Thousands of sheriffs warn Congress about dangers associated with key component of possible immigration deal

Amid outrage over Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations under President Donald Trump's leadership, Congress is considering capping the number of beds available in ICE detention centers. The idea is that such a measure would slow the crackdown on illegal immigration, which in many cases, is uprooting and separating families that have lived peacefully in the United States for decades.

But according to two prominent law enforcement organizations, implementing detention ceilings would have disastrous impacts for American communities.

What could happen?

In a letter to Congress last week — which was obtained by the Daily Caller — the National Sheriffs' Association and Major County Sheriffs of America warned that capping the number of beds available in ICE detention centers would result in the release of thousands of convicted criminal illegal immigrants.

"Any legislation that reduces ICE's detention capacity would hinder its ability to perform its national security and public safety missions, but also impact local law enfocements [sic] ability to protect the communities they serve. In order to meet the cap being tentatively proposed by Congress, ICE would be compelled to release thousands of aliens from custody," the letter warned.

To achieve the proposed cap of 16,500 adult detainees, ICE would be required to release 9,264 adults. This is concerning, the law enforcement organizations said, because 72 percent of ICE's current detainee population is "subject to mandatory detention due to the alien having certain convictions or having committed certain acts."

Also, more than 90 percent of ICE arrests constitute illegal immigrants with existing criminal convictions — not illegal immigrants whose only offense is living in the U.S. illegally.

"Capping the number of detention beds utilized by ICE not only jeopardizes the integrity of the immigration system, but would cripple ICE's ability to detain criminal aliens and other aliens who pose a risk to public safety or are a flight risk," the letter explained.

What is Congress considering?

As part of nuanced negotiations to prevent a government shutdown last December, lawmakers discussed limiting ICE detention centers for only immigrants apprehended by the Border Patrol.

Negotiations stalled during the government shutdown in December and January, but have begun again in hopes of crafting an immigration deal to prevent another government shutdown, the Washington Examiner reported.

A shutdown looms because Trump demands Congress finance a border wall while Democrats, who control the House, refuse to appropriate the funds for such a project.


Justin Fairfax’s Law Firm Places Him On Leave Pending Investigation

Two women have accused the Virginia lieutenant governor of sexual assault.

The law firm that employs Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) has placed him on leave pending an external investigation into sexual assault allegations leveled against him.

The firm, Morrison & Foerster, announced the decision Friday in a statement first published by the National Law Journal.

“The firm has retained outside counsel to conduct an investigation. During the investigation, Justin Fairfax has taken a leave of absence from Morrison & Foerster,” Larren Nashelsky, the firm’s chair, said in the statement. “Justin has agreed to cooperate with the firm’s investigation.”

“We take the allegations against Justin very seriously,” Nashelsky continued. “As a firm, we believe that it is important to seriously listen to any allegation of sexual assault or harassment, and to treat all persons making such allegations with respect and sensitivity.”

Virginia’s part-time legislature convenes from January through March. As a result, state lawmakers have full-time jobs outside the Capitol that provide the majority of their income. The same is true of the lieutenant governor, who presides over and breaks ties in the state Senate.

Fairfax, a 39-year-old former federal prosecutor, left his job as a white-collar defense attorney at Venable in northern Virginia in January, and joined Morrison & Foerster in September.

Two women have accused Fairfax of sexual assault. The more recent allegation emerged on Friday, when Meredith Watson accused Fairfax of raping her when the two were classmates at Duke University in 2000.

Days earlier, Vanessa Tyson, who met Fairfax at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, publicly accused Fairfax of physically coercing her into performing oral sex during an encounter that began as consensual. Tyson said she was moved to come forward when it appeared that Fairfax might replace embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Northam is under pressure to resign after a racist photo from his medical school yearbook page surfaced on Feb. 1. Northam initially indicated that he was in the photo, which shows a person wearing blackface next to someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan uniform. But the following day, he denied that either person in the photo was him. He has since refused to resign.

Fairfax has vehemently denied the sexual assault allegations against him. But after Watson made her allegation on Friday, state-level and national Democrats, many of whom had been taking a wait-and-see approach, demanded Fairfax’s resignation en masse.

An attorney for Tyson has said she is prepared to testify at any impeachment proceedings against Fairfax. Virginia Del. Patrick Hope (D) raised the prospect of initiating an impeachment process against Fairfax on Sunday, but has since said that “additional conversations need to take place” first.



Trump’s Three Tests: How the president can stage a comeback

February 2019 is turning out to be a critical month in the presidency of Donald Trump. It may be the critical month. The midterm elections and record-long government shutdown are behind him. By delivering an optimistic and inspiring State of the Union address, Trump effectively reset his presidency and framed his opposition as beyond the American mainstream. But three tests await him: on Congress, on North Korea, and on China. How he handles these challenges will say a lot about his chances of reelection.

The president suffered a double blow in recent months. The loss of the House of Representatives undermined his reputation as Teflon Don. The significance of increasing the Republican margin in the Senate and maintaining control of key governorships in Florida, Ohio, and Iowa faded after Election Day, as Democrats picked up House seat after House seat. The damage compounded on December 11 when Trump met with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office and preemptively took credit for a government shutdown if Congress, then under Republican control, didn't vote for additional wall funds. When the government shutdown began on December 22, voters knew exactly whom to hold responsible. Trump's job disapproval spiked.

