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Trump: Deportation Protection Program ‘Probably Dead’

U.S. President Donald Trump contended Sunday that a U.S. program to protect young immigrants from deportation is “probably dead,” saying that opposition Democrats “don’t really want it,” but just want to be able to talk about the issue.

The fate of the program protecting nearly 800,000 immigrants from deportation who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents years ago when they were children is at the forefront of the Washington political debate this week. It is part of discussions between the White House and Congress over new funding for the government to avert a partial government shutdown when U.S. agencies run out of money at midnight Friday.

Trump last week rejected a bipartisan proposal offered him by three Republican and three Democratic senators to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect the young immigrants from deportation. The lawmakers also called for other immigration policy changes, including increased funding for security along the southern U.S. border with Mexico, where Trump is demanding that a wall be built to thwart more illegal immigration.

But in the course of the White House meeting, Trump sparked an international uproar by reportedly describing Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “s—hole countries,” questioning why more immigrants from those countries should be allowed into the United States.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois who was at the Oval Office meeting claimed the president made the derogatory term. Trump admtted to using “tough” language but has denied making the statement.

Trump’s denial was supported in separate appearances on Sunday news programs by Republican senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia.

In an appearance on the CBS news program “Face the Nation” Cotton said,  “I didn’t hear it, and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.” Cotton added that people shouldn’t be surprised by Durbin’s comments because the Illinois senator “has a history of “misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings.”  On ABC’s “This Week” Republican Senator Perdue flatly denied Trump made the comment.

In a pair of Twitter comments Sunday, Trump accused Democrats of trying to “take desperately needed money away from our Military” as part of the immigration and funding discussions.

He said that as president he wants “people coming into our Country who are going to help us become strong and great again, people coming in through a system based on MERIT. No more Lotteries! #AMERICA FIRST.”

Trump is calling for the end of of an immigration lottery program under which some foreigners have through a yearly drawing been able to legally emigrate to the U.S. Trump claims that other countries have sent potential terrorists and their most poorly educated citizens to America.

Trump last year ended the DACA program that was created by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, but delayed deportations to give Congress until March 5 to weigh in on the issue. Trump, at an unusual televised meeting with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers last week, told them he would sign whatever immigration legislation they could agree on, but then rebuffed the first compromise offered him by the six senators, with more conservative Republican lawmakers calling for tougher immigration restrictions.

Meantime, a U.S. district court judge in California last week, over protests from Trump, ruled that for the moment at least he cannot end the DACA program.

On Saturday, the government said it has resumed accepting requests to renew grants from the young immigrants to protect them from deportation. Many of the immigrants, called Dreamers by their advocates, have only known the U.S. as their home.  

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a statement on its website, “Until further notice . . . the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded” by Trump last September 5.

The statement said that people who were previously granted deferred action under DACA may request renewal, but added that the agency is not accepting requests from individuals who were never granted deferred action under DACA.

A DACA deferment gives prosecutors discretion on enforcing immigration laws, effectively allowing the undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. 


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Chelsea Manning to Run for US Senate

Transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning is seeking to become a U.S. senator representing the state of Maryland, according to federal election filings.

She would run as a Democrat, challenging two-term Senator Ben Cardin in Maryland’s June primary. Manning would have to file with the state election board by February 27 to get her name on the ballot.

Cardin is the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was first elected to the Senate in 2006.

Cardin spokeswoman Sue Walitsky, without speaking about Manning directly, said Cardin “is looking forward to a vigorous debate of the issues and a robust conversation with Maryland voters.”

Manning, a former army intelligence analyst, originally known as Bradley Manning, is the U.S. soldier who released more than 700,000 secret military documents and battlefield videos to WikiLeaks. She said she released the information to raise public awareness about the impact of war on civilians. Prosecutors said Manning was a traitor who put the U.S. and its armed forces at risk.

In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing the classified documents. U.S. President Barack Obama granted Manning clemency before leaving office last year.

After her conviction, Manning said she identified as a woman. During her imprisonment, she battled for and won the right to start hormone treatment.

U.S. President Donald Trump says Manning is a traitor.

Trump has attempted to bar transgender people from the military, but federal courts have ruled against that ban.

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Immigration Agency Again Accepting DACA Renewal Requests

The U.S. said Saturday that it has resumed accepting requests to renew grants of deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announcement comes after a judge last week temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s decision to end the program later this year. 

“Until further notice … the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017,” the agency said in a statement on its website.

The statement said that people who were previously granted deferred action under DACA may request renewal, but added that the agency is not accepting requests from individuals who were never granted deferred action under DACA.

A DACA deferment gives prosecutors discretion on enforcing immigration laws.

