Part of the Bay Area News Group

Lofgren leads Dems in urging stop to ICE raids

A Bay Area congresswoman helped lead 146 House Democrats in urging President Obama to suspend Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids targeting Central American families and children.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Downey; and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., sent their letter to the White House just hours before the president was scheduled to deliver his final State of the Union address Tuesday. The entire Bay Area delegation except for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, signed the letter.

Lofgren is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

The lawmakers wrote that the Department of Homeland Security operation “has generated widespread fear and panic in immigrant communities and has far-reaching impacts beyond the alleged targets for removal.” And it has raised due-process concerns “including meaningful access to legal counsel for mothers and children after apprehension and DHS officers reportedly using deceptive tactics to gain entrance into private residences,” they wrote.

“For these reasons and others, we believe that this operation should be immediately suspended until we can ensure no mother or child will be sent back to a country where they would face persecution, torture or death,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Democrats blasted the Obama administration for failing to provide a comprehensive refugee solution for those fleeing from violence in Central America.

“Your Administration has used family detention, Spanish language communication campaigns in Central America urging people not to come to the United States, and financial assistance to Mexico to deter, arrest, and return those fleeing violence,” they wrote. “This strategy has proven to be ineffective, as mothers and children continue to arrive at our Southwest border seeking refugee protection. Desperate Central American mothers and children will continue to flee to the United States and seek protection, regardless of the deterrent actions taken by this Administration.”

A regional solution to the crisis should include refugee screening and resettlement, the use of safe havens in appropriate third countries, temporary protected status for those in the United States, the use of priority refugee processing, and other humanitarian remedies, all in cooperation with other countries and non-governmental organizations, they wrote.

“The goal of this comprehensive refugee approach should be to ensure that Central American refugees, particularly mothers and children, are able to live free from an endless cycle of violence and persecution,” the lawmakers concluded. “We urge you to immediately halt the current enforcement actions towards Central American mothers and children and take steps to engage in a comprehensive effort with our hemispheric partners to address this regional refugee crisis in an appropriate humanitarian manner.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016
Under: Immigration, Obama presidency, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

Lookin’ rather vice presidential there, Gov. Haley…

Giving fresh credence to rumors that Republican elders look upon her as a possible vice-presidential nominee, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has been tapped to deliver her party’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech next Tuesday, Jan. 12.

Nikki Haley“Nikki Haley has led an economic turnaround and set a bold agenda for her state, getting things done and becoming one of the most popular governors in America,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said in a news release. “In a year when the country is crying out for a positive vision and alternative to the status quo, Governor Haley is the exact right choice to deliver the Republican Address to the Nation.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., called Haley “a proven leader and committed reformer who believes deeply in the promise of the country we all share. Not only has Governor Haley fought to bring opportunity and prosperity to the people of her state, but she’s also demonstrated how bringing people together can bring real results.”

The prime-time rebuttal slot has been a prized perch for those with higher aspirations. Those tapped in the past few years to deliver the GOP response include Ryan himself in 2011 – the year before he was GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate. Current presidential candidate Marco Rubio gave the response in 2013, and former candidate Bobby Jindal gave the response to Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress in February 2009.

Many believe Haley’s conservative bona fides, along with the diversity she symbolizes as a woman and as a daughter of Indian immigrants, make her a good pick for the number-two slot on this year’s GOP ticket. Her popular decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from her capitol’s grounds after June’s massacre in a black church in Charleston, and her steadfast refusal to wade into this year’s presidential morass – she has made no endorsement – could help her chances.

In Ryan’s news release, Haley, 43, said she’s honored to get the speaking slot. “This is a time of great challenges for our country, but also of great opportunities. I intend to speak about both.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
Under: 2016 presidential election | 7 Comments »

Candidates weigh in on Obama’s gun orders

DONALD TRUMP, to CNN: “Pretty soon you won’t be able to get guns. … It’s another step in the way of not getting guns.”

TED CRUZ, on Twitter: Fight back against @BarackObama’s unconstitutional #2A executive actions! #ComeAndTakeIt

HILLARY CLINTON, on Twitter: “Thank you, @POTUS, for taking a crucial step forward on gun violence. Our next president has to build on that progress—not rip it away. –H … .@POTUS is right: We can protect the Second Amendment while protecting our families and communities from gun violence. And we have to.”

