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Trump’s Tariff War Threatens to Erode Support of Farmers

President Donald Trump’s tariff battle with key buyers of U.S. apples, soybeans and corn threatens the support of some of his biggest backers – U.S. farmers now seeing their livelihoods in jeopardy.

Farmers overwhelmingly supported Trump in the 2016 election, welcoming how he championed rural economies and vowed to repeal estate taxes that often hit family farms hard.

Now those same farmers are seeing crop prices fall and export markets shrink after Trump’s tariffs triggered a wave of retaliation from buyers of U.S. apples, cheese, potatoes, bourbon and soybeans.

“A lot of people in the ag community were willing to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt,” said Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade. “The reason you are seeing people increase the pressure now is because thepressure is increasing on them. Now the impact is really starting to hit. It is not something you can just take lightly.”

His group, along with the U.S. Apple Association, will start running television ads on Tuesday attacking Trump’s tariffs in Pennsylvania and Michigan, apple-growing states that could play a role in which party controls Congress after the November elections.

Trump, a Republican, has said farmers will not become a casualty in any trade war, floating ideas like subsidizing those hurt by tariffs.

Even before trading partners imposed tariffs, U.S. farmers were facing a tough year. Net farm income was expected to fall 6.7 percent to $59.5 billion in 2018, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Now an even more bearish tone hangs over agricultural markets due to trade spats with NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, plus mounting tensions with China and Europe.

After Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Mexico imposed a 20 percent tariff on imports of U.S. apples, potatoes and cranberries.

Last week, Trump imposed $50 billion in tariffs on China.

Beijing retaliated with a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans and other goods starting July 6, sending soybean futures to a two-year low and throwing into doubt forecasts for U.S. soybean exports to rise 11 percent this marketing year.

China’s tariffs could contribute to a 30 percent drop in income for Ohio corn and soybean farmers this year, said Ben Brown, manager of an Ohio State University farm program.

If the tariffs stay in place, net farm income in Ohio could drop as much as 63 percent in 2019, he said.

Last week, the American Soybean Association said it was disappointed and for weeks had implored the Trump administration to “find non-tariff solutions to address Chinese intellectual property theft and not place American farmers in harm’s way.”

The group added that the White House has ignored its requests for meetings.

The timing also hurts farmers, as it is too late in the season for farmers to adjust planting plans.

“Crops are in the ground and will soon be ready for harvest,” said Casey Guernsey with Americans For Farmers and Families. “We need the certainty of knowing that there will be market availability in order to sell them.”

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Trump: US ‘Will Not Be a Migrant Camp’

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said the separation of children from their parents trying to enter the United States illegally is “so sad,” but showed no signs of changing the policy.

“A country without borders is not a country at all,” Trump said. “We want safety and security for our country … and it starts with the border.”

The American leader said the U.S. would not be a “migrant camp” or “refugee holding facility.”

“Not on my watch,” Trump declared.

WATCH: Trump on immigration

Trump blamed opposition Democratic lawmakers for the impasse over U.S. immigration policies, even though Trump’s Republican party controls both chambers in Congress, and the family border policies were set by his administration.

“I say it’s very strongly the Democrats’ fault,” Trump said. He said border policies “can be taken care of very quickly” if Democrats “come to the table” to negotiate with the majority Republicans, who themselves are divided over immigration issues.

Trump spoke at the White House as both Republican and Democratic lawmakers assailed Trump and his administration for tough border enforcement that has led to the family breakups, with nearly 2,000 children being sent to mass detention centers or foster care from mid-April to the end of May. Trump’s wife, first lady Melania Trump, through a spokeswoman, offered a rare public policy statement Sunday saying she “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the (political) aisle (in Congress) can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

In New Orleans on Monday, both Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in speeches to a law enforcement group, defended the Trump administration’s stance on splitting up families if they try to enter the country illegally, vowing to prosecute the migrants and offering no apologies for the policy.

“Let’s be honest. There are some who would like us to look the other way when dealing with families at the border and not enforce the law passed by Congress,” she said. “We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are in fact a family. We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job. We have sworn to do this job.”

Nielsen said, “This administration has a simple message: If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you. If you make a false immigration claim, we will prosecute you. If you smuggle illegal aliens across an extraordinarily dangerous journey, we will prosecute you.”

Sessions said, “We do not want to separate children from their parents. We do not want adults to bring children into this country unlawfully, placing them at risk.”

