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By Annie Rose Ramos and Tim Stelloh
TIJUANA, Mexico — American authorities used tear gas on hundreds of migrants who tried to enter the United States illegally Sunday, prompting officials to shut down operations at the border crossing between this city and San Diego, one of the busiest in the world.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection suspended all vehicles and pedestrians from passing through the San Ysidro Port of Entry at 11:30 a.m. after the migrants tried to cross on either side of the inspection station.
San Ysidro was reopened shortly after 6 p.m., the agency said.
Some migrants said they tried crossing only after being denied access to the port of entry where they could claim asylum.
Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that it used tear gas and pepper spray after several migrants threw rocks at border agents, striking them.
No injuries were reported, the agency said.
“DHS will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and will not hesitate to shut down ports of entry for security and public safety reasons,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Sunday in a statement.
The shutdown came after hundreds of migrants — many whom are fleeing violence in Central America — assembled Sunday morning on the Mexican side of the border. American military helicopters buzzed overhead as hundreds of Mexican federal police officers blocked the migrants from entering San Ysidro.
The migrants were part of a larger group of roughly 6,000 who’d crammed into several shelters in Tijuana — a situation the city’s mayor has called a “humanitarian crisis.”
In an interview Sunday, one of the migrants, Jorge Montoya, 43, described thousands of people staying in a rundown sports stadium with overflowing toilets. He and others called the conditions intolerable — but when Mexican authorities refused to grant them access to the port of entry, hundreds slogged across the sewage-laden Tijuana River in search of access to the United States.
Among the throng were elderly people in wheelchairs and children with strollers. The group formed a human chain along the river’s steep embankments.
“We’re not running because we’re criminals,” Montoya said. “We’re running from the crime in our country.”
On the other side of the river, dozens of migrants broke through a wooden fence and climbed atop a freight train. Clutching Honduran and Guatemalan flags, they could see the United States from their perch — but there still appeared to be no way for them to cross.
Mexico’s incoming Secretary of the Interior, Sen. Olga Sánchez Cordero, said in a statement Sunday that authorities were working to identify nearly 500 migrants who tried to enter the United States in a “violent way.”
Those who are found will be immediately deported, she said.
The attempted crossing came after Trump administration officials and members of Mexico’s incoming government appeared to be at odds over a deal that could prevent asylum-seekers from entering the United States.
Under the current system, asylum-seekers can remain in the U.S. while their cases are processed in American courts. But the Trump administration wants them to remain in Mexico instead.
Two Trump administration officials told NBC News that the plan was a few weeks away from going into effect, though Jesus Ramirez Cuevas, a spokesman for recently elected Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said no such agreement had been reached.
Last month, President Donald Trump ordered about 5,800 troops to the border, a number he has suggested could more than double. They joined the 2,000 troops already stationed there, in addition to thousands of border patrol agents.
Annie Rose Ramos reported from Tijuana, Mexico. Tim Stelloh reported from Alameda, California.
Federal appeals court rules against Trump on ending DACA
By Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. — The federal appeals court ruled Friday the Trump administration acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when it sought to end an Obama-era program that shields young immigrants from deportation.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 that the Trump administration violated federal statue when it tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program without adequately explaining why. The ruling overturns a lower court ruling a judge in Maryland made last year, which Trump had previously praised via Twitter.
Friday’s ruling will not have any immediate effect as other federal courts have already ordered that DACA be kept in place.
The 4th Circuit ruling said the Department of Homeland Security did not “adequately account” for how ending DACA program would affect the hundreds of thousands of young people who “structured their lives” around the program.
“This ruling is the result of a long and valiant battle that our Dreamers have endured in their struggle to keep their families together,” said Lizette Olmos, a spokeswoman for Casa de Maryland, the lead plaintiff in the case.
Trump and his Justice Department have argued that the Obama administration acted unlawfully when it implemented DACA. The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment.
Preserving DACA is a top Democratic priority, but discussions between Trump and Democrats on the issue have gone nowhere.
Trump’s latest immigration plan, unveiled Thursday, does not address what to do about the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that “every single time that we have put forward or anyone else has put forward any type of immigration plan that has included DACA it’s failed.”
DACA’s fate could be decided by the Supreme Court, which is weighing the Trump administration’s appeals of other federal court rulings.
The justices have set no date to take action.
If the high court decides it wants to hear the appeals, arguments would not take place before the fall. That means a decision is not expected until 2020, which could come in the thick of next year’s presidential contest.
