Appropriators vent on child separations
With help from Ian Kullgren, Andrew Hanna and Daniel Lippman
APPROPRIATORS VENT ON CHILD SEPARATIONS: “House Republicans joined Democrats on a key spending panel Wednesday to signal growing frustration with the Trump administration’s muddled efforts to reunify migrant children,” POLITICO’s Adam Cancryn and Andrew Hanna report.
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“The House Appropriations Committee during a marathon budget session unanimously adopted a proposal levying steep financial penalties on HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s office if he fails to explain how he plans to reunify [as many as 3,000] migrant children under his agency’s care with their parents,” POLITICO reports. “The panel also endorsed language prohibiting officials from separating migrant siblings, and banning the forced medication of kids housed by the health agency and its contractors.”
The committee also approved an amendment by Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) that would require HHS and DHS to produce monthly reports on families separated at the border. Under the amendment parents and children who have been separated would be notified of each other’s whereabouts within 24 hours. The amendment failed earlier in the day, but committee staff brokered a compromise late in the evening. It passed in a voice vote.
The spending bill — passed late last night after an 11-hour markup — would trim DOL’s discretionary funds by 0.7 percent overall, including a 2 percent cut to the Employment and Training Administration. Total funding for DOL didn’t change much from the subcommittee version, save for a slight bump to OSHA funding.
The session was far from a bipartisan lovefest. In a series of party-line votes, GOP committee members voted down Democratic proposals cutting funds for migrant tent-cities. House Republicans also adopted a measure introduced by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) that would permit the long-term detention of children who enter the U.S. illegally, an attempt to override the 1997 Flores settlement and related court rulings. More here.
What’s next: The federal judge who ordered the Trump administration to reunite separated families called for a status report on the reunification efforts by 6 p.m. today (3 p.m. PDT). The report must show progress reuniting children under age 5 with their parents, as well as on the broader requirement to reconnect older children with their parents by July 26.
Related read: “Trump administration to turn away far more asylum seekers at the border under new guidance,” by CNN’s Tal Kopan. Find it here.
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NIELSEN TO MEET WITH AMLO: DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other Trump officials will meet Friday with Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mark Stevenson reports in the Associated Press. Nielsen will be joined by presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to the AP.
The Trump administration considers a “safe third country” agreement with Mexico a priority and appears willing to negotiate, but it’s doubtful the new Mexican administration will take the bait, a Mexican official told Morning Shift. Under such an agreement, migrants would be required to seek asylum in Mexico if they first passed through that country before reaching the United States. Nielsen and other Trump officials are also expected to press for an asylum deal with outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, the Mexican official said.
López Obrador, a populist and outspoken Trump opponent, said Tuesday that Trump didn’t mention the border wall during a July 2 congratulatory call. “President Trump has been very respectful,” he told the AP. “He hasn’t brought up that topic.” When asked about an asylum deal between the U.S. and Mexico, he declined to answer but said immigration policy shouldn’t involve “coercive measures,” according to the AP. More here.
Nielsen discussed immigration this week in Guatemala City with officials from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico. The secretary spoke about expanding asylum capacity in the region “to make sure individuals can find safety closer to home, rather than feeling compelled to come to the U.S. border,” the department said.
KAVANAUGH’S KILLER WHALE CASE: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent in a 2014 case over the death of a killer whale trainer won’t likely dispel the view that he’s pro-management, Rebecca Rainey reports for Inside OSHA Online. In SeaWorld of Florida v. Perez, the D.C. Circuit ruled 2-1 to uphold a $70,000 OSHA fine against the theme park. The appeals court said “the employer should have taken action to abate recognized worker hazards,” Rainey reports, “in this case, those associated with training and performing with killer whales — including those not addressed by a specific standard.”
Kavanaugh argued that the OSHA violations overstepped DOL’s authority and were arbitrary. “Many sports events and entertainment shows can be extremely dangerous for the participants,” he wrote in his dissent. “The broad question implicated by this case is this: When should we as a society paternalistically decide that the participants in these sports and entertainment activities must be protected from themselves – that the risk of significant physical injury is simply too great even for eager and willing participants?” Read more from Inside OSHA Online here and the opinion here.
DE BLASIO BORDER BROUHAHA: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio contends he didn’t violate Mexican and U.S. immigration laws when he crossed into Mexico with his security detail during a visit to South Texas in late June, Colleen Long reports in the Associated Press. The outlet obtained a CBP letter that said de Blasio and his crew entered Mexico illegally to take photos of a facility for migrant children.
A Border Patrol agent “told them they’d crossed the border illegally and asked them to remain there while he got a supervisor,” the AP reports, citing the letter. “But the group disregarded the order, walking back to their vehicles and driving back to Mexico. … They re-entered by car through a port of entry about three hours later, the letter said.” The mayor dismissed the claim as “absolutely ridiculous.” De Blasio “said both times they showed their passports and crossed with approval of agents at the entry point,” the AP reports. More here.
CICCONE TAPPED FOR DHS ROLE: President Trump nominated DHS senior adviser Christine Ciccone to become assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the department, the White House announced Wednesday. Ciccone worked as deputy chief of staff for former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. At State, she oversaw Tillerson’s attempt to “redesign” the department and departed after her boss was fired in March. Ben Cassidy, the department’s previous head of legislative affairs, left in March.
WRANGLING OVER PAID LEAVE PLANS: Paid leave experts faced off Wednesday at a Senate Finance subcommittee hearing over competing plans from Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The hearing represented was the first real movement in Congress to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise for paid family leave, but it remained somewhat theoretical. Rubio’s bill, which was scheduled to come out this week, was delayed to next week after Rubio met Tuesday at the White House with Ivanka Trump along with Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).
All three senators support the concept of the bill, which would allow people to borrow from Social Security to take time off work when they have a child. But there was disagreement in recent weeks over how to structure the benefits, a source familiar with the talks told POLITICO’s Ian Kullgren. Another source described the delay as an extra layer of caution to ensure that the bill can pass. Ivanka Trump attended Wednesday’s hearing, but didn’t testify.