“But we do have a policy of prosecuting adults who flout our laws to come here illegally instead of waiting their turn or claiming asylum at any port of entry,” Sessions added. “We cannot and will not encourage people to bring children by giving them blanket immunity from our laws.”

Generosity being abused

Nielsen, who at times has drawn Trump’s ire for not keeping more immigrants out of the country, said, “We are a compassionate country,” admitting 3 million refugees since 1975, which she said was “more than all other countries combined.”

But she added, “Our generosity is being abused,” saying there has been a recent 315 percent increase in the number of illegal aliens using children as a way to get into the United States.

Nielsen said that foreign nationals seeking asylum in the U.S. should “go to a port of entry” for routine processing rather than attempt to enter the country over the rivers and rocky terrain along the southern border with Mexico. The wait for consideration of asylum claims in the U.S., however, can be lengthy, with Nielsen saying there currently is a backlog of 600,000 cases awaiting adjudication.

The Trump administration’s defense of separating children from their parents at the border came amid a growing protest, from both Republicans and Democrats.

Former first lady Laura Bush, the wife of former Republican President George W. Bush, wrote in an opinion article in The Washington Post that the separation of children at the border is “cruel” and “immoral,” and said “it breaks my heart.”

Trump, in a string of Twitter comments, decried Europe’s problems with mass immigration and vowed to control the flow of migrants into the United States.

“Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country,” he said in one tweet. “Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the U.S.”

‘Unconscionable’

In a rare rebuke of the United States, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said migrant children should not be separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Children must not be traumatized by being separated from their parents. Family unity must be preserved,” a Guterres spokesman said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Monday that seeking to deter parents by inflicting abuse on children is “unconscionable.”

“Mr. President, people do not lose their human rights by virtue of crossing a border without a visa,” Zeid said. “I deplore the adoption by many countries of policies intended to make themselves as inhospitable as possible by increasing the suffering of many already vulnerable people.”

The furor over the Trump policy of “zero tolerance” for unauthorized border arrivals is occurring as the House of Representatives prepares for expected votes this week on major reforms to U.S. immigration laws, including whether to create a path to U.S. citizenship for as many as 1.8 million undocumented young immigrants already living in the U.S. who were brought to the country illegally years ago by their parents.

Trump has repeatedly blamed Democrats for the separations, claiming they are responsible for the situation. The Trump administration put in place the policy to arrest all migrants who illegally cross the U.S. border, including those seeking asylum, and because children cannot be sent to the same detention facilities as their parents, they are separated.

“The Democrats should get together with their Republican counterparts and work something out on Border Security & Safety,” Trump tweeted late Sunday. “Don’t wait until after the election because you are going to lose!”

Trump is scheduled to meet with House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss two competing Republican immigration reform bills.

Both bills would provide legal status to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, make sweeping changes to legal immigration, and boost U.S. border security. It is unclear if either will attract enough votes to pass.

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US Supreme Court Acts in Gerrymandering Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday has ruled against state Democrats in a case concerning partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin, sending it back to a lower court for a decision.

Gerrymandering is the process of redrawing lines of a state’s electoral districts in order to gain an electoral advantage. Gerrymandering on racial and ethnic grounds was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1993, in the case Shaw v. Reno.

The Wisconsin case, Gill v. Whitford, concerned the boundaries of the state’s legislative districts. The plaintiffs in the case argued the districts drawn by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature following the 2010 midterm elections unfairly favored the party.

The court said that while its decision “expresses no view on the merits of the plaintiffs’ case,” they would send the case to the lower courts in order for the plaintiffs to present evidence “that would tend to demonstrate a burden on their individual votes.”

In October, during oral arguments, Chief Justice John Roberts dismissed attempts to discern partisan gerrymandering as “sociological gobbledygook.”

‘Yet another delay’

“Today’s decision is yet another delay in providing voters with the power they deserve in our democracy,” said Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States, in a statement. “Partisan gerrymandering is distorting and undermining our representative democracy, giving politicians the power to choose their voters, instead of giving voters the power to choose their politicians.”

Separately, the U.S. Supreme Court also sidestepped a definitive ruling in a similar case in Maryland. The court did not immediately block congressional district lines drawn by Democrats to maximize the party’s advantage.

The high court could soon decide on whether to take up a similar case from North Carolina.

Redistricting in the U.S. happens every 10 years, and Monday’s decision is regarded as especially important, coming ahead of the next round of redistricting in 2021.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ordered the state to redraw its federal congressional districts, breaking a Republican gerrymander of the state.