In September 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump rescinded DACA, which was instituted by former President Barack Obama to protect nearly 800,000 immigrants from deportation who were brought to the U.S. as children and remain illegally. DACA allows them to live, work and go to school in the United States. Many of the young immigrants, often called Dreamers, have only known the U.S. as their home.

In announcing the end of the program, Trump gave Congress until March 5 to agree on legislation that would provide equivalent protections to those offered under DACA.

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Angry Reactions Continue to Trump’s Vulgar Immigration Remark

Reactions to President Donald Trump’s use of a vulgar slur to explain his opposition to Haitian and African migration to the United States were continuing to circulate Saturday.

Trump stunned lawmakers Thursday in a White House meeting on immigration when, according to multiple reports and confirmation from attendees, he asked, “Why are we having all these people from s—hole countries come here?”

Ninety-five percent of Haitians are black, as are the vast majority of Africans.

Trump said the United States should allow in more people from places such as Norway, whose population is mostly white.

Trump took to Twitter on Friday to deny using the vulgar term, which is slang for an extremely dirty or shabby place and includes a synonym for excrement. He said his language was “tough,” but denied using the vulgarity.

Since then, reactions to his remark have continued to come via Twitter and statements to the media. Trump’s former presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, noted that Friday was the anniversary of a devastating earthquake in Haiti, from which the island has never fully recovered.

“The anniversary of the devastating earthquake 8 years ago is a day to remember the tragedy, honor the resilient people of Haiti, & affirm America’s commitment to helping our neighbors. Instead, we’re subjected to Trump’s ignorant, racist views of anyone who doesn’t look like him,” she tweeted Friday.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tweeted Friday, “I hope our next president will rehire all the diplomats who have resigned over Trump’s racist words and harmful actions. We will need all the help we can get to repair the damage he is doing to our country’s international reputation and interests.”

‘No change in our dedication’

And the U.S. Embassy in South Africa tweeted Friday that “the U.S. deeply respects the people of Africa & values partnerships w/them. There has been no change in our dedication to partners & friends across the Continent.”

Also Friday, the U.N. human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, called the comments racist, but he added that the episode was “not just a story about vulgar language. It’s about opening the door wider to humanity’s worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and destroy the lives of many people.”

The African Union said Friday that it was “frankly alarmed” by the president’s reported statement. AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo told The Associated Press, “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.”

“This is particularly surprising,” she added, “as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”

The U.S. State Department said Friday that American diplomats in Haiti and in Botswana had been summoned by government officials to discuss the remarks. 

U.S. Republican Representative Mia Love of Utah, whose family came from Haiti, said the president’s comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values. This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation.”

Love called on Trump to apologize to the people of Haiti.

U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, said in an interview, “It’s incomprehensible that these words came out of the mouth of the president of the United States of America, a country that was founded on being free from discrimination and treating people fairly and having people come here, the land of the free. … This is a president that has had a sordid, terrible history of making racist statements.” 

Ros-Lehtinen also tweeted that Trump’s “calling #Haiti a ‘s**thole country’ ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians have made to our #SoFla community and nation. Language like that shouldn’t be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn’t be heard in the White House.”

‘Ashamed’ of Trump’s position

Minnesota state Representative Ilhan Omar, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party who in 2016 became the first Somali-American elected to a state legislative office in the United States, released a statement saying, “I am not ashamed of the country where I was born. I am not ashamed to call myself an American now. I am a proud immigrant, refugee, Minnesotan and a proud State Legislator.

“But make no mistake, I am ashamed, disturbed, and outraged that the leader of the United States can’t see beyond his own embarrassing privilege to embrace the diversity that has made this country great for generations.”

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said he wanted more details “regarding the president’s comments.”

“Part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best and brightest in the world, regardless of their country of origin,” Hatch added.

U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, tweeted late Thursday, “My ancestors came from countries not nearly as prosperous as the one we live in today. I’m glad that they were welcomed here.”

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, said in a tweet, “Immigrants from countries across the globe — including and especially those from Haiti and all parts of Africa — have helped build this country. They should be welcomed and celebrated, not demeaned and insulted.”

U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, a Democrat who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said, “President Trump’s comments are yet another confirmation of his racially insensitive and ignorant views. It also reinforces the concerns that we hear every day, that the president’s slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ is really code for ‘Make America White Again.’ ”

The White House released a statement Thursday that defended the president’s views, without referencing his specific comments.

“Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation. He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”

VOA correspondents Cindy Saine, Natalie Liu, Steve Herman and Michael Bowman contributed to this report.

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Unpacking What Remains of Iran Sanctions

On Friday, President Donald Trump waived economic sanctions on Iran, the third time he’s issued a sanctions waiver under a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers.

