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Trump Will Add Cuba To List Of Obama Achievements He’s Taking Apart

A Miami speech is set for Friday to announce changes to the relaxation of tourism and trade rules.
To the list of things former President Barack Obama did that President Donald Trump is undoing, go ahead and add Cuba. Two and a half years ago, Obama, with great fanfare, announced an easing of the decades-long travel and trade restrictions on the island nation’s authoritarian regime, arguing that the policies had not worked and were only punishing ordinary Cubans.

At a speech Friday afternoon in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, Trump is expected to reverse at least some of Obama’s changes, despite public opinion nationally and even among Cuban-Americans that shows support for more ties with Cuba, not fewer.

“I’ve never seen a coalition this broad and it have no influence,” said Marguerite Rose Jiménez, who helped craft the Obama policy at his Department of Commerce and is now with the Washington Office on Latin America advocacy group. “This is not a move that’s supported by a majority of the Cuban-American community.”

But it is supported by the veterans of the failed 1961 CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro. The group endorsed Trump last fall, becoming one of the few Latino organizations to support the Republican nominee.

“The president was honored and humbled,” said a senior administration official who, along with two other officials, explained the coming policy Thursday on the condition that their names would not be used. The official said that Trump promised the group he would restore tougher restrictions and that his actions fulfill that promise.

Specifically, the changes to be announced Friday would eliminate a provision that Americans have used to visit Cuba on their own. They would also make it illegal for Americans to do business with entities controlled by the Cuban military or intelligence services. This would prohibit individuals from staying at state-owned hotels and would ban U.S. businesses from trading with state-controlled enterprises.

“That would be our guiding principle,” said a second administration official, who added that the policy would be lifted if Cuban President Raúl Castro institutes reforms including free elections and the release of political prisoners.

Trump’s new policy will not prevent U.S. travelers from bringing back Cuban rum and cigars or stop airlines and cruise ships from offering routine service. It would also not restore the immigration advantage Cuban refugees have had for decades if they managed to reach dry land in the United States ― the “wet foot, dry foot” policy.

Nor will Trump’s policy restrict visits by Cuban-Americans to their relatives or reverse the reopening of formal diplomatic ties, the second official said. “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle 100 percent,” the official said.

The crackdown on travel will end what had become an easy way for Americans to visit Cuba: Declare an individual “people-to-people” educational exchange. A third administration official said group trips will still be permitted for cultural visits and charitable efforts but that the crackdown would make sure visitors are actually fostering closer ties with the Cuban people “and not just drinking daiquiris on the beach.”

Supporters of Obama’s changes, while grateful Trump does not plan to reverse everything Obama did, nevertheless criticized the policy as a step in the wrong direction. Jiménez said that the way the Cuban economy is structured, with so many enterprises tied to the military, blocking trade with entities connected to the Cuban military would basically block trade, period.

“That’s a backdoor way of effectively stifling all commerce,” she said.

Toward the end of his campaign last year, Trump promised to help the people of Cuba stand up to their government and to make a “good deal” with Castro to replace the bad one he said Obama had made.

We’re on the wrong side of history when it comes to this.Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.)

Little Havana is home to much of the one constituency that continues to favor a hard line toward Cuba: the older generation of refugees who left in the 1960s and ’70s following Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution overthrowing the U.S.-backed dictator.

That generation’s children and grandchildren are much more inclined to support Obama’s moves to increase tourism and trade opportunities with the island as a way of building a society that will bring democratic and human rights reforms.

A national poll of Cuban-Americans at the time Obama’s policies were announced in December 2014 showed 47 percent to 39 percent support for easing sanctions. Four months later, support had grown to 56 percent to 35 percent.

One prominent Cuban dissident, though, argued that, while he had initially supported Obama’s new policy, he has concluded that it is not working.

“Reality has proved otherwise,” wrote José Daniel Ferrer García, general coordinator of the Cuban Patriotic Union, in an open letter to Trump. “Castro’s tyranny has been benefiting from the good will of the US government without giving up a bit in their repressive attitude.”

Arrayed against Ferrer and Little Havana’s community of hard-line emigres are a host of human rights and pro-engagement groups. The U.S. business community has also long supported ending the sanctions because of the opportunities presented by a new commercial market so close to Miami.

