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White House Refuses To Guarantee People Won’t Lose Health Insurance From Repeal

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to assure Americans on Sunday that anyone currently covered under the Affordable Care Act would not lose their coverage under President Donald Trump’s health care plan. Sanders repeatedly dodged the question on ABC’s “This Week,” saying Trump had promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it “with something that’s better.”

Host George Stephanopoulos pressed Sanders on why, if Trump was so intent on replacing the law with something better, the White House couldn’t guarantee that everyone currently with insurance wouldn’t lose it. Sanders said it was “a goal” to make sure people didn’t lose coverage, but she stopped short of saying people would be able to keep their current insurance, or would even be offered similar plans.

“We cannot survive under the current system,” Sanders said. “We have to make a massive overhaul to the health care system in America, because it is simply just not sustainable, and everybody agrees with that.”

“There is nobody that argues that we’re on a track that we can maintain,” she continued. “So we’re looking at every possible way to do exactly that: repeal a terrible, failed system and replace with something better.”

When Stephanopoulos pressed again whether that meant Trump wouldn’t sign a replacement bill that would cause people to lose coverage, Sanders said she wouldn’t “speak specifically for the president on that topic.”

“What I can say is he’s made it a high priority and a No. 1 focus that we make sure that people that have insurance continue their insurance, particularly those in the highest need,” she said.

A consulting firm told governors Saturday that the Republican plan to replace Obamacare could lead to millions losing their health coverage, with many people covered under the Medicaid expansion suddenly unable to afford health insurance.

When he was running for president, Trump told “60 Minutes” in 2015 that everyone would win from his health care replacement.

“I am going to take care of everybody,” Trump said. “I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

More recently, in January, Trump vowed “insurance for everybody,” but congressional Republicans have taken to guaranteeing “access” to health care, rather than health care itself, meaning if individuals have the money to pay for insurance, they can get it.

According to the presentation given to governors on Saturday, the effect of the GOP replacement bill would be huge insurance enrollment losses and greater budget pressure on states to make up the loss in federal money for programs like the Medicaid expansion.

 

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‘Dreamer’ Doctors Fear Deportation Under Trump Migrant Crackdown

Belsy Garcia Manrique (left) and Cesar Montelongo are classmates at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Having entered the U.S. as children of undocumented immigrants, they worked hard and long toward their dream of a medical career, but now fear deportation under President Trump.

The past few years have been an emotional roller coaster for Belsy Garcia Manrique.

The 26-year-old undocumented immigrant from Guatemala studied biology, chemistry and math at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, with little hope of becoming a doctor, her dream job.

Then, in 2012, President Barack Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gave hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people like Manrique who came to the U.S. as children access to work permits in the United States and a two-year, renewable reprieve from deportation. While it was not a path to citizenship, they could live openly and start careers that matched their potential.

“It was exciting,” said Manrique, who speaks with a warm Southern drawl. “It was that feeling of, things are going to change, they’re going to get better.”

Now in her second year at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Manrique is once again filled with uncertainty. While campaigning, Donald Trump pledged to dismantle DACA. He has since said he’ll “work something out” for people covered by DACA. But amid reports of immigration sweeps and the arrest of at least one DACA recipient, many of the nation’s 750,000 DACA beneficiaries are nervous.

The United States is home to some 11 million undocumented immigrants. Though many escaped violence and persecution, particularly in Central America, seeking asylum is not an option if they’ve been in the country longer than one year.

Many DACA recipients – also known as “dreamers” after the DREAM Act, a failed federal legislative proposal to legalize their status – grew up studying hard in school, wanting to believe that academic success would somehow earn them legal status one day. Meanwhile, their parents lived and worked in the shadows.

Now they worry they might get caught in Trump’s immigration dragnet and deported to dangerous countries they hardly know.

“I got too safe and complacent” after DACA, said Manrique, who arrived in the United States when she was seven years old and recalls her mother pulling her across the Rio Grande River in a floating tire. “This election burst that bubble.”

“I’m just trying to prepare for the worst,” she added.