MARCO RUBIO, to Fox News: “It undermines the Second Amendment and it will do nothing to keep people safe. Barack Obama is obsessed with undermining the Second Amendment. … Now this executive order is just one more way to make it harder for law-abiding people to buy weapons or to be able to protect their families. This is going to do nothing to prevent violence or crimes, because criminals don’t buy guns that way. They buy from the black market.”

JEB BUSH, in the The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, Iowa: “Barack Obama has proved again why he will go down as one of the most liberal and divisive presidents in the history of our nation. Obama’s declaration that he will impose his gun control agenda by executive order shows an utter disregard for the Second Amendment as well as the proper constitutional process for making laws in our nation.”

BERNIE SANDERS, in a news release: “A vast majority of the American people, including responsible gun owners who are sickened by the deaths of so many innocent people, agree with the common sense reforms announced today. As president, I will continue these executive orders because it’s past time to end the moral outrage of Aurora, and Newtown and Charleston.”

BEN CARSON, on Twitter: “We the People have a Constitutional right to bear arms and it is the President’s responsibility to uphold that right. … Pres. Obama has told us to trust him on gun rights – just like “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”. … Any executive order President Obama signs that regulates firearms transactions will merely regulate the freedom of law abiding citizens. … The President’s actions have everything to do with advancing his political agenda & little to do with actually protecting American citizens.”

CARLY FIORINA, on Twitter: “Another lawless, unconstitutional overreach. The 2nd Amendment is an individual right. Mr. President, how about enforcing the laws we have?”

RAND PAUL, to Breitbart: “If Obama was planning infringement of the First Amendment, the media would be going crazy. But we should never let any president abbreviate any part of the Bill of Rights. No matter what amendment it is, we should never allow it to be abbreviated by executive order. … I’m going to fight him tooth and nail.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
Under: 2016 presidential election, gun control | No Comments »

GOP knocks Clinton for Solyndra-related supporter

Republicans are trying to revive Solyndra – the Fremont-based solar energy company that went bankrupt in 2011 after receiving a federal loan guarantee – as an issue in 2016’s presidential campaign.

Hillary screenshotThe Republican National Committee has published an opposition research brief titled “Another Scandal in the Making” that knocks Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton for her scheduled attendance Friday at a Tulsa, Okla. fundraiser hosted by billionaire oilman and banker George Kaiser, a prominent Democratic fundraiser.

“Clinton is cashing in with a central figure in the Obama administration’s Solyndra scandal,” the GOP’s memo says.

Bloomberg News reported in 2011 that Kaiser’s family foundation invested $340 million in Solyndra, partly in hope that the solar-cell manufacturer would open a plant in Tulsa.

Solyndra also had received a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government. The company, facing stiff competition from solar manufacturers in China and elsewhere, declared bankruptcy in September 2011; taxpayers took a loss of about $500 million. However, the renewable-energy loan program overall has made more money than it lost.

Solyndra in 2012 became a poster child for GOP charges of the Obama administration’s cronyism, in that the Energy Department apparently had pushed the loan guarantee through for a company in which several prominent Democratic donors were invested. Republican nominee Mitt Romney held a news conference in May 2012 outside the company’s shuttered headquarters. And an Energy Department inspector general’s report released in August found that Solyndra company officials had misrepresented facts and omitted key information in their efforts to secure the loan guarantee, while the department itself wasn’t adequately diligent and felt political pressure to OK the application.

The GOP’s new memo notes Clinton spoke in support of Solyndra in 2011 while serving as U.S. Secretary of State, and that Kaiser has donated up to $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. It also notes that although Kaiser said he didn’t discuss the loan guarantee with the government, an email trail later revealed that his foundation’s staff had.

Posted on Thursday, December 10th, 2015
Under: 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton | 3 Comments »

Two NorCal Dems vote for Syrian refugee bill

The House approved the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act affecting the process by which the United States accepts refugees fleeing from Syria on a veto-proof 289-137 vote Thursday – and two Northern California Democrats were among those voting for it.

