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.”


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.”


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.”


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.


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.”


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…
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