The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, restricted Iran’s controversial nuclear program in exchange for broad relief from international sanctions.

While the United States, the United Nations and the European Union have lifted most nuclear-related sanctions, unilaterally imposed U.S. sanctions going back decades remain in place. These restrictions were levied because of Iran’s human rights violations, support of terrorism, and pursuit of a ballistic missile program.

Sorting out the myriad sanctions requires “a team of lawyers,” said Alex Vatanka of the Middle East Institute in Washington.

“It’s a maze, in many ways,” Vatanka said.

Here is the status of key sanctions on Iran, based largely on a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, as well as those with the Treasury and State departments:

​What sanctions relief Iran has received under the nuclear deal

As part of the deal, the U.S. agreed to waive several key Iran sanctions laws and revoke related presidential executive orders.

The U.S. waived all provisions of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), a 1996 law that imposed sanctions on foreign investment in Iran’s energy sector. Among other things, the sweeping legislation mandated penalties on persons and entities that invested more than $20 million in one year in Iran’s energy sector.

The U.S. waived the Iran sanctions provisions of the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Among its other stipulations, the law targeted foreign banks that conducted transactions with Iran’s central bank.

The U.S. waived all provisions of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (ITRSHR) of 2012 except for those that applied to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its affiliates. The law had imposed sanctions on companies that provided insurance or reinsurance services for Iran’s national oil company and national tanker company.

The U.S. waived the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act (IFCA), a 2012 law that penalized companies that did business with Iran’s energy, shipbuilding and shipping sectors, exported precious metals to Iran, and allowed Iran to deal in U.S. banknotes.

The president revoked a 2012 presidential executive order that slapped sanctions on companies that purchased oil from Iran, conducted transactions with its national oil company or helped Iran buy previous metals and U.S. banknotes.

The president revoked a 2013 executive order that punished companies that do business with Iran’s automotive sector, expanded penalties on sales of precious metals to Iran, and prohibited regional banks that conduct business in the Iranian currency from holding U.S. bank accounts.

Also, the U.S. released Iranian assets frozen because of Iran’s nuclear deal. The CRS report puts the figure around $1.7 billion.

​What sanctions remain in place

The 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the Iran nuclear deal left intact sanctions on Iran’s development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles as well as Iran’s arms exports and imports.

U.S. and EU sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its affiliates and commanders remain in place.

The Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act of 1992 remain intact. The act imposes penalties on companies that provide Iran with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) technology or advanced conventional weaponry.

Under JCPOA, the U.S. relaxed a ban on imports of Iranian luxury goods, such as carpets and caviar, but most U.S. restrictions on trade with and investment with Iran remain in place, according to the CRS report.

A ban on U.S. financial institutions doing business with Iranian banks remains in place.

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISDA) of 2010 and a related executive order punishing Iranian human rights violators have survived the nuclear deal.

The legislation allows the Treasury Secretary to imposes travel bans and other sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities accused of human rights violations and other abuses. The Treasury Department announced on Friday that it had designated 14 Iranian individuals and entities under the executive order.

More than $3.7 billion worth of Iranian assets, blocked because of Iran’s human rights record, support for terrorism and missile technology, remain frozen, according to the Congressional Research Service report.

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What’s Next for Immigration Reform After Trump Profanity?

The on-again, off-again effort to decide the future of almost 800,000 undocumented youths in the United States swung wildly from Thursday to Friday, with one of the top Republicans in Congress calling President Donald Trump’s reported use of an expletive to disparage some immigrants’ home countries “unfortunate” and “unhelpful.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan joined politicians from both parties who were critical of the president following the remark, made Thursday during a meeting on immigration policy at the White House. Trump allegedly referred to Haiti and African nations as “s—hole” countries.

While Trump denied the widely reported comment in a tweet, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, one of the top-ranking Democrats and a longtime supporter of immigration reform, said he “personally heard” the president’s comment, and that Trump had repeatedly used “hate-filled, vile and racist” words.

No one is denying, however, that Trump rejected a bipartisan immigration deal brought to him by six senators that addressed not only the now-ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but also the diversity lottery and temporary protected status programs, funding for border security, and some aspects of the family-based migration system. The deal was a nonstarter for conservative senators at the meeting and also for Trump.

“This is like throwing gasoline to the fire,” Representative Adriano Espaillat, a New York Democrat, said of Trump’s reported language. Espaillat immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic, located next to Haiti on the island of Hispaniola.

​A week to get it done

Next Friday is the deadline for Congress to pass a national budget, something many Democrats, whose votes are needed, have said they will not do unless there is a fix for DACA. Absent a budget, the federal government will have to shut down.