All refugees undergo an 18-to-24-month screening process involving various federal intelligence, law enforcement and diplomatic agencies before being allowed to come to America; Syrian refugees are subject to extra intelligence checks, said Obama administration officials this week.

But H.R. 4038 effectively would suspend admissions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees for now by obliging the heads of the FBI and Homeland Security Department and the director of national intelligence to certify to Congress that each refugee “is not a threat to the security of the United States.”

The entire Bay Area delegation opposed it, but among those voting for it were Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove.

From Garamendi:

John Garamendi“This bill strengthens the already stringent requirements for international refugees entering America. But strengthening the refugee program is a minor part of the reassessment we must make in the wake of the Paris attacks. For those wishing to come to America to do harm, the refugee program is the least likely way to get in and the most likely way to get caught. Of the millions of displaced Syrians, only around 2,200 have been admitted to the United States as refugees, and for a good reason: applicants are vetted through biometric and biographic checks for at least 18 months by every major American national security and law enforcement agency before they even set foot on American soil. Anyone whose identity and story cannot be precisely confirmed is not admitted to our country. Once they gain admission to the United States, their status is periodically reviewed by state and federal law enforcement.

“America must remain the refuge of people who flee from terror, war, hunger and persecution. We should welcome those refugees from Syria and Iraq who seek safety and meet our security requirements. While I strongly support tighter screening requirements for refugee applicants, Congress should focus on much more likely ways for attackers to gain entry to our country. Every single attacker in Paris with a confirmed identity was a citizen of either France or Belgium—countries whose citizens don’t even require a Visa to enter the United States because of our Visa waiver agreement with the European Union.

“We must be vigilant in every respect—refugees, students, and visitors, as well as homegrown terrorists. Remember that each of us has an important role to play. If we see something, we must say something to authorities.”

From Bera:

Ami_Bera_official_photo“It is critical that our first priority is to keep America safe – that is why I voted today for a bill to ensure that all Syrian refugees are thoroughly vetted. However, we can’t let the terrorists win and influence who we are as Americans. Our country has always been a place for those fleeing violence or oppression and we must stay true to those values. This additional screening step will ensure that we know those coming into the country are not a security threat.”

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, was among those who voted against the bill.

Sam Farr“The strength of our nation is found in our willingness to help those most in need. Turning our back on those fleeing terror and destruction would mean turning our back on the values that make this country great. America can stay true to those values without compromising our security.

“We already thoroughly vet anyone seeking refugee status. For most applications, it is a multi-year process that requires a stringent background check. If our security agencies cannot verify any detail of a refugee’s story, they are denied entrance. That is a higher level of security screening than we apply to immigrants and travelers visiting the United States.

“After the recent attacks in Paris, fear is an understandable emotion. However leadership requires us to not give into that fear. Syrian refugees fleeing their war torn country are not our enemy. They are grandparents, mothers, fathers and children who are only searching for safe haven for their family. As a humanitarian nation and the moral leader of the world, we have a responsibility to welcome them into our country.”

Posted on Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Under: Ami Bera, John Garamendi, Sam Farr, U.S. House | No Comments »

What they’re saying about Keystone XL

Here’s a sampling of reactions to the Obama administration’s decision not to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline:

From House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield:

“The Obama Administration just made the wrong decision for our country and for the American people. But what is more troubling than the President’s opposition to the Keystone pipeline is his preference to slow walk tough decisions to death. The President’s approach to this process and his ultimate decision reveals a lack of leadership when facing tough issues. His continued political posturing when met with ideas he doesn’t agree reveals a lack of critical thinking and a mindless attachment to ideology above the common good.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“This morning, the President agreed with the recommendation of Secretary Kerry to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, ending a long debate in our country.

“After weighing the equities, it was decided that the pipeline would have offered too little benefit and caused far too much damage to our climate and our country. Three issues that were debated in Congress that argued against the pipeline were the lack of assurances that the oil would stay in America, the failure to close the loophole that allowed Keystone’s tar sands not to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, and the absence of a requirement that this pipeline be built with American-sourced steel.

“Now, we must work together to achieve real energy independence and create good-paying jobs building energy and transportation infrastructure worthy of the 21st century. It is time for all of us to set aside our differences and make the robust, long-term investments in the modern roads, rails, bridges, broadband, and water systems that our country needs.”

