republicans taking a hit, backs down. That’s how the last two Democratic presidents have used the shutdown to beat a hostile Congress into submission.
Democracy isn’t a machine — it’s a dance. Americans have some recourse against Obama’s shutdown theater.
So long as Obama and the Democrats can use a government shutdown as a credible threat, they neutralize House Republicans’ power of the purse. And so long as that’s the case, the House GOP can’t do anything substantial. They’re reduced to pleading, “We can’t do anything until we have the Senate,” and then, “We can’t do anything until we have the presidency.” And eventually the Republican base and the Tea Party types get fed up and conclude that Republican leaders never really wanted to do anything in the first place, that they’re just marking time before they can go to K Street or Wall Street and cash out. (Which is partly correct.)
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
The House GOP needed to find a good opportunity to go to the matt on the government shutdown and force Democrats to compromise. If they had done that, they could have used budget negotiations to get at least some of what the base wanted, instead of caving in all the time…(read more)
Russia launched its first airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday. They were almost all in western Syria. They did not fall on the Islamic State or the other terrorist groups raping and pillaging the Syrian countryside, creating the largest international refugee crisis in decades.
Rather, the Russian airstrikes fell on the moderate rebel groups that the U.S. has been notionally supporting against the country’s tyrant Bashar al-Assad.
President Obama seems surprised by this, but his surprise is inexcusably disingenuous or obtuse.
McCain: Putin’s Ambitions ‘Blindingly Obvious’
Assad is and has long been an ally of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Russia entered the Syrian civil war as any rational person would have expected, on the side of his ally and of the Iranian paramilitaries that support him.
Does anyone in the administration dare to say they were shocked — shocked — that Putin is indifferent to both the horror and the strategic threat posed by the Islamic State. Why, yes the Obama administration does dare to claim surprise. When Russian bombs began to fall on their predictable targets, American officials reacted by claiming they were “taken aback,” as if they were genuinely wounded and upset.
On Monday, Obama had addressed the United Nations with the ridiculous idea that Washington and Moscow might would work together in Syria. “The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” Obama said. Read the rest of this entry »
A decision on whether to act could come soon, close to a major state visit by President Xi Jinping.
Ellen Nakashima reports: The Obama administration is developing a package of unprecedented economic sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals who have benefited from their government’s cybertheft of valuable U.S. trade secrets.
The U.S. government has not yet decided whether to issue these sanctions, but a final call is expected soon — perhaps even within the next two weeks, according to several administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
“The indictments were a strong move. This is going to be an even stronger move. It’s really going to put China in the position of having to choose whether they want to be this pariah nation — this kleptocracy — or whether they want to be one of the leading nations in the world.”
— Rob Knake, a former White House cyber official and currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Issuing sanctions would represent a significant expansion in the administration’s public response to the rising wave of cyber-economic espionage initiated by Chinese hackers, who officials say have stolen everything from nuclear power plant designs to search engine source code to confidential negotiating positions of energy companies.
Any action would also come at a particularly sensitive moment between the world’s two biggest economies. President Xi Jinping of China is due to arrive next month in Washington for his first state visit — complete with a 21-gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House and an elaborate State Dinner. There is already tension over a host of other issues, including maritime skirmishes in the South China Sea and China’s efforts to devalue its currency in the face of its recent stock market plunge. At the same time, the two countries have deep trade ties and the administration has sometimes been wary of seeming too tough on China.
But the possibility of sanctions so close to Xi’s visit indicates how frustrated U.S. officials have become over the persistent cyber plundering.
The sanctions would mark the first use of an order signed by President Obama in April establishing the authority to freeze financial and property assets of, and bar commercial transactions with, individuals and entities overseas who engage in destructive attacks or commercial espionage in cyberspace.
“China is not the only country that hacks computer networks for trade secrets to aid its economy, but it is by far the most active, officials say. Just last month, the FBI said that economic espionage cases surged 53 percent in the past year, and that China accounted for most of that.”