 

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Erosion of Immigrant Protections Began With Trump Inauguration

The Trump administration’s move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.

It’s also a situation that has been brewing since the week President Donald Trump took office, when he issued his first order signaling a tougher approach to asylum-seekers. Since then, the administration has been steadily eroding protections for immigrant children and families.

“They’re willing to risk harm to a child being traumatized, separated from a parent and sitting in federal detention by themselves, in order to reach a larger policy goal of deterrence,” said Jennifer Podkul, director of policy at Kids in Need of Defense, which represents children in immigration court.

To those who work with immigrants, the parents’ plight was heralded by a series of measures making it harder for kids arriving on the border to get released from government custody and to seek legal status here.

Backlash

The administration says the changes are necessary to deter immigrants from coming here illegally. But a backlash is mounting, fueled by reports of children being taken from mothers and distraught toddlers and elementary school age children asking, through tears, when they can see their parents.

About 2,000 children had been separated from their families over a six-week period ending in May, administration officials said Friday.

Among the parents caught up in the new rules is 29-year-old Vilma Aracely Lopez Juc de Coc, who fled her home in a remote Guatemalan village after her husband was beaten to death in February, according to advocates. When she reached the Texas border with her 11-year-old son in May, he was taken from her by border agents, she said.

Her eyes swollen, she cried when she asked a paralegal what she most wanted to know: When could she see her son again?

“She did not know what was going on,” said paralegal Georgina Guzman, recalling their conversation at a federal courthouse in McAllen, Texas.

Similar scenarios play out on a daily basis in federal courtrooms in Texas and Arizona, where dozens of immigrant parents appear on charges of entering the country illegally after traveling up from Central America. More than the legal outcome of their cases, their advocates say, they’re worried about their children.

Since Trump’s inauguration, the administration has issued at least half a dozen orders and changes affecting immigrant children, many of them obscure revisions. The cumulative effect is a dramatic alteration of immigration policy and practice.

The measures require a senior government official to sign off on the release of children from secure shelters and allow immigration enforcement agents access to information about sponsors who sign up to take the children out of government custody and care for them.

The crackdown expanded in April, when the administration announced a “zero tolerance” policy on the border to prosecute immigrants for entering the country illegally in the hopes they could be quickly deported and that the swift deportations would prevent more people from coming.

Parents are now being arrested and placed in quick federal court proceedings near the border. Since children cannot be jailed in federal prisons, they’re placed in shelters that have long existed for unaccompanied immigrant children arriving on the border alone.

The administration insists the new rules are necessary to send a message to immigrants.

“Look, I hope that we don’t have to separate any more children from any more adults,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last week. “But there’s only one way to ensure that is the case: It’s for people to stop smuggling children illegally. Stop crossing the border illegally with your children. Apply to enter lawfully. Wait your turn.”

Immigration on the southwest border has remained high since the zero-tolerance policies took effect. Border agents made more than 50,000 arrests in May, up slightly from a month earlier and more than twice the number in May 2017. About a quarter of arrests were families traveling with children.

Asylum seekers

In addition to those trying to cross on their own, large crowds of immigrants are gathered at border crossings each day to seek asylum. Some wait days or weeks for a chance to speak with U.S. authorities. On a Texas border bridge, parents and children have been sleeping in sweltering heat for several days awaiting their turn.

Under U.S. law, most Mexican children are sent back across the border. Central American and other minors are taken into government custody before they are mostly released to sponsors in the United States.

The arrival of children fleeing violence in Central America is not new. President Barack Obama faced an even larger surge in border crossings that overflowed shelters and prompted the authorities to release many families. Nearly 60,000 children were placed in government-contracted shelters in the 2014 fiscal year.

Obama administration lawyers argued in federal court in Los Angeles against the separation of parents and children and in favor of keeping in family detention facilities those deemed ineligible for release.

Immigrant and children’s advocates said the new measures are not only cruel but costly. They argued that children fleeing violence and persecution in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will continue to come to the United States and remain in government custody longer, costing taxpayers more money.

The government pays more than $1 billion a year to care for unaccompanied immigrant children, Sessions has said.

In May 2014, the average length of stay for children in custody was 35 days. So far this fiscal year, it’s taking 56 days for children to be released to sponsors — in most cases, their own relatives.

Many children were released to sponsors who did not have legal immigration status. That’s yet another concern child advocates now have since the Trump administration is requiring fingerprints of sponsors and their household members and will turn that data over to the immigration agency in charge of deportations.