“We must engage the public as we work in furtherance of policies that reduce the price at the pump for the consumer, truly create jobs in our country and address the challenges presented by the climate crisis.”

From Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla:

“President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline is a huge mistake, and is the latest reminder that this administration continues to prioritize the demands of radical environmentalists over America’s energy security. When I’m president, Keystone will be approved, and President Obama’s backward energy policies will come to an end.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif:

“I want to thank the Obama Administration for protecting the health of the American people and the health of the planet by rejecting the ill-advised Keystone tar sands pipeline, which would have brought the filthiest oil known to humankind into our country in large amounts.”

Read more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, November 6th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, energy, Environment, Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Jerry Brown blasts states fighting carbon-limit plan

California Gov. Jerry Brown vowed Friday to fight the 25 states and various business groups that are suing to block the Obama administration’s plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants.

“While the world’s scientists warn of the existential threat we face, these misguided political representatives seek to take America into a dark age of climate denial,” Brown said in a news release. “I will do everything in my power to fight this pernicious lawsuit.”

Power plants are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases among stationary sources in the United States, accounting for about a third of all emissions. The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan sets greenhouse gas emissions guidelines for each state based on current levels of pollution; on average, it would help cut pollution from existing power plants nationwide approximately 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

California already is primed to meet and exceed these new, national reduction targets, having committed to cutting emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 under an executive order Brown issued in April – the most ambitious target in North America and consistent with California’s existing commitment to reduce emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050.

Brown has been focused on subnational pacts – collaboration between cities, states and provinces around the world – to fight climate change, even as national governments seek a deal ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference next month in Paris.

Posted on Friday, October 23rd, 2015
Under: energy, Environment, Global warming, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Lifting our lamp beside the golden door

Here’s why America must welcome Syrian refugees with open arms: Because it’s who we are and how we win.

As I strolled, ate, drank and danced my way through New Orleans while on vacation last week, I thought often of people far less fortunate – both in that beautiful but still-troubled city scarred by storm and neglect, and on the other side of the world fleeing a war of great cruelty and horror.

I thought of Hungary, where refugees have been herded into pens at gunpoint – a particularly European deja vu that should make the world shudder.

I thought of Germany, where residents flocked to Munich’s train station to donate food and water and to applaud weary travelers as they disembarked – a scene allowing some small hope that we’re not doomed as a species.

I thought of our nation, where the Obama administration recently announced we’ll take 10,000 refugees next year – a promise that set the professional critic class and the anti-Muslim bigots howling, even though it’s the tiniest fraction of those who’ve been displaced.

The refugees now swamping Europe had no choice but to run away with little more than their babes in arms and the clothes on their backs, leaving homes pocked with bullet holes if not reduced to rubble. They come not with some devious intention of undermining us, or some haughty intention of converting us, but with the simple intention of continuing to draw breath. They come because they have nowhere else to go.

They’re Muslims, but they’re not our enemies. The “godly” agents of chaos they’re fleeing from are our enemies. And we can kill our enemies with kindness.

The refugees are desperate, and we are rich. For a relative pittance, we can welcome them with open arms and restore to them some degree of stability and hope. Even if it costs more than a pittance, it’s both a sacred gift and a sound investment. In giving this gift, we demonstrate that we are not the devils that the wild-eyed gun-toting mullahs say we are. We show that our way – compassion, mercy, friendship, tolerance – is the right way.

They will remember this kindness all their lives, they will teach it to their children. In that way, no matter what tongue they speak in praising God, they will become us.

If you’re Christian, this is the moment to be Christ-like by doing unto others. If you’re Jewish, this is what the Eternal did for you when you went forth from Egypt, and the very essence of tikkun ha-olam. If you’re an atheist, this is how you prove morality can exist without religion. If you’re human, this is what it means to be human.

Some say recent decades have been a clash of cultures, a war of ideas, as fundamentalist Islam wrote its complaint in blood around the world. Surely we’ve learned by now that you can’t shoot your way out of a war of ideas – you must have the better idea, and you must live it. Fortunately, we lucky Americans had that idea a long time ago.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

It’s time to live it.

Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2015
Under: International politics | 6 Comments »

Lawmakers urge $$$ disclosure, LGBT protection

Bay Area House Democrats are demanding action on disclosure of government contractors’ political contributions and on protecting LGBT people from assault in immigration detention centers.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, led 104 House members while U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., let 26 senators in urging President Barack Obama to issue an executive order requiring companies that do business with the federal government to fully disclose their political contributions.

“Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is spent and you have the power to ensure that the American people can obtain this information,” the House members wrote. “With public funds come public responsibilities, and any company receiving federal tax dollars should be required by executive order to fully disclose their political spending in a timely and accessible manner.”

Among the top 15 recipients of federal contracting dollars, a recent analysis by Public Citizen found that only 47 percent fully disclose their contributions to non-disclosing 501(c)(4) organizations. This is the fourth time since 2011 that Eshoo has led her colleagues in calling on President Obama to issue such an executive order. All Bay Area House members signed the letter except Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., signed the senate version, but Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., did not.

honda.jpgAlso Tuesday, Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., led 33 House members in writing a letter to the Department of Homeland Security to express concerns over the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender immigrants while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

“Detention should almost never be used for vulnerable groups such as LGBT immigrants facing immigration proceedings,” they wrote. “Recent surveys of jails and prisons by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that non-heterosexual detainees experience sexual assault at up to 10 times the rate of heterosexual men. The situation is starker for transgender detainees. According to the BJS survey, one in three will be sexually abused within 12 months in custody.”

The lawmakers asked that DHS and ICE consider an LGBT person’s detention to be “not in the public interest” per the department’s November 2014 enforcement memo, and that they work with LGBT and civil rights groups “to develop additional community-based alternatives to detention.”

Bay Area Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, were among those signing the letter.

Posted on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, campaign finance, Immigration, Mike Honda, U.S. House | No Comments »

Sam Farr will vote for Trade Promotion Authority

Rep. Sam Farr has broken with most of his fellow California Democrats, announcing Thursday morning that he’ll vote in support of the “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority that the Obama Administration and Republican congressional leaders want.

Until Farr, D-Carmel, posted a statement to his constituents online Thursday, the only California House Democrat known to be supporting TPA was Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove – a second-term member in a vulnerable swing district, compared to the 12-term Farr’s safely deep-blue district. The House could vote on it Friday.

Sam FarrFarr wrote that the Central Coast’s economic strength lies in adapting to meet global demands, with local businesses relying on access to new markets in order to compete.

“Trade opens up those markets. It puts the goods we produce and the crops we grow here in California into the hands of more buyers around the world. More sales abroad create more jobs here at home. Trade is good for the Central Coast,” he wrote.

Trade Promotion Authority “simply defines the process Congress will use to vote on future trade deals,” Farr wrote, and “sets the strongest human rights, environmental and labor standards for trade in the history of our country. These are not ceilings but instead are floors that have to be met, giving President Obama the leverage necessary to push for even stronger standards when negotiating with other countries.”

Farr wrote that he expects the pending Trans Pacific Partnership – a trade deal with almost a dozen Pacific Rim nations, which will be the first pact to proceed under TPA – “to be the strongest trade deal ever negotiated. It will require all of the signatories to address issues like conditions in their factories or fair pay for their workers. It will also improve environmental standards leading to cleaner air and cleaner water.” But if it doesn’t contain adequate protections, he said, he’ll vote against it.

After listening to labor, human rights and environmental groups, as well as local businesses and growers, “I concluded voting for TPA is the right thing to do for our district, our economy and our environment,” he wrote.

“To put in bluntly, I trust President Obama to deliver a better trade deal than Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell,” Farr wrote. “Under TPA, any deal brought to Congress by the President will be made public and reviewed for 60 days. At the end of that time period, Congress will hold a simple up or down vote. Without TPA, the Republican controlled Congress would be able to strip out any of the tougher standards put in place by the White House.”

Farr acknowleged many in his party will disagree, and it would be easier to vote with them, “but I did not come to Congress to do what is easy. I came here to do what I feel is right, no matter how hard that vote will be. A yes vote on TPA is right. It means moving us forward while a no vote on TPA means remaining stuck.”

Posted on Thursday, June 11th, 2015
Under: Ami Bera, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 14 Comments »