“All the business entities have made their views known to the administration,” said Pedro Freyre, a Miami lawyer who has worked with a number of clients with interests in Cuba, including a handful of cruise lines.

Polling also shows overwhelming support in the general public for easing the restrictions. In a recent Morning Consult poll conducted for Engage Cuba, 65 percent of voters nationally support the Obama policy, while only 18 percent oppose it.

Engage Cuba’s Madeleine Russak acknowledged an enthusiasm gap in those numbers, however. Those who support the more relaxed rules don’t feel that strongly about it, while the pro-embargo side is passionate, she said.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who like many Republicans from rural states supports lifting restrictions that make it harder to export agricultural products to Cuba, said Trump has not been well-served by listening to a small group of pro-embargo lawmakers.

“We’re on the wrong side of history when it comes to this,” Emmer said.

Trump, like many Republicans, promised his supporters to undo much of what Obama was able to accomplish over two terms. Trump is pushing legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature achievement. He is working to scrap Obama’s Clean Power Plan to restrict carbon emissions, trying to undo workplace rules, repeal banking regulations and is withdrawing the United States from a near-unanimous international agreement to combat climate change.

 

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Exclusive: Trump targets illegal immigrants who were given reprieves from deportation by Obama

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In September 2014, Gilberto Velasquez, a 38-year-old house painter from El Salvador, received life-changing news: The U.S. government had decided to shelve its deportation action against him.

The move was part of a policy change initiated by then-President Barack Obama in 2011 to pull back from deporting immigrants who had formed deep ties in the United States and whom the government considered no threat to public safety. Instead, the administration would prioritize illegal immigrants who had committed serious crimes.

Last month, things changed again for the painter, who has lived in the United States illegally since 2005 and has a U.S.-born child. He received news that the government wanted to put his deportation case back on the court calendar, citing another shift in priorities, this time by President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration has moved to reopen the cases of hundreds of illegal immigrants who, like Velasquez, had been given a reprieve from deportation, according to government data and court documents reviewed by Reuters and interviews with immigration lawyers.

Trump signaled in January that he planned to dramatically widen the net of illegal immigrants targeted for deportation, but his administration has not publicized its efforts to reopen immigration cases.

It represents one of the first concrete examples of the crackdown promised by Trump and is likely to stir fears among tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who thought they were safe from deportation.

While cases were reopened during the Obama administration as well, it was generally only if an immigrant had committed a serious crime, immigration attorneys say. The Trump administration has sharply increased the number of cases it is asking the courts to reopen, and its targets appear to include at least some people who have not committed any crimes since their cases were closed.

Between March 1 and May 31, prosecutors moved to reopen 1,329 cases, according to a Reuters' analysis of data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review, or EOIR. The Obama administration filed 430 similar motions during the same period in 2016. (For a graphic: http://tmsnrt.rs/2s8csUZ)

Jennifer Elzea, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed the agency was now filing motions with immigration courts to reopen cases where illegal immigrants had "since been arrested for or convicted of a crime."

It is not possible to tell from the EOIR data how many of the cases the Trump administration is seeking to reopen involve immigrants who committed crimes after their cases were closed.

Attorneys interviewed by Reuters say indeed some of the cases being reopened are because immigrants were arrested for serious crimes, but they are also seeing cases involving people who haven't committed crimes or who were cited for minor violations, like traffic tickets.

"This is a sea change, said attorney David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "Before, if someone did something after the case was closed out that showed that person was a threat, then it would be reopened. Now they are opening cases just because they want to deport people."

Elzea said the agency reviews cases, "to see if the basis for prosecutorial discretion is still appropriate."

POLICY SHIFTS

After Obama announced his shift toward targeting illegal immigrants who had committed serious crimes, prosecutors embraced their new discretion to close cases.

 

Between January 2012 and Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, the government shelved some 81,000 cases, according to Reuters' data analysis. These so-called "administrative closures" did not extend full legal status to those whose cases were closed, but they did remove the threat of imminent deportation.

Trump signed an executive order overturning the Obama-era policy on Jan. 25. Under the new guidelines, while criminals remain the highest priority for deportation, anyone in the country illegally is a potential target.

In cases reviewed by Reuters, the administration explicitly cited Trump's executive order in 30 separate motions as a reason to put the immigrant back on the court docket. (For a link to an excerpted document: http://tmsnrt.rs/2sI6aby)

Since immigration cases aren't generally public, Reuters was able to review only cases made available by attorneys.