‘Dreamer’ Doctors

Manrique’s school, Loyola Stritch, currently has 28 undocumented medical students, more than any other program in the country. About 70 undocumented students are enrolled in medical schools nationwide, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Loyola Stritch was one of the first programs to actively recruit undocumented applicants after DACA was introduced. This is in line with the university’s Jesuit tradition of openness, said Mark Kuczewski, who chairs Loyola Stritch’s department of medical education. It also serves a practical purpose, he added, whereby undocumented students can eventually help fill the United States’ projected shortage of up to 90,400 physicians by 2025.

Loyola Stritch’s first class of DACA enrollees, who matriculated in 2014, are completing their clinical rotations in teaching hospitals. But if DACA is revoked and they lose their work authorization, they will not be able to start medical residencies and move to the next stage of their career.

Many of the students finance their medical education through hundreds of thousands of dollars in private loans – and if they can’t work as doctors, there’s little chance they’ll be able to pay it back.

“These young people are social capital,” said Kuczewski, a bioethics professor. “They’re ambitious, they’re all at least bilingual and bicultural, and they’re incredibly well-suited to serving patient populations that are underserved.”

Manrique’s classmate, Cesar Montelongo, was 10 years old when his family fled to the United States to escape drug-cartel turf wars in their hometown of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, one of the world’s most dangerous cities. They crossed the U.S. border legally and overstayed their tourist visas.

It took more than a decade for a family-sponsored visa application submitted by Montelongo’s American uncle to be approved, by which time Montelongo and his sister were too old to qualify as part of the family.

A joint MD-PhD candidate in Loyola Stritch’s highly competitive program, Montelongo says that without DACA his only option to legalize his status would be to apply for a visa through his younger brother, who was born in the United States. This will take about 20 years at current rates. By then, Montelongo would be nearly 50, and he could face deportation in the meantime.

“There is so much good I can do in that time,” said Montelongo, whose bioinformatics research is aimed at developing tools for more personalized medicine through genome sequencing and transcription. “It’d be a loss not to perform to my potential until 20 years from now.”

Both Manrique and Montelongo said they were drawn to medicine because their undocumented status meant their families went without health insurance. They couldn’t afford to see doctors until their illnesses were too severe to ignore.

Immigration Crackdown

Growing up in Calhoun, Georgia, Manrique feared random daytime phone calls that could signal trouble for her undocumented parents.

The dreaded call finally came in 2011. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested Manrique’s father at their home and detained him after they raided employment records at the carpet factory where he worked. A lawyer saved him from deportation.

With Trump’s recent executive actions on immigration, Manrique said, “I’m worried about my parents all the time. It’s terrifying.”

Two days before Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven countries and halting refugee resettlement, which is currently suspended by the courts, the U.S. president issued another order that has caused widespread alarm among undocumented immigrants.

The January 25 order greatly expands the definition of who is considered a criminal and therefore a target for deportation. It prioritizes removal of undocumented immigrants who have “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense,” regardless of whether they’ve been charged or convicted of a crime.

Even if Trump does not end the DACA program, hundreds of DACAbeneficiaries could be subject to deportation under the expanded definition, said attorney Leon Fresco, who headed the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration under President Obama. At particular risk are DACA recipients with outstanding orders of removal from the country. Any run-in with the law they might have had, however minor, could endanger their reprieve from deportation under DACA.

“There is a 100 percent guarantee that some will have their DACA status revoked and they’ll be deported,” Fresco said. “It could happen any moment.”

Universities, municipal governments and workplaces across the country are setting up legal defense funds and hotlines to protect undocumented people from deportation. Loyola Stritch brought in an immigration lawyer to speak with students about their rights.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association and Loyola Stritch are lobbying for a bipartisan bill that would grant temporary legal status to DACA beneficiaries if Trump does away with the program.

DACA is inherently a short-term solution,” Montelongo said. “And now there’s really going to be no long-term solution. Staying in this limbo is the best we can hope for.”