Trump admin planning to fly immigrants to U.S. cities away from the border
By Julia Ainsley
The Department of Homeland Security is laying the groundwork for a plan to transport recent border crossers by plane to cities around the U.S. and release them after processing, according to two DHS officials familiar with the plan.
Florida officials expressed anger on Thursday after learning that the Trump administration was planning to release hundreds of migrants in Broward and Palm Beach counties each month.
Beyond South Florida, DHS is considering other areas around the country where immigrants can be released, the two officials told NBC News. A Customs and Border Protection official, who held a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon, said the agency is primarily interested in communities along the northern border and on the coast, where there is already a border patrol presence.
A DHS official said previously the agency was looking at places with the capacity to process large numbers of immigrants, but declined to give further specifics on cities or regions under consideration.
Central American migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border must be processed before they can be released. Many make a claim for asylum, seeking the right to stay in the country to avoid persecution back home.
Customs and Border Protection would be responsible for identifying which migrants to put on planes bound for the interior of the country, and the agency would rely primarily on Immigration and Customs Enforcement airplanes. The CBP official said on Friday that ICE would contract the planes and not look for additional federal assistance.
There are no plans to detain migrants in the cities where they are released, the officials said. Officials in Broward County, Florida have expressed concern about migrants being released without “designated shelters or funding to house them, feed them, and keep them safe,” according to a statement released Thursday.
A similar program is in place in Del Rio, Texas where immigrants have been airlifted from the Rio Grande Valley. CBP has said that the hundreds of immigrants released there are non-criminal families.
The CBP official said the plan to fly immigrants to cities across the country is a contingency “if the flow [of immigrants] continues to increase.”
In both March and April, more than 100,000 undocumented immigrants crossed the border over the span of a month, numbers not seen in over 12 years.
Following news reports last month, President Donald Trump said he would consider sending immigrants specifically to so-called “sanctuary cities” — often led by Democrats — where officials have limited cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE. The officials said the decisions being made now on where to transport migrants are not political and would not specifically target sanctuary cities.
Spokespeople for the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection declined to comment on the plan to send immigrants to South Florida. They did not respond to a request for comment about a broader plan to fly immigrants to cities across the country.
Treasury Dept. refuses to comply with Democrats’ subpoenas for Trump tax returns, court fight likely
By Rebecca Shabad and Alexandra Bacallao
WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department said Friday that it would not comply with congressional subpoenas to provide six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin sent a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass, before the 5 p.m. ET deadline to hand over the documents. Mnuchin said that, on advice of the Justice Department, Treasury had determined that the committee’s request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” and so the department is not “authorized to disclose the requested returns.”
“For the same reasons, we are unable to provide the requested information in response to the Committee’s subpoena,” Mnuchin said.
Neal responded Friday saying that the law provides “clear statutory authority” for him to request and received access to tax returns and return information.
“The law, by its terms, does not allow for discretion as to whether to comply with a request for tax returns and return information,” he wrote. “Given the Treasury Secretary’s failure to comply today, I am consulting with counsel on how best to enforce the subpoenas moving forward.”
Earlier in the day, Neal told reporters that he anticipated that the Treasury Department would not meet the deadline he had set.
“The result will be that we will likely proceed to court as quickly as next week,” Neal said.
Asked if Neal is considering holding Mnuchin in contempt, the chairman said: “I don’t see that right now as an option. I think the better option for us is to proceed with a court case.”
Neal issued subpoenas to Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig last Friday after the Treasury Department rejected Neal’s formal request from April for the records. Neal gave them one week to produce the documents.
Mnuchin hinted at the decision in testimony before the Senate on Wednesday. “First of all, we haven’t made a decision, but I think you can guess which way we’re leaning on our subpoena,” he said then.
The Treasury secretary also suggested that the battle over the tax returns would have to be resolved by the courts.
If there is litigation over the documents, he said on Wednesday, “I take great comfort that there’s a third branch of government to deal with this important issue … “
“This is why there are three branches of government, and if there is a difference of opinion, this will go to the third branch of government to be resolved,” he said, referring to the judicial branch.
Under Section 6103 of the U.S. tax code, if Neal or Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, or the head of the Joint Committee on Taxation formally requests an individual’s tax returns, Treasury officials “shall” turn the documents over, language that leading tax analysts have said means officials must provide them.
As the committee’s chairman, Neal has the power to send a written request to the IRS to provide the information. With the Treasury Department’s denial of that request — and now the subpoenas that followed — House Democrats will have to decide whether to pursue the tax returns through a legal route.
If they are obtained, Neal would then have to designate the panel’s members as “agents” to read the returns. They would then have to vote to make the documents public and report them to the full House.
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