In the 32 reopened cases examined by Reuters:

--22 involved immigrants who, according to their attorneys, had not been in trouble with the law since their cases were closed.

--Two of the cases involved serious crimes committed after their cases were closed: domestic violence and driving under the influence.

--At least six of the cases involved minor infractions, including speeding after having unpaid traffic tickets, or driving without a valid license, according to the attorneys.

In Velasquez's case, for example, he was cited for driving without a license in Tennessee, where illegal immigrants cannot get licenses, he said.

"I respect the law and just dedicate myself to my work," he said. "I don't understand why this is happening."

Motions to reopen closed cases have been filed in 32 states, with the highest numbers in California, Florida and Virginia, according to Reuters' review of EOIR data. The bulk of the examples reviewed by Reuters were two dozen motions sent over the span of a couple days by the New Orleans ICE office.

PUMPKIN SEED ARREST

Sally Joyner, an immigration attorney in Memphis, Tennessee said one of her Central American clients, who crossed the border with her children in 2013, was allowed to stay in the United States after the government filed a motion to close her case in December 2015.

Since crossing the border, the woman has not been arrested or had trouble with law enforcement, said Joyner, who asked that her client's name not be used because of the pending legal action.

Nevertheless, on March 29, ICE filed a two-page motion to reopen the case against the woman and her children. When Joyner queried ICE, an official said the agency had been notified that her client had a criminal history in El Salvador, according to documents seen by Reuters.

The woman had been arrested for selling pumpkin seeds as an unauthorized street vendor. Government documents show U.S. authorities knew about the arrest before her case was closed.

Dana Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said that revisiting previously closed matters will add to a record backlog of 580,000 pending immigration cases.

"If we have to go back and review all of those decisions that were already made, it clearly generates more work," she said. "It's a judicial do-over."

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Trump leaves three words out of his Saudi Arabia speech

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President Donald Trump gave a highly-anticipated address to Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia during his first trip abroad on Sunday. One phrase candidate Trump repeated countlessly on the campaign trail was missing: "radical Islamic terrorism."

Trump stressed the need to build a coalition to address a "crisis of Islamic extremism," but neglected to use the charged keystone of his campaign trail rhetoric in his speech to 50 Middle Eastern leaders.

Before his victory and after taking office, Trump repeatedly bashed former President Barack Obama and then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for not using the phrase. As a candidate, Trump argued that Obama's insistence not to use the term to refer to terrorist attacks committed in the name of groups like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda showed he wasn't well-equipped to fight terrorism.

In the past, American presidents, diplomats, and foreign policy experts have argued that it hurts the US' goals abroad and undermines Muslim allies.

On Sunday, Trump largely stuck to the script, closely following the prepared remarks that the White House sent out before his speech, refraining from riffing like he so often did at campaign rallies.

"This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations," Trump said at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh. "This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil."

Announcing a new center to combat the financing of terrorism, Trump emphasized the need for nations to collaborate to "honestly" confront "the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires." He also used the phrases "the Islamists" and "Islamic terror of all kinds."

The White House has characterized the trip as an effort to strengthen ties between the US and Middle East, and "reset" relations with the region.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster has also urged the president not to say "radical Islamic terrorism," arguing that militant groups like ISIS endorse a twisted view of Islam and that the phrase ultimately hinders US goals, according to CNN.

He also seemed to suggest that Trump would not be using the phrase during his speech. "The president will call it whatever he wants to call it," McMaster told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" on Saturday.

"But I think it's important that, whatever we call it, we recognize that [extremists] are not religious people," he continued. "And, in fact, these enemies of all civilizations, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this fall idea of some kind of religious war."

 

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Hispanic leaders pitch reform vs. ‘irrational’ Trump immigration plan

Attorney Lazaro Mur, right, speaks with Julio Fuentes, left, President & CEO of Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, at Don Ramon restaurant in West Palm Beach on May 17, 2017. 

Hispanic business leaders gathered Wednesday in West Palm Beach to champion the economic contributions of foreign-born workers, picking up the beleaguered banner of immigration reform four months after President Donald Trump stormed the White House in a campaign launched with a blistering attack on “rapists” and criminals from Mexico.

