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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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Two Asian Americans apparently elected to New York State Senate in historic first

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By Chris Fuchs

Voters appear to have given the New York State Senate its first two Asian-American lawmakers Tuesday — one of whom would be the first Indian American to ever serve in either house of the state legislature.

John Liu, a Democrat and New York City’s first Asian-American city councilman, apparently defeated Republican candidate Vickie Paladino, conservative candidate Simon H. Minching, as well as incumbent Tony Avella, who lost the Democratic primary to Liu in September, according to unofficial results.

Avella, whose state Senate district encompasses neighborhoods in the New York City borough of Queens, still ran in the general election, though not as a Democrat.

Meanwhile, unofficial results out on Long Island showed that attorney Kevin Thomas, an immigrant from India, appeared to eke out a victory against Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon, whose district covers parts of Nassau County.

Come January, assuming the results stand, Liu and Thomas will join Democratic assembly members Ron Kim and Yuh-Line Niou as the state legislature’s four Asian-American lawmakers.

Asians make up around 9 percent of the state’s total population, according to census figures.

“The goal was to inject a voice that had been absent prior,” Liu said in a phone interview. “And the goal is also to vigorously represent the needs of this community that I’ve lived in my whole life, and grown up in, and am raising my own family in.”



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Gillum statement stokes intrigue as Florida vote margin tightens

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By Ali Vitali

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — All eyes were on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Thursday, as vote margins in Florida’s close contests for governor and Senate tightened.

Gillum’s campaign stoked intrigue by releasing a statement about “counting every vote” — but not explicitly asking for a recount.

On Tuesday night, Gillum conceded in his race against Republican Ron DeSantis and his team was clear Wednesday that it hadn’t met the threshold to trigger an automatic recount.

Gillum has 49.1 percent, or 4,023,124 votes, while DeSantis has 49.6 percent, or 4,066,059 votes, for a margin of just under 43,000, according to NBC News.

The Gillum statement said that since the concession speech “it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported. Our campaign, along with our attorney Barry Richard, is monitoring the situation closely and is ready for any outcome, including a state-mandated recount.”

It continued, “Mayor Gillum started his campaign for the people, and we are committed to ensuring every single vote in Florida is counted.”

NBC News has called DeSantis the “apparent” winner in the governor race, while votes are still being counted in places like Broward County and margins appear to be tightening slightly.

Meanwhile, Florida’s Senate race featuring Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson against Republican Rick Scott seemed to be heading for a recount, which is automatically triggered when the vote difference is less than 0.5 percent. It is currently .2 percent, fewer than 22,000 votes, according to NBC News.

The deadline for all 67 Florida counties to submit their first set of unofficial returns is Saturday at noon ET, according to the secretary of state’s office.

In a call with reporters Thursday, Nelson lawyer Marc Elias said that the race currently stands as a “jump ball” as counties around the state canvass their votes, but he believes Nelson will remain senator once the recount dust settles.

The Scott campaign, for its part, released a statement Thursday attacking Nelson for hiring a D.C. lawyer in an attempt to “steal” the election. Scott declared victory Tuesday night, but NBC News has not yet called the race.

The Sunshine State is no stranger to lengthy post-election battles. Most famously, the state was the epicenter of the George W. Bush versus Al Gore “hanging chad” debacle in 2000.

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Fla. Gov. Rick Scott sues Broward and Palm Beach counties and accuses ‘unethical liberals’ of trying to steal election with bogus vote count

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By Ali Vitali and Doha Madani

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday evening filed suit and asked for an investigation into ongoing ballot counts that he accused of being a partisan attempt by “unethical liberals” to steal the state’s Senate election.

Scott, who ran against incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson, alleged that the Broward County and Palm Beach County supervisors of elections were engaging in “rampant fraud.”

The governor requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate the new ballot counts, which have narrowed his Election Night-lead.

“Every day since the election the left-wing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere,” Scott told reporters.

The tight Senate race was too close to call on Tuesday night, but as more votes were processed, Scott’s lead fell below .5 percent, which could trigger an automatic machine recount. It is currently .2 percent — fewer than 22,000 votes, according to NBC News. A final vote count is expected by noon on Saturday.

“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try and steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott told reporters Thursday.



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