Durbin said Friday that he had hoped for White House approval of the bipartisan deal. Without it, “here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to prepare our bipartisan agreement for introduction into the Senate next week. If the Republican leadership has a better alternative, bring it forward. If they don’t, for goodness’ sake, give us a vote.”

He said he would be on the phone Friday “begging” his colleagues in both parties to support the measure.

But Trump, meanwhile, was disparaging the plan on Twitter as a “big step backwards.”

In a statement Friday, conservative Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia had a different take on the previous day’s meeting.

“What he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest. We, along with the president, are committed to solving an issue many in Congress have failed to deliver on for decades,” the statement said.

What now?

In a statement Friday, the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), which held events to help DACA applicants process their paperwork, said, “It is unacceptable that the president of the United States would attack a bipartisan effort with his racist, xenophobic, and ill-informed language and beliefs.”

One of the overarching questions as the vote on the federal budget approaches is which components of immigration reform and border security will be included.

NAKASEC joined other groups in calling for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to be attached to the federal budget vote, in lieu of a massive reform bill that would include cuts to other aspects of the U.S. immigration system.

“The DREAM Act must not be used to implement a family ban by altering the current family sponsorship system, cancel the diversity visa program or allocate our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to building a wall,” the statement read.

Each of these issues has been discussed as a component — in some cases referred to as bargaining chips — of a broader reform package.

Trump has repeatedly expressed interest in restricting immigration levels. Republican lawmakers introduced legislation in 2017 that would cut or eliminate some long-standing parts of the U.S. immigration system, but none of the bills passed.

The White House has also led a nearly yearlong campaign to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States, as part of broader immigration restriction efforts.

The turmult comes after a court ruling earlier this week that buoyed the hopes of advocates for the DACA program, which Trump rescinded in September. As VOA reported Wednesday, a federal judge in California ordered the Trump administration to again process DACA renewal applications.

But recipients may not see any benefits soon, or at all. The ruling applies only to those who had been enrolled in DACA before Trump rescinded the program and does not apply to first-time applicants. Moreover, the Trump administration has already announced its intention to appeal.

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Report: Trump Lawyer Brokered $130,000 Payment to Porn Star

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer brokered a $130,000 payment to a porn star to prevent her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Trump, according to a report Friday in The Wall Street Journal.

Trump met Stephanie Clifford, whose goes by the name Stormy Daniels in films, at a golf event in 2006 — a year after Trump’s marriage to his wife, Melania.

According to the Journal’s report, Clifford began talking with ABC News in the fall of 2016 for a story involving an alleged relationship with Trump, but reached a $130,000 deal a month before the election, which prevented her from going public.

Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen arranged for the payment through Clifford’s lawyer, Keith Davidson, the Journal reported.

In a statement to the Journal, Cohen did not address his role in negotiating the supposed payment but said Trump denies any such relationship with Clifford. Clifford has previously denied an alleged relationship with Trump.

On Friday afternoon, the White House issued a statement calling the Journal’s story “old, recycled reports, which were published and strongly denied prior to the election.”

Cohen also accused the Journal of perpetuating “a false narrative for over a year.”

Just days before the 2016 election, the Journal published a story stating that the National Enquirer — run by David Pecker, a fervid supporter of Trump — had paid $150,000 to silence former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal about a sexual relationship she allegedly had with Trump a decade ago. 

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Most Americans ‘Don’t Want’ Oprah to Run for President

Americans may love Oprah Winfrey, but most don’t want the chat show queen to run for president, although if she did she would beat Donald Trump, a poll revealed Friday.

Winfrey’s rousing speech at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony ignited speculation that the billionaire entertainment mogul, the first black woman to own a television network, is harboring Oval Office ambitions.

Sixty-four percent of respondents have a favorable view of Winfrey, including 43 percent of Trump supporters, according to the NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist survey.

But when asked if they wanted Winfrey to run in 2020, only 35 percent said yes. A majority — 54 percent — said no and 11 percent said they were unsure.

Yet if a hypothetical presidential head-to-head was held today, 50 percent of national registered voters said they would vote in Winfrey as a Democrat. Only 39 percent said they would return Trump to office.

Voters were predictably split along party lines. Ninety-one percent of Democrats backed Winfrey. Eighty-five percent of Republicans said they would vote for Trump.

While there is little indication that 63-year-old Winfrey wants the job, Hollywood’s loathing of Trump and Democrats’ bafflement that a reality TV star could win with no previous government experience has fueled talk of finding their own celebrity candidate.

Trump said Tuesday he doubted Winfrey would run, but if she did, he would win.

The survey was carried out among 1,350 adults earlier this week, after Oprah’s speech made headlines. The poll carried a margin of error of 2.7 percent and three percent among registered voters.

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