“We stand here a stone’s throw from the southern White House,” said West Palm Beach attorney Lazaro Mur, referring to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. “What we want is a message of rational immmigration reform that makes economic sense, not irrational mass deportations that make so sense at all.”

In the primaries a year ago, Trump took a populist route straight past the GOP’s corporate and establishment wing, which largely supported a path to citizenship for 12 million undocumented immigrants. A flurry of arrests and deportations early in his administration clearly sent a message, though executive orders have been tied up in court challenges and Congress has been slow to pony up money for a border wall.

 
“Mainstream (FAKE) media refuses to state our long list of achievements, including 28 legislative signings, strong borders & great optimism!” Trump tweeted April 29.
 

About one in five of Florida’s 20 million residents was born abroad, according to research cited Wednesday. They paid $23.4 billion in taxes and wielded $73 billion in spending power in 2014.

The briefing was organized by New American Economy, a coalition of business leaders and mayors launched by Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch to influence public opinion and policymakers toward comprehensive immigration reform.

The event was part of the national Map the Impact campaign, featuring data on America’s foreign-born population in all 50 states and 435 congressional districts.

For example, immigrants represent 185,000 people, or 25 percent of a congressional district that stretches from Wellington to Pompano Beach and is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach. They paid $1.2 billion in taxes and carried $4.1 billion in spending power.

One of those foreign-born immigrants is Dina Rubio, co-owner of Don Ramon Cuban Restaurant on South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, which hosted Wednesday’s proceedings. She came from Nicaragua in 1981 to escape problems in that country, figuring she would return in a year or so, she said.

“This became my country,” Rubio said. “I became part of this culture. This is my place now.”

Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said goals include a streamlined process employers can use to vet workers and a “positive dialogue for immigration reform.”

Trump made immigration an unmistakeable centerpiece on his campaign from the moment of his announcement speech in June 2015, openly calling out Mexicans who entered the country illegally.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said. “They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump continued, “It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably — probably — from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.”

Many were outraged at what they considered a racist slap, and several corporations cut ties with Trump. But it resonated in the GOP primary polls with rank-and-file voters tired of what they viewed as politically-correct failures to address serious social and safety problems. Fort Lauderdale-based Republican blogger and author Javier Manjarres said at the time, “What he said was very crude. As a Hispanic, I didn’t get offended because I knew exactly what he was saying.”

At a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens in West Palm Beach in January, opinions were not uniform about Trump’s immigration stance.

“I feel it’s great,” said Daniel Cohen, 56, of Boca Raton. Terrorism is a big problem in his original home: “I’m an Israeli Jew.”

Carino Severino, 24, a teacher from Fellsmere in Indian River County who came from Mexico at age 4: “I’m happy. I feel like I’m an American now.” At the same time, she said, “I’m scared. I don’t want my family and friends to be sent back to Mexico.”

 

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Speculation persists about Kamala Harris preparing for a presidential run In 2020

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A first-term U.S. Senator from California could be the rising star Democrats are hoping can lead the party in the 2020 presidential race.

She is Kamala Harris who, according to her Senate bio, "was the first African-American and first woman to serve as Attorney General of California and the second African-American woman to be elected to the United States Senate in history."

McClatchy is reporting that, while she has denied interest in running in 2020, she appears to making the moves that a potential candidate would, including speaking to key groups and on high-profile panels, fundraising for fellow Democrats, and connecting with journalists.

As Democratic political adviser Bob Shrum told the news outlet, "From everything I've seen of her she'd be an attractive candidate, she could be a compelling candidate, and I think she'd have a lot of appeal for primary voters."

Others have agreed, with the Washington Post calling her "formidable" due to her "California fundraising and activist base coupled with her historic status in the party..."

And in the wake of Hillary Clinton's failure to become the first female president, the Huffington Post has suggested Harris could be "the next best hope for shattering that glass ceiling."

Both outlets compared her rise to that of former President Obama who also ran with just one Senate term under his belt.

However, when the Los Angeles Times' Patt Morrison asked her about running for the top job a few months ago, Harris deflected the question, saying, "I don't know why my name is in that context. I'm focused on being the junior senator from California and very proud to be representing our beautiful state."

Even if she decides to join the race in 2020, she may have some tough competition for the Democratic nomination in the form of former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

 

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