The White House declined to comment on specific sanctions, but a senior administration official, speaking generally, said: “As the president said when signing the executive order enabling the use of economic sanctions against malicious cyber actors, the administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront such actors. Read the rest of this entry »
Predictable Catastrophe: Money Squandered as Confusing and Lenient Policies Encourage Border Crossings
Stephen Dinan reports: The U.S. government paid for a classroom full of computers in El Salvador, but the Salvadoran government never bothered to hire a teacher, investigators said Wednesday — one of a series of bungles in the Obama administration’s plan to flood Central America with U.S. money to try to stem another surge of illegal immigration.
“Carrying out ineffective campaigns could lead to higher levels of migration to the United States, which is not only potentially costly in terms of U.S. taxpayer resources but costly and dangerous to the migrants and their families.”
In an expansive report on last summer’s surge, the Government Accountability Office said confusing and lenient U.S. policies pushed illegal immigrants to make the crossing, and even cited administration officials who said President Obama’s 2012 deportation amnesty for so-called Dreamers did entice some of the surge.
President Barack Obama attempts to respond to Ju Hong (lower left), who began to heckle him about anti-deportation policies at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
“Initially officials blamed dangerous and economically depressed conditions in three key Central American nations for pushing illegal immigrants north, but eventually Homeland Security officials admitted that confusing and lenient policies — at least as far as illegal immigrants were concerned — were serving as a magnet to draw illegal immigrants.”
Trying to get a handle on the flood, Mr. Obama has requested hundreds of millions of dollars to try to bolster society in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the three countries chiefly responsible for the surge, but GAO investigators said corruption or incompetence among the Central American governments may hinder those efforts.
In the U.S., meanwhile, Homeland Security officials poured money into public relations campaigns to try to warn would-be crossers against attempting it, but the government has no idea if those efforts worked, the GAO said.
“The surge, which totaled nearly 70,000 children traveling without a parent in fiscal year 2014, plus more than 60,000 children and parents traveling together, overwhelmed the Obama administration, which was left struggling for answers.”
“Carrying out ineffective campaigns could lead to higher levels of migration to the United States, which is not only potentially costly in terms of U.S. taxpayer resources but costly and dangerous to the migrants and their families,” the GAO said in its report.
Both the State Department and Homeland Security admitted they need to do a better job collecting information and evaluating what they’re doing.
The report comes a year after the surge of illegal immigrant children and families reshaped the immigration debate, drawing attention to a still-porous border and helping sidetrack President Obama’s hopes of getting Congress to approve a bill legalizing illegal immigrants already in the country.
The surge, which totaled nearly 70,000 children traveling without a parent in fiscal year 2014, plus more than 60,000 children and parents traveling together, overwhelmed the Obama administration, which was left struggling for answers. Read the rest of this entry »
Daniel Halper writes: Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill today the U.S. government will not be revealing the contents of secret side deals with Iran to the American people. Senator Tom Cotton wanted to know why it can’t be made public.
“Why can’t we confirm or deny the content of these agreements in public? Why is this classified? It’s not a sensitive U.S. government document.”
— Senator Tom Cotton
“We don’t have their authorization to reveal what is a confidential agreement…”
— Secretary of State, recreational windsurfer, John Kerry
Watch the exchange:
“So the ayatollahs will know what they agreed to but not the American people?”
“Effective July 21, 2015, new guidance (PA-2015-001) in the USCIS Policy Manual clarifies the eligibility requirements for modifications to the Oath of Allegiance. Reciting the Oath is part of the naturalization process. Candidates for citizenship normally declare that they will “bear arms on behalf of the United States” and “perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States” when required by the law. A candidate may be eligible to exclude these two clauses based on religious training and belief or a conscientious objection,” an email from USCIS clarifying the requirements states (bolding is mine).
The new guidance:
-May be eligible for modifications based on religious training and belief, or conscientious objection arising from a deeply held moral or ethical code. -Is not required to belong to a specific church or religion, follow a particular theology or belief, or to have had religious training in order to qualify. -May submit, but is not required to provide, an attestation from a religious or other type of organization, as well as other evidence to establish eligibility.Read the rest of this entry »
“Obama’s deal to lift sanctions on Iran and allow it to continue the purchase and production of enriched uranium is so bad that his own staff can’t even figure out how to spin for it. It’s so bad that Obama’s opponents don’t even need to craft their own arguments against it — they can just recycle the Obama administration’s arguments against the deal…”