Advocates say the new information sharing might lead some parents to shy away from sponsoring their own children and ask others to do so, a situation that can lead to cases of trafficking or neglect.

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director of the immigrant advocacy program at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia, said he’s never worked with immigrants who said U.S. policies influenced their decision to move. They are fleeing violence and persecution, and he doesn’t see that changing even if the government deports parents.

“Look six months out from now,” he said. “Are these moms going to stay in Guatemala? Hell no, they’re going to come back looking for their kids.” 

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Amid Family Separation Furor, US House Plans Immigration Votes

As the House of Representatives prepares for expected votes on major reforms to U.S. immigration law this week, the Trump administration defends the separation of some undocumented immigrant children from their parents,

Once a rare practice, federal agents now routinely separate families seeking asylum or attempting to enter the United States illegally. Roughly 2,000 minors had been separated from their families over a six-week period ending in May, administration officials said last week.  

Video released by the U.S. government shows what appears to be humane conditions at a shelter site for children. But furor over the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy for unauthorized border arrivals is growing.

Over the weekend, several protests were held across the country as lawmakers, religious leaders and American citizens decried the family separation policy.

Texas protest

Democratic Texas state Congressman Beto O’Rourke led hundreds of people on a march Sunday in Tornillo, Texas, where the government is holding some of the children. The purpose of the march, he said, was to “help this country to make the right decision, and part of that is knowing what’s going on in the first place.”

Watch related video by VOA’s Michael Bowman:

O’Rourke, who is seeking to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, was joined by U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, also a Democrat.

Evangelical leader Franklin Graham, a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump, also spoke out against the policy.

“It’s disgraceful, and it’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit,” he said on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Miami (Florida) Archbishop Thomas Wenski said, “The policy is designed to frighten the parents by taking away their kids, traumatizing the kids. And they [federal agents] think that will serve as a deterrent for people exercising a basic human right, which is to ask for asylum.”

Even first lady Melania Trump released a statement that appeared to oppose her husband’s policy.

“Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” her office Sunday said. “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

But Trump continues to view America’s immigration debate through the lens of public safety, often pointing to foreign-born members of a vicious Central American gang.

Defend policy

And his advisers, both past and present, continue to defend the policy.

“Nobody likes” breaking up families and “seeing babies ripped from their mothers’ arms,” said Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president. But she placed the blame on the Democrats.

Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, also defended the policy saying, “We ran on a policy, very simply, stop mass illegal immigration and limit legal immigration, get our sovereignty back, and to help our workers, OK? And so he went to a zero-tolerance policy.”  

Immigration experts and many legal scholars, however, said the administration is interpreting U.S. immigration law as no other administration has. Democrats have condemned both the policy and Trump’s rationale for pursuing it.

“In the world, there is a recognition that people can seek asylum, except, apparently not in the United States,” House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said.

Emotions are also being stoked as the House of Representatives prepares to vote this week on two competing Republican immigration reform bills.

“We said from the beginning we want the House to debate immigration reform in a serious, meaningful way. And it looks like that is happening for the first time in nearly a decade,” Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo said.

Both bills would provide legal status to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to America as children, make sweeping changes to legal immigration, and boost U.S. border security. It is unclear if either will attract enough votes to pass.

Trump is to meet with House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss the proposed legislation.

Also Sunday, officials say at least five people died after an SUV fleeing Border Patrol agents crashed in southern Texas.

Texas public safety officials said many people in the vehicle might have been living in the U.S. without legal permission. The driver and at least one other person, believed to be U.S. citizens, are in custody, the state officials said.

VOA’s Michael Bowman contributed to this report.

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Trump Lawyer’s Advice to President: Don’t Pardon Russia Probe Figures

One of U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyers said Sunday he is advising him to not pardon anyone linked to the year-long investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election because it would “just cloud” the perception that there was wrong-doing.  

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York mayor and part of Trump’s legal team, told CNN, “You’re not going to get a pardon because you’re involved” in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. But he said that in the months to come pardons were “certainly not excluded” if Trump concluded “you’ve been treated unfairly.”

“The president has issued no pardons in this investigation,” Giuliani said. “The president is not going to issue pardons in this investigation.”

“And my advice to him, as long as I’m his lawyer, is not to do it,” he said. “Because you just cloud what is becoming now a very clear picture of an extremely unfair investigation with no criminality involved of any kind. I want that to come out loud and clear and not get clouded by anybody being fired or anybody being pardoned.”