I mistakenly thought Trump's leverage would increase as the shutdown dragged on. Instead Pelosi held her caucus together, his numbers continued to fall, and Republican senators began to defect. By the time the FAA halted flights at three important airports in the Northeast, Trump's hand had disappeared. He agreed to reopen the government with no wall money until February 15. Pelosi won this round.

But she also made an error: delaying the State of the Union until after the government reopened. Maybe it seemed like a clever move at the time. However, by eventually agreeing to her demand, Trump was allowed to deliver his annual address after the fallout from the shutdown had dissipated. Had he given the speech in the midst of furloughs, the content would have been lost amongst stories of hard-hit public employees. Pelosi inadvertently delivered Trump the blank slate on which he could write the next chapter of his administration.

He made the most of the opportunity. The State of the Union was Trump at his best: commanding, funny, bold, patriotic, and direct. His interactions with both the Congress and with the first lady's invited guests showcased his talents as a television host. He emphasized his chief political asset: the remarkable state of the American economy. He noted the bipartisan achievements of the previous Congress. And he once again put himself in the center of American politics, where you find support for border security, reciprocal trade practices, diplomacy over intervention, and restrictions on late-term abortion.

Critics say the speech was a mish-mash. What they neglect is that it undertook several projects at once: recapping the accomplishments of the last two years, humanizing Trump by having him tell the stories of audience members, reminding us of the best of America, and laying out the themes for the next two years. This wasn't just a state of the union address. It was the launch of Trump 2020.

Part of any candidate rollout is defining the opposition. This was a task the president accomplished with his usual aplomb. Where previous Republican candidates and presidents have avoided the burning mansion of America's culture war, Donald Trump rushes in. He is unafraid to hold positions anathema to media figures but commonsensical to most Americans. He portrayed the Democrats as radical on illegal immigration, extreme on abortion, and friendly to socialism. The way the Democrats have been behaving recently, he made a strong case.

Democrats have been sleepwalking into 2020. They assume that Trump is done for and whomever they put up will win. They are making a mistake. "He has a kind of feral genius for manipulating the media environment," David Axelrod told the New Yorker recently. "We know there's nothing that he wouldn't do to win, so he will be working day and night to destroy whoever the nominee is, and he's got a great talent for that." A talent that was subtly but effectively evident the other night.

Trump has performed well each of the three times he has addressed joint sessions of Congress. It's the other 745 days since inauguration that have sometimes given him trouble. To begin his campaign successfully, then, he will have to emerge unscathed from three upcoming negotiations.

The first is with Congress. The conference committee has one week to reach an agreement that will fund the seven remaining departments, including Homeland Security. Reporting suggests that conferees are on their way to funding some sort of additional fencing or barrier. Trump would be wise to accept whatever they come up with. Another shutdown would be disastrous. If the president and his team are dissatisfied with the number Congress gives them, he may attempt to exercise his statutory authority to declare a national emergency and repurpose funds from the Department of Defense for wall construction.

Substantively, I am against crashing through a legitimacy barrier that has prevented policy-based emergency declarations. Politically, I see why this route appeals to Trump. The legal case against it is not so clear-cut. The ensuing controversy will shore up his base before the election begins in earnest. Republican grumbling would differentiate him from the party elite. If the Ninth Circuit enjoins his decision the issue will be live in 2020. Even so, the emergency would set a precedent. Bad karma.

The second test is Trump's upcoming summit with Kim Jong-Un. Scheduled for the last days in February in Vietnam, the upshot is far from clear. According to special representative Stephen Biegun, the U.S. offer remains the same: The complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea will be followed by American sanctions relief and economic investment. North Korea's reply? Drop the sanctions and we'll think about it.

The uncertainty is compounded by Trump's reliance on personal diplomacy. We don't know what the two leaders will say to each other, nor what Pompeo, Bolton, and Biegun (not to mention Kim's deputies) will do behind the scenes. Count me skeptical that a miracle will occur. The best outcome is therefore the Kissingerian one: keep the process going without any concessions from either side. The status quo, where North Korea refrains from launching ICBMs, is preferable both to open war and to a deal that exposes our allies in East Asia.

Finally, there's China. U.S. tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports will rise to 25 percent on March 1 unless the two powers reach an agreement. Steve Mnuchin and Robert Lighthizer are scheduled to visit Beijing next week for another round of talks. China, which has been hit hard by the tariffs Trump has already imposed, seems eager to pledge to increase U.S. imports but reluctant to address the structural issues of intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, and state-owned enterprises. Trump faces crosscutting pressures: the stock market and agriculture sector hate the trade war, while Senate Democrats tell the president not to buckle. Both the American and Chinese presidents have every incentive to make a deal. But I wouldn't be surprised if Tariff Man walks away. Nor would I presume to know what might happen next.

Trump's unpredictability has brought him far, but it also creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion that unsettles markets and allies and a great number of Americans. His vital political interest is in maintaining economic expansion and international peace while regaining the support of independents by normalizing his behavior and portraying his opponents as Looney Tunes. That would require him to sometimes take yes for an answer, declare victory, and move on. Which is what I would do in the cases of Congress and China, while keeping the ball rolling and sanctions tight on North Korea.

But it's not like he's listened to me before.



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