 

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John McCain: Attacking The Free Press Is ‘How Dictators Get Started’

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) gave a staunch defense of the free press Saturday, noting that attacks on the media are “how dictators get started.” Speaking on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” to be aired Sunday, McCain took a swipe at President Donald Trump’s volleys against the Fourth Estate, particularly a Friday tweet in which the press was called the “enemy of the American people.”

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

“We need a free press,” said the 2008 Republican presidential candidate. “We must have it. It’s vital.” 

“If you want to preserve ― I’m very serious now ― if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” he added.

McCain said that without a free press, “we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time.”

“That’s how dictators get started,” he added, noting that attacks on journalists questioning those in power are a tactic used by autocratic governments.

“When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press,” he said. “I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

“A fundamental part of that new world order was a free press,” he added. “I hate the press; I hate you especially,” McCain quipped. “But the fact is we need you.”

Trump has ratcheted up his assaults against media organizations in recent weeks, culminating in a belligerent press conference Thursday in which he excoriated the members of the press as “fake news.”

McCain, in Germany for the Munich Security conference, has unleashed a series of thinly veiled attacks on the White House.

In a speech before the conference, he slammed a “hardening resentment” toward “immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims” and asked world leaders not to give up on America despite the country’s current politics.

During a question-and-answer, the senator said the resignation of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, showed the administration was “in disarray.

 

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Trump Vineyard Requests Visas For Still More Foreign Workers

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While Donald Trump rails against immigrants and foreign workers taking away American jobs, the Trump Vineyard Estates has filed yet another request for visas for foreign farm workers at its Virginia winery.

The application filed last week asks for H-2 worker visa for 23 laborers at $11.27 an hour from April through October this year.

In December Trump Vineyard Estates also filed an application with the Department of Labor seeking six visas that would allow the company to hire foreign workers for seasonal jobs. That paperwork was submitted just days after Trump leaned on an Indiana company not to ship American jobs to Mexico.

The workers will be employed by the Trump Winery, according to Buzzfeed, which is owned by Donald Trump’s son, Eric. The winery’s website says it is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC and is “not owned, managed or affiliated with Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their affiliates.”

But the winery is located on and the visa request was filed by Trump Vineyard Estates LLC, which is listed as part of the real estate portfolio of the Trump Organization, according to its website. When Trump became president he said he would switch management of his companies to his sons but would maintain ownership. Donald Trump revealed in a 2015 campaign financial disclosure filing that Trump Vineyard Estates had earned him $150,000 to $1.1 million, Politico reported at the time.

Trump also boasted at a campaign event last year featuring bottles from the Trump Winery — which was reportedly transferred to Eric in 2012 — that “I own it 100 percent — no mortgage, no debt.”

Trump won approval in December to also hire 77 foreign workers at his Mar-a-Lago resort and Jupiter golf course through the H-2B visa program, according to a review of data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows conducted by Vocativ.

CNN reported last summer that Trump companies have employed at least 1,256 foreign workers — most from Romania and South Africa — in the past 15 years. The companies applied to hire 263 foreign workers even after Trump launched his campaign in which he railed against the loss of U.S. jobs to foreign workers.

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Fox News anchor Shep Smith blasts Trump: 'It's absolutely crazy'

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The President took on the media. Now, some at Fox News are responding.

President Trump held a press conference on Thursday that was rather combative toward the media. He repeatedly called out the press for covering what he called "fake news."

Shortly after the press conference, FOX News anchor Shepard Smith hit back hard. "It's crazy what we're watching every day, it's absolutely crazy. He keeps repeating ridiculous throw away lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we're some kind of fools for asking the question," said Smith.

It's worth pointing out that the president did praise Fox News during the press conference.

"Your opposition was hacked and the Russians were responsible for it, and your people were on the phone with Russia on the same day it's happening, and we're fools for asking the questions? No, sir, we're not fools for asking the questions, and we demand to know the answer to this question. You owe this to the American people," Smith said.

"You call us fake news and put us down like children for asking these questions on behalf of the American people," Smith said. "The people deserve that answer, at very least," he added.

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