Trump has pardoned several conservative icons in recent weeks, but Giuliani said no one being investigated by Mueller “should rely on it.”

Even so, he said, “When it’s over, hey, he’s the president of the United States. He retains his pardon power. Nobody’s taking that away from him. He can pardon in his judgment based on the Justice Department, counsel’s office, not me. I’m out of it. And I shouldn’t be involved in that process because I’m probably too rooted in his defense, but I couldn’t and I don’t want to take prerogatives away from him.“

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was jailed last week, prompting new questions whether Trump might pardon him. Manafort is accused of witness tampering in a criminal case that stems from his lobbying efforts for Ukraine years before he was a top Trump aide for nearly five months during the 2016 campaign.

Trump attacked Manafort’s jailing, saying on Twitter, “Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort …. Didn’t know Manafort was the head of the Mob…. Very unfair!”

There is no indication when Mueller’s investigation might end. He is probing whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian interests to help him win and whether Trump obstructed justice by firing former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey when he was leading the agency’s Russia investigation before Mueller, over Trump’s objections, was appointed to take over the probe.

In a new broadside against the investigation, Trump tweeted, “WITCH HUNT! There was no Russian Collusion. Oh, I see, there was no Russian Collusion, so now they look for obstruction on the no Russian Collusion. The phony Russian Collusion was a made up Hoax. Too bad they didn’t look at Crooked Hillary like this. Double Standard!” His reference to “Crooked Hillary” is his oft-repeated pejorative for his 2016 challenger, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Giuliani called for investigation of the origins of the Mueller investigation, contending it was “premised on Comey’s illegally leaked memo” about the FBI’s director’s private conversations with Trump.

“There’s a lot of unfairness out there, but we don’t know the scope of it,” Giuliani said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trump Taps Kraninger for Consumer Protection Post

U.S. President Donald Trump plans to nominate Kathy Kraninger, associate director of the Office of Management and Budget, to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which seeks to prevent financial abuses to consumers.

In a statement Saturday, the White House said Kraninger would continue the efforts of the current CFPB chief, Mick Mulvaney, to scale back the agency’s regulatory ambitions while continuing efforts to keep financial fraud in check.

Mulvaney, who is the president’s budget director, had filled the role in an acting capacity, replacing Richard Cordray, an appointee of former President Barack Obama who had led the agency from 2012 until his retirement last year.

The CFPB was formed in the wake of the U.S. financial crisis of 2007-08, authorized by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Its duties are to protect consumers from fraud by banks, credit unions, securities firms, payday lenders, foreclosure relief services and other financial companies. 

Kraninger is currently associate director for general government programs with the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees government spending.

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Congressman: Youth Shelter Reflects Flawed US Immigration Plan

A Republican congressman from Texas who toured a tent-like shelter for hundreds of minors who had entered the country illegally said Saturday that the facility was a byproduct of a flawed immigration strategy.

U.S. Representative Will Hurd said the shelter near the Tornillo port of entry in far West Texas would house about 360 boys who are 16 and 17.

The teens began arriving Friday, the same day Hurd toured the shelter, he said, noting that they were being moved from other shelters to make way for younger immigrant children taken into custody at the border.

Federal authorities are separating children from their parents as families arrive at the border.

Hurd, however, said the treatment of minors shouldn’t be used as a threatening means to prevent others from entering the U.S.

“This is a symptom of a flawed strategy, and in the land of the free and home of the brave we shouldn’t use kids as deterrence,” said Hurd, who represents a vast border district that includes the port of entry.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier in the week that it intended to open the shelter.

The port is located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of El Paso, in an area that’s mostly desert and where temperatures routinely approach 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). The tent-like structures that comprise the shelter have air conditioning.

Federal figures show nearly 2,000 children were separated from adults from April 19 to May 31 as part of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown.

The administration’s decision to separate children, combined with the flow of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border illegally, has prompted a surge in the number of children in U.S. shelters.

“How do these kids know where their parents are going, and how do the parents know where their children went?” Hurd asked.

A smarter immigration strategy would address root problems such as economic instability and a breakdown in the rule of law in Central America, he said, while noting the need to use advanced technology and manpower to guard the border.

“Building a 30-foot-high wall is a fourth-century solution to a 21st-century problem,” he said, referring to Trump’s call to build a wall along every mile of the border with Mexico.

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